Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Community




31/52 Sara Stridsberg: Beckomberga. Ode till min familj (2014), I read this in Finnish Niin raskas on rakkaus. I thought I would be able to read this book so that it doesn't affect my moods but I couldn't. The subject is quite heavy and brings up themes that need processing. This is a novel told on a perspective of a young girl whose father is an alcoholic with suicidal behavior. Because of this father Jimmy has to go to the mental hospital where his daughter goes to see him. In the hospital daughter gets to know various people living in there. The hospital is not described as a dark place, quite the contrary. Beckomberga hospital is a home for people who can't or don't want to live like the so called normal people. Together they are doing fine and the hospital is a community where everyone has their own place.

Some of the people living in the hospital have done horrible acts but they are not labeled by that. They are all actually average people who have just had a turning point that has lead them to this moment and to the hospital. Daughter Jackie is open to know the people and finds them interesting. Maybe she sees that the line between a person who is ill and who is sane is not that clear. She is also going on a difficult phase as a teenager whose father is not someone she can trust to be a parent. At times she goes to a role of a patient wanting to be part of the community of Beckomberga. She also ponders if she is like her father and will end up trying suicide. The novel questions what is it that makes some people to want to end their days and others to grip on life.

I have read Sara Stridsberg's Drömfakulteten, a book about Valeria Solanas (I wrote about the book some months ago here!), and I think she knows how to tell about the dark side of the human mind and describe people who are left as outsiders in the world. World is tough in way when it casts out people who don't seem fitting to the norm. A man Ove has lived most of his life in Beckomberga and it was horrible to read how he describes his future outside the place. When other people are rushing from place to place and have their relationships he feels he will be left alone on the streets and no one will notice him. Is it fear that isolates people to the margins? Do so called normal people have a fear that someone will show them their abnormal and dark side? And is that why they don't want to see what is outside their comfort zone? When in reality the division might not even exist. We will all have struggles in life in one form or another. It is actually easier to live acknowledging this possibility and accepting own dark and ill side. Often times the factors that put us to margins are quite minor, something in our character might exclude us from a group of others. It might be a decision of a single person, a group leader, who decides that someone is not seen as fitting for the company of the group.

Stridsberg writes about loneliness and pain that is caused when a person is left out. That is why the home for the misfits is so welcoming to the people who live in there. We all need friends and family who take us as we are. I felt the pain of the characters Stridsberg introduces to us. It is the most horrible feeling to be alone in the world when no one cares about you. There has been lot of talk about loneliness and what it causes to people. I simply hate it when the reason for loneliness is seen as the fault of the person suffering from it. That they are not trying enough or that there is something wrong with the person who doesn't find company. The fact is that quite mean and horrible people have friends and wonderful people are left alone. Life doesn't make a fair share. It is good for those who have friends and social networks to see it as their own accomplishment. What comes to people in general there are those who are ill and those who are too ill to see how ill they are. No one is 100% sane and healthy. I haven't yet met a person who would have been in perfect balance. What has been incomprehensible to me is why we can't be together and why on Earth it is so difficult to have open groups that would not close doors? And what causes emotional blindness to see those who need to be invited to the company?

Sure not all characters of this book are lonely. Some of them just don't want to participate in this world but desire to be carried elsewhere. They would have families and people who wait for them to come back but they can't or they don't want to. I liked how open the approach in this novel was and how the habitants and their actions were not described as anything special. That made the novel light to read in a way. It makes one accept what life brings and not to be afraid of dark moments. In the beginning I said that the book affected to my moods. And it was because of the loneliness and externality is describes. It is not scary to be different, we are all different, but it is scary to be left alone because of some character we have.

Compared to Drömfakulteten this novel was not as heavy and dark read. I would love to read more from Sara Stridsberg. Only these two novels have been translated to Finnish so next I will have to try reading in Swedish.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

War Is Not for Human Beings



29/52 Michael Ondaatje. The English Patient (1993). I enjoyed reading this multi layered and abundant novel full-heartedly from the first page. I have never read anything from Michael Ondaatje so his work was a wonderful surprise. I read another book from him right after this one, Anil's Ghost, because I enjoyed this so much. This is perfect summer read. I found the novel entertaining because it has many interesting details and lots of happenings. It also enlightened me about the history of Second World War.

