I think it’s the same for everyone. Certain elements from childhood never quite leave us, – sometimes for reasons we don’t understand. They can be entertaining to look back at, but even decades later one (read: I) can still feel an inch of their original effect. These are some of my things.

#1
Jomfruslukeren – The Virgin Eater

I first saw this painting in the national museum of Oslo at the fragile age of eight. It is painted by the Norwegian new romantic painter Theodor Kittelsen, and the title translates to “The Virgin Eater”. It shook me to the core, and, – being fully aware of what a virgin was, I knew I would be part of its diet, probably after being dragged into the black ocean by its teeth.

This is what nightmares are made of, guys

#2
Rundhunden – The Round Dog

Someone read this book to me when I was about four or five. I still recall the innocent drawings (especially her red rubber boots) with a sort of ambivalent mix of joy and melancholy. I seem to remember it had an unhappy ending, and I was just not ok with that. Seeing the pictures still breaks my heart a little bit.

Sweet, sweet Round dog playing with leaves. Boots off!

#3
Dynedyret – The Duvet Animal

My imagination has always been a tad overly developed, which tended to mess with me before I became a so-called adult, and mysteriously started liking horror movies. My fear of closets, monsters under the bed, and so on, kind of changed when my mother invented The Duvet Animal; every duvet is actually an animal whose life task is to protect whoever sleeps underneath it. I will confess I still think about it sometimes.

(I would put a picture here, but I have no idea what to put)

#4
Lillsysterns undulat är död – Little sister’s canary is dead

At some point, my parents listened a lot to the Swedish singer Cornelis Vreeswijk. His songs are generally sad sounding, but this one basically had me sobbing hysterically, and was hence strictly forbidden to play in my presence. Its traumatizing sadness would enter me immediately and start the waterworks, and I would run away in tears. How could the canary just die like that, inflicting the little sister such profound sorrow, and more importantly; how could the world be so cruel?

Cornelis Vreeswijk

Spotify:

Lillsysterns undulat är död

#5
Tordyveln flyger i skymningen – The beetle flies in the twilight

Having always been a bit strange, I preferred radio novels over TV-series as a child, and this novel by the Swedish writer Maria Gripe had me intrigued beyond what I can describe. Its mysterious atmosphere was created by elements such as ghosts, premonitions, dreams, secrets, and old letters. In fact, I think it was what planted the writer seed in me, and I still remember every detail of the story vividly and would love to read it again.

Originally made for the radio, but just as amazing in book format

#6
Mitt eget land – My own country (This title suddenly sounded somewhat politically incorrect)

Time to thank the Swedes for their contribution to my emotional development. This song (by Olle Adolphson) was more or less the only adult song in my children’s songbook, and I loved it so much, although I did not really understand its very poetical (and again, Swedish) lyrics. It was indeed melancholic, but I think I at this point had figured out that sadness too can be enjoyable if approached correctly.

Olle Adolphson

Spotify:

Mitt eget land

#7
Never Ending Story

I think most people know this cult classic (can I call it that?), that in my case left a profound impression. I used to watch the second movie over and over again at my grandparents’, and I was as in love with hybrid dog dragon Falkor as I was intrigued by the insidious snake neckless Auryn and dead scared of the insect-like giants and acid water that hero Bastian had to deal with. My grandfather gifted me with a similar snake necklace, and I was pretty much convinced it withheld the same powers as Auryn.

The first movie also had some seriously disturbing elements, like the Swamp of Sadness, where only those who kept hope alive would not sink, – and the gates where only the worthy could pass without being struck by lightning from the sphinx’ eyes. Even today I can’t help thinking; would I pass? (And more importantly, would my cats?)

The worst thing about this movie was the fact that I always watched it recorded on an old VHS, which ended before the last five minutes were shown. At twenty-five I purchased the DVD and FINALLY got to see it!

Auryn
Falkor being snuggled by Atreyu
More nightmares!

~This is what happens when one becomes nostalgic. My apologies.~

Most of the non-Spanish people I encounter reveal a common prejudice; that Latin men are oppressive chauvinists, and that we, the wives of these men, suffer under their regime.

I don’t claim to know every single Spanish man, nor do I claim to know Latin Americans well enough to include them in this post. But I do know Spain, and Spain is the country I will be addressing here.

My general impression is that the machismo was stronger in Spain a couple of generations ago. I have traveled a lot to Italy in my life, and also a few times to France. There I have quite recently experienced catcalling in its ugliest form, a whole bunch of times. To compare, in 2017 I spent a total of three months in Spain, and I have been going there about four times a year since 2010, sometimes five weeks at a time. Every time I am there, I go walking by myself (because shopping happens). I have been catcalled once, by a guy I seriously think was mentally disabled.

The minimum sentence for rape in Norway is three years, after having recently been raised from two. Some argue that this change has resulted in fewer convictions, because judges are hesitant to give “such a long” sentence, and hence choose to let the accused go instead. In Spain, there has been at least one case of a catcaller being arrested for his actions. In Norway, the police cannot do anything as long as there has not been physical touching or verbal threats.

When it comes to the protection of women, I believe that Norway is actually behind Spain. Still we like to cling to the idea of the Macho Iberico, and that the Norwegian society is much safer for women regarding sexual violence.

Check this out

These are the degrees of sexual violence and how they are punished in Spain.

Sexual aggression

Basic sexual aggression: The attempt to commit any sexual act (not necessarily penetration) using physical or mental force. Punishable with prison from one to five years.

Aggravated sexual aggression (usually what we call rape): Committing a sexual act using physical or mental force, including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Punishable with prison from six to twelve years.

Enhanced basic sexual aggression can be applied and punished with prison from five to ten years, under the following circumstances:

• When the violence or intimidation is especially humiliating or degrading for the victim

• When there are two or more perpetrators

• When the victim is especially vulnerable due to factors like age, disability or illness

• When the perpetrator is the parent, child or sibling of the victim

• When there is use of weapons or other dangerous items

Sexual abuse

Basic sexual abuse: Non-consensual sexual contact, but without the victim realizing. This would for instance include a situation where the perpetrator touches a sleeping or passed out victim in inappropriate places. Punishable with prison from one to three years. If the perpetrator is a parent of the victim, the punishment will always go to the maximum.

Aggravated sexual abuse: Same parameters, but including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. Punishable with prison from four to ten years.

Sexual harassment

Basic sexual harassment: Suggesting sexual favors. The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim has to be either work-related, or such as the one of a teacher and his/her student. Punishable with prison from three to five months. If the victim is especially vulnerable, the crime is punishable with prison from five to seven months.

Aggravated sexual harassment: Same conditions as above, but the perpetrator has a superior position and is also threatening to punish the victim if she/he does not comply with her/his requests of sexual favors. Punishable with prison from five to seven months. If the victim is especially vulnerable, the crime is punishable with prison from six months to one year.

Exhibitionism

These punishments are applied when the victim is a minor or for some reason disabled.

Basic exhibitionism: Punishable with prison from six months to one year.

Distribution of pornographic material: Punishable with prison from six months to one year.

Norway

In Norwegian law, rape is defined as the following:

• Obtaining sexual contact through threatening or violent behavior

• Having sexual contact with someone unconscious or unable to resist the sexual act

• Forcing someone to commit sexual acts with others or themselves by threatening or violent behavior

Punishment

• Rape under these definitions can be punished with prison up to ten years

• Rape without any enhancing circumstances are normally punished with four years of prison

• Rape with enhancing circumstances are normally punished with six years of prison

• Prison up to twenty-one years can be considered in circumstances where the victim is left injured for life or dies as a result of the rape

• The minimum punishment for the equal of Aggravated rape in Norway is three years of prison

Some statistics

The following shows the differences in percentage regarding partner violence. As one can read from the figures, the number is higher in Norway than in Spain. Regarding women’s own perception of societal safety, Spain is only one point below Norway, which can be considered marginal.

