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    Dagens sak. Den hører til denne hovedsaken om Nasjonalmuseet.

    Hektisk uke

    av Martin Grüner Larsen (tekst)/Martin Grüner Larsen (ikke foto)
    Det er hektisk i Klassekampen og med forberedelser til nytt Litlivenummer som er på vei og den fine kvelden om biografi som jeg ledet på Litteratur på Blå tirsdag denne uken, har det gått litt slag i slag denne uken.

    Puster ikke
    Jeg har ikke riktig tid til å verken blogge eller puste for tiden. Men jeg kan iallefall stoppe innom og informere om at jeg har skrevet tre saker så langt i Klassekampen.

    Skriver saker
    Den første sto tirsdag og var et intervju med Jon Michelet. Den kom ikke på nett, dessverre. Den neste var denne saken her, som er en oppfølger av biografidebatten. Den tredje sto idag, og var bare en rekke korte kommentarer fra signaturene på Nasjonalmuseet-brevet som KK dekker idag. Jeg tok også bildet av Ketil Nergaard i den saken, forresten.

    Ikke påvirket
    Påvirket av journalistisk skrivemåte? Jeg? Tuller du?


    How important is blogging?

    This right here is the single best way I have of explaining what a huge source of political power the netroots - US progressive grassroot blog networks - are: The site statistics for the Daily Kos website, which is sort of the major connecting link between all these blogs. How big is Daily Kos? They get 1.1. million unique users per day.

    If we put that into newspaper circulation figures - and, granted, many of those newspapers are read by more than one person, but still - that puts them right between the LA Times and the Washington Post in circulation. That's respectively number 4 and 5 on the list of the largest newspapers in the United States.

    I wish the Norwegian left would catch on to this, because the right is doing the groundwork right now.


    "A what struggle? A what struggle?"

    Denne uken har jeg et vikariat i Klassekampens kulturavdeling. Om dere føler at det er saker i kultur-Norge som skriker ut etter dekning fra landets beste avis, så send meg en mail på

    martin punktum gruner punktum larsen alfakrøll gmail punktum com

    Bestikkelser går også greit.

    "The struggle of class against class is a what struggle? A what struggle?"

    "A political struggle."

    (Vill, stormende applaus)


    I love the fact that "Theme From Shaft" has its own Wikipedia page.


    Et tu, Brute

    Here's an 8-part lecture on the philosophy of mind, given by John Searle. I've only seen the first bit (I'll watch the rest if I get the time), but it seems like a nice introduction to the field.

    He gets into what he has earlier called the "brute fact vs. social fact" distinction at the end of part 1. This brought up something I was reading about that distinction last year around this time, as I was finishing up my MA thesis. This is how I remember it:

    The brute facts are the world, independent of the observer. The social facts are facts that depend on social decisions and, I guess, aesthetics: matters of taste, in the broadest possible sense (what to do: commit mass murder or have a nice cup of tea?).

    You kick a rock, Newton says, the rock will brutalise your foot. The rock and its physical nature is a brute fact which bruises your foot. The physical pain is a brute fact too, probably - neural signals and responses. But what the pain means is a social fact. It depends on you and your community's relationship to physical pain and/or rocks.

    In general, as a rule, I think we can almost never go wrong if we assume that most facts are social facts. Even things which seem very obviously to be brute facts, like said rock, are, when you think about it, crawling with social facts: what do you think about rocks? What do you think about pain? Why do you kick the rock? Have you kicked rocks before? Does the rock remind you of your mother? Etc. Etc.

    Michael Bérubé has an argument which I think I agree with in his book Rhetorical Occasions that the distinction between what is a brute fact and social fact is a social fact, in the day-to-day business of being alive. If you believe the rock is an illusion, the rock doesn't stop being a brute fact, and if you change your mind upon having kicked it, it doesn't care. But in the interaction with your community, there is no solid basis to ever completely arbitrate the dispute over what is a brute fact and what is a social fact. You can change your community's mind, but their state of mind is generally much further from the brute facts than one would think.