The happenings take place in Italy in 1945 when the Second World war  is still having it's influence on people who have survived.  I have had my schools in Finland so my understanding about the history is very Eurocentric and focused on Finland's role and relations with other countries.  All four main characters come from very different backgrounds bringing their own history and interests. Hana is from Canada and has worked as a nurse in the war. She has lost both her child and father. The English patient has traveled through the desert and has now lost his memory. He has no idea who he is, where he is from and what he was doing before the Bedouins found him badly burnt from the desert. Caravaggio is Hana's father's old friend who has worked as a spy during the war because of his skills to infiltrate to the most difficult places. Kip is an Indian Sikh whose job to undo bombs doesn't end at the moment when the war does. Mines of many kind and dud explosives remind that the scars of war can't be forgotten in a day or two. What has been done can't be undone without a sacrifice.

I felt like this party gathered in an Italian villa is making an effort to collect themselves after the horrible events that have drained them. They close the world out and concentrate on what is left. They all have still work to do. Hana is still needed as a nurse and the ground is full of explosives for Kip to broke. But at the moment they need time of to realize where they are. Like they have gone through a series of incidents they have had nothing to say and now they need to make peace with their decisions to cope with the future. Hana has lost her father and in the moment of her grief meets the so called English patient. A badly burnt man whose history is not known. She decides to concentrate on taking care of the man the best way possible. She is first left to the villa alone with the man but soon Caravaggio and Kip make her company. Caravaggio says Hana is in love with the burnt man but as I understood it she is processing her grief and bad consciousness about not being able to help her father.

What comes to the burnt man whose past is unclear I was not sure if  he really didn't remember or if he just tried to forget. When the past years begin to unravel it becomes understandable why he might have wanted to bury it all and start as a new person. In the middle of war people have been making decisions that looking back seem immoral and wrong. When evaluating the circumstances it becomes possible to understand the real motives behind the actions. This novel doesn't use war as an exciting background for dramatic love stories. It literally tells how great love stories end to dust and bone in cruel world that is not made for human beings at all. The war comes to destroy the lives for all four main characters and nothing beautiful comes out of war.

The English patient has been making a search with his colleagues at the desert when barbaric war arrives making the members of the scientific community enemies to each other. It is absurd how people who are sharing a passion together and who have been working together for ages can become enemies because of the politics. It is artificial how these politics search to keep people apart by the rules of war. The researches of the desert are studying ancient cultures and focus on happenings far back in the history. The new war is surprising, plain stupid and irrational. I thought it was an intelligent choice not to romanticize the lost love that the English patient has had. I think it would have been dangerous to do such as make heroes of war and love. War makes you lose and war is always ugly and unnecessary.

Mines have been planted to places where people should be able to live. Explosives under the ground are so unjust because you can't see what you are fighting against. Also one who has planted those bombs can never know who they are killing or harming. Civilians become the sufferers too often. Also what makes those so horrible is that you can't switch off the mines when the declaration of peace has been run on the radio. Even after that someone will be harmed or killed. A lot of work has to be done to clear the Earth off from danger.

What I like about Ondaatje's style is that he doesn't over explain but trusts the reader to understand and feel what the characters are going through. He uses subtle hints when he describes the choices the characters have done. One can come to a decision by self when reading and learning about the characters. The novel focuses in the moment when all four are living under the same roof. There are no clear or simple relationships. The reader is left to sort out what was all about again and make their own interpretation. I don't want to open the plot too much so you will have the amazing reading experience but I have to say that I found that many of the relationships left questions we might all answer differently. For example the English patient's and Katherine's love story that is revealed piece by piece made me question what was it about? They both seemed very surprised about their emotions  towards each other. They did have some kind of relationship, but where they in love and would they have become a couple if things would have gone in a different way? This book is written for people who like to read carefully and ponder every nuance of the text to make a conclusion. You also have to be prepared that you might not get an answer at all.

30/52 Michael Ondaatje: Anil's Ghost (2000). Just few words about this novel I read right after I finished The English Patient. The happenings take place in Sri Lanka where there is a war going on and people are disappearing. Some of the people are found dead some have gone missing and their relatives are left to uncertainty to what has happened to their loved ones. Anil has been born in Sri Lanka but lived fifteen years abroad, mainly in United States. She is a forensic pathologist and sent to make a research about what has happened in the war. In Sri Lanka she gets to work with Sarath who is an archaeologist. Together they try to sort out who is the person they find from an old grave but is proven to be a victim of a more present violence than the others found from the same place. The two professionals are forced to work in circumstances where they have to be afraid that by doing right thing and revealing the truth they might get harmed. The people of the society are coping from day to day in uncertainty what might happen. It leaves the question how to succeed to do the right thing when keeping silent might keep you safe? Yet the whole situation won't change if  everyone in staying scared at home trying to survive. Someone has to do the first action towards justice. But how much can you expect an individual to be ready to sacrifice for the sake of better tomorrow?

Hope you have wonderful and thought provoking reading experiences with both books! 
Happy Weekend!

