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Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for the ‘Swedish culture’ Category

Hockey. Hockey. Hockey.

Monday, May 20th, 2013

BANG!!!! BANG!!!! BANG!!!

In the midst of the Stanley Cup’s Eastern Conference semifinals series, every Bostonian knows it is all about Bruins ice hockey.

faceoff

Oh right. I am in Sweden, home of the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation GOLD Champions. And there is certainly no doubt ice hockey fever has taken over Sweden.

sweden hockey

A lot of Swedes, the Swedish husband included, should rightfully be questioning my loyalties placing Boston hockey playoffs above Swedish gold-medal champions. The thing is, that I am even writing about hockey is pretty ironic to begin with.

I am about the furthest thing from a hockey fan there can be (though I did play field hockey at Watertown High currently boasting a 90-something unbeaten game record). However, this past week I have read about, listened to and watched more hockey than in my lifetime.

I caught the fever discovering the events leading up to Boston’s defeat over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Going from a 3-0 series lead, the Bruins face off against the Leafs in game 7. Coming into the 3rd period the Bruins are down 4-1. And they rally to a 5-4 victory in overtime. Incredible. I was regretting not having watched the game.

We’re not a sports-watching family (thankfully) but we are fans of our ‘home teams’. That means if the US, Sweden or Boston are in a race for a title –you pick the sport, we are game-watchers.

And so, in addition to the nail-biter Sweden matches in the International Ice Hockey Federation games hosted by Sweden, I watched both the semi-final US defeat against Switzerland and the bronze US victory over Finland.

Today, Sweden is in hockey ecstasy over its glorious champion status. And with that glee comes light-hearted humor. This image has been touring the walls of several Facebook friends.

funny

The message is clearly sedated bragging over the defeating Switzerland at the (cheap) expense of stereotypical American geographical challenges. But in their cute, naive way, they presume there are Americans who have even heard of the International Ice Hockey Federation, then know that there is a world championship and finally, CARE about the results. It is long stretch.

But it tickles the jubilant Swedes basking in hockey glory.

The reality (perhaps sad and provincial) is that Americans who care about hockey, only care about the NHL. They are grateful for the rest of the world supplying amazing hockey players. Sweden has produced Carl Söderberg for Boston and for the NY Rangers, Carl Hagelin Anton Strålman, and Henrik Lundqvist.

So in equally light-hearted humor, I will leave you with a playful image of Bruins pride aimed at NY Rangers’ goalie…who happens to be a Swede:

suck it

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Stockholm Taxi Wars: Über fail

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Three cheers for competition, innovative alternatives and nifty new apps. Hats off to low-budget basement start-ups’ covert guerrilla marketing. Hail righteousness and activism. But disinformation, half-truths and unsubstantiated wild accusations packaged as a Greenpeace-esque write-in campaign does not for a reputable car+driver service make.

uber x
And that is what I was under the impression Uber, was supposed to be. As a registered user, the email I got from them today put all that into serious question.

Uber is a taxi-like, black car service new to Stockholm. It differs from traditional taxi services in that it’s all about the mobile application -ordering and paying and the promise of more luxury vehicles. A lot of Stockholm’s fleet taxis are leather-appolstered V70s and Mercedes and not grimy, dented up yellow cabs, so the immediate appeal beyond novel and hipster was sedate for me.

A visiting friend from Boston (Watertown more specifically –gotta ride the 15-minutes of fame train) tipped me off to Uber over Easter. Since then, I have only had one need for a cab. Solo at 4am, a long festive evening behind me, squinting with slightly blurry vision I chickened out and called Ole Faithful, Taxi Stockholm. A black Mercedes sedan came within minutes to whisk me home. Fair to note, the estimate by Uber ranged between SEK 400 and 600. Taxi Stockholm ended up charging me SEK 500. That’s ballpark.

uberf

Comforted by a fair estimate experience and having read a few rave reviews, I was on beginning to talk up the service without my own real test drive. People I knew and trusted genuinely liked Uber. Spread the love.

