Monday, December 18, 2006


I got a cold. Was it because of the Julbord? I guess when ancient Swedes invented the Julbord, they had not yet invented the flue. Think about it, is it really such a good idea to eat food from a self-service buffet (not "buffé", not all French words have accents...) at the time of the year when flue germs are having the most fun?
Or maybe it was the afternoon I spent on the streets of Stockholm, trying to buy "Havtornmarmelad". All I could find was a label at NK's food market and an empty shelf.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weird ad

I'm watching Sweden vs Czech Republic a game of hockey in a tournament in Russia. I noticed two identical large advertisements embedded in the ice. The ads show an eagle, surrounded by the text "Russian Defence Export".

Simply amazing. I really hope it's an ad for a beer...

Friday, December 15, 2006


After all these years in Sweden, I still get sometimes frustrated by the way Swedes behave, especially regarding following rules. Not that I mean that this is a bad habit, but I guess the individualistic barbarian I am can't help getting irritated by it.

The first situation arises around the "Julbord", the "Christmas table". During the Christmas period, a traditional custom to which many companies conform is eating cold meat and fish to which you have to help yourself. I won't express my thoughts on Swedish traditional food here, let me just mention the words "Chokladsill", which mean "Chocolate" and "herring", that should summarize it pretty well. Amazingly, Swedes are just crazy about what is exposed on the table. Raw fish is really popular, apparently. I think I can see the logic in it. Cold raw herring is an acquired taste (surprise!). Once you have acquired it, I guess there is no limit on what your taste bud can learn to appreciate.
Where was I? Right, the queue. A truly nightmarish situation arises: All Swedes spontaneously manage to organize themselves as a circular queue around the table. Training Frenchmen to achieve that from the first attempt would be easier than training a bunch of wildcats to sit, but not much. So "why is that situation nightmarish?" you may ask. Well, entering the queue is just as hard as finding where a circle starts. My attempts to enter the queue by filling holes near the unpopular items (which happen to be the only things I would consider pleasurably eatable) failed, Swedes who were feeling I was bypassing them would hurry to fill the hole. They would achieve that without ever crossing eyes with me, that would be to much social interaction... Anyway, I eventually managed to jump in, the entry point was located near the raw herring (that appears to be the first thing you take).

The second situation arises at the swimming pool, where by the way it is forbidden to take pictures; I can understand why someone would want to do that and why others may want to prevent that, but I can't understand how you would take the camera with you. Especially how one would dare to take the pictures. One's tolerance for shame and embarrassment must be unlimited. I'm digressing again, after the swim I was looking for a Banana (with a uppercase B, at that time the Banana deserved it). I found one for sale (not very expensive, luckily). I was preparing myself to become the happy owner of the Banana, even if for a short time only. It turned out I would have to wait. You see when I arrived, there was only one person in the queue. I went to pick the Banana (before It ran away, you can't be too quick) which was located at the right of the one-person queue. Apparently, there is a rule here that states that unless otherwise specified, queues move from left to right. Which means I had to go back to the end of the queue, after two persons who arrived after and me, and who were ordering way to many things of all kinds of stuff you really shouldn't be ordering. What kind of person would want a cold sandwich with a large glass of sugar-free Fanta? When bad taste meets bad conscience...

Infödd Soldat

A French movie (french title: "Indigenes") which is well worth seeing. It took me 5 minutes after the end to be able to speak, the story is probably the most moving I've seen this year, together with "Hotel Rwanda" and "När Mörkret Faller".
The movie tells the story of north Africans who sign into the free French army to fight the Germans and liberate the "mère patrie" (homeland). We follow a group of soldiers from the artillery. Surprisingly, their task as little to do with firing shells at the Germans. Instead, their first fight consists of throwing themselves against German machine guns to reveal their positions to the artillery (the part of the "regiment" which stands back with the cannons).
Obviously, that's a dangerous job. Unfortunately, it's poorly rewarded. The problem is not so much the money, but the total lack of respect from the "metropolitains", the French from the continent (that is, Europe).
No point of trying to describe the movie with words, you just have to see it. I guess you might not appreciate it as much if you are not French, or from the former French colonies, but it should be interesting nonetheless. A piece of history which is embarrassingly under-toned in the official History teaching programme.
A few interesting things I noted while watching. The feeling you get when you see an Arab with a riffle shouting "Allahuakhbar" is mixed. Given the current world situation, the first reaction is fear, then comes the realization that in that time, it meant joy and relief. Hearing that shout meant you were not facing a German soldier, but I friend fighting with you for the same ideals.
What a way we've come, or gone back should I say.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Year in the Merde

