Monday, November 17, 2014

telling stories, weaving meaning and figuring out why the danes are so darn happy

my computer has been acting up for more than a week now, which is why i've been so absent again. this weekend, i gave it a thorough vacuuming, upgraded my smc fan control and it seems to be behaving like its old self again. i made sure it's backing up, as i do fear it's on its last legs. it's been a good iMac and it has served me very well. i hope to get some more time out of it, but i guess we'll see. computers aren't made to last forever, after all and those shiny new iMacs look pretty cool.

i'm down with my first flu of the season. i've got a headache that won't quit, a low grade fever and aches in all of my muscles. it really rather fits with the grey, dreary weather we've been having and if one must be sick, it may as well be in these dark, rainy days. there's no better time to curl up in bed with a book and a cat or to listen to the serial podcast again from the beginning. (seriously, if you're not listening to serial, you're really missing out, there's even a reddit where people are discussing it endlessly obsessively.)

serial feels to me like it's somehow reviving storytelling or retrieving it from the trite hollywood ending kind of storytelling that we've become so accustomed to. and i know that serial isn't the only place where a great story is being told slowly...there are spoken word festivals and other great story events/podcasts (like the moth), but it's such a sensation that it feels like it's moving us in a good new direction with stories. something sort of akin to the slow food movement, slowing down and enjoying the process, whether it's of a story or a dish.

apropos stories, at drink & draw on saturday evening, we got to talking about that whole thing with the danes being the happiest people on earth. and we talked about ways of drawing out people's happiness stories, since we did agree that all that happiness isn't necessarily visible to the naked eye. and i think that maybe investigating the happiness and talking to a whole lot of people, in a kind of a slow storytelling way ala serial just might be the ticket.  slowly gathering all of those individual happinesses of different colors and gathering (weaving?) them in a whole carpet of happiness (i had to make that photo go with this post in the end) sounds like a pretty good idea for a project, doesn't it?

Friday, November 07, 2014

MiN New York: and i'm officially a niche fragrance convert

if you've been reading this blog for some time, you know that i love perfume. i've always been a pretty mainstream perfume kind of girl and admittedly, most of my scents have been acquired through the years in the duty free shops of airports around the world. my sister has a good friend who is a scent aficionado and she has sent my sister to small, esoteric shops in paris after some amazing, exclusive scents. so it was no surprise on my recent trip to new york city, that monica had a couple of perfume places on her list. we lost quite a lot of one day of her stay (we won't say why, but a late show at a comedy club and a cheap bottle of wine on top of oysters and foie gras might have had something to do with it), so we chose to visit just one of them - MiN new york in soho.

just peeking in the window of this beautiful shop made me quiver with intimidation. if my sister hadn't been there, i don't think i'd have dared to go in on my own, thinking the experience and the prices would be far above me. i expressed a bit of that intimidation when i came into the dark, warm, richly scented interior, but the people in the shop very quickly put me at ease - one was the president of the company, an attractive guy with longish hair and a cool manner and the two sales girls, with their exotic accents and easygoing, totally not snobbish manner.  they quickly made us feel welcome and as if it was exactly our kind of place. i realized very quickly that i could get used to niche fragrances.

in addition to a lot of exciting niche scents from around the world, they have their own line of what they call scent stories. there are 11 chapters to their scent story book, each with their own personality and heady fragrance. we tried only three of them (your nose can't really take that many more) and we were also trying some of the kerosene scents (more about them in another post).

my sister fell in love with one called magic circus, which the folks a MiN describe as: "Turn of the century, a carnival travels at dusk. A scrumptious gourmand perfume. A splendid wonder swirling in enchantment. Candied nuts, cotton candy, caramel, sprinkled with pink peppercorns, bergamot, labdanum, geranium, patchouli, and woodchips." all of which rings scrumptiously true in the complexity of the scent. it smelled wonderful on her, but less so on me.  it was obvious that my sister needed the magic circus and she serendipitously got bottle number 72 (of 1000 - they only make 1000 of each of the scent stories per year), which is both the year of her birth and her lucky number. it was meant to be. i went away with samples of memento and barrel, as my skin chemistry can be temperamental with perfumes and so i need to see if they go bad on me over several hours (when that happens, it isn't good, believe me).

