March Pieces Of My Mind #2

The Saltsjöbanan commuter railway is getting double tracks past Fisksätra after 130 years, and the 50-y-o station is being completely rebuilt.

  • Two months after this old fellow I know had his third stroke, he can walk around the house unsupported, is speaking pretty clearly and has shoveled the snow off the drive!
  • I’ve talked about this before, but it’s a remarkable thing to me so here I go again. Polish universities are really focused on evaluation by bibliometry, that is, services that count citations and assign scores to scholars and journals. My colleagues in Łódź and I are well aware of the criticism against this imperfect and often unfair system. But there’s a side to bibliometry that is super valuable to me. For the first time in a research career of 30 years I have a clear idea of where I’m supposed to publish. It’s a huge change to have access to the rule-book before I sit down to play the game.
  • I don’t see why our well-founded hostility to banks should focus on one ethnic group among bankers.
  • Movie: Forbidden Planet (1956). Neat set design and effects, cool theremin soundtrack, stilted acting, silly story. Grade: OK.
  • Educated urban Poles usually have liberal values and an international outlook. I was pleased a few years back when the Rector of Uni Łódź reacted to the homophobic climate in rural and small-town Poland with an open letter of support for our gay faculty and students. I am pleased today upon receiving a faculty group mail from the university’s Equal Treatment Council about how to treat trans and non-binary students. It ends, in machine translation: “Please, let’s help our people students who are in the situation described above, which is not easy for them and often giving rise to concerns about social reception at a time when it itself undertaking studies and joining new peer groups is not uncommon stress. Let’s work together to make these people feel fully accepted in our group.”
  • When I teach Scandy prehistoric chronology, I always tell students this. If you are only going to remember one single date from this course, make it 3950 BC. Because that is the year in which, due to a little plateau in the radiocarbon calibration curve, it looks like southern Scandinavia switched to agriculture. (In actuality it may have taken 200 years or so.) 3950 was an important date to the Renaissance-era mega-scholar Joseph Scaliger too. He reckoned that this was when God created the world!
  • Movie: La Mauvaise Graine (1934). Action comedy about a Paris car thief gang. Lots of car chases. Co-directed by a young Billy Wilder. Grade: OK.
  • I’ve spent a quarter century visiting restaurants where almost everyone is East Asian and I don’t understand the language. Experienced the same tonight, only the food and the other customers and the languages were North-East African.
  • Stockholm’s Khazaks are celebrating Newroz at the Film House and watching a band documentary from the homeland.
  • Jrette goes to a Cambodian used book store, finds a copy of Doris Lessing’s The Grass Is Singing in Swedish.
  • La Mauvaise Graine features a really interesting example of something that is not very common in American films even today, and which was to my knowledge impossible in an American film at the time. I’m thinking of actors of colour playing roles that are not about them being people of colour. The car stealing gang in the film consists of funny loveable ruffians who like to play practical jokes on each other. Gaby Héritier plays one of them who happens to be very tall and very Black. But otherwise he’s just one of the gang. In the only scene where his character is subordinate to another, he’s playing the role of a taxi driver and they’re actually collaborating to create a distraction while other members steal a car. Later they all go to a public beach together, have a swim, fall asleep in deck chairs side by side.

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 “March Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. I’m a big fan of Forbidden Planet. It was way ahead of its time. The silly plot is just Shakespeare’s The Tempest set in space. It’s a pretty adaptable plot. There was a lot of scenery chewing, but The Tempest cries out for that.

    When you say North-East African, do you mean Egyptian or perhaps Sudanese or Ethiopian?

    Do you ever wonder if you would have appreciated such direct job guidelines twenty years ago? They may just be comforting after so many years following your own muse without all that much in the way of formal reward. (Most fields have guidelines about publication, frequency, journal quality and so on, but not everyone wants to deal with that garbage. Einstein called it tintinschiesserei if you’ll pardon my German. That’s why I stopped with my MS. A friend of mine liked being a student but didn’t like dealing with the PhD getting part, so he stayed registered despite having a full time job. Eventually, they pulled a 19th century degree out of a drawer to get rid of him. No one living had ever heard of an EE degree, but no one had repealed the university’s right to grant one.)

    I wonder if Bad Seed was released in the US South. Back in the 1930s, they had to edit out any parts of the movie with Black actors if they wanted to release the film without a riot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. NE Africa: I was referring to Ethiopia & Co, home of the injera.

      A major reason that I have not received much in the way of formal reward is that I had no idea about the rules of the game. Or rather, that the formally recognised rules that I was aware of do not actually govern gameplay in Scandinavia.


      1. Had you known their rules, would you have played their game? Some people have regrets about that. Some people don’t. It’s like in Frank Sinatra’s signature song, “My Way” It sounds like you’ve gotten a second chance to play in Poland. Here’s hoping you enjoy the new game and you win some good prizes.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The main change I would have made to my career had I known better would have been to find an in-house feudal lord at the department way back in 1994 when I started grad school. I found an off-site one who was very supportive, but completely ignorant about how grad school worked at the time. And I left the department with a PhD but without any letters of recommendation.

        It’s true, I quit research in disgust in late 2017 and came back to it in early 2020 thanks to my Polish job.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. There are a lot more immigrants from Africa these days. Back in the 1960s, they were unusual, and since I lived in NYC they were usually ex-pats working at something involving the UN, a consulate, a trade mission or international affairs.

        Before we went to Ethiopia, shortly before the recent war, we had several Ethiopian Lyft drivers. One had been in the US for a while. The only things he really missed was his extended family and the coffee. He said every family has its coffee tree, and he always looked forward to the big bag of beans his family sent him once a year.

        Having visited Ethiopia, I can understand this. They have amazingly good coffee, and they know how to roast it and brew it. The best cup of coffee I ever had was in the lounge at the Addis Sheraton. We had coffee in a touristy “coffee village” surrounded by coffee trees where our hostess started with dried beans in their husks and went through the whole process over a wood fire before serving us what was the second best cup of coffee we’ve had. All the other coffee in Ethiopia, whether brewed fresh or sitting around at a breakfast buffet – always with injera – was merely amazingly good.

        Of course, with the war, living in the US or Sweden has other advantages even if the coffee isn’t quite as good.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. While I was having dinner at the Ethiopian restaurant, a waitress roasted pale brown coffee beans in an open saucepan and ran around the place fumigating everyone with the smoke from them.


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