Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gamle Aker Kirke

Last Wednesday I got up early to visit a medieval church in the fog with a class. This is Gamle Aker Kirke or Old Aker Church
This is the oldest standing building in the city of Oslo but in the Middle Ages this church was actually quite a bit far out in the countryside. It was really interesting to look at a map of medieval Oslo and see how drastically many parts of the landscape have changed. A lot of where there was ship access is completely developed land. While this was just a parish church it was almost as big as St Hallvard's Cathedral which means that the person who commissioned the building was quite rich. There's some argument about the dating of the church which depends on whether it was built before or after the cathedral in Hamar but my professor thinks the dating is approximately 1130-1140.
It was a eerie to be in the church with no lights on. The windows that are currently in place are about 60% bigger than the original windows so this gives some idea of what the church would have looked like on a regular foggy morning. The interior would have looked slightly brighter because the walls would have been whitewashed and painted with decorations.
I really enjoyed hearing my instructor's perspective because he works for the city protecting heritage sites and has a lot of opinions regarding the restoration of medieval sites. It made me think a lot about how our opinions on what a medieval church looks like effects how we restore these types of buildings. In a way we "medievalize" the medieval and are more concerned with matching our mental images than with historical accuracy. I typically think of the bare stone as a very medieval thing when it's the exact opposite. You can tell the cement-rock restored corners of the walls because they match the 'Ashler' style of rock shaping and setting that is seen on the exterior of the church while the original interior walls have much rougher shape. This is because those rocks would typically never been seen for the whitewash covering them and so did not need to be as precise. But because we like the almost primitive look of the bare stone we keep it instead of choosing authenticity.
This picture is of the side chapel to Mary that also functioned as the sacristy. It's the only room in the church with the barrel vaulting typically found in Romanesque churches while the rest of the building has flat roofs and this had a dual purpose. First it was symbolically exalting for the Mother Mary and second because it was a much more sturdy construction that protected this room and the valuables it contained from the numerous fires that damaged the rest of the building and from any would-be burglars.
Super weird little baptismal font. I think from the 17th century.

the only existing piece of figurative sculpture on the whole church. It's a snake biting its own tale signifying eternity/infinity.

-Ash the Viking.
Also, this blog has gotten over 1400 views. :D Awesome!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review- The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger by Albert Camus was a bizarrely interesting read much like The Plague which I read a couple years ago. This book is shorter and more direct and more popular of the two. It was terribly frustrating at times to read because of the main character's total inertia and apathy towards everything. I just felt like grabbing and shaking him, something someone actually does in the book. In the book Meursault is frequently described as cold and inhuman because of his lack of emotion which makes me question the constructs of emotion and how much of expressed emotion is what people are really feeling versus expressing what people expect them to express.
Meursault doesn't consider any of life's trivialities to have any importance and refuses to give them any of his time yet he so greatly enjoys the simple pleasure of living. He lives and is content with it; he knows he's going to die and it still content.
I really enjoyed the end of the book where all the meaty existentialism can be found despite not at all being a fan of philosophy. 4/5
" "But, " I reminded myself, "it's common knowledge that life isn't worth living, anyhow." And, on a wide view, I could see that it makes little difference whether one dies at the age of thirty or threescore and ten- since, in either case, other men and women will continue living, the world will go on as before. Also, whether I died now or forty years hence, this business of dying had to be got through, inevitably."
" "No! No! I refuse to believe it. I'm sure you've often wished there was an afterlife." Of course I had, I told him. Everybody has that wish at times. But that had no more importance than wishing to be rich, or to swim very fast, or to have a better-shaped mouth. It was in the same order of things."
I strongly agree with that last quote in fact.

Book Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong

John Dies at the End came highly recommended to me as an intensely hilarious book. So when I was scrolling my Kindle to pick a light read I didn't hesitate to click on this book. I wish I had. I almost shelved this book after the first couple chapters and now that I'm finished I wish I had because I felt like I wasted my time. It's a similar feeling I got after watching movies like The Hangover or Napoleon Dynamite, or Borat where everyone says they're so fucking funny but after watching them I want the past hours of my life back. And books take longer than movies to finish so it wasted even more of my time.This book has numerous chuckle-worthy lines but they're buried under piles of badly written random shit. It's as if David Wong wanted to think up the most absurd random crap and throw it all together, openly admit how retarded and unbelievable it all was, swear a lot, and hope people thought it was funny. I have no problem with absurdity, swearing, or toilet humour- Wong just did it badly. It's like he's trying and desperately failing to to be even half as funny or clever as Christopher Moore. Moore is a writer who is able to make the retardedly absurd clever and witty. 1/5
It's a shame since cracked.com is so fricken awesome.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I am finally the proud owner of a pillow. Two pillows actually. It's a very gleeful moment. I've been using a crappy neck pillow for the past three months. They're fine for short travel trips but they really are not a long term comfort solution.
Now I'm going to be super comfy in bed with my two pillows. It was basically the same price to buy two pillows as one. Don't have a pillow case for the second one but it's just an extra for guests or something. Not that I'd ever have guests in my room or anything *ahem*.

