One Last Thing Before I Go

I just heard from Nyssim Lefford, the author of "The Music Box" (a novel I wrote about earlier this month), that her book is now available on amazon for Swedish readers - and I understand it has been for American readers (and others, perhaps) all along. Which is good news, and is hereby passed along to anyone who is interested.

Those who don´t have the Kindle reader can download a free app from amazon for their computer or smartphone or read it in their browser. All is explained on the amazon website. 

Again, a good summer to you all!


Blogg Closed for Summer Vacation

Last year I didn´t think once even about what to do about the blog during the summer. However, as traffic has increased, and comments too, I have become more ambitious and involved in this little project. I really appreciate all my commenters and silent readers a lot - you make me want to write more and better posts, and I have definitely widened the range of subjects I write about, though I try to keep literature at the heart of it. So thank you, all!

Storforsen, 2011
After giving some thought to my options I have decided to simply close up shop for a month. I will travel, I will have guests, I will go on adventures, and I will be off-line a lot. I don´t want to schedule posts and leave comments unmoderated, because I have had a few strange comments lately, and some comments behaving strangely even though I have vetted and approved them. Blogger seems to be spitting them out. So if you have made an innocent comment and can´t find it, that´s what´s happened. Why, I have no idea.

I wish you all a great summer holiday: a light breeze under a blue sky, grilled seafood & umbrella drinks, litter-free beaches, an even tan, and lots of time to read. I will - hopefully - be back by the end of July with much to share!

Typewriter nostalgia

On our shelf: the old Halda, from the 30´s.
Here is a fun post for writing nostalgics. I saw a documentary last week about Woody Allen, who still writes all his scripts on his 40-year old Olympia. The salesman who sold it to him said it would last longer than him, and so far it looks like he was right! Swedish author Jan Guillou (who wrote the Crusades trilogy, and the books about Swedish secret agent Hamilton/Coq Rouge) writes everything on one of his four Adler typewriters, and has stocked up on ribbon to last him until he is 100 years old, at his present speed of writing. Sounds like he is all covered.

My mum had a Facit, with the old key layout (they changed the positions of å, ä, ö and some other keys in the 70´s), which I played with as a kid. I learned proper typing on an electrical, and my first jobs involved real typing, as the pc and wordprocessor didn´t become standard in all offices until the early 90´s. I was probably at my fastest when I was working as a clerk/secretary at Stockholm City Hall, by then on wordprocessor DisplayWrite4. We had a state-of-the-art ink-jet printer, I loved that thing! It was like magic.

I used to have a very nifty travel typewriter with exchangeable types, that allowed you to use different types of font. It also had an eraser tape, very practical. But I gave that away when I got my first laptop. I just tested my speed (something I haven´t done since school) and I can write a modest 60 words a minute. It is puzzling, I think, that schools don´t seem to teach proper typing skills, considering everyone uses computers these days.

Jag kan skriva60ord i minutenHur många ord i minuten klarar du?

The Outerworldly

From The Talks.
I have read so much about street photography lately, that it was kind of refreshing to see a mini documentary on television about fashion/portrait photographer Paolo Roversi. He prefers to work in the studio, and his models look like some spieces from another planet. Nothing street-ish, nothing real about this!

In an interview on The Talks (my new favourite read), he says:
What makes you want to take pictures? Can it be anything?

No. Not anything. Something needs to touch me, something needs to give me an emotion, something needs to bring me a memory, a dream, to somewhere. When you look it’s the same. Photography always starts with a look. You look outside of your window and you see something or you’re walking down the street and you see a girl and you turn your face. And if you are a photographer you want to go in and you want to discover or you want to be closer to these things to get this emotion.
 There are picture galleries at Italian Vogue, and on this blog.


Knitting Project

From a shop window in Tallin, 2013.

Midnight on Midsumer´s Eve

Sundown: 00:06
Sunrise: 00:59

Taken from my bedroom window at 00:30. Not the prettiest weather.


Hard Rain

Today is the last day for outdoors photo exhibition "Hard Rain" on Storgatan (= main street) here in Luleå.

