Monday, 30 November 2009

What does the salaryman listen to while he does the pendla?

After a recently finding the old iPod Nano, the daily trip had a new, surprising element. What does the old cranker contain? I could not recollect.

Tightly squeezing my laptop case, I embarked on a journey of re-discovery:

"..strange days have found us!"

The Doors
Blood Red Shoes
Dandy Warhols
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
You Say Party! We Say Die!
The Duke Spirit

2008 indeed.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Tuning in to the festive season

The festive season has arrived to Stockholm, bringing with it one of the most loved ballets in history. Seeing the Nutcracker took me back to childhood when Christmas was still something magical. Time would move very slow, as I could not bear to wait for Santa Claus's arrival. A rare feeling.

After the night at the Opera, it is a pleasure to wake up to a cosy Sunday. After recharging batteries with a lunch of fresh pasta and some crispy Frascati wine, it is time to stroll into Gamla Stan to check out the Christmas Market. Christmas Market is an essential part of the season in many European cities - for example in Germany it is a really big deal (check out Trier, for example). Germany boasts a whole tourist industry built around the thing. Stockholm's is quite modest in comparison, but it does not lack some charm. Looks like the old town well functions as a kiosk as well. Mistletoe and glögg is available.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures!

After 2 days spent home due to illness, I came to realize that something had to be done. My feverish brains were producing nothing of much use, aberrations, ponderings and rants on the state of Swedish press.

The best fruit of this period is what I call the "Swinetini". Along with the voodoo gear on the table, this stuff will send the nasty virus packing.

5 cl Gordon's gin
1 cl Noilly Prat vermouth
7 drops of Angostura (5 if you are a conservative).

Begone, swine flu! :D

DN makes a comeback

Lo and behold! I opened DN today, and what do I find in the editorial?

"Utmanade idéer.

Liberalism: En historia om hopp och illusionslöshet"

By Johannes Åman

After the humiliation and gradual degredation suffered by this newspaper that was founded in 1864, Johannes Åman comes to the newpaper's rescue. So, what is so interesting about the period in which DN was founded? Well, I've added a pic of Eugène Delacroix's "Liberty leading the way" not only because it appears next to the editorial in DN but also because it is such a wonderful picture that captures the birth of something entirely new - a nation. What we see there is basically a militia/civic guard (a prelude to a conscription army, the tool of choice for the modern nation) assaulting the professionals who only serve a certain special interest group in the society.

An interesting story unfolds; not one but two previous DN chief editors have a part in writing a Swedish version of the history of liberalism. The first one was Herbert Tingsten (chief editor 1946 - 1959), who also was a professor of political science. The second one is Svante Oscar Elis Nycander (chief editor 1979 - 1994). Both figures turn out to be interesting, and rather high caliber (just compare to the current situation of DN's staffing). Herbert Tingsten was an influential figure in Swedish public debate, warning about the threat that the trendy movements of the time (1930's), nationalsocialism and communism, caused Sweden. Nycander, who has some interesting titles (check out, for example, "Kriget mot fackföreningarna. En studie av den amerikanska modellen" (1998)), finally realized Tingsten's plan of putting a history of liberalism in between covers. The end result is called "Liberalismen's idéhistoria: Frihet och modernitet".

I have never read this book, but according to Åman, Nycander writes the following in the preface about why Tingsten never got the project on the move: "vem vill skriva snusförnuftets idéhistoria?". Indeed, who would be interested in writing the story of common sense? Its boring. There is nothing of the following in it: Versus! Socialism! Capitalism! Struggle! War! Tooth and nail! Killer app! Its more like: Individual is beautiful. Individual has rights. Individual is free to flourish. Individual is a citizen (not a subject to a despot). Lets build something that makes all of us free in the real meaning of the word. Et cetera.

Åman continues to state that a lot of what the liberals fought for are now a banal parts of a modern European democracy. Human rights, right to vote for everyone, freedom of speech, etc. It is also the basic concept underlying how European countries are organized in terms of economy. Note that this is not to be confused to what is called Neo-Liberalism.

Its quite true that liberalism itself has passed its highpoint over 100 years ago. The problem is, however, that we tend to forget this uninteresting common sense. Liberalism is centred on the individual, and the innate worth and value of the individual. Cynics always rush to ridicule liberalism's childish faith in the human being. However, recognising the ravages of ego and the competitive instinct, most countries based on liberal ideas have assumed methods of curbing the worst problems, implementing law and regulation when necessary. As common sense would suggest.

In any case, Åman's editorial was very interesting, and also enlightening to me personally. I had litlle idea of the newspaper's glorious past. So, what shall the future bring? A generation of new talent to raise DN into a new golden age, or a gradual downhill slope?

