Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts

A list of things introduced to my digestive system, mental or physical, today, in fairly chronological order:

- One and a half (1.5) slices of my mother's Christmas bread, which is really just French bread, with ham and cucumber.
- Two (2) Digestive biscuits, with cheese.
- Two (2) vitamin pills.
- One (1) apple.
- One half (0.5) cup of Rooibos tee.
- One and one half (1.5) glass of milk.
- Two (2) cinnamon rolls.
- One (1) chocolate chip cookie from Pepperidge Farms.
- Two (2) summaries of the past weeks of the NFL, in which I got to see the Arizona Cardinals disgrace themselves by handing the New England Patriots a free spot in the play-offs (ege, not dissing the Patriots here, but the Cardinals didn't even put up a fight and it was pathetic).
- One (1) plate of nachos, with ground beef, cheese, salsa, lettuce and garlic sauce.
- One and a half (1.5) bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale.
- One (1) four centilitre glass of Mackmyra whiskey, "Den Första Utgåvan".
- Three (3) pieces of marshallow chocolate candy made by and given to us as a present by Eva.
- One (1) piece of Cornflakes candy, same as above.
- One (1) piece of nougat candy, same as above.
- One (1) cone of strawberry icecream.
- Two and a half (2.5) liters of water (or thereabouts).
- Fourteen (14) episodes of The West Wing.

The water and the episodes were spread out over the day and are not, as such, listed chronologically.

Not an average day, by any accounts, but a very good and relaxing day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One of television’s great contributions is that it brought murder back into the home, where it belongs

I like TV. I especially like TV when it comes in series form in a dvd box.

We're ten episodes into the second season of the West Wing. I think we've seen six episodes today. This is what passes for vacation for me, and I absolutely adore it.

However, I couldn't stomach another episode today. Instead, we turned to comedian Jeff Dunham's Comedy Central special that we recorded while we were away at my parents' place. Why? Because I needed the break, I needed comedy instead of intense drama, and I needed to disconnect for a while.

Because there is TV and there is TV. There is stuff that I can watch without any kind of emotional attachment besides the smile on my face, and then there's stuff that I can't watch without getting tears in my eyes when they pluck at the right (or wrong) emotional strings. West Wing falls into the latter category, as does Six Feet Under, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and a few others.

I'm not saying I dislike it. Not at all. I'm just saying that sometimes, a smile is the best thing there is.

(and did it work? Yeah, kind of, though Dunham isn't as funny as I would have liked...)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Without a soundtrack, human interaction is meaningless

'twas a great party. They don't come along that often, those parties that seem to transcend expectations and morph into something else, some experience that words aren't enough to describe. Nor pictures, though I took over a 100. I do so love my camera phone.

At a quarter to two this morning, I was sprawled over a couch in Drickard's living room, happily singing along to Queens of the Stone Age. Around me, the party was slowly winding down. Not like last year, when it crescendoed around midnight and then mellowed out completely. This year it was more gradual, a more even level of energy throughout the evening, which only made it better.

Music was played. Beer was drunk. An extremely good time was had.

Favorite quotes from the party:
It's smoking that makes me hung over.
Nicklas tried to explain that his coming hangover wasn't due to the ten beers he had consumed, but rather the half dozen or so cigarettes he availed himself off during the night. Right...

Shit. You too.
Andreas I, as yet another Ghost of Childhood Pasts walked in the door.

You can't roll dice to determine when to drink. It's the little voices in your head that tell you that.
Mia, upon hearing some serious drinking games were taking place in the basement.

To describe the taste of Lars, I would use the word “aftershave”.
Erik, having licked Lars' cheek and ear, for reasons unknown.

Three rounds with The Cock is usually enough.
Can't remember who said it, but referring to the basement drinking game, oddly named The Cock (as in not “a rooster”, but rather a penis).

I tried to apply it to my wife. It went to hell.
Andreas K, while hearing the line “you speak when spoken to” from a song by The Editors.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Money can't buy you happiness. But it can buy you assassins

I pondered this thought today as I stood in line at the local burger joint *points to headline*

Post-party, post-alcohol, I must have food. It is a universal truth. I must have meat. Preferably between two pieces of bread with salad and various condiments.

So after Primator (beer) and friends and The Cock and Newcastle (beer) and laughs and chocolate and Staropramen (beer), I craved food. Off to the burger joint we went.

Christmas Day is the party day (emphasis on "the") in small towns like this, the armpit of Sweden, and there is only one burger joint stupid enough to be open on a night like this. The new burger joint. The one next to the McDonalds, that actually is a serious contender. It was a fuckin' freak show.

Was I ever that annoying when I was 20 and drunk? Did I ever stand in line, screaming at the top of my lungs, that my friend is a cunt and that I need food? Did I ever lick the backpack of the guy standing in front of me (tonight, that would be me)? I don't think so. Why? Because as my girl put it, I have a higher IQ than my age. Which these complete morons do not have.

There should be a license required to have children (and I'm actually serious here, and not that drunk). With something like that in place, I wouldn't have to consider professional hitmen to clean out the gene pool.

Sometimes I understand people that climb to the top of water towers with high powered rifles, I really do.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter then in its early and clear stages, was a purifying engine that ran unhindered over city and country

We took a walk the other day. Walked through the little town, though even town is probably too big a word, where Mah Girl grew up. Houses, a lake, an iron works, and not much else.

Crossed an old wooden bridge over the railroad, where trains pass but never stop. Down to the lake, and stood looking out over the water. Clouds reflected in the water. Cold biting at my cheeks. It was peaceful. Tranquil.

I should go on more walks.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Guns don't kill people. Ninjas do

Merry X-mas, y'all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A man's idea in a game of cards is war, cruel, devastating, and pitiless. A lady's idea of it is a combination of larceny, embezzlement and burglary

The card game in my family (as in not only my immediate family, but all them peoples that be related to me), or at least on my father's side of the family, is Philadelphia. It's kind of sort of a version of Gin Rummy and is named Philadelphia because my aunt learned it in, you guessed it, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is played with two decks of cards and four Jokers. The object of the game is to get sets or runs of cards, where a set is three or more of the same rank and a run is four or more in sequence of the same suit. You start with six cards each, where the goal is to have two sets, and then work your way up to sixteen, where the goal is four runs.

After the cards have been dealt, an additional card is turned face up on the table, and the rest of the deck is split in two piles, placed at right angles next to each other. The person to the left of the dealer begins, by either picking up the open, face up card, or the top card from the first pile. He must then put down one of his cards, either the one he picked up or another one, on top of the card laying face up. The next person repeats the same, and so on.

Anyone can pick up the card laying face up, unless it's been covered by another card at some point, but if it's not your turn you have to pick up a penalty card from the second pile of cards as well.

Once you have the required cards (two sets for six cards, a set and a run for seven, two runs for eight, etc) you can put them down on the table, but only in your own turn and only after picking up your required card.

There are other rules to the game as well:
- The Joker, or Viblom, can be used as any card in either a run or a set (why is it called Viblom? Because the Joker card in my grandfather's original deck of cards kind of looked like Olof Palme, and my grandfather's neighbor Viblom also kind of looked like Olof Palme. That's the kind of joke I like).
- If you have a Viblom down on the table, anyone else can buy it by replacing it with the card you've replaced with the Viblom. For example, in a set of eights you have two eights and a Viblom, that Viblom can be bought for an eight. Or in a run of four, five, six of hearts and then a Viblom, that Viblom can be bought for the seven of hearts. However, they can only buy it in their own turn and only if they put their cards down on the table that same turn.
- An ace can be used as both a 1 and 13.
- In the eleventh round of the game, when sixteen cards are dealt to each player, you can only put yoour cards down on the table if you can get rid of all your cards at once.
- After someone gets rid of all their cards, the others tally up their cards and a score is kept. Two through seven are each worth five points, eight through king are worth ten, an ace is 25 and a Joker is 50. The winner is the player with the fewest points after all eleven rounds have been played.

Easy peasy, right? Now go play.

And every family has a card game. What's yours?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Drift like sleep

Drove through a flat and grey Sweden today, in a rental courtesy of Drunk Carl. Wovenhand on the stereo. Thy will be done, here on this highway.

