November Pieces Of My Mind #1

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Main reading room, National Library, Stockholm
  • Had a Boomer moment yesterday. Somebody called me on the phone to ask for the email address of the head Social Democrat on the municipal council, of whose name this person was fully aware.
  • It’s the shifting of the seasons. And tyres.
  • Did my eighth public talk in less than a year about Medieval castles last night.
  • Michael Landon (Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie) had a Jewish dad and was named Orowitz before he took his screen name. No wonder we see him wearing Levis.
  • Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig.
  • Movie: Crazy Rich Asians (2018). Rom-com where a Chinese American woman realises that her Singaporean Chinese boyfriend is the heir of a real estate empire and has quite a demanding family. Grade: OK.
  • You don’t see a lot of movies these days where the hero’s adversaries stumble into a gay bar and have to dance the tango with guys wearing BDSM leather gear.
  • I just ordered a 1924 American book that is not in a single Swedish research library on the strength of a recommendation from Avram Davidson. Pretty sure it will prove useful as I finish annotating Nils Mattsson Kiöping.
  • Sudden realisation: being easily domesticated is adaptive. Cows and sheep are among the most successful large animal species on the planet.
  • Me and Jrette went out for her first driving practice yesterday. It went super well. She’s already been driving around on her moped for over a year. ❤
  • No CNN, come on, you can’t write “All four White House officials who are scheduled to give depositions on Monday … won’t show up” when you clearly mean that none will, and preferably not even if you meant that only some will.
  • Cool German word: Triebtäter, literally “one who does deeds because of his urges”, Sw. driftdådare. Means “sexual offender”.
  • Relieved to see no female nudity and no fucking in the film Alice and the Mayor. Always just makes me feel manipulated and embarrassed for the actors. There’s porn enough on the net.
  • A Social Democrat buddy gave me a flattering characterisation: “Oh right, I keep forgetting that you’re not actually an engineer!” No wonder that I find so much of current university humanities so pointless.
  • The Swedish government is preparing to make citizenship contingent on a language exam. This will probably result in a lot of families being split in their citizenship. The kids will make it, parents without exceptional language talent will not, particularly if they don’t interact much with native Swedes. And that depends heavily on income level. We should be frank about the fact that this measure will select future citizens based on social class.

Author: Martin R

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

33 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #1”

  1. Re “Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig” – I find that this has been translated as “Vi struntar i gurkkungen” and more prosaically as “The Cucumber King”. This 1972 children’s(?) book by Christine Nöstlinger who passed away last year does not only sport one of the more madcap titles in all of literature (useful as a personal motto), it is also a very good read. As a kid I was somewhat irritated by the unashamed Vienesse-ness of the text, which is presumably lost in translation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig”

      I read this since I know someone who knew the author’s daughter. It has a very interesting aspect for me personally which anyone can ask me about if we ever meet personally.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Re Triebtäter – it’s more like “sex maniac” really as it implies loss of control. Most common or garden variety sexual offenders (rapists) would not fall under this heading IMO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Triebtäter – it’s more like “sex maniac” really as it implies loss of control

      The Trieb part implies loss of control – but the Täter part means perp/offender.
      Criminal sex maniac, bound to live in a forensical psychiatric ward.

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      1. I came across the word in Kraftwerk member Karl Bartos’s autobiography. When the band members used to go to discos in Düsseldorf in the mid-70s, they gave the girls there nicknames, and also received nicknames of their own. Which band member was Der Triebtäter is not specified.

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      2. Google Translate is really helpful here – it gives the English translation of Triebtäter as Triebtäter, but provides a different pronunciation – an English speaker mispronouncing a German word; or maybe appropriating it might be a better description.

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  3. I’m trying to imagine easily domesticated aurochsen and failing. Julius Caesar was reportedly terrified of them, and he doesn’t seem to have been scared of much. I can only imagine that captive aurochsen must have been selectively bred for relative docility as a first step.

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    1. I wonder if being bred and eaten in large numbers by another species really qualifies as evolutionary success. Especially given that humans have been consciously manipulating the bovine gene pool by various means for eons.

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      1. All animals end up getting eaten. Evolutionary success is measured in whether the members of a species manage to reproduce before this happens. Being “bred” just means getting valuable resources in large amounts.

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      2. Yes, evolutionary success is judged by reproductive fitness. Lots of wildebeeste get eaten by a variety of predators, but there are bl00dy millions of them.

        I think Felix’s point, though, is that the reproductive fitness of domesticated animals has been greatly manipulated by humans.

