Thursday, January 31, 2002

I won't blog too much today because I don't like to whine. But if there are any good accountants out there who understand the rules of the Norwegian academic economic-administrative systems, your services would be appreciated.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

A new mouse AND a new chair both in the same day!
Since you all never knew, you couldn't worry...
But the previously blogged cat by name of Susanna Leonora Løvenurket (Lionbaby), popularly known as Pusi, returned home this morning after having been missing since last Monday. She looked as good as ever, clean and healthy, sporting her customary ravenous appetite. Despite several attempts at persuasion and/or interrogation, she didn't say a word about where she has been, and since it's been snowing tonight, following her tracks was useless. She didn't smell of cows or pigs, so she hasn't been hiding out in any of the barns which are still in use around here. There was also no tell-tale smell of tobacco or perfume, which she often smelled from when she had been gone a day or two in the old house - she had some mystery family she would visit there. But she's home, and oddly enough the return of that annoying little ball of fur made our day before it had even properly begun.

Monday, January 28, 2002

Astrid Lindgren is dead. But we all know she's in the Valley of Cherries, where the Lionheart brothers went. And when she has given dreams and hopes and visions to the children and adults of Nangiyala, she will go on... to Nangilima.
Barbara Gentikow writes about media panics in an introduction to a chapter on uses and gratifications research. The book is in Norwegian: Larsen & Hausken (red) (1999): Medievitenskap 3 , and Gentikow is author and editor of this book in a series of four. What she says about media panics is however interesting enough to translate the main points for this blog. Media Panic is the fear of what the media might do to people. From page 122:
1) It has to do with new technology. Media panics have strong anti-modern traits.
2) It's concerned with popular culture. The anxiety is often generated among users of the "high culture".
3) The use of a cultural product is out of control (for authorities, particularly parents and teachers).
4) There's a general concern on behalf of the weakest: people with little education and children.
5) People make money on cultural products. There's a conflict between the idea that culture is a value to itself, and should have no price, and the fact that it's possible to make money on it.

This was about the introduction of film in Norway, around 1910. It feels kind of familiar...
By way of distantsun, an irish curse generator.

Go gcreime maorlathaí míthrócaireach do chuid airgid caim.
(May a pitiless bureaucrat gnaw at your ill-gotten wealth.)

Now all I need to do is to work a little at the pitch...
Topic if the week: Media influence.
I am giving three lectures on this topic this week.
Tuesday: The powerful media: stimulus-response-theories
Thursday: The power-less media: two-step and multi-step theories
Friday: The somewhat empowered media: uses and gratifications and cultural theories.

At the moment I am looking for an angle for the lectures, a way to illustrate these classic topics of media studies without using the all-too-classic examples of Nazi Germany and Leni Riefenstahl. Her films are powerful expressions of Nazi rhetoric, and scary in the glorification of their ideals. But at the same time using such examples can hide the fact that propaganda didn't end with Hitler - and propaganda alone didn't put him into power.

from Triumph des Willens
Mark Bernstein refers to and asks about blog readers.

I think it's wrong to talk about blog readers and blog writers. In my opinion it's blog conversations. If it has to be compared to non-digital media, I'd say it's more like letters to the editor - without an editor. They are parts of conversations. Some of us talk to ourselves, others talk to a much larger audience, but there is a stream of comments, cross-references and opinions which indicate readership - but readership coupled with writership. No, I won't use authors. That's a different animal all together.

Friday, January 25, 2002

Francis answers the question "Why he married in a church". My main problem was why did I marry at all? I don't believe in marriage, I think it's much too restrictive and charged with misleading expectations. I am however still married and live with the same man I have lived with for the last 20 years. We are the best of friends, and share bed and table in comfort.

