February Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Listened to this guy on In Our Time who had a particularly unattractive verbal tick that I’ve come across now and then. When other people get a question and need to think before replying, they will go “errr”, “well” etc. This guy sighed in a pained and exasperated way every time. I guess this really meant “It pains me that I don’t have a very good answer to that question, I wish I knew better.” But it came off as “It pains me that you ask me these stupid questions, you silly twat.”
  • Jrette asks her mother what the film Nymphomaniac is about. “It’s about… a woman who is very fond of men.”
  • For scifi and fantasy ebooks, I recommend Baen. Cheap, no annoying copy protection, do accept PayPal.
  • I just learned that a turnip ghost is a jack o’ lantern carved out of a rutabaga.
  • Semla for breakfast. Ach, weef got to get out of zis trap, before zis decadence saps our vits!
  • Got some paper mail. Dell warns the previous owner of this house, who died from a smoking-related disease in 2007, that Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP this year. Would she like to upgrade?
  • Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock is about our past.
  • Accidental Tibetan tea ceremony: dropped a 5 cm chunk of cheese into my cup of Assam.
  • Reading this novel about rural China in the 60s, I keep getting confused at the kind of personal matters that are public matters here — such as the biological paternity of a child — and on how flimsy legal grounds. It’s like these people are using a radical ideology to enforce what is really deeply conservative customs.
  • The original title of Grace Jones’ 1985 hit “Slave to the Rhythm” was “Cole Slaw to the Rhythm”. But it had to be changed when the record company realised that in Swedish this translated to the offensively racist Rytmens kol-slav, that is, “Charcoal Slave to the Rhythm”.
  • Dictator: a potato that looks like a penis.
  • Haha, Sw. plysch is Fr. peluche! And Eng. plush.
  • I explain the concept of budgie-smuggler swimming pants to Jrette. She laughs and remarks, “People with big willies will have to wear parrot smugglers, then”.
  • You will find that what you have been missing all this time is 20 minutes of relentless neo-hendrixian jamming.
  • When popping in to drink from the tap in a public toilet I never know whether to lock the door or not.
  • Started reading Benjamin Jacobsen’s Midt i en klunketid, laughed helplessly on first page.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

20 thoughts on “February Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Dell warns the previous owner of this house, who died from a smoking-related disease in 2007

    You might never get off that mailing list. I still get mailed ads from a local appliance store bearing the name of the previous owner of my house. He died in 1998. They also mail the same ad to me, though at least I have bought stuff from them in the last decade. But neither they nor the company who actually does the mailing seem to have noticed that they have two customers at this address, one of whom hasn’t bought anything from them in at least 14 years.

    I also get snail mail from the state Democratic Party, and e-mail from assorted Republicans. The Republicans at least have a valid e-mail address (may the person who gave it to them find his inbox inundated with business propositions from West African officials), though what I’ve read of their ads (on my computers I send them straight to the spam folder, but the iPhone unfortunately lacks that feature) are not addressed to anybody in particular. The Democrats address their mail to a woman I’ve never heard of (one candidate apparently thought I was married to her–I’m still single).


  2. I ordered terrycloth pillow covers a few months back. Since then Ellos Inc. have been sending me enough paper ad material to heat my house if we’d had a burner.


  3. Anyone sending me spam snail mail gets it straight back in their own reply paid envelope.

    Another extremely subtle approach that’s worked in the past is writing “This person is dead” in large letters on the front of the envelope and sticking it back into the postbox.


  4. Junk mail is not non-existent in Hong Kong, and has the novelty of coming in at least two different scripts, but the volume and frequency of it pales into absolute triviality compared to the massive avalanche of shiny paper junk mail in Australia, and you can’t compost the stuff.

    I once made the unforced error of ordering something from Amazon Japan, via an excellent ordering, repackaging and shipping company in Tokyo (don’t ask – outstanding female Japanese rock guitarist/composer whose CDs and DVDS are basically unobtainable outside Japan, although you can find a bit of her on YouTube if you know who to look for – she subsequently befriended me and chatted to me amiably on Facebook for a couple of years, until I decided that I needed to delete my Facebook account for totally unrelated reasons – she’s one of relatively few Facebook ‘friends’ I regret losing that avenue of contact/source of endless amusement/entertainment with – funny talented lady, and her music producer husband is a bit of a riot too – he’s the one who found the shipping company for me).

    Anyway, when you order stuff from Amazon Japan, but can’t read Japanese, you have to go a bit by feel and appallingly bad/impenetrable Google Translations – and can never thereafter figure out how to tell them you no longer wish to receive their emails about watches, cameras, etc. So it looks like I’m stuck with Amazon Japan for eternity. Either that or go and find Kumi in Kyoto and ask her to get on my laptop and do me a favour. Either way, there are lots of worse things.

    The email filters/Internet service providers here are pretty damned good at filtering out the rubbish – I get virtually zero email SPAM now (outside of Amazon Japan, and that’s not their fault, it’s mine), although I occasionally have to rescue a friend from the Junk folder. The mobile phone service providers here are also pretty good at filtering out the tele-marketers, although I still get maybe 1-2 calls/week. That means they are catching and blocking a lot more than that for me.

