Thursday, July 30, 2009

We are such stuff as dreams are made on

We saw Anton Corbijn's “Control” on Sunday. Spectacular movie, even though I'm not really a Joy Division fan. Black and white, long sweeping shots, and so mind-numbingly tragic I think it's a good idea to hide away any razorblades you have at home if you're going to see it.

On Sunday night I had nightmares. If you know anything about Joy Division, you know how that particular story ends. To me it wasn't surprising that I dreamed of Henrik. So sleep was frequently interrupted, and I was a very unhappy camper on Monday morning.

Then, between Tuesday and Wednesday, I had nightmares again. And bad. Really frickin' bad. I woke up screaming, at 0330. I haven't done that since I was fifteen or so, dreaming of falling endlessly into darkness. Unless you count that one time when a painting fell off the wall over the bed and landed on my leg.

This time the nightmares were all nooses, dead bodies and spiders. Big hairy fuckers. Spiders are the emissaries of Satan, only eclipsed by earwigs, who are actual children of Beelzebub. And the nooses, swinging from rafters, from staircases, made from rope, extension cords, wire. Bodies strewn all over, cold and dead. So I woke up screaming, and during what little sleep I had the nightmares continued to plague me.

Photo by Lynn Radeka. Used with permission

I really do believe that dreams are all about the subconscious processing things that your conscious mind can't or won't. I know I still have a lot of issues around his death, and that my number one fear is the death of those closest to me. The most powerful dreams I've ever had have been about death and loss, usually involving people I care deeply about.

So what to do? I'm not sure there's anything I can do. This time the nightmares were obviously triggered by the film, so maybe I should avoid pop culture references to suicide, especially by noose. Then I guess it's all down to time. That and maybe a couple of therapy sessions...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

At the store, they have 100% recycled toilet paper. The worst job in the world must be recycling toilet paper.

Walked into the bathroom at work today and found this:

What the hell? I sincerely hope it's one of the janitors doing this and not just some random employee who sees folding the toilet paper in the hotel way as his personal quest. Because that would just be weird.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alcohol is the answer... What was the question?

Back in 2003, I went to the Hultsfred festival with three friends. I had the accommodations, Ape number 1 and Ape number 2 had access to a car, and Jake the Cake just tagged along.

We stayed with the parents of a friend, which we had done a few times before and a few times since. Its one of the best festival accommodations ever. They have two rooms in the basement with six beds, we get access to a shower and a massive breakfast. I'm not much of a festival person, so it has suited me perfectly.

The first night we were on the festival grounds, The Cake and I decided to walk back to the house around 1 am. We tracked down the Apes, and told them we were leaving. No problem, they said, we'll stay and party some more. I explained how they should walk to get back. Out the main entrance to the road, then left, then right at the crossroads and walk to the gas station. The house is right behind the gas station. Not exactly rocket science.

In the morning Ape number 1 hugged me and almost cried at the sight of the breakfast table. Then they explained that they had walked around for about an hour without finding the house. Turns out they had walked out the wrong entrance, and while they had followed the directions after that to the tee, they were thoroughly lost. Eventually they hailed a taxi, and managed to persuade the driver to get them to the gas station for practically no money at all.

The next evening, the same thing repeated itself. We decided to go back, they decided to stay and get drunk. Or rather more drunk. In the morning Ape number 1 showed me text messages he had gotten from Ape number 2 during the night. They said, among other things “Var am I?”, which is a nice combo of Swedish and English, and various misspelled variations on the theme “I'm walking and don't know where I am” and “I don't recognize these houses”.

Ape number 2 filled in the details. The ones he remembered that is. Ape number 1 had left to go to the house. Ape number 2 once again walked out the wrong entrance, and then managed to get even more lost than the night before. Eventually he came to a straight road and decided this was the road that led to the crossroads, where he was supposed to turn towards the gas station. So he walked. And walked and walked and walked. Until he came to this sign:

See, he had walked six kilometers out of Hultsfred, along a road that cuts through a forest. Not a single house in sight. No lights, no nothing. Just darkness, trees and the road. And that sign.

