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Showing posts from January, 2016

Northern Lights

I saw the Northern Lights briefly during my trip to Iceland, dancing there in the corner of the sky. I didn't get a picture of it, seems almost disrespectful to try to limit a miracle of nature into something so mundane.

I have been awed by the moon on its own sometimes, and when the stars are shinning bright they are wonderful to behold. But there is nothing in the entire world quite like the delicate interplay of green and blue moving seamlessly, wordlessly as one, across the heavens, oblivious to their power to transfix everyone around them. 

The first time I saw the Northern Lights, I was totally overwhelmed. I remember standing outside, completely mesmerized. And afterwards I cried, and I was shaking. Honestly, the experience was so overpowering that the idea for instance of taking a Northern Lights tour created an anxiety, a fear in me. I didn't think I could handle it, not in any kind of public setting. So intense, so personal, so beautiful, I'd just be an emot…

Víkingaheimar, take 2

When I was in Iceland last week, I spent a lot of time in Víkingaheimar and talking about Víkingaheimar with the people now running it and others that know it well.

The history of Víkingaheimar, some of the things that didn't happen and the things that did happen, is not a completely happy one, and it was especially unlucky to try to open just after in the the Kreppa struck. And there are a lot of things unknown about the future of Víkinaheimar, who is going to do what and what changes are going to happen both inside and out.

But I was very happy about two things. First of all, I was happy about how I felt walking into Víkingaheimar. You never know how you are going to feel until the exact moment when you are there, and my emotions could have been anywhere on the spectrum from upset and angry to not caring to annoyed. But instead I was just genuinely and spontaneously happy, and it felt good that I was that engaged, that I am not so scared as to be cut off from feeling happy. It f…

Sigrun's rugs

While I was in Reykjavík, I was fortunate to get to stay with my artist friend, Sigrun Lara Shanko. I first got to know her silk work because it was Viking inspired, with runic texts and images of Viking Age artifacts painted in muted colors on  smooth silk, imported from China. It was impressive work and it sold well at Víkingaheimar.

But I'm very glad she switched over to making wool rugs. They are dominated by undyed, muted colors, grey, black and white but with lines of color weaving through, inspired by the Icelandic landscape. Like deep blue rivers running through ash-laden valleys or molten lava inching down a hillside, hard and black on top, red underneath. The hints of color in a neutral setting are so alluring: the blues mesmerize you like the eyes of your lover, the only thing you see in a room of 200 people, the deep reds reach out to you and hug you even when hanging in the farthest corner. It's amazing.

Her rugs are made out of pure Icelandic wool, so they are na…

Sad Car

Up on Ásbru, the new name of the former NATO Base, where my parents met and where I used to live, is a car rental company called Sad Cars. That's where I got my dented, rusting, 1998(?) green Yaris. The back windshield wiper doesn't work, and it has no hubcaps, and it has a vague oily smell after it's been driven for a whole, and there is a funny noise if you break while turning. I guess that's why it's a sad car. 
It's OK, I'm sad too.

Liljevalchs

I hope my readers will forgive me for being so tardy in blogging. Let's just say it isn't a good idea to travel with two deadline projects back home left unfinished. After sleeping in past breakfast time at the hotel this morning (I had been awake working until 5am and then finally fell asleep hard), I salvaged what I could of the day by walking over to the island where the Nordiske Museet, Skanse, and Vasa Museum are located. I was very glad a museum colleague of mine had recommended I see an exhibit at another museum, called Liljevalchs. It is was a bit further down the path but well, well worth it.

The exhibit is called Utopian Bodies, which is a very intersting way to think of clothing, as our idealized self. The exhibit, which took over the whole museum, had all sorts of complex philosophical ideas about dystopias and Utopias, about technology and sustainability, and about conformity. But my two favorite galleries were the last two, one dealing with Judith Butler and gend…

Hotel Esplanade

When I booked this hotel online a few weeks ago, it's location reminded me of a hotel I stayed at in Stockholm in 1998, when I was working on the Viking exhibition at the Smithsonian. That hotel was a small botique hotel right in the waterfront, and although the three other people on the trip with me were unimpressed, I remember liking it very well, even though my room was tiny.

So I did not hesitate to book at Hotel Esplanade, close to the museum and right on the waterfront. It is an old hotel, and I think it may well be the same one I stayed at all those years ago. What I like about it is that it is a weird hybrid, kind of like a bed and breakfast more than a hotel. There is no elevator for one, so that makes it like a house. But the real distinction is the decor, which is a hodgepodge of styles. There are beautiful antique pieces from the 1800s, including even the desk in my room, intermixed with cool mid century modern pieces, like my coffee table, and then 1980s style floral …

Arlanda airport

I like how the architecture of allthe Nordic airports feel similar, such that when I arrived in Sweden it felt familiar. And then, as I made my way from the plane to the luggage drop to the train station, I recalled another reason it felt so familiar. I was here in 2009 for the Saga Conference, and the experience at Arlanda was not good. I had to pay a lot in extra baggage fees.