torsdag, mars 31, 2005

When It Absolutely Positively . . . Eventually Needs to Get There

James Lebron (not to be confused with the much taller LeBron James) has died. (I tried to google a nice link for you, but all I got were sites for the aforementioned LeBron James.) I had never heard of him. James, that is. The Times obit praises him as a miracle worker. He could fit big innovative modern art paintings through tiny doorways so they could be hung on big walls for all of us to see and say, "I don't get it" and "Our son Timmy could do that with a bucket of house paint and a crayon."

"[James] was the bridge between making art and having the world see it," explained artist Helen Frankenthaler in a 1990 New York magazine interview.

The obit reminded me that what I really need is a housewife. Or a housespouse, I suppose. There are few housewives in Sweden. Adults work outside the home. Childcare is practically free. Self-dependence is encouraged. That's great. Good for them. I still need a wifeperson.

See, I know a few artists who wish Mr. Lebron were still around to calm fears about transporting their unique pieces from birthplace to gallery. They couldn't afford the likes of Mr. Lebron, but the alternative, which is private ground and air couriers who rush about in bouncing trucks and short pants has become too risky - even for artists (a group less inclined to become intimate with actuarial tables and ratio analyses then, say, accountants or anyone else on the planet). Art disappears in warehouses, never to be seen again. The contractual reimbursement allowance barely covers the price of 4 X 6 frame at Target, even though an artist is moving an entire year's worth of work to an exhibition. The artist can buy insurance, of course, but we are not really talking about an intermodel container of Nike shoes from an Asian sweatshop where a replacement check solves the dilemna. An artist's loss of a portfolio of work can never really be replaced. I know this because I have been working with a local artist who has had two major projects disappear from the tracking radar of an overnight courier.

So when I realized I was one passport shy of a full deck for a recent trip, I screamed first, then called a passport expediter. To get the precious documents back and forth from me to Expeditor to Important Passport Guy back to Expeditor and then to me, I called the very same courier who had lost my friend's livelihood. And to make me even less sympathetic a storyteller, I agreed that, because I had to be at work, the document could be delivered to my home without my signature.

So when I called the courier on the anticipated date of delivery and asked in full anticipation of an affirmative answer, "Did everything go as planned?" the courier replied, "Yep. Signed for by Sara Curtain this morning." Only there was no Sara Curtain or Sara Lee or Shower Curtain or anyone at my address and I knew at once that my document had gone the way of practically famous artwork.

As it turned out, the passport had been delivered to a local hospital and then picked up after my call and then redelivered by mistake to a neighbor's house down the street. Yet none of this is the point. It would be terrific if (1) I had someone to take care of the minutae and (2) I had the sensitivity to not call it "minutae" to his or her face. As home address support staff will never be an option for me, the best I can hope for is to plan for emergencies weeks in advance and stop believing in advertising.

onsdag, mars 30, 2005

Time Heals

We, well, no actually, my husband subscribes to Time magazine. Back in Sweden he read it, well, no, not it. He read Time Europe, or something like that, to keep current on world events. Actually, Swedes read just about everything, even newspapers. Even the Op-Ed section of newspapers. Something about being informed, knowing the positions in a debate, understanding different perspectives, that sort of oddball stuff.

I have been suspicious of Time and its Kathy Duke cousin, Newsweek, for quite some time now. There seems to be a lot of Jesus on the front covers. Well, not Jesus, of course, but his kind. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind Jesus. I teach Sunday School to 7 and 8 year olds who would rather be home watching Bugs Bunny on a sleepy Sunday morning and are willing to do everything in their power to trick their moms into believing they are sound asleep or sick - no wait, that was me. Anyway, being a good soul,, kind to others and respectful of adults, and not lying too much or killing anyone, especially on purpose, these are important things to strive for, so I try to help when I can. But lately, I half expect to see "Jesus and his Disciples, Collect all of Them!" on the front of a Cocoa Puffs box. (And you know that they will never actually make the Judas figurine because, well, because.)