    If you think Kumi (the right one, I mean) is hard to track down, try finding a Japanese blues guitarist called Maki Shizusawa. Google translates Shizusawa as ‘swamp’, and there is a kind of sushi roll that translates as Maki. It took me a very long time to even figure out that her name is Shizusawa. Just ‘Maki’ is about as helpful as just ‘Kumi’ for doing searches. These are nice, surprisingly talented people and not unfriendly, but they are about as interested in marketing themselves or touring outside of Japan as joining the first manned Mars landing.

    There’s some kind of desirable balance between being invisible and finding people who are really worth finding for all the best reasons. No idea what it is.


  5. I mean, try finding this lady if you are not in Japan, can’t read Japanese, and don’t know such a person exists. Just looking at random YouTube music videos, it could take you a while.

    Once you have discovered Maki exists, can you order from Amazon Japan, provided you can figure out the complexities of the order form? No, they don’t ship outside Japan. She seems to play a lot of things she hasn’t even recorded – she seems more interested in teaching other people to play the guitar than in becoming a popular musician in her own right, and certainly there is no evidence at all that she is interested in becoming known outside of Japan, apart from a random clip or two of her jamming with non-Japanese musicians in some anonymous place, likely inside Japan.

    Is she worth finding? You be the judge. Seeing a prim-looking Japanese lady in a kimono expertly and expressively playing American-style blues is kind of mind-expanding. I thought so, anyway. Does she mind being found? I don’t know, but she’s not making it easy. If you endorse the ‘girls can’t play the guitar’ meme, then educationally she is definitely worth finding, let alone finding out that at least some of them are able to express themselves differently through the instrument than a male player might. The question is, how do you do that without spending ridiculous amounts of time looking for things that you don’t know exist, or having a Japanese buddy on the ground to tell you stuff?

    I doubt there is a discipline called the archaeology of Japanese blues guitarists. I could be wrong. Even if there is, finding Maki among all the others is surprisingly difficult – one of the discoveries is that there’s a surprisingly sophisticated blues music culture in Japan. I’m not criticising or complaining, I’m just saying it’s not easy. If I didn’t enjoy finding her, I wouldn’t care, but I did, and it was almost just random blind luck, and that’s discounting that there’s something about not intruding or spying on people, or bombing them with a snow-storm of unwanted communications.

    Shoka Okubo comes as a little bit of a shock too, particularly when you find out that she and her little sister are two Japanese rural farm girls who travelled to Robert Leroy Johnson’s grave in rural Mississippi for the 100th anniversary of his birth. Just finding Robert Johnson’s grave is an impressive feat – it’s just a grave along a dirt road in rural Mississippi. A few Americans turned up, but not many. How does a 20 year old Japanese farm girl even know Robert Johnson existed, let alone decide she has to make the trip to track down his grave to honour the 100th anniversary of his birth?

    Sorry, random rant over, I think 🙂


  6. “Semla for breakfast”
    Children’s book P.I. Ture Sventon uses “semla” as code word for “whisky”.

    Expensive plysh is posh plush.


  7. Decadent western imperialism designed to give Europeans an evolutionary advantage against the lactose intolerant peoples of the world.

    But I’ve got the answer – hybridisation to create a lactose-tolerant Asiatic super-race.

    I suppose one could consider hybridisation with Scots to create a whisky-tolerant super-race. Nah.


  8. It’s too late, Birger – Martin and I have already unleashed our Golden Horde on an unsuspecting world. Well, two…

    The Japanese are so good at this, that one estimate is if the birth-rate in Japan continues to decline at the current rate, the Japanese will be extinct within 50 years. And now the Chinese are competing with them for the record. The Russians were heading for oblivion, but appear to have achieved an up-tick, and the Amish are doing so well that in 20 years from now they will comprise 5% of the total American population, despite a desertion rate of 10%. And linear population projections never turn out to be correct.


  9. John I think the Russian demograpics is due to alcohol overconsumption -which the rulers don’t mind. The peons will numb themselves with vodka instead of resisting the corrupt system. Meanwhile the official scapegoat for population non-growth is -of course- the gays.
    Speaking of the Russian system, having cossacks whip members of Pussy Riot in front of cameras briadcasting this reality to the world, and then get news of the fall of the pro-Russian Ukraine president must have soured Putin’s enjoyment of the olympics…


  10. How does a 20 year old Japanese farm girl even know Robert Johnson existed, let alone decide she has to make the trip to track down his grave to honour the 100th anniversary of his birth?

    First you become interested enough in blues music to look up the history, then you find out the founder of the genre was born almost 100 years ago, then you save your money to make the trip. And learn to drive, which most Japanese don’t need to do (although it’s probably more common in rural areas than in the cities). In the internet era, the “learn to drive” part may be the hardest part of that, especially since Japanese drive on the left, and the US highway system has many idiosyncratic signage practices (such as English units, and the tendency to use road names rather than place names to identify motorway exits).


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