The man behind the project is Mark Edwards, a photographer who specializes in the environment. He has chosen the images for the exhibition, one for each line in the Bob Dylan song "A Hard Rain´s A-Gonna Fall", an idea that came to him some years ago in the Sahara desert, a story he tells in this interview.

There have been popular guided tours, and much interest, and now the exhibition is moving on. I´m not sure where it´s going, but it´s been on tour in Sweden since 2011.

I remember these two from one of the books by Mark Lynas, who photographed a glacier in Peru that his father had photographed 23 years before. I never actually read the book, but it was all over the Swedish press at the time, and I definitely had it on a reading-list that I must have misplaced.

These images next to each other gives one an eerie feeling of doom and opportunities lost, I think, even though they are on display to inspire commitment and a will to do what it takes to make a change.

Artist Karin Mamma Andersson said about some of her paintings that she feels that we live in an age of rot, or a global state of doldrums. This exhibition does make you fear what storms may be ahead. I think the last picture looks like a Gustave Doré version of hell.

These photos are nowhere near being the worst ones. Some are really horrific, with a rotting body on a beach next to a tourist attraction, dead or half-dead women and children, families living in sewers with hardly a rag to cover themselves. Perhaps I should have taken snaps of them, but honestly, when I got to that part, I simply forgot to use my camera.


The Enigmatic Garbo

All translations from Swedish are mine - quick and dirty. 

It´s 1928, and young Vendela Berg is crossing the Atlantic on her way to America, to work as a bookkeeper at her uncle´s firm. She is traveling economy, but by bribing the staff, she hangs around the first class deck, attracted by the presence of the greatest movie star of the time: Greta Garbo, who is on her way back to Hollywood after a visit in the old country. Garbo has already made a name of herself being a very reluctant and shy celebrity, fleeing her admirers in Stockholm.

Garbo in Stiller´s "Gösta Berlings Saga", from Wikipedia
This is the beginning of Ellen Mattson´s "Vinterträdet" (= the winter tree), which I have wanted to read for a long time, and after "The Music Box" I felt that it was right to read something good in Swedish again. Garbo seems to be in the cards this year. I liked Mattson´s "Snö", which I blogged about in 2011, and that one, "Snow" in translation, is available in English now.  She is probably one of the best writers in Sweden, and it would surprise me if this one wasn´t released into English as well, eventually.

For some reason, Garbo is attracted to Vendela too, and she is offered employment as Greta´s social secretary, a kind of personal assistant/lady´s companion, to handle her affairs and live with her in Hollywood. She orders Vendela to loose weight, to better fit into her clothes, and teaches her to pretend to be her, this way attracting diverting attention when Greta wants to slip away unnoticed.

Mattson works in first-person narrative, and through Vendela enables us to see Garbo both from a distance and from within, as Vendela and Greta at times almost seem to be the same person, sharing the same experiences and feelings. And you can interpret their relationship as two sides of Garbo´s personality, Greta being the emotionally driven, mostly by fear, and Vendela being the rational, thinking, clever one.

From Ross Verlag.
In 1928 Greta is very much in mourning over Stiller, who made her fortune, and who was perhaps the only person with whom Greta had a really loving relationship. She is drawn to (and mirrored against) fellow Swedish actor Nils Asther, with whom she makes two movies. He was known as "the male Garbo" for his beauty, was also discovered and mentored (or groomed) by Stiller, and feels both grateful and resentful towards him. Mattson lets Greta say about Stiller:
"... jag trodde på allt han sa. Det gör jag än, för allt han sa var sant. När direktörerna på Metro talade om för mig att jag var en kossa som inte gick att filma nedanför naveln visade han dem vem jag var, han höll själv i kameran och förklarade hur jag skulle röra mig: stanna vid fönstret, dra undan gardinen, böj huvudet bakåt! Jag fanns knappt innan dess. Jag visste inte vem jag var. Han visade mig för mig själv, jag tittade på provfilmen och tänkte: så detta är jag. Jag hade plötsligt börjat finnas."  "... I believed everything he said. I still do, because everything he said was true. When the managers at Metro told me I was a cow who couldn´t be filmed below the navel, he showed them who I was, he held the camera himself and explained how I should move: stand by the window, pull the curtain, bend your head back! I hardly existed before then. I didn´t know who I was. He showed me to myself, I saw the screen test and thought: so, this is me. I had suddenly come to life."

