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?

Ronald DiPinho, professor of medicine and genetics at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, reveals in a Nature article that his lab has reversed the aging process in mice by restoring the enzyme telomerase, which protects chromosomes. ABC also reports it, and certainly much more media coverage will follow.

The treatment made shrinking brains grow back to full size, gray hair got its color back, and so on. Mice of an age comparable to our 80's returned to the health state of middle age, in a rejuvenation process that seemed to be complete. In mice. What would happen to human beings given the same treatment remains to be seen.

I'm no biologist, but I have no trouble imagining a near future where human aging is arrested, or even reversed. We have already managed to increase our life expectancy from about 20 to almost 80, mainly by just eating better. Refined science might very well be able to extend this many times over. Anyone can become Methuselah.

Not that I expect it to happen while I'm still around to benefit, but even so: It's time we start asking ourselves very seriously: Do we want to live forever?

Spontaneously, we would hurry to say yes, especially if that prolonged living were with reasonable health and vigor all through. But there is more to life than mere survival. We need to enjoy it. At length, that can be a problem.

I find my own major drive to be curiosity. As long as I'm curious, and find new things to explore or old things to penetrate even more, I want very much to go on. But if the future lacks surprises, if each day will be insignificantly different from the ones preceding it, then I would lose the lust to get out of bed in the mornings (it's already kind of a problem, now and then). Just vegetating is not enough.

The world is grand. It contains more than can ever be experienced and digested completely. Still, sunrises are what they are, seasons turn with limited variation, little food is tasty enough without being flavored by hunger, even the finest wines become bland when not accompanied by thirst. Society, its politics as well as its entertainments, shows its patterns more clearly by time, and becomes increasingly predictable. Sex, too, runs the risk of becoming mere physical exercise.

I don't know how long life can keep on being interesting, but that's the ultimate timer for human life. When we are no longer intrigued by it, we might as well fade away.

Big Brother
For society as a whole, longevity might prove to be more of a danger than a blessing. Those who have power and loads of money will do all they can to stay alive. They already do, and have been obsessed by this since the time of the Pharaos and the first Chinese Emperors. The more you have, the less you want to leave it behind. Not that worldly things necessarily make you happy, but because they influence you that way.

When people who have seized power or amassed fortunes don't die, the most likely thing is that their power and fortune grow as their age does, or even exponentially to it. Liberation will take forever, the reasonable distribution of wealth will be halted indefinitely. We may quickly arrive at a society very close to Metropolis, or Orwell's Big Brother society of 1984. For many things, a time limit is salvation.

Perhaps a future society will find new solutions to the new problems arriving by longevity. Perhaps people will discover that there is so much more to life than meets a tired old eye, they will never get fed up with exploring it. Mankind is an ingenious species. For every problem, we come up with more than one solution, like the reemerging heads of the Hydra.

That, I'd like to see. So, I have to admit that I would not be that hard to convince, if offered the telomerase cure.

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.

SportAccord, formerly called GAISF, is an assembly of international sports federations. I was at their Forum, representing both the International Aikido Federation and the Swedish Budo & Martial Arts Federation.

Although this was in late November, the weather in Lausanne was strikingly pleasant and quite warm, considering the season. Only by the end of my stay did it start to get chilly. My fingers almost turned to ice as I strolled around taking photos, a few free hours before my return home.

The long way home
The return trip proved to be quite complicated. Copenhagen, the destination of my flight, was struck by winter. A lot of snow and cold winds. I had heard something about it beforehand, not thinking much of it. Scandinavia is not unfamiliar with winter, although it is usually much milder in Denmark than in the neighboring northern countries.

So, I went to the Geneva airport (it serves Lausanne, too) a couple of hours before the scheduled departure of 8 PM, and expected things to go smoothly. There was no information to the contrary when I checked in my luggage, but immediately after I had passed security I learned from another traveler that our plane to Copenhagen was canceled.

We were supposed to pick up our luggage and go to a desk at the airport, where we would get rescheduled and receive hotel vouchers for the overnight stay in Geneva. That took quite some time, don't ask me why. The line in front of the desk moved as slowly as trees grow.

We were also promised free dinner, but that proved to be a voucher of no more than 35 Swiss Francs, which doesn't cover much at a Swiss restaurant – especially at the fancy hotel near the airport, where we were checked in and where we had to have the dinner.

Anyway, so far so good. I had nothing particularly important in my agenda, so I enjoyed an extra day in Geneva, just to relax and do some sightseeing. But I had learned my lesson, so I checked the Scandinavian Airline website for any delay of my new flight. Towards the evening, they said that the plane's departure might be 20 minutes late. No more.

