November Pieces Of My Mind #3

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We spent five days in Como, Lombardy, Italia: the closest piece of Southern Europe for light-starved November Swedes.
  • My wife and her friend run a club that teaches immigrant women to swim and then possibly become certified swimming instructors. I was surprised to learn that from the funding body’s point of view, she counts as one of the immigrant women. She’s lived in Sweden since 1980 and speaks better Swedish than I do. I keep forgetting that we’re an immigrant family.
  • Swedish has separate words for “less good” and “more bad”. The word “worse” confuses us Swedes.
  • No war horses here / Pale sun lights the library / Facial laser burns
  • Fun discovery: the choice of words on Nils Mattsson Kiöping’s frontispiece alludes to that of a German travel book that had appeared eleven years previously. But in doing so, the language has gone wonky.
  • Watched a lot of movie commercials at the film festival screenings. An observation: advertisers believe that whatever you sell, film festival goers will react favourably to international or interracial couples on screen. Guess they’re right. I mean, I did.
  • Talked to some high schoolers who liked my Social Democrat badge. They explained that they were democratic communists, and that only Marxist-Leninist communists would institute a dictatorship after the Revolution. I had to reply that to me Marxist-Leninist and Communist are synonyms.
  • Arthur Lee of the famous 60s band Love got out of jail in December 2001. He had less than five years left before dying of cancer, but he managed to get a good band together and toured with his old material. I heard them in Stockholm in May 2002 and enjoyed it a lot. And my brief interaction with the band is a fond memory. For some reason I hurried home from the gig and was probably the first audience member to leave the venue. I turned the corner of the South Theatre House running and startled the band badly as they were getting into a car. They stared at me in shock and clearly thought I might be a crazy fan. But I just ran past them, turned around and jogged backwards for a bit, and said “Awesome gig, guys, many thanks, really enjoyed it!” And they all looked relieved, smiled, waved and thanked me too. And I ran on towards the stairs to Slussen.
  • Heard a senior politician say something odd about the Swedish Social Democrats’ weak polling figures at the moment. “We shouldn’t blame the voters, we should offer policies that get the votes back.” Nonono. When the voters move towards conservatism and fascism, you do not follow. If you want to do that, you need to leave the party and join another.
  • Parsec = parallax second.
  • Took a look at the skeptic movement again and was reminded that though I share its opinions, I don’t really care much about the issues. It was really important to me though back when I was surrounded by knowledge-relativist science-hostile humanities people.
  • Many rock bands break up over drugs, money and musical disagreements. The autobiographies of Kraftwerk members Flür and Bartos agree that they broke up because band leader, main song writer, keyboard player and singer Hütter became more interested in high-end cycling than in the band. 😀
  • Karl Bartos worked part time as a drums & percussion teacher through most of his Kraftwerk years.
  • I don’t know how to describe my language skills. I read German and French fairly well, I speak and write them OK, but I’m almost incapable of following an informal conversation in a noisy room.
  • Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai Shek were brothers in law.
  • I knew that a period of constant playing in Hamburg clubs made the young Beatles into pros. I did not know that it was for almost two whole years!
  • Two common yet mindblowing ways in which old stone houses are remodelled through the centuries: 1. Floors and windows moved up and down. 2. Roof rotated 90 degrees. No 2 means that you have to tear down the gables and build new ones on the adjoining wall tops.
  • Funny how, as the Boomers have retired and the rave kids celebrate their 50th birthdays, drugs have become associated with old people instead of youth culture.
  • The German Social Democrats elected a new pair of co-chairs this weekend, Saskia Esken & Norbert Walter-Borjans.
  • Phew, Sweden did OK in the new PISA education study.
  • I talked to a couple of young user experience specialists the other day. They had never heard the 80s techie term “luser”. 😀
  • Khazakstan and Mongolia are only 40 km apart but share no border.

Author: Martin R

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

22 thoughts on “November Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. I sometimes think of myself as a Marxist of the Groucho variety.

    Don McLean made a complementary wordplay in “American Pie”: “While Lennon read a book on Marx”

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    1. The East German poet Wolf Biermann published a collection in 1968 titled Mit Marx- und Engelszungen, “With the tongues of Marx and Angels (or Engels)”.

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  2. I have come down to classifying myself as a theoretical communist, meaning I think it is a good system in theory but cannot be made to work in practice; it has been tried unsuccessfully for long enough in enough different countries to satisfy me that it can never work in the interests of the people. Maybe Cuba came the closest and it has a good public health system, but the population are impoverished. The only way it can work is for a country to be in a state of constant revolution, with endlessly repeated overturn of the leadership as soon as they begin to be corrupted by power, and no country can advance or even organise itself enough to provide adequately for basic population needs in a state of constant revolution. Plus “from each according to his ability and to each according to his needs” sounds wonderful, but doesn’t work in practice.

    I think maybe that’s what the high schoolers meant in some sense. As soon as a dictatorship is established after a revolution, it is no longer a communist state, it is an autocracy. In a true communist system, the revolution should never end – no dictators. But constant revolution is an impossible state to exist in, so after the revolution, instead of a dictatorship you need democratic selection of leaders who are replaced periodically by democratic means, and that is no longer communism, it is democratic socialism.

