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.