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.