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Truly a Connoisseur of High Culture And the Fine Arts

Sometimes when I consume a piece of culture that lacks any audio components, I listen to music at the same time. Sometimes when I find new music I listen to an album or even a single song an absurd count of times. Sometimes this collides, like recently when I reread Gunnerkrigg Court for the nth time while listening to Försvinn du som lyser by Finntroll on more or less constant repeat.

Now I can’t listen to that song without thinking about the comic. I don’t much mind.

Other pieces of culture digested since last we spoke:

Skyfall – I like nuBond (even Quantum of Solace, which I gather puts me in the minority); the lack of corny jokes and ridiculous gadgets is refreshing. This one was good, but it was a bit annoying how the ending seemed to tie things up and too neatly set the stage for something more traditional. Or maybe it’s just my imagination.

Submarine – Ehhh I don’t know.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – Steve Carell! Keira Knightley! The end of the world! Exclamation marks!

The Cabin in the Woods – I thought I had grown tired of deconstructions but turns out I was wrong. Before being exposed to spoilers, I thought it was nothing more than an homage to horror movies; obviously it wasn’t. Even so, I thought the premise would be saved for a big tweeest towards the end, not in the very first scene.

The Hunger Games – Better than I thought. Getting vibes of The Running Man and The Long Walk, because those are the only reference points I have to the “future gladiator games dystopias” genre I hope exists.

John Carter – Sword and Sandals IN SPACE! Fun times. I liked how the film didn’t even try to pretend that we now know enough of both Venus and Mars to make the premise silly. Those planets were to a large extent unknowns in 1912; they were coveted wiggle-room for sci-fi author. Generally I dislike modernizations of old works. (Possible exception: Sherlock.)

Surface Detail – A book! So thoughtful; so intellectual! Bit of a cheat since I’m not through it yet. Not my favourite Culture novel; I’m getting the feeling of retconning but have too weak a memory to prove it. It’s based around the ideas of virtual heavens and hells, and even if it’s interesting and whatnot, I can’t shake the feeling that he just wants to Make a Point.

Homeland – As a citizen of Glorious Socialist Nation of Sweden I was expecting a lot more flag-waving and annoying patriotism. Don’t get me wrong; there’s still some of that around, but at least most of the people in the show are, well, people. Even the terrorists! Have you heard of such a thing?! Anyways I like the show.

Pretend I said something to sum everything up here.

The Way Home This Night

Down by the train tracks, by the Dollar Store and the bowling alley, there is a fast food place. It looks very plastic and transparent, like a past future. Above the main entrance there are speakers playing music. Previous times I’ve passed had been when they were open but now I learned the music plays even when it’s closed and deserted. It was a kent song, but too new for me to recognise or like.

It was curious how the sound was loud close by but how quickly it faded with distance. And despite my old ways, the music and the setting fit together and made some melancholy for me.

The cold had not yet crept inside my jacket and my feet did not hurt.

Further on, a shooting star flashed and slashed across the belly of Orion. A midnight jogger scared me nearly to death with his suddenness. Then there was the way through the woods where the trees huddle so close to the asphalt that summer rains sometimes won’t reach the ground.

Much later, a shadow moving across the path. Seemed too long to be a fox or a cat and too small to be a wolf. Then the bridge where someone lit a fire this summer. The new boards creaked and groaned and seemed to sway. The water beneath was black like ink.

I was nearly home.

The Devil in the Details

I never even played the two first parts and still I bought Diablo III. Pretty much everyone at work plays it but they are somewhat good at it, while I die pretty much all the fucking time. I lack adequate reflexes and proper motor control. Still, it’s fun. Or it was. Dunno now. The problem is that you more or less have to play it in chunks because of checkpoints and shit.

Also reading a book about shamans and got the idea to make the story of the post-singularity wasteland into a shaman story. It would fit neatly with things like sickness leading to power and interaction with virtual interfaces looking like something quite else when only seeing one side of it.

But there will be “angels” too, so perhaps I should research (by which I read a single book and make the rest up) voodoo too, to get a sense of smorgasboard religions.

This obsession of mine to have every story being about mortals becoming gods is probably significant in some way.

