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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 titles...from a bookshelf in the used books-shop Cappelens forslag in Bernt Ankers gate, Oslo. I won't try to translate the pun, I think, but it is a fun place to go and to shop.

Interesting and beautiful story about betrayal

Uncategorised Posted on 04 Aug, 2021 11:40

“Sevil”, Azerbaijani film of an opera by composer Fikret Amirov, based on a play by playwright Jafar Jabbarly, both Azerbaijanis.

A beautiful film, although I am not sure about how far the direct relevance of the story goes into today’s Norway.

I think you have to go pretty far back in history to find partying like this in the upper class here in contrast to poverty like this in the working class, and the character of the husband is also to me not very clearly portrayed, he is mean and that’s that, in a way, seen with my eyes, you don’t quite understand actually why he leaves Sevil. An Azerbaijani or another insider may see other things, more than me.

There are perhaps other scenes or characters too that may appear unrealistic or not so clearly drawn, to some eyes here, but this may also be due to different expressions in different culture, mimics, etc. 

Maybe this is in some ways also an old film, I don’t know, but the underlying fact of poverty is to me what gives the conflict much of its grave character. 

Cruel and stupid as it may seem, this is a fact almost unconceivable in its entirety if you grew up in affluence, like myself and many of my age (57) and downwards, here in Norway. 

Many, but still, not all, maybe not even the majority here, I am not sure.

Poverty still exists, even here, and it looks different today because culture, the way of life, has changed since the times depicted in this film. 

You think that a guy in T-shirt and sneakers, like yourself, someone who looks like you – also lives like you, but that may not be the case.

The experience of poverty exists here too, also among younger people, but it is hidden from public life, you meet the stories in private conversations. I guess stigma is one reason, the feeling of status in life and society is still very much connected with money in Norway, at least in Oslo and the south of Norway in general. 

Although the level of income in general is high, there are exceptions, and many figures, as I say, may hide real life and its content and problems.

Older people may have experienced poverty in their childhood, but today, for many or some of them, I am not sure, it’s often that what is left is the feeling of it and not the reality. 

Public rules and laws, however, of all kinds, are changing in Norway under Erna Solberg, and has been since she became prime minister, and this may put people in a difficult economic position again despite our country’s general wealth. The state, public administration, is used right now to save money, also at the cost of people’s wellbeing. To what extent this is happening is not always easy to understand or see, because the system and the thinking is changing in unfamiliar ways.

If you have seen or understood just a small bit of real poverty, the abyss of lacking food to feed your family and your children, you may have a notion of why a conflict or a story like “Sevil” is as serious as it is actually presented in the film and the opera. and probably in the theatrical play by Jafar Jabbarly, which forms the basis of the two others.

Poverty still exists in modern Norway, but the reasons for it today is more things like illness, physical or mental, or addiction and other problems, and also cultural conflicts coming out in politics – more than society’s total lack of money, but as I say, some old social patterns I believe are sometimes hidden behind a facade of normality, and I don’t know how much of this there is.

We have a social security system, but mentality in society has become harsh again in different ways, and makes things difficult in new and maybe also very old ways.

The point about cultural conflicts – is in my opinion an important one, but has not made its way quite clearly into public debate in Norway. The country is the richest in the world right now, I think, when it comes to money, and a huge bulk of it is actually in the possession of the state.

The play which forms the basis of this story was written in 1928, the opera in 1953, and the film is from 1970.

“Sevil” was written partly to contribute to women’s liberation and to make women discard their veils, seen as a remnant of old times’ tradition. Wikipedia says that the play was rather crass, and all later stagings a little less so.

I don’t understand Azeri, the language spoken or sung here, so I have to rely on my friends and Wikipedia etc for understanding this. A short synopsis: 

Sevil and Balash is a poor couple from the countryside who lives in Baku. Balash achieves a certain position in society and looks down on his wife because of her humble background. He wants to party and live with Dilber, a young singer.