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  4. I wonder if Bojo or Dump might be described as “political triebtäter”, they are certainly impulsive. Bojo didn’t bother waiting for his turn to bring the wreath to a ceremony, he just walked to the cenotph and….. dumped the wreath upside down.
    A very Trump moment.
    Maybe the Scots should call him on the phone and see if they can get a “Syrian withdrawal” decision about independence.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Domestic cats have the sweetest evolutionary deal possible. They don’t get eaten, instead their symbionts provide them with food and housing. And apparently they will travel to the stars with humans, like Jones did.
    .
    Small birds near humans likewise get a boon during winter. I am one of their symbionts myself, bringing them food.
    .
    Oops, “cenotaph” got the tpyo treatment.

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  6. Re: nudity and sex depicted in film, I have yet to watch a Netflix series or film that did not contain gratuitous soft porn scenes or, at a minimum, very passionate kissing lasting a tediously long time that was totally unnecessary to the plot. It’s like part of a formula – the writers simply have to insert it into the script at one or more points, like they have a list of things viewers want to see and this is one of the boxes they need to tick. It’s tedious and tiresome. I now just skip ahead to somewhere where something relevant to the plot is happening. I’m not a prude, and if it’s essential to the plot then fine, but it almost never is.

    Talking about aurochsen made me start pondering. Why domesticate them, when most species of deer would seem an easier option, especially in terms of much less risk to humans? And the aurochs was domesticated not just once, but twice, once for the Indian subspecies and once for the Eurasian subspecies. Further, several other wild bovines were domesticated including the water buffalo, gaur, yak and banteng, all pretty scary animals in their wild state except for maybe the banteng. Gaurs are terrifyingly huge and ‘have an untamable disposition’. Yaks are not exactly cuddly but seem more tractable. Wild water buffaloes are really pretty nasty. In some areas, there was little choice, hence the banteng for example, and probably also the water buffalo and the yak, but why try to domesticate a gigantic and intractable animal like a gaur, when there were other less intimidating options?

    It’s futile me trying to construct theories – I don’t know enough.

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    1. I once had occasion to read an English high-school book written by Anthony Burgess for use with Italian pupils (yes, I have lived a very interesting life). He claimed that most writing is either didactic or pornographic, using both terms widely, that is, either stuff you need to know, or stuff to appeal to the senses. So, most stuff is instruction manuals or light reading for enjoyment. Hacks just throw the two together; I think that he used James Bond as an example. He claimed that true literature managed to join the two in a non-trivial way.

      Mad magazine once had a three panel cartoon spoofing James Bond. 1: (somewhere in the Caribbean or wherever) “My name is Bond, James Bond; I’m looking for some stolen bombs”. 2: (uttered by scantily-clad beautiful woman in a sultry voice) “Well, I don’t have them, James.” 3: “Good; let’s make love.”

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    1. Same subspecies or are you into watching interracial kissing?

      Might have to settle for gaurs – at least wild gaurs are not yet extinct.

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  7. Seasons are definitely changing. I had the oil in my car changed last week (I get that done every six months) and have put the just-in-case winter gear in the car. Today much of New Hampshire will get its first accumulating snow of the year, and this afternoon I need to drive somewhere that’s an hour away in good weather.

    I spent much of the weekend (including Monday, which was a bank holiday in the US) raking leaves in my garden, which like most gardens in the US is considerably larger than what I actually need.

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      1. As this is the first significant snow event of the season, there will inevitably be people who have forgotten how to drive in snow. So I have to pay even more attention than usual, in case some idiot in an SUV learns the hard way that four-wheel go does not equal four-wheel stop and that doing >100 km/h in snow is not a good idea even on a motorway.

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  8. I was due to take my car for its 6 monthly service tomorrow, but have had to postpone because all of the major roads are blocked and all of the traffic lights have been wrecked. Earliest re-booking I could get is in December, so it will be a month late. I’m not too worried about it (despite being self-assessed as fairly high on neuroticism, so allegedly suffering from a ‘personality disorder’) because I do very low mileage (sorry, kilometreage). But it is totally unpredictable what road conditions will be like in December – or what anything else will be like in December.

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  9. But on the positive side, I am amused that being characterised as an engineer is considered to be flattering. Pretty sure that’s a minority view.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “You don’t see a lot of movies these days where the hero’s adversaries stumble into a gay bar and have to dance the tango with guys wearing BDSM leather gear.”

    But apparently you do! 😀

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  11. “Cool German word: Triebtäter, literally “one who does deeds because of his urges”, Sw. driftdådare. Means “sexual offender”.”

    At least today, “Triebtäter” is almost always used for sexual Triebtäter.

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    1. Maybe there is no difference in meaning, but then again, as the criticism of Assange shows, maybe any sort of sexual ambiguity is considered just as bad as psychotic behaviour. Martin, your new crusade should be preventing Sweden from becoming woke. As a fellow social democrat, return to the ideals of Tage Erlander (probably the most successful democratically elected leader in the history of the world).

