Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Archive for the ‘stockholm’ Category

Roma band to Almedalen: We beg your pardon

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Over in the news section of The Local, an article’s headline proclaims: “Beggar symphony to play at Almedalen”

roma musician

The Roma in Sweden have been in the Swedish news quite a lot of late. (quick search on TL for “roma”)Mostly, it’s about the influx of beggars, who are primarily from Romania. The new trend is tight on the heels of discoveries of police registers by the Swedish police of Swedes of Roma ancestry. And then there’s the political spin featured by the über nationalistic Sweden Democrats.

In other words, mention ROMA, Romanians or beggars and you’ll get people’s attention.

The project, Tunnelbanan till Almedalen, will bring a dozen Romanian street musicians to Sweden’s largest political event, Almedalen, to perform Sweden’s national anthem. They will play on Tuesday, the day the Sweden Democrats are hosting. Yep, we’ve got some political posturing going on, and nicely chosen if you ask me.

The estimated cost to transport and house the (all-male?) band to Almedalen = 15,000SEK. The funding source? Crowd funding.

That’s all good. The more we get the everyday Svensson involved the more awareness we raise and the stronger the message becomes.

However, the cynic in me walks on the scene when I read that its organizer, Max Valentin, an entrepreneur (yay for entrepreneurs) is the founder of the crowd funding site of choice; What has read as an act of socio-political activism now starts giving off whiffs of promotional/guerrilla marketing.

My comment “Sounds more like a marketing ploy to promote his crowd-funding site. If he really wanted to bring them there, 15,000 would be peanuts to write off as a company cost.” was challenged by Max Valentin on Twitter.

When I pointed out that he via the promotion of his site would benefit from the attention, he clarified:

I applauded Max Valentin for his effort to address his critics and to stand his ground on his cause. We agreed that a continued public dialog would be beneficial. I expect he’ll be available and amiable to address comments.

While I like the idea of the Metro to Almedalen, I still have issues with it, e.g.

1. Street musicians and begging are not intrinsically linked.
2. Playing the Swedish Anthem is provocative, yet are the musicians Roma from Sweden? There are two issues; bigotry and resentment towards the ethnic Roma in Sweden and the public view of Roma from Romania coming to Sweden to beg. Is there an advantage or a disadvantage to conflate them?
3. Most (if not all?) of the Roma musicians are men. Yet we see as many women trying to eek out an existence.
4. Is sensationalizing the topic going to do more than get headlines?
5. The crowd funding site asks for repeat donations. What else will the money go for if the 15,000SEK is exceeded?

What are YOUR questions?

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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.


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!

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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Stuck in Stockholm for the sport holiday? Best kept secret is BouleBar

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Boule Bar at Globen was our one-stop shopping solution to keeping a 5-year old, two 8-year olds, a mom and a grandmother entertained on our first day of the sporting holiday week.

And fed.

All that on a very limited budget.


Included in the 89kr/adult 49kr/child pricing: hot dish, fresh salad bar, juice, coffee/tea, homemade chocolate truffles AND a round of boule WITH free popcorn.

You might know boule better as bocce or pétanaque


It was better than bowling since anyone who could carry and throw the metal ball could play. And the pace was pretty quick to keep the easily bored or distracted active.

Until today I had only been to the location on Kungsholmen and then we have only eaten or enjoyed beverages.

Added bonus(es) to the Globen location:
-free parking
-kid friendly
-indoor cours
-nicest staff

Unfortunately, I don’t get a red öre for this shameless plug.

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Stockholm steely street smarts: “I grew up in the suburbs”

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

I had an irate father in my face this morning. Real aggressive and invading my personal space. Knowing the background and having checked my facts, I stood secure and cozied on in to his face. To be fair, I was only staying put and not leaning in. But I’ll admit, a little confrontation on a brisk September morning gets my blood flowing. And you get so little confrontation in Sweden, so you take what you can get.

In brief, it’s a tiny matter between our sons. My 8-year old said a mean thing about his 9-year old’s shop project. His son bawled his eyes out. But they’re kids. Mine was clearly wrong and had already apologized. I thought the matter was closed. But no, back to the school yard kids.

The little spat carried on in most uneventful manner (well, in proportion to its being an overblown altercation over boys being boys and that this was literally in the school yard and he even threw out a F-bomb) until the father used an interesting expression to indicate that he was a bit street smart, hardened around the edges and ready to go the 15 rounds.

He expressed the thickened skin on his nose as, “You know, I grew up in the suburbs.” It completely caught me off guard because I understood what he was trying to articulate but I was confused by the reference. All I could do was think about my Watertown, MA upbringing at the time and say…”Me too.” And then the irony struck me; we were IN the suburbs. Both his and my kids are growing up in the suburbs. But that’s not what it was about.

