Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Little Bug Tale

I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on the house this summer. So what’s new, right? The entrance porch was an awful mess and had to be completely torn down and rebuilt, from the ground up. There was cement to be poured, stone to be laid, carpentry, windows, painting - the works. As with most of our outdoor projects here in Norway, it eventually became a race against time as my pathological hang towards procrastination headed for the inevitable collision with King Winter. This year was no exception, but somehow we managed to pull it off, partially thanks to a long, mild autumn. In fact Winter is still AWOL.

One evening a couple of weeks ago I decided to gather up the last of the scrap wood from the demolished porch so I could drive it to the dump the following morning. Darkness was falling as I yanked decaying planks out of the pile and carried them down to the car. Suddenly I saw a flash in the shadows at my feet, an incongruous splash of orange amidst the drab rotting wood. I had no idea what it could be, and ever the curious fool, I stuck my snout down into the murky half-light to investigate.  Nothing there, just a bunch of musty old boards. Then, a moment later, there was movement and out walked … a little brown butterfly.
‘Bit late in the season, isn’t it?’ I said. I’ll talk to anything; cats, trees, stones, butterflies. Not only wrong season, but what was a butterfly doing buried in my rotting woodpile in the first place? Plus, this little fella wasn’t orange at all, but a dark chocolate brown. It closely resembled a piece of bark, so I figured the woodpile made sense after all. The butterfly climbed up on a board and then deliberately, like a flower spreading its pedals in a high speed film, unfolded its wings, revealing a stunning pattern of rust-red, brown, creams, black and blue.  Ah, there was the orange flash. What a startling surprise; a brightly colored gem buried in a pile of dreck. As I watched it flex its wings I realized I had to make photos -the contrast between closed and open was just so amazingly cool. It was like a parable, a living allegory. So, carefully not touching its wings–they could so easily be destroyed–I coaxed the bug onto my finger and then took it inside, trotting up the stairs to my office.
Photographing the butterfly with wings closed was pretty easy; it just stood there and let me knock off a couple of shots. I think it might have been nervous. I would have been. But what I needed was the contrast, the color shot, the cool pattern. Wings open was something else. Every time the butterfly spread its wings, it immediately took off and started flying around the room. I would catch it, put it back on my desk, aim my camera, and then off it would go again. This won’t do, I thought, new plan needed. I nipped down to the kitchen and fetched a plate, put some sugar on it and then topped it off with a couple of drops of water. That Master’s in biology is finally good for something, I snickered to myself. But noooo, the butterfly wouldn’t settle down and drink the sugar water. In fact, it became even more restless and took off again, this time flying out into the hall. Uh-oh, not a smart move, little insect. Diesel, aka Blackie the Cat, heard the flapping of tiny wings and came bolting out of the bedroom, tiger eyes wide open. I nabbed him midair as he lunged for the butterfly and, kicking and squirming under my arm, tossed him into my son’s bedroom. He was not a happy cat and told me so from behind the closed door. Sorry, Dude.

I finally managed to recapture the butterfly as it circled the hall lamp and bring it back into the office. After a couple more flights I realized that, short of mounting it with pins, there was no way I was getting a photo of those open wings. I was going to have to let it go, undocumented. All that work for nothing.
But that’s the thing about beauty, I guess. You don’t have to capture it, what you want to do is experience it. And then let it move on. So I gave up on the photo. I opened the window, let the butterfly climb onto my hand and was about to put it out, when … it turned around and slowly, beautifully, opened its beautiful wings on the edge of my hand.

Have you ever tried to aim a massive, lens-laden Canon 60D in your one hand with a delicate butterfly precariously perched in the palm of your other? With the autofocus turned off? The butterfly; it just sat there, gracefully flexing its wings. Patiently, with insect Zen. When I was finished, I laid my hand out on the window sill and the butterfly made its final exit, bobbing away into the night, orange fade to black.

NB: I read later that the European Peacock (that’s what it was – an Inachis io) don’t die off in the fall like most butterflies, they hide themselves away and hibernate through the winter. Often in old woodpiles …

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life is a Carnival

I was bitten on my right index finger many years ago by a European adder (Vipera berus) and I can tell you it was a real bitch. The story is a miniature case study in weird and stupid, and involves the unlikely combination of poisonous Norwegian snakes, drug addicts in rehab, and KAL flight 007, which was shot down over the Kamchatka Peninsula an hour before that bastard of a snake bit me. There’s a bucket involved, too.

