September Pieces Of My Mind #1

Gold leather appliqué blanket, recreated on the basis of a museum piece, 15th century
  • “Overkill” and “The Ace of Spades” are pretty much the same song.
  • Sexologists have done big intercultural investigations of what men find attractive in women. There’s one huge factor that dominates the results, from Kamchatka to Table Bay. It’s not your age, weight, boobs or butt. It’s simply whether you act like you’d like to go to bed with the guy. Yes? You’re super attractive. No? You’re a plain Jane. Now, I just realised something. This means that the biggest built-in intercultural turn-on in us men is simply consent. Not bad!
  • Movie: John Carter (2012). Baroquely exaggerated sword & sandal in the tradition of Milius’s Conan the Barbarian. Grade: OK.
  • On Tenacious D’s 2006 track “Master Exploder”, Jack Black parodies over-the-top heavy metal singers who think they can blow your mind while actually blowing your mind with his over-the-top heavy metal singing.
  • Jarlabanke was a big landowner and an avid runestone patron in Täby near Stockholm during the 11th century. Runologist S.B.F. Jansson once quipped that he was quite saddened when a runestone was found announcing Jarlabanke’s death.
  • Love writing research! Currently a paper collecting the evidence for Aska hamlet as a possible assembly site in the period AD 1000-1350. I have the best job!
  • Unexpected feeling of familiarity and belonging in the History Museum’s Viking Period exhibition. I’ve never had a job at the museum despite a number of applications through the decades. But if knowing this period’s material entitles you to membership of the tribe, then I do belong after all.
  • Movie: Andromeda Strain (1971). A pathogen from space threatens humanity in what starts promising as a lavishly produced techno thriller. Soon it sadly bogs down into a long slow lavishly produced techno yawner. Grade: OK.
  • I napped on the ground in the woods today. I usually get extremely sleepy around half past one.
  • Imagine you’re at a conference about something you know super well. Maybe it’s been your job for decades. But nine tenths of the participants are completely ignorant of the subject. Of course you’ll find it pretty annoying to listen to all the ignorant questions asked there. But I’m guessing that what will really drive you nuts is the slew of enthusiastic and wildly inaccurate answers given to each question. That’s why I can’t stand the main Facebook group about Swedish archaeology.
  • In the mid 80s a young relative of mine was into synth pop and home computers. So he stole a Commodores album in a shop. He was disappointed.
  • Asked at the Swedish History Museum’s shop if they wanted some more copies of my Medieval castles book. “Yes please, bring us fifteen”. That’ll be the big backpack, then.
  • Hey steampunk people, I’ve got a paper coming up in the Post-Medieval Archaeology journal titled “Chivalrous Knights in the Age of Steam”.
  • The oldest, ugliest, clunkiest and flakiest web sites I use regularly are those maintained by major scientific publishing houses to handle submissions for their journals. In fact, modern submission website design could probably be used as a criterion to identify predatory fake online journals.
  • A memory from high school. It’s the last gym class of the spring semester. We’re playing brännboll outdoors. Suddenly two shirtless, deeply tanned men appear. One is carrying an axe in one hand and a gay porn magazine in the other. Our kind gym teacher Ola looks worried and goes over to speak to them. We all think “That guy is going to kill Ola with his axe”. But they leave quietly. What was that all about!?

