Woodstockholm?

“Stolta stad, gör mig glad…”

     — Carl Michael Bellman

Bellman, as every Stockholmer knows, was a 17th century musical genius.

 

Court composer to the king by day, friend to pimps, prostitutes, purse snatchers and the generally downtrodden by night, Bellman wrote hundreds of songs — known as “epistler” — that reflected life in the Swedish capital as it really was. 

 

One of my favourite Bellman lyrics goes something like this (at least it does in my translation):

 

“So you’re afraid in the grave to sink, well take my advice and have a drink; swallow one, two and three, here they come, drink with glee — and you’ll die happily.”

 

Sweden is on my mind a lot these days, for two reasons.

 

First, as you may have noticed, Russia’s Vlad the Impaler Putin (aka Putin Dickhead, according to the beer I prefer to quaff at our local craft purveyor, courtesy of an open source recipe provided by a Ukrainian brewery called Pravda — so it mist be true, right?), has invaded his neighbour.  One of the cascading consequences of this boneheaded — or rather dickheaded — move is that Sweden, neutral for over 200 years, is poised, along with Finland, to join NATO — an unthinkable move not so long ago.

 

 

And secondly, speaking of “long ago,” I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel called Spike, set in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The book’s main character, young Spike Santee, finds himself wandering the not so mean streets of Stockholm halfway through this 500-page epic (remember, it’s a first draft — by the time a competent editor is done with it, Spike might resemble a Marvel comic more than a massive novel). 

Writing it has forced me to relive my massively formative time in the country that has given us sur strömming, IKEA, Volvo, Olof Palme, and, of course, ABBA. The book ends during the first-ever UN conference on the human environment (the 27th instalment happened in Glasgow last November and, sadly, the same issues that weighed upon delegates in ’72 are still very much with us — and the planet). 

I was, like Spike, a delegate to that conference. Ah, but unlike me, Spike ends up at the officially unofficial counter-conference, dubbed Woodstockholm by none other than Wavy Gravy (haven’t heard of him, oh callow youth? — then google away) and his merry team from Hog Farm (again, highly google-worthy).

Those were the days when the moon was in the seventh house, and Jupiter was busily aligning with Mars. And Spike, with Swedish stars in his eyes, discovered his true mission in life was… well, you’ll just have to read the book, won’t you.

Meanwhile, lycka till, Sverige — good luck, Sweden (and Finland). Here’s hoping you’re not the next Ukraine. I have to run — it’s time for a Putin Dickhead.

 

Skål!

Food for thought

The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Millions have fled the ruthless Russian invasion, causing a humanitarian crisis Europe hasn’t seen the likes of since WWII.

 

This morning, I was again reminded of this when Janet shared a Facebook post from a guy named Steven Givot, from Evanston, Illinois. Here it is:

 

 

Day 2

 
Today was my first day actually contributing to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Europe.
 
It has been impossible to sign up for work at World Central Kitchen. When I emailed, they said just show up, there’s plenty to do.
 
This morning I showed up. The nearest lodging I could book is about 90 minutes south of Przemsyl (Poland) in Sanok (Poland). It’s only about 45 miles, but the drive is across the Carpathian Mountains (2 passes) and through a countryside where most of the farmhouses have chimneys bellowing smoke from burning firewood. The road is about 20-30 miles from the Ukraine border.
 
When I arrived there were about 50 people working in about 25,000 sq ft (half the CBOE trading floor) that was a dirty warehouse three weeks ago. In a week, World Central Kitchen (WCK) paint everything from the floor up. There had been no plumbing other than a toilet. Now there is state of the art mass quantity cooking equipment, stainless steel sinks, 6 for diameter “paella pans” that hold about 950 GALLONS of food (up to the brim) on enormous propane burners. I think there are ten of these.
 
There is a walk in refrigeration room that is about 2000 sq ft that a Polish company put together in 24 hours with a garage door to enter and leave with enormous quantities of food on fork lifts.
 
Today, my little group from Ohio, Idaho, Portugal, Canada, and the UK peeled an enormous quantity of potatoes and cored/sliced an ungodly amount of apples (for baby food).
 
I won’t go into details, but we were told that we fed 7000 people in Przemsyl and at the border, and we prepped food to be cooked in Lviv, Ukraine for another 30,000 people. Not a typo: 30,000.
 