Where was I. Oh, right: Time magazine. On February 7 it was The Evangelicals. (They had this whole birth of Jesus stuff in December, but my husband said it was the holiday season and to let it go, so I have, to some degree.) Right under the cover lead, Time posed the question, "Do the Democrats Need More Religion?" but I bet it already knew the answer. On March 21, Time picked the virgin Mary, or maybe it is Virgin Mary, I get confused, as the Woman of the Year. I'm thinking that Time wanted to do something for making up for the March 7 cover that showed a woman scientist with a peanut-sized head. Anyway, Catholics, FYI, Time suspects that Protestants are about to move in and claim Mary. I would think that those are fighting words, but then again, smiting and drowning and turning people into pillars of salt, and all that jazz is only for the Almighty to do, so we all really know that there will be no actual fisticuffs over Jesus' mom. I hope.

Oddly, Time picked another Woman of the Year for its March 28 cover. Its only a model, I think, but one that looks just like that woman on that housewive's show - the brunette who used to play Lois Lane, um, Teri Hatcher. Teri, well, the "not really" Teri is holding a remote control and looking quite embarrassed about whatever is on the TV screen that we cannot see and I bet isn't even there in real life. If that is the case then that makes the model also an actress, just like Teri. I am not sure what if this really has something to do with Jesus and his family. I never actually read any of the articles. But as we are not supposed to covet another's spouse or partner - shoot, I don't even know if the rule applies to people who are living together in sin or in homosexual sin, so let's leave it at "spouse" - no matter how desperate that spouse is, I detect a religious theme.

tisdag, mars 29, 2005

The New Airport Etiquette

Leg 1. New York to Paris. At airport security checkpoint #4, my family waits to disrobe. Ahead of us, a woman huddles at a table. Twenty passengers could fill the space between her and the conveyor belt, but we wait. A linebacker of a man dressed in security blues squeezes through the metal detector and booms, “Move the line down.” I motion my children towards the screeners. Instantly, the stalled woman becomes animated, confronting me for cutting the line. I explain that I live only to follow the instructions of the big scary man. This woman who apparently has only limited interest in catching her plane, attaches herself to the big scary man and points towards me. As my children pass through the X-ray machine and drift off to various gates, I begin to contemplate what life must be like with this woman, what it must sound like to forget the dry cleaning or an anniversay. Suddenly, the big scary man drains my imagination dry with a thunderous, “I said ‘Move the line down’ not ‘Move to the head of the line.’” I have no choice but to express my disapproval over the his lack of clarity in the initial command and of his decision to placate a hysterical whiner by shouting out to a group that, save one, has already escaped his jurisdiction. I express my disapproval by making a clucking chicken noise. My actions entitle me to a full security screening.

Leg 2. Paris to Venice. The plane comes to a complete stop and we whip off seat belts and reach for overhead compartments. All are eager to stand cramped and uncomfortable in the aisle where for the next thirteen minutes we will inspect each other’s hairlines and pores. I spot two tiny, elderly passengers efficiently scoot up from further back in the plane. I can tell that if not constrained, these two will never stop to make sure each row has a chance to exit before charging on. I have no choice but to respond to this deplaning infraction by inserting my Gulliver-sized body into the aisle so they cannot pass. I respond to their elbowing by leaning back against them. They call out something to others in their tour group, and point at me as if I have done something other than maintain order. I remain calm in my understanding that I am a true friend to all who cherish civility en route. At the crowded baggage carousel, the two Lilliputians and their gang of troublemaker sixty-something friends block my access to the circulating luggage. My family misses the bus to the hotel.

Leg 3. Venice to Paris. “Hey, grab me one of those USA Today’s,” I shout out in the direction of one of my daughters, as we juggle belongings and clamber along the Jetway. Within seconds, an airline employee scrambles about the rack of complementary newspapers, trying to obey my command. I have no choice but to correct her assumption that I could be so rude. “Not you,” I explain to the employee by shaking my head and waving her away with my arm. Instead of being thankful that I am not one inclined to believe that everyone in the service industry is at work today to provide for my family above all others, the gate attendant glares at me and then carries the few remaining English language newspapers towards business class. Hoping to appear unfazed, I grab a foreign newspaper, forgetting that certain continental newspapers have a Page 2 tradition of linking photographs of strippers and porn stars to the day’s “human interest” copy. Words like “boobs” and “butt” and “gross” shoot up into the air from seats 12A, B and C, as if pulled by vacuum tubes during a lottery drawing, followed by the inevitable, “Why do they do that?” directed at 12D. I am unable to translate.

