Tag Archives: Swedes

Swedish Christmas

This year I’d like to introduce you to two interesting Swedish traditions.

The first is that of the Gävle goat.  In the Swedish city of Gävle every year they build a big straw goat.

For some reason a tradition for burning down the goat has arisen with the result that a variety of anti-vandalism schemes have been tried ranging from guards to coating the straw with flame resistance material.

This year, however, the vandals were on track to outdo themselves.

Two mysterious men attempted to bribe a guard to leave his post watching over the giant goat in Gävle in eastern Sweden in an attempt to kidnap the iconic Christmas symbol using a helicopter.

Last year, the goat was torched in the early hours of December 23rd, while in 2008, it survived through Christmas, only to go up in flames on December 27th.

The full timeline of the goats and their fates can be found here (very entertaining read).

You can keep tabs on the goat yourself on its webcam here.

Next, we have  ‘Julmust‘, or Christmas soda.

Basically it’s a Coca-cola clone that is served at Christmas time (it’s relabeled around Easter and called påskmust). It elicits a very strong reaction among Mrs. TwShiloh and is considered an essential element of the holidays.  Fortunately, she’s part of a little clique of Swedes that can return to the motherland on a semi-regular bases and get the essentials if they can’t be purchased here.

From Wikipedia:

In Sweden, julmust outsells Coca-Cola during the Christmas season; in fact, the consumption of Coca-Cola drops by as much as 50% over Christmas…


Unusual Swedish story of the day…

It drives Mrs. TwShiloh nuts when I point out stories like this but I just can’t resist.  I mean really, who could resist reading a story like this:

An internet video featuring naked Swedish high school students frolicking with farm animals and riding tractors on school property is nothing out of the ordinary for Sweden, according to the school’s principal.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is pure journalistic gold!

Now, in what alternate universe could you imagine this sort of story breaking in the U.S. and the principal making a statement like this:

“This kind of thing happens all the time,” the school’s principal, Peter Gustavsson told The Local.

“There’s nothing wrong with being naked. That’s still allowed.”

The film is here and is totally non-sexual (I don’t think I could make it past the 2 minute mark before I got bored) so I include it only for historical purposes.  While the principal bemoaned the fact that this film was in the public domain and could haunt the actors in the future (all were 18-19 when the film was made) to be honest I find that hard to believe.  I think attempts to generate some sort of scandal based on this wouldn’t elicit more than a hefty yawn.

So…while I wouldn’t be thrilled with a child of mine cavorting around in the buff on film I could probably think of a dozen alternatives that would be less thrilling and more dangerous.

The Tyrant of the North

I’ve long thought that once Crown Princess Victoria becomes Sweden’s monarch she’ll institute a bloodthirsty reign of expansion and warfare (building upon her father‘s well documented efforts to build an indestructible zombie army).

She will crush your pathetic army with her horde of undead viking warriors.

Apparently their also engaging in some mind-control operations as well:

Nearly half of all Danes, Finns, Norwegians, Swedes and Icelanders would like their countries to unite in a federal state, according to a poll published as members of the Nordic Council met Tuesday.

Yeah…’federal state’.  That’s code for ‘toadies to the Swedish crown’.

By joining forces, the five countries could create a state with a population of 25 million and the world’s 10th largest economy, lending far more political sway to [the] region…

Hey, I’ve played Risk.  I know what having a strong base in Northern Europe does for you.  NATO better get their act together…

Wikileaks weekend drama

While in my mountain redoubt this weekend I had the radio tuned to the news for some background noise and heard…announced as breaking news…that Julian Assange had been arrested in absentia by Swedish authorities for rape.

A source close to the case told the newspaper that two women in their twenties went to the police in Stockholm on Friday to speak about their recent encounters with Assange.

Now my first reaction was…’Huh…that timing is really convenient.  I imagine there are a whole bunch of people at the Pentagon thrilled over this news.’ After all, the leak of 75,000ish classified documents have raised the ire of all sorts of people and just days ago the Swedish Pirate Party announced that they were going to host a number of Wikileaks servers.

It certainly wasn’t out of the realm of possibility, however.  After all, Assange is a pretty strange guy and as Billy Joel said, there’s a stranger in all of us and you should never be surprised.  Mrs. TwShiloh poo-poo’d the idea that the Swedish legal authorities were involved in any funny business, arguing that Sweden is pretty independent and beholden to no one.