At a point in the story a big party in Balash’s mansion is interrupted by Sevil, and as a revenge, I guess, or for some other reason, he throws his whole family out of the house.

Dilber, the singer, cheats Balash and steals his money, and Balash, in desperation, tries to shoot Sevil, but without killing her.

Sevil joins the revolutionary forces in some way, manages to get to Moscow to study and throws away her veil. In the end she is reunited with her daughter.

I am not an expert on Azerbaijan although I have Azerbaijani friends, but apparently the country has a long history of strong women, also in society. It is possible for a woman to be educated even as a Muslim mullah, a priest, and this tradition, according to Wikipedia, goes centuries back. 

Women were given the right to vote in 1919, in the short reign of the independent republic of Azerbaijan, before the Red Army invaded.

(This was not many years after the same thing happened in my own country. The legislation was passed here in bulks, from 1901 to 1913.)

Independent and strong women is also part of my own country’s history, and, of course, patriarchy, as a parallel fact.

In some other important ways too, Azerbaijan seems not so far from my own, today – figures like 78% female teachers, app. 51% female lecturers on university level, 65 % of medical staff being women and 40% of athletes, is probably not that far from the situation in Norway, although I haven’t checked the Norwegian figures for those things. 

Such figures may of course disguise details and habits in the culture itself and the way of living. 

20% business owners in Azerbaijan are women and 29% of civil servants, all according to English Wikipedia, showing, I think, a difference from here, although females obviously participate substantially also in these parts of society. 

It seems that the business world, here in Norway, is an environment where women’s lib still has actuality.

Azerbaijan is a part of the Turkic area, culturally speaking, and the language is very close to Turkish, almost like the Scandinavian languages are connected. From what I have met of people from Turkey etc, my impression is that modernity as we know it, and independence of thought, exists alongside tradition. Women have probably a lot more to say in Norwegian society in general, but education gives everyone a better possibilty of speaking wherever it exists, and I should be careful not to talk to much of things I don’t know very well. in foreign countries in general. We Norwegians have a tendency towards speaking of our own society’s supremacy, which, of course, comes partly from a general feeling of being the underdog.

The Soviet Union had on its programme the liberation of women, and I don’t know how this affected Azerbaijan and its cuture, concretely. The depiction of the poor in the film may to a Western eye seem a little in this vein, idealising, but I don’t know how much this is the case and how much the mimic of another culture is in play. I sometimes see films from other counries which I believe go down well in the country where it is made, but which to me seems somewhat stiff or “artificial” and a little unconvincing –  from the outside. But when you know a culture at least a little from the inside, it is a little easier to understand what is going on also in a film or an opera.

The story in some ways remind me of the American novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, not because the concrete stories are very similar, but because of the insistence on innocence, which in the novel goes to the point of – almost – being unrealistic to me.

But it works.

The singing in the opera, especially in the role of Sevil and some of the other women, and the songs in general, are beautiful. The music of Fikret Amirov is dramatic, but I still have to decifer the story-telling content of the “oriental” scales he uses, a little better, they are still a little unfamiliar to me.

The corona math

Comment Posted on 28 Jul, 2021 01:43

I also feel that the math which has been used for calculations in this epidemic must be slightly or wildly unrealistic, I don’t know. Some predictions of the number of dead has been not even close to reality, and newspapers here and many voices have also exaggerated the risk involved, when discussing what are necessary measures and what are not.

Some more points about this corona virus

Comment Posted on 27 Jul, 2021 05:04

A corona virus is not a completely new type of virus.

During an influenza epidemic, it is possible to get ill more than once because mutation is normal or common for a virus. If the immune system of a person has tackled one virus, this doesn’t mean that it tackles the next mutation of the same virus. But even if each mutation is principally a new virus, it does not (normally, or at any time, I don’t know) belong to a new category of viruses. 

