The day I met Kiki

IMG_4647Highlight of my trip so far: meeting Kiki of Kiki’s Delivery Service (the Miyazaki version, of course–otherwise she wouldn’t be in Visby). Kiki very kindly gave her permission for the photo to go up here (and I’m glad I happened to run into her and her friend once more before leaving Visby this evening).

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become a big Miyazaki fan the last few years. Most of his work isn’t exactly aimed at my age range, but I really enjoy his creativity and sensitivity in his world-building and storytelling, and have been inspired by him when it comes to my own creative work, sparse as it is. I hadn’t known that the location of Kiki’s Delivery Service was inspired by Visby, Gotland, and Gamla Stan (Old Town) in Stockholm the last time I was here (over 8 years ago… yeesh), but when I first watched Kiki I did so with an eye for that inspiration.

According to the documentary, one of the sites that inspired the locations in Kiki.

According to the documentary, one of the sites that inspired the locations in Kiki. Formerly a coffee shop, now a crepe place.

Going back now, I was even more impressed with the movie as an homage to the “feel” of Visby–honestly, I found myself a bit confused between echoes of my own original impressions/memories, the portrayal of the town in the movie, and the revisiting of the Swedish locations in the Ghibli film locations documentary included in the extra features of my dvd of Kiki. I think what I enjoy in particular about this movie (though I like all the others as well) is how much a sense of a fascination with a place comes through–and the fact that it is a place I have visited as well, and even have a professional/sentimental connection to, makes it all the more interesting to see it treated by a storyteller/artist I admire.

So it was really fun for me to run into two cute girls on my second day in Visby, one of them dressed as Kiki with the dark blue dress and a red bow in her hair. I initially thought they were specifically there as Kiki fans, but when I ran into them again later in the afternoon they explained that the one dressed as Kiki just happened to wear that dress, and the other happened to have a red bow, and so they spent the day taking pictures of “Kiki” in Visby. Super cool, and I wonder if anyone else recognized her.

Just before I ran into them once more at the end of the day I had done a quick sketch of Kiki for fun (and to commemorate my second visit to Visby)–though I ended up making her a slightly older Kiki (not much though), I guess… Also, I just realized now that I hadn’t finished the picture–the hands aren’t done. :( But when I saw them again I decided I had to give them the picture, so I was a bit hurried about getting it ripped out of my sketchbook, haha. They were gracious enough to take it, haha, but I hope I wasn’t imposing on them too much. I got some photographs of it before hand, so you can see it below, along with some shots that connected to the movie for me. The drawing was pretty hasty… And my hands are not very steady after all this traveling and not enough sleep, but hopefully people enjoy it! :)

Kiki sketch!

Kiki sketch!




Solvorn and Urnes



Where I am now. Just spent the morning checking out Urnes stave church. Tomorrow back to Oslo, then on to Gotland.

Sorry for so few posts lately–spent the last month racing to finish revising my translation while teaching summer school and getting ready to move, also while trying to put together a trip to Scandinavia to check out some sites relevant for my past and future research and to practice my Swedish back in the motherland. And OK, wanted to see Norway again as well, for the first time since I was 15. Mostly have not had good internet access while here, along with troubles figuring out some of my travel and reservations, but I think things will probably work out. Wish I could just stay in one place for a few weeks and write though…

Did some quick sketches too, for the first time in ages–they are super rough, but here ya go anyway.



Wanderers short film

Made by Swedish animator Erik Wernquist, with narration taken from Carl Sagan (his Cosmos series, I assume?). I ran across this short film back when it came out, and now that it’s come my way again I think I may show it in the summer course I’m teaching on Other Worlds in Scandinavian literature. During the first half of the course we covered the myths, fairy tales, some HC Andersen, Niels Klim’s underground journey, and the crazy hijinks of Peer Gynt, and as of this last week we’ve finally hit the 20th century and read our first science fiction novel, the dystopian Kallocain by Karin Boye. We aren’t going to be able to hit up any stereotypical sci-fi (spaceships and all–though our last two books, Smilla’s Sense of Snow and Troll both can technically be considered sci-fi), so this short with its spaceships and planets may be our opportunity to talk a bit about the teleological vision of visionary scientists like Sagan on the one hand and the culmination of that vision in… well, in extreme sports on the moons of the solar system, going by this video. OK, not to reduce it to that, but that is kind of the vibe I get, haha… It’s beautifully done in any case, and while my fear of heights would keep me from jumping off any cliffs, it does get me excited about exploring the solar system. Now if only he would update the video with some of the new data from Pluto…


HEART - 7-8-15_Pluto_color_new_NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI

New Horizons is almost to Pluto, and man, it looks like National Geographic has pulled out all the stops with a slick documentary for the occasion. @_@  I’m not complaining–I mean, out of the planets as we have imagined them the last century (well, a bit less than that), Pluto is the only one left that we haven’t been to, debate over his planetary status notwithstanding. I’m excited! Those who have been following this blog for a while know that I am really into the idea of “New Worlds” in both the literal and the figurative sense (like in this post). Back in elementary school (maybe 4th grade? 5th?) I wrote a science fiction story about a trip to Planet X, and well, Pluto used to be Planet X, so that’s enough of a connection for me, haha. I remember my teacher finding hilarious how I had the ALL-CAPS for several lines to communicate enthusiasm for the amazing discoveries of the mission (spoiler alert: Planet X was surrounded by mini-suns, and so was able to support life).

