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- the occasional blog of André Hansson

U2 Songs of Innocence – Song by Song Walkthrough

Culture and Entertainment Posted on Mon, October 13, 2014 10:41:42

As promised
in my previous post with quick reviews of U2’s catalogue, here’s my review of
U2’s latest, Songs of Innocence. Overall, it’s a good album, but not a great
one. As with their previous outing, No Line on the Horizon, I would place it
somewhere in the middle of their output. There are few great songs, but many of
the songs are a bit… well, meh. The album still get two songs with the core 5
out 5. Not bad, but most of the other songs don’t exactly burst through the
roof so as a whole the album get 3 out of 5 stars from me. I might still change
my mind — U2 albums have a tendency to grow on you. Below is a song by song
walkthrough with some short comments for each.

U2 – Songs of
Innocence – 3 out of 5 stars

The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) – 3 out of 5 stars

tribute to Joey Ramone sounds nothing like a Ramone song. Good song, with
choppy rhythms and quite deliciously distorted guitars that I suspect are
intentionally made to sound bad. It sounds a bit like The Edge borrowed my old
200 Euro crap Zoom 2020 multi from the Grenland museum back in Zoran
Cullibrick’s basement. If I were to venture a guess I would say he’s using a
fuzz pedal on low gain.

Every Breaking Wave – 5 out 5 stars

Best song
of the album, one that truly belongs in the canon of great U2 songs. This is U2
wringing every last bit emotion out of a song, something they’ve done so well
in the past with songs like With or Without You, Pride (In the Name of Love)
and one (to name a few). One of the best songs U2 has made in a decade.

California (No End to Love) – 3 out of 5 stars

U2 tries
their hand at surf pop with a song that starts of with a Beach Boy’s like chant
(baba Barbara, Santa Barbara…). A catchy tune, almost in the style of Even Better
Than the Real Thing. This is a good song, but alas, not quite the real thing.

Song for Someone – 5 out of 5 stars

hauntingly beautiful ballad, Song for Someone is another emotional track, with
gorgeous soaring Edge backing vocals. “I was told I’d feel nothing the first
time”. Great lyric.

Iris (Hold me Close) – 3 out of 5 stars

The opening
of this song sounds suspiciously like that of Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies (1987). This tribute to
Bono’s mother Iris, who died when Bono was 14, also pays tribute to U2’s
post-punk origins. Given how important this song must be to Bono, I can’t help
but to feel it should’ve been better. The line “something in your eyes, took a thousand
years to get here” is one the best pieces of lyrics on the album.

Volcano – 4 out 5 stars

driving bass, delicious pop melody chorus. This one you will be humming on for
days after listening to it.

Raised by Wolfs – 3 out of 5 stars

The heaviest
and possibly the most intense song of the album. Political lyrics, wailing
song, tom-tom galore and a good nod to U2’s roots.

Ceaderwood Road – 2 out 5 stars

This is U2
crossing into more traditional rock music, with Zeppelin and Hendrix like
guitar riff and more straight forward drum licks. There’s been one song like in
this style on the last few albums they’ve made and I can’t help it. I don’t
think U2 does this kind of music well.

Sleep Like a Baby Tonight – 3 out 5 stars

With heavy
lyrics and quite creative structure, I can’t help but to feel that this song
too should’ve been more than it is. It never really reaches the heights one has
come to expect of U2 songs. The verse borrows from Gene Pitney’s Something’s Got a Hold on My Heart.
Maybe this has something to do with it?

This is Where You Can Reach Me Now – 3 out 5

The most
experimental track of the album, with Edge guitar that sounds like sweeping
birdsong one moment, blues the next and Pointer Sister’s the next again. Did it
work? Sort of.

The Troubles – 4 out 5 stars

closer with Lykke Li performing guest vocals. Not likely to be a radiohit but still one of the strongest tracks on the album.

André Hansson’s Guide to U2 Albums

Culture and Entertainment Posted on Sun, September 21, 2014 14:41:58

U2 is back
with Songs of Innocence. This is a
big thing for me, even though these days U2 are not really that often in my
headphones anymore. But my life history is inseparable from these four
Irish lads. Between the ages 13 and 22 I more or less listened to nothing but
U2. Pride (In the name of Love) was
the first song I can remember liking at age 8. It’s the song that is most
likely to be played at my funeral when that day comes. I can still vividly recall
the cheap 80s video effect that transitioned from Cia Bergh’s introduction to
the first part of the song (the low flying POV shot over the Dublin harbor over
Edges lightly distorted harmonics and choppy muted strings that open the song)
on the Swedish Pop Chart show Bagen
back in 1984. I may have progressed and developed quite an eclectic taste
today, at age 38, but I’m still a U2 geek. That will probably never change.

