Monday, July 23, 2007

Things Everybody Knows

Mom is behind on the Harry Potter reading, so I was reading some of it out loud to her, and we had stopped to discuss names at one point.

Mom: ...and of course, "Dumbledore" is Anglo-Saxon for "Bumblebee."
Me: [blank look] really...?
Mom: Oh, sorry, I thought everyone knew that.

She evidently reads different books than the rest of us. :-)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The "Other" Ballroom Dancers

I caught some of last year's IDSF World Championship competition on KQED today, and it was really interesting to watch how (mostly) familiar dances are done in very unfamiliar (to me) ways. Unfortunately, I only got to see a few dances, and only two of them included the solo dances, as opposed to groups. Though I did get to see one woman get her scarf draped over her head and waltz around like that for a while until it fell off, because neither partner would free up a hand to fix it. That was funny.

I have to say, the Viennese waltz was really horrible. I don't know if it was the strict steps they were doing that looked funny to me, but most of them barely even seemed to be dancing with the beat. I think there were only two moves besides the basic step (a fake-out non-dip, and a skitter-around-in-place thing) and they weren't even used very musically most of the time. I don't know if the music is a surprise to the contestants (it probably is) but still, I could do way better choreography on the fly than all that.

And of course, the basic ballroom hold always seems extremely wrong to me. I know the motivation behind it, since it's about impressing judges, rather than connecting with your partner and the music. But I guess I wouldn't make a very good judge, since I don't actually like to see arched backs and heads sticking out at odd angles. Oh well.

One thing that did really intrigue me, though, was the quickstep. This dance seems to be what ballroom types do when they want to polka and only have swing music. They pulled out a lot more musicality for this dance, too, compared to the Viennese waltz. I've never encountered quickstep in the world of social ballroom, but it looks like it could be really fun. Entertaining footwork and some really fast traveling possibilities. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for opportunities to learn some.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Deathly Hallows

***** (Only the first paragraph is safe.) *****

HP7! I picked up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Books Inc. last night and started reading around 1:00 AM. Took a three hour nap in the wee hours of the morning, then dove right back in and finished around 8 this evening. I read it on my own, since Antonia and Ryan decided they wanted to go through it at a slower pace. I missed the reading-aloud, and the play-by-play discussions, but it was good to go at my own rate, especially considering I was stopping to cry after most of the last 7 or 8 chapters.

This book was intense all the way through. When Hedwig and Mad-Eye Moody died so early on, I knew it was going to be a rough ride, but in a way, the enormity of it really started sinking in for me when we learned what Hermione had to do to her family. The chapter where Hermione was tortured and Dobby was killed just tore me up, and by the time Fred, Lupin, and Tonks died, I was ready to be a basket case for the rest of the book. I was completely at J. K. Rowling's mercy when Harry was marching off to face death without even stopping to say goodbye to Ginny.

But on to the good things, too. I was so happy about the resolution of the Snape question, though the themes of uncertain trust and constant, unrequited love currently give me a real emotional yank. The fact that even Kreacher was redeemed, which I didn't remotely expect, was like a beautiful little gift. I even felt considerably more sympathetic to the Malfoys by the end. And Percy coming back. That was good. I thought it was wonderful that Luna could recognize Harry even through the Polyjuice potion, and that Neville got the heroic deed he deserved. Ron had me worried when he bailed on Harry and Hermione, but he pulled through and I'm very proud of him. The looks into Dumbledore's past were surprising, but I still love him. I didn't expect the "Nineteen Years Later" epilogue (because I didn't even let myself peek at the table of contents before I read) but I was very grateful for it. As much as she could have left us without an explicit happily-ever-after ending, I really needed it.