I think some rituals are not about the very pietistic idea of a personal relationship to God, but about creating events. We had a big wedding so that my father could preside over the wedding of at least one of his five daughters. The entire family fought for days before, during and after, one of my older sisters is still telling me what a waste of money it was, and it all got out of hand due to my father's enthusiastic pursuit of formality, something he never handled well. An example: he fainted and had to be fetched with an ambulance in the middle of the speech, which was all about my brother-in-law anyway, and had nothing to do with me and my husband. In an heroic attempt to save the occasion, he gave the manuscript to my husband, and told him to finish. The ambulance took him away, he was rewived, his doctor through many years and crises had a chat with him, and sent him back to the party, diagnosing it to lack of sleep due to nerves for the delivery of the same speech. My father's great moment, and he faints in my lap.

Now, after his death, I don't regret a single tense minute of the wedding-from-hell, I wouldn't have been without any thrown tomato or tempter-tantrum: he loved each wild second. He loved the musician who got so drunk we needed two men to keep him and his instrument from falling into the fire, he loved driving around from farm to farm around the summer-house the day after gathering all the still living people who had been to his wedding for a party in the boathouse, he loved the breakfast the third day of the wedding consisting of cakes marinated in the rest of the cognac (nobody were up to actually cutting a slice of bread or thinking about getting sober), and he loved returning to the daily routines in a house still filled with friends and relatives who were late to depart, presents and left-overs (yes, cakes: a norwegian wedding is an orgy of cakes).

As a family, we are good at parties, but not at rituals. We prefer to choose our own way of doing things, trying to fit the norm ends in disaster. But I still don't regret letting my father have the party with the formal invitations, the cook (who was an old friend of the family and made a wonderful meal), the guests travelling from all over the country to join, the presents (we got them, he opened them!), the music and dancing and silly party games.

In tense familiar moments (third day of Christmas visits, for instance), I get blamed for not taking firmer control: for the wedding of an older sister four years later ( fun, but very informal thing) I was a toast-master and limited all speeches to 2 minutes. An other sister, the gym-teacher, had her whistle and clock at hand: at 2 minutes she'd blow and the time would be out. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, everybody dared to say something because they knew they'd be cut off when it got embarassing. So the meal lasted as long as if we had had 3-4 longer speeches. Two cousins and one in-law allied to be able to tell one particularly long joke: when one of them was cut off, the next stood up and continued. It ended up hilariously funny.

My father loved these events, but my wedding was the kind of party he wanted, where he could be the host and show off to his friends and family. It was his day, and I only regret not having been able to give him more such days

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

I just put in that link so I'd know where to find it Thursday if I have a chance to get a computer connected to the net and a projector at the presentation. Those who read norwegian probably know that article already, it's the one I wrote for net-art, the issue which Jill edited.
localmotives #5 nettkunst - ://Estetikk til å leke med, eller: å jage drager - Torill Mortensen
Post-lectural lobotomy. A very suitable way to describe how I feel right now, coined by Trine Syvertsen in a rather informal context several years ago. It's the feeling after a lecture when your brain refuses to function, as if some synapses have been cut.

But at least a student came down to me and thanked me for the lecture, saying it was very interesting to listen to somebody who knows what they are talking about. It's years since I had a student say that to me. Almost four years. Can there be a connection between almost four years of no lecturing and almost four years of no nice students telling me they liked the lecture?

Monday, January 21, 2002

Remember Lane and Stu? The two lovers who cursed the Pacific? Well, I checked in on them, they are together at Lane's place (I'd have met up in Melbourne, particularly this time of the year, but that's just me...) and are happier than ever. Stu has to leave soon, and the blogging has been slow the last weeks. Let's assume they are busy living that sweet love-story we all like to hope can be real.
Sometimes the little things become very important. I am writing a lecture on narratology, attempting to make it fun - I am boring myself to death writing it, I can't imagine what it will be like listening - and I use Asterix as an example of the different concepts of narratology, refering to Greimas and Bordwell. Comics are such very good examples because they are both written and verbal and act like books, while at the same time the drawings often use typical techniques from films.

And do you know what Asterix and his friend Obelix do over and over and over again in all the albums? They eat. I get too hungry reading them, so I have to go get lunch and gain strength.