We laughed so hard we cried. He does too. Nowadays. Not back then.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Turn murder into art

Or is that art into murder?

I've written about vandalism vs art before. The point is not to distinguish between vandalism and art. The one does not exclude the other. However, vandalism is never OK, regardless of if its art or not. And sometimes its not even art. Its just vandalism, plain and simple.

This is the side of the building I live in. I figure, to get rid of this they should take Xhie's head, and then drag his face along the silver line on the wall. I think the blood will be the same color as the wall.

And don't call this graffiti. That gives this legitimacy that is not OK. Vandalism. Van-da-lism. Morons are what they are. Punks with no respect for the property of others. A good public whipping might be another way to go.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem

I was on the train the other morning without my headphones, since I was going out to eat with some guys from work (Don't Spell My Name Wrong, You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Hungry and Handsome Karl) and generally don't like lugging player and headgear around when I'm going out after work.

When my headphones aren't on, I can't help listening to other peoples' conversations. I'm nosy, and a very curious cat. Hasn't killed me yet, knock on wood. Though it could have once.

This was maybe a year ago, on the train. I'm already sitting down, when this guy walks on, talking on his phone, sporting all the attributes of a guy who goes to soccer games not for the joy of the sport, but for crackin' skulls and takin' names. And he wasn't a big guy. It was the clothes he wore (yes, I'm prejudiced in this way and quite satisfied with that, thanks) and the attitude he projected.

So naturally I can't help myself. I turn off my iPod to listen in to his conversation. It contained, but was not exclusive to, these words. Blood. Fist. Cops. Fuck. Shit. Motherfucker. Kick. The shit out of. Laugh.

And so on. It was like a narrative to Romper Stomper. And of course I couldn't keep myself from looking up, from looking over at this very image of a mentally healthy, civilized member of society. And of course he noticed me looking. Something flickered to life in his eyes, like the light from the bulb that swings back and forth over your head as you're strapped to a chair, watching various body fluids of yours ooze across the floor. It was not a warm, glowing glow to bask in.

I'm a pretty big guy (this was actually written as “I'm a pretty guy” for quite a while until I corrected it. Freudian slip?). I wear black. I have a big goatee. People do get out of my way on the street. Even though I wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, a fly I would hurt. And spiders. And various other creepy crawlies. But I get side-tracked here. Again. Of course the way I look can backfire as well. I can imagine people looking at me, thinking “I should beat up that guy to look cool in front of my friends”, or just thinking “I'm a psycho. I should totally beat up that guy”. Though psychos, like the afore-mentioned well-adjusted fellow on the train, don't really think. See? That prejudice again. Yay!

I looked down. Buried my nose in my book. Turned the iPod back on. Hoped he would ignore me. He stared me for maybe ten seconds before going back to his phone conversation, probably telling his friend how he stared down this weakling on the train. Whatever. Better a live weakling than a dead fighter.

So again. I'm curious. And the other morning on the train I couldn't help but listen. A man was telling a woman how his girlfriend was working on a novel. Had been working on a novel for seven years. How it was an awesome novel, all ready and polished. The woman asked him why she hadn't sent it to a publisher. “Well, you know, she's a perfectionist”, came the answer. Then he continued. And oh how he continued. “She writes like Hemingway, but in a sort of thriller way.” Ehm...what? I'm not a reader of Hemingway, but know enough to know that he's considered a literary giant. To compare someone to him, on their first novel? Maybe a little too much confidence in your girlfriend there, mister.

Now, for all I know this may be the Next Great Swedish Writer. This may be the Novel To End All Novels. But I doubt it. And again. This is my prejudice talking. And again, I'm satisfied with that. Plus, you know, it would be a devastating blow to my writer's ego...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me

A list I stole from Cupcakes.

