Stockholm International Film Festival 2020

Gaza Mon Amour

In this plague year, there are few public events and the ones organised have few seats. But I have managed to see nine festival movies this season, eight at the Stockholm International and one at Asiatiska Filmfestivalen. All except two are from this year and haven’t seen theatrical release yet.

I cycled into town for almost all of the screenings to avoid public transport. Didn’t avail myself of the streaming options. I might have if there had been the normal number of films at SIFF this year.

Four films get my special recommendation:

  • Gaza Mon Amour. 60ish bachelor fisherman loves the widow in the ladies fashion store. While working up the courage to approach her, he catches an Archaic statue of Apollo in his net one morning. Quietly funny about shy greying love.
  • Love Affair(s). You know how in the cliché French movie everybody is super attractive and they alternate between telling each other about their love lives and cheating on their partners left and right? This is that movie, and quite well executed too.
  • The Last Shift. Old white man instructs young black man who is taking over his dead-end fast food job. Disillusioned buddy movie about race and poverty in small town Michigan.
  • Pinocchio (2019). Lavish and respectful adaptation of the children’s classic with ace Italian actors and tastefully employed digital effects.

Two were OK:

  • The Truffle Hunters. Impressionist documentary about elderly truffle hunters in the Piedmont of Northern Italy. Beautifully staged and shot in Baroque chiaroscuro, but it does kind of go on and on about truffles.
  • Nine Days. Souls are auditioned for the chance of being born. The guy who leads the auditions and does the selection is unhappy, then performs Whitman.

And I disliked three feelbad movies so badly that I left or wanted to leave after half an hour:

  • House of Hummingbird (2018). Young Korean teen girl goes through nearly unremitting woes at a glacial pace.
  • Surge. Repressed young airport security guard quietly going insane. Stressful and awkward.
  • Black Bear. Much awkwardness. Drunk people arguing about feminism.

Here’s my capsule reviews from the 2019 Stockholm International Film Festival.

November Pieces Of My Mind #2

A pretty nice view on the road I cycle to town
  • Re-reading Trollkarlens hatt / Finn Family Moomintroll. As a teen I found it childish and a little silly. Now I love it again. ❤
  • OK young folks, of course you revel in health and beauty and youth. But there is more to come! You have never yet experienced the sublime fulfilment of finally tweezing an elusive bristle out of one’s ear!
  • All political parties emphasise “freedom”. The Right means freedom for rich people. The Left means freedom from rich people.
  • Santería is an African diasporic religion that developed in Cuba between the 16th and 19th centuries. It arose through a process of syncretism between the traditional Yoruba religion of West Africa and the Roman Catholic form of Christianity. All Finnish men named Santeri are members.
  • Europeans hate US elections where the Electoral College overrides the popular vote. But if the EU had a federal president chosen by popular vote, the <10 million Swedish voters would have very little influence on who was elected.
  • Impressed by Dr. Hannes Rolf’s new PhD thesis titled A Union for the Homes — collective mobilisation, tenant organising and power struggle on the rental market in Stockholm and Gothenburg 1875-1942 (main text in Swedish).
  • The Viking Period ship burial currently under excavation at Gjellestad is only 5.4 km from the Swedish border. Dammit!
  • The classic and highly inventive horror writer Arthur Machen translated Casanova’s autobiography into English.
  • Cycled home from town, took an hour, then had hot chocolate and my own toasted sourdough with Västerbotten cheese before bedtime. ❤
  • Using the ZooMS method, Sam Presslee of the University of York has identified the animal species sacrificed prior to the building of the Aska platform mound: horse, as an unnamed 1980s osteologist had already determined. Also the animal species whose bone was made into gaming pieces used in the Aska mead-hall: right whale, Eubalaena glacialis, Sw. nordkapare. This beast measures 13-16 m in length and weighs about 100 tonnes. The bone was probably collected from a hunted or beached whale on the coast of Norway and traded via Kaupang or Heimdalsjordet.
  • Should I try to get the phrase “Don’t Hassle The Hoff” into my report on the fieldwork at Hassle in Glanshammar?
  • Listening to a podcast about Japanese military & civilian mass suicides on Saipan and Guam in 1944. And I recall the Swedish Extreme Right’s “victory or death” rhetoric in the 2018 election. Oh, you little absolute shits.
  • Old guy posts a map of a nearby area dating from the 1700s where all the relatively low-lying agricultural land and bog has been cut out to represent the sea. Claims that this is what the Medieval shorelines were like. I take a deep breath, get a real shoreline map from the Geological Survey’s site (where anyone can get it) and post it with some friendly words.