I suspected that the delay would increase as takeoff time approached, because airlines tend to underestimate such things as some kind of misdirected marketing effort. Indeed, our departure was an hour and a half late, at about 9:30 PM. I could live with that.

The plane was a sturdy Airbus with an experienced captain in the cockpit, so the flight was swift and we landed smoothly in the snow and wind, where other planes had much more trouble. To our surprise, we didn't arrive at a gate, but to a spot some twenty meters from an entrance to the airport. They had some trouble with the gate machinery, because of the snow and the cold.

We remained in the plane, mere meters from the entrance, for quite some time. After about half an hour a ladder was dragged to the plane, but proved to be too small for this aircraft. It was dragged off again, and we waited – with a limited sense of humor remaining – until a bigger one was produced.

We thought that our trials were over, but at the luggage hall there was no sight of our bags. The monitor informed us that the luggage from the Geneva flight had been delayed, but gave no indication of why or how long. Another thirty minutes passed, maybe more. Then I had enough and approached an airline desk, asking them to check what had happened. They were also upset that we had not been given any information about our luggage, other than the word “delayed” on the monitor.

Just a couple of minutes after they managed to catch somebody responsible on the phone, our luggage started to arrive. I hurried to the Malmö train. By now it was 1 AM, and after midnight there's just one train per hour, but for once I was lucky: The next train left just a quarter past one.

I didn't take the risk of trying to buy a ticket from the machines in the airport. They don't work that well, and there was a bunch of people already struggling with them. I thought I'd simply buy a ticket on the train.

I found that they have an additional fee for that, amounting to just about the same money as the ticket itself costs. And they were unable to receive the payment by credit card. What century does that railway company live in? They allowed cash or invoice, only. I got the latter and finally leaned back. The trip to Malmö takes little more than 20 minutes.

For a while it seemed as if that trip would also be delayed, because of a very slow train ahead of us, but it must have taken another track. Soon enough we were doing top speed on the Öresund Bridge, connecting Denmark and Sweden since no more than ten years.

At Malmö station I was able to get a cab, but only because I live in central Malmö. The taxi drivers refused to go beyond the city limits, afraid of getting stuck in the snow. Plowing takes its time in the Skåne countryside. Anyway, I was home at 2 AM, and had no trouble falling asleep.

Infrastructure is no fun
It's strange that Scandinavian communications should fail because of some snow. It happens to air traffic as well as trains – actually more often the latter, although they should be equipped to manage better. True, we've had some mild winters most of the last fifteen years, but not completely without snowy days. They should be prepared, and they should know what to do.

I think that the responsible people have been hasty to trust the climate change, hoping that winters will always be mild and snow melt away as soon as it falls. Thereby, they save money in the budget for other things. The last ten years or so, they have diminished their routines and decreased their resources to deal with winter, as if this season is a thing of the past. When it still comes, they all act surprised.

We should worry when the infrastructure of our society is allowed to deteriorate. Governments don't enjoy spending as much money on keeping the basic functions operating smoothly as is needed. They want to spend the money on more spectacular things. New things to be remembered by. That is very costly to society, and might lead to real disaster.

Politicians are shortsighted. So are many other people in power. They know their reign is limited in time, and they feel the pressure to show results within mere months. At the most, they feel obliged to think ahead to the next election, and rarely beyond it. So the things that don't immediately add to their fame are brushed off, and any big undertakings are chosen on the ground of how they might secure their names to posterity.

Unfortunately, they are right. Our history books are full of people who made something new, no matter how meaningless at length, but mention nothing about the ones who made sure that the same old same old kept on working. We need blander idols.

Click on the images to see bigger versions of them.

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.

I often find that prejudice is maintained by those in power, but blamed on the general public. On scrutiny, people often prove to have quite liberal minds. Of course, it depends on how they are asked, and what is the context.

Pentagon has polled US soldiers about the “don't ask, don't tell” policy towards gays in the services, and 70% don't mind at all if gays go public with their sexual orientation. My guess is that the 30% that don't approve will come to terms with it, as soon as they realize that some of their buddies in arms are gay. The animosity towards “others” is overcome by getting to know them.

The AP article about the survey goes on to compare with soldier attitudes to blacks, Jews, and women, way back when. I don't really understand why. Each time has its own context, and not much is learned from comparing it to the present, without any kind of “translation”.

In 1947, a survey found great resistance towards mixing whites and blacks in US troops, expressed with many wildly prejudiced remarks. Well, in the 1940's, race biology (strangely missing from the internet) was regarded as proper science until Treblinka and Auschwitz revealed what it could lead to. In that “science” blacks were repeatedly placed at the bottom of the scale. In spite of the remaining prejudice, President Truman was courageous enough to order equal treatment in the following year.

