February 26, 2006

Sculpture Commentary

Let's start this entry with a disclaimer: I could be accused of being a philistine. I like museums and galleries well enough, as long as the exhibits are self-explanatory or self-guided - and then, I much prefer the ones that show me how something works, where something is, or otherwise uses things like scale models and maps. That means art galleries fall fairly low on the list: I don't know enough about it to appreciate it without a guide, but with the guide, I wander off because there is too much talking. I mean, I'm the girl who even skipped through sections of the audio guide in Beethovenhaus in October (but the part where they simulated the deterioration in his hearing? that part I played twice!).

Sculpture is much the same - I am not the sort who will stand in front of it and tilt her head to one side while holding a wineglass in the other and simply "appreciate" it - I don't get it enough, and I'm not patient enough to try. I do realize that I'm missing things: many years ago, I was at a vernissage, and the featured sculptor appeared to have a tiny bit of contempt for some members of his backwoods non-big-city-gallery-going audience, because he chose to explain the stuff to me in great detail in German - I imagine it was to make a point, to underscore the distinction: he came from somewhere else. Somewhere where, presumably, his great art was more appreciated. Or maybe there was another reason, all I remember is that lightbulbs went off in my sulky teenaged head and I got why it was so cool. Well, until the moment when some nice unilingual lady approached him and asked him to explain a particular piece. He may have been in a bad mood. He may have explained it once too often - but what I remember is him saying something along the lines of, talk to Johanna, I just gave her the entire story, and swanning off.

So. We now have an anecdote to set up the following premises: Johanna underappreciates fine art. Johanna realizes that she does not understand it. Johanna is too impatient to make the effort to understand it. Johanna is aware that she would appreciate it more if she made the effort. This should lead to a conclusion of, Johanna resolves to better herself. Instead, though, we have the less obvious but still logically sound alternate conclusion: this does not stop Johanna from wandering around a sculpture park and drawing her own conclusions.

Here we go: today, I decided that I needed to see Vigeland Park, which is this incredibly cool strip of culture in the otherwise active recreation-oriented Frognerparken in Oslo. And Vigeland Park is home to many of Gustav Viegeland's sculptures. And all I know of Vigeland I learned from the the museum's biography of him, and I don't need to regurgitate that. Besides, I only read it after I came back from this outing. So, instead, I give you the story that I made up.

It starts, as these stories often do, with a boy and a girl. Or rather, a man and a woman. And really, the story starts with man and woman meeting, and falling in love, and all that goes with it. In the children's rhyme, it's love, marriage, baby carriage - and so it is in this story too.

See how tenderly they love their first-born child, a son. And children are a treasure indeed. Daddy is proud of his little son, he carries him high on his shoulders, he swings him around in circles. Sometimes, junior frets a bit, but children do, don't they?

Really, it's quite natural, and still very adorable. And then, the fertile Norwegian woman, she bears them another child, this time, a little girl. Now there are two small children, and they can still be carried by the dad at one time, and as they grow bigger, he continues to play with them. A blessing the children.The only thing is, really, she's very fertile, the bearer of all these blessings. And our hero, he has needs too. And he frequently has rocks for brains, so contraception is just not something that has occurred to him. So the blessings keep on coming. Look how rough he has it, with all those blessings. Of course, as you might expect, the mother's lot is not much better. I'd argue that it's considerably worse, at least in Vigeland's eyes...

And at some point, the whole thing gets out of control. When she's not being ridden ragged by her children, she receives the same treatment from her beloved husband. Look at her, look how she needs comfort from her mother after discovering that she will once again bring glad tidings to the marital home, which is already bursting at the seams. There is nothing else to be done: she lays down the law with her husband, they shall henceforth explore options which will not lead to further procreation. Our hero responds to this suggestions with a mix of confusion and anger. Their first attempt looks strenuous and not particularly arousing. So they tried it her way - back to back they faced each other, so to speak. She is an imaginative woman, if a desparate one, and she was quite pleased with the opportunities here. He however, felt ... well, he felt very little, which was the problem. But she was not budging. She was happy and, more importantly, not pregnant or suckling at this precise moement. At her stage, that alone would be a definition of happines.

So, our hero started exploring other options... But ultimately, he already knew what he liked (not that he thought there was anything wrong with any of the other options, but he wanted to be with his wife). After several months of persuasion, the poor woman relented, and calculated just how many more children she would have to bear before nature was finished taking its course with her and ceased her courses, so to speak. She turned out to be a fortunate woman who retained her reproductive abilities for many more years than she expected.

I suppose, really, that the whole story can be eloquently summed up in the largest piece of sculpture in the park, a phallic mass of humanity known as The Monolith. It makes the point that I assign it as eloquently as a commercial I once saw.

