Los Angeles Culture Challenge for January 2018: Scandinavian Film Festival LA & PST:LA/LA

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to explore more of the many diverse cultural opportunities that Los Angeles has to offer? There’s lots to choose from this month, especially with the art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA that’s going on right now. It’s a collaborative effort from arts institutions across Southern California that explores Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles. Some exhibitions end at the end of the month. You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. I have visited three exhibitions (listed below) and found them all interesting and worth the visit.

One of my favorite Scandinavian events returns this month. The Scandinavian Film Festival LA opens this weekend in Beverly Hills. I always look forward to seeing what’s being offered and hope there’s a movie that will transport me back to Norway through language and setting or bring alive a part of Norwegian history for me. I also don’t mind being an armchair traveler to other countries in the region. For a look at what’s being offered this year, check out Scandinavian Film Festival 2018: A Preview.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

Scandinavian Film Festival LA 2018: A Preview

The first weekend of 2018 welcomes “top films from the top of Europe” at the annual Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA). Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, festival goers can view films from Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. The festival will take place over two weekends, January 6 & 7 and 20 & 21, at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. Continue reading

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: December 2017

I’ve had a tough reading time this past month with disappointments for unexpected reasons. I need to turn that around. Once again, I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

This one came highly recommended from Modern Mrs Darcy and I suggested it for my local book club. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by it. I believe it was *reading* the book that made the difference for me. I’ve since learned that *listening* to the book is a totally different experience. I enjoyed the main characters and the unlikely relationship between the Captain and the young orphan girl he was charged to bring back to relatives after having been taken captive by Kiowa Native Americans. I liked the setting of Texas post Civil War. The story introduced me to a chapter in American history that I was unfamiliar with, which I really enjoyed. However, the writing style was not for me and affected the whole reading experience. There were no quotation marks in the dialogue which made reading it more frustrating and harder than it should have been. I suggest listening to this one.


The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westö (Finnish novel written in Swedish translated to English by Neil Smith)

This was the latest book pick for my Scandinavian Book Club. And it was another tough read but for a totally different reason. I did not have the necessary background knowledge to absorb everything easily. It takes place in Helsinki, Finland, in 1938. At one point, I had to research Finnish history, in particular the civil war that happened in 1918 and left deep scars in the people. Also, I was not knowledgeable enough about the intricacies of the political atmosphere throughout Europe between World War I and II. However, I was intrigued by the main character: Matilda, Miss Milja, or Mrs. Wiik, depending on the situation. I was curious about her past, clues about which were meted out slowly, and culminated in an ending that I was not expecting. (A sidenote, Kjell Westö won the Nordic Council Literature Award in 2014 for this book. It’s one of the most prestigious awards that Nordic authors can win.)


I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick, narrated by Neela Vaswani

I was recently very moved by a Norwegian movie about a Pakistani immigrant family living in Oslo whose daughter was sent back to Pakistan as punishment for her Western behavior (What Will People Say by Iram Haq). I Am Malala has been a memoir I’ve been interested in reading for a long time, and I seized the moment now to learn more about Pakistan and its people. Unfortunately, in my rush to get started, I unintentionally selected the young readers’ adaptation of the audiobook and realized it once I was too invested. Malala is an inspiring girl and the book provided a fascinating window into the culture and history of the region. I definitely enjoyed the book and Malala’s story, but I do wish I had selected the adult version.


Sourdough by Robin Sloan

After my recent hard and serious reads, I needed something light-hearted and fun. I really enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore so I thought I’d try his latest book. Sourdough was definitely an easy and fun read – to begin with at least. I enjoyed the main character and her new life with the sourdough starter left to her unexpectedly. The casual style of writing also helped the story move along quickly. Then about 75% into it, I found the book harder to return to as the story took a fantastical turn. Sadly, I had to force myself to finish it. The fantasy elements in this book were not for me. But I seem to be in the minority. The Goodreads community thinks much more highly of the book than I did.


Currently reading and next on my list…

Since Christmas is around the corner, I’m reading Jostein Gaarder’s The Christmas Mystery, a book I’ve long been curious about. Jostein Gaarder is a Norwegian intellectual and author of several novels, short stories, and children’s books. The Christmas Mystery is written in 24 chapters and is about a boy who discovers a magic Advent calendar. My local book club’s next read is The Sound of Language by Amulya Malladi about an Afghani woman who immigrated to Denmark after her husband was captured by the Taliban. My Scandinavian Book Club chose Karin Fossum’s Eva’s Eye (first book in the Inspector Sejer mystery series) which I’ve already read so I may read The Indian Bride, another of Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer mysteries, instead. It received the Los Angeles Times’ Mystery Prize in 2007. But before I read either of those books, I need something light and fun. I may try Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians.

What have you been reading lately?

Do you have any books to recommend? I need to get some more enjoyment into my reading life right now.