Sannu

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Cold and Beautiful Era


28/52 F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (1925). This is one of the classics that has been on my must read list for long. This is not a long book but somehow every time I have picked a read it has been left to the shelf. I have seen the new movie version that has absolutely miraculous visual world plus amazing song by Lana Del Ray. It describes the tragic happenings of one summer in a minimalist way. The narrator is a friend of Jay's and Daisy's and evaluates both characters perspective on happenings.

Some might disagree with me but I would say this novel is not a love story. Jay Gatsby and Daisy have met in the past and now they meet again after years. Daisy has left a mark on Jay who feels they still have great future together. When they were younger they got separated but Jay has worked ever since to get luxurious living conditions that would fit for Daisy. It sounds romantic story at first but after a while I came to think it over. Maybe Daisy has a different understanding about the matter. She has moved on in her life, sometimes she might think her first love but actually she lives in the moment. Jay's love is mixed with obsession and one goal that drives him in his life. It is a bit scary how he has built everything in his life to the game to win Daisy's love. He has collected money and luxuries and status to be fitting spouse. Daisy's character is difficult to sort out. My first impression was that she is bored in her life and unhappy in her marriage. But Jay is not the savior she is waiting for. Daisy is slightly reluctant from the beginning to leave her marriage and go with Jay. I guess she is amazed how Jay comes and begins where they left their relationship years ago. In some parts she seems cold person who uses people and then chooses the option that entertains her best.

Jay organizes big parties where lots of people attend. He is the hidden ringmaster who runs the whole circus and organizes all the fun. His house is not a home, it is an amusement park for the rich who don't care to know the person behind it all. He seems very popular when you look at the number of people attending to his events. His success is limited, when the fun ends the doubts about his past become the first thing people remember. Fairytale like parties, New York, the pace of the jazz era, high society and money is all a scene that has no roots or reality. People and their emotions are a play and most of them are aware of this. For them who take it real it might be dangerous. What I have heard about twenties generation and the characters of that time I understand that this novel captures the era very well. It is beautiful, bubbling, light and the undertone is tragic like people would be waiting for it all to collapse. It is like the last hours the bar is open, everyone tries so hard to have fun it becomes sad.

In his own play Gatsby is an outsider. He doesn't get to participate to all the fun he puts there to others. His mission is to build a stage for him and Daisy to perform. It is sad how he has left to live inside his own head. He has let the dream about Daisy grow too big and he has modified a living person according to his own desires. Life has made Daisy a different person than she was and she can't be found same as she was years ago when they were younger. What Jay has not understood is that life doesn't wait for you to get the best of resources. Life is the thing that happens at the moment with the people around us. He spent too much time isolated in his own imaginations what life should become and used his time collecting the haberdashery he thought is needed in perfect life. People are keen to see plays like this but it is just a day in amusement park, then they return back home and their own life. It is a cliche but friends that come with the matter do not matter.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Batik and Wood Ornament Tablecloth






I think I have found the secret of a relaxing weekend and learned to live according to this great discovery. Whether it is weekend or some other holiday I want to use purely for relaxing and gathering energy, I won't make any plans. I don't take any meetings or book activities that are at a certain time. I might make a mind map about things that I would like to do. I try to catch the mood that I currently have but I don't make a schedule like finish that DIY project or read two books. I just want to figure out what would make me happy in that particular weekend.

What comes to blog posts I love to write and create but I have began to feel that all my weekends and free time goes to blogging. Because my blog is small, indie and gives no income, keeping it should be fun. Spending all weekends and evenings in front of the computer was not enjoyable anymore. So I made a rule that Monday-Thursday are my writing and blogging days and other days are free from blogging no matter how few posts I get published. It would be different if this was a work that I could do as my day job and if it would offer me the basic income. I haven't earned a penny from this. It has been also a conscious choice not to fill my blog with ads and sponsored posts. I have spent so much time to this that I won't sell my hard work cheaply for example advertising products that have nothing to do with this blog's focus and values. I have nothing against collaborations with people or companies that have similar ideas and values. Still I have felt it has been also a good thing that I don't have to please commercial interests. I have been able to express my own opinions more freely, create content that I hope inspires you my dear reader and choose what ever topics that come to my mind.