This post,
though, is not really about my relationship to U2, but a guide to their albums.
Maybe Songs of Innocence will entice
some young people unfamiliar with the history of the band into thinking “hey,
these geezers are not all bad — wonder what else they’ve done?” Well, look no
further than to my awesome, and completely subjective, guide below. Enjoy.

1980-1983: Post-Punk

Boy (1980) 5 out of 5

energy and post-punk glory. U2 started out in the wake of the punk scene and were
inspired by acts like The Ramones (which is frequently referenced by U2, lately
with the song The Miracle (of Joey Ramone). They were contemporaries with
Simple Minds, Gang of Four, Echo and the Bunnymen and many others. The political
issues and the break with classic rock music’s masturbatory virtuoso craftsmanship
that had fueled the main-era punk (with acts like The Sex Pistols) is still
there, albeit now it’s more about the music now than off-stage antics. The sound
is both more polished and experimental, with clean guitar sounds and
experimental rhythm sections. And Boy is one of the best albums of the genre
and still one of U2’s best.

I can also
recommend trying get hold of some bootlegs from around the time of the Boy
release. On these, without the polish of Steve Lilywhite’s studio album
production, the true post-punk spirit comes out.

Legacy tracks

I Will

Other notable tracks

A Day
Without Me – check out Edge’s weird echo guitar parts

Shadows and
Tall Trees

Stories for
Boys (does it get anymore post-punk than this?)

11 O’clock
Tick Tock (a song that never made the album, but one frequently featured in
live performances in the early days of U2. A live version can be found on Under
a Blood Red Sky from 1983 and can also be found on the latest remastered deluxe
version of Boy)

Out of

October (1981) 2 out of 5

October is
the rushed follow-up to Boy and features more post-punk, only this time not
nearly as good as before. One can hear U2’s lust for experimentation, and
willingness to push their own boundaries already here, but this time without
the results. I believe generally, October is considered the worst U2 album (possibly
in competition with 1997’s Pop) and I’m
of the same opinion. It has a few highlights nonetheless. Gloria takes its
place among the legacy track and Edge’s keyboards on the title track October is
hauntingly beautiful.

Legacy Tracks


Other notable tracks


I Threw a
Brick through a Window

War (1983) 2 out of 5

In January
1983 U2 scores the first UK Top 40 hit with New Year’s Day, as song about the
Polish Solidarity Movement and the mainstream break through is a fact. This
song and the album radio air play of Sunday Bloody Sunday catapults U2 to a
different level of fame. The album is considered a U2 classic, but my opinion
has always been that the rest of the album is pretty bland. More post-punk but
it just isn’t very good. It certainly is nowhere near the brilliance of Boy.

Legacy Tracks

New Year’s

Bloody Sunday

Other notable tracks

Two Hearts
Beat as One


1984 – 1989: The
Rise to Super Stardom

The Unforgettable Fire (1984) 4 out 5

Unforgettable Fire is U2’s first of many collaborations with producers Brian
Eno and Daniel Lanois and marks the first time U2 radically changes their
sound. The post-punk roots are still quite clearly there, but the album is a
wash of lush ambience, sweeping guitars and keyboards. It’s an album where the
whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Many songs are individually weak,
but the album has such a great atmosphere it doesn’t really matter. It’s an
album you put on and just let it play, not one where you skip around for
individual tracks. Pride (In the name of
is a massive hit around the world and U2 solidifies their status as a
major mainstream act.

Legacy Tracks

Pride (In
the Name of Love) – Oh-oh-ah-oh!

