Observing Sweden – Blacksmith Shop

House Old- Fixed

1700′s? Just guessing.

Inside old house - 2

Bellows on right.

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Cormac McCarthy

BloodMy favorite author, Cormac McCarthy, was born on this day in Providence, Rhode Island – 1933. He had no interest in literature until he was in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska, and had nothing to do but read. Soon after, he began to write. “I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.” For years he lived in poverty, often unable to pay rent.

When he finished his first novel, The Orchard Keeper (1965), he sent it to Random House because it was the only publisher he had ever heard of. Albert Erskine, who had edited Faulkner, liked the manuscript and agreed to publish it. McCarthy barely sold very few books, but won awards and grants, which gave him money to keep going. He turned down regular jobs — and even speaking invitations. He moved to Texas. He said: “I ended up in the Southwest because I knew that nobody had ever written about it. Besides Coca-Cola, the other thing that is universally known is cowboys and Indians. You can go to a mountain village in Mongolia and they’ll know about cowboys. But nobody had taken it seriously, not in 200 years. I thought, here’s a good subject.” He wrote a few more novels, but they continued to sell poorly. He mostly lived in run-down motels, which were so dimly lit that he carried around a good light bulb so that he could see better to read and write.

When Erskine retired McCarthy switched publishers. His new editor arranged to have 30 pages of McCarthy’s new manuscript published in Esquire, and suddenly everyone wanted to read it. All the Pretty Horses (1992) won the National Book Award and was a best-seller. None of his previous books sold more than 5,000 copies in hardcover; All the Pretty Horses sold nearly 200,000 copies in its first few months. His other novels include Blood Meridian, The Crossing, No Country for Old Men, and The Road.

Ah, to be born without a doubt of one’s ability.

Blood Meridian: “I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable.” Harold Bloom.

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Amber’s Swedish History – Chapter 7

Amber History 7AThe Stockholm Bloodbath – 1520

Another Danish regent, Hans, the son of Kristan I, was the king of Sweden, but got driven off. Two decades later Kristan II. another Dane, decided he would take the crown.

Kristan IIKristan II

The Danes were stronger than the Swedish army. They resisted, but in time Kristan succeeded. He granted amnesty for all who’d fought against him. The losers happily accepted Kristan’s invitation to his coronation in Stockholm, where the new king had a change of heart. He had his men kill all of the attendants who had once opposed him, and their sympathizers. A hundred or more were executed in what is now referred to as the Stockholm bloodbath. Kristan topped it off by raising taxes, and passed a law prohibiting the carrying of weapons. He was soon referred to as, Kristan the Tyrant.

He had gone too far. Gustav Eriksson, a Dane, had not attended the deadly coronation, and tried to form a peasant army in Darlarna, but the peasants had no interest. Disappointed, he passed through the town and headed north. When people heard about the bloodbath they changed their minds and sent three skiers bring him back. They caught up with Gustav easily because he was not on skis. They still celebrate this event in Darlarna, with the largest ski race in the world, The Vasa Marathon. Thousands of Swedes compete over a 90 kilometer course  (56 miles). The race takes forever. I tried to watch it on TV last year, but fell asleep.

Gusav Vasa

Gustav Eriksson Vasa

Where was I? Gustav, known as Gustav Vasa, came back and defeated Kristan he Tyrant. He had it pretty easy for a while, as most of his competitors had been killed off. Gustav also became a tyrant in the years that followed, but centuries later historians would decide to make him a hero. It was now near the end of the middle ages. A new era had begun, but Sweden didn’t have an army or a navy, and the Danes had both. They would remain a threat.

Most Swedes farmed, and lived in houses with sod roofs. Goats and pigs were running around all over the place, but nothing is written about dogs because they weren’t important. Five thousand people lived in Stockholm. They were mostly Swedish, but some Germans, Scots and Dutch were there as well.

The king raised taxes again, and decided his people, who were Catholics, would be better off as Protestants. This move gave him control over the property of the church and its money. He became the richest man in Sweden, owned five thousand farms, and a fleet of ships. A New Testament was printed during his reign. It was the first major book published in Sweden, and began with a forward by Martin Luther, another German.

Gustav wrote critical letters of advice to common farmers, which have helped historians romanticize him as a beloved monarch, but they terrified the farmers at the time.

“Oh, shit! Another letter from the king.” You can imagine.

Gustav’s picture was on Swedish money for a while.

Gustav KronerHe ruled successfully, but there were problems. Sweden’s economy tanked, and the university at Uppsala was barely functioning. There were uprisings by the peasants who were angry about the new taxes, and changes to the church. Six revolts were put down. Their leaders were executed in public.