    I mean, kicking the rock is a pretty damn convincing argument, but it's still rhetoric.

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    See? Communism really can cure deafness! Why bother with hearing apparati? (Apparatchiks? Apparatchins?*) Just give them the Little Red Book!

    * Par-zedong my appalling puns.


    It came from outer space

    Here is a series of short texts about life on the International Space Station. They were written by Donalt Pettit, an American astronaut who lived on the ISS for 6 months. The texts range from very no-nonsense scientific texts to strangely poetic, haiku-like observations:
    It is easy to spill a little water. Perhaps you release some water from the nozzle of our food re-hydrating dispenser, or perhaps from the nozzle where we bathe. In either case, you produce a most amazing array of tiny jeweled spheres, each glistening like a crystal lens as they scatter in all directions. You chase them down with a tissue and catch a few before they impact on the walls. When tissue-contact is made, they adsorb so quickly they simply disappear as if they were soap bubbles that had just popped. You feel a small sadness inside for having destroyed something so beautiful.
    Something about the distance from Earth must give you quite the existential change of perspective.

    Also, he plays the didgeridoo, which he made. Out of ice and butter..

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    Skaff deg eit liv!

    Neste uke på Litteratur på Blå kan du få oppleve Stephen J. Walton og Knut Olav Åmås i samtale med meg som ordstyrer. Walton gir i disse dager ut den flotte essaysamlingen Skaff deg eit liv!, en samling tekster om biografisjangeren over to tiår. Den er nok noe av det mest sympatiske og interessante som har blitt skrevet om den sjangeren på norsk siden, vel, Knut Olav Åmås' massive Mitt liv var draum, en biografi over Olav H. Hauge med et 60 sider langt biografiteoretisk etterord som senere var grunnlag for Åmås' doktorgrad i medievitenskap.

    Jeg regner med at samtalen mellom disse to - og ikke minst boken! - blir et mer faglig interessant bidrag til biografidebatten enn vinterens debatt rundt Gryttens forelesning (selv om den var moro, den også, særlig de musikalske innslagene). Kom kom! Tirsdag den 26. kl. 1900 på Blå!

    Til konklusjon gir jeg dere Skaff deg eit liv!s motto, et sitat fra Alan Bennetts sakprosasamling Writing Home:
    Shot of a dead whale being slowly winched up a ramp. Men with satchels of knives move in and slit it open. Titles come up: "The Art of Biography".

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    Really interesting article in the New Yorker about irrational behaviour in the marketplace. Shorter version:

    "If I were to distill one main lesson from the research described in this book, it is that we are all pawns in a game whose forces we largely fail to comprehend,” he writes.
    For some reason, I 'm completely convinced I would have made the rational choice in that Snickers example.


    In other news: no more death, all taxes repealed

    I can't leave you people alone for five minutes, can I? I leave the computer to take a walk, and lo and behold:
    The Australians apologize to their Aboriginals and Fidel Castro retires.

    I am very happy that Australia finally apologized. When John Howard was prime minister, he reminded me of that scene in A Fish Called Wanda where Otto (Kevin Kline) knows he has to apologize to Archie (John Cleese) and practices, while sitting in a lotus position: "I'm so ssssss. I'm so very very ssshh. I'm so very very FUCK YOU."

    And Castro? Well, there's a discussion over at Crooked Timber which is very... old. And to anyone who wishes to engage in this debate, or the many many many like it which will no doubt follow in the course of the next few days, I have this to ask, nay, beg:

    T0 *
    Brothers, sisters, comrades: can't we just all come together as one and agree that while Fidel Castro's Cuba was (and is) a totalitarian dictatorship responsible for human rights abuses, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, they also managed to pull off some remarkable feats of humanism and social development in areas such as literacy, health care, etc.?

    And since I'm rereading Arne Næss' philosophy of debate these days in my copious free time, I feel obliged to tell you that if we call the statement in the paragraph above T0, a completely accurate rewording of that statement is T1, which is as follows:

    T1 *
    Can't we just all come together as one and agree that while Fidel Castro's Cuba has managed to pull off some remarkable feats of humanism and social development in areas such as literacy, health care, etc., it was (and is) a totalitarian dictatorship responsible for some terrible human rights abuses and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms?