The volunteers are from everywhere in Europe, the US/Canada, and one from Japan. They show up, and they work. Some for a few days, some for longer.
 
After the 90 commute and 10 hours working, I’m tired but also wired. Sometime in the next few days, I’ll join trips to three places.
 
One trip will be to the train station in Przemsyl. I’m told there are 70 Polish volunteers greeting people as they leave the train and helping them sort out their next destination. Some know people in Europe and have a place to go. Far too many do not. They are being spread throughout Poland and beyond. I have been told that most homes and apartments in Warsaw and Krakow have a host family and one or two refugee families. The generosity of the Polish people is beyond comprehension.
 
A second trip will be to a local shopping mall that has just been built but is not yet occupied. There are many thousands of women and children sleeping on the floors as well as an enormous space used to store donations of clothing, baby goods, things to occupy kids, etc.
 
The third trip will be to the border. I will be serving people the first meal many have had in days. With the bombing near Lviv (not far across the border), many people who had traveled as far as Lviv are not coming to Poland — many on foot. They (many with children of all ages) are tired, hungry, and cold. The temperature at night is around freezing. The past two days have been warm (50s) and sunny. Still, when they reach the border, hot food is an immediate need.
 
I will update this daily. The last thing I’ll post is one ton of beef and 1000 pounds of apples for baby food — part of what was cooked today.
 
Steve
 
 

Here’s some food for thought.

 
Not everyone is able to do what Steve and his colleagues are accomplishing, on the ground — but each of us has the capacity to help the Ukrainian people in some fashion or other. Make a donation to a charity of your choice. Help keep people informed. Urge your political leaders to do more. Find ways of letting folks over there know you’re with them.
 
There are all kinds of things we can do to help. 
 
And if you’d like to follow Steve, his Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/steven.givot
 
 

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse…

Our armed forces don’t bomb cities. Everyone is well aware of this.”

          — Maria V. Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry

I awoke this morning and, as so many of you, immediately began to scan the latest from the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 

The first thing that caught my horrified eye was the utter destruction of a theatre in Mariupol, whose basement had sheltered over 1,000 people, most of them children and women. 

 

Satellite images taken days before the attack showed the word for ‘CHILDREN,’ in Russian, painted in huge letters on either side of the large building.  This was clearly a deliberate attack. There is simply no way the Russians could have mistaken this for a legitimate military target. And that, my friends, constitutes a war crime.

 

Then my eyes fell upon the quote from the beneath-all-contempt Ms. Zakharova, shared at the top of this post. 

 

An astonishingly bald-faced lie. 

 

Shaking my head in disgust, I took a sip of tea and turned to Al Jazeera’s website, where I came upon this AP Press photo, courtesy of Pavel Dorogoy, showing  a scene from downtown Kharkiv.

 

Then it was on to Human Rights Watch, who have confirmed that Russian forces fired cluster munitions into residential districts in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on March 7, 11, and 13. The attacks “might amount to war crimes, HRW says.

 

So Ms. Zakharova — and by extension, your thugish, murderous boss — yes, in fact, Russian forces do bomb cities. Every day. Mercilessly, apparently without remorse.

 

And everyone — at least everyone with access to objective information — is well aware of this. 

What would Orwell say?

In an age where up is down, truth is fake, and fiction is… fact … it feels more than a little strange to be purposively writing… fiction!

This is particularly awkward when the subject is loosely based on… fact. Based on real people. On real events. People placed in fictional situations, in some cases given fictional behaviours and exaggerated characteristics, with words quite literally being put into mouths that in actuality never uttered them.

Ten years ago, as a writer I wouldn’t have given this a second thought. That was before Trump. Before Putin.

My answer to this dilemma — if indeed that’s what it is — at least with the novel (Spike) I’m currently working on, is to inject the fantastical occasionally, in part as a reminder to the reader that what they are consuming is an expression of my imagination, not an attempt to fill them in on the way things really are — or in this case, were, in the late ’60s/early ’70s.

Quentin Tarantino does an admirable job of this in films such as Inglorious Bastards and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. If you’ve seen them, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, check them out, then we can talk.

Which brings me, finally, to who else but Orwell? What would he be saying right about now if he were alive?

