söndag 31 maj 2009

Highvalley Classic '09

A skateboard longboarding competition was held saturday June 30th in Hogdalen, just outside of Stockholm city. Here are some pics I took:

onsdag 27 maj 2009

Terminator Salvation does not terminate the franchise

Just watched Terminator Salvation. I liked it. I liked 1 and 2 from the franchise, No.3 never really happened, did it?
Anyway, this one's cool, and what has happened since last time is that the machines they make movies with have gotten so much better. And a litte bit of Mad Max-influences have been thrown into the blender. One thing I demand from blockbuster action movies is that they contain plenty of action, and not so much dialogue and acting. TS really delivers on that, even though it has some good actors in it as well. I mean, did you expect Helena Bonham-Carter to be in a Terminator movie? Small part, of course. Rapper Common is also a cool resistance fighter, who delivers as an actor. Common is also a great rapper, especially when he is produced by Kanye West. Arnie makes a small cameo as T2, looking extremely fit and young, one wonders if it's really him, or a 3D animation...

måndag 25 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: Milk

Swedes can't get enough of what the cow's children are breastfed with. Since back in the early 20th century, Swedish propaganda has been selling the concept that life without cow's milk is the road to misery and poor health. In the mid 19th century and forwards, the Swedish milk lobbyists worked hard to sell cow's milk as the number 1 antidote to anything unhealthy.

That Swedish babies should be breastfed by their mothers seems logically like the most natural and sound thing in the world. But that they after going cold turkey on human milk, have to continue being hooked on cow's milk, is almost written in the Swedish constitution. This is like cemented in the Swedish national character. Kids shall drink milk, it'll make their bones strong, their hair blond, eyes blue, and teeth white like in a toothpaste commercial.

Does the fact that cow's milk usually contains traces of what the cows eat, in their stalls where they are parked all winter, and the antibiotics they get, make Swedish parents hesitant to bring home gallons of milk every week? Does the fact that Swedish kids are the most ellergic in the world make anyone think it might be a good idea to cut down a little on the milk? That Swedish kids become gluten-intolerant in droves just makes their parents buy milk without gluten.

Well, personally, I like foamed milk with my espresso, and it also tastes geat with pancakes. But to gulp down a liter a day of what the cows babies eat, can that really be good for people? Anyhow, if you want to get to get to know a Swedish person, and make them trust you, you should say something like: "Well, one thing I love about being in Sweden, is that you can get a big glass o' good ole milk with your meal! It feels so healthy, I can't imagine drinking a glass of light-beer with my lunch again!"
The Swedish person will think you are a very wise foreigner, and will tell you about the various amounts of water that are put in milk, to make up the different light-varieties you can buy.

lördag 23 maj 2009

Eastbound & Down - TV don't get any f*ckin' better

This show is just the greatest. Full of laughs, but simultaneously very sad. Excellent stuff. The first season is just great, all six episodes. Will Ferell's journey into the American white trash heartland continues, and he's doing a great job. Here is the Kenny Powers home page at HBO: http://www.hbo.com/eastboundanddown/

New Madness album good? Madness!

I usually try not to diss things here, but some 40-year old music critics have been saying that the new Madness album is very good.
I remember liking Madness about 25 years ago, when I was a teenager. Hearing them now just makes me think of drunken people in english pubs, full of Lager and grown up on Music Hall.
You can check it out yourself here.

onsdag 20 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: Transporting kids everywhere

Swedish middle class families, and upwards, love to drive their kids everywhere up to the kids reach their early teens. Remember the days when kids were hanging out outdoors in gangs? Those days are long gone. Today, the Swedish pree-teens are not going anywhere on their own. Their parents have to drive them between various activities to the degree where they work half time.

Swedish schools actually encourage parents to drive their children to school, because the traffic around the schools is a threat. This is an oxymoron, because much of the rush hour traffic around schools are from parents delivering and picking up their kids.

Another reason for Swedes to drive kids everywhere is since Swedes watch so many detective stories on TV, and read so many of these books about gruesome murders on children and women they believe Swedish society is full of loose serial killers and paedophiles. But the murder rate in Sweden would disappoint most, since it is steadily around 70 cases a year. These murders often happen under the influence of alcohol, where the murderer might not even remember what has happened. Still, Swedes think their society is very dangerous, and must shuttle kids from door to door.

