Monday, December 19, 2011

Channeling Dooce

I suppose that excessive exposure to Dooce can have side effects.


Baby is in my arms and stretches her hand as if to snatch something on a high surface. I hand her something safe (stuffed, soft, big, etc.) but she is not happy and keeps stretching her hand. I speak aloud:

- Mmmh... you don't like your toy. How about a rusted nail then? A shard of glass? A paring knife? The lid of a can? Coupla' pills would be just the thing? Would it make you happy?

And there's always someone present who says - Oh no, don't you give her anything of that. It might be dangerous!


Another one. Baby or nephew falls awkwardly and cries dramatically, mostly out of surprise than any real pain.

- Oh sweetie, let me see it. Does it hurt a lot? Mmh? Do you think we'll have to amputate? No? That's good. Go back to play.


Whenever I say things like that I feel I'm channeling Heather Armstrong, queen of misunderstood sarcasm and hyperbole.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wallpaper friends

A reference to Bono, singer of incombustible* Irish band U2, made me want to listen to their music. So right now (internet has made us very anxious people, hasn't it?) they are singing Beautiful Day through a can - or so it seems with my awful speakers. I'm not complaining, though, I'm getting my fix!

But it makes me think that U2, which has been around since about the time I was born (2 years more, actually), sounds a lot like they were my friends. I've heard their music for the past two decades, I've bought some of it and been to one concert (I would have gladly gone to more and maybe will one day), their songs have been with me in different stages of my life, different moods, places and people, different times, same music, same sound. It's not wallpaper music but it's been there all this time. Sometimes in the background, sometimes in the forefront. Mostly, for unfathomable reasons, it makes me think of very pleasant things; it triggers my imagination wheels to places it doesn't visit otherwise.

It's crazy to think that they somehow are part of my identity, though we'll never meet. U2's songs might not be wallpaper music, but they feel like wallpaper friends to me. Not exactly real but not fictional either. The limbo of celebrity-dom, I suppose.

* I'm sure "incombustible" doesn't exist in English, but it's a term I heard often in Spain and it fits U2 perfectly. Non combustible; it doesn't go down in its own flames. Ever.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reading aloud

Regretting over the demise of customs of the past doesn't seem wise (it's for a reason that they're gone, after all), but lately I've been wondering about reading aloud - probably because it's an activity I carry out for about half an hour, almost every night. And it's surprisingly difficult, to give the right inflection, to make it interesting (though I aim for boring and sleep inducing), to actually read the written words instead of the words I'd expect to.

Once an English teacher mentioned that friends would meet and read a book aloud and it struck me as an excellent idea. I am not aware of this actually happening anywhere (except among actors), and I don't think my friends would find it enticing to meet and read one book aloud. Very unlikely.

But some nights when I'm reading to my daughter, I imagine what it would be like, having more people giving their voices to the characters and narration. Maybe her voice will join mine one day. Or maybe, it will take over.

Monday, November 21, 2011


I'm nervous. There's a job opening and I want to submit my application - I've been waiting for this opening ever since I got my degree, five years ago, I've been talking about how I'd apply, how I was building my resumé so I'd had everything ready.

Now, I'm nervous. In the past year I moved overseas, had a baby, and moved again. This was pushed somewhere to the back of my mind, and now I'm rushing to get all my stuff in order. Because actually, I wasn't ready.

It's no small miracle that I didn't misplace every little certificate and verification paper I should present now, though there is one I simply don't even remember what it looks like. I hope it's not important (for sure it's not my degree or my CPE, the heavyweights of my CV), but still... how silly of me.

So now, I'm nervous. My stomach is in a knot. I giggle and things just fall off my hands. Tomorrow morning I'll be going to the applications office with my bundle of paperlets reflecting what I did in the past 10 years, and I'm sure tonight I'll dream it rains and it gets drenched, or that I take a bus to another part of the city, or that I oversleep and I forget or... my nervousness dreams are haunting.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be someone lighter, I know. Or heavier with regret. Who knows? I do know, though, the next 24 hours are going to be longer than the past 24 hours. If my nerves are able to do something, is to stretch time. Sometimes unbearably. Like just now.

Monday, November 7, 2011


The past two months have been a torment for you, but now you're finally in peace.

Thank you for your love and your generosity. Thank you for living such a beautiful, inspiring life. Thank you for some of the best moments of my childhood and adult life.

Thank you for everything. I love you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Not my calling

My cell phone broke down.

It happened while I was sick, and I my first thought was It's great that it is only the talking machine and not the photo taking, the music playing or the e-book reading machines that broke down too. I am against confluence of gadgets, you see?, and this event only reinforces my position.

The problem with the cell phone it's just that the screen wouldn't turn on when it should, but I can still receive calls and use the speed dial without any issues. So when I got back of my feet I carried it around in my front pocket (its usual place), just in case one of the two people that call me mobile wanted to reach me (which they did).

My cell phone is not broken, I then found out. It just needs to stay in my pocket and warm up, and that's when the screen lights wake up.

My cuddly doodly Alcatel cell phone, needs human warmth and a little nudging to work. Let the others be cold machines, the cell phone is looking for a committed relationship. I wonder if I have to give it a name too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A reacquired taste

The summers of my childhood were spent, mostly, reading books from a certain series very much in vogue during the 40's and 50's. I'm not sure where they were published (probably Madrid or Buenos Aires), and in spite of their age, they are a shared memory of my generation.

Among the many books that fell in my hands, there were the ones penned by Italian writer Emilio Salgari. They were books of adventures in exotic places, and they had this peculiarity of having been originally published as a series in a magazine. For this reason, they were some restless literature; a thing happening in every chapter, many characters but superficial, a very strong plot line without subplots that would develop or come back in further chapters, and extremely melodramatic because the author had to grab readers' attention again in every issue.

