Jul 22, 2018

Trump, falling ni love with power

With everything said about the Trump and Putin summit in Helsinki this week, I still feel the need to make a few notes.

Putting the TV on the morning after the 2016 election, watching CNN anchors Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota's smile-less faces announcing the outcome, I felt like looking at the planes crashing into World Trade Center 2001. Yet, I had no idea…

Nor had anyone. The House of Cards / Game of Thrones or whatever you would like to call the 1,5 years passing has been as frightening as it has been fascinating. And the astonished question always coming up is What is he doing and why? What does Donald Trump want? That question is highly relevant this Mid-July week.

I am reading two Swedish analysts and watching one American. More frightening than fascinating.

Frida Stranne, researcher at an university branch in Halmstad, Sweden, focusing at the US, sums the events of the last months up. The fact that Trump is pulling out of international agreements and criticising Nato and the EU is his way of undermining the credibility and future for fundamental institutions he doesn’t believe in. And Stranne means the quarrel with Trump’s G7 colleagues and the support for Brexit are examples of the same stance.

She goes far, suggesting Donald Trump wants to create a different world order. From that perspective it makes sense meeting Putin making him feel big and downplaying Crimea and the meddling in the US election. In the world Trump wants, Stranne says, countries manage by themselves and accepts regional super powers.

Mike Winnerstig, security analyst at FOI, the Swedish defense research institute, agrees that Donald Trump is pursuing a world order where the one who is strong is also right, rather than collaborations between countries and organisations on equal grounds.

As long as the Congress and Senate feel the need to hold on to what we know as the fundaments for governing, we will recognise the political landscape. But, if congressmen/women and senators starts getting exchanged for people aiming Trump’s world order, researcher Frida Stranne’s scenario might be real. 

It has actually already started, as the National Security Adviser HR McMaster was replaced with John Bolton, an open UN critic. And if the Secretary of Defense James Mattis who underscores the avail of alliances would be fired and replaced with an isolationist, that would be a big step towards a Trump world order, according to Mike Winnerstig, FOI.

To me this is worrying information. But what made me really scared was listening to Tony Schwartz interviewed on CNN the other day. Tony Schwartz is a journalist and writer, co-writer of Donald Trump’s book The Art of the Deal. Basically Tony Schwartz knows Donald Trump’s brain in and out. 

Schwartz predicted Donald Trump wouldn't be long at the job as the President. That he was in it for the win but would be bored with the slow pace of democracy. But I was wrong he says. “What I didn’t predict was that he would fall in love with the power”.

And that’s where we are at now. Donald Trump, the boy brought up by a father who used the expression “a killer” for the personality he wanted from his son and who in addition was taught to never admit any kind of wrong doings, is the President of the USA. A man obsessed by week or strong. Who has fallen in love with power. 

No wonder he also falls in love with similar men. Like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin. And wants to be chums with them. He understands them. There is no way he can relate to Justin Trudeau and Emanuel Macron. Not to mention women.

So, what we saw in Helsinki was a little boy in a huge man’s body wanting to be one in the gang of killers, creating a new world order. A world were the strong is right. Something to reflect upon on a Sunday in July.

Jul 15, 2018

My poison

There, suddenly, rain! I sat down at the front porch watching it. Smelling it. Listening to it. A warm rain sensed by my sun-warm body. Just sitting there, enjoying the sensation.

It’s a very unusual summer in Sweden. The forecast maps looks like California. All suns! Day after day. And has so been since May. It’s extremely dry and wild fires are occurring all over the country. In fact, historically we’ve never seen this kind of drought in Sweden before. There is a scale 1-5, but we’ve been off the chart since early summer. 

The temperatures now are Seattle-like. In fact, today we are on the spot: 28°C/83°F. That’s really warm for the 64th latitude. To warm for many. Personally I like it, as long as I can keep a cross draft through my house. And drink loads of water. And now and then an Arnold Palmer. 

Then there is the sun. I am worshipping the summer light, as you might know by now. And I am a junkie for the sun.

My body needs the sun and the warmth as a dead car battery needs power. I can literally feel how my body is tanking energy, saving up for the dark and cold ahead. Therefore, I spend as much time as possible in those much appreciated rays.

My weather app has predicting this summer with high accuracy. Pretty much every day spot on. And according to it’s guidance this following week will stay at the same soaring temperatures as this week 26-29°C. The week after some degree cooler (which is still remarkable) and sun. August  18-22° (which a normal summer is quiet satisfying) and some showers coming in.  