A researcher has to start from scratch in his or her work, but this does not mean that every time what is discovered is a revolutionary new thing.

When it comes to contagion, The COVID-19 is an infection which basically attacks lungs and spread through breathing. We have a lot of experience with this kind of contagion, our knowledge about it s not nil.

There are differences in how easy different viruses make us sick, but this does not necessary follow their ability to spread among us.

I haven’t seen any statistics and I don’t know whether they exist or not, but there are big differences in how seriously ill people get. The big majority doesn’t get sick at all. The most important factors which coincide with severe illness is age, obesity, diabetes, in that order.

Norway, Denmark and Finland has not been really severely hit by this epidemic. For other countries in the world I do not have an overview.

Considering contagion, Norway has some obvious advantages, relatively few people in a fairly big country, the mental and physical distance between us is…traditional? There were many jokes about this in the beginning. 

When it comes to illness, I would also add that even if the tendency is less people do it now compared to a generation ago, traditionally, there is a lot of hiking going on, which in my mind ought to have some effect on the general health situation in the population.

Antibiotics are not extensively used in the Norwegian health system, we are used to not getting a prescription for it easily, whch means our immune systems are used to coping on their own with “small” things like common cold and flu.

Considering that Norway is a “Western” country where normally these days, wealth give other health issues than poverty, we are not too hard hit of obesity. Diabetes I don’t know.

I don’t know exactly what effect it has on humans, but the use of antibiotics in Norwegian husbandry is a record low, internationally, now and normally.

The number of people who has been contaminated with COVID-19 has been widely published in Norwegian media and has given us a lot of stress, but the number of sick and dead has at the same time not been high, and those numbers have not been in the news to the same extent.

It took me some time to realise that the biggest fear among doctors and health personnel were a complete lack of capacity in hospitals, which also has not happened so far. There were peaks, in certain hospitals, and certainly pressure on personnel, but I don’t think it is right to call it a real crisis for the whole system, even before vaccinating of the population.

To handle a COVID-patient takes a lot of personnel because he or she has to be turned often, when lying in a hospital bed. Working in the necessary gear must also be a hassle.

There has been fear many places, in people’s minds and in doctors’ minds. Both seem to me somewhat exaggerated. 

I didn’t and won’t suggest that we do nothing in a situation like this, but I feel we probably did too much, at least in Norway, considering the above, the situation. Better safe than sorry must be good rule when dealing with one patient. I am more skeptical when we deal with a whole country. Health effects because of the measures have been here as well, like a record number of overdoses among drug addicts, partly because some of their treatment was stopped to make way for COVID patients or measures.

Sorry, edited after publishing.

Dictatorial measures

Comment Posted on 25 Jul, 2021 13:36

A doctor may sometimes be pretty strict towards a patient, when he or she thinks that the patient’s life is in danger, or at other times, depending on the situation and on the communication between doctor and patient.

This is sometimes necessary, of course, and in many ways reassuring, if the doctor is competent and if he or she makes the right decision. 

We should take into consideration the fact that even doctors make mistakes, and I don’t think we have to chop off their heads every time because of this. Even expertise has a limit. Politics these days is not really stable and many politicians are not really knowledgeable, and they still make decisions about systems at work, administration, also for doctors, hospitals etc, systems which stress efficiency and money – too much.

Still doctors try to do their best, I hope and I think, although of course, as in every line of work, there are different personalities and different levels of competence. Basically, when I think about my own health, I trust a doctor’s competence, but I also trust myself. I know my own body and soul, and my own life, and the doctor knows his or her science. A doctor ought to know his patients too, and the better your doctor knows you and understands your life, he better she is cable of helping you.

But I may have other ways of dealing with my own health than pure medical methods, and every doctor will, I hope, applaud a patient who takes care of his or her own health. There are discussions going on about alternative medicine, non-Western medical traditions of health thinking, acupuncture, herbs, and many other things. I only have some meagre references, basically from Norway, I am not a health expert, but I have had a lot of health problems myself and have had to deal with them. I understand that the mix of body and soul is a field in Western medicine that is not really thoroughly researched, we have a lot of new conditions and diseases that doctors don’t quite know how to deal with or even define, sometimes.