This literature, I admit, must be an acquired taste. I am reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, and in spite of the claims of it having been rewritten, it is plainly, a story to be read chapter by chapter and without flipping back pages once. I like it though at first found it mildly annoying. Then again, that's the very definition of acquired taste, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The health of the sick

The health of the sick is a loosely translated title of a favorite short story by Julio Cortázar, "La salud de los enfermos", and that pretty much sums up where I've been lately.

In spite of considering myself rather healthy, every once in a while I fall with a severe case of something I hadn't had before. In the past decade I experienced the charms of allergic rinitis (once I counted 100 sneezes in one hour!!!), kidney infection (nasty), cytomegalovirus infection (with a week watching cable TV in a hospital bed) and right now, bronchospasm.

I'd say that only the kidney infection was painful. But it was, and the others as well, rather interesting experiences. They are undoubtedly uncomfortable and they take me out of my daily drill, but they make me marvel of how good everything normally goes. Of how wonderful it is to be able to smell perfume without sneezing violently (not to mention to appreciate it, that's heavenly!), of making a visit to the toilet quick and uneventful, of doing my daily walking and climbing stairs without being left gasping for air (or feeling a little woozy after a coughing fit), and after the CMV wild ride, of how incredibly good it is to be able to hold my head higher than the rest of my body.

They say you don't appreciate something until you lose it, but I don't think it needs to be so. Having it temporarily taken away from you does help, though. Helps a lot.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I (heart) blogging

I wanted to blog from my job without feeling guilty, so I opened "The Library Blog".

Though learning to use WordPress is harder than anticipated, I'm having a blast surfing the web for cute pictures and, well, blogging guilt free.

It's in Spanish only but if you'd like to visit, be my guest!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodbye REM

Last Wednesday afternoon my father sent me an email with a link to the REM homepage, with the news that the band was a band no more.

As I've already mentioned once, during my teens I was a big fan of their music. My very first own CD was Out of Time, and my second was Automatic for the People - I was 15 years old and worked crazy hours as a typist to save the u$s 20 each cost, and unlike the few other things I worked hard to pay for in those days, I still own them. During most of that decade their music was my soundtrack, and when I started browsing the web in the warm summer nights of January 1996, it was to look for their lyrics and news about them. I owe REM a lot... my early internet literacy skills, my enthusiasm to learn English, some (maybe a lot, maybe not so much) of my artistic sensibility, a good stack of CD's I don't plan to part ways with, ever.

In January 2001 they played in Buenos Aires and I jumped the pond with my then boyfriend to see them, and though the show was fantastic it marked the decline of both my fandom and relationship (how odd). When Reveal was issued later that year I bought it - with my hard earned money, yes, but at least I had a steady job and wasn't juggling lunch and bus fares money. I even put the show ticket inside the CD box (right over the song list). But that was the last of REM I heard in a long time.

Exactly why I stopped listening to REM is something I can't really explain. I admit I got a little irked with everything and everyone from the US with their troops going to Irak and Afghanistan (unfair, I know). My husband, who came into my life in 2002, doesn't really like their music. And... I don't know, they're not background music anymore, wafting from the speakers in the house at all hours of day and night.

Interestingly enough, that's a void no other band filled. Who knows, maybe I should unpack the box with CD's and give those a good listening. I'm sure they will all have passed the test of time, with honors.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Window to a windowless room

Very recently I found "the largest advertisement-free Blog in the world", PostSecret. It's a website publishing items (usually postcards but also letters and objects) created and sent anonymously by people.

There are all kinds of secrets, from banal and funny to deep and disturbing. I find most disconcerting... how someone could say or think or feel that, ever? The project is like a window open to a windowless place. I'm not sure if ones published every week are selected with one template (a certain amount of laughs, sex and death) but the ones where people tell about their loneliness, sadness and desperation really get to me.

I'm not depressive and never contemplated suicide, but I admit being a little wary every Sunday morning when I read the blogroll.

Yesterday this secret was published, and somehow made everything fall into place. It reads If PostSecret has taught me anything, it is that heartache (of any kind) is not personal. It is human.


Picture from PostSecret

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering the memory

Although I can pinpoint quite a few memorial sites and monuments I've visited in different parts of the world, my city even, those in the United States have impressed me the most.

There seems to be an attitude, a cultural trait, an inclination to the action of remembering the dead that I can't quite make my own. Some memorials somehow felt like an apology, sometimes like an explanation. Sometimes I felt the memorial created causality rather than remarking or celebrating it. Because there is a memorial that we (whatever "we" means) are what we are (free, happy, able to settle here, etc.). Sometimes it's only the circumstance of death, an inevitable fact of life, that makes a person deserving of having his or her name etched in stone - this person died because of a tragic event beyond her will or control.

Some tragedies beyond our will or control deserve a memorial, some don't. Probably the memorials are about the tragedies that lead us to reflect on our own mortality, that shake our deepest beliefs, I'm not sure really.

But what is really striking about memorials in the US is that always, without fail, the people remembered are a part of a whole. They left behind family - parents, siblings, spouses, children; friends; relations; probably a documented work of body of some kind. They can be remembered because the rest, humans or deeds, are still alive.

After I visited the Vietnam and Korea War Memorials in Washington DC and uploaded the pictures, a friend wrote back saying, "What about those killed by the soldiers in those faraway lands? If a person was killed and the whole village destroyed (documents proving existence included), there's nobody left to remember. It would be as if they had never existed".