Rainwash against the windows. Not a single snowflake, as far as the beard could see. When did it all change? White blooms to white and freezes white again.

Now cocooned in the comforts of home. Old home. Eyelids heavy. Right eye bloodshot. The headache is acting up. Sleep sounds like a good idea, but won't happen for a while. Jeff Dunham is on TV.

That state of mind where you realize that you're actually on vacation, that the office actually won't fall apart without you, is right around the corner, held off by the excellent combination of exhaustion and a major sugar rush. Hopefully it really hits me tomorrow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

When the world is mine, your death shall be quick and painless

I had a birthday on Wednesday. If you'd cut me apart you'd find 33 age rings now.

People I know have had major crises when they turned 30. I mean, major. No crisis for me yet. Maybe at 40? A red sports car and hair plugs for my chin when the beard starts thinning out? No?

I used to celebrate my birthday in style. For my 25th, I had three bands and we partied from seven in the evening until six in the morning. Thanks for the after-party, Jouni and Ellie. Then I had live acts for two more years, then paused for two until I celebrated my 30th. Three times. With four sets from three bands at the biggest one, including an all-cover set from Lingua, where I got to choose the covers. Third best present I've ever had, after the NFL game my brother took me to, and what Mah Girl gave me:

This fantastic man graces our kitchen

It's been three years since, and I haven't really celebrated properly since then. This year, I snuck out of work at 3:30 in the afternoon, and we went to see Rock n Rolla. Good stuff. Then home for sushi and chillin' out. An excellent birthday.

The day before I got a notification I had a package at the post office (not post office really, the post desk at the local grocery store, the pathetic workings of which should be the subject of a whole 'nother post). I didn't really think much about it, since I had a whole bunch of stuff on the way in various packages from Amazon. So I didn't go and pick it up until Thursday, the day after my birthday.

“Happy mofo birthday, buddy” was stenciled in thick magic marker over a long cardboard package. “From your friends in Rågsved”, it continued. This is when I realized Misha was involved. Sneaky Misha, who had hinted at having found the perfect gift for me a while back.

So now we need to set a date for playing Family Guy Monopoly. What the deuce?!? Giggity, giggity, giggity! Thanks to my friends in Rågsved!

Misha playing grownup Tetris

Hanna sipping a cold one at her own birthday party

"What? Who? Me? No no, I'm just hangin' out with Pingu."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting

I read an article today that people that snore have the equivalent of a full workout every night while they (we) sleep.

I'm not really one for working out anymore, so maybe I should give up snoring, on principle alone.

Back when I played football, I worked out three times a week. Went to an actual gym, strapped myself into contraptions the Spanish Inquisition would gladly have used on their victims (no, not a comfy chair), and did whatever it is people do at a gym.

Now I snore. Hell, I did then too, but no working out = more body fat = more snoring. Just the way it is. I need to do something about that body fat soon, and even though that has "New Year's Resolution" written all over it, that just won't happen. We had a Resolution this year, which was to go to the movies more often. We've been about twice a month, which is pretty good. However, that's about as far as I will go with a Resolution.

I need motivation to work out. And I'm not talking about some personal trainer screaming at me. Back in the football days, working out equaled hitting people harder, moving faster. I need that kind of motivation, some sort of goal that's more tangible than "feeling better".

So maybe snoring less is motivating enough? We'll see. The plan is to begin A New Life in 2009. The jury is still out on whether or not it will actually happen, but at least the intent is there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I like the pretty lights

On my way home after a nerd session at a friend's place. We have come to the realization that we're quite happy with being nerds. Though geek might be a better term. Whatever.

Part of tonight was spent watching UFO clips of dubious origin on YouTube. This brought back memories of that time we saw UFOs from our friend Lars' balcony. We saw these curving lights slowly moving at the horizon and couldn't really explain what they were. Lars put on the soundtrack to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and we called SMHI, the Swedish weather service.

They couldn't explain it either, but asked us to call a guy at FOI who was quote interested in this sort of thing unquote. Now, I don't know about you, but I find the fact that a UFO nut works at FOI both appealing and disturbing. And highly amusing.

So we call him, explain what's going on, and he gets all excited. Tells us he needs to run outside to take pics, and will call us right back. Cue the X Files theme.

We didn't get any kind of explanation from the guy, because he was kind of confused and incoherent. But when he called back, he managed to convince us that it was a natural phenomenon. See how he moved from Mulder to Cigarette Smoking Man there, between one phone conversation and the next?

At one point in the conversation, the guy actually says "Is that Close Encounters I hear in the background?". Again, highly amusing.

Afterwards, we were all wondering when the men in black suits would show up to wipe our memories of the whole incident. Come to think about it, I haven't thought about that afternoon in a long time, so maybe they did...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It was the greatest magic trick I've ever seen

I ended up going to bed at 3 in the morning between Friday and Saturday. My intention was to be asleep before midnight. Instead I spent the night watching two football games, shooting 136 terrorists, talking to various friends and foes online, and waiting for my Mah Girl to come home.

I'm not really the worrying kind, but there's something about sitting up, waiting, that appeals to me. Not really sure what though...

So yesterday was a very mellow day. We kicked back and watched three movies.

Dawn of the Dead
(note: the remake, not the original) Yawn. The first time I saw this it was pretty cool. Turns out it's a POS. It has the most unmotivated naked boobs scene ever, and while I accept that characters in horror movies generally suffer from a lack of logical thinking, these dumbasses are exceptional. I won't need to see this ever again. Dawn of the Dead gets a shaved chin. Not a single hair.

The Prestige
Christopher Nolan in top form, as always. If you haven't seen it, do it. Do it now. It's about two 19th century stage magicians trying to outtrick each other. It has a murder mystery, twists and turns, David Bowie and pseudo-historically correct science signed Nikola Tesla. Outstanding stuff. Five beards out of five.

Tesla's field of lights in Colorado

Swedish director Mikael Håfström's adaptation of Stephen King's short story is pretty good. The best Stephen King adaptations have always come from his short stories (Apt Pupil, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption), and often short stories without any supernatural content. 1408 however stands firmly in horror territory, though with a streak of dark humor that had us chuckling a few times. Granted, our sense of humour might be more twisted than most...
Anywho, 1408 has a few scares, a few laughs, and John Cusack. What more do you need? Three beards and a moustache, out of five beards.

What I have learned from this weeked, and some basic Googling, (other than that I should never ever watch Dawn of the Dead again) is that I need to learn more about Nikola Tesla. Fascinating man. Someone to write something about.

Friday, December 12, 2008

There's no place like

I was considering drinks with friends today. Mah Girl is at a birthday party, and I figured I'd hang out with some people and then maybe meet up later.

But alas, I am old and tired, so instead I'm sprawled on the couch, laptop on my stomach, Bears vs Saints on TV. I might shoot some terrorists later, I might not. Sleep feels like a good idea, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon. That would mean turning off the laptop and shutting down the Internet, and too many people rely on that for fun and info that I just can't do that.

That's actually something that people at support desks (like the one I used to work at) hear regularly. “Internet is broken”. And then you have to stop yourself from saying “Your Internet connection is down, moron, not the entire Internet”. But you don't. Cause customer satisfaction is oh so important.

The plan for the weekend is to kick back, relax, and sleep a lot. I feel drained, and I really look forward to sixteen days away from the office over the holidays. We're going to my parents' place in Karlskoga, to eat mom's food, hang out with friends and relax even more.

Going home like that (cause even if this is home now, Stockholm, I still call Karlskoga home on occasion, since it's where I grew up) becomes something of an event, and that's why I can stand it. Parties are thrown, friends are visited, favorite foods are prepared.

During the almost seven years that I've been here I've come to the realization that I'm never moving back (here's where a voice inside my head says “never say never”), but I still enjoy going back. For short periods of time. After about a week, small town angst settles over my mind like a wet, cold blanket, and I have to get out.

The Bears vs Saints game is turning into a really interesting game, so I'm going to stop writing now and focus on the TV. Good night.

This is the best meeting that we have ever had

I go to a lot of meetings. A L-O-T. My problem with that is if I have meetings from 8 am to 5 pm, I won't get squat done and my to do list will just keep growing.

"8 to 5?" you say. "What madness."

What can I say? I'm a popular guy.

