Reading Lately (January 2019): New Year, New Challenges

I’m excited for a new year of reading goals and challenges. This year my main focus will be on my own 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge but I’ll be participating in The Reading Women’s 2019 Reading Women Challenge and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2019 Reading Challenge as well.

Curious about what I’m thinking of reading for this year’s Scandinavian Reading Challenge? Check out my potential picks for the 2019 #ScandiReadingChallenge. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions.


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

This was the first book of the new year for my local book club. I was not a total fan, but I found certain aspects enjoyable. I was intrigued by the mysterious first person narrator who surfaced occasionally. I kept wondering who he was – and how could he have such an overarching view of Arthur Less’ life? I thought Arthur’s jaunts through the many countries were interesting. However, I wasn’t a real fan of Arthur himself. He was uninteresting and frustrating and I couldn’t really relate to him.

Reading Challenges:


One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad

(Translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death)

This one took a little longer than anticipated to read. At the time of my last Reading Lately post, I had not yet completed it but counted it for 2018 challenges since I was 70% through a 500+ pages book. This was an eye-opening book because it revealed so much that I didn’t know about the before, during, and after of the July 22, 2011, bombing of the government quarters in Oslo and the massacre at the youth summer camp that followed. I also feel it’s an important book for me to have read because this day was a defining moment for Norwegians, much like September 11 is for Americans.

Reading Challenges:


Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

(Audiobook narrated by Emily Rankin)

I listened to this as my 6th grade son read it for a school-wide reading program. Turns out it was set in Appalachia, rural Pennsylvania to be exact, so it met a prompt for this year’s Reading Women Challenge as well, which was a welcomed bonus. I really enjoyed this middle grade book! However, it wasn’t quite your typical middle grade read; it was a little darker with some serious themes and harsh scenes. It takes place during World War II, which I appreciated since I haven’t read many WWII books set in the US. The first-person narrator, soon-to-be 12-year-old Annabelle, lives on a farm with her extended family and goes to school in a one-room schoolhouse. She is responsible, trustworthy, and mature. She and her family are friendly and helpful to Toby, a WWI veteran, who lives in a deserted shack and roams the woods. Then Betty, a bully, moves to town and Annabelle’s idyllic life is turned upside-down. The language is beautiful, old-fashioned to coincide with the time period. The setting is well developed. The issues raised made for good discussions with my son.

Reading Challenges:


Simon’s Family (aka Simon & the Oaks) by Marianne Fredriksson

(Translated from the Swedish by Joan Tate)

The book opens in 1939 with 11-year-old Simon who lives in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is from a working class family and goes to school where he becomes friends with Isak, a Jewish boy from a rich family. The two families are drawn together and become an extended family that together endures the trials and tribulations of the times. The book was a little slow-going for me, but it was interesting to see what life was like for families, both Jewish and not, living in neutral Sweden during World War II. Especially interesting for me was that my maternal grandmother grew up in this area during this time (only 2 years older than Simon) and so the book gave me a glimpse of the setting of her younger life.

Reading Challenges:


Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

I have mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t love the first part, but I really enjoyed the second part. The first part about Tara’s homelife with her survivalist family was just a series of horrible experiences. I kept thinking “What crazy thing will happen next?” And something always did. There were accidents of all kinds – car, motorcycle, and junkyard – with total lack of concern by her father as well as physical and emotional abuse by her brother without any intervention by the parents. Once Tara left for Brigham Young University and began discovering the real world, however, I had a hard time putting the book down. I really enjoyed reading about her drive to make sense of the world and figure out her place in it. I was amazed at how she was able to educate herself. She’s an inspiring woman and an excellent writer which made her story even better.

🇳🇴 An interesting sidenote to my Scandinavian readers, especially Norwegian ones… Tara has a Norwegian great-great-grandmother, Anna Mathea (born 1853 in Nes, Hedmark County, Norway, about 100 miles north of Oslo, which I discovered here). “It was her [Anna Mathea’s] voice that brought our family to the church,” explained Tara’s mother (p. 245). “She heard Mormon missionaries preaching in the streets of Norway” and then managed to convert her parents who “felt compelled by God to come to America to meet prophet Joseph.” This sent me down an Internet rabbit hole curious about how Mormonism came to Scandinavia, in particular Norway, its history there and role in emigration, which was fascinating.

Reading Challenges:


What have you been reading lately?