I ended up stretched out in a hospital bed in Moss, Norway for three days after an unpleasent brush with death. This was due to a hyper-allergic reaction to the Zagreb anti-venom they pumped into me to counteract the snake venom. Turns out that Zagreb anti-venom (made from horse serum) is actually dodgier than the snake venom. Who’d a thunk it? Anyhow, after being repeatedly force-fed raw herring (which in retrospect was probably the worst part of the entire experience) I was finally released from the hospital. This was oddly enough the very same day they were staging Carnival in the streets of Oslo.

Carnival in Oslo was not something you wanted to hop over. It has since been outlawed for the exact reasons you just had to participate; it was decadence in motion. Wine, women, music and costume madness. Beat that. Being a drummer I, of course, just had to join in the festivities and therefore spent the next  twelve post-serpent hours or so pounding on my African Talking Drum with a snakebiten finger, guzzling beer and generally making a fool of myself (see photo). Not too bright. The drunken pounding bit, that is. Because later that night, in the throes of an atypical late evening hangover (they're usually reserved for mornings), my abused index finger transmogrified into an excruciatingly painful throbbing Thing with a life of its own. Sleep was not an option.

 So … back to the hospital—this one in Oslo—where there was idle doctor talk of amputating my afflicted digit. It was now so swollen that it more resembled a microwaved bratwurst about to burst. Did I panic upon hearing their muffled whispering? Oh, yeah. Index fingers are not the digits you want to lose. Think about … chop sticks, for example. Luckily,  they ended up pumping me full of finger-saving cortisones instead and I am happy to say that I am still the proud owner of two (2) index fingers. The only aftereffect was that for years afterwards my finger would become numb and turn entirely white in cold weather, a syndrome amusingly referred to in Norwegian as ‘likfinger’ (‘corpse finger’). I guess now I have zombie finger, since it seems to have come back to life.

 The astute reader is at this point probably wondering about where KAL flight 007 comes in. Well the story also involves four (4) drug addicts doing rehab, a plastic bucket and me having watched too many James Bond movies, but like most of my stories, it’s very complicated. Who really wants to go there?

The moral of the story: don’t put your hands into snake-filled buckets offered to you by small groups of questionable people out in the Norwegian outback telling you that the furious creature within said bucket is a harmless stålorm (Anguis fragilis – in actuality a legless lizard. I kid you not.) while you are being distracted by a television broadcast informing you the USSR has just shot down a large commercial aircraft over the Kamchatka Peninsula making WW III an eminent possibility and all this three days before Carnival comes to Oslo, especially if you are hyper-allergic to Zagreb antivenom. If you do, you might regret it. And get raw herring for dinner. Ugh.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Tree

Grabbing her by her skinny little trunk I dragged her across the living room floor. I opened the balcony doors – both of them – and heaved her out. She crashed against a table with a thud, wobbled unsteadily three or four times and then came to a rest.

‘Stay out here and die, you thief of light,’ I barked. ‘You overgrown deciduous bully!’

I’d never imagined that an avocado seed could spawn such a chlorophylliated monstrosity. So tiny and fragile in youth, a full blown forest five years later. Even with prudential trimming and pruning she had managed to envelope both of the living room windows. Completely. Absolutely. Limbs sprouted hydra-like from seemingly everywhere. Leaves the size of tennis racquets. Furniture was first displaced and then disposed of. In the end I felt like I was living in an emerald green cavern. I, the human, was becoming etiolated.

It was early autumn; that night the temperature dipped below freezing. I could feel it through my blankets, see it etched in frost runes across my bedroom window. I slept restively.

The morning after I felt unwell, I was stricken with angst. Stumbling through my bedroom door the living room was now a blazing cauldron of untamed photons, the window now naked. I staggered across the floor, blinded, to the balcony. She lay on her side, tossed by stormy winds, beaten by the rain. Earth spilled out of her pot, dark, chocolate brown.

