Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Omgiven av idioter: Hur man förstår dem som inte går att förstå by Thomas Erikson

Have you wondered why you sometimes need to be alone for a while with your thoughts? Or why you always have to be the center of attention? Why certain people are so careless and sloppy? Or why you are surrounded by idiots? Thomas Erikson is explaining all this. He uses a known method to sort differences in communication and categorize people into four different groups, or personality types. Red people are impatient and focused on results, yellow people are positive and need to be the center of attention, green people, which are the most common, are calm and good listeners, and blue people are well organized and pay attention to detail. Everyone is needed and the best group is consisting of all colors. 

People critical to this would certainly claim that it’s difficult to categorize people, but, of course, this method includes numerous variations, and most people have more than one color. Another critical comment might be that dividing people into groups is something that should be prevented, but Thomas Erikson doesn't value one quality more than another, he just states that we are all different. This is just a way to understand each other. We get to know the cause of conflicts and how best to treat them. Of course, this is not a totally waterproof method. People are unpredictable and complicated. The reality is always more complex.

The book, a new edition, is entertaining and useful, both at work and in private life. Everyone benefits from this because everyone we all use communication.


The Doomsday Conspiracy by Sidney Sheldon

Commander Robert Bellamy is hired by the NSA to locate people that have witnessed a weather balloon, with some secret equipment, crash in the Swiss alps. They don't tell him why, and he soon realizes there is something big going on. It’s an interesting story and has much potential. Unfortunately, the big mystery culminates in a chase. Bellamy’s mission is to find the witnesses, but I would be more interested in the big discovery in the mountains if I were him. Bellamy’s search for the witnesses feels repetitive. They all resemble each other. Not one of them seem to care very much about the big discovery. Why have they not already contacted the newspapers? 

The book resembles the structure of a movie script, with not much inner dialogue, and it seems that Sheldon has not given a thought about how best to reveal the big mystery. Events are often presented like scenes in a movie, and it works for most of the time, but it would have been much more interesting if Sheldon valued the emotional aspect more. This is common in the genre, but I still miss the psychology, why people do as they do, and why Bellamy doesn’t question certain events. As a movie, it would have been approximately 90 minutes long, and Bellamy wouldn’t have seem that ignorant. In a book, you wonder when he will discover the truth. Bellamy is supposed to be one of the most successful naval officers. Yet, he rarely think about the cause of his mission and the whole picture.

The part where Bellamy becomes the target is interesting. He is extremely professional, and that is why he sometimes becomes disappointing. When creating falce traces, why rent a hotel room in your real name? A good agent wouldn’t do that. When trying to find a way out, why tell people where you are going? Sometimes, he is very intelligent, and sometimes not. Of course, showing the reader all perspectives right away might diminish my patience. If Sheldon had left me in the dark for a while longer, Bellamy would have seem more intelligent. Furthermore, it would have been interesting to discover everything at the same time as him.

Never the less, government cover-ups and conspiracies are always interesting, and the message of the book is very relevant and a topic of current interest. Even though the book has flaws, it's entertaining.


1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell’s prophecy concerning the development of society is both frightening and thought provoking. In his dystopian novel, Orwell, or Eric Arthur Blair as his real name was, predicted how the world in 1984 would be like. The book was published in 1949, in the aftermath of world war two, and has a lot of influence from the communists and nazi rule at the time.

There are themes like big brother, relativism, surveillance, collectivism, freedom, reality, manipulation, indoctrination and the biggest threat of all, love. The communist idea that the individual is replaceable, a casualty, while the system is important, is a big theme. At the same time, the system rests on the people, and therefor it is important to control them. There is no freedom of speech or even thought. The thought police arrests everyone that protest against the truth. The massive surveillance controls the people. Even though Orwell doesn’t take it as far as Karin Boye’s Kallocain, with the truth serum with the same name, he lets the thought police be able to read face expressions and tones of voice. The least deviant gets arrested and probably killed.

According to Orwell, there are four ways to bring down a totalitarian state, and in most cases it is a flaw in the system itself, or the powerful people behind it, to make it possible to overthrow. This is where this book becomes not only frightening, but disturbing. Orwell shows us that it is possible to control an entire population, and diminish the risk of being destroyed. He has thought of everything, using the mistakes of earlier dictatorships, forming a flawless oligarchy. The main character, Winston Smith, a member of the Outer party, works for the Ministry of Truth, where history is rewritten all the time, which causes a great confusion and loss of orientation, preventing people from learning, getting inspired of other people, and making comparison with other believes impossible. If all information is constantly changed, and there is no way of confirming one's memory, what is the truth, then? If you are the only source, can you be sure the information is correct? Can you trust your own mind, your memory?

