Friday, 28 August 2015

Books of Summer

"Prayers for the Stolen" is the result of 10 years of research and interviews conducted by Jennifer Clement. The main character, Ladydi, is fictional, but pretty much the rest of it is true. I almost liked the epilogue the best, where she mentions a female prisoner who did not want to forget the sea and therefore rubbed in her hands with salt stolen from the cantine - but even though I had hyped hopes for this book that did not come true, it is of course still very important reading.

The baseline is that an hour of ride outside of Mexico City, there is a small city where girls get stolen by drug dealers and their mothers come up with all kinds of strategies to make them ugly. They dye their teeth brown, dig out holes in the ground to hide them and the only beauty shop makes the women there either plain ugly on purpose or beautiful just for as long as they stay inside. Before stepping out, they have to remove nail polish and other attractive details. The only teachers that come there is one person per year that is sent to do workfare as an alternative to going to prison. Not even the army helicopters dare to spread paraquat on the opium fields, as they are shot down. Obliged to report to the government, they dump the chemicals on the city  before reaching the fields, which poisons the people and the ground for a long time.
It is witty, well-written and personal in the most intriguing of ways - but my guess is that many potential readers do not make it past the title: "My Aunt's Migraine or How I Became a Woman". What you are missing is the reading about quite a lovelife. Holst and her editor would separately  avoid certain interesting personal parts, Holts wisely points out, because they both are innocent girls - so she decided to keep them after all. Sadly, none of Holts's books have been translated to English (Wikipedia says). After this journey of about two hundred pages, I am in doubt a translation could give this work any justice, but there are many talented translators out there, so I have not lost hope.
This book touched me more than I normally would acknowledge. I am quite certain I would not hang out with the character's in real life, or even notice them on a street on an ordinary day, but that is what Murakami's characters are generally like (from what I have read about him). I would probably appreciate their opinions on different matters though, so this is a double-sided matter. And then the science fiction elements that are just there makes it even harder to keep the distance to this book. A simple as a close colleague or friend of yours would walk in the room saying, I am not me anymore, everybody would know that one of their parts now is somewhere else. For once easy to explain, but hard to understand.
"Funny Valentine" is indeed funny. I probably laughed and smiled more than five times in total. The hipster in the book can only throw eggs at an actor's house if they are from free-range hens, for example. And always, always add a granny to a book to make it funny. Grannys are golden. Do I recommend the book? Not if I want to keep my good reputation as a "serious" reader. If this book is praised by the cultural elite or not hardly matters - I would not keep it in my shelf for a long time, but perhaps throw smiling glances at it in my memory.
Charlotte Rogan had been writing for 20 years of her adult life before she decided to hit it and I knew I would love it after the first three introducing lines. After a fifth of the book, I was bored. After about the half of it, I was stuck. Who would kill whom? And bored again - they were after all stuck on a boat for two weeks. 

The best part is that the main character is psychologically elaborated. She is smart. She becomes smarter and smarter and that is where the book ends. "The Lifeboat" - in Swedish - does, however, in the end not really keep up with the smartnes of this narrator. I am of the strong opinion that the entire book could have been made even more smart.
 My brother asked in a store for my birthday which book they would recommend him to buy, and they said "The last letter from your lover". I was sceptical. Being a woman, I will probably not often escape recommendations of chic-lit. Now when I have read it, I am more warmly inclined as some parts are well-written, and the suspense kept me interested. I even stayed up late just to finish reading it. 

The best way of knowing if I liked the book is if I will be keep thinking about it after time passes, and right now I have in mind a moment when hangers clashed sofltly against each other "as quiet cymbals" which was beautiful. (Bonus: on the photo you also see other birthday gifts - the alcohol-free beverage Roomi and a strawberry soda.) And now I know: it was well written, no doubt, but this is not the only thing I am looking for in a book. (And I still do not know how to pronounce the British novelist Jojo Moyes' name properly! "j" is a quite different letter in English compared to Swedish.) Not my thing.
"Desperate characters". Middleclass in weariness of life, more fun than it sounds (the recommendation note said). Nope, it was not very fun. But is it ever when a generation and an epoque falls apart? (Turns out, my friend Ilo is fascinated by people who are bored! I quickly recommended her this book.) My favourite scene is taking place in the hospital, where Fox excells as author.

Bonus information: Paula Fox is the grandmother of Francis Bean Courtney and the mother of Courtney Love.
"I kroppen min. Vägsjäl". ("In body mine. Soulgate" - my own attempt to accurate translation.) Kristian Gidlund has a poweful language which comes in shorts phrases. Unfortunately, this is his last book: in 2013, he passed away in cancer. He is happy if his writings can help anyone with their grief, and despite the pain that is also present, the book is foremost about joy and the will to live. I feel that I do not sell it in well enough, so I better sum it up as: beautiful.
Anna Gavalda <3! She is a modern writer: not only words form the story, but also sounds, the size of the letters and their placement. Perfection. One of the best books I read this summer - and I think she might just have become one of my favourite authors.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

My words from 2015, part I

Da Hong Pao. The world's most expensive tea, rounding up to 1 million USD per kilogram.

