Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

There we were. Sunday evening. Watching TV.

Fast and Furious number whatever.

I try to go along with my gorgeous husband’s wishes for something simple and entertaining to watch at the end of the week, something to wind down to, something not too taxing, as I know, we know, that we have pretty busy and complex weekdays.

And so, there we were. Sunday evening. Fast and Furious number whatever.

They all look the same to me, the characters are all the same, the absence of a story identical.

This is where Thomas and I diverge. To him, this is just about the perfect stuff to zone out to. To me, it is the perfect stuff to melt my brain and make me want to tear my hair and gauge my eyes out and pour molten lead into my ears to.

I am completely baffled about why one would want to watch something like that – and why on earth one would want to make something like that in the first place. It’s – vacuous, to say the least. There is simply NOTHING there. To me, the stuff looks like a soulless computer game where every single “character” (the word is actually way too good for the action figures featured in this stuff) looks the same bar the colour of the eyes and possibly the tone of their skin. Even the few females are like male computer figures, more male than the men – they hit harder, fight more furiously, are even tougher and more soulless than the males, with scowls that could outdo the joint scowl of every GI Joe on the entire planet. In some misunderstood attempt at including more women in action movies, they have turned the females into even more one-dimensional versions of the male figures – just with cleavages strategically displayed to claim them as female.

AND – there is NO STORY! NONE. The dialogue, for want of a more approriate word, is as enticing as the conversations of pubescent teenage boys. Are action movies perhaps “written” by such? Because, if these scripts are produced by adult males there is just no hope.

It is so DROSS. So dumb.

So infuriating.

Now the pressing question is – how can I avoid watching another of those in the future? How can I avoid telling Thomas that I would rather poke myself in the eye with a blunt fork for two hours than watch another action movie ever again? After all, he has sat through quite a few of my “intellectual” movies (admittedly checking Facebook continuously on his mobile) for my sake.

Married life is sometimes so complicated.

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The first time I saw the flat I live in now I thought “thank fuck I don’t live in this hell-hole”. What met me was a dark, dank (if large) flat, filled with what to me amounted to no more than junk, and it was dirty. The first time mum saw the flat she pulled me aside and said in shocked tones: “Don’t ever move in here!” But I did.

The rooms have been “reassigned” since then, and some of the hoard has been shifted, but it is essentially the same overcrowded, dirty, ugly space it was. I have failed in my efforts to turn it into a home after my standards. It’s sad. And it makes me sad. And it is a huge contributing factor to my depression.

Mum was an architect. She loved design furniture, and of course she leaned towards airy Scandinavian designs, Bauhaus and modernism. Though our home was by no means pristine – how could it, with two kids, a dog and both parents working? – it had a clear and logical layout and the entire framework was good, as in, the house itself was nicely decorated, painted, the floors were nice, the ceilings, the walls… and the furniture was collected according to mum’s very high standards. Mostly.

There was that one time when dad had spent days clearing out the basement and got rid of stuff mum considered junk (perhaps because it was mostly dad’s junk and included old shoes he’d grown out of during the war but held on to for sentimental reasons, or perhaps it was in case they proved useful, you know, broken old shoes no-one could wear). Then he went to work. At the same time the two little old ladies next door cleared out THEIR basement and threw out several old pieces of furniture. Mum spent the entire afternoon trudging between their heap of junk and our basement, rescuing what she considered gems that she could restore and that would prove oh-so-great, quickly filling up the space dad had worked so hard to clear. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen dad reduced to tears.

So. I come from a line of hoarders. The ability to dump stuff that is of no use, or not acquire new stuff that one really doesn’t need, is not something that was instilled in me as a child. That ability came much later, when Kevin and I had an accident while moving from Edinburgh to London and a lot of our stuff got ruined in the crash. The fact that we walked away with only minor bruises put things into perspective.

Before I moved in with Thomas, however, I lived in a large flat with almost no furniture. The layout was wonderful – you could walk from the hallway to the bedroom to the living room to the office/dining room to the kitchen and get back to the hallway, all in a big circle, and every room had at least one window. There was so much light, and so little furniture, and every morning I would roll out of bed, make a cup of tea and then do my round through the flat with Mischa in tow just enjoying the SPACE and the LIGHT – and the fact that it was so easy to clean and keep neat.