Anyway, hope I’ll be able to follow along as the data comes in. Hm, maybe I can show some of it in class, since I’m teaching a course on Other Worlds in literature right now…


Phad Chitra Notebooks

Just wanted to pass along this awesome project a former student of mine is putting together. Phad Chitra is an Indian folk art, and this campaign is meant to help some of the remaining artists make a living off of their work. Check it out! I think there are only a few days left, so contribute for your notebooks now! They are still short of their goal.


Writing this while a bit too tired after a graduation ceremony, but I wanted to draw people’s attention to my friend Karl Siegfried’s post about the campaign for the recognition of Ásatrú and Heathen as valid choices for religious preference within the military, in particular with regard to the sorts of religious rights accorded to Christians and other faiths within the military. I’m a Christian myself (I would consider myself fairly conservative theologically [ie, believing in the deity of Christ, resurrection from the dead, forgiveness of sins, that sort of fun stuff], though certain brands of evangelical would probably see me as pretty liberal), but I support freedom of religion and equal treatment of people of various faiths, both because I don’t believe I can love others the way my faith tells me to without respecting their self-determination, and because equal treatment and freedoms are essential to an open and reciprocal dialog about faith. What is the use of sharing what you believe is a life-transforming and saving faith with someone if you are going insist that our institutions predetermine that your own perspective is the only valid one? Intentional and mutual vulnerability is essential for religious dialog, especially in a world where religion is as politicized as it is.

And yes, I know, there are also those saying “Um… seriously? Odin and Thor?” Well, don’t assume right off that you know what someone means when they tell you they are heathen–certainly there seems to be a pretty big divide between what I mean by faith and religion in my own experience versus what I have come to understand from those who have shared about their experience as heathens. I don’t want to make any broad characterizations of heathen practitioners, since I am not one myself, and since there is so much variety among those who call themselves “heathen”, but I’ve seen on the one hand folks who perceive a supernatural element to their faith, like an experience in a dream or something like that, while others are interested in showing how one can be religious/spiritual without actually believing in a literally supernatural element at all. My impression is that most become interested in it as an expression of heritage, more concerned with authenticity than with the issue of historical facticity that is central to the Christian/Atheist divide–but heritage is by no means going to be the driving force for everyone, and the only way you would be able to find out is by listening, rather than stuffing a pamphlet in someone’s mouth. I realize also that “neo-paganism” (not the preferred term from what I understand) tends to be associated in the popular imagination with racism and a lot of other nasty bits of National Romantic baggage, and there have been individuals and groups who have been explicitly or implicitly racist in their pursuit of an “authentic” Nordic/Germanic/whatever-religion–this is not the case with those heathen practitioners I have come into contact with the last few years, and my impression is that most such movements nowadays are very inclusive, and aware of and on guard against the abuses that others have engaged in.

Well, that was supposed to be briefer than it was, but oh well. Karl’s website has a lot more on this topic, including interviews with heathen practitioners in the military, so check it out!

IMG_3164Been too long since I’ve posted (sorry), so Memorial Day seemed like a good opportunity. I don’t illustrate scenes from books very often, but it occurred to me that Astrid Lindgren’s children’s book Bröderna Lejonhjärta (The Brother’s Lionheart) is about as appropriate as you can get for a day commemorating the death of soldiers. The story as a whole is about death, and revolves around a dying boy (well, I could be more precise, but I really don’t want to spoil things–the twists and turns of the premise are powerful, though may be too much for some people). Starting as a meditation on mortality and premature death, done fantasy-style as a way of helping kids work through this difficult topic, the book soon expands into a meditation on the evil that people inflict on each other. Near the end of the book a peaceful valley rises up against its oppressors and many die, including some important to the two brothers. The main character’s idealistic (and ideal) older brother Jonatan refuses to fight in the climactic battle (let’s remember as well that he and his brother are still kids, however heroic Jonatan is throughout the book)–in response to those who say “If every man were like you, the Tengils (dictators) of the world would rule everything!” (or some such, I’m going by memory here), the main character Kalle (Karl) points out that if everyone in the world were like Jonatan, there would BE no Tengils (again, Tengil is the primary villain). Maybe feels a bit naive, but I do like it as a way of affirming pacifism at the same time that the story also affirms the freedom fighters, who have been forced to the point they are at. All in all the book is a beautiful meditation on the twin subjects of natural death and death from strife–heavy for a children’s book, but I think it fits the mood of the day. Not that I expect all the motivations and justifications for the wars our country has gotten into to be valid in the end (and plenty are already, and sometimes always have been, manifestly invalid), but I know that there are soldiers who go out there and die doing their best to make the world a better place. My heart goes out to those who have lost anyone in war, and my heart goes out to those who have been damaged by war in mind and body. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but the scene I chose to illustrate is the two boys Jonatan and Karl leading the dragon Katla up the mountain with the horn that Tengil had used to control her originally. The battle is done, but death still rides at their heels, and it takes all the bravery they have to walk in its shadow and bring everything to a finish.


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