To me it seems plausible that the mix, the interaction between mind and body is partly different from person to person and also from culture to culture, it also probably differs across class, in society.

We have a lot of knowledge of physical disease.

There are also very clever psychologists and other types of therapists for mental problems. I’ve tried a few, and I have a lot of good to say about most of them.

One way of living which can be questioned today is the habit of living straightforward, seeking happiness through family, friends, work if possible, and not thinking too much about it all except how to get there, how to bring home the bacon, as some Americans say, and how to do all the other stuff.

When speaking about health in society I believe this is becoming an expensive habit, and a habit which is not always  too practical when it comes to preserving health, not only healing disease.

You have habits which you feel are reasonably ok, healthwise, and when you get sick you call the doctor and hope that she will fix the problem.

Some of my experience with psychiatrists, not psychologists, were that they were too much interested in the disease, finding it, I guess making a diagnosis, and then curing it.

This is not always a very productive approach or attitude towards the patient, even if the therapist needs this kind of knowledge. When the patient is over-sensitive (which you normally are in some ways when you have serious mental trouble), you may end up feeling really sick and dig yourself deeper into the abyss or outright destroy things that were in the process of mending.

The psychologists’ and the nurses’ attitude were more like seeing a normal person with problems, rather than a sick person. This meant that they had the strength to speak to you as a normal person, like a friend would have done, almost, focusing more on the things which actually worked already, the healthy or functional parts of your mind or life, and building your life or solving problems from there. Therapy could be talking or it could be doing concrete practical things – in the hospital, going for walks were a simple activity, but not bad at all, there were activities of hobby things, more or less, which i sometimes liked and sometimes not, but for me the social side of everything was almost always good. The other patients became friends, and we tried to help each other in basically the same ways as I described the work of the nurses and the psychologists, with the difference that we knew and shared much deeper experiences of personal problems, and the professionals had more systematic knowledge of diseases and generally about the problems of life that were marring us, and they also often had more experience, of course, in solving problems, for their patients.

There is mental disease, I think, monsters that really attack you, and there is a flock of what everybody would call problems and which exist in every or any life, but maybe not to the extent that a psychiatric patient have them.  They can be simple in a life or a person which functions “normally”, or bloody complicated. Sometimes the difference between a patient and a non-patient is simply “can you cope with it” – or not. What a breakdown does to you can be understood and conceived in more or less normal concepts, unless you are very ignorant or uninterested when it comes to everyday psychology, but it may still be such a mess that it more or less stops your life when it happens.

If you take this way of thinking into the realm of physical health and physical disease and problems, one parallell would be that the basic thing is to take care of your own health and watch yourself as you go, and make adjustments of lifestyle yourself, trying to be up front, instead of waiting until serious disease comes to the surface.

This takes a certain awareness of yourself, I would say both of your body and your soul, your feelings, your real reactions as opposed to what “everybody else” thinks, etc. Knowledge is no drawback, whether of the traditional medical type or more alternative or popular traditional ones, but for me, in the end of every problem, there is consideration which also includes an intuitive approach.  I prefer to stay away from the doctor as much as I can, both because I am stubborn, because I am used to coping with myself and my own troubles to a great extent, and because I feel both old-fashioned thinkers among patiens and doctors, in cooperation, make trouble out of some things that could be solved more easily and often cheaper.  I need doctors sometimes, and sometimes I need to stay away from their profession. This goes for physical problems too, for me actually sometimes even more than for mental ones.

It can be a mean thing to ask people to simply lay off habits and change their lives, but I think in many countries old-fashioned thinking is a problem, not least when it comes to health.

I have to finish this later.