Then mum and dad came to visit. First I had that “touché” moment where mum in awe asked how I kept the place so clean and tidy, then a few weeks later came that other moment when a large lorry arrived with a load of furniture from mum. My grandparents’ sofa, a dining table, six dining chairs, a beautiful, handmade, mahogany sideboard (also from my Danish grandparents), dad’s old mahogany veneer office desk (HUGE!), an old waiting room bench mum had restored herself, the old chest my Norwegian grandfather had used when he went to America to try his luck (I seem to remember dad telling me he even tried his hand as a cowboy in Arizona). The place was suddenly less empty, but as it was so big it easily accommodated all of it and still looked neat and tidy – and cosier.

Then Thomas and I married. I held on to my flat to the end of the contract, half-way dreading the challenge of joining our two households. I knew it would be a nightmare to try to add my old period furniture to the overcrowded mishmash in Thomas’ flat.

And it was.

And it is.

And every day I have moments where I metaphorically bang my head against the wall in despair wondering what I can get rid of to give myself some breathing space. And each time I find something to dump, Thomas fills the freshly liberated spot with empty cardboard boxes, or tools, or motorcycle parts or… Is this some sort of Karma visited upon me because mum got dad to dump his stuff so she could fill it with her kind of stuff?

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And that pretty much sums it up. Their justice system is a shambles, and the country is continuously topping itself where human rights are concerned. Their fear of humans is baffling, to say the least. Because that is all there is. They are terrified of people, women and men, though of course their fear of women is generally more manifestly displayed than their fear of men. Easier to get away with, I suppose. But their continued injustice against Raif Badawi shows how stupidly sceptical and untrusting they are of people in general.

How sad, to run a country based on distrust.

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A friend once gave me a book called “The Dance of Anger”, recommending that I read it and learn to manage my anger. I did. She and I no longer talk.

I am of the persuasion that anger is not actually a bad thing. It is good to be able to admit one is angry and to identify it and let it out from time to time. Hopefully before it ends in murder.

I’m getting close to murder now, however. Since I moved in with Thomas, my anger has slowly mounted to the degree where I wonder where the hell I am supposed to let off steam WITHOUT committing murder. And I feel completely helpless about doing anything about it. Not even “The Dance of Anger” is able to help me there.

I have discovered that I make a shitty extrovert. When I come home at the end of the day, all I want is silence, solitude and the dogs. What I get is Thomas’ hyperactive social engagements and his good-for-nothing son who does NOTHING around the house, complains when Thomas includes him in our dinners (the food is NEVER to his liking) and complains when he is not included and shrugs and says he doesn’t care when asked a) if he would like dinner and b) what would he like? The kid has been asked – and agreed – to do the recycling once a week. He does it at most once a month after a LOT of pressure, and then whines that there is too much for him to carry.

He has been told that he is responsible for his own room. He could see the logic as he yelled at me that I am not his mother (well, thank FUCK for that!). I told him not to treat me like his mother in that case. This includes: I will not set foot in his room. Ever. Also not to resuscitate him when he drowns in his own shit.

Last night the little twat (he is about 1.90) actually accused me of not doing very much around the house. HE accused ME of not doing much. HE, the kid who has NEVER cleaned the toilet or any part of the bathroom, NEVER hoovered anything other than his room (I have a vague recollection of him doing that sometime last year), NEVER wiped any of the kitchen counters, NEVER washed the kitchen floor, NEVER folded a t-shirt, NEVER taken out the recycle paper (not part of his recycle tasks, thus can’t be done by him), NEVER taken out the plastic, NEVER done the weekly shop or contributed to it in any way, who on principle NEVER empties the dishwasher – oh the list goes on and on and on. Apparently, all these things do themselves by magic.

I actually do believe he got a little too close to telling me I should do all the housework (probably including sorting out his room) since I am a woman. His brother managed to say as much once. He lived to regret it. What fucking century do these kids live in? What the fuck did his useless mother teach him?