I'm not sure I'd dare to utter these thoughts anywhere near DC, but it's a valid question. I suppose the answer is, beyond a particular event or person, memorials are memory in practice. And that's something that can be started at any point of history.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Idea for a family photo album project

People usually organize their photo albums chronologically, i.e.,  first the pictures of one given year, then the next, and so on.

But a while ago I thought it could be done by age of the photographed subject, or simply by subject. For example, a collection of family pictures of babies. Or first school day pictures. Or wedding photos. Regardless of the year or the generation, but always the same family.

So far I've managed to collect one series of four babies.




Each baby is a parent of the baby in the next picture, except for the picture with two boys where it's the youngest who's the father (and grandfather) of the babies in the next pictures. These pictures give a hint of physical similarities (full dark haired heads, tiny mouths and rounded cheeks seem a pattern, although photography can be the ultimate lying device), of reproductive patterns (that 30 years loop can't be just a coincidence), fashions and... who knows? With time we'll get more clues to read series like this one.

By the way, there is a picture of all four of us at the same time. I think it just says how precious life is, and how strong family bonds can be.

And probably that we grow up to look only like ourselves, and nobody else.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August month

August. We've passed the half year mark, so it's typical to think about all those things one thought one would do but obviously still hasn't - and probably won't, ever. And feels bad about it.

Given that at this point of my life I'm not really counting time in year lapses but rather roll with it on a daily basis, I really should pass - but this self flagellating mood is still here. So I'm going to pick on it.

It's not a goal or anything really useful, but turns out I opened a Twitter account a while ago and dropped it because I didn't understand how it's used. Mine is not really an informed or critical decision, it's that I really couldn't catch the gist of how it goes, of what's one supposed to do other than reading other people's tweets. The noise is unbearable - it's only pieces of information repeating things I already know or pointing to facebook (useless if you don't have an account there), and the "retweeting" function just... well, are you supposed to repeat what other people has said? On what purpose? Don't we sound as idiots doing that?

I felt stupid every time I logged into Twitter. So August: notch yourself another win.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is this worth it?

Lately I've been putting an extra effort into daily cooking. I'm trying new recipes (mostly twists to the same old things) and giving the classics a whirl - so I can't say we're exactly pushing our taste buds with exotic ingredients all too often. The goal here is not so much to try new things but to avoid the what's for dinner panic attack and that we've converted to soup religion feeling.

The main difference is forethought. Planning. Or just premeditation. And I never premeditate enough time to follow the steps or calculate exactly how much food I'm making, so it might be a lot of work for one and a half meals worth of servings, or we end up eating the same thing 4 or 5 times in a row, and on top of that, burned. Or the week takes us for dinners out and the food sits, waiting in the fridge, until past its prime. Or it's just... well, less than perfect anyway.

So I can't help wondering, is spending so much time and energy every night cooking, really, truly, worth it? The time doing all the washing up... isn't it better to, right, plan ahead what to eat and when, but rely more on food made by others and stay with the basics like rice and boiled eggs? It sounds stupid, almost, but the thought of last night's burned pan that's still sitting and waiting... makes me think it twice. Isn't it the case for you, too?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Driver! Follow that actor!

Everyone, meet Mads Mikkelsen (pronounced something like "max miggelsen").

Picture from here.

I first registered him as the bad guy in Casino Royale, a.k.a. "James Bond begins". Not particularly a memorable character, though interestingly creepy.

He's in an Oscar nominated Danish film (I try to watch the European nominees as they're usually excellent), which we watched as soon as it fell in our hands. That's when I decided to follow this actor.

Pic from here.

Adam's apples is pitch black among dark humor comedies, but it's great. I really don't know how it manages to avoid bad taste, but it does, and it leaves laughing at yourself.

Oh boy, the doctor and his clinical studies still elicits more than a chuckle from me. The neonazi who has to bake an apple pie, his fellow, ahem, interns and his fellow neonazis all interacting with each other and with Ivan the priest, are just priceless. How I wish other directors and producers could ridicule evil so nimbly.

Pic from here.

The most bizarre film I found following Mads Mikkelsen is "Torremolinos 73". Franco's Spain meets homemade porn meets Ingmar Bergman... what can come up from that input?

Pic from here.

A story with hilarious absurd, sound development and a surprisingly tender end. That's what.

There are still plenty out there to watch from this actor and they are (or will be) in our play list. But the best thing is having found an actor who can pick his movies and makes our decisions easier. Thank you Mads!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bereavement and comfort

Yesterday morning I went to a good friend's mother's funeral. She had been sick for a short time and it had became apparent a few weeks ago that her end was near, so, they said, she had came into terms with her own passing.

Still, her relatives and acquaintances were in that state of shock and disbelief that often surrounds death, and of course, knew that the hard time of mourning and healing was just about to start.

I spent a moment talking to her brother in law, my friend's paternal uncle. We spoke about my friend's son, aged 5, who will be bereft of his favorite grandma and frolicking partner. We spoke about my friend's father, who passed away suddenly at age 44 more than a decade ago, and held his wife as the love of his life. We spoke about her current sentimental partner, who had found peace in their relationship after having raised three daughters on his own and now is devastated. We spoke about my friend, whom I often refer to as spartan - they do as a Prussian soldier, and how she has faced more than a fair share of weathering times. We spoke and drank mate, a symbol of friendship and communion if there ever was one, though I'm not much of a mate drinker myself.

After an hour or so I left - everyday life was calling and it was a Monday morning after all. As the bus rode to my job I felt the familiar stomach cramps I have after having some mate - too harsh for my tea accustomed loins, it seems. Still, it was good to share a mate with the uncle. In spite of those light cramps, it gave some comfort in bereavement.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Mothers have been known to, on occasion, make purchases for themselves thinly disguised as for their children, particularly their daughters. This is, buying lovely things they love in a little hope their children will too - but it's OK if they don't anyway.

