Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Let's Enter To 2019

Pale January Wednesday and second week of the new year 2019. I am still processing past year and all that happened. It was a good decision to calm down in December. Usually I take a bunch of projects before Christmas because I want the holidays to feel special. Past season I realized that Christmas comes with less. I have always had an ideal that Christmas should be just for reading eating and sleeping but then I get carried away with decoration projects and such. Because I was travelling in November I didn't have the inspiration to start anything Christmas related before the trip. And after the trip I just felt better to take all my old decorations from the storage and start enjoying the season without extra fuss. Holidays are a short period in the whole year and thus a bit tricky. When putting on all the decor it already begins to feel that just after few weeks one has to take it all off. It is sad really, to see that effort, create the bling and magical atmosphere for a week or two.

After I took down the Christmas ornaments home felt empty. But that was not sad emptiness, it was space for thoughts and new. I don't personally see the point to start big projects in the beginning of the year. It is still too cold and dark to begin new hobbies or lifestyle. Only new year's resolutions I made are to do with cooking, skiing and reading. I want to ski more this winter season. I used to love skiing as a kid and teenager but past ten years or so I haven't found time nor energy for that. Last week when I finally took my skis and headed to the tracks I enjoyed it very much. Compared to evening walks skiing cleared the mind better, I concentrated completely to the motion, one ski in front of the other. After an hour I found the rhythm that was somewhere hidden to my spine. I asked myself why don't I do this more often? It is also excellent exercise to gain strength to upper body and get rid off the bad posture that comes from working on computer, reading and crafting. During the holidays I spent time cooking. I chose recipes from a cookbook that had been unopened since I bought it. New tastes were inspiring and it was pure luxury to eat something you have ever tasted. I learned that blueberries and dijon fit perfectly together when accompanied with other ingredients. Best treat is great food from proper ingredients and I am going to treat myself often this new year.

Past year I read a lot and this year I plan to read even more. Reading has become to mean a lot and I have forgotten the time when I mainly watched TV and DVDs. I am already reading fifth book for this year and it seems that good books have not ended. 2018 brought so many new authors and works to me and this year has started with great promises. Instead of even trying to write to my blog about all the works I read I have planned to introduce my reads on Instagram with longer texts than usual. Time permitting I could write more finished thoughts on my blog about some of the books and maybe write short notes monthly about what I have read. One idea could be to list all books in the end of the month and then write more about one of those. It could work. Anyways I wish to be part in many thought provoking bookish discussions this year on social media and why not here in blogs too. I have seen some close their blogs and concentrate on Instagram but I still believe in longer and more processed writing, well based opinions, articles and views.

I have kept a pause in quilting and will continue it until the days are longer. I have one bigger idea I want to complete this year and it will demand sketching and planning so I get it to be as I see it in my mind. Now I have been knitting accessorizes and it has been one way to relax and clean the mind. I would love to do more smaller projects this year with recycled materials. I have some interesting stuff waiting for ideas. Maybe it is time to study the trends and get inspired of the colours and shapes that are trending this year. Who knows what this so called crap in my storage turns out. I am always so delighted to find out the possibilities of materials that some see as ready to garbage. When reading the news and plans about slowing climate change it seems that it is about time to see the potential in the material we already have in this world before making any new.

When 2018 began I had very little idea what it would bring. Back then I wrote to my blog about high hopes that the year would be better than the last one. Before I  had felt I had lots of thoughts I wanted to express, discussions I wanted to take part but felt no courage because there had been an atmosphere where people's good meaning discussion openings were twisted. I am not an island and it matters to me what people are thinking. I don't want to cause any harm or anxiousness to anybody. Some social media platforms seem to live from the fast and strongly expressed reactions. I am not a person who acts like that it is out of my character. I need to think over before I publish so I get the issue expressed in a way I can stand behind, explain and discuss about. It is one reason why I think blogs have value even these days. There is space and time to write, sleep one night and re read the thoughts, is this the thing I want to say and is this the way to put it so people can catch the idea and process it forward. Writing about books was one form to take part to current topics and that is why I think that compared to 2017 past year went better. What comes to the other major happenings in 2018 I got to work a longer period in an inspiring place and I had possibility to save money and travel to New York. When the year began I had no clue that it would be the year I got to fulfill one of my biggest dreams what comes to travel. New York seemed so far away mentally and impossible to see but there I went.

Keeping in mind these lovely surprises that the past year gave to me I am being even more positive about 2019. Who knows what can happen. It is not all about our own effort, it is about luck too. I am trying not to pay attention to things I can't change on my own will, I let things go as they go. I will be active and use my courage where it counts.

