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Thoughts from Auschwitz-Birkenau

A few days ago I made a kind of pilgrimage to the infamous concentrationcamp Auschwitz-Birkenau. In spite of being informed about it I was taken by surprise about the scope of the place. Facts are being sprouted out by the second by the guide and you are jostled from one barrack to another, trying desperately to take it all in. Over one million human beings died here; most of them were jews from all parts of Europe, prisoners of war from Russia, Poles and gypsies. Men and women of all ages and children as well.

The Germans kept records, you can see some of the personal cards of prisoners in glasscabinets. Alot of the material was destroyed as the Germans faced defeat. But some were rescued with the help of prisoners who risked their lives trying to save proof. Photographs make up most of the different exhibitions, most of the photos are taken by SS men. For me the hardest things to watch were the rooms with human hair, suitcases and glasses. It's infront of these collections that you see the human lifes behind all the figures and facts. The suitcases had names on them, birthdays and some had names of cities and villages on them. You see very old people's suitcases and you know that these were selected to go to the gaschambers upon arriving and the same thing with the children's bags.

(A view from the main entrance of Birkenau, overlooking the arrival plattform( click on photos for a larger version)

It's was raining hard all the time I was there and the mud was drenching my sneakers and it doesn't take much imagination to see people standing in lines at the roll call in mud and snow or scorching heat. Starving, terrified and in desperate need of being rescued from this fate. But noone could rescue these people, not many tried. The guide speaks of prisoners who tried to help others; sharing food and water, some received packages from the outside and shared the content with fellow prisoners. One prisoner, Maksymillian Kolbe, took another prisoners place in the starvation cell. There were moments of a deep humanity even in this place, but the overall impression is of evil.

I think all of us has experienced evil in one way or the other through life. But here, in Auschwitz-Birkenau, it was present in a  terrifying calculated way during the World War II. The place was chosen with extreme care, prisoners was transported here from all corners of Europes, everything was in order, calculated and performed in an almost pedantic way. Lifes were taken, people were subjected to experiments, tortyrs of all kind both mental and physical. They were robbed of their dignity and humanity. Twins were taken to be experimented on by Mengele and professor Carl Clauberg performed all kinds of sterilisationprograms on Jewish women. Many came here with a hope a new beginning, being told that a new life was about to start and they had bought a bit of land or a shop, all a hoax from the Germans. They came here with the most precious things in a suitcase, only to be stripped naked, pushed into a chamber to die of the effects of Cyklon-B.

(Wall of Death in Auschwitz, prisoners were shot in front of this wall for 'crimes' they comitted while being held at Auschwitz)
Some people still think today that it was a good thing that almost a million jews lost their lifes here and that it's a pity that they couldn't have killed a couple millions more! And then we have the people who says that this never happened at all. That Auschwitz-Birkenau was built up by those who liberated it. Well, what can you say to that! Not much, only pity them for not having more of a brain to see what is right in front of them. THIS happened and it happened here and in other places; Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka, just to mention some of them. Evil performing on the highest of levels. Built by man to exterminate man! And nothing was wasted; the hair was shaved of, rings and even goldteeth were taken from the deadbodies and from their luggage. So not only did the Nazis kill, they also made a profit off their victims.

(Some of the remaining blocks in Auschwitz)

I'm glad I came here to see for myself the enormity of this place and the evil performed here. And I recommend everyone to visit as well. Young and old, from all walks of life, should come here to see and hear for themselves. This shouldn't have happened but it did. And mankind let it happen again; does names like Srebrenica, Rwanda, Cambodia ring a bell? They probably do and what is more frightening is that I just mentioned 3, that list is very long, very long indeed! And the irony of seeing the government in Israel treat the Palestinians with an equal disregard for human rights!

If you want to educate yourself there are some excellent websites to start with; Wikipedia on Holocaust,Wikipedia on Genocide, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem.