Sunday, January 20, 2002

Like words? Get out your dictionary, and look at dupe - a partial compendium of everyday delusions by jeff gibson.
It's just past midnight, and I am kind of lonely here in the blog world. Lisbeth is on sick-leave, Jill is in Australia on a vacation (that's scary), Adrian is vacationing with Jill (scary twice!), Hilde is in love and just smiles happily every time she comes up from her work for a breath of air (she still blogs though, and I am grateful), Mark is just quiet, last heard of as he left for lunch in Singapore, Laurel is happy - but Gonzalo is around...

So what do I do. Well, I have a few more distant bloggers to follow - not less interesting, just not quite as directly useful in my work. Not that I have done much of that lately anyway. One which I really like is the blog of francis, who lives in Stockholm with his Sweedish husband: How to learn sweedish in 1000 difficult lessons. I often feel like a foreigner right here, in my own country, and then it's kind of reassuring that the things I find odd about Scandinavia aren't necessarily commonplace to others either.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Teddy goes travelling
A blog about the journey of a Teddy bear being sent around the world by way of postal office workers. Cute!

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

I quote from Brian Sutton Smith,The Ambiguity of Play:
Huizinga's thesis is also a particularly agonistic and machismo view of play history. His definition of play primarily as contest reflect the widespread male rhetoric that favors the exaltation of combative power instead of speaking comprehensively about play itself.

A thought for the future: A Women's History of Play.
This book is newly printed and finally available through other means than scouring library basements:Man, Play and Games
Who's that chicken?
A man-sized chicken disturbed the news-cast for the Norwegian TV2 last night. News-teams from most of the norwegian media were outside the largest Norwegian hospital in Oslo, covering the collapse of Torbjørn Jagland, leader of the Labour Party. Jagland collapsed in the middle of an internal battle for control of the Labour Party between him and the younger Jens Stoltenberg. The collapse was not particularly serious, according to the reports from the hospital, but it was a clear warning that Jagland had been under too much stress and needed rest.

The media had been chasing Jagland for comments on the internal dissent, and over the last weeks the papers and news have been filled with details about the potential change of leadership. This has not been a nice and polite discussion within the party, but one where the media have been skillfully manouvered by interests on both sides of the conflict. And the journalists have happily kept the story alive, under the excuse that this is important, critical journalism.

Now that Torbjørn Jagland is in hospital, the entire set of journalists drop their pretense of trying to cover a debate which might have consequences for Norwegian politics for years to come, and start sending pictures of the outside of the hospital Jagland is in instead. With soft voices and greedy cameras they now chase Jagland's family as they visit him in the hospital, rather than doing what the doctors were recommending: Leave the man to recover so he can get back to the decisions the same journalists have been telling us are so important.

This is the situation Bård Tufte Johansen comments on when he shows up in the picture of a news-cast from utside the hospital. Wearing a yellow chicken-outfit he squeeks and makes barbed comments to the journalist. The satire failed, however. Aimed at the media, the media refused to get the joke, and accused Johansen of harassing Torbjørn Jagland and his family. But Johansen did score one point. That evening the discussions on Norwegian television were less about the health of Jagland, and more about the role of the media. Although the Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was forced to excuse the behavior of Johansen, who's a host of a satirical program on NRK 1, he did make a point which is slowly getting through the angry protests against his tasteless act.

"Don't criticize. This is the time to be nice." was the message Bård Tufte Johansen was giving to the journalists while they were interviewing people with the hospital as a back-drop. This comment was aimed at the sudden change in the mood of the journalists from one day to the other: from claiming that they were not a mindless pack chasing a good story but doing their job as watch-dogs of the democracy the one day, to claiming that they were not chasing a good story but doing... what exactly, when filming the wife and children of an exhausted man?

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

What's going on in the research-department?
This month and the next I am teaching, mainly. I have taken on what the department has offered from teachings, been a good girl and said "yes" when I have been asked if I wanted to teach. It's both rewarding and fun, I like to make my colleagues happy by easing their planning, I like teaching, and I needed a break to avoid setting the entire thesis on fire.