and in the end, tho' i had decided that i loved the barrel most, but was chickening out on going all the way back down to soho and spending $240 on myself, when my sister called and said, "can you get back to MiN by 6 and pick up your barrel, i've just ordered it for you." i couldn't believe it and told her not to buy me a christmas present for the next five years. but i also jumped on the subway and headed to MiN immediately. there was a film being made on the street right outside of MiN, so i didn't have quite the same slow, drawn-out experience i had when we had visited together, but that was ok, as i wasn't in the market for more scents right then anyway. i did grab a sample of barrel to send to my sister so she could test it out as well.

my bottle of barrel is #86 of 1000. as the MiN folks say of barrel, "Evident in the first sniff, a slight floral opening gives way to bold, beautiful notes that we taste in full-bodied dark spirits and wine. Peaty, smoky, smooth, and earthy, this is the scent of the selfless vessel that rest in halcyon, incubating the finest spirits throughout the years. A complex cocktail of spirits, spices, dirt, tannin, and woods: absinth, coriander, pink pepper, rum, myrrh, orange blossom, tuberose, oak, oak moss, leather, vanilla, patchouli, and vetiver." in other words, deep, dark heaven. and i would love to go back and try some of the other scent stories. i have a feeling my book of scents in nowhere near complete.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

moving (literally and metaphorically): a salon evening

on tuesday evening, i co-hosted a salon evening for the first time. it was in cooperation with our little local group of creatives - called creagive - and our local library, so it involved some of my favorite people. the theme was "moving" (at flytte (sig) in danish). we chose this theme because we recently had to move out of our local kulturhus so it can be renovated into a new library and creative space, so moving referred both to physically moving, but we also talked a lot about things which have moved us in a more metaphorical sense over the years.

how it went was that when people arrived, they got a little glass of fernet branca and a name tag with a symbol and a color on it. we had jazz playing and the locale was lit primarily with candle light and we had even burned a bit of lavender incense, in order to set the scene. the tables were set with various fun dips and snacks and a bowl of edamame. we wanted people to expand their horizons and move their boundaries a little bit, so we chose foods that they may not have tried (like edamame) and in combinations that they may not have tried - so dipping carrots in pesto and bread sticks in ajvar. the fernet branca was a bit too much of a leap for some and they immediately asked for a glass of wine instead. we allowed that and didn't push them.

on the tables, we had a little sticker that matched the different symbols we had chosen (a martini glass, a tree, a house and a heart), so that you went to the table that had your symbol in the first round. this way, people wouldn't just sit with the people they came with, but would mix and mingle a bit. 17 people came, so we had three groups of 4 and one group of 5. for the second round, we switched places and you had to go to the table that matched the color from your name tag. this way, we mixed things up a bit.

we had prepared some conversation-starting questions for each of the rounds - 5 for each and we gave a half an hour for each session. both times, we extended by 5-10 minutes, because people weren't done discussing. as we had pitched it as an art salon, we linked some of our discussion questions to art. the first round questions were: "which artist has moved you the most?" "which place did you most recently move from?" "how many times have you moved in your life?" "which country would you like to move to?" and "how old were you when you moved away from home?"

to warm everyone up for the questions, two of us told short stories related to moving. i told the story of the time i touched matisse's goldfish painting at the pushkin museum in moscow. there was, in those days (20 years ago!), no security and there was also no glass on the painting, so i touched the actual surface of the paint that matisse himself brushed to canvas. it was a defining moment for me in relation to art - and the first time i felt a personal relationship with an artwork. my co-host told a tale of moving rather spontaneously to paris to work and study painting in her youth. she found an art teacher through an ad and was ushered into a funny little apartment by a funny little man and ended up studying with him for a long time. our stories and our questions really opened everyone up and we had a lively discussion, people remembering their first apartments away from home or all of the places they had lived along the way. it was actually quite difficult to stop the discussion and take a break before the second round.