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Reading Lately (December 2018): Reading Challenges Wrap-Up & End-of-Year Reflections

December was all about completing my self-made 2018 Scandinavian Reading Challenge and seeing how much of three other challenges (Reading Women ChallengeModern Mrs. Darcy Challenge, and Read Harder) I could complete before year’s end.

I successfully completed my own challenge (see a compilation of all the books I read at What I Read for 2018 #ScandiReadingChallenge) but unfortunately not the other ones. One thing the other challenges did for sure, though, was help guide my reading when I was looking for my next read because my reading wasn’t just about reading Scandinavian books. The other challenges were an incentive (and they provided great resources) for me to read books I would not otherwise have tried — new genres, authors, and perspectives — and for that I am very grateful.


On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

I needed an audiobook that I would quickly get absorbed in and would eagerly want to return to, and this one did the job. I came across the recommendation at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post 6 recent audiobooks I thoroughly enjoyed. I liked the main character and enjoyed how she dealt with her various problems—flaky boyfriend, new house with disturbing history, parents separating due to father’s midlife crisis, and new love interest. It was a fun book with nothing too serious, a nice palate cleanser.


The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

(Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)

Kjell Ola Dahl is a new-to-me Norwegian crime writer, though he’s been writing since 1993. I jumped into this Oslo Detectives Series with book #6 and I don’t think it mattered that I hadn’t read the previous ones. I liked the setting of Oslo and the crime was interesting. However, I was not a fan of the female detective Lena Stigersand. I like strong, smart female characters, and Lena made some dumb decisions with both a new relationship and her work responsibilities. I almost did not finish the book, but I was over half way done and wanted to know the resolution. Also, I needed it for my Scandinavian Reading Challenge. (I do believe this is Lena’s first appearance so maybe previous books in the series are better.)

Reading Challenges:


The Saboteur by Andrew Gross

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in a little-known history event involving people willing to risk everything for the love of their country. This is a historical fiction book about the sabotage of a Nazi-occupied factory in Norway during World War II. A by-product of the factory was heavy water which the Germans needed to continue their atomic bomb work. A group of Norwegians were trained in England to disrupt those plans. This book was especially fun to read since we had visited the site of the factory this past summer. I could visualize the factory and the landscape around it, which plays a significant role in the missions. I was thrown off a little by the fictional characters who were added to the story (like the American!) but the author’s note at the end put those doubts to rest. My 14-year-old son read and enjoyed it, too.

Reading Challenges:


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

(Translated from the Swedish by Alice Menzies)

This was a fun and sweet read! It’s been on my radar for a long time (must have been the bookish title and cover), but I didn’t know until somewhat recently that it’s actually a Swedish book in translation. It’s about a young Swedish woman who goes to visit her elderly penpal in the USA. However, her penpal dies right before she arrives in Broken Wheel, Iowa. It’s a story about a dying small town, unlikely friendships, new beginnings, and the power of books and a bookstore to make a difference in people’s lives. The audiobook narrated by Fiona Hardingham and Lorelei King is also very good. I both listened to and read the book and highly recommend both versions.

Reading Challenges:


Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

I had great plans to read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for this challenge prompt, but due to time constraints I opted for this related middle grade book by him instead. Both the book and the author have been on my TBR list for a while so I’m glad I can finally check them off, but I do feel I cheated a little. Odd and the Frost Giants was a quick, enjoyable read which briefly introduces the Norse gods Thor, Odin, and Loki and their enemies the frost giants. I will return to both the author and the topic some time in the future. (I gladly welcome suggestions as to which Neil Gaiman book I should read next.)

Reading Challenges:


One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad

(Translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death)

This author and book have been on my TBR list for a long time. When I saw that a film had been made based on it (Netflix original July 22 directed by Paul Greenglass), I prioritized it. This is not a quick and easy read. Not only is it 500+ pages but the subject matter is not very uplifting. (As of the writing of this post, I actually haven’t finished it yet, but I am more than 70% through it and determined to finish it and therefore counting it for my 2018 reading challenges.) I am alternating between the Norwegian edition and the English translation. Some parts, such as the political history of Norway, right-wing extremist Anders Breivik’s philosophy, and the bomb and weapon technicalities, are easier for me to read in English while the family narratives are fine to read in Norwegian. The book basically follows three people and their families before, during, and after July 22, 2011. Readers learn about Breivik’s childhood and what drove him to this horrible act. Of the many youth victims, readers get to know native Norwegian Simon Sæbø and recent Norwegian citizen Bano Rashid, a Kurdish refugee, and how their paths led to this political youth camp at Utøya. Stay tuned for more thoughts in another post once I finish the book and have watched the Netflix movie plus another July 22-themed movie which will be screened during the second weekend of Scandinavian Film Festival LA later in January.