Early in March I was going to mention it but it didn't seem right. Last Saturday while I went for a walk dropped by a bookstore and purchased this color book. For my 10 months old daughter, of course.

It really impressed me that this isn't a reinterpretation of sorts of the color books published during the 80's. My sister and I had a couple and loved them so much that we preferred making photocopies and coloring the same pictures over again. With watercolors, pencils, fibers, gouache even, and a time or two I think my mother joined us.

I was saying, these aren't any updated version. It's virtually the same thing.

Except for the center page, which has stickers with pictures and with spaces - ostensibly to write your name and stick on school notebooks. In my time, those were sold separately and a bit hard to find, if I'm not mistaken.

The girl in the bike was my favorite picture of all time. Thank you, girl in the bike, for coming back!


Sarah Kay was a bit of a mystery back then, and the internet shows she still is. Her biography doesn't seem to have been updated for at least 25 years and sounds tragic as ever - these depictions of a timeless and idyllic childhood were created to entertain a very sick girl, the daughter of the artist. There doesn't seem to be any new designs aside the batch published with the sticker album "I love you" by Figurine Panini, and there seems to be a lot of knockoffs and non franchised items. This book in particular, though, seems to.

A little more on Sarah Kay can be read here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

At Sabina's

It seems that I can't have enough of blogs of people documenting their daily home lives with pictures. There are many and I'm always on the outlook for more, trying to reach out for people living life in different places - so far I've located many from Scandinavian countries, some of Europe and North America, and none from the rest of the world. I'm keeping my eyes open, though.

Regardless of the geographic place where they originate, most life documenting blogs in my reading list have one outstanding thing in common. While people show scenes of their daily lives (their dining rooms, kitchens, gardens, food they've made, articles of clothing, household items), they rarely or never post a recognizable picture of themselves or their family members. I guess there are things they don't want to share and that's, of course, fine with me.

There is one person, however, who shares snippets of her daily wheres and whats focusing on people rather inanimate objects. Her photography is not about decorating and styling - or very subtly so, but about people. Presumably friends and family, of stances of life, her stimulating brain snacks (that's her own words) give a dash of color to my mornings and, interestingly, feel a lot like pieces of my own life, past or present. That's Sabina Ćudić publishing from Sarajevo, Bosnia, a place I know embarrassingly little about (so let's say I know nothing but the map location).

It's funny that I think I could be friends with Sabina, or at least, we would have many things in common to talk about. From what she shows of her apartment, I think we could bump into each other in a bookstore aisle, in a flea market stall or sitting in the next table in a restaurant. The strange familiarity from blogging images rather than words.


Here's an interesting note in Decor8, where I first heard of Sabina. Photo by Sabina Ćudić, used with permission.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just because

When I was a student in elementary school (maybe 7 or 8 years old) my mother struck a deal with both my sister and I.

Given that we were average to good students, that we had good health, that we lived within walking distance to school, and that really, almost never missed school, once a year, we could not go just because. Maybe we wanted to stay home playing, maybe because it was rainy or too cold, or... I don't know, we just didn't want to.

It was a wise move, I saw then and see now. In one move she got ridden of the combined whining of two, taught some responsibility and gave herself some peace of mind. And I personally remember those stay at home days very fondly, watching shows on TV I'd only heard about, watching a movie on the VHS (a definite highlight), playing with my dolls or reading.


We're in winter break right now, a two week lapse when kids all ages don't have classes. Unfortunately I don't have a break (I might be able to use my yearly holiday, but we're encouraged to do that in January), yet, we're allowed to miss any two days. Just because.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's cooking?

Food and what we eat is not only a question of where in the world we live, it's also a question of cultural values and traditions, which sometimes really don't have anything to do with much.

We spent some time in Minnesota in the USA, and Granada in the south of Spain, and cooking was sometimes difficult for reasons we wouldn't have foreseen in a million years. So, for you to bear in mind if you're coming to Uruguay (or the south of Brazil, or Argentina for that matter), or simply to think about it, here are a few things you'll typically find in a kitchen in Uruguay.

1. We seem to nurse an unrequited love for ice cream containers, which are found pretty much everywhere. Pictured: under the sink container waiting for an hydraulic disaster coming from the sink.

I say the love is unrequited because oftentimes they're not up to the task assigned.

2. Butane gas bottles. They're the source of heat of choice and they're usually located in plain sight next to the stove. Ours in hidden under the sink, making company to the ice cream container.

They don't grow on trees so one needs to know what to do when the contents end.

3. While newer stoves models contain some flickering system, most people don't own a newer model. So the matches are very common.

When we lived in Minnesota in a rental home, we weren't aware of that system being available in our stove so we bought a lot of matches we never used. Silly us.

4. Oregano. The best selling dried herb in local markets. We were a little surprised and bereft when we couldn't find it that easily in Spanish or Minnesotan markets.

Tarragon, thyme and rosemary just aren't the same.

5. Repurposed containers. Pictured: a cookie jar containing cocoa powder, a jam jar containing oregano, a Nescafé bottle containing bread zippers (here they are not a clamp, they're a little wire coated in plastic and I collect them, just in case I need them some time).

If you're a guest, be ready for spending some time guessing what's where.

6. Cothespins. The weather allows to air dry clothes year round (unless it rains, of course), so clothespins are a common household item. They're usually found applied ad nauseam in the kitchen. Pictured: seasalt, confetti, baking powder.

7. Crandon's cooking book. The quintessential uruguayan cooking book, it's brilliantly written and the recipes reflect the local taste well, but don't require any exclusive local ingredient. Matter of fact, many recipes are of anglosaxon tradition.

