The splendor of the proto-vikings

The splendor of the proto-vikings: Ogaklev hillfort, Södermanland. This wall, three meters high, lays undisturbed for 500 000 days (which takes us back to approx. 500 AD).

It is becoming more and more obvious that there was a highly organized Swedish Game of Thrones society hundreds of years before the Christian people of Europe made a single margin note about the peculiar Scandinavians. When I was taught history in school, the iron age was just a long gloomy winter between the glory of the bronze age and the fame of the viking age. During the last decades, a totally different picture is emerging from the integrated archaelogical evidence: we see small, warring principalities which were probably heavily influenced by the Roman way of doing things.

Give me 10 000 euros and I will sit down to write a popular history book about the Scandinavian iron age and the wonders of hillforts, bracteates, the Vendel graves, the Salme ships, Eketorp, Skedemosse etc. etc.

 

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My lab coat – a visual examination of an archeological artefact

Cleaning the basement, I realized that the paint spotted garment hanging in the workshop was my old lab coat from tech uni, or to be specific: Faculty of Engineering, Lund University.

I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, it really mirrors who I am and what I’ve always been, being relived from the shackles of social expectation. On the other hand, I kept provoking people in these days by not restraining my playfulness and urge to stand out. There were teaching assistants who directly categorized me as the one they needed to put in his place. There were fellow-students who (rightly) thought I wanted to direct too much attention to myself. During some of these occasions, my tender heart stung, and I shed some tears on the Skåne soil. Eventually, I learned to step into line, keeping my impulses down and my mouth shut, dressing according to social expectations. In the mid-nineties, I became an obedient marketing department clone, wearing a tie and jacket every workday.

Here it is in all its tarnished glory. Unfortunately, it has taken a spin in the washing machine, and some of the textile grafitti is really hard to read.

This is my mascot Målltass Mållekyl (a deliberate misspelling of ”Moltas” – a rare Swedish name – and ”molekyl”). As you can see, he is a water molecule.

There are actually seven of his kind adorning the lab coat. This says ”Always fun!” (also spelled in a funny way).

An angry Målltass.

On one arm, there is a quote by Homeros – the first lines of the Iliad in Lagerlöf’s famous translation. On the other arm, there is a quote from a King Crimson song: ”Knowledge is a deadly friend if no one sets the rules.” (Epitath, 1969).

 

On the back, there is a big Målltass in native American attire (“Indijan-Målltass”). I have no idea why.

It’s probably only me in the world who can interpret this smudge. The intention is to show what Olle/Indijan-Målltass has on his mind. The person who drew it lives in Australia today.

 

Cognitive dissonance, as demonstrated in a Stockholm hotel.

Waking up in a hotel (I will not tell you which, but it is the First one that comes to mind), I found this little fellow in my bed, carried it down to the lobby on a paper card and showed it to the clerk.
“I found this in my bed,” I said to her.
She looked at it, made a small disgusted sound, took the card and threw it in the bin. Looking up, smiling and completely ignoring the insect issue, she proceeded with the checkout.
Denial as a maintainer of status quo. Human nature in all its miserable glory.

“The Attackers” (Russian tv series) gets me hooked

I’ve enjoyed the Russian tv-series The Attackers immensely (on Amazon Prime, Sweden).

A bit sentimental, patriotic and over-simplified, of course (and with sometimes cheesy CGI effects). But still a very good reminder about life during The Great Patriotic War and the hardships of the Eastern front. And the actors are top-notch. It illustrates things as the ruthlessness of the Commissar system, the intense and short-lived love relations in the shadow of death, the tension between civilians and combatants and – last but not least – that war chisels out the true character of people. Are you decent or are you an asshole? Life during wartime will tell.

Musical Monday #1: Musical storytelling, part 1

This Monday: songs that tell a sad or dramatic story.

The tragic love between an egyptologist and a mummy

“Love as a game of power, with one loser and one winner, and the entanglement of tenderness and cruelty. But yet: the one forsaken find her happiness in her delusion. Her martyrdom is her pride.”

(Josh Ritter: The Curse)

A modern Bonnie & Clyde or True Romance couple

“It seems so simple – five holdups, romance and fun, retiring to Mexico. But the love game of some people is the PTSD of others.”

(Joe Purdy: Outlaws)

A junkhouse tragedy

“A story that is a riddle. If you understand who the milkman is, you will get it. But then, perhaps, the thrill is gone.”

(The Raconteurs: Carolina Drama).

 

 

Musical Monday is a playlist game where Olle Bergman uses some of his favourite music as the pieces. The rules are random and everybody is a winner.

The world keeps existing

I read this line by Sylvia Plath, and felt that I had to disagree:

”I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my eyes and all is born again.”

It’s a wonder of a healthy brain – i.e. a brain which is neither affected by illness or stress, nor under the influence of drugs – to maintain a coherent view of the outside world without breaks in the timeline. When we close our eyes, we keep getting input from our other senses, and it all makes sense.

What Plath describes is more like the experience described by my son when he had one of his longer epileptic abscence seizures: ”It felt like being dead,” he said. A reminder that we should all value our sanity and a proper physiological function of the CNS.

The love poetry of Matthew Ryan

Summer is slowly fading away out there in the neglected reality while I’m busy putting abstractions together with the help of a keyboard and a cup of Twinings Earl Grey.

To keep me motivated, or something like this, I’m listening to some albums by Matthew Ryan. You can say that many of his songs are not really songs. You can say that there is a Bono hidden somewhere in his voice (in my eyes Bono is the most overrated singer in current popular music). But then you just have to listen to his love poetry and surrender.

 

Maybe once in a hundred million years
Has there been one like you, my dear
So bright, so pure, so clear
The torch that lights my way

YOUR MUSEUM

She’s standing in the doorway
She’s taking off my shirt
No one could have told me
One day this would hurt

THE WORLD IS …

 

I can’t even tell if this is shitty poetry or not – I can only feel its impact. Damn, I’m an incurable romantic.

 

 

Life Science Safari

I’m sitting in my hideout shelter at the back of the venue, watching the savannah of Life Science before me, brimming with – well, life!

All the species are there: the ego-minded professors with graying hair, the self-reliant Big Pharma suits, the energetic entrepreneurs with their exploring gaze, the curious, fresh-faced PhD students with hope in their eyes, the battle-proven healthcare staff in need of some sleep, the seasoned postdocs dwelling on what to do with their life, the slightly misplaced healthcare administrators, the well-dressed venture people — and scurrying in the periphery, the busy marketing people with flushing cheeks who are struggling to get their trade show displays ready.

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All the people that come and go …

I’m cleaning my address book from obsolete contacts (meaning that I remove people who once were prioritised in my professional life so that I clearer can see my current prioritisations and make sure I have the contact details that I need). While I’m on it, I’m checking through my LinkedIn contacts and some Excel files with lists of people strewn around my hard disk.

A Beatles verse comes to mind:

Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know.
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say “Hello”.

We’re not ships passing in the night anymore – we’re part of a global fleet swarming around each other like flocks of jackdaws.

 

A reflection on country music

I think this song and video demonstrates what I see as the artistic nature of country music: on the surface, it may seem stereotype and sentimental to those who consider themselves having a more sophisticated taste. But have a look at how the lyrics often dig into the most painful shortcomings of ordinary people, who are trying to just lead their lifes and make sense out of it all. Classic examples are ”Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Kristofferson or ”A boy named Sue” by Cash.

And the musicianship is always top notch. In contrast to contemporary pop music, you can’t make it in Nashville with a voice that needs autotune.