A Memory On Men’s Day

On International Men’s Day I recall an occasion when my masculinity was, not exactly questioned, but asked to explain itself. Me and my first wife were at a lecture for expectant parents. The speaker kept talking to us future dads as if we were one solid block of people who would rather go down to the pub with our mates, have a few beers and watch some footie.

Eventually I put up my hand and said “Excuse me, there are men here who never drink beer, watch footie or go down the pub with their mates. Your assumptions about masculinity are kind of clichéd.” The speaker mumbled something I didn’t catch in reply, and then went on. Overall it was a good lecture apart from this bit.

First wife told me afterward that what the speaker had mumbled was “So where is your masculinity at, then?” And every time I think about this, I know what I would have liked to reply: “I usually keep it in my undies”.

November Pieces Of My Mind #1

The Ektorp pizza place burned down. )-:
  • Zoologists preserve animals in formaldehyde. I wonder if botanists preserve cucumbers likewise.
  • Little more than seven weeks to the solstice now!
  • One new thing that streaming music has brought to my listening habits is that there are now loads of bands that I only know through one or two tunes that I listen to frequently. I never listen to albums, and so I have no idea what else these people have done.
  • Stendhal and Sir R.F. Burton were both consuls in Trieste, though decades apart.
  • I’m directing a big-budget Bollywood remake of Glee. It’s titled Ghee.
  • In a landmark development, this morning I tied my first Windsor knot without referring to YouTube. And got the tie ends aligned correctly on the first try.
  • Hey everyone who’s living with a lawyer, does your love life involve a lot of jokes about your partner “getting you off on a technicality”?
  • I like the Papa Lee cake shop in Finntorp. It’s run by two Northern English brothers. Today I had a mince pie and a Lancaster Wotsit, like a mazarin with orange-peel flavour.
  • There was a Soviet Israel, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, bordering on NE China. Almost no Jews live there anymore, because it’s really the ass end of nowhere.
  • If it goes to shit, I’ll have to mute or unfollow several hundred American social media contacts in order to avoid news about their country for four years. Is there a browser plugin that swaps all US news for Uruguay news?
  • It always makes me super proud and grateful when my learned friends take the time to explain complicated issues to my children. It takes a village to raise a child. Today, Anders Blixt is giving Jrette an expert perspective on the various Afghanistan conflicts.
  • I don’t know how to get a “ę” on my Swedish keyboard. Every time I need to write “Thank you very much”, Dziękuję bardzo, I google the phrase and copy it from the Wikipedia article about New Age musician Klaus Schulze’s thirty-ninth album.
  • Amazing how little Boomer academics needed to do. I’m looking at a recently retired historian who’s had a really successful academic career, as measured in jobs. He’s got 17 publications in the main Swedish bibliographical database, including book reviews.
  • In the mid-00s I didn’t know that the two versions of the Swedish National Coordinate Grid in my GPS navigator gave slightly different coordinates. There are a few metal detector sites where I don’t know which version I used. Now I’ve tested this at one site by doing a massive 15-person re-survey and comparing the new find scatter with the old one. It’s quite clear which version of the 2006 scatter fits with the 2020 one.
  • The Danish Portable Antiquities Scheme has just registered its 100,000th find. Tillykke! Sweden, meanwhile, has no PAS at all.
  • I used to be weak and puny, but I’ve been working out and I expect to achieve complete impunity real soon.
  • The parable of the prodigal son is about how God is always happy to take you back if you repent of your sins. To me though, it’s like the father in the parable is not actually my dad. And I haven’t squandered my inheritance, I’ve just been hiking. Which kind of obviates the whole scenario.
  • Anybody know where I can buy a Quran printed in Younger Futhark runes?
  • Black Francis / Frank Black of the Pixies is trolling the outgoing president on Twitter.
  • Participating in a survey by some linguists at U Katowice. The questions suggest that there’s a big debate in Poland about making the country’s scientific output accessible to the wider world. They assume that most respondents speak good Polish and possibly no other language. My recent recruitment to U Łódź fits this pattern: no Polish, four other languages.