Now, this is interesting. I look at the forecasts and I trust them. Intellectually. But my body doesn’t. My body is used to catching every sunbeam possible during a normal summer, because it might be the only one. What if this is the one day/week and I spent it inside! That can’t happen!

So although it’s actually not very comfortable in the hot sun on my west wall in the afternoon I am there when I can. And although I probably shouldn’t. I have removed some basaliom over the years, a couple this week actually. They are not dangerous per say, still, you don’t want them. 

I should avoid the sun. But it’s my poison. I probably need rehab.

PS. I just now feel the smell of smoke through my open windows. It's the first time for me. That makes me worried.

Jul 8, 2018

"L'arte di non fare niente “

A week into July it’s vacation time in Sweden. Swedes have 5-7 weeks of vacation a year, depending on work place/employer and age. Due to our seasons most people take the big chunk of their vacation in the summer, and July is the favourite month.

I have decided to treat July as my vacation month as well. Basically that means to not worry about job or assignments and to not chase crafts people. The latter is actually not a problem since they are all on vacation. So as long as things don’t break in my house  (knock on wood!) I should be fine when it comes to that.

The last two years I made lists for my vacation. How I wanted to spend them. Simple things doable in spite of my physical restrictions. Like sit in the sun. Listen to music. Listen to Public Radio. Wear nice clothes. Drink my special liquorice blend of Arnold Palmer. Yes, reminders as inspiration for a beautiful life on a small scale by myself.

There have also been points for socials. Invite so and so. Even a couple of party-like gatherings. And the list for “in case of rain” where the main point for years (and in any season) has been “cleaning out my closets”. Literally. Since 2017 was an extremely crappy summer weather wise that actually happened last July, hurray!

So, the vacation list has been both enjoy- and goal oriented. To be honest, goal orientation comes very easy to me. Too easy. Enjoy orientation, not so much…

This year though, starting last summer, the choice of enjoyment or goal hasn’t really been on the agenda. Life has put the agenda for me, mostly containing taking care of my health and my place. No catastrophes, for which I am intensely grateful, but a constant shovelling of acute body and house happenings.

So, although I know health issues (besides my dear old back) will not take vacation although it’s summer and there is actually some renovation going on here at the end of the road, I will still really try to enjoy July as leisure time. 

Did you here that? Leisure. It will be a challenge to me, but that’s what I need. 

Yesterday I picked my most beautiful summer clothes from my wardrobe and hang them on the closet doors. I will dress up for the sun and the flowers in my garden and for myself. I will be walking on the green run way of summer light. Feeling like I am dancing although it’s only in my mind. I will be sitting in my sun chair every minute possible. I will be randomly listening to public radio and get to learn things I wasn’t aiming for. I will be watching my cherry trees grow and the summer plants blossom. And I will not make a list for summer achievements to check.

Italians have an expression for what I want to experience this summer. "L'arte di non fare niente “. The art of doing nothing. This far that art is not on my CV.  I want to add that. I need to add that. Wait, did I just make that a goal…?

Jul 1, 2018

"Temporary Disruption"

When I grew up it happened all the time. The TV broadcast was temporary disrupted. Suddenly the TV just dying and there was that sign you weren’t to fond of. Temporary Disruption. And you just sat there. Because the broadcast could come on in a minute or it could take forever. And since the only TV broadcast back then was the Swedish National Television, at first only one and later two channels, there was no other entertainment to turn to. Radio? Uhh…

Anyway, I can’t even remember when I last saw that sign. It must have been ages ago. Until the other day during the 6 a’clock News.

There was some technical problems. Stories wouldn’t start, name signs didn’t show, something in the picture quality was odd, the news anchor apologised over and over again, and suddenly the broadcast died. Just like that. Temporary Disruption.

I looked at the sign. And felt like I was 10 again. Just watched. And waited. It must come on any second. Any minute. But it didn’t. A blue screen. No sound. Temporary Disruption.

The news was broadcasted at SVT1 (Swedish Television channel 1). After a while I switched over to SVT 2, and to my relief everything seemed normal over there. Back at SVT 1 there was finally a voice announcing the news room having technical problems and the news cast actually was cancelled.

So what was so disturbing? Why was I uncomfortable? Well, when it was clear SVT 2 was okay I felt a bit better. At least the entire Swedish National Television (which is the Swedish Public Service Television) wasn’t down. Which should give you a lead to my reaction.

A public service news show suddenly just dies. And is dead for minutes before a voice is even announcing why. And it doesn’t come on again.