However, if a Swedish ten year old is out on his own, it is probably just because his parents car has broken down. If you want to get acquainted with a Swedish parent, you can say something like: "Oh, can you imagine, when I was ten, I had to ride my bike two miles to soccer practice. And I didn't even wear a helmet!" They will feel sorry for you, and admit it was the same in Sweden back then. After that they will recommend a really really safe family car with five stars in crash safety for you to buy.

lördag 16 maj 2009

Eastbound & Down. White Trash comedy at it's prime

Eastbound & Down is a comedy show from HBO, starring Danny McBride as Kenny Powers, a former professional baseball pitcher, who after a disappointing career is forced to return to his hometown (Shelby, North Carolina) middle-school as a substitute physical education teacher. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay received an order for six episodes for the first season from HBO.

This show is super funny! Kenny Powers' mullet is a killer!

fredag 15 maj 2009

Andy Richter Controls Your DVD

Andy Richter Controls The Universe is the name of a cancelled sitcom from Conan O'Brien pal and sidekick Andy Richter. It only made two short seasons, but is very funny in a Seinfeld/Office Space/Larry David style. The show gets insanely funny in one episode where Conan guest stars as a super rich heir, among other things. You can get the full series in a DVD box, or buy it and download.

Stuff Swedish People Like: Dressing Similarly

Swedish people constitute probably one of the easiest markets in selling fashion trends to. A walk through downtown Stockholm is a parade of clones. Let it be that there are various styles of clones, but within their demographic, the willingness for adaption is quite stunning.

Sweden has for decades, around 40 years, with smaller breaks, been run by the Social Democrats. One of that party's aims was that all Swedes should be equal. No one was better than the next man, and it was a sin to boast, basically. The ideal was that everyone should be similarly successful, and with equal opportunities. This is a sympathetic idea theoretically, but a bit difficult to implement in reality. Anyway, what it has done, is made us Swedes a bit conformistic. This pattern is hard to break, but the Swedes are working on it, slowly.

Swedish females are especially keen on following fashion trends, There are a few fashion bloggers, who have a deep impact. If one of the top bloggers says women should wear clogs the summer of '09, so be it. Swedish women will transform into a swarm of Egyptian grasshoppers and empty shoestores of said items. You can imagine these fashion bloggers get plenty of offers to mention certain brand names.

But men are not that different. In winters, one can see subway cars full of guys wearing coats with the same logo. And the style and brand of jeans worn give the impression there are laws on what to wear or not.

But Swedes like to think they are individualistic, so the snobbier ones buy the top of the line items of the hot brands. This will make them stand out in a crowd, but in a subtle way. For many Swedes, this is really daring, and makes them feel very special. To befriend a Swede, you might say something like: "Wow, that's a really cool Peak Performance jacket. I haven't seen that type before!" or to a lady: "God, your clogs are so hip, where did you get those?" This will make any Swedish person feel like they are on the cutting edge of fashion, and might even give you tips on what fashion blogs to read.

onsdag 13 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: Eurovision Song Contest

Swedes just can't get enough of the Eurovision Song Contest. It's Europe's answer to the Oscars, and it's loved by most of Europe, except for the leading cultural countries, who couldn't give a darn. The Swedes love goes back to the 70's when ABBA won, and Sweden just have been bonkers for the ESC ever since. Every year it is the same story, the tabloids are pumping up the Swedish electee, who is featuring a tune with maximum mass appeal, into a masterpiece, and the artist is suddenly the coolest thing since Elvis.

In Sweden, ESC has been exploited to the maximum, making it into a marathon of around eight saturday nights, where around 50 artists compete. The winner will be overhyped in media the months up to the ESC finals, and must be prepared to expose every inch of their private life to the adoring masses. In fact, if there was a political election in this period, the ESC-electee could probably become the PM of Sweden as well. These shows run on public service TV, and have the highest viewer rank of all Swedish TV. Commercial free, can you believe it?

The artists are the usual suspects, some of them just appear once every one ot two years for the ESC from out of nowhere, and are seen as super stars by the ESC-fans. Some of them might be on welfare the rest of the year, but when they are on ESC, it's back to the limelight. Free drinks! Free dinner! Another category is the pop star of ten years ago, who might have had a few hits and now is middle aged, and below the radar. They are reintroduced as "legendary performers" and will soon have gigs at company parties for years lined up.