Another factor for a strong oligarchy is the power of language. How words make thoughts possible. In Oceania, the political party is restricting the language through a new way of speech, without words like freedom and democracy. A restricted language means unthinking, unintelligent individuals.

The scariest part of the book is the control from within. There can be no love besides the love for Big Brother, hence the sexualpuritarism. The system is above the individual, and relationships between people are unnecessary, even a liability. The children being the worst spies reminds me of the witch hunt in the 18th century. Children don't understand the seriousness of their deeds. For them, it's just a game, and they are rewarded for it. They never learn to love their parents as their parents love them. Therefor, they don’t mind reporting them to the authorities. This totalitarian ideology depends on children scaring people and helping the system, never trusting the population. The children are brought up to be hooligans, and are justified by the ideology. The part of justifying a certain behaviour that is not humane is not totally uncommon today, when governments justify wars. The simple idea that there are two sides and the other one is always wrong is a way of uniting people. When returning from a war, soldiers are treated like heroes, despite the damage they have caused. 
Oceania constantly changes enemy. Just as in the fictional world, the winner writes history, which is a kind of censure function, and yesterday's hero might end up tomorrow's enemy. In that way, it is relevant today. It emphasizes general structures and values to an extent where they become visible and easy to question.

The proles, the ordinary, poor people that don’t belong to the political party, are not so different from us. They are easy to manipulate and not in need of indoctrination. They live simple lives with hard work, family life, sports, beer, gambling and fighting with neighbours. In what way do they differ from us? Are we not easy to control because we are busy working and consuming products that are advertised, seldom evolving into more spiritual, philosophical individuals that might discover and question flaws in the society? According to Orwell, the people that knows what really happens are the ones who are least able to see the world as it really is. The people who have information are unable to face it. The more insight, the more delusion. The powerful people in the book that know the situation, and that Oceania will never win or loose the war, are the ones who believe it the most. I wonder whether that is true for the real world, as well.

The totalitarian machine does not just oppress people. It makes them oppress themselves. Through the terms dubblethink and thoughtcrime, people repress their memories and force certain opinions.

Orwell wasn't right in his prediction about a totalitarian society taking place in 1984, not in the western world, but he was right in some cases. The dystopian novel is very disturbing to read, because in a way, the book is more relevant today than ever. We are being watched, our telephone calls are being monitored, and we leave fingerprints everywhere on the internet. Is it possible to be free? What is freedom?


Night by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel was fifteen years old when he and his family, living in Romania, were placed in a ghetto and then deported to Auschwitz, and later Buchenwald. He lost his entire family in the concentration camp and it's painful to read, knowing that would happen. He became A-7713, and eventually he did loose his identity. 

He portrays the dehumanization process very well. How the SS officers treated the people, reduced them and made them forget their value. When confronted by the evil of men, the prisoners loosed their identity. Wiesel watched people stop caring about their families, leaving them. He thought it horrible. It seems that many people went through a major transformation, not only physically, but psychiologically, as well. They handled such strong feelings, and eventually, they run out of them, or they become immune. Perhaps it was a defence mechanism. Wiesel describes a situation where everyone was struggling to survive, every man for himself. No one could afford to care much about anyone else. It takes you one step closer to get a glimpse of how life was during that time. Sons stopped caring about their fathers. People fighting, even killing, for a piece of bread. Eventually, when Wiesel's father was getting weaker, he realized that he had become one of them, an unbearable thought. It's terrible to read about. I understand his thoughts, but I think he really tried. He managed to not be separated from his father, but remained with him for eight months. They worked under unbearable, excruciating circumstances, and he tried to help and support his father, but admits he failed. It is one of the most heart-breaking parts of the book. After seeing his father changing, starving and suffering from dysentery, he realized that he couldn't help him, and even if he could, he didn't have the energy to do it, which made him ashamed. Wiesel is very honest to admit this about himself.

The prisoners weren't treated as human beings. They had no dignity, nothing left. It's very well portrayed how exhaustion and hunger might change a person, take away his will to help people and even his will to live. Living in such a world, Wiesel lost his will to survive, his faith and his innocence. Even on liberation day, people didn't think about revenge. They just wanted bread.