Reading Challenges:


End-of-Year Reflections

What am I most proud of from 2018?

What am I looking forward to in 2019?

  • Reading books in translation from more areas of the world
  • My self-made 2019 Scandinavian Reading Challenge (join me!)
  • Seeing how much of other reading challenges I can complete with books I already own
  • Continuing to read and discuss books with my IRL and Scandinavian book clubs

How was your 2018 reading year?

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

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20th Anniversary of Scandinavian Film Festival LA: A Preview of #SFFLA 2019

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to broaden your horizons by seeing and reading more foreign movies and books? You can start making progress on that goal the first weekend of the new year by attending the annual Scandinavian Film Festival Los Angeles (SFFLA) in Beverly Hills. It takes place the weekends of January 5 & 6 and 19 & 20. Join SFFLA as they celebrate their 20th anniversary this year!

Despite its name, the scope of the festival actually extends beyond Scandinavia. Besides films from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, you can view films from the Nordic countries Iceland and Finland as well as Baltic neighbors Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

Once again this year, you will have the opportunity to see all the Nordic and Baltic countries’ submissions for Best Foreign Language Film for the upcoming 91st Academy Awards (although only Denmark’s selection made it to the shortlist):

  • Norway – What Will People Say by Iram Haq
  • Sweden – Border by Ali Abbasi
  • Denmark – The Guilty by Gustav Möller
  • Iceland – Woman at War by Benedikt Erlingsson
  • Finland – Euthanizer by Teemu Nikki
  • Latvia – To Be Continued by Ivars Seleckis
  • Estonia – Take It or Leave It by Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo
  • Lithuania – Wonderful Losers: A Different World by Arūnas Matelis

At the SFFLA Opening Gala on Saturday, January 5, at 5:30 p.m., you can enjoy drinks and a buffet meal with other Scandi film enthusiasts. Gala tickets (a great deal at only $40 each!) also include Opening Ceremonies at 7:15 p.m. and the screening of Denmark’s feature film The Guilty at 7:30 p.m. as well as a Q&A with director Gustav Möller. Buy your gala tickets now!

Below you’ll find a list of films by country. Descriptions are taken from the festival’s website. You can also view and download a chronological schedule. SFFLA Festival Passports which allow admission to all screenings and Opening Gala are available for $140, or you can buy tickets for individual films for $12 each online or at the door. Please confirm schedule with SFFLA as it may change after this post is published. Hope to see you there!


* NORWAY *

What Will People Say (Hva vil folk si)

  • Feature Film by Iram Haq (2017)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 3:00 p.m. (106 minutes)

Sixteen-year-old Nisha lives a double life. When out with her friends, she’s a normal Norwegian teenager. At home with her family, she is the perfect Pakistani daughter. But when her father catches her alone with her boyfriend in her room, Nisha’s two worlds brutally collide.

Morgen

  • Short Film by Knut Erik Jensen (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 7:00 p.m. (15 min)

It can seem like we are living on the edge of the world. But one morning 200,000 soldiers march into our arctic landscape. Four years later they stumble out leaving everything in ruins. As if nothing has happened. What in human nature triggers violent acts of war, thousands of miles into the wild? Can it happen again? As the ice melts?

The 12th Man (Den 12. mann)

  • Feature Film by Harald Zwart (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 7:30 p.m. (135 min)

True World War II story about Jan Baalsrud, one of the 12 saboteurs sent in 1943 from England to the Nazi occupied Northern Norway. After their boat is sunk by the Germans, the Nazis killed 11 of them. The 12th man, Jan, goes on the run towards the neutral Sweden. However, the brutal weather conditions turn out to be an even greater foe than the Nazi patrols.

The Green Valley

  • Short Film by Ellen Ugelstad (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 4:30 p.m. (24 min)

The Green Valley is a short film that explores the connection between politics, art and daily life in a multicultural neighborhood in Oslo. The film is inspired by three real events that took place in the director’s neighborhood.

Utøya – July 22 (Utøya 22. juli)

  • Feature Film by Erik Poppe (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 5:00 p.m. (93 min)

A teenage girl struggles to survive and to find her younger sister during the July 2011 terrorist mass murder at a political summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya.

