2014-03-15

Grandkid Stuff

WiseGrandKid is coming over this evening with her parents. She is now very mobile and adept at crawling, she even scootched up two of the stairs the last time she was here. Our place hasn't been child-proof for years, so I hit the Mega-Baby-Stuff-Store this morning, along with approx. 37 expecting couples and 42 with offspring in tow.

Although the kid's high chair that we got for WiseKid is still going strong, we didn't get the baby set then. I tried to get one today, but the production has changed and so they are not available for older models.

I did get this too-cute-for words place mat from Stokke:

It sticks to the table with giant suction cups and has high rims to contain spilled milk. I had been a bit worried about how the polished stone surface would react to a child banging on it, as I remember the deep cuts WiseKid made in our wooden table when he was a kid. This will do the trick!

I cleaned out the lower shelf that used to contain lots of things not suitable for children (and found the lovely Swedish tea-light holder sheared off, that probably happened during a past visit and I didn't get told). I put up a sign and some stickers and put some toys on the shelf:

Oh, that Monchhichi, WiseKid didn't like it so it is still in pristine condition, it is just too cute for words:

2014-02-23

Schweineöde

My university moved some departments (mine included) to a former industrial area in Berlin, Schöneweide (English: beautiful field), five years ago. This part of town is often called "Schweineöde" (English: pig's wasteland) by the locals. Located on the Spree, it was an area with heavy industrialization that broke down during the German Democratic Republic times and for decades was known for unemployment, abandoned buildings, and Neonazis. The latter had their headquarters here, a clothing store and some pubs, but that is now changing. One of the pubs has finally lost the last court suit brought by the owner and is being forced to move.

In 2004 Carsten Otte published a book called "Schweineöde" with Eichborn (reviews in German at Cicero and Perlentaucher). The book is about Raimund Kuballa, bored millionaire from the West who rents a room in Schöneweide and experiences, as Otte writes, "Einsamkeit, Haß, Zuneigung, Liebe, Ablehnung, Gewalt, Erniedrigung, Ohnmacht und Macht" (loneliness, hate, affection, love, rejection, violence, humilation, impotence and power) during his years of living in a small apartment in the Rathenaustraße. Most particularly, he becomes so fascinated with the history of the former Eastern German secret police Stasi, that he himself turns to information gathering, denunciation, even framing his neighbor and rival for the love of Jana in order to get him jailed.

Oberschöneweide
CC-BY-NC-SA, WiseWoman
I was at the beginning fascinated to read about this part of town, and it was interesting to see how Kuballa was drawn into his obsession with the Stasi. But the book soon got bogged down and Otte didn't really have any idea how to end the book. But for a first novel I suppose that is often the case. I often wondered while reading the book if Otte himself had lived in this apartment and was describing his neighbors.

In any case, this part of town is slowly pulling itself out of the muck. Since 7000 students and teachers trek out to the university every weekday, espresso bars and cafes have sprung up, and the art scene is rapidly developing. The rents are still cheap here and a walk along the Spree is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon.

2014-01-04

Simon and the Oaks

Swedish TV broadcast the 2011 film "Simon and the Oaks" (Simon och ekarna) this evening with one of my favorite German actors, Jan-Josef Liefers, playing a supporting role.

The story, after a book by Marianne Fredriksson, is complicated. Simon is growing up in the late 1930s in a working class family near the water outside of Gothenburg. He is more interested in reading, his best friends are the oak trees high above the water. He insists on going to school in town, and there meets Isak, the son of a German Jewish bookseller who fled Berlin with his wife and son. Isak and Simon become friends, and slowly exchange families. Isak learns the trade of a carpenter, Simon embraces the music and literature he is exposed to in Isak's father's house.

Eventually, Simon learns that he is adopted and that his father was also a German Jew. He searches for his roots, eventually finding an uncle and learning that his birthfather died just a few years ago.

It is a sweet family story, a little heavy on the classical music, but it tells the story of how people came to terms with World War II living far away but still so near to the horrors that were happening.