After the war, Elie Wiesel has worked as a professional journalist and international correspondent, devoted himself to political activism, tried to join underground movements, and started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. For ten years after the war, he refused to talk about his time in the concentration camps. After a conversation with an author, he changed his mind, and wrote the 900-pages memoir And the world remained silent, which was later shortened and named Night. A film director approached Wiesel and suggested to make a movie based on the book, but he refused, claiming that a movie would destroy his story, which needed the silence between the words. In 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Price, and his acceptance speech is in this book. Despite all his achievements, Wiesel has asked himself if he has done enough. That makes me sad and ashamed. The least I can do is to read this book, trying to understand people's experiences during the holocaust, and promise to never forget.

Before being taken to Auschwitz, many people weren't able to believe in the final solution. There were some rumors, but they didn't think that such a thing could happen in modern time. The idea of an entire people, wiped out, was absurd and impossible to understand. Wiesel faced the truth when coming to Auschwitz and seeing the crematorium. It's still very difficult to comprehend that millions of people were wiped out. This book is so important, not only because it's about the holocaust, but also because of the humble, personal way it is written that somehows emphasizing the horror and the structures of evil.


Göran Kropp 8000+ by David Lagercrantz

In this book, Göran Kropp tells the story of his climbing carrier and his crazy adventure in 1996. He decided to climb Mount Everest, and to do everything by himself. He rode a bike from Sweden to Nepal, and climbed Mount Everest alone, without a guide, without any use of sherpas, people carrying the climbers' baggage, without oxygen and he mostly ate his own food that he had brought with him. The photographer that was supposed to catch Kropp's achievement on camera was flown in secret with a small plane, a Pilatus Porter, at a height of 9000 meters – which is forbidden. Furthermore, it had to be a big secret because they had to restrict the airspace. Too bad, a storm was coming in and they had to fly earlier than planned, and the photographer didn't get Kropp at the top. Kropp was there during the dragic season of 1996. On may 10th, many people died. Kropp knew these people, and met them at base camp, but he wasn't part of their expeditions. 

David Lagercrantz, who has written about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alan Turing, and is the author of the latest Stieg Larsson Millennium-book, knows how to write. It really feels like you are there, in the snow and in the darkness, with Göran Kropp. You are really cold. What is surprising is the interesting relationships forming at base camp, and the necessity to trust and depend on each other. The people coming there to climb are so unlike each other, but become the same, with the same thoughts and the same needs and struggle to survive. There are so many destinies intertwining, which makes the book rich in a fascinating way. It is really beautiful that people meet and have this bond. Kropp tells us about wonderful meetings with wonderful people, but and also people that are arrogant and selfish. Up there, people are really put to the test. They seem to be reduced to the basic foundation of themselves, in a way. The true personality is revealed.

Some facts about Mount Everest

* In 1924, George Mallory was the first westerner that climbed Mount Everest. No one knows what happened, and whether Mallory and his collegue Andrew Irwine reached the top. They disappeared and were find 1999. They were the first to die there.

* In 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first climbers known to have succesfully reached the top. Three days later, the same day that Elisabeth II was crowned Queen, their achievement reached the news and they became heroes. Kropp claims that the news were comparable with Neil Armstrong later walking on the moon.

* Reinhold Messner reached the top 1980, alone and without oxygen tubes.

* Water boils beneath 100 degrees celcius, around 60.

* A person looses 8 liters of water a day.

* Above 8000 meter, the ground is called the "death zone". Already at base camp, near the height of 6000 meters, the body stop producing muscle cells. Exercise is not only burning fat, but also muscles are affected.

* It is said that the mind of a person with great physique is slowing down up there and the ability of understanding is half of a six year old, due to exhaustion and the low levels of oxygen.

* The mountain can only be climbed a short time, between the jetstreams and the monsoon season.

* Around 155 people have died climbing Mount Everest.

This is a story about the love of climbing, but it is also a report about the climbing industry. Göran Kropp critiqizes the rich people that pay huge amounts to be a part of a team, but lack knowledge, respect and experience, only surviving because they depend totally on their guides, jeopardising the entire expedition, because of their inability. Kropp doesn't like the fact that mountains have become like trophies for the rich. According to him, it contaminates the air. A climber should first and foremost care about the climbing, the love for the mountain. But the commercial aspect is growing. Now, the mountain is like a high way, trafficked by unexperienced people, which might have stopped the flow of climbers, may 10th, 1996, and caused the delay - one of the reasons that led to the major tragedy.

