To Sweden by Radio: Part One

New Year’s Eve afternoon was bright and sunny in Tucson, the southern Arizona town I call home.  I looked at the clock.  It was about twenty minutes to four.  If I timed things just right, I should soon be able to hear the New Year’s countdown in Stockholm.

Stockholm?  Yes, that’s right.  Given the time zone difference, Stockholm, Sweden was eight hours ahead of Arizona.  In other words, while we Arizonans had the rest of the afternoon and evening to get through before we could finish up our old year, Swedes, including Stockholm residents, would be starting their New Year’s Day in just twenty minutes.  There was but one way an Arizonan could fast-forward the process and start the new year as soon as everyone in Stockholm and the rest of Sweden — through a form of radio-inspired time travel.

I sat down at my computer and pulled down my bookmarks menu.  Scrolling down to the radio stations folder, I instantly found and clicked on the link for P4, the Stockholm-based radio station that had long been my favorite Swedish station.  After a brief interval, the sounds of P4 soon issued forth from my computer.

I found — by no means for the first time — that a number of songs played on the radio station were in English.  I recognized the melodies of rock tunes I’d heard long ago.  No doubt the songs had been chosen with a young, English-speaking audience in mind, since the younger crowd had the strength and stamina required for staying up until midnight and seeing the new year in.  Since the end of World War II, English has been taught in Sweden to children as young as elementary school age.  No doubt the radio listeners currently tuned in to the Stockholm station had all gotten A’s in English.

The minutes passed.  With midnight in Sweden now just moments away, the radio station’s mood underwent a major change.  The rapid approach of the new year had not escaped the notice of the good folks at P4.  The music, for the time being, had come to an end.  A bell was ringing.  As it rang, a man began to read a poem.  The poem’s focus was “Nyårsklockan” (New Year’s bell). The verses spoke of ringing out the old and ringing in the new, about the death of the old year but also about new beginnings.  It was indeed a solemn occasion, a time for reflection on the events of the year rapidly drawing to a close, as well as a time for wondering what the new year would bring.

The man concluded his reading of the poem.  And then I heard the first Swedish song to go over the airwaves since I had tuned in.  Swedish voices broke into the strains of “Du gamla, du fria,” Sweden’s national anthem.  On that patriotic note, Sweden’s new year began.

No doubt about it, my Swedish radio-style New Year had been a moving and unforgettable occasion.  Feeling inspired, I posted a brief account of my radio listening adventure on LinkedIn, along with an accompanying Happy New Year’s message.  I also fired off an email about it to a local Swedish-American friend.

Having sent out those messages, I still felt a need to do something more.  Curious, I decided to see what online information I could dig up on the poem.  I learned that the poem bearing the title “Nyårsklockan” was actually a Swedish translation of the English “Ring Out, Wild Bells,” originally penned by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  The poet had probably little dreamed that his poem, published in 1850, would inspire Swedes to start an annual tradition.  However, that was precisely what happened.  To this day, the Swedish “Nyårsslockan” poem is recited annually in Sweden as New Year’s Eve draws to a close.

As for my Swedish-American friend, reading my account of the P4 listening session brought back old memories.  Having spent her growing up years in Sweden (she immigrated to the USA as a young woman in the 1950s), she recalled well how, during her childhood and teenage years, she got to stay up until midnight and hear the poem read on the radio.

No doubt about it, listening to radio stations based in far away places exposes one to far more than just foreign languages; one can also pick up priceless tidbits of information about a country’s culture.  One never knows what one might learn when listening to the radio!

Sources

P4 Stockholm radio station (http://sverigesradio.se/sida/default.aspx?programid=103)  (To hear what is currently airing, go to the upper right corner of the home page and click on the arrow appearing below the term “Lyssna direkt.”)

“Ring Out, Wild Bells” Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_Out,_Wild_Bells)

“Nyårsklockan.”  Author:  Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  Translator:  Edvard Fredin.  (http://sv.wikisource.org/wiki/Ny%C3%A5rsklockan)

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Indexing and the News

As the end of an eventful year approaches, I find myself reflecting on one inescapable fact:  Indexing may not always make the news, but news events have definitely been known to lead to indexing.  As a case in point, South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, who played an instrumental role in defeating apartheid, died Thursday, December 5 at the age of 95.  Following swiftly on the heels of that event, a publisher sent word that revisions were underway for a children’s biography on the famous leader.  As part of the process, the index would need revisions and additions to cover the new material that the publisher anticipated adding.  Accordingly, this past month has seen me busy with the Mandela indexing project, along with other work.  By early next year, children around the country will hopefully have the opportunity to read a new, up to date indexed biography that will open their eyes to South Africa’s history, its hard-won progress, and the vital contributions made by one man.

Speaking of news events, in my previous post I reported on recent troubling developments in Egypt.  Word had reached people around the world — including the southern Arizona location this indexer calls home  — of civil unrest that erupted into museum vandalism, with numerous ancient artifacts removed or destroyed.  Developments since then, however, give one grounds for hope.  This indexer, at least, has not been aware of any new reports of museum vandalism in Egypt since August of this year.  Meanwhile, the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition (UAEE) has nearly completed its excavation of Pharaoh-Queen Tausret’s temple, a site that has fortunately escaped the looting occurring elsewhere in Egypt.  In addition, new discoveries have been made, among them three caves north of the temple that once served as tombs. Those connected with UAEE look forward to excavating those sites in 2014.

