Wall of Sound

During a very brief period in the beginning of the 1980s, I toyed around with the idea of becoming a mixing engineer. I was studying technology at high school and many of my friends played in rock bands. Although I realised I didn't have enough talent as a musician, I wanted to be part of that world.
From Caucasus Highlights 2015
At that time, you had to be into either hard rock or synth music. Always an eclectic, I felt a bit in between liking corporate rock like Boston as well as synthpop like Spandau Ballet. I also liked Toto and so did some of my friends in the band Tate. They played "Hold the Line" oh so well (although I've never completely understood the lyrics but apparently I'm not alone having this problem) and sounded a bit like the band The Toto Tribute based in Stockholm (who do a great version of I'll be Over You, and that I completely grasp).

Although I don't think that Toto used the Wall of Sound approach, to me they still sound great. Also around that time, the highly metaphorical Pink Floyd movie "The Wall" was released.

It's interesting and quite disturbing that the phrase "another brick in the wall" is used in academic circles for the accumulation of scientific knowledge with individual studies being the bricks from which a wall is being built. Doug Altman has gathered quotes about this, for example "Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of bricks; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of bricks is a house.”
From Caucasus Highlights 2015
As a concept, a wall affords many things that can be used metaphorically. It separates things and people, it can be high or low, it can be solid or full of cracks, it can become higher or brought down, you can sit or stand on it, it can be thick or thin, you might hear things through it or throw things over it, have four of them and you can put a roof on to create a house, it can be made of various materials, and so on.

I'll end with something related to both walls and sound: The writing's on the wall, theme song from Spectre. And a soundless quote from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy:

From New England 2012


Dry Spell

On the last evening of our trip to Caucasus, we had dinner in a cosy caravanserai in Baku. The evening was warm and we were entertained by a belly dancer, a torch juggler, and a crooner. When I heard Sting's "Desert Rose" playing in the background, I came to think of the deserts I've been to.

When I went from Hurghada to Luxor, I had no notion of the vastness of the desert surrounding the Nile. It was a strange and creepy feeling standing in front of the Deir el Bahari temple, knowing that it was just a couple of years ago since terrorists killed 62 people at exactly the same spot.

In Tunis, we went to the salt plains at Chott El Jerid to ride camels and look at the Star Wars film locations. After all the dust and heat in the Sahara it was wonderful to swim under the stars in the Tozeur oasis.
From Tunisia Colour 2008
On our way to Petra, we passed on the fringes of the Wadi Rum desert. In the other direction was the continuation of the Rift Valley, creating a wonderful soft landscape in the sunset. I'd like to go back to Petra some time, and go to an evening concert.
From Jordan 2010
The deserts around Baku are filled with mysteries such as clay volcanoes, gas on fire, oil wells, temples and rock carvings. Thor Heyerdahl spent some time here, developing a theory that the Vikings originated from Azerbaijan, since the carvings in Scandinavia and Azerbaijan look alike. Well, I'm not sure he would stick to his theory if he'd been around now.

From Caucasus Highlights 2015

During my trip to the Caucasus I saw no traces of Food Deserts. The roads were littered with small food stands and the markets were numerous and plentiful. However, I'm sure we travelled though lots of Wage deserts. It's important to look at cause and effect.
From Caucasus Highlights 2015


Beyond Spectre

It feels strange to do research on the Bond film "Spectre" when waking up to the news of the dreadful terrorist attack in Paris. In the Thunderbolt book, Ian Fleming placed the S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) headquarters in Paris. The organisation is not aligned to any nation or political ideology and its main strategy is to instigate conflict between two powerful enemies, hoping that they will exhaust themselves and then be more vulnerable for an attack. Is that what we see now?
From Malta May 2014
When I looked up "spectre" in the Oxford Dictionaries, one of the examples provided made me curious:

"In curing speech of specters and ghosts, analytical philosophy claims to cleanse the mind of a dreamy fondness for every sort of idealism, vitalism, Platonism, and transcendentalism."

The quote took me to a review of the book "The Making of a Philosopher" by Colin McGinn, written by then PhD student Matthew F. Rose who is now the director of the Berkeley Institute. The title of his review is "The Disconsolate Philosopher" and I believe the following sections are especially important:

"On the face of it, perhaps few concepts are as curiously matched for one another as intellectual autobiography and analytical philosophy. Intellectual autobiography is best told as a story of small detonations going off in one’s head, shocks that send its author reeling for cover and learning to return fire. It is stubbornly premised on the belief that ideas matter, and because they can make us saints or psychopaths, because they are worth living and dying for, they matter more than anything else. Analytical philosophy, on the other hand, is best explained by its belief that because we are restricted to the field of language, ideas do not really matter because they do not really exist, at least as nine out of ten of us think they do. It is, then, a cynic might say, the sheer improbability of such an undertaking that makes McGinn’s work remarkable, as if only a form of intellectual alchemy could turn the stuff of logic and linguistics into an intellectual life well lived."

"With his typical knack for having things every which way, G. K. Chesterton understood the necessity of playful seriousness in truth-seeking. For him, the only sane philosophy somehow managed to wear the color of fairy tales, the aura of gallantry, and the smell of incense. The Great Tradition, he wrote in The Everlasting Man,
looks at the world through a hundred windows whereas the ancient stoic or the modern agnostic only looks through one. It sees life with thousands of eyes belonging to thousands of different sorts of people, where the other is only the individual standpoint of a stoic or agnostic. It has something for all moods of man, it finds work for all kinds of men . . . it is able to distinguish between real and unreal marvels and miraculous exceptions, it trains itself in tact about hard cases, all with a multiplicity and subtlety and imagination about the varieties of life which is beyond the bald or breezy platitudes of most ancient or modern moral philosophy. In a word, there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life . . . . It gets every type of man to fight for it, it gets every kind of weapon to fight with, it widens its curiosity or sympathy; but it never forgets that it is fighting. It proclaims peace on earth and never forgets why there was war in heaven."
From Malta May 2014
"There are no mysteries, only confusions."


The Men

When I walked the streets of Yerevan, two things struck me. You could find statues in many places and almost all of them were depicting men. There was the explorer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen, the composer Alexander Spendiaryan, the author Alexander Shirvanzade, the main architect behind modern day Yerevan Alexander Tamanian and so on.

I even found a group of statues called "The Men", from a film in 1973 by the Armenian director Edmond Keosayan.

I could only find two statues of women: Mother Armenia looking down on the city with a really big sword in her hands, and an unnamed woman looking very sad.

When I came home I started to look around me in Gothenburg on my way to work. Male statues everywhere. The inventor John Ericsson looking puzzled by all the traffic in the Allé or perhaps from looking straight at the statue of Charles Felix Lindbergh with his walking stick, the men fighting with knives in Bältesspännarparken, King Karl IX on his "mare" at Kungsportsplatsen, King Gustaf II Adolf pointing his finger at his square and so on.

I wasn't alone in my observations. In a column in the newspaper Göteborgs-Posten, Ingrid Norrman stated that it's time recognise more women through presence in the public space. Apparently Gothenburg got its first statue of a named woman in 1987: the author Karin Boye outside the city library. Since then we've had another one: the midwife/surgeon Johanna Hedén outside a hospital.

I suggest Chalmers put up a statue of Vera Sandberg, who in 1917 became the first Swedish engineer. With two campuses, there should be enough space.