Bad (check
out the epic performance of the song at Live Aid in 1985, which is some say is
a key piece in U2’s rise to super stardom)

Other notable tracks

A sort of

The Unforgettable

Wide Awake in America (1985) 3 out of 5

containing live versions of A sort of
and Bad, plus two
mildly interesting songs from The
Unforgettable Fire
studio sessions that never made the album. Worthwhile
mostly for the live version Bad, which enjoyed massive album radio airplay in
the US in the wake of Live Aid, where the bad had performed an iconic version (not
the one on the album, though) of the song, and helped pave the ground for
massive commercial success of their next album, The Joshua Tree. All songs on this album are now available on the
remastered deluxe reissue of The
Unforgettable Fire

The Joshua Tree (1987) 5 out of 5

With or Without You and I still Haven’t Found what I’m Looking For hits number 1 in the US
and U2’s break through into super stardom is a fact. The album is hailed as one
the great albums in the history of pop and rock music, U2 makes the cover of
Time Magazine and are suddenly everywhere. There’s not a single dud on the
album (except possibly Trip Through Your Wires, which I personally never really
liked). The American music inspired album, while made in the otherwise abominable
second half of the 80s, features none of the signature sounds of that era. No
reverb on the drums or voices, no cheesy synthesizers etc., which makes the
album sound as fresh today as it did back then. Truly a masterpiece.

Legacy Tracks

With or
Without You

I Still
Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for

Where the
Streets Have No Name

Other notable tracks

Bullet the
Blue Sky

Running to
Stand Still

Red Hill
Mining Town

Rattle & Hum (1988) 2 out of 5

After the
Joshua Tree U2 tried to capitalize on their success with a movie called Rattle
& Hum. It bombed at the box office. The movie and subsequent album was criticized
for being self-indulgent. It’s ok to be big superstar providing you don’t brag
about it. The nod to American music continues and U2 are seen collaborating
with American greats like BB King and perform half-hearted covers of The
Beatles and Hendrix (actually, Watchtower is a Dylan song, but I believe U2 were inspired by Hendrix’s interpretation). The album is a mix of (heavily doctored) live performances
from The Joshua Tree tour and new
studio songs. I never liked the album
and for me it became clear that U2 are not always that good when they stray too
far outside their own European post-punk heritage and into more traditional
styles of music. U2 are at their best when playing U2, not when playing
Hendrix. There are exceptions, Angel of Harlem on this very album being one of

touring the album U2 had a bit of a burnout and Bono announced on their 1989 New
Year’s Eve concert in Dublin that they “had to go away and dream it all up
again” which led to speculation that the band was splitting up.

Legacy Tracks

Angel of


Other notable tracks

All I want
is You


The 90s – The
Experimental Phase

Achtung Baby (1991) 5 out of 5

The Edge
said in famous interview that 1991’s Achtung Baby still sounded like the blues
to him, but through a certain kind of filter. I never understood what he meant.
To me ‘Baby sounds nothing like the blues (with the possible exception of One). It sounds much more like post-punk
through a filter. And it is U2s greatest and thematically most coherent album.
For me it will always be their greatest album. I am too old to reevaluate no
matter what they do in the future. There are too many memories of my struggling
teens intimately tied to this album. And I’m not alone. For a long time U2 fans
were divided between The Joshua Tree and ‘Baby. Today I believe ‘Baby came out
on top, if barely.

Baby marks U2’s second radical change in sonic style. The last anyone had heard
of U2 was the hauntingly beautiful All I
want is You
, the last single from Rattle and Hum. Then comes The Fly with heavy distortion and phaser
on the guitar, distorted low whispering voice, and none of the iconic
shimmering delayed Edge guitar parts that signified their 80s sound. Four men
chopping down the Joshua Tree, Bono said of the song. The album opens with Zoo
Station which sounds like your stereo is broken.

Like many
others, I initially had trouble digesting this radical change, but I did and
then I never looked back. ‘Baby is the start of what today can only be
described as U2s experimental phase, with two more albums in the 90s breaking
sonic new ground. They not only broke new ground sonically, but also image
wise. Where the old U2 had been earnest and pretentious, the new U2 was
sarcastic and ironic. Suede vests and
cotton rags had become black PVC suits and fly shades, black and white had
become color, boring had become fun.

After the
release of Achtung Baby they embarked on the massive and technically challenging
Zoo TV tour, still in my opinion, their best tour.

