Thursday, October 04, 2007

The wonders of technology

Many years ago now, the Swedish rock band Wilmer X had a hit with their song Teknikens under (Technical wonders). One of the more significant lines of that song is “du kan glömma dina ensamma stunder – du kan lita på teknikens under” (you can forget your lonely moments – you can rely on the wonders of technology). I was quite young when the song first came out, and I remember thinking that it sounded rather lewd. Nowadays, when I’m in a long-distance relationship, I must say that they were right. And not only in the lewd ways. Thanks to technology, especially the technology of the Internet, of computers in general, and of the mobile phone evolution, I am actually never far away from my other half.

We text each other several times a day, we talk, courtesy of special long-distance telephone deals, once or twice daily, if we both have Internet access, we have each other on each sides of our screens, either via some instant messaging option or via some forum or other. We email each other and we leave small virtual notes lying around here and there. We send pictures from our daily lives, and I’m even thinking about taking up recording voice messages for him to download and enjoy whenever he likes.

There are so many ways of being close, verbally, despite being apart.

But what happens to our writing? Back in the day, when great artists wrote smouldering letters to their mistresses, which eventually, long after their deaths were published in great books or at least put into databases for textual analyses, things were kept, saved, to a much higher extent. Will we in the future be able to take part of the passionate and biographically revealing love letters of writer X to her lover Y? Probably not, because it was all done over SMS, and when they split up, he erased all the messages she sent him.

I have a box. It’s a box that I don’t open unless it is to put something in there, of things I could never get rid of. Love letters. Small tokens of affection. Memorabilia from long lost relationships. Little things that were once important and symbolic. One day, many, many years from now I hope, my children will find them and ask themselves what their mother really was up to before she met their father. They’re unlikely to go into any great archives, and I don’t go back to it to read. That’s not what they’re for.

But what with text messages? I’m not able to put those in a small box and keep them forever. And phone memories get full – eventually you have to make choices and delete some of your cute writings. Chat is better that way. Their memories seem to save any amount of conversation indefinitely. And email? Well the servers protest after a while, but I can always save my correspondences on my hard drive. But what if it crashes? What if my back up crashes too? And what if I one day decide to do a big cleaning out? What if Strindberg (NOT saying that I’m Strindberg material, just trying out an argument here. I’d rather be Helium anyways… Misery!!!) had decided that a good spring cleaning was long overdue, and chucked out all his correspondence? What if Harriet Bosse had done the same? Then we’d have no letters of his left, mentioning how he proposed to her by saying “Do you want to have a small child with me, Miss Bosse?”. And I do spring clean.

I know it’s discussed every so often what is actually going to happen with history writing, now with the electronic medium, which on the one hand is very delicate and we have no idea how long different storage media will actually last, and on the other hand lets us keep record of soooo much more than we ever could before! But it’s also so much easier to throw things away. A lot of the really famous photographs of the past century are pics that were taken by chance or by mistake, at a fluke. A lot of the really important pictures are things that went on in the background. Often in failed pictures, the kind of picture that is very, very easy to just erase from your camera right after you’ve taken it. When the pictures were harder to acquire, people didn’t seem to get rid of them quite so easily.

I’m a little uncertain what I’m trying to say here. Maybe something like this: I miss my loved one despite being in almost constant contact with him, and I wish that I had the possibility to save every word he writes me, because, despite my professional opinion that chat and SMS aren’t really writing, but rather text mediated speech, it feels like writing, and writing ought to be saved. I don’t have a nagging feeling about the badness of getting rid of things from not being able to record and review our every conversation. I need to get my head sorted out around these issues, and try harder to stop feeling about it as text. But I guess the product is text, although the process is speech. Yeah, something like that.

But thanks to the wonders of technology, I have no lonely moments.


I’m in Berlin now. For those of you Swedish speakers, that means you can read about my German adventures elsewhere. It’s been rather adventurous moving in – first not having furniture for a week, and then not heating for about the same period of time, and, uhm, still not having a stowe and a sink. My washing machine will arrive tomorrow though, which will greatly lower my weekly spendings on underwear and socks.

They say that Berlin is the capital of decadence – at least in Europe. In America, that would probably be San Francisco. But Berlin is up there I guess. So far, decadence has, unfortunately I must say, played a very minor part in my life here. I do feel slightly decadent in one small way though. My new home is huge, roomy and just renovated. In fact, it’s still being renovated, which is the reason a hairy plummer, who’s only wearing work pants and nothing (yes, I mean it, NOTHING! Oh well, yeah, he did have shoes. And a crucifix. But otherwise: nothing) else on, is rummaging around in my bathroom. I guess that is somebody’s kink, but it’s not mine. So my flat might be way too huge for me, and thus decadent, but there’s not terribly much glamour about it. Yet. I’ll try and change that though.

Our (as in mine and my love’s) plan at the moment is for me to be here for three weeks, and then I visit him for a week. Then in between, whenever possible, he can come visit me. We’ll have two homes for two years. So I guess I’m bi-living. Or something. I tried putting ‘bi’ plus ‘casa’ together in my head, but ended up with ‘bi-casual’, which… Sounds like something very different from what I actually meant.