In the meanwhile, the difference between man and beast is not the possession of intelligence, but the will to seek it and improve. A childish thought, of lasting hope, of reason, of something decent, a fool's idea? A definitive yes to this but we dont have much more than that and our common sense now, do we?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Rabbit-munching eagle

I just read an article in The Local - Sweden's English language news - about an incident where an eagle had eaten a little girl's pet bunny, and the responsible dad called police. However, police could not investigate, because apparently its not illegal for an eagle to get a meal.

This article is a good example why The Local makes such a good read for an expat. As it is staffed by expats, the magazine often picks up phenomena that is curiously Swedish, such as this. I've come to a stage where I am not surprised by much, but this was novel. Not so much talk about nature and ecosystmems in that family? The dad's noble gesture of calling the police to seems like an effort to appear to be 'doing something about it' in his daughter's eyes. I certainly hope that they will never fall victim to any form of crime or physical harm.

Quite different are things where I originally come from. My family's roots are in northern Finland (although I have only been there on vacations now and then). Reindeer business is big up there, and a conflict has risen between the locals and the environmentalists. Reindeer people often kill eagles and bears illegally because they prey on reindeer and so cause losses. The state gives out compensation, but this has not stopped the eager hunters. To many people it seems highly unprobable that eagles would actually hunt reindeer, but here's some nice footage of a hunt.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Man food

Sometimes you just have to get fruits, cheeses and wine in the living room.

Edit: ..and gingerbread topped with Taleggio.

Monday, 2 November 2009

"I myself am surrealism" - the Salvador Dalí exhibition at the Moderna Museet

The Moderna Museet in Stockholm - which is, by the way, one of the best of its kind in the world - is undertaking the noble act of hosting a Salvador Dali exhibition (Dalí Dalí). Dali is one of my absolute favourite artists of all time. There is something almost enlightening in the way the man became the eccentric artist persona he was known for.

A big part of Salvador Dali's art was himself. I remember reading from somewhere (some old biography??) that he would have once said that you can earn a meager living by working hard, or alternatively, you can be fed caviar by rich ladies on a daily basis by being an artist. Whatever the truth, this veteran of the surrealist movement set out to become something larger than life, and while being a highly productive artist producing not only paintings but also designing dresses and jewellery, working in advertising, movies et cetera, a major part of his commercial success (which led to him being named as Avida Dollars - eager for dollars, that is) was undeniably due to his own super-eccentric persona.

So, what makes an artist? The eyepatch with an eye? A moustache that points optimistically up towards the Lord? Holding a lecture titled "Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques" while wearing the old type diving suit with a heavy metal helmet while holding a billiard cue, almost suffocating and then being saved by the audience who finally realized that something is very wrong (as the lecturer struggles wildly)? Who had the habit of masturbating behind a curtain during the parties he hosted?

I dont have the answer to that question. But his paintings are excellent. There is simply nothing boring or conventional in his work. Or life.

Friday, 30 October 2009

In the loop has finally reached Sweden..

and its getting some reviews. I saw it in the summer in Dublin, and its good. Really good, in fact.

I spotted this recently on the library wall in Södermalm:

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The state of Swedish journalism: DN's Hanne Kjöller sees a propaganda film

Unfortunately one of DN's eager journalists, Hanne Kjöller, has seen Michael Moore's new movie. Its called "Capitalism: A Love Story". I have not seen the movie, but my expectation would be that Moore does his thing with looking at some of the not-so-pleasant sides of the American society and culture, while trying to do it with some humour. Having seen the previous ones, I dont think there would be that many surprises for me. Anyway, a lot can be said about the quality of Moore's 'investigative journalism', his rather immature style, tireless repeating stuff that is no news to anyone etc. However, that would be beside the point.

So, Hanne sees the film, and writes: "Propaganda: Michael Moore är tillbaka". Half of her text is not about the movie, but Michael himself and what he represents (Moore supposedly says that capitalism has gone too far to be reformable). Then Hanne goes on to ramble that the only alternative is socialism, and Europe has some experience on that. You know, living beyond the iron curtain was actually not so nice, and hey, try and go make your movie in a country with no freedom of opinion!

She goes on to educate her readers that in a democratic society there is room for many an opinion and you can organize work even on non-profit basis (!), whereas in socialism there is only one "model" that makes people poor. And Mike should have definitely mentioned this in his movie!

The whole thing leaves a distinct wtf-feeling. What is going on? Does she realize that from the point of view of many Americans, Sweden is a socialist country. In fact, all countries following the venerable continantal market economy model (that includes welfare benefits, rational societal planning on a national scale, etc.) would be perceived as 'socialist' even though their conception precedes this concept. Then again, some more radical socialists might be annoyed if, say Sweden, would be advertised as a socialist country. Discussion with grossly simplified terms is rampant, but this must be a new simplification record. Use just two keywords with very ambiguous content (interpretations vary wildly).

It seems that Hanne has skipped all the history lessons in school. I would recommend a read-through of, for example, the history of liberalism.

