Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giant insects rescued at the brink of extinction, literally

Amazing story from other side of the Earth, where the largest stick insect ('vandrande pinne' in Swedish) has been rediscovered living on an isolated island under a bush.  Link here to article.
[Photo by Granitethighs from Wikimedia, Creative Commons license. Thanks for letting us use it!]

OK snapshot: Meddelanden från andra sidan... (Messages from the other side)

...av kontorsfönstret mot gatan. :)
...from the office by the street. [Seen in Stockholm, Sweden]

What is says? - oh!

Don't despair nightinggale!
Out of the deep it grows
We are disguised.

And the night streams
from east to west with
the speed of the moon.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinterest = Internet Thievery, Unfairness, and Ugliness

(Long post but important)

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.  Morals and ethics is all about this, making choices to do the right thing.  Humans are not just following insticts, we can think, decide, do or not do.  If you can steal something, should you?  If you can make money on someone else's efforts without giving them anything, should you?  If you can live without caring about others, should you?  Pinterest and many of its users do.

OK, I had not heard about Pinterest until a few days ago, and looked it up and fell in love.   Temporarily.  Very temporarily. So, I had a 20 hour love affair with Pinterest, and now we are partly separated (not totally, read on).  I know, this just happened AFTER I wrote that long thing about how we are too addicted to the internet, and I fell right into the addition to Pinterest trap. 

Pinterest is a great way to collect links and thumbnails to all the interesting things you find on the web so you can find them again, or to make pinboards of images for inspiration, education, or useful things. It is exploding on the internet right now.  So far so good, and that is what I loved about it.  So much interesting stuff!!!   

But then I clicked on an image to find out more and it linked back to Google Images, or I got a 404 error, or it linked me to Tumblr's home page, and something was obviously not right.  Where did the image come from?

When I signed up for Pinterest I read the rules for the site, and it says that you have to have the right to pin anything made by you or that you have the copyright for, so you can't pin things copyrighted by others.  But people do, 99% of people in Pinterest do, maybe more, and very few even give credit and source for each image.  A typical pinned image is a photo of a gorgeous room with the note "I love this". No facts on where that image came from.

That can't be right, I thought, obviously this image wasn't taken by whatever house wife in Florida that pinned and loved it.  Then I started googling "Pinterest copyright" and found a large set of recent articles about how Pinterest is avoiding by getting into trouble by making all its users, not themselves, legally liable for any copyright infringement.  (Their own blog shows how upset some people are by this. Other info here, good post here, more, )

Pinterest takes no responsibility at all, and in fact, by using it you agree to give all the images you have pinned (and thereby downloaded to Pinterest as high-resolution photos, mostly illegally in my opinion) to Pinterest for free. Pinterest then have the right to sell these photos and make money of them, even if they are copyrighted by someone that had no idea that you pinned their gorgeous photo or art or craft idea, etc.

So, say that I pin my photos which are under Creative Commons license on Flickr to my board on Pinterest, and as soon as I have done that, I have no longer any control over them.  Pinterest could sell them to Target to use in their advertising and I would get zero dollars, and I would not be asked for permission.  This is so wrong!!!

Similarly, if a user pins an image of a new Porsche, Pinterest now has the right to use that image, even if it is copyrighted by Porsche. Simply put, Pinterest is fooling everybody, and stealing from everybody. And they let their users get away with it, and the users let Pinterest get away with it.  Just like drug addiction... They need each other, the users and the company.

Pinterest's solution is that anybody that finds their copyrighted image pinned onto Pinterest by a user can contact them and have it removed from Pinterest's website.  So it is up to the owner of the image to search the internet and complain. (This is unimaginable hard...)  Imagine this happening with actual items.  Someone comes into your house, robs you, and goes away with some of your stuff.  Now you have to look for your things wide and far, and they are not marked with your name, address or anything.  And if you find your things, then you have to fill out an online form and eventually you can get the stuff back.  And in the end, the stealing doesn't get punished at all.

In fact, Pinterest doesn't care that its users pin lots of copyrighted things, and if there is a problem (say, they get sued by Modern Museum of Art for some art images a user has pinned), then the user will have to pay the legal bills for both herself AND for Pinterest's lawyers.  It is all in the user agreement, and very clear.  How can this be right?  How can this be ethical?  The user could be a company too, so if McDonalds pins a photo of a burger, they could get sued.... but Pinterest wouldn't.  How crazy.