There were attempts to poison Gustav. He was also stabbed, and there was a plan to blow him up by putting gunpowder under his seat at the cathedral in Stockholm on Palm Sunday. It would have been a memorable ascent to heaven, but one of the conspirators got drunk on aquavit and spilled the beans. Eight people were arrested, and beheaded . . . seven of them Germans. Kristan II thought it was a good time to return with an army of mercenaries, but he was defeated and spent the rest of his life in prison.

The peasants were now doing fairly well by now, except for the king’s letters. There were no serfs in Sweden. Farmers lived a simple life and owned fifty percent of the land. They were described as crude by Germans who said they wore old-fashioned clothing, belched at the dining table, and slept on the floor with their animals. Sounds okay to me, but there were rats, as they could not afford to import cats in those days.

Coming Next – Duke Karl and Crime & Punishment in Sweden

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Interesting Stats of Interest to Writers

Thought this might be of interest to those of you who write. I came across it by chance today. It is from: authorearnings.com/july-2014.

This DRM thing – News to me. DRM

Sounds like DRM might be a good thing to get rid of – no idea how to do that.

On Earnings:



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Catcher in the Rye


Catcher PhotoThe Catcher in the Rye. Published this day, 1951. About a 16-year-old prep school boy, Holden Caulfield, who is fed up with all the “phonies” and wants to go live in a cabin in California. The book took Salinger 10 years to write, and it was at one time the most banned book and the most frequently taught book in the country.
The book begins: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
And later, Holden says: “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

Despite Salinger’s hesitations about publicity, The Catcher in the Rye was a sensation. It became a best-seller almost immediately, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list after two weeks. It has sold more than 65 million copies.


Interesting. I watched a documentary about Salinger last night. He was complaining about how people were driving him nuts, seeking him out and asking him for answers about life. “I’m not a psychologist!” he complained. “I write fiction!”

I remember reading Catcher ages ago and thinking Salinger had the answer to something – I can’t remember what. I don’t remember anything about it being banned. Hard to imagine why. I need to read it again.

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Tic Toc – Kind of a Hurricane Press


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On Being Alone With One’s Thoughts

Study: most people dislike being alone with their thoughts
July 4, 2014
Courtesy of the University of Virginia and World Science staff

Most people dislike being alone with their own thoughts—and many would even rather give themselves electric shocks than just sit quietly, according to new research.

In a series of 11 studies, psychologist Timothy Wilson and colleagues at the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that study participants from a range of ages generally didn’t enjoy spending even brief periods alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream. The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild shocks.

“Those of us who enjoy some down time to just think likely find the results of this study surprising. I certainly do but our study participants consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time,” Wilson said. The findings are published July 4 in the Journal Science.

“Even older people did not show any particular fondness for being alone thinking,” Wilson said.

He doesn’t necessarily attribute this to society’s fast pace or the prevalence of electronic devices, such as smartphones. Instead, he thinks the devices might be a response to people’s desire to always have something to do. In his paper, Wilson notes that broad surveys have shown that people generally prefer not to disengage from the world. Based on the surveys, Americans spent their time watching television, socializing or reading, and actually spent little or no time “relaxing or thinking.”

“The mind is designed to engage with the world,” he said. “Even when we are by our¬selves, our focus usually is on the outside world. And without training in meditation or thought-control techniques, which still are difficult, most people would prefer to engage in external activities.”

During several of Wilson’s experiments, participants were asked to sit alone in an unadorned room at a laboratory with no cell phone, reading materials or writing implements, and to spend six to 15 minutes  depending on the study – entertaining themselves with their thoughts. Afterward, they answered questions about how much they enjoyed the experience and if they had difficulty concentrating, among other questions.

Most reported they found it hard to concentrate and that their minds wandered, though nothing was competing for their attention. On average the participants said they didn’t enjoy the ex experience. A similar result was found in further studies when the participants were allowed to spend time alone with their thoughts at home.

“We found that about a third admitted that they had ‘cheated’ at home by engaging in some activity, such as listening to music or using a cell phone, or leaving their chair,” Wilson said. “And they didn’t enjoy this experience any more at home than at the lab.”

The researchers took their studies further. Because most people prefer having something to do rather than just thinking, they then asked, “Would they rather do an unpleasant activity than no activity at all?” The results show that many would. Participants were given the same circumstances as most of the previous studies, with the added option of giving them¬selves a mild electric shock by pressing a button.

Twelve of 18 men in the study gave themselves at least one electric shock during the study’s 15-minute “thinking” period. By comparison, six of 24 females shocked themselves. All of these participants had received a sample of the shock and reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again.

Wilson said that he and his colleagues are still working on the exact reasons why people find it hard to be alone with their own thoughts. Everyone enjoys daydreaming or fantasizing at times, he said, but these kinds of thinking may be most enjoyable when they happen spontaneously, and are harder to do on command.

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