Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Sanguine Season

Damn you, modern science! The earth is no longer the centre of the universe. The world wasn't created in seven days after all. And now it even turns out that our ancestor is a fossil called Ida. Th worst thing, however, is the fact that the four elements gradually have been extended to more than a hundred!

The roamticist within me still haven't given up the idea of the four elements, though. I sort of like the way they've traditionally been linked to the seasons, the body fluids and the humours (and basically everything there's four of...). Earlier in this blog, I've mentioned autumn's affinity to the earth element and the melancholy mood, and how winter reflects the phlegmatic qualities of the water. Don't we all experience a touch of melancholy when the trees shed their leaves? And don't most of us turn slightly indolent during the coldest months of the year?

But now it's spring, and other forces have taken over. Earth and water have had to yield to the air element, and neither slime nor black bile govern the humour any more. Now it's the blood that's rushing through our veins; this is the sanguine season! The girls let their garments drop, the air is filled with the fragrance of lilacs, and the heart flutters in the gentle breeze. Welcome back, o long-awaited spring!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

We Are Stardust

The other day I came across an outdoor exhibition of amazing photos of planets, stars, galaxies and stellar nebulae. It's all arranged by the The International Year of Astronomy 2009, marking the fact that Galileo had his first look in his telescope 400 years ago. If you're in Oslo and still haven't seen it, I strongly recommend it!

When I got home, I was inspired by this exhibition, and sought out my abundant (ah well...) book collection. Although I didn't find that much literature about astronomy, I did come across the book based on Carl Sagan's tv series about the Cosmos, which made a strong impression on me in the early 80s. It provided an informative introduction to the history of science, accompanied by fascinating dramatizations and a grand (and, I seem to recall, pretty Vangelis heavy) soundtrack.

I never came to be an astrophysicist. But one can still be fascinated by the mysteries of the universe.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

The Lilac Time

On Thursday was Ascension Day, and one advantage (and disadvantage) about holidays like that is your having to fill them with content yourself. Me, I went for a little stroll in the neighbourhood. The weather was mild and sunny, the air was filled with an exhilarating fragrance of bird cherries and lilacs, and before I knew it, I was walking by the city river.

Some summers ago I made the river area from my part of town down to the city centre my favourite promenade. A green, peaceful and forgotten oasis in the middle of the city. On Thursday, however, I realized that the area northwards has also a lot to offer. First I reached an area known for its postmodern mix (anyone who still remembers postmodernism?) of old mills and ultramodern buildings. Originally, I wasn't planning to walk any further, but my curiosity made me explore what there was to find in the upper course of the river...

The surroundings got less and less urban, and more and more forest-like. Gravel road took over for tarmac, and the sweet spring fragrance of bird cherries and lilacs was replaced by the slightly rammer odour of thickets, nettles and dandelions. I saw an angler wading in the river. I saw a woman walking her pig. And the stupefying scent of bird cherries was everywhere.

After a while it started to cloud over, and even to drizzle, but I don't mind a little spring shower. On the contrary, I often find this more refreshing than the clearest sky. In the end, however, it started pouring, thundering and even hailing! Then it wasn't that fun anymore. At that time, however, I had reached a bus terminus and could easily get a ride back to my house. Cold and soaking wet, but in very high spirits. And after having returned home, torn off my clothes, had a hot shower and enjoyed Supaporn's fantastic foot massage, I agreed that it had been a great walk.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Moscow Process (EuroSong 2009)

Ok, now it's just about to start. I'm of course talking about this year's EuroSong final. Being a straight postpunker I guess neither my tendency nor my taste ought to indicate an interest in this circus. But it is kind of fun. According to tradition I'll try to comment on the various acts during the night. So, open the champagne and bring forth the caviar! Here we go!

1. Lithuania: Sasha Son: Love
Soulful ballad performed by a man with a hat. Not my favourite genre, but this does the trick for me.

2. Israel:
Noa & Mira Awad: There Must Be Another Way
A duet between an Israeli and a Palestinian, performed in both Hebrew and Arabic. This could easily get sickeningly PC, but this actually moves me. A beautiful song in nice harmony between the two singers. Hopefully, their message get through, rather than the politics of the pricks in power in their home country.

3. France: Patricia Kaas: Et S'il Fallait Le Faire
Very French, and no doubt fantastic for those with a fetish for French chanteuses in general and la Piaf in particular. I'm not among these, but I realize that this is considered to be good.

4. Sweden: Malena Ernman: La Voix
Carmen goes night clubbing. Coloratura and plastic disco in imperfect union.

5. Croatia: Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea: Lijepa Tena
Heavy Balkan ballad of the kind that many EuroSong enthusiasts love. Me, I'm hiding a yawn.

Portugal: Flor-de-lis: Todas As Ruas Do Amor
Poor Portugal have participated in the ESC almost from the start and never won. There's a reason for that. But this year's song is one of their best ones ever. A simple little gem with swaying rhythms, performed with accordeon, ukulele and congas, that goes straight to my heart. Obrigado, Portugal!

7. Iceland: Johanna: Is It True?
The beautiful ice princess Johanna sings a languorous ballad. Once again: It usually takes a lot for this genre to catch my interest. But when the melody is catchy, I'm not at all unreceptive. And cello accompaniment always touches a cord within my melancholy heart.