I sat in on a two hour project meeting today. A very good meeting, though the Friday mood permeated the whole thing, and we went off on quite a few tangential discussions. None of which will be sampled below.

The best quotes/expressions from the meeting:

1. "Optical orgasm."
As in "This presentation is so good, it's like an optical orgasm". Note that he was hung-over. A brain marinated in alcohol works on different levels. PowerPoint never ever induces an orgasm, in any shape or form.

2. "Shorter gigabytes."
I can't even remember where that quote fit in. But of course, one gigabyte can be shorter than another. Right.

3. "Add that requirement to a separate list, cause we're cutting it later anyway."
See, part of a project's first phase is listing all the requirements that we have on that particular project. The quote above shows a very realistic view on requirement gathering.

Tonight, Mah Girl is off to a birthday party. I will spend the night watching football (as in "not soccer"), eating sushi and shooting terrorists. And sleep. Remains to be seen if I will be able to go to sleep early. Doubtful (he wrote and yawned).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I say listen to all voices, but mine's the final decision

I borrowed an Asus EEE from work yesterday. I've been considering buying some sort of mini laptop or web book for quite some time, and wanted to try one out for a while before making any kind of decision.

My current laptop is an LG LW25, which has a 12-inch screen and weighs in at 1.8 kilos. I've used it for about a year and a half, and I'm very happy with it apart from the start-up time, and the current battery time which is crap, but I didn't expect anything else after 18 months of frequent usage. The size and weight are just right for my purposes, which is writing, emailing and loitering about on the Web. Nothing major.

(of course, I was less than happy with the crash, but I'm not a Mac person and have to settle with Windows, so I'll just have to deal)

So. The Asus. So far a nice little machine. I wrote parts of this on it on the train this morning. Initially I had problems with the small keyboard (I have sausage fingers), but I've managed to up my typing speed considerably in only ten minutes. It still needs some getting used to, though.

Not sure if I have reached any kind of conclusion yet, other than the fact that I will need a new laptop of some kind within the next six months or so. I'm seriously considering using two, an Asus EEE-type machine for carrying around for writing purposes, and a bigger machine at home to use for editing purposes and storage. Of course, an external hard drive solves the second part, so I need to do some serious thinking whether I need a bigger screen than 10 inches or not. The other option is to go for a new 12-inch. Decisions, decisions.

Now children, this is what we call a luxury problem.

Another problem, is which video game console to choose. I'm still undecided between an Xbox 360and a PS3, but leaning towards the Xbox, if only because a lot of people I know have it, plus it's a boatload of cash cheaper.

Oh. And Wintersleep's "Search Party" almost makes me cry each time I hear it. Awesome stuff. Thanks, Spotify.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No one knew they were robots

This is how I felt at work today.

"What? Square and made of plastic?", you ask. No. Like running away. It was that or run around screaming. Or do the Swedish thing, which is sit around and fume. Which I did for a while. Until I went home. Escaped. Yay for me.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The internet is the trailer park for the soul

Back in July, I found a cool blog using Blogger's “Next blog” function. I just clicked around, and there it was.

So today I figured I would go for a repeat. Click around, and find something out there, again. Something worthwhile, something fascinating, something I would want to read.

You can probably guess where this is going.

I found zilch. Nada. Nichts. Noll. Ingenting. And so on. Or rather, I found a lot of blogs but they were all either in a language I don't read or horribly ugly or complete crap. Or at least two of the three. And sometimes maybe all three.

So I'm asking y'all, point me to some blogs. Preferably in English, but Swedish works too. Well-written stuff, please. Wow me. Pull me out of the trailer park and into high society.

I leave you with this quote:
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

White and nerdy

Proof today that there be geeks everywhere. I just watched Biohazard, the New York hardcore band, celebrate the end of their 20th anniversary tour. The bass player/vocalist, badass Evan Seinfeld, sported a Punisher tee and a Spider-Man logo on his wrist band. Not so badass now, are you? Though I wouldn't say that to his face...

A riot is a spontaneous outburst. A war is subject to advance planning

The last couple of years, Salem to the south of Stockholm has become a battlefield on the weekend closest to December 9th. Right-wing extremists hold a parade to commemorate the death of a 17-year old skinhead who has become something of a martyr to neo-Nazis, and left-wing extremists go there to throw rocks.

I'm not even going to go into a discussion about politics, other than stating that all kinds of extremists are morons. It's a level playing field as far as I'm concerned. Right-wing, left-wing, doesn't matter. Morons, all of them.

Unfortunately, the freedom of assembly gives the neo-Nazis the right to march, regardless of what you think of their politics. However, as Salem politicians pointed out in a column in DN, the march leads to violence and a massive police action which in turn leads to disruptions in the everyday lives of Salem's citizens.

The question: should the safeguarding of freedom for some lead to the infringement on the freedom of others?

My answer is a firm “no”. No ifs or buts. Neither Nazis nor leftist extremists should get permission to march under these circumstances. Under any circumstances where the end result is something close to open war on our streets.

A few years back a leading politician on the left side of the political spectrum (which isn't really a spectrum, but more of a circle where the ends don't quite meet) encouraged the left-wing extremists to stay away from Salem during the weekend of the march, to avoid confrontation with the police and thus giving the march less exposure in the media. He was called a traitor, and people went anyway. Sounded like a good idea to me, but evidently they were too keen on putting on ski masks and throwing rocks at what they perceive as fascist police. Morons.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Psychos will always be psychos. They don’t need video games to help them

No, this won't be a rant *points to headline* I have a question. I want answers. And motivations.

The question: Xbox 360 or Playstation 3?

I'm buying one of them, probably, but which one?

What you need to know:
I like first person shooters, so it has to have good first person shooters. I'm not much of a sports or racing game person. Or complex roleplaying games either, for that matter (the video game kind at least). Though I'm open to change.

So I want opinions, and motivations. Why should I buy whatever it is. Xbox or PS. Let the commenting commence.

Oh. And there's no reason to mention Little Big Planet. I know already.

Friday, December 5, 2008

They can buy, but can't put on my clothes

I bought corduroy pants yesterday. Yes, you may point and tell me I'm an old geezer.

Granted, they're Carhartt, and they're baggy-ish cargo pants. So they're at least supposed to be in my style. But still. Corduroy. Not sure how to feel about that.

Then again, it might not be until I wear a corduroy shirt and beige slacks that you need to start worrying...

So now I'm walking around the office, announced by a soft swishing sound. Swish, swish, swish. Who's that? Beardo, can't you tell from the swishing?

Mah Girl came to the conclusion that these are not pants for assassins or ninjas. Stealth is out of the question.

I'm not far from applying for a membership here. I mean, come on. A membership card in a corduroy swathe. How can you beat that?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The street lamp's glow is the only sun I know

December. I can't believe it.

The weekend was a combination of splendid and horrendous.

- Hanging out at Eva and Fred's place, watching 12 Monkeys, playing Little Big Planet, drinking Mackmyra's Den första utgåvan.
- Hooking up with Matthias and his girlfriend (who has the lyrics for the TOOL song “Sober” tattooed on her arm) for food and music nerd speak.
- Playing CDs at Belsepub, meeting up with friends both old and new, and hanging out with Larsa and Alice In Jeans until the wee hours of the night.
- Shopping. Cargo pants, jacket, three sci-fi anthologies, Dave McKean's tarot deck and a four-inch alien warrior for Mah Girl.

Really. We weren't that inebriated. Really.

- The five hour hellride that was supposed to take three hours. An X2000 train that can only do 110 kilometers per hour should be outlawed.
- Spending an hour and twenty minutes at the train station in Borås because I read the wrong time table. Without my Nintendo DS I might have gone crazy.

In all, a good weekend. Though it was good to come home too. Back to the girl, and yet more episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Happy happy joy joy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Like dancing up all night

It seems I drank quite a lot of lead last night. The symptoms are there. My brain feels a lot heavier today than it did yesterday. There can be on other explanation.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Runaway bus

The definition of "moron". Someone that looks up bus times from Borås to Göteborg for Saturday but looks at Friday. Moron *points to self*

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm trying to feel more well adjusted than I really am, which is, I guess, the human condition.

The definition of "geek".

I'm at some friends' place in Borås. Why, you may ask. Not getting into that now. Not vital to the definition.