In the 1980's, troops were found to harvest some prejudice against female soldiers. That, too, has worked out since, I believe. The attitude of society as a whole towards what women are able and unable has changed during the last few decades. So the attitudes of troops have changed accordingly.

Each time has its misconceptions. Our time does, too. No mystery. Let's rejoice when prejudice is overcome, as in the case of gays in the military.

The “don't ask, don't tell” was such a stupid idea to begin with. For obvious reasons it was not tried on blacks or women. Nobody should be forced to hide his or her way of life.

In the US, gays had been explicitly banned from military services since World War I. Bill Clinton moved in 1993 to allow gays in the forces, but Congress accepted it only if gays kept it a secret. That's still the case, despite President Obama's efforts. Will the Congress reconsider, now that a majority of troops proves more open-minded than the politicians are?

I have never understood the rage some people show towards the love life of others, as if hate were to prefer. Let's just settle for the wonderful principle of consenting adults, and congratulate those who find love at all. Life is rough without it.

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 blog, or weblog, started off as a kind of personal diary on the internet. Individuals wrote their stories or commented on things that came to mind, and got response from other individuals surfing the net in a leisure kind of way. The writers and readers were delighted to create and find interactive media, not controlled by big business and governments, where you didn't have to be rich or famous to get published.

But when the thing took off and started to get visitors by the millions, big business stepped in. Newspapers started columns that they renamed blogs, for no other apparent reason than the possibility to comment them online. Media companies started big website projects, calling them blogs for the same reason.

Now, the personal blog where one voice speaks its mind is hard to find, in the jungle of enterprise projects. The internet is not immune to money and power.

I checked the top list of the 15 most visited “blogs” in the world. The figures below are for October 2010, but I guess that not much has changed during November. It's evident that the personal touch has been replaced by the big business sledgehammer. AOL owns four of them, and so does Gawker Media.

The most visited “blogs”
The number of unique visitors (a questionable concept, depending on how it is defined) is a monthly estimate. The figures are from Ebizmba.com. Most of these sites are US based, and all of them in English. I don't know if other blogs or “blogs” outside of the USA would merit a place on the list – maybe some in other world languages, such as Chinese, Spanish, or French?

1 HuffingtonPost 28,000,000
A news website launched in May 2005 by Arianna Huffington and partners. Over 3,000 writers contribute to it. They have also started local editions of the website.

2 TMZ 17,000,000
The Thirty Mile Zone (a movie business expression for an area in Los Angeles) is a celebrity news website launched in November 2005, by AOL and Warner Bros. They also have a TV series. Harvey Levin is the managing editor since its foundation.

3 Engadget 11,500,000
A consumer technology “blog” launched in March 2004 by Peter Rojas. It has nine websites in separate parts of the world, written in different languages. It belongs to Weblogs Inc., purchased by AOL in 2005.

4 PerezHilton 9,000,000
A celebrity gossip site launched in 2005 by Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. The blog name is, of course, a play on Paris Hilton, who is frequently mentioned in it. The blog started under the name Pagesixsixsix.com in 2004. This is actually a blog in the sense that it's in the hands of one person, expressing his views and interests. As far as I can see, he is the sole owner of it.

5 Gizmodo 8,900,000
A consumer technology website launched in 2002 by Peter Rojas, who later left to start Engadget. It is owned by Gawker Media. It has editions in several other countries and languages.

6 Mashable 7,000,000
A social media news website launched in Scotland by Pete Cashmore in July 2005. Now, it's based in New York and has a staff of 35, with Cashmore as its CEO.

7 TechCrunch 6,500,000
A technical news website launched in June 2005 by Michael Arrington, with editions also in some other countries. It is just now being acquired by AOL.

8 Gawker 4,500,000
A New York City based celebrity gossip site launched in January 2003. It has several editors and contributors. It is owned by Gawker Media, which includes Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and Kotaku.

9 Lifehacker 4,400,000
A software news website launched in January 2005, where Gina Trapani was the sole contributor until September that year. Now, it has several editors and contributors, as well as editions in Japan and Australia. It is owned by Gawker Media.

10 FanHouse 4,350,000
A sports news website launched in September 2005, owned by AOL. Its staff includes several experienced sports journalists.

11 SmashingMagazine 4,325,000
A resource for web developers and designers launched in Germany, September 2006, by Sven Lennartz and Vitaly Friedman.

12 FailBlog 4,300,000
A comedy website presenting videos and images of funny failures, launched in January 2008. The same year it was sold to Pet Holdings.

13 Kotaku 4,200,000
A video games news website owned by Gawker Media (domain name created in March 2002). They have several editors, as well as editions in other countries.