*Note: Do not confuse this film with the similarly named movie 22 July directed by Paul Greenglass which also came out in 2018. Greenglass’ work is a documentary style film based on the non-fiction book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad (available to stream on Netflix), while Poppe’s film is a one-take feature shot in real time of the day the youth summer camp was attacked. Read more at Utøya-July 22 recreates the terror attack in one remarkable shot.


* SWEDEN *

Border (Gräns)

  • Feature Film by Alli Abbas (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 2:30 p.m. (101 min)

Customs officer Tina is known for her extraordinary sense of smell – she can sniff out fear on anyone. But when Vore walks past her, her abilities are challenged for the first time. Tina can sense Vore is hiding something she can’t identify. Worse, she feels a strange attraction to him. This fateful encounter calls into question her entire existence.

Ted: Show Me Love (Ted – För kärlekens skull)

  • Feature Film by Hannes Holm (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 12:30 p.m. (121 min)

Chronicling the beautiful and tragic life and career of legendary Swedish singer-songwriter Ted Gärdestad, this biopic tells the story of the great highs and lows of one of Sweden’s most loved artists.

The Cake General (Tårtgeneralen)

  • Feature Film by Filip Hammar and Fredrik Wikingsson (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 7:30 p.m. (101 min)

Set in 1984, Hans Pettersson (Hasse P.) decides to create the largest sandwich cake ever made in order to put his hometown, Köping, on the map.


* DENMARK *

The Guilty (Den skyldige)

When police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) is demoted to desk work, he expects a sleepy beat as an emergency dispatcher. That all changes when he answers a panicked phone call from a kidnapped woman who then disconnects abruptly. Asger, confined to the police station, is forced to use others as his eyes and ears as the severity of the crime slowly becomes more clear. The search to find the missing woman and her assailant will take every bit of his intuition and skill, as a ticking clock and his own personal demons conspire against him.

Becoming Astrid (Unga Astrid)

  • Feature Film by Pernille Fischer Christensen (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 2:00 p.m. (123 min)

This is a biopic of Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, the author of numerous children’s books and creator of Pippi Longstocking.

 


* ICELAND *

Mihkel (Undir Halastjörnu)

  • Feature Film by Ari Alexander Ergis Magnússon (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 10:30 a.m. (100 min)

This movie is based on true events from a 2004 criminal case in Iceland where a body was discovered by chance by a diver in the Neskaupstaður harbor. 

Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð)

Halla, a woman in her fifties, declares war on the local aluminum industry to prevent it from disfiguring her country. She risks all she has to protect the highlands of Iceland but the situation could change with the unexpected arrival of a small orphan in her life.

Vultures (Vargur)

  • Feature Film by Börkur Sigþórsson (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 5:30 p.m.

Sharp-suited Erik represents the aspirational face of modern Iceland. Atli, a petty criminal just released from prison, is stuck in a downward spiral. The distance between these two very different brothers vanishes when the duo teams up to smuggle cocaine into Iceland, inside plastic pellets swallowed by a young Polish mule, Sofia. But things go wrong when rule-breaking cop Lena starts closing in on them and Sofia falls sick. With the drugs yet to reach their destination and a rival gang demanding a slice of the action, time is a luxury that the brothers can’t afford. Charismatic anti-hero Erik’s ability to stay one step ahead is tested to the limit – how many lives is he willing to sacrifice to sustain his own?


* FINLAND *

Euthanizer (Armomurhaaja)

This violent summer noir tells the story of Veijo, a 50-year-old mechanic, whose second job is to put sick pets to sleep. He’s also an animal whisperer and prefers to personally deliver justice to careless owners who neglect their pets. His unconventional but meticulously organized life is disrupted when he comes across Petri, a garage mechanic and member of a neo-Nazi gang, and Lotta, a young nurse who understands his psychosis. The themes revolve around animal rights, suffering and death. But the real story is not about good or evil – it’s about intolerance and the stupidity of absolute men.

Unknown Soldier (Tuntematon sotilas)

  • Feature Film by Aku Lohimies (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/6, 4:30 p.m. (132 min)

Based on novel of the same name by Váinö Linna, the film follows a fictional Finnish Army machine gun company on the Karelian front during the War from 1941 when the troops prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union until armistice in 1944. The author himself had served in such a company.

