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!