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The Selfish Idealist


When you do things for yourself, do you have to be destructive towards the world? Life can be made fairly good both for you and for the rest of us.

Maybe you'll not only help out, but even give everybody a good laugh from time to time.

Interesting books...on the outside of Bislet Bok, an independent bookshop in Thereses gate, Oslo.

It’s a country, not a company

Comment Posted on 22 Mar, 2020 04:05

This interview with Donald Trump shows pretty much one way business populists misunderstand public welfare systems and other public systems. If you make a rule it must apply to everyone, even the rich if it is basically meant for and basically work for the poor. 

It is impossible to make a perfect system which does exactly what you want it to do with no exceptions. You will normally always miss a little. You have to accept this, or in some cases drop the whole idea of making a rule because it is not possible without violating more important principles of a civilised way of ruling a country.

I know too little about the American system to say very much more, but here in Norway the normal lawbook is in many cases beginning to look like one man one rule – one law for each man or woman, or for each case, ad hoc laws, it ought to be called, because inexperienced politicians and an opinion with sorry…too much to say and also too little knowledge – have made them into a mess.

You have to aim at something with a law, but you will never hit 100%.

Then you don’t have a law, you don’t have a system in the end, you have a small or a big piece of chaos, and you will need a dictator, not a bureaucrat, who simply decide things as he likes instead of really following laws.

And they are emerging, aren’t they?

In a big company, maybe it is possible to think like this as long as you don’t break normal, sane laws in society, but in any public system, you can’t.


Comment Posted on 19 Mar, 2020 00:01



You’re buliding a wall.

You want it to stop immigration from South America. 

Have you considered how your country has treated the…neighbours during the years?

They are neighbours, aren’t they?

Ok, they had their problems from long ago because of, well, Columbus, Cortez…

I’m not an expert on South America, absolutely not, but there have been political events, haven’t there?


Part of it, I think.

I’m more or less old enough to remember something about Chile. There was an election, and there was elected a guy your government didn’t approve of, and there was a coup, and then dictatorship.

Violence, too.

For quite a few years afterwards.

I’m sure there is a lot more to say about this, but I think a fair amount of people in Europe would say it is not altogether wrong to say this.

In your country too.

Just a little while ago, what was actually the thing in Bolivia, Venezuela, those parts?

There were other countries, earlier on, with…connections, to the States.


It’s probably not right to say that the countries in South America have been North American colonies, this word belongs to a different historical period, too. Meaning different times, different ways of dealing with things, also when the dealing was…a little shitty.

But there was always the Warsaw pact countries, and there was the Soviet Union, and there was South America and the USA, and one couldn’t help notice that there were some similarities in the relation between…the big guy, and the guys who were, you know, a little smaller.

You could say, probably, and very generally speaking, that the Communists had trouble with the truth, and you…with money, poverty. 

Well, there were problems with free speech in South America too…and economic problems in Soviet too.

But to keep a pretty fair amount of the people in poverty.

It looks as a problem over there, when you see things from here.

Historically too.

But I mean, why do you think these people come up to you?

Because of greed?

Or because of problems in their own countries, maybe?

Do you think, historically, that your country has a share in making those problems?

It looks like that to me.

I don’t know what you should do with this.

I’m just saying, this is the world, a small part of how I understand it.

This is not a small neighbourhood, either, where you think you know how people think and feel. It is a lot of people and a lot of different cultures.

It doesn’t have to be true in your neighbourhood either, that you know your neighbours. They may think very differently from what you think, from yourself. Make other priorities, have problems that you don’t know of.

Have you ever experienced…poverty?

Been really broke?

Nowhere to go for a loan?

Starvation? I wouldn’t think so.

All those refugees in the world…millions, actually.

Why do they run?

Here, some people talk about the guys who earn money on smuggling them to Europe or to you.

They are the crooks.

As they think, they are the reason things are like this, the reason people fly.

It is not exactly wise thinking.