    See? See? It doesn't matter which order you say it in! It's the same statement.

    I call it the "a plague on both your houses"1 school of political debate.

    1 Not to be confused with the "a plaQue on both your houses" school of debate. That stuff is mostly for the historical societies.

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    As I was untangling a nest of ethernet cables around my wireless router a month or so ago, I thought to myself: "getting these things untangled could totally be a competitive sport". Turns out that it is.


    I actually went to a futuristic dinner party once where this - enjoyed in a separate room with the "waiter" - was one of the courses. The airplane propeller was unfortunately just one of those personal fans.


    McCain 08: Like hope, but different

    Remember that viral internet video of celebrities singing the words to Barack Obama's speech? Now some evil geniuses have made the same ad, but with John McCain.


    Teoretiske jenter

    I morgen klokken 20.00 blir jeg intervjuet på radioprogrammet "Teoretiske jenter" på Radio Nova. Jeg skal snakke om blogging og - tilsynelatende - neonarsissisme. Jeg har ennå ikke helt forstått hva neonarsissisme er, men jeg mistenker at det ikke er et voldsomt fruktbart begrep for å forstå blogging.

    Siste gang jeg var i studio der var det så varmt at jeg nesten besvimte (på den annen side ble jeg dødssyk samme dag, kan ha hatt noe med det å gjøre). Kanskje du blir heldig og hører meg blacke ut live denne gangen! Tune in, turn on, black out. Lytt på nett eller på FM 99.3. Onsdag klokken 20.00.

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    Linjen flimrer

    Tue Andersen Nexø kritiserer Litlive i en bloggpost borte i Sandkassen:
    Februarnummeret af det nordiske litteratursite litlive er oppe. Som altid er anmeldelserne glimrende. Til gengæld synes jeg nok, den redaktionelle linje flimrer - jeg har svært ved at se en linje i de anmeldte bøger. Sådan har det været et stykke tid, faktisk siden litlive gik fra at være et dansk til at være et fællesnordisk site. Førhen fornemmede man en ambition om at anmelde de vigtigste kvalitetsudgivelser - 4 om måneden - nu, hvor man med 6 månedlige anmeldelser skal dække hele Norden, virker det i det store hele tilfældigt om en bog anmeldes eller ej.
    Han etterlyser en avklaring av Litlives redaksjonelle profil. Jeg skrev et svar i kommentarfeltet, og siden det vel også er av allmenn interesse for Litlivelesere, poster jeg det her også:
    Hei, Tue!

    Det som er vår redaksjonelle linje i Litlive er en ambisjon om å bidra til fremveksten av en fellesskandinavisk litterær offentlighet og til å oppmuntre til et tverrskandinavisk blikk på litteraturen. Vi ønsker å gjøre Skandinavia oppmerksom på sin felles litteratur, og vi ønsker å få kritikere fra andre land til å komme utenfra og gi nye perspektiver på andre lands bøker. Når vi har det omfanget vi har – optimalt med 6 anmeldelser i måneden fra minst tre land - da er det klart at vi ikke kan dekke den totale skandinaviske litteraturscenen. Vi anmelder dessuten også oversatt litteratur, og noen ganger også ikke-skandinavisk litteratur på originalspråket anmeldt. Det blir selvsagt en del som utelukkes. Men det har aldri vært Litlives ambisjon å gi en fullstendig dekning av verken den danske eller skandinaviske (eller den globale!) litteraturscenen. I stedet vil vi prøve å sørge for at de forskjellige skandinaviske litterære offentlighetene blir mer oppmerksomme på hverandre. Det kan vi gjøre med en rekke virkemidler, f.eks. ved å anmelde utgivelser som alle bør være bevisste på, og ved å fremheve mindre kjente forfattere som fortjener mer oppmerksomhet.