Rendel: Dark Vengeance

  • Feature Film by Jesse Haaja (2017)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 10:00 a.m. (104 min)

A Finnish superhero, a masked vigilante Rendel, seeks for revenge and fights against VALA, the huge criminal organization.

One Last Deal (Tuntematon mestari)

  • Feature Film by Klaus Härö (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/20, 7:30 p.m. (95 min)

An elderly art dealer Olavi (72) is about to retire. A man who has always put business and art before everything – even his family – cannot imagine life without work. At an auction, an old painting catches his attention. Olavi suspects it is worth much more than its starting price, which is low because its authenticity hasn’t been confirmed. Olavi’s instincts kick in. He decides to make one last deal in order to earn some proper pension money. At the same time, Olavi’s daughter Lea (42) – whom he hasn’t seen for years – asks him to help her with his teenage grandson Otto (15). Together with Otto, Olavi starts to investigate the background of the painting. They find out that the painting is called Christ and was painted by Ilya Repin. Olavi manages to buy the painting, but when the auction house realizes that there has been a mistake with the original pricing, they turn against him. To fulfill his dream, the old dealer must face both the auction house and his own past mistakes.


* LATVIA *

To Be Continued (Turpinājums)

  • Feature Documentary by Ivars Seleckis (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/5, 12:45 p.m. (101 min)

Ivars Seleckis takes a look at five children and their families from throughout Latvia. Shot over a period of two years, the film explores how choices made by adults are reflected in a child’s thinking.

 


* ESTONIA *

Three Days in August (Kolm peeve augustis)

  • Short Film by Madli Lāane (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 2:30 p.m. (22 min)

In the midst of the political upheaval of the early 1990s in Soviet Union, an Estonian girl and a Russian boy reach across cultural lines to unite over a shared bottle of American soda.

Take It or Leave It (Võta või jäta)

  • Feature Film by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo (2018)
  • Screening: Saturday, 1/19, 3:00 p.m. (102 min)

One sleepy Saturday morning a 30-year-old construction worker Erik gets some earth shattering news: his ex-girlfriend Moonika who he hasn’t even seen for the past six months is about to go into labor. She however is not ready for motherhood and if Erik doesn’t want the kid either, the little girl will be put up for adoption. Take it or leave it!

 


* LITHUANIA *

Wonderful Losers: A Different World

  •  Feature Documentary by Arūnas Matelis (2018)
  • Screening: Sunday, 1/21, 2:00 p.m. (71 min)

They’re called water carriers, domestics, ‘gregarios’, ‘Sancho Panzas’ of professional cycling. Always at the back of the group, with no right for a personal victory. These wonderful losers are the true warriors of professional cycling.

 


What festival films look interesting to you?

I have actually already seen two of the movies to be presented, both of which I highly recommend. I saw What Will People Say, an #ownvoices immigrant story from Norway, at AFI Fest in November 2017. It was a moving and thought-provoking filmThe 12th Man is an amazing World World II story of survival and will to live and kindness to others despite tremendous risk that I saw just recently at a special engagement at Museum of Tolerance. I plan to bring my family to see it at SFFLA this year.

There are many films I’m personally interested in seeing. I am currently reading Åsne Seierstad’s One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway — And Its Aftermath and plan to see Greenglass’ 22 July on Netflix at some point. Poppe’s Utøya – July 22 seems to be a totally different take on the same event so I’m very eager to see that, though I think it will be an extremely tough film to watch. Other films at the top of my to-watch list are Sweden’s Border, Denmark’s The Guilty, and Iceland’s Woman at War. Can’t wait for the screenings to start. Will I see you there?

October 2018 Los Angeles Culture Challenge & Scandinavian Events

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. Here are some special events happening in LA this month. Mark your calendars, but please check suitability for family members and confirm dates and times before heading out.

For Scandinavian enthusiasts, October continues to offer events that may be of interest. On Sunday, October 7, the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation will host its annual Leif Erikson Day Celebration. Judith Vinje, a world traveled journalist and expert in Viking history, will be the keynote speaker at a presentation which will be followed by a reception at the Scandinavian Center. Leif Erikson will be at the Center for pictures and conversation, so be sure to bring the kids! The event is free of charge.

The following weekend, on Sunday, October 14, Vasa Park Association will host their annual Scandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration in Agoura Hills which includes a Swedish meatball contest. More details can be found in the listing below.

On Thursday, October 25, the Scandinavian American Cultural and Historical Foundation‘s Scandinavian Book Club resumes its monthly meetings after a long summer break. Please reach out if you’re interested in details.

