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    Meanwhile, in the forgotten countries

    My friend Ingeborg, a very talented reporter and photographer, is visiting Hebron and the West Bank these days. She writes stories to Norwegian newspapers, but she also blogs about it in English and Norwegian at Den dejlige tid.

    photo: Ingeborg Refsnes

    While the meeting in Annapolis was happening, there was street fighting and clashes in Hebron, leaving at least 24 people injured. On the same day, Israeli fighter jets killed two Hamas members and injured 10 people.

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    Elephants in Porcelain Shops

    I'm breathless. The Republican primary debates in the US really makes our local right wing parties seem wonderful. They are coherent, realistic and humane. The most interesting thing in these videos is almost seeing the crowd that the candidates have to pander to. Check out the question marked "Do you believe every word in the Holy Bible?" Or the guy who asks the candidates what kind of guns they have. (McCain, knowing he has to answer, and probably hating every second of pandering to people like this sucks it up and says "I've used guns in Vietnam. I know how to use a gun. I don't currently own a gun." Poor guy.) It's like watching a horror movie, only real. When they say that the Christian fundamentalists have gotten control of the GOP, they weren't kidding. Also note what makes the crowd applaud.

    And then, check out question 8. "What three federal programs would you cut?" Watch, as with one fell stroke, they cut away the dept. of Education, the Dept. of Energy and then go all one-upmanship on each other: "I'm gonna cut the Dept. of Education!" "Yeah, well I'm going to cut even MORE departments!" "Yeah, well, I'M GOING TO CUT THE IRS!" "WELL I'M GOING TO CUT EVERYTHING, EVEN MYSELF. LOOK, I'M SLASHING MY ARMS WITH A KNIFE. THE BLOOD! THE BLOOD! THE DARKNESS COMETH! COME, DARK ONE!" Or anyway, that's what it sounded like to me. These people are politically crazy. Cut the department of education, social security and the IRS? Seriously? You can say that at the top level of American politics and not get laughed out of office?

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    Lately, every time I've made tea, I've thought of George Orwell.

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    From the Dept. of You Can't Make This Stuff Up

    My friend M, the visa applicant, informs me of this wonderful form:
    A visa may not be issued to persons who are within specific categories defined by law as inadmissible to the United States (except when a waiver is obtained in advance). Is any of the following applicable to you?

    * Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty or other similar legal action? Have you ever unlawfully distributed or sold a controlled substance(drug), or been a prostitute or procurer for prostitutes?

    Yes No

    * Have you ever been refused admission to the U.S., or been the subject of a deportation hearing or sought to obtain or assist others to obtain a visa, entry into the U.S., or any other U.S. immigration benefit by fraud or willful misrepresentation or other unlawful means? Have you attended a U.S. public elementary school on student (F) status or a public secondary school after November 30, 1996 without reimbursing the school?

    Yes No

    * Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?

    [This one is my favourite. Ed.]

    Yes No

    * Have you ever violated the terms of a U.S. visa, or been unlawfully present in, or deported from, the United States?

    Yes No

    * Have you ever withheld custody of a U.S. citizen child outside the United States from a person granted legal custody by a U.S. court, voted in the United States in violation of any law or regulation, or renounced U.S. citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxation?

    Yes No

    * Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or ever been a drug abuser or addict?

    [although this one is pretty good, too.]

    Yes No
    While a YES answer does not automatically signify ineligibility for a visa, if you answered YES you may be required to personally appear before a consular officer.

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    A Bluffer’s Guide to My MA Thesis

    In honour of my poor friends in Bergen who are handing in their MA theses tomorrow (and therefore probably sitting up tonight either writing the last 8 to 12 pages or deleting the last 20 to 30 unnecessary pages, if I know them right), have handed in their theses (you guys rock!), I’m going to start writing that series of posts I’ve been promising forever. It’s going to be a sort of summary of the main arguments in my thesis and probably also a record of what I would have done differently today.

    The title of my thesis can be translated as

    Text, Thought, Time: The Weblog As Essayistic Process.


    Anyway – I’ll break it down by chapter, meaning that the series will be in 6 parts. Expect some serious delays between parts.