Anyway, that probably wasn't all too coherent, but it's about all I'm up for right now, given that I'm still pretty emotional about it all and don't yet have anyone who's finished it that I can talk it out with. Now I guess it's time to start coming to terms with a world devoid of future Harry Potter books and mysteries.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nordic Trip 2007

The trip is now posted more or less in its entirety. I'm afraid there wasn't a limerick edition this time, but you can find the rest of it here:

Herräng, Sweden

Folkets Hus Entrance Our final week of the trip was spent in Herräng, for week one of the Herräng Dance Camp. This year is the 25th anniversary of the camp, and they've got 5 weeks of dancing madness there. Herräng itself used to be an ore-mining town, and now is just a small village of ~800 people. That population probably doubles or triples during July, depending on how many people are attending camp on any given week. Though I think a lot of the natives bail during the summer and rent out their homes or rooms to dance invaders.

The way classes worked was interesting, since I come from a Camp Harmony sort of background where everything is very flexible and on-the-fly. At Herräng you have to register for a specific class series, which gets marked on your Herräng "passport." They actually have a passport control squad that does random spot checks in the classes every day, to make sure nobody's sneaking around. I was signed up for Int.-Adv. Lindy Hop, so that's what I did, though I would have checked out some of the beginning Boogie Woogie classes if I could have. (Boogie Woogie was the non-Lindy focus for this week; each week is different.) We had about three 80-minute classes a day, some of which really pushed me, and some of which were easier, so I think it was a good level for me. There was a good variety of teachers, too. We spent the most time with Daniel and Åsa who I think made a really good backbone for the week. They seemed the most well-rounded teachers, covering musicality, fancy moves, footwork variations, niggling basic details, and other stuff. There were some other good teachers we only got one shot with, though, like Ichtiandras and Solveiga, who I would have liked to have seen a lot more of.

Miriam and Frankie Frankie Manning is sort of the patron saint of Herräng, though he didn't arrive until mid-week because of some events back in the States for his recently released autobiography. I got a copy at camp and got Frankie to sign it, then read most of it on the plane flight home. Absolutely fantastic book all the way through, but worth it even if all you read is his description of creating and performing the first air steps (aerials) ever. One of the classes for all the lindy hop students was actually just an hour with Frankie Manning and his son, Chazz Young, on stage telling us stories of what it was like dancing at the Savoy back in the 1930's to bands like Chick Webb and Count Basie. Frankie is 93 years old and says he's been dancing for 94 years, and he can tell you about all of them with such complete joy and humor that it's a delight to listen to. His voice comes through extremely well in the book, too, so I highly recommend reading it.

Hearing Stories One camp tradition I thought was a little weird until I experienced it was the daily meetings. At 9 PM each day there are no dances or classes or anything else scheduled and everyone goes and crams themselves into the main Folkets Hus room (fire safety limit: 150 people, actual limit: waaaay more) as well as a couple other rooms where they have live video broadcasts. Then Lennart Westerlund comes out on stage completely deadpan, sits down on a stool, and leads some of the most entertaining hour-long meetings I've ever been in. They include not only general camp information and announcements, but also video clips from previous camps and old movies, occasional performances, ongoing sitcoms with various teachers and staff, ongoing in-jokes (ice cream! salty fish! bugaloo!), and updates on projects such as trying to get the King of Sweden to visit the camp. It was well worth being packed in like sardines every night. (They'd have you cram in as far as you think you can, let you rest and get comfortable for 10 minutes, then tell you to squeeze in even more to get the latecomers in.)

Remains When I needed a break from camp a couple times, I took a walk down to the beach. The beach itself is an extremely modest little strip of sand with a dock and a picnic table. But there are also some interesting areas with remains of the old mining operations. Like enormous pits, or huge dirt/sand dunes in different colors. And giant, rusty pieces of equipment, like enormous iron wheels and railroad ties. It kind of reminded me of playing Myst years ago, exploring a deserted area and finding remnants of past civilizations. Also near the beach were some beautifully forested areas with some lovely paths to follow. So it was a good place to go and recharge if I got a little over-lindied once in a while.