Well. I didn’t really have much else to say at this time – just wanted to let you know that I’m still out there, but have been swamped in boxes and moving and stuff. But I’m here. And I’ll be back very soon with more rambling and meandering thoughts.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kiddie stuff!

Lately, I’ve been reading some fantasy literature, which I believe is often perceived as being aimed at children and adolescents, and I’ve been thinking about even more examples. It’s like… I have no idea how a children’s book is deemed a children’s book. What are the criteria for the classification? That the books deal with kiddie stuff? That the main characters are children?

I think that last thing is quite important to a lot of grown ups. These books that I’ve read lately, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman and the Abarat by Clive Barker, mainly, have children or adolescents as their main characters. This of course, automatically targets them at audiences of that same age.

I’m not so sure.

One aspect of reading which is important to a lot of people is identification; is it at all possible for me as a reader to identify with at least one of the main characters? Preferably the main character, but some lesser being is quite alright too. Like, if you can’t identify with Harry, Hermione could work just as well.

Or can she?

See, the reasoning behind identification is often (and I’m rambling here, NOT being scientific, you'd better not dream of quoting) based on likeness. I identify with the person who’s the most like me. I.e., with Harry Potter, I ought to identify with the clever neurotic overachiever with large front teeth and bushy hair. Thing is – I don’t really want to do that. I’d much rather identify with someone who I can feel for, someone who doesn’t have all my worst sides. I like Ginny, for example. We’re not terribly similar at all… It’s like… You trekkers out there will be familiar with Wesley Crusher, I’m sure. You know, the rather annoying young man who constantly fucks up? The son of Dr. Crusher? There are whole web pages dedicated to scorning him. Apparently, he was put on the show for young viewers to have someone to identify with. Thing is – do you really want to identify with him? He grows nanites that put the ship at risk – well, to be honest, he repeatedly puts the ship at risk! – and he’s not really much use. He’s annoying (this is an aside: interestingly enough, the actor playing Wesley, Wil Wheaton, has risen to great hights in the blogger community. Oughtn’t the bloggers and the trekkers overlap quite a lot? Really? It’s interesting). Anyway: The younger viewers don’t want to identify with Wesley, they want to identify with Picard! I want to identify with Picard. So, a younger character doesn’t make the book a book for children.

Secondly, are the children really children? *slight spoiler warning* Both in Abarat and in His Dark Materials, the children are more than ordinary kids. *end of spoiler risk* The same in Narnia: The children are ordinary in our world, but in Narnia they are special because of their humanness. They lose their plainness. With His Dark Materials, I’d say that the children aren’t even very credible as children: Lyra’s close to superhumanly bright occasionally, and generally, the children of fantasy either have extraordinary powers (like Garion or are extraordinarily clever, like Lyra, or good, like Lucy. They’re not primarily children. Primarily, they’re super humans.

But: What does seem to be an important feature of all good children’s fiction – not only fantasy, mind you – is that there’s a moral, ethical, scientific and social depth which is mind boggling, and often missing in a lot of fiction aimed at adults. His Dark Materials is filled with quite advanced theology and physics, to say nothing of quantum physics and meta physics. Don’t even get me started on the theology of Narnia. The social realism of Abarat and of Mio, my Son is occasionally plain scary, and possibly not really suited for children. At least not without adult supervision. Seriously. Read the stuff as adults and think about it.

Anyway: Let’s just step away from that narrow classification of books into children’s fiction and adult fiction. There’s such depths there, and we miss out on so much if we dismiss something because we think it’s aimed at another age group.

This is not a way of avoiding to grow up. I love being grown up. This is a way of keeping my mind open, accessible and agile. I’m trying to avoid putting stuff in boxes and labelling it. I’m trying to keep my mind young.

Intoxicate me

I’ve written this several times before, one way or other: I’m easily affected by smells and fragrances.

When I was walking home tonight, in the middle of the night after a very warm day, I was overcome by smells. They surrounded me, filled me, took charge of me… I laughed out loud, so strongly did it affect me.

It smelled of flowers and receding heat, of warm grass soon to be touched by the mild dew. Lund is a flowering city, there’s flowers everywhere. I love living here.

As always, when I’ve been walking through the fragrant night, I’m affected. It’s like… Well. I don’t see all my senses as rating equally. I enjoy my hearing. I like music. But I can live without my hearing. Really. Toucch is a lovely, fantastic hting, that I'd hate to lose, but it's not how I primarily percieve the world. Eyesight on the other hand… Much more important. How else to judge text and art? Sooo important to me in the way I perceive the world. Smell though (and taste is basically the same thing) works like a memory trigger, a Madeleine cake.

My memory this time wasn’t terribly specific. It was more a feeling. A feeling that I’ve walked in that kind of smell, in a similar kind of temperature, next to someone I like, someone who I didn’t have the license to touch just yet. Imagine that it’s about half an hour before the first touch. You want to touch the other person, but it’s totally out of the question. For now. You can walk down the street together though. Walk down the street, next to each other. Close. So close that you can feel the naturally generated electricity in the other persons body. You’re the anode, the other person’s the cathode. You’re being drawn, pulled, towards each other. The electricity dancing between you is very nearly tangible. When – by chance – the hairs on your arm brush against the other, you could swear there was a spark… You walk closely together to feel the heat emanating from the other, to try to smell the other person’s body without being too obvious about it…

I’ve been there.