August Pieces Of My Mind #3

My daughter’s moped helmet has started eating the bicycle helmets
  • Upload and download is hochladen und herunterladen in German.
  • Reading Grant Allen’s 1897 story collection An African Millionaire, I was surprised to find him referencing “L.s.d.” He describes a Tyrolean nobleman as being absolutely adamant about L.s.d. After some googling I realised that it meant “librae, sestertii, denarii”, or pounds, shillings, pence: simply money.
  • Movie: Streets of Fire (1984). Young love, rock ‘n’ roll and motorcycle gang violence on romanticised mean streets some time in 1954 or 1984. Grade: good!
  • Listened to a really good podcast about the Norwegian resistance during WW2. I knew very little beforehand and learned some bizarre & fascinating things. 1) The most effective resistance cells in terms of ​​committing sabotage successfully ​and avoiding capture were communists. They were considered highly problematic in the movement. 2) A small proportion of the movement was Norwegian and Swedish pre-war Nazis who considered themselves racially superior to Germans and did not want to be ruled by them. 3) Unlike the Danes, who helped all their Jews flee to Sweden before the Holocaust had even begun, the Norwegian resistance was not very interested in the Jews, and only 60% survived.
  • An odd memory surfaced. Somewhere in my childhood reading, I came across a description of the practice of newspaper masthead collecting, Sw. samla på tidningshuvuden. Apparently the idea is that you cut away the top ribbon from the front page of newspapers and collect them. Googling around in Swedish and English, I find that this must have been super obscure already in the 1980s and is even more obscure today. One of very few references I can locate is from respected Swedish author Pär Wästberg, who did this in his teens in the later 1940s. Hey everybody, let’s not collect newspaper mastheads!
  • Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys is one of my favourite musicians. Bizarrely, he’s the grandchild of a first cousin of the enormously influential logician Willard Van Orman Quine.
  • True story from a Swedish county museum. They have a number of 11th century coffins, quite a rare find category because wood rots and churchyards are extremely unsafe places to rest in where new graves are dug all the time. Now, for decades the museum has been unable to exhibit one of the best-preserved coffins. Because somehow it got stored in the boiler room. And then somehow big Bruce-Willis-in-Die-Hard ventilation ducts were installed there. And it turned out to be impossible to get the coffin past the ducts and out of the boiler room.
  • I learned long ago that noël is the Francophone ruin of an original Latin natalis. Still, I was shocked to find out just now that Etienne is a (probably severely inebriated) French attempt to say Stephanos.

August Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • As a 5-y-o Star Wars fan I was confused by the relationship between light sabres and Lifesavers hard candy.
  • Looking forward to spending a lot of time at the library of the Royal Academy of Letters again in the coming months.
  • Bought my first gig ticket since the pandemic started (Orange Goblin) and my first theatre tickets in years.
  • I wonder about those live D&D dungeons you could pay to enter in the UK in the 80s. They used to advertise in White Dwarf. In order to turn a profit they can’t have had a lot of staff. Were they incredibly lame?
  • Movie: Free Guy (2021). The Gnostic perspective of The Matrix and The Truman Show meets the expendable extras as protagonists of Redshirts. Grade: good!
  • Feeling energetic, enthusiastic, anticipatory about the autumn’s work and play.
  • Finally listened to some Watain. Not my style, but impressive musicianship.
  • I miss big solid mechanical power switches. My monitors have these ridiculously unreliable touch switches.
  • All over Scandinavia you can find trad jazz bands consisting of men in their 70s and 80s, playing Dixie music. Hardly surprising, you may say, old men playing old music. But they’re actually not old enough by far to belong to the original Dixieland audience. The bands started during a high school craze in the 50s, when kids either listened to early rock’n’roll or to Dixie revival. These old men have been playing old music since they were young.
  • Here’s a handy tip for all you fans of Asian cooking. When a recipe calls for edamame, you can always swap it out for Edamer instead. Save yourself a trip to the store!
  • You know when archaeologists find a human figurine and can’t tell who it represents? This can mean either that we don’t recognise the figurine’s iconographic attributes or that there are no particular attributes. And here’s the relief for us: in the second case, ancient people couldn’t identify the figurine either. They would rely on the maker or owner to tell them “This is supposed to be Ullr”.
  • My parents, my ex, myself, my wife, our kids and Cousin E have all been vaccinated.
  • Christian Frenchman proselytizing to guy on park bench just now: “Ze salary of sin is death”.
  • Movie: The War of the Worlds (1953). Martians invade a world where scientists are revered hunks, generals have little effeminate moustaches and non-white people live only in India. Grade: OK, but toweringly great for its time and genre.

August Pieces Of My Mind #1

Fisksätra from the east during a hike in the Igelboda-Skogsö nature reserve
  • Listen to a previously unpublished Avram Davidson story about being in the Marines in the Pacific in 1945!
  • Padderokke is the wetland plant horsetails in Danish. Padderocker on the other hand is a member of a motorcycle gang who is a toad. I assume there is a cartoon.
  • Movie: Chappie (2015). The creator-creation theme of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” meets militarised policing in an action movie. Grade: good!
  • Wonder what galvorn and mithril sound like in the headphones of a metal detector.
  • The Curiosity rover landed on Mars nine years ago today. It’s still roving away happily, having rolled over 26 km, gained 460 m in altitude and analysed 32 drill samples.
  • Confusing when people use “generation” to mean “decade”. I was neither capable nor willing to become a dad when I was ten years old.
  • Movie: The Girl With All The Gifts (2016). A few survivors confront the limits of their own humanity in a post-apocalyptic Britain full of fast fungal zombies. Grade: great movie based on a great novel by Mike Carey!
  • I started working at 20 and I hope to continue until I’m 70. And now I realise that I’m only a few years from entering the last third of this odd career of mine. Feels like I just got started!?
  • It’s important for scholars in the humanities to have a strong theoretical awareness. I, for example, am aware of theoretical archaeology and strongly hostile towards it.
  • There’s a Bellman song where you have to sing “ENSKTBLÄ”.
  • Looking forward to spending a lot of time at the library of Royal Academy of Letters again in the coming months.