    Chapter 1 – Introduction


    My thesis originated in a strange experience I had of not being able to adequately describe certain texts. For someone like me, whose education consists mainly in developing a vocabulary to discuss what texts are, what they do and how they do it, these kinds of experiences are interesting, and should always be noticed and investigated.

    The texts, obviously, were my daily dose of weblogs. Since around 99-00 I had been reading a greater and greater variety of blogs online (only some of which are in my sidebar now), and they had become an essential part of my daily reading, somewhere between the papers and the novels and the theory, I followed a small truckload of blogs through my feedreader. Not being able to describe this big a chunk of my reading seemed like an inadequate state of affairs for a comp.lit. major. Why was my morning paper easier to analyse than, say, the Daily Kos.

    The blogs, at their best, seemed to be rich and complex literary texts, but still managed to evade my theoretical apparatus. On the one hand, I could easily, with a bit of work look at the individual post and use my vocabulary to describe that post. I could describe the literary techniques and tropes it used, discuss the thoughts it expressed or criticise the language with which it did these things. On the other hand, there was a huge gap between these descriptions and the full effect of the text. A lot of what these texts did and how they did it remained elusive.

    At first, I thought this was a medial problem. I could describe the text, but not the mediation of it. If I adequately described the new media, I figured, things would work out just fine and dandy. But since content and media are not separate entities, this is obviously not the case. I needed to look at the way in which the media and the text affected each other. Eventually I decided that the medial structures were provoking or encouraging a new and blog-specific mode of writing which could be analysed effectively with a combination of media analysis and literary theory. So I still wanted to keep my perspective rooted in literary theory. I had a hunch – soon to be confirmed - that there was something there that blog studies seemed to be ignoring or underplaying.

    So my project, as I outlined it in this first chapter, was to attempt to create a conceptual vocabulary for describing the weblog as a literary form. (Aside: I use “form” here instead of “genre” or “media” for reasons which I will get into in excruciating detail in chapter 2).

    The fulcrum I found that enabled me to shift these bits of vocabulary around was essay theory. One night, having browsed an online collection of Montaigne’s Essais and a selection of blogs, it dawned on me that these texts actually had a lot in common: the focus on process; the intellectual restlessness; the love of quotation, of other texts, of the randomness of things read coming together and the verbal and intellectual playfulness - these were all superficial qualities shared by blogs and the essay. I found that these superficial qualities actually signalled a deeper relationship of methodology, composition and structure which I wanted to explore and use to develop a theoretical vocabulary to describe blogs as literary entities and then use in practice to analyse and criticise some blogs.

    1.2. Definition

    What follows is an attempt to define blogs. I’ll just skip lightly over this part, because you, the reader, already knows what a blog is. You read blogs, and blogs, being such a diverse and heterogenous phenomenon, are more easily described by reading lots of blogs. They are a set of practices and codes which mutate constantly and therefore are hard - indeed, impossible - to pin down. Just think of how much YouTube or Flickr, for instance, have changed what blogs are and what they do.

    Anyway, I run roughshod across some medial definitions – the topology of front page, archives, permalinks, datemarkings, reverse chronological presentation, etc. etc. and I introduce a lot of vocabulary that you already probably know, in case the reader didn't.

    These are the bare bones of formal, medial conventions necessary for something to be described as a blog (I strip the definition down as far as I can). They remain inadequate to describe what blogs do. As Steven Himmer says in his article “The Labyrinth Unbound: Weblogs as Literature”, btw the only article I have found which specifically engages weblogs as literary texts (and an interesting one), this technical definition of blogs is inadequate:

    (...) [T]he structural and technical definitions many in the weblogging community focus on fall equally short of describing what is a complex, earnest, and distinct literary form. In other words, it is insufficient to explore the weblog exclusively at the level of content, and equally insufficient to focus wholly on the technical delivery of that content. Accounting for the diversity of weblogs and webloggers—yet still maintaining some larger sense of what they have in common—requires instead a careful look both at what weblogs do, and how they do it for both writers and readers.
    Instead, an adequate definition of the blog will explore both form and content and the interplay between the technical possibilities inherent in the form, as well as the limitations, and how this contributes to the possibility for a wide variety of literary modes. In the by now fairly canonic (ask Google) definition of 'weblog', Jill Walker uses both technical and generic traits of the form:

    Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers. Examples of the *genre exist on a continuum from *confessional, online *diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. (...)

    Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

    Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days, or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open-ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing (...).

    I don’t think that thinking of blogs as a genre is a good idea (and neither does Jill, despite some statements in this definition), but in order to say anything interesting about blogs, we need to descend from undifferentiated formal descriptions into qualitiative subsets of the great quantitative mass (unlike certain people I could think of). Btw, see also this discussion of the blog as medium, genre or format in which Alvaro Ramirez argues that blogging is not a medium but a format. I’m still not entirely sure whether I agree with him or not, but it’s an interesting argument.

    So while I have to admit I sort of detest the very concept of genre, if you tie me to a chair and beat me I might eventually start talking about the class of blogs I discuss in the thesis as a sort of genre. More on this, as I say, in chapter 2.

    1.2. The weblog as literature.

    (yes - i have two sections numbered 1.2. in my thesis - what of it?)

    In this section, I defend the fact that I consider the blog to be an emergent trait of contemporary literature. Are blogs literature? Short answer: yes. Longer answer: yes, duh.

    Ok, ok. First, there’s the argument from media: all media that can convey text can be literary (if you expand your definitions of “text” and “literary” sufficiently here, you can swallow the world – your sense data as text, your interpretation of the world as narrative, for instance). So the blog can be literary, because it can publish literary text. For instance, there are blogs dedicated to publishing epistolary novels in the novel’s real-time. Dracula is a good example. If you publish literature in a blog it’s still literature. That’s the duh part. Especially since there is now a sort-of-consensus that all language is literary (see e.g. Triztan Todorov’s genre theory).

    Steven Himmer wants to go further than this, and argues that blogs are specifically literary because of their formal traits:

    Calling a weblog “literary” does not require content that is about literature or even content that aims to be literature. It is not an attempt at categorizing one weblog and its author as more worthwhile in a canonical sense than any other. To the contrary, I propose that every weblog can be considered literary in the sense that it calls attention not only to what we read, but also to the unique way we read it. The weblog is (to paraphrase Colin MacCabe) the performed result of a code of particular techniques (...). The weblog collapses many of the common assumptions made about texts, as it complicates the distinction between author and audience through the multivocality of both direct commenting, and the reader’s ability to reorder the narrative in myriad ways. Owing to its ongoing creation over an undefined period of time, the weblog becomes a text that constantly expands through the input of both readers and writers. This absence of a discrete, “completed” product makes the weblog as a form resistant to the commoditization either of itself, or of any one particular interpretation.
    While I find this to be an interesting argument and almost agree with it (I do agree with many of Himmer's other points here, and will return to them in chapter 2), some days I think it’s a bit of a watering-down of the concept of literature. While it can easily be argued that the formal characteristics of blogs are aesthetic or literary presentation techniques/tropes, which is Himmer’s central point, I would also like to describe the generic traits of certain kinds of blogging in terms of literature in something of the traditional sense of literature. (By traditional, I mean from the 20th century.) So instead, I think of blogs as media that encourage certain types of context simply because they are well-suited to presenting certain forms of text and not others. For instance, the link + commentary genre which blogging started out as: blogging is probably the best possible medium for conveying that sort of text. But that’s an easy example. Just wait until chapter 3, where I get all renaissance humanist on you.

    And needless to say, I would strenuously argue that these kinds of writing I am talking about here are within the boundaries of literature by all modern standards, though sometimes it moves into the no-man’s land between literature, experience and science, or into something more like free conceptual play, like the humanist essay. But that's the style these days and if all the cool kids are doing it, why shouldn't the blog be allowed to do it, and why shouldn't we be allowed to talk about it?

    1.3. Convergence

    Between the rather tacky So 90's! covers of Hypertext 2.0., George Landow has an argument which I like. He argues for what he calls a convergence between theory and practice occurring between newer theoretical discourses – deconstruction, post-structuralism, Deleuzianism, neo-pragmatism, etc. on the one hand and hypertext and what we would now call the internet on the other. In short, the global hypertext is starting to do in very specific, practical ways what theorists have been arguing that all text is doing conceptually or linguistically. This leads to a situation in which one has to abandon “conceptual systems founded upon ideas of center, margin, hierarchy and linearity, and replace them with ones of multi-linearity, nodes, links and networks.” (p. 2) Mmm. Post-structuralicious!