As I was walking down the street, I wished I were there again, slowly being intoxicated by your pheromones.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sunday habits

Yesterday I went to church. Usually I don’t, but I had a friend staying with me, and we decided to step into the Lund Cathedral, which was consecrated in 1145, thus being a terribly old building, really. I was starting to think that I was going to have lived here for almost a whole year without visiting he Cathedral. It really is a very beautiful building.

Visit it if you come here – really! Oh – and visit me too if you come here!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Duck and cover

I spent the weekend in the park. Or, I should probably say “I spent the weekend in the Gardens”. The Botanical Gardens, that is.

Not three minutes walk from my home, are the Botanical Gardens. I go there as often as I can. Usually I bring a book. Sometimes I bring a blanket. Yesterday I brought both, and spent the day enjoying made up adventures while surrounded by daisies and hung-over students. It was nice, slow, relaxing and warm. Summer.

The day before that I didn’t bring a blanket. I decided to sit on one of the benches by the little pond instead. One thing you tend to find near water and people, is ducks. That’s the case with the Lund Botanical Gardens as well, of course. There are what seems to be a couple of different families. There’s one single mother with one duckling – they almost always stay by the pond – and then there’s a couple, a male and a female, who seem to be moving about in the park. I reckon people like to feed them, because they are totally unafraid of humans. Actually, they walk right up to you. If you try to chase them away, you’ll be as close to them as 30 centimetres before they bother to pay you any attention. As I was sitting on my bench, quietly reading, the female walked up to me. And bit at the toe of my shoe! While it was still on my foot!

The nerve of some fowl!

The smell of tonight is the fragrance of tomorrow, and of today

As I was walking home last night, well after nightfall, the city smelled of summer night. That was the first of this year.

It’s the days accumulated flowers, it’s the laughter that still lingers, it’s the cobblestones eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s dew.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Second Korean Instalment - Wedding Gear

So. I promised ironic manicure, amazing dresses and Zen poetry. Time to deliver.

After the bride and I had left the Korean spa, we went shopping. We had our nails done, something which I’ve never done before. Well, I’ve done them myself, and Johanna’s done them for me, but it was actually quite pleasant to have someone else take really good care of your hands… I got beautiful golden nails with extravagant pink relief roses on them. I would like to label this “ironic manicure”. We also ended up finding me a very cute little dress. There’s no such thing as too many little dresses *repeats this only a tad manically*. I’d gotten a seriously gorgeous dress for the wedding. Silk, baby blue, baby doll. How much better can it get? Actually, it can. The Wedding Dress. The couple had decided for traditional Korean wedding outfits. Which worked very well for the bride, slightly less so for the groom, as he’s an almost two-meter-tall Scandinavian man… Eventually, he, too, got his silk dress on. I think the people at the Swedish Embassy were probably a little surprised when we showed up: the bride, and the mother of the bride, dressed in traditional hanbok, and the groom in a passable version of the male counterpart.

After the wedding ceremony, we went to the palace Gyeonbokgung, just next to the American Embassy. Here we photographed the newlyweds, and their four-year-old daughter, also in hanbok. We weren’t the only ones photographing them, however. They were also the target of large groups of tourists, who wanted pictures of them with palaces in the background.

Then, we took a taxi up Mt. Inwangsan, to have dinner at a very, very luxurious restaurant. It’s been ages since I ate something that delicious. I really enjoyed the Korean cuisine. I’ll have to learn how to cook Korean. If I’m not mistaken, at least one of the grocery stores around Möllevångstorget in Malmö is Korean, so maybe it’s actually possible to get some kimchi? Before dinner, ,we went for a walk around the restaurant, which was situated on he mountain slopes, with a good view over the city. Well, it would have been good, had it not been slightly overcast. Aka smoggy… Around the restaurant were several small temples, on the walls of which little Zen poems were attached. Very beautiful, although totally incomprehensible. The one on the picture says: I tame a little deer on the moss-covered banks of a stream.

For the third instalment: More palaces, the wedding ceremony and How to Run in a Hanbok.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I need to get my priorities straight.

Saturday, I went shopping for a very nice and useful reference manageing program, one which I could really use, and which I really like. Except for when it makes Word crash, but I have high hopes for the latest version. At my last work place, it was provided to us for free. Not so here. So, I figured I'd just buy it. I mean, it's a program for suffering academics for chrissakes, how expensive can it be? Just over SEK3000 (~€330) it turned out. Do I really need that program just that much?

I left the store, saying I'd have to consider it for a while. And I continued my shopping spree by entering a clothes store, where I checked out a suit, which I really need... I'll have to think about it a little, but will probably buy it sooner rather than later. And after that, I went off to pick up a pair of rather pricy earrings (I would have paid double if I'd had to, though), which I've coveted for weeks. The artist is really, really amazing.

Seriously? What do I probably really need more? A really nifty program to facilitate my job on a daily basis, or another pair of earrings?