Garbo as Queen Christina, from Wikipedia
Mercedes de Acosta is another admirer that becomes perhaps closer to Vendela than Greta. They both work hard at Greta´s dream project, a film about the Swedish 17th Century Queen Christina. This is a film where Greta thinks she will be able to do something of quality, not just be a tragic, bad woman who must be punished for her wicked ways in crappy films, which she hates. Both Vendela, Mercedes, and Greta herself projects the real Greta on the historical character of Queen Christina, who in their script version is no more authentic than what eventually is filmed. Vendela and Mercedes share a passionate conviction that Greta must be saved from Hollywood, and that there is something in her that is not being respected, some artistic genious behind the beautiful face. But she betrays them both for more money, and makes the Hollywood version of Christina. But no matter, Vendela loves the movie.

In the end, does Vendela ever get close to the real Garbo? They live together for seven years, is that enough? Is Greta being entirely open, entirely honest? Is she the only person in Hollywood who doesn´t act, who is just being herself, a naturally shy woman of integrity, who just wants to be left alone?

This novel is about Greta Garbo, and yet, it´s not.  Towards the end of the story Vendela says, and this very much sums up the entire novel:
Young Greta, Wikipedia
"Under alla de år jag kände Greta pratade hon bara när det passade henne och svarade bara på en bråkdel av mina frågor. Tyst sträckte hon ut handen och rörde vid tekannan, sockerskålen, brödkorgen, askkoppen, lampfoten, allt som fanns inom räckhåll, allt som fanns i den verkliga världen och gick att ta på, och sedan vände hon sig mot fönstret där gråa sjok av blötsnö gled över glaset och då såg det ut som om hon tänkte på sin vän, hans ensamma död, snöns ensamhet när den faller ur en stor svart rymd och försvinner i vattnet, sugs upp av modden på den våta gatan eller rinner som tårar på glaset. Men det var jag som tänkte på allt det där. Det går inte att berätta en annan människas historia."    "In all the years I knew Greta she only talked when it suited her and only answered a fraction of my questions. Quietly she put out her hand and touched  the teapot, the sugar bowl, the breadbasket, the ashtray, the lampstand, everything that was within reach, everything that was in the real world and could be touched, and then she turned towards the window where grey chunks of wet snow slid over the glass, and in those moments it looked as if she was thinking about her friend, his lonely death, the solitude of the snow when it falls from a black sky and disappears into the water, is sucked up by the slush on the wet street or runs like tears on the glass. But it was I who was thinking all that. It is not possible to tell another person´s story."
I am not going to reveal how it ends. And there is more than one way to interpret this novel. I read a critic in one of the major Swedish newspapers who thinks this is, above all, a novel about female friendship. I say: what? I don´t find that to be a major theme at all. If anything, I find the relationships more metaphorical than real. I think this is a story that can be looked at from a number of different angles, concerning authenticity, projection, integrity, honesty, courage, and other things.  In that way, the story is as enigmatic (or, as projectionable) as Garbo´s beautiful face.

I highly recommend this to anyone who can get their hands on it. It´s hard to say how Mattson sounds in English, but the original prose is... well, delightful. Amazing. Truly clever.

Morning Encounter

I met this little fellow this morning. I was standing really still and he (or she, I suppose) came right up to me and started sniffing my shoes. When I moved to get a better angle with my camera, he got scared and rolled up into a thorny ball.

Did you know they make a hissing sound also when they do that? He sounded like a mini-Darth Vader! Trying to intimidate, no doubt, but so cute...