In any case, Michael Moore is the black knight, the champion of evil socialism. And he wants people to be poor! Like in Sweden! Yup.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Seeing Massive Attack for the first time and realizing I would have appreciated it so much more 10 years ago

I was tired today. That was due to the fact that I was at the Massive attack concert at the Globen Annexet last night. Not a wild night out by any means, I just happened to notice that they would be playing.

This transported my thoughts into a distant time in the past. It was 1998 and I was wearing "the cucumber salad", the camouflage of the 90's pattern, that is. I had heard some from Massive Attack's brand new "Mezzanine", and I thought it sounded seriously cool. So, come the rare free strecth of time, I was reclining in a comfy chair at the brigade library, and listened through the album. Back then, at the verge of proper adulthood, I was dreaming of farway places, looking to one roam all the continents, and getting all the adventure and copious amounts of sexual experiences a young man can desire.

And now MA was to perform live. The same day. And I have to work the next day. Pendla. Talk about customer relationship management. Fraud prevention. With somewhat mixed feelings I surfed to and bought a ticket. Had a beer.

Here is Globen, the relatively large ice hockey arena in Southern Stockholm. Looming in the background like a massive red moon. The picture is fuzzy, because I was using my mobile phone camera (only 3.2 megapixel). The regular camera is refusing all cooperation at the moment.

The place and the people

To the gig. A quick beer in bar and the show is on. We start with an eerie red light, poking forth from behind the stage like a sign of the presence of a malevolent artificial intellect.

The massive, electronic soundwall and the striking lighting soon stops my yawns. The gig is as much as an art installation as a concert. The band, including two drummers, works in front of a massive video wall. This element will be used creatively during the show.

The crowd is, again, very mixed. This must be a Swedish thing. Middle aged wives of intellectual looking (the eyeglasses, kavaj and grayish stubble-look) guys moving their bodies with restraint. Not that many young people at all. Still they only sell folköl in the actual Annexet. Strange.

It was the 90's when Massive Attack was big, and Bristol sound was everywhere, but its not that long ago. Or is it? Just me getting older, rather.

Questioned truths and trendy world-vision

Now that the financial crisis has done its worst and some underpinnings of how systems work are questioned by also others than professional thinkers (what a sane exercise, too bad this usually requires a disaster to happen), commenting on the global issues such as poverty, war and inequality has become a major trend amongst celebrities. Here Massive Attack puts its penny forth in this issue as well.

Not that long ago I saw Madonna live at the Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg (thats was a first of those as well for me). She had impressive effects on stage as well, and a very definitive societal message incorporated into the show using the videowalls. So did Massive Attack. The music was topped-up with some brain candy. The video board rolled out some horse-sized figures for comparison. Say "MCLAREN F1 CAR, £ [insert astronomical sum]" and then "COST OF A COMMUNITY WORKER IN KENYA, ONE YEAR $ 1500", "AMOUR AMOUR DOG COLLAR $ 18 00 000", and then "COST OF COMMUNITY CENTRE, A YEAR $ 15 000" etc.

Also represented were some UK and Swedish themes. For UK, the sights had been set on the new initiative to get an ID for everybody. This has traditionally roused stiff resistance in that privacy-loving island. This commotion seems rather comical, considering that probably all nordics probably more or less always carry IDs.

Anyway, Sweden was covered also in Swedish. "REGERING SKA SPIONERA VARJE SAMTAL" etc. The innocent need not to worry! I found the "ANNA ANKA'S BLUFF AVSLÖJAD" a lot more funny. Again, as a Nordic person I usually find the Orwellian scare rather amusing. All in all, this works rather well. Far from corny self-aggrandisement practised by some grandiose celebrities and rock stars who spend time 'solving' the world's problems on the pages of gossip magazines, MA does an installation of sound, video, and interesting contrasts of information, turning the event into a something you could have in a gallery. And walk out pleased with all the stuff they rolled out for your entertainment. Lagom almost. But what was the thing with folköl? That's not lagom.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Saturday lunch in the town: beasts of the wild on your plate, martini in your hand at 19glas

Today was a rainy, gray and uninspiring day at best. To cheer myself up and inject a dose on nonchalance to the day I went to have a lunch to 19glas in the Gamla Stan.

The place comes recommended, I've read some good stuff about it from a credible source. And indeed, good it is. The resonably priced lunch menu includes a martini for the very very reasonable sum of 29skr. There is a bright sliver, an elegant ray of pleasant light there is :)

The 'sage of baltimore', jounalist H.L. Mencken has, at least according to Wikipedia, called martini "the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet". I am no man to dispute this authoritative remark. What better to please your soul and tease your appetite than a clear, sublime note of grace, delivered by the best cocktail, or at least best pre-dining cocktail, in the history. The martini could have had a bit less vermouth, but I did not let that bother me. In any case, 19glas is heading into the 'getting it right'-section of reasonably priced luncheon full and well.

