Friday, January 30, 2004

Yesterday, I was reading in the latest issue of Wired Magazine about how all these Silicon-Valley types are all hot and bothered because hi-tech jobs are being outsourced to bright young engineering geeks in India. Then, today I read that the state of Georgia has removed the term "evolution" from its recommended education curriculum guidelines (and thereby its achievement exams) - joining a handful of other states, according to the New York Times.

I think that companies across the United States should just give up now and start investing in Indian education, because the U.S. graduating class of 2014 is going to be a generation of idiots.

The Swedish word for the day is vetenskap. It means science.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Before I forget, at the popularity contest that is The Bloggies, the voting booths are soon to be shut down. In the category of "Best Great Big Homo Blog," I recommend voting for a girl called Irk, a.k.a. Swirlspice.

The Swedish word for the day is priset. It means the prize and the price, causing endless confusion for Swedes using the two words in English.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The Countess of Castiglione was a sort of Paris Hilton of the Second Empire. Except instead of scandals involving videotaped sex and starring in a television show where rich girls slop the pigs á la Marie-Antoinette, the countess seduced Napoleon III and horrified Paris by wearing costumes with no underwear. Obsessed with clothes and, when she was young, making a scene wherever she happened to be, she was probably a bit vapid. I'm talking about the countess here. But she did one lasting thing: she had a photograph taken of herself that is undoubtedly the most enigmatic of all early photographic portraits, in which she is holding an empty oval frame up to her eye.

The picture evokes so many thoughts and questions about the nature of looking and being looked at. I've been baffled and taken in by that photograph ever since I first saw it in a book, when I was 20.

The Swedish word for the day is grevinnan. It means, of course, the countess.

- by Francis S.

Monday, January 26, 2004

When I was a kid, girls still had real muffs.

Sure, they were covered in some kind of strange white fake fur, and they didn't really have that Anna- Karenina- jumping- in- front- of- a- train glamour that I associate with a good muff, but they were honest to goodness muffs. Now, the only time you see a muff is on some matron promenading about Östermalm in a full-length mink.

I wonder if the demise of a once common item of attire is due to the fact that the name has become synonymous with female genitalia?

And, don't you hate it when perfectly good words, like, um, gay for instance, get co-opted by fanatics and end up meaning something sick and disgusting?

The Swedish word for the day is tantig. It means little old ladyish.

- by Francis S.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

I was a, um, postmature baby. One month late.

"I must have counted wrong, of course," my mother said. "But at the time I thought 'isn't this baby ever going to come?'"

Strange that it took her 42 years to tell me.

"Once it's past, you sort of forget about it," she explained on the phone, not half an hour ago.

So I guess I can start acting postmature now. Which is sort of like postmodern, only with a bit less ornamentation.

The Swedish word for the day is pondus. I've always felt the best way to translate it is, more or less, with the word gravitas.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

What could be a more perfect role for reclusive writer Thomas Pynchon than playing himself, complete with a paperbag over his head, on "The Simpsons"? (item stolen from a blog on my referrer logs that I somehow can't find again; thanks, whoever you are.)

It seems, somehow, disingenuous of Pynchon.

And yet, if I were offered the chance to play myself on "The Simpsons," whoo-ee. Just ask me. Playing opposite Homer is a sure mark of über-success.

The Swedish phrase for the day is Gravitationens Regnbåge, which means, of course, Gravity's Rainbow.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Why is it that big old otherwise well-adjusted girly-men like myself are so insecure, deep down, about whether we're manly enough?

I ran into the husband's ex-girlfriend this morning and she said, "You look so, um, masculine."

I was so proud of myself. I thought, wow, I sure have you fooled.

Pathetic, and yet I can't help it.

The Swedish word for the day is självklart. It means obviously.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I've changed from being a subway person to being a bus person. And I thought it was the kind of thing that one was for life, sort of like being left-handed or right-handed.

It's purely a matter of convenience: the bus gets me to work and back faster and with less legwork than the subway. The downside is that I can't read, the upside is that there is actual scenery, even if it is the same scenery every day.

I still haven't figured out the queue system, though. As far as I can tell, there isn't one. And so I end up being one of the first to board the bus every time because when I get to the bus stop, I stand where I know the bus doors will open. No one has even given me a dirty look, so I guess I'm not making a faux pas. Still, it seems too easy somehow to be one of the people to manage to get a seat and not have to stand in the aisle, desperately holding onto the closest strap or pole.

The Swedish phrase for the day is kommunikation, which means, among other things, transportation.

- by Francis S.

Monday, January 19, 2004

I've been thinking for the past year and a half that I'm past my sell-by date. So I don't know exactly what to say when these kinds of things happen.

The second Swedish word for the day is vad, and it means what?