They pull out three different movies from a well-stocked DVD shelf (vital to the definition of another kind of geek: they have a better version of Jaws than I do. Must...upgrade...), and ask, "Which movie should we watch?".

We can't decide. One friend says, "Let's roll the dice to decide". Excellent, geek-friendly idea. Applause all around.

One problem. No dice.

Hence: online dice.

Ladies and gentlemen, "geek" is hereby defined *points to self*

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Runaway Train

Right. I have been known, on occasion, to vent my frustration at the inadequateness (it's a word) of SL, the company that runs the busses, subways and commuter trains of Stockholm. Every year they seem to express surprise at the snow, and they are completely worthless at letting their passengers know what's going on. One would think they are the worst at what they do. And I tend to live under that illusion. Today I am reminded that they still have a lot to learn when it comes to being inept. SJ, I salute you. Today's relatively simple journey from A to B has turned into a farce of near Basil Fawltian proportions. Fuck you. Fuck you very much.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will

Back in the real world after three days of writing exercises, workshopping and hanging around intensely creative people. In the real world, I'm battling a cold that sent me home early today, and trying to wrap my head around a lot of stuff going on at work. The next 12 months are going to be extremely interesting, work-wise. In a very positive, and positively exhausting, way.

Physically, I sure wasn't energized by the weekend, but my mind is in overdrive. All that creativity rubs off on me.

Here's some stuff I wrote this weekend.
- Three, four, sometimes five times a month, I spend the afternoon on top of the water tower, watching people through my telescopic sight.
(the above was the result of a writing exercise. And on some level inspired by a Strong Like Bear song)
- Dreams are the fragments of other worlds, trying to push through the veil of reality, to be born.
- For some reason, I always fantasized about dismantling that refrigerator.

I bring a lot of fragments and disjointed sentences back from Västerberg. Ideas, embryos, just words. The best stolen idea this time around was of a memory morgue (Livia's term), as in an actual morgue of memories, where they are dissected and autopsied. For what reason, I don't know. I might find out later. The other one was of a man that makes himself different people depending on who he meets (sort of Katti's idea). Both of them sound promising, at least to me.

Oh. I also learned that a crutch can look like it's been constructed by Heckler & Koch. Who knew?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

About the most originality that any writer can hope to achieve honestly is to steal with good judgment

We're a much depleted Creative Writing class at Västerberg Folkhögskola (check out the beard pic here!) this year. Yesterday we were 14 students and our teacher/mentor, as well as a guest lecturer. Some more people are expected in tomorrow. Two years back we were 30+, and considered splitting the class into two groups for workshopping. So maybe less than 20 is a good number.

As always, the atmosphere here inspires and energizes me, and I get lots of ideas for new stories, or parts of stories. We didn't workshop that much yesterday, so today and Sunday will probably bring more story seeds or at least the opportunity to steal more words and sentences.

Yes, I steal words and sentences. And ideas. See, if someone reads their text I might get caught on a single word or a turn of phrase, and all of a sudden an outline for a story or a character or a place or whatever springs to life in my mind. So I write it down. I always ask before using them though.

I find it interesting that such a wide variety of people are involved with the class. We have writing in common, but apart from that, we're quite a motley crew. The age of participants spans from twenties to I would guess eighties or at least seventies, and there is a scattering of Americans and Germans amongst us Swedes. Occupations vary wildly.

We come together around the act of worship that is writing. Because there is something near-religious about the way many of us approach the written word. For me, it's sometimes a very spiritual experience, when the words seem to have a life of their own, just pouring onto the page. I can't really describe it, that state of near-disconnect, when it's not so much me writing something as just being an outlet, a conduit, for words and worlds.

This approach to writing, the uncontrolled way, is something I can only give in to if I already have something written. I tend to be very structured about writing. If I get an idea I might jot down a phrase or a few words in my phone or on my laptop, and then I usually construct something, an embryo of a story or a short scene, in my head, over days. When I sit down to write, I have at least an idea of where I'm going. Later, once this is down on paper (or in most cases, hard drive), I can do “writing frenzies”, as they are termed within our class, which basically is all about just writing, no matter what comes out. My frenzies, however, are an extension of what I've already written.

So maybe it's not so much about totally relinquishing control as it is about writing uncontrollably but with direction. Sort of. Again, hard to describe.

In many ways I'm still immature as a writer. I think I know what works for me, but I still have a lot to learn. Too bad I didn't start writing seriously sooner...

Friday, November 21, 2008

An important question

I could survive for 57 seconds chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor

Created by Bunk

In Memoriam

(something like this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I'm a dumbass and didn't bring my mobile broadband stuff with me on the trip, so it had to wait until I was once again in wireless range)

Yesterday it was two years ago Henrik killed himself. Mah Girl and I hooked up with Mikaela, Henrik's ex, and went to the cemetery where his ashes are scattered. We lit candles, stood in silence for a while and then talked a bit about Henrik and life. Considering what Mikaela has been going through (lots of info on that on her blog, in Swedish), it was good to see her and to see her smiling.

The visit was better than I expected. I have been dreading it for quite some time now, but it turned out to be a calm and spiritual experience. I still miss Henrik, but I know now that time will allow me to come to terms with his death, even though I'll always wonder why.

Henrik. Happy. Hairy. Hilarious.

The text below was written early 2007, two or three months after he died. I was unable to write anything during that winter, and realized that the only way to get around that was to write about him. About all the things I was feeling. The text is completely unedited since I wrote it, and I probably won't touch a word of it. It isn't about guilt or anything really, just something I had to get out to move on.

I was considering bringing a copy of the text to the cemetery yesterday, to leave it there, but I didn't, since I didn't want anyone to read it. Last night, on my back in a bed I've never slept in before, I realized that internalizing this again will only bring about writer's block or other problems. So I'm posting it. And next week I'm leaving a copy at the cemetery.

For Henrik. Rest in peace. Vaffanculo!


It felt like falling. Down into some dark abyss, where you know a rock hard floor is waiting, but you can’t see it. That whole day, after I found out, felt like falling. I’m not sure I have landed since. I’m not sure I want to.

Death is never easy to deal with, though sometimes it seems like a good thing. My grandmother passed away after spending several years in a care facility, slowly shrinking and forgetting the beginnings of conversations at the end of them. Who she really was only became visible during brief moments, like glimpses into someone else’s life, a life clouded behind dementia and the smell of disinfectant. For some of us, her death felt like a release. An end to suffering, for her and us. I loved my grandmother, but I didn’t cry at her funeral. I was 20. Her death had been processed earlier, I think. A death of the soul, not the body.

During the ten plus years since, I’ve only had to deal with one single death, until November. I keep wondering if that’s normal. Maybe the cliché has it right, that the number of deaths around us multiply as we grow older. At least those that really matter.

He wasn’t a close friend, really. We met in college, those first days when the class is trying to establish some sort of social hierarchy, rearranging and bonding according to opinions, shared interests and plain dumb luck. We didn’t like each other at first. In fact, we each thought the other was an obnoxious, arrogant loud-mouth. That lasted about a week. Over time, he became the only one in the class I really got close to. We spent hours at a rundown café, talking music and other things, when we should have been studying, and did a radio show for a few months with a bespectacled madman named Victor.

We drifted apart after that year, as you do when you end up in different places, with different people. New social circles were created, old ones revisited or resurrected. Too busy with life to really keep in touch, we still tried to. When we both ended up in Stockholm we re-established contact, and managed to work around our respective schedules to hook up for coffee, beer or music at least occasionally.

Looking back at the whole thing, at him, I think maybe he was the one friend that was most like me. Or at least most like me a few years ago. I’ve slowed down, figured out that it’s OK to take some time to myself, with myself, and maybe become a better person through that. I’m not saying I was better than him, I just like the now me better than the then me. Evolution through introspection, and a good deal of psychotherapy.

It never seemed like he slowed down. Always talking quickly, walking quickly, drinking quickly. Always going somewhere. Of course that was part of what endeared him to people. Like me, he knew people everywhere, and I suspect that like me, he had very few really close friends. Somehow that tempo, the constant running through life, stops you from forging deeper bonds with those you pass. You meet too briefly. I know it was that way for me as I went rushing off to whatever was waiting around the next corner, before I had to slow down. Knowing what I know now, I wished we had seen each other more. I wish we had taken the time, both of us, to stop and talk, at length, about the things that matter. Maybe things would have been different then.