He was referring to one of the “undesirable” suburbs. The ones around Stockholm classically associated with a tougher breed of folks, immigrants. The places where things are viewed as not all peaches and rose petals. Places with names like Rinkeby, Akalla or Skärholmen which are districts of Stockholm outside the center.

Reflecting back on the event after it simmered down I giggled at the contradiction. What we Americans would attribute to an inner city upbringing, i.e. tougher, wilder and more savage streets, he characterized as [specific] neighborhoods in the suburbs of Stockholm. Because unlike most American cities, the inner city of Stockholm is the most desirable property and consequently, the priciest.

So, if in Sweden you want to indicate that you can handle the meaner things in life, you tell people, “I grew up in the suburbs.” That ought to get their knees knocking.

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Stockholm sighting: Urban assault on “pink army”?

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Obama came out in support of gay marriage and Swedes like it. Probably because Sweden legalized gay-marriage in 2009 and prior to that recognized same-sex registered partnerships already in 1995.

Rush Limbaugh said on his show yesterday, “the president of the United States is going to lead a war on traditional marriage”.
This was a sighting yesterday in Stockholm near Slussen. Could this be a counter-assault on the pink army? Has Limbaugh taken the war on the “pink army” to the streets of Stockholm? I think the ‘enemies of traditional marriage’ are about as ominous as this little band of preschoolers.

pink army photo by Carolina Åkerlind.

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Stockholm v. Vegas: Drop-in weddings at Skansen

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Wanna tie the knot but forgot to plan ahead? Your ship has not sailed just yet!

marriage photo
It’s not quite the same as the 3am spontaneous drive-through wedding chapels in Las Vegas, but Swedes need a little time to get ready for spontaneity. On June 9 from 10am to 3pm, Skansen (in Stockholm) is offering the planned, unplanned wedding op for couples wanting to get hitched right and proper.


All straight or same-sex couples just need to pick between a religious or civil ceremony, take a queue number (what’s spontaneity without organization!), and wait for your very own 10 minutes of nuptial bliss. And while standing in line ends at 3pm, organizers have vowed to carry on offering for the groom/bride to kiss the groom/bride until no couple can claim they’ve never been kissed.

Prospective couples need only get their paperwork in order ahead of the day (hindersprovning or vigselintyg) pay 500kr at the entrance (visit to park included for the happy couple –guests pay accordingly) and the…wait your turn.

By the powers vested in me by the state of Skansen, I now pronounce you bridal couples to be.

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Grapefruit: Yoko Ono is in da ‘Holm

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Yoko Ono just walked by my office window.

That was a friend’s Facebook status update just a few minutes ago. She’s somewhere downtown Stockholm.

A quick googling shows that Yoko has an exhibit at the Modern Museum of Stockholm (Moderna Museet) running June 5-Sept 9 2012. The Grapefruit Exhibition has its starting point in her work by the same name published 1964.
yoko ono stockholm grapefruit

Welcome Yoko Ono. Glad Stockholm is bathed in sunshine for your walk about today.

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Stockholm tight knit: Soft graffiti

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Yarn anarchists will never unravel any society, but they do put a bit of cozy into urban graffiti. Popularly known as yarn bombing it’s wrapped its way around pipes, poles and limbs of Stockholm.

Here’s today’s sighting on St. Eriksgatan taken by a good friend.
yarn bombing.

Dressing up Stockholm is far from new. The most celebrated street art influences is to dress up Järnpojken, the Iron Boy. The first time I saw him in Gamla Stan (Old Town) he had on a little scarf like in this picture.

iron boy

He’s also known at “the boy who is looking at the moon” and is said to be Stockholm’s smallest statue. A work by the artist Liss Eriksson, it was erected in 1967.

Unfortunately there is still much of the traditional tag graffiti littering Stockholm, but perhaps a soft approach to street art can positively influence the taggers.

I wonder if these Swedish grannies in this story would ever yarn bomb a drainpipe. At least some penguins are going to be styling some Swedish design.

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Stockholm garden sculpture: The Jumpoline.

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

My list of nevers include a growing number of events which have evolved to “did that, seen that and doing it again tomorrow”.

The trampoline (or known in our home as the ‘jumpoline’, coined of childish Swenglish) was a former “never” and current “got that”. The jumpoline takes up a prime location on the front lawn. Though, I feel modest comfort knowing, we’re not alone.

Views of greater from Google Earth demonstrate that there are a great number of circular objects adorning the grass gardens of many a plot of greater Stockholm.

Which is why finding this ad up at the Karlberg station tickled me.


Loosely translated: “Garden sculpture: The most common ornament of Stockholm outside the city center of the 2000s.” “The new DN, with its eyes on Stockholm.”

I must review the remaining nevers on my list.

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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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