In this time and age I reacted with fear. Was the show hacked? Had someone who shouldn’t be there cut the wires? Was the news room hijacked?

It makes me sad and scared that I reacted with fear. I’m looking out through my balcony door to the west. The forest, the fields, the greenery in the evening light. To the north the sun preparing for setting, 20 minutes earlier than a week ago - yes, that’s how quickly the light is backing off! The blackbird is still singing it’s evening song though. It’s quite and peaceful here at the end of the road. Yet, a disrupted public service news show can be a a reasonable reason for red alert in 2018. That’s sad and scary.

Jun 24, 2018

The Umeå City Fire and The Great Seattle Fire

I remember it as the day Umeå was on fire was Midsummer’s Day. But checking it up now I am learning it was on June 25, so I am probably wrong. Since back in the days Midsummers was at the actual day of the summer solstice. Nevertheless it was around Midsummers and the year was 1888.

The Great Seattle Fire happened the year after, 1889, on June 6. And the man causing it was a Swede.

The pre-summer in Umeå had been extremely dry. Not a single millimeter of rain had been registered at the meteorological station at Midsummers. The same goes for Seattle the year after. Beautiful weather with the downside of very little rain.

At this time and age it wasn’t unusual for whole cities burning. Therefore, in Umeå smoking in public places was prohibited this June 1888, on Midsummer’s Day the north east wind turned into a storm.

Minutes after 1 PM June 25 the city hall bells rang. There was a fire in the attic of the brewery close to the Umeå River. In spite of the city being prepared for this kind of situation, the fire spred fast through shingles from the stick roof, landing on close by lots in the hard wind. 

On the afternoon of June 6 1889 in Seattle, John Back, a Swedish assistant in Victor Clairmont's woodworking shop at the corner of what is now First Avenue and Madison Avenue, was heating glue over a gasoline fire. Sometime after 2.15, the glue boiled over, caught fire, and spread to the floors which were covered by wood chips and turpentine. He tried to put the fire out with water, but that only served to thin the turpentine and spread the fire further.

In Umeå the fire escalated both to the west and east, cutting off the access to the fire hoses. As the crew risked being surrounded by the fire they had to stop their work, and, like everyone else in Umeå this day, try to save what ever they could of their belongings and escape the fire.  

In a couple of hours the fire in Seattle was out of control. Explosions of a liquor store and two saloons fuelled the situation by immense amounts of alcohol and the entire block from Madison to Marion was on fire. Due to how the Seattle water system was constructed, the fact that the tide was out and the wind rising, by 4 PM most residents realised that downtown Seattle was doomed.

The fire in Umeå kept escalating up until 7-8 PM when it was stopped by the birches at Östra Esplanaden (the East Esplanade). There was only one house left within the area for the fire. No casualties were reported, but 2500 people out of the Umeå population of 3000 were homeless when the sun set behind the dark ash sky. 

Those who were able to hire wagons in Seattle did so, to haul belongings onto ships before they moved out of the harbor away from the wharves, which were on fire. The city fire burned until 3 AM. When it eased out, the damage was enormous. 25 city blocks had been destroyed. Although the loss of human life was evidently low the total losses counted in money may have been as high as 20 million dollar.

The Umeå City Fire was of course a catastrophe. At the same time it became a turning point. The new city center was planned around wide avenues lined with birches, the tree so dense with water that it stopped the fire. Today Umeå is called The City of Birches. This new era also seemed to change the self esteem of the city, aiming for more than it once was and with a progressive approach.

Seattle took little time to mourn. At 11AM on June 7, 600 businessmen met to discuss how to cope with the current situation and plan for the future. Wooden buildings were banned in the burned out district to be replaced by brick. At the same time, streets were raised up to 22 feet (6 meters) in places, helping to level the hilly city. It is really interesting to take the Seattle Underground History Tour, walking the streets under Pioneer Square which are the rests of the original Seattle downtown before the great fire.

120 and 119 years later Umeå and Seattle are both thriving. Locomotives at the north east coast of Sweden and the north west coast of the US. Doing good. The pre-summer in Sweden has been extraordinary warm and sunny, and the driest in modern history. We have already had many difficult wild fires, but thankfully it is unusual to see cities burn nowadays.

Midsummer Eve the sky finally opened, draining us in heavy rain, strong winds and cold temperatures. On our most celebrated day, that weather wasn’t what we wanted. But much needed. And maybe I will finally dare setting the match to all the paper building up in my kitchen fire place through these dry months? I’m not so sure.

