Until this morning, I could not understand why some people get so wrapped up in television and film. Wrapped up to such an extent that people probe details about the actors’ and authors’ lives, and other matters so far removed from viewers’ real world experiences. But today, as I reacted in revulsion to another morning’s deeply depressing news about war, mass shootings, and other expressions of hatred, I suddenly “got it.” The stories presented on the screen allow the viewer to only temporarily escape the horrors of the world around them…delving into details about actors and writers and directors and so on extends the temporary escape. This morning, as I struggled to distance myself from a world that seems intent on destroying every shred of joy, I found myself exploring details about the Swedish series we began watching last night, Rebecka Martinsson. The title character is a Stockholm lawyer who returns to her home town in Sweden’s far north (the village of Kuravaara, near the town of Kiruna) after the death of somebody she was close to as a child. What initially looked like an accident is discovered to be a murder. The lawyer, operating in extra-legal ways, pursues the truth. The story was gripping. This morning, it gave me something to which I could direct my attention, rather than to the terrible news the media seems intent on force-feeding to us. At any rate, I explored the genesis of the series, I learned that it was based on the work of author Åsa Larsson, described by one reviewer as “one of the least popular Swedish crime authors…” whose work…”constitutes a noteworthy addition to the Nordic noir genre.” And as I investigated further, I learned that the actress who plays the title character is Ida Engvoll, who apparently is quite well-known to audiences for her work in Arne Dahl: Europa Blues, Beck, A Man Called Ove, and more. My point is this: immersing myself in details about the actress, the author, the village of Kuravaara, and other aspects…sometimes only tangentially relevant to the series itself…delivered me from the ongoing horrors in Gaza and the emerging facts suggesting law enforcement knew about the potentially deadly potential of the Lewiston, Maine shooter. Yet, when I attempt to understand my somewhat irrational interest in the actress and the author and the brutally cold landscape of the far north of Sweden, I slip away from those diversions and back into the painfully bleak disappointments of living in the world today. The solutions: stay glued to Nordic noir presentations on the television screen and/or to the pages of absorbing stories in book form—and prohibit the world’s news media from infecting one’s mind with bacteria and viruses that carry serenity-slayers.


Another delicious day, a day for which I have intentionally kept the calendar utterly empty. No obligations. Nothing to deter me from letting my mind wander and relax and otherwise be free of stress—to the extent that is possible in the world in which we live. Today is ripe for pleasant surprises, if pleasant surprises wish to visit. Fall weather is here. Last night, we briefly had a fire in the fireplace; more for its mesmerizing effects than for its heat. Today might call for the same. Chill. Chill. Chill.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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