And finally, news for Scandinavian enthusiasts and film buffs beyond Los Angeles, Netflix is releasing the movie 22 July, a drama about the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway that claimed the lives of 77 people and the aftermath, on October 10 both on its streaming platform and in select theaters around the world. The film is based on the book One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad, translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death. The movie is written and directed by Paul Greengrass.

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

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 6 & 7 *

Los Angeles Korean Festival, Seoul International Park, Normandie & Olympic Blvds, Thursday, 10/4 – Sunday, 10/7. This is a free four-day festival whose mission is to provide the community with the best possible outlet to learn about the roots and traditions of Korea. Entertaining performances will lighten up the festival’s main stage. Thoughtful cultural exhibitions will educate visitors about South Korea’s history and culture. Local restaurants as well as vendors from South Korea will present a wide variety of food in one space. The shopping space will consist of booths selling Korean products such as cosmetics, appliances, apparel, and accessories.

7th Annual San Pedro International Film Festival, various locations in San Pedro, Friday, 10/5 – Sunday, 10/7. The San Pedro International Film Festival (SPIFF) was founded to celebrate the diverse culture and community of San Pedro with a wide spectrum of independent film, documentaries, and shorts. SPIFF is committed to exhibiting films that embody inspiring entertainment for all, works that express fresh voices and differing global perspectives, with the intent that these films enlighten audiences while providing invaluable exposure for filmmakers, local and international.

L.A. Greek Fest, Saint Sophia Cathedral, Pico & Normandie Blvds, Friday, 10/5 – Sunday, 10/7. The L.A. Greek Fest is the largest and most iconic Greek food and wine festival in Los Angeles, California, bringing over 15,000 attendees together for a three-day weekend of all things Greek. Each day of festivities is a celebration of food, wine, dance, games, performances, and one-of-a-kind cultural experiences. Located at Pico and Normandie on the same grounds of one of LA’s most beautiful and well-known Greek Orthodox cathedrals, Saint Sophia Cathedral, the festival brings together the community of the Byzantine-Latino Quarter and people from all over downtown Los Angeles and Southern California. Visit website for schedule of events and $2 coupon.

Around the World in a Day Multicultural Festival, Oxnard, Saturday, 10/6, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Visit Oxnard for a day of music, dance, and cultural booths from around the world. The festival features live music and performers, food and vendor booths, exhibitors, demonstrations, arts & crafts, and plenty of family friendly activities. Every year, hundreds of guests look forward to coming together to celebrate the many diverse nations, languages, and cultures of the world.

Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown, Downtown LA, Saturday, 10/6, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Visit a temple, an herbal shop, art galleries, antique stores, and more when guided to the unique treasures–not to mention great bargains–to be found in Chinatown. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to wind your way through a myriad of alleyways, plaza stalls, and classical courtyards to discover the charm of L.A.’s Chinatown. (Offered every first Saturday of the month)

Sunday Funday: A Haunted Pedal, Meet at The Crafty Pedal, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/7, 9:30 a.m. Explore Downtown LA in a unique way. The first stop on this haunted ride is the “Murder House” from season one the FX television series, American Horror Story. Then, the group will take a short ride over to Rosedale Cemetery, built in 1884, the first cemetery in Los Angeles open to all races and creeds. Many founding Angelenos rest in these beautiful garden grounds. Next, the ride goes toward the haunted and infamous Cecil Hotel in Downtown LA, past home of the Night Stalker, and the site of other mysterious happenings. Finally, the group rides to Pershing Square, where you’ll hear stories of the historical haunts of the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Ride finishes back at The Crafty Pedal. Visit website for important details on the ride.

Korea: Theater Masks (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/7, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

COAST, Downtown Santa Monica, Sunday, 10/7, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. COAST, the city of Santa Monica’s third annual open streets event, brings the City’s commitment to art, sustainability and mobility to life by filling two miles of streets with large-scale art installations, interactive activities, music and dance performances, roaming musicians and more! All are welcome to explore Downtown Santa Monica by foot or any number of wheeled devices.

10th Annual Kokoro Craft Boutique, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Sunday, 10/7, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Vendors will be on hand with unique jewelry, kimono fabric fashions, cultural t-shirts, handbags, ceramics, origami, bronze and glass art, Giant Robot products, and more. Enjoy a Taiko performance by Yuujou Daiko at 1:00 p.m. Admission to the boutique is free. A $20 purchase gets you free museum admission (10/7/18 only) and a 10% discount at local participating Little Tokyo eateries during the month of October (some restrictions apply).