Typical Dorm Room Miriam and I stayed in the general accommodations, which are mostly in the small school building and its gym. All furniture was removed from the classrooms and the entire thing (including hallways) was packed with bunk beds. They left the decorations up, though, so there are still little kids' drawings and dioramas on the walls, and a solar system hanging from the ceiling. Our classroom had 15 bunks, so 30 people. One one side, my bunk was flush up against another one (luckily neither of us were rollers). On the other side, I had to squeeze in sideways to fit between the beds. We were told we only had this much space because it was week one. Apparently in the more crowded weeks people are sharing beds and sleeping on the floor. As it was, it still got pretty unpleasant after a few days, when it just became a warm, damp, smelly petri dish of sweat and germs. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, I got sick midway through camp, and you could just hear the cough traveling from one bed to another. No way to keep anything quarantined in there.

Getting sick meant that I had a pretty rough time of the last half of camp. I still managed to attend classes and learn some stuff, but I wasn't able to dance much or have much fun in the evenings. So it was kind of a depressing end to the trip, having gone all the way out to Sweden for this and then blown so much of it. I'm not sure if or when I'll go back in future years. Part of me wants to, to do it right, but part of me would rather just spend my travel time and money on new trips. But someday, maybe, who knows.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ikaalinen, Finland

Signpost The idea to go to Ikaalinen came from finding out about the Sata-Häme Soi Accordion Festival that happens there every year. Miriam actually plays accordion, and I would if I had one, plus we just thought it sounded like a fun way to go somewhere beyond Helsinki. From Helsinki it was a 2 hour train to Tampere, then a 1+ hour bus ride out to Ikaalinen, then a walk out to a small island on the lake, where we found our lodgings in a campground that rents little cabin rooms. The festival is a week long, but we just went for a day of it.

Dancing in the Park For a supposedly international accordion festival, most of the music we heard seemed to be Finnish, or stuff for ballroom dancing. Nothing wrong with that, but not quite what I was expecting. Probably if we had gotten there for the actual championship accordion competition a day or two before we would have had a different impression. The main festival park area had two stages with seating areas and dance floors, so we got to do a bit more dancing. It was similar to the dancing we had in Helsinki, except people were mostly just dancing in fixed couples (i.e. not asking random people), and it was trickier dancing around in damp, muddy shoes. It was getting to my ankle a bit, actually, so I didn't do too much.

Excelsior On the one evening we were there, we went to the church to hear a concert by The Baltic International Quintet Excelsior. Four piano accordions and one 5-row button (which is what we saw the most of around the festival). With that many accordions, and with a wide range of reed sets on each one, they have a remarkable sound, almost like a giant organ. The fact that none of them seemed to use the left-hand chord buttons probably contributed to this effect. They played a variety of things like arrangements of classical pieces (e.g. by Mozart) as well as stuff I assume was written specifically for accordions (e.g. by Astor Piazzolla). Miriam was rather put off by their stage presence, but I didn't pay much attention to that and just really enjoyed the music. We had great, front-row seats, too, which is good because I love watching musicians' hands. The baritone player was my favorite in that respect.

Disguised The Accordion Museum in Ikaalinen is a single room lined with accordions in glass cases. There was one person in it who I don't think even usually works there, but he was so excited to get visitors that he immediately took us under his wing and gave us an enthusiastic, informative, knowledgeable tour of nearly all the instruments. My favorite was this accordion that was designed to let a Finnish 5-row player fool an American audience that expected to see a piano accordion. It has three rows of buttons below a somewhat stubby row of what appear to be piano keys. But those piano keys are actually the last two rows of the buttons. If you look closely, you can see that there are actually white "black" keys to make the black row complete while still blending in to the piano look. I think that's hilarious.

There was also a building where lots of accordion makers were selling their instruments. I was sorely tempted to get one of the smaller 5-row accordions, but resisted for lack of a few thousand euros and an extra arm. Not to mention the fact that it probably wouldn't be wise to buy a "real" instrument before knowing anything about playing it. Anybody know someone who can lend me one?