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

First Korean Instalment - Tall and ugly in low heels

It feels rather good to be back from Korea, to tell the truth. I loved being there, don’t take me wrong. And I’ll tell you all about the good stuff. But it is good to be home. You see, I’m not used to feeling all tall, fat and clumsy. Which is basically what I felt like in Korea. The Korean women are tiny, petite and generally incredibly elegant, with at least 10-cm-heels. I was wearing an old pair of black pants and very comfortable but unglamorous slippers. They are so elegant, in fact, that I had to wear a tiny pen skirt and very high heels to work today. I felt quite clumsy for several days, until Malin and I went shopping for lingerie, and I realised what they do to come across as so slim. Slimming underwear. You know the kind that is more or less just a huge rubber band that keeps everything in place and tucked in. Almost impossible to get into. Or out of. Ha! Tall, fat and clumsy isn’t that bad after all. At least I get to wear comfy underwear. And as comfortable shoes as I feel like.

Apart from that, Korea was wonderful. Especially the food. Kimchi – the pickled side dishes that you get with your meal – is the best invention. Yum.

To save money, Patrik, the other wedding witness, and I had decided to share a room. The first thing we did was what you always do when you’ve checked into a hotel; we checked what was on TV. The best channel – Patrik and I totally agreed on this, but Malin and Johan were a little sceptical – was undoubtedly the channel which showed StarCraft tournaments. We were only sorry we couldn’t understand what the very enthusiastic commentators were saying. The second best channel – and we all agreed on the excellence of this one – was the Pentagon Channel. There are a lot of American soldiers posted in South Korea, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us that Pentagon has its own news show. But somehow we just didn’t expect it, I guess.

As I hinted above, the reason I was in Korea was to attend Malin’s and Johan’s wedding. Up until the trip, my duties as the maid of honour had mostly been about aesthetics: ring design advice and wedding dress design advice. And hen night planning, of course. What we did at the hen night was pretty much going to a spa, get pampered and just hang. Malin and I repeated that the day before their wedding. We went to a Korean spa. I’m absolutely convinced that going to a bath house abroad high lights that you are in a new culture, somewhere where you don’t have all the clues to how to behave. The first time I experienced this was a couple of years ago, when I was in California for a summer school. It soon became very clear that I was doing the undressing and showering in the wrong order after swimming. Going to a Korean bath house was slightly more complicated, and we’re sure we got a lot of it wrong. For starters, we started out in the children’s pool. The sign that said “kid pool” and the bear statuettes surrounding it were somehow not sufficient hints… What you do in a Korean spa is that you take a shower, and then you soak in different aroma therapy waters. The waters not only have different scents; they also have different temperatures. I’m not quite certain what the different temperatures are supposed to do to you, exactly, but it’s an interesting experience. To step out of a pool with 42-degree water with mint leaves, into a 43-degree pool with sea water feels like stepping into boiling water. That is weird. Interesting.

I’m sure there’s a special order in which you’re supposed to take the baths, but we didn’t manage to figure it out. The signs were all in Korean.

The spa doesn’t only mean soaking. There’s also the option to get an full body mud pack, an oil massage or a body scrub. The body scrub is intense. The scrubbing is carried out by very strong, small Korean women. If you use scrub gloves in the shower, or a loofah, you scrub. Sure. But it’s like in Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a knife. This is a knife”. That’s not a scrub. This is a scrub. I’ve never been this clean. Or smooth. Imagine: first a scrub that takes off all the dead layers of skin and leaves it in grey disgusting rolls on the table beside you, followed by a splash of iced milk on your skin and then loads of body oil. Seriously, you don’t get much smoother. Unless maybe, just maybe, you’re a newborn child. We didn’t try out the mud pack this time around. Maybe nest time. The womb cleansing offered among the services, we didn’t feel the least inclined to try, though.

There will be more. Amazing dresses, Zen poetry and ironic manicures. But not today. Soon, though.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Ms. H

Anders Ekesiöö and Anna Nygren recently defended their master's thesis at Stockholm University School of Business. They discuss consumer profiles, specifically what they call Mr. H, a person with "high demand on unique consumer products". A Mr. H buys things that he feels are unique and will make him stand out from the main stream. Preferably he should be the only one in the city or the country to possess the item he purchases.

I have a confession. I am Ms. H.

When I read an article about this in today's paper, I could hear echoes of myself saying things like "one of the reasons I'm so happy about this skirt, is that I know that when I bought it, there were maybe five of it, altogether, in Australia, which means, I'm probably the only one in Sweden who has one". I've stopped shopping at places like Designtorget, because the stuff isn't quite unique enough. I've become much more picky with what I choose to stand out. But I make sure I do. It needn't be expensive, but it needs to be one-of-a-kind.

Peter just remarked on some of the men that hit on me online that they seem to have found their lines in some kind of pick-up manual. Not terribly interresting, they don't stand out from the crowd. At all. That's not a good trick. At all. Not if you're hitting on a Ms. H. Inventiveness is an essential part of the attraction.

At least I'm consistent. I want uniqueness all over.

Who, me, picky...?