But I can't not work on something related to it, so this month I am writing a manuscript to be presented in Oslo in February, in a seminar on Digital Socialising (Dr Hammer will be there, and I get a chance to congratulate her on her PhD!), the blog-paper which will also become my science-theory paper which I work on with Jill, and the translation of chapter five, the only chapter I have written in Norwegian. This is the chapter which describes Dragon Realms, the MUD I played for a year and made the focus of my thesis. Since it's descriptive, it is a lot longer than the other chapters - I have tried to convey everything I experienced in a year of intensive play. Doesn't work.

I am also quite happy about Espen's responses to chapter four. He probably thought he was very strict, because he started telling me that all of this should have come much earlier, why did I put this out in the middle of the thesis, why did I delay the reader with all that unimportant stuff when the real stuff came here! I applied positive listening and decided to hear only "the really important stuff" "this is what's interesting" "this is a very good point", so I agreed with him happily and told him that was the experience I had while writing chapter 4. I'll most likely move a lot of that one or two chapters up or perhaps just re-number the four first chapters, but yay, I felt good after that talk!

After chapter five I have five fairly new chapters to deal with, all written in the last year (2001 was not bad!), and then a chapter on the interviews (perhaps) and the conclusion, and I am done. Done. That sounds like science fiction, but I expect to see it in my lifetime!
It's been a while since I wrote now, what has been going on? Well, truth is: I have been selling the old, semi-detached house. Yes, that brown corner in between the bushes, that's what we are leaving.

For a while we were holding several properties: the new house, my father-in-law's apartment (he died in April) and the semi-detached house we moved from. Now we have reduced our holdings to a third. Finally.

Friday, January 11, 2002

An other little personality test, this one based on colour. And this one got close...

The fear that you may not be able to fulfil or realise all of your ambitions makes you work and play hard. The thought of being prevented from achieving the things you want leads you to play your part with frantic fervour.
Sometimes I think about changing the template for this blog. I'd like to have links under the description of me, but above the archive - I'd like to have the archive reading months and yeras rather than from date - to date - I'd like to have space to link directly to my own work (which will be available online as soon as I have tracked down that IT-technician who guards the ftp-passwords as if it was his own money), and I think I'd like a neat heading.

And then I remember that this template is a classic - I don't see it any more. It's one of the old blogger templates, chosen for being easy to read, have nice big letters and colours which are uplifting and friendly without being too intrusively happy. I can't spoil that, can I?

I think that's a decent reason for not sitting down to learn html...

Thursday, January 10, 2002

Teaching again... and that feels good. I started off with four hours of lecturing, and at the end of the fourth hour the students were as exhausted as I was. But they were sweet and polite, and seemed to pay attention - even if they were frighteningly quiet. And so young. Is it just me, or are students younger now than they were four years ago?

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Thought I'd mention, as the waters are no longer rippling with the blogger of the year awards: My Way Blog Awards. Francis at How to learn Sweedish has created them, and I am just pouting because I don't think I am neurotic enough for the Sylvia Plath impersonation.

by David Bateman & the Unicorn Group

Ever since the day my wife bought the beast she calls Max, they've been inseparable. She's always carrying him around the house, and tickling him behind his little chihuahua ears. I didn't mind him sharing our mealtimes, but I was surprised by the amount of presents she bought him: treats, toys, and a constant stream of diverse chihuahua accessories.

She started talking to the dog as if I wasn't there.
She started insisting on letting him sleep on the bed with us.

Lately he's started barking every time I go near her, but still she won't scold him. In fact, she scolds me for upsetting him. Then she goes on whispering in his little chihuahua ears and kissing his little chihuahua nose. The last couple of nights he hasn't let me into bed. I lie curled up on the bedroom floor, listening all night to their whispering and kissing.

Ultra short stories for the WAP and Web
Art with a message, The Guardian.
Art without wires, Ericsson, On the New World of Communication.
Submit SMS Poetry, trAce online writing centre
trAce about
The last month or so an epidemic of RSI seems to have been running from Jill to Lisbeth to Adrian, and I have had an odd version of it. My problem was that I always got better when I could sit down at the computer, and worse when I was away from it: the longer absence, the worse my right arm felt.