October Pieces Of My Mind #3

National Library, Stockholm
  • So smart rich people trick poor uneducated people into believing that it lies in their interest to vote Republican. And then the poor uneducated people take the party over and make an insane game show host its leader. Divine justice.
  • Been playing a surrealist Call of Cthulhu scenario. Had dinner with 18 copies of a person, all of whom were completely oblivious to the strangeness of this. There was also a nude feral lady climbing facades in January.
  • Swedes testing positive for COVID19 have gone up sharply in the past five weeks, but ICU admissions have not. This suggests that we’re way better at protecting risk groups now than we were in spring.
  • I’m fascinated by the nimbleness of human hands, how we can hold two largish objects in one hand and manipulate them or even a third object. [Nudge disclaimer]
  • Jrette likes to expropriate my psychedelic band T-shirts. ❤
  • These trimonthly digests of Fb entries are extremely useful as a mine for anecdotes and jokes when I’m asked to give a talk or sit on a panel.
  • We had a couple of Raymond Peynet’s romantic cartoon collections at home when I grew up. I’ve never encountered his work elsewhere.
  • So depressing that the only music mags available in Swedish stores are various versions of Rock History Quarterly. No, I do not want to read a feature on Small Faces!
  • Planned my Stockholm Film Festival early this year because of the limited seating.
  • Movie: House of Hummingbird (2018). Young Korean teen girl goes through nearly unleavened woes at a glacial pace. Grade: Fail.
  • Suddenly remember a 90s mystery novel where the author describes in great detail how the main character uses Norton Commander.
  • Whenever someone writes “it beggars the imagination”, I think it’s fair to consider that it might be a typo for “it buggers the imagination”.
  • Sir Richard Francis Burton had injera in Somaliland. He calls them ”sour grain cakes” in his 1856 book First Footsteps in East Africa.
  • Around 1960, young Swedish men saved money to be able to do the honourable thing and pay for a young woman’s trip to Poland in case of an unwanted pregnancy. Now we should offer Polish women the same support.
  • I’m curating and producing a tribute anthology album titled STEELEYE DAN / STEELY SPAN, where young jazz rock bands interpret Steeleye Span songs and young folk rock bands interpret Steely Dan songs.
  • I don’t remember much of what I read. I’m trying out the idea that maybe this doesn’t matter, that the point of reading for pleasure is just in the moment. Reading not to eventually have read a book, but to be reading right now.