It is also worth mentioning that in 2011 the average sentence for rape in Norway was three years and four months of prison, although seventy percent are out after having served about two thirds of their time. It is easy to calculate that most of the sexual offenders sentenced to prison in Norway will serve about two years.

Also, check out this map regarding women’s physical safety, and compare Spain to Norway. Underneath you can see the five best countries in the world to be born female, regarding career and welfare. Spain is the only country of significant size on the list and is only marginally worse than the others.

The last table is based on numbers from Statistics Norway and Instituto Nacional de Estadística. The table shows how many years sexual offenders are sentenced to in percentage. As one can read, there is a much higher percentage of long jail time sentences in Spain than in Norway.

Conclusion

I will be the first to admit that I am no lawyer, but the information is out there and it is not difficult to read. I am writing this post because I am tired of people thinking that Spain is such a difficult country to be a woman. I am also confused by the fact that Spanish women tend to look towards Scandinavia when they describe how they would like Spain to be, when Spain actually protects its women to a higher degree than what we do in Norway. Women everywhere are fighting for an increased level of equality, but we should be aware of the numbers, – there is no reason for Spain to idealize us.

And by the way, my husband cooks me dinner every day!

Sources:
https://no.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voldtekt
https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delitos_contra_la_libertad_e_indemnidad_sexuales
https://giwps.georgetown.edu/country/spain/
https://giwps.georgetown.edu/country/norway/
http://www.klartale.no/norge/lav-straff-for-voldtekt-1.334971
https://www.ssb.no/sosiale-forhold-og-kriminalitet/statistikker/straff/aar
http://www.ine.es/welcome.shtml
http://m.libertaddigital.com/opinion/manuel-llamas/no-espana-no-es-un-pais-machista-85000/
http://www.elfederalonline.com/2017/10/12/primera-vez-detienen-riojano-decirle-una-mujer-piropo-subido-tono/
Women Stats Project

It being spring and all, I thought it was time to leave all my everyday annoyances behind. No things truly disappear though, – one has to move them elsewhere. So this is me moving my negativities here, so I can hopefully go on with my life a little less passive-aggressively.

When I remove the things that really upset me (like racism, abuse, war and you name it), there are always things that make me cringe and imagine random stuff falling from the sky hitting certain people over the head, making them two-dimensional in a kind of cartoon-like way. Anyone remembers Ally McBeal? If you do, you know what I mean.

#1
Sidewalk blockers

They walk slowly. They walk in the middle. And they just do not move. I sometimes deal with it by walking creepily close to them until they realize I’m trying to pass. It doesn’t really work, but it makes me feel better.

#2
Queue skills

Or the general lack of them. In my many years of selling stuff, I found myself wishing we had a kind of military approach to organizing ourselves in lines. And that the individuals who fail would be forced to do a hundred push-ups on the spot. Do not make a group! You are not a shoal of herring!

#3
Early birds

Certain people (especially the human I married) seem to put on their happy faces once they open their eyes in the morning. This premature good mood includes singing, putting on music, tickling, and general bullshitting. Why won’t you leave me alone with my misery?

(I am actually a night owl, I just think this one is really funny)
I am actually a night owl, I just find this one really funny

#4
Certain parents

I fully understand that kids misbehave and that parents don’t always have the power to control them. And yes, it is easy to judge when one only has to take care of creatures that sleep up to twenty hours a day (meow). But, having experienced kids throwing three thousand NOK shoes around my shop, and kids putting their hands down their diapers and smearing poop on the windows, I claim the right to infuriate. Apologize and clean up your shit (literally)!

#5
Stinginess

Splitting the bill according to exactly what everyone has eaten. Looking through every single pack of cheese to find where it is possible to save a minimal amount of money. Selling stuff to your friends for a symbolic sum. All while being amongst the richest people on earth. Have some class!

This is probably THE internet meme I identify the most with

#6
Sports missionaries

Fine, you’re sporty, your problem. Don’t try to convince me I can be. You don’t live inside my body, you don’t know what working out feels like to me. If you did, you wouldn’t dare suggest I go to the gym. Seriously, it would be easier to make me convert to whichever actual religion. Scientology, Amish, Mormon, Flat Earth Society. You choose.

#7
Spelling mistakes and bad grammar

I’m genuinely sorry, but I am and will forever be a grammar nazi (except if you’re not writing in your mother tongue or you are dyslectic). Know that every time you write a mediocre sentence, I will silently judge you. You are hereby judged.

Yes, I have learned to hold my tongue. But I do think it

I am thankful for ~The Great Internet~ providing me with a place to blow off steam and being a bad person. From this point on I am purified and ready to face the month of May.

Yeah, yeah, I know like half of the population has gone through this, so it might not be the most revolutionary tale to tell. But regardless, to me, it was quite an experience.

I had braces for about three years when I was a teenager, and hence developed a certain immunity towards dentist phobia. I have never had a single cavity, so when I checked my teeth at nineteen years old, I pretty much just forgot about ever going again. Then I made the mistake of telling my parents, and although I am almost thirty years old now, they put on their most badass parenting faces and sent me to make an appointment straight away. I knew that my fate had been sealed and that there was no going back. I, and my teeth, were finally going to the dentist.

Things went along more or less as expected, except the fact that dental x-ray apparently has had a remarkable evolution during the last decade; no lead cape, no closing my eyes, just a small machine that made me realize how long it had been. As usual, I had no cavities, but due to my very pathetic amount of mouth space, the overly friendly gentleman, who seemed way too young to have completed his dentistry education, let me know that I needed to remove my ever absent wisdom teeth. All damn four of them. All those years of thinking I was just meant to remain unwise, and there he was, telling me that someone was going to stick their tools into my mouth and pull them out before they had even surfaced. I almost felt bad for the poor bastards. Oh well, what has to be done has to be done.

About a month later I found myself in the hands of a new dentist; a very cool and laidback woman a bit older than myself. Just like most humans, I do not enjoy operations and the pain that comes with it, but I was in fact not that nervous. I consider it the best strategy to not think too much about it until the moment is there, and that is how I deal with most of the uncomfortable things one has to do in life. Like flying. Or presenting myself as a grown-up professional.

So, I’m sitting in the chair putting on a brave face, frankly feeling pretty calm about it. Dentistzilla is giving me local anesthesia that honestly hurts like hell, but it passes and I keep playing it cool. My mouth is starting to feel, – well, pretty much non-existent, which is both fascinating and somewhat disturbing, and I am suddenly feeling strangely aware of my palate. Then the palpitations and the dizziness start, but before I have the chance to complain, I am being told that this is totally normal. Ok, I accept what I am hearing, but I am also starting to suspect that cavewoman-me is not as ok with this as I thought.

I am finally numb enough to get going, and she puts what feels like both of her hands inside my mouth and starts working on tooth number one. That’s when it happens. Nausea hits me like a fist and it feels like when I chunked a whole bottle of Martini Rosso at seventeen. Just without the fun first. They probably see my face getting an until that point unknown whiter shade of pale, and ask me if I am ok. I answer mwmph, and they decide to give me a few minutes to recover.

Time passes (honestly no idea how long), and at some point, they realize that I have no plans what so ever on recovering. Quite the opposite in fact, as they hurry to get the garbage bin just in case I throw up. I do not, however, as my body weighs about three hundred kilos and I would probably have choked on my own vomit before I had managed to get up to aim. Luckily I had not eaten in about seventeen hours (just because I sometimes prioritize sleeping over food).