    My method takes this convergence as a model. I use hypertext theory in order to understand how the internet and the blogging format/media/whatever interplay in the production of meaning, and I take some established literary theory – particularly essay theory and certain post-structuralist ideas about text and notions of the public sphere lifted from Habermas – in studying the literary techniques deployed in blogging. I will then try to study or create a convergence between these two conceptual apparati. (Is that the word? Apparati? Apparatuses?)

    1.4 & 1.5.: meaninglessly formal drivel

    In these two sections I first explain why I chose the blogs I did (short answer: I liked them and they complement each other in many interesting ways) and outline the contents of the following six chapters, which I am not going to do here.

    1.6. (Full disclosure)

    The chapter ends with a little aside which doesn’t really enter into the rest of the argument, but which should be noted for formal reasons. It’s an interesting methodological conundrum: I am a co-author of both the texts I am going to be analysing, since I comment a bit in both blogs. Not a lot, but I am there. I participated in creating the work. In at least one central exchange of comments, which I analyse, in one of the works, I am an active participant. So does that stop my impartiality?

    Well, I would say first that impartiality is boring and that I am no more or less impartial than I would be had I not participated in the writing of the work. Some people would say yes, I suppose, but they are probably crabby old men who couldn’t make a hyperlink if their life depended on it. My argument is as follows:

    There might be those who think that it is not unproblematic from an ethic of academic perspective to analyse a work that one is the co-author of, however peripherally. I am not among them, but even if I was, I believe that my voice gets lost in the din of the massive, distributed authorial function that is at work in weblogs. I am closer to the situation of the political scientist analysing structures in his own society than some board of directors handing out contracts to each other. And one must not forget that every reading makes the reader a co-author of the text. There are, indeed, many good arguments to be made that this MA thesis is a stronger intervention in the text than my presence in it as a commentator is.

    That's it for now! Stay tuned for Chapter 2, in which I outline the decentralised concept of “work” at work in the blog, the blog’s role in the public sphere, its relationship to canon. Thrill! As I analyse the blog aesthetic and touch on heart-throbbing philological issues! I’m sure I’ll have it posted before the end of the Bush jr. presidency at least.

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    1) Wolf poses as "grandmother" and kills child, What makes your ears so big? Animal swallows man (not fatally)
    2)Victims rescued from swallower's belly.

    It seems that bit I wrote about tracing Gibson's Spook Country back to events documented in his blog has now been used by some new media researchers in a lecture, as far as I understand. How cool! Since these appear to be notes taking during the lecture, I'm not quite sure I understand what the lecture is about (creativity and crowdsourcing, I think). But it does look interesting.

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    Lesser known theories of Saussure

    1. The zing!-i-fier and the zing!-i-fied.
    2. The difference between langue and probation.
    3. The not-quite-so-arbitrary-after-all-ness of the sign.

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    That, my friends, is some serious funny.

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    Very nice smackdown of Martin Amis in the Guardian. I would like to see this level of reaction to islamophobia in Norway as well. Hege Storhaug should have one of these articles. Most articles against these views (and Storhaug) are just nibbling at the topic. I think the only person who has come out and called it islamophobic is Magnus Marsdal.

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    Potter's Last Interview

    That interview with Dennis Potter I was ranting and raving about back in September is on YouTube now. That's fantastic. I hope the BBC isn't a dick about this and removes the video, because this one is important and should be publicly available. Here's the first part:

    As I said back in September, I think this may be the most moving thing I have ever seen on television. You should go and see it. It's split up into quite a few parts, which should appear in the sidebar when you go to the YouTube page.

    Big thanks to HPL for telling me about it! And to Matt7333 for posting it.

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    Yes, it's all about the lefse here in Norway

    Norway closes Minnesota consulate:

    “We’re very proud of our roots, and we’ve tried really hard to preserve them,” said Shirley Hansen, another knitter at a table bursting with the bright geometric patterns Norway is known for. “Norway is near and dear to us, but now we feel like maybe they haven’t considered us quite so important.”