Three names you go by:
1. Martin
2. The Beard (Skägget, in Swedish)
3. Lurvilur (nothing I can translate)

Three screen names you have had:
1. Beardonaut
2. StalkingButler
3. monster

Three things you are wearing right now:
1. Grey Carhartt cargo pants
2. Black Dillinger Escape Plan tee
3. A frown

Three of your favorite bands or musical artists:
(I'll go for right now)
1. Machine Head
2. Kongh
3. Explosions in the Sky

Three careers you're considering:
(I'm pretty pleased with where I am, so I'll go with careers I have considered in the past)
1. Journalist
2. Architect
3. Writer (still considering this one)

Three places you want to go on vacation:
1. Japan
2. Damascus
3. Machu Pichu

Three ways I am stereotypically a boy:
1. I like beer. I don't like wine (men like wine, not boys)
2. I'm loud
3. I like video games where things die. Horribly. Preferably by gunfire, but fists and swords work fine too

Three ways I am stereotypically a chick:
1. I don't like bugs
2. I can say “Noo!” just like Princess Peach
3. I hide behind my hands or a pillow when scary movies get really scary

Three celeb crushes:
1. Christian Bale
2. Elektra
3. Winona Ryder (not anymore though, now she just bugs me)

Three things that scare you:
1. My loved ones dying
2. Saying “Candyman” three times in front of a mirror. Won't ever happen
3. Earwigs

Three things you want in a relationship (love is a given):
1. No children
2. Laughter
3. Time

Three physical things about the opposite sex that appeal to you:
1. Eyes
2. “Everybody knows I'm an ass man!”
3. Taste in music (not physical in the literal sense, I know, but more important than most physical attributes)

Three of your favorite hobbies:
1. Couch potatoing
2. Writing
3. Playing games

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day

My day began nicely enough. Slept in for 30 minutes and then managed to catch the train just as it was pulling into the station. Vacation time is evident not only in the fact that I can pick and choose where to sit on the train, but also that conference rooms at the office are readily available.

Yesterday's top quote, from Handsome Karl:
Let's hold the meeting in USA, so we don't have to walk so far.

We had booked Luxembourg, which is at the far end of a corridor. USA is at the beginning of the same corridor. And by "far end" I mean thirty meters away. Hardly far. Needless to say we held the meeting in USA.

And yes. Our conference rooms are named after countries. Its better than at one of our competitors, where conference rooms are named after rock bands. I've had a meeting in Iron Maiden. Now there's a perfectly ordinary English sentence.

Back to my day. I got some serious reading time on the train. JPod, by Douglas Coupland, again. Geek lit. As the train passed out of the tunnel from Södra Station I looked out over the gray, choppy waters of Riddarfjärden, under an overcast sky, while This Will Destroy You played in my headphones. I felt at peace.

Then I got to sit onboard the non-moving train as it stood between stations just outside Karlberg. Not so much at peace anymore. Not so confident comments from the driver over the PA system. "There's a problem with the train. We're doing what we can to fix it". Sent angry texts to Mah Girl.

Knowing SL, the train was probably displaying the Blue Screen of Death, or a "This train has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down". Reboot required. All is then well in the Mofosoft world.

My inital thought was that if we had to evacuate the train because they couldn't get it moving again, I would just turn around and go home. There is no way a day that starts out like that can turn out to be anything other than a disaster.

After twenty minutes we were on the move again. The train shook and rattled in oh so reassuring ways. But we got there. Hooray!

The day so far is parsecs ahead of yesterday, in terms of clusterfuckedness (it's a word!), despite the train incident. Why? Not really because the problem is smaller. Today, I don't really care. I have reached some zen-like oneness with the world. Or maybe I just can't be bothered. Who knows?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Only after disaster can we be resurrected

It's always nice to have someone around to make you laugh. And I mean really laugh.

My day began with the realization that I had forgotten my work laptop at home, tucked away in its rather stylish bag. I realized this as I walked across the parking lot outside the office, and seconds later I came to the conclusion that going back was not an option.

Work continued as a total clusterfuck. FUBAR. It crescendoed in the afternoon, with a meeting where I wanted nothing more than to storm out of there and go home. Angry emails will be written, and I'll be told to forget what has been and look ahead instead. I won't. I don't forget things like that. They take root and grow into a twisted tree covered in nasty thorns that keep lacerating my mind. OK, a bit over-dramatic and gothy there, but whatever. Close to the truth, anyway.

