Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for September, 2011

Opening a dialog: “I never imagined I would ever receive so much praise for saying that people should be allowed to be more racist”

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The American Club of Sweden just held its first of a series of Intercultural forums. This evening’s topic was “America, Sweden and Violent Extremism.

It was a very interesting panel (the link above lists the participants) and a great number of interesting elements around how to prevent the existence, rise and spread violent extremism (right, left and Islamic) in our societies (both the US and Sweden). Without trying to summarize the panelists’ viewpoint, one common point of agreement they all shared was the importance of the open dialog.

open dialog

During the Q&A follow up, an audience member opened up what became an opinion floodgate. He pointed out that open dialog requires that the speaker can say whatever is on her mind without fear of retribution. He reminded us all that in Sweden, Swedish anti-hate laws (hets mot folkgrupp) curtail the individual’s opportunity to, and he pardoned his language, “be an asshole in public.” In less colorful words, it’s against Swedish law to express hateful opinions about specific groupings of people.

It triggered a flurry of eager participation to join a collective dialog (ironically).

The event was unfortunately limited in time so the discussions perhaps didn’t satisfy many people’s interest in the contradiction of Sweden’s strong belief in opening a dialog to prevent the rise of violent extremism while simultaneously restricting the same extent of free speech extended to citizens of the US.

Many people thanked the audience member who highlighted the contradiction to which he replied “I never imagined I would ever receive so much praise for saying that people should be allowed to be more racist.”

It’s not exactly what he meant, but it is one way to boil it down.

There’s a difference between hate speech intended to incite violence and expression of hate in its ugliest form. Sweden needs very seriously to review its current laws restricting expression of opinions even when they are disgustingly racist or hateful. It is only when we are allowed a dialog can we refute and hopefully, persuade.

You can’t open a dialog if you won’t let people speak.

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Stockholm rising: Borrowing/stealing altitude

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

When I first got to Stockholm each of the kind friends who gave me “tours” of the city called the five buildings at Hötorget “skyscrapers.” They’re 19 stories and 72 meters/235ft tall. (The high rise dormitories at UMass Amherst are taller.)

In other words, there’s not much height to the Stockholm skyline.

But that’s changing. Well, a bit. There’s still nothing really scraping the Stockholm sky but a few towers have risen above its lush treeline.

With height of buildings, and more importantly, building sites and respective cranes, come BASE jumpers. (BASE stands for building, antennas, spans (bridges) and earth (cliffs)).

Early this month a BASE jumper was charged for trespassing at the still erect building crane polishing off the newly completed Scandic Victoria Tower. The new hotel in Kista is 117m and 34 stories tall. victoria tower (article in Swedish including video footage of the actual jump here)

The new tower is only the 4th of the total structures over 100m in Sweden today. (Any structure over 100m makes for BASE potential.) The tallest is Malmö’s Turning Torso 190m followed by Kaknäs Tower, 155m (Gärdet, Stockholm) and Kista Science Center 117m.

It’s still not illegal to BASE off of any structure in Sweden yet. As a fellow skydiver who is also a BASE jumper put it, “We only want to borrow altitude”.

Looking up Boston’s tallest structures out of curiosity, it seems Boston has altitude to spare. To date there are 27 structures in Boston over 400ft (120m).

It’s still a bit early to say that Stockholm has skyscrapers. But they will come and they will lend altitude.

Edit: Add on photo. Here is a picture of one of the 30-40 active BASE jumpers of Sweden (not the one charged in the above story.) He’s currently in Kuala Lumpur and has just jumped off a tall building there. He just posted this picture on Facebook. I think he’s having fun.

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$22 Martini in Stockholm: All else is great says CNN

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Nine bucks. That’s what my first pint of beer cost me during the summer of 1992.

A popular CNN article, “What’s wrong with Stockholm“, spreading fast via social media, paints a wonderful view of Stockholm. According to its author the only downside was an expensive and pathetic martini.

It’s nice to read about a first experience account of this glorious city which includes generosity and hospitality by Stockholmers (fondly nicknamed The Viking and The Joker).

My first evening in Stockholm that June of 1992 also involved kind and welcoming Stockholmers. A group of them I met in Ivar Lo Park on the heights of Söder (while watching the balloons hover over
stockholm balloon
Riddarfjärden took me under their wings and invited me along to the Black and Brown
just down the hill.
The Black and Brown is still a lovely place for a pint (still around nine bucks, a bargain if you consider inflation). The US dollar was crap that summer (only 5.5kr/USD and later during my return in August it dropped to 5.0).

I nearly choked on the $9 price tag of that beer. But I was grateful they took credit cards.

That evening transpired into the first day of the rest of my life in Stockholm. CNN is right; life in Stockholm is pretty great.

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Stockholm picturesque toilet humor: Boulebar

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Stockholmers like playing with balls. Particularly bocce or boules balls in combination with a bar and some friends on a late summer’s eve.

A favorite combo of boules and bar drinks is Boulebar. While at the location at Rållis (aka Rålambsholvs Park) and a few bar beverages into the game I giggled at the toilet signs.


The image led to a humorous discussion. I’ll leave it to you own imaginations to interpret and discuss.

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Pizza Feud: Stockholm’s little Italy.

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

It’s not wise to mess with an Italian from Palermo, Sicily.

The closest Stockholm gets to a little Italy is crammed into a cafe at Hornstull on Södermalm. At least when it comes to Italian soccer football fans. Especially if you support Palermo’s team,.

The locals know it as “Dellos” from its original name, “Cafe dello Sport” but passing by the other day I discovered that a little tiff between the Dellos gang and the pizza man around the corner has changed the face of Hornstull’s Little Italy.

Dello’s has now renamed itself

VIP or Very Italian Pizza
vip large description

But why?

Long story short. The pizza place around the corner tried to jump on the Dello gravy train which wasn’t very popular with the real McCoy-ianos.


So they fought back and opened a corner of the café as a pizza place, reinvented themselves and re-signed
vip sign

They weren’t open for pizza when I was there. I must stop by again and sample that pizza. Though probably still not on par with Varasano’s 😉

little known fact: The owner of Varasano’s, Jeff Varasano, scouted and imported his pizza oven from Borås, Sweden. He is also a pretty fast Rubik’s cubist, 19 seconds!

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