8. Greece
: Sakis Rouvas: This Is Our Night
An ageing, self-absorbed beach bum doing various "sexy" moves. Oh dear, I can feel my supper coming up again!

9. Armenia:
Inga & Anush: Jan Jan
Oriental rhythms and tones from the world's oldest country. Catchy and different for a Norseman. One of my favourites.

10. Russia
: Anastasia Prikhodko: Mamo
A rather eccentric and hoarse woman singing dramatically and empathatically about "mama". A bold and fascinating contribution, although the primal screams may get a bit out of hand towards the end.

11. Azerbaijan:
AySel & Arash: Always
More Caucasian soda with a hint of ethnic tones. Disco pop with bouzouki-esque sounds. I particularly like the instrumental bridge midway through the song.

12. Bosnia & Herzegovina:
Regina: Bistra Voda
Evocative tune characterized by subdued military drums and artists dressed in uniforms from the 19th Century. Not a bad song, this either. (What's going on? Where are all those pathetic contributions you could slaughter with sarcasms?)

13. Moldova:
Nelly Ciobanu: Hora Din Moldova
Definitely this year's most folkloric act. Balkan trumpets and lively dance acrobatics. I'm sorry, but I actually think this song and maybe especially the dancing are just really cool! Yet another favourite.

14. Malta:
Chiara: What If We
The fat lady sings. Does anyone remember those electronic home organs that could mimic the sound of real instruments, like "pan flute (with air)". This woman sounds like what you would hear if you pressed the "human voice" button. Wiseacres may praise the song and the voice as much as they want. Me, I don't like this at all!

15. Estonia:
Urban Symphony: Rändajad
A mystic wood nymph with a Magica de Spell wig singing a suggestive song with a taste of the Ugrian woods. This is good, too.

16. Denmark: Brinck: Believe Again
Static and tardy Ronan Keating pop.

17. Germany:
Alex Swings Oscar Sings!: Miss Kiss Kiss Bang
This year Germany focuses on swing, Heidis with legs up to their chin, and their national speciality: pervy outfits.

18. Turkey:
Hadise: Düm Tek Tek
Feverish harem fantasies, as usual.

19. Albania:
Kejsi Tola: Carry Me In Your Dreams
Young Kejsi has a good and strong voice. The song isn't too bad, either. But the stage show freaks me out: a creepy creature in an emerald suit and two pantomime dwarfs.

20. Norway:
Alexander Rybak: Fairytale
A big grin, never failing eye contact and abrupt moves. Maybe I'm a cynic, but I'm not sure if his "natural charisma" is all that natural. On the other hand, in EuroSong, what is? Anyway, it's a nice tune and an even better stage show. Something tells me we won't end up with nil points this time.

21. Ukraine: Svetlana Loboda: Be my Valentine! (Anti-crisis Girl)
Hey, look! There's porn on the telly! Expensive and "sexy" show. It's this sort of stuff that tends to win the EuroSong. Sadly.

22. Romania: Elena: The Balkan Girls
The fact that this song survived the semifinals must be due to some mistake. A "party song" with no party factor and not much of a song, either. Besides, I don't like the look of the "sexy" dancing girls.

23. UK: Jade Ewen: It's My Time
For years the EuroSong free passengers UK have contributed with pointless crap. Quite disrespectful, really. This year, however, they've finally come up with a decent song. It would probably have worked well 3/4 into any musical - the great turning point: NOW I'LL SHOW THEM! But in the EuroSong context it all gets rather high-strung and pretentious.

24. Finland: Waldo's People: Lose Control
90s Euro-techno. Time for a revival already? I don't think so.

25. Spain: Soraya: La Noche Es Para Mí (The Night Is For Me)
There are those eastern tones again. This time from one of Europe's westernmost countries. Fortunately, the Spaniards dropped the Macarena this time. But this still isn't quite my kettle of fish.

12.13 AM: It's all settled. Norway has won! How nice. A good way to start our National Day. And it's also nice to see that favourites like Iceland and Estonia also did well.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Happy Campers

The other day my school arranged an all-day walk for all the Norwegian classes. I was in all modesty one of the responsible in the "walk committee", and we'd concluded that a walk around the local Østensjø lake might be an interesting solution. The area is known for its fertile bird and animal life, and it's within walking distance from our school.

It seems our arrangement was rather successful. The students got the chance to see ducks, swans, geese and coots as well as coltsfoot, marigold and wood anemones. Hopefully this encounter with the flora and fauna of the locality made our students more aware of what the surrounding area has to offer.

Afterwards it was nice to get home and get some foot massage from my dear Supaporn (i.e. my electronic footbath, in case anyone wonders...).

Friday, 1 May 2009

Walking On May Day

Comrades! Congratulations on Workers' Day!
(or "the working day", as my students tend to call it...)

I must admit I've neither participated in any May Day parade nor listened to fiery speeches on the Workers' Square. But I haven't been demonstratively raking leaves in the garden, either. I don't have a garden, anyway.

Instead I've spent the day on a long, relaxing walk through the city's charming residential areas. For the first time this year I got the chance to air my sandals and shorts. Spring really came to Oslo today. A proof of God's being a socialist?

During my stroll I could also sense a half-forgotten scent I've hardly felt since gran's garden circa 1975. A "green" and "try" fragrance of flagstones warmed by the sun... (Synesthesia is a lovely thing!)