Jag vill vara din Margareta

Vännen Martin R bidrar igen:

En del av nöjet med att lyssna på pop är att luska ut texternas dolda innebörder. Vi behöver bara titta snabbt på Beatles för att hitta exempel: “Please Please Me” tjatar om fellatio, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” prisar LSD och “Sexy Sadie” klandrar Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Min fru påpekade nyligen att en av svenskarnas mest älskade dansbandslåtar är en oförblommerad skildring av transvestitism och homosexuell åtrå: Sten & Stanleys ”Margareta” från 1976, med text av J.E. Karlzon. Se bara: vartenda ord har en annan syftning än den man först tror.
Ingen vet det jag vet, en hemlighet.
Någon som jag tycker om har gjort mig het.
Kan inte hjälpa att jag känner det så här.

Åh, den blick som jag fick sa mig att,
Om jag vill kan jag få tusenfalt.
Och nu börjar jag förstå att jag är kär…

Jag vill vara din ska du veta,
Bara vara din Margareta
Står här vid din dörr, kär som aldrig förr,
men vågar inte ringa.

Pulsarna dom bränner så heta.
Känner du som jag, Margareta? [Jfr ”Jag, Claudius”]
Blickarna du gav, var dom till ett svar
eller ej?

Och jag går hem igen med min bukett [och handväska].
Det jag vill säga dig är inte lätt.
Kan inte hjälpa att jag känner det så här…

Ingen annan vet om min hemlighet mer än jag.
Queertolkningar av dansbandstexter är utan tvivel en litteraturanalytisk guldgruva.


Passing on

My setting up a home of my own unexpectedly brought me back in contact with my childhood best friend J, whom I hadn't seen in a long time. (There seems to be a strong instinct in single men to look after each other.)

J's father passed away some time ago, so he had inherited the family manor—big, decrepit and filled with the accretions of generations of packrats. As a child I had spent almost as much time there as in my own home.

With sorrow J had accepted he had to get rid of the house and its contents and now finally he had found buyers well-heeled enough to afford to (hopefully tastefully) renovate the building and the grounds (now just small strips around the building itself rather than the large and unkempt orchard my child-I used to run through to reach the house—the orchard in turn just a corner of the lands that the family had commanded in their heyday at the turn of the previous century).

This weekend was the last that J would have with the house and he invited me to share it with him. I biked over, pedalling on roads so familiar, yet in many places lined with houses that had been crammed in between the ones I remembered. The gravel path up to the house seemed not to have been filled in since I helped shovel gravel into the deepest potholes ages ago. Externally the manor looked just as I remembered it, the same horseshoe doorknocker on the door. I didn't need to use it, J had been expecting me and opened the door as soon as I had locked the bike. (It was imperative to lock the bike when I was 10 too, but I have to have a much sturdier lock these days.)

We went through the house room by room. There was enough of the original furniture still unremoved that it was easy to fill in the missing pieces—very little had been changed in the last 25 years. I peeked into the closet in J's old boys room and was immediately transported back to my tweens: the stacks of Svenska MAD, Märklin catalogues, audio cassettes, and Matchbox armoured cars were still there, overlaid with a slightly later sprinkling of 3.5" flopppies.

Stepping out of the serving passage I felt the smell of sun-warmed wood and remembered how we played ”Den försvunna diamanten” in summers so long ago.

In the end I had to leave, carrying some mementoes J kindly gave me, for a few hours having been back to other days; perhaps happier such.


Word of the Week: Christmas

Last week I lamented the very few words that could be created from the letters in “Funny Boy”. Well, some years ago I chanced upon a little booklet with fun games and puzzles for the tots to play so as to let their parents sleep in on Christmas Day. One of these was to make as many words as possible from the letters in “Christmas”. Of course I couldn't resist trying it and my goodness what fertile wordland that was:
a, aim, aims, air, airs, am, arm, arms, art, arts, as, ass, at, cam, cams, car, cars, cart, carts, cash, cast, casts, cat, cats, chair, chairs, char, charm, charms, chars, chart, charts, chasm, chasms, chat, chats, chit, chits, christ, cram, crams, crash, hair, hairs, ham, hams, harm, harms, hart, harts, hat, hats, him, his, hiss, hit, hits, I, is, it, mac, macs, mar, march, mars, marsh, mart, marts, mash, mass, mast, mat, match, math, maths, mats, mirth, miss, mist, mists, racist, racists, ram, rams, rash, rat, rats, rich, rim, rims, sari, saris, scam, scams, scar, scars, scat, scram, scrams, sham, shams, shat, shim, shims, shirt, shirts, shit, shits, sir, sirs, sit, sits, smart, smarts, smash, smirch, smith, smiths, stair, stairs, star, starch, stars, stash, stir, stirs, tar, tars, this, tic, tics, tram, trams, trash, trim, trims.
(And we can add some proper names: Amir, Chris, Christa, Cris, Irma, Ma, Mach, Marc, Mia, Rita, Sam, Tim.)

I think the next step would be to write a story about Christmas using all those words.


Why indeed?