    På Litlive har den enkelte skribent både forslags- og vetorett i spørsmålet om hva hun ønsker å anmelde. Både fordi skribentene er litteratureksperter og spesialister på sine felt, og for å få en anmeldelse som kritikeren er engasjert i. Redaktørene påvirker og former altså nummeret i samråde med den enkelte skribent. Vi etterstreber stor diversitet i utvalget av bøker både innen sjanger, nasjonalitet, forfatterens kjønn, popularitet, etc. Ellers er den eneste helt faste regel at det skal være en utgivelse (eller gjenutgivelse) som er under 12 måneder gammel. De regionale redaktørene bruker kompetanse til å foreslå bøker til skribentene som de ellers ikke ville lest, slik at vi får andre lesninger enn man ville finne andre steder. Vi setter heller ikke plassbegrensninger, og forsøker å få anmeldelsen nøyaktig så lang som den ”skal” være.

    Den norske litteraturen i siste nummer er et godt eksempel på hvordan vi vil at vår redaksjonelle linje skal være. Der har vi anmeldt et lesestykke av Hanne Ørstavik. Hun er en populær og kjent forfatter, og flere av hennes romaner er oversatt til både svensk og dansk. Lesestykket er en mye smalere utgivelse, og blir sannsynligvis ikke oversatt, men det gjør jo verken fra eller til i forhold til om det er interessant som litteratur. Litteraturinteresserte i Skandinavia bør være oppmerksom på det, for det er en anomali i et viktig og interessant forfatterskap. Det ville sannsynligvis ikke fått mye oppmerksomhet utenfor Norge om vi ikke anmeldte det. Trond Davidsens Holger Hansens historie anmeldes fordi Davidsen er en svært interessant forfatter med et forfatterskap som er helt påfallende lite anmeldt både i Norge og utlandet (noen som har hørt om den fantastiske og enormt sympatiske lille romanen Vann, f.eks?).

    Men vår første prioritet utover å skape dialog mellom de litterære offentligheter er å være et rom for gode lesninger av skandinavisk litteratur. Lesninger som ikke er salgsorienterte og ikke (nødvendigvis) handler om verdidommen. Først og fremst har vi bare lyst til å trykke god, solid litteraturkritikk på vårt eget språk, og på språk som det ikke finnes noen gode grunner til at vi ikke leser.

    Så vi kan ikke se at vår redaksjonelle linje flimrer. Tvert imot mener vi at vi har hatt en god og konsekvent linje gjennom hele vårt første år som skandinavisk tidsskrift. Vi tror - og håper at leserne våre er enige i - at den fellesskandinaviske linjen vi har lagt oss på fremmer et sjeldnere og langt mer tiltrengt perspektiv på den skandinaviske litteraturen og kritikken enn den tidligere dekning med fokus på kun én enkelt offentlighet.

    Martin Grüner Larsen,
    Redaktør, Litlive.

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    God forbid they think we've noticed what they're doing

    LONDON, England (CNN) -- British athletes selected for this year's Olympic Games in Beijing will be asked to sign a contract that forbids them from criticizing China's human rights record.


    Btw, I'm sorry about all the Barack Obama stuff going on here right now. The day after I decided to tacitly root for him, I suddenly got hit by a deluge of material in his favour.

    Very good video interview with Barack Obama. You get to see a little more his personality in this one than he lets out in the speeches.

    How small a world is it?

    This small: Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are eighth cousins. That is to say, you go back eight generations, you find they share the same ancestor.

    Seriously. He references it in this speech.

    His campaign's response is great: "every family has a black sheep".

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    Ex-blogger (oh, and professor or something) Michael Bérubé has written a 9-page essay on the event of Richard Rorty's death which I'm looking forward to reading. It's called "Richard Rorty and the Politics of Modesty" (pdf).