Mine was a wedding gift, and I think my mom's was too. I know my grand mother's wasn't, but it was one of the first editions and I wish I had claimed it when I had the chance.

8. Accoutrements for red meat preparation. Uruguay being one of the top consumers of red meat per capita in the world, the required equipment to prepare a good steak, stew, barbeque or meatloaf are typically found in home kitchens.

The knife point tells I'm not very good at storing my wares.

9. Milk is sold exclusively in one liter (1 qt) plastic bags. While some people transfer the milk into a better looking container, most people simply put the bag into a jar. Also, the bags containing red are for whole milk, and the blue or green are for skimmed milk.

But don't worry, the jars are sold in markets and cost barely above a liter or two of milk.

10. A friend from Chile said he was surprised Uruguayans don't seem too fond of sweets unless it's dulce de leche or quince jam.

In that case, there is no limits for sweetness.


Update: If you found me from I link I posted in Chez Larsson, welcome, thank you, and know that I've never done that before or plan on doing it again ever.

Monday, June 6, 2011

(Just a little) peace of mind

Lately I've been wondering and regretting not having kept my childhood books. My sister and I had quite a few and I loved them so much... we had books with stories, with pictures (with and without text) and activities. At one time or another we donated them in batches to libraries or schools, and there were only a few that apparently were worth the shelf real estate value.

The ones that survived are good to revisit in a rainy afternoon but I doubt my daughter will enjoy them as much as I did, because they're just... very old. Children's books these days are really different, and while I don't underestimate (beforehand!) my child's ability to appreciate old fashioned ones, I don't think her sensibility will lean towards vintage.

This thought gives me some peace of mind. Had I kept them all they'd be a bunch of yellowish, musty smelling old fashioned books that my child may or may not appreciate, rendering the whole preservation endeavor a little pointless.

And contrived as it may sound, not having a good starting library at home might be the excuse I was waiting for to jump on children's libraries and bookstores around town. Because, seriously, is there a better place to spend your time and money?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Grandpa goes to Hollywood

This is my paternal grandfather, or at least this is how he used to look around the time he married my grandmother.

Enrique, that was his name, had many jobs but only one employer in his life, the meat packing factory Frigorífico Anglo of Fray Bentos. He was born in one of the ranches where the livestock was raised, son to the foreman - in that limbo of the ranks of power, not exactly a plain soldier but neither a gringo, but soon started working in the factory as just another worker.

The tales from the work at the plant are very interesting - for example, management wouldn't allow a trade union but tried really hard to keep their workers happy by giving them ample benefits. If a worker was found trying to create turmoil he (or she) would be fired immediately, but had the chance to be rehired at the lowest entry level. When the demand for the product was high, the cuts weren't particularly, ahem, what you'd call "selected". While accidents were unusual, probably one soldier or two may have found a finger in their rations. Oh well.

Everyday work memorabilia may be fading with the memories of their protagonists, now frail elderly citizens in a sleepy town. The memory of the star product of the company, the corned beef, however, will be harder to wipe off.

Bully beef and biscuits were the main field rations of the British Army from the Boer War to World War II, says Wikipedia, which means that the little oblong can with the red tag is a given in movies of British wartime, from that time or reconstructions. Canspotting, if there is such word, is almost a sport when I watch those films. 

In The English Patient, I believe it's a can of Anglo's corned beef that Ralph Fiennes' character gives to Kristin Scott Thomas' when he leaves her in the cave. There's also another little red one in Gallipoli, in the scene where Mel Gibson runs through the trenches. I'm certain that I've seen in many other times but unfortunately, IMDB doesn't allow searches for props like corned beef cans, and still pictures of those movies don't pay particular attention to them.

That doesn't really matter, because part of the fun, the rare fun still unspoiled by the Google almighty, is trying to collect such quick sights. And whenever I do, I say aloud to whomever might be hearing, "My grandpa could have been the one to pack that can". And it feels really good.

Corned beef picture from here.

Monday, May 23, 2011


While I'm not a big fan of lists I like to write down series of things I'd like to acquire. Once I thought they might inspire other people to draw inspiration for presents but it never worked that way, so they're non essentials I plan to buy one day, maybe.

Writing down wishlists is an interest exercise. It seems to be a relief to that imprecise buzz of anxiety that fuels shopping on an impulse, and later, they're a good document of priorities of a certain moment.

Usually most of the items in my wishlist stay as wishes. A list from when I was 15 years old had many CDs of artists I haven't cared about for a long time, and items of clothing brands that don't exist anymore. Another wishlist from when I was 25 is mostly related to an apartment we don't live in anymore. The one from my 30th year was related to Minnesota, a place we're not likely to visit anytime soon. My most recent wishlist has one immaterial among physical items : I want some time out.

Sometimes I wonder what if I had those wishes made true. Maybe when I was 15 I'd have had a little more self confidence because of a nicer wardrobe (I doubt it). Maybe when I was 25 I'd have had a more comfortable home (I don't doubt that for a second). Maybe when I was 30 I would have lived in a prettier home (only probable). Still, I didn't have those things and life went on... did it make me less happy? I don't think so. Would I have better judgment when it comes to actual shopping? I'm sure I would.

The downside of buying according to wishlists is that one tends to feel challenged when needing to make a decision on the spot. When going to a store far from home, or a clearance sale, or a second hand store, places where coming back later is not an option, there are chances one ends up getting something less than ideal. So, in my next wishlist I think I'll add wisdom. Hey, a girl can wish!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ingmar Bergman for children

Swedish director Ingmar Bergman created a large body of work spanning half a century and largely regarded as influential and profound. The stories usually go on the subject of good and evil with metaphors and the notions of comedy, happy endings or frivolity are foreign concepts.

