Hindsight is 20-20, or so it is said. Thinking about this past year at FITK, I wonder (often) if what I produce here is worth anything. This year saw me scale back on posting to three times a week, with Sharon Spotbottom (bless her inscrutable heart) visiting every Friday. But actually looking at and re-reading the posts done over the last 12 months is somewhat heartening.
This has been a year which saw a broadening of my literary pursuits (Thanks to Rose, Niranjana, and Caroline); I must have covered more than a score of books- and read even more. Putting up the Laxness in Translation site and connecting with so many other Halldór Laxness fans really expanded my horizons as well (Rose~ the revolution is at hand!) My sidetrack into Faroese literature was triggered by a serendipitous discovery of Faroese Short Stories in an antique store in Galena Illinois. Following up on that book opened my eyes to a wonderful vein of literary ore, made even more precious by its scarcity. I hope to uncover even more "nuggets" next year.
My Icelandic connections seem to be fading and this might be the start of a trend. While I have scarcely exhausted all the Icelandic culture available, there comes a point where the "low hanging fruit" is gone, and climbing higher does not insure commensurate rewards. I might get back there this year but it is just too soon to say.
And then there are the actual Flippist "archives". Yes, they do exist, in tidy white boxes and folders. Artifacts, images, tapes, papers, negatives and slides. Meaningless in themselves, but often these things contain a story. The encouraging thing about creating a post from them is that there is almost no subject too obscure to attract at least a little interest. If a post makes a connection to just one person it is worthwhile. For example; A few years ago I wrote about a great aunt of mine, a person I had only met in childhood once or twice. This summer I received an email from a man who had been in her care for a few years when he was a child. He had lost all touch with her when he moved away, my post was one of the few links he had left to a person who was literally a second mother to him at a very trying time in his life. There are dozens of hits on my back posts every week; the "long tail" of internet searches is a reality. That said, I have the nagging suspicion that one day Google will change its search algorithms and Flippism is the Key will be effectively shut out; it seems that a similar scenario is already in effect for YouTube.
So, another year awaits. Sharon will be back and I'll be as random as ever (I subscribe to The Brownian Motion School of Blogging) but as with all things, I sense a change coming, both from within this blog and from external events. I don't know what that may entail, so I'll just say thanks to everyone who stopped by this year, and I hope you come back again next year.
The fabled Tintin franchise has finally made it to the big screen via Steven Spielberg's production of The Adventures of Tintin. The whole Batty Clan, along with our old neighbors and their son (we all discovered Tintin in the early eighties, when the boys were little) went to see the new movement-capture CGI film. This was big production- lots of intricate chase scenes featuring tons of period accurate detail- all encompassed in a fairly faithful re-creation of the spirit of the early Tintin adventure comic books. Spielberg really is just a big kid at heart, and his juvenile fascination with machines and action is actually well-used here. The characters were rendered with slavish attention to detail, and the motion-capture animation preserved a sense of organic motion, even more lifelike than some real actors. We caught it in 2D- 3D may have its place, but it wasn't missed here- usually the image is dimmer and duller, the 2D presentation captured the cartoonish colors vibrantly.
One problem of the movie, and this holds true for virtually every comic book adaptation, is the loss of the design elements of the original comic- usually not a big thing, in fact it is almost imperative that the movie must change when transferred to the new medium. Still, it could have had a more graphic look (Hergé was an absolute master of design) versus the photo-realistic tone of the film. For a detailed look at the differences between Hergé and Spielberg, check out the wonderful essay by Jenny Hendrix in the LAROB. The film did deliver a solid entertainment, especially when compared to the rash of G-rated previews which we had to endure before the show. "Suffer the children..." I think that there is a special circle in hell reserved for the producers of these features (do we really need Madagascar 3?) where they will be forced to watch their own creations eternally. Speaking of producers- there were five studio credits for the Tintin film- Paramount, Columbia, Sony, Amblin, and Nickelodeon! It's just a comic book story folks!