Legacy Tracks



The Fly

Other notable tracks

All of them

4 out of 5

U2 follow
up Achtung Baby with an album that was originally going to be an EP. It’s a
more pop oriented album than any previous U2 album, with sweeping pop melodies
like those of Zooropa and Lemon, and quirky bubblegum pop like Some Days are
Better than Others. And it works. Pushing U2s sound in this direction was in my
opinion much more successful than pushing it towards blues on Rattle and Hum.
Stay (Far Away, So Close) is the soundtrack for Wim Wenders film In Weiter Ferne, So Nah, the not-quite-as-brilliant-but-still-worth-a-watch-follow-up
to one the best movies ever made, Der himmel
über Berlin
. It’s around this time that Bono is starting to rely heavily on
falsetto for the high notes (and in the case of Lemon, entire songs).

Legacy Tracks

(Faraway, So Close)



Other notable tracks


Dirty Day

Pop (1997) 4 out of 5

Maybe it
was dressing up like The Village People
in the video for Discotheque, or the
release conference at K-Mart, or maybe Bono being misquoted in the prerelease
interviews saying Pop was a “dance record” when he meant “dense record”? Or
maybe the fact that the album was rushed out while still being somewhat rough?
Or something else? But Pop seemed to alienate a lot of core U2 fans. U2 were
being perceived as straying too far from what made them a great super star act.
Pop was disappointment commercially (it still sold “millions”, but slightly
less “millions” — everything is relative) but I always liked it. It a great
collection of songs, a testament to U2s willingness to take risks and
experiment with their sound. Not a single dud on the entire album, if you ask
me. Many of the songs were rerecorded and polished for release as singles, but
none of them constituted any improvements over the album versions.

biggest challenge was at this time how to top the overbearing majesty of their
own Zoo TV tour. They did, at least in size, with the PopMart Tour.

Legacy Tracks


Staring at
the Sun

Other notable tracks


The Playboy

If You Wear
that Velvet Dress


If God Will
Send His Angels


2000s – The Elder Statesman Phase

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) 4 out of 5

It’s around
this time that I start slowly to lose interest in U2. After the relatively
unsuccessful Pop U2 reinvents themselves by… going back to a more Joshua
Tree-like sound. U2 are now beginning to
administer their legacy, rather than pushing boundaries. Oh well, we all grow
old sometime. They again flirt with the blues (In a Little While, Stuck in a
Moment) but it is better this time around than back in the Rattle and Hum days.
The album is hailed as a triumphant return to form and is called out as U2’s third
master piece. Does that assessment still hold up today? I suppose I agree,
although I make no secret of the fact that I prefer the 90s experimentation and
the 80s post-punk over the American influenced blues stuff. Still, ‘Leave
behind is and album that has a little bit of everything and boy is it a great
collection of songs.

U2 Tours
indoors for the first time since the first leg of the Zoo TV tour in 1992.

Legacy Tracks


Other notable tracks

Wild Honey
– notable for being one of the worst songs U2 ever made. I still believe they
put it on there as a joke

In a Little


Stuck in a


Walk On

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004) 3 out of 5

Bomb is an uneven album in my opinion. The more rock
oriented follow-up to All You Can’t Leave
contains some of the best songs U2 has ever made, but also a few
bland ones, and a few real duds (A Man and a Woman, anyone?). The album was a massive commercial success, in no small part to Vertigo being featured in a commercial
for the iPod.

Legacy Tracks


You Can’t Make it on Your own

Other notable tracks

City of
Blinding Lights

Original of
the Species


No Line on the Horizon (2009) 3 out of 5

No Line again sees U2 trying to shake things up
sonically. It’s not a bad album with some great songs, but somehow the album
presents like a dense gray mass of tracks that are sometimes indistinguishable
from each other. Maybe it’s the mix? Maybe it’s the Edge using the same EQ and
distortion setting on all tracks (if he in fact even did this, — it’s what it sounds like in my ears). The
16th note delay arpeggios make a triumphant return and is heavily featured on
almost all tracks. I commend U2 for trying, even if it didn’t quite succeed this time,
like it did back with Achtung Baby.

They embark
on their most ambitious tour yet. Many of the songs that were a bit bland on
the album gets a significant boost when U2 are playing them live.

Legacy Tracks

Get on Your


Other notable tracks

Moment of


Songs of Innocence (2014)

So what
about this one then? I can’t say yet. First impression is that it’s quite a lot
more accessible than No Line on the Horizon. Some songs immediately stuck on me
but it is too early for me to form an opinion at this time. I’m not a music
critic so I will take privilege of time before I decide. Stay tuned.

So there you have it. Hope you found it useful.

