April Pieces Of My Mind #2

Furnishing from the legendary cruise ship M/S Gripsholm, shown in the Swedish National Museum’s amazing 1920s exhibition, Swedish Grace
  • Örebro County Museum and the Swedish Metal Detector Association finished fieldwork at Husby in Glanshammar seven months ago. Today numismatist Florent Audy and I have submitted a meaty journal paper that we’re pretty happy with, about the site and what the new finds mean.
  • Movie: Licorice Pizza (2021). Teenage boy in 1973 California leads a troupe of child actors through a series of improbable small businesses, while a woman in her 20s tags along for no reason. Same stoned vibe as the director’s 2002 Punch-drunk Love. Grade: OK.
  • Wonder what it’s like to try to re-integrate soldiers into your society that have been off on campaign to Berlin / My Lai / Bucha, shooting and raping civilians.
  • On the train the other day I overheard a teenage girl arguing with her mother over the phone. Mostly lengthy annoying bickering over whether the girl could buy something with her own money that the mother felt was a bad idea. But also “But who am I supposed to learn driving from? Dad can’t do it, he drinks every day!”
  • Sopranos, if possible avoid marrying high tenors. It’s a bitch to try to find a key you can sing together in. My wife has a heavy cross to bear!
  • Got an ethnically or geographically Russian buddy who probably doesn’t support the invasion? Maybe check in with them.
  • Imagine the Middle Ages. Castles, walled towns, cathedrals, monasteries, knights, ladies, peasants… Unless you’re Scandy, you assume everyone’s speaking English, French or German, right? I’m learning that there’s this enormous Medieval world where everyone’s first language is Slavic. You can have an entire Society of Creative Anachronism that ignores everything west of River Oder.
  • Movie: Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery (1997). Cheerful Bond parody. Grade: OK.
  • Glen More is a boardgame about traditional Scottish culture. It includes a lot of whiskey barrels and historical celebrities looking drunk.
  • Saxon’s 1981 hit “Princess of the Night” is a metal tune about steam locomotive nostalgia.
  • Movie: Encanto (2021). Colombian extended family cohabiting under one roof is magical, but cracks are beginning to show. The songs are relentlessly musical-like and the dialogue goes on and on sappily about family. But I still enjoyed it thanks to the amazing visuals and fine voice acting. Grade: good!
  • An 80s memory. My parents’ friends arrive in their sailing boat. He’s at the tiller. She’s at the prow with the rope. They get the boat docked in a calm and friendly way. I make an appreciative comment about this. The man replies, “I know that if I can’t stay friendly I’ll have to sail this boat alone.”
  • Novel: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014). I was completely engrossed by this book. I had to read it in instalments, because it made me think civilisation had actually collapsed. Three thoughts. 1. I’m probably the last scifi fan to realise this, but post-apocalyptic fiction isn’t scifi by one common definition. There’s no future tech in this book. Not even today’s tech is working anymore. 2. Mandel believes that if 99% of humanity is wiped out in a month by a virus, then a lot of the survivors will be murdered shortly after. I find that unrealistic. Every intelligent adult would realise that banding together in solidarity is the only chance of long-term survival. There would be no resource competition because there are free abandoned resources everywhere. And in Sweden it would be really hard to find a hand gun to murder people with even if you actually wanted to. Remember, 99% of violent psychopaths have also been wiped out. 3. Is Mandel saying that the only thing keeping us all from murdering each other at this moment is strong policing? Not sure. The novel doesn’t really explain why the murdering begins.
  • Movie: The Descent (2005). Six young women who like extreme sports go on a fairly well equipped caving expedition, but the cave system is uncharted and full of hungry blind trogs, and the women find they can’t quite trust each other. Realistic spelunking plus claustrophobia and splatter. Grade: good!
  • Cassowary and quasar are almost the same word in Swedish. How do I tell them apart?
  • My friendly annexation of the disabled neighbours’ rose bushes enters its second year. I spent two happy hours in the sun today getting them into shape. (It was a special horticultural operation.)
  • Headed for the Moshyttan blast furnace site. Started c. 1275, the furnace was fired for the last time in 1741. I need to look for building foundations before 25 amateur archaeologists come to dig test pits for five days in June. We aim to locate refuse layers and pick up pottery and coins.
  • “At bedtime that night, Old Miss Houseman lay awake, wondering what Judge Macavoy would say about marrying a white woman to a black man. The Judge said nothing at that moment, being held in the ample arms of his widowed housekeeper Mrs. Clinton. Indeed, he could not have said a word, his mouth being completely silenced by her soft, brown left breast.”
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Author: Martin R