    “We treasure the heritage more here than they do in Norway itself,” said Audrey Amundson of Starbuck, Minn., which sealed its place in history in 1983 by cooking what residents insist was the world’s biggest lefse, a Norwegian flatbread made of potatoes, cream and flour. (The pancake, 9 feet 8 inches in diameter, secured Starbuck’s spot in the Schibsted Norwegian Book of Records.)
    And here it is, your moment of what the fuck:
    The flood of immigrants from Norway began in the middle 1800s. At first, there were Quakers who arrived as religious refugees. But more came for economic reasons: A population explosion had hit Norway, followed by food shortages. The cold, wide-open, rolling land of the Midwest seemed not so different from some of the land these farmers had worked back home.
    Of course! If by "not so different", you mean "completely and utterly different" or "not so different, apart from the complete lack of mountains, rock, vegetation, forests, coastline, fjords and moose. Oh, and not so much with the sami, either, but at least they had the Native Americans."

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    Correction! Correction! Man not run over by 39-ton truck, merely 33-ton truck!

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    No comment.



    Pacifism & the left

    Manifest publishing of Norway has directed me to these handy little charts from socialistworker.org. Our priorities - that's us as in the species - are just all wrong. We are quite literally spending more money on killing each other than any other thing.

    I think the left needs to get back in touch with their pacifist roots. Obviously, we should be sensible about security and not bla bla the errors of Chamberlain bla bla bla appeasement bla bla useful idiots bla bla. I'll be the first to tell you that peace is not just the absence of war. But seriously: why don't we get back to moving towards these long-term goals: the complete elimination of organised violence and a greatly reduced proportion of standing armies? I can't think of a single reason not to. But here are 200 million good reasons.

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    Bugge & Rishøi på Blå

    I morgen kveld skal jeg intervjue Mikkel Bugge og Ingvild Rishøi på Litteratur på Blå. Dette gleder jeg meg stort til. Bugge og Rishøi er to forfattere som er både taleføre og skriveføre og uten tvil to av årets mest spennende debutanter.

    En smakebit: Mikkel Bugge publisert novellen "Kraft" som er med i samlingen i nettidsskriftet Jung. Jeg har dessverre ikke funnet noen tekster av Rishøi ennå.

    Her er programteksten:

    Nye norske noveller, 13. november kl 19: Mikkel Bugge og Ingvild Rishøi debuterte i år med novellesamlinger. Bugges Yttersider og Rishøis La Stå har høstet usedvanlig gode kritikker, og Rishøis samling har til og med blitt hovedbok i Bokklubben Nye Bøker. Sammen med dem tar Litteratur på Blå temperaturen på den unge, norske novellen og ser nærmere på to av de mest lovende forfatterne fra årets debutanter.

    Og det var altså på Blå, i Brenneriveien 9c.

    Ellers var det første som slo meg når jeg leste disse bøkene at uansett hva som står i dem, så må det være to av de fineste bøkene som blir gitt ut i år om man dømmer på omslaget. Men dere vet sikkert hva Bo sa om den saken:

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    Oddly moving fact: there are only 5 surviving veterans of WWI left in Britain. They're all older than 106. Strange how that historical catastrophe keeps afflicting the present, while the actual participants are going extinct.

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    Yup. That's us.

    Well, well, well. This morning Norway is about to be criticised by the UN Commision on Torture for handing over prisoners to the Afghan government. In Afghan prisons, there are numerous reports of prisoners being beaten with cables or bricks and having their nails pulled out, among other things. A week or two ago, a Foreign Affairs Dept. memo leaked in which a recent Amnesty International report on torture in Afghanistan was criticised as being "too political" and not balanced. Of course, this also happened back during the "Boomerang cases", where police officers in Bergen had been systematically abusing prisoners for years and years. Amnesty International really and truly got the shaft from the Norwegian media and police.

    Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian foreign minister, despite being an intelligent man, went on NRK this morning saying that basically "well, I mean, the Afghans tell us that everything is allright, so we trust them. We are, after all, there for their sake." On the one hand, he is saying that the Afghans are in control of their prisons and institutions so torture obviously isn't happening. On the other hand he is saying that we just got a deal in place so that we can check on them. Sigh.