He killed himself in November.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The truth. It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution

To quote Dr Cox:

"Relationships? Well, Sigmund. Relationships are so... fragile. It just takes one thing, one... tiny little offense, and it can snowball on ya. And if that snowball starts to pick up speed, God forbid, you'd better tuck and go, my friend."

I'm not saying it's tiny. I'm just saying.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fuck you, you fuckin' fuck

Fuck. F U C K.

It's really the only word that fits. My headache is acting up. Tiny, tiny men run around inside my head, between my right temple and my right eye, and play with teeny tiny jackhammers.

Go here for more info on the headache of headaches.

This week is one of contrasts. On Thursday I go north for three days of creative writing with my class, which is always inspiring and fills me with energy. The same day it's two years ago my friend Henrik took his own life. Again...fuck.

I've only had to deal with a handful of deaths in my life, so I don't really have a frame of reference, but I do know that his death affected me harder than others have, and probably will. The main reason why is probably that he was like me, in a lot of ways, and if I can see myself in him, then chances are I could probably recognise at least some of the reasons why he decided to end his life.

Now, I've never contemplated suicide, but as far as anyone could tell, friends, family, everyone, neither had Henrik. Then again, they do say that people that do commit suicide never talk about it, but that might be a cliché. Put together with the fact that no one knows why Henrik killed himself, I find myself faced with the possibility that things may surface in my life that sends my thoughts in that very dark direction.

I know this is unreasonable. But feelings often are.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Technology... the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it

It's time for yet another Like/Don't Like. Though it's Sunday. Deal with it.

beardonaut likes:
Wired Magazine. I've been aware of Wired for quite a while, though I had only read an issue here and there until last year, when I started buying it every month.

Like Empire, Wired seems written directly to me. I'm right in the middle of their demographic. I'm a geek, I like tech, and I like reading articles that aren't written like a scientific paper. Wired caters to all that, and does it with a twinkle in their eye.

I picked up the November issue the other day, and haven't gotten around to reading it, so:

The October issue contained, among other things:
- A short text on the merits and drawbacks on working from home instead of the office.
- How To on throwing a football.
- How To on bluffing a music geek (being a music geek, I can say it would have bluffed me)
- A short text on the Atlas Power Ascender, vital for those Mission Impossible situations where you need to scale a rope quickly.
- An article about recreating a Pleistocene eco-system by relocating bison and other animals to a preserve in Latvia.
- A list of 15 people the next President of the US should listen to, with opinions on climate change, space, global health, etc.

On the whole Wired is a wonderful treasure trove of ideas and things you don't even know exists. Go read it. Now.

beardonaut doesn't like:
Subscriptions that don't work. I started subscribing to Wired this summer. The deal was great compared to buying it off the shelf, even though it's an American magazine. However, it's not working. Of the five issues I was supposed to get, one has arrived on time, and two haven't arrived at all.

So I'm probably canceling my subscription, since I go by the magazine place anyway to see if another issue has come out and I haven't received it. I might as well buy it when I'm there.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There are two types of people that go around beardless; boys and women, and I am neither

I thought I might try to write something clever and profound (or at least something I would find so), but I'm too tired, so I'll leave you with this.

Quite shocking that I like that site, right?

Thanks, Eva, for the link.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter

ege wrote a killer post the day before the US election, which touched on a lot of thoughts and opinions I've gone through over the years. Consider me inspired.

I don't know a lot about the political process in the US, but I do know that I was hoping Obama would win. Why? For me it was simple. He's at least talking about moving troops out of Iraq (even though some people seem to think he'll just shift the troops around to Afghanistan, keeping up the same level of US military presence in the Middle East), and he didn't have a total nutcase as his Vice President candidate.

Comedian on the left. Psychopathic hockey mom on the right.

The main thing that caught my attention in the post has nothing to do with Obama or the US election in general though. It was one sentence:
“There are stupid people everywhere. Most people, in fact, are pretty fucking dumb.”

Yes. Yes, exactly. Most people, not some people, are fucking dumb. I stand by that. Sometimes I am “most people”. But usually, at least, I know what I don't know.

Like the Euro referendum in 2003. I left a blank vote. Why? Because I didn't consider myself fit to make that decision. I couldn't even make an educated guess as to where a yes or a no would take us, cause I don't know squat about national or international economy. So I voted blank.

Then came the confirmation that most people are stupid. I asked four people about why they voted as they did in the referendum. Only one could tell me why. One! Three out of four could not tell me. The lesson here is that people vote with their gut and hearts, not their brains. This is a mistake.

I believe that in order to vote, on anything, you need information. You need to take the time, and make the effort, to know what the issue at stake is, otherwise you shouldn't vote. Stay at home. Your gut has shit for brains (to quote Rob Gordon from High Fidelity), and should not be allowed near any decision-making process other than when and what your next meal should be. On the same note, your heart should also stay away from political decisions. Way away.

Here's something that usually gets people going: I believe there should be a minimum knowledge level required to vote. You should be able to answer ten, fifteen, maybe twenty questions about the issues at stake in whatever election you're about to vote in, to be allowed to vote.

I know some people think this would not be democracy. I don't care. If the majority don't have the time or the inclination to get some info on the issues they vote for, the majority shouldn't be able to decide. Very simple.

And by the way. The headline of today's post is a quote from Winston Churchill.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

There is a mask of theory over the whole face of nature

I spent three hours in a meeting this morning with a bunch of people from our billing and IT department.

The meeting in and of itself wasn't bad, but not spectacular, either. For me it was the beginning, other than the collection of basic requirements, of a project that I consider The Holy Grail right now. In a very non-Monty Pythonesque way. If we pull it off, it's going to solve a lot of problems and open up a lot of new opportunities.

What was fascinating was watching the people there, a selection of requirement analysts, solution architects and project managers, go about their business. “Their business” being the theoretical deconstruction of every single step in the processes we're looking at. It was...frightening.

Now, I'm a fairly theoretical guy, in the sense that I like disassembling a problem in it's component parts. The best meetings are when I get to draw on a whiteboard, trying to figure out how to solve something, especially if I get to do it with input from other people, discussing, toying with ideas. But this...this was on a whole different level.

That level was theoretical beyond belief. My job requires me to keep a very firm grip on reality, since I work a lot with the operative side of our products. Today I felt that reality slipping from my fingers, down into a morass of process flow charts, definitions of terms, and discussions about where one logical part of the solution we're looking at ends and another one begins. We're very far from practical applications and integration at this stage.

I don't ever want to be a requirement analyst. But I'm happy someone does.

I wonder if someone dreamed about that as a child? Your friends wanted to be fire fighters and astronauts, but all you wanted to be was a requirement analyst. Probably not.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And they hummed of mystery

I finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road today. Possible spoilers below.

It's the first McCarthy novel I've read. I have to say I was skeptical, since suffering through the end of No Country For Old Men, which is based on a McCarthy novel, and frankly disappointed me like no other movie has for a very long time, especially considering how strong the start of the movie is.

So, on to The Road. The story centers around a man and a boy, walking down a road through a devastated America, post some unspecified apocalypse. The landscape is all ashes, forests and cities and everything burned. Destroyed. It's a very bleak picture McCarthy paints, and a post-apocalyptic setting quite unlike anything I've read.

The prose is at times exactly how I write, which probably has a big part in me liking it. The dialogue is condensed, and several key phrases repeat over and over, which gives the impression that the two characters know each other intimately.

My mind is winding down, going “Sleep now, oh bearded host animal”, so I must come to a conclusion.

I really, really liked The Road. I read it in two days, I will re-read it at some point, and the end almost made me cry. On the train. That almost never happens, on or off the train. Bookwise, only Man and Boy has affected me in that way, and I'm guessing Extremly Loud and Incredibly Close will too.

I highly recommend The Road for any fan of quality writing, or post-apocalyptic fiction for that matter. Now I have to listen to my mind and go night night.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self

Jesper gave me some grief about not writing enough, over drinks on Friday night. Fair enough. See, I'm more of an editor than a writer, really, in the sense that I'm very bad at writing sprees and can't put anything to paper or hard drive without thinking it through over and over.