our second round started with a wonderful poem that at the base of it was about being human and fickle and never satisfied and ever searching for spirituality and love and companionship. the poet herself presented it and it set a fantastic stage for the second round where we had come up with some deeper questions: "what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?" "what moves you most? travel? people? thoughts? work? experiences?" "what stops you from moving?" "what was the first artwork that meant something to you?" and we had a selection of different artworks, from danish artist kvium to picasso to malevich, which we asked, "does this work move you?" what was interesting was, at least with the groups i was with, the first round, which i had seen as easier, more superficial questions, was much livelier and people were more engaged and actually dug a bit deeper than it seemed with the second round. but it was also perhaps the group dynamic of the second round. it was also great, but it didn't feel as deep. that was interesting because we thought the second round questions were deeper and more philosophical.

we will be doing another salon in february. in celebration of 100 years of danish women having the vote, we have given it a wonder woman theme (i might have had something to do with that). we want to discuss the pressures on women today to be wonder woman - having the perfect career, children, home and life. are we all wonder woman? or should we be? and who expects it of us? what are our super powers? these questions and more will be discussed next time.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

double exposure project: two cameras, two continents, two views of the world, one roll of film

i am ashamed to say that back in 2011, the wonderful marinik and i exchanged a roll of film. i'm ashamed to say it because although i put it in my camera almost upon receipt of it, i didn't develop it until a couple of weeks ago when i was in new york. life intervened, film developing places became scarce and untrustworthy and so i sat on that film for ages. ages developed into years. i think 4 of them, to be exact. but oh my, was it worth the wait. there is a special kind of serendipitous magic that happens in these double exposure projects. you load the film into your camera, having no idea what has already been done with that film. and while not every photo is magical, some of them are. and it makes you want to do it again.

so if any of you would like to exchange a roll of 35mm film that you've sent through your camera with me (be careful when you rewind, because i'll need that tail to be exposed so i can put it through my camera too), just let me know in the comments. we're going to do this again. this is the kind of magic we need in our lives. and by we i mean me. but i also mean you. let's co-create something, baby.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

hello there, my neglected blog

it may seem that i've turned my back on this blog. the days go by and by and with each of them, i think that i will finally sit down this evening and catch up. and then life intervenes and there's dinner to make and stalls to clean and horses and cats to feed and lawns to mow (yes, we're still mowing, it's been that warm) and speeches to give and pumpkins to buy and books to read and netflix to watch and entryways to tidy and work to do. and somehow, i don't find myself in front of the computer to blog. and i miss it. my sanity misses it. my inner sense of well-being misses it. so i think i'll just have to pick up the threads and go on and not worry about catching up. eventually, one day when i'm hungry, i'll do another post of new york food, as there's much more of that to share and i'll write that post that's rattling in my head about the differences between seattle and new york. and through writing it all, i'll work out what i think and i'll find my way back to myself and this space. because this space plays a great role in keeping me in touch with myself. and that job is far from complete.

one of the reasons i've had a hard time sitting down to write is because a great tragedy befell the great majority of photos that i took on my recent trip. i had downloaded them along the way into iPhoto on my work computer because my memory card was nearly full and i had all of new york ahead of me. with the jetlag and everything else, i didn't get them moved over to my backup drive when i got home on the weekend. then, on my first monday back in the office, i had all kinds of computer problems and went over to IT for help. and their solution was to delete my profile and create a new one. and in doing so, they wiped out my entire computer. and all of those photos that aren't anywhere else. luckily, most of my nyc comiccon photos were uploaded to flickr, but i hadn't had a proper chance to go through any of the ones i took in seattle, so they are all lost. 

luckily, i took a lot of shots with my new iPhone 6, because it was easier and it has a great camera, so i'm not completely without photos of my trip, but i did suffer a devastating loss of the sculpture park in seattle and the good photos of chihuly, aside from the few i uploaded for my daily photo project, thinking i'd do the rest later, when i'd had a proper chance to go through them. i can tell you that the loss of those photos has awakened me in the night on more than one occasion over the past few weeks. we trust so much to bits and bytes these days and i trust so much of my memory to my camera, that i feel like there may be great gaps in my memories of my trip without those photos. technology is not entirely trustworthy and neither are those guys in IT. back up your photos, and/or send them into the cloud, it's the best advice i can give. and i intend to take it myself in the future.