How about… told you so

 

#spike

#authormorse

#weneedorwell

 

 

 

What a perfect moment in time to be a novelist…

Almost two years into a global pandemic. Trump once again on the prowl. Supply chains everywhere reeling. Climate catastrophe squarely upon us. China posturing in the Taiwan Strait. North Korea threatening to blow everyone’s house down. Afghanistan in chaos (as usual)….



… I wrote that last October. Since then, the pandemic has morphed, slipping and sliding around like a viral eel — today things appear be returning to a slightly jarring sense of quasi-normalcy in some parts of the planet, in others — hello, China, outbreaks and lockdowns continue.


Truckers have trucked (and honked, oh, how they have honked). And now, most recently, the brutal Putin invasion of Ukraine, sending the rest of the world scrambling to shore up their defences, forcing them to re-examine old and new political and military relationships, and leading to a near-universal of the astonishing grit, determination, and bravery of the Ukrainian people. 


I think it’s time to trot this post out again, dust off the digital dust and put it out there one more time, with gusto. So here’s the balance of what I wrote, almost half a year ago….



… I could go on, but you get the drift — in fact, if you’re reading this in the autumn of 2021, you’re living it. 


If there’s an upside to all of this, it’s the fact that it’s precisely times like these when it totally rocks to be a novelist.


“You can’t make shit like this up?”


Oh, yes you can. And even better — and perhaps more importantly — writers can extrapolate. They can look around the corner, make educated guesses, take leaps of faith (or stumbles based on lack thereof). 


They can look back and give us a sense of how in the hell we got here. They can look ahead and predict how this whole mess is likely to pan out. Unfettered by the need to pay attention to logic, fact, or good taste. 


I know, I know — you’re thinking to yourself, “he’s just described half the people on the planet, right there.”


Ah, but the difference is  novelists know they’re making shit up. They’re doing it on purpose — and for a reason. Plus, if we’re lucky, they’re able to string a few words together. Articulately. Movingly. Compellingly. Inspirationally, Hilariously. 


If ever there was a time when we need more of that — more good writing, writing that helps us pull our collective head out of our collective ass, writing that informs and inspires — this surely is it.


On balance, this is a helluva great time to be a novelist.


At least that’s what I keep telling myself….

Radio Free Kaslo, April 24, 2020

RADIO FREE KASLO host Randy Morse is joined by Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival Executive Director, Paul Hinrichs, to discuss the decision to cancel this year’s version of the renowned festival with its signature floating stage, and what the future may hold in store for the event. The podcast also features songs by some of the artists who had been scheduled to perform in Kaslo this summer. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Radio Free Kaslo, April 17, 2020

Host Randy Morse chats with husband-wife team, Carolyn Schmidt and Cian Dalton, owners of Vancouver’s The Stretch Space, who are poised to launch the 30-Day Mobility Challenge — an opportunity to enhance your useable mobility, shape better body awareness, build better breath patterns, come away with a toolbox of exercises, and move toward creating a body that can do more things — for life!

 

 

 

Radio Free Kaslo, April 10, 2020

Under the rubric, “We’re All In This Together,” RADIO FREE KASLO host Randy Morse interviews Kaslo Food Security Coordinator, Patrick Steiner on today’s podcast. The Kaslo Food Cupboard is bursting with food, and is an amazing resource for anyone in the North Kootenay Lake region affected economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just give them a call, at (250) 353-7120, or email (erincarr@nklcss.org) to arrange a time to swing by and stock up on two weeks’-worth of nutritious food — and it’s absolutely free!

 

 

 

 

The Hobbit — an audiobook from us to you

This quaint reading of J.R.R. Tolkein’s THE HOBBIT was recorded in late March/early April, 2020, during the global coronavirus pandemic. It was performed by eight old friends in the tiny mountain village of Kaslo, British Columbia, in the hope it would bring pleasure and a bit of respite from the fear and isolation caused by the virus’ spread among listeners, young (most especially) and old alike.

Performers include:

Margaret Ann Winn
Susan Mulkey
Jill Holland
Steve Anderson
Lynn van Deursen
Paul van Deursen
Janet Mayfield
Randy Morse (who also produced the recording)

 

Be brave — and be well!