People like that turn up in a situation.

One thing is general poverty.

I think you, and Europe, can’t totally escape the responsibility for that, either. 

Historically, of course. 

Time has passed.

But England, Spain, Portugal, and also France, Germany, Italy, even, had their go in both economic exploitation, and political…not only domination, the colonies were actual parts of the rulers countries, formally, laws and everything were made outside of India and Africa and the other places. 

The language, habits of administration…it was a huge cultural thing too. I doubt that everything has gone away, even after all the years that have passed.

Those countries, England etc, stayed for a while.

And even if the USA started as a colony, or colonies, you had your go, too, in a way.

Russia did a lot of shitty things, definitely.

And you did.

It’s not about guilt, for me, even if that is an issue too, probably, for those affected.

It’s just about realising what happened.

And what those things can have led to.

And you still haven’t grasped the climate thing, have you?

Carbon dioxide, I think, mostly it’s about that.

Burning fuel.

Pff pff…

It affects the weather, you know.

It does, it’s not a lie or something. This winter we had no winter, here in Oslo.

Some cold days, and yeah, it has been snowing, but so little, I have been walking in normal shoes practically the whole season. Thin jacket. Has been fine.

Oslo has a harder climate than New York, normally, so I’m told, I’ve never been to New York. But snow used to be in the streets from at least mid November until the beginning of March.

At least. Usually it’s a big job removing it from the streets everywhere in Norway, maybe a little less in the southwest, but still.

Well, you know that. of course. You have Alaska and the northern areas.

But even if the Golf stream makes the whole area here livable and nice, so we think, it is usually kind of cold.

But not this winter, really, not here. 

Norway is pretty long, in the north things are probably different.

But that carbon dioxide emission thing…it affects the weather.

I’m not kidding you.

And there are floods sometimes, now, even here, and it used to be not really common.  It doesn’ happen every year, maybe, but water has definitely become an issue. There has always been enough, but now they have to do things to cope with too much of it, much of the time.

And suddenly there were four months with no rain, in the spring and summer.

Also very unusual.

Difficult for the farmers, nice for us…

But we’re not a poor country.

In other parts of he world…this is much more dramatic.

The way the weather is affected by the level of carbon dioxide I cannot explain to you just like that. 

But a meteorologist probably can. There is a connection, even if it is not a simple one.

It’s not like, the temperature rises everywhere, all the time.

It’s more like, the weather becomes generally more extreme. And if you calculate the average temperature on the whole globe, it is actually rising.

And of course, with floods, more than usual, droughts, more than usual, bushfires, more than usual, like Australia…

All those problems we talked about, poverty…

Hey, suddenly it’s not possible, perhaps, for a family, somewhere, to really survive. 

Maybe they lived on the edge already, moneywise.

Many do.

And with political and military interventions also…you do that too, don’t you?

I mean…wars, the climate change, political suppression, I guess those are the most important reasons for the huge amount of refugees.

I still don’t have the kind of overview needed to say exactly what to do.

But at least, having some knowledge about the…situation.

Could be helpful, or what do you think?

Wrong word? Helpful?

It’s not an easy situation, absolutely not.

And I can’t tell you how difficult it is, I don’t have that kind of overview.

But there are, for instance, I don’t know, a little less than 10 000 kids, right now, in addition to grown ups, many more – in one big refugee camp in Greece, and many of them will maybe die because of that virus epidemic.

They are already in a fucking difficult position, pardon my French, but this is another part of the situation.


That’s the name of this refugee camp.

Those kids need help right now, this minute, if possible.

They have been needing it for a long time, but now, this epidemic, in a place like that…

Of course, there are other camps other places in the world.


So why are they there…

Those are just some points, when talking about refugees, and to say really, what’s the thing, maybe add some figures and see how it looks. How many refugees there…and there…and what are the «local» reasons, for all those people to be on the move, etc.

Are you a politician?

This is the situation.

