Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Movie: Hawaii, Oslo



Movies with lots of stories told in parallel can sometimes be quite messy, making it difficult to follow each of them. Or in the worst cases, they seem like several short films which you are switching between. Hawaii, Oslo, on the other hand, manages to combine the stories in an effective way. (However, it's still difficult to give a short overview of what the stories are about - although the main one is about a man who, on his 25th birthday, is hoping to meet a girlfriend from 11 years earlier.)

I also often have problems with movies that start with "the ending" and then go on to tell us what got us there. I often wish that someone would whisper to the director "What if we did NOT start the story by telling how it will end?" Here, luckily, the brief shot of the future is just a dream, which at least leaves a bit up to the imagination.

I didn't like the start of the movie, but gradually I liked the movie more. And in the end, I enjoyed it. It turned into a great story of love, of family (betrayed and forgotten, as well as reconstructed), of hope and despair - a whole lot of "big issues", that is. It is quite a feat to be able to pull this off. So I'll forgive that the movie is a bit longer than I prefer.

Hawaii, Oslo (2004)

All movies I've seen

Monday, August 30, 2010

Salzburg card

Before going to Salzburg, I was advised to get a Salzburg card. This is a card that gives free public transport and free entrance to lots of museums in Salzburg. In the tourist season, it costs 38 Euros for three days (1 day is 25, 2 days 33).

Was it worth it? Well, let me first list what I used it for (in parenthesis are the normal prices, as listed in the Salzburg card brochure):
Mönchsberglift: 2.90
Museum of Modern Art Mönchsberg: 8.00
Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum: 6.00
Hohensalzburg fortress, including funicular, guided tour and audio guide: 10.50
Hellbrunn palace, including guided tour: 9.50
Salzburg Zoo: 9.00
Bus to Hellbrunn and back: ?
Mozart’s birthplace: 7.00
Residenz State Rooms and Gallery: 8.50

This adds up to more than 60 Euros. And then I didn’t really use the card much for the last of the three days – I could easily have taken a cable-car to Untersberg summit (19.00) or a small "cruise" on the Salzach river (13.00). However, then I would have missed the trip to the beach on the one day with nice weather…

On the other hand, there are things on this list that I would not recommend, especially not at the normal price. Mozart’s birthplace doesn’t have much to show for it, except for the feeling of being in the room where he was born. The Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum didn’t have much of interest to me. On the other hand, Hohensalzburg, Hellbrunn and Salzburg Zoo is worth at least the price listed. Moreover, just having the chance to drop into a museum to see if there’s something interesting is also worth something.

So in all: the Salzburg card would be a good buy, as long as you don’t also buy a guided tour on bus on one of the days the card is valid...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Movie: La flor de mi secreto



For some reason, there are still some Almodóvar movies I haven't seen, even though he is one of my favorite directors. His movies are easily recognizable, often dealing with strong emotions - and with women in the main roles. Moreover, the movies are often a bit cryptic to begin with - like this movie, that begins with a scene which turns out to be just a training sessions for doctors.

"La flor de mi secreto" (or "The Flower of My Secret") certainly fits the description above. The main character is Leo Macías, a (female) author who is having serious troubles in her relationship, troubles with alcohol, a difficult relationship to her mother and a rather strange relationship to her best friend. Through the film, we understand more and more of her situation, and see that there are more sides to every story.

While it does not reach the heights of some of Almodóvar's other movies, there are scenes that are heart-breaking. I certainly do not regret watching it - and will be looking out for the rest of Almodóvar's movies as well.

La flor de mi secreto (1995)

All movies I've seen

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Funny Quotes of the Week 91

"I have often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can't get my wife to go swimming." (Jimmy Carter)

"The big difference between sex for money and sex for free is that sex for money costs less." (Brendan Francis)

"OPPORTUNITY, n. A favorable occasion for grasping a disappointment." (Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary")

Robbie Williams gay video

As every other blog on the planet, I'll post the new music video by Robbie Williams and Gary Barlow: Shame. Inspired by Brokeback Mountain...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Movie: Vår mann i Kirkenes



This is a documentary film about the sole employee at the newspaper Finnmarken's office in Kirkenes. If you don't know, Kirkenes is a small town in the far north and the far east of Norway. It's so far north that the sun is completely gone for two months every winter, and so far to the east that it is east of Eastern Europe.