Once again I want to wish you a Happy New Year, Peace, Love and Understanding, as well as hope and active spirit to work for a better world. Let's be idealists, world needs us.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Complete List of Reads: Total 62 Books

Criticism is not the only way to write about literature and reading experiences. When I began my journey with 52 books reading challenge I decided, that I am not going to play a literary critic. I wanted to concentrate on the thoughts the books provoked and positive notions that I picked on the book while reading. Every single one of these books had something to give for a reader and I had a privilege to read great literature through 2018. There is a place for criticism too in the world and I believe writers and creatives can get that from other sources. Criticism and cynicism are a quick way to look smart and well read. To concentrate on praising is often connected with naivete and lack of knowledge. To praise is to show that you as a reader actually enjoyed what you read no matter how others took the book. In a way you become fragile, someone can take out the carpet by showing how the work you enjoyed is in fact unreal or cliche and what you thought is wonderful and touching becomes shameful. But who is to say what is authentic and worth experiencing? It might just be that what the author is writing is a new opening that only few can sense. Maybe it is not the experience of majority and that is why the work gets the badge of unreal.

It is known that there are gatekeepers in the cultural world, not every work gets published and the reason might not be in the quality but the resonance with the current pattern of speech and acting. Books can challenge and change our thinking if we don't grow a thick cover between us and the world. Through reading these books I have moved forward in my life and found new ways of thinking. Even the books I didn't cherish that much taught me something. It is worth pondering why a certain work doesn't speak to you. In this pile of 62 books (I went over the goal with 10 books) there were works that people seemed to enjoy a lot according to social media. But I myself struggled to read the same appraised works. Not because they were not any good, but because my own background and current situation. This is something to acknowledge personally. Then there were works that took a place in my heart and spoke directly on issues that have been going on in my own mind. The situations described were familiar and thoughts relatable or the author gave something to chew and process forward, a new way of thinking and seeing. It is old fashioned to think that there is a number of books that work for all, classics that everyone everywhere would enjoy and find important. Sure some works last time better, but we can't know which ones.

What happens next year has an influence on how we see the past works. A book that has laid forgotten might have a new relevance. Some classics shone brighter than others in 2018. Our lives are not the same and the books we need to read are not the same either. During a stressful period of time there is a need to read a book that gives an escape. Then one day we need a challenge and turn into that over complicated book that opens up in a a new clear way like never before. Book I love today might be a book that I can't understand after ten years. That is why I needed to focus on writing about what the books had to give to me in 2018. The conclusions tell about this year, discussions we have had and my personal life at the moment. Instead of lifting up books that everyone should read, personal reading experiences might lead us to the tracks of finding literature that has meaning to us in our life's. Like minded bookstagrammers have given me plenty of excellent recommendations. Books form families over periods of time, discussions we people can't have together because we are separated by time and distance.

I read this thought provoking article from the New York Review of Books by Tim Sparks. Is Literary Glory Worth Chasing? (27.10.2018). Sparks introduces Giacomo Leopardi's thoughts about what affects on the critique the work gets in it's time and in which terms it is possible to earn appreciation for your work. Check the article from here:

Below you can find the complete list of books I read in my free time this year. These are not in the same order I read these because I had to edit the list from various lists, books that I blogged about, books that I only introduced on Instagram and books I just read and wrote to my notebook. 2018 was a wonderful year what comes to reading and finding new favorite authors. It was also exciting to find paths from book to another and read both new releases and old classics I had never heard before. I am positive that 2019 will be equally wonderful, my must read lists guarantee that there will be no empty moments coming.