And if you like me likes to read books there are some really good books, novels, taking up the subject: "Mila 18" by Leon Uris, "Night", "Dawn", and "Day" by Elie Wiesel, "Still Alive by Ruth Klüger, "Playing for time" by Fania Fenelon, "Fateless" by Imre Kertész, "For those I loved" by Martin Gray and finally "Speed of Light" by Elizabeth Rosner. Just a few!

I like to end with a quotation from one of my favorite authors, Elie Wiesel, himself a survivor of Auschwitz:

"I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again."

Rafael Nadal - a true champion

Rafael Nadal, what a guy! Two days ago, on Sunday, this young man proved once again what a player he truly is. A lot of experts though that Robin Soderling would have a big chance of winning his first Grand Slam, but Rafael Nadal proved that he is still the King of Clay! With an incredible length on his shot, a great first serve percentage and a footwork that took your breathe away he brushed Soderling aside like he was back in junior class again.

It was a masterclass and in Robin's defence; he played an OK match but was very weak when it came to winning the important points. Nadal on other hand didn't put foot wrong on those same points. The victory, his fifth title in Paris, wiped away all the bad memories from last year. Nadal lost to Robin in the 4th round and wasn't himself after that until Monte-Carlo this year. Knee trouble, a tear in the abdominal muscle. his parents divorce made last a year a true anno horribilis for Nadal, but beware Federer, Djokovic and Roddick and all the rest; he is back and I think that in some aspects he is even better than he was. Wimbledon is around the corner and it's going to be very interesting to see if Rafa can reload his batteries and play as well as he did in 2008 when he took the title for the Fed-express himself.


What is so endearing with this guy is that he seems such a nice, humble person. His attitude on court;  towards ball-boys and ball-girls, to umpires and lines-people and towards the public and the fans, is impeccable. And his un-assuming and almost apologetic expression in the pressroom can't but evoke a sense of wonder in me. He hasn't changed a bit from the sweet and shy 16 year old guy. Money, fame and succes has done nothing bad to him at all. This quote from the post-match interview says it all : "Never in my wildest dream would I have dreamt of such beautiful presents. Life has been very kind to me." 
You have earned everyone of those presents, Rafa, 'cause you have worked hard, played well and been a great role model for all of us to emulate, both on the court and of it.

Thank you Rafa, for great tennis and the wonderful scenes in Paris and good luck in Wimbledon!
If you could hang out with any fictional character for a whole day, who would you choose, and why?

If I could have 4 consecutive Sundays I would pick, in no particular order;
1. Elizabeth and Mr Darcy from "Pride and Prejudice" to really see if they are soo proud and prejudiced!
2. The whole gang from M.A.S.H. because they seem to be able to throw a hell of a party! ;)
3. Ari Been Kanaan from Leon Uris "Exodus"
4. Yoda, because I want him to teach me all about The Force!

Tennis thoughts

I've been interested in tennis since the mid '70's; the glory days of Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert. Since I'm Swedish I should have rooted for the great Björn Borg, but I never liked the guy. People can say what they like but he played pretty boring tennis. I liked the more flamboyant players, Connors, Nastase, and later on Mcenroe. Something else happened every time these players stepped out on a court, not only could they play great tennis but they could also entertain. If I like flamboyant I should have love Agassi but I never warmed towards him at all.

So why Evert? I saw a fire in her behind that cool face and the rigidness, a fire I never detected in Borg but I'm pretty sure he had it. The fact that Evert kept some pretty wild friends also led me to think that there was more to this girl that we were allowed to see. And surely there never been a more gracious loser, or winner for that matter. The way that used her opponent's weaknesses also impressed me a lot. Thinking tennis, that is what she played.
A good tennis match has the components of a heavyweight fight, and a chessmatch. Brawn and brain in a very interesting combination. Elegance and effort, fightingspirit and finesse. You can have the greatest technique in the world, have all the shots and still not make it all the way. Because it takes something else to be one of the greatest. And what is that thing? Connors had a mediocre serve and a somewhat flaky forehand and yet he was right up there. Chris Evert had in early stages in her career a really bad serve and no netgame to write home about and yet she won Wimbledon in1974. Both these two players had in their own way a burning desire to win. Connors wore his desire on his sleeve, Evert buried it deep behind a very cool facade. Connors hated to loose, maybe more than he loved to win. He also had a fighting heart, he would never give up his belief that he could win. This was even more apparent in the later stages of his career.