Another kind is the mail order bride-types from small towns. Usually with huge bleached blonde hair and clothes bought from paper catalogs, these down to earth type of homespun girls will appeal to the Swedish masses from the heartland (outside of the six or seven bigger cities). And of course there is a huge gay crowd showing up year after year, some in, and some out of the closet. There are a few divas, who all have won the Swedish ESC, and even two of them who have won the total. Now you might get a feel of how big of a deal the ESC is in Sweden. The two ESC-winning ladies are pimped to the max, with fixed grills (teeth), and nipped and tucked both here and there.

If you want to get aquainted with a Swede, you can just say something like: °Do you think Carola will stay with that Kricken-dude?" or maybe, "Oh, why can't they just let that Sanna Nielsen win the Swedish competition already, she's as good as Celine Dione, and her clothes are totally cool!" and if it's this week: "Malena's opera thing might just work among all them eastern block countries!"

What happens finally, has been this scenario for the past five years: Swedish media hypes up the Swedish electee into orbit, claiming a sure win, and the ESC-title we so justly deserve will once again be ours. Then we end up in the bottom five, since all the eastern block countries have a voting pact (or maybe just not the same taste as us), and the Swedish artist is considered a total loser by the media, and most Swedes, and would be better off beheaded by the king, than returning to Sweden.

fredag 8 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren is the author of the Pippi Longstocking books, and to Swedes, she is as loved as a mother Theresa. And she was a sympathetic lady, often defending the poor, and unwanted children. So the Swedes love for her is undeniably understandable. But there is also a simmering Swedish outrage over the fact that she never got the Nobel prize.

Many Swedes feel she, the most beloved author of the country, and who managed to export her success abroad, should have gotten the Nobel prize in litterature while she was still alive. The Swedes laugh at the Academy, who every year present some publicly unknown author, when they feel Astrid should win. Now, there can be postumous nominations as well, so there is even a grassroot organisation for Astrid. However, since the Swedish Academy, who selects an author every year, so far has not chosen a children's book author, the chances for Astrid seems slim.

She is so established in the Swedish national character, that most Swedish children get an education in "Astridology" by their parents, who buy endless amounts of the old TV adaptations on DVD of her books, which they grew up with. This is considered almost a must for any family concerned with their children being adjusted to Swedish culture and society.

Astrid has created many a children's character, and her Mickey Mouse is Pippi Longstocking. She started publishing her first book from the mid 40's and didn't quit until around 2000. She has been occasionally accused of plagiarisation. Since there wasn't any Internet when she had her heyday, it could have been quite easy for her to get ideas from abroad without getting exposed.
These are some comparisons that have been made:
Pippi Longstocking = Superman-comics and Anne of Green Gables
Kalle Blomquist = A junior Hercule Poirot/Sherlock Holmes
Nils Karlsson Pyssling = The travels of Gulliver
Emil in Lonneberga = The writings of Albert Engstrom/Anne of Green Gables
Madicken = Anne of Green Gables
The Lionheart Brothers = Lord of The Rings
Ronja The Robbers' Daughter = Romeo and Juliet

But who cares? Isn't every author inspired by something picked up, read or overheard?

Anyhow, if you want to truly understand the Swedish national character, you must take a crash-course in Astrid Lindgren. There are many references to her books, and especially the TV-adaptations, in Swedish media and society.
To get to know a Swede, just make an Astrid Lindgren-reference, You will be seen as something of a higher being, and will from then on be seen as a countryman. In no time, you will be invited for a glass of strawberry juice, and a cinnamon bun/roll (kanelbulle), if possible in a blooming arbour.

torsdag 7 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: "Swedish" Cars

Swedes just can not get enough of their Swedish cars! Well, right now, hardly anyone is buying a new car, but generally speaking, the Swedes have a special place in their hearts for the so called "Swedish" cars. The brands are Volvo and SAAB, and they were initially Swedish, but since they became "hip" in USA they were sold to Ford and GM in the late 90's.