    The USA is not a democracy, it is an oligarchy. Kamala Harris said she has dropped out of the presidential race because she can no longer finance her campaign, and says that now, only billionaires can afford to run for president. That goes to what Peter Turchin means when he talks about elite over production – too many very wealthy people competing for too few places of power and privilege.

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    1. That’s the way it is in America now. If you follow Turchin’s theory, which is based on analysis of historical data, it presages a phase of chaos, upheaval and destruction. The 2020s are going to be a rough time.

      Bloomberg will buy the Dem nomination and face off with Trump, because he is the only one with enough money to do it. Well, that’s the prediction.

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  3. Heard a senior politician say something odd about the Swedish Social Democrats’ weak polling figures at the moment. “We shouldn’t blame the voters, we should offer policies that get the votes back.” Nonono. When the voters move towards conservatism and fascism, you do not follow. If you want to do that, you need to leave the party and join another.

    I agree that one should not imitate policies of other parties with which one disagrees. On the other hand, it is worth asking whether some people mistakenly think that the right-wind parties are the lesser of two evils since no party is campaigning for the best position—even though the Social Democrats themselves might have done so in the past.

    Would someone like Tage Erlander have a chance in politics in Sweden today?

    I would really be interested in Martin’s comments on Fishing in Utopia. (There is only a German Wikipedia page (not written—even in part—by me), but you can read German in a quiet room. 🙂

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      1. I am quite pessimistic about the masses’ political comprehension overall. Not just regarding those who vote for parties I don’t like.

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  4. Swedish has separate words for “less good” and “more bad”. The word “worse” confuses us Swedes.

    And for believe in the sense of opinion (tycka) and in the sense of not enough information (tro).

    Spanish has two words for “to be”.

    We’re not referring to words which have several distinct meanings which might correspond to several words in another language, say English recognize and German erkennen and anerkennen, but rather languages with separate words for somewhat distinct shades of meaning.

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      1. Drinking what?

        https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/1641235/acdc-guitarist-angus-young-supergroup-serial-killer-richard-ramirez-high-voltage/

        Says Jeff Apter, author of High Voltage: The Life of Angus Young, Ac/DC’s Last Man Standing (ISBN: 9780897330459 ): “Although the rest of the group were big boozers and smoked dope, Angus was teetotal and never touched drugs. His only vice is chain smoking”.

        A quick Google search finds several other references, so it doesn’t look like fake news.

        I believe that the King of Sweden is also a teetotaler, and when wine or champagne are served at formal dinners he has a non-alcoholic equivalent.

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  5. “Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai Shek were brothers in law.”

    Another case of words which can have two meanings and two words in other languages. Brother-in-law is usually the brother of the wife or the husband of the sister, though some make a distinction (as between an uncle who is a brother of a parent and one who is the husband of sister of a parent, and correspondingly for aunt). Both are Schwager in German, but the two blokes above are what in German are called Schwippschwäger (Schwäger is plural of Schwager): they married sisters (as did Jon Lord and Ian Paice of Deep Purple). But Schwippschwäger is also used for the sibling of a Schwager (or Schwägerin).

    Things get complicated when two siblings marry two other siblings.

    Schwager is svager in Swedish; is there a Swedish word for Schwippschwager?

    Since Doris Lessing is the Schwägerin of his mother, she is Gregor Gysi’s aunt.

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    1. Swedish doesn’t have different words for the guy who married my sister and the other guy who married my wife’s sister. We do have the slang word buksvåger though: “belly brother-in-law”. That’s the guy who has gone to bed with the same lady as I have at one point or another. Following the rather disorganised period at age 26 between my marriages, I am buksvåger with several of my best friends. 😀

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      1. What’s the word for the case where you both were with her at the same time? Piksvåger? 😀 Perhaps we also need two words here, depending on how far removed from each other you were at the time. ;.)

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  6. The term “brother-in-law” does have two possible interpretations in US English: he can be my sister’s husband, or my wife’s brother (if I were married). However, in the US the spouse of your spouse’s sibling is not considered related to you unless that person happens to be related to you by blood or adoption. “Related by marriage” implies exactly one marriage in the chain, although there may be multiple paths with one marriage each.

    There are cases where two siblings marry two siblings. For instance, on my father’s side my grandfather’s sister married my grandmother’s brother. It sometimes happens in close-knit communities such as the Danish immigrant community in the US in the early 20th century, to which those grandparents belonged. But it’s the exception rather than the rule in most of the US.

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    1. Fussy sorts call in-laws relations as opposed to relatives. Relations are referred to as “once removed”, “twice removed” and so on. You can make jokes about being removed.

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  7. Charlie Soong had a son and three daughters. He was educated in the US at what is now Duke University. His son, T.V. Soong was finance minister of China but for much of his tenure he was the effective ruler. One of his sisters married Sun Yat Sen and remained true to his revolutionary cause after his deatth. Another married the politically influential H.H.Kung, who claimed to be a direct descendant of Confucius and had a finger in every pie. The third sister married Chiang Kai Shek, the head of the KMT. I know that the third sister and at least one of the others attended Wellesley. There’s sex, politics, family, intrigue, corruption, glamour and we all know the ending with the Japanese and Mao. It could be made into perfect binge watching for Netflix or the like.
    (Wasn’t there some older Chinese tale involving a group of Chinese sisters and the collapse of some dynasty or other, perhaps the Tang?)

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