Then, at last, they decide to ask me ~the question~; Would you like a tranquilizing injection? I have honestly never been so grateful for being offered drugs, so I comply, possibly a tad too enthusiastically. I get the shot and the euphoria begins.

I feel calm. I feel happy. Nausea passes. I start making jokes with an articulation that I can only imagine, and I am suddenly totally fine with having my teeth ripped out of my skull. Why worry? Hakuna Matata!

It is over in a moment, and I mwmph my way to the waiting room and lie down to call my husband, whom I am hoping will come to get me with the car. He is as always my savior, and before I fall asleep I send a Snapchat selfie full of spelling mistakes that would have made me cringe any other day.

We go home and I call my father, who cannot really understand what I am saying over the phone. I am in a good mood though! I spend the rest of the day drooling blood stains on basically all the pillows and cushions we own, giving myself a significant portion of laundry to get done during the following days.

The next day I wake up looking like a nut collecting hamster. It is a huge challenge not to laugh when I look in the mirror, but laughing hurts, so I try not to. On the bright side, surviving on a diet solely consisting of ice cream is not too bad.

Now at least I know what I am up against. And that getting drugged within a safe and controlled environment can be pretty awesome.

Two teeth out, two to go!

The streets of Oslo (and other European cities) are filled with beggars. Only a decade or two ago they consisted of ninety-nine percent drug addicts, because I am lucky enough to live in a country where it is almost an impossible task to die from starvation or other consequences of extreme poverty. The system catches you long before it comes to that.

Now though, a great portion of these beggars are Eastern European immigrants, also known as Gypsies, Romani people or Roma, all depending on how politically correct one wishes to be; the term Gypsy is by many Romas considered discriminating (like the n-word), as it often contains negative connotations connected to thievery and crime.

Traditional gypsy caravan
Traditional Traveler’s caravan

First, a little history. Most countries have their own branches of Romas, as does Norway. Those however are few and even fewer still practice their traditional traveling lifestyle. In Britain, a big part of the nomadic people call themselves Irish Travellers, and are of Irish origin, unlike the Eastern European, who descend from India.

As you may or may not know, along with the Jews, (all branches of) the Roma people were also victims of ethnic cleansing throughout WWII. During these years between 220 000 and 1, 500 000 Romas were executed by the nazis, – quite an unclear number, which again, in my opinion, demonstrates the general lack of knowledge on the Roma genocide.

However, the seemingly endless mistreatment of the Romas did not stop in 1945. Governments in Czechoslovakia, along with those of several Scandinavian countries (Norway amongst them) initiated a systematic (and obviously forced) sterilization of Roma women in order to reduce their population. In Norway specifically, people of Roma ethnicity were denied entry by law until 1956. Since then the Norwegian government also systematically removed Roma children from their families (estimated to between two and three thousand children) and placed them in orphanages and foster care, up until the late seventies. The practice was not officially abolished until 1986.

In 1951 a law was passed that forbids any branch of the Romas to own horses, effectively robbing the travelers of their traditional way of living. According to the Norwegian Holocaust center, there are well-documented cases from Norway’s most famous psychiatric hospital, that prove the sterilization, castration and lobotomization(!) of people of Roma descent.

Romas waiting to be deported to concentration camps (Germany, 1940)
Romas waiting to be deported (Germany, 1940)

Still, it continues. In a society that no longer puts up with racism and discrimination, the hatred towards the Romas never ceases to exist. Unfortunately, we no longer see them as musicians and craftsmen, like they once were (and often still are), but as an annoying burden, giving our perfect welfare state a filthy stain. You don’t have to look far. Read the comments on social media. Raise your eyes to see how people talk about (and to!) the beggars that are not Norwegian drug addicts. Why are the Romas the last minority it is socially acceptable to discriminate solely based on their ethnicity? (Enhancing the last sentence, as it is the most important message in this article.)

In early 2017 the Norwegian state broadcasting channel, NRK, launched a documentary claiming to prove that the Roma beggars on our street corners are massively involved in drug and prostitution crimes. The documentary was later proven to have used several photographs from unrelated sources, showing these off as “evidence”, until the public learned the truth.

Yet, the documentary once again kindled the debate on whether or not Norway should make begging a crime. Or, as I like to put it, if we should make it illegal for the poorest to burst our perfect bubbles of wealthiness with the presence of their misery. If we should force them to take their misfortune elsewhere.

The absolutely amazing Russian Roma trio, Loyko
Amazing Russian Roma trio, Loyko

It is an utter mystery to me that Norway, with its exceptionally ugly history regarding this minority, still lacks the decency to treat them, like anyone else, like human beings. This does not only apply to the government (actually, the current prime minister officially apologized to the Romas in 2015, praise her for that), but to the general public.

A common argument is that the beggars don’t get to keep the money they earn, that they are part of organized begging circles where the bosses control them and end up with the profit. I have no evidence to show whether this is true or false, but I do know the following;

– No matter who gets the money you earn, you have to be beyond desperate to endure Norwegian winters, sitting on one spot in temperatures way below zero, day after day for hours at the time. Apply the fact that most people who pass by despise you. Does it still sound attractive?

– It makes no sense what so ever to glance upon the most vulnerable minority in our society and think that the solution is to push them down even further. I cannot think of any other group where this is being done, or even suggested.

– Nobody is asking you to contribute. If you don’t believe in it, let it be, but be civilized about it. Take another look at history, and ask yourself if you really want to continue that history in the same manner.

– However, sharing a little of what we have might contribute to less crime. Desperate people will act accordingly, and I think we can all agree that begging is better than theft. (This is just one of my own reflections, but it can be applied to everything from the need of drugs to the wish to feed your child, regardless of ethnicity.)

Infamous picture of three fingered Roma guitarist, Django Reinhardt
The infamous picture of three-fingered Roma guitarist, Django Reinhardt

For some reason, the Romas fall outside of the common moral rules on how to treat one another. It is not a matter of giving them money or not, but a question of what level of integrity we want to have as a country and as individuals. Still there are Romas that keep their origin secret in fear of the consequences, and we are living in 2018.

It also saddens me deeply that the Roma culture and talent always have been overshadowed by the prejudice and fear of people living life in a different manner. There are countless Roma musicians out there with skills that match any so-called professional, that never receive the recognition they deserve as a part of Roma culture in the eyes of the general population. The loss is ours, and it is a perfect example of how we blindfold ourselves and hence rob ourselves of what could also be enjoyed by “us”.

I would like to finish with this beautiful Roma saying that has stuck with me for one and a half decade; Bury me standing, I’ve been on my knees all my life.

(Below you can find links to a few of the most amazing music pieces by Roma musicians)

Rosenberg Trio – Gipsy Summer

Loyko – Brahms

Django Reinhardt – Honeysuckle Rose

Gipsy Kings – Bamboléo

Sources: Wikipedia.org, Aftenposten.no, Spotify

Let me drop the bomb, – stereotyping is fun! BUT, just as long as the writer (and preferably the reader) is aware of what (s)he is doing. Then you can call it ironizing, which is somehow making fun of people who stereotype for real, although lots of stereotypes have some truth to them; after all that is how they establish.

To get away with stereotyping, it is always a good idea to start with your own kind. Self ironizing is (at least in my opinion) one of the greatest inventions there is, although not appreciated by everyone. It does however give an innocent touch to the ugly phenomenon of ~generalization~; one of today’s society’s biggest sins.

So obviously, I have chosen to stereotype musicians. After all, I am one myself, and thus I hope to be forgiven.