I first intended to buy the latest book from Iain M. Banks, a sci-fi writer, but I failed to find any of his books here in Stockholm. I've only looked into 3 bookstores, there must be 267 left to try, so there is hope...
Anyway, I went instead for an almost-autobiography by an Englishmen telling us about his time in Paris. Despite the title, it seems he enjoyed his stay pretty much (he's still in Paris at the end of the book). I can relate to many of the situations he describes, although my first year in Sweden was probably a lot easier, if you consider that Swedes speak English well enough, while Frenchmen don't. And when they do, it seems it's absolutely undecipherable for native UK citizen. There's no better way to realize how strange one is than by having a stranger describe you from his point of view.
If I fail miserably at getting rich, popular and famous in Sweden, I can still write a book, who knows...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Casino Royale

Going to the cinema after work on Fridays is starting to be a habit now. I like habits...
I watched Casino Royale, the latest James Bond. I had heard it was much different from the previous movies. Luckily, it was. I think the new James Bond is going to stick.
The focus is now less on the Bond girls, more on the action. The makers paid attention to realism, it's not quite "Black Hawk Down" or "Saving Private Ryan", but the most absurd gadgets have disappeared. The traditional sports car is equipped with a defibrillator, used when Bond drinks something he should not have drunk. To be compared with the invisible car (behind which you can hide, interestingly) from an earlier episode.
Another detail I noted is that after fighting two African rebel leaders in the stairs, Bond goes to his bathroom to get a new suit and tend to his injuries. He's bleeding a lot from multiple scratches. At this point he fills a whisky glass with alcohol, which he empties right away. "Why?" might one ask. I had read earlier in a book that alcohol does not help you warm up when you are freezing cold. Quite the contrary, it slows down your blood flow. Could that be the reason why 007 drinks a large glass of Whisky?
The character of Bond himself looks a lot less important than, say, Sean Connery's Bond. The old Bond was a gentleman who took care of himself, would sometimes show up at work between two Martini's, flirt a bit with Money Penny, pay a visit to Q to steal his latest invention (which he would later discard like a paper tissue), and disappear with the Bond girl at then end, ignoring calls from his boss.
The new Bond his disposable, his life expectancy is very short. He is played by M, who does not hesitate to inject him with an radio emitter to follow him, a bit like cattle. Bond is now a part of the equipment of the English secret service, nothing more. His capacity for compassion also seems to be only marginally higher than that of his standard-issue pistol.
There are only two Bond girls in this movie, one of which I did not really like (too much like a top model: skinny with boobs, how is that even possible???). The typical sexy womanly shape who dances during the opening song has been replaced by manly shapes busy getting killed by cards. A bit of a disappointment, really.
To summarize, it's a strong improvement compared to the latest episodes, but it has too much violence and too few girls. I also miss Sean Connery's gentlemanly side, James Bond is a now a brute.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nobel dinner

Today is the day where all Nobel prize winners and 16 of their friends get to eat dinner with the king of Sweden, his family and the government.
The funny thing is that the entire event is covered and displayed on national TV. There are commentators who, well, comment on what's happening, and there isn't much of it at all. I managed to watch for a couple minutes. I hoped the king would do something interesting, like topple his glass or wine, but no, he managed to avoid that, at least for the few minutes I watched him.
The commentator mentioned that much effort was spent this year to get the food to the guests while it's still warm. Apparently that's a first, up to now everyone was eating cold meat, yet the menu never included anything close to cold turkey sandwich. I doubt they'll have succeeded better this year, so I'll give a tip to the king and his guests: Don't wait for everyone to be served before you eat. I know that's considered rude, but my french guts can't help screaming that leaving warm meat cool down on your plate is even worse. It's an insult to the cook who put so much effort into composing the menu, an insult to the staff who rushed to serve warm meat, and last but not least, an insult to the many cows who died. Never mind that's it also an insult to your guests, because they obviously can't start eating right away either, and are thus condemned to eating cold tasteless food.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Science of Sleep

Went to the movie last Friday and watched that movie. It's about a Franco-Mexican guy who gets back to Paris. He's a day-dreamer, an artist who falls in love with his neighbour. His boring day-job (where he seldom shows up in time, or at all) gives him nightmares. He's a bit lost in Paris. Surprisingly, he can't speak french (although it seems he lived in Paris as a kid).
People in the movie speak all kinds of languages, including french and Spanish, mostly English. That makes for an interesting mix.
The complete lack of distance between the main character and his neighbour is a bit strange, they get friendly way too easily. Yet it made me a bit homesick... The only neighbour I met in my building is a ridiculously beautiful woman (must be 30-something?) who lives upstairs. Haven't met her for two weeks, by the way. It feels cold here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Going out of Iraq

Now that Americans seem to agree that the military intervention in Iraq was a bad idea (or that it was a good one but poorly implemented), they must still decide how to get out.