We're a very fast and adaptable company, yes we are, but we totally suck at learning from past mistakes. Suck-didely-uck. I am determined to at least let people know that they made the same decision twice and because of it we be fucked. Which will be seen as unacceptable. Which means I'll have to make some sense of a lot of things that don't make sense, launch it regardless of whether it makes sense or not, and proverbially tape it all up with proverbial duct tape to keep it from proverbially going all Titanic on me.

If Mah Girl hadn't been around (digitally, that is) earlier in the day to make me laugh, I may just have gone postal.

And this button-down, Oxford-cloth psycho might just snap, and then stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers. This might be someone you've known for years. Someone very, very close to you.
- Narrator, Fight Club

Won't happen though. I'm Swedish. I'd much rather internalize all those feelings and bitch about them here. Plus, I don't wear Oxford cloth. Ever.

So I was at work, chipping away at my inbox and trying to figure out how to send my old laptop back to the company that handles our IT stuff, when my girl, otherwise occupied with Word Twist, suddenly realized that the TV was playing something that might be worthwhile looking at. “There's a cave with something egg-like in there, and a guy walking in to investigate”. Now, as you all should know, walking into a cave where there are egg-like things is never a good idea. Have we learned nothing else, this we should know.

Dan realized the litter box was overflowing. Again.

Then came what might be the funniest thing I've ever read on MSN.

“...and now he died”. I laughed so hard I cried. Co-workers looked at me with a “he's cracking, he's cracking” kind of panic in their eyes. I laughed so hard I lost my breath. Yes, yes, I was, and still am, really tired, but still. It was funny, huh?

Here's the story, if you care:
The story begins with a team of astronaut miners who complete a daring space expedition and embark on their journey home. But by the time the craft returns to Earth, their commander has gone insane. Three years later, a link between the mystery of the commander's madness and a series of bizarre disappearances in San Francisco brings archeologist Lloyd Walker and entomologist Marianne Winters into conflict with police and government officials who have been taken over by aliens masquerading as humans.

Ooooh. [ begin irony ] Intriguing. [ end irony ]

Later, I fled work, went and got myself vaccinated for my trip this fall, and then came home to “pizza-smörgåsar”, which I can't even begin to translate, and chocolatey snacks. Happy happy joy joy. Now I've reached some semblance of normalcy, and might just go and shoot some Nazis before I go sleep. A good ending to a crap day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter

Today and tomorrow, customer service roadtrip. This is where a bunch of us (this time The Taliban, Don't Spell My Name Wrong, You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Hungry and I) pile into cars with our company logo proudly displayed on the side and drive 1100 kilometers to get to two of our customer service sites and hold reference group meetings.

A reference group meeting is where we sit down, we being product management, with representatives from our customer service, and have them tell us things we should fix. This can be anything, from text on our web page to the way one of our fundamental services works. It might sound extremely boring, but its actually very useful.

The meeting today was good, and then I had to run back and forth to solve a fairly major product problem which has been a thorn in my side for quite some time now. So close now. A simple process update tomorrow morning, and I should be on track. I'm not celebrating yet, though. I have run into far too many walls so far, so until I see a free and clear road ahead of me, I'm still paranoid.

That was one of our founder's mottoes. Always be paranoid.

And it's true. You can never be too paranoid. You never know enough. There are always questions to be asked, decisions and negative opinions to question. That's a big part of my job description. To be a difficult, annoying pain in the ass. Constructive questioning, my boss calls it. Potato potahto.

This afternoon we drove to the next site, and tonight we met up with three other colleagues. Let's call them ADSL, VoIP and PSTN. They had decided long ago to go out tonight, eat food and have a few drinks.

We found a restaurant and got a table. ADSL started eyeing the waitresses. And the women at other tables. Anything with a pulse, really.

I left early. No alcohol for me today, though lots of mirth and laughter around the table. I work with good people. I walked over to the bar and paid for my food. The girl behind the counter was the same waitress ADSL had been eyeing. "Take good care of my friend", I told her before I left.