The Christmas tree is ablaze with lights, the Christmas snowflake quilt has been hung, the Christmas stockings have been hung with care, there are Christmas presents under the tree and even the Sharon Christmas poster has been brought out of storage and is displayed in a place of prominence.
Flippist World Headquarters is in the spirit of the season.
The first school I attended was Jenny Lind Elementary. Named in honor of "The Swedish Nightingale" Jenny was a noted singer in the mid 1800's. How that moniker came to grace a somewhat stodgy building built among the potato fields of North Minneapolis has always been a mystery to me, but I always had a fond attachment to the name- a name which was so different from the political, military or literary heroes (almost always Dead White Men) who were usually the recipients of such an honor.
On the wall next to the principal's office, situated directly across from the bench where miscreants had to sit while they awaited their doom, was this portrait of the beautiful young singer. I often thought it very special (while sitting on that bench) that here was a real oil painting of a famous person in my school! And a beautiful woman at that! I learned years later that these paintings had been made by the hundreds, if not thousands. I found the copy shown here in the Governor Lind Mansion (no relation) in New Ulm, Minnesota.
I wonder if there will ever be schools named for popular singers from our era? The Sheryl Crow Academy ("All we wanna do is have some fun") or the Cyndi Lauper School for Young Women ("Girls just wanna have fun") or even The Brian Wilson earthquake lab ("I'm picking up good vibrations"). Actually I could see a Björk Music school in Iceland (The Joga Studio?), or even a Joni Mitchell driving school for commercial drivers (Big Yellow Taxi). But none of these would be as sweet, nor any as dear to my heart as the name Jenny Lind- my old school:
Nornabúðin was a shop in Reykjavík from 2005 to 2008, specializing in items associated with witchcraft, pagan religion, and natural healing. Amulets, tea, herbs, and various witchcraft related items were sold there. Her shop was decorated with gnarled, twisted branches, animal hides and antlers, and other artifacts from around the world:
It was owned and operated by Eva Hauksdóttir, a practicing witch (Norn, in Icelandic), social critic and conceptual artist. She offered rune-reading, and dispensed practical wisdom along with her wares. The shop had tables for tea and social gatherings:
The outside of the shop had two large windows, which had displays of her goods:
These dolls were especially cute, in a witchy way:
The shop closed in wake of the Icelandic financial meltdown in 2008. Eva was an instrumental figure in leading protests against the standing government, which ultimately resulted in a change of the national leadership. She was featured in the documentary Guð Blessi Ísland:
A new meditation on Halldór Laxness' charming and insightful The Fish Can Sing has been posted at the Laxness in Translation site. First posted on wdvalgardson's kaffihus, this extended piece looks at the book from a number of angles, and even shows its relevance to contemporary events.
W. D. Valgardson is a writer, teacher and was recently the editor of the Icelandic North American newspaper, Logberg-Heimskringl. His most recent book is What the Bear Said: Skald Tales from New Iceland, his well-written blog is a joy to read, it covers Icelandic and Canadian topics, along with whatever else holds his interest.
When I was young and the weather would turn cold, in late November or early December, I would head down to the Mississippi River to savor the crisp, translucent ice that formed along the shore. Large shelves of luminescent crystal, with the burble of the running water underneath a siren's call for daring exploration. Every child in our neighborhood had been instructed to stay away from the river, especially in the winter, you could never tell where it was too thin to support you.
But that was the challenge. It was a game, pointless in that you won nothing, nothing except the absence of an icy soaking (which you already possessed by staying on the shore!) While you were working up your nerve you would hear the ice crack, or see a large shard break off; there was absolutely nothing to give you reassurance that your little game would end in anything but disaster. Of course, if you weren't ready to tackle the mighty Mississippi, you could try your luck on tiny Shingle Creek, 12 feet wide and only 3 or 4 feet deep, at worst you might get a wet foot, or perhaps a soaking up to your knee. It was pretty tame, and grew old quickly. So sooner or later you ended up on the big ice, on the river, and by some miracle of divine intervention you didn't die.
