Staying the course

Together with Eric Saline I’m holding a course at KKV GBG in less than a months time. It’s called Drawing with a chainsaw and we’re going to do huge relief prints using non-traditional tools. Like for example, chainsaws. We’re cutting the boards here in Gothenburg, and then we’re trucking them up to KKV Bohuslän where we’ll use their giant press to make the prints – ought to be exciting! I made a video for this, and since it’s done on company time I can’t very well use it in lieu of my own projects here on the blog, but whatevs.

Project week 3: A gift

Audience at a gig of Fucking Werewolf Asso in March 2015, at Musikens hus Göteborg

I’m rediscovering the joys and perils of video editing. At work, I did en edit of the woodwork course I participated in last weekend (Take a look here: and shot a promo for Drawing with a chainsaw, a course I’m offering with Eric Saline where we still need to rustle up more participants. (That edit isn’t done yet)

Privately, I went to a gig with Fucking Werewolf Asso and tried out my new Nikon P7800 and was reminded of the value of external microphones; I used only the built in ones, and it’s inadvisable to stand in front of PA speakers if you can’t set levels manually. I’d hoped that I’d have a video done by tonights deadline, but alas. Ought to be done this week though, so although delayed I’m still doing something else for next Monday.

I’ve never been one for good timing when it comes to my projects, but I really should get the drone promo done before the discussion about the Swedish-Saudi weapon deals dies down completely. Not that the deals with Saudi Arabia are much more offensive than the ones we have with other dictatorships, but still. So although timing has never been my forte I should give it a shot – after all, mine is a project about the democratic control over technology, and it’s rather fitting that I slot that into the tail-end of the discussion of selling surveillance equipment and clandestine weapon factory projects.

Vacationing in ovens

Because most of summer was spent gentrifying our kolonistuga — forcing spiders to move out of the house by redecorating — there was neither much money nor time to plan any vacationing outside of Gothenburg. So the trip to Poland at the end of summer was going to be a “working holiday” before fall-work would start. Sara was doing lights for Goat, and one of the tour stops was OFF Festival outside Katowice. I was enrolled to document the show, so figured I’d visit dad in Warsaw before heading down south.

The whole trip went off without a hitch; not so much as a train delay during the whole week! Incredible, really, but it turns out that when you book hotels through one of those “meta-reservations” websites, those reservations are real things! The times we live in, I tell you it’s magic. (Spying and commercial magic, but still magic!)

I spend a couple of days with dad and his family in Warsaw, and then leave for Krakow where I meet up with Sara. The weather is broken: It’s silly hot, the papers talk about a record with 38°C, and most of the days are spent jumping from shadow to shadow, pressing cold drinks againsts sweaty bodies. It did not help.

We stay at Cafe Młynek, and I’m in playing at “spoiled vegan” by stuffing my face with latkes. We drink water, walk, chill out in the contemporary art museum in their “chill-out” lounge until a grumpy lady chases us out because we’re too chilled-out. (Polish service-mindedness has never been a particularly prominent trait, but it’s still surprising how assholish people are — “the service industry” is an euphemism for something completely different in Poland.) And then we walk some more, consider doing bungie jumping but end up too hung over to bungie anything.

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Once we’re in Katowice we get our passes to the festival and start to get acquainted with the setup. It’s the most controlled event I’ve been at in Poland, and certainly the most tightly controlled festival. You drink thither, you listen to music hither, should you take drink from thither to hither you will be fined 100 Euros. The only accepted currency are either 2.5 zloty paper tokens, or 50 zl prepaid Mastercards. And there’s no easy way to find out how much credit you have left on your card, so you end up holding up the food queues while going through the four cards in your pocket, trying to guess which one had 5 zloty left and which one had the remaining 2.5 zloty. And for this money you could only buy Grolsch beer, as they were one of the main sponsors. Happily, you were free to wear any shoes you wanted, despite the Converse sponsorship and event-tent.

We watched some of the obligatory big acts, and most of them were meh, with Smashing Pumpkins leading the pack by a stunning illustration of “phoning it in.” Goat got a great reception and I got some good pictures. Piotr Kurek and Metz were nice, and along with Mikky Blanco there were plenty of smaller acts which were fun to hear. Thinking back on it, I’m not sure if anything stick out particularly, and there’s nothing new from the festival that found it’s way onto my music player, but the whole event was enjoyable in a responsible, adult way. Also, I found these vegan cheese doodles which were just awesome.

Only setback of the trip was that Air Berlin has misplaced Saras luggage on the way down, and in order to stay in character they misplaced both our luggage on the way home. Once we got the stuff back a week later it was soaking wet — apparently they store lost luggage in a pool of stagnant water — and what wasn’t ruined was moldy and had to be washed. The vegan snacks had survived though, so one week after homecoming I could sit back, gorge on doodles, and reminisce about an excellent trip back to the home country.