#1 Violinists

Let me start with the strings (I know them the best). Violinists are serious, socially awkward and often Chinese. They have spent most of their childhood years practicing, which explains both their skills and their short social antennas (they have simply spoken more to their instruments than to humans). They are also ambitious and their identity and self-esteem are totally dependent on what they do. They are usually looking to be soloists, and God forbid they ever have to play the second violin. Establishing quartets can hence be a challenge, as the two violinists will constantly battle to play the first.

#2
Viola players

Remember the violinists that didn’t want to play the second violin? Well, the level even after this humiliating position, is playing the viola. Viola players themselves like to make other excuses, like having too long arms for the violin or preferring a deeper sound, but we all know the truth. The viola quite often has the most insignificant part in the piece and is therefore not as technically advanced as the parts of its fellow strings. But they could play super impressive stuff. If they wanted to.

#3
Cellists

Brace yourselves for what will possibly be a less objective characteristic, since this article is written by a cellist. Cellists are a somewhat complex group, where they (we) on one hand are known to play the most beautiful and melancholic instrument (no, not just in the opinion of cellists), and at the same time often receive comments about their slightly sexual position while playing, at least that is the case for women. As one of my teachers once put it (in a jokingly, not creepy way!); Karina, you are going to make a living from what’s between your legs! He was in fact wrong, but none of us knew back then. In general, cellists are known to play overly loud and the cello is absolutely an instrument that makes you feel appreciated, being that also pop-musicians have wet dreams about adding cello solos to their songs. The con is all the carrying. And the fact that like zero point one percent of the population can distinguish a cello from a guitar.

#4
Bass players

These guys are laidback. They are the ones you will find dragging their huge instrument through the corridors, wearing sweatpants and wool-socks (especially if they are jazz bass players). Maybe they have realized that since no one can see them when they play, it does not really matter what they look like. Bass players also tend to have very big cars, and a supernatural ability to make things (instruments) fit into places that to others seem physically impossible.

#5
Percussionists

Percussionists usually take the laidback-ness one step further. These are the guys that might show up for rehearsal wearing pajamas and still being tipsy from never really having gone home from yesterday’s party. They still do their job though, although no one really understands how. In addition, percussionists spend their breaks (and probably spare time) looking at inappropriate youtube videos, telling nasty jokes, and watching porn. Do not enter the percussionist rehearsal room unless you can handle this. It is however worth the risk, because getting to know them will make you understand that deep down they are just a bunch of soft-hearted little puppies.

#6
Flutists

Flute players are usually women or effeminate men. It sounds like a stupid myth, but there is a great deal of truth to it. Flutists are usually well prepared for rehearsals, for the simple reason that it is difficult to hide their sound. They are also the forever victims of jealousy from cello and bass players, and other musicians that are incapable of carrying their instrument with even a small amount of subtleness.

#7
Clarinet players

These guys are the violins of the woodwind gang and tend to aim for ambitious positions such as soloists or first clarinet players. They spend their rehearsing hours making funny faces, playing as smoothly as possible, while despising gypsy clarinet players and their sharp timbre. Clarinets also have a kind of secret society where they all know each other, and they frequently attend clarinet parties. God knows what they do there. (Do we want to know?)

#8
Oboists

Being the underdog of the wind section, oboists are very easily offended, and whatever you do, do never (NEVER) address them as clarinetists. They also cling to the idea of the greatness of using double reeds, and rumor has it that they push so hard while playing they all end up in the deepest corners of the psyche ward. In other words; expect some eccentricity (the degree will depend on when they started their oboe playing career.)

#9
Bassoon players

There is little to say about them because they are so few. That results in significantly fewer difficulties regarding job opportunities, and because everyone always lacks a bassoon player, a bassoon player is always welcome.

#10
Horn players

The total outcast of the brass section. There is nothing in between what the horns play, – either they are all ompa ompa (or just – pa), or they are playing something beautiful and slow, that they never really get credit for, since they’re so far back in the orchestra that the audience can’t see them properly. Horn players also tend to practice so much that their mouth position gets stuck to their lips and they go around with a constant duck face.

#11
Trumpet players

These guys love their instrument, and they prefer playing it as often and as loudly as they can. When the brass has a solo fanfare, the trumpet players sometimes look like they are going to throw their instruments away and bang their chests with their fists. They also love to stand up after their soloes.

#12
Trombonists

If the horn players are the brass outcasts, the trombonists are the underdogs. They stay in place and do their job without making too much of a fuzz about it. If you however give them a glissando passage, they will light up and actually look like they love playing the trombone. But that doesn’t happen a lot. The trumpet players usually steal their thunder.

#13
Tubaists

These lonely creatures are the kings and queens of making sounds that to most people sound like farts of cataclysmic scale. They also tend to have a lot of rests, so they are usually well-read, being classic literature or comic books. Tubaists are usually alone on their instrument in the orchestra, which means they remain unaffected by the trends that dominate other instrument groups. Instead, they do their own thing, giving absolutely no fucks.

#14
Jazz musicians

Jazz guys are a species of their own, being almost unable to read music, but great at playing duba duba duba and then applaud. Socially they are usually more capable than classical musicians because they often practice together and actually listen to their co-musicians when they play, instead of just looking at the guy with the stick.

Bonus
Composers

Being extremely focused on coming off as intellectuals, most of these guys chose their specialization because they were too lazy to choose an instrument to practice so much it eats up your entire social life. Composers like to boost their egos by reading French poetry (and making sure everyone notices) and knowing words that most people don’t. Composers do not like to seem materialistic, so they are usually sloppy looking, but make no mistake; the look is carefully planned. They also sometimes make music.

Greetings from your favorite cynical and materialistic composer!

I used to dislike children. I won’t sugarcoat it; I did not know how to interact with them; neither was I interested in doing so. My closest relationship to kids was the fact that I have once been one myself, but that is as for most of us something of a distant dream. My maternal instinct was awakened solely by cats (sigh) and my uterus was basically shrinking into my body every time I saw a child.

So, if you had told me in December 2016 that I would be a teacher, I would have laughed sarcastically in your face. And probably made an evil joke about how kids ruin their parents’ lives.

Now, fourteen months later, I am eating my words. A friend of mine works in the administration of an elementary school on the very eastern side of town, and in early January 2017, she asked me if I would like to be a music teacher substitute, knowing that I had just quit my full-time job and was currently unemployed. I obviously laughed like described above, but being in need of the money and having already decided that 2017 would be the year I challenged myself and did stuff outside of my comfort zone, I said yes.

I arrived at my very first class, smiling awkward smiles at the little humans passing by, while being absolutely mortified. It went horribly, and I thought to myself that it was just a confirmation of what I already knew; kids are like the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, – just oh so very able to take down a blue whale-sized dinosaur like myself. They are many, they attack without mercy, and there is just no help in the fact that you are way bigger than them.

However, I did not like to be defeated, and when I was asked to substitute the following week as well, I complied. It went better. And better again.

Back to the word eating. Don’t get me wrong, I have no pedagogic education, and I am not planning to become a full-time teacher. But I don’t think I have ever felt so appreciated in a working place. I know I have never received so many hugs and so much love, and I have never done something that feels so meaningful.

Then to the whole point of this post; I have gained a completely new respect for full-time teachers, one that I am ashamed not to have had sooner. But although teaching is very rewarding when it goes well, it is very hard work. I teach thirty percent, and to me elementary school teachers are heroes, and if we are not going to pay them well (which is another discussion), we should at least cherish them for the amazing and exhausting job they do. Here is why;

#1
Their versatility

Teachers that teach kids from six to nine (and even ten) are not just educators. They somehow magically combine that role with the role of parents, nurses, police and diplomats. People who have never taught might think that it’s about one plus one and learning to spell from day one, but the fact is that in addition to that, there is a whole lot of stuff most six-year-olds don’t know how to do. Like tying their shoelaces, opening their milk cans, or putting on their mittens correctly. Take all of this and multiply it by twenty-five, and you know what elementary schools have to deal with.