Yesterday on the plane I finally figured out why. I was holding the cell-phone in my hand, turning it off, when I felt a cramp through the right arm and hand, the thumb just where I am sore, the elbow just at that angle, the muscles in the upper arm as I pushed the buttons. I don't get my tendonitis from the computer, I get it from the cell-phone. That's why I get it when I pack my lap-top and go off to talk to people rather than write to them. The cell-phone has become a way to stay in touch with the family, my daughter is just a small text-message away, and a way to coordinate the day with the people I am visiting. While I think I am just talking to them, I am really pushing tiny little buttons hundreds of times, in order to find them and meet face to face.

Mystery solved. I'll pay those extra kroner for calling rather than messaging. And I went out and got myself a small headphone (hands free set) as well, so I don't have to lift the cellphone up to the ear, holding it at that strained angle which makes stretching at the elbow a painful exercize.

Monday, January 07, 2002

In the days of innocence, before the fall of the twin towers, I dived into the night in New York. With me on that journey into places I would never see in clean, well-lit Volda, were Hanna, the lovely Finnish goth-girl, matthew, my faithful companion in NYC, and dub, the photographer. Hanna and I started at her place in Greenwich Village, a dingy little appartment close to NYU illegally sub-let through a friend under the pretense that she was his sister, drinking and dressing for the evening. I needed her to lace me into the outfit - and she was happy to oblige, while getting help with her own hooks and buttons and laces. I can see why women who wore oldfashioned complicated outfits had maids... Apart from the fact that it's fun to prepare in company.

Hanna was a wonder in black, from her hair by way of her lipstick and to the pointy toes of her laced boots. The corset over a flaring black lace skirt and the long black gloves with the tiny buttons at the wrist turned her into a dark Princess - one of those who don't wait for the knight in order to be saved, but with dark and wicked intent. I was in simpler blacks, carrying clothes for conferences rather than the outrageous dens into which we were to descend that night. Still, on heels I easily top 6 feet, and there's enough of me to claim attention even when dressing fairly conservatively.

Hannah and I went on our way first, and due to an error, we had to wait for the guys to catch up with us. At a bar close to the place we were going Hannah lost her silver choker, a wide glittering chain resting like a collar about her neck. She gave it to me, asking that I fix it and replace it. I pressed the links back in shape - my hands are strong and the metal was soft - while talking to her, for some reason both of us looking quite serious. Then both of us rose - we were too tightly laced into our outfits for either one of us to bend much to accomodate the other - and our movements took on a careful, formal choreography, every movement deliberate and quite graceful as I stepped close to her, she bowed her head at my approach, and I fastened the choker about that slender neck offered to me.

As we both sank down in our chairs, we discovered that the guests in the bar were applauding us. Later, in the club, we were told why. They thought I had collared Hannah that night, made her my property, and with matthew and dub at polite attention, I suddenly had an aura for which I was not prepared. In the eyes of the clubbers, many of whom had been waiting in the same bar as us: If Hannah was a Princess of Darkness, I was the Queen, the ruling Lady with My little court wooing for My attention, and they circled to join...

It was an odd night, and I walked on floors sticky with substances I would not wish to learn more about outside of a laboratory, surrounded by people who could have as easily come straight from a fashion show as crawled out of the nearest medieval dungeon. While I am quite comforted that I'll never encounter anything like it in Volda, or even in Bergen, where I go to feel what it's like to be urban, it's good to have seen that I can still be surprised, still learn something new about humanity, and still see myself in a new and different role. dub, the former paparazzi of NYC clubs, took our pictures and made a slick little collage, as dark and odd and tasteless as that night was. Here we are, matt, me and Hannah. the Princess of Darkness:

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Blogback is not accepting new users? Ooowwww.... I may just have to sacrifice one of the less used blogs which have blogback, and put it to less frivolous use, because I want to have a lecture-blog where the students can talk back to me. I'll have to think about this. || Is Your Son a Computer Hacker?
It's a long time since I read something this outrageously funny! And it's so well written, I am still not 100 % certain it's a joke, although linking his sons denials about hacking (by way of a cursor-editing program) to Clinton's denials about Monica is a pretty strong hint!

