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Page 22 of 24

They really have everything here

Balkongdagensparty, design, music, old newspapers

Last night there was a dagens party on the balcony at Iida and Erik’s in Haninge. Dagens, as you may know from an earlier episode, is a delicious beverage made of white wine, frozen berries, and Sprite. Very easy to drink, if not a bit girlie. (A bit girlie? Jesus, man, how many spritzers are you gonna have tonight?)

After a few hours, I switched to beer because I was excited to try a couple different varieties I found at the Systembolaget on Friday. The Swedes are certainly not famous for the variety and quality of their beers, but I found one that I really loved. It is a dark, rich porter called Oppigårds Starkporter. The brewery appears to have only been around since 2003. I highly recommend it if you can find it and if you’re into that sort of thing.


The day after the party is another beautiful one. The sun is shining and the temperature is almost at 15° (that’s almost 60°F). Above is a collection of balcony views from where I’ve been doing my design and writing work lately. Not too shabby as an office. This was taken with the MoloPix app I was talking about yesterday. I love taking pictures, so this app has the risk of becoming dangerous in my hands, since it allows me to take up to six photos at once.


While Iida and Erik were cleaning out their extra room for me to move into on May 1st, this old newspaper surfaced. I had never seen this before. This is an article from the paper in Trollhättan – Iida’s hometown – where Metroschifter played on November 12, 1999. Trollhättan is where they make the beautiful Saab automobiles and the city is quickly becoming a mecca for movie making, hence the nickname Trollywood.

Back in 1999, Iida was playing guitar in a band called The Sorted who played that night, along with Division of Laura Lee, a great Swedish band that I just saw here again a couple weeks ago. They were still fantastic and still super nice guys. All their stuff has a distinct design aesthetic which is always important. Their drummer, Håkan, has a design blog that I’ve been visiting regularly. I was just talking with my friend Stan the other day (also a designer who played drums on the 2008 Metroschifter tour) about how we never gave some bands a chance because their record covers looked like shit. Lots of my friends were into the Descendents and Bad Brains, but I’m still convinced they both suck because their records look stupid. Anyway, the Trans Megetti from New Jersey was on tour with us in 1999 and they played that night as well. Good times!

The article says the usual stuff about Metroschifter; that the band has been around since 1994, our first tour was booked before we had met up to practice for the first time, and we have several records out. It says this is our third European tour, we’re playing only four shows in Sweden, and we have our own label, I Can’t Believe It’s a Record Company.

Friday afternoon, I finished the poster for our new record that’s coming out next month on Louisville’s Noise Pollution label. It’s dark and scary like the record cover, and has the same menacing picture of Stockholm.

Luckily, the weather is not at all like that today, so I’m off to buy my A Camp ticket and to enjoy the sunshine. Hejdå, bitches!

Snugwow!


From a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, here’s another new version of the Snuggie. Awesome.

Scenes from a dator

Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, I have four billion messages! I’m not sure how or why this happened, but when I quit and reopened Apple Mail it was back to normal.

Say, that reminds me of a joke. There’s a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, and a software engineer riding along in a pickup truck. The engine putters out and they coast to the side of the road. The mechanical engineer says, “Maybe it’s a problem with the spark plugs or the oil.” The electrical engineer says, “Maybe it’s the alternator or the battery.” The software engineer says, “Let’s all get out and get back in again.”

This is a screenshot my “networks with the most friends” pane from Facebook. Sweden is quickly gaining on New York and UofL. I think Louisville is safe for now. I’m still in the Louisville network myself. Wow, Scott, that’s so interesting! I can’t wait to see what other priceless tidbits are coming up tomorrow!

Repurposing my iPhone

In the weeks since my iPhone service was deactivated, I have still have been using the device it all the time. Though it no longer makes phone calls and sends texts, it has continued to serve me well as a camera, audio recorder, iPod, English/Svenska dictionary, memo pad, and when there’s WiFi around I can use it as a web browser, Facebooker, emailer, et cetera.

