Saturday, December 25, 2010

What They Should Have Sung

Some songs have an element of magic. They squeeze your heart and flood your mind. It's far from always clear why, but it can happen in an instant, and it happens again each time you hear the song anew. The mystery of music – but lyrics have a lot to do with it, too.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

What They Should Have Sung

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bye to Censorship – and Hello

Sweden stops censoring movies. It's the last of the democratic countries to do so, and it was one of the first countries to start it in 1911. Swedish tradition is one of government control in order to “protect” its citizens from bad influence – but the last few decades of censoring movies have dealt with excessive violence, and not sex scenes. That makes some sense.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Bye to Censorship – and Hello

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Suicide or Bombing

A man carrying bombs blew his car and himself up in Stockholm. Fortunately, nobody else was seriously wounded. The first terrorist suicide bomber in Sweden. There are so many aspects to this, I hardly know where to begin. Nothing in this world is simple, nor black and white.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Suicide or Bombing

Aikido – the Peaceful Martial Art

In 1971, when I was 17, I came across aikido for the first time. On my request, a friend showed the technique nikyo on me, bringing me down on the floor painfully. I forgot the pain in my amazement and decided that I had to learn that mysterious art. Now, almost 40 years later, I'm still working on it, and I'm still just as amazed.

My friend Christer was a couple of years older. I had known him for quite some time before realizing that he had practiced one of those Japanese martial arts, and I didn't understand why he had not bragged about it. Any teenage boy would. But I had to drag it out of him, and I had to insist on him showing me anything at all.

In those days, little more than the “judo chops” that Austin Powers jokes about, and the karate of Oddjob in the Goldfinger movie were at all known to the general public. Aikido I had not heard about at all. It seemed like magic. Christer just sort of waved his hand around mine, and I was down, in a flash of pain.

I went to the local club, one of the few in all of Sweden at the time, put on a blue training overall, and started to practice. It was an immediate passion. I even dreamed about aikido, and could think of little else – including schoolwork.

By now, it's an integral part of who I am. Its peaceful strategy of avoiding conflict by solving it without confrontation, or simply passing by it, has become a reflex. My breathing, posture, and ways of moving my body, are always the same as when I practice in the dojo. My way of looking at the world is greatly influenced by how to perceive the surroundings at keiko, the training. It's no longer possible to extract aikido from the rest of me.

I think that everyone who has done aikido for any significant period of time has the same experience. One could call it a way of life, but I prefer to regard aikido as an ingredient in it. Aikido is not a way of living, but one of the tools by which to refine the vehicle of one's path through life.

The Koan Art
It's an odd martial art. Aikido contains no attack techniques, only defense. Therefore, competition is impossible, as well as excluded out of principle. There should be no loser. It's complicated enough to take a lifetime to learn, and during that time the difficulties seem to increase rather than to diminish – as one becomes aware of how much more there is to perfect.

It's a martial art that is nothing less than a koan, the riddle used in Zen. The answer to a question is mostly another question, and learning is done best by not trying to know. You practice, although your mind understands neither how nor why, and gradually your body's experience will enlighten the mind, with a language not consisting of words.

Eastern philosophy has one distinct difference from that of the West. The latter is theoretical, made up by sentences, whereas the former is nothing, if not expressed in the body and in actions. Thinking must turn into doing. In aikido, it starts by doing, which leads to thinking, but it's still all about the doing.

The peacefulness of the aikido solutions is expressed by how softly and gently the body performs the techniques, and how pleasant the experience is to the attacker. That increases by time and persistent practice only. No shortcuts, no end result around the corner.

Books and Stuff
Since I'm a writer by profession, I just had to make a book about aikido. But it took almost 20 years. When I finally got around to writing it, I was surprised to discover how much of its content I had received already in my very first years of practicing aikido, and listening to my first Japanese teacher Toshikazu Ichimura, who was the head instructor in Sweden in those days.

He was a complicated man, which is not rare in this strange art, but he was also very generous with trying hard to emit all that he was able, and all that he knew. He followed faithfully the principle of trying to make his students surpass him. I hope I do the same.

My first aikido book was initially called Aikido – the Peaceful Martial Art, but the new edition is renamed Aikido Principles, to clarify that it's a book about aikido theory, not a manual on how to do the techniques. There's little point in trying to learn aikido from a book, so why pretend it's possible by writing one that way? But there's a lot to talk about, when not engaged in training.
So my book talks about all those things one might think about when keiko is over.

Here's more about the book: Aikido Principles. You find it on most Internet bookstores, for example at Amazon. If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

I have also written a book about the attack techniques. True, there is no attack in aikido, but we need to be attacked in order to practice it. The attack technique training is often neglected in aikido dojos, so I got the idea to write a book about how to develop one's skills at this, and what to consider about the attacks, for the aikido practice to improve. Actually, to advance properly in your aikido, you need to work with increasingly advanced attacks.