There are a few player out there who seem to have all the bits and pieces; Sampras, Federer, Navratilova, the William's sisters etc. All the shots, the stamina and the desire to win. Nadal has the desire and almost all the shots, but his aura seem to have been taking a tumble lately. I think losing in Paris took something out of him and it is going to be incredibly interesting to see if he can win at the red claycourts at Roland Garros again and retaining that sense of being Superman again. If he does, we can look forward to some interesting matches in the years to come.

Tennis is a very mental game. If you are on a roll and seem invincible there are no boundaries, no obstacles to high for you. Look at Nadal's win over the mighty Fed at Wimbledon. There weren't a lot of experts that would give him a chance but he went out there with belief that he could actually beat Roger and he did. And he repeated it downunder in an even more emphatic way. Federer IS the better player than the Nadal and yet he seemed almost paralysed in stages in that Aussie Open final. I don't think he thought he could win. He was more afraid of losing, less focused on actually winning the title

I watched Roddick and Nadal belt it out last night, the semifinal at Sony Ericsson's Open. In the first set Nadal dominated the play and ran Roddick ragged from corner to corner. But when Roddick stared to blast forehand-winners around him he just crumbled. It was kind of sad to watch. I'm sure Nadal will recover and find that feeling again, but if he will suffer losses on the clay as well he will not be the player he could have been.

The same could be said about Roddick, to some extent anyway. Roddick suffered that heart-breaking loss in last year's Wimbledon final. Being two points away to win it! Two points!!! It took me a week to recover fully from that! ;) Just imagine what it must have been like for Andy. But here he is. Still fighting and putting himself in the winning position time and time again. In four finals this year so far and just one win and one still pending. But two losses to lower-ranked player in the finals; finals he really should have won. Especially at Indian Wells. But in that match I saw a vulnerbility in his attitude; and I think it was the Wimbledon final that came back to haunt him there. He just couldn't believe in winning, in being A winner. I hope that in Sunday's final against Berdych he can find that belief again. He needs this title and if he gets it I believe that he could actually win at Wimbledon this year.

Roddick doesn't have all the shots, but he has a great fighting heart and finally he also has started to THINK tennis out there. They way he changed his play against Nadal yesterday was impressive. And it took a lot of guts to pull it of like that. Something has shifted in Roddick's way of playing tennis; it started in that Wimbledon final and it blossomed out to its full potential in the Nadal match. I hope that it can continue to develop and grow over the Spring and Summer. If it does , we are really in for an exciting tennis season. But it all hans on how he plays on Sunday. If he goes out there and just PLAY, without any fear or disbelief in his heart, he will walk away with that title. And THAT could be the difference.

Re-discovering an old love

I'd totally forgotten how much I used to like watching "McLeod's Daughter". It was this Australian TV show about the lives of a group of women owning a cattlestation(Drover's Run) and their lives in the Australian outback. The sisters Claire and Tess Mcleod, their loves, lives and tribulations. For 3 seasons it was a terrific experience to watch. Great scripts; witty and funny and incredibly emotional. The characters were very defined and likeable, unless you hated them, and there sure were a couple of those ones as well!

A couple of weeks ago I saw the 3 first seasons being sold out on-line and bought them and started watching again and was totally hooked. I've watched the 74 episodes again. Some of them, especially the last 10 or so I've watched over and over again! And the love I had forgotten was rekindled.

There is especially one story-line that I can't get enough of. It's the romance between Claire and the neighbour boy, Alex Ryan. Constantly at each other throats, bickering and argueing but always best friends. Always keeping the other one safe, and never owning up to what  they never saw but what every spectator saw, a love for each other. You laugh, you get irritated and you weep. It's sappy at times but also incredibly well written and enjoyable.