Until that email.

Headline: RÄDDA UBER (Save Uber).

Message: The big bad state transit authority was trying to shut down Uber.

Heartstring pull: Exceptions made for services driving royal people and fancy, schmancy corporate fat cats (Booooo! Hissss!)

Call to action: Rise up, protest, write your congressman (or rather this long list of Swedish officials) and for Uber’s sake and the salvation of all mankind; sign the petition (they implore you!)

Act now and you get a complementary hashtag complete with each Tweet, #UberSthlmLove, the hash of Woodstock meets Occupy Stockholm. The Twittosphere went wild. Much of it was uninnovative, SAVE UBER!

But a number of voices started asking the embarrassingly probing question: HUH?

And then some light started getting shed on the subject. This tempest-in-a-teapot call to arms is not new to Uber’s modus operandi. Pando Daily wrote “Who is the real bully? Uber or New York”. And in Swedish from yesterday evening, Computer Sweden was one of the first to publish the actual statement from the Swedish Transport Authority:

“Uber finns i Stockholm och tillhandahåller tjänster för taxiföretag. Två taxiföretag som vill ansluta sig till Uber har ansökt till Transportstyrelsen om undantag från krav på taxameter. I dessa ansökningar står det att Uber kräver att företagen ska ha undantag från krav på taxameter för att få ansluta sig.”

Loosely explained in English: “Uber is a taxi service and gotta have an approved meter”

Joakim Jardenberg gave insightful thoughts about the ‘rave campaign’ and a potential resolution (in Swedish). Simply: Get a meter!
taxi

But Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, is against the taxi meter. In a discussion on Twitter he wrote, “our customers do not want meters or stickers… they want a chauffeur service”.

That might be true in the US where black car services appeal to the über cool who want something a little more refined and are willing to pay for it, but most of Stockholm ain’t about that. More because it doesn’t need to be. Each of the major taxi companies of Stockholm have their own apps, can easily be called from your cell and a new, clean car comes within minutes. But certainly the exclusivity appeals to many and I know that some people prefer to not handle money. So who knows.

Ultimately, I think this PR-campaign movement is going to backfire. It is going to get them recognition for sure. But after the empty “SAVE Uber” chanting dies down, the influential voices -once strong advocates and ambassadors- will be singing different tunes. And they may be slightly off key.

Or the new innovation will disrupt the established Stockholm taxi services as we know it and we’ll end up with the Spotify of private transport. Cuz that’s how Sweden rolls.

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Watertown Blatte: Hometown in international spotlight

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

You know something big must be going on in your hometown if a Swedish reporter from Sweden’s Television is reporting from between the Watertown and Arsenal Malls.

link to video of SVT report

All day last Friday I was in symbiosis with my laptop, desktop, smart phone and TV trying to take in multiple perspectives of every minute of the warfare drama played out the streets and backyards of my childhood town, Watertown, or as Stefan Åsberg says, /Wot-Tur-Town/.

Image by Fran Forman on Twitter
watertown

Via social media and streaming links to local TV media, I saw images of military troops in full gear and heavy weaponry occupying the emptied streets. Scenes resembled fictitious Hollywood reenactments or exaggerations depicting doomsday scenarios of SciFi thrillers. I half expected Bruce Willis to enter the scene, barefoot and pissed off that once again Russian-like terrorists were ruining his perfectly normal day.

And so I waited to call my parents. Since they use an answering machine to screen their calls, I knew the automated call by the Watertown Police Department that went around to the 30+ thousand residents hadn’t woken them.

My brother in Florida texted me that he had woken them so I called. Cool as senior citizen cucumbers could be, they were relatively non-plussed. The only plans for the day thwarted was a planned trip to CVS. They were at least 1 mile (about 1.6km) from the closed perimeter. Nothing but being slightly more shut in than a rainy day.