I opened the balcony doors – both of them – picked her up and dragged her back in. I patted down her leaves with a soft cloth. I gave her fresh new earth. Had the frost bitten? Was it too late?

I stood her once again before the living room windows.

‘I’m getting some coffee,’ I said. ‘Can I get you anything?’ I got no reply.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Missing Beauregarde Illustrations

I've uploaded my manuscript The Beauregarde Affair on the Authonomy website ( The site doesn't publish illustrations or pictures, so I thought I'd put them up here . . .

From Feburary 29:
We spent the rest of the evening drawing pictures of each other and polluting our minds and bodies with the usual substances. Although the results leave something to be desired on an artistic level, I can’t help but think that somehow we’ve managed to capture each other’s essences in pen and ink. If this is true, then my only comment is uh-oh.

From March 13:
The House:
If Morningside Drive can be considered the lap of Atlantian luxury, then we are the syphilitic groin. Here’s why.
Our house is fantastic. At least it was, once upon a time. While all our other sleazeoid friends are slumming it downtown in rat and/or cucaracha-infested trashed-out apartment houses, we sit here perched high above Piedmont Avenue in a red-brick, two-story Tudor with a full cellar, double garage, azalea-bushes in the garden, and an oak-studded jungle for a backyard. For which we pay almost nothing.
As far as I can follow, Wallace’s father flipped out when his wife suddenly died after an acute illness. He packed his toothbrush and split to Florida, leaving his dream house and its contents to the elements. Wallace moved back in a couple of years ago and has managed, in whatever manner, to accumulate us as renters. That makes us, in a sense, also elements. I can get into that. It has a solid feel about it. The neighbors despise us. Of course they do! We’re a blot on their precious landscapes. Situated in one of the best parts of town, surrounded by doctors and lawyers with their Mercedes’ and manicured lawns, we are an affront to everything they have worked and striven for. I love it.

From March 24:
Terrible, awful, mind-crunching hangover. Two strange women in bed next to me this morning, look like sisters. I can’t remember a goddamned thing! They can’t either. What a waste. I’m so wasted . . . too sick to write . . .

Can I work? I can’t go to work.
I have to go to work . . .