The iPhone apps are something I never really seriously explored. I would just get whatever was interesting and free that I heard about by word of mouth, or found by searching for a particular purpose. That’s how I found the SlovoEd translation app and Res i Sthlm which calculates the fastest point-to-point routes to take in Stockholm’s public transit system.

Res i Sthlm (the name means Travel in Stockholm) is fantastic and really unlocks the mystery of which train/bus to take to get somewhere. Indispensable for a newcomer like myself. The SlovoEd Compact English-Swedish app is convenient and contains over 50,000 words, but it has a habit of producing English words I have never seen before in my life. (What? You never use English words like: vacuity, abaft, gadabout, jacobus, and sacerdotal?). And by “bad habit” I mean that I’m learning new English words from it pretty much every day. I just hope that these are actual words and not bogus entries the added to beef up the word count. I’d hate to natter or confabulate with a compeer in America, only to learn that I’ve been hornswoggled.

Other than a few apps like those, I never spent any time exploring the App Store until now. A few days ago, I spent about an hour looking only at the various photography apps available. There are nearly 600 applications in the photography category, but I picked out a few that looked fun and I ended up keeping three.

Two of the apps I kept were free, but I actually paid the princely sum of 99 cents for one that is my favorite. MoloPix is a multi-shot photography app that uses the iPhone’s camera to simulate a Lomo ActionSampler camera. I had an ActionSampler in Louisville and it was one of several great cameras I had to get rid of when I moved to the other side of the world.

Unlike an actual analog camera, the MoloPix app gives you the instant gratification of seeing the photos within seconds. There’s no suspense of waiting to get your pictures developed. The app also gives you a lot more flexibility by allowing you to select the number of frames it shoots (2, 4, or 6), and the time interval in between, or you can shoot manually, hitting the shutter button for each frame. If you’re shooting a set of four frames, it uses the iPhone’s accelerometer to automatically choose vertical or horizontal frames based on how you’re holding the phone.

In the middle photo above, you can see some guys cleaning up the ground near my apartment. Like in any city when it snows, workers come around and throw out sand or gravel so people can walk on the ice. In a place like Stockholm that gets tons of snow over a period of many months, rocks and sand get scattered hundreds of times. After all the snow and ice is gone, much more gravel is left behind than what will wash away naturally. That has to be cleaned up. In many places, like T-bana platforms, there are huge containers of sand that gets used over and over. In this photo you can see all the gravel on the platform at Handen after months of snow has melted.

One more note about the iPhone, I have been surprised that the GPS function still works without cellular service. That’s pretty cool and it has been useful. Even though you need WiFi to load the maps, once a map is loaded, you can wander away from the connection and GPS will continue to update your position on it.

An app I have been thinking about getting is Stockholm Maps Offline which does exactly what you would expect from the name. It is a self-contained, GPS-enabled collection of Stockholm maps. I have been hesitant about it because the resolution doesn’t look so good, the reviews aren’t great, and it costs $2.99. I know, right? With the price of apps going through the fucking roof… I can usually find an open network within a few blocks of anywhere I am if I search around, so I think for now I’ll stick with the built-in maps on the iPhone.

Påsk and Aprilskämt


I recently noticed that the Tunnelbana trains have names. A nice touch, I think, although I don’t care for the font. Here are Ted and Maria. You would expect a transit system to give them catchier names like TF0142581 and XG532014.


While riding inside the T-bana (I almost wrote “when riding inside Ted” but that didn’t sound appropriate), I saw this hilarious ad for Teknik Magasinet, one of several popular novelty gadget stores here. This is advertising a game where you can try to shoot your friends and if you hit them it shocks them. Sounds like loads of fun, right? This store has all kinds of ridiculous stuff like that. You can also see the electric nose hair trimmers in the ad. Today, Erik picked up their catalog which is called Prylbibeln (“Gadget Bible”). He was telling me about how every time the publish a catalog they include a fake item and it’s a bit of challenge for everyone to figure out which one of the thousands of absurd items isn’t real.

Speaking of pranks, yesterday was April Fools Day and several newspapers ran fake stories as their Aprilskämt. One was about the introduction of a new exclusive section on the subway. If you bought a VIP card you would be treated to reserved seating, cookies, and coffee during your daily commute. Another paper ran a story announcing that it was now illegal to stand on the walking side of the escalator. The fake stories were the talk of the town.