Swedish Volvo and SAAB-owners still today most often claim to be driving "Swedish", making them feel like they are supporting Sweden. Swedes are also proud over the Swedish engineering that is inside of these cars, which is second to none globally. Especially SAAB has a tradition of exclusive technical solutions. These solutions are a bit nerdy, engineer-geeky, which often makes the cars more difficult to repair. Say for instance, if the windshield of a SAAB keeps cracking, and has to be replaced at the owners expense, say once a year. This being caused by the construction, where the car's chassi is hung up on the windshield, applying pressure, which makes it crack. The owner will gladly replace the windshield, since SAAB is so cleverly engineered, that it is bound to have a few flaws. And this person has driven SAABs since the 70's, and continues to buy new ones every now and then.

A Volvo on the other hand, is more sturdy, since it is traditional in construction, relying on the other models in the Ford company, and won't have as many engineering flaws as the SAAB. On the other hand, Volvo is one of Ford's premium brands and are often first to introduce a new platform, making them a bit of a test brand. This might lead to models with many infancy problems, but this does not stop the Swedes' love affair with Volvo. Volvos get bad gas mileages, but the Swede's somehow see their Volvos as okay for the environment, because they are not as bad as American cars!

If you drive a Volvo or SAAB in Sweden, you will blend in well, which is a major issue for Swedes. However, there are many ways to distinguish yourself in the suburbs by getting the latest "värstingmodell" (premium model). A värstingmodell is the perfect car for the average Joe Swede. since it makes him or her blend in well with the crowd, but still stand out as an Alpha-male, or -female of the flock.

If you want to get accepted by Swedes, get a värstingmodell of a Volvo or SAAB, but make sure it's "lagom" värsting. (Don't go to extremes). If you apply by this rule, you will soon be invited to play indoor hockey or to join a yoga class. Maybe you can even take turns at carpooling to hockey or yoga with your Volvos or SAABs.

onsdag 6 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: Bicycling to work

Swedes who ride their bicycles to work consider themself a better, more noble breed of Swedes. Not only do they excercise when transporting themselves to work, they also decrease global warming and are saving a few polar bears simultaneously. Bike-commuting Swedes also get to splash out on cool GoreTex-insulated sportswear, earning them an adventurers status. They visualise themselves as one of those people in The North Face ads, climbing an ice fall at 7000 meters in Peru.

There are different styles among the bike commuters. We have the old school rider, who uses a sturdy old iron horse inherited from the grandparents. This person will ride slowly in an upright position, and seldom wears a helmet, because back in the day, no one did on these bikes. If it's a guy, he might be smoking a pipe while riding, and prefers to ride with his office clothes on. The main reason to ride is because of the nostalgic feeling of life in the '60's. This person won't get sweaty, and no excercise either.

Then there is the Tour de France-rider, who is in a tight Lycra bicycle outfit, carrying a large back pack containing work clothes and a lap top. This person is totally stressed out, since he keeps track of the time, and needs to improve every day. The speed racer has seen too many sports movies about old pushovers who start training, and become overnight athletic sensations, and thinks this is a probable scenario that applies to anyone. This person is drenched in sweat, and must shower at work.

Another style is the anti-fashion rider, who will ride in a neon Styrofoam half eggshell-styled helmet, matching overalls, and a beat up bike from the 80's. This person will annoy the speed racer incredibly, and will in turn be agitated at the old school rider for blocking his lane. The main reason for the anti-fashion rider to commute is to save money. Will end up sweaty at the office, but goes too slow to have time for a shower.

Of course there are the Williamsburg-hipster types with fixed gear bikes, but we allready got them pinned down, don't we?

If you want to befriend a Swede, ask them how they travel to work. If the Swede is a bicyclist, you can say something like: "Isn't it great to see all these bicyclists riding to work, you can actually feel the ice caps freezing back over!" And the cyclist will think you are on par, and suggest you go and have a latte some day, made out of Fair Trade espresso, and organic milk. If the Swede is not a cyclist, just say: "Have you noticed all these crazy bicyclists in the traffic lately, sometimes you just wanna run one over!" They will think you are fun and tough, and may ask you to go see a soccer- or hockey game.

tisdag 5 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: No heads rolling

In Sweden, it is very rare that someone gets to take responsibility for mistakes, accidents or even deaths, caused by neglect, laziness or just regular cheapness. Since Sweden don't have the same possibilities to sue, as in, say the USA, usually nothing happens, even if someone gets killed. Often, no one is to be found responsible, and if there is, not much happens.