July Pieces Of My Mind #3

Romanesque sculpture re-used in the current version of Thisted town church’s chancel
  • British Isles writers were super occupied with the god Pan c. 1900. Machen 1894, Grahame 1908, Dunsany before 1915.
  • Remember when Mary Doria Russell got loads of prestigious awards for a scifi novel whose big reveal was that aliens loved to ass-rape humans, and would write songs and poetry about how great it was to do it? When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.
  • Huang-He-Man, the Chinese Conan knockoff.
  • I just swam in River Stångån in my undies after returning all the excavation gear to my Linköping colleagues. Commando!!!
  • Discovery: tartine has nothing to do with tarte or tartelette, it’s just a flat sandwich.
  • Reading a 1960 gangster novel about a jukebox organisation. So I listened to some 1959 top US hits on Spotify, was surprised to find that I had never heard the songs and barely even heard of any of the artists. Despite being a huge fan of mid- and late-60s music.
  • I’ve listened to a lot of psychedelic music. Now I want to hear some psychotomimetic music as well.

July Pieces Of My Mind #2

Backfilling one of the trenches. Should have thought of hiring an excavator already last year! Svante Hagsten is extremely skilled.
  • My baby girl whom until recently I would take to daycare on a bike seat behind me is on the Costa del Sol. After having worked as a kid’s camp counselor for three weeks, then sailing in the archipelago for a week with her friends. And when she returns to Sweden she’s going to be the summer temp boss of a Red Cross charity shop. ❤
  • Beck seems ambivalent about his lady friend: “There’s nothing that I wouldn’t rather do / Just want to stay up all night with you”
  • Diana Wynne Jones writes “VDU” when she means CRT.
  • Super impressed by the students’ cooking. They are reliably cooking two excellent meals every day for 20-25 people, usually using a stove with only three hot plates in an unfamiliar kitchen. This is my seventh excavation month in communal housing, and they just never ever flake out on this.
  • Up to five vertical metres of flooding on the Maas / Meuse. )-:
  • I don’t care what you people say. Geologists who study the Earth’s mantle are the lowest of the low!
  • Replaced the ailing New Dawn rose outside the south fence with a Yellow Submarine.
  • Movie: Playtime (1967). Almost wordless situation comedy about inhuman urban modernity. Grade: OK.
  • There’s reggae bass on ABBA’s “Two For The Price Of One”.

July Pieces OF My Mind #1

Mostly no rain
  • Flashback to the time when I said on TV that the archaeology programme does not lead to a job, and a chaired professor wrote me angrily demanding loyalty – despite not actually employing me. So I told him he was getting exactly the amount of loyalty he paid for.
  • Weird as a Scandinavian to see the US and China compete over world leadership, both from some kind of position of self-righteousness, and we’re like “No thanks, you’re a single party dictatorship and a flawed democracy full of religious gun nuts”.
  • Came up with another pun that proved not to be original: baked in Alaska.
  • Day three and the students are already so well informed about how the excavation works that they just politely ignored me in the morning, drove to site, got the gear out and started digging. Thank you Emelie Jonsson and Ola Lindgren for being such good trench bosses!
  • Here’s one for the Old Testament buffs: a Swedish brand of household waste management gear named MOLOCH.
  • Beginning to think about a road trip next time I go to Łódź, see more of the country. It’s not far between the famous cities.
  • Gotta say, my professional and social situation is kind of mind-blowingly great given my particular set of life priorities.
  • “Youtube wants to make you a Nazi because Nazis watch lots and lots of Youtube videos”. /Kenneth Hite
  • Facebook suggests that I should join the Kensington Runestone International Supporters Club.
  • The landscape of post-Medieval Swedish is littered with the sombre ruins of a case declension system. Springa till skogs. I sinom tid. Komma till rätta.
  • So is everybody playing a lot with Darda cars these days?
  • Had my 2nd covid-19 shot!
  • My son is working as a manga translator!
  • Movie: The Ninth Gate (1999). Rich excentric collectors of occult books! Lena Olin and Frank Langella chewing on the scenery! A perfectly adequate Johnny Depp as viewpoint! This would be a great movie if it weren’t for Emmanuelle Seigner’s one-note permanent mysterious smile.