 So, removed my pins and boards and now I am only 'liking' things I see on Pinterest, so I can use the links and cool ideas here on the blog, after getting proper permission and linking to the original source.  I am all for sharing, but it has to be FAIR with PROPER credit.  It is very well explained on the Link with Love website, who made a special pinnable image for Pinterest (see left).  So, this is what I believe and think we should do, all of us.  Link with love, be fair, don't steal, and read more here.

So, what should Pinterest do, to get it right?  Well, only store thumbnails, like Google.  Demand that all photos are tagged with source (url), and source information (name, company, etc.), and mark all photos with the proper copyright license [public work, creative commons, all rights reserved, etc.].  And Pinterest should not have the right to use any of the pinned images by anybody. 

I predict that Pinterest will be hit with a giant lawsuit by some media company like Martha Stewart Magazine, AP, or an art organization on behalf of their members soon, and then it will be in big trouble. The company is doing everything according to US law right now, but only by putting all responsibility and liability on the users, most of which probably have no idea that they are doing something illegal or deeply unethical. As one user said "it is just a picture, who cares?"  This is just seriously wrong. It reminds me of gun manufacturers or cigarette makers that provide deadly weapons and then take no responsibility at all, because 'who could have predicted that someone would shoot with it at another person?", etc. Sigh...

Bacon bits and pieces on the internet: green stuff

Art glass series I love green things, both alive and very dead. But not mold. Molded green glass is OK though. (From the American Glass Museum in Wheaton, photo Vilseskogen on Flickr - more glass photos here)

More green things:

Green sushi for cowboys, kind of: picklelicious by The Good Wife (check out the photo)

Nathan Strandberg and Katie Kirk has some really nice green illustrations, except those that know me know that I don't eat celery...  This is so retro 60s and 70s to me.  I never thought I would like these shapes and colors again, after a giant overdose when I grew up, and now I do.  Fads go in circles. Even orange and brown is back with a vengeance.

There are green book trees for your wall (from Shawn So in South Korea)

And I think I could live at Green Bridge Farm (if it wasn't in Georgia, USA, too hot!), but I like the idea of smaller houses with some privacy with a common vegetable farm and pond...   pick your house here (pdf file).

And here is something partly green that I do not want in my house, even if it is crazy in a way. 

green chairs in Stockholm

And some very green chairs from a restaurant in Stockholm (photo Vilseskogen on Flickr).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What life is really about, but it is easy to forget this...

Excerpt from a great commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College; source: Wall Street Journal
”If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self.

Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the ”rat race” — the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A princess is born in Sweden

This morning, for real.  I love that the Swedish crown princess and her husband Daniel does it the modern way.  Not that the first official photo of the princess, still unnamed, is on Facebook (it was, here), but that they do it like most Swedish families do, share the burden of carrying the newborn and I bet everything else too.  Look at the photo and you will see.  The video of the press conference is very moving too, where the new Dad is describing the little girl (sorry, it is in Swedish). Congratulations!

Update: And her name will be Estelle!  And here is some more info about the event in English.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Book review: Högre än alla himlar av Louise Boije af Gennäs

(This review is in Swedish, since the book is in Swedish and not yet translated to English.  The book isn't worth reading in English anyway unless you want to read many, many beautifully crafted words about spoiled upper class Stockholm citizens.  You can read about Louise Boije av Gennäs here. )

Jag har just sträckläst den här boken, och den har lämnat en blandad eftersmak.  Den är värd fem stjärnor och också två, och men det lutar nog åt tre, fast jag vet inte riktigt.  Det är ovanligt att man tycker att en bok är oerhört välskriven och samtidigt saknar kärna, ide, och tyngd, men så är det med denna.

Första kapitlet börjar som en Per Anders Fogelström Stockholmsroman - det är nyårsafton och en vindby flyger runt Stockholm, beskrivet i allegorier, vackra ord, och symbolismer till tusen.  Jag har nog inte läst Fogelström på 25 år, men det var honom jag tänkte på när jag läste:
"En vilsekommen rufsig kråka lyfte från Mosebacke, fångade vinden i vingarna och lät sig hastigt föras bort mot Högalid där tvillingtornerns Alfa och Omega - alltings början och slut, döpta efter Ansgar och Olaus Petri - vakade över Tengboms mäktiga tegelmonument och staden från samma höjd över östersjon som Stadshusets Tre Kronor."