I have often thought about my blog and social media focus. I feel like there should be a coherent idea that can be pressed into one sentence that would express my whole blog. I know that if I would want to become successful I should concentrate more and write about DIY projects and maybe combine that with home decor. That was how I started blogging. This year I have been reading more than usual because I took 52 books challenge. Because this is a lifestyle blog I thought it sort of goes to the theme. For some it might seem like there are too many things going on. I have read some guides for bloggers and one rule has been that a good blog should answer to readers needs and try to help them. In search results blogs that have a focused theme might succeed better if I have understood correctly. There is like more hits for the word reader is looking for. But then there is the thing about inspiration and what the blogger wants to give for the world. And blogger's own need for self expression and to spell out the thoughts blogger wants to share. There are as many bloggers as there are readers so there is plenty to pick from. I have always loved blogs that have many themes, crafts, opinions, culture, art, home decor, books, movies etc. It is like the blogger opens the whole world that inspires them.

Sure in fast paced world it takes time to find these gems that really put time and effort to create, explore, write and take inspiring photos. It is against click baits and fast consumed culture. But for me nothing is better than a writer who challenges, provokes thoughts in a sophisticated manner and who seeks to inspire people to think and act differently. I don't know what the future of blogging is or if there is even a future for this. The quicker ways of consuming creative content have taken the lead. What I see as a problem is the huge workload that falls to indie content creators. There is an appetite to have more and more great texts, pictures, video, sound.. and that all should be easily achievable. Watching TV  has become rare but that doesn't mean we are not after entertainment or eduntainment anymore. We carry phones that are huge online libraries full of creative content that we are allowed to enjoy for free. We spend a minute or two browsing hundreds of interior pictures of craft ideas. It might be a micro second we spend on a single picture. But behind that picture might be an indie content creator who has spent hours creating the post without receiving a single penny.

Time used for a single blog post is enormous compared to how much attention it gets. Sure some get more attention than others and there are also professionals, solopreneurs and teams that really do content creation as their day job and get their salary from it. Still I see the culture social media has created is not based at people getting paid of their work. It is based on millions of people doing social media as their hobby or second job. The dedication these unpaid professionals have to their so called hobby is high. This really makes me wonder the earning logic and what we wait people to do for free. If there is no money transaction could there still be a good practice how much time, as readers, we give to this work. Is it possible to do against the fast consumed culture and decide that, wow this idea is amazing, I am going to read this post through, watch the pictures again, comment and share. Or do we instantly seek the next wow and take for granted what has bee spread in front of our eyes.

I have felt that concentration instead of a massive load of stimulants keeps me more relaxed, productive and creative. What comes to this blog's content it is going to be the same mosaic it has been for the past two years. I don't see a reason why books, opinions and DIY projects could not co-exist. For me making crafts and DIY projects has always been empowerment. It is a wonderful feeling to create something yourself and make a piece that is 100% what you want it to be. Using upcycled and low cost materials has been one of my main principles. Crafts and home decor is for all!

I had planned to write few words about past days atmosphere but ended up writing more about my current thoughts. It has really circled in my head lately if there is any sense of writing this blog when it would seem more clever to spent the same time on social media posting pictures and videos that get more attention than posts that take huge amount of time. That is something I need to ponder during this summer.

So with this long lead that took us to side track it is time for part 3 of how many projects can you make from one broken shade! I have already made this Nordic Style Plant Wall and Decorated a Box with Upcycled Material. Now I show you how to upcycle an old tablecloth with washing machine color and little wooden ornaments that are made of the scraps of the broken shade.

Batik and Wood Ornament Tablecloth

You will need:

An old white tablecloth
Color that is attached in washing machine 
(read from the package how much do you need to dye the tablecloth)
Strong cotton yarn
Some wood from old shade

Japanese saw
Sanding paper
Drilling machine and 2 mm drill
Scissors
Clothespins
Needle



Step 1. Use clothespins to mark the first row of batik patterns.


Step 2. Cover the tablecloth with knots: twist the fabric and bound yarn thickly around the fabric and make a firm knot. To get a pattern where there is two circles make two knots as shown in the picture.


Step 3. More patterns you want the more knots you have to do. If you want just few patterns you don't have that much work to do. It is according to your own design. Then dye the tablecloth according to the instructions given on package.


Step 4. This is a piece of an old wooden shade (pictures here!). Make one model according to the measurements shown in the picture. Using the model draw the cutting plan to the piece of wood. Saw of the pieces and sand the edges. Drill a hole in every piece with 2 mm drill.


Step 5. When the tablecloth has been dyed open the knots and let the fabric dry, then iron it properly. From the knots you get beautifully colored yarn to attach the wooden ornaments! You can use both dyed yarn and yarn that is not dyed.


Step 6. Put yarns to the ornaments so it is easy to attach the ornaments to the tablecloth.


Step 7. If there is a pattern on the fabric, like on this tablecloth there are subtle stripes, use it as a starting point when you design how to arrange the ornaments to the tablecloth. Use a needle to attach an ornament to the fabric and make a firm knot.







Inspiring New Week To You All!

Sannu