Leg 4. Paris to New York. My oldest daughter stands in front of a baggage rack on a large transfer bus. She wants to protect her suitcase, but being the oldest daughter, does not believe me and/or hear me when I tell her that she is blocking the balance of the storage unit and, therefore, doing something wrong. Another passenger boards. He grouses at her to get out of the way. He thrusts three heavy bags into the rack and continues to grumble. He sits next to me and begins to complain to his wife about the “stupid girl” who was in his way. All three of my girls hear him, and then look at me. I have no choice but to set a good example on being calm. I tell him that the “stupid girl” is my daughter and that I would appreciate it if he would say no more of it. He looks at me and snipes, “I don’t believe I was talking to you.” This, of course, forces me to John Wayne, “If you are talking about my daughter, I am part of the conversation.” An Andy Cappish scuffle ensues.

The End. Customs and Immigration. “And the third child, where is she?” the inspector asks rising from his seat. The five-year-old is not yet tall enough to be seen over the edge of the desk. “Better hold on to her. Little girls like that get a big dollar on the street. Don’t let her outta your sight.” There I am, hoping none of the kids shoved meat, agricultural products, or $10,000 in cash into my luggage, when Mr. Homeland Security makes me - tired, road weary me - imagine my baby on the back of a milk carton. The littlest one overhears this currency exchange and asks, “Someone is giving me a dollar?” “Yeah,” I answer. “But then you have to do a lot of dishes for that family. Better to stick with us.” I look back towards the man holding our documentation and the next two hours in his hands. I wish to point out to him that “Welcome home, folks” and “Hope your kid don’t spend the last twenty minutes of her life with a serial killer” are a bad mix, but I hold back. I have begun to appreciate the fine art of leaving epilogues in my throat and arm gestures in my sleeves where they will do less damage. I say only, “I will keep her close.” The inspector pauses for a second, then adds, “I say these things to you because I got my own little girls at home. You understand. I got no choice.”

fredag, mars 11, 2005

Kultur Läxan

Last night I googled the terms blog and Sverige. I found ATTAC Sverige, a sweet little acronym that suggested anti-something or other. Or pro-something or other. In any event it seemed centered around watchdogging the WTO. I grabbed this description to translate:

Omvärldsbevakning för och av ATTAC-medlemmar. Nyheter du kanske missat, länktips du kanske saknat. "World coverage for and of ATTAC members. News you perhaps missed, links you perhaps lack."

I love the word "kanske." For three years I pronounced it exactly as it is looks to an ignorant American, and people would look confused. The last time I used it I even said, "You know, "perhaps," "maybe" and I still got the look. But it remains one of my favorite words because I learned it early on and it stuck. Mr. ATTAC used it twice in one sentence. Politics be damned; on phraseology you rule.

The second google site was Globaljuggler. I cannot tell how serious he is. Well, I mean the text is very long and there are not many pictures, so I am assuming very serious. But the way his left eye droops just a tad in the photo, like John Cleese with a twitch, suggests that he sees the "Bang Head Here" aspect of everything, a view towards life I find charming. His March 10 article (no permalink) on music and film pirating is worth the translate, except kanske for the Kylie Minogue part. My husband does not believe me when I say that this individual, pre or post Head, never hit point of recognition in the US. He was overly astonished that when he said "Kylie" I asked, "Who?" I have been known to lock myself away in my office to get work done, but I dont live under a rock, so why would he not accept my query as a sign that she never made it to phenom status in the States?

Where was I?

Globaljuggler's post. He wrote: Antipiratbyråns jurist Henrik Pontén har enligt Aftonbladet sagt att bland de beslagtagna servrarna från razzian på Bahnhof fanns ungefär 450 000 låtar och 1 800 filmtitlar. IP expert Henrik Ponten has comment in the paper saying that among them, the confiscated computers from the raid on Bahnhof, found about 450,000 tunes and 1800 movies.