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  12. “The Swedish government is preparing to make citizenship contingent on a language exam. This will probably result in a lot of families being split in their citizenship. The kids will make it, parents without exceptional language talent will not, particularly if they don’t interact much with native Swedes. And that depends heavily on income level. We should be frank about the fact that this measure will select future citizens based on social class.”

    At least in the old days, all immigrants to Sweden had free and compulsory language classes. Has that changed? We’re not talking a native-speaker command of Swedish here. Frankly, any immigrant who can’t master the basic level (correct me if I’m wrong if it is more than B2) required doesn’t deserve citizenship. If the problem is that they have little contact with native Swedes, it’s probably mostly their own fault.

    And why does it depend on income level? Does anyone even remember Tage Erlander?

    Sic transit gloria Sueciae!

    Since they are not citizens now, but are in Sweden, presumably not getting citizenship will not force them to leave. They probably have residence and work permits. So where’s the beef? They can’t vote and can’t be elected, but no-one who doesn’t have even a basic command of the language should be. I fail to see a problem here.

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    1. Back up a moment. You seem to think that the default position should allow citizenship with no knowledge of the language of the corresponding country? Think about this and other woke ideas when you think about why the Social Democrats are no longer the dominant party in Sweden. Wokeness will kill everything real leftists have been fighting for in the last century or so.

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  13. I was friends with a Croat father and his family for a long time in Australia – I first met him as a child of about 10 or 11, and continued my friendship with him until he died at a ripe old age when I was in my 30s. He arrived in Australia during the 1930s and remained in the country for the rest of his life. He never learned to speak English except for a few rudimentary words, although he could understand a bit more than he could speak, but was granted Australian citzenship, because in those days there was no language test.

    He survived perfectly well by living among a Croatian migrant community. After starting out as a timber cutter, he got a day job as an unskilled labourer working for the local council, working on road maintenance and suchlike. Despite his limited ability to communicate, he was highly regarded because he was such a hard and capable worker. He saved enough money to buy a sizeable plot of land, where he planted a vineyard and large vegetable garden. After finishing his work at his day job every day, he would return to work in his vineyard and vegetable garden afterwards. He sold grapes and vegetables to the markets, and made his own red wine solely for consumption by himself and his friends – undistinguished, but perfectly drinkable according to my parents. His vineyard, and vegetable and flower gardens were absolutely remarkable; neat, tidy, thriving healthy plants and beautiful crops, and not a weed to be seen anywhere. He lived on the land in the shed he built to house his tractor while he built a house himself in his ‘spare time’ to accommodate a wife, three sons and a daughter – it was a bit rough and ready, and built with scrap materials, but good enough for the family to live in, and it was just as good as the house I grew up in.

    For me as a kid, going to his place for a family visit was always an adventure – I was good pals with all of his kids; in the close knit Croatian community, no one would drive past without dropping in to say hello and share a glass of wine, so I got to meet a lot of interesting and funny characters, and we always went home with a big box full of beautiful grapes and vegetables that he insisted on giving us. Acceptance of us into that community was never a problem – my father was a school teacher, and the older Croats had such a high regard for the education they had never had the chance to get that they treated him, and by extension his family, with great respect. When I graduated from university they elevated me almost to some godlike status.

    He worked hard every day of his life, paid his taxes, and in every respect was a good, honest Australian citizen who never broke the law (except for my father’s slightly embarrassing but highly amusing discovery that he had a flourishing crop of opium poppies in his garden, which he grew because the flowers were pretty, and a little bit of the sap was good for calming crying babies who would not go to sleep (yeah, I bet it was) – he never used the sap for anything else, and I doubt he even realised that growing them was illegal; no one ever ratted on him to the cops, and his crop was never discovered). His kids went to school, grew up native English speakers while also being fluent in Serbo-Croat, and were fully integrated and assimilated into the Anglo-Australian community. They all ended up in good jobs, and were hard workers and model citizens respected by their Anglo peers. Even in very old age, the old man tried hard not to be a burden on anyone.

    I fail to see any valid reason why that man should not have been accepted as a full Australian citizen, or regarded in any respect as second class. He was a better citizen and made a bigger contribution to society than a lot of people I knew. He was never able to get a driver’s licence due to his illiteracy and lack of English, but then he never needed one. His wife and kids did his tax returns, and told him how to vote in elections. He got by, and did the things he could do better than most people, and I respected him a lot more than a lot of ‘real’ Australians I knew.

    And I ain’t no woke lefty liberal. I’m waaay further left than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. The BDSM leather bar scene would be the first Police Academy film, back when they still had some humor. The rest were embarrassing. Like most *Swedish* film comedies ever.
    Maybe everybody should outsource film comedies to Britain (before a hard brexit makes the talented people emigrate).
    Fun German film: The Killer Condom. Horror parody based on graphic novel by Ralph König.

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