Climbing is expensive and has become an adventure for the rich people. The more comfortable adventure, the more expensive adventure, sadly. Money should not be the ruling aspect, deciding who will be a part of a team. Kropp discusses the rich and famous people using oxygen tubes at all times and paying many sherpas to carry their baggage. Of course, it's not possible to demand that people should carry heavy packing and drop the oxygen tubes, and still be able to carry out the deed. Then, not many people would be able to have the experience of reaching the top. There should be no prestige. However, it's obvious that it is the sherpas that are the real heroes. But many people that pay their way up to the top and don't need to prepare themselves that much or plan anything, seem to lack the careful, responsible, humble and respectful approach that characterizes the guides. Many of them give the impression of not being that interested in climbing, which makes you wonder what their climbing is all about. Perhaps some of them are genuinly trying to learn, while others just want a trophy. Kropp is critical of people like the arrogant and disrespectful journalist Sandy Pittman, who, according to him, seem to have had a big part in the tragedy of the expedition she belonged to, in 1996. An assistent to the guide had to drag her up and down – she didn't even climb by herself, just because she was famous and great advertising - and therefor didn't have the strengh later to save people's lives. Pittman survived because she was rescued, but her comment later to the tragedy that occured was that it was indeed horrible, but at least her book would sell well. After getting back to base camp, she hired a helicopter and asked only two people to ride with her, when she could have hired another one for the same amount of money, and helped those that had saved her life. Perhaps Scott Fischer's death might have been avoided if he hadn't burned himself out, trying to help such clients, and she didn't mention and never thanked the people that saved her life, when later talking to the press.

The guides shouldn't take totally unexperienced people on. Obviously, everyone has the right to climb, but it would be safer if the clients had some practice before deciding to climb Mount Everest. It is dangerous even for the most experienced guide. No one can buy a life garanty, and unexperienced people increases the risk. But the climbing industry is growing, and money is power. May 10th, 1996, the guides Scott Fischer and Rob Hall decided to ignore the rule to not climb the mountain after 02.00 pm - Hall waited there until 04.00 pm, because he didn't want to let his client, Doug Hansen, down. Kropp remembers the famous call between Rob Hall and his wife, Jan Arnold. Hall was alone, somewhere in the cold, exhausted and almost didn't have the energy to talk to her. The last time they spoke to each other they talked about what they would name their baby.

Despite the growing commerse, there are still people that want the whole challenge, and do everything themselves. They are often the most experienced, and most likely to survive. It's something beautiful and magnificent about challenging oneself to that extent. It's almost as if a person's mind is reduced to only the strongest feelings - happiness, hope, disappointment, fear, determination and grief. It's easy to understand the climbers' view of what it really is to live. Perhaps some people live their lives to the fullest when they are close to death. Göran Kropp died in 2002, climbing in the area of Frenchmans Coulee, close to Washington. He was and still is a great inspiration, while reminding us of the danger of climbing. With this book, he is able to tell his story.


The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco

The play, written by Eugène Ionesco, consists of an Old Man and an Old Woman, moving around many chairs. It's one of the plays that became the foundation for a theatrical movement called Théâtre de l'Absurde.

There are only two people in the play, except the orator that make an entrance later. The other characters are invisible. Perhaps the Old Man och Old Women are the only ones left in the world. Perhaps an apocalypse has destroyed the earth, leaving nothing behind. They say that there is no Paris anymore, and talk about an old memory repeatedly. The chairs might symbolise their long lost friends. Another explanation is that the imaginary guests are real people, but with an absent mind. They are there, but at the same time not. However, despite being invisible, they seem more alive than the strange orator, who seems more like a robot than a human being. Are they in the future?

There are many themes in the play. The need to be remembered is easy to identify with. No one wants to be forgotten forever. When finding the meaning of life, or whatever discovery the Old Man has made, will garantee it. Perhaps the chairs symbolise the importance to not forget people. Or perhaps the couple might have dementia? Or being prisoners, bored and wanting to entertain themselves? It doesn't really matter. The play is about memories, and the ability to remember a past that was better than the present. It is about regret. The Old Woman often tells her husband what he could have become if he only were more ambitious. Now, when he has the answer to everything, and will reveal the secret to the world, he will finally be someone. He will be remembered.

The reason that the orator doesn't succeed to reveal the Old Man's discovery is perhaps because of the Old Man. He doesn't dare to reveal his discovery himself. Instead he escapes. If not believing in oneself, no one else does. He seems to have escaped many things in his life. He denies having a son and he admits having abandoned his dying mother. Is the empty room a form of escapism? The lack of responsibility is a great theme. By the way, perhaps the orator really tells the audience the meaning of life. They are just unable to understand it, because it's impossible to understand.

What's good about this play is that it makes you think. There are many interpretations possible, and the story surely means different things to different people.