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The handy*

My shingles is rearing its ugly head, and as I lay contemplating cutting my left leg off to get rid of the ugly black pain pulsating through it I started thinking about my first mobile phone. Anything to get my thoughts off the offended limb.

It was an Ericsson. I’d been fighting off the inevitable for the longest time. Even gone through the phase of having a pager – a Benetton pager, really colourful, which could only be used to send numbers. So Kevin and I had a series of codes we sent each other of which we forgot all but one. But eventually, in early 1999, I gave in and went to the BT Cellnet shop on Princes Street in Edinburgh and got an Ericsson phone with a sim card  and a contract set up on direct debit (the Lifetime, which meant I only paid for the calls and nothing else) – a deal BT Cellnet (O2) later came to regret and terminated in the worst way possible, but that’s another story. I gave in because I discovered that my landlady was inadvertently costing me assistant work by answering the phone thus: “Who? No. SHE IS NOT HERE.” And hung up. Perhaps she was acting out some secret inner wish of getting rid of me.

I still remember my first mobile with a great deal of soppy sentimentality as it gave me the freedom to confidently say: This is my number – you can ALWAYS get hold on me on this. And the then contract was great as it gave me free handset upgrades at regular intervals, couriered to me wherever I was at the time. Ah – BT Cellnet, you were great! Such a shame you had to sell out and become the less than honest O2.

Like all other people who’ve had a mobile for a while, I’ve lost count of how many different handsets I’ve had. But there’s only one that I totally fell in love with on first sight. The Samsung Galaxy Beam. A little heavier and thicker than my then smartphone, it more than made up for it with the coolest gadget I’d ever seen – a beamer! But at the price it was put of my league and I decided to sit it out.

This is where adoring and amazing husband turns up and gets it for my birthday.

At first I was unable to insert my sim card. Turned out that some plonker (understatement of the year award goes to me) had forced a micro-sim card into the sim card slot, and then legged it. That was its first trip back to Samsung for repair.

It is at present on its second return to its roots. Though I was able to insert my sim card when I got it back, it took an unexpected amount of time for the phone to actually recognise that there was a sim card present. Once it did, however, I was willing to abandon my previous, trusty Sony Xperia to the inner recesses of my dusty desk drawer.

Oh, the fun I had! I put various little videos on it for use in my English classes and enjoyed the brief joy of the childish glamour of having a toy no one else had, showing it off with reckless abandon.

Initially it didn’t bother me too much that it kept losing the network. It didn’t really bother me that I had to restart it at least twice before it was able to reconnect. Then it started to bother me. Then bother no longer covered my feelings. Then I got damned close to putting the expensive toy on the nearest tram-line, there being an abundance of those here in Vienna making it possible to satisfy my need to murder on a whim. I took a little extra time to observe when the thing disconnected itself from the world. It seemed to be WHENEVER I ACTUALLY WANTED TO USE IT for something other than showing bits of video. Such as when I wanted to make a call, or when someone wanted to call me, or when I wanted to look up a number, or if I turned on the vibrate function, or… or if I put it in my inside pocket.

I have so far only been able to conclude that the thing is highly heat-sensitive and can’t deal with temperatures over 25°C.

This might explain why there have been sporadic reports of Samsungs suddenly bursting into flame. It seems to have a really low boiling point.

I’m glad I didn’t recycle the Sony. It’s back in action and hasn’t lost the network once. But… I miss my toy. And I’m truly disappointed at the short-lived fun. Because — because I don’t really believe Samsung will be able to fix it. They’re not even continuing the development of the beam phones from what I gather, and then they won’t even work out what they got wrong. I have a dreadful feeling I will get it back with the claim that they’ve fixed it, or that there’s nothing wrong and blahblah… and that it will still only be a fancy, hand-held beamer completely useless as a mobile phone.

And I will be left feeling misunderstood, like the kid with all the fancy toys but who nobody likes.

*This is what people in the German speaking world call their mobile phones. The funny part is that they display total surprise and incomprehension when told that “handy” is an adjective and not a noun in English, and that unless they explain what they mean when they tell you to call on their handy, they are simply leaving a trail of confused English speakers in their wake.