1. Lidia Yuknavitch: The Book of Joan
2. Carmen Maria Machado: Her Body and Other Parties
3. Franz Kafka: Kootut kertomukset (complete short stories)
4. Cheryl Strayed: Wild. From Lost to Found on The Pacific Crest Trail (Villi vaellus)
5. Truman Capote: In Cold Blood (Kylmäverisesti)
6. Françoise Sagan: Bonjour Tristesse (Tervetuloa ikävä)
7. Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
8. Alice Walker: The Color Purple (Häivähdys purppuraa)
9. Susan Sontag: Stories
10. Albert Camus: L'étranger (Sivullinen)
11. Donna Tartt: The Secret History
12. Saara Turunen: Sivuhenkilö
13. Leena Parkkinen: Säädyllinen ainesosa
14. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar (Lasikellon alla)
15. Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451
16. Julian Barnes: The Only Story
17. Anna Gavalda: Fendre l´armure (Lohikäärmetatutointi ja muita pintanaarmuja)
18. Leena Krohn: Kadotus
19. Peter Kimani: Dance of the Jakaranda
20. Sara Stridsberg: Drömfakulteten (Unelmien tiedekunta) and Valeria Solanas: SCUM 21. Manifesto (SCUM manifesti)
22. Anton Chekhov's Short Stories
23. Tove Jansson: Dockskåpet (Nukkekaappi)
24. Tove Jansson: Sommarboken (Kesäkirja)
25. Karen Blixen: Den afrikanske farm (Eurooppalaisena Afrikassa)
26.- 28. Anton Chekhov: Sakhalin Island (Sahalin)
29. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (Kultahattu)
30. Michael Ondaatje: The English Patient (Englantilainen potilas)
31. Anil's Ghost (Anilin haamu)
32. Sara Stridsberg: Beckomberga. Ode till min familj (Niin raskas on rakkaus)
33. Tuula Karjalainen: Tove Jansson. Tee työtä ja rakasta.
34. Violette Leduc: La Bâtarde (Äpärä)
35. Rupert Thomson: Never Anyone But You
36. Lauren Elkin: Flâneuse. Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London.
37. Jean Rhys: After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (Herra Mckenzien jälkeen)
38. Nefertiti Malaty: Ei äitimateriaalia
39. Hannu Rajaniemi: Summerland (Kesämaa)
40. Eeva Turunen: Neiti U muistelee niin sanottua ihmissuhdehistoriaansa
41. Martha Gellhorn: The Face of War
42. Truman Capote: Breakfast at Tiffany's (Aamiainen Tiffanyllä)
43. Ossi Nyman: Röyhkeys
44. Anne Garréta: Sphinx (Sfinksi)
45. John Steinbeck: Of Mice and Men (Hiiriä ja ihmisiä)
46. Elif Shafak: Three Daughters of Eve (Eevan kolme tytärtä)
47. Jenny Offil: Dept. of Speculation (Syvien pohdintojen jaosto)
48. Danielle Lazarin: Back Talk. Stories.
49. Anilda Ibrahimo: Rosso come una sposa (Punainen morsian)
50. Henriika Tavi: Tellervo
51. Tara Westover: Educated (Opintiellä)
52. Roland Barthes: La chambre claire (Valoisa huone)
53. Susan Sontag. On Photography (Valokuvauksesta)
54. Silvia Hosseini: Pölyn ylistys
55. Sapfo: Iltatähti, häälaulu
56. Eeva Lennon: Eeva Lennon, Lontoo
57. Anna Kortelainen: Hyvä Sara! Sara Hildénin kolme elämää
58. Sisko Savonlahti: Ehkä tänä kesänä kaikki muuttuu
59. Pentti Holappa. Ystävän muotokuva
60. Mirkka Lappalainen: Pohjoisen noidat. Oikeus ja totuus 1600-luvun Ruotsissa ja Suomessa
61. Audre Lorde: Your Silence Will Not Protect You
62. Marja Tuominen and Mervi Löfgren (edit.): Lappi palaa sodasta. Mielen hiljainen jälleenrakennus

Monday, 3 December 2018

How To Write About Pain And Horror

Martha Gellhorn (8.11.1908-15.2.1998) eye witnessed several wars around the world from the 1936 war in Spain to the invasion in Panama 1990. Her reports draw a picture of a correspondent who did't go numb even after seeing sow much. She had empathy for all the victims of the war from civilians to those forced to take part to the combats. Her style of writing goes close to those she met in the most inhuman conditions. She visits their houses, listens to their stories and lives with them in the moments of loss. In her reports that were published in that time's newspapers Gellhorn wrote what she saw. These reports have been published as a collection called The Face of War that she has, sadly, been forced to update to new editions with new wars she witnessed. Gellhorn's reports tell about the mental climate of the time and open the thoughts that people had at the moment. She is not on the background playing objective. She makes herself visible and shows her thoughts that reflect the time.

The reports make it sound like she aimed her writing to those who are far from war in the comfort of their own houses in countries where war is mere a memory or somewhere geographically far.  She ponders how it is even possible for those people to understand or feel through what they read. She doesn't criticize that much people's decisions in the war as she criticizes those who are reading her work as distant spectators of war. She sees it dangerous that only a limited number of people are taking part to the discussion leaving so called specialists to decide the truths of war. She criticizes how happenings are explained in a light that makes it look like one part of war suffers more than the other when in reality there are losses of lives in both sides and the whole activity of war should be questioned. In this questioning we all have our duty to understand and ask again and again if the war is worth it. Sure there are specialists who have put time and effort to understand the situation and it's backgrounds and because of that their views are to be listened with care. But we who are reading the news have the responsibility to stop and ponder what we are told instead of passing the information as something we can leave to a narrow number of people to comprehend. Caring about what is happening to our fellow humans and empathy belongs to us all. History shows that even trusted governments can be wrong.