    Re: the first paragraph:
    Have you ever noticed that when people are writing about the recently deceased, they always begin by using the full name even though the person in question didn't Richard Rorty becomes Richard McKay Rorty, and Ronald Reagan (no similarity implied) becomes Ronald Wilson Reagan. There's something ritualistic in the public declaration of death. The use of the fuhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifll name accentuates the individuality of the deceased as well as the formality of the event. I wonder if that isn't one of the oldest functions of the public sphere: the public declaration of birth and death, habeas corpus, non habeas corpus, bring out yer dead.

    Oh, and Bérubé is also going for Obama. Yup. Me, Bérubé, Stevie Wonder, Josh Lyman and Oprah.

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    Barack Obama's CV.

    "Barack Obama
    Senior Lecturer in Law (on leave of absence)"

    I hate to break it to you, University of Chicago, but you're not going to be seeing him back any time soon, whatever happens in the next couple of weeks.


    Pick a winner

    Speaking of American politics: big day tomorrow. Super duper tuesday. All the primaries are off to the races, so to speak.

    I don't really know why, but somehow, I feel compelled to pick a candidate. Maybe it's because I follow US politics the way other people might follow sports (although to be fair, professional sports don't invade Iraq). But even though it's the night of the game, and I have this feeling of having to pick sides, I still can't choose. I've gone back and forth. Obama's health care plan has been the big thing that keeps cropping up in my reading. It's not as good as Clinton's, and there have been some persuasive arguments made (notably by Paul Krugman in his book, The Conscience of a Liberal) that if you get universal healthcare, it would open the door for a new New Deal. Some relevant discussion of that issue (Obama's plan lacks mandates and there are disputes as to how relevant that is) can be found here, here, and here.

    With McCain as the presumptive nominee for the GOP, it does actually look like this election could be closer than we would like. If so, an Obama/Clinton ticket would probably be the sure win, mobilizing black and female voters - two groups that break overwhelmingly for Democrats (blacks hugely - around 90 % in 2004, I think, women around 10 %).

    So on the one hand, Obama has a worse health plan, while on the other hand Clinton made a huge error in judgement in voting for attacking Iraq, which does reflect very poorly on her leadership ability. Right now, I'm inclined to let the last one be the weightiest argument. This time, I'm hoping for a presidency without wars. Oh, and Obama is a good speaker. I think a president who speaks (and who knows - maybe even reads and writes!) English would be a pleasant change.

    So I guess that with flip-flopping and total ambivence, I'm coming down on the side of Obama after all, but only if he picks a progressive vice-president candidate (maybe Edwards) or Clinton. An Obama/Clinton or Obama/Edwards could both win and make good presidencies. Even though Obama's stupid about, say, Israel (to be fair: Clinton is even dumber on Israel), has an imperfect health care plan (and even argues that the flaw is the big selling point) and even though I think his campaign has waffled and gotten bogged down in rhetoric, and even though I think he started playing safe when he could smell the power, I have hope that he'll overcome the kinks in his personality and turn out to be a good president. Anything is better than John McCain and any human being with a heartbeat would be better than the lame duck quacking on Pennsylviana Avenue right now.

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    Karl Rove has started working for - wait for it -

    Fox News.

    Wow, I totally didn't see that one coming. No, wait, I did.


    Radio is cleaning up the nation

    I morgen mellom 17 og 18 en gang kan du høre Marianne Bråthen og meg på Radio Nova.
    Vi kommer til å offentliggjøre vårprogrammet for Litteratur på Blå på Tekstbehandlingsprogrammet. Vårprogrammet legges ut på nettsidene til Litteratur på Blå kort tid etterpå.

    Du kan høre Tekstbehandlingsprogrammet på Radio Nova FM 99.3, eller på radionova.no eller på podcast som du finner på bloggen deres. Programmet sendes hver tirsdag fra kl. 17-18, og i reprise hver onsdag fra kl. 11-12.

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    Et portrett av Martins sinnstilstand tidlig på ettermiddagen mandag, 4. februar 2008

    Vi vil ikke f.eks. anse filologi som del av økologien, selv om massekommunikasjonen av sproglige ytringer er betydelige miljøinteraksjoner og allerede har forvoldt megen tankeløs ødeleggelse av verdifull skog.
    -- Arne Næss, Økologi og filosofi (preliminær utgave)

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    Astroturf® - for the Greater Good™

    Interesting moral dilemma in the comments to the preceding post. Let me explain.