And I finally found Little Majorette to download and it’s very, very good.

What other morsels of culture have I consumed? Downton Abbey, which I rather liked, even if I got the feeling I should dislike it for being too soap-operatic.

Valhalla Rising, which was beautiful as all hell, but I kept being distracted by that thing where parts of the screen seems to float around out of sync with other parts, when the camera is moving slightly. It’s probably due to compression, as I’ve seen it on TV as well.

50/50, which was enjoyable but part of the ending was a bit… foreseen.

There Will Be Blood, which was… intense I guess the word is. It’s was great but as usual the ending went over my head, as endings mostly do.

The Virgin Suicides, which was fucking fantastic. It was one of those films which I liked from the get go and which still grows in my mind every time I think about it. (I’ve used this turn of words before, haven’t I? I won’t tell if you don’t.) The visual style (because I’m shallow like that), the not-enough-oxygen-in-the-room feeling of being teenaged, the measured distance and bittersweet nostalgia of an adult remembering youth.

That last part was important, since I can no longer watch films with the viewpoint of teenagers without great angst, however great they may be.

Also tried to read Snuff again, but it’s slow going. I’m too distracted by the digital wonderland I guess.

Brand New Post

I recently watched Super Size Me. Back when it came out I worked for McHell myself and was yet to grow bitter and resentful about it, so I had the reaction of “Oh golly, you get fat by eating trash food? This is new information!” I assumed it was one of those documentaries that are more about confirming a view than finding one. Since then I’ve seen The Greatest Movie Ever Sold and bits and pieces of that show Spurlock had where he lived like someone else (sort of) for thirty days a time. They left me with the impression that Spurlock was rather more humble than I had given him credit for.

The thing that struck me the most (except the completely off-the-charts, the-fuck-are-you-thinking sizes of fries and sodas) was how utterly drenched in brands America is. Or perhaps or much their culture is based on commerse. Or commercialism? Capitalism?

It’s difficult pinning it down without sounding  like every left-leaning politician in Sweden for the last 40-something years.

But by God, they seem to have been on to something here. I mean, the adverts they have over there seem so fucking ridiculous it’s hard to believe they win anyone over.

Sweden was rather late to the game in terms of televised adverts. We had just two TV channels up until 1987. Both those channels were state-run. Several of the new networks popping up broadcast from Great Britain to circumvent laws forbidding airing of commercials aimed specifically at children.

Even back then, I remember finding foreign, dubbed commercials to be just plain silly. I assumed they were made by people bad at their jobs. I couldn’t see how anyone would be fooled by them. Because that’s what I assumed commercials were all about – tricking you into buying their stuff. Or at least make you like them, even if the reason was a stylish or funny commercial.

I’ve always liked commercials that are self-aware or at least funny. If it’s not entertaining, it’s just annoying, which surely can’t be good to be associated with for the brand in question. I don’t get those silly bits that you can tell are 100% earnest in their effort to convey happiness and warmth or some stuff like that.

I don’t know if those kinds of self-aware commercials are more common in Sweden than elsewhere, but there seems to be a genuine cultural difference between countries in this, which is interesting but completely obvious. My favourite kind of insight.

I’ve reflected on this brand fetishism before, when reading pretty much anything by Douglas Coupland, but I more or less assumed (hoped?) it was just a way of conveying some sort of cool I couldn’t quite understand. Brands in his books seem to be some sort of referential points by which to navigate non-embarrassment, or perhaps just a way of making sure you’re hipster enough.

Watching Super Size and Greatest Movie… I came to realise perhaps it was some sort of truth he was telling all along. Guess I just couldn’t believe the incredible fuckload of different brands they have there. How for some reason important they are. I’m not sure I could function in such a society. Choice is hard enough already.

Or maybe the real difficulty would come from my not having been soaked in the same culture as them, so I would have no way of sensing bullshit and spotting quality. Which brands are generally trusted and which are not.

What am I trying to get at here? Well, that Americans seem to take commercials seriously which is such an incredibly baffling notion to me. I mean, they’re commercials for fuck’s sake. They want your money and they want your loyalty. They care about nothing else. Oh, the invdividual people might be nice, but the laws of commerce more or less guarantees that the most heartless entities are the most successful.