They could leave the country to the ruling Shia militia men, and look away while Sunni get slaughtered. After all, what can one do about such barbaric behaviour?

I'm being cynical here, there must be better solutions. I see only one viable option. How is the current situation? Kurdistan looks OK, if you don't see Kurdish militias chasing away Sunni settlers from Mosul as a problem. Close ties between Kurdish leaders and Americans mean it's possible to pressure Kurdish militias to behave. The Shia south suffers from Sunni terrorists, but Shia militias should be capable of keeping car bombings in (relative) control. They get unlimited supplies from Iran, so their survival as a people should not be endangered.

Remains Baghdad and Sunni areas. It is now clear that a united democratic Iraq is not going to happen. Americans should aim divide the country, and prevent ethnic cleansing. That can be achieved through massive increase in military presence on the ground. The idea is to extend the green zone to the entire city. Being no military expert, I have no idea if that's feasible. If not, another option is to divide Baghdad in respectively Sunni and Shia quarters and strongly advise inhabitants to move out to their assigned areas. I know that is basically what ethnic cleansing is all about, but if it cannot be avoided, one should aim to achieve the same results with as little life loss as possible.

Unrests in banlieues

The violent protests that took place in autumn 2005, with some resurgence in 2006 constitute a major problem. When the economy depends on young male for its future expansion, a country cannot afford letting its youth fall into crime and unemployment. The problem cannot be left ignored, as if its scope was limited to poor suburbs.

Although high-visibility violence, such as car burnings has decreased, many banlieues are places over which the police has little to no control. The priority must be to regain control.

Sarkozy (and Royal too, to some unclear extent) seem to favour the "zero-tolerance" option. That sounds like empty words to me. It's not as if the police was currently being lenient and forgiving. The problem resides in the fact that identifying the perpetrators of crime is currently impossible. The police force is not given the means to fight crime. Investigation is a tool seldom used by officers. It has been replaced by recurring identity controls. That way of working is akin to shooting in the dark. I don't see how it can significantly curb crime.

As a virtual candidate to the elections, I would suggest the following:
1) Increase funding of the local police. Funds would go into better education of new police officers, computer upgrades, improvement of existing databases registering criminals, new offices, more cars. Compare the level of equipment that American policemen looking over traffic have at their disposal with the lack of equipment of the french local police. A shame.
2) Focus the spending towards improving detecting, following and ending crime. Don't try to make policemen look "tougher". Competing with young males on who looks tougher is not a contest any intelligent person would consider.
3) Improvements in investigation is going to put more pressure on the judicial and punitive systems. Additional spending on courts and prisons seems necessary.

Where to get all the additional money that is needed? The solutions are not few:
1) Increase taxes
2) Take it away from lower priority tasks: subventions to the agriculture, health care and welfare to the middle class, military spending.

It is unfortunate that most of the options in 2) are a no-go if you are a honest politician who needs votes. Maybe honesty is overrated. Don't mention taking away subventions to peasants and the middle-class, their votes are needed.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The right wins in Sweden

The alliance between right-wing parties won the elections in Sweden. Göran Persson will leave his post as "statsminister".
The result of the vote is somewhat strange, in the sense that the country does well economically speaking. So why change a winning team?

I wonder if this is the curse of left wing parties: When the economy goes well, the middle class gets better, and sees no need for heavy, costly state wellfare. The middle class is usually the deciding segment of the population. If the left wants to remain in power, it must prevent the economical situation from improving too much, which of course is unacceptable.

I was told the Swedish approach to economy and wellfare was to have high taxes when the economy does well, to have enough funding for difficult times, during which taxes are lowered to favour a rebound of the economy.

Is the new idea short-sightedness, "party when it's time, we'll call in the socialists for help when things get tough"?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

To vote and not to vote...

My position as a frenchman living in Sweden gives me the right to vote to local elections. That's interesting, there is a vote on the 17th next week. Swedes will vote for the parliament, the county and the town, but I get to vote "only" on the last two. That's more than I'm asking for, frankly. Ah, and since I live in the capital, there's also a referendum on whether we want to reinstate definitely the fee for driving cars into Stockholm's center. Now, I got all necessary papers to proceed to these votes, without having lifted the finger.