Indeed those are complicated movies, the complete opposite to a summer blockbuster if there ever was one.

For my 9th birthday, my best friend gave me a book by Swedish writer Maria Gripe. The Glassblower Children, I think it was. Or maybe Josephine and Hugo, two books related. Whichever it was, I loved it and kept seeking and reading her books. Some of my friends also liked her books and we had some sort of informal book club.

Most of Gripe's book were the equivalent of Bergman for kids. They were metaphors of life and death, good and evil, and they did play games with my mind. I didn't know if grownup people got to be that complicated (first I thought no, then yes), and if everybody spoke that way (no, everybody speaks differently). Along with unhealthy doses of early R.E.M. they were the key to my moody teenager musings on self discovery and self forging.

I always fell short of what I thought I could be, judging by those larger than life characters.

Years later I'm reading Maria Gripe's books again and I can't find what was so enticing of that foreign culture to my childhood mind - language, religion, weather, celebrations, everything was different and brought no explanatory notes. They even sound dated (not that there's anything wrong with that), but that might be just a trick because of the time since I first read them.

Maybe it's because they're not exactly books for children and the grown up me is just warming up to them. Maybe it's because they led me to much introspection and I rather be frivolous and superficial. Maybe it's because, sad as it is, I don't understand them anymore.


Picture by Harald Gripe, from here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Time traveling to 2006

One day during this month will mark 5 years since I opened my first blogger account. Blogspot and Typepad were bubbling with people opening blogs all the time to speak their minds, to tell others about their day or interests, simply to own a public space and tasting what it feels like being the ruler in a little internet playground.

Some people really took off. Armed with one subject to write about, discipline and talent, they managed to create a niche and they became sort of celebrities. Most people telling little nothings or sharing everyday pictures moved on to Facebook, Twitter, PicasaWeb and other specific environments, and stopped blogging altogether.

In a way I still live in 2006, still immersed that blogging bubble. I didn't get the memo that people who don't know me probably aren't interested in reading me, but if you're here, you probably didn't get it either.

By the way, thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hard drugs

Nothing ever gave me such a disproportionate feeling of accomplishment like a good 30 minute run did - let alone a 60 minute run. Biking for 75 minutes, one mile of lapswimming and 30 minutes of rowing (all of these within a gym walls, I must say) also left me basking in a glow of exhilaration and invincibility.

I think those were endorphines, and man are they addictive.

During pregnancy I was brimming with health and with a permanent positive mindset. The Universe and I were perfectly tuned, and I've never felt better.

I think those were oestrogen and other hormones, and man did I miss them after giving birth.

So like a recovering junkie craving her next fix but knowing it won't happen, I'm just doing without. Making do and doing without, but starting to realize that the fix is going to come in an odd and unexpected shape.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fair-weather fan

It's been let transpire a time or two in the past that I like ice hockey. Truth is I love watching ice hockey more than I ever enjoyed watching any other sport, much to my surprise because I've never played it, I've never met anyone who played it (or even really liked it), I'm not particularly drawn to seeing people getting smashed/slashed/stomped over/ beating the crap out of each other, and I can't even skate. Oh, and I've always despised couch potatoes. And I hate being cold. But so be it. My first, let's call it, exposition to hockey was on 2/13/2009 at the Mariucci Arena, and it was college men's hockey... I was captivated from the drop of the puck to the end, entranced almost, hooked if you catch my drift. In the following 12 months I watched more men's college, women's college, boys' high school, world U-18, men's olympic and professional hockey (mostly NHL but also a little Czech Superliga and KHL).

Even though not every game was good or worthwhile, every kind of hockey has been great to watch by its own merits. High school hockey is full of passion and hope, and anything can happen. U-18 is a blossoming promise and from the few games I attended, a handful of players have been drafted by the NHL and are making their way up the grades. College hockey teams are the oldest of all, bearers or a proud tradition, and olympic hockey, being such a short tournament is like a serious all star game where every second counts. Even women's hockey, usually snubbed for being less physical and less defensive, is more interesting from the tactical point of view (I learned a thing or two by watching women's Gophers) and let the goalies shine like no other player on the ice. If I had to choose one of those as my favorite I wouldn't know which to pick.

But to nix one hockey fix, there's nothing like the NHL. With 30 teams and 82 game seasons (that makes over 1000 60 minute games from September to early April), and 4 best-of-seven playoffs rounds until early June, that's a lot of hockey. Most games are internet and TV broadcasted, and there's abundant written press and blogs, hockey told in many voices and from many points of view, an unstreamlined stream of words that usually disgress, sometimes collide and very seldom align. The world of hockey literature was notoriously hard to locate (a pretty stunning fact taking into account I'm a trained reference librarian) but once I found one end of the twineball everything I had to do was just click around the links and immerse myself in that ocean of information.


Being a fan of the sport is not quite the same as being a fan of one team. Having gotten acquainted with the sport at age 30, I can't boast a family tradition or allegiance of any kind. It's true that I lived in Minnesota, self proclaimed State of Hockey (though if that was left to me to judge I'd give that title to Massachussetts), so I tend to root for teams based there but I'm not particularly loyal to them. Matter of fact, I try not to root for anyone because I feel sometimes that teams don't deserve my support (not that my support means much, but anyway).

What I do is to renew my picks every tournament, every game sometimes. If I like better one team's game I'll be happier if that team wins, but not because any deeper sense of faith or faithfulness. If that team turns its game to crap, then I'm not cheering for them anymore. That probably makes me a fair-weather fan, one of the most despicable creatures in the world of sports, but until there is one very good reason to stick with one team I'll be simply jumping around and enjoying the game from my place, this is, my couch and my laptop.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Brothers on the father's side

I guess I tend to take iconography as if it had always been there.