Starter of the day for lunch is salmon with very nice mustard dressing. I am not fond of seafood in general, especially fish. However, salmon is something I can eat but I do that rarely. However, I cannot dispute that the fresh, nice-texture-salmon on my plate is beyond critique. Nevertheless, I do not finish the dish, but start to gear myself towards the game coming up.

The main course is a curious game of moose. Moose meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberryketchup(!). Lingonberry ketchup sounds awful, but it works quite well, in fact. The mashed potatoes could have been a bit more solid, however.

The service is good, staff friendly and food very well worth the money. A lot of extra points come in from the atmosphere, and the martini serving, which can be considered a humane, generous act. More IKEA-thinking to the restaurant business, and the world will become a wonderful place to live in.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

There was a guy with a fez in Berns last night (as Nouvelle Vague performed)

Indeed, one of the things one comes across here in Stockholm is the.. well, good fit. By that I mean that come a concert by Nouvelle Vague - the saviour of French music - the venue had been tuned up to make it a memorable night.

Unfortunately I have no pictures of the event due to the laundry incident earlier that day.

The venue

Berns in Berzelii Park was offering, at least ambiance-wise, everything one can hope. Massive chandeliers floating in red mist, fragrant air and sumptuously ornamented theater gets one in the mood for some 60's style bossa nova interpretations of new wave punk and country tracks. Getting the audience in the mood worked very well. As an appetizer before the gig, the DJ played some tasty French pieces from the 60's to modernity, including stuff from Serge Gainsbourg. Try >>this.

Picture: Serge you old hound!

The band

This is the second time I see Nouvelle Vague live. Tripod in Dublin (a venue that is originally the old Harcourt Street train station) was the scene of the previous encounter, and NV was playing the last gig of the tour. The other singer had a pint of whiskey to celebrate that, but she did give it away to a member of the audience eventually. The gig was memorable, and Tripod is a good venue, but Berns wins because of the ambiance side and the exemplary attention to details. This is crucial in creating a memorable event.

NV performed energetically, the girls giving to bouts of wild dancing and.. er, moshing at times. Also, the legendary Dead Kennedys track "Too Drunk to F***" was used as a high point of the show (as was done when I previously saw them in Dublin) with some naughty chatting with the audience and goading the audience to yell the keyword.

The people

Crowd was very international. Whereas in Dublin the audience mainly comprised people in their early 20's, hipsterite students mostly, at Berns it was another story. Many nationalities were represented, and all ages as well. Some old radicals/francophiles/whatnot appeared in their striped shirts and kavajs appeared and we could also see some 60's style dancing and even some bump'n'grind-type of action from an woman representing the over-the-50-yrs demographic. Some wild stuff it was back in the day, I reckon. Also the type of the venue, its restaurant and club and close location to the posh sictrict of Östermalm showed in a troupe of fashion victims. I think I saw a Kylie Minogue. Except that she was more beautiful than Kylie. But very serious indeed with the tastefully hot outfit and those very high heels. Only in Sweden. All in all, an interesting crowd.

And yes, there was a guy with a fez. In a white suit. With a scarf, no less. Monocle, anyone? I was saying earlier something about how everything was tuned to fit well into the occasion and create a mood for the experience. This was an example when this goes too far. Is this the colonial Algeria? Going about the place all blasé? That's an Östermalm Douche Award- performance? No, seriously, got to appreciate when people put some effort to it. Its so rare otherwise. Grey mass. My thanks goes to, as always, to all who want to give an input to the night.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Wired blog roundup on subject "Sweden" - an American perspective is one of my all-time favourite reads on the net. They have excellent and multi-faceted reporting on what's happening in technology, electronic society and culture.

In the past I have noticed that Sweden is usually strongly connected to socialism, but any accurate information is often lacking. So, how about Wired writers' mental image of Sweden?

Condensed: A land of tedious, cucumber-minding socialists who fast adapt things like Spotify and also navigate the seas with stealth ships.

I must admit, this made me smile out loud. Anyway, check out the latest entries in Wired on Sweden:

Blog >
Biggest Record Label Earns More from Spotify than iTunes in Sweden
Epicenter The Business of Tech. Biggest Record Label Earns
Quote: "We can probably chalk some of this effect up to home-team pride; Spotify is a homegrown Swedish product while iTunes is imported from California. But there’s also some legitimate hope here for Spotify and U.S. music fans who hope it will launch here soon.