Mixed Bags

Completely unrelated lilac picture.
I have seen a lot of blogposts and whole websites dedicated to handbag or luggage content, but this is the best one so far. Some people seem obsessed with the stuff we carry, as if it holds profound clues to who we are. And perhaps sometimes it does. Minimalists seem to be the most obsessed of all, which is a bit contradictory at first glance, but makes sense if you think about it.

Photographer Jason Travis has a project with portraits of people (and some pets and superheroes) and what they carry, Persona. There are some unexpected and funny displays here.


We´d roll and fall in green

I have never paid much attention to Kate Bush. I don´t suppose she was ever that big in Sweden. The other day I read something somewhere about her song "Wuthering Heights" and I decided to go check it out. I recognize it, of course, but I always thought those chorus lyrics were just la-la-li-la-la-la or something. Now I realize she is singing Cathy´s ghost! It´s hard to hear, even when you know the lyrics.

Anyway, now it´s running non-stop in my head (in a very clingy, Cathy-sort-of-way). So I thought I´d share.

(from lyricsfreak)

Out On the wiley, windy moors
We'd roll and fall in green
You had a temper, like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy
How could you leave me
When I needed to possess you?
I hated you, I loved you too

Bad dreams in the night
They told me I was going to lose the fight
Leave behind my wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy, I've come home
I'm so cold, let me in in-a-your-window
Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy, I've come home
I'm so cold, let me in in-a-your-window

Oh it gets dark, it gets lonely
On the other side from you
I pine alot, I find the lot
Falls through without you
I'm coming back love, cruel Heathcliff
My one dream, my only master

Too long I roam in the night
I'm coming back to his side to put it right
I'm coming home to wuthering, wuthering
Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy, I've come home
I'm so cold, let me in in-a-your-window
Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy, I've come home
I'm so cold, let me in in-a-your-window

Ooh let me have it, let me grab your soul away
Ooh let me have it, let me grab your soul away
You know it's me, Cathy

Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy come home
I'm so cold, let me in in-a-your-window
Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy come home
I'm so cold, let me in in-a-your-window
Heathcliff, it's me, Cathy come home
I'm so cold


Worst Writing Ever

"Solomon hissed like an airbed being deflated, but not for as long, and suddenly yanked out his bloody gun. Because of his training, Owen was ideal in these situations and jumped up wrestled him to the floor. The gun went off and killed a waiter. Bullets from more of Gravedenko’s goons outside then sprayed into the restaurant from all angles, killing three-fifths of a family (not the mum and middle son). Owen hid behind his flipped-over table, using the menu as a shield because it was so thick. In fact, La Cucina has so much on the menu that’s it’s a bit disorientating and very difficult to know what to order. I’d recommend asking what’s on special. Owen grabbed a fork and threw it like how you’d throw a knife at Solomon. It lodged in his neck and clearly hurt like hell because he flailed around like a fish does when it’s drowning in, ironically, air."

This is from "Four Extracts from My Novel" by Tom Basden, and it can be found in the latest issue of free literary magazine Five Dials (No 28). It is hilarious reading.

I also recommend the very good, but equally hilarious, piece from the same publication, Matthew De Abaitua´s "Self & I", about the author´s employment as Will Self´s amanuensis. 


Legendary Poet - Bellman´s Epistles

"If Carl Michael Bellman, a unique figure in world literature, has been as unknown to the world at large as he has been perennially popular in Scandinavia, it has been due to the untranslatability of poetry. His great song-cycle Fredman´s Epistles, a genre 'which had no forerunners and cannot have any successors', is perhaps the only great work of poetic art to be concieved throughout to music. In Sweden it has been the means of preserving a whole treasure trove of lovely melodies which once delighted Europe.

A brilliant mimic and improviser, Bellman was chiefly appreciated by his contemporaries as an entertainer who conjured up for them a drastic picture of the low-life of Stockholm. Subsequent generations have found in him a poet of almost shakespearean dimensions."