Och så vidare, det går på och på.  Det blir for pretentiöst. Metaforerna står som spön i backen.  Det blir så mycket metaforer och insmugna historie- eller annan bildingsfakta att det blir kinesisk chop-chop salad till slut.  Mish mash, blandsallad med för mycket och för finhackat av allt.  Jag fick känslan att författarinnan har skrivit för att få Nobelpriset i literatur, inte för att skriva en bra historia, inte för att förmedla något, inte för att hon älskar sagor och berättelser. Det är synd, för jag tror att hon älskar sagor egentligen.

Det finns en historia i boken, även om den är svag i handlingen och mest kanske visar vilka folkklasser (= högt upp) och intellektuella kretsar (= välutbildade) författarinan rör sig i.  Ofta får man känslan att hon beskriver något självupplevt, kanske mest för att en del andra beskrivningar inte är lika trovärdiga, ingående, känslosamma, och långvindiga.

Så, vad handlar boken om, undrar du?  Det är egentligen inte så viktigt, faktiskt. Det är sex personer som bor i Stockholm, alla är väldigt eller lagom mycket perfekta, och boken beskriver de första åren på 2000-talet i deras liv.  Första kapitlet introducerar alla sex personerna till läsaren på en gång i en total villervalla på en nyårsfest. Efter det kapitlet var jag redo att ge upp för jag kunde inte komma ihåg vem som var vem, var ihop med vem, förälder eller bror till vem, och gay, författare, rik eller misslyckad skådis... Totalkaos, fast välskrivet!

Men jag stod på mig och läste vidare och i resten av boken så är de olika kapitlen mest från en persons synvinkel i taget, så då är det lättare att hänga med.  Här i USA har det pratats mycket om äkthet (authenticity) i media nyligen, och de här människorna känns inte äkta.  De känns som det vackra folket i en TV serie, eller de man ser innanför fönstren på en restaurang som är så dyr att man själv inte kan äta middag där någonsin.  Konstigt nog är det bara två av de sex personerna i boken som faktiskt är riktigt rika, men det hela genomsyras av kommentarer som visar att de alla står över allmänheten i sina intellektuella förmåga och utbildning, och alla har dessutom finstämd designkänsla (det är Svenskt Tenn hit och dit). Det är inget fel i det, men det finns ingen riktig motvikt. 

Det är himla svårt att sätta fingret på vad som är fel, men det är en känsla i maggropen att det hela är vackert, tragiskt, stressigt, underbart, men faktiskt utan innehåll.  Nästan som kejsarens nya kläder - det här är en bok om ingenting, fast med massor av ord.  Konstigt nog har boken fått massor med bra recensioner i pressen.  Kulturskribenterna verkar älska den, men läsarna är inte lika överväldigade och ger blandade kommentarer (från en till fem stjärnor på AdLibris).

Nyligen har jag läst flera böcker av etablerade författare, och alla böcker var för långa; böckerna skulle har varit minst 30% kortare.  Det är nästan som att när en författare har lyckats så glömmer han/hon bort att sovra och redigera sin text.  Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna är praktexemplet på detta; jag har fortfarande hälften kvar att läsa av den boken, och det var ett år sedan jag började läsa den. Hon skulle ha avslutat den efter 200 sidor. 

Den här svenska boken är också 500 sidor!  Alldeles for lång, och långsam... men språket är vackert!  Men det blir för mycket av det goda.  Det blir för mycket Falsterbo semestrar, det blir för mycket om att vänta och föda barn, och det blir för lite av det som gör en bok levande. (Jag vet, mitt resonemanget går inte ihop.) Men vissa delar är magnifika, det är bara att de delarna dränks i ett sammelsurium.  Någon skulle nog kunna kalla det hela 'ett intellektuellt och begåvat ordbajseri', men så långt vill jag inte gå. 

Nu när jag har skrivit så här långt, sa tror jag att den där irritationskänslan över den här boken kanske faktiskt har formulerats sig till ett svar varför jag inte tyckte om en så välskriven bok:  Den berörde mig inte och den är för pretentiös. Den är totala motsatsen till True Grit (se den filmen!). 