There's not that much to report on in Kirkenes, really, but one day there is a meeting between the Norwegian and the Russian foreign minister in the city. Sadly, the newspaper sends other reporters from Vadsø to cover this, while "our guy" goes on with his everyday tasks.

It is a thoughtful movie. But it is also beautiful - the nature around Kirkenes is something special. And by seeing this movie, you get to know a person you wouldn't get to know anywhere else...

Vår mann i Kirkenes (2010)

All movies I've seen

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hotel Belmondo, Salzburg

During my stay in Salzburg, I’ve stayed at Hotel Belmondo. This is a small hotell in the centre of town, maybe 15 or 20 minutes’ walk from the cathedral and the other main sights – as well as only five minutes from the train station. It’s right next to the river, so it’s hard to miss.

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(...sorry about the mess...)

The hotel room is nice and it has internet in the room (but not wireless). It also has a strange limit of 450 Mb for my five-day stay – which meant I had to give up my habit of spending a few minutes before bed-time on starting the upload of the days photos to Flickr. This of course also meant that I had to postpone publishing blog posts about Salzburg till I was back home and could embed the Flickr photos. The demands of tourists nowadays… :-)

I ordered a room without breakfast included, so I don’t know how the breakfast is here. But there is an okay café right next to the entrance of this hotel which has a cheaper option of breakfast – and which also offers toast, pizza slices etc. And obviously there are lots of other offers nearby.

Thus, again, I’m quite happy with my choice of hotel, even though I had to change my blogging routine a little. I doubt that there are much cheaper options at the same standard any closer to the centre.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Movie: Take the lead



The best thing I can say about this movie is that it has its heart in the right place. It portrays lots of young people who has not had a great start of their lives, and shows how a dance teacher tries to change the way they behave towards others and themselves.

The actors are mostly good. Antonio Banderas has the unpleasant task of trying to make the teacher come to life, and does that quite well. Many of the youngsters are believable.

So what's the problem with the movie, which makes me not like it that much? There are many. The story is full of less than realistic events. The whole emotion ride we're taken on seems to be taken from lots of similar movies. And the dance scenes is not really that great - I don't know if it's the dancing or the photography or what else...

So it becomes a charming but perfectly forgettable movie, sadly.

Take the lead (2006)

All movies I've seen

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mirabell Gardens

On my last day in Salzburg, I visited the Mirabell Gardens. They don't make gardens like this anymore, do they?

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Movie: Cabaret



Musicals try to give you great music and an interesting story at the same time. The problem is, of course, that the musical parts may stop the flow of the story, making it uninteresting, which then makes the story just an unwelcome interruption from the music.

Of course, there are musicals that handle this well. My favorite musical, Mamma Mia! manages to keep telling the story even in the music parts. There are also many others that have managed the same thing. On the other hand, I rarely like a musical when it doesn't manage to combine the music with the story.

Cabaret, sadly, does not. The story told is an important one, of persecution of Jews in Germany in the 30s - and of course of the main character, Sally Mann, trying to make a living in this period. The music is quite good cabaret acts which gives plenty of atmosphere, but not much storytelling.

Therefore, I end up having watched a two hour movie consisting of one hour of interesting story, broken up by one hour of music. The combination is not satisfying - although both are okay on its own.

I should mention that both Liza Minnelli and Michael York do well. And it's also a bit funny seeing Fritz Wepper, who later played Derrick's helper Harry Klein for almost 25 years.

Cabaret (1972)

All movies I've seen

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Funny Quotes of the Week 90

"Mr. Serra looks dull except when he smiles, when he looks alarming." (The Economist on Brazilian presidential candidate José Serra)

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." (Sir Winston Churchill)

"Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious." (Oscar Wilde)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Residenz state rooms

My blogging from my trip to Salzburg continues. One of the museums included in the Salzburg Card was the Residenz state rooms. These were the seat of the Salzburg prince-archbishops and have seen some important events in its time: "The child prodigy Mozart often played here in the Conference Room for guests. In 1867, Emperor Franz Josef received Napoleon III here." (New York Times)

I enjoyed walking through these rooms with my camera readily available. Here are some photos:

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movie: Den brysomme mannen



Andreas arrives in Oslo from nowhere and does not know where he is or where he comes from. He gets along fine with people, but there are some certain things missing...