Later . . .
Self-portrait from right now

The Missing Beauregarde Illustrations, part II; About the Author

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Me, The Last One

There came an almost inaudible knock at my front door. I wasn’t expecting anyone and don’t take kindly to unannounced visitors. I got irritably up from my chair, crossed the room and opened the door. A smallish man with a severely balding head and zucchini-like nose looked up at me.
‘Mr. Son of Incogneato?’
‘How do you know that name? It’s supposed to be incognito.’ I stalled for a moment, confused. ‘Not that I’m admitting that I am this Son of Incogneato’.
‘You are Son of Incogneato, are you not?’ He looked warily over his shoulder. ‘You don’t really expect to be anonymous, do you? You sign your name on blogs, you watermark your paintings. Excuse me for pointing this out, but you are about as incognito as the Statue of Liberty.’
‘Okay, so I’m Son of Incogneato, What do you want?’
‘Mr. Incogneato, I’d very much like to talk to you about tattoos, if you don’t mind.’
Now there’s a conversation opener for you. And I thought he was going to try to bring Jesus into my life.
‘Tattoos? As in body art?’ I felt that dissociative flashback feeling washing in over me, but there weren’t any of the telltale colors or weird noises, no kaleidoscopes or melting reality. Just a small, hairless man asking me if he could talk to me about tattoos. Still, it was a Floydian kind of moment.
‘I don’t have any tattoos,’ I said curtly. ‘And I don’t want any, either.’ I started to close the door. His face brightened considerably.
‘Yes, yes, I know. Or at least, that’s what we’ve heard. That’s why I’m here; to see if the rumors are true.’ Once again he glanced furtively about, as if he were expecting bad company.
‘I’m becoming increasingly perplexed, Mr. . . ?’
‘Wruk.’ The man extended a soft pinkish hand featuring four stubby fingers and an opposable thumb. ‘Wrotsa Wruk’, he said, shaking my own hand vigorously.
‘Wruk. Is that Irish?’
‘Why, yes, it is. How did you guess?’
‘Guessing nationalities based on names is a hobby of mine.’
‘I see. Please, Mr. Incogneato, I can explain everything. May I come in?’
Not without misgivings I made an invitational pass of my hand; Wruk darted in and I shut the door behind him.
‘Mr. Incogneato, we, that is my colleagues and I, believe that you just might be the last of your kind. Absolutely the last. And we are very excited about that. I’m here to verify that fact.’
‘And what endangered manner of kind might I be the last of?’ I asked, intrigued despite myself. Last of the total fools who let strange people enquiring about tattoos in their front doors? A separate part of my brain was simultaneously reviewing which of my so-called friends had organized this silliness. Thus far it had all the main ingredients of a MMM, a minor McCarroll mindfuck.
‘Well, Mr. Incogneato . . .’
‘Please, call me Son.’
‘Thank you. Well, Son, we have very good reasons to believe that you are in all probably the last untattooed man in the world. The world being, you know, the whole planet as such. It’s as simple as that.’ Wruk stood there in my living room, smiling as if he had just informed me that I had won a large money lottery. I wish.
‘Come again?’ I said, not knowing how else to reply to a statement of this sort.
‘May I sit?’
‘By all means,’ I said. Wruk sat, I didn’t. I wanted to be in a proper fight-or-flight body position. Although not exactly scared I felt that a bit of caution would definitely be in order here.
‘As you might have noticed these last couple of years, everybody has been getting tattoos. Everybody. Tattoos aren’t anything new, of course. You’ll find they go back to Neolithic cultures. Take Ötzi, for example.’
‘Ötzi,’ I repeated for no apparent reason.
‘But things have been getting out of control since the 90’s. Let me restate that. Things are out of control. The pot has bubbled over. There is, as of now, not a single living human being on this planet over the age of eighteen who is not sporting at least one chromatic body decoration in some variety or form. Except you.
‘You don’t say,’ I said.
‘Yes, I do. That’s why I’m here; to verify that theory and hopefully to turn it into fact.’
I felt a sudden tinge of squeamishness.
‘Um, let’s say for the moment that it’s true, that I’m tattooless. How exactly would you intend to do that? Verify, that is.’ I should have asked him why, of course. Why would anyone want to verify such a ridiculous theory? Why would a total stranger knock on my door in the middle of the afternoon and start asking me about tattoos? My mind, however, (admittedly never one of my most dependable organs) had been caught off guard and was once again acting on its own before I could rein it in.
‘By examining you, of course; how else?’ Wruk blinked at me with uncomprehending eyes.
‘As in naked? Me, naked?’
‘Do you know of any other ways?’
I scratched my three-day stubble thoughtfully as I scanned and located escape routes and pain-inflicting blunt objects. My fight-or-flight feelings were now intensifying at an exponential rate.
‘Mr. Wruk, I was wondering at this juncture whom you might be representing. Just who are you and these colleagues of yours?’
‘Of course, how rude of me; I should have presented myself at the door; please forgive me. I represent The Brotherhood of Pure Body, Mind and Soul. We are a grassroots underground organization trying to save the human race from de-evolution and ultimate cultural downfall. You might have heard about us by our commercial name; Evil-Devo? The reason I’m here, Son, is that we’d like you to be our Poster Boy.’
‘I’m fifty-four years old,’ I pointed out to him. A grassroots underground organization? True enough, roots do grow underground; nonetheless this struck me as a grammatical non sequitur.
‘Poster Man. Whatever.’
‘What’s in it for me?’ I asked, still confused but feeling somewhat flattered. I’d never considered myself Poster Person material before.
‘A personal chance to save Homo sapiens from driving off the road of reason into the ditch of abject cultural stupidity.’
‘What else,’ I said, looking at him with mock arched eyebrows.
‘A solid chunk of money, access to beautiful women and a nice ride. We’ve got a line on a mint condition ‘67 Shelby Mustang GT 500 with a 650 CFM four-barrel carburetor, genuine black leather upholstery and a five speed stick shift .’
‘I’m your man,’ I said with no further hesitation. I mean, a man has to rise to the occasion, right? If the human race needed saving, as surely it does, who am I to shun such responsibility? ‘So what do I have to do?’