Greige (actually, a 2014 word i think) and bronde, words that Ian thinks he will never use. I have used them - except for telling other people what they mean. I have read them even more often (which says more about which articles I stumble upon...).

To wallraff - a Swedish term that stems from Günter Wallraff's investigative journalistics, who was using the method of adapting false identities to get closer to the interview object(s). Does anyone know any cool word for wallraffing in English?

Thumbnail - those very small images you see when online, impossible to enlarge.

Slingbacks. Is it fishing equipment, or a special hair cut with a dreadlock touch? Answer: shoes.

Neonatal. Has to do with bith and babies.

To bequeath. Because I do that all the time. I bequeath pens and books and other bequethal stuff. That was very facetious, haha.

Equestrienne. Means a female peson riding a horse. Horseriding happens to be the most equal sport in the world - women and men are paid the same amount of money.

I can tell a dahlia and a gerbera apart!

Grindslant. Swedish word. Translates as "entrance fee". Appears also as the name of a famous painting.

Silver bag. This is, despite the apparent language origin, Swedish slang in badass situations. To be avoided in double sense.

ServitutLoggiaCrenellation/battlement/knenellering. I do not really remember these construction terms by heart yet, but I keep coming back to "what was the name of..." so I will probably learn them fairly soon.

OOTD - outfit of the day. OMG  for knowing this acronym.

Grillz - teeth jewellery.

Sunroom. It is something completely different in Swedish: punschveranda.

A-yta (rough translation: "a-area"). A technical term used in shops for areas close to the entrance to display new items (and to make customers by them!).

Friday, 21 August 2015

Ice

My friends had discovered this gelato place on Sveavägen 86 - a common way of spreading the word seems to be first finding the Sosta coffee shop, and then realizing they do ice cream next doors, too.
I had four (!) ice creams. My favourites are the mascarpone and figues one, and the hazelnut one. 
Gelato Sosta Bar is the name! And they accept cash only.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

School start

Schools around the world are of course different due to different cultures, but how many schools have a samba theme and hand out ice creams the first day of the school year? Mine does.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

(At last!) Museum Mission: Siaröfortet

 I have wanted to get out here for such a long time! It takes about two hours to get here by boat though (does not have to be private, one can use Blidösundsbolaget), which came as a surprise (bad research, or maybe unfamiliarity with how big the archipelago is. Depending on the age of the boat (ours was fuelled with choal!), the trip might take even longer).
Siaröfortet is placed on Kyrkogårdsön. Yes, the island of graves: about a hundred people, dead from cholera, were buried here at a time when there were so many people dying and it was not possible to give every one of them a decent burial - and a quarantine was necessary. This number, however, is a pure estimation based on the stories from the people living around this place - it is not even known where exactly the graves are, even if there is a good guess. The name probably stems from even longer back in time, when seafarers did not want to dump the bodies of their deceased colleagues over board but stopped by here, the small island by which basically all big boats passed - and still pass, as you see.

From these Dath Vader-like helmets, one would be looking for coming ships. The architects had completely forgotten about aircrafts and Zeps.
The smooth surface was an attempt to make the place look natural and the trees were part of the disguise. In case the enemy came and had to be defeated, the plan actually was to quickly cut firs and birches down. These days, the cement hills are supposedly a paradise for skatebaorders.
But everything was not up to date and the project became more and more expensive. The build-up started in 1916, if I remember it right, and was not completed and in use until in 1928 - for one year only! This cannon is one of the more modern ones.
This very old thing (already at that time), on the other side, just can not aim right (the report about its accuracy of fire was much more delicately put) and was sent here to save a part of the budget.
The entire island is k-märkt, which is best translated as a national monument protected by the law. "Probably the only barbed wire in that is k-märkt", our guide guessed. Nevertheless, there is also a small hostel and restaurant here and people come here to swim.
I happen to know, due to a secret source, that there are still quite a few mines in the waters left from the war. (Update: even a friend who lives in an apartment in Germany learned two weeks ago that there was a bomb under the asphalt just 200 meters away.) And this, the queerish wooden shelf, was connected by wires to the mines placed outise of the island. One could - generally put - press a certain button to make a particulat mine go off. No joke: the map of the mines GOT LOST. So yes, there are mines in the waters. Probably not so many out exactly HERE, but there are mines. In the water. (And in Germany. And many other places.)
Underground, then, the military people slept (and stopped doing so when the health inspector came and took a look at the place) and TV-teams still come here to film authentic interiors. Here, the guide points at a version of an elevator that could take up the huge, still functioning, lamp à la ~5,000 W that can cast light at a distance of 6 kilometers.
So why did it take so long time to complete this project? One explanation is that it was built by an ordinary company (where the member's would prefer the bottle over the hammer) and were not allowed to see the entire floor plan at once, but had to build it piece by piece. The officer who lived in this house had this one job to prevent the workers from looking at the plan. 