Part of it.

Aesthetic violence

Oslo Posted on 04 Mar, 2020 02:22

Pardon my French, but this shit is what I really do not want.

For me, this is the real reason to oppose the whole plan, including demolition of the “Y block”.

Here is the rest.

News about the “Y block”

Oslo Posted on 04 Mar, 2020 00:27

The Norwegian government is demolishing this building, a government building which was also a target for Anders Behring Breivik. It is still possible to use, it was not severely damaged but the government argues that a bomb may be placed underneath, where there is a tunnel, a street.

They want to build completely new government buildings, which I feel will be completely dominating this part of town.


Oslo Posted on 03 Mar, 2020 14:36

Oslo has a streak of self-destruction, maybe like many cities, worldwide, these days.

One of the things happening right now is the demolition of one of the old government buildings, the Y block, named after the shape of the building, with murals inside and outside made jointly by Picasso and the Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjar.

What are the concepts?

Digital sanity Posted on 10 Feb, 2020 03:49

An important issue in today’s Internet world is of course algorithms, which ones are in use? They move our thoughts in specific directions, and are basically kept secret.

But another part of this is in general, how things are grouped on the screen. Someone with an education in informatics is probably able to give more of an answer to this question, but the thing is…is set theory the central concept or method, or what is actually the basic structure or structures in this way, yep, the electronic way, ways, of making or changing a text or another type of information?

Programming and organising of data in the ways that are done today are after all based on math to a great extent, and what is being done is to organise texts and other information as simple as possible, since complicated ways slow down your webpage and also in general, simple solutions are also often better in other ways than more complicated ones.

But simple…according to what principles?

Normally, and «in the old days» (they’re actually not that far away) the way of organising the information was different, and the result…different. We are forced into specific ways of thinking that are also related to the organising of the information.

You’re saying…paranoia has hit me?

I’m not so sure. And even if it has, who’s to say that no one is actually after me? 😀

Articulation on the Keyboard

Music Posted on 06 Feb, 2020 19:31

Since I first tried to play a harpsichord, as a student in Tromsø in the 80s, I’ve never understood why articulation is not exploited more on this keyboard instrument as a means of musical expression.

The organ impresses you so much, it is so great, that you maybe don’t feel the need for any more than what is immediately given you as you pull out the stops, or you feel perhaps that your wish to use for instance articulation to a greater proportion even here should not be…articulated. But actually, the organ also invites the variation and creativity of staccato and legato, to put it simple and even childish. 

To hear comments about the harpsichord, that it is a limited instrument, with no way of varying the tone…

It sounds almost like a jealous pianist or piano teacher who has heard almost the same about the piano. I mean, you can’t change the tone of a piano after you’ve hit the key, can you?

Anyway, in both cases it’s nonsense. Varying the music is always possible. Even if you play the same music, you should only ask the question “What Händel am I playing today?”

There is something to learn from literature, or acting, staging, theatre. It is not always necessary to go as far as the revolutionary theatre directors, maybe, but still, the text in literature is not a completely finished thing, a new reading, or interpretation, is always possible to imagine. There are always new things to say about it, because our minds keep changing as time goes by, so thereby our thoughts change, about…in principle, anything.

Even Bach and Mozart.

We play “Bach and Mozart”, and I agree that if we intend to do that we should normally not create new notes in the text or anything similar, but what those scores tell us is not quite a given fact, that’s part of why I go to concerts, to hear some new thoughts discovered.

Sometimes you can hear a string quartet go too far in dynamics, they play too loud, simply, and the sound breaks, you have the feeling that they don’t think a fiddle or a cello has a big enough sound, or the score contain so much that it fills more than a string quartet can possibly say. 