And not the work of a flesh and bone person.

I had no clue that Coca Cola's Santa Claus and the Quaker Oatmeal Man were brothers on the father's side.

That neat chair Santa is sitting on is a pretty good indicative of his creator's influences, though. I'm so drawn to midcentury scandinavian design and so addicted to Coke that it never stop making sense, does it?


Coca Cola image from here. Quaker image from here. Sundblom image from here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nook is no book

Last year I must have been particularly good because the fat man in the red suit (aka Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Pére Noël, Papá Noél, etc.) left a nook for me under the Christmas Tree.

It's a very pretty gadget, that looks just like another nondescript tech gadget (an oversized phone? a GPS? a camera with secret lenses? a maimed computer?) and it's great for reading. It's e-ink technology is way better for the eyes than light emitting screens, and it's way lighter and slimmer than most books.

It would be perfect if it wasn't for the fact that the nook is no book. It's just a toy, an energy guzzling, somewhat clumsy, not excessively ergonomic toy that looks tempting for pickpocketers and small time crooks, so I won't be carrying it much around. Its purported screen saving mode consumes more energy than I'd thought it would (or think it should), and it takes so long to boot that I wonder often whether the start button is working ok. It surprised me as heavy at first, although the weight is fine, but the placement of the turning page buttons is lower than it should be (and the "next" page button should be on top, because that's used more often), and the gesture recongnition on the touch screen, for some misterious reason, also seems to prefer going backward rather than forward. That page turning thing makes me think that the nook was designed with middle eastern markets in mind, rather for people that reads languages written left to right.

Anyway... nookie lets me read in privacy, without anyone guessing or being able to read over my shoulder (not unnoticed, at least), an that's ok with me. I'm glad with being able to carrying it around the house, or to bed, and loading and unloading books. It's my one toy, and for one, big guy in the red suit, I won't make fun of you or question your defying law physics.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A matter of tunnel vision

A few days ago I read this post on things you can tidy in 10 minutes. It got me thinking, really, how come I feel I never accomplish anything regarding housework, and then it struck me.

It's all a matter of tunnel vision, of just seeing one thing and not stopping until it's done. You mean to take away the shoes adorning every corner of the livingroom floor, but once you took up the first pair a stampede of dustbunnies ran past your ankles and getting hold of the broom got on top of your priorities list. Then you may sweep all the floor but the shoes will still be there.

Tunnel vision mindset... I'll put that into practice, and see how it works.

Monday, March 28, 2011

In defense of Barbie doll

Everyone loves to hate Barbie dolls and blame them for every character fault or psychological disease affecting young females, but I'd like to say, I find that a little unfair.

Yes, it's true that Barbie doesn't promote very high values but it's not shown to prevent children from developing them either. It's true that Barbie is unnaturally slim, but then most dolls are somewhat disproportionate. Barbie lives surrounded by glamor and far from worries, and it's only fair, I think, to admit that's how a few of us would like to live.

I'm pretty sure that teenagers and young women suffering from anorexia stemming from a desire to look slimmer would find inspiration in flesh and bone celebrities rather than a plastic one. And those who're actually affected in their decisions and perception of life by Barbie, probably have deeper issues in which blaming the dolls is like shooting the messenger.

That's how I see it, anyway. What I do hate about Barbie dolls and all its paraphernalia is its price. Then again, you can't blame a businessman for wanting to make money, do you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clean and clear

Lately I have decided to introduce some little changes (*) in my life. They're very little and essentially harmless in the sense that they don't change the way I approach the things that normally (and naturally) happen, it's just that I've changed one little end of it. Actually lots of changes have been taking place in the past year or so, but these might be a little offbeat - or at least that's what I think because it's not something one normally discusses in polite company.

I only want to make it clear that I'm not fighting capitalism, the big corporations or saving a ton of money. It's not a revolution, not a political statement, and I'm definitely not feeling like the part of a subculture or counterculture or anything too radical or different. It's just evolution, and if I wished other people did the same, then I rather keep it for myself.

Preaching just won't take you nowhere.

(* I'm using this and doing this)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Monday's post

For last Monday I had a post ready on Hello Kitty and Sanrio, and the wisdom of targeting young girls but at the same time targeting moms by sending them to a trip down the memory lane, but after the weekend wave of disasters that are hitting Japan I thought it was a disrespectful thing to say.

Maybe there's something more on topic to say about Japan.

Image from here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

These days I'm loving...

These days I'm loving Gmail and IGoogle's Tea House themes. A Google (of course) search taught me I'm not alone in this infatuation (probably I'm not alone on anything), and I've joined the ranks of those following the little fox through his (hers?) daily chores.

(All the images were taken from this post here, because I'm so impaired with non verbal tools that I can't even take them out for myself. I altered the names though).

Someone even wrote a poem for this theme, that you can find in this other post here.

The Tea House theme is surprisingly soothing and relaxing for a collection of imagery of lovely characters doing things. The unexpected intersection of cute and zen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

She said, he said, they said

In tales of love and romance there are always two sides in which the story can be told in the first person. The relevant details are those of each side's sensibility, and I find that some stories, beyond the plot and the characters' development, are a study on female or male sensibility.
For example, Pride and Prejudice (you can read the book or watch one of its many adaptations) focuses so much on female's point of view that men in the story don't have a page for themselves in which the action is developing. It is left to the female characters to find out, sometimes by happenstance, what they did when they weren't looking.

This has two interesting consequences. One, it allows for delicious rereads given that unimportant details turn out to be crucial clues. Other, most men find those stories boring and a little pointless and only watch (or read) them to please a lady.

500 days of Summer is a story of love told from the male's point of view. Tom is head over heels for Summer but she dumps him, he's heartbroken and can't understand what went wrong.