An example: A few years ago in Stockholm city, a young boy was hit by a falling chunk of ice from a roof top, causing his death. The company which owns the building had not put up the snowblocking devices that were supposed to be installed, probably to save money. Now what happens? The family of the boy wants to take them to court, do so, and the verdict is that the owners have to put up a snowblocker soon! In another country, this would have cost a few million for the company, to make it noticeable in the annual report, at least. Did anyone lose their job, no, not even close.

Another example: One of the present government ministers is revealed to have a fake University Diploma. What happens?

Another example: A top factory-worker union leader is sitting in 28 different boards, getting paid extra from most of them. And in one case, she is handing out large bonuses to a pension fund board, and later claims she had no clue it was as many millions as it was. Do you think she resigns?

But it hasn't always been like this in Sweden. About 15 years ago, the present leader of the Social Democratic party, Mona Sahlin, was fired from the party top for using her party's credit card for private payments. She managed to make a comeback, but she was out in the cold for a long while. But right now, it seems Swedes can screw up indefinately, and still don't lose their jobs. However, if the economy is bad, as it is right now, companies can fire as many as they want. They just have to start with the most recently hired, and keep going upwards in hiring dates.

So to lose your job in Sweden, you have to be fairly recently hired. If you suck at your job and is a total schmuck, the longer you've been employed, the safer you are, easy as that. If you want to befriend a Swede, just say you think it's great that Sweden have such solid employment security, because most Swedes are of this opinion. The Swedes will then think you are a sound person, and will ask you if you one day not might want to move to Sweden.

måndag 4 maj 2009

Stuff Swedish People Like: American Vintage Cars

There is a rumour circulating that the country in the world which has the largest amount of vintage American cars is Sweden. And supposedly, when the dollar is strong compared to the Swedish krona, the cars are "re-imported" back to the USA, and when the krona is stronger, more vintage cars are brought to Sweden (usually wrecks, or renovation objects). To Swedish men, things don't get more manly than having an old American classic with a V8 engine in the garage.

This is a little bit of a class issue, men from the working- or middle classes just can't get enough of the American dream. Swedish men have seen these big old cars in movies and TV shows since they were small, and are convinced that they are the ultimate symbol of rock'n'roll kickass cool manliness. The Swede who owns a car from the '50's is usually a working class guy, probably part of a group called "Raggare". Raggare started appearing in cities in the early '60's, and are still frequent in small villages. They use their cars for cruising in convoys. These guys spend thousands of hours in a garage to renovate a car to the point where it looks better than brand new. Or they go the other way and just drive a wreck full of drunken friends.

The Swede with an American car from the '60's is usually a bit more sophisticated, he probably listens to Bob Dylan or The Stones, and works in middle management. Muscle cars have made a huge rise in popularity the last few years. Often bought by rock stars, art directors, interior architects or Flash designers, they can be seen outside the hippest restaurants and bars in Stockholm. These muscle cars are often put out for sale, since these inner city media guys don't know squat about engines, and soon run up huge tabs at local car mechanics, who can hustle the crap out of these car-amateurs, to pay for their own vintage American cars.

Newer American SUV's and pickups are hugely popular with carpenters and builders. The bigger the better is the motto, and they will gladly spend half their paycheck on gasoline. Eventhough they just drive themselves to work in their supersized pickups with chrome rims, they feel happy and cool, and are assured a huge stake at being very manly. They are also popular among families with many children, since they often have seven or more seats. Soccer-moms love them, but are looking into the Lexus 400 hybrid mini-SUV or similar, since large SUV:s are frowned upon by many SAAB- and Volvo owners who believe they drive environmentally friendlier cars, and are planning to buy Priuses.

There is also a big hot rod and lowrider scene in Sweden, with surprisingly large groups of people into rockabilly, looking cooler and being more knowledgeable about vintage Americana than the Americans themselves. These people usually have 50's hairstyles and clothes, and are covered with tattoos of hot rods, devils, and Betty Page-looking girls. Most of them play in rockabilly bands, that are more authentic than the American rockabilly bands were in the '50's. if you want to get to know Swedish men, you can always talk about cars. If you know a little about older V8's you will have hours of conversation material with many of them. If not, you can just agree on how "mushy" American cars are, and that the road handling is awful!

I want to ride my bicycle...

So you think you know how to ride a bike? You really think so? So does Danny MacAskill. Well, he's probably more right than you are, and he does not ride a fixed gear hipstergeekbike!