It may happen, perhaps, that thingsare badly written, and it is a little difficult to answer such a question because so many who play seem to just accept any frame for their work and concentrate on the rest. But basically, I think, if you accept the frame around your pictures, you’re left with a lot of freedom when it comes to what you do inside that frame, and how you form the frame is also not given from the fact that there is one. The question of how is still left open to a certain extent. The development of baroque interpretation should make that clear, if nothing else does. It is considered to be authentic, but it is also a new thing in the history of playing music.

The intensity of the sound does not only relate to the number of decibels or the amount of instruments on the score, but to the intensity of the emotions or the madness and sanity of the ideas you had when you wrote the music or when you played it.

So any format will possibly do, just listen to the old recordings of Frans Brüggens recorder playing, solo, and…hey, his instrument is not an obstacle, you won’t even think of an idea like that.

I can truly say that one of my favourite types of noise is a huge romantic orchestra playing Brahms or Mahler or Debussy. I threw away the Norwegian variant of the soprano recorder, tussefløyte, when I was around 12, after learning some tunes, which was actually fun, but the instrument felt too feeble, to weak for me to play on, the piano had much more sturdy, solid qualities, I felt. I could hit it and it hit back, I liked that better. Like woodwork compared to needlework. I do’n t particularly like working with fabric, but making wooden things for fun suits me.

But this is about playing music.

When it comes to listening, I enjoy almost anything, as long as the musician(s) have the ability to convince me and I agree at least partially with what they say. There is philosophy in music, and attitudes, and I don’t expect myself to enjoy everything as much as…everything else.

But anyway, the harpsichord…a lot of things possible. Every instrument has its own world, its own ways of saying things, and its limitations. To compare music played on a harpsichord and a piano is interesting.

The harpsichord went out of use for a hundred years or so, and when it came back, pianists had had the time to steal and arrange its music and make it into piano music, which is a fantastic world in itself, I find. I have always listened to Dinu Lipatti when he plays arrangements of Bach, which was of course written for a harpsichord or even a clavichord, which is even another thing. Myra Hess, and who else? Rachmaninoff himself plays really well, but maybe not exactly in a tragic way. There is a whole period in interpretation, of playing, which I love, maybe from the 1930s to the 50s, and it coincides almost with the times of Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Ravel, which are also among my favourite composers. Rachmaninoff also wrote and played arrangements, a really nice one of some movements of a partita, a violin piece, or a suite of pieces, by Bach. Here is the first of those movements, fantastically played by a French pianist who is travelling around the world today, Helène Grimaud.

So, what is also interesting is comparing the two instruments with music in hand written for the harpsichord, by Bach, for instance, and to play it on both.

One of the things with the recordings from the 30s, 40s, 50s, is the seriousness of the interpretations, the feeling of tragedy, which has always appealed to me. Mozart’s c minor concerto, played by Robert Casadesus, most of violinist Ginette Neveu’s recordings, for instance  of  Chausson’s Poème, Dinu Lipatti is mentioned, Myra Hess, I don’t know, there are a lot of others from this period. In the late fifties and the sixties many performers play much more straight, not so interesting or excting to my ears.

Now, what happens if you play (if I play) Bach’s F minor concerto on a piano? It is very easy for me to fall into the same mood, the idea of tragedy, but if I take the notes over to the harpsichord and play, it comes naturally out as aggression, because of the plectrum which sort of rips the strings. It all happens at a low decibel level, but considered as a part of the package, the whole sound of the harpsichord, it is actually pretty violent, like a sharp claw.

You can take the piano sound and turn it into something else. I’ve done that a lot. In the beginning it was totally unconscious, but I loved the orchestra from the moment I heard one, or rather, I was in shock, which have luckily never left me, and to play concertos on the piano with friends was always a thrill. I had two musical friends especially when I was a teenager, one playing the trumpet and the other the French horn, two sisters.

So we played Richard Strauss and Haydn and Arutunian’s trumpet concerto, which ended up as a real favourite of mine. Actually all of those pieces.

We stayed friends, too.