Några tankar om valet

Politics and Society Posted on Mon, September 15, 2014 11:33:00

Alliansen förlorar makten efter 8 år trots att Sverige är i rätt gott skick. Ingen kris, även om uppfattningen kanske har varit att det skett en försämring på vissa områden (såsom skola, välfärd). Jag var aldrig själv någon större anhängare av Alliansen eller De Nya Moderaterna, men lite orättvist kan jag ändå tycka att det var. Det rödgröna står helt still jämfört med 2010 så det var ju knappast någon seger för dem utan de vinner på att Alliansen (främst Moderaterna) tappar fler väljare till SD. Det är inte lätt att vinna 3 val i rad, för någon. Den tiden är förbi.

Så, SD med rötter i nynazismen mer än fördubblar sina mandat i riksdagen. Vad kan man säga om detta?

Är 13% av valmanskåren rasister? Jag tror inte det. Enligt Valu uppgav 19% (en betydande del, men långt ifrån alla) av SDs väljare att invandringsfrågan var viktig, vilket jag tycker antyder att bilden av SD väljaren är mer komplex än att de endast är inavlade idioter och rasister (kommentarer som florerar på sociala medier, bl a). Det är förstås bekvämt för oss andra att ge dem dessa attribut — det låter oss ignorera de verkliga problemen i svensk politik som föranlett SDs uppgång.

Jag tror att förklaringen till SDs framgångar är mer komplicerad än så. Den är delvis att SD har synts mer den senaste mandatperioden. Deras organisation har vuxit, deras resurser har vuxit. Deras närvaro i landets olika demokratiska församlingar, deras exponering i media, har fört upp deras frågor på agendan på ett sätt som det inte gjorts tidigare. All publicity is good publicity, heter det engelska uttrycket.

Men det är också så att svensk politik är fattig på alternativ, så även i detta val med två stora partier som är förbryllande lika varandra. Idéer och framtidsvisioner i svensk politik, det lilla som fanns, har förbytts i tråkig och ogenomtränglig teknokrati. Parti A vill lägga x miljarder på bidrag/reform X, medan parti B vill lägga y miljarder på samma, etc, etc. Som vi nyliberaler ibland säger — det sitter 8 socialdemokratiska partier i riskdagen. Så har svensk politik sett ut sedan årtionden tillbaka. Vad gör man som väljare när man inte ser skillnad och vill ha en förändring?

Att gå tillbaka till S efter att ha röstat på Alliansen är ju under sådana förutsättningar inget attraktivt alternativ. SD var det alternativ som fanns till hands. SD är det enda parti som uppfattats som något nytt. Hur fördelningen sedan är mellan rena missnöjes-, invandringsfientliga och övriga röster får väl forskningen titta på.

Det parlamentariska läget är som bekant besvärligt och jag har inte så mycket att tillägga om det förutom en kort kommentar om SDs roll här som jag inte hörde så mycket om i valvakan.

Situationen nu är den samma som förra mandatperioden förutom att det är ett rödgrönt block som får bilda regering. V+S+MP har exakt samma utmaning som Alliansen hade 2010-2014 att söka stöd i riksdagen med en minoritetsregering. Att SD ökat spelar mindre roll. Det som spelar roll är att SD tenderar att rösta mer med de borgerliga, vilket gör allt betydligt jobbigare för Löfven än var det var för Reinfeldt, som kunde räkna med mer passivt stöd från SD. Om Alliansen håller ihop och går i enad opposition (dvs röstar enat) blir det inte lätt för Löfven.


Tiden då Socialdemokraterna var ett 40% parti och kunde räkna med att ohotat abonnera på makten är sannolikt fortfarande förbi.

De som gillade vad Alliansen åstadkom kan hålla sig lugna – S har inget mandat eller möjlighet att rulla tillbaka särskilt mycket.

Om Alliansen håller ihop har de goda möjligheter att vinna val i framtiden.

Den mer marknadsliberala falangen, som fört en tynande tillvaro i Reinfeldts Nya Moderater vädrar morgonluft efter hans avgång?

Radikalfeministerna får vänta en mandatperiod till – minst.

Sveriges politiska landskap börjar likna omvärldens.

Majoritetsvalsystem som man har i bl a USA och Storbritannien brukar kritiseras i Sverige. Men man kan konstatera nu att de har en distinkt fördel – inget utrymme för rasistiska partier att segla upp.