The characters of Alex and Claire are played by Kiwi actors Aaron Jeffery and Lisa Chappell with great touch and talent. Especially Lisa Chappell who has a more complex character to flesh out than Aaron Jeffery. And she also has more screen-time to play with. But it is exceptionally done by both these actors, and they make the love story between the two characters believable.

First kiss (click for bigger version)

Unfortunately for the series, Lisa Chappell wanted to do other things and was written out of the show when her character Claire is killed in a tragic accident just as life with Alex had started. In tear dripping episode she visits her sister Tess as a ghost, as the women on  Drover's Run prepare to bury her. Not a dry eye in sight!!!

Apart from way too much sentimententality in that episode the third season is the best of 8 seasons. In the the following seasons rating dropped low as one main character after another were written out of the series and the new actors didn't quite live up the standards of the original cast. But it's with sweet memories of those first 74 episodes I reminiscence of Claire & Alex, Tess & Nick and the rest of the characters of McLeod's Daughters.

This such great news! She is a wonderful actress and I've been fortunate to have seen her perform on stage in London at two different occasions. The first was her debut on a West End stage; "What the Night is For" by Michael Weller., and te second time last years perpfrmance at Donmar Warehouse as Nora in a new adaption of Ibsen's "A Doll's House".

The play wasn't as good as the original but it had it's moments. And Gillian Anderson gave us a superb Nora and she totally deserves her nomination. She missed out on the other theatre awards but got the BIG one! She is great company; Imelda Staunton, Juliet Stevenson, Rachel Weisz and Lorraine Burroughs. Stern favorite is Rachel Weisz who won the two other awards. But Gillian wasn't nominated! ;)

I think Rachel W will win this one as well. Her performance got rave reviews as well as the play itself; "A streetcar named desire": But I still hope that Gillian has a shot at the award. Her performance impressed reviewers and theatregoers overall. Win or lose, it's such a great honor to be nominated and I think that this nomination will cement her presence on the stages in London. I can't wait for her next play! And since dreaming is free, why not a play with National Theatre or the The Royal Shakespeare Company! Yeah, a girl can dream! ;)

 (Click for HQ photo)
Looking really good here and I just love those earrings! The Deschanel sisters dresses, for, most of the time, better than anybody in Hollywood. Always the right shoes, handbag and earrings. Emily also took time to spoil us a little about the upcoming 100th episodes of "Bones". Watch a short videoclip here. I've really enjoyed this season of Bones and I'm really looking forward to the upcoming ones.

Click on the photo for an HQ

Fanny Ardant

For years and years this woman has been a fascination for me. A marvellous actress and a gorgeous looking woman. At 60 she looks fantastic! No botox, no nip and tuck and she is a smoker. I have no clue how she manages to look so good.

If you haven't seen her in anything, try "Finally Sunday", "Callas Forever", "El año del diluvio" , "Nathalie" , "Pédale Douce" or "8 femmes" out. She does comedy as well as drama and is equally good in both but I think that she does drama best.

Sources of information about this lovely actress:

Fanny Online

She attended the closing ceremony at the International Filmfestival in Marrakesh yesterday . And again I stress that she was 60 in March this year!!!

And I just must post a gorgeous shot of her.

"Actresses Zooey Deschanel and Emily Deschanel with Vanity Fair & Cotton host an evening of fashion and compassion benefitting The Humane Society of the U.S. at a private residence on December 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. "

One wonders were the ususally very chic Emily Deschanel got that dress? Looks like a giant napkin wrapped around her. But she IS a very beautiful woman and so is Zooey.

Click on thumbnail for bigger version.

Emily Deschanel shows her love for whales

I'm as straight as an hour, I swear! But this woman makes me less straight and I have no idea why. Sure, she IS a very beautiful lady but there are plenty of beautiful ladies out there, more so than Emily Dechanel, but she got IT. Whatever IT is!
 Love her as Temerance Brennan in "Bones" and she is very good in "Glory Days" as well. Anyway, she attended the Sea Shepherd Ship Unveiling on October 17, 2009 in Los Angeles, California., here are some MQ's from the event. Click to enlarge.