For a glance further back in fortification time, when Gustav Vasa was king, pay Vaxholms fästning a visit.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Tom's Diner - Suzanne Vega

                       
This is a cool song - Suzanne Vega's voice is the song. No music.

Another version of the same song is instrumental and is nice, too, but not as poetic.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Sprouts and sprigs on track

Stockholm keeps surprising: there is an urban garden in Södermalm, for example.
There are trains and boats and cars just a few hundred meters away from growing tomatoes, chili fruits and potatoes.
Area itself is located on old train tracks, which actually later dive into a closed-off underground tunnel that seems to be frequented by people. This is to your back when standing like this; at your front to the right, there is the super popular club Trädgården.
This garden is found in Skanstull and supposedly has a café and library (!) open on Tuesday evenings and mid-Sundays, but I was not lucky to find it open. Check out the webpage (in Swedish) if you are curious!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Palace, landmarks...wait, carrots? (Postcard war continued)

"This is probably the ugliest postcard in Helsinki", I told the lady on the other side of the counter when reaching her Euro. She went all red and laughed in agreement. Her theory is that the owner of the shop - a man - thinks what a woman would not think: carrots and presidential palaces equate as the most important features when representing Finland.

Some of the previous postcard wars:
the Star Wars one,
the historical one,
the plain cute one

Which reminds me: Brazilian post is so slow, I should write and wish Lygia Merry Chistmas next week or so. It seriously took her letter three months to reach me last time, so I guess it is the same process the other way around.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Museum Mission: Norrtälje konsthall

Museum Mission continues! Norrtälje, for example, has an art hall - entirely for free.
It is spacious and several exhibitions are ongoing at once without disturbing eachother, that is well made.
Best is to go here - my camera is taking away a big part of the experience. But you probably get a sense of the airy space!
This chair reminded strongly of a sex studio, not that I have ever been to one.
My newly commenced hobby: to make photos of art look like art.
And at the entrance there is a studio where you can paint! (Above, you see charts used in Swedish schools.)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Report from the Helsinki visit. And Kotka. And Helsinki again.

Note that apartments in this house do not have door handles. This particular door is also theft-proof, as almost only the owner knows how to use the key (!) to open it properly. To me and Ilo, it first felt like a mission inpossible, but then I finally nailed it.
While locked out the first time (with a working key in our hands!), I had the time to write a few postcards. (Which I posted like ten minutes before the boat back to Stockholm took off.)
A very nice man at the book shop - Akademiska bokhandeln - showed me all the stamps that were for sale so I could have my pick. A clear favourite is the golden swan to the right.
The street systems in Helsinki, and well, Helsinki itself, was planned by the Russians, which makes it very airy. Street art makes things more Finnish-touched.
And so do the different signs. Another favourite is the recurring toilet sign (what to do/not do, usually glued to the lid) with a laughing red pig! 
The ladies at the tourist information office wore unique, lovely designs (which now seems to be for sale in Old town in Stockholm and online!) with Mumins (Moomintrolls). When we asked where to find hot guys, we got the suggestion to keep our eyes open. Or as C. said, maybe they are all on vacation in Sweden?
Other touristic suggestions!
We came to Helsinki after two days in the Finnish archipelago - one completely rainy, and one very sunny.
We paddled kayak in pouring rain, which was a beautiful: droplets bounced back up from the sea surface like white pearls around us, and we both heard the rain coming from our back as very loud whispers and could see it as a white line ahead when it passed on to pour at the horizon. Close to the shore, still wearing the life saving vest, I decided to jump in and it was so SCARY and COLD. Ilo's parents said happily that it looked so COZY from a distance!
Very beautiful.
The sauna is designed so that all of this greatness can be seen when inside (not seen here, though.).
I broke off the tip of several arrows (are they called that?) when practicing and decided I should by Ilo's family a new set for Christmas.
But nature in the city is nice, too. I am maybe both comfortable on the countryside as well as in town. As long as the countryside has fresh water. Electricity. Communication possibilities. Things like that.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Conference timez

Far out at Ekerö this school year started off with a get-together to plan stuff and such. I assure you it was much more crowded than I make it look like. There were 131 teachers (and other groups) under the same roof. School itself does not start until next week.
 They have really cool oil lamps at Skytteholm. 
And calming views. "Water is so warm!", my colleague went. Well, warm enough to not get numb the first thing.
The yard with surroundings has the world's third biggest collection of Car Milles art. First being the artist's home (Millesgården), do you have any clue which the second could be?