Det är som en del konst man ser.  "Visst, den målningen är ju bra, väldigt välgjord och tekniskt avancerad, men den förmedlar inget alls. Bara. Tomrum. "  Det är så synd, för jag tyckte verkligen om hennes tidigare bok Stjärnor utan Svindel.  Vad hände? Och nu har jag skuldkänslor för att jag skrev en så kritisk recension, men det här är vad jag tycker, ärligt talat. Och helt uppenbart fick boken mig att tänka till och skriva en väldigt lång recension, haha! Så, tänker ni läsa boken nu, eller?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lommens bod

Pastel painting is very fun and exciting. Here is a painting I made from the archipelago outside Stockholm. It is a painting from the island Gillöga and shows Lommen's bod.

[LS comment: 'Bod' is the Swedish word for a small house or outbuilding, usually not made to live in but to store things in. A 'vedbod' is for storing firewood, for example]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Soon to an IMAX theatre near you: Rocky Mountain Express

I have a feeling that there are plenty of people in this family who want to see this movie.

Under your control or not? Internet addictions are real...

Some new studies are out, pointing out the troublesome backside of our connectedness online via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and texting (SMS in Swedish). A new study concludes that the internet is more addictive than alcohol and nicotine, and I am starting to believe that (I don't have the link to the study yet, will post it when I find it). I have worried about this a long time, and have made a conscious decision not to be active on Facebook, not to have a twitter account, and try to keep the flow of information into and out of my head under my own control.  But in today's world you can't do your job unless you are connected online, and without an e-mail account that you check everyday, your career and job availability would mostly be dead (well, maybe not if you are an artist living in New Hampshire, but I think you know what I mean... :).

I make it harder for me to be or get too addicted by not getting a smartphone, not having the laptop at the breakfast table, and consciously turning off e-mail and Skype during stretches of time at work, but the feeling is still there - "Oh, what is new? What is going on?  Who needs me now?  What cool things am I missing!?"  I believe that this deluge of wanted and unwanted information plays straight into our psychological triggers in our brain.  We get addicted, if we want it or not.  And the more we use it, the more addicted we get.

 (from Toothpaste for dinner, used with permission on this blog)

I teach at a university and cellphone and internet use is not allowed in my classroom.  But 30 seconds before class starts half the class is sitting with their cell phones and earpieces and hangs out online.  They are not present in the moment in the classroom.  After class starts, they put it away, because I do stop the lecture and ask students who text/surf/etc. on the internet if they want to leave the classroom.  So far, nobody has when I asked, everybody just apologies.

Some professors just give up and let the students do whatever they want, but I want to present a counterpoint to the deluge and addiction out there.  If you are in my class you should be focused on the class and the topic, nothing else.  I know this is hard, from my own experience, since I have been through many boring lectures, meetings and seminars in my day.  But if so, then doodle with a pen while listening, don't run to the internet and get totally off-track.

Meetings, which is a whole other subject.  I often sit in meeting at the big university with fancy professors, busy staff, or pompous administrators, and nearly half of them are playing around with their gadgets (mostly Blackberries, iPads or iPhones these days).  It is not only horribly rude to the persons that are trying to get things done, it is also inefficient and leads to longer, and more boring, meetings that take on the feeling that these meetings are unimportant.  If I lead a meeting from now on, I will ask everybody to refrain from any internet use, pay attention to the meeting and focus on solutions, instead of drifting off into unfocused realities.  Senior professors that just got an iPad or iPhone are the worst...

Remember when TV was all bad for you?  Carrying an iPhone with you is a lot worse than having a TV on at home (I do think TV on all the time is bad too).  But the iPhone is there, in your pocket, like a happy pill that you can take as often and as much as you can.  Who can say no?  And when there are free games that become truly addictive, a hundred contacts (that you really don't know), and everything is instant, forever, and shallow - it is not necessarily always a good thing.

The internet and social media could be used in a good way, and often is, but how do we make sure WE are in charge of our time and lives, and not someone else?   Gambling is considered an addition, but I think excessive internet use should be classified as one as well.  The problem is that internet use is EVERYWHERE, and includes kids from 2 years old and upwards. And here I am, blogging about the problems with the internet... :P
(from Toothpaste for dinner, used with permission on this blog)

So, here is my advice.  Turn off your cell phone sometimes.  Never check e-mail or your phone in bed. Read a book.  Insist on being unavailable at times.  Refuse to get addicted, use the internet on your terms.  Focus, focus, focus.  Laugh at funny YouTube videos, blog, and post photos and videos online, when you feel like it, not when you feel like you have to.  Let us enhance the good things about the internet, and not forget that the real things are things you can touch and think about without the help of a screen, like a deer vertebrae in a forest, a good book, making pasta primavera, and creating things that are possible to touch, view, smell.  In 3 months, nobody will care how many friends you have online, but you will care about how many friends you could have a good time with in person at your house.  And that is what really matters.

