Today was the day the celebrations of one of Sweden’s most pagan rituals commerced. Midsummer is sacred to the Swedish people, not only because of the promises of half a day off and always-the-same-traditional food, but because it marks the brightest day of the year. Of course, this day it was a little off the summer solstice, but originally, it was not.

When it comes to traditional Swedish celebrations of the Midsummer rituals, foreigners get a good laugh. This is mostly regarding the Swedish people’s strange custom of dancing like leaping frogs around an abstract interpretation of male genitalia while singing strange songs. (The song associated with the frog-leaping-dance is my favourite: “Små grodorna, små grodorna, äro lustiga att se…” which translates as “The little frogs, the little frogs, they are a joy to behold…” [my translation].) It is obvious to most why this may trigger a laugh or two among those who are not used to the “Swedish way” as I have chosen to call it.

My family is not traditional – not in any sense. Of course, we enjoyed a meal of the traditional dishes, but upon having finished them, we were delighted that it would take a while for Christmas to arrive, and with it, the promise of the same dishes.

Our midsummer celebration started with dinner, a much earlier one than the ones I am used to as my grandfather was coming over to celebrate with us. Before we sat down to eat my grandfather showed us a picture which he had found at his house. It was a black-and-white picture, over 50 years old, that featured my father. Gosh, he was so cute at age 4 with a bowtie, squeezing the life out of a fat cat.

The first course consisted of pickled herring, shrimp salad, eggs, smoked salomon and shellfish. This first dish made me bloated, as pickled herring is just delicious, especially the mustard variant. Pickled herring is an intriguing phenomenon. It is basically raw herring that has been pickled and seasoned – and yet it manages to taste so good. At times it is referred to as “Swedish sushi.” It was during discourse on this topic that my father shared a story with the rest of us, one about a pair of Brits’ reaction to the Swedish way. Apparantly, the Brits had been invited to celebrate Midsummer with my father’s family, and upon having been served pickled herring and the additional shot of spirits, they said: “Is this what you are serving us? Raw fish and petroleum?” In my opinion they spoke of the truth, though the raw dish indeed is delicious (and this can be repeated many times by me!).

The second course contained roast beef, ham, potato salad, fresh potatoes, ordinary salad and for me, more pickled herring. Though, I did not take much of this course. As aforementioned, I was bloated.

The third dish was the dessert and it featured strawberries with custard and rhubarb pie with cinnamon. Following this dish was a slight feeling of despair on my part as I could not recall the last time I had been so full. Though, this feeling soon subsided and I ate some more pie as it is truly delicious.

Upon having finished the meal my grandfather left. My family is not much for social activities, not even carrying on a small conversation. His departure was followed by a few hours of idleness on my family’s part. The normal Swede is having the (drunken) time of their lives at this time of day, but as I have mentioned before, my family nor I are normal in any way.

When the clock grew closer to 11PM, my father decided that we should go water-shopping. My mother and I tagged along, for we like it when exciting things happen (you can from this make a scale on how interesting my life is, i.e. not at all). And so, we went shopping for water. Though, Midsummer is a national holiday in Sweden and all stores were closed. With no cars even on major roads and the sun setting in a cascade of fire-related colors, we felt a little as the last survivors of an atomic war. But, having circled the area for an hour we found a gasoline station which was open and that carried water. Having purchased the water and some not-so-needed crossiants we went home again.

It was now dark and muffled voices of long-lasting Midsummer parties could be heard in the distance together with faint blasts of far-away fireworks. My eldest younger sisters decided that the night was the perfect time of day to fly their model air plane during, and as I was bored, I tagged along.

We started with walking in the middle of the street and soon thereafter being followed by a police car. We jumped off the street onto the sidewalk and the police drove past us. It appeared as if we were not people they deemed interesting enough to keepi an eye on.

We soon reached the soccer field where a few teens were playing soccer. We commendeered another field and started flying the airplane. This was when the police car made its second appearance, driving us past, then reversing as it had ventured into a dead end. It was obvious that the police were not from our area.