I wasn’t so sure.  After all, despite calls from at least one idiot, sending a hit team of CIA killers to rub him out probably wouldn’t do the image of the U.S. much good.  In fact, if you could get a nation like Sweden to take Assange off the streets and discredit Wikileaks, that’s pretty much the best you could hope for.  And a accusation of rape is just about the best way to destroy someone’s credibility with the exception of child molestation, I suppose.  It’s one of those crimes that, often, even if you’re acquitted the very accusation leaves a hint of doubt.

But, any such set up would have to be pretty sophisticated, right?  Because of the timing, the high profile Assange has had recently and the pissing contest with the DoD, this would be tailor made for conspiracy theories in just about any case in which you didn’t have video, DNA evidence and records of Julian twittering the rape while it was occurring.

So, I was quite surprised when just a few short hours later I heard that the Swedish prosecutors were dropping all charges with no further explanation.  Now, the Swedish criminal justice system is strange bird but this seems very weird.

“I do not consider there to be any reason to suspect that he has committed rape,” chief prosecutor Eva Finné said in a statement explaining her decision.

Where are we now?  Well, there’s little explanation from the Swedes but the small amount of information they have released does seem strange:

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said an “on-call” prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for Assange late Friday only to see it revoked the next day by a higher-ranked prosecutor, who found no grounds to suspect him of rape.

I’m not sure how an ‘on-call’ prosecutor is different from a regular one other than they’re taking a phone call late at night or on the weekend.  One assumes there isn’t a room full of idiot ‘on-call prosecutors’ and other really squared away ‘business hours prosecutors’, right?  But let’s assume this is an inexperienced prosecutor.  Don’t you think if they got a call about an accusation of someone with international name recognition they’d consult with someone, anyone before doing something like issuing an arrest warrant and a press release?

And so, now we have a scenario in which two women (who will probably never be identified I was wrong, someone’s already found one of the ladies’ blog posts – I’m not fluent in Swedish so I won’t comment on the English interpretations of their meanings but you can see discussion of them in this comment thread – some are saying this appears to be a case of a jealousy.) make an allegation against Assange on a weekend (when, the prosecutor’s office won’t be fully staffed) and the on-call prosecutor moves (apparently without consulting anyone) to issue a warrant and make a public announcement.  I’m telling you, if this was in a Steig Larsson novel I’d criticize it for being too unbelievable.

Still, the sheer incompetence of it all does smack of some of the C.I.A.’s greatest hits.

So, what’s the result?  Regardless of what actually happened last week with Assange, suspicion will surely fall upon the U.S. military-intelligence community.  Be rest assured that now, more than ever, if Assange even stubs his toe it will be blamed on the U.S.

Glad Midsommar

Today is Midsummer which is a pretty big holiday in Sweden and one in which Mrs. TwShiloh and myself will be joining with some Swedish expats in some grilling and (more importantly) aquavit.

I doubt we will be doing the frog song and dance (Mrs. TwShiloh prefers to embrace her Finnish heritage when the subject comes up and refuses to entertain the idea of such nonsense).

So, have a good weekend.  I don’t expect to have any new material up until the middle of next week.

Meanwhile, here’s how the Swedes celebrate midsummer…at least according to the Germans.

The ‘small people’ remark

Mrs. TwShiloh and I had a bit of a chuckle over Svanberg’s remark that BP cares about the ‘small people’.  I’m no fan of BP (who is?) but in all fairness, this is a temptest in a tea pot.  If you watch and listen to the clip you’ll hear that he’s got a pretty thick (for a Swede) accent.  Mrs. TwShiloh had the news on in the background and as soon as Svanberg started talking her Swedar started pinging and she thought “That’s a Swede!  And he’s got a thick accent!”  And then…disaster.

So, I this really seems like a translation issue.

But who knows, maybe he just was trying to apologize to the real ‘small people‘.

Happy National Day, Sweden!

I almost missed it but today (June 6th) is Sweden’s National Day.

June 6th became Sweden’s official national day only 27 years ago, and it only became a national holiday in 2005. While there will be groups of proud Swedes found waving the blue and yellow flag at Stockholm’s Skansen, and town squares across the country, for many the day remains something of a non-event.