14 BusinessInsider 2,100,000
A business news website launched in February 2009, owned by Silicon Alley Insider, Inc. It has several well-merited editors and contributors.

15 Boingboing 2,000,000
A mixed subjects commented news website, mainly IT related, which started as a zine in 1988, became a website in 1995, and a “blog” in 2000. It is owned by Happy Mutants LLC, based in London, and has a number of editors and contributors.

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.

Actually, Aristotle speaks mainly about tragedy, dramas with sad endings. To the Greeks, this was the norm – when not making comedy. A sad ending made for better drama, leaving the audience engaged and fulfilled. Nowadays, Hollywood and the like fear the tragic ending, mistakenly thinking that it will scare the audience off. Quite the contrary.

Sports have tragedy built into the system. There can be only one winner, but an infinite number of losers. So, tragedy is the outcome for most athletes and teams involved. Without these losers, and the anguish of their fans, sport events would lose their dramatic touch and thereby their appeal.

Several TV-shows copying the competition form of sports have the same thick ingredient of tragedy. Look at the most popular one, American Idol and all its siblings around the world. Every season of the show goes through thousands upon thousands of aspiring singers who fall short, and get their dreams shattered. A multitude of tragedies.

It's the same with each weekly show, which ends with one participant having to leave. The weekly show is not about who wins – there's not even a winner pointed out. It's about who loses. And the loser is exposed, so that we can cry with him or her in the most sentimental setting TV producers are able to come up with.

Only the very last show of the whole season focuses on the winner, and that's done rather rhapsodically at the very end of the show. All the way up to that moment, Idol is a series of tragedies, nothing else.

There is also tragedy in what these TV shows do to the music scene and what performers are presented to it – but that's another story.

Here's a collection of American Idol moments on DVD at Amazon

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.

There are lots of atheist video clips on YouTube. Most of them just argue angrily against religion, especially the Christian one, its ethics and cosmology. Some are more talented than others – I remember in particular Dendrophilian, a Norwegian teenager with a sharp mind and an absurd sense of humor. Unfortunately, he closed his YouTube account.

It's evident that the atheists are angered by the intolerance and fanaticism of Christian fundamentalists, who have become increasingly visible in society, even influencing it here and there, in spite of their very outdated standpoints on just about everything. The atheist reaction is understandable.

But it's a pity if they blame Christian fundamentalism on Jesus, and discard him as well. I'm not a Christian, but I have always been impressed by the message of Jesus as it is presented in the four Gospels. He advocated loving and forgiving, and the world is in dire need of that. The only other thinker I have come across with an equally compassionate message is Lao Tzu, the writer of the Tao Te Ching.

Such thinkers need to be read and praised, whatever absurd congregations have misinterpreted them and twisted their messages unrecognizably. I am convinced that if the Christian fundamentalists were to meet Jesus, they would ban him as a non-Christian. If they had the chance they would probably crucify him, too.

Time for a quote, to prove my point. This is from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, its lines vibrant of warm compassion, but also of sweet poetry:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

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 Pope and the whole Catholic church have banned the condom completely for as long as this convenient little aid has been around, but now the present Pope expresses some understanding of its use to protect people from the HIV virus. He seems to regard it as the lesser of two evils:
”In this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more humane way, of living sexuality.”

To the Pope, the rubber is nothing but a step towards the only really proper way of dealing with STD, which seems to be abstinence. Good luck with that.

In Sweden, two women have accused Wikileaks founder Julian Assange of raping them. It's not really a question of rape, but in one case the condom broke, and that woman suspected it was “intentional”, whatever Assange's motif might have been for that, and in the other case the woman obviously agreed to sex without a condom, and later regretted it, demanding that Assange checks himself for STD. Wouldn't it be simpler if she did it first?

When the industrially produced condom was spread around the world in the late 19th century, the ruling classes argued for restriction, so that the lower classes wouldn't misuse it. How to misuse a condom? The rulers felt that the masses would become morally corrupt if they could have intercourse without the risk of pregnancy. The upper classes, though, were expected to handle it splendidly.

The Catholic church has not deserted the attitude that sex is a sin when indulged in for the pleasure of it, the same way they expect their priests to live in celibacy, whatever the real consequences of this firm rule are – and they are. Fortunately, secular society has moved on.

But secular society, too, carries obsolete and reactionary values, especially regarding sex. So, lately in Sweden the legal use of the term rape has been widened to include a lot of things that we wouldn't normally call rape. A broken condom, a sex act that one of the participants later regrets. Now, it's rape. Naah.

The little bubble of rubber, the balloon of joy, plays trick on us, and reminds us that the moment we speak from indignation is the moment we become our own parodies. Life is a comedy, righteousness is a joke.

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.