Monday, February 27, 2006

Sometimes, no matter how hard I try to suppress it, the testosterone just gets the better of me.

So I end up doing things like watching my first hockey game in, uh, 35 years.

But we won.

"I love it when you say 'we' when you talk about Sweden," A., the TV producer said, as she jumped up and down and screamed, along with the husband and C., the fashion photographer and me.

We won!

You have no idea what it means when a little inconsequential country like Sweden manages to kick some hockey butt in front of the whole world.

I think surely 6 million out of Sweden's 9 million inhabitants must have been watching and cheering just like us.

Goddammit, we won!

And then, as I was walking home from the office today, who should come down Sveavägen but the whole winning team, complete with loudspeakers announcing that it was them, their faces grinning from the bus window, the people on the street clapping and shouting "hurrah!"

(Okay, I admit it. I'm a hockey opportunist jump-on-the-bandwagon kind of guy. But hey, we won. Maybe I should watch more often?)

The Swedish word for the day is guld. It means gold.

Addenda: I was reminded by my local hockey expert that good sports always mention the competition, in this case, the Finnish team, who played an excellent game, at least as far as I could tell.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

One week and five hours from now, I'll be in the air on my way to Manhattan to meet the newest member of the family.

I haven't been to New York in nearly a decade. I guess it's changed a bit.

I can't wait.

The Swedish word for the day is lillebror, which had been the Swedish word for the day before. It means little brother.

- by Francis S.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Correction: The Internet is seething mass of information and misinformation, and it seems I've done my part on the misinformation front.

Remember back, oh, 11 months ago when I wrote about the crazy family of Isaac Merritt Singer? It seems that I got it all wrong. Singer had 24 children instead of 22, Daisy Fellowes had four daughters and not three, and it was Virginia Woolf who made the comment about Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, that " look at [her] you'd never think she ravished half the virgins in Paris..." and not the other way around.

How do I know that I was perpetrating a pack of lies and calumny? Because I got an e-mail telling me so from Sylvia Kahan, pianist, professor and author of Music's Modern Muse: A life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac.

I asked Professor Kahan how the hell she happened on my falsehoods, and she replied that she periodically does a web search on "Winnaretta."

So, the moral of the story is, on the one hand, you can't trust the internet and we all do our part to make sure bad information is a gift that keeps on giving; on the other hand, there's a lot of room for self-correction and when you do lie, Professor Sylvia Kahan will definitely find you.

Now, if only we all had a Sylvia Kahan to keep us on our toes. I think she's the bee's knees.

The Swedish word for the day is förtänksam, which is the closest translation I can find to the English word circumspect. If you take the word apart, it literally translates to something like thinking aheadful, more or less, and seems to be more accurately translated as prudent.

- by Francis S.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The husband and I had lunch with the priest last week at a peculiar restaurant with three counters for three different types of semi-hemi-demi fast food. "Pinnar eller bestick?" the girl behind the counter asked, and I held up the line for a minute, unable to decide whether to go for chopsticks or regular utensils (there, you've got your Swedish phrase for the day). Which was stupid, because wooden chopsticks always work so much better than plastic forks and knives for eating just about anything.

We sat down to our little cardboard cartons of food and dug in, and the conversation meandered onto the subject of funerals.

"The most horrible are the ones where it's just me, the organist and the funeral director in the back or outside smoking cigarettes," the priest said.

The husband and I were taken aback. Do they even have a funeral for someone if no one comes?

"Yes," she said, and sighed. "All the time. I just had one yesterday. It's unbearably sad. Instead of speaking to the people who have come, I speak to the person who has died. It's one of the worst parts of my job. And I think I couldn't stand it if I didn't believe in God."

We sat silently for just a second or two, among the clatter all around us. And then we moved nimbly on to the topic of the husband's trip to Spain, or the book I was reading, I don't actually remember what it was.

by Francis S.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's time for the second annual Satin Pajama Awards, given out by the folks at Fistful of Euros. Last year, I won for best writing. This year, among other things, I am nominated for a lifetime achievement award. I guess that means that four and a half years of blogging means I'm ancient , if you're counting in blog years. Holy mother, sisters, cousins and aunts of god.

I stand among some of many of my other favorites: Stefan, Jill, Zoe, P.A., Curiosa, Veronica and especially Mig, who is definitely the most unappreciated of bloggers.

The Swedish word for the day is populär. It means popular, surprisingly.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Don't be afraid, be ready! (via the illustrious Mig.)

The Swedish word of the day is rådjurshagel, which is how my Swedish-English dictionary translates the word buckshot, although I'm skeptical about how accurate that may be.

Francis S.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Sometimes, melancholy is a good thing.

Depression, grief, heartbreak, these are never good things, but melancholy is something else altogether.

There's something heartrending but terribly satifying about seeing a movie where people betray true love, and themselves, and the objects of their love, and that moment where they realize the terrible thing they have done and the regret is almost too much to bear. Like when Timothy Bottoms comes back to Cloris Leachman at the end of Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show, and first she curses and throws things, and then, she breaks down and comforts him, holding his hand, and he can't even look at her, his eyes the saddest brown eyes in the whole world.

Shamelessly manipulative. But to every thing there is a season and a time, and there is definitely a time to be shamelessly, but oh so wonderfully manipulated. Just lay it on thick, and let me wallow in the melancholy.

Somehow, it doesn't surprise me that Larry McMurtry wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain. I think Heath Ledger must have the second saddest brown eyes in the whole world.

The Swedish word for the day is cowboy. I don't think you need me to translate that for you.

by Francis S.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I should have known: The voiceless palatal-velar fricative, voiceless dorso-palatal velar fricative, voiceless postalveolar and velar fricative, voiceless coarticulated velar and palatoalveolar fricative are unique to the Swedish language.

In other words, no other recorded language uses this weird sound - spelled with an sk, sj or sometimes even skj - which to my best reckoning is like trying to say an English sh and w at the same time. It is, undoubtedly, the most difficult thing to approximate when you start learning to speak Swedish. And plenty of people never master it, I suppose, opting for a plain old sh, which is more or less how upper class ladies (at least they would describe themselves as ladies) from Stockholm's upper class neighborhood pronounce it.

I've long gotten over the voiceless palatal-velar fricative, though. Strangely, it's the vowels that still get me sometimes - being consistent with my long and short vowels (or is that vowels before long and short consonants?).

The Swedish phrase for the day is sjuttiosju sjösjuka sjömän sköttes av sju sköna sjuksköterskor, which means 77 seasick sailors were nursed by seven fair nurses.

- by Francis S.