Gellhorn pays attention to messages that create an atmosphere of fear and prejudice between people and countries. It is someone's benefit that we are made to fear one another when actually in the end we are all the same and what we should fear is propaganda we don't acknowledge as such but take as researched and well based information. Gellhorn writes about the war of words. She tells about the propaganda and how war is written and made reality by words that create fear and hatred. It is unnatural to feel such extreme hatred against a person you actually know nothing about. How then people are made to attack against each other if not with propaganda. By words the enemy is painted and people are made to believe in an image that doesn't really exist. Then this picture is put to real world and the results are reality, human lives lost and pain one can't imagine possible.

Gellhorn writes about pains and horrors that people are confronting in unstable and unjust circumstances. She writes directly about death, violence and mental threats people are forced to go trough. She tells the stories that are told to her in front lines, hospitals and among civilians who end up as targets of war. She writes about the emotional landscape of war, how people manage or don't manage in the middle of chaos. Her writings reveal the everyday life in the years of war, constant threats and silent hunger. Gellhorn is not writing about honor or patriotic duty she is writing about the war that she sees and actions that exist around her. It is sad though how people who receive these reports whether written, photographed or filmed become to feel powerless, numb and in the end uncaring. More and more pictures and messages are needed to get us care and understand what is happening. At the same time we need to know about the pain of others so we are not ignorant. Those who are in war want to tell to their fellow humans what is happening because the horrors should not exist, someone should hear the message.

But then again, between our entertainment there are news highlights that show people, our kind, who are suffering. And from those pictures we go quite rapidly back to our entertainment and it feels wrong. Those people give their face to the horror yet our capacity to receive any emotion has become weaker. Or has it always been so weak, like in a peaceful environment we can't understand the opposite? Is it wrong to bring us more visual materials of the horrors around the world if we feel no duty to properly see it? Have news become entertainment that give small emotions to experience when brushing teeth before bedtime? What would be a respectful way to tell the stories of the victims? Gellhorn gives space to individuals. She tells the facts and environment where things happen. Then she gives room for the story that the victim has to tell. There is certain power in a single human person telling their story, because that person could be anyone, anywhere, you or me. A war gets a face, someone who went though what we see in the big picture that is more difficult to comprehend.

Those who are set in the scene to be eyes of others and report what is happening have a responsible role to play. They have to see and hear and write, not strengthen the image created by propagandists. Gellhorn underlines that press has to be free and get to the roots of happenings. In the case of invasion of Panama she tells how her work was restricted and she didn't get to do her work. She says that governments learned about what happened in the war of Vietnam, how TV and press made people to see the reality behind the facade and the attitude towards the war changed. According to Gellhorn in Panama war correspondents access was restricted so they would only have the government accepted message to write about. She then asks if people are satisfied with the ignorance they are left and whether they are interested about the reality at all. The whole mechanism of ignorance and propaganda supports the arms industry and makes sense to the use of huge amounts of money to the weapons when there would be so much better destinations to put it.

Martha Gellhorn: The Face of War. The first edition was published in 1959, I read the 2016 edition.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Kids Eat Snow in New York Too

My approach to tourist photography is a bit complex. As some of you might know I have studied tourism research as my major. I am aware of the theories and discussions about tourist gaze and the ways of how people tend to take photographs on their journeys. Then when I am being a tourist myself I constantly analyze my own behavior and interests which is annoying. Thus the experience of being a tourist and enjoying it without self-criticism is partly spoiled from me because of my career choice. I recognize my inner snob who avoids iconic landmarks that most of the people want to see in the destination. I have an urge to get on my film spool something unique and how cliche is that! 

We individualistic travelers want to see, experience and document something that no-one or at least our fellow travelers, haven't noticed. Maybe be one of the locals for that week we are at the destination. In the action we scratch the surface and end up seeing precisely what we have been taught to see. Easy way to explain what I am meaning is the case Statue of Liberty. Me and my friend went to Staten Island Ferry that goes past the Statue. We had both seen a good number of pictures of the Statue before our journey. Photographs and movies that set up in New York. We had been taught to look after certain kind of monument yet what we saw was quite small statue with large scale surroundings. This made me ponder from which angle have all the movies been filmed and photographs taken? In a journey back from Staten Island I finally spotted the angle that made it possible to catch an iconic New York picture that had been presented to us through numerous popular culture products. 

