Sweden’s Eurovision Sign Language Interpreter

•March 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been following Eurovision this year, because I’m a fan of PKN, the 2015 Finnish entry. I’ve recently also become a fan of Tommy Krångh, the sign language interpreter for the Swedish finals. Check out this guy’s fantastic interpretation of this year’s Swedish entry, Måns Zelmerlöw with the song Heroes.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers: Oh Happy Day

•February 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Aside from the Norman Luboff Choir (and maybe the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?), the only choir I can think of who has had popular hits were the Edwin Hawkins Singers. Their biggest hit was a song I’ve loved since childhood, Oh Happy Day, which was played on the eclectic pop radio I listened to as a kid.

Still gives me chills. Even more so to hear the recording that made the song famous (if you don’t need to look at a video while you listen to this wonderful music).

It only made me happy to learn that the it was the Edwin Hawkins Singers who collaborated with my childhood idol Melanie on her hit Lay Down.

(If you like Melanie, I have posted several other Melanie songs on this blog in the past.)

Geiger Counter

•January 23, 2015 • 3 Comments

I bought a Geiger counter at an antique store in November. It was an impulse buy, but reasonably priced, and I thought it was perfect for the fallout shelter I’m putting together.  I’ll show you the fallout shelter some day, but in the meantime I have a Geiger counter story.

geiger 1

geiger 2

geiger 3

I replaced two 45-volt batteries & one 22.5-volt battery, and the thing clicks when turned on, as though registering background radiation. But I can’t be sure it really works without waving that wand over something radioactive, like an old watch, or an old smoke detector, both of which I have not got.  Enter United Nuclear Scientific.

I found United Nuclear Scientific on the internet. They sell radioactive samples specifically designed to test Geiger counters for $5.00 + shipping, courtesy of the U.S. postal service. Mine arrived the other day.

radioactive material

The Geiger counter doesn’t register anything when presented with this sample, meaning either it doesn’t work or the sample isn’t radioactive. So I looked at United Nuclear again, and found that it’s run by Bob Lazar.  I, of course, have heard of him.

Bob Lazar claims to be an M.I.T. physicist who worked at Area 51, tasked to reverse-engineer the flying saucer that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. He said the saucer was from Zeta Reticuli, home of the “Greys.” The ship ran on ununpentium, also known as element 115, an element that was first synthesized on earth in 2003. Lazar signed a non-disclosure agreement with the U.S. military and was warned that, should he reveal anything, his family would be executed. Bob runs United Nuclear with his wife, Joy White. M.I.T. says they never heard of Bob Lazar. Bob says his past has been deleted by the government in an attempt to discredit his claims. And so on, and so on, in the endless circle of conspiracy kookiness that I’ve grown to love & hate.

People have asked if it’s legal to send radioactive material through the mail. Also, didn’t I find it foolhardy to purchase uranium on the internet. These are good questions. I chose United Nuclear Scientific because they were cheaper. Lolarusa says, “Sounds like you were a smart shopper. If you’re buying radioactive material, there’s no need to get picky about where it’s coming from.”

So I still don’t know if my Geiger counter works, but I do have a souvenir from Bob Lazar, and Bob has my $5.00.


The Rabbit Back Literature Society’s U.S. Release

•January 20, 2015 • 2 Comments

The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s brilliant, indescribable first novel, has its U.S. release today!

The Rabbit Back Literature Society U.S. cover

Here are some reviews of the English edition (translated by yours truly):

“It’s hard to convey the peculiar atmosphere of this novel – absurd but believable, sinister but enjoyable, beautiful but disquieting. ” – The Independent

The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a lobster-pot of a book… a unique vein of fantasy-realism unlike anything else you’ve ever read.”SFX Magazine

“Unexpected, thrilling and absurd, it is primarily an irreverent exploration of the art of writing itself” – Daily Telegraph

I also recommend it.

Available from Thomas Dunne Books or your favorite bookseller.

Tree Change Dolls

•January 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Some crafters in Tasmania called Tree Change Dolls are giving discarded Bratz dolls make-unders and creating some of the sweetest looking dollies ever.




Check out those awesome hand-knit sweaters!

More befores and afters on Tree Change Dolls.

Found on the always interesting Nag on the Lake.

When the Doves Disappeared

•January 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When the Doves Disappeared cover image

Sofi Oksanen’s most recent novel, When the Doves Disappeared, comes out in English next month.

…The Wehrmacht with their helmets and bicycles filled the street like locusts, a multitude without number, gas mask canisters waving, the soldiers covered in a downpour of flowers. Juudit stretched her arm out. Smiles sparkled in the air like bubbles in fresh soda, arms waved and sent a breeze sweet with the scent of girls toward the liberators⎯girls with their hands fluttering like leaves on summer trees, shifting and shimmering….