The notion that Vigeland was in favour of options for reproductive control is entirely my somewhat deliberate misinterpretation. And any commentary you may choose to read into this in light of policies and advice given by the South Dakota Senate and Pope Benedict XVI is entirely deliberate as well.

Posted by Johanna at 06:12 PM

February 25, 2006

Rubbing shoulders

I've had Air Canada elite status for four months or so, and I've flown during that time - but I can't be all blase about it yet - and I don't want to be. I can walk into the maple leaf lounges and still get that feeling of, they're going to figure out that I don't belong here! and these drinks can't really be free! am I allowed to take the paper away with me? But mostly, I walk into the lounge at Pearson and goof off on the internet. Why not...

I'm not saying the lounges make travel a happy time. Just... a bit less obnoxious. But the elite status does have its privileges... when my luggage and I failed to be reunited in Banff, for example, there was much better service (and a toiletry kit) after they saw the orange and blue card. But at that moment, I didn't feel special, I just wanted my suitcase! (later, of course, I realized that lost luggage isn't such a bad deal - they'll deliver it to your hotel, saving you from humping it there... and I should be careful what I say here, I do have both a suitcase and a ski bag in the bowels of Heathrow airport right now). But I started noticing other changes: when I book my flights now, I have much better choice of seats. I can swan right by the snaking line at the check-in and feel like a fraud when I present myself at the executive counter.

I am not a blase business traveller. I am not a business traveller! I get excited every time I get to go someplace (anyplace! ok, mostplace!) I think a cheap toiletry kit thrown in with a $1000 ticket is special! So imagine what I thought when last night the ticket agent at the desk ripped up my boarding pass - and gave me one for a seat in the executive first section instead. Even though I didn't have a blue upgrade certificate, just one of the silly gold ones that require you to be travelling on a fare class significantly higher than I would ever be inspired to book... but there I was - one minute, I'm standing in the queue to board, the next, the ticket agent is pointing at me and crooking his finger, come here (we'd had an earlier exchange, he already knew my name).

But here's what I don't get - I'm lounging in the London Lounge ("scandinavian living room", they call the concept), and there are all sorts of people here. There are a lot of the types I'd expect - you know, air of business suit even if no suit in evidence. And then there are the obvious wealth sorts of people. But why so many people who are clearly undergraduate students (in some cases, the sweatpants have the university emblazoned across the butt), clearly not travelling with daddy, clearly too young to have a job that sends you to so many places that the status miles rack up in some years (Like they did for me in 2005). What gives?

Yeah. Country bumpkin for sure. And my executive first experience has added another toiletry kit to my collection...

(I would also like to know why business travellers are not all fat. It was all eating and sleeping on that red-eye... and I didn't do that much sleeping.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go scope out the snacks in this here lounge...

Posted by Johanna at 11:32 AM

February 13, 2006

Sanity slips away

IMG_0492.JPGTonight, I came home at 7:30. I was tired, I was cranky, I was hungry - and I was annoyed that my apartment is a mess. I went away for the weekend, so the clutter that I'd accumulated during the previous week was still there. I reached under the sink, grabbed what I needed, and started cleaning. When I finished cleaning the bathroom, I went to put the spraybottle away. Only to see the cleaner still in the cupboard. So I looked at what was still in my hand - what I'd been using for the past 20 minutes. Insecticide! Hee. That bottle is an embarrassing secret already: I have insecticide. See, last winter, the umbrella plant got brown scale. I tried all those eco-friendly remedies: I washed it with soap, I tried picking off the nasty little bugs with my fingernails, I tried talking to it (that one, though, happens all the time: IMG_9886.JPGwhen you live alone, sometimes, you talk to your plants. And your couch, and your radio, and... you get the picture). So, back to the brown scale: I trundled to Canadian Tire, and I scrutinized all the bottles of bugs-be-gone they had, and bought the least noxious sounding one, and slunk to the cash in shame. I smuggled it home in a plain paper bag. I waited for a warm day, and sprayed that sucker. And the brown scaled died. And I hid the evidence under the sink.

And now, I've insecticided my bathroom! My butt sits on that toilet seat, would you want to sit in insecticide? No, you would not, unless you have some rather unsavoury things going on, I guess. So, I grabbed the "green" cleaner, and I re-cleaned the bathroom (and keep in mind, I was cranky when I got home). Interestingly enough, the green cleaner in my small, poorly ventilated bathroom caused respiratory distress, the insecticide had not. Hmmmmm.

That anecdote alone should tell you all you need to know as to why no updates: Johanna is turning into a batty cat-lady minus the cats. Too. much. work.