The Swedish Academy is not just a bunch of old farts admiring each other, occasionally pulling themselves together to choose the next recipient of the Nobel Prize of Literature, even though some may think so. They actually do quite a lot of work for the preservation and promotion of Swedish literature. In their latest newsletter they have brought Bellman - in English! to the world. (You can read the whole thing right there on the website, page-turning arrows on the left side of the page.)

If Nationalmuseum presents the image of Sweden, then Bellman is surely providing the soundtrack. He lived in the 18th Century, and was patroned by king Gustav III (whose leisure ship the Amphion I blogged about a few weeks ago). 

On youtube I found several performances from two of our most legendary Bellman interpreters: Fred Åkerström and Cornelis Vreesvijk.

Epistle 82, Vila vid denna källa (= Come now, ourselves reposing)

Epistle 81, Märk hur vår skugga (= So to her rest)

The translations are really interpretations - some are quite far from the original text, I find. And I suppose this is how it often is with poetry. The interpretation becomes an artwork of itself, close perhaps, but not quite the same. I wonder how big Shakespeare really would have been if he hadn´t been lucky enough to write in a language that would become the dominant lingua franca of our time. And I wonder how many literary treasures have been forgotten as peoples and their languages have died out.

One song all Swedish children sing at graduation (or at least they used to, it would be a crime if they didn´t still), is "Fjäriln vingad syns på Haga" (= the butterfly is seen in Haga). Haga was one of the king´s favourite palaces, and is now the residence of the crown-princess Victoria and her family. While Bellman used a lot of traditional melodies for his songs, this is one that he did compose himself. I found this English version:

Another part of Swedish childhoods are the Bellman jokes, which are rather childish jokes with Bellman competing in some way - and coming out on top - with two other guys, often just named a German, a Dane, or a Frenchman. From the beginning Bellman jokes were obscene jokes about court life, and I found this one that may be as old as from the early 19th Century: 
Bellman went to the Queen and asked if she wanted to make a bet.
- I would, said the Queen. What bet would Bellman like to make?
- I bet fifty crowns that the Queen has a birthmark on her left buttocks.
- That was easy money, said the Queen, lifted her skirt and pulled down her underpants.
- Now you lost fifty crowns, Bellman, she said.
- That may be, said Bellman. But look out the window. The King is looking in and I bet him a thousand crowns that the Queen would show me her arse...


The Guardian has these fantastic pictures on display.


Loved Actress

Meet Margareta Krook, one of Sweden´s most loved actresses! I just realized she´s been gone 12 years already, and well, time goes by so fast.

I remember her most from my childhood as a comedic actress on television. There was a particular skit, "Skattkammarön" (= treasure island) with four grown-ups playing a boardgame and becoming very childish and hostile to each other, almost getting into a fight over the rules and accusations of cheating, much to the amusement of us kids - and our parents rolled over with laughter, too.

I also remember her from "Gösta Berlings Saga" (= "The Saga of Gösta Berling") where she played the major´s wife. That was so different from how I was used to seeing her, and now (this was on television in 1986) she is really the only thing about it I remember.

For a few years before her death she was also chosen to recite Tennyson´s "Ring out, wild bells" (in a very creative Swedish translation) on New Year´s Eve, a Swedish tradition only entrusted to the most senior and revered of actors.

The statue is standing at the corner of the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where she used to stand and have a smoke between rehearsals. It has a radiator built in to it, and always keeps body temperature, which is why people touch it. (I wanted to write "touch her", but that seemed just too spooky.)

I found a clip from "Gösta Berlings Saga" on youtube, where Berling meets the major´s wife for the first time. He has sold a sack of flour taken from a peasant woman for a drink, is picked up by the major´s wife who asks him why he wants to kill himself when he is already dead. Do you think one must lie in a coffin to be dead? she asks. I am the most powerful woman in Värmland, and I am just a dressed up corpse! And then she offers to take him in at her country estate, as one of her "cavaliers", a sort of gentleman in waiting.

Greta Garbo started her career in an earlier film version of this Selma Lagerlöf novel.


A Room of One´s Own

Shed of the year competition - love this!

