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Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for March, 2010

Dodge: Driving Luxuryin Sweden.

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

When a Dodge is regarded as a exclusive automobile you know you are dealing with  a big time cultural clash. I just saw a Dodge Charger in a parking lot rented from or representing an “exclusive” car service (there was a website advertised on the chassis somewhere.)

Last August I rented a similar one in Boston from Enterprise. No upgrade, nothing flash. Standard full size fleet car (I presume since I didn’t pay extra and it was one of the choices.)Dodge Charger

I picked it because it looked fun and because I knew my 5-year old would associate it with Lightning McQueen from Disney’s movie, Cars
McQueen

Truthfully I was disappointed by its lack of  “muscle”…and let’s keep in mind…it’s a modern Dodge. The car brand Dodge doesn’t conjure up luxury and exclusivity in the run-of-the-mill American -or Bostonian- (whether merited or not.)

This reminds me of the cultural clash more than a decade ago when my husband I were renting a Pontiac Grand Am. He was all excited because it was a “Pontiac” and all I was thinking was…”Sheesh, all we get is a Pontiac.”

It does go to show that status symbols and quality reputation is both a matter of marketing and propaganda but also of cultural perception.  So here I am straddling the cultural divide ridiculing anyone trying to show off with a Dodge. It reminds me that regardless of culture or national identity  we’re all  potentially idiots.

After all, Volvo is the intellectual elite’s luxury status symbol in the US. Just drive though Wellesley (MA) one day.  Try to tell that to  Lars-Evert from Uddevala and watch him belly chuckle in his wooden clogs.

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Bathroom culture: the sewer of the cultural soul.

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

As I stood in line to pee (had to ponder which word to call the “facilities” and decided to skip it entirely–didn’t want to alienate the Canadians, Brits, Irish and Antipodeans) at Berns,Berns a posh night club venue in Stockholm, for the first ever comedy for the International Comedy Night (sheesh, that’s a long sentence –oops not done yet) I reflected that the experience reflects Stockholm and Sweden in a surreal microcosm.

First. The facilities (that term seems to be neutral enough) were for both men and women. True equality of the sexes, everybody had to stand in line. The only time I shared the facilities with men in Boston I was kicked out immediately thereafter.

Second. No one talked. Lines for Boston bathrooms (and that’s exclusively for women since there’s never a line for the men ) are the place everyone talks.  If it isn’t idle talk there’s bathroom line solidarity where women make pacts to get in and out and quickly as possible knowing that several women are uncomfortably shifting from leg to leg. That solidarity is often strengthened by the emergence of 3 women leisurely exiting a room-sized bathroom. In this line the men in suits (for some reason there were only men which I mistakenly thought would mean a short wait)  stood in silence. In very Stockholm fashion 3 of them were texting (better known as “sms-ing” in Swedish.)

Third. No confrontation. Since there were a good number of stalls (though in Swedish fashion the walls are all the way to the floor so you can’t see if there are legs regardless of which direction they might be pointing) I was unpleasantly surprised by how slow the turnover was going. When it was finally “my turn” and I walked to the end of the stall hallway for the newly emptied handicapped toilet (so why are they making the people in a wheelchair go all the way to the end of a narrow aisle anyway?) I tried all the doors that were closed but didn’t have a red dot on the lock. Sure enough there were 3 empty stalls no one had dared try while waiting for an open door. If anyone had had the thought they realized that by stepping ahead of the person in front of you to check the doors would have been taken as a passive form of confrontation (skipping the line isn’t popular).

Fourth. There was an escape ladder in my stall.  OK. That’s not really indicative of anything Swedish or Stockholm but it did amaze me. First I thought it was a very designed towel rack (that would have been very fashionably Swedish) then I joked to myself that it was an escape ladder and when I looked up to see the emergency exit sign I realized that it was indeed meant for escaping during an emergency.  (So why in the stall where people in wheelchairs are required to go?)