A couple of years back, Steve Jobs admitted that the average iPod contained only 22 purchased songs, while the remaining 97 percent were either downloaded for free or ripped from CDs. Spotify’s model, which coaxes users into paying monthly subscription fees to access their music on mobile devices, while allowing them to listen on desktops for free, could certainly improve on that figure."
Blog >
Sweden Rescues Volvo and Saab from Fjord and General Motors Woes
Quote: "Like a friendly foreign embassy in an unstable land, the Swedish government came to the rescue of two fellow countrymen with cold hard kronor for carmakers Saab and Volvo. Far from a bailout, the Swedish aid comes with some assembly required."
Blog >
Sweden now presiding over European Union (yawn) [Lol]
Quote: "And now the SWEDES are at the wheel. The world’s best-organized,
most tedious socialists. Guess what: in a sudden, daring move, the Swedes ease
up on the cucumbers."
Blog >
Sweden Deploys The First Operational Stealth Warships
... Sweden Deploys The First Operational Stealth Warships. ... things? Posted
by: goldenstag | 02/12/09 | 1:28 pm. Sweet Sweden! Maybe ...
Quote: "The country that gave us Volvos, Saabs and ABBA has developed what it claims is the world’s first fully operational stealth warship that is essentially invisible to radar."

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Monday, 5 October 2009

A movie deal worthy of Hagar the Horrib.. Fredrik Malmberg: Paradox Entertainment to work on a new Conan the Barbarian

Paradox Entertainment will, according to its Swedish CEO Fredrik Malmberg, start work with Lionsgate on a new Conan the Barbarian movie on the 21. Feb next year. As the director is though to be Marcus Nispel, the director of "Friday the 13th" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", we can expect a medieval fantasy-splatter that leaves no man, the law nor camel safe.

The actor hired for the role of the big guy himself has not been made public. According Paradox he is not a super famous actor, but has made a name for himself. Robert E Howard's jolly, scantily clad barbarian of a character has previously made Arnold Scwartzenegger big, and look at the guy now! Like Conan, he is the boss of a state without formal qualifications!

Article on Aftonbladet about the movie project:

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Anna Anka's saga continues are some recent quotations from this ethnic Polish, newly naturalized American citizen:

– "Nu har priset gått upp. 100 000 dollar ska jag ha"

– "Anna Anka gör ingenting gratis. Hur höga tror du att tittarsiffrorna skulle vara utan mig? "

– "Sen satt det en norsk kärring och klagade på mig för att jag hade tjänstefolk. Titta på omvärlden. Det finns tjänstefolk överallt. Hon fattar inte att tjänstefolk i USA tjänar mer än vad direktörer tjänar i Sverige."

That's some deep stuff from the beauty queen, personal trainer and hollywood housewife. I am looking forward to getting more of this :)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Cast an eye on the past for a review: Youth Novels by Lykke Li

Indeed, Youth Novels - album was released back in 2008, when I was still very unaware that I'd be living in Stockholm next year. I found it interesting back then, and now as I am residing not-so-far-away from the artist's hood of Södermalm, I feel that its certainly time to put some of my thoughts together about this album.

So, Lykke. She has the credible artistic/indie background in the sense that she grew up in various countries around the world as her hippie parents moved around (and lived, amongts others, on a mountaintop, of all places). However, she was born in Ystad in deep-skåne, the hometown of the fictional middle-aged hero of folkhemmet - inspector Wallander, the scourge of all crime in Southern Sweden. So, back to 2008. Lykke releases Youth Novels (also in the US), and performs in Jools Holland. There's also cooperation with Kings of Leon, remixes and some movie stuff. Which is nice.

So, how about the music? Lykke sings with an almost childish voice - think Björk in the category of personal voice. Otherwise, its first and foremost eclectic. Then electric, poppish, indieish in the late 2000's way (loads of instruments used), easy listening, a real lugna favoriter type. Note: try "I'm Good, I'm Gone" for a quirky, almost happy vibe. Spotify has a good collection of her stuff, remixes and all. Only caveat with her music is the irritation-treshold concerning her childish singing voice. It can be too much if you are suffering from anxiety etc. Moderation in doses is advised.

So far, Lykke-girl is fairly underground, venerated mostly by some lumberjack-shirt wearing hipsters who probably hang out at the Debaser Slussen all the time :) Or something like that. However, she is supposed to be writing material for a second album. We'll see.

Try it with a happy snappy white wine from the cheap range of Sysselsätter.

Bythe way, here is an excellent video of the artist getting at it in her own 'hood of Södermalm. A guy with a moustache watches from the window. CLick

The Guardian wine critic Victoria Moore and the fear of the Systembolaget

I recently happened to read an article in The Gurdian about the binge drinking problem in UK. In January, Guardian wine critic Victoria Moore wrote about the Home Office scrutinizing cut-price drinking deals, such as happy hours and all-you-can-drink offers. UK is, as is Ireland, a hard-drinking culture.

What sets the Nordic coutries apart, is the regulation. Victoria hopes that the Labour will not set its regulation-lovin' eyes to Sweden, where alcohol sales are done solely via Systembolaget, which is a state monopoly. Systembolaget works on the principle that if profit motive is removed, there is no reason to try and persuade individuals more than they were planning, sell alcohol to underage buyers etc.