Italian Renaissance Festival, Bowers Museum, Santa Ana, Sunday, 10/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Immerse yourself in a real Italian Renaissance Faire complete with special sword demonstrations, interactive gallery experiences, face painting, and musical performances. Experience the thrill of knights in armor demonstrating historical dueling techniques and walking throughout the galleries, Western Martial Arts interpreters, and fashion experts dressed in Renaissance garb appropriate to the region. Using an array of period instruments, live music will be provided by Courtly Noyse.

Leif Erikson Day Celebration, Scandinavian Center at Cal Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, Sunday, 10/7, 2:00 p.m. Judith Vinje, a world traveled journalist and expert in Viking history, will be the featured speaker at the Leif Erikson Day presentation. The presentation will be followed by a reception at the Scandinavian Center. This will be a fun opportunity to see the Scandinavian museum, library, resource center, and programs offered to members. Leif Erikson will be at the Center for pictures and conversation, so be sure to bring the kids! The event is free of charge.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 13 & 14 *

Scandinavian AutumnFest & Höstmarknad Celebration, Vasa Park, Agoura Hills, Sunday, 10/14, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. AutumnFest offers a wide range of activities for the whole family. In addition to enjoying traditional foods of Sweden, you can be a judge in the 10th Annual Swedish Meatball Contest. You can buy beautifully crafted gifts and souvenirs and enjoy Scandinavian musicians and folk dancers, demonstrations, and a Viking reenactment group that shares stories about Viking times. There will be many activities for kids including a waterslide, an alpine tube slide, swimming, a rock climbing wall, and field games.

Peru: Incan Sun God with Foil and Beads (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/14, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided. See website for more details.

Weaving & Film, USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Watch Artist Yan Zhang demonstrate the unique Li Brocade weaving style and then try decorative weaving yourself! At 3:00 p.m., join filmmaker Xiaowen Zhu and documentary subject Kenneth Wong for a screening of Oriental Silk, Zhu’s short film on the history of the first silk importing company in Los Angeles. Explore themes of cultural value and traditional craftsmanship, estrangement and homesickness, and the colors of memory.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 20 & 21 *

Ancient Egypt: Tomb Paintings (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/21, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided.

Fowler Families: Celebrating Día de los Muertos, Fowler Museum at UCLA, Westwood, Sunday, 10/21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Prepare for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at the Fowler Museum. Celebrate the Mexican cultural tradition of honoring departed loved ones through music, dance, regalia, and storytelling by the LA-based group Xipe Totec Danzantes Aztecas. Originating in Mexico City, this ensemble has developed with the blessings and recognition of traditional elders in Mexico. Xipe Totec Danzantes Aztecas will present “Journey to Mictlan,” a dance piece conveying the Aztec view of death as a transition in life’s journey. Begin the afternoon by creating your very own tissue paper marigolds or contributing to a collaborative papel picado banner that will be displayed in the Davis Courtyard. Xipe Totec Danzantes Aztecas will begin their performance at 2:00 p.m. with a blessing in the exhibition Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives before progressing into the Fowler Amphitheater.

* WEEKEND OF OCTOBER 27 & 28 *

Asian World Film Festival, Culver City, Wednesday, 10/24 – Thursday, 11/1. The Asian World Film Festival brings the best of a broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles in order to draw greater recognition to the region’s wealth of filmmakers. The festival screens films from 50 countries across Asia spanning from Turkey to Japan and Russia to India. This year’s theme will focus on female empowerment.

Día de los Muertos Festival, El Pueblo Historical Monument, Downtown LA, Thursday, 10/25 – Friday, 11/2. Olvera Street is home to a colorful celebration that takes place over nine days. Merging ancient traditions with modern-day interpretations, you are invited to join in honoring deceased loved ones. Each evening, colorful and vibrant novenario processions take place at 7:00 p.m. The traditional, pre-Columbian procession evokes special memories of deceased loved ones with colorful pageantry and indigenous blessings. Pan de muerto (sweet bread) and champurrado (a Mexican hot beverage) are provided after processions. During the festival days on the weekend, there is entertainment and face painting throughout the day. Community altars, or “Las Ofrendas,” are on display in the plaza.