To see the Statue of Liberty was not my number one goal when travelling overseas. If it was I could have just googled it and actually in that way I would have seen it better than in presence. I have been fascinated about the stories of New York and its atmosphere. The reason to travel was the need to know what is true. Can New York really be that amazing and one of a kind? Also the reason to leave home is to see something different, be in a new environment, meet new people and experience things that are not possible in where one lives their everyday life. I think one of the driving forces to travel is to feel the difference and exotic of far away lands. Sure we see more than generations before when we open the internet. But it is different to see it with your own eyes, or are we capable of seeing and learning?

Is it possible to make a notion that what we see is the same we have around us in everyday life? That actually people are the same and doing same activities as we would  in our homes if we weren't touristing at the moment? Fun thing is that I myself live in a town that is a popular tourist destination. On an ordinary day I go to the library and might see travelers exploring Alvar Aalto architecture in our main library. Then I travel over seas to stare and photograph New York Public Library because it looks so different compared to what I see weekly. I acknowledge that I am intruding to peoples lives with my camera. Maybe they want to wander between the shelves, study and concentrate, like I want in my own home library. But at the same time in New York I am amazed by the decorations in the ceiling, the spirit of history flying past me, old binds that rest on the shelves feeling no time. I am absolutely thrilled when I notice on my last day in New York that the library has been decorated for the Holiday season. The whole place makes me think of fantasy books like Harry Potter.

Yellow cabs make me think Sex and the City and boutiques on Fifth Ave are bursting with clothes and accessorize beyond imagination. Those creations of fashion are magic to my eyes, I rush from a pile of glitter and color to another almost without breathing. After seeing a season or two of Sex and the City I have anticipated that people in the streets would be wearing these kind of clothes. I have stressed that my clothes, black coat and jeans, will step up from the crowd as old fashioned and worn out. I even watched YouTube videos where people from USA explain how to dress in Europe, learning about differences and searching for clues how I should dress in my journey. In real life people are wearing exactly same kind of clothes as I am, jeans and warm coats as it is winter after all. 

Then one day, Thursday it is, snow begins to fall down. The drains can't take in all the water that comes from the wet melting snow and crossings turn into pools. We have bought tickets to New York Philharmonic's concert, there are Viennese waltzes in the program, and before the concert I decide to visit MoMa. Since I don't check things, I have to realize on the door that the museum closes in thirteen minutes so there is no sense buying the costly entrance ( I succeeded to see the exhibitions following day). I have few hours to spend in snow covered city. Trees have been decorated with fairy lights in a small park between two tall buildings. Snow on the branches make the christmassy effect even stronger. Small bars with their colorful signs look warm and inviting. I love how every surface is covered with those signs that come from bars, shops and theaters, it makes the view look very homey. To avoid soaking my heels to some of the pools I pop into a coffee house on the corner. There, sitting on a bar bench in front of the window I sip the coffee and eat a chocolate croissant. I look people in the snow storm and hear the Christmas songs played on the background and I feel I am in New York. The city had felt so big and hard to comprehend for the first days after arriving that a kind of anxiousness to experience something over the big mass of emotions had followed every step.

That was my New York moment that was essential in making an emotional picture of the city. The moment made the blurred picture clear. Picture that had been affected by all that I had seen through my life from a television and magazines to what I had self experienced in four days. When I stepped back to the stormy street I saw a kid with a parent. The young New Yorker gathered snow to a mitten, looked it for a second and tasted it. Just like the kids in Lapland who sit in their piles of snow wearing overalls. Places are unique with their own characteristics and atmosphere. But at the same time most of the human life is same.

New York for me is a huge but cozy city. I absolutely adore the contrast between old and new buildings. How in the arms of  polished skyscaper there is a shabby old building with its blinking signs that sell everything between heaven and earth. I enjoy seeing the magical clothes that hang in luxury boutiques even though I have never had nor ever will have money to buy those. Still I have afford to be inspired by the creatives who have designed them. And the doughnuts are great, how cookies, cream and chocolate can be served in a handy way in a one bun. Yet it is equally worth noticing the sameness. The world opens in two ways. To see that something is similar doesn't mean the journey would be unworthy. Chasing after uniqueness can be a way of blindness and arrogant desire to preserve images of exotic when the exotic doesn't exist. It is healthy to fix those images inside our heads every now and then.