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In the last five months Thomas and I have been at the repeated receiving end of vandalism. We have no choice but to park our bikes on the street. Well, some good-for-nothing who’s failed his motorbike test clearly has it in for bikers as the seats of our bikes have been slashed repeatedly, the brand new rear tyre of my bike was slashed last week, and whatever loser is on the loose out there has also kicked in various parts of our car.

I’m seriously pissed off. There are no eye witnesses, there is no proof that it is the same person doing it all (though I’m fairly sure the seat slasher is the same person as the marks all look so similar). And I should not take it personally as we’re not the only ones this has happened to.

Ok, I’ve accused the slasher of being a failed/envious loser. As the bastard has only targeted real motorbikes and left all adjoining scooters alone, this is what I think. There is a loser on the loose.

Well, here is my solemn wish for his immediate future:

May you get into an argument with some other loser who also has a knife.

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Terrorism? What utter nonsense!

I’m beginning to hate the word “terrorism”. And there is one simple reason. The moment it is uttered, it seems that whatever action has provoked the label, that action is given some sort of political credibility and the doer the power of thought.

And that makes me cringe.

Placing explosives in a crowd with the intent to kill or maim or both is a crime. And that is all it is. Those who commit crimes should be treated as criminals. Nothing more. There is no intelligent or acceptable thought behind it. What Breivik did in Norway, Bin Laden and fellow criminals did on 9/11, and the bombs at the Boston Marathon were all nothing more than crimes by committed common criminals.

They all deserve to be locked up for life and the key thrown away.

And Breivik should not be allowed to visit his mother’s grave. Ever.

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Sunny side down

Last week one of my very best friends died. That’s the worst thing that happened. The emptiness left by his absence is gaping.

Last week I also had “periradikuläre Therapie” – pain+inflammation treatment of the nerve going into my left leg. Long needles stuck into my back and stuff injected. It has made no difference.

Last week I also didn’t get two more jobs I’d applied for.

I wish that voodoo thing with dolls and pins actually worked. I know some people who thoroughly deserve sudden, inexplicable pains.

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I couldn’t make myself write about it: my reactions or my thoughts. From the beginning I have been struck by what a non-entity he is, and delving into analysis only gave disappointing results. Each time I tried to add my two-pennies’ worth I came up with – nothing. And that was awful because that nothing-person, that uneducated nobody, killed 77 people in cold blood. Had he only had the tinsiest bit of charisma, had his arguments been even a little bit good, made some sort of sense, then – well, I’m not sure exactly what then, but as I followed the first two weeks of the trial online via Norwegian media, I was left with this awful feeling of emptiness. 77 people were killed by Nobody.

Then, today, some of my intelligent and wonderful friends on Facebook posted a link to this, and this woman, Professor Janne Haaland Matlary, said exactly what I’ve been quietly thinking. I’m actually going to take the liberty of translating Klassekampen‘s article:

Couldn’t care less about Breivik’s ideology

Warning: Professor of Political Science, Janne Haaland Matlary, thinks that Anders Behring Breivik is historically and politically uninteresting. She warns her colleagues against wasting their time analysing the mass murderer.

“His political influence is zero, the person behind the actions is a zero, why spend so much time and media attention on him?”

This is what the well-known professor of political science, Janne Haaland Matlary, says to Klassekampen. Now she advices her colleagues not to appear as so-called “expert witnesses” in the media.

“It’s poor use of one’s working hours to provide serious analysis of something so primitive. If we take him seriously, we just contribute to give him more attention – which is his real motivation.

It is clear that he believes in his own vision, but this serves more as an alibi for mass murder than political motivation. His ideas are banal while his actions are evil and terrible – why dwell on this?”

Not interesting

Matlary’s view is that Breivik is politically and historically uninteresting, and that political scientists and historians neither can nor should contribute with analysis.

“Compared with other terrorist attacks outside Norway this is without political interest. His political understanding and reasoning is primitive and uninteresting: there is no one who really believes there is a Muslim invasion of Europe. So this is not something worth examining for a political scientist.

