May Pieces Of My Mind #3

Self-portrait, 1929. Asta Holmberg (1900-82). Östergötland County Museum.
  • Most real world place names have meanings that are historically passé or only locally relevant. Birka = Birch Island. Manhattan = Gather Bow Material. But in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, almost every place name means something of relevance to the story. Nothing outside of the Shire just means Hazel Hillside or Little Bog.
  • Remember the interim scene in Exploding Fist where a cow came running in and you had to kick it in the head?
  • Borgesian game design project: start with D&D 5, pretend that you have never heard of a tactical wargame, develop one from the role-playing game’s combat rules, until you have reverse-engineered the Chainmail rules from 1971.
  • Six chickens were harmed during tonight’s Delta Green session. The players used them as bait in a camera trap and caught some extremely disturbing pix of a hungry many-limbed monster.
  • Our insect hotel is extremely popular right now with the mason bees. They occasionally even fight each other and try to steal each other’s building materials. It’s fun to see them back out of the bamboo pipe, turn around and back into it again to lay another egg.
  • It’s only become clear to me in recent years that Sweden has rather an odd setup regarding archaeology. Our systems to protect archaeological sites from destruction, and to excavate and document those that need to be destroyed for important land-development needs, are world-class. But Swedish society has no mechanism to encourage research-driven archaeological excavations. Neither legally nor through the scientific funding structure. When someone discovers an important site in Sweden, we register it and protect it and then nothing more happens. No-one in all of Swedish officialdom is tasked with making research excavations happen.
  • No new images of the embossed-foil pictorial panels on the helmets from Vendel and Valsgärde have been published since the original monographs, which in Vendel’s case appeared in 1912. Those xylographed drawings are among the most reproduced images in all of Swedish archaeology. Whoever becomes the new custodian for AD 400-1100 at the Swedish History Museum, I hope they commission a set of Reflectance Transformation images!
  • Movie: Solaris (2002). Why is the planet Solaris creating these manifestations of the space station crew’s memories? A much better adaptation than Tarkovsky’s snooze fest. Grade: OK.
  • Love how Ruth Rendell switches to the present tense when saying something that is still true at the notional point in time when she is telling a story in the past tense. So many fiction authors don’t make this distinction. You get statements analogous to “Helsinki was the capital of Finland”.
  • I am indifferent or hostile to the vast majority of the messages the media put before me, commercial and otherwise.
  • Very pleased with my new personal record: Östergötland County Museum’s recently opened permanent archaeology exhibition contains finds from three of my excavations. There’s the amber gaming pieces from Skamby in Kuddby ’05, jewellery from the East Cemetery at Aska in Hagebyhöga ’06, and the foil figure die from Sättuna in Kaga ’07. I am proud to have contributed canonical finds. I am very happy that I will leave my fields of research richer than they were when I arrived. I have not worked in vain.
  • I pass Wavrinsky Street in Linköping, look at the sign in confusion, realise that it’s Ławryński.
  • Remember IRC bars, where people would pretend to buy each other text-based beer? Man, that was ridiculous.
  • Sigh. The conservatives are running for this autumn’s municipal election on the slogan “For A Safer Nacka”, when the area is already exceptionally safe even within the parameters of safe Sweden. Because rather than tell scared people to relax and get informed, they affirm their disproportionate fears.
  • Instead of the usual flowers or a package of ground coffee, I received tulip bulbs as a present after giving a talk to a local study association last year. They were pale greenish at first but are actually starting to look pretty nice as they mature.
  • When you put a German book down with the front cover upward, the spine title is upside down. This is not true for German boardgame boxes.
  • I often find it hard to buy an entire popular opinion package. For instance: I’m a tee-totaller, I’ve never used any harder drug than caffeine, I find inebriated people boring and stupid, AND I think we should legalise drugs with low lethality and addictiveness. This means that I’m OK with beer, weed, shrooms and acid being legal, but not vodka, coke or tobacco.
  • Movie: Berberian Sound Studio (2012). Wimpy English sound engineer joins dysfunctional Italian film crew adding post-production sound to a misogynistic giallo horror movie. We barely see any of the film they’re working on. Instead we see the actors and foley artists as they watch and dub the film. Grade: OK.

Author: Martin R

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

6 thoughts on “May Pieces Of My Mind #3”

  1. So there’s nothing like the US National Science Foundation or National Endowment for the Humanities that funds archaeological research? Surprising. I assume universities must fund the research of academics at least through field schools.

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    1. Yes there is. They do not fund any major excavations. Partly because with them, archaeologists compete with every other subject in the Humanities. Partly because these grants are only open to university employees, and they have no motivation to put on big excavations. They mostly just teach.

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      1. In Canada, academics at provincial universities have felt pressured to increase their research output for the past 30 years or so (even if in theory they are a teaching-focused program which only offers undergraduate and Master’s degrees, and even though most of their funding is on a per-student basis). Research is visible to colleagues and higher in status than teaching. If tenured academics in Sweden are pushed to just teach and administrate, that is very different!

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      2. You’re right, it’s very different.

        1. University departments are funded according to their student throughput.
        2. A university lectureship is just a steady union job. There’s not even a tenure process. You just apply for the job.
        3. If you do have the ambition to publish a lot of journal papers in archaeology, then excavations are an extremely inefficient way to do it. Better to just use published data.

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  2. Re lettering orientation on book spines, a quick check of my own shelves discovered some French and Spanish books that use the same principle. Conversely, Reclam, German publisher of miniature paperpack editions, appears to take a rebel stance by writing the other (i.e. English) way. I have been known to shelve books upside down for aesthetic reasons. Don’t know much about games boxes, but I assume that most of them are meant to be stacked vertically with the lid up.

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    1. I just checked one of my bookcases, and the East Anglian Archaeology series has the title on the spine upside down when the cover is up, just like the very continental Melammu Symposia 10: Societies at War.

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