Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What I Read: 2023

I'm planning on doing a buddy read of Ulysses this year, and much as I love and patronize libraries, some books are impossible to read unless you own them and have access to them at your leisure. (How many times did I try reading a library copy of The Second Sex, for example?) I spent the afternoon in town browsing The English Bookshop, and while I ended up having to special order Ulysses from their Uppsala store, the chance to browse the random selection led to me finding books I wouldn't have otherwise. 2023: A Trilogy was one of them.




A boy I had a crush on in high school thought the Illuminatus! trilogy was one of the best books ever written and so I devoted a summer to trying to read it. I made it halfway through and never finished, but it was enough that even years later I can recognize the countercultural significance of things like 23, 17, and fnords.

This is important because 2023 is full of Illuminatus! references (mixed in with nods to pop music and other literature). If I hadn't been able to call back to those particular references, I might well have been too lost to appreciate the book.

It's a fun read if you're either in the know or thirsty for meta, slightly experimental satirical science fiction. If you're not, then you're probably going to enjoy it as much as Jake Arnott.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Talky Tuesday: Citizenship

Sweet baby Christ, has it really been over a month since anything except a Friday 5 went up here?

Guess so. Trying to figure out time management so I can spin approximately five? six? different plates is not working out.

Anyway, let's dive back into What's Going On In Katherine's Life with a peak at the citizenship ceremony I attended back on Nationaldagen!

Nationaldagen in Sweden is much more low-key than the American equivalent. It mostly just seems like an excuse to have a red day when the weather's nice.

Except.

For immigrants it means that you get invited to Blå hallen at Stadshuset for speeches and music.



The music at the American version would be a bunch of old standards: some Sousa, maybe "God Bless America" or "America the Beautiful" or something similar, and of course the national anthem. Sweden opts for a selection from a musical written by half of ABBA and a schlager hit from 1979's Melodifestivalen (in addition, of course, to "Du gamla du fria"). This is a kind of patriotism I can get behind!

Fika (one (1) kanelbulle and one (1) tiny cup of coffee or lingonberry juice) came after the speeches and the music, up in the "Golden Hall," so called because every single inch of wall and ceiling space is covered in gold (gold-colored anyway) Medieval-style mosaics. I couldn't get many good pictures, but this is the best one:



As in, the best picture I got and but also as in, features one of my favorite figures from Swedish history, Drottning Kristina. She was a bug-eyed weirdo super-smart lesbian (?) with wild hair who spoke eight languages, never married and after a couple years of ruling as queen regent, converted to Catholicism and peaced out to Vatican city, abdicating the throne to her cousin. A royal fit for pride month!

Here's some from Wikipedia that are much better:





They had organ music for the post-ceremony fika. I didn't pay too much attention to it until we were on our way out, when something about the tune struck me as familiar. It hit me and Lord Xenu at the same moment and we looked at each other. He was the first to say it:

"Isn't this...'I Will Survive'?"

Yes, the renowned Swedish diva Gloria Gaynor!

On the way out I got an envelope with free tickets to Skansen and a gift bag from the economics and law student union that had some brochures and a basil plant. There's no way I'll ever be a member of the economics and law student union, but the fresh basil was lovely in the salad I made for dinner later that week.

Part of me was anxious the whole time; it's an election year here in Sweden and everyone's real upset about immigration, so it would have been a whole room full of sitting ducks for some kind of giant terrorist THING to make some kind of point or other, and security was essentially non-existent. But a bunch of cops and metal detectors would have ruined the atmosphere. Dålig stämning. That would be very un-Swedish. I guess it's very un-Swedish (and very American) of me to think that way. Sigh.

Some things take a little getting used to.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday 5: Espirit

Close up on berries on a juniper bush.
Photo by Steve Richey on Unsplash 

What’s your spirit animal?

I'm going to back away from that specific terminology because I'm not even remotely Native American (no, not even 1/64th Cherokee Princess). But as for an animal I relate to, black bears spring to mind. I just want to nose around the forest and eat fruit and berries all day (and as I get older, my "fur coat" only seems to get thicker and darker, sigh...). But I'm not nearly as dangerous as an actual black bear when provoked.

It's my birthday at the end of this month, which makes me a Cancer in the Western zodiac. According to the stereotype, Cancers have a hard, tough shell to protect their squishy and vulnerable insides. That sounds about right.


What’s your spirit tree?

I can't relate to any tree specifically, but my mortal enemy tree is pine trees. I have a pine (and fir) allergy, which means I'm allergic to Christmas and pesto sauce. Are there other trees that hate pine trees?

Given my stature, I'm not even really tree-like at all. I'm much more of a shrub. I'll go with juniper, I guess. We had a bunch of juniper bushes lining our driveway for years. My dad was actually planting them when my mom went into labor with me.  (Mom: "My water just broke, we're having this baby." Dad: "Make some sandwiches while I finish getting this one in the ground and then we'll go to the hospital.") Those plants are no longer with us, but there are still a couple juniper shrubs (bushes?)  elsewhere on their property, and they remind me of home.


What’s your spirit food or beverage?

"Bullsky," or equal parts Red Bull and whisky (the cheapest bottom shelf stuff you can find). This is not an actual cocktail you can (or should) order anywhere, or any kind of actual "thing" except with a couple members of my trivia team in the US. But it's an oddball, low-class combination with a distinct flavor that's not for everyone. Just like me!


What’s your spirit weather phenomenon?

Clear skies, bright sun, 28 *C temperatures, a touch of humidity. I'm a wilting tropical orchid.


What’s your spirit passenger vehicle?

I am absolutely an off-brand knock off Mini Cooper.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Friday 5: Break of Day

A pair of broken windows in a white wall.
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash


When did you last break something made of glass?