As the police tried to reverse their way out from the narrow road a gust of upward-blowing air caught the airplane we were playing with and made it land, out of our control, on a nearby roof – someone’s roof. Of course the sister of mine to whom the airplane belongs freaked out. How would we get a hold of the plane?

As we skittered off over the soccer field and crossed the road, placing ourselves in front of the house on whose roof the airplane had landed, the police drove us past a third time. I am not sure who of us were the most surprised, but I dare guess that it was the police. As soon as they had driven past us, we ventured into the front yard of the house the airplane had landed upon.

Brainless as one can be on an adrenaline rush caused by trespassing with the police nearby on a holiday during which many are drunk and still more people are even more drunk, we did not know how to get a hold of the model airplane. Thankfully a gust of wind corrected the previous gust’s wrongdoing and sent the plane floating down off the roof. With it, we skittered across the front yard of the unsupecting house and continued to fly the plane on the soccer field.

A few minutes later the plane had run out of batteries and we went home. On the way, in the darkness of un-dark summer nights, my sisters and I managed to scare ourselves half out of our senses. We were still adrenaline-high from the adventure of the model air plane and the yellow, gleaming eyes of a black cat in the dark by the road made us jump. Even more so did it scare us as it leaped from the darkness, onto the sidewalk right beside us. We ran, screaming with joy-filled fear and stopped below a railway-bridge. Of course, the train passed us over at this very instance and we continued up the middle of the street, screaming and laughing.

Soon we reached our home. There I sat down in front of the TV and watched a few episodes of Seinfeld that I had recorded during the week. Whilst watching I wondered why my life of nothingness was not as exciting as the TV-series’ nothingness. Then, I realized, that my life is perhaps sometimes more interesting despite me not being on TV often enough.

I also managed to find a slice of bread and eat it as I was starving, despite having been bloated and almost dying a few hours ago. I enjoyed the bread that I had turned into a toast with some butter and ham. The sugar-bloated bread and the cup of non-caffeine free tea that I enjoyed with it, have made an impression on me. It is 3:00AM and I am not tired. I am high on both sugar and caffeine, and perhaps even some left-over adrenaline from earlier tonight.

Still, my untraditional Midsummer, my Midsummer-less Midsummer was quite eventful, despite me not having made a Swedish fool out of myself by dancing like a leaping frog around a Norse, pagan pole of fertility.

Overthrowing Darkness

June 17, 2008

This evening I set out on a midnight walk. In the midst of the shift between dusk and dawn I realized something. My realization was not concerning the nature of the night-less summer nights of my country as much as it concerned the lack of darkness that all city- or suburban-dwelling people have grown accostumed to.

In our modern world, the 21st century, the world of today, tomorrow’s yesterday; there is no such thing as darkness of night. Half of a 24-hour day hay has been stripped of its characteristics, the day’s nemesis has been robbed of its suffocating cloak. Through the assassination of the daylight’s opposite even the most natural of cycles has grown uniform.

There is no longer such a thing as darkness of night. Electric fires have chased it away forever. The lone night’s unlit hours have been abolished from the civilised world, but at which cost?

Nature is an equilibrium and it will always be. If the darkness of night has been chased away, then it must take its refuge elsewhere. Somewhere in this world there must be a safe haven for the darkness. And indeed there is. As people chased darkness off the surface of the globe it ceazed to be visible. Instead it moved into our cities, and it lurks in the narrow alleys between tall buildings. Too deep for the electric fires to illuminate them.

It is however not the shadows that have become the new home of darkness’. No, it is more gruesome than that. Darkness has found its way into the human heart. There, it bides it time ’till the night arrives when its black nature will reign once more.

Through the abolishment of darkness the celestial guardians are no longer needed. The deities that people have turned to for millenia have been brushed off as unnecessary and too ancient for modern civilisation. The modern human believes she is fit enough to care for herself. How vain is she in this conviction? She is too confident and she will one night have to face the darkness from within her own kind. Then she will be far from the helpful reach of the guardians of the skies. It is ironic, how man only can be saved by the protectors whom he has chased away.