I watched it with my husband and when it finished, I asked him what he thought about it.
 - She was a witch, was his veredict, she played with his feelings and tossed him to a trash bin when she found someone better.
- He was a dummy, was mine. He pushed her and didn't want to listen when she said she wasn't in love with him.

While I haven't watched it again, it gave me some good food for thought on what men and women (at least of certain age and from certain places) believe are the signs of love in a relationship.

Before sunrise and Before sunset are a delicious tandem of stories where the characters don't take clues to act. They almost don't do anything at all but talk and talk, and that's where the interesting stuff happens. One needs to be very attentive to the dialog and not miss one line, or the magic is gone. The very same people nine years apart, open their hearts and go over the good and the bad and somehow they manage to touch every persons' story.

I believe it is completely impossible not to identify with Jesse or Céline at one point of another. They are what you are, were or wanted to be at some point of your life. A male friend of mine says both films are incredibly romantic and are marketed as such. But I disagree. I'd say they are about relationships, but not exactly romance.

Having the chance to borrow glasses to see love and romance through eyes that aren't mine is a priceless experience. And so romantic too.


Sooner or later it was going to happen, and it did sooner it seems. I missed last Monday's post - I was sick, husband and baby were sick too, and time and energy to let ideas flow just weren't there. But once again, my respect for bloggers who make a living of it and never, ever let one day pass without publishing one or more articles soared.

I'm probably not in a time of my life where self employment would look appealing. My motto these days could be : If you're not dependable, be a dependent.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The end of the roll and the drum for a full circle

It was only twelve years ago though it feels like a lifetime, that I started dating my first boyfriend. We were very young and immature and so was our relationship, which was made mostly of commonplaces and daydreaming.

One day I took my Zenit 122, and suggested we took pictures just for the fun of it. Development fees were a little expensive for our budgets (what wasn't?), so we stuck to one monthly roll. The subjects of the pictures were mostly ourselves, our families, friends and pets, and some still natures too. In all, none of those pictures were technically outstanding but they were a good document of our lives back then.

By the time we broke up we had a good stack of pictures, mostly portraits of each other taken during roughly two years. I asked him to come by and picked up his but he never did. So I kept them away from plain sight for a few years.

Three years ago when my partner and I were getting ready to travel to Minnesota, I found those pictures and made three piles: mine, his and ours. I kept the first pile with my other pictures, put the second in an envelope and destroyed the third. Once again I asked him to come and pick them up and once again, he refused - true to his style he diffused more than refused... there are things about people that never change. Still it didn't feel right to destroy those pictures so once more, I kept them away from plain sight.

Last month we were packing to move and those pictures surfaced again; this time I knew I had to made a decision. So I looked up his mother's number in the book (he doesn't live in this country anymore and contacting him was proving really annoying) and asked her whether she was interested.

Of course she was and a couple of hours later she dropped by, releasing me of the burden of those pictured memories of something that doesn't mean much to me anymore.

Her presence in my home and the release from those pictures felt like a good closure. She had been there once when I had just moved in and she was there for the second time right before I moved out, to end something I felt had been left hanging. Like a camera with a roll where there's just one last picture to snap and you don't want to squander it I waited for a long time before that last click, which thankfully when I did, it wasn't too late.

Monday, January 31, 2011

To all Tolkien-based movies' fans

Breaking news to all Tolkien-based movies' fans: Legolas is for real!

This is Andrej Pejic, (by Thomas Lohr, from here). I saw the picture at a fashion blog some days ago and thought this is the quintessential Tolkien elf. Not a very productive thought, but quite honest though.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My two cents

1. Visit your own town as if you were a tourist. Go to restaurants, music venues or museums that might not be your cup of tea, as you would if you were in another place.

2. Clean your drawers as if you were moving. Get rid of all the things you don't use: free samples, items with wear marks or that don't have value; don't be afraid of non-clutter.

3. Follow your own advice.


Monday, January 17, 2011

I chose not to own a tv...

This post of the notable blog 1001 rules for my unborn son got me thinking. I chose not to own a tv when I left my parents' home and never changed my mind, mostly because I never really romanced the box and because only recently did I have the money to buy one.

I'm not very sure what Lamond had in mind when he wrote his "rule", but it's been my mantra just because I don't want to sound that granola. Appearances, appearances.

Ten years later, I've lived under the same roof with a tv more than once but I simply don't watch it. The box schedules are tyrannical and I'm more of an on-demand person, so internet is my cup of tea. I rather feel the master than the slave.

That's when it comes to scheduling, that is. Otherwise it's not that different.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rides of goodbye

During the ride from the apartment I had lived in for almost 10 years to the new one I thought the same city I've lived most of my life looked different. The buildings were more meaningful and at the same time more distant, as if I was seeing them from the first time.

It struck me that the ride out of a home you loved but you can't live in anymore is pretty much like the rides to the airport or from the cemetery. A goodbye and the start of something you don't know quite what to expect of.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New year's resolution

When I started this blog I thought I had many interesting things to say. I needed a creative outlet, because I was feeling extremely creative back then and even if I knew it always boils down to the same cycles, I thought it would last a long time.

But now I find myself proofreading my posts and thinking, man is this boring! And then releasing a deep sigh.

Probably nobody can argue that with me, however, I found a new challenge in this writing a blog endeavor. If I've always blamed myself on inconstancy, why not setting a goal of posting every week? No matter how uninspired, as long as it is readable, I'll be writing something that crosses my mind and shuttling it up to this little corner of the cyberspace.

So here we go, that's my new year's resolution. And I won't take a stumble for a fall, if I don't post one week I'll still have the next one to pick up.

Sounds interesting. Beats flossing every night, I think.