"Apparently systembolaget has transformed Swedes from being one of the hardest-drinking nationalities in Europe (in the 1800s) to one of the lowest (now). This is all very fine but for those of us who love wine (as opposed to just alcohol), there's a problem: it means the government is deciding what wine you drink. Systembolaget carries 3,000 lines of beers, wine and spirits which sounds a lot until you consider that Oddbins, until recently, had 2,000. You can order a further 4,000, which again sounds generous, but from you can order more than 42,000 wines, and goodness knows how many more spirits and beers it's possible to buy in the UK." - Victoria Moore

What she fails to mention, is that Systembolaget is one of the biggest wine buyers in the world. Because of its bulk deals, its able to negotiate very good prices for the end users on top-of-the range articles, such as champagne. Also, you really can get wine from other sources. Jesus, go to Oddbin's pages for starters..

Vic, there's still room for wine critics even if you only have Systembolaget :)

Link to article

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

...on turbochargers and life

A while back I wrote a rambling entry about the turbocharger. So, what is so interesting about something which increases the density of air entering into a combustion engine? The answer is, of course, that driving can be incredibly fun. And a true connoisseur of life looks at moving from a to b as a potential pleasure.

So, a turbocharger has a turbine driven by the car's exhaust, which in turn powers a compressor that actually increases the air density, resulting a more efficient combustion. Vroom. However, traditionally turbochargers suffer from a lag - before the engine has enough revs, the turbine will not get enough pressure to be effective. I lately tested a dual-turbo engine in the road, which is designed provide instant throttle response on all revs. It is basically a smaller and a larger turbocharger in conjunction, partially overlapping and together covering the whole rev range.

A 1.9 liter (relatively small thus) TT diesel engine with 180 horsepower and a 400nm pulling power (TTID) gives a nice feeling on the road. Overtaking is a joy, and the pleasure of relaxed, calm but very fast driving style is yours. A nice example of Swedish engineering product that shows foreign competition what a Swedish utility-minded vehicle is made of. Good show.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Stockholm, the self-appointed capital of Scandinavia

Yes indeed, I will be moving to Stockholm this weekend. Thus my excursions in to the Swedish countryside will come to a temporary halt - I do suspect that I will be seeing Dalarna soon in any case!

So, about Stockholm. I have visited this city a few times before, and I do like the city, especially the older parts. Sweden without Stockholm is united by a strong feeling of dislike towards Stockholm and its inhabitans. It is commonly believed that the Stockholm people are snobbish, arrogant, intolerable etc. No smoke without fire? Well, it is certainly true that a certain level of high individualism prevails in Stockholm. It is riddled with exlcusive clubs (your looks will determine your mileage), good restaurants and of course, beautiful people. What makes me happy, however, is tha fact that the city caters to my rather decadent sensibilities. This would be, quality dining and good vespers (and believe me, these are hard to find).

Anyway. Quite recently Stockholm's tourist bureau people (or an ad agency hired by them), came up with a new slogan. Now Stockholm is "the capital of Scandinavia". This has aroused quite a lot of discussion in Norway, Finland etc. Why? Well, Stockholm used to be the capital of Scandinavia a few hundred years ago, when whole of the Scandinavia was in the iron grip of the power hungry Swedish king. Bring back the good old days? :)

Bring on the decadence! Well, in reality, Stockholm merely wants to be perceived as what it really is. A premiere location in terms of culture, design and business. Cant wait to get some proper dining.

UPDATE: Oslo seems to be doing better..

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Girl who Played with Fire - Flickan som lekte med elden

Aah - finally I get the chance to unfold some of the observations on the cinematic version of Stieg Larsson's story "Flickan som lekte med elden". I read the book quite recently only, and I can see why it is so huge at the moment. Not to mention the movie versions, Larsson's trilogy is being translated to a plethora of languages. Anyway, the movie was a pleasant surprise. This is the middle part of a trilogy, continuation to Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women).

First of all, casting. Casting is always the key when one is making a cinematic version of a book. Everybody who has read the book has his or her own mental pictures on how the characters look, what kind of interior is found in a Stockholm apt on Fiskaregatan etc. I hardly can not mention at this stage, that I will be moving to that city quite soon. Well, anyway, casting rocks in this movie. The most dazzling example of this is the actress Noomi Rapace who does an excellent job portraying Liz Salander to our retinas. Undoubtedly, she will be projected into fame of sorts in the Nordic countries and perhaps elsewhere in Europe as well. Other roles are filled well also. No problems there.

How about the story? Stieg Larsson, that old communinist, does a lovely job at painting the red wine guzzling, Peroni (Nastro Azzurro!)-swilling ambiance in an independent, left-leaning small magazine called Millenium, in which the jornalist character Blomkvist works. Btw, Stieg himself worked for a magazine called Expo. Now how do the people in Expo compare their own workplace to that of Millenium's? Probably quite close, is my guess :)

In this episode, Liz Zalander :) gets to know a bit more of her ancestry, and of course, on the bad guy section we have a bunch of guys who hate women. Also, in pure Stieg-style, a larger, societal theme (how lefty is that?!) of human trafficing and organized prostitution underlies the story.