Throughout the ages the starry skies have protected the earth. They have been diamonds of the skies. Though unable for us to reach they have been equally valuable to us during history as diamonds are today. They are the miniature lanterns of worlds far away. They are holes in the heavens’ black velvet draperies, small beams of light that see us from afar.

The unimaginably large is for us to very small. The stars of diamond heavens have been our parents, the ones to whom we owe our lives. We are the children of stars, far more magnificent, yet not. They are hard for us to imagine, yet without them, we would never have been born.

Throughout our childhood they have protected us, illuminated the shadows and chased off the dark creatures of our own imaginations. They have been the candles in the dark that chased the mosters under our beds away.

In modern times the celestial guardians are no longer present and the electrical fires which man has created are burning with more strength than ever before. Man has grown, left his infancy. He is now the unruly teenager who rejects the words of parents who only mean well.

Our electric gadgets and artificial lights will not offer us any protection as darkness is planning its coupe. It will soon strike, its dark tasks aided by traitors from within our own lines – the children who follow the path of darkness, all because they were never blessed by the stars.

Life Is Vainly Spent

June 16, 2008

Learning how to take small steps and not get ahead of oneself is hard, and also emotionally draining. It is so easy to imagine the way one wish things were, only to be disappointed by seeing the world as it is, all simply because of the act of removing the pink-glassed glasses.

The metamorphosis one has to undergo from dreamer to cynic is hard, but I hope that I in the end still will have the pink-glassed glasses stuffed away in my pocket for times of need.

And again, I ask the question: Why is life the time one spends on other things? All the time that I spend dreaming about the life I would like to lead I could very well use for actually realizing said dreams. Though, I have tried to use my time and actually accomplish something, only to realize that most processes take more time than I have the patience to go through.

Still, I wonder, why does it seem like my life lies in the future when I am here, right now?

The Living Fossil

June 13, 2008

When browsing the Pharyngula blog author PZ Myers’ most recent posts I came across one featuring a picture of a Nautilus pompilius. The picture was reposted by the blog from an online article in Nature magazine. (The picture has been re-reposted by me, below.)

Natilus pompilius

What I enjoyed about the picture was its striking resemblance to a picture which I created back in 2006, and subsequently gave the creative name of “Nautilus pompilius.” The picture has been inserted below:

Nautilus pompilius © Miss Josephine

Comparing the two images, one can easily see that I employed some artistic freedom when it comes to the tentacles. A bit of trivia is that the above pictured Nautilus’ shell actually is a photograph and not part of the digital painting. The shell belongs to me and has done so for a while (at least since 2006). One day it struck me that my shell needed a resident, and hence, this picture was born.

My passions are many and as I at times am the host of a limited consciousness, I have to allow an equal amount of passions to pass me by whenever I adopt another.

I have not beaded for a while, proof of the above statement. This does however not imply that I never will bead again, no, not at all. All it suggests is that I for the moment have found other passions to which my attention is dedicated to. So, instead of beading, sewing has taken its place.

I have already created a pattern for a teddy bear, one which I as soon as I created it, also modified. Hence, I have three patterns – one for a teddy bear, one for a pig and one for an Angelic Giraffe-style giraffe.

Though, when it comes to sewing I have realized that I am the most passionate about dresses. Not that I ever have sewn a dress during the course of my entire life, but I am very eager to try creating one out.

Of course, as whenever I am concerned, I wish to go overboard immediately. if not now, in just a few minutes. Patience is a virtue I should benefit from aquiring.

The dresses that I wish to try sewing are vintage dresses, especially from the 1950’s. For some reason I find the fashion of that era highly appealing, and as the term “vintage” implies that the dresses are not availiable in stores I will have to try and sew some.

Words in all honour, but pictures say more than a thousand words each, so I will share some of my favourite styles with you:

Lovely Dress

Misses' Dress

Big Collar Dress

All the above images are courtesy of SoVintagePatterns.com, a site which I think I may visit more frequently once I have managed to improve my sewing skills. For now, I will have to practice with less expensive (and less visually appealing) patterns.