In addition, most elementary school teachers teach almost every single subject, which means they have to know both languages (often two), maths, gymnastics, science, religion, and sometimes even arts or music. Then add the fact that in a class of eight-year-olds, there are usually pupils with the mental age of four and other pupils with the mental age of eleven. You have the responsibility of making sure the former doesn’t fall behind and that the latter is not under-stimulated. Just. How?

#2
Their superpowers

I don’t claim to have gained these myself, but the good and experienced teachers I sometimes witness in action certainly have. And I’m talking full-scale Inspector Gadget arms, reaching to absolutely every corner of the classroom no matter where they are positioned. As if that weren’t enough, they have psychic powers or maybe just the skills of any top-trained CIA interrogator, being able to pick up every little sign and predict and prevent any future nuclear blast.

#3
Their balance

This is a forever struggle that I have yet to attain, unfortunately. I sometimes nail it, but it depends on the class and the lesson, and I never really know when I will achieve it and when I will fail. So I truly admire my fellow teachers’ ability to balance being warm and safe, with being strict and maintaining their everlasting authority. I’m not sure how they do this, but they do.

#4
Their beside teaching-duties

These days the teaching itself is only a part of what teachers do. They are continuously bombarded with courses, meetings, new strategies, analysis, statistics, planning and you name it. Not what they signed up for (I tend to think), and not ~really~ what they want to spend their time on, although obligated to do so by today’s system.

#5
Their lack of breaks

Fine, teachers might have long vacations, but the fact is that they spend a lot of that time on the things mentioned above. And, if you have never taught, you have probably never thought about what privilege it is just being able to pee whenever you want. So take a moment to appreciate that. As well, your half-hour lunch break is very likely to get cut in half by the time it takes to prepare your next lesson or the fact that one of your pupils is refusing to leave the classroom.

#6
Their memory

Thank God I have a decent memory for names. It was quite a challenge for me to learn 130 names for my first couple of weeks, where most of them were names I have never heard before in my life, much less knew how to pronounce, as I work in the very culturally diverse elementary school. But, when it comes to full-time teachers, they also (I imagine) try to remember the names of their pupils’ parents, so if you have a class of twenty, that will multiply by three, and you don’t even have the yearbook to help you connect names with faces. Good luck.

#7
Their diplomacy skills

I know I already mentioned this, but I feel like I have to emphasize it. The first kind of diplomacy teachers do, is the one between kids. That can definitely be challenging, especially because small children tend to not really listen to reason, and be controlled by their own stubbornness. This kind of conflict, however, does not put your job in jeopardy, and most of the time they resolve themselves. The second kind of conflict teachers deal with is one that I as a music teacher have yet to experience, and it is the one between the teacher himself/herself and a parent. These days it is quite common (emphasizing that this experience comes from teacher friends of mine, not from my workplace) for parents to blame the teacher when their children don’t succeed at school, and in a lot of cases that is just unreasonable. I even know teachers that have received anonymous complaint letters, telling them what a shit job they are doing, when they are actually quite successful with the majority of their pupils.

#8
Their responsibility

Teachers can make a huge difference in a person’s life, for better or worse. A teacher can possibly save a pupil’s life by just seeing and understanding him or her, or simply discovering how to help. On the other hand, not doing so, not seeing that a pupil is a victim of bullying or is not coping socially, can be fatal. It can be the difference between a good life and a bright future, and falling out of the system and ending up as what society so gently defines as a failure. This is what they take on.

What am I trying to say?

If you haven’t realized sooner, it is about time we give teachers a huge cheer and tell them that whether we have kids or not, they matter. They educate our future colleagues, the doctors that might end up taking care of us when we are old, they teach that kid that will once find the cure for cancer. They make sure our future population is as resourceful as possible, and that future generations keep the world functioning. All the while genuinely caring about every little individual.

So, THANK YOU!

(And thanks to @boredteachers for providing me with FB’s best teaching memes)

I suddenly got in a crazy classical mood and felt like tidying up in my own head in the only way I know how to; by making a list.

Said list ended up being longer than first anticipated, but I have tried to divide the music into clear sections where one can easily find the right genre.

The point of this list though is to provide some starting points for people with ambitions to listen more to music by classical composers (AKA ~my heroes~). In the current ocean of pieces it can be difficult to know where to start (I know I would feel that way about let’s say, rap), and it is always good to follow recommendations from experienced listeners before finding one’s own path.

What is important to remember when listening to classical music, is that it is not like listening to a pop song. You do not instantly know if you like it or not, and the more you get to know it, the more of the details you will notice. Classical pieces get better by the times you explore it, but will reward you even more in return.

This list contains what is in my opinion some of the greatest music ever made. There, I said it. Ready to roll. (Click the titles to access the Spotify or YouTube link.)

Piano music:

Often enjoyed mainly by piano players themselves, I seem to represent the exception. There are thousands of piano pieces out there, and many of them make even me yawn, so I can see why people without much knowledge of piano repertoire might get lost looking for something brilliant. The masterworks do however exist, and in my opinion, they represent some of the most magical pieces of the Romantic era.

One cannot avoid mentioning Franz Liszt, and although many listeners would go straight to Chopin, I have always preferred the former. I used to have a relationship to FL like a fourteen-year-old to Justin Bieber, and I dare say I could sing through the melodies of all these ten minute plus pieces.

#1
Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2

Not only was this my first love within FL’s music, but within classical music overall. I have since then (around 2002) come to realize that this piece is a bit of a cliché in the classical music environment, which is exactly why it’s a great starting point for untrained ears. It’s playful, yet utterly dramatic at times, and being a rhapsody it changes mood and motives all the time, so it’s difficult to get bored. If you still worry about drifting off, there’s always the possibility to put Tom & Jerry’s Cat Concerto, where the piece is (almost) played in its full version, not adding any tones that weren’t there in the first place. One of my personal favorites!

It’s also worth noticing that the rhapsody has been arranged for symphony orchestra, so if you prefer a fuller sound, you have the option. I tend to prefer originals, but this piece is definitely worth listening to in both versions. To the fourteen-year-old me, Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 opened up a whole world of music to me, which basically made my music interest flourish. I don’t know if I would have been a musician today if it had not been for this piece. (Then I would have been a failed and desperate writer instead.)

#2
Franz Liszt – Polonaise Melancolique

When I discovered this piece I got so excited that I made my own arrangement for full orchestra, putting down every single note of the piano into everything from flutes to double basses. (How did I have any friends when I was a teenager?)

The piece is extremely virtuous and dominated by a deeply tragical mood, and is on top of that a bit peculiar, as polonaises are usually happy and light sounding. It is also one of the composer’s less famous pieces, and I still have not managed to listen to it live.

Without stating this as a fact, I seem to get a kind of Russian or perhaps Hungarian folk music vibe from the motives, and the melodies easily carry their listeners into the mysterious twilights of the Eastern Europe of the 19th century, handing us images of gypsy caravans and snow-covered steppes.

#3
Franz Liszt – Ballade no. 2 in Bb minor

Don’t be fooled by the lack of creativity title wise; think of it as Levi’s 501, – good products sometimes sell themselves. The ballade is somehow what I would call heavy, and starts off in the deepest register of the piano, putting the main theme in a range where melodies are very rarely put. I have always thought this piece sounds much more modern than it is (which is one of the reasons I think FL is generally underrated), and it goes from threatening, dark and fast to tender, slow and almost completely silent.

