Stockholm Anti-Papacy Open to Applicants

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The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm is advertising a position as lecturer on the subject of bridge-building, in other words, a Pope.
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The Unbearable Abstruseness of Archaeology

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As mentioned before here on Aard, archaeology is not a single science but innumerable regional disciplines with little relevance to each other. For instance most archaeologists know absolutely nothing about ancient Egypt, simply because most archaeologists do not work in that country. This can make me sad sometimes, when other scientists go off on international post-docs or collaborate with colleagues in far-off countries. Chemistry is the same everywhere, but myself and a Tokyo archaeologist would have nothing to talk about professionally except meta-subjects such as excavation technique and heritage legislation. If the entire archaeological record of Japan were lifted off the planet, it wouldn’t impair our understanding of Scandinavian prehistory at all.
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Death of an Imaginary Friend

I am in mourning for a character in Six Feet Under who died on us last night. The fifth season is airing in Sweden. And I mull over the final scene. Did another character turn into Shaggy from Scooby Doo and act as the dead person’s psychopomp on the way to the hereafter? Bizarre, typically bizarre. And very moving to me. It’s been a great, great series.

Scambaiting

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Dear Reader, you have certainly received Nigerian scam e-mail more than once.

“It is obvious that this proposal will come to you as a surprise. This is because we have not met before but I am inspired to sending you this email by the huge fund transfer opportunity that will be of mutual benefit to the two of us.

However, I am Barrister Martins jide, the personal attorney to the late Engr. Suk Hun Wufei flody, a Citizen of Japan, who used to work with Nigerian National Petrolum Co-operatrion (NNPC).”

But have you heard of scambaiting? It’s a popular pastime where internet users, protected by anonymous e-mail accounts, reply to scammers and lead them on long weird correspondences that are then published. The finest trophy of all is when a scambaiter manages to entice a scammer to send them his picture, usually where he is holding up a stipulated sign or object to prove that the image is not just stock footage. One celebrated scambaiter even managed to get a scammer to record and send him a re-enactment of Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch, ostensibly to allow the scambaiter to give the scammer a large film-making scholarship.

Check out 419eater.com for endless laughs at the crooks’ expense!

Is Psychotherapy Superstition?

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I recently had a book on popular psychology recommended to me and found it absolutely dire. And today’s paper reports that most of Sweden’s university programs for psychotherapists have been found to be substandard and will be closed down unless they improve dramatically. This has inspired me to write something about late 20th century psychotherapy, a.k.a. humanistic psychology, a movement that has been a background presence for much of my life.
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Early Voyages of Discovery

Here’s something pretty cool recommended by my amateur archaeologist and fellow honorary Chinese buddy Jerry Helliker: The Hakluyt Society.

“The Hakluyt Society seeks to advance knowledge and education by the publication of scholarly editions of primary records of voyages, travels and other geographical material.

Membership of the Society is strongly recommended to anybody interested in the history of exploration and travel, exploratory voyages, geographical discovery and worldwide cultural encounter.”

The Society’s latest publication is The Guiana Travels of Robert Schomburgk 1835-1844, which appeared in February.

I’ve done a bit of transcription work in this field, putting the first Swedish account of travels in Asia and Africa on-line in 2005: Nils Mattson Kiöping‘s from the mid-17th century. Prior to that, the book hadn’t been re-issued in full since 1743. The book is a gem, well worth getting used to 17th-century Swedish spelling (or the lack of it). I wish the Hakluyt Society would commission me to translate it into English.

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Album Review: Dungen, Tio Bitar

i-96998fb1182eeaff846f00e035f69606-tiobitar.jpgSay “Swedish psychedelic rock” to a musically inclined foreigner, and chances are they’ll think of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, an excellent stonesy outfit from Gothenburg. But in New York, a few people who shop at Other Music may think of Dungen instead.

Dungen (“the Grove”) combine psychedelic 70s prog rock with Swedish ethno, fiddle and flute. They just released their third album, <a href="Tio Bitar (“Ten Pieces/Songs”), and I’ve listened it through a few times.

In the age of the mp3 file, albums are once again less important than songs. (In fact, the word “album” originally referred to a physical album with pockets where you could stick your 45-rpm vinyl singles: my dad’s album mainly contained Elvis songs.) So I won’t moan about the album filler pieces. Instead I recommend all psych listeners to get (by whatever means you deem appropriate) the following four songs:

  • “Familj” (Family). A lush and dreamy piece with an ethno melody figure.
  • “C visar vägen” (C shows the way). A soft instrumental with classical violin and banjo.
  • “Du ska inte tro att det ordnar sig” (You shouldn’t think it’s gonna be OK). Groove rock with a folky march beat and lyrics alluding to Astrid Lindgren.
  • “Svart är himlen” (Black is the sky). Another soft song, this one with flute and grand piano.

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Swedish Study of the Kensington Runestone

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i-99e17a64e823299d6c7b23c48f713e2b-KensingtonRunestone-225.jpgThe Kensington runestone is a 19th century fake from Minnesota. It purports to be a monument left behind by a Scandinavian expedition in the 14th century, but uses anachronistic turns of phrase and runic characters typical of 19th century popular culture. The runestone is nevertheless touted as authentic by enthusiastic local amateur scholars.

“8 Geats and 22 Norwegians on acquisition venture from Vinland far to the west We had traps by 2 shelters one day’s travel to the north from this stone We were fishing one day. After we came home found 10 men red with blood and dead AVM (Ave Maria) Deliver from evils.

I have 10 men at the inland lake to look after our ship 14 days travel from this wealth Year of our Lord 1362”

In 2004, the stone was exhibited at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. The exhibition did not take sides in the debate over the thing: it centered on the idea that people use remains from the past to construct their identities. Myself and many colleagues felt that this exhibition was a disgraceful exponent of the post-modernist leanings of the museum’s non-archaeologist director, who has since been replaced. At the time, however, the runestone also underwent some scientific examination in Sweden that has not been reported on in print.

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