Ikaalinen Sunset Ikaalinen was as far north as we got in this trip, though everything on this trip from Stockholm on up was farther north than I'd ever been in my life. This sunset picture was taken at 11:30 PM. The night probably got a bit darker after that, but it wasn't long before the sun was coming up again. In a way, it's fun to have almost continual daytime when you're traveling. But it didn't always make sleeping easy, and I was really happy to be able to find proper darkness when I finally got back home.

Ikaalinen was also where we heard the most Finnish spoken. It's an absolutely fantastic language and I wish I could speak it. It just burbles along and makes me laugh sometimes even though I don't get the jokes. An interesting thing about being in Finland was having so many signs, labels, etc. be bilingual Finnish-Swedish. After a few days in Sweden, not to mention a Pimsleur CD and a bunch of cognates, we were actually turning to Swedish to help us translate or at least get the gist of any Finnish we had to read. Didn't help with what we heard spoken, though.

Tallinn, Estonia

Town Hall Tallinn is just a couple hour's ferry ride from Helsinki, so it makes a good day trip from there. An afternoon there is about enough to wander around the old town area a bit, visit some churches and antique shops, and see some nice views.

Military Band The first thing we encountered on our way into town from the harbor was a little odd. Several hundred people in a field appeared to be getting taught a Macarena-like dance by a guy on stage with a microphone. We couldn't understand what he was saying, unfortunately, except for when he counted them off 1-2-3-4 in Estonian. No idea what that was all about. Once we made it into the Town Hall Square, we found a military band playing tunes like Something Stupid, and Puttin' on the Ritz. They wrapped up soon after we got there, though (Finale: The Can Can), and we didn't get to dance to them. (Cobblestones, crowds, and backpacks would have made that hard, anyway.)

Near the square we met a guy selling miniature kites, which are great because you can just stroll along the street on a breezy day, with your little kite skipping along ahead of you like a dog on a leash. We got a couple of those, though I haven't tried mine out yet. Someone else who tried to sell us stuff had a collection of old Russian passports and communist cards. We passed on those.

There are several interesting churches to visit, though you can't necessarily take pictures in them. St. Nicholas' is now a museum and also has a collection of church bells from around Estonia. Another, whose name I've forgotten, treated us to a few minutes of organ music. I think someone was just testing it out or something. A lot of the other places have sort of blended together in my mind.

View from St. Olaf's Spire Our ferry back to Helsinki was canceled on account of drizzle, so we had to stick around another two hours, which gave us time to go back to St. Olaf's Church. St. Olaf's has what was once the highest spire in Scandinavia, and if you climb to the top of the tower, you can get the best views of Tallinn anywhere. The tiny stone spiral staircase has 233 steps going up and 234 going down (I counted). Must be magic. Once you've climbed those, you get a 23-rung ladder to actually reach the viewing platform. From there you can see the churches and towers of old Tallinn contrasting with the skyscrapers and office buildings of the modern part of the city beyond. It's a great way to end a day there, both because you can pick out places you've already been, and because you're legs will be ready for resting on the ferry when you're done with the climb.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Helsinki, Finland

Lutheran Cathedral Helsinki was bright, sunny, and full of people when we arrived, which was a welcome change after gray, empty Stockholm. Continuing in the theme of staying in places that used to be other places, we got a room at the Academica Hostel, which is actually a student dormitory during the academic year. After dropping our stuff off there, we went to the harbor-side market for some food and a nice waltz, courtesy of an accordion busker. Nearby we were entertained by a street performer with trained cats, which jumped into baskets, climbed things, etc. Hilarious, because even though they were doing all this, they were still just cats, and you know how cats are. Then we hopped on a bus for a recorded audio tour of the city (first one ever available in Latin). It was a good way to get oriented a bit and see a few of the sights.

Blogger and Sibelius I had really been looking forward to seeing the Sibelius monument. Not only do I have good associations with a certain piece of his music, but it was the first thing that gave me the idea of coming to Finland at all, when I saw it on an old postcard of Grandma Jackie's. And I do like it in person as well. I would never have thought a bunch of steel tubes could be that lovely. On a side note, the head of Sibelius that you can see off to the side was tacked on as a later addition to the real monument. The artist was trying to shut up all the critics who were heckling her about it all being too abstract.