First thing's first. Writing spree? I'm not sure where the term originated, but it's used within the context of my creative writing class, where it signifies the act of putting pen to paper and just writing, writing, writing. The point of a writing spree isn't to write anything good or worthwhile, the point is writing. Anything. Any words that come to mind, even if it's just “I can't write for shit. I can't write for shit. I can't write for shit”.

Now, as I said, I'm not a writing spree person. Why? Because I can't live with writing something that I don't like. Everything I put down must be worth something to me.

In some ways, I can find the essence of this in a quote from Stephen King's “On Writing”:

You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair--the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

I don't come lightly to the blank page. I need an idea, or a character, or something, ready in my head, to be able to sit down and write. Usually I turn this one thing, maybe a paragraph or a plot or something, over and over in my head for days before I commit anything to actual words. I over-analyze everything.

I have maybe two or three dozen embryos of stories sloshing about on my laptop. I'm going to let you people decide which one of the following I'm going to finish and polish and try to get published. Yes, published. Not here, on my blog, but for a literary website of some sort.

The stories are:
- Love at Stake. A man believes his new-found girlfriend is a vampire.
- Aquarium. A guy buys an aquarium that includes a miniature Bermuda triangle.
- The Weird and Wonderful Hair of Mrs. Atkins. A woman, with bizarre hair, finds magic in her attic.
- Roof Top. Two strange men meet on a rooftop on New Year's Eve of 1999.
- The Word Thief. A man kills another man, because he believes he is stealing letters and words from the world.

Right. Which one then? Or rank them. Or whatever. Let me know.

This machine will not communicate these thoughts

I stood on the platform last night waiting for a train home. Thick fog shrouded the world, again, and Radiohead's “The Bends” played in my headphones.

I've found that the greatest heights and depths of emotion rarely happen in what should be an emotionally charged situation, but instead when the mind wanders and I'm more or less shielded from any interaction with other people. Like last night.

There was no particular reason and really no particular emotion either. It was just...powerful. Dreamlike in it's intensity.

Then this morning, when the clock radio started (yeah, I set the alarm on a Sunday – places to go, people to see, things to do), it played Radiohead's “No Surprises”. It felt like the universe aligned, and is trying to tell me something. But what?

Best. Video. Ever.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's too bad she won't live... but then again, who does?

We came to the conclusion today that Mah Girl is a replicant. A skin-job. A biorobot.

Why? Because she can only remember her childhood in snapshots, like actual photographies, and she can make kick-ass origami unicorns.

The glory that is Blade Runner.

OK. So I lied about the origami. But still. I might need to unpack my Voight-Kampff test.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Without music, life would be a mistake

I'm still reading Klosterman, after a slight hiatus trying to catch up with Empire and Wired. A quote caught my eye today:

Do you know people who insist they like “all kinds of music”? That actually means they like no kinds of music.

This is, in fact, truth. At least from my point of view. Since my discovery of music that seemed to speak to me, on a very primal level, I have had a very emotional relationship with music, and I can't really understand people that don't approach it in the same way. I know this is elitist of me, but I don't care. Passion about music, is in some ways the yardstick by which I measure people. That and if they like TOOL or not.

The mighty TOOL, live. The closest to a religious experience I've ever had.

Music matters. It's that simple. And I'm going to say that again: Music matters. Not bands, not artists. Music. I don't put bands up on pedestals because of image or adherence to a particular genre of music. If they have captivating tunes, that's enough. But I still put them on pedestals, and I consider myself passionate about music.

I get goose bumps from some songs. I feel like I'm about to rise into the sky on the voices of some singers. There are some songs I can't listen to on bad days, since they would make me cry, some of them because there are specific events tied to them and some simply because they are powerful. There are songs that make me want to scream, songs that make me want to laugh, songs that make me want to curl up under a blanket and just stare vacantly at the ceiling.

Personally, I believe I have a fairly broad taste in music, in some ways, but that's probably not true. Most of the stuff I listen to is connected to the other stuff I listen to, but more on an emotional level then on a “this sounds just like all the other bands you listen to”. There is a core of American bands with big guitars and big melodies in my CD collection, but lots of other things as well.

Now, two lists. This is a challenge to y'all. Meet it by commenting, or face my wrath.

Top three CDs (I realize many see this as an impossibility to list, but at least you have three favorites right now):
- TOOL, “Aenima”. Always number one. Scarily powerful, scarily good. I can't fathom how anything can ever top this.
- The Tea Party, “Transmission”. Led Zeppelin meets Nine Inch Nails, with sitars. Exceptional.
- The Dillinger Escape Plan, “Ire Works”. This is a “right now”, but their fascination with Faith No More-ish melodies, electronics and musical insanity in general creates a combination unlike anything else I've heard.

Three most unexpected CDs in collection (and these must be CDs you listen to, not stuff that sloshes about at the bottom of some crate in your storage room, and they can't be more than one from the same artist):
- Wannadies, “Skellefteå”. Swedish guitar pop sensation of the 90's.
- Photek, “Modus Operandi”. Drum'n'bass.

And the fact I could only come up with two, proves how homogeneous my taste in music must be. I'm soo alternative...

I hardly think a few birds are going to bring about the end of the world

I woke with a persistent headache this morning, like someone had fixed a metal ring to the inner circumference of my skull and kept turning screws making it expand ever so slowly.

Thick fog shrouded the world outside, and I couldn't even see the school below our apartment building from our kitchen window.

Stevie Wayne: Well, my gauges must be wrong. I've got a wind blowing due east. Now what kind of a fog blows against the wind?
Dan O'Bannon: You got me.
Stevie Wayne: I'm not so sure I want you.

Walking outside felt like a dream. Sounds were muted, colors bleached of intensity. Whoever was inside my skull kept turning those screws, slowly, gleefully.

At the train station, hundreds if not thousands of jackdaws perched everywhere. On pylons, on power lines, along the outlines of the station house. Their eyes seemed to follow me. Some of them moved from pylon to pylon in sync with my steps. Music by Bernard Herrmann should have been playing in the background. I looked for masses of seagulls, but saw none. Exhaled.

No birds awaited me as I got off the train. Exhaled again.

Over the course of the day, I've managed to if not destroy, then at least distract the bastards playing with the screws. Ibuprofen, a big club sandwich and solitary confinement in a conference room so I can actually get some stuff done has helped.

Believe me when I say I will be on the lookout for flocks of birds on the way home...

Monday, November 3, 2008

I jump from every rooftop

This just makes me happy. Happy happy joy joy!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I am the silencing machine and I control you

I was introduced to Nine Inch Nails in 1990 or 91 by Andreas, who I went to school with. I was immersed in hair metal like Def Leppard then, but it didn't really move me. Nothing had managed to, then. Andreas on the other hand was serious about music. Depeche Mode, Front 242, New Model Army and The Cure populated his musical universe, and he had the black clothes, Doc Martens and haircut to match.

He played me Pretty Hate Machine, which at the time was some of the harshest music I had been exposed to. There was something there that spoke to me, but at the same time I was not ready to embrace it yet.

What you need to know is that I was a geek then. And not in a good way. My life basically consisted of school, homework and games of various kinds. Nothing else. Music didn't really matter then.

(I'm going to stop here and say, yes, it was probably in a good way, since it is the basis for who I am today, and I kinda like who I am today.)

That changed in 1992. Music videos on TV was a Big Deal then, with both MTV, ZTV and Swedish “standard” television filling the afternoons with music while I sat down with homework. One afternoon Alice In Chains' song “Would?” came on, and I was mesmerized. It grabbed hold of me, and opened up something inside me that I so far hadn't felt.

Alice In Chains at the height of their popularity. Layne Staley, second from the left, passed away in 2002 due to an overdose.

I can pinpoint the starting point of my interest in music to that afternoon. Sure, I grew up around music and still listen to some stuff my father played (Johnny Cash, The Beatles, etc), but the door to what has become a near obsession with music remained closed until 1992.

Not long after that, I went back to Pretty Hate Machine. And my oh my, how it spoke to me now.

Nine Inch Nails has remained one of the few constants in my own musical universe since then. Other bands that I listened to back then still get time on my iPod (which will be the subject of a whole 'nother post), but only NIN are still releasing new material and breaking new ground.