The terror is also without political persuasion in Norway as such. It is not ideologically interesting, for either the political Right or Left, simply because he has such crazy ideas that completely lack realism. He lives in a fantasy world and is as such without public interest.”

– But can’t experts contribute with the knowledge that there are others that share his political understanding and views?

“There is no empirical evidence to support any of his views. His world is Manichean – he juxtaposes Muslims and Christians and creates bizarre dividing lines partly based on race theory. His analysis is so stupid and primitive and completely lacks a realistic reference frame, and he has no movement behind him.”

Careful experts

The University of Oslo has set up a list of people who can comment on the court case for the media. At the Department of Political Science there is no wish to add people to the list.

“We were contacted by the information department and asked if we wanted to contribute to the list of experts with names and contact details. At that point I contacted 3-4 of the people already on the list and said it was not a good idea to join as we are not general experts on this entire case,” says institute leader Øystein Østerud.

He is of the opinion that the case has been coloured by the use of quasi-experts and does not want political scientists from the university to contribute to this.

“The goal must be that those best suited contribute, rather than that we create a list of experts that are to make statements on this and that”, he says. He points to the intern Anders Ravik Jupskås as a positive example of how this can be done.

Not political terror

Matlary emphasises that her criticism first and foremost is directed at the media, and not at colleagues who chip in as experts. She still feels that political science has little to contribute with.

“In this case it is the psychiatrists that have the most insight to give and there is not as much to be gained from political science. To us, Islamic terror, or the IRA-terrorist who is motivated by political goals, is of far greater interest. Breivik’s goal is himself,” she states.

“The case is influenced by journalists who constantly have to come up with something new. Foreign press covered the first week and pretty much wrapped it up after that. Ten weeks of daily news coverage only contributes to the fame of the killer.”

– Is it not a little too easy to claim that Breivik is a primitive loser?

“I think this is the reality. He never even completed school, has no real job, stayed at home in the boys room – in short: he is not a successful 33-year-old. So he compensated by creating his virtual world. He is without doubt mentally ill and evil, an extreme narcissist who enjoys all the media attention.”


What Matlary says here pretty much sums up my thoughts. Not many thoughts I must admit. Thoughts that can be summed up as – “He’s a complete non-entity, a nobody, and this court case should have been held behind closed doors.” And then the strange feeling that those killed on the 22 July 2011 had deserved to be killed by somebody with at least something going for him – and that’s a nutty thought because they should never have been killed in the first place, but – do you get this strange sentiment?

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This was first posted on openDemocracy this morning. Big thank you to Tony Curzon Price and his team for letting me blurt my grief so publicly (even more publicly than usual).

The poverty of words is striking right now. As I sit here I stream news from the Norwegian broadcasting corporation NRK over the internet while trying to come to terms with the enormity of the crimes committed by Anders Behring Breivik on Friday 22 July 2011. 93 people are now confirmed dead. Several more are badly injured in hospitals. He actually managed to kill nearly a sixth of the kids at the Labour Party’s youth camp on Utøya. He killed them with a coldness I am unable to fathom.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. And millions have been starved and killed through other bestial methods throughout our bloody European history. I lived in London for a few years and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. I’ve been one of those alerting the bus driver to an unattended bag, causing a traffic jam in London’s busy streets. In London you get used to being a small piece of the total randomness of bomb threats. When 7/7 happened, I was on Liverpool Street Station 20 minutes before the blasts went off. The Internet and mobile network broke down with people’s attempts to get hold of each other and my own mum panicked when she was unable to get hold of me. Millions in London can make similar statements. It’s almost no big deal. It doesn’t make it right or good.

But this? This is unprecedented. Since WWII, there have been no major mass deaths in Norway. It is known as one of the world’s most peaceful nations. Norwegian negotiators were behind the Oslo Deal. This is the country where King Olav could join the rest of the population using public transport during the oil crisis in 1973. My father was asked by foreign guests: “What about security? Where are his body guards?”, to which he answered with a smile “He has 4 million of those.”