Twenty minutes later I texted You Wouldn't Like Me to let him know that I had rescued his laptop from our parked car. "Let ADSL know I told the waitress to take good care of him", I added. The response came quickly: "She already told him herself". Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blame it on a brief bout of sentimentality

I'm not a sentimental guy. Not really. I do have some things that have been with my for a while, though, that I treasure. And today, when I realized one of them was missing I got sentimental.

Back in 1991 (I think) I spent three weeks in a language program on the Isle of Wight outside Great Britain. I didn't get a whole lot out of that, that has stayed with me, except two things: that we taught our host's parrot to curse in Swedish, and a bookmark.

That bookmark, a simple black leather thing with a Stonehenge logo (since I bought it at Stonehenge), has been with me since then. I haven't read a book in eighteen years where it hasn't been between the pages. It's been a part of my life longer than The Beard. And now it's gone. Gone gone without a trace. Strange that the loss of such a trivial thing can affect me like this.

Most likely it's because of all the memories associated with that bookmark. All those hours spent with a paperback in my hands, escaping to other worlds, on the train, at home, in the car, during lunch hour at work, outside, inside.

I looked for it in the places where I thought it might be, in some books I've read recently, on the table where I keep a pile of stuff, in the drawer where I keep even more stuff. Nowhere to be seen. To be continued.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

There is only one better thing than music - live music

The last couple of weeks have been all about intense musical experiences, from two festivals and a fantastic live gig in between. Turns out I'm going to yet another festival.

Sonisphere is a traveling festival making the rounds in Europe, and on Saturday its Sweden's turn. Through some bizarre turn of events I managed to win tickets yesterday. Metallica is headlining, and while I'm not a fan, they're a killer live band. I will also get to see Mastodon, Lamb of God, Meshuggah and Machine Head, among others. Yay!

I need to find some way to avoid hearing even the slightest hint of Cradle of Filth, though....

And if I don't get to hear this song, I'll be sad.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Born again? No, I am not. Excuse me for getting it right the first time

This must be some conspiracy at work.

Two days ago I met a religious nut on the train to work. Today, a small, unassuming man came up to me on the train home and handed me what appeared to be a yellow business card. Now, would I have written this post if it was a business card? Hell, no. Which, it turns out, is a very appropriate word here. Hell.

I can't take a good picture of the thing, so I'll paraphrase here. It said:

“Jesus loves people. All have sinned. You have sinned and the penalty for sin is eternal death. Only Jesus can save you from hell to heaven. God's gift to you through Jesus Christ is fellowship with God and eternal life. Welcome Jesus Christ into your life!”

I'm not kidding. I'm looking at the damn thing right now. What the hell is going on? Have the religious nutters of Sweden decided to band together and convert me? Has there been some secret meeting where members of various Christian churches sat down and said, “that bearded, black-clad must be brought into the light of the God-Emperor...I mean Christ!” I'd like to think they said God-Emperor. That's so much cooler than Christ. But maybe not.

Seriously. What the hell is going on? Are we experiencing a tsunami of religion through what is a pretty secular country? Will I be accosted frequently by morons that believe I need to be “saved”? If it continues, I will snap at some point, that's for sure.

Now, from the headline of this post and previous posts you might get the idea that I'm prejudiced towards religious people. And you would be right. I'm a fairly open-minded guy when it comes to most things, but I've yet to come across someone that has been able to explain “faith” to me in a way that makes me understand why someone else can believe. I think I've mentioned before that I have some very intelligent friends that believe, that would describe themselves as Christians, and even one that works as a priest. I need to talk to them. And soon. If this madness continues it may be too late to pull me back from my prejudices.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The presence unfound comes to me now

This is Neurosis, performing "Through Silver In Blood" and "Times of Grace" at the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands, in April of this year. Fantastic.

Oh. And Steve von Till has a pretty cool beard.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Isn't it interesting... religious behavior is so close to being crazy that we can't tell them apart

I've had two religious experiences over the last few days. As in “brushes with religion”, not actual religious experiences. I only have those at live gigs.