Val 2014 – färdigkommenterat.

The Use of Profanity in Serious Literature

Culture and Entertainment Posted on Fri, May 23, 2014 16:09:15

The use of
profanity in literature remains controversial. Some people don’t like it and
don’t want to see it no matter what the circumstance. Others believe the use of
the four letter words can bring gritty reality and edge to a text. After all,
real people say f*ck and other things all the time. It’s everywhere in movies.
My own opinon is that if an author cleans up the language too much it can sometimes
sound dull and contrived. Real people swear, that’s a fact. But can it be
overused? Judge for yourself.

I compiled
a list of books that are generally considered to be literary fiction and did a
search for the word “f*ck”. Not surprisingly, the older the book the less it is
used. The type of story also matters, of course, but it shows clearly that many
works of revered fiction contains profanity to great effect.


1. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great
– 0 times

2. Truman Capote – Breakfast at
– 1 time

3. JD Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye – 5

4. Brett Easton Ellis – Less Than Zero – 58 times

5. Hunter S. Thompson – Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – 84 times

6. Nick Hornby – High Fidelity – 98 times

7. Charles Bukowski – Women – a
whopping 336 times

more than 1 f*ck per page

8. Richard Blandford – Hound Dog – 304

more than 1 f*ck per page.

In my own
novel, The Jacket Trick, the f-word occurs a modest 106 times.

Science Fiction movies!

Culture and Entertainment Posted on Sat, May 03, 2014 10:24:58

In a recent blog post author David Brin lists his favorite science fiction movies. Being a huge fan of the genre I was inspired to do the same.

SF in movies is all too often about blazing laser guns and explosions and not so much about the exploration of the human condition and our possible futures. For that, oftentimes you have to turn to written Science Fiction. But every now and then something good pops up. Here are some of my favorites and disappointments.

May contain spoilers!

The good ones:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The idea that humanity needed a push to overcome the hump to sentience was a prevalent idea at the time, especially in the works of Clarke. The monolith provides that when it interferes with human evolution on a number of occasions, most notably when it teaches the apes to use tools. The film leans heavily on symbolism and metaphors that are open to interpretation but for me it was always a lot about the loneliness we feel as a species, not knowing if we’re alone or not, or who created us.

Blade Runner (1982)
If one had to pick a single movie as the best, this one would probably be my choice. Action, slow building suspense, a man wrestling with his own ethics, a bleak but not dystopian future, the rights of artificial life forms. This movie has it all. It bombed at the time, but has built up a cult following and is now more or less the favorite of everyone who is in the know.

Alien (1979)
Is Alien really SF, or just horror cliché. Well, it’s mostly the latter. Switch out The Nostromo for a haunted house and the Alien for an axe murderer and not much changes, but it was all done so well it still easily makes the list. Everything from the ultra-realistic acting, the sexual undertones (especially the attacks on male sexuality which was unprecedented at the time and still creepy today), the order of which the characters are killed off, to the set design, was and still is, brilliant. Scott was smart not to show the Alien too much. Nothing kills the mood in a horror flick like seeing the strings holding up the giant spider’s jaw, or crappy CGI.

Alien was not horror based on surprise, but rather anticipation. You have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen all along, and Scott counted on it. Then he dragged it out, and dragged it out, until you were at the edge of your seat. I’ve heard younger audiences accuse Alien of being a movie where “nothing happens”. It’s the slow mood building part of the first hour they are referring to. That’s how movies were made once upon a time, before we were taught that something had to explode every two seconds to be exciting.

Aliens (1986)
Cameron’s sequel is almost as good as the original. A different kind of movie, with guns and marines, but it has all the trademark Cameron ingredients. Strong female characters, tough-but-vulnerable males and the two maternal instincts squaring it off at the end. Also, Michael Biehn.

The Terminator (1984)
Everyone knows The Terminator is about a cyborg from the future wreaking havoc in 1984 Los Angeles. But there’s another way to look at this film. A boy and girl from disparate worlds meet, they fall in love while trying to escape an inescapable threat. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like another movie Cameron made, about say, 13 years later? (hint, the inescapable threat in that movie is the boat we all know is going to sink). Anyway, The Terminator was groundbreaking and, like Alien, spawned many carbon copies, some of which are now more well known that this brilliant low-budget sci-fi tale. A dystopian future, but from a time when the idea was still reasonably fresh. The best part is the build up, where two men arrive in flashes of light, one brute, one more vulnerable. They both seem to be looking for a woman. Why? Are they working together, are they not? Good stuff. Schwarzenegger is fun, but it is Michael Biehn that carries the movie.