You see... I get bored. When I shop at H&M or such, I rarely use the stuff very much. Or if I buy items that are very much the current fashion. It doesn't really interest me. But if I find something that is brave or clever enough to stand on it's own, and that specifically suits me, then I'm happy to use the item year after year. I don't grow tired of it. It keeps me curious, interrested, happy.

I haven't read the thesis in question, so I don't know exactly how they define Mr. H, but reading the article today, I have a feeling that there's a little more to it than just standing out and having the stuff that no one else has. That is alittle bit too close to the game of "the one with the most stuff at the end wins" for comfort. No, I believe that the true Mr H can be extremely down played, neutral even. Minimalist. But the stuff that is there, is carefully chosen. Very. Carefully. Others of the same kind will know it and appreciate it, which is the whole point of showing off. Women don't dress up for men, they dress up for other women, to display their place within the ranks. And I guess it is also a form of neo-tribalism, as explained by the very unique Cory Doctorow. I doubt that Mr. Doctorow would agree completely, but I still believe it's in the vicinity.


My name is H. Ms. H.


In exactly three hours, I'm off to Korea. See you guys in a week!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The times, they are a-changeing

In 1863, my great-great-grandmother was born. Hm. Is that correct? My father's father's grandmother. Yeah, that should be right... In 1870, her father had been away to one of the nearest larger cities, to work. It was a pretty big deal that he'd been away to do work. Not everyone did. Anyway. He brougt home a novelty for Christmas. Something that the children thought was awesome. The thing he brought home was a stearine candle (is that an English word? I'll edit this later when I have a good dictionary available). A stearine candle. You know the kind of candle that we nowadays buy as an every day commodity from IKEA in packs of 40 for almost no money whatsoever. It was new, amazing, cool.

My father met his great-grandmother. That's how close in time this is. It all took place less than 140 years ago.

On Monday, I'll travel to Korea to attend a wedding. Mostly because it's a very good friend, but also because it's a cool idea.

Compare. A stearine candle. Popping over to Korea.

The times, they're really a-changeing. Ain't it cool? Ain't it amazing?

If nothing else, it's fucking mind boggling.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Show and tell

I've been having issues with Science Fiction lately.

Not issues as in "it's nerdy" or "it's not realistic" or anything. I'm a total nerd, so I don't mind the possible nerdiness associated with SF. And as for realistic... As long as the internal logic holds up, I'm happy.

I have other issues.

I've noticed that I pass seemingly inconsistent judgement on SF. On the one hand, I've been saying things like "one thing I really like with SF is how a lot of writers turn the genre into a forum for discussing ethics, philosophy, politics, economics as well as the limits - or breaking of limits - of science". On the other hand, I've heard myself say: "yeah, he's got great ideas, but I don't like the way he turns his books into a way for him to give vent to his own ideas about ethics, philosophy, politics, economics and the limits of science".

See my dilemma?

I'm seemingly contradicting myself, which disturbs me. Because I really believe I have a point in both cases. So how can this be right?

Well. There are different ways for authors to pass knowledge to their readers. One way to do this is to have one of your characters explain things to other characters. This is pretty explicit and usually not terribly subtle. Pretty full on. Another way to do it is to show the reader how something works by letting it happen. This is less in your face and is generally considered a more subtle way of letting the reader know how things work. The difference between the two strategies is sometimes referred to as "show, don't tell". Some of the SF I've consumed lately has mainly had "tell" and less "show", which has disturbed me. I love the idea that writers have a plan, that they want their readers to get more from their text than a well told story. But I still prefer the story to remain well told.

My main obcection however, isn't to "tell". It's toa very special form of "show". namely show off. There is a limit to how much detail the reader actually needs access to. Seriously.

Please, please; show, don't tell us everything!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Needles and pins

Growing up, I never used to listen to contemporary music. I loved the music of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. You still have to play some of that rock’n’roll music, if you wanna dance with me.

One of my all time favourites is Needles and pins, written by Sonny Bono and Jack Nitsche, originally performed by the Searchers. It’s about a broken heart and the pain of seeing your ex-lover with someone new. When I was in my early teens, I used to listen to that song pretty much every day. It was on a cassette tape which I had recorded off the radio, some oldies goldies show. I loved that tape. For a couple of years, that tape was almost all I ever listened to. Eventually, my Walkman died and I stopped listening to it.

Lately, that song has kept popping up in my head.

While I was busy listening to that old school rock and pop, I nourished a rather serious fear of needles. I didn’t have any problems with vaccination shots in school, as far as I can recall, but I remember making a lot of fuzz about a shot for the mumps when I was eight or ten. Jeez, that hurt. I developed a serious phobia when I had to have a baby tooth pulled to make room for the real tooth, though. You see, in order to reach properly, dentists’ syringes are fairly huge. To cut a long story short, I was sent home after having had three grown-ups fail to hold me down and bend my mouth open by force. I got to come back the next day and get a sedative before giving it another shot (pun intended…). So yeah, phobia.

I spent years making up reasons not to be a blood donor. I was too short. Most likely I had allergies. Blood pressure so low that I’d trip on it and fall if I didn’t look carefully.

Of course, there’s nothing as powerful as vanity.