October Pieces Of My Mind #2

Though we mostly had sunshine, Saturday morning at Hassle in Glanshammar was spectacularly misty.
  • At our house it’s permanently International Book Week.
  • I’ve noticed a large percentage of highly skilled amateur photographers among metal detector hobbyists.
  • The Swedish Extreme Right emphasises Nation and Shared Tradition in public, and genetics in private. It’s strange to find so many Finns in the party, like Richard Jomshof. Neither shared nation, tradition nor genetics.
  • Why isn’t White Pride OK? Frankly, because if your ancestors have not seen centuries of enslavement and systemic racism, then you’re expected to have something better than your innate skin tone to be proud of.
  • There’s a Welsh colony in Patagonia named Gaimán.
  • Got group email from my employers. My Polish is very weak but I could just barely understand it. They’re offering me an online course to learn English.
  • I desire few objects. Teapots are among them.
  • I’ve been listening to the Real Polish podcast for almost a year now. It’s gradually getting more comprehensible. Recent episodes have been about quantum computing, Nietzsche and the history of Belarus.
  • I love the feral rabbit that burrows behind our house and grazes outside the kitchen window most mornings. It’s got a good winter coat coming on now. Hope it’ll make it through its 4th winter here.
  • My working days have been quite solitary for the past year and a half. Of course the pandemic made it worse. I go to the Academy of Letters’ library a few times a week though. Not because I always need to use it — more to see a few colleagues and exchange a word or two with the librarians, see something besides home.
  • The 1897 Andrée expedition perished because they had a really bad balloon that crashed into the Arctic. I am passionately, indeed PANTINGLY, uninterested in any details of their last days that new analyses of their diary fragments might now divulge.
  • Dear Americans, let me remind you that in Sweden, AOC would be a vanilla politician. You know where to move if shit goes south. Welcome!
  • Bon Jovi was hugely influential to early Black Metal. Fight me.
  • UK shooting estates breed enormous numbers of semi-tame pheasants. “In September, just before the beginning of the shooting season, total pheasant biomass is about 1.6-1.7 times the total biomass of the British breeding bird population estimate for spring. In September, pheasant biomass is at its highest point of the year while in the spring the biomass of the UK resident breeding bird population is at its lowest”
  • Martin Edlund chose the site. I didn’t believe in it much. We invited 25 members of the Swedish Metal Detector Association. That kind of intensity is very rare in a Swedish metal detector survey. After two days’ work (more than five full-time weeks for a single person), Hassle in Glanshammar now has not only the region’s biggest Bronze Age hoard (~600 BC, found in 1936), but also the region’s richest 1st Millennium AD settlement site. The question now is whether Hassle is the source-critical glitch or if the rest of the region is. Contract archaeology will never be given the means to resolve it. Örebro County Museum is running a unique programme of cooperation, and I am proud to take part! (Sw. hassle means Hazel Grove.)
  • I’ve got a bunch of 17th century relatives named Wankif. (Insert obvious wanker joke here.) The first one is Jöns Nilsson Wankif, parson of Asarum in Blekinge 1656-64 and a direct ancestor of mine in generation 11. I’ve been wondering about this name. And now I find that it’s simply Vankiva parish near Hässleholm in Scania.
  • All the metals in a space probe come from named mines, often bearing older names for the sites. Thus a space probe consists of fragments of cultural landscape.
  • When cooking Chinese, make very sure that you’re adding weijing to your dishes, not Wade-Giles.
  • Remember how great Dudley Moore and Eddie Murphy were in the early 80s? Wouldn’t it be superb if they were in the same movie? Well they were in Best Defense (1984). And it’s awful. Moore and Murphy are never even on-screen at the same time.
  • The Netherlands, another highly civilised Western country, takes the path of open collaboration between professionals and amateurs in recording archaeological finds, thus making us Swedes look even more backward and strange in this area.
  • Oh. There’s not just a presidential election coming up in the US, where the Republican candidate is facing really bad numbers. There’s an election to the Senate as well on the same day. And those numbers are clearly being influenced by the abysmal presidential incumbent. Tee-hee.