Temppeliaukio Organ Of all the churches I've ever been in, Temppeliaukio -- the Temple in the Rock -- may be my favorite. It's literally hewn right into the solid rock of the hillside, with sunlight coming in through the 13 miles of coiled copper wire in the ceiling. And the acoustics are beautiful as well, as demonstrated by a lady playing Chopin on the piano when we were there. Would have been lovely to hear the organ. But just being right there in the earth and peaceful is what I loved the most about it.

Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral At the opposite end of the church spectrum, we also visited the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral. I did love the outside of this, with the excellent shades of red, green and gold. But the inside is all the overwhelming, overdone, orthodox style that tends to just turn me off. I can't really relate to it.

Songlines Museum-wise, the National Museum of Finland had some good historical exhibits and was fairly interesting and educational. But the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum was the real winner. They have no permanent collection, so I don't know what it might be like at any other time, but when we were there it was excellent. I love modern art, but usually in a panning for gold kind of way. I was impressed with how many nuggets the Kiasma had. Without listing all of the fascinating things there, I just want to describe one of the real winners: Songlines. This is a metal globe with raised outlines of the continents. A motor rotates the globe in its frame, along one side of which is a row of small, metal reeds, like on a thumb piano. As the continents rotate, they pluck out different melodies on the reeds. Higher notes are in the North, and lower ones in the South, so that you get, for instance, a huge bass boom when the coast of Chile goes by. Absolutely brilliant, and fascinating to just watch and listen to.

We happened to be lucky and find a dance to go to on our last night in Helsinki. A local dance association was holding one of its regular social dances out near the Sibelius Park. We were running late from our earlier excursions, and we had trouble finding the place, but we still managed to get a couple hours of dancing in there. The band was accordion, drums, and bass/vocals, and the dancers were mostly middle-aged and up, though we did find a couple of other nice 20-somethings as well. People there spoke varying amounts of English, which was kind of cool to finally have to deal with, since absolutely everybody in touristy areas speaks English impeccably. A few folks also made an effort to help us out learning the customs and etiquette. Like the lady I almost insulted by only dancing one dance with. All dances there are done in pairs, two dances in a row with the same partner, and the band plays in pairs as well (two tangos, two waltzes, etc.) to help you keep track. Then there's ladies' hour from about 10-11pm, when the ladies get to ask the men for dances (though opinion seemed to be divided on whether this also included escorting them back to their seats).

As for the dances themselves, I'd heard before the trip that the tango is practically the national dance of Finland, and there were certainly a lot of them. I had worried a bit about not really knowing tango very well, but it turns out that the way it's done there is basically like a glorified foxtrot. So my basic American tango and leading skills got me through just fine. Actually, a lot of their dances seem to drift towards foxtrottiness, and you can kind of forget what you're actually watching sometimes, because it all looks so similar. You can tell the waltzes apart, though. And there was something called a humppa which seemed like a turning two-step polka, though I'm sure there are stylistic differences I couldn't pick up on the fly.

By the way, two useful Finnish words to have at a dance: anteeksi (excuse me) and kiitos (thank you). Everything else you can just mime.

Baltic Ferries

The Silja Symphony Going between Sweden and Finland, we took the overnight cruise ships, which turned out to be pretty fun. I recommend going between Stockholm and Helsinki, though, rather than Stockholm and Turku. We did it both ways and the latter is a shorter trip with less time to really get the cruise ship experience, plus they roll you out of bed at 6 AM. We got a complimentary or accidental room upgrade or something on the Helsinki trip as well, which might color my perception of it a bit, but I still liked that trip better. We were on the Silja line, which means a giant blue boat, rather than the Viking line, which would be a giant red boat. Though perhaps there are other differences as well.