Though, that being said, I did escape up to Collingwood again this weekend (for the third time since Lorenz bought a condo at the base of Blue Mountain). I had originally claimed too much work, but on Friday at 8:30 p.m., I threw my skis into the car and drove up in time to consume some beer with Lorenz by the fire. On Saturday, my plan was a little bit of outdoor activity and then going home, but we took the dog for a big walk - stopping at the coffee shop and at the base of the slopes where I started looking for people wiping out, dawdling in the weird subdivision where we had to make fun of the houses, and then an hour-long loop in the deep powder of some mountain bike trails. At the end of it, the dog flopped down on the kitchen floor and refused to move for the next 12 hours. I did much the same, except I picked the couch, and I moved to eat dinner, hang out in the jacuzzi while Lorenz went out, and later crawl into my bed and sleep for over 10 hours. It was lovely. And Sunday morning, after demolishing some croissants, I was going to go home, but I hadn't used my skis yet! They are cross-country skis, and thus Lorenz humoured me and rented some equipment and we went to Scenic Caves and it was fairytale pretty and super fun and I took no pictures because I forgot the camera so you'll have to take my word for it. And I got no work done this weekend.

IMG_0473.JPGIMG_0490.JPGIMG_0477.JPGIMG_0474.JPGThere. That's the sum total of my fun in the past few weeks. Except the night I took a gazillion goofy pictures of myself. Because I must work on my crazy cat-lady persona some more, and I still don't have a cat.

Posted by Johanna at 09:11 PM

February 05, 2006

Not Dead

Almost a week ago, I had a bout of viral gastroentritis - or at least, I assume that is what it is. Seeing as, all over campus, there are these bright orange posters notifying us of an outbreak in one of the student residences, and I used the campus gym right around the time it was first coming up. That, and I had all the symptoms, where "symptoms" can be taken to mean "my body tried to turn itself inside out and rejected all attempts to rehydrate it for some time". The worst part of the whole thing? It meant I couldn't sleep in my bed, because negotiating the loft ladder is too much when symptoms are occurring. But all better now!

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IMG_0464.JPGIMG_0466.JPGBefore the whole sickness thing, I had high hopes for a winter getaway to see Melissa up in Wasaga Beach: the visit was to be picking Melissa's brain on a Lake Superior kayak route, followed by playing in the snow. The snow playing, however, fell into the squishing through ankle-deep slush category, and the anticipated fun was not had. But the visit to Melissa's was a success: we walked away having changed our route from Sibley-Rossport to Rossport-Marathon with a side trip to the Slates. IMG_0468.JPGIMG_0470.JPGHow exciting! Melissa heads my list of people who don't have wepages but I wish they did: she's done more solo adventuring than any other woman I've ever met, and she's a photographer (a real photographer, not a point and shoot digital goof like me), and it was fun to look through her albums and get the benefit of her years of solo exploration. I want to go explore *right now* (she says as she looks out at some freshly-fallen snow).

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It's been the frustrating winter of no winter in southern Ontario this year. All this rain and mud has made me grumpy, so I find the thought of actually needing my snow tires today exciting! I'm purposely not checking the weather forecast: I don't want to be told that all this pretty white fluff will be ugly grey slush and then brown muck soon. I love living where there are seasons, I think winter is cool: but this is not winter. This is ridiculous: cold, wet, ugly, for weeks and weeks on end. One would think that, living in Canada, fluffy whiteness would be assured, but that's only true if one lives in the parts of Canada that are actually above, oh, 45 degrees latitude. Sitting here at 43 something north, winter wonderland is not assured. Sigh.

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Of course, the option always does exist to go to where there is snow - and it's not like it's that far away. I could easily drive it in a day. Or fly it in minutes... but the only place I'm flying to in the near future is Saskatchewan. Then again, it's sure to be cold and snowy there! Scheduling has commenced for the summer, too - I've got one weekend and one longer kayak trip inked into the calendar, which makes me happy. Plus there are a number of other things I want to commit to but just can't for various reasons right now, but these are good sorts of choices. This slush season will end sometime too. As will the non-weather-related stress I've got going. This blog will get more interesting again. Right now the most interesting thing I have to report is the purchase of a pressure cooker. I can't remember a time when I was not terrified of these things, but the lure of cooking beans without pre-soaking them proved to be too much, and I am now a proud owner, and I have cooked beans without blowing up the kitchen (I did, however, move a few things out of the line of direct blast should the thing go when I fired it up. And then I made sure I was far enough away not to be hurt once it reached pressure and I'd turned the heat low enough to just maintain said pressure. Still a chicken.)

Posted by Johanna at 10:56 AM
visitors since August 16, 2005.