‘First we have to make sure that you are, in fact, tattoo-free.’
‘I am. Couldn’t you just take my word for it?’
Wruk smiled politely and shook his head. ‘This is serious business, Son. I have to take photos, too.’
‘Photos? What photos?’ My squeamishness became a tad more visceral. Other than Cosmo, nobody was taking any naked pics of moi. Okay, maybe I’d let Bitch do a spread, too, if they asked nicely.
‘For The Brotherhood, of course. We have to have solid documentation here. There must be no doubt. By the way, you’ve never been pierced, have you? Little gold hippie earrings during the ‘80’s? What about scarification?’
‘Scarification? What might that be?’
‘Scars? Sure I have scars. Doesn’t everybody have scars?’
‘No, I don’t mean normal scars, I mean decorational scarring. You know, permanent body modification.’
‘Rest assured,’ I said. ‘No piercing, no scarification.’ Jesus.
‘What about designer T-shirts? Got any of those? Or ones with insipid sayings on them, like 'I’m Only Here For The Beer'.’
‘Surely you jest. Flea markets are my prime source of apparel. I do have a bootleg Snoopy T-shirt that a work-mate of mine brought back from a biker bar in Bali.’
‘Snoopy? You wear a Snoopy T-shirt?’ Wruk frowned. Uh-oh, a spanner in the works. I saw my Mustang chock full of voluptuous sex-kittens driving off into the sunset. Without me. ‘Could you elaborate on that, Son?’
‘The Snoopster? Sure. Wearing that T-shirt is my meta-postmodern crypto-facetious trend statement on mass-marketed pop-culture iconography gone amok.’
Wruk’s serious face broke out in a broad smile.
‘You’re our boy. Uh, I mean man. I knew it from the instant you opened that door.’
The tattoo check didn’t take more than a couple of minutes. I guess there aren’t that many places one can hide a tattoo, but then again you’d be surprised. Wruk wanted to know if I had any ‘internal tattoos’. Not even knowing – or wanting to know – what that might entail I ensured him that I did not. When I asked him how he was going to substantiate the veracity of this claim (for one horrid moment I envisioned a diabolical procto/gastroscope combo) Wruk merely shook his head and said, ’We’ll have to take your word for it for the time being.’ He then examined my mouth for diamond-bearing or otherwise gaudily crowned teeth and pulled on my hair to determine if it was real and ostensibly my own.
‘Plastic surgery of the purely cosmetic kind?’
‘Never happen.’
‘Penis enlargement?’
‘Not necessary,’ I lied. Not about having had one, but about the necessary part.
‘Dental braces?’
‘Yeah, I had braces when I was a kid,’ I said. Like about a forth of my junior high. Was that a crime? Wruk had flinched. More trouble?
‘Were they merely for enhanced esthetic appearance or was it an orthodontic necessity?’ he asked, looking me in the eye and stressing the word necessity. I got the hint.
‘Absolute necessity. I was suffering from a severe life-quality reducing malocclusion.’ Buck teeth deluxe. My nick back then had been ‘Beaver’.
‘Of course you were. Correctional Laser eye surgery?’
‘Aduh,’ I said, taking off my glasses and waving them in front of his blackhead-covered snout. I was beginning to grow weary of all this personal poking and prodding. I wanted to get back to that Mustang GT 500. Was it a convertible? Did it have hood pins?
‘Artificial implants of any kind?’
‘I had to ask. Okay, what about rings? Chains?’
‘I had a Surfer’s Cross when I was fifteen. Does that count as anything?’
‘The folly of youth. What about now?’
‘I wear a Swatch, that’s it.’
‘Glad to hear it. One last question, Son, and then we’re finished. Have you ever had a permanent, dyed your hair or visited a tanning booth? What about bronzing lotion or spray tanning? Professional manicures? Pedicures?’
‘That’s more than one question. The answer is no to all, unless the Brothers frown on cutting one’s diverse nails, which, on occasion, I have been known to do. And before you ask; I brush my teeth. Twice daily and before dates. However it might be in its place to mention that I use styling foam to keep my hair out of my face’, I stated honestly. I figure it’s better to get it all out in the open asap. I didn’t want to have my title yanked away–to say nothing of the car–at a later date, like some Miss America contestant with a pornographic past. Wruk frowned but merely said, ‘We’ll have to let that slide. Nobody’s perfect. Just make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.’ All this time he had been noting my answers in a small leather-bound book, which he now clapped shut with an audible thwack. ‘And no more blow drying unless you’re in a real big hurry. You know – emergencies only.’
‘How did you know?’ I asked. Were these people watching me? Hidden cameras in my toilet? He motioned towards the open bathroom door. My blow dryer was hanging guiltily on a hook by the mirror.
‘It’s my job to notice these things. Well, Son, that’s about it. We’ll be contacting you soon. Look for secret messages in the comments on your blog.’
‘Secret messages on my blog? Why don’t you just call me or send an e-mail?’ I asked.
‘Too risky. There are forces out there that want to . . . silence us. I took a calculated risk coming here today, but it had to be done. We’ve got scouts outside your house at this very moment to make sure that I wasn’t followed. These are perilous times we live in. Take care of yourself.’ With that Wruk suddenly made a quick exit and was gone. I didn’t even get a secret ring or learn a Brotherhood handshake or anything.
I went back to my chair and logged on the Net to hunt for secret messages. There were many candidates to choose from, but none that seemed to be ‘talking to me’. As I surfed about my blog it suddenly occurred to me that The Brotherhood of Pure Body, Mind and Soul might not be appreciative of that fact that their new Poster Boy/Man was a hamstervore, i.e. that he had consumed his own son’s pet rodent in a tequila-fueled fit of debauchery (graphically chronicled in Why Sparky's treadmill squeaks no more . . .). But Wrotsa Wruk seemed to know quite a bit about me; surely he and his Brethren were aware of this unfortunate incident as well. I mean, it’s posted here on my blog, right?
In any case Wruk’s visit has brought to my plate quite a bit of food for thought. Only time will tell where this fateful turn of events will lead us . . .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