Since then, the population has increased — partly thanks to our immigrants — the exposure to the outside world has grown, xenophobia has grown, the royals have more and clearly visible body guards. Still we managed to keep conflict on a discussion level. If you had an opinion you were free to express it as long as you did so in words. So though security in Norway too has grown over the years, we never really felt threatened by — anything, really. As for me, whenever I visited, it was my childhood paradise I visited. My country of birth and upbringing became my holiday resort, the place I went to rest my soul and get a break from the somewhat busier and pressurized life I usually lead.

Now one of “ours” has turned it all upside down. The threat didn’t come from without, it came from within. A good looking man in his early thirties, still very young, turned himself into the worst mass murderer Norway has ever seen, and now he sits in police interrogations and calmly justifies his actions. And I don’t think there is a single Norwegian who in some small way would mind seeing him hung, quartered and drawn in the most medieval fashion after the horrors he inflicted on hundreds of kids assembled on an island, and randomly in Oslo. At the same time we all know how futile that would be. It wouldn’t bring back a single one of the lives he destroyed.

Since Friday 22 July, I have watched the news and listened to hour-long programmes analysing Mr Behring Breivik’s actions and personality, none of which have brought me any closer to understanding how such a normal person could turn so completely evil and without even the slightest empathy. I don’t think there is a single book on personality disorders that can make me understand or accept his complete liberation from a conscience. I am not used to people with no conscience. I don’t think I have ever met one. Forgive me: I am naïve. But then again, I am Norwegian.

I feel closer and yet farther away from Norway than ever. I know no other Norwegians here in Vienna. Not because there are none here, our paths just don’t cross. And so I suffer ever so slightly from “absent survivor’s grief”, if there is such a thing. I spent Saturday bursting into tears the more I read and heard about the killing spree on Utøya. I read Parbleen Kaur’s first-hand account and cried more. I translated it to English [previous post], and cried. My two dogs were deeply upset and very clingy all day. The skinny dog refused to eat, the fat one is a comfort eater so he stole the skinny one’s food before he went back to whimpering again. My fiancé declared his support on Facebook and gave me lots of hugs, and as friends and family reported in as safe I cried some more.

I and mine are safe. But like all others from Oslo, I know people who either heard the bombs in Oslo or know victims of the shooting. I have several friends who work close to the government district as well as in the government offices themselves. This is the bomb-randomness I knew from London. Also when there, and during the IRA time before I moved there, I got used to contacting my nearest and dearest to make sure they were ok whenever a bomb went off. I never thought I would have to do that with my Norwegian friends and family. I am relieved that they are well. I am deeply grieved that others are not. I am extremely angry that the madman targeted children, young people who would probably have had active political lives ahead of them, our future politicians and leaders.

And the more I read of his “manifesto”, the angrier I get. Because these are not really the writings of a madman. I can’t even write him off as a lunatic! His self-aggrandising writings are not actually ramblings, they are considered, based in history — albeit his own interpretation of it — and he has given himself a ridiculously grand place in contemporary history. He seems to think that he will hold a position as some sort of heroic soldier. A martyr of Christianity and Norwegian nationalism. It bears a frightening resemblance to militant Islamism. Does he expect a load of virgins when he dies too?

Speaking of dying: I am proud to be Norwegian when I see my friends’ reaction to a Facebook survey asking if Norwegian law should be changed to once more allow the death penalty. They have replied with a resounding NO! Then he would in some twisted way have won his one-man battle against humanity. Norwegian law has 21 years as maximum penalty for murder. If that is all he gets, he would still have a fair amount of life left in him on his release. Do I think 21 years for Mr Behring Breivik is enough? Not by a mile! But I shall not take the law into my own hands. Norwegian justice is as it is for a reason and I shall follow the process against him closely. I have the right to express my agreement or disagreement with his sentence when it comes, but until then I trust with confidence in my fellow countrymen, our justice system, police, and the vast majority of Norwegians who are equipped with a healthy conscience and lots of common sense.

Today I really wish I could hug a Norwegian. As Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme said in his memorial service in Oslo: “We are a people in mourning.” So we are. Wherever we are.

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