The road out to Gray Skull Wharf, where everything ends, is a long one. With many twists and turns and cul-de-sacs, it passes through a thousand-year-old city. We are in no hurry, and on this belated journey we will not take things like chronology and causality too seriously either. We feel just like children playing in the twilight, who are reluctant to go home to bed as long as there is still light in the sky and the beautiful day is not entirely over. And the old boatman, sitting in his ferry and waiting at the end of the world, is a wise man, after all. He knows the whims and caprices of the human heart, and its untimely yearning for the unreachable. He will surely grant us a reprieve for a little longer. You'll see– he has probably lit his pipe and is sitting there in his gray wolfskin enjoying himself as he gazes out over the deep with experienced seaman's eyes, to where the beginning and the end meet and shake hands with each other, as the darkness falls.
William Heinesen was born at the turn of the 20th century in Tórshavn in the Faroes, a group of islands in the North Atlantic between Scotland and Iceland. He was considered the greatest of the Faroese writers and although he wrote in Danish, his work revolves around everyday life in the Faroes. This collection of stories, loosely connected by the thread spun in the preface reprinted above, was written with the intention of being his final work. Tiina Nunally's elegant translation is always concise and poetic.
Heinesen's intention was to have one last go at telling the stories of the people of his life, they are tales from a time that is long gone, an old man's look at those memories of things that have stayed with him over a long life. The stories are simultaneously magical and realistic. Love unrequited, passions leading to ruination, life in a small town in all its facets- with all its joys and heartbreaks.
These are simple stories, told in a straightforward manner. A travelogue, if you will, to the ends of the earth and the center of the human heart.
The Holga is a cheap plastic camera, noted for its random behavior- light streaks, overlaps, poor exposure and focus- high tech it isn't. It does have a certain cachet and is popular with young people (if only for a roll or two.) Its popularity has grown slowly over the last few years, keeping roll film manufacturers alive and confounding photo-lab technicians whose automated equipment refuses to respect the free form formatting of the images that result from its nonchalant design.
I met a Holga adherent last week-end, selling prints at an art fair. The images were lively, fun and colorful- nothing earth-shattering, but pleasantly ambiguous. I joked about her being a "Holga Girl" as if it were a secret cult. While talking, I thought back to all the cameras I've had over the years (many dozen) and all the formats: 35mm (full frame, half frame, stereo, Nimslo) 4x5, 120, 220, 116, 616, 620, 127, 118, 110, 126, 828, Autographic, 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm and all the styles: Box, folding, rangefinder, SLR, point and shoot, Polaroid, view, pinhole, movie and now digital. While I've never owned a Holga, I have had a Diana- the Holga's inspiration, and quite possibly the worst camera ever manufactured.
I'm trying to cut down, I've got two digital compacts, and a Digital Single lens reflex. I might jettison the DSLR, I find the compacts to be so much handier, and their image quality (and software) has improved enough that I find that there aren't many times that I really must have the big camera.
And a cute little camera gets more smiles from its subjects than than a big old monster-zoom DSLR ever could:
I posted about Rookie when it started but now, three months on, it appears that Tavi Gevinson and her gang of contributors have created what may well be the best site on the internet: rookiemag.com.
It claims to be a site for teen-age girls, but the caliber of the writing and graphics is much higher than the usual adolescent publications, even better than most mainstream media. The layout is a great example of how a website should work, with minimal (and appropriate) ads and a lively sense of design which complements the articles and graphics. The photo galleries (not flash-based) have the best functionality of any I've used.
Just a few of the excellent articles published recently:
Style=Substance, Jenny's frank look at women of color and the role of style in lives spent under duress.
Interview with Joss Whedon, Tavi's absolutely first-class interview, much more sophisticated than the usual celebrity puff-pieces.
If you're looking for something worthwhile to browse, click on the "everything" link at the top of the Rookie home page- they publish 3 posts a day, five days week so there is plenty to look at. Although the tone is light, it is never condescending or juvenile. The rookie gang covers so much stuff- from fashion to psychology to humor to sexuality- that the girls who read it are going to enter adulthood a step ahead.