Finally.  A diaper changing station in a nightclub.  Here we are on the floor level of the hip club and there’s a diaper changing station (yay for parents but like who is likely to be bringing an infant in there?) However, how very unSwedish of them to have stuck it in the handicap stall. I guess it’s rather Stockholmish of them to not want to infringe on the green granite sleekness of the sink area of the facilities.

I used the facilities a final time before I left Berns. There was a man and a woman standing in line (and talking to each other –so there goes those stereotypes I just wrote about.)  From the last time I was pretty sure several of the stalls were empty so I went ahead of them while asking if anyone had checked if the closed stalls were all indeed occupied. I was then told by the guy (there goes that non-confrontational stereotype now) where the line formed. As I found my first empty stall I tried to show him how there were several available and that none of us had to stand in line (trying to bring some of that Boston bathroom solidarity to Stockholm -fail) but it seemed to fall flat on deaf ears. Since there were clearly more stalls empty than there were people in line I just used the 3rd empty stall I found.  When I came out…

The two people were still waiting.

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Friday, March 12th, 2010

Sweden’s parliament voted Thursday to recognize the Armenian genocide (article).  While I generally stand clear of political controversy in my blog (mostly since no one ever wins and inevitably there’s some nutter who is going to try to draw some moronic comparison to something completely unrelated and irrelevant) everything unbridled in me emotionally is thrilled.  And in case there’s some outrage about all the “other bad side of this”, I do acknowledge that there is a practical side of looking at the negatives of this political decision,  but eh, screw that.  That’s  political debate and I’ll hash that out over dinner, drinks or some other interactive media.

The raw feeling of satisfaction and excitement to this heated event is deep rooted in my Boston origins, Watertown specifically,  and growing up amid one of the greatest concentrations of Armenians outside of Armenia. Heck, I even have two fake Armenian IDs (by only slightly altering my mother’s maiden name) which were used during the two Armenian sports weekends I took part in (mostly because all of my friends were going but also because I was one of the ringers on our basketball team.) I’m honorary Armenian. That honor was bestowed upon my by Fr. Davidian from the St. James Apostolic Church (we won’t go into detail that it was merely a humorous commentary while in passing conversation.) And yes, I’m making light of it, but I do have a long, rewarding history very closely connected to many wonderful Armenian friends.

Until Sweden voted today to recognize the Armenian genocide I had never really thought about the political ramifications of countries taking official stands regarding events in history. Frankly, I am a bit surprised that the vote was so close (by one vote in fact.)  Even more surprising is that 3 alliance politicians broke party ranks and voted their conscience.

Unfortunately what keeps me from feeling truly elated is a nagging lack of enthusiasm. After all, what is the point? There’s only one country which really needs to recognize that there was a concerted effort on the part of the Ottoman Empire  to murder Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian Greeks, And that’s Turkey. And that ain’t going to happen anytime soon.

So is the US going to now too?

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King Carl XVI Gustaf: 145th hottest head of state

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Ranking hotness is certainly frivolous but this site does it anyway.  And why not.  There must be some redeeming value to ranking hotness of the world’s heads of state (and government, see FAQs.) Of 217 heads, the Swedish king, Carl XVI Gustaf, is the 145th hottest head of state.

King Carl XVI Gustaf

That the Pope Benedict, Kim Jong-il  and Gaddafi round out the bottom of the hotness barrel seems a no-brainer, but I am not sure Queen Elizabeth and Hugo Chavez  deserve higher rating that  Carl Gustaf.  (Well, they’re only squeaking by on the higher scale at 139 and 140 respectively.)

Well, the authors of the list did qualify that hotness is a subjective value. And they empower you voice your opinion:

“If you disagree with our rankings, we encourage you to voice your opinion by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page. Like any good sham democracy, we will take your comments under advisement.”

Who would you shift around and why? I would knock Putin down a few notches. His “ick” value gives King Carl Gustaf’s blah value a much weightier rating.

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