thanks, Laurita at Goobita
Bergen tomorrow. Hilde, Jill, Espen, possibly Jan and Cynthia. Yes, I think I'll be busy.
I peeked in on the article Jill pointed at, with the "redoubtable Norwegians", and was rather surprised by some of the assumptions in it. I quote:

This permits the politically correct intelligentsia of the non-American Anglosphere to indulge in a bit of pseudo-nationalism, by pretending that "American" values are not for the most part also the values of the majority of their countrymen. Anti-Americanism, the more fashionable modern analogue of anti-Semitism, is a delight readily available to them. Meanwhile, their American counterparts can mouth the same opinions, but must appear self-loathing rather than patriotic.

Over the last 26 monts, at least 7 of those were spent in the United States, travelling as well as more settled. I was prepared to find a familiar world, where I would share the views of those around me. I am after all an academic, and I thought my values and ideals were heavily influenced by a kind of international intellectual set of thought which would be pretty much the same all over the world, and very influenced by American thinking.

I couldn't have been more wrong.
I kept stumbling, over and over, into what felt like an episode of X-files. Something was very, very wrong, while it looked familiar. From the many films, books, articles and television shows I have watched over the years, I never expected to be alienated from the way people thought, from the train of their logic, from their fundamental values, from the ideals which guided and governed the simplest decisions.

So there were a few simple culture crashes, like the young man who wanted to sell me magazines, and walked up to Me in a quiet street and started asking what I felt were intrusive, personal questions like where I lived, what I did for a living, what I liked. I told him clearly how offended I was by his questions, and that I did not appreciate being interrogated on the street - and he stumbled on, only to ring the bell of the house I lived in (my host told me later) almost in tears, upset over the horrible woman who wouldn't even be polite while he just tried to earn a little extra something.... She was sympathetic and comforted him while explaining to me later on... . because they knew that it's permissible to talk to people like that. I was upset and paranoid the rest of the day, wondering what the #¤%& that weirdo had wanted from me.

But deeper than that ran the differences in how the Americans I met (and these were the scholars) viewed marriage, family, fidelity, independence, freedom, responsibility - and more material matters like food, comfort, cleanliness (how to dispose of garbage: garbage mills in the sinks, now that shocked me!), not to talk of their pets - and very important to Norwegians: nature, physical activity, hunting, fishing, pollution, using energy and natural resources. When ever I thought we understood each other, I found out that I had made assumptions based on my own cultural sphere, and not theirs. There was an apparent understanding, rather than a real one.

Don't get me wrong - some of my best friends are American. I think it's a fascinating country, I want to explore more and more of it: but I won't ever again make the mistake of thinking that I share the American values. When I walked the streets of New York City, an alien, a legal alien, I knew what Sting meant:

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night a candle's brighter than the sun

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

As the cat did not stop at the book, I am now looking for a new computer backpack. I found this for women. I expected it to have for instance shorter distance between the shoulder straps for slender shoulders, a shorter back or a different padding to compensate for women's bodies, but what's the feminine feature? It's slim (which means, no space for books, papers, folders etc), but: "The front compartment is large enough to hold a small purse or a makeup bag." Because women who carry computers in their backpacks don't carry organisers, cellphones, extra disks, portable cd-players, extra drives, palms or even an assortment of pens. Nope, we have a small purse or a makeup bag.

If the cat had peed on my little purse, I wouldn't have been half this upset! (As a matter of fact: since it doesn't exist, I wouldn't have been upset at all.)
Do you remember that pretty cat I have shown pictures of?
Well, she may be excluded from polite company FOR EVER! I just discovered that she has peed on my copy of Roland Barthes: Sade, Fourier, Loyola

Yeah, yeah, I know that 3 feet of snow, - 12 C and all that stuff is a good reason for not peeing outdoors (I'd hate to do it) but couldn't she have chosen a book I had finished!!!