Today has been a gorgeous day. 21°C (70°F), and a perfectly clear sky. I’ve spent the afternoon in the sun on my west wall with an Arnold Palmer, watching the wind in my cherry trees. 

On this Midsummers Sunday evening the sun will set at 11.09 PM, the same as Summer Solstice three days ago. After a brief rest it will rise again at 2.15 AM. We have now lost 1 minute in this cycle of the planets where we live our lives following the rules of the Milky Way, invisible for about 1,5 more months. 

Jun 17, 2018

Jean-Claude Arnault prosecuted / Swedish Academy part 4

At the heart of the Swedish Academy crises stands an accused sex offender. An accused sex offender denying his actions is pretty much the reason to why there won’t be a literature Nobel Prize in 2018. 

The man will now be prosecuted for rape in two cases. As he is not yet found guilty most Swedish media is not publishing his name. Though, as it is well known, I am choosing to. The name of the man is Jean-Claude Arnault.

It was at the start of the Me too-movement fall 2017 that 18 women came forward with their stories of being sexually offended by Jean-Claude Arnault. As a big player in the elite of the top art scene in Stockholm he was in position to use this power towards mostly younger women in the beginning of their career within that scene. Being close friends with members of the Swedish Academy and married to an author who later was selected for Chair nr. 18 in the Academy gave him a golden playing field for his manipulative and offensive behaviour, and access to vulnerable objects to prey on.

As for today 29 women are accusing Jean-Claude Arnault for various types of sexual offences. And he will now be prosecuted for rape in two cases. Seven witnesses will be heard at the trial. His friends within the Swedish Academy are still blind and deaf to this history which has been going on for decades on the scene where they are all players. 

Jun 10, 2018

The perfect pre-summer work camp!

It couldn’t have been more perfect, not in any sense!

Some years now Trouble & Trouble and I have had work camps here at my place at the end of the road. A couple of days during pre-summer and another set of days more towards fall. I make a list of small and big things we need to attend to. I write with a green pen and pimp the paper with colourful flowers. This will be fun!

Attitude is everything! Because a lot of times it isn’t all that fun. It can be cold and so rainy most of the things on that list are impossible to even get to. And often times the point with highest priority are anything but fun. Two years ago, for example, we spent the pre-summer days clearing out the coach house/wood shed from four generations collection of everything. It was 27°C (80°F), so the opposite to cold and rain, and my brave and totally exhausted sons filled a full size truck to the rim for later unloading at the recycling center. Gosh. I still feel bad thinking about it.

That cleaning out was the start of Project Saving the Coach House/Wood Shed. The coming fall The Men With their Big Machines from my village lifted the building which had sunk down about a foot into the moist grassy soil at the front. It should have been done 25 years ago, but that’s how it goes.

It’s been a slow project including taking out the rotten parts of the wood at the bottom front of the building replacing with fresh new. And digging out a foot af soil and grass from the ground at the front, replacing it with gravel not allowing the moist to get to the wood. The last piece in the puzzle happened these last few days. Digging away a jungle of bushes at the beautiful stone foundation of the long gone barn, facing the wood shed, replacing the area with topsoil for becoming a piece of lawn. And in-between the gravel and the lawn-to-be, a sturdy 6x6 inch square wood in the ground separating the two areas.

For our work camp, my list is essential. And it’s important ta have the mix of big and smaller tasks to attend to. The smaller ones you can go through fairly quickly and cross them out from the list. Check, check! To gain energy for the bigger assignments.

This weekend the really big one was the finishing up of the coach house/wood shed project. Trouble 1 has spent hours raking the gravel into an even area to walk on. Trouble 2 painted the fresh new wood at the bottom of the front. And together they transferred the two piles of topsoil into an even ground ready for receiving grass seeds. Including trampling the soil to make it more firm. The latter looked really funny, two penguins who I bet will have really soar buttocks tomorrow!

Finally, Trouble 2 painted the 6x6 inch square wood in the ground separating the light grey gravel from the the lawn-to-be black. It looks stunning!

We have had such a flow this weekend, and in addition the weather  couldn’t have been more cooperative.  After a really chilly week the sun was out again, a perfect work temperatur of 18°C (65°F) and a refreshing light wind. On top of that, no insects, not even mosquitos in the shade! And already at our first set of summer work days, most of the points on the 2018 summer list are crossed out!

In the evening the wind has calmed down. Birds are singing their busy  songs and I think I have a swallows nest under my roof. The north sun is dazzling me through my window. Tonight it will go to bed behind my forest at 9.45 PM. It will set at 10.56 PM. To rise 2.21 AM again.