Sorry, I am editing this text a lot even after publishing.

Acceptance – and work, of course

Uncategorised Posted on 15 Jul, 2021 02:49

I have an old friend who once said, “trust in God, then God will trust in you”. 

I kind of liked it, although I felt it a little old-fashioned. 

Religion was never an important part of our friendship, we just talked about many things and once about this. 

Today I might think, “as long as you come back to me, I’ll rescue you when you need rescuing.”

God’s voice or my own thought? I don’t know, but it is maybe more in accord with how I live. I believe in doing good, but it’s like food, you can’t be healthy 100%. As long as you’re basically healthy, and work on it when and if you have to, I guess it could be generally ok.

Organ improvisation

My own music Posted on 06 Jul, 2021 02:24

Move on

New piano improvisation

My own music Posted on 24 Jun, 2021 13:33

For Norway

The instrument sings

Music Posted on 23 Jun, 2021 16:47

I am not totally in love with the film, but this playing is very beautiful.

It’s a very good idea to use an old Blüthner grand for this music. 

This was written at a time when the so-called modern piano evolved (modern, as opposed to the harpsichord and the fortepiano) A Blüthner has a frame of cast iron for the strings, which all «modern» pianos have, but there is in the piano sound of this instrument still very much the feeling of wood, which was used as a frame in the older types, fortepianos, harpsichords etc, and also in fortepianos that grew into the size of the modern grand in the early 19th Century. It is of course also the material, basically, for the rest of any acoustic piano. 

The feeling of this and a corresponding idea of sound must have lasted long into the 1800s and probably beyond. 

Steinway pianos, which I guess everybody love, me too, has normally a slightly different approach to sound. It is still handcrafted and absolutely with the possibility of singing-when-playing, but less wood than this, in a way, maybe a little more a feeling of industry or modern handicraft, and more…something else, metal, I guess, water was always an idea I had in my head from the start when I played as a kid, anyway a usually pretty clear blend.

Schubert died in 1828, so his world is the sound world of the wood, totally. Franz Liszt was born in 1811 and lived until 1886, so the “modern grand” was a new invention then, which he explored to the limit.

The singing sound of the piano in this recording, especially in the middle and deeper range, is also very attractive and very much in style. 

I am not sure whether the pianist Beka Lagadze actually thinks like that in the treble parts, though, the sound from the upper parts of the keyboard sounds more like a glockenspiel like I was talking about. Both ways, maybe, or it may be a problem of the instrument in the upper range, which is common, especially with old pianos.

Musically, of course, the melody in the middle range and the echoes in the treble in the last part are two distinctly different voices. 

The instrument itself, the Blüthner, invites you to play like this, with an open voice, so to speak, like a choir director will ask his choir to do.

A brand new grand piano that I tried once did the opposite, the sound seemed to be completely closed in.

I spoke to a piano tuner the other day, and he said, in passing and told as a cliché, pianists were not really into sound as such, more obsessed with mechanics of the instrument of the kind that allows you to repeat the key fast enough and play as pianissimo as you like. I don’t know whether it is true or not, and if it is, how many who think like this, but I believe I was taught to sing with the instrument, or anyway picked up the idea other places than in piano lessons too.

I don’t really know whether there is a development in this direction going on, but it would be sad if the old approach disappeared. Especially 19th Century European classical music is pretty obsessed with sound, as oppised to rhythm, I guess, although all music contains both, it is an important focus point in this period. It is possible to do with all instruments, I believe, and of course when you actually sing.

This is a serenade, a song thought out to attract someone’s love, and Franz Liszt, the composer, or rather, the arranger of Schubert’s music, was famous for attracting women in his youth, so not totally wrong to involve beauty of this kind in the film that accompanies the music. After all, music is not only structure or ideas, it contains things…

But with no irony or comment implied in the filming it becomes merely an imprint of beauty, not really a story, for me, and perhaps a dream of something unfamiliar.

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