Finland, France, Norway, and South Dakota.

No, it's not my next travel itinerary. Just random bits of interesting things.

We recently watched Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre (2011), a French language film shot in Normandy. Incredibly atmospheric, wonderfully unexpected. Highly recommended.

Jean-Pierre Darroussin and his anana.

Other films recently watched that deal with similar concepts of underemployment, illegal immigration, and acts of humanity: Rosetta, by the Dardenne brothers and Biutiful, by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Actually I couldn't get through Rosetta. Biutiful, while very good, was several hours of low grade misery. It really made me think closely about the overwhelmingly consumeristic tastes of the world. The cheap mass production and consumption of goods is so universally depraved. I could hardly enter a retailer today, jam packed with rabid customers and piles of stuff, without feeling sick. There's just too much being made and usually by people who are not necessarily regarded ethically. Do we really need all of these things? Of course not. No. But am I helping anyone but myself if I cut my intake of products (from Old Navy to Apple) newly made-in-China, India, Bangladesh, Tunisia, et cetera? I don't know the conditions under which most things are made, even those made in America or France or Italy. It's a difficult and emotional question. Best plan? Keep object based purchases down to a bare minimum, appreciate what I have, learn to make more things myself, and of course: travel! This must be the best way to spend money I think.

While doing library research, I was thrilled to find out that this amazing medieval stave church in Norway...

Early Christian Borgund church, Norway, 12th century

was copied by architects in South Dakota! It's well known that the northern states of the Midwest were heavily settled by Scandinavians. It seems that there were plenty of Lutheran Norwegians in South Dakota. These guys were granted the original blueprints of the medieval church and went for it! I have never, ever been inspired to take a trip to that part of the country, but now I find myself puzzling together an adventure that will lead us right there. 

In both the original and the modern reproduction, wonderfully carved wooden dragons alternate with crosses, marking the combination of pagan beliefs with Catholicism.

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