I addition the ballade is extremely virtuous and watching it live is like watching a miracle. Just make sure to sit on the side where you see the fingers of the performer.

#4
Franz Schubert – Ständchen

I somehow have an attraction towards composers called Franz, and this piece is actually arranged for piano by the Franz above, making it one of my obvious favorites. The piece was originally written for piano and vocals, but FL must have found the melodies so intriguing that he made it into a solo piece for his own favorite instrument.

The title means Serenade and there is even a version in English with the same name, by the absolutely amazing 50s band The Platters, really making it one of the 19th-century pieces that has managed to survive even commercially throughout two hundred years. Quite an achievement.

Ständchen is quite simple musically and basically repeats the same motive time after time but without ever sounding repetitive. It is (as most of the music I enjoy) very sad, kind of romantic, and ends dramatically, after having been built up through all of its six minutes duration.

As a fun fact, I will add another level to my own nerdy-ness and include that I once learned the whole piece by heart, basically jumping over three levels in piano (which is not really my instrument). I still remember my piano teacher’s comment; I don’t understand how you manage to play that piece with that technique. Luckily he understood that the only way to make me practice was to let me play pieces that I loved. Bless him for that.

#5
Øystein Sommerfeldt – Vals til Hege

Gotta include a Norwegian composer on the list, and this short and exercise-like piece is perfect for feeding your general, everyday sadness. It is so insignificant in regards of piano repertoire that it is difficult to find a recording of it, which is an absolute shame, as the melodies are so beautiful that they basically make you want something sad to happen to you so that this can be the soundtrack of your life (I know, I need help).

#6
Eric Satie – Gnosienne no. 1

Having written a bunch of weird, atonal stuff, ES also had a talent for composing beautiful melodies. The Gnosienne has been made famous among non-musicians through movies and series, and provides the perfect background mood for whichever sad situation. The motives are almost banally simple, but even more effective. The piece has also been arranged for classical guitar and works equally well for that.

#7
Louis Gottschalk – Souvenir de Porto Rico

I discovered this lesser-known piece while studying music, as the pianist playing beside me spent months practicing it. I ended up eavesdropping outside his door a whole bunch of times before I finally gathered the courage to knock. I was not sorry. The piece is somehow Romantic-sounding but has a touch of American and Latin folk music, which gives the listener a kind of Chaplin vibe. There are still wonderful Romantic climaxes, but all over this piece is both dramatic and playful at the same time.

Concertos

The definition of a concerto is a piece with one or more solo players, usually with the orchestra (or alternatively the piano) as a secondary function. Concertos exist for more or less all instruments, but the most famous ones are usually for violin or piano, closely followed by instruments like cello and horn. In my opinion, the best concertos have orchestra parts that play an active role, but there is obviously no truth regarding this. What concertos have in common is that they are virtuous, and therefore often enjoyed by listeners that are not bothered by so-called “show off phrases”.

#8
Edgar Meyer – Violin Concerto, First movement

Being written by a somewhat peculiar composer, EM did not disappoint when Hilary Hahn commissioned this piece from him. EM spent years of his career writing and playing bluegrass-inspired music along with legendary banjo player Bela Fleck, EM himself with his double bass. It seems though as this extraordinary bass player finally decided to show the public the tricks he had up his sleeve, resulting in a beautiful violin concerto for talented HH. Although the concerto is tonal it is obviously from modern times and has a dramatic and film music like atmosphere. The orchestra is far from passive, and its parts are beautifully put together with those of the soloist. Definitely a good choice for listeners requiring a newer sound.

#9
Max Bruch – Violin concerto in G minor, First movement: Vorspiel. Allegro Moderato

This piece is extremely established in the concerto repertoire, and with good reason. I for one wait patiently through the slow and in my opinion boring intro, before the tension increases with three hundred percent when the strings start their plucking motive in the background. As mentioned this concerto is as virtuous as most concertos, but instead of just playing scales up and down, MB has been creative with his virtuous parts, making the soloist play several strings at the same time, sometimes aggressively articulated with sharp accents.

The orchestra is quite active through the whole movement, and during the highlight, the soloist is completely absent, which is somewhat rare in a concerto. Also, instead of ending with a Eurovision-like fanfare, the end of the first movement is also the beginning of the second, and you will have problems telling exactly where the transition is if you don’t already know the piece. This one is probably a good choice for listeners that enjoy very slow music, but since that is not me, I won’t recommend it.

#10
Jean Sibelius – Violin concerto in D minor, First movement: Allegro Moderato

A good choice for listeners who have already found themselves enjoying the previous concerto, as I think the two movements have a lot in common. But, JS’s sound is naturally more Northern and less German-Romantic and has more folk music-like tonality.

The virtuous parts are definitely what picky listeners would refer to as show off, but still not what make the movement special. The main motives and melodies give associations to nature and forest and provide vivid and visual images as if one were listening to a movie soundtrack. There are also several off-key tones here and there, that create a tension that the former piece lacks, and adds another level of profoundness.

#11
Ludvig van Beethoven – Triple concerto for piano, violin and cello in C major, First movement: Allegro

Not really being one for piano concertos, this piece has something inexplicable to it, making it one of my concerto favorites. First of all, there are not many concertos involving three soloists, and one of them being the piano, it is quite an achievement to put these three instruments together with a full orchestra.

This being an earlier piece than most of the others on this list, it absolutely has another expression, and with the risk of stereotyping the era, it is generally happier sounding than the Romantic pieces mentioned above. This said, there is still a dramatic kind of sorrow within it, especially around the ninth minute, where the three instruments get together in a series of arpeggio chords that rip the heart out of your chest (in a good way. Yes, it is possible).

#12
Nikolay Myaskovsky – Sonata for cello in A minor, First movement: Allegro Moderato

Written by a much less famous composer than the former, this piece has somehow not become a part of the standard solo repertoire, unlike the previous ones. It is not a concerto but a sonata and is therefore accompanied by the piano instead of the orchestra, but the melodies sound like they are made with such profound sorrow that they stand just beautifully as they are.

I found this movement so special that I made a song of it, always having thought that the melodies would work absolutely wonderfully with lyrics. The cello is the perfect instrument for expressing sadness, and NM couldn’t have made a better choice on this matter.

Orchestral pieces

The general non-musician audience usually finds these pieces the most appealing within the classical repertoire, perhaps because they are used to hearing their sound occasionally in movies and series (I mean, we all watched the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars).

The best orchestral pieces are in my opinion the ones that really take advantage of all the different sound opportunities, and make me love instruments that I usually don’t enjoy listening to (I won’t mention names).

#13
Jean Sibelius – En saga

Possibly my favorite piece in the whole world. Just like in the violin concerto, JS teleports his listeners into the Finnish forests. The piece is almost twenty minutes long, and possibly a heavy piece to begin one’s classical music adventure with, and I for one had to listen to it quite a few times before I started loving it like I do now. It is built upon three brilliantly put together melodies, each more dramatic and mysterious than the previous, all sewed together in a mosaic-like blanket full of tiny details that can be discovered time after time.

En saga demands a certain amount of patience, but getting through it will give you a lifelong treasure. If there is one piece on this list I know I will never stop listening to, it is this one.

#14
Jean Sibelius – Symphony no. 1 in E minor, Fourth movement: Finale

While not being quite as amazing as En Saga, JS’s first symphony is also wonderful, and a rare finding within the symphony repertoire, as it is one of the few symphonies where all the movements are equally breathtaking (maybe with the exception of the third). The mood is just like any Sibelius piece, and if I were to choose one movement, I would go for the fourth one.