The Abyss (1989)
The Abyss has the best character development of any science fiction movie I’ve seen. Every character not only plays a pivotal role in some fashion, they are fleshed out and given depth in a way that I’ve haven’t seen before or after. The preachy slap on the wrist ending I can live with, but the movie is at its best from the destruction of the Crane to the time when Bud dives for the bomb. Here, it’s a grueling close quarters thriller, a real nail biter, with outstanding acting from the entire cast. The special edition ending is possibly even more preachy, but at least it explains the otherwise puzzling turn of events. It also adds several scenes that makes you care more about the characters, which is always a good thing. This is probably Cameron’s best film. Also, Michael Biehn.

Contact (1995)
Not as complex as the book, but still a good movie. Real(ish!) science, aliens – but plausible ones we never really get to see. The religion versus science theme is hammered in a bit too hard but still good enough to make the list.

Gattaca (1997)
Features a portrayal of the future you almost always only find in written SF. In Gattaca we see a society with problems, but some things actually seem to work. We seemed to have solved some issues, but gained new ones as technology has developed. Just like in real life. Blade Runner is an example of this as well, but they are few and far between.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Aliens come to earth, they abduct and communicate with music. My favorite part of this is movie is Dreyfuss’s character. He’s not a super hero, just a regular guy. A family man, who rises to occasion. Spielberg always knew how to write characters. Another slow build up before the action begins. It was the way you made movies in the 70s.

Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
The best of the Star Trek movies. Unlike the predecessor, it had a distinct antagonist in the form of Khan. Faster pace, more action, but also emotion and things to ponder, like man playing God and creating life with devices that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. There are other Trek movies that are decent, but if you’re only seeing one, then Wrath of Khan has to be the one.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The best of the Star Wars movies. The heroes are on the run, it features a lot of Han Solo and then there’s the big surprise at the end, setting up for wonderful things to come. And nothing gets blow up from the inside.

1984 (1984)
Orwell’s classic, together with Huxley’s Brave New World are the best entries in the dystopia genre, one that Hollywood has rehashed hundreds of times. This British film is fairly close to the book and features nice performances from John Hurt, Suzanna Hamilton and Richard Burton. It was Burton’s last film.

Honorable mentions

Silent Running, Brazil, E.T., Moon, District 9, Forbidden Planet, Star Trek: First Contact, War of the Worlds, Solaris, Children of the Lost City, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Inception, Altered States, The Dead Zone, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, many others.

The disappointments – movies that promised so much, but ultimately didn’t deliver

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
I disagree with Brin that T2 was better than the first one. It was clear to me when I saw this one that it was nothing more than a standard Hollywood production, without the edge and originality of the first one. Arnie was a big star by the time T2 came out and clearly everything had been streamlined to fit his needs rather than the movie’s. But it was all done with panache and flair so maybe this belongs in the fun and so-so category and not the disappointments.

Alien 3 and 4 (1992, 1997)
Alien 3 killed off Hicks and Newt off-screen(yes, it’s been 20+ years and I’m still pissed off about it!) and otherwise was nothing more than a poor rehash of the first one, with bald English actors you couldn’t tell apart from each other, and whose death you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about. Alien 4 was just more of the same, but with American accents and hair.

Avatar (2009)
It was visually stunning, but otherwise nothing special. I’ve seen comparisons made to Dances with Wolves, and Aliens (the marines copy lines from Apone, the exosuit fight at the end etc), but these are all superficial. On a more fundamental level it is a copy of Cameron’s earlier, much better film, The Abyss. Humans engage in an endeavor that endangers morally superior, but vulnerable alien species (extraction of unobtainium in Avatar endangers the Na’vi vs. nuclear war in the Abyss endangers the water dwelling creatures). Good forces in humanity rise up and save the day and the aliens. Only with Avatar, Cameron’s view of humanity has darkened considerably. In The Abyss there was still hope for humanity, as represented by the reconciliation of Bud and Lindsey’s marriage, but in Avatar there is no redemption for humanity. Jake even has to literally abandon his humanity to stay good at the end of the movie. Or maybe he just did it for love, or to get his legs back, what do I know?