I my case, it was my belly button piercing. Which, as a lot of you know, has been followed by a number more. I was terrified, but it turned out to be a real thrill. I’ve become almost totally fearless when it comes to having bulky tattooed men sink sharp metal into my flesh. There’s a lot of metal in my body by now, and I fall asleep when I get tattooed. I even enjoy giving blood these days.

Problem solved, obviously. So, what made me think of Needles and pins? Well, I’ll be doing some travelling soon, the kind of travelling where exotic diseases like hepatitis are a risk. Inoculation is called for. So, what’s the problem, with this phobia so obviously gotten rid of? Well, apparently non-beauty related needles, with liquids being put into my body, not taken out, is a whole other matter. I kept putting off making an appointment. I didn’t get around to it until a couple of days ago.

How it turned out? The brutal, honest, truth? Well. It’s no worse than getting stung by a mosquito.

I think I’m over that phobia now.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


My sister had her nails done the other week. Done as in built – beautifully long and strong, French manicures. I’m doing the low-budget version of it, fixing my own sorry excuses for nails up. It doesn’t look nearly as nice. Although I also got myself little glitters. Real girlie. It’s terribly impractical, but hey… One day I’ll probably have mine done, too. But not today.

There’s something fascinating about long, polished, strong nails. They’re symbols of so much. They signal, for one, that you have a social position where you don’t have to toil, you don’t have to work with your hands; if you did, you could never keep them long and beautiful. Like being pale was a signal of wealth in that you didn’t have to work in the fields, until suntan became a signal that you could afford going abroad and didn’t have to stay in your office all summer.

They’re also sexual symbols, of course, which naturally goes together with the whole not-working-business. If you signal that you don’t need to work, it means that you’re something of a luxury item. And luxury is desirable, no? Also, if you don’t have to work, what do you do? Do you lazy about in your sweats? No, of course not. You lazy about in something completely different. Think lingerie and negligees; jewellery and high heels; Chanel Nr 5 and champagne. And if you can’t really work, then you’re dependent on whoever you’re living with, right? And if you can’t really use your hands, it’s pretty easy to control you, as you can’t really take care of yourself. The same is of course true for high heels (it takes a looong time to learn to run in them, and if you’re wearing stilettos, it’s out altogether), corsets (properly bound, like Scarlett O’Hara, who had a 40-cm-waist, you don’t really breath too well; hence the fainting) and lotus feet (try running with those). It’s sexy to be just a little useless. That’s what luxury is – the stuff that we get that we don’t really have any immediate use for. And dependent. If your woman is dependent of you, you have to show that you’re a real man, who can provide. And she won’t get by without you. Isn’t that sexy? (For those of you who don’t know me: I’m being terribly sarcastic here.)

Then there’s one more thing, that doesn’t really seem to go with the idea of women as luxury items, but bear with me. Picture a woman’s hand, with long, shiny dark red nails. The hand sits on an arm, wrapped around a man’s torso, the hand pushes against the man’s back. Suddenly the woman is digging her nails into the man’s flesh, beyond control… Yes, of course nails are sexual. But why? There are more men interested in long nails than in pain, I reckon. Well… Imagine you have access to this piece of luxury. A piece of luxury which spends a lot of time maintaining it’s status as such. Imagine you have the power – to say nothing of the right – to affect it in such a way that it gives up its control over its attributes. Messy hair, smudged eye-liner, the risk of breaking one of those nails…

To me, nails mean something else.

For as long as I was living with my parents, every night we had the same good night ritual. My mum would come into my room and scratch my back. It always made me calm and relaxed. Like a baby. The best back scratcher, however, was my grandma. She didn’t cut her nails in a smooth half-moon shape like my mum did. She made two swift cuts on each nail, leaving the nails sharp and triangular. Like claws. Actually, that’s what we called them. When we kids wanted her to scratch our backs, we asked her to use her claaaws. Always with emphasis on every single sound (in Swedish: k-e-looor-ö-na – actually klorna. There are phonetic rules behind the weird pronunciation of course. Ask me – or better yet: ask a better phonetician – if you like). I still love having my back scratched. Whenever my sisters and I meet, that’s one way we show our affection for one another; we scratch each other’s backs. That’s what really makes me purr like a cat. Scratch my back – properly, not too hard, not too soft, but just so – and I’m wax in your hands.

This text has taken me forever to type. You see, one way that long nails make you useless is that it gets really hard to type. Especially when the nail polish isn’t dry yet…

Monday, April 09, 2007

Black hole

There's chaos. And then there's chaos.

I've applied for a netbased course in English, "Writing in Academia" or something like that. To be eligible, I have to present my high school grades, which I haven't even looked at in years. So... Where were they? I was quite certain that they were in my filing archive, presently located in a cottage half an hour's drive north of Gothenburg. So, I went there and spent some time with my sister, and went through all my folders. No luck. Second option: It could be in my parents garage (which hasn't been a garage in years, more like a storage room/work shop).

That's quite a scary option, actually.

You see, my parents have lived in this house for 32 years now. Things have started to pile up. There are toys for three children and 30 years in there. And stuff. And christmas decorations. But for some reason the christmas decorations seem to vanish every year. It's always the same question: "Where's the glitter? And the baby Jesus?". And they're nowhere to be found. Until around Easter, when it's time to look for easter bunnies and coloured feathers.