Archipelago To imagine one of these cruise ships, take a hotel, a mall, a sauna, a casino, a nightclub, some restaurants and bars, and then moosh them all together and make the whole thing float. I don't know how many people they get on those things, but it's gotta be a lot. If you walk up on the deck, you get lovely views of all the little islands in the archipelago around Stockholm, or you can see midnight sunsets later in the evening. The rooms we had were pretty small, with beds that collapse into the walls, so you can decide between being able to lay down or turn around. I'm not sure how big and fancy the more expensive ones get, but our upgraded room did at least have a nice window overlooking the main "promenade" (i.e. shopping mall) of the ship. Wandering around the mall and restaurants and duty-free shops is interesting for a short while, but not for too long. Luckily, there was some other fun to be found.

View Sideways from window There was a small stage and dance floor at one end of the first ship we were on. I poked my head in there a couple times during the evening, and noticed some show that seemed to have people in pirate costumes dancing to different sorts of music each time. Miriam and I went back later, though, and found a band playing and people dancing. They were mostly playing a bunch of "oldies," with some swing-able stuff early on, followed by more tangos, foxtrots, and slow dances later. We managed to get a decent little dance fix out of it. One really amusing moment came during a waltz when I was confused about why absolutely everybody suddenly wanted to dance in the same corner as us. Turns out these ships are so big it's easy to forget sometimes that you're actually out on the ocean. Until the dance floor tilts.

Double Duty Clock After dancing, we found a bunch of karaoke going on in another part of the ship. This turned out to be fascinating because the majority of the songs were in either Finnish or Russian (though occasionally English with one of those accents). It was really fun to hear pop music from other countries, and to watch all the foreign words going by on the screens. I tried to remember some of the lyrics long enough to write them down when we got back to our room. Now we'll see how well I did by googling for them and seeing if I can find the songs to listen to again.

I'll mention the ferry between Helsinki and Tallinn as well, as long as I'm here, though it was rather different, being more like a glorified bus and not a huge cruise ship. The one interesting thing about it was the music video showing on a screen when we boarded. It had a catchy little tune and this bizarre animation with hippo-dog things holding umbrellas. I really want to find that song again, and Miriam managed to jot down the main melody, but that's all we've got. After that one, they just showed American music videos from the '80's and '90's for the rest of the trip, so less interesting.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stockholm, Sweden

IMG_1186.JPG Stockholm bookended our trip, with a weekend at the beginning and a camp-recovery evening at the end. Unfortunately, we got there on a gray, drizzly midsummers-holiday weekend, which pretty much turns Stockholm into a ghost town. So I think we got rather an unfair impression of it. I love the archipelaginess of it, though, and getting to cross different bits of water to get to different islands.

The hostel, prison era The Af Chapman is a ship that was converted into a hostel, so that seemed like a fun place to stay. Unfortunately, it's closed for renovations, so we stayed in the Långholmens Hostel, instead, which is a converted prison. Not so bad as it sounds, though. It has a small, interesting museum that lets you compare what it was like in the prison days with the way it is now, and it's also on a lovely little island with very nice wooded paths to stroll around. And some of the rooms have interesting decorations. Like the guillotine on the mirror, and the old newspaper prints on the underside of the upper bunks. It was a bit away from the city center (in "Stockholm's Brooklyn") but not too bad.

Friday we mostly took it easy, dealing with jet lag, but did walk around the old town island of Gamla Stan for a while. Saw some nice churches, and a statue of St. George and the Dragon which I quite liked. The dragon is made out of lots of elk antlers, which gives it a wonderful look.

On Saturday we went to the Vasa Museum, built around the Vasa warship, which was the Titanic of the Scandinavian 17th century. Someone built a huge, impressive ship, then miscalculated how many rocks they needed as ballast. It got top heavy, tipped over, and sank when it was barely out of the harbor on its maiden voyage. It was found, pulled up from the ocean floor, and restored several decades ago. You can see it in the museum, along with tons of other fascinating exhibits about it and about seafaring life generally in the time period. The video about the recovery is very interesting, and well worth the half hour. I also enjoyed the wax reconstructions of some of the people whose skeletons were found on board. The display about how that was done says that while they obviously can't determine hair color or anything, they can get good enough reconstructions to be recognizable by someone who knew the person. Amazing. In the "Completely Random" department, there was a photo of our governator as Conan the Barbarian. No explanation whatsoever on why that was in a 17th century Swedish warship museum.