All in all, the movie is, as is the book, a moving experience with a serious societal message. What is regrettable, is that Stieg Larsson died recently, unable to see his trilogy's success. I am, however, thankful for this experience.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Continuation to the previous post - Mia Engberg and avant garde

Svenska Filminstituten (Swedish Filminstitute) provided 500 000 kronor (Swedish crowns) to director Mia Engberg to make adult enterntainment. The discussion on this has ranged from outrage to feminist approval. Dirty Diaries is a collection of short films, all made by women. The makers' full manifest can be found on the movie's homepage. All the movies were shot with a mobile phone, and Fever Ray has contributed music. Svenska Filminstituten says that Mia Engberg makes art and this movie is something to counterbalance to movies made to meet the mechanistic male perspective of the subject. It has been calculated that every Swede participated in fininacing this movie by 4 öre (Svenska Filminstituten gets its money from the state).

Adult enterntainment paid with tax payer's money? Soundtrack by Fever Ray? That's avant garde!

Avant garde! I cant wait Anna Anka's opinion about this :)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Folks, let me introduce you to two rather adorable Swedish personalities: Christopher Rahlenfeldt and Anna Anka

Why them? Lets start with Christopher Rahlenfeldt. He is quite possibly the most popular male blog writer in the whole of Sweden, his writing covering mostly issues of fashion, partying etc. What's your image of a Swedish man? Rugged Nordic handsomeness? He recently arranged a competition for both girls and boys who would get a "Shot at love" with him. Read all about it in the blog :D


Quote: "Jag helt nyduschad, hihi"

So, how about my pick for the feminine example. First I thought that Anna Anka is not a good example since she lives in the US and is married to singer Paul Anka. Another consideration is her Skånishness - is that really Sweden at all, some humorist might ask :)

However, since the first showing of tv-programme Svenska Hollywoodfruar (Swedish Hollywood wives), she has become quite a public figure in Sweden as well. Svenska Hollywoodfruar concenrates on introducing the lives and lifestyles of blonde, usually heavily modified (via plastic surgery) wives of rich and famous people of Hollywood.

Many Swedish women have reacted strongly on her views on relationships (the notorious 'suging'-comment that she made in the programme - something along the lines of a celebrity husband being pleased orally daily). Despite of this, she has had some difficulties in her relationship as well. The Swedish yellow press had dug out information on her domestic battery incident (her husband was in the receiving end).

Here is what has to say about Anna's past:

"..Paul brought in Anna, his Swedish personal trainer and (now) girlfriend, and Howard told her she was beautiful and “some catch.”

Anna reported that she's had Paul's baby, but joked that she wouldn't marry him if the pre-nup didn't promise her at least “a couple million.” Howard asked Paul if he wore rubbers now, so Paul told him that he got a vasectomy after the birth of the baby, adding that the procedure was a “non-event.” Robin asked Paul how long he had to wait to have sex after the surgery, and Paul claimed 5 days."

(Another hit for ms. Anka)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

What else is Sweden..

In addition to royalty (check out drottning Silvia), Stockholm, Madeleine, snus, science fiction and blondiner, what is it that comprises Sweden?

How about this baby here on the left? As an invention, its over 100 years old. Yes, its the turbocharger. It has a pivotal role in enjoying life in Sweden as well, not only on those Autobahns. I'll explain all about it in the next part..

Monday, 14 September 2009

More Neill Blomkamp goodies


I have a good feeling about this guy :)

Finally it was time for D-Day, District 9 day, that is

Talk about fresh perspective. This is a totally new kind of Hollywood scifi movie in many ways. Probably would have not happened without the bearded LOTR king Peter Jackson, who happened to notice this S-African advert director n00b Neill Blomkamp. Yes, the movie. Its different I tell you. Based on Blomkamp's original shortie Alive in Joburg. And yes, its pure gold, robots and tentacles are found a plenty. These are the basic ingredients of an enjoyable scifi movie :)

The 'hero' of questionable character traits - Wikus van der Merwe - is a weasly bureaucrat who wears smart casual (on the nerdier end of the meter). Where's the buggered bow tie, that's the only question at this stage. Anyway, despite of the silly moustache and all, he manages to drag himself upright and do the manly thing of taking responsibility in a difficult situation. Blomkamp's South Africanness becomes clear with all the notions towards the Apartheid.

The worst of humanity is mercilessly diplayed, and all cheesy Hollywood heroism and such have been left out. Only a whiny phone conversation represent the EMO-ness in this movie. Thanks Peter for giving mr. Bloemkamp free hand with this. Its not always your own genius dude; a wise man knows how to benefit from the talent and success of others. Nice one.