En Efterglemt

Fra Borgøya (From Borgøya) - 1867

En Efterglemt – A Forgotten Man

Unless you are Norwegian, especially interested in obscure Norwegian landscape painting from the 1800’s, or preferably both, you will probably never have heard of Lars Hertervig (1830-1902). Hertervig is one of those tragic figures who regularly emerge and then disappear quietly throughout history – the unappreciated artist. He died an unknown, en Efterglemt, literally relegated to the poorhouse. Before his ‘rediscovery’ in 1914, twelve years after his death, many of his paintings were destroyed or had otherwise disappeared.

Skogtjern (Forest Pond) - 1865

Hertervig’s life is the tragic story of a talented youth from simple means, a gifted painter with a bright future, but who then sadly slid into melancholy, madness and abject poverty. His illness supposedly started with an unrequited love affair while studying landscape painting in Düsseldorf, and continued with Hertervig being committed to Gaustad Asylum in Oslo. Considered incurable of what was first diagnosed as ‘melankolia’ but then amended to ‘dementia’, he was eventually sent to live with an uncle in Borgøya, on the west coast, where he continued painting, producing some of his most important work. Seven years later he moved back to Stavanger, where he managed to work as a house painter, giving him at least some income, but, more importantly, access to oil paints and canvas. In 1867, at the age of thirty-seven, he lost this job as well and became more or less totally dependent on the state for a meagre allowance. In the end, unable to afford expensive art supplies, he would draw with burnt matchsticks, and painted with watercolors on tobacco wrapping paper and old wallpaper.

Pyntesundet - (watercolor on a tobacco wrapper - 1867/70)

When the famous Norwegian writer Alexander L. Kielland heard that Hertervig was dying, he came to pay his last respects. Kielland was shocked to see Hertivig’s living conditions in the poorhouse and supposedly called out in despair; ‘What have you done, don’t you know who this man is, who you have so shamefully mistreated!’ (‘Hva hard dere gjort, vet dere ikke hvem denne mand er, som dere saa skjændigt har mishandlet!’).