I found the grade sheet with almost eerie precision. But then I also had to find a couple of books. That's when the troubles began. I knew perfectly well in which box the books were supposed to be. Piece of cake.

If only I could find the box...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Chic music and lit

Last night, my friend Sofia, her husband and I ended up at Pusterviksteatern, a small and very intimate venue, where the cool and lovely Veronica Maggio was playing. Maggios music is a rather bouncy, poppish kinda style, with emphasis on lyrics, I'd say. It's quite nice, but her style is so specific, so set apart, that there's a risk for the one-hit-wonder-syndrome. She sounds so different that she probably won't be able to simply sound different in the same way for her next album, because then she'll just be doing the same thing all over again. The audience was mainly made up of skinny young men in their early twenties and their equally skinny girlfriends. All looking intimidatingly stylish. We looked like three architects let out from the bureau; all dressed in black, with funky glasses and the occasional non-traditional piece of jewellery. We felt old.

Veronica Maggio's songs seem to be mostly about broken hearts, failed relationships and breakups, so when she played a cover of Offspring's mid-90's hit Self esteem, it fitted perfectly. Actually, it was a very clever cover, she really made it her song. Not quite as thoroughly as for example the Cardigans did with Iron man, but that was what it made me think of. I loved it. One of her songs, Nöjd?, "Satisfied", is about a woman who has dated a thousand and one man, and just finds flaws with them - she simply isn't satisfied with any of them. One's too short, one's too tall, one has too big a moustasche... Well, you get the picture. I always feel a little sting of guilt when I hear it, as I'm perfectly aware that my own dating pattern can be considered a result of the same pickyness. I don't think I'm quite as picky as Maggio though...

My dear friend Johanna suggested the other day that I'd write a book about all the men I've dated. She suggested the title Susanna's little black book. Ah... I'm not so sure.. Firstly, I don't think anyone but my closest friends would find it interesting at all. And they already know all the details. Secondly, it's already been done: Travel journalist Jennifer Cox takes it upon herself to go around the world in 80 dates and to write a book about it. I don't think I could match that. Maybe I could use a different title: Working the Universities of the World: A guide to dating in Academia. A colleague once suggested that I was a parallel to the olden days sailors with a girl in every port; she thought I had a man on every Campus... Slight exaggeration, of course, but a rather fun one nonetheless. Ah well. I wouldn't expose my dates like that though (Cox had gotten consent from her dates of course, but I'm reluctant to call my old dates to see if they'd let me write about them...). I haven't actually read Cox's book, but I've read an interview with her when it was first published, and it seems that as far as chic lit goes, this is right up there! But yeah, she's done it already. Then, on the other side of the spectrum, there's Belle de Jour. And in between there's every girl on the Net and her aunt, telling the world intimate details of their dates. Nah. Unless I can think of an extremely clever way of doing this (like Cox! Only not already done...) I'll probably ditch the idea, sorry Johanna!

I enjoyed Maggio's concert, altough I thought there were some weak moments: 1) She only has this one album out, so she has a limited range of songs to choose from. That's all very fine, but why talk about it? I'd say that's a typically female way of talking oneself down. Look, every song on the record is good. There are no real lows. So don't talk it down by saying that that's all you've got! 2) The institutionalized encores. This isn't Maggio's fault of course, this is what it is like. I still think that those planned-for encores are rather silly. Just play the songs as planned. If there's reason for en encore, do a real encore. Please. 3) The audience sucked. Booooooring. Right, I wasn't any better, but hey, I'm old. Probably ten years older than the average. Some enthusiasm, please!

I'll probably go out and by the album though.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


I just plucked my first anemones for the year! Wee!

Gimme a superhero!

When discussing comics, especially superhero comics, the big question seems to be whether one sides with the Marvel-verse or the DC-verse. I'll happily admit that I prefer DC Comics, because I grew up reading my father's old, beautifully drawn Superman, Batman (I mean, who doesn't love the classic TV-series?) and Justice League comics from like... Well, must have been early 60's. I used to study the outfits of the women very closely. I wanted bouncy hair, miniskirts, turtlenecks and tiny boots, too. Still do. It's a fantastic style.

However, it wasn't that kind of Superhero that made the most impact on me. It was a whole other kind of super, a legend, a ghost... I talk of course about The Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks. I'm not entirely sure why the Phantom mesmerized me so. I agree that for a superhero he's rather silly, and apart from having the strength of ten tigers and a voice that will chill the blood of evil men, his powers mostly lie in a massive fortune and the asset of having a quaint little jungle tribe do his biddings. But... I think his strength lies in the very, very elaborate myth. A 25-generation-myth (if I'm not mistaken, counting Phantom 2040 and the father of the first Christopher Walker, who naturally features in the myth), which gives us numerous opportunities to - pedagogically but fun - learn things about history! And was I ever a history freak, growing up... There is something amazing about reading a story set in shakespearian London one week, and in the next issue you time-travel to our days and exotic places.

