The Swedes have this quaint custom of having a Christmas service in the wee hours of Christmas morning, called Julotta. It was scheduled in the village church this year for a rather civil 9 am, so since I was actually awake at 7.30, I decided to get a quick cup of coffee, get my boots on, and trudge down through the Christmas Slush.

Actually, the slush was gone from the streets, except for the odd, treacherous bit of ice. It was just beginning to get light out, not even the birds were awake. I did meet a couple picking up Maj-Britt, a former missionary to Africa who is the village genealogist, as I passed her place. "God fortsättning!", a good continuing of the Christmas season, they wished me.

The church was ablaze with candlelight! The custodian, Eva, had probably been there for the last hour or so, lighting over 120 candles inside.

I've often been in the church where only 4-5 people were attending, but this morning there was a good crowd. We sang some old Christmas carols, and a young woman sang and played the flute. The preacher was hoarse, in addition to speaking the local dialect, so I didn't understand much of what he was saying. Maj-Britt gave me a hug and the best of wishes for the coming year, I wished her continued good health. All the others just kind of eye the stranger, if you haven't lived here for most of your life, you are a stranger.

Heading home, the sun had come up, although the sky was still very grey. The birds were making quite a noise, almost as if it was spring!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Ooooh, a thriller that takes place in Ísafjörður, Iceland! Had to buy that one, as I loved being in Isafjördur a few years ago. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's Geisterfjord (Ég man þig, literally "I remember you") seems to be two completely different stories for a while. One concerns a group of three people with the crazy idea of renovating a house on Hornstrandir, an abandoned area across the Ísafjarðardjúp from Ísafjörður. The other is a newly-divorced psychiatrist with a dark secret working in Ísafjörður.

It took me a while to get into the book, I considered pitching it about a third of the way in. But it got better and better, and the last few chapters I read all at once until the wee hours of the morning. And then I couldn't sleep, I was hearing ghosts all over the place.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is not Stieg Larsson, like the back cover states, but the book is a good read. I'll try some of the other ones she has written!

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

At Christmas we like to go see some epic movie in English. Three years running we saw the Lord of the Rings, so it was fitting to go see "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" this afternoon. We sprang for the 3D version.


I repeatedly looked at my watch, to determine how much longer I would have to suffer.

I had wondered how such a thin book as "The Hobbit" could be extended to a three-film sequence. Well, every half-page skirmish is drawn out into a looooong battle. And there is nothing new here, lots of ugly trolls and some dirty-looking dwarfs and some beautiful elves. Oh, and nasty Orgs and their toothy tigers or whatever it is that they ride.

The film is riddled with continuity errors. The list on IMDB is long, but doesn't contain half of the ones I saw. Bilbo has his rucksack on, then off, then on again. It gets dirty, is miraculously cleaned up, and is dirty again. Bilbo's clothes suddenly end up clean and pressed as well. Only the buttons popped off remain off, it seems. And we never see the feet of Bilbo much, so they could have just saved all the fuss with the foot makeup.

In LotR it was magic to see how Gollum moved. Motion-capture is old hat now, as is computer animation. So many of the scenes were obviously SFX. Lots of little figures that were probably dolls, so many computer-generated fighting scenes.

Oh, right, we paid for 3D. What was the point of that? There was depth to the scenes, but I felt that when there were multiple people in the scenes that they seemed flat, somehow. In perspective, but without being embodied. Oh, there was the odd bird and butterfly that seemed to be introduced into the story just so there would be something 3D-ish to ooh and ah about. But Avatar already had that, so what is new? Okay, the 48 fps maybe made things smoother, I didn't get motion sick.

The credits mention rotoscopers -- how quaint! And scores of TDs, are they all "technical directors"? Then there are "scale doubles" - are these midgets that look like the main characters? And how are they different from "body doubles"?

The only interesting bits were the attempts at character development and dialogue, but that was only about 30 minutes, max. 

Anyway. I was glad to be released from an uncomfortable chair and to get out into the wonderful winter wonderland outside. It's supposed to all melt by tomorrow, but it was much more exciting to walk through the snow, catching real snowflakes on my tongue, than to watch this movie.


We're still here!

Well, we made it to December 22, 2012, without a mishap, it seems! Of course, the question arises: where did December go? I have this blur of classes, meetings, talks, examinations, and the odd Christmas Party in my mind.

Good thing I have a few days in Sweden to clear my mind. There's a good bit of snow on the ground (the neighbor says they had half a meter earlier this month), so everything looks lovely, bathed in white.

We went food shopping this afternoon, you could swear people were getting ready for long days and nights holed up somewhere from the looks of what they were buying. And the store had everything in Jumbo-size-only, it seemed. I managed to get a 2 kg package of ground meat repackaged to give me just the pound I wanted. But cheeses all started at 1 kg, it seemed, and bread or cakes or sausages came in a size suitable for a soccer team. I suppose everyone has family over, and the eat to avoid speaking with each other.

The mega-supermarket now has "self-service" - you take a scanner as you go in, bag your fruits and veggies yourself and scan everything in, then pay at the self-service stations. I suppose since Swedes are generally honest that this works, but why would people want to do all the work themselves. Just so they don't have to wait in line?

So what's on the menu for the Christmas season? Hamburgers, Salmon, Zucchini Lasagne, and Reindeer with Mushrooms. I'm going to try some easy appetizers like this or a pomegranate and apple salad. Yum!