Monday, 23 February 2009

Winter In The West

Last week I had my winter holiday, and the last part of it I spent in Bergen, visiting my brother, sister-in-law and not least my 13-month-old nephew Bo. I was rather slow at getting around to see him for the first time, but this time it was "just" five months since my last visit... Although he'd naturally grown a bit, he was still his "old" self. A happy and friendly fellow who didn't seem to mind a visit from his uncle.

There was also time for brotherly bonding, for instance by various excursions in the Bergen area, both with and without Bo in our baggage. In addition to the compulsory Bryggen (The Wharf) and the Fish Market, we visited the fortress and Old Bergen, and also went on an expedition among the city's exotic car population.

During my previous visit to Bergen I could hardly eat solid food, but this time we fortunately got a chance to make the classic family pizza, consisting of a light and airy dough, covered with tomato purée, onion and... enormous amounts of minced meat! Plus some cheese on the top. A challenge for the digestion, but a pleasure to the palate.

All in all a great stay. But after having watched virtually all existing Night Garden episodes during four days, I was totally brainwashed. I'm pretty sure it'll be a while before I watch this show again...

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Bert Bobbsey's & Brains Benton's Detective Agency

In the 70s my pal Lars and I had - like any self-respecting 10-year-olds - our own detective agency. There we'd spy on mysterious men in nut-brown coloured cars. (Nut-brown was a totally acceptable car colour in the 70s.) We were greatly influenced by book series like The Bobbsey Twins, The Famous Five and Brains Benton. I think we even called ourselves "Bert Bobbsey's & Brains Benton's Detective Agency" for a while.

I'm not ashamed to say that lots of the literature I read during my childhood were books of this kind. In retrospect I realize that several of them were mass produced and not particularly well written, but at least they generated excitement and love of reading. And although I even at that time thought the Bobbseys might seem a bit too virtuous, I actually still think that especially the Brains Benton books have a go, a language and not least a humour that put them in a league of their own compared to many other suspense books.

Gradually, however, books like these were removed by zealous librarians, and replaced by novels about latchkey children with divorced parents. And my own collection was lost when we sold our childhood home some years ago. Consequently, I've hardly seen - let alone read - any of these books for almost thirty years.

But now I'm on my winter holiday, and then one gets some additional spare time that one has to fill with content. During my major subject, children's literature was one of my topics. In that connection I had some contact with the Norwegian Institute of Children's Books, and the other day I remembered their extensive collection of books.

On Monday I paid them a visit. It actually felt rather stimulating walking along the shelves, surrounded by thousands of children books. In addition to the "serious" works I also came upon a complete Famous Five series in various editions, and several Nancy Drew publishings from the 1940s, which I vaguely remember from my childhood home.

I also found what was the actual purpose for my visit: All of the books in the Brains Benton serial. Now I've brought them home and look forward to some exciting reading experiences during the late winter...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Wine, Women And Song

In many cultures the number 3 has an almost magical status. In our own traditional religion, for instance, there's the doctrine of the deity's triple nature, and in the Hindu concept of Trimurti we find a similar trinity. The so-called central poetry, in its turn, accentuates the triad "the sea, death and love" (which sounds even better in French: "la mer, la mort, l'amour"...).

When the pleasures of life are concerned, people often refer to another tripartite motto: "Wine, women and song" - along with varieties like "rum, sodomy and the lash" and the more updated "sex & drugs & rock'n'roll". What they all have in common, however, is their associating pleasure with music, inebriation and love life.

With the possible exception of the most hard-boiled ascetics, most people will have to admit that these three ingredients make life a bit more worthwhile. As for me, there's no secret that I have an appreciation of both music and the fair sex. And by all means, a glass of wine can be nice too. However, this hedonistic hendiatris has also got its darker sides. Wine is not always good for your liver, and women aren't always good for your heart. In fact, I guess it's only music that has no adverse effects at all... Let's be grateful for at least having that.