Ever Ready

Found this image in my photo album, from the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, where we kind of just fell in on our first day in town. (This was vacation 2010.) It´s a pocketwatch camera, the "ever ready waistcoat pocket camera".

The Imperial War Museum has one as well, and apparently it was made from 1905 to 1914. One would use a special 17.5 mm film with 25 frames in it.

It doesn´t seem to have measured time, though. Imagine if the designers of this camera could have looked a hundred years into the future and seen what would come! When I see stuff like this, made by those who had the visions, but not the technology, I wish I had a time machine and could go back and share some gadgets with them.

(And I quite often fantasize about showing Jane Austen what a popular author she still is, and how she has influenced other writers.)


Applying Science to Music

I have to start this post with a spoiler: you can´t buy this book. It´s listed at amazon, but unavailable for purchase.

Update, June 24:
I just heard that the book is now available on amazon for Swedish readers - and I understand it has been for American readers (and others, perhaps) all along. (Those who don´t have the Kindle reader can download a free app from amazon for their computer or smartphone or read it in their browser. All is explained on the amazon website.)
The author, Nyssim Lefford, is a collegue of my husband, and he happened to mention one day over fika that she had written a novel. I googled it immediately, and the name, "The Music Box", and the description made me curious. I asked him to pass along an inquiry about where to get it. Next thing, it was in my mailbox. It´s a great book, by far the most interesting thing I have read in years. I don´t think I have underlined a novel this much since I read my first Kundera in the 80´s.

First of all, it has a forked plot. At some twenty places in the book, you have a choice of two to four versions of a chapter. The choice isn´t context related, you just get to choose a, b, c, or d. Hyperlinks are the doors you go through to get to the right place in the story. It is a kindle e-book, and you have to have a kindle reader or kindle software on your computer to read it. This is what the author says in the introduction:
"At every juncture, decide. Reading all the options at each fork leads to outcomes that are not as interesting, not as musical, as they might be. Our agency comes from choosing. To avoid choosing is to abdicate the part of us that is most worth recording."
And I haven´t. I made my choices and read my story. I imagine that someone else´s choices would give a slightly different story, although I suppose the foundations are the same. Exactly what levers the readers are allowed to (blindly) push, only the author knows. The whole structure is just like the mixing console that this story takes place at, for this is a story about music production, and a discussion about the creative process and what art really is, and is for.

The story revolvs around four people. First, Leo Nolden, star music producer. 
"Cass sighed. "Something will have to happen soon." "It will," said Leo, "and when it does you´ll realize that the distance between here and there was not as great as you had imagined.""
Second, Cass, his trusted and brilliant engineer, who has producer dreams of her own (and a severe shortage of confidence). 
""Beauty isn´t a one-sided thing," said Cass. "A painting isn´t beautiful unless we take part in viewing it. It just is without us. We choose to see it a certain way, the eye of the beholder thing. It´s a relationship... and we each have different ways of participating..." She drew a breath. "...which is terrifying." "Why terrifying?" asked Leo. "When no one else gets it. Sometimes, Leo, the sound is so clear in my head and no one else hears it.""
Then, Liam, Leo´s best friend and agent, a clever and smartly dressed lawyer, who is also a devoted art lover.
"I don´t shop for relationships. It´s like music. Music, art, they take you. Relationships, at the end of the day, it´s not about the size or color or the name romantic on the label. Like art, it´s the quality of the experience. I don´t care how that experience comes packaged. It can be pop music or a painting. Does the experience deliver, that´s all that matters."
And, Gabe, owner of the studio where much of the action takes place, super-kind, quietly writing his own music by his desk when he has a minute to spare.
"Great players, in Gabe´s humble opinion, players like Thurston Moore or Jonny Greenwood, their music reflected most clearly when it was at its dirtiest. Players like that zeroed in on a specific emotion, like a parametric equalizer. They boosted or cut emotion until hearing it and feeling it was the same thing."