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

11 thoughts on “April Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. Before marrying, couples should test working together in potentially stressful situations; sailing a boat, hiking a trail in the mountains et cetera. It would ruthlessly expose shortcomings in their strategies for cooperation.
    .
    Real disasters show people often cooperating. A ‘lord of the flies ‘ situation would be an outlier.
    .
    I know there are awful examples after shipwrecks in the 16-19th centuries when the social contract imploded, but people in the past were, shall we say, okay with a much higher level of violence. Nor were they strangers to public executions, slavery and other cruelty.
    And if ship crews contained criminals who fled the law by going to the sea (and were normally kept in check by the brutal regiment of the ship’s officers) maybe the horror stories are what you could expect.

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  2. Not sure of the context of the last quote, but the old Mrs. Grundies did not care too much about who wealthy white men were bumping bits with as long as it was somewhat deniable and not marriage under settler law.

    There are essays about the idea in Anglo novels that we are one disaster away from eating our neighbours and where it comes from.

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  3. I liked the lyrics to Princess of the Night. Poetry may be the least tolerated of the arts, but people do like song lyrics. Some technologies seem to have greater emotional resonance than others. Steam locomotives attract a lot of nostalgia in a way that diesel and electric locomotives don’t. Almost all the model railroad setups I’ve seen have been from the steam era. There were lots of car songs in the 1950s and 1960s, but I’ve yet to hear a song about a Honda or Tesla.

    Was Eastern Europe fully Christianized in the Middle Ages? I got the impression that there was a crusade starting in the 13th century with the Roman church eventually bumping up against the Orthodox. I got the impression that a lot of the region was beset with slavers hauling people south, but that’s probably not the fun part of any re-enaction.

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    1. The Baltic tribes in Latvia were pagans and resisted conversion by missionaries in the 12th Century, so the Pope called for a Crusade to forcibly convert them in 1193. Some people in southern Latvia didn’t convert to Christianity until the 17th and early 18th Centuries. I don’t know much about it.

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  4. Discounting neo-pagans (who I tend to think of as just people playing some kind of RPG, i.e. they do it because it’s fun and cool, not because they have any deeply felt religious beliefs), those people in Latvia were the last surviving pagans in Europe, and they were (obviously) very resistant to conversion to Christianity.

    (Not to diss neo-pagans too much, although I do find them faintly ridiculous – it is clear a lot of ‘Christians’ remain so for social reasons rather than deeply felt religious beliefs. The Anglican Communion in countries like Australia, where it was formerly the largest Christian sect, has imploded because of that and people no longer feeling the need for those social connections, or seeing any benefit in them.)

    The crusaders sent by the (Western, obviously) Pope were Germanic people, and yes, they must have bumped up against the Orthodox mob at some point, but I don’t know any history about that or what happened.

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  5. “Cassowary and quasar … How do I tell them apart?” The cassowary is the one with the feathers and the casque, and is almost infinitely more likely to kick you to death if you meet it in the forest. You’re welcome 🙂

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  6. “Mandel believes that if 99% of humanity is wiped out in a month by a virus, then a lot of the survivors will be murdered shortly after.” Humanity has three defining characteristics. We kill anything that moves, including each other; we have sex with anything, animal vegetable or mineral; we cooperate and help each other to survive when times get tough. That third one is what helped us to survive this long, and it will help us to survive in future.

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    1. I’m still thinking about it. I think it depends on circumstances, and sometimes just kind of random – particular circumstances could provoke different responses.

      You remind me of a joke that the late actor David Niven told – he once found himself sitting next to this very stuffy ex-British army officer type at dinner, who had been totally ignoring him. Then the guy suddenly turned to him and said: “I have had sex with women of every nationality and most animals, but if there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s a girl with a Glasgow accent.”

      I had a girlfriend from Glasgow once, and that guy was wrong – she was much better than most animals.

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