#15
Camille Saint-Säéns – Danse Macabre

This piece is a great one for unexperienced listeners, as it is both beautiful, humorous, playful, and literally diabolic at the same time. There is a small but dominating violin solo appearing from time to time, imitating Mephistopheles himself playing his fiddle. And it certainly sounds like it.

Danse Macabre is quite famous and sometimes regarded light music, but most of all it has a somewhat cartoon-like touch, making it a fun experience for people who connect classical music with falling asleep.

#16
Arnold Schönberg – Verklärte Nacht, First movement: Grave

Most people don’t connect AS with beautiful orchestra music, being that he went insanely experimental at a certain point, and started writing completely atonal music for an even smaller audience than the tonal classical music.

This piece, however, was written before his turning point and is an absolute masterpiece. It has always given me more or less the same feeling as Sibelius’ En saga but in a more modern, yet tonal and deeply emotional suit. I die a little inside every time I think about all the amazing music AS could have written, but decided not to.

Verklärte Nacht was originally written for string ensemble but has later been rearranged for full orchestra, which in my opinion is even better. It is sadly a bit of a challenge to find good recordings of the latter, but don’t despair; the string orchestra version is also amazing.

#17
Franz Liszt – Les préludes

Although FL is mostly famous for his piano pieces, I could not resist putting him on this part of the lis(z)t as well. This is quite a heavy piece, long in duration and very dramatic and huge sounding. It does however contain that very mood that FL always manages to express, – the kind of action like movie soundtrack spirit that makes you imagine someone running from a monster or going to war.

Also, the title is worth explaining; meaning that life is just a prelude to the afterlife. Without debating that subject, it is quite a powerful message.

#18
Sergei Prokofiev – Montagues and Capulets

Being one of the most infamous works on this list, this piece will be recognized by non-musicians as well as musicians. It starts off pretty strange, but wait for it; the good is yet to come. The main motive is ridiculously simple but yet manages to stab you right through the heart.

The piece describes the story of Romeo and Juliet and belongs to SP’s ballet with the same name, and is the definite highlight of this work.

Choir pieces

Not being a huge opera fan, I on the other hand find choir music quite magical at times. Even the highest of voices become more pleasant-sounding when they blend together, and there are a few choir pieces that have reached the very top of my list.

#19
Thomas Tallis – Spem in Alium

I first heard this piece in a lecture at the music academy, which was an issue, because I had to hide the fact that I was crying for about its whole ten-minute duration. The piece is by far the oldest on this list and consists of forty different voices. It starts off with a single soprano and builds up to something sounding as close to a choir of angels that one can imagine.

The utter sadness of this piece will have its listeners philosophize about all things greater than life itself, and I dare say it has the ability to put even the most hardcore atheist in a religious mood. I still dream of hearing this piece live in a cathedral.

#20
Hector Berlioz – Te Deum: Judex Crederis

Te Deum is a fantastic and powerful creation, with Judex Crederis as the absolute climax. The movement makes you feel like you are going through the very day of judgment, and an ensemble consisting of a huge choir, full orchestra and organ is being taken to its very limit. Both instruments and voices fill the whole register, all the way from tones so deep they sound like they’re coming from within the earth, to screams of pain and suffering.

I once sang this piece in a choir with hundreds of people along with the Symphonic Orchestra of Oslo, and being a part of performing it is the only thing I can think of better than hearing it live.

#21
Ola Gjeilo – Nisi Dominus

The by far newest piece on the list, composed by the young Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo. OG is remarkably successful and makes beautiful choir music, which makes him considered tacky amongst other, more modern oriented Norwegian contemporary composers.

In my opinion, Nisi Dominus is a great piece, especially the second part, where the basses sing so deeply you can feel it in your stomach, and the music resembles the dramatic choirs often used in fantasy movies.

As a side note, I will mention that I once texted the web administration on OG’s page, asking where I could get a recording of this piece. I received a very friendly e-mail from the composer himself, with a beautiful, professional recording as an attachment. Good to know there are still some down to earth, friendly artists out there.

Chamber music

Being a cellist myself, I obviously have a thing for string pieces. This last part of the list includes some of my very favorite pieces, – pieces that I consider the most beautiful music made for strings.

#22
Franz Schubert – String quintet in C major, Second movement: Adagio

In addition to En Saga, this is my second favorite piece in the world. I got it recommended by a previous teacher, and the first time I played it I cried like an idiot. Both the first and second movement are magical, but the second one has a kind of despair to it that makes me long for something I have yet to identify.

The movement starts off as quiet as it is possible for a quintet to play, and lays down a subtle blanket of soft string chords, leaving the listener totally unprepared for what is to come. When the second, faster part starts, it is in far contrast to the first, and these three passionate minutes consist of what is possibly the most beautiful melody in the history of music.

I don’t really know what else to say.

#23
Jean Sibelius – Impromptu

Although JS is mostly famous for his orchestral works, at times he also rocked the strings, the Impromptu being the best example. The piece has a lot in common with the previous one by Schubert, and starts off with a bell-like chime, completely calmly. The second part is faster and starts off in a kind of half happy mood, but when it changes to minor it is like going beyond a happy face and seeing the sorrow within the soul.

Like in so many classical pieces, there are parts of this piece I don’t enjoy as much as others, but the fast minor part is even better when it comes after a more cheerful introduction.

#24
Antonin Dvorak – String quartet no. 12 in F major (“The American quartet”), First movement: Allegro

Feeling slightly guilty about not having put AD on the list until now, I have to include this piece. As I have already said, few composers manage to make a four-movement piece with equally beautiful movements, but AD must have had a special talent for this (as it also applies to his eight and ninth symphony).

It is impossible for me to choose a single movement in this quartet, as they are all amazing, and perfectly balanced between careful optimism and deep melancholy. All the movements are closely connected and there is never any doubt that they belong together; another unique character of this piece, that cannot be found in a lot of four-movement works.

Just a short feel-good post in this month of utter misery, that the general population like to refer to as ~January~. Having absolutely no interest in skiing, hiking or going to the mountain (in fact there is quite a long list of despicable things I would rather do), these small pleasures are what get me through the days, while cursing the snow and the irony of fate for having me live in a freezer, being married to a foreigner that likes my country more than I do.

Brace yourself; here comes a list of insignificant, but humorous mood fixers.

#1
My neighbor cat Noah, who sits in his window every single day, silently judging everyone who passes by.

#2

Buying my man a new wallet. (Thank you, Mr. Tarantino.)

#3
Looking all civilized, while subtly considering to stab everyone with a fork.

#4
This friendly bear, that is possibly my favorite picture on the whole internet.

#5
The fact that my great grandfather was possibly Edvard Munch’s twin, separated at birth.

#6
The fact that my husband looks more like the coach of Paris Saint-Germain than like his own brother.

#7
Putting a bow tie on my cat and watching how she gives absolutely zero fucks.

#8
Getting Facebook reminders of stuff I wrote ten years ago, and having absolutely no idea what I meant.

#9
This snap which is my favorite snap.

#10
Getting messages from the neighbor, who approves of us having both guitars and cats. No shame what so ever in being stalky.

Thank you and goodbye.

Cultural differences are interesting to get to know, and appear in the strangest of forms, – often on subjects where one has not even considered the possibility of their existence. It is usually mostly entertaining, somewhat educational, and – I will not lie – at times slightly annoying. Anyhow, it’s worth writing about, and I hereby declare that the following observations are based on the Spanish and Norwegian individuals of my own life, and might be totally wrong for the rest of the countries’ population, but I tend to think they can be applied to the greater majority. Prior to further reading; brace yourself for stereotypes, generalizations and (although I hate to admit it) exaggerations.