    We've known this was coming for a while. I'm ashamed.

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    boiling water with the lid off

    I just finished William Gibson's latest novel, Spook Country. As always, Gibson describes big chunks of the times we live in better than anyone (in fact, I can't help thinking that he is literally the only author I've read who looks at some of the things he looks at) and its worth reading for those observations, as well as a well-plotted, easy read. The funny thing is, I recognized huge chunks of the plot from my internet reading. I kept thinking "oh yeah, that's that thing, and that's that news story run through a blender and cut up with this other story over here", etc.

    Today, as I was googling my way across the blogosphere per usual, I happened to stumble across a link - in Jill's blog, though now I've lost the post itself - to a post on Gibson's blog just when he started blogging again after a lengthy hiatus. This was in October 2004, in the run-up to the re-election of the Dauphin. I recognised the story he told from the novel. Then I looked at the October archive and realised that I got all those stories and ideas mostly from links Gibson blogged. So I can tell you now that Spook Country came together for Gibson in October 2004. That month is a record of all the little shocks and perceptions and historical forces and traumas - in seriously minute detail - that at some point stewed together in Gibson's brain into what became Spook Country.

    According to the early plot outline which Amazon.com has up on the book's page (quoting the blog), he started writing his novel in June 05. That's the boiling time for the novel, I guess. Gibson has several times called writing a novel at the same time as the blog "boiling water with the lid off", meaning it's something he has to stop doing in order to generate enough energy to write the novel. Looking at these links, I'm not so sure. I think instead the blog has become a record of, and an integral part of, the idea-generating stage of writing his novels. Maybe he couldn't write the book itself, but the ideas certainly came about at these exact times.

    I can't help but think that blogs are just huge assets for the biographical writers of the future. Also, the blog is a lot of fun to read. I remember the following paragraph vividly. And as always, Gibson was right on the money:

    One actually has to be something of a specialist, today, to even begin to grasp quite how fantastically, how baroquely and at once brutally fucked the situation of the United States has since been made to be.

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    dårlig damesykkeldesign: verdens svøpe

    Akkurat dette holdt på å ta livet av meg i sommer. Jeg hadde tatt Festspillsykkelen og syklet ned en 2 km lang bakke i stor fart, hadde akkurat kommet til den første flaten og var nesten stanset opp foran et lyskryss og så - DUNK - falt kurven ned på hjulet så jeg bråbremset. Heldigvis altså i lav fart, så jeg falt kun litt og slo kneet.

    Diamant Heart Cut 30 er elendig design som grenser til det kriminelle. Nesten like dårlig som den stekepannen jeg eide før med et varmeledende håndtak. Jeg mener: Hva slags menneske må man være for å lage et varmeledende håndtak på en gryte?

    Jeg er ingen ingeniør, men jeg kan ikke unngå tenke at når det kun er en skrue som skal løsne før kurven på en sykkel løsner fra styret, så er det dumt. Særlig når man tenker på hva det er man gjør på bysykler: Man kjører rundt på brostein. Det er bare et spørsmål om tid før den skruen løsner. Denne i seg selv ikke spesielt lure konstruksjonen har designeren deretter valgt å assistere ved å montere kurven fast også på forhjulets nav, med en metallstang. Denne stangen er dreibar når den ikke fastholdes til styret av kurven. Den sørger derfor for at kurven får en behendig bane rett ned på forhjulet, der kurven kommer i spenn på grunn av jernstangen, som den selvsagt ikke har løsnet fra. Kurven holdes fastlåst mot hjulet og hjulet kan ikke snurre. Syklen slutter brått å bevege seg forover, i motsetningen til syklisten. Syklist, møt Isaac Newton.

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    We are one messed-up little species.

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    Waterboarders & Freeloaders

    Here's a couple of resources on the totally humane non-torture or at the very least kinder, gentler torture that our allies are doing: Waterboarding.org and the blogpost "Waterboarding is torture... period."

    What's the definition of terrorism again? Wanting to subvert democratic values through killing and inflicting pain and suffering?