Star Wars, all of them except Empire (1976 – )
I was never a big fantasy fan, and Star Wars is fantasy, not science fiction. I’ve always found that Fantasy glorifies the past, not the future. It glorifies feudalism and elitism. Switch out the space ships for horses, the light sabers for regular swords, and start calling The Force for what it really is – magic – then what you got is fantasy. Not a very good one, at that. See Lord of the Rings instead.

Gravity (2013)
I understand why the science fiction community went all apeshit about this movie. Finally, there was an SF movie again with real space hardware, without lasers, massive machines blown up from the inside, flesh eating aliens or lame dystopian plot rehashes. But Gravity was in my view just a never ending engineering obstacle course without any plot or character development. I found myself not caring whether the characters lived or died. The little piece about Bullock losing her daughter they could just as well have left out. It was so little and felt so contrived it made things worse, not better. The bad science pointed out by Neil Tyson and others doesn’t matter. I can give a movie a lot of leeway if the story is good. Bad writing I cannot.

Other bad ones:

Event Horizon, All of Michael Bay’s movies, Riddick, Time Cop, Hollow man, anything based on Michael Crichton (science is bad and will morally corrupt and doom us!Always) the list goes on…

The so-so, but fun. Turn off your inner critic and just try to enjoy and these movies aren’t too bad.

Total Recall (1990)
It’s a Schwarzenegger movie and that of course gives it a certain character. A movie based on Philip K. Dick, the grand master of SF, and it’s not so bad if you can get past Arnie.

The Fifth Element (1995)
Fairly stupid plot, but gorgeous to look at and quite fun.

Mad Max Trilogy (1979 -1985)
Another cold war era dystopia proceeding from the notion that humanity will eventually destroy itself. Still quite fun and the dystopia plot was fresher back in the early Eighties so I will include these instead of any of the newer ones.

The Matrix
Fun. Too much martial arts for my taste and the dime store philosophy doesn’t hold if you dig a bit deeper, but the idea that we live in a simulation is true SF.

Seksmisja (Eng. title: Sex Mission) (1984)
Polish SF comedy about a future where a genetic bomb has exterminated all males. I suppose it doesn’t fall into the realm of serious SF, but fun nontheless.

The Postman
Based on the book by the above mentioned David Brin. The Postman was sawed to bits when relased but isn’t nearly as bad as it was made out to be. It suffered, in my opionion from the then reputation of Costner for being a camera hogging narcissist. With any other actor it would’ve probably been much better recieved. Not as good or clever as the book, but still quite enjoyable and absolutely gorgeous to look at. The Postman (book as well as movie) is rare (even unique) in the post-apocalyptic genre in that it actually portrays civilization as something we would miss if it was gone, something that was fundamentally good and didn’t deserve to be destroyed.

Logan’s Run
A dystopia, but perhaps one with a twist. Again, the idea wasn’t done to death at the time so it gets to be on this list.

Alien in the jungle. Arnold again, but one of his better ones.

Some good old fashion space opera. Based on the short lived cult TV-series Firefly.

Starman, ExistenZ

Blog rekindled

Misc. Posted on Fri, May 02, 2014 16:59:28

I’m going to make a serious attempt at rekindling this blog. What? It was only a short break. 2 years. That’s nothing.

Huxley vs. Orwell

Politics and Society Posted on Thu, March 22, 2012 09:28:42

Huxley vs. Orwell?
Because of the coming ubiquity of cameras people are talking Orwell, but I
believe that for the Western democratic welfare state Huxley’s dystopia has
always been more relevant. In Huxley’s world government shaped it’s subject
from the very start, into the kind of citizens it wanted. No cameras and
control were ever needed. By extension, a metaphor for all the fostering modern
welfare states do, from the skewed view of history taught to my generation in
school to fax taxes and our famous paradoxical alcohol policies.

Below is link to
the very interesting letter Huxley wrote to Orwell upon the publishing of 1984.

Svenskar och sparandet i SvD

Politics and Society Posted on Tue, February 07, 2012 10:27:16

Det intressantaste i denna artikeln i SvD är inte sparandet i sig, utan den attityd som välfärdsstaten fostrar hos medborgaren: att transferera ansvaret för livet till någon annan.[spara]-[opinion_ledarsidan_zone-1]-[Textlank]-[svd]-[]-[SvD

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