Little Tokyo Walking Tour, Japanese American National Museum, Little Tokyo, Downtown LA, Saturday, 10/27, 10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Learn about past and present-day Little Tokyo on a walking tour led by an in-the-know JANM docent. From murals to monuments, explore both the popular and lesser-known gems of this bustling neighborhood. Weather permitting. $12 members, $15 non-members. Museum admission included. Limited to 20 participants. (Offered every last Saturday of the month.)

Día de Los Muertos 2018: Coatlicue “Mother of Gods”, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, Saturday, 10/27, 12:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. Spend an eventful day watching as the cemetery comes to life with joyful celebrations. Highlights include a vibrant traditional procession with traditional Aztec blessings and regional musical dance group dedications, 100+ altars created by members of the community to their ancestors and loved ones, four stages featuring music and theatrical performances, an art exhibition in the Cathedral Mausoleum, and a wide variety of Day of the Dead arts and crafts available for purchase. See website for complete schedule and ticket information.

JAM Session: Mexican Folk Dance, Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey, Saturday, 10/27, 3:00 p.m. (Part of Marina Spooktacular) Delight in the vibrant music and dance of Veracruz! Step up on the tarima (wooden dance platform) with Ballet Folklorico Ollin who will walk you through this rhythmic dance style. The JAM will end with a fandango celebrating the entire community. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. JAM Sessions are participatory while also centered on movement and music. All JAMs are free. All ages and skill levels are welcome.

Kenya: Animal Masks with Fur (Barnsdall Art Sundays), Junior Arts Center at Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood/Los Feliz, Sunday, 10/28, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Every Sunday art instructors present a free art project featuring a different culture and media. All materials are provided

JAM Session: Aztec Dance, Burton Chace Park, Marina del Rey, Sunday, 10/28, 12:00 p.m. (Part of Marina Spooktacular) Experience the splendor of the Aztec people with Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc. Create rhythms and beats with fellow drummers and explore the music, choreography and poetry of this ancient Mesoamerican culture. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. JAM Sessions are participatory while also centered on movement and music. All JAMs are free. All ages and skill levels are welcome.

Feel free to add events for this month in the comments below. I also welcome feedback on any events you have attended. If you have tips on future events and celebrations to include in upcoming months, please email me here with details. Thank you!

A Glimpse of Oslo: A Picasso Mural

Oslo_Fiskerne_Picasso_NesjarMy husband and I were leisurely making our way by foot from the food hall Mathallen to the center of town to take the metro back home. I wasn’t very familiar with this part of Oslo. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the area pictured above. I didn’t know anything about it but thought the view worthy of a picture before moving on.

Once back in the States several weeks later and catching up on back issues of the Norwegian American Weekly newspaper, I suddenly saw a photo of the mural we’d seen on our walk. I quickly searched through my photos from the summer to look more closely at it.

The article was about the Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar who as it turns out had created the mural in 1970 based on a design by Pablo Picasso. Nesjar had passed away at the age of 94 on May 23, 2015. The mural is called “Fiskerne” (The Fishermen) and is on a government building known as the Y Block. (The church to the left is Trefoldighetskirken, or The Trinity Church, consecrated in 1858.) And now I understand why the street was blocked off and I could cross it so easily to take my picture—it was the government quarter targeted in the July 22, 2011, bombings. The Y Block along with the H Block next to it sustained heavy damage in the bombing.

As I learned from the Norwegian American Weekly July 3 article, Nesjar “was for many years Picasso’s chosen fabricator, the artist who took the master’s drawings and models and gave them physical form as immense public sculptures.” Nesjar and Picasso began working together in the 1950s and continued until Picasso’s death in 1973. Their collaboration resulted in many sculptures and building decorations around the world: Norway, Sweden, France, Spain, Israel, The Netherlands, and various university campuses in the USA (Princeton, MIT, and NYU).

There is another Picasso-designed, Nesjar-created mural called “Måken” (The Seagull) in the reception area of the Y Block. Sadly, the future of these Picasso/Nesjar murals is uncertain. There are discussions to demolish the building as part of a redevelopment plan for the government quarter. The murals would be secured and preserved, but there were no plans for them beyond that. There is public debate about the issue so we’ll see what eventually happens.

I wish I knew all this when we passed through the area this summer. I would have spent a little more time looking at the mural and taking it all in. I’m very grateful for coming across the article in the Norwegian American Weekly and having the chance to research Nesjar a little bit more. Now I have a much greater appreciation for that area for the next time we pass through.