    First off, there's a word you should know, if you don't already. It's Astroturfing. Astroturfing (internet venacular) is defined by Wikipedia as "a neologism for formal public relations campaigns in politics and advertising that seek to create the impression of being spontaneous, grassroots behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass AstroTurf, initially developed for the Houston Astrodome."

    Like most people engaged in honest open debate the usual internet muckslinging, I hate astroturfing. I hate it with a cold fury most people reserve for Adolf Hitler or their income tax returns*. These people are the scum of the Earth and they are wrecking the public sphere for all of us hard-working, honest debaters.

    So astroturfing happens quite a lot on the net. Typical astroturfing is when somebody creates a website or a discussion forum of some kind trying to create the impression that a whole lot of people are really interested and excited about Brand A or Movie B or Politician McC. One commonly used technique is to have somebody just dropping by a large number of blogs, leaving behind anonymous comments that usually start off with some unusually flattering compliment about your blog (because we should never underestimate the power of vanity). If you’re lucky, you get a sentence or two about the topic you have posted on. Then the post goes off the rails and starts talking about something completely different.

    So in this case, I post on economic studies of organised crime and prostitution. Somebody comes in, compliments me, and then starts talking about climate change and linking to sites about climate change and tries to get a discussion going (to help the buzz, natch).

    So the unique moral dilemma here is: I actually agree with this astroturfer. I think climate change is a huge issue that everyone – especially the Republicans – should get taken to the cleaners about. Agreeing with astroturfers has, in fact, never happened to me before. I have never encountered astroturfing that was not conservative, right-wing propaganda or commercial pap about some obscure product.

    So here is my self-serving and evasive response:
    See, now you're placing me in a difficult situation. You're obviously astroturfing, you're obviously just somebody clicking through blogs and leaving links - and btw you'd think you'd know how to make link tags, dude - but on the other hand, you're obviously doing it for one of the best causes there are. So do I

    a. tolerate your comment, thus making me a hypocrite for accepting bad faith rhetoric (I am guessing you've never read my blog before) when I am in political agreement with the person making the statement.

    b. delete your comment, thus infitesimally lowering necessary media exposure for one of the defining political issues of our time, and therefore possibly have cause to feel guilty about it.


    c. make a long metaargument explaining how I actually thought this through, but decided to keep your comment after showing that I was aware that you made those links while in bad faith, said metaargument established only in order to reflect well on myself while also feebly trying to draw attention to the cause, despite the fact that I have also damaged the credibility of the followers of that cause. [I should have added: but leave you up under the pretense of having made an informative ”case” out of you.]

    I think C. But see? See what you made me do? Couldn't you just behave like a real person and not leave those astroturfing comments with their habitual opening compliments about what a great blog this is and bla bla bla. It hurts the cause more than it helps it. Get in the fray and make some honest debate and spread the links properly, the way they should be spread.
    * Note: not the income tax itself. We pay our taxes with Joy and Pride, citizen.

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    Covert Economies

    Since I am now mainlining The Wire while hearing John McCain - the presumptive Republican nominee for president - talking about how strict sentencing should be and how kids should be tried as adults, and, you know, spreading other good, rational ideas of modern criminology, I thought I should share a couple of links with you. Both are by Stephen "Freakonomics" Levitt and both are on the economic aspects of criminal activities. Which is obviously something we should know as much as possible about.

    The first is a lecture he gave based on a chapter in the book Freakonomics. It's called "Why crack dealers live with their mothers". It details some of the findings from a study of an inner-city US crack dealing organisation, based among other things on their accounting books and organisational charts.

    The second is "An Empirical Analysis of Street-Level Prostitution" (pdf) which he wrote with Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh. Since it's a complete (though not finished) article, it's much more substantial and far more interesting.http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

    Levitt & Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner blog over at the NY Times.

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