I’ve been on and off work projects for so many years now, that the concept of “vacation” seems odd, but as of the start of this week I’ve been enjoying “vacation.” Sort of. The past two months I’ve been working at my old school as a technician, temping for Petter who’s been drafted into a side project at the university. I’m getting up at seven, at work at eight, and there’s no overtime and I get to sit in at meetings and lunch out. Having a day-job is a strange experience.

The vacation I’m on at the moment isn’t technically a vacation, rather my contract has expired and is renewed in August, so I’m “unemployed” rather than “on vacation” but hey, it still feels fine. I’m spending the days in the kolonostuga which Sara bought just now, and we’re clearing the cabbage patch, repainting walls and generally doing stuff that comes with owning land and a small house. “Active vacationing” in marketing speak.

The past six months have gone by with little thought or notice on my part. I’m using my cold and throat infection to slow down a bit, reach inbox zero and perhaps plan this year a bit. Apart from going to Poland for a few days, and after that going back to work, there’s a risk that I’ll be coasting — and both Iain M Banks sudden illness and death, and the book I’m reading (with the sobering title “How We Die”) make me want to appreciate being alive more than by tiredly playing Star Conflict on Steam.

I’m in front of the computer, editing a R Stevie Moore video, listening to Pixies and some Danish cartoon in the background where Sara fell asleep in front of the tv, escaping a brutal head cold. I’ve had warm union stuck to an aching ear for a while now, and perhaps it’s the onion, or the painkillers or the wine, but the pain is abating and I’m off to bed. Tomorrow is apparently “vegan pizza day” which ought to be celebrated somehow; or perhaps I’ll just clean the house up a bit — it looks like a mess and Tomasz is visiting in a couple of days…

On Ballard and trains

In J.G. Ballards Millennium People a neighbourhood rebells as a response to the trappings of middle class life and their inability to afford more than the image of it. Their grievances are not political to begin with but relate to maintenance and parking space, and only later turn to structures of indoctrination and politics. I’m not sure that the story applies to actual mass psychology of how revolutions start, but it’s a classical Marxist notion and interesting to see it artfully applied in fiction.

At some point, a critical mass of disillusioned middle class might set themselves to start a revolution, and it might even start over something trivial.

Unrelated to politics, but related to the trappings of comfort and our societies coating of polished civility, came to my mind when I was stranded on a train recently. I was on my way to Stockholm for work when there was a loud bang and we came to a halt. Both pantographs on the train set had snagged on something and had torn, leaving us without power in the middle of nowhere. The PA doesn’t work without power, leaving the crew to rush between trying to fix whatever had broken and walking from cart to cart shouting out what little they knew. They soon gave that up though, perhaps figuring that leaving 400 passengers steaming in a train with no articulated windows or ventilation or flushable toilets would pass for “a plan.”

The cafeteria kept selling food and drink until the power went out, after which they started writing IOUs instead. They gave this up after five minutes, seeing that the queue was growing in length and annoyance, allowing people to take food and drink (“–No alcohol!”) for free. Later, in the papers, SJ’s spokesperson put it in terms of that they “distributed food and drink to the passengers” which is an odd way of saying “allowed a disorganized free-for-all once the till didn’t work.” Apparently stuff got heated once people started looting the booze. There’s a tradeoff between offering disgruntled people alcohol to placate them, and the risk of suffering their poorer impulse control afterwards.

Once the diesel locomotive had arrived and hooked up, we were off again. disembarking an hour later at Hallsberg. Parents with kids, older folks with clumsy luggage, all dragging their charges and parcels in every which way, looking for bathrooms, someone to give them information on trains or missed connections. In the hustle for soda and pork sandwiches, the din drowned out any announcement coming over the PA for how to get to Stockholm, and mostly by chance I managed to get on a train heading in the right direction. When I finally arrive it’s night, and I’m more than six hours late on a three hour journey.

What has been lost now that we are constantly being treated as customers instead of individuals with agency, is that we’re reduced to objects with demands and criteria of contentment. We’re Sims in a very boring game of TrainVille which have to be clicked on every once in a while until the workday is over. We have demands and rights, but outside of the guidebook for consumer interaction there is no way to talk or meet in a shared interest or humanity. Which leads to four anxious crew members stressing out because they have four-hundred annoyed consumers who are not getting their moneys worth of travel experience, and no way to garner sympathy once they’ve “distributed food and drink for free.” Also, some of them were impolite asshats.

Things to remember:
* Keep people informed, even if you have nothing new to say.
* Don’t be an entitled customer asshole.
* Always bring extra water and energy dense food when you’re travelling with SJ.
* Acknowledge that people have the option of ignoring what you want them to do — offer arguments as to why they shouldn’t instead of getting indignant.