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What Will People Say by Iram Haq: An #OwnVoices Immigrant Story from Norway

I seized the opportunity to see What Will People Say (Hva vil folk si) at AFI FEST 2017 in Hollywood this past November. I’ve read a lot of immigrant stories that take place here in the United States, but immigrant stories by own voices in Norway are unfamiliar to me. What Will People Say was a very powerful film about a first generation Norwegian teenager born of Pakistani immigrants in Oslo. Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for December 2017: Swedish Christmas Fair, CicLAvia, and PST:LA/LA

December offers many special events and activities. I challenge you to explore the richness of where we live. Here are some special events happening in the upcoming month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

A favorite Scandinavian event is here this month, SWEA’s 38th annual Swedish Christmas Fair, on Sunday, December 3. It’s a busy, festive one-day affair which always leaves me with a cozy Christmas feeling. If you go, make sure to time your visit so that you are there for the Lucia pageant at 12pm or 3pm.

A favorite LA event takes place this month as well. CicLAvia returns to Wilshire Boulevard for its Iconic Wilshire Boulevard route on Sunday, December 10. There’s no better way to explore the city than on bike when the streets are closed to cars.

And finally, don’t forget to take advantage of the special months-long art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an exploration of Latin American and Latino art in Los Angeles, which ends in January (some exhibitions continue later). You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. Some of the ones I have found most intriguing are listed below.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: November 2017

It’s been an enjoyable and thought-provoking month of reading. Two of my reads were in anticipation of author talks. Connecting books with their authors is always interesting. As I’ve done in the past, I’m joining Modern Mrs Darcy’s Quick Lit link-up where readers share short and sweet reviews of what they’ve been reading lately.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

My book club picked Practical Magic because Alice Hoffman was coming to town to speak about her newest novel The Rules of Magic, which is a prequel to Practical Magic. Witches and magic are not my ideal reading material, but it wasn’t blatantly in my face in this book which made it work for me. I was a little turned off by the writing style – barely any dialogue and a lot telling as if setting up something to come – but I enjoyed the sister relationships. Overall, it was a good read, and having the opportunity to hear Alice Hoffman speak about the book and her other works certainly added to my reading experience. I’ve definitely put the movie on my watch list and I’m interested in reading The Rules of Magic, especially with all the hype it’s gotten this fall.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I enjoyed Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You and was eager to read this as well. I liked this one even better than the first one. Just like her first book, this one begins with a shocking event and then goes back in time and works its way to the opening event to answer the unanswered questions surrounding it. And like her first book, there are complicated family dynamics and racial questions. This story involves characters with interesting back stories and relationships. There are decisions with serious consequences. And there are complicated mother-daughter relationships. This would make an excellent book to discuss with friends or in a book club.


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This was a book I had picked out months ago as a possible selection for the category “a book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending” for Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge Reading for Growth. Then when I learned that Ishiguro had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I was even more intrigued to read a book of his. It helped that this book was listed as the book to begin with when starting to read Ishiguro. I think the best way to go into this book is not knowing what it’s about, other than it being about some kids at a boarding school in England. For me the enjoyment in this book was piecing together what was really going on in the story. It all seemed so normal, but yet it wasn’t.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In January, I made a vow to read more books by diverse authors and about issues or experiences new or unfamiliar to meBetween the World and Me was one of the books I decided I would read. When I learned that Ta-Nehisi Coates was coming to speak in LA for his tour promoting his latest book We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, I moved Between the World and Me to the top of my TBR list. This was a bold, eye-opening, and thought-provoking read about race in America and how it has shaped American history from a perspective so different from my own. I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear him speak, and having read Between the World and Me beforehand made the experience much more meaningful.


Currently reading and next on my list…

News of the World by Paulette Jiles is my local book club’s current read, and The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westö (Finnish novel written in Swedish and translated by Neil Smith) is my Scandinavian Book Group’s pick for November. After their November meetings, my book clubs won’t meet again until January, so my focus for the rest of the year will be seeing how close I can get to completing my Modern Mrs Darcy reading challenges for the year.

What have you been reading lately?

Disclaimer: AVikingInLA is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Norwegian (and other Nordic) Films at AFI FEST 2017

Norwegian film has not been a stranger to Los Angeles these last few weeks, and its presence continues at American Film Institute’s film festival AFI FEST taking place now. AFI FEST is an annual celebration of international cinema “from modern masters and emerging filmmakers”. It takes place each fall in Hollywood and features nightly red-carpet galas, special screenings, conversations, and tributes. AFI FEST is free to the public.