For some reason the comp.text.tex news group gets regular attacks from people of precarious mental health who wish to tell the world of the secret monitors the lizard people have installed in their TV sets. Occasionally perverse curiosity makes me read a screed—it is painful in several senses so I gingerly let my eye skim over the sentences as if trying not to inhale the fumes. However, in a recent word salad, the following shone out:
why is their hair growing out of my ears?

It might be a simple typo, but taken with the rest of the rant it might just as well be intended as written. It does make you wonder, doesn't it?


Veckans ord: Funny Boy

I slutscenen i Funny Boy har publiken till The Funny Boy Show tävlat i att skicka in så många ord som möjligt användande bokstäverna i ”Funny Boy”. Martin Ljung, i fantastisk faster-förklädnad, har vunnit genom att dels ”låna” bokstäver, dels framställa ord som är helt okända för Svenska Akademin.
Nyfiken tänkte jag ta reda på vilka ord som egentligen går att få fram ur ”Funny Boy”. Besvärande få, visar det sig: bo, bon, by, byn, fy, nu, ny.
Nu är det ju förstås kanske inte så lätt att få till svenska ord ur två engelska, men det blir inte så rackarns många på engelska heller: bonny, boy, bun, bunny, buoy, buy, by, fob, fun, funny, no, nob, noun, nub, nun, on, yo, yob, yon, you.
En klart knepig tävling. Nån av läsarna som kan komplettera med fler ord?


Get snipped

Even Dagens Nyheter has realised that the developed (i e resource-consuming) countries are where population limitation is most important to enforce. Thomas Anderberg has written an article.


I was there

Why was I there?

The intrusion into my privacy, which privacy is dear to me, is one thing, though I suspect that I personally for the most part am insignificant, blond and paleskinned enough not to arouse the curiosity of data analysts, but at some point it is even more important to me that the proposed communications interception law is yet another step in a culture of fear. One can make—and certainly they are made—elaborate conspiracy theories about how this fear is nourished by shady characters in order to further their nefarious goals, but I do not think such conspiracies are necessary, Hanlon's razor applies here as elsewhere. Peter Englund has written about the internal logics of the situation, where the ability and possibility to eavesdrop on all communication necessitates that one does so. The reasons for this can then be made up afterwards. The reason currently in fashion is terrorism. In the previous century it would have been Bolshevism.

Lately I have been reading up on the origins of the Western European dictatorships of the 20th Century. It has struck me how the threat of Communism was used to get the influential people: the industrial magnates, the clergy, the army, to go along with the numerically very small movements of Phalangism, Fascism, Nazism, … One could perhaps argue that this external anti-Communism even abetted the totalitarian dictatorship of the Soviet Union by justifying the oppression as defence against infiltration by external enemies—but yet again, by the logic of the situation, an enemy would have been found if none had naturally presented itself. And thus these attempts to stem the awful plans of the enemy have caused the violent (or indirect) deaths of tens of millions of people throughout the 20th Century. The fending off of fear seems to be worse than the actual object of fear.

This is already happening again—or perhaps still, but now with a different label for the phenomenon to be feared. Certainly international terrorism has not yet managed to kill as many as the at least hundred thousand that are now dead in the War on Terror, and almost the same number of people have been imprisoned without trial, in many cases subject to torture even according to the rather lax standards of the US President.

This is why I oppose the eavesdropping law, as I see it as yet another attempt to play on fear, in such a way that the costs in all likelihood will greatly exceed the costs of any attack that may be perpetrated.

And finally, the law does of course nothing in the way of actually protecting Sweden against electronic threats. Should we be subject to a concerted cyber-attack, such as the one recently waged against Estonia, we will be caught with our trousers at just as inconvenient a height as before the enactment of the disputed law. So just whose security are we concerned with?

(Apparently I am very angry—my readability index is lower than ever.)


Veckans ord: Starköl

Båtars undersidor är uppenbart viktiga för deras fart, men man ser dem sällan eftersom de ju ligger under vatten. Som tur är står segelbåtar minst halva året på en trailer uppe på land, så därför kan vi studera denna fina bild av en Starköl:


More growing-up

So, the Only-begotten and Infinitely-beloved Daughter graduated from 9th grade. As a first step all 9th-graders in the school and their teachers had a dinner and a ball earlier this week. Parents were requested to help as bouncers and of course I responded, as always when Duty calls.

But, as I was leaving the office, the phone rang and I got stuck for an hour, helping a computer illiterate (but at least properly contrite) user somewhere several time zones away troubleshoot an installation of the company's software. So, as I arrived at the site, the dance had already begun. First, though, I had to make my way through the Breathalyzer-equipped squad of parents at the door. I was recognised and let into the building.

In the temporary headquarters I was given the plans for the evening and then I went out to reconnaitre the site. I noted with some consternation that the songs the DJ was playing were much the same as were popular when I was their age. A mother confirmed that there is an 80s revival underway—her son had expressed surprise that she was so into modern music that she knew the words to his favourite songs…

All the boys were very conservatively dressed in suits and ties (except for the one rebellious one dressed like Alexander De Large). The girls wore equally conservative dresses, but had by then given up on their high-heeled shoes and almost to a woman moved around barefoot.
The Daughter, dressed in a charming self-made combination of black tulle and latex, and her posse graciously came to greet me but then flitted away for other entertainment and I went on perimeter patrol. All was well and the returning long-distance reconnaisance platoon had nothing to report.