I was fortunate enough to be in Sweden in 2006 for the first time the Swedes really tried to celebrate the day.  It was kind of funny as no  one really knew what to do or where to go.  And the Swedes, not the most overtly nationalistic people in the world, were a bit muted in their celebration.  Still, it was a great deal of fun watching a nation try on a new holiday on for size.

You can see some of the pictures I took of the event here.

Kvick Tänkare

Some sort of reenactment at the recent Victory Day celebrations in Russia.  Geez, those Russians love to put armor on everything.  These trains would be brilliant in the event of a zombie uprising.

The Swedes have made the world’s largest scale model of the solar system.  It’s big.  REALLY BIG.  Check it out here and here.

Lung Hu’s correct prediction of the Chilian earthquake was apparently a one off.  His predictions for another earthquake in the San Francisco area was a bust.   He still refuses to divulge his methodology which I find maddening.

Mark Twain’s autobiography is about to be published.  He apparently wanted to wait until he’d been dead for a century.  The first of three volumes is coming out this fall and I can’t wait.

International aid is a bit more complicated than one might first think. (H/T YT)

Organisations that want to remain competitive need to know all about integrated marketing strategies, cost-benefit analyses and competitive incentives.

Those that fail to put in an appearance at each new humanitarian disaster miss out on contracts for the implementation of aid projects financed by donor governments and institutions, and are bypassed by competing organisations that do show up.

Start-up costs in distant, crisis-hit countries are sky-high. Aid organisations have to recruit and hire staff, rent and furnish housing and office space, and bring in Land Cruisers, aid supplies, satellite dishes, computers, air-conditioners, office equipment and generators. Once at work in a “humanitarian territory”, NGOs have to ensure they can remain active there for at least as long as it takes to earn back their investments.

Afraid of being banned in Germany, the Hells Angels and Bandidos motorcycle gangs have agreed on a truce.  This should not make anyone in Germany feel comfortable.

We no longer want to be constantly portrayed as criminals,” Bandidos member Micha told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “It has to stop.”

It’s not that they want to stop being criminals.  They just want to stop being portrayed as them.  How to do that?  Well, I’d guess they quit with the stupid public attacks on each other and agree to a clear division of their criminal enterprises.  What would that sort of thing look like?

The truce — agreed to by the vice president of the Bandidos in Europe, Peter M. and Frank H., the president of the Hell’s Angels Charters in Hanover — will be sealed “by a handshake” on Wednesday in a lawyer’s office in Hanover.

Yeah, that sounds about like it…

On Swedish obscenity

Word came from my Swedish nephew (aged 4) that he heard his father utter an obscenity while trying to fix some problem with the TV.  The word worthy of being a special topic of conversation and uttered by children only in hushed tones was ‘jävlar’ which translates as ‘devil’.

Now, a lot of Swedish curses involve the devil compared to our curses which seem to be fixated on bodily functions.  I found this to be particularly interesting since his older brother (aged 6) has learned (and uses endlessly) the word ‘shit’ (which he uses, I suspect, more because as a foreign word it has a cache of ‘coolness’ than any vulgar intent).

So…two interesting things I took away from this.

  1. How different cultures determine what is regarded as unclean or worthy of the focus of our frustration, distaste and contempt (Why do Swedes focus on religious based expletives while English/Americans on excrement?)
  2. How disconcerting it can be to hear a 6 year old swearing like a sailor.

Language questions – Interactive edition!

Last night, Mrs. TwShiloh was reading a book (in Swedish) and pointed out that the phrase ‘mumbo jumbo’ was in it and remarked that she didn’t know that the phrase had made it into the Swedish lexicon.

At that point she asked:  “Why are there so many words in the English language for double talk?”  Swedes are apparently such straight talkers they don’t need to distinguish all the various ways one can waste time flapping their gums without saying anything meaningful.

Then I got to thinking about the various terms we use for nonsense talk and wondered about the difference in terms of their meanings and use.  And then it occurred to me that I’d draw upon the wisdom of crowds to help me untangle these difficult questions.  So, in yet another in a fine tradition of TwShiloh polls I call upon the multitudes to let their voices to be heard!

(Lung hu gave me the idea of the poll and then threatened me if I didn’t credit him properly.  Never let it be said I can’t be bullied into compliance.)