* * *

It's Valentine's Day, and I had originally planned to have champagne and strawberries with my girlfriend. But then I remembered I don't have a girlfriend (and also that I'm a bit allergic to champagne and strawberries). I'll have a beer with the lads instead.

Friday, 13 February 2009

In The Name Of Naïvety

Am I on my way into my second childhood? Recently I purchased a huge box of Lego bricks, hoping to recreate some of the joy I experienced from building with these bricks as a six-year-old. It was a pleasant re-encounter - although I wasn't too crazy about the fact that fancy colours like lime, orange and light blue had been included into the assortment since the last time. Lego bricks are supposed to be red, green, blue, yellow, black or white. Full stop.

Lately I've also been watching various children's television programs, out of which In The Night Garden is a particular favourite. And on second thought my slightly regressive behaviour may not be that worrying after all. Maybe it's just an indication that sincerely yours is keeping a childlike mind and still is able to re-experience the joy and fascination for flashing and rotating gadgets of a one-year-old.

At the moment I've got a one-year-old nephew, and although I've got little experience in buying presents to infants, it seems that uncle's choices tend to fall into good ground. Well, basically I guess it's all a matter of being able to go back to January '69 and trying to remember what I myself would have wanted on my own one-year anniversary...

In any case, In The Night Garden has lots of stuff that would easily stimulate a child's mind. For a while I wasn't sure if I really liked Makka Pakka's kisser, but after having watched a feature film with him pottering about with his rocks, I realized he's actually a rather charming bloke. To be honest, my former favourite Upsy Daisy (now on a charge for racism) can sometimes be a bit of a mouthful...

By the way, I just heard on the news that many kids are frightened by children's tv. I guess they were primarily talking about programs for slightly older children, like Pokemon, Digimon etc. But no matter how cosy the programs get, I suspect there'll always be kids getting freaked out by them. If it's not the Soup Dragons, it's the Ninky Nonk.

This time I've attached a clip from a Norwegian children's show that scared the crap out of a whole generation. You may not understand the dialogue, but you'll probably get the general atmosphere. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Torgnyworld 1 Year!

Today it's exactly one year since my first blog post, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TORGNYWORLD! :-) Since then my blog has grown to almost 100 posts, and hopefully there'll be many more this year. It's kind of fun publishing one's thoughts on the web - even if they're not read by anyone else. And in hundred years, when I'm 6 underground (let's be realistic), maybe these posts will at least work as a virtual diary from the 21st Century.

And in all fairness, I do have some visitors. Some of you may just have dropped in by a coincidence, while a handful others are friends and acquaintances. I have no idea who the rest of you are, but you're all welcome, no matter what. (I wouldn't mind some feedback, though; I'm a bit curious who you are, you mysterious returning visitors from Northern California, the East Coast etc.)

Recently I installed a little widget that's supposed to analyse the traffic on my blog. But relax, there's no reason to feel like you're under surveillance. The info is very general - and it doesn't seem to be very reliable, either. According to one of the functions - a map indicating the location of my visitors - it seems that one of you dwells in a Californian cemetary! So, now I've put garlic in my window and a silver crucifix under my pillow...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Class

I haven't been to the movies for ages, but on Thursday a nice colleague at my former workplace invited me out. The staff had received two movie tickets each for Christmas, and considering my traumatic experiences at the place, she decided that the one who deserved getting this treat the most, was me. :-)

We decided to see the award-winning French movie The Class (Entre les murs), depicting the everyday life of students and teachers at a Parisian junior high school. The movie made me realize how lucky I am myself: My lovely and diligent students are a great contrast to many of the argumentative and hormonal students we meet in this movie...

Considering all embarrassing acting performances in Norwegian movies through the years, the contribution of the young French actors is impressive. Maybe simply because they aren't given hopeless lines from adults who think they know how the kids talk. Norwegian films about teenagers may not primarily suffer from lack of talent, but rather from lack of instruction. In The Class, however, the kids are allowed to be themselves.