On the other hand, as a frenchman, I get to vote on the presidential elections next year. Except I don't have my voting card, and I have to register this year, even if elections take place next year. I did make an attempt to register, sent all papers to the consulate here, but I haven't heard a peep since then. I've been too lasy to do anything about it yet.

I would love to pretend I am well integrated into the swedish life, but the fact is I'm not. I have no clue who I'm going to vote for. Although I follow what happens on the national level, I ignore pretty much what happens at the local level. Too bad it's on the local level I get to decide.
I think I'll vote yes in favour of the "trängselskatt", the fee for driving on the streets of central Stockholm. I remember than in Marseille, where I lived earlier, you get to pay to use the tunnel to cross the town quickly. Getting stuck in the day-long traffic jam on the surface is free. It would seem to me that the reverse policy, which may be installed in Stockholm, makes a lot more sense.

I do follow however what happens in France, and sure want to do all the little I can to keep Sarkozy away from the throne. The sad thing is, the surest way to do this would be to vote for Segolene Royal, but her program is more or less identical to Sarkozy's.

During the previous presidential elections, I threw an idealist vote for the green party. Big mistake, that vote should have gone to Jospin and the socialists. Because of that (and of millions of other young nuts like me), the left's part got fragmented, which lead to the horrific 2nd place of Le Pen (and no possibility to vote for anyone on the left on the second round).

I'm considering if I should reiterate my mistake. Should I vote for Royal, who's tough stance against "la racaille" is too similar to Sarkozy's, whose policies are inspired my Le Pen's? Or should I go for the Greens, knowing there is no chance they will continue to the second round?

Friday, July 14, 2006


... is misbehaving again. I don't quite understand their military operations in Gaza. How does bombing power stations going to help free the soldier?
Recent actions in Lebanon are even worse. Despite what Bush says, military intervention on another country's soil is considered an act of war, which for UN members is illegal. Yes, Hizbolla striked first, but as far as I know, they are not Lebanon's army. I don't see how bombing Beyrout's airport is going to help either.

Chirac has just demanded for a UN force to be sent there, I wonder what our dear friends from the other side of the ocean will have to say.

Not too bad, after all

It turns out Zidane was not so slow and uninspired after all... Congratulations to the French team, they proved experience does compensate for lack of energy. The fact that France managed to go to the final without playing any extra time must have helped. They even looked a lot fresher than the Italians, on the end.
Zidane left the field on a rather odd and ugly way. Well, I guess he's just a man after all. While I understand his reaction, it's a pity half the planet (in particular kids) got to see it.
I hope the Italian guy will get his share of blame and punishment.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Joh for president!

Every now and then, I feel frustrated at the lack of progress of the economical and social situation in France. If I let my mind drift, I'll picture myself 20 years from now as a young, successful and popular Président de la République....
Who doesn't? That's all nice and fine, but what would I actually do to improve the situation?
The first step to build a programme is to identify the main issues. Racism and lack of integration of the black and north-african populations are one. Unemployment are another. Keeping the social benefits system afloat comes third. These issues are all related, so the priorities I have assigned are rather unimportant, all that matters is that those are the problems I would focus on.
The second step consists of identifying causes for these problems, and then devise solutions, points on which I will ellaborate later on.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

WorldCup: France goes on

The victory over Togo 2-0 allows France to reach the 8th finals. The team dared to take risks, forward players kept attacking. There were many failed passes, which sometimes resulted in dangerous situations for France. Happily, Togo had its share of lost balls too, and was not too good at exploiting spaces in the french back line.
That game was played without Zidane, and I think that was the main reason France finally scored. Zidane is an artist who likes dribbling, but that is no longer an advantage. Unfortunately, I bet he'll be back for the game against Spain, so don't expect France to score much in that game. Since our defense is pretty tight, especially against teams we don't underestimate, I don't expect many goals from Spain either.
Football experts on SVT, the state-owned swedish TV channel, are rather good I must say. They really bring something in terms of explaining the game, and why teams are succeeding/failing. I don't remember experiencing that on any french TV channel, especially not on TF1 during the Roland-Larqué period.

Today Sweden plays against Germany for the first 8th-final. I hope Swedes will win, but I don't think so.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Blog created

Hi to whoever is reading this,

This blog will contain my thoughts about books, TV shows, movies, news... Whatever goes through my mind I find worth keeping somewhere.