June Pieces Of My Mind #2

  • Didn’t realise before that computer implementations of D&D are almost as old as the tabletop game itself.
  • Half of Sweden’s adult population has now had at least one shot. One quarter has had both shots.
  • Movie: Minari (2020). Unhappy Korean couple starts a vegetable farm in 1980s Arkansas. Grade: OK.
  • Talked to a Ukrainian about Łódź. He looked confused, then said “Oh right, you mean Vlotz!”
  • Today’s 29 years since I started my first archaeology job. I’ve worked almost exclusively in the discipline since. Made very little money and hardly any pension savings, but I’ve fed & raised two kids and had a lot of fun!
  • Confusingly, Scandinavian Airline Systems plays porn groove on the phone while you wait in line for customer support. When I finally got to talk to a rep he spoke in a slightly braying rural accent and, though quite helpful, did not seem erotically inclined at all!
  • In a radical departure from its previous stance, the National Heritage Board sends a loud and clear signal to anyone who finds an ancient hoard in Sweden: DON’T STOP DIGGING AFTER YOU FIND JUST A FEW OBJECTS, RIP ‘EM ALL OUT! Dude finds 8 objects outside a badger sett, calls in archaeologists who find 42 more, dude gets reward for 8 objects.
  • Some gneisses form from sedimentary rocks. Are there gneisses that have formed from biochemical sedimentary rocks? To me, that would be a mind-blowing illustration of how old life on Earth is.
  • I never understood that all the characters in the 80s text adventure The Hobbit were autonomous, running around the game following their own priorities, nor that you could give them orders.
  • Early-80s computer games like The Hobbit and King’s Quest would draw scenery line by line and then fill it out like a colouring book. This took way less storage space than a big image file for each scene.
  • In the 80s Hobbit game you could pick Elrond up and carry him around as your personal portable elf-bread baker. Useful to beef up before fights.
  • Reading Amos Tutuola and having a blast. He pays no respect to Western narrative conventions and little to those of the Queen’s English. Deadpan, sly, absurd. Constant surprises!
  • Layne Staley, crazy amazing singer! ❤

June Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Movie: The Hunger (1983). Super stylish movie about sexy urban vampires. The casting is on a level where Willem Dafoe is an extra. Grade: great!
  • Susan Sarandon is not the only Rocky Horror alumnus in The Hunger. Rufus Collins plays a medical researcher in The Hunger and is the tall black Transylvanian in Rocky Horror.
  • The visuals of The Hunger look a lot like Bladerunner (1982). The two directors are brothers.
  • When reading Scandies’ writing in English, look out for the word “even”. Often they will use it as if it meant “also”, creating an unintentional tone of great surprise. “The farmer grew wheat, barley, even oats.”
  • In 2008, Norwegian archaeologist Håkon Glørstad published this really cool image of a Mesolithic diabase axe next to a cell phone sculpted in the same material. But cell phone tech moves so fast that today, the image shows two distinctive objects of the past.
  • Movie: Dave (1993). When the US president has a stroke in the arms of his mistress, the ambitious chief of staff places one of the presidential security doubles in the Oval Office instead. This man proves to have much better values than the real thing had. Grade: great!
  • Soon 1950s diners and cafés will no longer be nostalgic to anyone. Just ancient.
  • I’m really tired of reading tweets from campaigners on various social issues that I agree with.
  • Rain makes unfamiliar noise on our roof. It’s the new solar panels.
  • Translating non-fic must have been such a chore before Wikipedia.
  • Yay! I used the correct preposition when I told the solar cell guy that I work in Woodge! Nooo! That has to be inflected by case! I actually work in Wodgy!
  • Excavation report in Swedish from the Duvnäs platform!
  • Movie: C’eravamo tanto amati / We All Loved Each Other So Much (1974). Brothers in arms drift apart and meet again repeatedly across post-WW2 Italian history. Grade: OK.
  • After like 35 years I suddenly understand one more of Tom Lehrer’s jokes.
    “If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind / And you come across a girl scout who is similarly inclined / Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared / Be prepared!” This must refer to bringing condoms, not as I thought to just being prepared for bonking in general.
  • Movie: Shadow / Ying (2018). Hyper-stylised Chinese historical fantasy with ridiculous fights and lots of gore. Grade: OK.
  • In 1976-78 when I was 4 and 5 we lived in Connecticut. TV shows that I liked: Happy Days, 60s Batman, 60s Star Trek, all Saturday morning superhero cartoons.
  • Interactive fiction / text adventure games turn 50 this year. Aaron A. Reed is writing an essay about one game for each of these 50 years.
  • The Danish parliament has voted to locate the country’s refugee responsibilities in Africa. You flee to Denmark and then you’re sent to wait overseas. It’s a fucking disgrace. Shame, Denmark!
  • Learning historical research by making stupid mistakes. I want to find out about Olof Svart, a minor nobleman who probably had the Duvnäs platform built. He was awarded tax exemption for his manor around 1529 because of some kind of royal favour. So I spent two hours chasing Olof the goldsmith, son-in-law of the property’s last commoner owner, through the minutes of Stockholm’s town council. Having determined that he’s not likely to be identical to Olof Svart, I turned to the Crown correspondence at the time, you know, where you might find people who have… some kind of royal favour? And found Olof Svart, royal accountant from 1525, in a matter of minutes.
  • Tolkien and Lovecraft both started out as writers of Dunsany fan fiction.
  • Do you think I can stop hoarding pasta and toilet paper yet?