Meanwhile, back in Tucson Arizona, in January 2013 UAEE moved into a new facility that, among other things, houses a library.  UAEE is now in the process of adding book titles to a searchable catalog.  Friends of UAEE should find this a valuable tool when making use of the library and archive.

Speaking of books, UAEE just published — you guessed it — the title I indexed earlier this year.  Archaeological Research in the Valley of the Kings and Ancient Thebes: Papers Presented in Honor of Richard H. Wilkinson, covering new discoveries and current research as well as historic data and developments, is now available on Amazon.  Moreover, this volume is only the first one anticipated as part of the “Wilkinson Egyptology Series.”  So who knows?  Maybe further developments in Egypt — hopefully developments of a positive nature — will help pave the way for further indexing opportunities.

Here’s wishing both indexers and readers a happy 2014!

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An Indexer’s Small World

One of the more interesting items I’ve indexed lately is a title covering the study of ancient Egypt.  As one who has long had an interest in archaeology as well as history, I naturally welcome the opportunity for indexing assignments that enable me to indulge my tastes in either area.  Yet exposure to stimulating subject matter, gratifying though that can be, is not the only result I have experienced due to my exposure to the Egypt of a long bygone era.  Sometimes it takes a well-timed book project to illustrate in a forceful way just how much events halfway around the world can matter to an indexer located in a relatively peaceful community in southern Arizona.

Think of ancient Egypt, and you automatically conjure up images of pharaohs and pyramids.  If you’re fairly knowledgeable, you might even mull over the artifacts that have been  discovered or perhaps still await discovery in such places as the Valley of the Kings or the environs of ancient Thebes.

Such images stand in sharp contrast to the media images coming from modern Egypt, a nation in turmoil rapidly heading toward an uncertain future.  Ancient Egypt and modern Egypt seem worlds apart.  Sure, the ancient pharaohs had their own wars and power struggles.  All the same, there couldn’t possibly be much connection the two Egypts.  Or could there be?

Recent events strongly suggest that modern Egypt has everything to do with ancient Egypt — not always in a positive way.  Clashes are now taking place not only between pro- and anti-Morsi factions but between museum conservationists — those who would preserve antiquities for posterity — and those for whom outrage over either real or imagined injustices in the present trumps all else, including preserving ancient history.  The result?  Grave robbers, once seen as posing the greatest threat to those artifacts that might teach scholars about the ancient past, have now been supplanted by museum vandals.  When it comes to both theft and destruction, it seems that the latter have more than matched the former in ferocity.  Already, the Malawi Museum has felt the full force of the above-described destruction as an angry mob unleashed its fury on artifacts, some of which had once belonged to the very rulers covered in the book I had just indexed!  Other museums, if not yet targeted, are nonetheless at risk.

While no injuries were reported at the above-mentioned museum, recent events there are nonetheless most troubling.  Imagine that you had a time machine that would enable you to learn new things about a distant past long shrouded in mystery.  Now imagine that a band of criminals was about to break into your storehouse, bent on destroying the time machine that could provide the one link to the past.  Would you greet such a prospect with indifference, or would you do all you could to protect your time machine?

The artifacts housed at the museum are the property of the Egyptian people, protested an archaeologist at the scene.  Not a single archaeologist — or indexer, for that matter — would disagree with that statement.  Moreover, it’s not just the people of Egypt who have a stake in what becomes of ancient artifacts.  It’s scholars from around the world.  After all, people of other nations have long had an interest in studying ancient Egypt.  Among them, Napoleon stands out for his role in discovering the Rosetta Stone.

Given the unstable and volatile political situation in Egypt, the present government, along with its police and military forces, seems powerless to protect museums and their irreplaceable property.  In the absence of sufficient government-sponsored protection, such protection may have to come from international agencies — those not only engaging in right thinking, like the above-mentioned archaeologist, but equipped to enforce that right thinking with adequate security measures.   Is there anything those of us not residing in Egypt can do?

Having read of recent developments, I asked a local Egypt scholar if the University of Arizona Egyptian Expedition (UAEE) could take any action.  In reply, he stated that direct action was unlikely to come from the local organization.  The larger organization, representing both the UAEE and other groups of Egypt scholars around the nation, is the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE).  ARCE, he stated, was better equipped to take action on this issue that would have an impact.

Egypt scholars and archaeologists anxiously await further developments….

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Blog for indexers and translators

Greetings from a freelancer who offers both indexing and documents translation services.  Items I index are mostly books, but I’ve also indexed journals, tackling widely varied subjects ranging from history and medicine to (of course) linguistics and language learning.  I love the subject variety, because that’s a large part of what makes indexing fun!

On the translation front, I work with both Spanish and Swedish documents, translating them into English.  My translation subject specialties include medical and legal translation, although I’m willing to tackle other subjects as my schedule and expertise permit.

I’m going to wrap this up now, but I hope to add more soon.

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