Gamle Furutrær (Old Pine Trees) - 1865
Several days later Hertervig was dead. A poorhouse official came to claim his few earthly goods, among them a chest of drawers. An old friend of Hertervig’s, Ole Abeland, was helping to sort out his things and asked if he could have some of his smaller drawings as a keepsake. The poorhouse official said no, that wasn’t possible, they we’re taking everything. Just a drawing or two, Abeland asked again, opening the top drawer of the chest where the drawings lay. The official looked at the drawings and then dumped them out on the floor. ‘Is this what you wanted? Take the whole pile. I just want the furniture, I don’t care about the rest of this shit’ (‘så bryr kje eg meg om den andre lorten’).

Lars Hertervig by Niels Bjørnsen Møller - 1857
Hertervig is often referred to in Norwegian as ‘Lysets Maler (The Painter of Light) and while that is surely true, I feel that he is also the landscape painter who best captures the troll-like atmosphere of Norway. Many of his paintings have a mystical, dreamlike quality that is quite extraordinary for his time period. Totally removed from both ‘good society’ and the artistic community, he painted first and foremost for himself and for his art. Despite being abysmally poor and suffering from mental illness, he continued persuing his own vision throughout his life.
There are surprisingly few examples of Hertervig's work on the Internet, and those I have found are generally of poor quality. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some of his more famous pieces in the National Gallery here in Oslo; the blue skies, the clouds, and yes, the light, are truly breathtaking. A fantastic, if forgotten, artist.

More about Lars Hertervig in English:
Fra Tysvær - 1867

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why Sparky's treadmill squeaks no more . . .

I fear that I may have finally crossed a threshold of no return. An act so heinous that there is no, and should not be, any consideration of forgiveness. Throughout my life I have sensed that this would one day happen, almost as if it were predestined. And now it is here. Last night I ate Sparky, my son’s hamster.
I won’t blame the tequila, although if this was a crime – and it certainly must be – it would be an accessory before, during and after the fact. I’d like to interject here that if you are going to partake of hamster, I think tequila is definitely the way to go. A dash of lime and a pinch of salt and you’re all set. Those who swear by Beaujolais know not of what they speak.
As I sat alone later last night, accompanied only by the remaining tequila, mulling over my act of hamstebalism, I had to wonder about the nature of my extraordinary meal. Just how weird is it to munch junior’s hamster? Am I the only one to have ever done this; am I the first? Or are there more of us? If more, how many more? Indeed, how many fathers, in a sort of reverse Oedipus complex, have eaten their son’s rodents? Did I vaguely remember a Greek play featuring a Minoan king consuming his child’s pet ferret? A kind of Edible complex. Perhaps I have stumbled upon the darkest of unmentionable secrets; a taboo so great that even Bret Easton Ellis wouldn’t dare to thematize it in novel form. If so, could this be my next novel, the Breakthrough one?
As a youth I had many minute mammalian pets. The ones who lived long enough were forever escaping, gnawing through the bottom of their cages, cutting through the chicken wire with steel-like incisors. Or so it seemed. Now, as I look back, I have to wonder. My father; was he also poaching from his son’s menagerie? I had always figured that Voop Vole (Microtus spp.) had made the great escape to the outside, to the field beyond our backyard. But now I wonder if he was, in fact, dispatched to the Elysian Fields of field mice, courtesy of my Dad.
And now I am the father, the Kali of Petdom, the devourer of small souls. The sins of the father revisiting the son, ad infinitum. So be it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Superior Scribbler Award

Well I finally won something. And, to be honest, it’s about time. Not because I’m an undiscovered, tortured genius - although I cetainly might be, and eternally so - but because every blog you stumble over these days is literally strewn with Best-Of-Something-Or-Other Awards from header to footer. Except mine. Lately I've begun to wonder if bloggers aren’t making up and posting their own awards.

Blog Award Inflation, hereafter known as BAI (pronounced Bahhhhh; think Shaun the Sheep), is upon us. That’s right - it’s not enough that we are suffering an economic catastrophe of global proportions, that the planet’s delicate ecological balance is sliding down a slippery slope to hell and that everywhere you turn (except for Norway) there is war, poverty, corruption, crap music and/or slumbering bird influenza. No, on top of all this misery we have to suffer the hubris of BAI as well. Damn.