- by Francis S.
The historical museum was closed today as it is every Monday, although there were a few news photographers lurking outside when a co-worker and I stopped by at lunch today to see if we could catch a glimpse of the pool of blood in the museum's courtyard. Because, you see, on Friday, the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, in a fury, threw one of the spotlights on the periphery of the courtyard into the red pool, which was part of an installation called "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," by an Israeli artist living in Sweden.

The ambassador said that the piece - a small white boat with a picture of a Palestinian suicide bomber on the sail, floating in a sea of water dyed the color of blood - promoted terrorism and was an incitement to genocide. He was eventually thrown out of the museum. It's been all over the Swedish news since Friday, vying for attention with coverage of the trial of the murderer of Anna Lindh.

The Israeli government has called for the work to be dismantled.

The Swedish government has said, more or less, that this won't happen.

Me, I want to decide for myself. The piece is terribly provocative - it is part of a show held in conjunction with a conference on genocide. And it is, without a doubt, implicitly critical of Israel. But the underlying message seems to be that both Israelis and Palestinians are suffering.

But, really, I haven't seen it yet, so it's not quite fair to decide anything just yet.

The Swedish word for the day dom. It means judgement.

- Francis S.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Do you suppose that more than half the world's adults still live in the same house, flat, hut, palace, log cabin or tent that they have lived in from birth?

I wonder what happens when any of these billion or so people contemplate moving somewhere else. Does it make one crazy and irrational? It must, if you can reckon by the husband, who has lived in the very same flat we live in now since he was brought home from Södersjukhuset as a tiny baby. He's just a tangle of emotion and worry.

Poor guy.

Wait, poor me. Because I have to be a rock.

The Swedish word for the day is yet again, lägenhet, which was the Swedish word of the day a little more than a week ago. Look it up there if you don't remember what it means.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

I'm in shock.

A member of the Catholic clergy has made a pronouncement concerning homosexuals that didn't deeply offend me. Contrary to the declaration of the Vatican's top advisor on family concerns, Colombian Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, that condoms have tiny holes in them that let HIV pass through, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels says that the fact that condoms save lives by helping to prevent HIV infection supercedes concerns that they are a form of birth control.

Don't you just love that wacky Catholic church? Next thing you know, the Catholic church is going to be saying that the earth revolves around the sun. Or even that all human life is sacred, even post-natal life!

Welcome to the 20th Century, Cardinal. I would even go so far as to say the mid-20th century, say, 1962 or so?

The Swedish word for the day is sjätte budet. It means the sixth commandment.

- by Francis S.

Monday, January 12, 2004

On Saturday, a friend of a friend of mine was visiting from Chicago - the cat veterinarian. He had dinner with A., the t.v. director and her fiance, C., the fashion photographer and the husband and I.

The five of us got into a small argument about which feels older, Paris or London.

For me, it's London. Narrow streets, low-slung buildings, no rhyme or reason to the layout, every road probably started as a cow path.

Paris has all those grand avenues, block after block of grey stone Second Empire apartments punctuated here and there by monuments and palaces and elegant gardens.

"But didn't London burn in the 1600s?" said A. "Ile St. Louis and, well, Notre Dame, they're like from the 1100s or older, aren't they? Paris is so much older."

Okay, so it has some older buildings, even, well, big chunks of the city are older maybe. But it just doesn't feel as old to me.

Don't you think London feels older than Paris?

The Swedish word for the day is medeltiden. It means middle ages.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The twelfth day of Christmas has come and almost gone, and those damned 12 drummers are pa-rum-pa-pa-pumming away in my head, reminding me that I go back to work, um, tomorrow.

I didn't do my winter vacation homework - I promised my boss to read a particular book about public relations - and we never managed to drag all our thousands of kronor worth of coins to the bank. I never wrote those New Year's cards I'd planned to write, and the apartment probably could use a deep-cleaning.

But the husband and I did manage to get to Chicago and back without a major mishap or nasty comments about homosexuality at passport control. Christmas itself was unusually calm, and while my nieces and nephews continue to grow up at a frightening pace, somehow it's less hectic and nervewracking that they no longer jump all over us with wild abandon for a solid week of Christmas.

We spent a grand New Year's Eve in a sort of glass pavilion in the middle of Norrmalmstorg, eating lobster and dancing like mad. And this very afternoon we babysit for baby Signe without her crying at all.

But most of all, we even managed to put in an offer on an obscenely huge apartment on Odenplan, an offer which has been accepted and we're just waiting for a final okay from the bank before we sign on the dotted line, sometime before Monday. (The apartment is just obscenely huge by Swedish standards; Americans outside of Manhattan would merely consider it a bit on the large side.)

I can't believe it. We're going to move. And the husband has lived his whole life in the apartment we're in now.

Holy cow, Batman.

The Swedish word for the day is lägenhet. It means, of course, apartment.

- by Francis S.