People from everywhere sent me support or asked questions. It was a global forum of watch, wait, wonder and worry; one more W than the world wide web.
Taken by a high school friend in her house
wat
As bedtime ticked closer, emotionally spent, I gave up the vigil. I was beginning to fear he had managed to slip through and there was not way I could endure that ride. I overheard on the police scanner (headphones still broadcasting as I lay in bed) that people were coming out for air. That was the last update before waking to news that Suspect number 2 had been captured. Alive.

The aftermath will continue to play out and I continue to learn interesting details from Watertown friends and the general network. There is also the emotional debriefing I am currently experiencing after seeing some heavy-handed door-to-door searches and/or evacuations.

From a friend’s parents’ backyard
diana ziljian's parents

Regardless, one thing is irrefutable, the Town of Watertown, (legally qualifying to be called a city though many of us were caught yelling at our TV sets that Watertown is NOT a city…and it is Dexter AVE not street) has basked in its 15-minutes of international fame.

Maybe I should rename my blog Watertown WatRat –a similar self-reclaimed pejorative as Boston Blatte.

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Sweden does the Harlem Shake (so does the Norwegian military)

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Gagnam Style is so 2012. If you haven’t caught a whiff of the newest viral video meme craze sweeping the world (at least any part of the world connected by the Internet), it is the Harlem Shake.

harlem shake

If you search YouTube or with any search engine for the Harlem Shake you are going to get an insanely long listing of the wackiest versions of this 30-second dance meme.

This internet phenomenon kicked off at the end of January this year, and within the first two weeks of February it has grandmas, lego figures, Pokémon and everything in between doing the 30-second shake. The only definition that versions follow is best described here on Wikipedia.

Here is the best one I have found with a Swedish touch.

Norway, on the other hand, has produced the best military version. Thanks to Norway’s membership in NATO, the military drills can take a lighter twist.

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Debunking Swedish Stereotypes: Cold neighbors

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Bring on snow and the Bostonian in me cannot be contained.

If I see a car stuck, I just jump in and start pushing. Despite the Swedish husband’s concern that people might get offended, every Swede I have helped has thanked me appreciatively. The day I got stuck in soft, deep snow outside our place at Hornstull I feared I might be there for hours if people were as cautious to assist me as my husband had suggested. Not the case. Within minutes a man asked if he could help. Out in a flash.

snow push

Not surprisingly, I have been following the Blizzard Nemo that hit Boston and the northeast last week. I was feeling rather helpless thinking about my mid-octogenerian parents in Watertown. They have adopted that Yankee stalwart independence despite both of them being naturalized citizens (in fairness I think the stubbornness and independence was imported with them, but tis no matter, they fit right in) and had waved me away on each concerned call to confirm that they had a plan in place to get them shoveled out.

-You don’t have to worry about us.
-We are all set.
-We will manage.

Did I mention that my father just got his hip replaced less than two months ago and my mother has been playing his nursemaid since the pre-op? And yet she was out there shoveling the day after Nemo stopped dumping snow. But so were her neighbors and my friends who live close by. And I was very grateful.

sdf

Today, in an act of repayment in the spirit of paying it forward (because the help my parents got is now being passed along) I took a shovel up to an elderly neighbor’s house. The snow accumulation has not been much here in my ‘burb of northern Stockholm, but it has been consistent. The plows caught up yesterday and piled up heavy, frozen banks in front of cleared walks and drives. My sweet neighbor clearly just couldn’t manage it, and probably like my parents, hadn’t turned to neighbors since she figured she could manage climbing over it.

So, I just started clearing (and quietly swearing since it was solid frozen and heavy). She came out a bit surprised to find me there. I assured her that I was happy to do it and I explained about my own parents. With moist eyes she hugged me.

Best thing I could do on the day of love; love my neighbor. And she loved me back.