The movie is partly a modern-day "Brave New World" (without the brutal details), partly a Norwegian Jacques Tati. Which sounds extremely good, perhaps, especially if you like Tati a bit more than I do. Well, the movie is both interesting and funny at times, but then it is also rather boring at other times. (And in the beginning, there are scenes in which you think that you may have happened to press the "pause" button...)

For me, it's an added bonus to see the streets of Oslo. For others, that is not so interesting, perhaps, but it is still an interesting movie in the series of Norwegian "a bit weird" movies...

Den brysomme mannen (2006)

All movies I've seen

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mozart's birthplace

There is one museum in Salzburg that is only worth visiting if you have the Salzburg Card (which makes the museum free): Mozart's birthplace. Of course it feels a bit special to be in the room where Mozart was born, but other than that, the visit feels a bit like reading an article. There is not very much to see, but a bit of text reminding you of features of Mozart's life.

So my advise is: save your money: enjoy the outside instead.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Movie: The African Queen



I'm still trying to get to see some of the old classics - movies that I've seen the name of for years, but I never got round to actually see. Now there was finally time to see John Huston's "The African Queen", with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

"The African Queen" is the name of a small boat, and the movie is a river movie. Most of the movie, there is only Hepburn and Bogart on the boat, and it is both funny and romantic - as well as a bit dramatic at times.

Movies age differently. This one, sadly, has some visual effects which are quite distracting today. The scenes from a rapidly moving boat is just too obviously fake. Moreover, the role of the local, African inhabitants is not what today would be considered politically correct.

So again, the movie itself has aged but also has retained some of its qualities. Add to that the obvious charm of getting to see a classic that I hadn't seen before, and it was worth the time anyway.

The African Queen (1951)

All movies I've seen

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Journalism warning labels

Have a look at Tom Scott's site - he has created some great "Journalism Warning Labels" which should be used in newspapers. Examples:

"Warning: This article is basically just a press release, copied and pasted."
"Warning: Journalist does not understand the subject they are writing about."

Have a look!

Concert on the roof of Oslo's opera

I've been to a free concert on top of Oslo's opera house tonight. It was a concert with the opera orchestra and the opera choir, and there were lots of people enjoying the great weather and the music. Here's a taste of the music:



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(click to see a larger version on Flickr)

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There was fireworks to end the evening - and then we walked to the top of the roof to enjoy the view and play with shadows...

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Funny Quotes of the Week 89

"It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place." (H. L. Mencken)

"A chaplain in Cromwell's army exorcised a soldier's obsessing devil by throwing the soldier into the water, when the devil came to the surface. The soldier, unfortunately, did not." (Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary")

"Only the shallow know themselves." (Oscar Wilde)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Salzburg Zoo

I love zoos. I know I will never be a wildlife photographer who will travel around the world and get wild animals as their best friends in life. But in zoos at least I can have a shot at photographing some.

It is fair to say that Salzburg is not famous for its zoo. Among other things that comes to mind before its zoo is Mozart, "The Sound of Music", its festival and then perhaps 30 or 40 other sights. And I must admit I would never have visited this zoo if it wasn’t right next to Hellbrunn palace, which I wanted to see. Moreover, it was included in the Salzburg Card that I’d already bought…

But it was a good zoo and I got to walk around photographing as I like to do. So instead of chatting on, maybe I’ll just let the photos do the talking...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Movie: The Men Who Stare at Goats



There is a Coen brothers-like quality of this movie. It's strange, surprising and has lots of excellent actors.

It tells the story of a top secret project in the US military to develop "superpowers" or "Jedi fighters" with supernatural capabilities, inspired heavily by the hippie movement. Ewan McGregor plays the journalist who tries to find out more about this story - and this brings him to present-day Iraq, where the US war effort is ongoing.

The movie is moderately funny and never boring, but what remains after seeing it is mainly a few funny images in my mind...

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

All movies I've seen

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hellbrunn Palace

Hellbrunn Palace is a nice sight a short bus trip outside of Salzburg. It is mostly known for its trick fountains as well as for the nearby zoo, but the gardens and the palace itself is also nice. And don’t forget the “Sixteen, going on seventeen” glass pavilion (from “Sound of Music”).

Here are my best photos from a day at Hellbrunn:

Monday, August 09, 2010

Movie: Inception



What premises are you willing to accept when you see a movie, and what premises make you want to get up and leave the cinema? This is a rather difficult question - I can see Star Wars and readily accept the entire universe, but I can also watch a realistic movie and be completely thrown off by some illogical action by one of the characters.