    * * *

    Data on the sales record of In Rainbows is now available online. It turns out there was a far higher percentage of freeloaders than expected. Being a senseless optimist, I feel that I should point out that Radiohead is a huge band with a huge following. If they were a small, local band doing the same thing, I suspect the number of people who would pay would go up dramatically. But then again, I also believe that mankind is not born inherently evil, so what do I know?

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    Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam*

    Here's George Orwell on what he calls neo-pessimism (which some of you may recall is a topic which interests me at embarassingly great lengths):

    The danger of ignoring the neo-pessimists lies in the fact that up to a point they are right. So long as one thinks in short periods it is wise not to be hopeful about the future. Plans for human betterment do normally come unstuck, and the pessimist has many more opportunities of saying ‘I told you so’ than the optimist. By and large the prophets of doom have been righter than those who imagined that a real step forward would be achieved by universal education, female suffrage, the League of Nations, or what not.

    The real answer is to dissociate Socialism from Utopianism. Nearly all neo-pessimist apologetics consist in putting up a man of straw and knocking him down again. The man of straw is called Human Perfectibility. Socialists are accused of believing that society can be—and indeed, after the establishment of Socialism, will be—completely perfect; also that progress is inevitable. Debunking such beliefs is money for jam, of course.

    The answer, which ought to be uttered more loudly than it usually is, is that Socialism is not perfectionist, perhaps not even hedonistic. Socialists don’t claim to be able to make the world perfect: they claim to be able to make it better. And any thinking Socialist will concede to the Catholic that when economic injustice has been righted, the fundamental problem of man’s place in the universe will still remain. But what the Socialist does claim is that that problem cannot be dealt with while the average human being’s preoccupations are necessarily economic. It is all summed up in Marx’s saying that after Socialism has arrived, human history can begin. Meanwhile the neo-pessimists are there, well entrenched in the press of every country in the world, and they have more influence and make more converts among the young than we sometimes care to admit.
    I identify with the last paragraph in particular. Socialism in the twentyfirst century should be a policy of cautious optimism, if for no other reason but that it's the only way we'll ever get anything done. But this should not prevent us from setting big goals. It's like Heat, the book by George Monbiot I keep rambling about: it sets a goal of a 90 % reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. Monbiot has very little hope that this will be accomplished, but shows that it is in fact feasible, if only the political will could manifest itself. But there is a really good balance in that book there between hope and vision on the one hand and feasibility on the other. Even if we don't reach those goals - in which case we have worse things to worry about - we might aim for them, and maybe we'll get much farther with them than we would without them.

    Striking the right balance between idealism and pragmatism or vision and realism seems to be a huge problem for the left wing. There's an enormous battle between people on the far left who refuse to do anything unless they can do everything at once (hangover from the revolutionary days, I suppose) and those who are so far into the minutiae of practical politics that they forget they have a vision they need to clarify and work towards.

    * * *

    And by the by, in another section of the column, Orwell quotes a figure of 5000 Carthaginians in Carthage when the city was razed. In fact, there were half a million, 50.000 of whom were sold as slaves. So to amend Orwell's point: the annihilation of an enemy was never easy, even in an age where human life was cheap.

    How cheap? Know what the word "decimate" means? It's the Roman word for killing every tenth person in a legion that had been mutinous; they had a word for it. Those crazy Romans.

    * * *

    Oh, and for those of you who crave, nay, demand knowledge of my home cooking projects, I woke up this morning and the sourdough was all bubbly and smelled like yoghurt and almonds and beer. I feel like Dr. Frankenstein. Igor, more flour, please!

    * Because what this blog really needs is more titles in latin.

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    Spice Pears and Cardiograms

    Scatter-brain post, all over the map:


    Yesterday, Suttonhoo and I had a frustratingly 140-charactered conversation about ads and social software over on Twitter. I am (as is obvious from the thread she quotes in the next link) a bit of an idiot about these things, so she went off and wrote this nerdy lovely post on the topic.

    The feeling I'm left with, and which Suttonhoo puts in admirably specific terms, is that the models for predicting user engagement for sites are - in dumb terms - too quantitative and not qualititative enough. The difference between Flickr and Facebook are enormous in terms of what I experience. I have an intense engagement with Flickr and it feels like an important part of my personal and cultural landscape, while Facebook is a shiny new toy which I don't use very seriously. I'll probably still be on Facebook in a year. But in two years? Three years? The fact that I'm not sure tells me a lot. Flickr is a site I engage with seriously and deeply, and it is a site whose interface, layout and geography were obviously designed for me, not as delivery vehicles for ads, like Facebook.