October Pieces Of My Mind #1

  • Between them, the players in my role-playing group happily spent build points on every investigative skill available to them except Flirting. Nobody wanted to be able to do that.
  • I love Eurythmics’ 1983 album Touch. But I’ve never realised how extremely odd the synth-calypso tune “Right By Your Side” is, particularly in this collection. It’s even got fake steel drums.
  • Gwen Stefani takes literary sides: ”Few times I’ve been around that track / So it’s not just gonna happen like that / ‘Cause I ain’t no Houellebecq girl / I ain’t no Houellebecq girl”
  • Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels and stories of the planet Barrayar are Ruritanian romances with space ships and disruptor guns. Don’t know why it took me so long to recognise it. Barrayar could easily be a country in the Balkans c. 1910.
  • I’ve published a little fiction and poetry in my time. The other day I was thinking to myself, why don’t I do that more? The answer, I realised, is that nobody including myself really wants it much. Real artists speak of the creative compulsion. What little I have of that is amply satisfied by my blog and other non-fic writing in and out of popular outreach. And there is no money in poetry or fiction.
  • When I post pics of finds I can’t classify online I get few answers. This annoys me because I need help. But it also pleases me because it means I kind of know my shit.
  • RPG realisation: a dungeon is the original railroad scenario. Narrative constrained by walls of stone.
  • Movie: Pirate Radio / The Boat That Rocked (2009). The government tries to shut down a 60s music radio station broadcasting from international waters. A strong cast cannot help the fact that the tone is all wrong in this cringy comedy. Grade: Fail.
  • Damn enviro friendly dishwasher tablets: completely ineffectual against avocado on cutlery.
  • When you hide an ad, Facebook asks why — multiple choice. Every time, I miss the alternative “This insults my intelligence”. I just hid an ad for camping beds where a model was reclining on one of these, contorted in such a position that you could see both her heavily made-up face and her ass.
  • One oddity in the movie Pirate Radio: it’s set in about 1967, but there are already grizzled old hippies obsessed with the Grateful Dead.
  • My most common typo in English must be “donät” for “don’t”. I should put that on the autocorrect list in LibreOffice.
  • Super proud of YuSie who works her tush off as a member of the municipal council and as one of the main drivers of her Teach Immigrant Ladies To Swim organisation. ❤
  • Re-sampled the horse bones found 3.5 m under the surface of the Aska platform mound in 1985-86 for a renewed radiocarbon analysis. Palaeobotanist Jens Heimdahl has identified charred grain from the last use phase of the building on the platform. Should make for a nice dating model.
  • I have a built-in computer clipboard. When I need to remember a number or short phrase briefly, I say it out loud and it gets copied into the part of my memory where I keep the last thing I heard someone say. Much more exact than quiet memorisation.
  • Don’t like the expression “also not”. Also implies a positive. It’s “not either”.
  • It’s a shame that the target audience for puns in Latin + Mandarin is so small. Or you could say that Pu Er tea is mainly for boys, and everybody would laugh like crazy!
  • Yay, my paper on Roman Period snake-head rings has been accepted with minor revisions by Praehistorische Zeitschrift!

September Pieces Of My Mind #3

September work-from-home lunch with home-grown tomatoes, Bellman and roses.
  • A central plot point in Mike Carey’s latest novel hinges on near-future appliances having extremely discreet power switches. This allows people who know what the switches look like to claim supernatural powers.
  • I went in, surveyed the fridge landscape, and had four leftover jars for a light dinner. Victory.
  • In the first 16 years after I got my PhD, seven journals asked me to peer-review manuscripts for them. In the past nine months after I got a steady job with Uni Łódź, four additional journals have made use of me.
  • Writing several pieces in parallel about quite different things and feeling like dammit, I really rule actually.
  • Found out that my nearest tea plantation is probably in Turkey. There’s one on the Azores as well, on Portuguese territory, but it’s not as near Stockholm.
  • Odd thing about learning Polish from Duolingo: I recognise lots of words where I’ve forgotten what they mean. That doesn’t happen when you learn by pointing at stuff and looking quizzically at a native speaker.
  • The hard core of my boardgaming group turned out to play investigative role-playing games effortlessly too. They solved and survived the intro case in Ashen Stars in two game nights, and fun was had!
  • Pruned down and replanted the poorly New Dawn rose. Hope for stronger blooms in May!
  • Trados: mild-mannered translator and insane supervillain bent on global domination!
  • Swedish Uighurs (that’s “weedjers” to you Americans) drive Mercedeses.
  • The interesting aspect of stone axes is their original context of make, use and deposition. The interesting aspect of the Middle Ages is not people’s attitudes to ancient stone axes. Let’s all forget about the past in the past.
  • Apparently you need an unheated solarium, Sw. glasveranda, to get cacti to bloom in Scandinavia.
  • Submitted this year’s fourth journal paper. They’re all about different periods. And I haven’t even started work on any papers about this summer’s excavations yet.
  • If you’re going to write spinoffs from the Iliad, Ulysses and Aeneas seem like pretty random characters to place centre-stage.
  • Who wants recorded lectures? I’d want to read the script instead.