Nine Inch Nails, maybe post mud-slinging at Woodstock 1994.

The reason for this post is that I listened to The Downward Spiral today, for the first time since...I don't know how long. Of the full-length releases, it remains my favorite, though it's still topped by the EP Broken.

On the subject of “new ground”:
In 2007, NIN utilized the services of 42 Entertainment to create an elaborate ARG to promote their release Year Zero. It is the best promotional campaign I have ever seen, mostly because of the level of interactivity with fans and participants. It all began with USB sticks “left behind” in toilet stalls at NIN gigs, that contained fragments of new songs and references to websites, where the game itself began. Some demented fan even ran static found at the end of one of the songs through an oscilloscope and found more clues. Mindblowing.

For everything NIN, go here. And for a complete rundown of the Year Zero ARG, go here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Building better worlds

The highlight of today's Geekorama...I mean science fiction convention wasn't the members of the 501st Legion, and it wasn't the fact that I don't feel like such a geek when faced with people wearing Star Trek uniforms their mother has sown.

No, the highlight was my colleague Björn, who showed up to have his picture taken with Carl Weathers, in full Ivan Drago outfit, red satin robe and shorts with “Drago” on them and all. He even cut his already blond, square head of hair to match Drago's heli pad closer. He's mad, I tell you, mad! Though Weathers got a real laugh out of it. Pictures will be posted if I can score them from Björn.

Oh. And Lance Henriksen was there. I like Lance. To mark this occasion (and my geekiness), I wore my Weyland-Yutani tee. Had I thought about it, I would have brought a knife and asked him to repeat Bishop's trick from the mess hall onboard the Sulaco. Then again...maybe not.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I think it's safe to assume it isn't a zombie

Things like this, to me, is the reason for the Internet's existence. I shall build an altar to the glory of Angry Alien Productions. Glory, glory, hallelujah!

And so it continues

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Something I wrote

Some people expressed an interest in reading something I've written. Below is one of the few fictional pieces that I'm actually happy with. There are others, but this is the only one I will post, for now. I'm too tired to fix the formatting, unfortunately...


I guess I have always had problems with women. That’s a typically male thing to say, I know, but it goes both ways. Any woman who claims to understand men is a liar. I’ve always been misunderstood, on some level. And I wouldn’t be surprised if women have problems with women as well, and men with men.

The whole man-woman thing has to be in a different league altogether, though. At least it is for me. Women are from Venus, men are from Mars, and all that crap. And no, I don’t live at home with my mother, and no, I don’t wear Star Trek uniforms all the time, and yes, I have a steady job, and no, it’s got nothing to do with computers. But all that is just a façade, attributes we think matter but that don’t, really. If you have a problem in your relationship and think you can solve it by changing jobs or something mundane like that, then the problem isn’t yours, but your partner’s.

Anyway. Now I’ve met this girl. She is a real looker, and I want to do things just right. Fix the problem, break the streak of no-hitters, to use a typically male term. That doesn’t even sound right. I hate sports. Not hunting though. That’s a man’s pastime. My uncle used to take me hunting when I was a kid. Taught me how to appreciate the skill required and the loneliness of it all. Just you and your prey. Still, that’s the whole damn point of hunting. Doing it alone.

So I have a date with her this weekend, and I don’t want to mess things up. I went shopping for it today. I’m a sucker for planning, and I basically had the activities for the weekend planned on Monday. Hell, I’ve been thinking about it almost two weeks. How could I not? She seems to be just the kind of girl I’ve been looking for, and I want to make the right impression. Get the proper “wow” effect.

So I went shopping. Two rolls of duct tape. Ten feet of half inch rope. A roll of plastic bags. A pack of latex gloves. A new hacksaw. She sure is a looker. I hope she’s a screamer too.

Writers are made, not born

A few years back, I took a creative writing class in Swedish, online. It was horrible. Awful. Pathetic. No criticism from the teacher, at all, just encouraging words for everybody, about everything. How the hell are you supposed to learn anything that way?

So it was with some doubt that I signed up for Creative Writing in English, at Gävle Högskola, the year after. I shouldn't have worried. It turned out to be an excellent writing community helmed by a passionate and knowledgeable teacher/mentor, with so much talent among the writers I experience a dizzying combination of inspiration, awe and inferiority complex every time I meet them.

The class is completely online, aside from one meeting per term, and has moved to a folkhögskola (kind of like a community college, for any non-Swedes out there) since I started. I have completed my four terms, but still hang around, as do many others.

If anyone is interested in participating in our community, let me know. The term is in full swing, but you can sign up for next year. There are four deadlines each term, with a selection of reading and writing, some obligatory, some voluntary.

In three weeks, it's time for this term's meeting, at Storvik outside Gävle. I really look forward to it, since it's always an inspiring (but exhausting) weekend, but I'm also dreading it, since it will be two years since my friend Henrik passed away on the Thursday when I'm supposed to go up there. Perhaps I'll use the feelings that day will no doubt spawn as some sort of inspiration too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And all the sweet serenity of books

I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs right now. I was supposed to be reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, but I couldn't read it. It was too powerful. The grainy image of a man falling from the Twin Towers on 9/11 was just too much, right now.

So it will have to wait until another time. Because it was a very interesting book, and the main character, Oskar, is fascinating. I don't recommend it to the faint of heart or...whatever it is I am right now. Stressed out? Depressed by the fall? Angry at the world in general? All of the above? Probably.

Klosterman has some interesting views on pop culture in the 90s. I'm not even halfway yet, but I think I like where Cocoa Puffs is going, though I have some issues with Klosterman's use of the word “fucking”. I'm not against it as such, but I see no need for throwing it into a text just for the fucking sake of it *grin*

What are you people reading right now, and what do you think about what you're reading?

My plan for the coming week is to write. Maybe not finish but at least start two separate texts, one to post as part of the second fall deadline for my creative writing class, and the second to bring to said class' meeting at Storvik outside Gävle in early November.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's better to be barefoot than without books

I realized like/don't like sort of fizzled out and died. I will now attempt to resurrect it. Rise...rise...RISE!!! *thunder in the background. A hunched-back servant throws a switch*

beardonaut likes:
JPod, by Douglas Coupland. I finished this book a while back, and wanted to write something about it, but it just never happened. So here goes.

So far I've only read three of Coupland's novels, Microserfs, All Families are Psychotic and JPod, but I need to read more. Microserfs was good, Families was so-so, and JPod was great. Hilarious, well-written, exceptional characters, and with a nice meta-plot twist, since Coupland himself plays a minor part in the story.

My gut feeling is that you need to be at least partially a geek to appreciate JPod (and Microserfs) fully. There are geek references throughout, and most of the characters are geeks. However, since it is very well-written, anyone with an appreciation for witty contemporary literature should be able to appreciate it.

Now go read it.

beardonaut doesn't like:
Undisciplined dogs. Or rather, their owners. While walking home from the grocery store today, I met a woman with two dogs. I rarely pay attention to dogs, unless it's a pitbull straining at a leash held by a punk with too many heavy gold chains around his neck (wait, what am I saying? One heavy gold chain is too many...). So today I paid them no attention, and just walked on, headphones on, cut off from the world.

Until one of her dogs decided that whatever I had in my bag was of interest. Not like it bit me or anything, it just lunged at me and careened into me. The woman pulled it back from me, and started screaming at it.

Now, here was a person that obviosuly shouldn't own a dog at all. Why? Because she couldn't control it, and because she screamed at it.

I have no problem with dogs in general. My grandfather had dogs when I was younger, but they were well-behaved, well-trained dogs.

I could make all sorts of parallels here between dogs and children, but I won't. For now.

Who will be the strongest thumb?

I lost two thumb wars in a row this morning. What. The. Hell. I have a powerful thumb. Meaty. And I lost. Twice.

Did you know that there's a Thumb Wrestling Federation?

Friday, October 24, 2008

And so it begins

Tick tock. Tick tock.

*the sound of sheep hooves in the background*

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doth thou speaketh English?

Last night my boss called me, and said "You should go to the Nordic Telecom Summit" tomorrow. I said I had too much work to do at the office. For some reason the fall is always the busiest time of the year. He told me that didn't matter, and that I really should go. So I did.

