When I saw the subway poster for the current "Dear Friends" exhibition, I was floored: more proof that it's a small, small world.
(This isn't the subway poster, but it's close.)
You see, when I first got an editorial assistant job at Abrams in 2002, Dear Friendshad just been published, and it was one of our most popular gay-interest books.
I've always been fascinated by this book--basically, a collection of images (daguerrotypes, photographs, etc.) from the turn of the 20th century showing men in incredibly affectionate poses. So it's not a gay book, exactly. (But it is, really.) It's fascinating to think how quickly culture changes, that we really don't have a good way of understanding what these images mean.
When my friends David and Eli got married, I used one of those daguerrotype images as inspiration for the wedding gift I painted:
Later, when I was putting together Gay America, I was superpsyched to have the opportunity to share a few of the images that haunted me:
(Go on, get out your copy, they're on pages 12 and 13.)
(And also this image of Walt Whitman with his "friend" Pete Doyle, from page 18.)
I didn't realize that the collection was ever even displayed as an exhibition, and the fact that it followed me here to Sweden makes me very happy indeed. Plus it was so gratifying to see Stockholmers there, all fascinated by these intricate, curious little windows into a history we may never fully understand.
It had been a few weeks since Jan and I were last able to go our little house in Stockholm's archipelago, so we were jonesin' to get back there this weekend. Plus, with spring becoming more and more palpable*, I was getting stressed out: we had bought birdhouses, but we still hadn't put them up!
Fear not, Jan to the rescue:
We were really psyched the next day because there was a nuthatch that kept checking them out, hopefully scouting his/her new nesting site...
Plus, I'm really hoping that bats move into the bat house we put up last year (photo from July):
Our friend the roe deer came by, as usual, with his strange, fuzzy antlers.
Also, we'll soon be getting new, improved power lines, so we had to figure out exactly where we want the new pole--the existing location is a total eyesore.
It was nice to see a woodpecker trying to get rid of one of the old ones (I hear ya, buddy).
We just got a new camera recently, so we were playing around with it. (But you guessed that already, didn't you?)
Mostly, we just chilled. Here's us taking in the view of our little valley while listening to public radio podcasts:
And Jan napped on The Most Comfortable Couch In The Universe.
I love it there.
* What? I'm choosing to ignore the snow outside. If it doesn't get the attention it wants, it will go away.
The first day of spring, and apparently it's snowing in New York. Well it isn't snowing here in Stockholm (though it was yesterday, a bit), but today I did get reminded that it's almost Easter:
Because nothing says Easter like...
Day-glo-dyed feathers tied to sticks!
This, friends, is Sweden's odd contribution to Easter decor. Jan explained that you're supposed to put the sticks in water, so you get sproutage when Easter rolls around. The first time I saw them, I thought they were hilariously stupid.
The DHL man finally successfully delivered the package I've been waiting weeks to get: my "author copies" of Hello My Name Is Bob!
(btw, I hate hate hate DHL--they have yet to deliver a package to me correctly in Sweden--but the man was nice enough.)
For a variety of reasons, it took me a bit longer than usual to get my copies of the book--and I'm so, so, so thrilled to have them in my grubby little hands. (I accidentally left my one advance copy of the book at my mom's house in November, so Swedish friends were starting to doubt the very existence of the book...)
But they're here, and they're fabulous--if I do say so myself. I recently found out that The Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books agrees: they gave Bob a nice review in their March 2009 issue,* although they repeatedly called me "Salenas" instead of "Alsenas".
*Sorry, they don't seem to post their reviews online, so I don't have a link.
At our last apartment in Gamla Stan (Stockholm's Old Town), I spent way too much time wondering why certain windows were covered and painted over in buildings across the street:
I mean, why block out what appear to be preexisting windows at this latitude, where sunlight is more precious than first-borns? (Er--so I've heard.) Especially in Gamla Stan, which isn't exactly full of wide streets? Especially at street level?
In the age of triple-glazing, the heat-escaping R-factor of the building shouldn't be a huge consideration. And yet whenever the facades are renewed every few years, they don't reinstall real windows. Why?
And yet, it's not an uncommon phenomenon here:
But what particularly I love about this last example, located in Östermalm, is that there is no apparent logic to where the fake windows are placed. Like, why didn't they paint a couple of windows up here:
Especially considering the attention to detail they showed here:
Then it got onto the 2009 Rainbow List organized by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Round Table and Social Responsibilities Round Table.
Then it got listed on the New York Public Library's Stuff for the Teen Age 2009, "the multi-format, multimedia, targeted, and teen-tested update" to their Books of the Teen Age annual list.
Then it made an appearance on CCBC Choices 2009, the annual best-of-the-year list of the august Cooperative Children's Book Center, a library of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
It's spring (almost)! Yup, as those wacky Stateside Americans turned their clocks this weekend, we in Sweden were enjoying a sustained period of balmy weather (I think it got up to 3 degrees! Yes, Celsius.).
Well, Jan and I got into the vernal spirit and started some seeds for our balcony garden this summer--now that we'll actually have a balcony this summer.
Let's see: we got some balcony-specific tomatoes.
And we got some cucumbers for pickling. And radishes. And lettuce.
Um, and...we got some tiny fake cucumbers.
"Jungle cucumbers", anyone? Actually, I like the common names in English that Wikipedia gives them: "mouse melon", "Mexican miniature watermelon", "cucamelon", and "Mexican sour cucumber".
I just got back from a spontaneous visit to Kulturhuset smack in the middle of Stockholm, and I am jumping up and down, redfaced with fists clenched, in a jealous rage.
Okay, it wasn't totally spontaneous, I knew I wanted to see the Loretta Lux exhibition at some point because I had seen an ad for the show in the local Östermalm paper using this image. Even in its grainy, reprinted state, I couldn't stop trying to get Jan to agree with me that the photo is soooo hauntingly beautiful/disturbing. It is, right? Right?
And it doesn't disappoint in real life.
But the whole exhibit was full of similarly awesome/creepy images. Like this one.
And this one, which made me realize this wasn't my first encounter with Ms. Lux's work--I had ripped this very image from some other blog to throw into my "Miscellaneous Images" folder a few years ago, something I pretty much never do. But her images just grab you, ya know?
Yeah, see, that's kind of the "problem" with the show. Or maybe the "problem" with effective art: after seeing so many of these images with their hyper-melancholic mood, you couldn't help but leave feeling very...unsettled. And not really in a good way. Like in a "that was so cool but ew, I feel kind of dirty and creeped out for looking at all these kids as hyperaesthetic objects" kind of way. As it wears off, yes, you start to appreciate the fact that art has induced such a feeling, but that's small comfort just as you leave. If twenty minutes makes me feel that way, I can only imagine what a nutjob Loretta Lux must be by now, since she says in a video commentary that she spends about three months on each image.*
Also, Stockholmers, as you run off to see this show, don't forget to pause on the third floor to see Ville Lenkkeri's photo exhibit of scenes from an abandoned Russian mining operation on Svalbard. I was lucky enough to go to Svalbard in July, and seeing these desolate-yet-beautiful images really brought me back there. Scenes of decaying abandonment are not uncommon there, actually, since anything that predates 1944 (er, don't quote me on that) is protected by the state** as the island's "cultural heritage".
*a statement which strikes me as mathematically impossible, considering the number of images in the show
**it's not really governed by a state, actually--an international agreement made in 1920 (er, don't quote me on that) allows Norway to "administer" the island. So everything there is decided by the Governor, leading to hilarious news stories in Longyearbyn's paper that all eventually defer to whatever Sysselmannen says.