To enjoy Inception, you surely have to be willing to accept a lot - about people joining other people inside their dreams and so on. That's fine. I'm less willing to accept other parts of the movie's premises - for instance that it is possible to be shot at several hundred times by (I assume) the best hands in the killing business, without being hurt. There are also other things that throw me off at times.

The story takes place in several different "layers" at the same time. This is clever, but at the same time it doesn't quite work. There is a scene involving an elevator that gets boring for some strange reason - in the middle of lots of action.

So I would say: That's enough, Christopher Nolan. You have shown that you can handle a high level of complexity in your movies without losing completely track of what you're doing. You've managed awesome visual effects and to direct some of the best actors in the business. Could you know take it a bit easy and make something a bit less frantic?

Leonardo DiCaprio does well here, by the way. As does most of the rest of the cast. And as I've already said; the visual images are at times brilliant. It's probably unlike anything else you'll see this year. Which, in my opinion, is quite okay.

Inception (2010)

All movies I've seen

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Beautiful video from Prekestolen

One of Norway's finest tourist spots is Prekestolen (but I haven't been there yet, actually).

Here's a beautiful time-lapse video covering 24 hours. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Funny Quotes of the Week 88

"Criminal: A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation." (Howard Scott)

"NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all he knows not to make us disobedient." (Ambrose Bierce, "Devil's Dictionary")

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast." (Oscar Wilde)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Waldbad Anif

After walking around the sights of a cloudy city centre in Salzburg for two and a half days, I suddenly saw some blue sky and remembered some advice from a friend: don’t miss the Waldbad Anif!

So I took the next S-bahn to Pech Urstein, walked back along the road for about one kilometer and crossed the river on top of a dam as I noticed dark skies. I entered the Waldbad (“forest bath”, isn’t it?), put on some bathing shorts and went into the lake. I almost got the entire shorts wet before the first raindrop fell.

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I stayed in the water until it was too cold, and then decided to wait for good weather on one of the benches. I sat there, meditating, with a towel over my shoulders, and realized that it was quite nice to be sitting quietly there instead of walking frantically from one sight to the next. So I figured that the trip was probably a good idea even if there was no sun.

But there was to be sun! It was raining for maybe 30 minutes, then the skies slowly moved away, and after a while it was actually sunny. For a moment I even regretted not bringing my sunscreen – and I had to take a bath once in a while to cool off. By this time I had moved over to the FKK part of the lake, by the way.

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After being there for three and a half hours, the sun had moved and I had to move with it. I found a narrow space between the path and the lake. Suddenly, a proud mother marched her small children to the bath – I’m not talking human beings here, but birds. They passed no more than a meter away from me. They were cute.

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So that’s it. I just missed the train back to Salzburg and had to wait for half an hour – giving me a wonderful opportunity to photograph the area near Pech Urstein station – quite beautiful…

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So: never leave Salzburg before seeing Waldbad Anif!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Main sights of Oslo

I've been playing around with the Gallery function in Flickr, and created a gallery of the main sights of Oslo. Have a look and comment!

Main sights of Oslo

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Residenz gallery

The current exhibition in the Residenz gallery in Salzburg is simply called “Die ganze Pracht”. It is highlights from the museum, and it is a nice enough collection of art from the wrong centuries. As avid readers of this blog (do you exist?) will know, my interest is hard to awake until we reach the 1800s, in general. The exception is works by the truly great, such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens or Rembrandt.

Part of my problem with earlier art may be the subject matter. So much is based on the Bible, a book which I think is overrated. The cityscapes or the still lives tend to bore me. The allegories based on myths and fables are often a bit more interesting, although they tend to refer to things I’ve never heard of. Moreover, there is even there an effort to include moral teachings. In this exhibition, there is a painting by Gerard van Honthorst called “Junger Trinker” (Young Drinker). It is a nice painting of a young guy enjoying his drink – but the picture in the background shows how the god of wisdom is being outmaneuvered by the gods of wine and love.