Years ago. I had a whiskey glass from the tour I took of the Jameson distillery when I visited during spring break in 2008. It survived decorating my college dorm, but when I came home it slipped out of my hand and didn't survive its meeting with the concrete garage floor.

The friend I had visited in Dublin gifted me his later to make up for it. Friendship goals!

When did you last break something ceramic?

I don't know that I ever have, actually.

When did you last break something electronic?

After really good luck with smartphones for years, I finally dropped and cracked the screen on my smartphone last year.

When did you last break a non-traffic-related law?

I've definitely had more than my allotted amount of liquids on a flight.

When did you last break a promise?

I promised one of my students I would bring Dixit around for our next lesson and then didn't. I'm not usually that forgetful...!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Friday 5: How About a Knuckle Sandwich?

When did you last punch someone?  Alternate question: When did someone last punch you?

I suspect it was when I was drunk. Drunk Katherine gets a little punchy. (Not seriously. Just friendly shoulder jabs.) I suspect the people I drink with aren't inclined to return the sentiment because they're not into hitting women, which is an admirable sentiment.

How many of those frequent (whatever) stampcards/punchcards do you have, and which are you most likely to fill and redeem?

I have one to Details, a bra and lingerie store in Stockholm. I cheap out on everything else I wear, almost, but I will plunk down good money for a bra and you better believe that I'll take any discount I can get on those purchases.

I also have one for SF Bokhandeln, but I rarely spend enough on one purchase to warrant a stamp, and the resulting discount isn't really that much, so trying to fill it up would be a false economy. (Especially since any given card expires after a year.) The English Bookshop offers a slightly better deal (and I tend to buy more books there anyway) and the card never expires, so I actually fill it up now and then.

When have you had a really good fruit punch?

Does the smoothie I'm drinking right now count? Supercharged black tea (read as: I let it steep for hours, and then chill) plus mango plus bananas. When you need that caffeine hit but it's too hot for warm drinks!

What are your thoughts on boxing?

At this point, it seems more humane (and like the participants are taking a more informed risk) than in other public and popularly sanctioned sports in the US (what up, football).

When do you usually punch in and punch out?

Freelancers are never not working or thinking about work. Or maybe that's just me.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Friday 5: Who Put the Pomp in the Pomp Bah Pomp Bah Pomp?

A group of smiling, mostly white graduates adjusting their tassels at the close of the ceremony.
Image courtesy Caleb Woods from Unsplash.


What’s something you remember about your high school graduation?

That it happened, mainly.


If you were asked to speak at a commencement ceremony this year, what would be the theme of your message?

Live deliberately. Do the things you want to do; want to do the things you do.


What items in your possession are marked with the name or logo of your high school or college?

Well, my college diploma is in a drawer in the kitchen, and the school cane is boxed up and ready to ship from my parents' house. (My alma mater is a bit odd in that, in addition to being presented with a diploma, you also get a wooden ornamental cane upon graduating. I have no idea why.) I don't have any school spirit clothing or tchotchkes, otherwise.


What do you expect will be your next rite of passage?

Completing KPU at Stockholms universitet? Turning 40?


What’s a good movie with a graduation scene, or a good movie with a graduation theme?

I have no idea if it's in the movie, but Enid and Becky's attitude towards graduation in the original graphic novel version of Ghost World mirrored my own.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday 5: Mind Your Peeves and Qs

A small owl sitting on a branch in the daytime, looking grumpy.
Image courtesy Gunilla Granfalk on Unsplash.


What’s one of your language-related (that is, something people say or write) pet peeves?

Editors are supposed to have an endless list of these, right? So the stereotype goes. We are the gatekeepers of language and so on and so forth. And I guess we all do, probably. But if you look at the layperson's language pet peeves ("they're/there/their"! "your/you're"!) and the editor's pet peeves, the overlap would probably be quite small.

My personal ones these days are: The New Yorker's bizarre house style guide (coöperation? no thanks) and The New York Times's practice of referring to heads of state with honorific titles instead of, simply, their names.

Not what you were expecting, maybe!


What’s one of your dining-out-related pet peeves?

It's nobody's fault, but somehow the waiter always comes over to check on you just when your mouth is full of food. Or maybe they do this deliberately so as to avoid getting sucked into an actual conversation with someone who wants to nit pick the seasoning of the vegetables.


What’s one of your technology-related pet peeves?

Windows updates.


What’s one of your television-watching pet peeves?

Romance. Any time a show (or book or movie, for that matter) features a close friendship or even working relationship between a man and a woman, romance almost inevitably gets shoehorned in. If not outright romance, then something like Will They Won't They. It chafes for a lot of reasons (lazy way to add tension, heteronormativity, implying that the only possible relationship between men and women is romantic/sexual) but I think this one hits me personally because most of my inner circle are men. (Not for "women are just too much drama!" reasons; it just seems to have happened.) The close friendships I have with women are also way different than how they're portrayed in media (much more random weirdness, much less obsessing over shoes and sex) but at least they're not wholly misrepresented as some kind of waiting room for romance.

This is, incidentally, why I love Elementary so much. Sherlock and Joan are #FriendshipGoals to the extreme. Of course, now that I've said that, I've cursed the show to fall victim to exactly this trap. Sigh.


What’s something you do that you know peeves others?

Swedish has an expression: tidsoptimist. This is someone who lacks a solid grasp of how long it takes to get to places and (the implication is) is usually late.

I've been here for five years and I'm still a tidsoptimist. I still operate by American car-owning convenience and fail to take into account that I'm not leaving whenever I like, but according to public transportation's time table. I'm stricter about this with clients, or with traveling, but socially? All bets are off. I get there when I get there. (Maybe this is why I don't have many Swedish friends?)