Oh fuck. I feel myself slipping into politics.

Panic!

A Most Productive Day

This fucking cold, man. Every cough tastes of blood and people sitting in front of me on the bus squirm uncomfortably since they can’t see my sleeve against my mouth.

Should have started the assignment for the course (due day after tomorrow (or tomorrow now, really)) but I did not. Was going to write some but I did not. Meant to shop for clothes… and I kind of did, although I fled far too early, clothes shops making me uncomfortable; “hello, can I help you?” and a trillion degrees warm.

Just finished reading Consider Phlebas and the only reason I reached the end was because I had read and – sort of – enjoyed the other Culture books. This one was by far the weakest of the bunch. Too much of my pet peeve: the unnecessary description. Like when he feels the need to point out that certain character’s profession or species or whatever. If the reader hadn’t learned he was a Changer in the first few pages, why even bother? And at the same time describing action sequences as muddled and unclearly as possible.

This was the first Culture novel and like any first novel of a universe it felt like the author hadn’t found his footing yet, hadn’t thought everything through yet.

Started reading The Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick, by whom I’ve only read one other book: Dr. Bloodmoney. He has a refreshing way of never explaining or excusing the weird things happening. It’s written long ago, and it shows. It has the special anachronistic feeling of all old sci-fi; people in cryosleep and living in space colonies while using tapes to record stuff.

The whole day work kept calling and texting me, wanting me to work extra. I ignored it all.

Deceitful Seasons

It seems that every year winter must have one last hissy fit before spring turns to summer. This week has been such a fit. Enough snow had left for the new one to smell and feel like the first of winter.

I was delighted today when a french fry had that taste that takes you back to being a child and picking potatoes in the backyard. Cold, wet, murky and earthy. It’s always nice when artificial stuff like crisps or fries taste like that; a reminder that nature was involved at some point.

When this happens, it’s almost always a one-time thing. This time they all tasted like that. Turns out my béarnaise dip conspired with my settling cold or flu to give that impression.

Given my personality, it was no surprise that my resolve to write more never really resolved itself.

I read in a newspaper the other morning that genre fiction is on the up and up in Sweden. That’s bit of an exaggeration; it is mostly horror that has become popular, probably since John Ajvide Lindqvist did his thing few years back.

Perhaps there is a place for Swedish science fiction after all.

Or not.

Writing genre fiction in Sweden is still mostly a crime novel affair, which produces books that some foreigners bafflingly think are good.

Still. Perhaps I should poke at Swedish a bit. See what comes out.

How to Find Gods with Your Smartphone

Green haze in the trees? Already?

I’m easily influenced, that’s a fact. I read Embassytown and I immediately start sketching in my head a story about unlikely weapons from alien aliens. I watch Martha Marcy May Marlene and I start thinking about what I’ve been thinking about for a while; a star cult and a distributed telescope finding a shadow beyond Oort. I catch a few snippets dense prose and I return to teenagers having regular riots and hiding in tunnels when the armoured police breaks in.

Why do I even want to write? Because it’s fun? No. Not at all. Because almost all other stories annoy me? Sure. Yeah. Because it’s a profession which requires little in the way of temporally sensitive skills? Absolutely. To make a great book that reads in a few hours you can take as much time as you want.

But I do not write. That’s the whole problem.

Or rather, it’s the result of the problem; that I can’t break that oh-God-this-is-horrible-what-the-fuck-am-I-doing limiter.

Yesterday, high on not failing the latest assignment on my uni course, and finding a book I long waited for and another I immediately wanted to read, I made that feeble promise-to-self that I would do something about it. I said to myself that I would start writing a page a day, no matter what. No matter inspiration, no matter good, no matter bad. The math is simple: a page a day is 365 pages in a year.

I decided to sacrifice the story I’ve so far had the least emotional investment in: the one about a woman in a “not too distant future” joining a star cult which wants to find the gods in the shadow, while she just want to go away in general.

I will probably end up caring about it anyways. I’m silly like that.

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