A ways down the street from the museum (having missed the entrance to Skansen, which we'll come back to later) we found a small Italian restaurant. This had the best pizza ever. Maybe it was something about the crust, or the sauce, or just some magic pixie dust they sprinkled on it, but it was incredible.

We continued wandering around the parks on Djurgården and found a nice rose garden, mostly notable for a lemon-scented rose. We also came across a small playground with one of these things that are so much fun. (Anybody know what they're called?) Being a damp day, the slugs were out in force. Swedish slugs are large ugly things, like banana slugs, if you let the bananas get old and black. They appeared to be cannibalistic as well.

The Nordic Museum We eventually made it back to Skansen in the evening. This is a large "open air museum," basically a park with a lot of things like reconstructions of old villages and whatnot in it. There's also a small zoo that provided some great views of bears and moose and other critters. We were rather cold and wet by this point, but wanted to stick around for the folk dancing that happens on one of the little stages in the park. At 8pm some musicians set up and started playing lovely Scandinavian tunes under a gazebo, while a couple brave dancers hambo'd and schottisched through the rain. I was starved at this point and eating a sandwich from a nearby shop. I gobbled it up as fast as I could, then we dashed over to join the dancing. Literally as soon as we set foot on the stage, the musicians wrapped up their current tune and started putting their instruments away. Ouch. I guess they decided 15 minutes was enough in that kind of weather. Really disappointing, though. It would have been fun to surprise folks with some American kids that knew the hambo.

Blogger at Millesgården Things brightened up on Sunday when, appropriately enough, the sun came out. We went out to Millesgården, former home of sculptor Carl Milles, and now a wonderful museum and park full of his work. He was influenced a lot by Rodin, but took everything in a much more mythological, fantastical direction. Some of it I like more than others, but it's all fascinating.

Conveniently, Millesgården is over on the side of Stockholm near the Värtan harbor, from which we'd be sailing to Helsinki. So having earlier stashed our larger bags in lockers at a train station, we were all set to go board the cruise ship Sunday afternoon. More on that next post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not Impressed

Just got back from seeing The Order of the Phoenix. Appropriately enough, my least favorite book became my least favorite movie (so far), though for different reasons. It was really just very poorly done all around. Everything felt extremely under-acted, as if most of the actors weren't even trying to get into their emotions (look at how upset Uncle Vernon barely is about the attack on Dudley, for instance). People looked bad in completely fixable ways (e.g. costume or makeup details, or lighting and camera angles). None of the magic special effects were at all impressive, and the Dumbledore-Voldemort duel was pitiful. (Can't we have just a little bit of choreography in there, please?) The story editing is admittedly a very tough job, but it still just felt gaping and ragged, with everybody rushing just to cover the cliff's-notes version of it. I really hope some more effort gets put into movie #6. I'm okay having 5 as a throwaway one if we have to, but I want 6 to be good.

I'll stop complaining now. On the plus side, I'll say that Luna Lovegood did a great job, and I also loved the thestrels.

And yes, trip-blogging should happen soon, I just haven't yet had the energy for it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Back in the States

Arrived in New York this afternoon. Currently battling jet lag and an illness that attacked me the last half of the trip, so probably nothing interesting will be happening here for me. Heading home tomorrow morning and will perhaps try to do some proper trip-blogging later this week.

Also, we found out late in the trip that someone early on had sold us the wrong denomination of postcard stamps. So I don't know how many people will be getting postcards. :-( If you do get one with a stamp with no number on it (as opposed to one that says 11kr) let me know. I saw a piece of mail with insufficient postage go through once, just for lack of a return address, so you never know.