Surprisingly, the electric-shock ad is for “cool Easter gifts.” For Americans, Easter in Sweden would seem like a mash-up of the customs we know from Christmas, Halloween, and Easter. The little girls dress as the Easter Witch, in a traditional costume with a long skirt, broom, head scarf, bright red cheeks, and freckles. A black cat sometimes follows her in drawings.

The kids in costumes go door-to-door for candy, which is usually egg-shaped, or comes in egg-shaped containers. Hiding the eggs and the egg hunt are relatively new things, imported from America. Instead, the kids leave little cards behind, some make their own. I’ll try to get some photos of little Easter Witches next weekend, but if you click this Google Image search for “påskkärring” you can see an assortment of what it’s all about.

"International" lunch


This afternoon, I prepared an international meal on the balcony in Hagsätra. Mixing my American heritage with the local favorite, here is a peanut butter and lingonberry sandwich.


…and an Americano (espresso and water) with soymilk in my favorite mug. This mug is from Kentucky Educational Television in Louisville. I loved watching KET, their great original programs about Kentucky and the national PBS shows. I’m still watching Frontline here via the internet. I have also always loved the KET logo, which has remained virtually unchanged since I was a kid.

When I was running for mayor of Louisville in 1998, I was invited to the KET studios to participate in a televised debate. They had water in these mugs at the podiums for the candidates to drink. It was love at first sight with this mug.

After the debate, I asked one of the stagehands if he knew where I could get one. He looked around and with a nod and a wink said, “Just put it in your bag!” So I did. Since then, it has come along with me each time I moved from Louisville; Providence, Los Angeles, and now here it is in Stockholm. I only brought one bag when I moved, so I had to pack the mug deep in the middle, surrounded by sweaters and socks, to be sure it made the trip in one piece.

Beautiful doesn’t even come close


At the risk of jinxing it, the weather the past few days has been simply gorgeous. We broke double-digit temperatures (Celcius, of course) which means it has been up in the 50° Fahrenheit range.

When the weather changes, the people change. I know I do. People on the street are talking more, laughing, and there are more people about. It’s great.

In the picture above, you can notice the supply of candles. Swedes love putting candles or little lights in their windows and I’m trying to fit in. Also, check out how thick the windows are. This is a triple-pane window built for the cold winters and the blinds are built into the middle, so they don’t need to be dusted.

The nice weather is especially helpful since my Dutch roommate has turned the apartment into a construction zone. In preparation for selling the place, he has begun painting everything. He is using oil-based paints which stink like crazy. We’re on the fourth floor and I can smell the paint as soon as I walk into the building on the ground floor. Of course, he’s a construction worker and chain-smoker, so he can’t smell it and he thinks I’m joking.

Yesterday I got home and had to pee so bad, only to find that there was no door on the bathroom. Great! So I’ve spent a couple recent nights at Iida and Erik’s. When I have been home, the window in my room has been open or I’ve been camped out on the balcony.

Renegade clementine


This is not my favorite grocery shop in Hagsätra and apparently the fruit doesn’t like it so much either. This clementine was making a break for it. They really need to wash the front of the building or people might not believe everything I’m saying about how clean it is in Sweden.

More of that dirty jellybean

More pictures of the jellybean on Maoam candy packages. You may remember him from the February 25 post when a couple cherries were waiting in line to get licked. Now he’s up to, well, maybe you should just see for yourself. I really don’t want to speculate about what’s going on in the first one.




World’s largest Ikea and the Swedish Royal Family

Even in America, every Ikea store is incredibly huge. The closest one to where I live has the distinction of being the largest in the world. I visited a couple weeks ago and spent a few hours getting lost in the maze. I bought some candles, hangers, and what I believe may be the best pillow ever. Oh yes, and I ate dinner in the cafe where they have one of the best deals in Stockholm: pizza slice and a drink for 12 kronors (about $1.50). I don’t know if they have it in American Ikea stores, but here they sell Ikea brand cola and other flavored sodas including lingonberry, a Swedish staple. I was excited and wanted to try both the cola and lingonberry soda, so of course, I ended up drinking too much of it.