The book is straightforwardly called Attacks in Aikido. Here it is on Amazon. If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

I've so far written two more books relating to the aikido theme (and more books might come in the future). Aikibatto is about sword and staff training, which are part of the aikido curriculum. The Japanese sword is well known for its sharpness and the myths about it. The staff is less famed, but also practiced extensively in most aikido dojos. Here is the book on Amazon). If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

Ki is the life force principle of Eastern tradition. It is also spelled chi or qi. It's essential in aikido as well, so much that it's part of the name of this art. Aikido means approximately “the way of joining the life forces” (those of the defender and the attacker). Most people are quite bewildered about it, so I wrote a book presenting ki and how to exercise it: Qi – Increase Your Life Energy. Here it is on Amazon. If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

But there's a limit as to what can be learned about aikido from reading, so I also made a bunch of videos, where I try to show it. Here is my YouTube account, where I put these videos: Aikidostenudd. There are also lots of texts, images, and videos about aikido on my website:

Mainly, though, it's a thing to practice together with others in a dojo. Enough said.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Not Only Punched by Ingmar Bergman

I just saw the rerun of a TV interview with Ingmar Bergman, the world famous Swedish movie and theater director, not long before he died. He confessed that he had punched a critic to make sure that he would not be able to write any more reviews about Bergman's work. He seemed quite proud about it.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Not Only Punched by Ingmar Bergman

Friday, December 10, 2010

Openleaks to Close the Leaks

A group from Wikileaks is starting an alternative to it, calling it Openleaks, with a slightly different modus operandi. Whether this is true or just another hoax to discredit Wikileaks, the plans presented so far imply more of a seal than a leak.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Openleaks to Close the Leaks

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Civilization vs. Nature

Time for a photo. This one I regard as a symbol of the everlasting battle between civilization and nature. The grass grows in the pavement. When left alone, nature always returns and conquers. Is it possible to have a civilization that doesn't need to fight back?

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Civilization vs. Nature

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rape is More than Rape in Sweden

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is locked up in English jail, in the process to be deported to Sweden for charges of rape. Rape is a terrible word, but in Swedish law it's not only what we normally mean by it. A number of sex offenses, major and minor, are called rape – and treated equally severely by the Swedish legal system. Moral panic replaces justice.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Rape Is More than Rape in Sweden

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


When I was eleven years old, I shouted to my future adult self: “Remember what it was really like!” Well, I remember my shout, but I can no longer claim to understand what I was supposed to remember.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:


Friday, December 3, 2010

When Dogs Die

I've experimented with what I call syllable poems, because they consist of only one-syllable words. I made video recitals of them, with clips illustrating the content – sort of. Above is the most popular one of them, When Dogs Die.

The English language makes little resistance to one-syllable poems, especially when you write about the big issues of life, death, love, hate, god, joy, grief, pain, and so on. The most important words are one-syllable. For that matter, so are the four-letter words.

The above poem, asking whether dogs have a soul, has received a number of comments, mostly from people who have recently lost a dog, and mourn it. It seems my poem gives them some kind of solace. What more could a poet ask for?

I've made a small number of syllable poems, so far. Here's a playlist of them all:
Syllable Poems

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cablegate Is Another Gate to Democracy

Wikileaks has published thousands of cables to and from a number of US Embassies, revealing the diplomatic negotiations behind the scenes. They call it Cablegate. There is a lot of gates, these days, that governments struggle to keep shut. No can do in the Internet era. Learn to live with it.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Cablegate Is Another Gate to Democracy

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who Wants to Live Forever?

Scientists have reversed the aging process in mice. They say that they're still miles away from doing the same on human beings, but doesn't it get us all dreaming! Now that the option seems to be approaching, we have to ask ourselves – do we want to live forever?

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

WhoWants to Live Forever 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Where's the Global Warming When You Need It?

I was in Lausanne, Switzerland, last week, for the SportAccord Forum. I also had time to take some photos, which you find below. The one above is not mine, though, but it shows clearly why I had so much trouble getting home.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Where's the Global Warming When You Need It?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Troops Don't Mind Gays

On Tuesday, Pentagon will release a survey showing that 70% of US troops don't mind openly gay persons in the military forces. The politicians have feared the issue unnecessarily. Wisdom grows from the bottom up, not the other way around.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Troops Don't Mind Gays

The Biggest Blogs are “Blogs”

Having a look at the competition in the blogosphere, I'm disappointed to see that the top positions are occupied by what are not really blogs at all, but big commercial ventures, similar to newspapers online, with hired staff and all. That's not what I would call a blog.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

The Biggest Blogs Are "Blogs"

Touching Water

I don't paint much, although I long to do so. It takes too much of the time I don't have. But photos are quick, made in fractions of seconds. So, now and then I take a bundle of them to please my eyes.