There were some pretty good speakers, highlighting issues like the future of mobile broadband, developments in radio network interfaces, and the evolution of 3GPP networks towards LTE. All very interesting.

The highlights of the day were more on a personal level though.

1. I realized as a guy from Google was speaking, that if everyone worked at Google (megacorp, anyone?), or all companies worked like Google, the world would be a better place. For nerds.

2. I got to ask someone from a competing company (that shall remain nameless) uncomfortable questions about their presentation regarding the future of services in IP backbone networks. She evaded the questions like she'd been in politics for twenty years. Cop-out.

3. All the presentations were in English, and some truly awe-inspiring Swenglish was heard from the speakers. My personal favorite, that wasn't really Swenglish either but just plain wrong and hilarious: "Everyone wants a pie of that business". Eh...what? I see what he was going for, but it misfired beyond description.

In all, a good day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I wish that just once people wouldn't act like the clichés that they are

I'm a bona fide TV junkie. I'll give most shows a chance, and I can watch some stuff over and over and over.

I acknowledge that TV is a real time stealer. I acknowledge that perhaps it numbs my soul. I don't care. It's entertainment, baby! and sometimes that's just what I need.

The Best Show Ever is, of course, Six Feet Under. I watched it sporadically when it was shown on Swedish television, and was always drawn to it's dark humor and flawless dialogue. I've since bought it and watched through it all with Mah Girl a few years ago. It's awesome, in the true sense of the word. Spectacular.

I want this on a t-shirt

Shows of that magnitude, that are that well-written, transcends entertainment. They become something more profound, a mirror in which we see something of ourselves reflected back. That might sound like pseudo-religious ramblings, but it's the truth, at least for me.

As I'm writing this, Grey's Anatomy is on. That show has become a real train wreck of soap opera intrigue and drama that is completely uncalled for, filled with completely one-dimensional characters. And just like Prison Break, it had such promise, that it never delivered on.

But really, I shouldn't be watching that much TV, or spending that much time slouching around on the Internet either. I should be writing. I should be structuring that novel I so very much want to write, or resurrecting one of the countless short stories that lurk in the depths of my hard drive.

One of my favorite authors, William Gibson, said (or wrote, not sure):
I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.

I should listen to him.

This blog was supposed to be an inspiration for me to start writing again, after sort of a hiatus. It has helped in a way, since I'm writing here more than I've done in a long time, but it hasn't really helped me finish any stories. I need to get my bearded ass in gear and write more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent

So now is later.

Lately, I've been considering what the hell is wrong with the world and people.

Over the past two months three people I know have been assaulted in one way or the other. As I've expressed in previous posts, I'm not a real believer in the inner goodness of man, but I still think that it takes a certain kind of person to beat up someone without a reason.

This is where you go “A reason you say?”.

Yes. A reason. I know I have the capacity within me for violence. I know that if someone close to me was threatened or attacked, I wouldn't hesitate to step in and deal with the situation. With violence, if need be. I know this might seem hypocritical, and that may be, but I have little doubt this is the way a lot of people are wired. For me, that realization came when my then-girlfriend was attacked by her stepfather. The rage I felt when I found out was terrifying. The realization that I would have thrown myself at him had I been there, with no regard for my own safety, was terrifying. The fact that I would do it again, for anyone close to me, is terrifying. But still true.

I felt the same way when my now-girlfriend was trapped inside the entrance of a club between a locked door and a guy gone berserk on anti-psychotics and alcohol. Good combo, that... He was about as tall as a Smurf, and managed to throw a 200-pound security guard around.

So yes. A reason. Then again, that's the only reason I can think of.

That situation aside, to me normal people don't hurt other people. Here's where we need to define normal. Normal as in “functioning properly emotionally”, nothing else. It has nothing to do with normalcy regarding looks or political views or race or whatever (the middle one sometimes fits, though that's a topic for another post). The urge might be there, those primal fight or flight instincts, but normal people don't let the urges get the better of them. That's what's called “civilization”.

I consider the three people (I won't dignify them with the term “men”), and any other people really that do the same thing, to be below me on an evolutionary scale. Yes, all men are created equal, but again, those degenerates aren't men.

Those are my two cents.

Game over, man, game over

Today was one of those days where things move from good to bad to good again in the blink of an eye. Well, not really the blink of an eye, but a fairly short time.

It started off well enough, even though I shouldn't have been feeling that well, considering I was up too late last night and what with the stuff that's been going on lately. More on that later.

Then it all went sideways as a problem at work just grew out of proportion. It was all about a process gone horribly, horribly wrong, and about some people standing on the sideline not really noticing that it had gone wrong, and about some people on another sideline overreacting when it did. Through some well-aimed diplomacy (I have a piece of paper tacked to my cubicle wall that says “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to 'Go to Hell' in such a way that they actually look forward to the trip”) and a lot of running around, I managed to at least partially defuse the situation, and above all sort of who had done what wrong when.

My workday continued to be less than spectacular, and I felt compelled to complain to Mah Girl. As always, she cuts straight to the point.

“Think about good food and good company later. It's going to be LEGEN...wait for it...DARY!”

Instant smile.

So I left work on time, and went downtown to meet the Almighty Steelwheels. The plan was to eat meat and speak nerd. I ate salmon, which wasn't quite right, but others ate meat. And we spoke nerd.

Quote of the night:
“Bill Paxton is the only one ever to have been killed by both an Alien and a Predator. I think about stuff like that all day...”

All is well with the world.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More metal than your grandmother's hip replacement

I saw Cult of Luna play live on Thursday. I meant to write something about it, but the text kept growing and time kept shrinking, so I had to postpone it. Until now.

The opening act was Kongh. They're one of those bands that I've been meaning to check out, for quite some time now, but haven't gotten around to. I have heard a few songs from their debut, "Counting Heartbeats", and liked what I heard with the exception of the vocals. So I was expecting to nod along to some tunes and then cringe as the vocalist opened his mouth. How wrong I was.

Kongh came on to samples from the classic King Kong movie. That alone was enough to put a smile on my face. Then they proved that three people can sound like a dozen, which made the smile even wider. Kongh moves somewhere in the region between doom bands like Yob and faster, more progressive acts like Mastodon, and they do their thing really, really well. Slowly droning doom blends seamlessly with amazing drumming and intricate guitarwork, without it ever veering off to guitar solos. And the vocalist sounded a lot better live than what I remember from the CD.

Kongh gets seven beards out of ten.

The second band was Lowood. I had never heard the name before, and was expecting something along the lines of the other two bands, that is moody men in their 20s and 30s, more likely bearded than not, churning out slow, ten-minute metal tunes. Again, how wrong I was.

Lowood turned out to be two women/girls, probably in their twenties, with nothing but two microphones, a synthesizer and a guitar. While their music, which was in the singer/songwriter vein with great pop melodies and Duran Duran-ish squeals from the synthesizer, is about as far from the other bands as you can go and still be a guitar-based band, the mood they conveyed was very appropriate and fit right in with both Kongh and Cult of Luna.

Unfortunately the din from the bar almost drowned their low-key songs, which made it hard to listen properly.

For now Lowood gets five beards out of ten, but I expect that to change if I can get my hands on some of their songs.

On to the main attraction then. I've seen Cult of Luna quite a few times now, and they've managed to be both exceptional and as dull as watching paint dry. Last night was more towards exceptional, but still not anywhere near the best I've seen them. They have two main problems.

The top one is the singer (screamer, really), who manages to contribute just about nothing every time he's on stage. His voice goes after a few songs, and his stage presence is about as exciting as another microphone stand. The one time I've seen them and they have been exceptional, he wasn't there, and the guitarist, who screams on some songs anyway, did all
the screaming.

The second problem is not as big now as it used to be. A few years back they probably had some guy walking around before the show, nailing all their feet to the stage and inserting metal rods down their spines. They've been moving around more and more over the years, especially some of them, and now they did a fairly good job of pulling up those nails and breaking those rods. I expect they have fired that guy by now.

If they had peppered their playlist with stuff further back than "Somewhere Along The Highway" (they might have, but being the old geezer I am I left before they were done) I might have been more enthusiastic, but I completely understand the urge to only play newer stuff.

Cult of Luna gets six beards out of ten.