Don't get me wrong here, I think there are really creative and positive uses for internet resources, it is just the addiction and the lack of focus on real things that gets to me. It is all about the quality of the input to and output from of our brains. There isn't enough thinking in the world anymore. 

OK, enough ranting from me, and here are some articles about this for those of you that want to read even more:

Uppdaterade och sömnlösa (, in Swedish, "Updated and sleepless")

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Favorite artist: Erin Wilson, quilting queen

An artist grows in Brooklyn and her name is Erin Wilson.  We saw her work for the first time at the Philadelphia Craft Show in 2011, where her large quilts of tiny, tiny pieces of handdyed, stitched pieces of fabric caught my attention and drew me in.  I love them!  The photo above is borrowed from her website, and shows one piece of a much larger quilt.  The patterns, geometric, but also natural and slightly random invokes fantasy, imagery, and emotions in a way that no textile work ever has before for me.  Here you have architecture, geology, interior designs, sailing, machines, factories, trees, shapes, and tepees, all at once - and what one person sees is not the same as the next.  Simply wonderful!  Expensive too, so I never thought I would own any of her work. (photo above, copyright Erin Wilson)

Mini quilts by Erin Wilson

After we came home from the Philadelphia show, my husband gave me a package and in it was, you guessed it, one of her miniquilts, a 2 x 2 block mounted neatly on a wood frame for hanging on the wall.  Here it is!  What do you see?  I love it and it is now at home in our newly renovated guestroom/office.  This is really creativity at its best.  Thank you Erin for sharing this with us.

And then, right after Christmas we got a little brown package in the mail.  Hmm, we thought, wonder what this is.  Erin sent us a quilted tree ornament, just like that!  What an incredibly wonderful surprise!!!  When I see this I think about the power of red love, how it cracks through hard rocks and layers. Others might see the Washington Monument at sunrise, or a rocket at the Florida seashore... the impressions and feelings and interpretations are endless.

Dear Erin, Thank You so much for sharing your work and love for fabric with us.  You are absolutely amazing! We love your work and will buy more of it, promise.  Looking at these quilts make me so happy!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Really, really annoying spam commenters

So, you add bothersome things to your website so you are sure real people comment on our blog posts, and all of you that want to comment have to try to decipher strange letters and numbers to make a simple nice little comment.  You hope that it at least will keep out the spam-bots that are just out there to put in hidden links for companies to get them a better Google rating. But oh no, in the last week, the spamming has started again.  And, this time it is real people doing it.  They are faking nice comments and at the end of the comment they include a url to a link for a commercial company (or even worse, it could be a website with a virus on it).

I really, really don't like this kind of spam terror.  I don't care if there are poor people in some third-world country that get their living from this - it is plain time terrorism, and should be banned.  If I see any comment like that, it is gone immediately from here.  The text is often written in a way to make you think it is a real and positive comment, like this one, but when you start reading you realize that this is not what it is meant to be (I deleted the link to the commercial url):

"I would like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this website. I am hoping the same high-grade website post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing skills has inspired me to get my own website now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings quickly. Your write up is a great example of it."

(I wonder if this was written up with Google Translator... and if so, from which language...)

Dear spammers, please just STOP.  Shame on you for doing this.  First it was telemarketers, now it is blogmarketers that are trying to sneak in and disturb our personal peace.  Go away!

Some art from AREA

Simply a great piece of art!  Thanks, AREA!!!  (more of her art here)

Stamp of the Day: Franz Marc, painter

I still remember the first time I saw a painting by Franz Marc.  It was at the Chicago Institute of Art. I rounded a corner in a room, and there it was, unassuming, kind of hiding among the other paintings in the modern wing, and it captured me. It was like finding a perfectly polished piece of glass on a sandy beach, you hold it, look at it, and can go into it, mentally, drowning and dreaming and thinking all the way.  I remember just standing there, loving it.  It wasn't this painting, but this one is great too.  Unfortunately he died very young, and this German stamp commemorates his life and art.


New design, clearly inspired by the design culture in the 1950´s in Sweden. Here the kitchen towel "Sill" by Marianne Nilsson. More towels and fabrics from Almedahls here. I like this fabric too, "I svampskogen" av David van Berckel.