I usually take photos in projects. Not just this motif and that, but focusing on some kind of theme. Some themes are recurring. Water is one. A beautiful, mysterious element, generously showing its many shapes and patterns, although it's transparent by nature.

I'm sure that the many appearances of water have mesmerized mankind since the dawn of our species. Splendid entertainment before the birth of movies and TV.

The above photo is from one of my website exhibitions on the water theme. I took photos of my hand touching a water surface, to create different patterns on it. The camera flash revealed these patterns, which would otherwise be difficult to observe with any clarity.

There's something sensual in the delicate meeting of the hand and the water. It's the element of our origin, it's also the substance of which we mostly consist. No wonder we long to return to it, again and again.

I had great fun making the photos one night in my bathroom sink, a few years back. See the whole exhibition here:
Touching Water

Friday, November 26, 2010

Idol is a Tragedy – Literally

Most things we humans do adapt the form of drama, and follow the structure described in Aristotle's Poetics, the classic text on the subject. Not only plays on theater stages, movies and most fiction follow the pattern of drama, but so do sports events, religious myths and practices – and every reality show on TV.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Idol is a Tragedy – Literally

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jesus was Not a Christian

The rage of atheists on YouTube and elsewhere is understandable. They react to the increasing nonsense from Christian fundamentalists, mainly in the USA. But Jesus is not really to blame.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Jesus Was Not a Christian

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Condom News Sensations

The condom makes the news twice – the Pope suddenly expresses an understanding of its use to protect against HIV, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is accused of not using it sufficiently. The rubber has the center stage.

The essay has been moved to my personal website:

Condom News Sensations

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Your Face

Sometimes I refrain from the use of words. It's rare, but it happens. Above is a video I did for my YouTube account. Just for fun. Others might find it boring. To each his own.

I started my YouTube account in 2006, delighted by its treasure of videos of celebrities as well as very regular people. The latter intrigue me much more. People are wonderfully creative – or not – and display it in ways that can be anything from delightful to grotesque. The internet is truly a blessing, making all this creativity possible, and serving it to the whole world.

My small contribution, so far, is no more than 32 short videos. Mostly visual experiments and ploys, but also some poetry and what-not. I do it mainly to amuse myself, so I don't expect that many visitors. As long as I am pleased with the results, I'm fine.

The name of my account is Aravadia, which is the name I invented for a character in a novel I wrote years ago, a stone age drama. In 2006 Google had no hits at all on the name, so I hurried to use it for my account. Now, it gets 815 hits.

The video above is one of the first I made. It's just me in a dark setting, involved in improvised little amusements. I keep a very straight face all through. That's what makes it so funny to me. The contrast between that serious face and what happens to it.
Let me know if you are amused, too, or not at all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Occasionally I Contemplate Murder

One of my intentions with this blog is to present my books, hoping for visitors to comment on them. I start with a book of fiction, which is not really a novel. Occasionally I Contemplate Murder might be called an essay. It's just my train of thoughts about life, death, and the meaning of it all.

I started it as an experiment in writing a book where I would not hide behind a story, but just plainly say what I thought about some eternal questions. I would put my message on the lines instead of between them. It was a kind of challenge for me.

What I found, though, was that some stories were needed to get the message through. Some subjects, the most difficult and profound ones, cannot be grasped and explained without the use of stories.

Fiction is fact, indirectly and subtly, often confusingly, but nevertheless fact. About human nature, about the terms of existence, and so on.

By fiction we can embrace subjects that otherwise escape into the chaotic complexity that we summarize as life. Fiction is needed to tell the whole story, maybe not as it appears to the scientific instruments of analysis, but as we experience it. We are subjects, all of us, not objects. So, a relevant rendering of life as we experience it needs to be subjective.

I found myself pulling my train of thoughts forward by the use of stories.

The grim title and theme of the book, discussing life from the perspective of death and different causers of it, came from me being triggered by the assassination of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986, shocking our otherwise rather peaceful country. I had met him a few times, enjoying his intellectual sharpness and the confused longing of his soul evident in his eyes. So I was also shocked.

But as always in writing, the book quickly took over and went its own way, exploring the mysteries and ethics of life and death, in the eyes of men as well as those of gods, if there are any.

If you've read the book, please humor me by commenting it and the thoughts it might have awakened in you. Of course, you are equally invited to comment if you haven't read it, should some thought come to mind – whether you are tempted to read it or not.

Here are the opening lines of Occasionally I Contemplate Murder:

This world is, I find, a strange place to be, wherein my brain is not the best of guides.

Somehow, somewhere in the very core of my being, I believe myself to understand all as clear as day. I really do.

But that’s in the core, a center unreachable, hidden inside layer upon layer of misconceptions. My conscious mind is lost.