Liefers is superb – he seems to have learned Swedish for the role. It is his voice, speaking excellent Swedish with a German accent, intermingled with German. The other characters are also very well done, complicated people with secrets and longings and desires. They are not plastic perfect happy people, but they are very real. The cinematography, cutting between seasons, inside and outside, light and dark, is very well done, capturing the spectacular light of Sweden on a sunny summer day and the gloom of deepest winter night. 

You feel that you have really gotten to know these people and want the story to continue as the credits begin to roll.

2013-12-29

Hobbit: Part 2

We went to see Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in Lund this evening with a friend. We had seen each of the Lord of the Rings films together as they came out over Christmas/New Year's, but had not seen the first Hobbit film together for some reason. Watching it in 3D we had decided that the 3D wasn't worth it and that we weren't going to go see part 2, it was far too boring.

But the critics said it was better, so we decided to give it a try. We managed to get 3 of the last 4 seats for the non-3d version left among scores of sugar-high kids excited to go see all the kiddie films and headed inside. The advertising was great - some interesting films, and then the University of Uppsala advertising for students with a really great short film.

The film was, indeed, better than part 1, although it could have easily been 20 minutes shorter. There was some beautiful landscape stuff, a great female character Tauriel (who was not in the book, and of course got involved in a love story, but was still an interesting character), and some weird stuff such as Beorn who turned out to be the Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt! I swore that one of the actors looked like Johnny Depp and another like John Cleese, but I was mistaken.

If you are an arachnophobe, I would suggest giving this film a miss. There are lot of fighting scenes, and the usual continuity errors with weapons coming and going and the dwarfs suddenly having having their hair washed and braided and such. There were some scenes that were clearly only there for the 3D crowd: butterflies coming out of nowhere, large bees buzzing around, lots of spider and dragon in-your-face stuff. I suppose the forests and villages and castles looked good, but is that worth having to buy extra glasses? Of course, it stops in the middle, so we have to go see part 3, I guess.

From the Department of Oops

WiseMan picked up a flyer at the Coop today. This is so bizarre, I have to translate it:

Important information for those of you who have the Coop 2014 calendar. Because of a printing error that crept in for the month of May we have put together an updated page that you can easily use to replace the month of May with. On the inside of this flyer you can find the month of May as it should be, just open it up and hang it up over the wrong one so that you have a calendar with the correct weekend days. Please note that the Monday after Pentecost, the 9th of June is NOT a holiday, please note this in your calendar. Midsummer day, Saturday the 21st of June, is a holiday, so please note this in your calendar as well. We are sorry for the problem and wish you all the best in 2014!
Ahem. Pentecost Monday has not been a holiday in Sweden for what, 5 years now? And they missed having the most holiest of the Swedish drinking holidays, Midsummer, marked as a holiday? On their Facebook page they note that the first of May was set on a Wednesday instead of Thursday, meaning they repeated May 2013. What did they do, outsource the printing to some cheap third world country where no one noticed anything? The motto of the year is: sustainability.

2013-12-25

WiseGrandkids First Christmas

We celebrated our first Christmas with WiseGrandkid today. She was here with her parents and with WiseKid's birth brother (he was adopted by another couple, we kept contact with each other from early on). They wanted Maccaroni and Cheese for Christmas Dinner, so I made that with a salad.

WiseGrandkid was a darling princess. She can turn over now, and has two little toys she likes to play with. When her dad put her on his shoulders to carry her around, she hung on tight - grabbing his ears tightly!

We gave WiseGrandkid a songbook, a real book with pictures and music in it. When her mother looked through it she exclaimed at one picture: Oh, that's the song that came with the Pampers App! How fast the times are a-changin'

It was a peaceful evening, no in-depth discussions, no fighting, and far too much to eat.

I hope your Christmas Season is peaceful and joyous - all the best for 2014!

2013-12-22

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!

This has got to be the smallest Christmas tree I ever had, but boy, it was the fastest I ever got a tree decorated.

So little time to blog, that will have to be a New Year's resolution: Blog more!

Hope all are able to enjoy some peace and companionship during the holiday season and gather their strength for 2014!