Let it therefore be known that this particular award, the Superior Scribbler Award, has nothing whatsoever to do with this vapid BAI phenomenon. This is the real thing, folks, the needle of quality lost in a haystack of mediocrity. One need look no farther than to its present awarder, John Simpson, of Running After My Hat, to mark its authenticity. In fact, one should look at John’s blog. It’s every budding writer’s blog O’ plenty. Indeed, it reads just as well even if you belong to that ever diminishing subspecies of Homo sapiens who don’t consider themselves to be writers. But I digress. With high honours come sober responsibilities. Here’re my latest:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit [the above Scholastic Scribe] post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Yes, fame is a heavy burden to bear. Not only that, but it’s a lot like work, too; I have to pass the Superior Scribbler on to five of my most-deserving Bloggy Friends. I break out in a sweat just thinking about it. Being the archetypical lone wolf that I am, I‘m not sure I even possess five ‘Bloggy Friends’, let alone five deserving Bloggy Friends. Better yet, what exactly is a Bloggy Friend? I get this image of a fat, red Barbapappa. To make things even more difficult, several highly qualified candidates – such as John ­– have already been crowned as Superior Scribblers. Be this as it may, I do have three worthy candidates:

Tammie Lee of Spirithelpers: Tammie just might be one of the gentlest people in the world. Never a discouraging word to be heard or found on her blog. But that’s neither here nor there. What you will find at Spirithelpers are incredibly beautiful and inspiring photographs, often featuring her personal natural surroundings out West: animals, plants, mushrooms and mosses as well as breathtaking vistas of snow-clad mountains and dreamy cloud-filled sunsets. Earth, wind, fire and ice. But there’s more, because it would be somewhat odd to give a scribbler award to a photographer. When the mood moves Tammie, she illustrates these photos with her beautiful heartfelt poetry and prose. It can take your breath away and fill you with hope at the same time. Often when I'm visiting Spirithelpers I feel like I've become a child again. And for a big kid like me, that's about as good as it gets. People are forever dumping prizes and awards on Tammie; I feel almost guilty doing so myself. But she is definitely a deserving Bloggy Friend and Superior Scribbler, so there you have it.

Captain Smack of This Is Your Captain Speaking: Now I wouldn’t call Captain Smack a ‘Bloggy Friend’; not to his face, not behind his back, and not because he’s undeserving, but because he might pistol-whip me if I did. And anyway, I don’t really know him that well, although I can assure you that he is a gifted teller of stories. Anyhow, if you want to laugh until you weep (but do not write LOL in your comments, it’s strictly verboten) over subjects such as self-abuse involving minty toothpaste and Willy Nelson tattoos placed in areas of the female physiognomy where you might expect to find Willy himself, but not his tattoo, then The Capt. is your man. As an added attraction, he’s a musician with, last time I checked, one of his classic tunes featured on his blog; I Got High, a song he wrote about an experience he had with a ladder. An interesting aside; for reasons not immediately apparent, women bloggers seem to be inordinately attracted to the Captain and promise him all manner of interesting things. Especially Antipodeans seem to fall under his spell. It might be the hat, I don’t know. Curious.

Rowena at Warrior Girl: Obviously prolificacy in the world of art is no goal in itself. However, when combined with proficiency, you have a force to be reckoned with. Enter Warrior Girl. I have never met Ms. Murillo, but I don’t doubt for an instant that she lives up to her self-given name of Warrior Girl. Energy Girl wouldn’t be so far off the mark, either. Like everybody mentioned here, Rowena is multitalented, in her case both as a writer and as a painter. I’ve had the pleasure of joining her (as well as John) at Burning Lines, a collective never-ending-story, and following the development of her incredible series of ‘Flying Girl’ paintings. She also has some great running commentary on her blog about being a woman, mother, artist, writer and all-round human being, trying to get by in the twenty first century.

Deserving Bloggy Friends Four and Five: I think I’d like to leave these final slots empty in case I stumble over new deserving Bloggy Friends. I know they are out there. I’d like to add that there were several candidates who were quite deserving, yet I find myself sitting with the feeling that they might not fully appreciate this award and its attendant responsibilities.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Rooted Path. Fagernes (23.07.08)

Living room window. Nordstrand (2006)

True hippies never die; just when you think they're fading away they keep flashing back . . .