Groups of party-goers were starting to leave around 22:00, some in taxis, but at least one group of girls in brightly-coloured dresses, their shoes in their hands, sat at the tram stop like a lineup of exotic birds.

Eventually the Daughter and her friends also left for homes or other more interesting places. I stayed on a while longer, but as the number of parents soon outnumbered the dwindling number of still-dancing children, I was eventually dismissed.

And today was the graduation ceremony proper.

It started with the school choir leading the assembly in ”Den blomstertid nu kommer ”, which surely must be blasphemy, obviously it should be sung last.

Prizes were handed out.

As deservedly as could be wished for the Daughter received the prize for best results in Swedish and I whooped loudly from my balcony perch. The headmistress fumbled a bit with the words and awarded prizes for “fine results in spite of their hard work” to a couple of pupils. There was much rejoicing among the comrades of those who received prizes.

The choir came on stage again and a girl sung “Fields of Gold”, rather choked with emotion, and several girls, both in the audience and the choir itself, made weird flapping motions with their hands that I eventually deduced were attempts to dry their eyes without mussing up their makeup. I at my first row seating just had to lean forward and no-one could see the state of my eyes.

More songs, but eventually the classes withdrew to their home rooms for the handing out of grades (the Daughter points out she got even better grades than her brother, I am insanely proud), saying of goodbyes etc. The farewells grew increasingly protracted and eventually the Daughter sent the family off while she remained with her friends for yet a while.


Jag har en stol som tillhört Brigitte Bardot

Den gode Martin R levererar följande historia:

En god vän till min far berättade en historia om sin nu tonåriga dotter och vådan av att lära sig fel från början.

Tidigt, redan när flickan var knappt två år, hade hon lärt sig hela alfabetet med hjälp av ett bokstavspussel. Några år senare visade det sig dock vara ovanligt svårt för henne att forma ord av bokstäverna hon kunnat så länge. Hur hon än försökte kunde hon inte begripa hur man läste.

Skälet var namnen på bokstäverna som pusslet hade lärt henne. Detta stod klart för mor & far en dag när dottern påpekade att de hade stavat fel på en pojkes namn.

”Nej nej, Ville stavar med väderkvarn, inte med toalettdörr!”


Publicly-funded art

I'm not too sure about Get Out Clause's claim that they couldn't afford a video crew for this video—for the quality presented they could easily have used a cheap video camera operated by one of their mates—but the social commentary in performing in front of surveillance cameras and then asking for the footage under the Data Protection Act is absolutely brill.

H/t Ars Geek.


I foresee ergonomics issues

My first idea when I got the opportunity to work with the VPL DataGlove was to create a virtual keyboard. My plan was that it should be able to edit all aspects of the keyboard layout—the precise keys, where they were located in space and to have nifty functions to edit the layout so that one didn't necessarily have to lay out each key individually. To my disappointment the position sensors on the glove had neither the resolution nor speed necessary for typing, nor did the software handle collision detection well for so many objects, so when I realised that even a numerical keypad would require keys several centimetres across that could be pressed only once every few seconds or so, I gave up the idea.

Now I'm sorely tempted by the Virtual Laser Keyboard. Just the thing—a perfectly “soft” keyboard with optical tracking and wireless connection to your computer/PDA/mobile phone. Unfortunately the specs only say state that it has a QWERTY layout, so the risk is that the keyboard layout is locked in ROM, rather than being configurable, which would be a pity.

Then of course, there is the issue of typing on an unyielding surface, which brings down speed and accuracy, but I still could imagine trying it out.


Veckans ord: skinklåda

En skink och dess lådaJag har ibland funderat på att skaffa mig en ödla som husdjur, som t ex en blåtungad skink. Något överraskande visar det sig att man kan skicka dem som paket via budfirmor. Att göra en skinklåda för transport är inte så svårt: En stadig kartong med gott om stötdämpande material, kylklampar eller värmepåsar beroende på förväntad temperatur under transporten och själva skinken i en kraftig tygpåse. Fast jag är lite mjäkig, så jag tror jag skulle föredra en lite mindre klaustrofobisk transport från en djuraffär i närheten i stället.


The Order of Events

Once when I was talking with my mother the subject of “Where were you when you heard that Kennedy had been killed?” came up.
“Oh, I remember it so well, we were at Grandma's with you and your brother when they said it on the wireless.”
[headexplode] “What!? I wasn't even born when Kennedy was killed!”
[confused] “Sure you were.”
“John F Kennedy was killed in 1963!”
“John? I'm talking about Robert.”

Lesson: precision.


Civilization spreading

Even Turkey has started to accept the concept of clean air, by forbidding smoking in enclosed public spaces. Now, if they'd manage to rein in their military too, they could well join the EU as far as I'm concerned.