It’s like an onion. Rip off the peels, one after the other, until you reach the center — only to find it empty. No nut, not a thing to explain all those peels, covering the kitchen sink and making you weep.

Yes, the onion contains the secret of the universe. I dare say that the onion is the secret of the universe.

You can reveal it with tools of the hand and of the mind. It doesn’t even take very hard work. But you find nothing, and it sure makes you cry.

It’s all very logical, I guess. If you take the peels away, if you dig down to the very core — well, then it’s no longer a core of anything. So it’s nothing. What else could it be?

Where’s a poor human being, the biggest brain among primates, to find guidance?

So, occasionally I contemplate murder.

You can find the book at Amazon US and Amazon UK.
If you're Swedish, it's quicker and cheaper to order the book from AdLibris.

What Makes Me Tick

Here I go with a blog in English. I've had one in Swedish for a couple of years, with just about a thousand posts so far. But in my writing, I focus more and more on English books, so I thought it's time to do the same in blogging.

Changing language for my blogging, I might as well try to change its themes. To my surprise, I have found myself writing quite a lot about politics in the Swedish blog. Also a number of critical observations about journalism and the Swedish press.

Beforehand, I thought that I would mainly be writing about culture and art, which are at the core of my own activities. Certainly, there's been a number of such blogs, too, but not nearly to the extent that I had guessed in advance.

What caught me was the temptation to be current. That sort of automatically leads to politics and the news media. That's all fine, and sometimes quite exciting, but here I wish to return to my initial aspirations – even if it will be at the cost of becoming less current.
It doesn't worry me much. All the truly essential stuff is timeless.

This is my very first English blog, so later on we will see how I manage. If I'm again attracted to politics and current affairs, like the moth to the light bulb, then alas, that has got to be my destiny. In any case, I'll make an effort to emphasize the timeless, even when talking about things with a lifetime expectancy barely exceeding that of the moth mentioned above.

What brings color to life
So, I'll start off with blogs about the things nearest to my own activities and interests. That's a bundle.

First and foremost: I write books. That's the red thread going through my life since I was about ten years old, or something like that, when I hacked on my mothers travel typewriter (a big mechanical thing made in the 1950's). In my early twenties I started for real, having my first novel published in 1979, when I was 25. It even won a prize, but made me neither rich nor famous. That still hasn't happened to any mind blowing extent, although several books have followed.

Success is not the decisive factor when it comes to writing. There is an inner urge of dreaming, thinking, and telling about it, which drags the author through the pages. By time there's also a skill of turning ideas and subjects into books, fiction as well as non-fiction. In my case, also the non-fiction is rather fictional at times. I need room to speculate, so I choose subjects that allow for it.

Also since childhood, I've been occupied by art. If I didn't manage reasonably writing books, that's probably what I would do professionally, even though it's even more difficult to earn a living that way. I love oil painting. I made my first “serious” one at the age of 13 – a still life having just about nothing to do with my life at the time.

Painting takes time. I need at least a couple of days just getting into it, so there's not been much of it since I started writing in a concentrated manner. But I keep longing to the day when I can grab the brushes again. Instead I've done some drawings and some more photography. Instant imaging. It's a breeze with the digital camera.

My books and some of my art can be found on my website.

Writers often venture into journalism, in order to get a steady income. So have I, but just in Swedish, which is why I won't dwell much on it here. I started as a literary critic for the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in the early 1980's, then I was a rock critic at the Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter, where I also wrote theater reviews. When I moved to Malmö, in the south of Sweden, I became the secret restaurant critic for Sydsvenskan, the major newspaper in that region.

So, in my journalistic work I've mainly been a critic. That's no surprise, since I got my first jobs there because I was an author, and not from an ambition to muckrake and expose cheaters in high office. Many critics are novelists or poets, because that means they are equipped with integrity, an opinion of their own, and a rich language by which to express it.

My academic career is a never ending story, within the history of ideas at Lund University, where I study the thought patterns to be found in creation myths. There should be a dissertation sometime, but don't hold your breath. There will surely be a book about it, one of these days, though not necessarily in the form of a dissertation. Anyway, the history of ideas has enriched me both by what I've learned about it and what it teaches about knowledge per se.

Finally, I've practiced the peaceful Japanese martial art aikido since I was a teenager. Except for writing, nothing else has stayed with me that long. I am easily bored, but not by aikido. It combines mental and physical training into one, bringing insights that could not be achieved otherwise. Also, I should be thankful for this pursuit making me move my body from the keyboard occasionally.

Since a number of years I teach aikido, and that brings another dimension to it. Learning and teaching are intertwined. The one can't travel that far without the company of the other. Again, this is particularly true because aikido combines mind and body.
Philosophy should be like that.

Well, in a verbal nutshell, the above is what my life is all about. So, that's the source from which my blog will be nourished. And then some.