This is a 3-story sign on the building that says “New! Open 10-8 every day” … Um, excuse me, how late are you open? What about tomorrow? And Sunday? Is that new?


More gigantic words at Ikea that say “entrance.”

This Ikea is near the Skärholmen area in a neighborhood called Kungens Kurva (the King’s Curve). The area got its name after a car chauffeuring the King of Sweden ran off the road there in 1946. That king, Gustaf V, was the grandfather of the current king, Carl XVI Gustaf. The King was not injured in the accident, but still today there are endless rumors about how the car actually happened to run off the road. Apparently, “something” may have been going on in the car between the King and his chauffeur. These rumors went along with other allegations and scandals at the time relating to the King’s sexuality. He was kind of a twink and had a fancy mustache, so I don’t know, maybe he was asking for it.

Just after I arrived in Sweden, it was announced that the 31-year-old Crown Princess Victoria had become engaged to her longtime boyfriend, a 35-year-old personal trainer and businessman named Daniel Westling. It is no overstatement to say this was HUGE news in Sweden. Every TV channel, the cover of every newspaper, every magazine, et cetera. Pictures of the ring, the press conference, the couple sitting awkwardly on a fancy sofa making the announcement, and later, more awkwardly at a table with the King and Queen. It was everywhere, I tell ya.

Of course, Sweden has a prime minister and a democratically-elected parliament, so the Royal Court’s duties are now ceremonial. But like the British, the Danes, and others, people are still fascinated with royal families, and this engagement is big news not just for the obvious reasons.

In 1980, Sweden became the first country to change its rules of succession to equal primogeniture, meaning that the oldest child would become the head of the monarchy regardless of their gender. Victoria, born in 1977, then became heiress apparent which was historic. It means if the King passes away or abdicates the throne, she will be the first regnant queen of Sweden in nearly 300 years.

A queen regnant is a female who is the head of the monarchy. The current queen, Silvia, is a queen consort, that is, she is the wife the reigning monarch but she could never become the sovereign leader. The last queen regnant in Sweden was Queen Ulrika Eleonora whose short-lived rule ended in 1720 and there were only two other female heads before her. Those reigns ended in 1412 and 1654. Surprisingly, none of those broads were even in the same family as the current lineage of royals.

Get this: An entirely new family was shipped in from France in 1810 to take over the throne. During 1809 and 1810, there was a quick succession of four kings in Sweden. The reigning king was overthrown in a coup and temporarily replaced by his uncle who had no children, who was replaced by a prince from Denmark, who died the same year.

So the Swedish Ståndsriksdagen (the people in charge of filling the vacant seat) actually elected a French general named Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte to be the new king. This guy was Napoleon’s sister-in-law’s sister’s husband. Napoleon liked this guy because he kicked some ass in the French Revolution and the Swedes wanted to pick someone the little guy would look favorably on. So there you have it, the Swedish Royal Family is from France.

The current queen, who married into the family, isn’t natively Swedish either. Queen Silvia has a Brazilian mother and a German father. She met the King at the 1972 Munich Olympics. It’s important to a lot of people here that Princess Victoria’s husband-to-be, even though he is a commoner, is from a proper Swedish family. It gets more Swedish blood back into the lineage, especially if they have children.

Oh, one more thing about the Swedish Royal Family: the King’s picture is on all the coins here. Weird, right? A guy who is alive has his picture on the money. The paper currency is not like that. It has pictures of artists, writers, and musicians, but I’ll write about that soon. Swedish paper money is interesting and beautiful enough to get its own story here. I’ll save it for a rainy day.

A few things that have reminded me of Louisville


This is a photo of a guy we ran into on March 4th who looks like he could be my brother’s stunt double. On the left you can see Iida’s hand holding a photo of the real QB.


I saw this typewriter in a shop window. When I was a little boy, my mom had the exact same Remington Quiet-Riter. When I began publishing my own magazine in the neighborhood in the early eighties, that’s what I used, along with scratch-on letters.