On work and working

We don’t correlate our sense of responsibility with what we are actually producing. We correlate it with how hard we are being on ourselves. Thus anything that’s fun cannot possibly be work, and everything that’s unpleasant is.

→ Harvard Business Review, Dan Pallotta: Worry isn’t work [Via Eithface]

What I learned is that burning out isn’t just about work load, it’s about work load being greater than the motivation to do work. It was relatively easy to drag myself to classes when I thought I was working for my own betterment. It was hard to sit at a laptop and crank out slides when all I seemed to be accomplishing was the transfer of wealth from my client to my company.

→ The Tech, Keith Yost: The story BCG offered me $16,000 not to tell [Via Mefi]

Freelancing means walking from the West Village to the Upper East Side and back because you don’t have enough money for the subway. Freelancing means being so poor and so hungry for so long that you “eat” a bowl of soup that’s just hot water, crushed-up multivitamins and half your spice rack (mostly garlic salt).

→ The Awl, Richard Morgan: Seven years as a freelance writer

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The sounds for these videos is created by Tweet a Sound by Sound plus design. It’s an simple tone modulator with built in real time recorder, and it’s great fun to play with. If you listen through headphones you can try to melt your brain, which is an interesting experiment for a boring evening.

Capitalism. Art. Death. Fascism!

It was a bargain. We will give you our lives; we will spend our lives obediently doing things we wouldn’t choose, things that probably do not really matter to anyone. And in return we will get money. And money will take care of us
→, Benjamin Rosenbaum: The guy who worked for money

Dead bodies alone, are not that fascinating or scary or whatever you think they might be. They are just what they look like, lifeless skin suitcases. Without the life in them, they’re nothing. I think a person needs life and a body to be a human being. Without one of the two they are just meat furniture that needs to be moved before it starts to stink, or starts to rot, or starts to rot any more in any case.

→ My life with death:

The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light.

→ Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens: Topic of Cancer

An artist can only add shit to shit. Dinos once said, ‘Our art is potty-training for adults.’ He got that about right.” The Chapman brothers are trying to help grown-ups be more civilised? “We’re not here to help,” he giggles. “We certainly don’t care about moral instruction. Our interest in morality is not in being moralists, but in how morality works as a functional pacifier.”

→, Stuart Jeffreys: How the Chapman brothers became the brothers grim

Moreover, “57.6 percent of the respondents agreed that human rights organizations that expose immoral conduct by Israel should not be allowed to operate freely. Slightly more than half agreed that ‘there is too much freedom of expression’ in Israel. The poll also found that most of the respondents favor punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defense establishment.”

→ Judy’s world, Judy Mandelbaum: Yes, it can happen there: Artists envision “Israel fascism”

I consider myself a reasonably bright person, who works hard to make something people like. When I’m old and crumbling, I want to be able to feel that I had a successful life in which my work brought happiness to a lot of people.

→ The bottom feeder, Jeff Vogel: Sometimes it’s OK to pirate my games

Professional dilettante: The Photoshop proletariat.

Petter had too much work last week and brought me in for some photoshopping. Confident that whatever retouching was required I would be up to it I set about poking at the material. How hard can it be, right?

Emerging four days later, having slept at his place with scant time for food or personal hygiene, I had much more respect for people who do this for a living. I’ve used Photoshop since 1995, but never worked with it full time and so have huge gaps in my knowledge of how to streamline the work. And apparently my instincts regarding geometry, colour, sharpness and common sense are lacking as well.

At one point, when phone was ringing every fifteen minutes to check on my progress, I could taste zinc in the back of my mouth. For more than one hour I was in an adrenalin buzz, laughing hysterically to myself, my hand cramping around the tablet pen and both feet describing an accelerating cadence for the neighbours below.


I’ve been tasked with doing two slideshows for Landstingsarkivet in Stockholm thanks to my work with the Museum of Architecture, and just got the audio for one of them. One is about a home for idiot children from the beginning of the last century; Children who were deemed to be mentally retarded or in need of special education were sent there to either get treatment and rehabilitation or to be taken care of for the rest of their lives in case they were “incurable.”

It makes for a harrowing read, where some of the diagnoses mistook poor vision for retardation, and the slideshow is supposed to tell the story of eleven kids admitted to the home for idiots, victims of circumstance and the (often well–intentioned) application of psychology, sociology and Christian morals.

The professional dilettante.

As much as there is talk about the “death of the professional” and the “century of the amateur” I’d like to propose a new title, which just happens to fit with how I’ve been making a living lately: Professional dilettante.

This would require a slight change of how the word originally was used, with less emphasis on being an interested amateur, and more on someone who does a little bit of everything. I guess there’s already the term “jack of all trades” but it just doesn’t look good on a business card. The skillset of people has changed so rapidly that there’s now a great deal of people like I, who are qualified enough to do professional work without doing it full time. You never become technically great at something, but you’re great enough to get interesting work.