    Going to Facebook, as I say in the comments of Suttonhoo's post, is sort of like going to McDonald's. You're in an environment which is hyperefficient for what it is trying to accomplish: get your money & fast. Massive advertisement & human-unfriendly environment. The overwhelming feeling is that it was not entirely built for you, and that is uncomfortable. Flickr was. It's like your local greengrocer. He's still making money off you, but he wants to make sure you get the right piece of fruit, and he likes chatting you up when you walk in the store. Not just - or even primarily - because he knows that will make you come back, but also because he simply wants to.

    But still, I'm on Facebook & Flickr an equal number of minutes per day (if for no other reason than that Facebook's interface is sluggish and requires lots of clicks for simple operations).

    So anyway, after that lovely post, Suttonhoo went off and got sick. At least she's got a good beat, unlike, say, the Spice Girls. Go tell her to get well.


    A skeptic and an enthusiast write about academic blogs. Both of them have interesting and valid points, but though I'm obviously an enthusiast I find myself nodding more vigorously at the skeptic's points. He accurately diagnoses some of the problems that must be fixed about academic blogging.


    I have made spice pears. They are cooling in a glass jar on the window sill in my new kitchen. Did I mention the new kitchen? We have a kitchen. It's new. We cook things in it. For instance,

    spice girls pears

    Cinnamon sticks
    Vanilla Posh pods
    Bits of ginger spice
    Star anis

    Peel the pears - they should not be too ripe. Make a sugary spice suryp by boiling sugar in water. The water should just cover the pears, and have quite a lot of sugar in it. Bring to a boil with the spices above and whichever extra ones you feel like. Fresh mint works (but maybe remove the cinnamon?), as does red pepper if you're feeling sporty spice, as well as many other kinds of spices.

    Simmer until tender. Let cool for hours and hours because sugar in sufficient quantities somehow increases tenfold the specific heat capacity of water. Pour onto a glass jar and let it sit in your fridge for a month if you want. They can keep for a good long while, unlike Spice Girls which only keep for a couple of albums. Alternatively, you can serve them the same day if that's what you want - what you really, really want - (though I advise you to simmer them for at least three hours then. If you store them, the spices zig-a-zig seep in over a longer period, so you can stop earlier). Serve with a scoop or two of vanilla icecream and fresh berries.


    I've started reading Orwell's "As I Please"-columns again. They're nice because I often don't have time to read more than a page or two, so shortish essays like these are good. I like the scattershot effect of them. Their utility and simplicity, and despite often being blatantly wrong, they show an interesting mind at work, and really there's nothing better than that.


    Oh, and I also create life for fun: I've got a sourdough starter (not quite yet) puttering away on the new kitchen countertop. Anyone have any tips on preventing them from crusting over when left in the open air, like the recipe says?

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    rett videre til desember denne gang

    Siden høstdepresjonen glimrer med sitt fravær i år, unnlater denne bloggen i år å publisere Henrik Nordbrandts digt fra Håndens skælven i november

    (altså det som går sånn:

    Året har 16 måneder: november, december
    januar, februar, marts, april, maj,
    juni, juli, august, september, oktober,
    november, november, november, november.

    Som vi ellers i alle år har publisert 1. november. Det er vel noe med det tørrere klima i Oslo som gjør underverker for humøret og huden.

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    Other researchers took a sociological approach to dreams, meticulously cataloging their content: women dream of men more than men dream of women; black people are more likely to be physically damaged in their dreams than white people; 80 percent of adult dreams have a negative component—their hair looks bad or they can’t find their keys or their kid won’t stop crying—and after ninth grade, children’s dreams become significantly more aggressive.
    Interesting article on the state of dream research in opposition to Freud. Lots of interesting stuff I didn't know. Also an interesting passage about how one of the leading men in the field had a stroke which prevented him from dreaming for an entire month, throughout which he hallucinated vividly.

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