Like Sofi Oksanen’s previous novel Purge, When the Doves Disappeared is about life in Estonia during the decades of war and occupation in the 20th century.

It’s a very good book. Did I mention that I translated it?

You can read a longer excerpt from the novel in the August issue of Words Without Borders.

And here is a sample from the upcoming audiobook, read by Enn Reitel:

What We did in 2014: Part 2 The Movies

•January 3, 2015 • 1 Comment

We saw a lot of good movies in 2014.  Here are our favorites. You can click the titles for info, the images for video clips.

do I have to do everything

On January 18th we went to the 2014 Nordic Lights Film Festival and saw four short Finnish films, including “Do I Have To Take Care of Everything?“, directed by Selma Vilhunen, which was very funny, and nominated for an Academy award.

the wind rises

February 22nd. “The Wind Rises,” a Japanese movie by Hayao Miyazaki. This was Miazaki’s last film before retiring. It was as beautiful and poetic as any Miyazaki film, and raised moral questions about the uses of technology. One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the sound design, which used human voices for non-human sounds, and gave the whole film an uncanny quality.


February 25th. “Like Father, Like Son,” a Japanese movie by Hirokazu Kore-eda. We love Kore-eda, and you should watch all his movies. They will break your heart. Kore-eda is an excellent writer and director. There is an interesting article and video essay on his work here.


May 27th. “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” an American movie by Wes Anderson.


May 30th. “A Patriotic Man,” a Finnish movie by Arto Halonen. It’s about the doping scandal of the 2001 Nordic Ski Championships, which I’ve heard is a source of national shame for Finland.


July 21st. “Life Itself,” an American documentary by Steve James. We miss Roger Ebert.


August 6th. “Boyhood,” an American movie by Richard Linklater.  It’s extremely interesting to watch the cast over the 12 years it took to make this movie.


September 28th. “The Trip to Italy,” a British movie by Michael Winterbottom. It’s sort of a food movie, with scene after scene of scrumptious cuisine in fancy Italian restaurants. After the movie we went to Olive Garden.


December 28th. “Birdman,” an American movie by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. I found myself wondering whether Inarritu was thinking of Michael Keaton while writing this. Except for a few seconds at the beginning and end, the entire film is shot to look like one continuous take. It’s not just a cool stunt, it also gives the story of a theater group preparing for opening night a very fitting hanging-by-your-fingernails tension.

I think 2014 was a very good year for us, film-wise.

Did you see any good movies this year?

The things we did in 2014

•January 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Whenever we go somewhere that involves buying a ticket we save the ticket stub, and every New Year’s Eve we look at them to reminisce and remember that we really do get out of the house occasionally. Here are some of the things we did in 2014.


January 4th. “Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon,” at the Seattle Art Museum. This exhibit had a lot of interesting historical information to accompany the objects on display, and visiting docents in Peruvian folk costumes.

Richard II

February 2nd. “Richard II,” at the Seattle Shakespeare Company. We were completely unfamiliar with this play, which made for more suspense than you usually experience watching Shakespeare. See how his crown doesn’t fit?


February 20th. “Miro: The Experience of Seeing,” at the Seattle Art Museum. Lots of women. And birds. And women with birds. This painting is titled Woman Bird Star.


May 10th. “Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture,” at the Seattle Asian Art Museum. A lot of beautiful and just plain old pretty objects, including ordinary objects like cigarette labels and advertising posters. Delightful.


May 29th. Northwest Folklife Festival, an event we try never to miss. This is Nae Regrets, via, and that guy can play the bagpipes!

dorothy lake

July 12th. A six mile hike in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (you wouldn’t think the wilderness would give us a ticket stub, but it did).

mariners vs orioles

July 27th. Baseball. This was our first major league baseball game. Seattle Mariners vs Baltimore Orioles. Orioles won.


September 10th. “Waiting for Godot,” at the Seattle Shakespeare Company. A play where nothing happens. Twice. Impossible to read, very possible to watch.

cape disappointment

September 12-14th. Camping at Cape Disappointment. Not as dissatisfying as I expected. We go there just about every September.


October 5-25th. Vacation in Germany, Finland, and Russia: Alte Pinakotek, Residenzmuseum, Ateneum, Hermitage, Russian Museum. View separate post here.


November 12th. “Twelfth Night,” by the Seattle Shakespeare Company. This is a play I’ve seen in several productions. Seattle Shakespeare’s version was strangely melancholy, with an excellent fool and remarkably twin-like twins.


December 4th. “Pop Departures,” at the Seattle Art Museum. Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and others. I grew up with pop art, and I think I understand it; it’s an ironic broadside on commercialism, and is burdensomely copyrighted to maximize profits.

It seems we didn’t get any ticket stubs in March, April, and June. We’ll have to work on that. But overall, I think we were rather spoiled for riches this past year, and this isn’t even counting the movies.

What fun things did you do in 2014?


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