Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick Or Treat

Lock all your doors and stay inside.
The haunting's upon us all tonight.
A FRIGHTFUL HALLOWE'EN to everyone! >:-)

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The World Is A Stage

Autumn has been nice so far, but I know this won't last forever. November is knocking at the door, one of my least favourite months, when the colourful leaves of high autumn disappear and the trees instead turn naked and bleak. This is a time for melancholy and tedium, unless one has some social, romantic or cultural stimuli to fall back on.

That's why I in my wisdom have decided to add some cultural spice to my life. I have just bought a six-month pass to the National Theatre. It wasn't cheap, but according to my calculations I only have to go to four or five plays before it pays off. To me that seems like a good deal. There are eight different plays on only in November. Besides, this is a good incentive to making my leisure time slightly more inspirational. Hopefully this might also lift this blog's cultural standard, beyond music videos and Disney magazines... I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Les Rythmes Digitales

As you know, I've got a slight fetish for (good) music videos. Sound and vision may jointly generate an evocative synergy effect. That's why MTV was one of my favourite channels in the 80s and 90s. At that time MTV was still Music Television. Due to its present crap reality show programming, however, it's lost all interest and relevance as far as I'm concerned.

When my cable company recently offered a digital update, I got access to several new tv channels, including the national channel The Voice - which, contrary to MTV, has kept a pure musical profile. For a moment I thought my video watching heyday might be in for a renaissance, but then it turned out that the channel's base is exclusively hip hop and r'n'b. And honestly, who needs more of that?

By the way, what's the deal with redefining musical genres like that? As we all know, rhythm & blues is supposed to be performed by a 70-year-old African American, preferably with bitter memories from the cotton fields. In other words: by John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley. If Beyoncé is r'n'b, then Scooter is jazz!

I had originally decided to settle for the 30 tv channels in my new basic package, but then I discovered the cable company's various "theme packages", and the possibility to get six more (interesting looking) music channels was simply too tempting! So, now I've got access to four of MTV's additional niche channels: the redundantly entitled MTV Music (the Coldplay Channel), MTV Hits (the Rihanna Channel), MTV Dance (the Kylie Channel), and MTV 2 (the Green Day Channel).

I had great expectations for the last two channels in particular, as electronica and alternative are probably the musical genres closest to my heart these days. But to be honest, I found their musical profiles conspicuously mainstream. Definitely not particularly progressive and underground. I guess that's ok, but the "Hm, what's this, then?"-effect usually fails to occur.

However, the musical package contains two more channels as well: VH1 og VH1 Classic, and I guess it's primarily these that save the day. Whereas the MTV channels are pretty short-sighted on what's hot and cool and in the now, VH1 has a much more historical (you might say nostalgic) perspective, offering surprises from the early 60s until today. The Smiths follow Roxy Music follow The Ronettes. Quite good, actually.

Incidentally, my new digital life has made me seriously consider purchasing a nice, big flat screen. True, my finances recently suffered a severe blow, with a historic tax shock and an equally disastrous bill from the plumber. On the other hand, the expenses for a new plasma tv would be mere pocket fluff in comparison. Indisputable Torgny logic.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Dinosaurs Are Coming

It's funny. Every time I get a new class, this is my favourite. I guess that's because 99% of those you meet in this profession are nice and fun people. Such a fact fortifies your faith in humanity.

Recently we visited The Museum of Natural History and The Botanic Garden. Nice to get away from the classroom once in a while. The "Scent Garden" was popular, especially among the ladies, who could watch, smell and taste spices and herbs they often recognized from their own homeland. We also visited the Zoological and Geological Museums, with stuffed animals from all over the world, and - um... - a lot of rocks, respectively. At the pic we're at the Department of Paleontology, blissfully ignorant of the ravenous Tyrannosaur right behind us.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Have A Safe Trip To Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

My brother and sister-in-law are presently on their way to a Celtic principality known for its glens, male choirs and bzrr cnsnnt cmbntions. There they're going to be godparents for a Norvago-Cymric poppet. Their travel planning was at its most intensive during my visit at their place a week ago, and I soon realized that such a project requires laborious logistics for a family with kids.

Ever since my first visit to the British isles 30 years ago, I've been fascinated by these ancient cultures far west in the ocean. Their druids, eisteddfods and enigmatic stone circles are all enveloped in a mist of mystery from the dawn of ages. And their language is practically Elvish...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Autumnal Fireworks

Autumn is here with full force. I can't remember having seen trees so amazingly colourful before. At least not since mid-October last year. I'm attaching a little clip I shot from the bus on my way home earlier today. Looks nice, doesn't it?

Inspired by the autumnal weather I recently decided to get myself a new jacket. This turned out to be easier said than done, though. Don't they carry good, decent duffle coats any more? My jacket hunt gradually drove me away from the usual shops to stores with a slightly more exclusive air. This, however, only made me feel provoked. I don't know what's worst: Charging 5000 kroner for a mere garment, or actually being willing to pay such an amount. Maybe a financial crisis was just what this country needed right now?

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Bo In Bergen

Eight months ago I became an uncle for the first time, but unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to meet my little nephew. Last week, however, I finally got a chance to go to Bergen to visit my brother, my sister-in-law, and - not least - little Bo.