When I saw this one in the window, I was kind of hoping it had unusual keys on it for Swedish characters, but this one appears to be just like the one we had in Kentucky. I do remember that the one in our house had a hard suitcase-style carrier that was fuzzy and green on the inside. A Google Image search turned up one like that: link. I remember taking it out of the case, taking the ribbon out, and generally disassembling it. I had a bad habit of that when I was a kid.

After a few years of printing my first magazine, Cosmicpolitain, the folks took me to Service Merchandise on Shelbyville Road and I upgraded to a “modern” electric Olivetti typewriter. That one used cartridges instead of ribbons and had the amazing delete function which made Liquid Paper obsolete! I mean, obsolete for correcting errors. It was still useful for painting names of punk bands on stuff… and it smelled great!


Since our doggie Barney died back in 1994, I have had his Jefferson County dog license tag on my keychain. I’m happy to report that it made the trip with me and is now among my Swedish keys. Many of the keys here look like they are from haunted houses, again, presumably because Swedish people are vampires.


I riled up some religious types a few years ago when I launched a website called SaintClinton.com and started selling merchandise with a hybrid image of Bill Clinton crossed with Jesus. I received so much hilarious hate mail that I put together a book of the best ones.

I saw a book in a store here that had a similar idea on the cover that is not as offensive to Christians, but I think the illustration is much better and funnier than what I did. Here’s Bill Clinton crossed with Elvis Presley. Awesome… and not that much of a stretch, really. I heard a comedian say once that when he was working on his Bill Clinton impersonation, he just ended up trying to do Jimmy Carter and Elvis at the same time. It think that’s about the size of it!

Clarion Hotel Sign


Jesus, it took me forever to find the Clarion Hotel. The sign on the building should be a little more obvious.

Louisville fans: it’s all my fault

Tonight I had to send some apology messages to Louisville because I think I jinxed the basketball game against Michigan State.

You see, the only basketball that I watched all season was the second half of Sunday’s game. I tuned during halftime and watched the second half live via the CBS website. It was basically tied when I picked up the game. I think there were two points difference between the teams.

The good news is that the picture and sound quality were really pretty amazing. While I was watching it I was thinking that this is what the internet is supposed to be able to do – show me whatever I choose, as it happens, with quality as good or better than television. It was free, so I was blessed with all the US network commercials during time-outs.

The bad news is that it didn’t seem like Louisville could hit a basket or pick up a rebound during the entire second half. Michigan State didn’t have any trouble with either of those issues. Did Louisville turn off their hustle for Earth Hour? (My, what timely commentary! He’s using basketball terminology with an awareness of current events.)

The game wasn’t a total loss, though. I took advantage of the opportunity to use some of the Swedish profanity I have learned. Maybe we can all learn something from this:

Fan = fuck
Helvete = hell
Jävel = bastard
Skit = shit
Jävla Louisville! = Fucking Louisville!

The E-Snuggie?


Spotted yesterday in Stockholm, is this a new version of the Snuggie?

The Snuggie, of course, is the infamous “blanket with sleeves” for lazy Americans who sit on the couch all day. Because they need their hands for the remote control and feeding their snack hole, a traditional analog blanket just won’t work. The Snuggie website shows people having family time together, reading a book. Don’t believe the hype. The website itself is heavy reading for the people who have these things.

I guess Europeans are more productive so their blankets have a place for a computer. Oh yes, and they leave the house.

I’m still convinced the Snuggie was invented by a drunk guy who put his robe on backwards and passed out on the couch. He awoke to a flash of “genius” and now he’s a millionaire. A drunk millionaire. “What do you mean I’m not on the guest list?! Do you know who I am? I invented the fucking blanket with sleeves!”

Update: After watching the Snuggie commercial, Erik said, “…or you could get dressed.”

Lördag kväll: Saturday night

Tonight I went out on the town with some friends and ended up drawing on people. The city was alight with excitement because there was a big soccer game tonight: Sweden vs. Portugal. A lot of the bars had signs out front advertising that they would be showing the game. It was a qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Not quite the NCAA Basketball Tournament, I know, but in any event the final score was 0-0. That’s right. No points were scored during the entire ninety minutes of the game. Yeah, I don’t get it either, and I don’t know how that qualifies either team.