How is it possible, Juggler ponders, that of all those confiscations, certain films such as
- Hip hip hora
- Skenbart
- Hannah med H
- Mongolpiparen
are not found, and certain songs, including Kylie's, were not downloaded?

I am not sure what that says about culture. It'll take me a while to get through the whole piece, and I am still hung up on the "confiscation" part. Anyway, for Kylie's sake, GJ makes the roll.

torsdag, mars 10, 2005

The Småland Scots

In my quest for a chicken joke, I came across one that reflected on the Småland half of my Scotland and Smålander connections. As my parents elected to blend Scottish and Smålander genes, my siblings and I must be the cheapest souls on earth:

- Om du inte har något emot det skulle jag vilja att vi vigdes i hönshuset, sa smålänningen till sin blivande brud.
- Men varför i hela fridens namn?
- Jo, på det viset går inte risgrynen till spillo.

If you dont have something against that should I want to us to marry in the henhous, said the Småland guy to his bride to be
But why in whole peace name?
Because then the rice will not go to waste.

Rim shot, please.

I told my husband and Malmö-based mother-in-law that a geneologist in the family had just traced our Swedish ancesters back to Småland.
A nod of the head.
"Isn't that wild? They could actually find that much family history," I said with the exuberance that only American mutts and slave descendants could appreciate.
A nod of the head.
"What are they like, these Smålanders?" I begged.

I am not sure why people who can speak a foreign language believe that just because an individual's ears cannot follow the conversation, the frozen-out loser must also be blind. My mother-in-law turned to my husband and muttered something under her breath, with a smirk in her face.

I could tell we were headed straight towards "No Princesses" land. But what was it if not the land of wealth and royalty? Why did they earn a smirk? Were they robbers? Did they refuse to bathe? Did they drink too little, go to church too much? Tell me.

"They were industrious," my mother-in-law soft peddled.
"Cheap," offered my husband.

The next day I spent 10,000 sek at Filippa K. It was my husband's money, what with the unfavorable exchange and all, but still. Someone's gotta wipe the smirks off the Skåneheads, right?

söndag, mars 06, 2005

Convinced she would outlive her savings, yet one never to miss a birthday or pass on a good buy, my mother went through a phase of particularly oddball purchases. I have a lot of ugly holiday decorations that I hang or set up mostly as a reminder that she cares. I look at them and wonder, "What was she thinking?"

My current favorite find is a book on her kitchen shelf entitled, 365 Ways to Cook Chicken. I mean, who would do that to their family? Not one day for salmon? Not one day for a marinated pork loin? Not one?

Gosh, I love that woman. Now I am in the hunt for chicken jokes.

torsdag, mars 03, 2005

Fine Tune, Please

He: I could not find cough drops. I searched the store and all I could find was cough gels. No drops, just gel capsules.

I should have said throat lozenges. He must have been looking for a big eye dropper of medicine. I hate it when I do that to him.

onsdag, mars 02, 2005

Bum Chickens

-Jag tänker börja med hönsavel
-Vet du något om det då?
-Nej, men det gör väl hönsen

-I think begin with hen breeding.
-Know you something of it then?
-No, but it does well with the hens.

Hmmm. It must be more like, "No, but the hens know what they are doing." The Swedish English free translator gives me: "No, but do the welfare fowls."

I like the middle phrase. Today's lesson is to repeat it 15 times. I suspect I am going to annoy a few people. I more strongly suspect that all I will remember from today's lesson is "do the welfare fowls."

tisdag, mars 01, 2005

Pooh, Puh

I am translating a simple book involving that menace, Winnie the Pooh. I don't care much for the Christopher Robin tales, for the same reason I never could bring myself to consume a steady diet of I Love Lucy reruns. I get anxious over the predictibility of the quandries, although with Pooh the troubles are much more catatonic. To be fair, these stories are no less predictible than Bugs Bunny surviving rabbit season, but Bugs is not a hapless, witless, lucky survivor. The other two characters seem to thrive despite themselves.

Maybe that just hits too close to home.