Now, I'm not among those who find babies cute no matter what. To tell you the truth, I think quite a few of them are pretty ugly (and stupid). Not Bo, though. Although I don't know exactly what my sister-in-law looked like as a baby, to me little Bobster looks exactly like his dad at the same age. A promising fact. Besides, the little fellow seems to have a great interest in music - apparently, his favourites are The Beatles (whereas he's not too crazy about Beck).

Although his parents suggested that he was in a slightly bad mood during my stay, to me he seemed both cheerful and pretty easy to deal with. (If bringing up kids is as easy as that, what the hell am I waiting for? It's basically just a matter of finding a suitable uterus to impregnate...) During my stay in Bergen there was also time for quite a lot of brøderbund (family lingo for "fraternization"). Which is always nice.

Monday, 6 October 2008

A French Visit - For Better And Worse

Last week I had my Autumn break, and had decided to spend it in la belle Paris. It's a lovely city, and I was looking forward to pleasant visits to parks, museums and boulevards. The day before my departure, however, I was starting to sense a disquieting grumble in my jaw, which I (rightly) suspected might have something to do with my sialolithiasis some months earlier. It's tempting to say "That's typical!", but the truth is I've always managed to stay quite healthy during my previous travels. Until this trip to Paris, that is. (Ok, I know personal stories about one's diseases seldom are interesting for anyone else, but I still think it deserves a mention in this little travelogue. Let me reassure you that it'll get nicer later on. So, please bear over with me.)

When I landed in Paris on Monday afternoon, the pains were getting stronger, and my cheek had puffed up beyond recognition. After all, I've never felt like a genuine freak. Clubfoot and hunchback isn't quite me. But right then I looked like I suffered from a curious hybrid of mumps and struma. Chewing and swallowing caused great pains (I might just as well have swallowed razor blades!), so I was reluctant to eat anything at all (while at the same time realizing that refraining from all kinds of nourishment might also result in certain unwanted side effects. Such as starving to death).

Consequently, on my first full day in Paris I felt as blue as an Yves Klein painting. I was sleepy and hungry, my cheek was aching, and I probably had a hint of fever as well. By then I'd decided to see a doctor, and after a lot of back and forth, I finally got an appointment at a medical centre. This too turned out to be very far from a sheer pleasure. If I'd thought that I mastered the French language reasonably well until then, now was the time for a reality check. My attempts to stutter some explanatory phrases to the receptionists resulted in some even more incomprehensible babble in return. I could almost see them roll their eyes thinking "Mon Dieu! Can't that guy say anything else than 'Comment'?!" (Incidentally, this experience gave me a new respect for my students back home. Even the poorest of these come across as linguistic geniuses compared to my pathetic performance in Paris.)

Finally I was called in to the office of Monsieur le docteur. Both doctors and Frenchmen are known for their arrogance, so you can imagine the result when they're both combined. Of course, the good doctor spoke exclusively French like everyone else, while I was trying to nod in the right places to avoid fatal misunderstandings and faulty diagnoses. Finally, however, he did come up with a diagnosis (an infection in the surgical scar) and wrote a prescription for antibiotics. By the way, the only person showing some indulgence with my deconstruction of the French language was actually the cute, Chinese girl at the pharmacy. Maybe because she had some experience with the troubles of language acquisition herself? The next days were much more pleasurable. My fever, infection and elephant-man looks gradually regressed, and my mood got much better. Eating solid food was still painful, so unfortunately I didn't get a chance to enjoy that many truffles, foies gras and poached pigeons. But luckily it hadn't been my intention to make this stay "A Journey in Food and Wine" anyway.

So, apart from all this, what did I do in Paris? Well, on Tuesday (in addition to seeing the doctor) I spent some time walking around in Parc Monceau, my favourite park. Already twenty years ago, after just having returned from a legendary visit to the French capital, I wrote a little ditty about a romantic rendez-vous in this very park (unfortunately not based on any personal experience): He meets Her on a bench while reading a French newspaper (hence the lovely couplet: "We were hit by Cupid's arrow/And I soon forgot Figaro"...). I also strolled around in the borough of Invalide, admiring fashionable art nouveau blocks of flats, and not least the most characteristic Parisian symbol of them all - the Eiffel tower.

On Wednesday, my second and final full day in Paris, I had a pretty action-packed program: First walking in the artistic quarters of Montmartre, including a visit to the characteristic basilica of Sacré-Cœur. Then I went down to Île de la Cité to admire another famous Parisian church: Notre-Dame. From there I went on a nice boat trip on the Seine, past all the famous sites along the river. In the afternoon I visited the architectonic monstrosity called the Pompidou Centre, with its huge collection of modern art. Inspiring and stimulating. After a rather unsuccessful attempt to consume a three-course dish, I strolled along Champs-Élysées for a while before returning to my room at the hotel and concluding my cultural day in front of the telly and the art channel ARTE, accompanied by a cognac from the bottom shelf. A nice rounding off of a stay that fortunately got more pleasurable after a while.

The day after I returned to Norway and Bergen, visiting my brother and sister-in-law - and not least my little nephew Bo for the very first time. But that's another story.