So there it is. The gallery is nice, but only served to strengthen my conviction of which periods of art history are my favorites.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

FBI claims logo reproduction is unlawful

BBC tells us about a row between FBI and Wikipedia, in which FBI claims that the simple act of reproducing the logo of the FBI is unlawful. They quote a law saying that "Whoever possesses any insignia...or any colourable imitation thereof..shall be fined...or imprisoned... or both," the FBI wrote. [1]

This seems very strange indeed. Quoting a logo should not be unlawful, and what is intended by the law is certainly that one should not use logo to pretend to be FBI - or possess a badge-like thing that could be used for that purpose.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.



[1]: The full rule is: "Whoever manufactures, sells, or possesses any badge, identification card, or other insignia, of the design prescribed by the head of any department or agency of the United States for use by any officer or employee thereof, or any colorable imitation thereof, or photographs, prints, or in any other manner makes or executes any engraving, photograph, print, or impression in the likeness of any such badge, identification card, or other insignia, or any colorable imitation thereof, except as authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both."

Movie: Capitalism: A Love Story



I believe in capitalism. I believe that having competition to meet the demands of the population is better than having a planned economy. However, as most Europeans would agree, competitions need rules. Abuse of power must be avoided. Monopolies must be avoided and so on. Capitalism can only work when it is within solid limits.

But so does democracy. One guy in this movie says that "democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner". Democracy also has to have rules to avoid the majority to destroy the minority.

In this movie, Michael Moore, in his usual, funny way, tells stories of how capitalism has run amok in the US. The power of the big companies has become too big and the power of the ordinary man has become to small.

It is strange to see how American companies are taking out insurance on the lives of their employees, so that they earn money when they die. As the companies have no real losses when one of their employees die, these are not insurances in the usual sense of the word, but rather bets that someone else will die. Bookmakers would normally not take such bets, but insurance companies does. It's sick.

What's really sad in this movie, however, is all the people who has lost their homes. In hindsight, the contracts they signed were unfair, giving the bankes all of the control and the lenders no control. It is clear that the regulations of the banks have been too lax.

Even though this is an engaging movie, it's not Michael Moore's best one. He is too one-sided, so I keep asking questions that go unanswered. Like "Why did you take that additional mortage?" While the banks are mainly to blame, I think that in each case the responsibility of each person also needs to be looked at. Moore also puts democracy and capitalism as opposites. We see many examples around the world that they are not.

(So what is Michael Moore's best movie? In my opinion, The Big One and Sicko, with Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine not far behind.)

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

All movies I've seen

Monday, August 02, 2010

Festung Hohensalzburg

One of the sights of Salzburg that you can’t really miss, is the Hohensalzburg fortress. After all, you keep looking up at it all the time when you’re in the city centre, and it tends to get into all the pictures you take of the city, so you start to wonder what’s up there...

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The people of Salzburg spent hundreds of years building ever new walls for the fortress. Nowadays, there is a funicular taking you from the city centre into the fortress in seconds, allowing you to start spending your money immediately. What a wonderful example that openness is better than walls!

(That’s a beautiful thought, but hopelessly naive. In reality, of course, the walls are still there, only the fortress has expanded. The walls are no longer in Salzburg, but at the Schengen borders. The fortress Hohensalzburg is now “open to the public”, but not just any public. Only if you pass the birthplace test at the airport are you allowed in. The splendor of Europe is still only for the privileged few, and we would do well to remember that we are among them.)

What is up there is, first and foremost, a wonderful view of the city. Then there are the fortress museum (not much to look at), world of marionettes (oh, I missed that, I think), the state rooms (look at how people lived in the fortress a long time ago – quite cool) and the torture chamber.

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(Remember that you can click on the photos to get a closer look.)

In all, it’s a sight that shouldn’t be missed.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum

(This is my second blog post on my trip to Salzburg. More will come later...)

The Museum of Modern Art Rupertinum is an example of a museum that I would probably not have visited if I didn’t already have the Salzburg Card, giving free entrance. At least, I knew nothing about it in advance that would make me believe it was worth 6 Euros. Which it wasn’t.

The main exhibition was works by Daniel Richter. It would be breathtakingly presumptuous of me to make up my mind about an artist after walking along his paintings for five or ten minutes. But what should I do? Life is too short to spend hours looking at art you don’t really see the point of, just because someone has put it in a museum. So there you are, no more Daniel Richter for me for the time being. (Of course, it would have been another matter if there had been a Richter supporter there, enthusiastically pointing out to me why Richter is a genius. There were no such persons there.)