Cass and Leo gets involved with AI software developer and scientist Andrew Singh, in a project where Leo´s musical preferences are recorded and programmed into what they call The Music Box, an expert system that mixes music, and learns (or programs itself) at the same time. 
"Andrew loved this problem. He was smitten with the notion that some goals could not be sufficiently described, and that humans faced those sorts of problems a lot. Humans produced things without having a specific goal in mind all the time, and they did it extremely well. They produced great things. Andrew wanted to find out about that process, how did humans make decisions when they did not know where they wanted it to lead."

This is a novel of ideas. The character´s lives are fairly simple, they don´t have relationships that complicate the story, no spouses (except Leo´s wife who is a very minor character), no children. There is Gabe´s mom, but she is there to make a point, I think. Often, these kinds of novels can feel a bit fakey. I felt this very much with "Sofie´s World" by Jostein Gaardner, a novel I couldn´t even finish because I found the dialog so awkward. But Lefford really is a good writer of dialogue. People who concern themselves with ideas really do talk like this (I know a few), and I found myself very much drawn into the discussion.
"Leo observed the rhythmic structure of Andrew´s intellectual arguments. Andrew paused for preplanned moments of reflection. Key points, whether made by him or others, were given a moment to establish themselves in the mind. Threads closed. There were dominant chords, dissonances and resolutions. Leo wondered how Andrew worked out his timings. It was a tight, if nuanced, performance, and it brought them to Andrew´s main interest in record producers, not knowing what will ultimately be produced."
There are long bits where the actual work of producing records, mixing music, is depicted. It can be hard to follow if you (like me) have no clue about music recording. I am grateful that the Kindle has a built in dictionary, I can tell you! but it doesn´t explain everything just to get the words translated. What I did was read those parts at a good pace and have in mind some creative activity where I find myself in the zone, as Cass and her friends are. Like knitting and designing a sweater from scratch, as I go. It´s not as fast paced, but I think there may be similarities of experience. Or writing. Or baking a loaf from left-over stuff in the pantry. Photography, if that´s your thing. Painting or drawing. Or speaking, like in the quote above. 
"Why make the process artificial? Why put it in a Box?" he asked. "In the studio, the piecing together of combinations, the decisions, they race by so fast. There´s no way to hang on to ideas. No way to think about them. It almost feels like the decisions are made for you by something external. The Box was a way to look at those choices and to make the instinct tangible.""

Tragically, before they can start testing the box, Leo dies, and the others are left with the box and the project he started. Cass, Liam, and Gabe are all idealists, all good guys working for art and the benefit of artists and their audiences. The evil forces are represented by a big record company trying to get their hands on the box (which they seem to think is Leo´s brain in a bottle!) (even Liam kind of feels that way, which makes him particularly protective of it) and put it on a website to make money.  

""Creative freedom," she scoffed. "You either like the music or you don´t. Can´t we just get on with it? What´s the fuss?" "The fuss?" asked Liam. "What if someone does or says or represents something that I didn´t expect? What if I don´t know how to respond to it? What if I can´t sell this recording the way I sold the last recording? What if someone makes me feel something I´m not ready to feel? That´s why the business of music imposes so many limits on creative freedom. Creative freedom is threatening not just to the business model, but to the individual.""

Another enemy is Gabe´s mom, who sees art as a rival for the attention she feels entitled to. Really, the scenes with her and Gabe are quite spooky, and I think Lefford has done a marvelous job of dramatizing that manipulation that some people are so good at, particularly with their children. It´s so easy to feel just what Gabe feels in those situations. I mean, she really nails it. I´d love to give you a shorter, meaningful quote, but the scenes have a long build-up, and I´d have to quote at least a whole page. I think there should be a whole novel about Gabe and his mom.

As you have noticed, I quote heavily from this book. Partly because I can´t say anything more intelligent about it than what is already in there, and my small selection might be your only taste of it, so I am sharing. I hope to meet the author in person soon, and I intend to argue for it to be made available somewhere.