Another thing: first person shooters. I lately played some Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3. In Distric 9 the cool alien guns (and a combat exo-skeleton of sorts) trumpet the starting of a game-esque splatterfest. The end allows for an easy implemetation of sequel/prequel, and in the horizon looms also a threat of judgement; will mankind be made to pay for its wickedness by avenging aliens? I can hardly wait to see!

Ps. Do NOT make this movie the centerpiece of a romantic evening. My female movie partner could hardly eat after seeing the movie, let alone enjoy it.

UPDATE: remember to check out this Romanian review!

Lets talk about SNUS baby

Do you know what is snus? Its a tobacco product that has a long history in Sweden - and it is widely used and appreciated over cigarettes. Most people you see in bars and cafes would be using what is called portion snus. I recently tried out some, and while not being a newbie to nicotine (being an ex-smoker), the effect was still a bit dizzying. Portions snus has its advantages - its clean, no bad breath and what's more, no black lungs.

The health effects are not fully known yet due to low amount of research done on it. However, despite of potentially being a lot safer than cigarettes, one can imagine that there is a carsinogenic effect in one's mouth from using it. What makes this product interesting is that its sale is illegal in the European Union, with the exception of Sweden and Norway. American big tobacco has quite recently gotten very interested in snus as well.

Check out:

Tyvärr det blev priceless för dig..

I've always been interested in the power of advertisements, commercials etc. on affecting the popular culture. This applies to Sweden as well, but the difference to anywhere else is that now we have middle-aged people (in Sweden, old people do not feel that they would be losing their dignity if they parrot catchphrases popular with the teens) repeating "det blev priceless för dig" after this ÖoB (a cheap store) commercial.

I think the ad is giving a nice, over the top 'cheapo' feel, making humour out of the image of the business. Cheap, crappy taste etc.

Or how about "SMS'a eller ringa"?

Sunday, 13 September 2009


I turned 30 this summer. This has made me think about all the changes in my own tastes, ways of thinking etc. I recently realized that REM is a damn good band. Really. Think about partying as a person who has been an adult for more than a decade and not look like a douchebag. There's nothing more cool in a 30's kinda way than Ignoreland from the album Automatic for the People. That's REM-empowerment for us older people. Its a revelation!

The same thing goes for many other things as well. I took a closer look at my shoes yesterday. In Gotherburg. They're Converse for crying out loud! Get on with the shoegazing! Was it good old Gothenburg that evoked these thoughts?

Now where's my Bowmore Enigma whiskey again..

Friday, 11 September 2009

There is some weird skit going on in Sweden - pumping up to meet the beefcake threat?

I was doing some exercising at the local gym in a small Swedish town when I noticed something very strange. There was a plaque with the town seal and all informing all gym users that there will be random doping tests taking place at this location. Should you refuse the test (or test positive), you will lose your membership. And of course, a positive result is reported to the police.

After reading, I took a look around. Surely there must be an army of hulking monstrosities pumping away with 125kg dumbbells in each hand? Ill-tempered, pumped up beefcakes? Threatening the very existence of the nation and its traditional way of life? No. Middle-aged men and women, mostly occupying the bikes, none seemed too happy about doing excersice. Probably the doctor ordered. Unbelieveable.

I guess this is what they take seriously, but in case of the local gym of a small town doing random checks on the middle-aged, reluctant trainers (to make these very same people feel safe and secure) seems a bit ridiculous to me. All nations have their pecularities. Could this be a track to follow deep into the Swedish psyche? Hmm-mm. On with the protein bar!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Un-Business

It was a sunny summer day few years ago in Helsinki. I was sitting on a park bench, checking mail on my laptop. Over comes a large man in his fifties - an American tourist who wants to know how to get connected.

Me: Connect to the Helsinki wireless.
Him: How do you know which wireless network it is? (there are LOADS in the city centre Helsinki)
Me: Just choose any of those with the word "Helsinki", those are Helsinki City networks. Public.
Him: Where do we need to pay..?
Me: No need to pay, its the city network, its free.

I could see that this information surprised him. In reflection, that reminds of my experience in Dublin, Ireland. All those crappy WLANs in cafes, bars and restaurants that only make you angry. Get a scratch card with a code that works for 20 minutes. And you have to register. Argh. And those that are free are unreliable and slow. Horrible. That is what he was probably used to, and not knowing of anything better, was accustomed to pay for something substandard.

It seems that just like the American tourist the Irish city fathers do not understand what networks really are. What if the roads and railways were in a similar condition? Well, in Ireland they actually are (despite of decades of EU funded infrastructure improvement). But in case of roads the Irish authorities recognise the problem. Its not good for business, or generating wealth.

Shortsighted thinking leads to a crappy end. A scratchcard. Not to the high tech society.