I also finally bought a school bag. I've been using one of those synthetic grocery bags that you're able to roll up really tiny and it's been annoying. My keys recently started poking a hole in the corner so I knew it needed to be replaced and soon. I actually saw this bag through the store window last night after a concert when I was waiting for a bus so I went and got it today.
I must admit that the main reason it got my attention was because the red stitching and Samsonite label looked like an inverted cross. It also turned out to be the best suiting and least expensive option in the shop so I wasn't completely irrational.
As to how much these couple purchases cost I don't want to say because it hurts to think about. I only have a couple hundred dollars left before I start using my loan money because everything I saved over the summer is spent. The first couple months in a new place are always the most expensive because you have to set yourself up with new things it wasn't economical to bring with you. I'm proud of my ability to do without a number of comfort items for so long and if I were traveling around I think I could do it without a lot of possessions but I figure since I'm going to be living here for a few years I might as well be comfortable and make a new home. Apart from rent, groceries, and social activities I don't really see any big expenses until the spring. I'm guessing being in a different country will get me out of buying xmas gifts apart from continuing magazine subscriptions for the kids. In the spring I'm going to be traveling a bit, hopefully to Prague for a conference, and back to Canada for a conference/ home visit  and hopefully those two will be at least partially funded by the school. Then I will be attending the Inferno metal festival in Oslo and I will have to buy my festival pass soon.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks and Why Zombies Bore Me.

Probably unfair to have the two in the same title as World War Z was quite an entertaining read. It’s about the outbreak and spread of a zombie virus throughout the world from the perspective of the survivors. Because it is from the survivors’ POV there isn’t much anxiety or anticipation because you know those people got out safe and you know that eventually mankind wins right from the beginning. The thing I liked most about the book was the fact that it was an international tale of survival and not wholly focused on America like many of this kind of book is. It was interesting to see how individual countries dealt with the virus in different ways and how information and fear spreads. There was a lot of social and politic commentary embedded in this international portrayal that I enjoyed but don’t have enough knowledge nor desire to elaborate on those points at the moment. One common criticism that I agree with is that everyone had the same voice, the characters were diverse but none sounded particularly unique. 3/5

On to why Zombies Bore Me
I admit to not watching many zombie shows/ films because they don’t interest me. I think of them as a kind of scapegoat. As if we need some kind of unhuman being to tear apart our society or some kind of monster to fight against. There’s often some variation of conversation discussion the humanity, or lack thereof, of the zombie and once it has been agreed that it is no longer a real human being it is alright to kill them. But really, zombie fiction doesn’t scare me. Books like The Road scare me. No virus controlled beings out to eat us, only the disgusting and depraved depths that regular human beings can descend to if placed under horrific circumstance -Real human beings that have decided that their own survival is worth butchering another human for meat. I’m convinced that in a post-apocalyptic scenario it would happen. Yeah, I know, some zombie books/ movies have that too but something outside humanity is still the catalyst. Good post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels force you to question the very meaning of humanity and what makes us human. Humans are responsible for the greatest atrocities not zombies or any other kind of monster. It reminds me of uses of the werewolf. Of some sort of bestial side of humanity that we can blame so that people don’t have to be accountable for their own actions, so that we don’t have to confront that fact the humans- plain and simple humans- are capable of monstrous acts. Zombies make us comfortable. Zombies are amateurs compared to humans.  

Any suggestions of good post-apocalyptic novels?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Medieval Church Ruins in Oslo

There was a tour around the medieval ruins of Oslo. Unfortunately what they did not say in the email about it was that it would be in Norwegian so my American friend Sydney and I were pretty much lost the entire time and just looked around and took pictures while the guide was talking. Our Old Norse instructor was there so he would occasionally give us a very condensed version of what the main points were. We started by going around St. Olav's monastery. 

remains of the monastery's cloisters with a model of the monastery in the middle
Inside with some questionably but unlikely medieval wall paintings.
gates into St Hallvard Cathedral ruins.

It would be lovely to sit on that bench on a warm summer day

A nice lady translated this from Latin for us. I can't remember exactly but a man, his wife, and their unborn child were buried here in the hopes of rising again on Doomsday.

 From the sign: The king's residence in Oslo from about the year 1000 until the 1300’s, when it became the canon’s residence up until the Reformation in the 1500s. The oldest finds on the site are part of a simple, circular fort consisting of a moat and some wooden buildings. A find of German and English coins put the construction of the fort between 1040 and 1060, during the rule of Harald Hardråde (Harald the Hard Ruler). Construction of the stone fort began in the 1200’s during the rule of Håkon Håkonsson. The Kings residence was a citadel, dwelling and meeting place for the King and his men when they were in Oslo. Akershus Fortress took over these functions in the 1300’s and gradually became the administrative center for this part of Norway. Large parts of the ruins from the King’s residence were removed in 1890 when a locomotive workshop was built on the site.

I didn't take a picture because I thought it might be a little creepy but one the of program admin workers brought her young (less than 2 years I think) child with her and she (? I didn't ask. It was wearing what we would probably consider boy clothes but here is just unisex but it had a butterfly face painting done so I'm guessing girl) was climbing all over the ruins. That is amazing to me. I could only wish I grew up being surrounded by remnants of medieval life. In Canada something is a hundred years old and it's considered old and historical. These rocks that some kid is crawling on were placed there a thousand years ago and it's nothing special to them. Just a medieval playground. I'm jealous.

We then got a special tour of a rock magazine. Parts of the talk were translated to us by a nice lady who works there.

A young runologist

Baptismal font

-Ash the Viking