May Pieces Of My Mind #3

Bug love on Mörkö Island near Hörningsholm
  • I’m pretty OK with pushing 50, but it confuses me that the members of my old favourite bands are also around 50 and having reunions and playing oldies events, as if they were feckin’ Deep Purple.
  • Pascal’s wager assumes that you can choose what to believe, which is ridiculous.
  • Middle age: first you’re muddle-headed because you need a nap, then you’re muddle-headed because you’ve had a nap.
  • Unusual end to a Call of Cthulhu investigation tonight. We knew that the villain was the body-jumping spirit of an evil wizard and that he was planning a big scary summoning ritual. So we waited in our Model T Ford and shot him. No body available to jump to this time. The End.
  • The Church of Rome claims papal succession from St Peter, who they claim to be guarding the gates of heaven, and the papal symbol plus St Peter’s iconographic attribute is two keys. Sudden insight: the Church of Rome claims it offers exclusive access to Heaven.
  • Movie: Burn After Reading (2008). An alcoholic CIA agent getting fired, two affluent couples moving towards divorce and a pair of inept blackmailers getting their hands on a CD-ROM. Grade: great!
  • ABBA’s 1977 song “Eagle” owes a lot to the Eagles’ 1975 song “Journey of the Sorcerer” (of Hitch-Hiker radio fame) and was in fact an explicit tribute to them. Both productions owe a lot to Ennio Morricone’s 1966 score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • Movie: Sorry To Bother You (2018). Surrealist comedy about labour organisation and race. Grade: OK.
  • 33 hours after my first Pfizer shot I feel like usual and not even the injected muscle is sore anymore.
  • Gustave Tiger has a pretty cool album title: Chaste and Mystic Tribadry. It was Hungarian Album of the Year in 2016.
  • I wonder if there’s a classified Security Service report on the BBS conference systems I hung out in c 1988-2006. We did have one guy who was implicated in environmentalist direct action, so the authorities almost certainly looked at least briefly at what we were doing. I bet the report concludes “These are just a bunch of geeks talking about Friends and making silly jokes.”
  • Yay Johan & Jakob Söderberg Foundation! Thank you for funding another month’s excavations on the Aska platform!!!
  • Here’s a new experience. My daughter’s excellent boyfriend has agreed to drive me and my friends an hour off to the head of a hiking trail. Life has its chapters!
  • Movie: Game Night (2018). Game night inside fake kidnapping plot inside real kidnapping plot. Grade: OK action comedy.
  • Somehow I feel that At the Mountains of Madness would not have been as effective a horror story if Lovecraft had written “yoghurt” instead of “shoggoth”.
Excavating on the Duvnäs platform, c. AD 1530. Early Modern archaeology!