My sisters and I have always had a bit of a fascination for the Phantom's rings. You know, the rings with the good mark and the bad mark (I know embarrasingly much trivia about these rings - who allegedly made them, how the Phantom avoids giving villains a good mark when hitting them with the left hand, what jungle berry juice is used to tattoo the marks on the recievers, etc...)? My youngest sister actually wears a trinket scull ring that came with the subscription some time ago. I used to have a good mark key ring, that I loved. We've all talked about how cool it would be to have the good mark tattooed on the insides of our left wrists. Since that's where the Phantom puts the mark when he marks someone as his ally, someone who's saved him or helped him. Alas, the mark is easily mistaken for a swastika, so that's out... I still think it would be cool, though.

I do like other kinds of supers too, mind you. I still am very fond of the old school DC's. And I'm starting to see the point of X-Men, although I'm a movies convert, so I'll have to get into the paper comics eventually, I guess. But lately I've endulged in podcasted short fiction and novells, and I've been ecpecially happy when I've found super-related fiction. At Escape Pod, there are a number of short stories called Union Dues, by Jeffrey R. DeRego, set in a not-too-distant-future, where all kids with superpowers are rounded up by the Union and educated by them. Think Charles Xavier School for Talented Kids gone institutionalized and somewhat askew... And what happens when the "normals" arent too impresed, but rather intimidated and scared? How do you cope? The incomparable Mur Lafferty explores a similar future in her short story Barry Koleman, Hero, featured in the pod collection Voices. What happens if you're a late bloomer? Or if you have a power that you yourself think is cool enough, but the authorities think is pretty low grade? Not everyone actually gets to wear the spandex suits, it seems... Another cool, very X-Men-like, novel is the pod-novel Brave men Run, by Matthew Wayne Selznick. You've always known you've been different. But you've always thought you've been alone...

That'll have to be all for now. But remember to look in again soon - same Drakona-time, same Drakona-URL!

Friday, April 06, 2007

The German challenge

In about five months I move to Potsdam, just south-west of Berlin. I will spend no less than two years there. I expect to brush up my German just a tad while I'm there. I'm a little worried about the time before it's been properly touched up, though. I've tried to do a couple of things to at least try to think about German a little. Like last summer, when I was in Cologne and picked up one of the best-sellers of last summer, Der Schwarm. Problem is, it's close to a thousand pages long, and it's a little overwhelming as a project, when I haven't actually spoken German properly for about ten years. I consider ordering the audiobook, to listen to it and read it simultaneously.

Meanwhile, in order to get used to the sound and feel of the language, I listen to freely available recorded versions of the fairytales of the brothers Grimm, from LibriVox. It really is very nice! They have lots more of interesting stuff as well. Go check it out!


Jeff Noon, 1993

Jeff Noon is something of a cult writer, who moves in what the blurbs call ”urban fantasy”. While I was reading Vurt, I was thinking a lot about why they simply don’t call it “cyber punk”. You travel the same kind of environments as in Neuromancer, the activities in which you take part are close to those of The Diamond Age, but… You don’t plug in. You take a drug by putting a feather in your mouth. A blue feather for a fun trip, a pink one for a hot trip, black for a scary trip, and a yellow… Well, take a yellow and you might die. If you die on a yellow trip, you die in the real world. The others are more like computer games; you can restart and log off. In the yellows however, there are no safety nets, and it’s all about finding out just how far the rabbit hole goes… I claim that it’s pretty damn likely that the W brothers have read this book. If they haven’t, the random coincidental overlaps between Vurt and the Matrix are quite scary.

The plot. Yes. Scribble has lost his beloved sister to the Vurt, the looking-glass world where you go when you do a feather. She remained when they took one containing a touch of yellow. The balance between the world and the Vurt has to be constant, so if you leave something in there, something else will come back out with you. And vice versa. Take something out and something of like value will be drawn into the Vurt. Scribble is desperate to get his sister back from the Vurt and return the Vurt creature he got instead, And he rises to the challenge.

A lot in the set-up is classic quest fantasy. A mission, a group of people, a young man with hidden talents he doesn’t even know of himself, but has to master to carry out the mission. It’s quite interesting to see it in this environment.

This is definitely a very, very good read. I strongly recommend it. But – as the Game Cat would say: Be careful. Be very careful.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spring cleaning

As some of you might have noticed, I've done a bit of cleaning up in here. I don't expect anyone to actually remember the stuff I took out, but for privacy reasons, I figured I should take them down if I wanted to keep this blog going.

Which I do.

I like the URL, Drakona having been my nick since I first set a metaphorical foot on the Internet, in... 1994 maybe? I'm not about to give it up just yet. But, this blog will most likely be linked through presentations to a more serious and work related blog, why I prefer to clean this space up just a tad. I've kept most of the texts up though, as I'm actually quite fond of some of them.

Eventually, I might end up turning this into a Swedish post. Or I'll keep it in English. I'm undecided at the moment, but I guess there will be the occasional post in Swedish at the very least. The idea of keeping two separate but parallel posts makes me see the little word "hassle" skip and jump in front of my eyes... Ah well. We'll see.

You should be seeing more of me here though. For real, this time. I might use this space to republish some texts I have published elsewhere. There's so much to do, with just a little, tiny bit of space!