This year two Norwegian films are on the schedule. The first one is Thelma written by Norwegian duo Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt and directed by Joachim Trier. It is a psychological thriller that takes place in Oslo, Norway. It is Norway’s Best Foreign Language Oscar submission. The second film is What Will People Say written and directed by Norwegian Iram Haq (Norwegian-born of Pakistani immigrants). Continue reading

Los Angeles Culture Challenge for November 2017: PST:LA/LA and Norwegian Christmas Fair

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. I challenge you to explore the richness of where we live. Here are some special events happening in the upcoming month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

Of special significance to me this month is the Norwegian Christmas Fair. It takes place, as it always does, the weekend before Thanksgiving. Interestingly, this is a common tradition all over the world at Norwegian Seamen’s Churches. Christmas decorations, music, candles, and the smell of freshly baked goods set the mood as you wander the booths filled with Scandinavian goods of all kinds. And of course, there’s the café serving traditional Norwegian foods. All are invited to attend. You do not need to be Norwegian or a member of the church.

The special months-long art initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is in full swing. It started in September and goes until the end of January. Many venues around Los Angeles and beyond are participating with a variety of exhibitions. As explained on its website, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA is a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.” You can sort exhibitions by theme, neighborhood, venue, and media which makes the whole process of deciding what to see where less overwhelming. I have made a personal challenge to see as many of the exhibitions at venues close to home as possible. High on my list are Cuba Is at Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City, Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A. at Central Library in Downtown LA, and Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark‐Making in LA at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

How will you explore the richness of Los Angeles this month? Continue reading

CicLAvia: Heart of LA (2017)

CicLAvia returned to Downtown LA for its October edition. At first I was a little unenthused about returning to Downtown LA, but then I learned that this year’s Heart of LA route had a new hub, Echo Park, which I was excited to explore.

It turned out to be a solo event for me, but I was totally okay with that. Going alone allows me to do whatever I please, whenever I please, without complaints, which is a situation I rarely encounter. And, there are actually a lot of other solo riders at these events. It’s a great opportunity to connect with new people. You feel like you’re part of a greater community. Everyone is there for the same reason – to take advantage of the open streets and explore the city from a different vantage point.

Being able to take Metro Rail’s Expo Line to Downtown LA made this an easy event for me to attend. What was tricky this time was that a football game was happening at the Coliseum that afternoon as well, and the train car got really packed with passengers. Having a bike onboard was awkward and difficult. But once all the football fans got off at USC, the cyclists could relax for the rest of the ride.

At the end of the line, I surfaced from the Metro station and made my way to Broadway Hub where I joined the route. This area has the feel of a typical downtown city with buildings side-by-side along the street, but riding gives you a chance to look more closely at the buildings. There are some interesting architectural details and public art along the way.

Once I got to the main intersection of the route and headed out towards Echo Park Hub, that downtown feel quickly subsided. About 1 1/2 miles later I was at Echo Park Lake. I was so surprised and fascinated by this area. It is such a big and serene green space so close to Downtown LA.

I parked my bike and began to walk along a path that circles the lake. It was very peaceful despite all the CicLAvia participants and the regular folks who were there just enjoying the park. At first glance, I saw the fountain in the middle of the lake and the paddle boats and boat house at the edge of the lake. But exploring more closely, I noticed water lily beds throughout the lake, lotus plants at one end of the lake, and a lush wetlands habitat full of wildlife. Looking even more closely, I saw fish, turtles, and a variety of birds.

There was even a cute looking cafe in the boat house, Beacon. It boasts “a chef-driven menu with good-for-you ingredients.” I’ve put it on my list of outdoor restaurants to bring my parents to the next time they’re in town. And I’ll also have to come back at the right time to catch the lotus flowers in bloom. Apparently, this year’s bloom in June was pretty spectacular.

After exploring the park and enjoying lunch from Cousins Maine Lobster food truck, it was time to move on. Next up was Chinatown, but not until I had ridden through 2nd Street Tunnel again. This turned out to be a fun “attraction” for all ages. Adults let their inner child loose while riding through, and there was lots of howling, hollering, and whistling.

I have been to Chinatown before but not by bike, so this stretch I did more to just have done than anything. It was a relatively quick visit.

Finally, I made my way out to Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights on the east side of the Los Angeles River. This was a new destination for me as well. To get there, we rode through the Arts District with its many wall murals and over the 4th Street Bridge.

After checking out Mariachi Plaza, enjoying some live music, and supporting the local farmer’s market, it was time to make my way back to Broadway Hub and the Metro station to head back home.

It was a full day of pedaling with lots of new sights and sounds along the way – 16 miles and 6 hours total – but one I’ll be eager to repeat next time around. I do believe this is becoming my favorite CicLAvia route. There is so much variety in where to go and what to see, and the riders are spread out on the three spokes so there’s a little more breathing room when riding. There will be no hesitation about returning to Downtown LA next time CicLAvia happens there.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: October 2017

It’s been two months since I last shared what I’ve been reading. In addition to the books for my Scandinavian Book Group and local book club, I read books that hadn’t even been on my radar before, which is always kind of fun. School and fall activities have begun in earnest, so it wasn’t as productive a reading time as last time, but it was still very fulfilling. Continue reading