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love these lamps.

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i forgot how much i love design for mankind.
erin is just so delightfully, unpretentiously real and authentic.
she even makes homeschooling sound ok.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

miles to go before we sleep

when i got home, husband had cleared our bedroom and had started to paint it. just a nice chalky white. and instead of moving our bed back in, we decided to make a small, makeshift dining room, since with the approach of winter, we will no longer be able to eat out in the terrace.

we scored some awesome green wool-covered chairs and a pretty cool round table, with leaves, at the recent flea market at our local kulturhus. and they are going to be our dining set, since our other table is far too large.

yes, those are breakfast crumbs on the table. but hey, there's also a cat on the table that apparently didn't get the memo about "no cats on the table." what was most fun about setting up the room (because i got home in time to help), was digging out all of our old photos, which used to line the stairs back on poppelvej and hanging them on the wall. i changed a few out, but mostly, i left them, for the sake of the memories. fresh, white walls and loads of meaningful pictures make for a lovely space, even tho' the ceiling is low and we're waiting for the electrician to come and deal with that light fixture (we thought it didn't work, but husband got zapped, so it apparently does).

do you ever visit someone and think that they've really got this life thing nailed in a way that you don't? well, i do, more often than i'd like to admit. but no more so than visiting the amazing and wonderful bb (of wobbly plates fame) at her beautiful home/atelier in brooklyn on my recent trip. she has this amazing table, which her husband made (so there is hope for us) and has created the most beautiful, livable, enviable space. but you can't even envy her (read: hate) her for it because she's so utterly and completely real and wonderful that all you can do is love her and feel privileged to be able to visit. and to hope that a little bit of that ability to live rubs off.

we have a ways to go before we're here. our house didn't have the beautiful skeleton that bb's brooklyn brownstone had, but we will figure out it. the house. but also this life thing.  of that, i'm certain.

Monday, October 20, 2014

missing my new york window

it's rather easy, when you're walking down the busy streets of new york city, to forget to look up. cyndy tried to warn us about this, but i'm not sure i fully appreciated it until wandering alone on my last day. i looked up at the imposing structures lining 5th avenue ahead of me and found them quite surprising and surprisingly the opposite of beautiful. they are dominant, cold, masculine, insurmountable, full of inhuman perfect lines and squareyness. they're not comforting or hyggeligt. at all. and i wonder whether they were shaped by the people who made them or whether the people who made them were shaped by them. or whether those lines blurred along the way and it's now impossible to say. do they inspire a cold, clinical, hard view of the world? one that resulted in the hubris of the financial crisis, which we're all still trying to shake off? would the world be a different place if the architecture of new york city was different? but could the architecture of new york city be any different than it is? or was it destined to be this way?

what is it that draws us to a place? makes us love it? or hate it almost instantly? everyone always told me that i would love new york. and in many ways, i did. the pulse, the vibe, the walkability, the whole sense that it was just alive and happening in every imaginable way. the food. the people having total screaming matches on the street at another person or into a telephone. the diversity. but i wouldn't want to live there. i think it would get to me after awhile. all that erect, hard, agressive squareyness.

so while i loved every minute of my first trip to new york, i'm not a new york person. i didn't fall head over heels for it the way i did with cape town. or london. or istanbul. or seattle. or san francisco. or moscow. to be fair, i'm not sure i'd fall for moscow in the same way today. it had to do with a certain phase and time of my life. and perhaps i just missed my new york window.

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the architecture of new york city got amy thinking as well.