The first was a few days back, as I was getting on the bus. Further back, at the middle door, what appeared to be an old imam got on. He had a great white beard, a shaved upper lip, a knitted white cap and a walker. I walked by him as he was settling in, and as I passed him be looked up. Nodded slowly. Sagely. Like a mentor to his student. Like Obi-Wan to Luke. I nodded back. Slowly. Sat down. Smiled.

So the guy thought I was Muslim. If I shaved my upper lip too, which I've done before, I would probably get a very interesting experience the next time I try to go to the US. When I went the last two times I made sure to braid my beard, to avoid being mistaken for a Taliban. Plastic gloves and lubricant ain't my idea of a good time.

The second one was on the train this morning. Picture this. Me sitting on the train, wearing a black Neurosis tee and baggy gray cargo pants, reading Cormac McCarthy's “Blood Meridian”, headphones on, probably leaking some Neurosis noise (yes, I'm currently seriously in love with that band. Again). A woman sits down next to me. Sits still for a while, maybe one station, and I feel her looking at me.

Then she taps my shoulder, I remove my headphones and she says, and I'm so not kidding, “Have you accepted Jesus as your savior?”. What. The. Hell.

Religion and I aren't friends. We're barely on speaking terms. And this is why. Nut cases on the train that want to “save me”.

My response then? “”. Eloquent, eh? It was 07:15 in the morning. Give me a break. My brain wasn't up to warp speed yet. Then she goes off on this rant how Satan is in music, in books, in movies. I guess the word “Blood” on the cover was a dead giveaway. Me and Cormac, worshiping the Great Old Ones together. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!

There were two things I could do.
1. Explode and rant back at the misguided fool. I was tired from a weekend of uneven sleep patterns, and cranky. A recipe for disaster, but oh so rewarding.
2. Get up and walk away.

Wisely, I chose number 2. I am The Bigger Man. When she got off at the Central Station she looked over at me with a look like “I pity you that you cannot see the way to avoid burning in hell, you poor man”. Again, the temptation was great to back up and go with item number 1 above. Instead, I took a few deep breaths and went back to the book. Don't let the fuckers get you down.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

But then there's a moment like tonight, a profound and transcendent experience

Second weekend in a row at a festival. I had planned to work in between, but was instead out cold with the Stomach Virus From Hell that managed to take down five out of the seven people that shared our house at the Peace & Love festival. Surely this was a weapons test of some kind. A military jet passed over the lake one day, when we were sitting on the porch, enjoying or trying to avoid the summer sun (that last bit would apply to me and Mah Girl). It must have dosed us with something.

And of course Faith No More was awesome. Phenomenal. Other bands watching Mike Patton lead his troops should just cease to exist out of sheer embarressment that they can't measure up. Might be the best front man ever. They worked their way through all their albums, and managed to play almost every single song that was at the top of my wish list. Telepathy was somehow involved. Me and Mister Patton communicating on some unknown mental frequency.

On Wednesday I got to see the mighty Neurosis annihilate a club in Stockholm once again. Not quite as intense as the last time I saw them, except the final song, "Through Silver In Blood", which is one of my favorites and which felt like an element of a ritual performed by urban shamans in the depths of some concrete jungle. Awe-inspiring.

Now we're at the Arvika festival, or to be precise in the cabin we're renting, about 14 kilometers from Arvika. Just hanging out for now, watching Mah Girl drink a couple of cold ones and now dozing on the couch. So far, we've seen Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, both of which were excellent, as well as some minor bands. Tonight, a few more, and then home tomorrow.

So three of my favorite bands, Faith No More, Neurosis and Nine Inch Nails, in six days. How the hell did that happen?

Looking at me, some might believe that the best part about this weekend isn't the music, but the fact that I'm the designated driver and get to drive my colleague Stefan's kick-ass car, an Audi S3 that feels like it has a jet engine in the back when you hit the gas. And they wouldn't be far wrong. Such a fun car to drive, and not only cause it has plenty of horsepower, but also because it handles really well. If I ever feel like spending 300 000 kronor on a car, I may just buy me one of those.