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Sweden’s quirky sports: Ice pole sitting

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Yep, you read it right. Ice pole sitting. Or motionless ice pole dancing? Freeze tag? Hey, I saved you a spot.

This past weekend, in the Västerbotten region, better known for its cheese , (lit translation: western bottom…pun on left cheek?) the little community of Vihelmina, held its traditional Wihelmina Winter Weekend (what a clever abbreviation WWW…whoops, already taken, nevermind.)
ice pole

Poking around on the municipality’s website (with links to a live webcam!) it seems the only activity on offer for the WWW event is…watching the pole sitters.

The competition was grueling. Six started out and…all six contestants won!

To claim their 20,000kr prize they had to stay atop the block for 48 hours. With reports that youth unemployment is sky high, this might be one way to bring home some cold, hard currency.

Even the Huffington Post couldn’t leave this alone.

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Viking envy: Kubb for AmeriSwedes

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Kubb, the lawn-game popularized in modern Sweden in the 1990s, has made it to the US.
kubb

In the early days, Kubb games spattered the grassy parks around Stockholm and urban areas throughout Sweden. It was new to Swedes then, too. The marketing of the game linked it to ancient Gotland, and when you say “ancient” in Sweden, it is an easy leap to Vikings. Outside of Sweden, that means…Vikingmania. And it is way more colorful to tie it to Vikings. (factual note: the game as such is not older than 20th century.)

An article from the Twincities.com website (including a video spot) from Minnesota shows how its explosive popularity has surpassed that of Swedes of Sweden with determined Kubb players taking to the frozen lakes to play kubb. I can’t say I have ever seen a kubb game anywhere in Sweden on snow let alone ice.

Yo modern Vikings…your cousins in the US midwest are beating you in outdoor determination. Why skate, ski or ice fish when you can swill chilled beers and play kubb!

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Sweden’s Answer to Rihanna: Elliphant?

Monday, January 28th, 2013

So wonders contributor Nicole James on Fuse.tv

I have never been a music fanatic and pretty safe to say I am still not. But of late, I have been more and more fascinated with the Swedish music export. And not only the bands, but the Swedes behind the scenes from songwriters and producers like multi-megahit wonder Max Martin to music video sound and video editing by the many talented, award-winning people at Chimney Pot Stockholm.

Swedes seem to get away with lyrics like “Waking up in a pile of shit” and singing in some weird Swedishised Jamaican patois and the oddest emphasis/pronunciation of “shadow”. YouTube link to Elliphant Down on Life

elliphant

The video, shot in Iceland, suggests along with Elliphant’s real name, Ellinor Olovsdotter, she might have Icelandic roots? No clue.

Nice groove, regardless.

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Swedish statue: Identity protected on Google

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Seems as if Google’s Street View doesn’t want any liability actions. Not from a wooden statue at least.

google

Old Man Rosenbom hails from the Swedish town of Karlskrona. His image was captured when Street View filmed the streets and squares of Sweden. His image has been blurred in order to “preserve his integrity” a regular service Google provides for the human faces caught on film.

Smart technologies are still not smart enough yet. Not to discern between reality and art.

I wonder which other street images are blurred.

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Sweden’s quirky signs: No Balloons allowed

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Sweden is exceptionally kid friendly, though apparently not for those carrying balloons. At least not in its southern city of Malmö. A friend spied a menacing anti-jovial not-allowed sign this morning at Malmö’s Triangle train station.
no balloons

According to Sydsvenskan, Sweden’s southern regional daily paper, the no-go zone for helium-filled balloons includes Malmö’s City Tunnel.

Apparently, the balloons get stuck in the electrical lines and short the system.
– The tunnel is low and balloons cannot rise over the lines, said Bodil Sonesson from the Swedish Transport Adminstration.
balloon

What is the world coming to when a child is forbidden from carrying a balloon!

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24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 

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"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 
 
 
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