Random weirdness for the week of Oct. 20, 2015


The Russians might be deploying troops, but it’s the United States that’s revolting. Construction is nearing completion on a major new Russian military base on Franz-Joseph Land, located just to the east of Svalbard at 80 degrees latitude north, which will allow up to 150 soldiers to live and training for 18 months at a time. Russia has been building up its military its Arctic territories for many years, but this particular base apparently is particularly ominous since that ultimate source of objective news known as the Drudge Report alerted the world to it with the banner headline “Putin Takes Arctic.”

Implicit in the article (and many comments at the site and other U.S. media) is “this is just another stick in the eye to a weak American president” who likes thugs and Muslim kids who build clocks…

We’re assuming most locals are here in part because they like cold climates, or at least tolerant of them. But we suspect even the most rugged old-timer has nothing on Katherine Carlyle, who says the idea of getting caught in Svalbard’s record-low temperature of minus 46 degrees Celsius makes her giddy with nostalgia. That apparently comes from spending many of her initial years in a place where it “was a constant and extreme minus 196 Centigrade.” If that seems weird, than so does the fact that her story evokes a mention of “David Copperfield” in a review of the novel telling Carlyle’s surreal life story. She was a test tube baby, albeit one whose childhood was delayed during all those ultra-cold years. “I was stored in a squat steel barrel, vacuum-lined like a thermos flask and filled with liquid nitrogen…I was suspended in a bath of cryoprotectant and assorted nutrients,” is the narration provided by British author Rupert Thomson in the book bearing the same name as the main character. Skipping past various dangerous adventure to her move to Svalbard and its ultra freezing temps, “I veer between rushes of adrenaline – a roller coaster thrill – and a sweetness that is laced with pain, a delicious cloying poignancy. What it resembles most closely — what it actually feels like — is nostalgia.” The reviewer (at tinyurl.com/nrbq936) heaps praise on the tale by noting “great novels open with an origin story” and “there is some question as to whether she, like young Mr. Copperfield, will turn out to be the hero of her own life.”