Playing stuff like that is either a bother, if you’re made of soloist material, perhaps, or a fantastic way of playing, if you just love music, like I do. I can’t say that I wanted to hear oboes or be an oboist or a fiddle player sitting on the piano stool, but the mass of it all, the really great, big, sound, I enjoyed making it. And I more or less started playing anyway because I wanted to hear the music that I had heard at concerts. Some of the notes of Chopin polonaises etc were lying at home, so I found my way into it.

I always wanted things to be fun and noisy.

So you can do the same, but think of a harpsichord instead of an orchestra. To me that meant at least to create a sharper piano tone, to give it an edge which is not supposed to imitate a harpsichord directly, it’s more like translation, you go from one world into another and use similar means, maybe, but not identical, to achieve – maybe – similar effects. I later learned that you should use no pedal at all in Bach, presumably because it was written for a harpsichord, which has no sustain pedal, but this is also not quite logical, because you don’t play it on the same instrument anymore. It is in effect a transcription, not with different notes, but with a different inetrument.

Polina Osetinskaya, here playing Bach’s d minor concerto, may have had some similar ideas, at least you can say that i is played with a lot of flair and aggressivity which of couse is normal in this converto, but still. I mean, there is enough room for contemplation and other interesting stuff in this interpretation, but as a performer, you sometimes feel the need to really come through to the audience.

Using a little violence is not always wrong, because a lot of music contains violence.

Glenn Gould has of course been a great influence, not only in general when the talk is about Bach, but when it comes to articulation. There is not much soft Schumann legato in his playing, not even in Schumann.

I think it is quite useful to consider where those instruments come from too, I mean the idea of a harpsichord is so close to a lute or a guitar, it is not the same thing at all as a grand piano or an organ, soundwise or technically. To pluck a string…and to have a kind of machine pluck a string, more similar than to have a hammer strike a string, which sounds more like a glockenspiel, and the action looks more like a dulcimer, actually the sound too is maybe a mix of the two and of course new possibilities compared to both, and a new, different world too.

An organ…an orchestra, of course, but sometimes also not so far away from a harmonica, even, or an accordion, because, technically, I mean the way the sound is produced, they are similar, at least to some of the voices of the organ.

But if you listen to some harpsichordists you certainly have the feeling that they have not left Schumann (I love Schumann, but maybe not on the harpsichord), they play basically legato when it goes fast. I would begin with thinking that I played a lute, and then see where I ended up. I don’t know if guitar or lute players do a lot of musical experimenting with articulation, and I have no idea whether they have or feel the need for it, but on a keyboard, at least, it feels right to me.

So in the end maybe you have no need for changing or increasing orc decreasing the volume of the instrument, because you have found other means of changing the intensity and of saying what you have to say musically. I remember I heard Ketil Haugsand, harpsichord player, in Gamle logen, one of the concert halls in Oslo, and he, being the person he is, of course went crazy in Bach, I think maybe in the great solo in the Brandenburg no 5. To me this was then a new experience, that a harpsichord could explode musically – I had of course heard it in other connections.

Ehm…it’s stupid to add things after publishing the first time, but I can’t resist this one, sorry again.

Here is the first movement of the Bach partita, played on the violin. The violinist, Arthur Grumieaux, was born in 1921, and even if he belongs to a completely different generation than both Rachmanoff and the rest of the composers I mentioned, and the performers too, his ideas and way of playing are maybe not so far away from the Bach arrangement of the Russian romantic.

Here is a recording of Bach’s a major concerto with Gustav Leonhardt as a soloist, on harpsichord, filmed in Copenhagen in 1966. I sometimes find Leonhardt a strict fellow musically, even if he is a great musician, but this concerto has a lot of light, so all in all maybe a neat compromise between darkness and light. If such concepts apply at all…when I was a kid I didn’t need any concepts to take in the music, they just happened, whenever I listened to live music.

Yeah, I think I meant the ideas.



Comment Posted on 31 Jan, 2020 00:38

No comment needed, I think.

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