Am I Alone?

June 13, 2008

More often than rarely I find myself as the possessor of an opinion that nobody shares but me. I wonder, am I a person who is all alone, too strange to find potential peers in this world? I hope not, as I am longing for carrying out a rewarding discussion with someone without any participating part retreating to at-times-too-harsh words.

I guess I will have to bide my time and polish my arguments until the day I find a peer who shares my opinions and does not condemn them. For, though it may appear as if it is the case today – that I am all alone – I am quite convinced that it is not the case. Among 6.6 billion people there has to be someone of equal values and ideas.

So am I alone? For the moment I am, but only because I have not given myself sufficient time to look.

[As a Post Scriptum I may add that socially I am not alone. I have a family of six with whom I can discourse, only that they on a regular basis fail to follow my at times strange arguments. Further, I have a few people who are very dear to me who I like to consider as my closest friends. Life has however taught me that ideas alien to people tend to drive them away, and as I find too much joy in the friendship of these select few, I do not dare to voice my radical ideas when they are around, all for the simple reason that I do not wish to lose them. So, if any of those people happen to read this, they should know that the above paragraphs and ideas were not indended to offend them in any way – rather the opposite – they imply that I am afraid to lose them.]

[Originally posted on Thursday, May 22nd, 2008.]

Without telling everyone too much about this top-secret movie, I can say that it was one of the best films I ever have seen. It proved that Steven Spielberg’s taste when it comes to choosing which movies to direct, still to this date, is infallible.

I am unsure what I can say without giving away too much, as no one has heard a lot about the plot, so I will remain as secretive in order to not spoil the experience for everyone else.

The movie honored the plots of the previous Indiana Jones-films, which I saw not too long ago. It also keeps the spirit of adventure and pseudo-archeology going with a mystery which was far more enteirtaining than the previous ones. Further, to my great joy, it managed to incorporate one of America’s most controversial myths into its plot and turn the mystery into something at the end that one would have given much to see more of.

As with all good films, this one did not disappoint, not with its plot or execution, nor with its use of time (it filled the 2 hours very well) or with its joyful winks to the facts stated in previous films. This movie also offered quite an assortment of surprises, something I found to be highly entertaining. (Plus, one of the most hilarious aspects was the Vulcan/Romulan haircut featured by Cate Blanchett. The haircut was probably not meant to make one associate to aliens in Star Trek, and yet that is just where my thoughts went.) On another note, if you watch Scrubs, you will recognise one of the actors )who probably does a better janitor than secret agent).

In the end, the film also featured two open endings, ready to be picked up at any time, which I hope they will. I read an interview conducted in Cannes, with Steven Spielberg, where he stated that he happily would make another film about Indiana Jones, if the fans want him to. Having seen this film, I am sure most fans will. Here, I can add that my mother who was a fan of the previous 3 movies, really liked this one as well, despite its rather significant flirt with the science-fiction genre. It can also be noted that my mother usually despises all things supernatural, something I see as proof of the film’s quality.

No matter what people say about independent films and so-called quality-films, my heart will always belong to big Hollywood blockbusters, not because one is supposed to like them, but because they offer one so much entertainment in a limited amount of time, that one can not help but adore them.

Of course, there is a lot to be said about the scientific accuracy of such films, but do we really expect them to follow the rules of truth all the time? In some cases, fiction is far more exciting than reality. Especially after such a marvellous odyssey as Indiana Jones’ has ended and one yet again finds herself staring into mid-air, wondering why she is trapped in a rollercoaster of suppression.

As my final words for this post, I can only say to you that if you enjoy adventure and/or science fiction, or the previous Indiana Jones-movies, then you have to go see this one, or it will be at your loss. For, as I told my father when he asked me which part I liked the most: “All of them.” The beginning was amazing, the middle was exciting and about the end there was nothing which was not to love.