The trick is not to identify yourself too much with your profession, or rather to be able to switch between roles quickly, not like a chameleon afraid of being caught but rather like a Barbapapa; Equally comfortable as a harp as a car. The past two weeks have been a bit extreme, but let’s list what I’ve done that people have paid me for:

Taught advanced digital photography at ArtCollage
Technical support at a doctoral disputation at HFF
Host & bouncer at fashion show
Updating a homepage for the Museum of Architecture
Substituting at three other photographic courses at ArtCollage
Buying equipment and recording sound for the Art Faculty at the University of Gothenburg

And at one point I drove three drunk guys downtown for money cause I had nothing better to do. It’s truly the Niko Bellic approach to employment, with the difference that I don’t kill anyone (Except that once, and that was an exception!) and generally I’m not paid by italians.

I’ve registered with the unemployment office in the hopes of getting something out of the agency. Elections are coming up next year which usually means that the ruling party is throwing money at the unemployment problem hoping that the statistics will improve enough to get them re-elected. So if you’re looking for seed money to start your own company, or need some on-site-experience you stand an OK chance of getting it right now.

One of the projects that the government has started is the employment of “job coaches” who are supposed to go over your CV, job applications and personal hygiene, and generally try to improve your chances of finding employment. Just this year the government has set aside 1.1 billion SEK for this project, hoping to get 27’500 jobs out of it. This translates roughtly into 40’000 SEK per job created.



As a result of all of this money laying about, hundreds of coaching companies have sprung up overnight. It’s a buyers market where each person who qualifies for a job coach (which is anyone registered with the unemployment office) can choose which coach is right for them, and the coaches get some 9’500 SEK per person they coach, with an additional bonus of 1’500 SEK if that person finds a job for at least one month.

It would seem that the numbers are unbased in any reality except someones wishful thinking. The coaching companies have very little merit to go on, so the prospective clients are left sifting through hundreds of web pages, trying to gleam from the often bombastic presentations which company, and which individual in each company, might be right for them. And the project also seems to assume that 27’500 jobs are waiting to be filled by people who just can’t seem to layout their CV correctly, or who write so abhorrent job applications that they are disqualified from positions they would otherwise be perfectly suited for.

The matter isn’t helped by the miserable way the unemployment office is listing the companies offering coaching services. At the moment there are 150 companies listed alphabetically, ten per page, with no information about them except a link which might or might not be a pdf-file, which might or might not work. You can limit your search geographically, but not according to competence (if you’re an economist, you don’t need coaching by someone who knows only agriculture) or any other metrics (how long they’ve been in business, have they been reviewed somewhere, etc.) so you’re left with hours of work trying to understand what the fuck some of these companies actually do – They are throwing so many positive and cheery superlatives around on their homepages it would seem that you will climb the career ladder propelled on a rainbow coming out your anus, on top of which you will find fulfillment and joy just by being touched by them in a very special way, should you just have the good judgement of picking their company.

Once this whole coaching thing will be eveluated, to see where the 2.9 billion went, I’m guessing that at least 2’000 of those “27’500 annual jobs” are going to be filled with “job coaching.” In a twisted way I guess it makes sense; Paying people to dig a hole and pay others to fill it in.



I’m not above taking advantage of other people taking advantage of tax money, so I went to this job coaching fair which is in town. A 100 or so companies are cramming the halls with stalls and tables full of photocopied mission statements and slogans. The first thing that struck me was the similarity of the coaching business and the SEO business; If you think about it, the comparison actually is rather fitting. The SEO’s are telling you that regardless of who you are or what your product is, it’s all about presentation, and by adding a few key phrases here, getting some link exchanges there and “going viral” you’ll be raking the dough in in no time at all. Douchebaggery and selfgratulatory bullshit, in other words. And going by what some of these coaching companies are writing on their homepage, the rhetoric sounds similar.

Anyway. I walk down this hall and there seems to be a 2:1 ratio of coach to job applicant, and they look so hungrily at me that I pull out my cell phone and listen intently to voice mail. There’s a presentation going on entitled “Networking your way to a job!” and for every exclamation point or smily face I stumble across I whimper and curl in on myself. The halls are narrow and just walking from one room to the next you can’t help but to rub up against promotional material, which acts on the coaches much like the spasming of a fly in the net alerts a spider of dinner. Don’t look anyone in the eyes and don’t stop, or they’ll get you.

I’m chalking my trip to the fair down to experience, and will make a second attempt tomorrow morning. After all it would be a good idea to brush my cover letter up a bit, and I would like to discuss with someone about whether or not to include my Twitter posts with every application — especially those where I call people names.

Rebus competition! Win shit!

Take a look at the video rebus below. The first person to post the correct resulting sentence will win the exclusive commercial rights to the next short video work I do. Good luck!

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