Watching TV while having dinner

Norway: The taboo among dinner customs; mostly considered the practice of dysfunctional families that don’t care for actual communication. Apathetic faces staring blankly at some kind of useless sit-com or TV-shop woman selling a vacuum cleaner, while not noticing that grandma died in her chair an hour ago. In reality, most people dine in front of the TV from time to time, but they DO NOT tell anyone, due to the shame and social exclusion following such a reputation.

Spain: The TV is on most of the time, also whilst consuming one of the many meals during a day in the life of the average Spaniard. Another family member might be watching a youtube video and a third one checking out a song on Spotify. No one turns down the volume, and no one stops the five conversations that are going on across the room at the same time. Watching TV while eating in Spain is not anti-social, and does not mean that you don’t enjoy conversing with your family members. Spaniards are world champions on multitasking and seem to think that no activity excludes another.

Sleeping with the window open

Norway: Ah, fresh breeze from the window, all year round. Thick duvets all the way up to the chin, winter temperatures in the room, slippers ready by the chunky carpet on the floor. No headaches, no old air (as we like to put it), cold nose but a really, really warm body. And the comforting sound of rain or wind slowly lulling you to sleep.

Spain: For PUTA’s sake do not open the window, are you LOCO? Turn on the heat, make sure the vents are closed, the fan is off and that #noairwhatsoever is let in. If there is a tiny breeze from like, your cat sighing, we will get sick. We will get a cold, sniffy noses, sore throats and probably swine flu, aids and rabies. And we will not be subtle about it. We will complain and we will let you know every five seconds that YOU ARE TO BLAME.

Bringing kids into bars

Norway: The first sign of real child abuse. Call teachers, neighbors, the police, social services and the pope. This child is being molested by every single person inside the family, and it is plausible to conclude with both violence and general psychological torture, all to be blamed on the occasional beer within the presence of ~a child~. All future offsprings will be automatically aborted by the prime minister herself.

Spain: A bar is a social place, where there may or may not be a drunk fellow. Anyhow, your kids will not really notice, nor be frightened by them, considering that present parents won’t treat mentioned drunk people as something shameful nor dangerous. Most people however will have a couple of cañas and some tapas, while having their kids run around just like in the average Starbucks. Parents don’t drink enough to get affected by it, and kids are usually having fun with other kids, while their folks earn a well-deserved break from everyday life. All are happy.

Doing stuff

Norway: Let whoever doing something, do it in peace and quiet. Leave the person undisturbed until the task is finished, unless there is something really obvious you can do to help. When in doubt, just ask, but prepare to have your offer to help rejected.

Spain: Your husband, your mother-in-law, her father’s third cousin’s long lost nephew and his dog are coming with you to do whichever task you have before you. They will tell you how to do it, maybe try to do it for you, or discuss the best way to execute the task. Sometimes while staring at you and standing way too close for you to do what you need to do properly.

The concept of NOW

Norway: Being ready to leave NOW means that you’re standing fully dressed by the door with the keys in your hand. NOW describes the moment of something happening instantly, mostly within seconds, with the exception of the real-time (HAHA) signs belonging to the public transport system. Those were probably made by Spanish workers and auctioned away with Norway as the only bidder.

Spain: NOW is relative. NOW can mean right away or within some hours. You can be waking up from your siesta, naked in bed, looking like an earthquake, and telling your hubby you are ready to go NOW, meaning that you will be ready an hour later. Ironically the public transport system is actually reliable, but after the one-minute limit has passed, the real-time sign goes to zero minutes. Otherwise, no one would know when the transport is actually coming, obviously.

Aesthetics

Norway: A scratch on your car must be fixed immediately. Any respectable citizen will renew the kitchen every tenth year or so. Clothes with tiny holes or stains are simply unusable (Trust me, I worked in retail for eight years).

Spain: In Madrid, people actually calculate distances by slightly bumping into the cars in front and behind when parallel parking. Cars get scratches, and nobody cares as long as they still run. Regarding appearances, it is easy to assume that the good people of Spain can be compared with their stylish fellow southern Europeans in France and Italy, but nothing could be further from the truth. Most Spaniards are naturally attractive and charming, but they are also totally chill and casual, and everything but snobbish.

Rules

Norway: Rules are made to be followed! Five hundred grams overweight when you check-in your luggage at the airport means that you pay, – not for four hundred and ninety-nine, not for five hundred and one, – but for five. hundred. grams. Norwegians like equality, and therefore rarely make exceptions from the rules. They also rarely question the rules, if said rules are made by higher forces (meaning the government, not Jesus C.™)

Spain: If you enter a bar that says restrooms are only for paying customers, you might very likely still get to use it if you ask nicely. Also, getting minor services on let’s say, your car, doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a single Eurocent. If the car repairman doesn’t feel like he has really made an effort to solve your problem, he might just say hasta luego baby and leave, while you, having the role of the confused foreigner, are left with your credit card ready, not knowing whether to feel relieved or uncomfortable. No wonder the country has had some economical issues when they insist on working for free. Spaniards are the mere opposite of square, and their relaxed attitude has them bending the rules all the time, especially if the rules imply more work. Which is also why the airport employees won’t even charge you for five kilos overweight.

How the day works

Norway: It is almost socially frowned upon to have a job that does not take place between the hours of eight and four. At five people have dinner, and most of these workers go to bed before eleven, after having put their kids to bed at eight.

Spain: People generally work later, not to mention have dinner no earlier than ten. Before that, they have what they call lunch, which is basically the first dinner of the day. The lucky and/or traditional ones also sleep the famous siesta after dinner number one, and people (including children) go to bed way after the majority of Norwegians are already asleep. It’s like the whole day has been moved three hours ahead, like the primal Spaniards overslept and their descendants never managed to catch up.

Greeting

Norwegian: No one is introducing me. Maybe I just say hola. If I’m in a good mood I’ll wave from afar.
Spaniard: No one is introducing me. Better take matters into my own hands.
Norwegian: Oh-oh, Spanish stranger approaching. What does he/she want?
Spaniard: Why is this person reversing like a car?
Norwegian: Fine, I’ll do a handshake.
Spaniard: Handshake? What are we, politicians? (Damn politicians de mierda) Come here, amigo!
Norwegian: Why is his/her face approaching mine? What are you – ? What? No. No! NOOOOO
Spaniard: That was a good kiss! Now let’s do the other side.
Norwegian: Now what? I thought that was it!
Spaniard: Good thing I didn’t let go of that hand. Better pull. Ngh –
Norwegian: You gotta be kidding me!
Spaniard: There! My work is done.
Norwegian: This trauma will forever haunt my soul.

(Play this inner dialogue in very fast motion to know exactly what happens when a Norwegian and a Spaniard meet for the first time)

Conclusion

Norway Pros:
• Being on time, and actually knowing when people arrive.
• Being left alone when you need to.
• Getting to sleep without sweating through your sheets.
• Routines and rules.

Norway Cons:
• Hysterical and slightly judgemental attitude towards people doing things differently.
• Being left along when you actually do need help.
• Living in a society that basically discriminates everyone who is not an early bird.

Spain Pros:
• Being a part of a very inclusive society, without even trying.
• Not stressing about anything, – no pasa nada! (nothing will happen!) is a very comfortable life motto.
• Having the opportunity to live life as a night owl.
• A life dominated by variation and adaptiveness.

Spain Cons:
• No one is ever on time. On the bright side, that means you don’t have to either.
• Not being given much space when you need it.
• Having your car scratched more frequently.

I guess the pros and cons mostly depend on how one is wired, but I tried to be as objective as possible. That said, I know where I belong.