Lefford doesn´t give any definite answers, but she asks a lot of very interesting questions, and if I can make a guess, she answers them a little differently in all the versions she provides. It´s astonishingly clever. I´m blown away, really.  
 ""We don´t ever look at art objectively. We´re all biased. Each of us is open to some possibilities and closed to others." "At some point, you have to determine what´s good. Are you biased about my music?" "Yes." He was tickled by the question. "What´s wrong with bias? You built a whole Box of bias. Bias is interesting." "But, then how do I really know when I´m good?" "You don´t find out that way. If that´s your metric, you´ll have to find a different way to make your music.""


Merry Sweden!

Today, the 6th of June, is the Swedish national day celebrations. Which is awkward. We didn´t use to have one, at least not so that anyone noticed. We used to be off at Whit Monday, and they changed that to 6th of June a few years ago, to the bewilderment and anger of some (most), who thought it was just a political scam to take from us a guaranteed 3-day weekend every year.

Thing is, Swedes don´t know how to celebrate their nation. They take it for granted, a bit like the English do. We have never been occupied, we have never had to fight for our freedom or our right to be Swedish. We have not been at war for more than 200 years. If we celebrate our Swedishness, it´s on Midsumer´s eve, which is one of our most important and loved holidays.

Our immigrants have led the way, I understand many of them are happy to be here, having fled oppression or poverty or both, and seize the opportunity to celebrate and express gratitude for that. But we are still not very good at it. It feels like a government scheme, like a dictate to make us grateful for what we don´t have, or never missed. We always hear how good the Norweigians are at celebrating the 17th of May, and what do they celebrate? Their freedom from the oppressive Swedish government!

Most Swedes can´t even sing the national anthem. We try it sometimes when we are abroad, and always get lost in the second verse. "I want to live and die in the North" - well, many Swedes dream of spending their old age in Spain or Thailand, to be honest. And to be "un-Swedish" is the highest praise. It´s means you are not taciturn and boring, but gregarious and fun.

Personally, I spent the day sleeping, in bed and on the sofa, with a break to go see mum-in-law at the hospital. Those who did celebrate will have had a great day, though, the weather is smashing, as it has been since Ascension day, practically. The bird-cherry has come and gone already. I hope summer continues like this!

When I read through the above, I realized something was missing, and I had to look up the reason why the 6th of June is our national day. According to Wikipedia it´s the day when Gustav Vasa was elected king in 1523 and Sweden became independent from the Danes. So we were under oppression after all, then. Too long ago, I´m afraid. Our years as a dominant European power in the 17th Century inflated our national ego, and I´m afraid that is long since forgotten. We have ruled the Danes more recently than they ruled us! 


Historical Photo Treasure

Luleå´s Town Archive regularly exhibits old photo´s from Luleå, and some of them are also displayed on their website (not in English, I´m afraid). At the moment, it´s Helmer Widlund´s collection (he was a sort of town photographer from the 30´s and on). Like this one on the left, which I find very charming, with his son posing in front of the bus to Kalix, a town about an hours drive to the north of us.

I love looking at old pictures of places I know, sometimes things are so changed it´s impossible to guess where it´s taken. Luleå has changed a lot, first there was a big fire in 1887, which wiped out a big part of town. Then there was a demolition craze in the 50´s and 60´s, where old wood houses had to give way to new, modern, very boring and soulless concrete buildings. Not just here, but all over Sweden. Unlike England, where they have (or so it seems to me) always had an interest in and taken pride in their own history, saving at least some of it, Swedes haven´t always had that sensitivity. It´s a national trait to be proud of our rationality. Progress, that´s the thing! And I suppose there are worse faults.

The town and the County Council have joined forces on a project to save and organize all the photos, negatives, and line cuts from the local newspaper Norrbottens-Kuriren, from 1920 - 1970. I noticed when they exhibited some of that work at the library, and they have also set up a blog at the newspaper´s website, where they post interesting images as they turn up.

The one on the right is cute, from a local trade fair in July 1960 (the same year mum-and-dad-in-law moved to Luleå). They are demonstrating a stroller on runners, which might have sounded like a good idea up here in the north, but I don´t think it ever caught on!