We were at Debaser Medis, just up the hill from Debaser Slussen. In 1999, before this place was the club it is now, I played a solo acoustic show here, opening for Lost Patrol, the solo project of Dennis Lyxzén of Refused and International Noise Conspiracy. This is also about three blocks away from Kafe 44 where Metroschifter played in the nineties and I also did another solo show back in the day.


Iida “Junebug” Hellström (whose nicknames also include “Wednesday” because she looked like Wednesday Addams ten years ago when Metroschifter played with her band The Sorted)


Anna “Cookie” Hesselman (whose nicknames also include “Bead Princess” because she runs a bead store and “Hazel Dude” because that’s a loose translation of her last name into English). Most girls in Sweden are named Anna or Emma.


A guy named Henrik who I don’t know, but who wanted a Sharpie tattoo of one of his favorite Swedish bands, Loney Dear. He gave me his email address to contact him to possibly do some artwork. I asked him why he was drinking Budweiser and he blamed it on his friend. I would, too.


Johanna Westling (who has the same last name as Daniel Westling, the guy who is engaged to Victoria, the Princess of Sweden – they are unfortunately not related) This says “I heart Iida.” It’s true. Johanna hearts Iida.

God, I miss my iPhone


In addition to learning a new language, the metric system, how much everything costs, and adjusting to a new culture, possibly the most difficult part has been being forced to return to T9. You know, sending text messages with only the number keys? Remember that?

As much as I love the iPhone, when I arrived in Sweden, my iPhone was still tethered to AT&T in America. Using it here with that contract was simply crazy expensive. It was okay to visit with, but living here with it was too much. Unfortunately, because the phone was locked to AT&T, I couldn’t just switch to a Swedish provider. Now that I have cancelled my AT&T contract, the phone has been reduced to being a very nice iPod with WiFi. I initially thought I might be able to unlock the phone to use it with a different provider, but that turned out to be impossible because I had updated my phone to a version that – at least for now – is not unlockable.

Unlimited data on the iPhone in America got me spoiled really fast and it’s amazing how much the thing became a part of my life: email, internet, texting, taking pictures, making notes, and even recording things, which some of my friends found very annoying.

In any event, I had to get some type of local phone to communicate with friends, so I got on a pre-paid plan with Telia, one of the big providers. Above is a picture of the phone I bought used from a guy from Dubai that I found on the internet. He has a “shop” where he is resetting and unlocking old phones. Surprisingly, this Sony Ericsson phone I bought is not unusually antiquated. I have been shocked that qwerty phones and Blackberry devices are pretty rare here.

There are two companies in Sweden that offer the iPhone, but both require a personnummer (the Swedish equivalent of a Social Security number) to sign up. If I want to get an iPhone with cash and go the pre-paid route, the phone itself is about $700. That’s a cost I just can’t justify at this early stage of my time here.

Long story short, I still use my iPhone all the time – it just doesn’t send and receive calls or texts any more. All the apps still work, though some require a WiFi connection. One of the few apps I actually paid money for is an English/Swedish dictionary. It has 56,000 entries and is fully self-contained, that is, it doesn’t require a connection. I use it all the time.

I also have become obsessed with checking the US-dollar-to Swedish-kronor exchange rate several times a day. All my clients are in America and I’m being paid in dollars, so what I’m earning is worth different amounts every few hours.

Refrigerator poetry


Today’s arrangement of the nine words I took off the dead refrigerator a couple weeks ago:

Beautiful electric blood lover
Hungry woman
Refrigerator face
Why

Charts and lists

My friend Johanna is writing an article about my decision to move – and the accompanying adventure – for Sweden’s biggest printing and graphics magazine. That’s pretty exciting. It will be published in May in Aktuell Grafisk Information.

Over the past week or so she gave me the third-degree through an interview and getting my pictures taken for it. I’m used to being on the other side of the interview.

While trying to come up with some illustrations to go along with the article, I made some charts and lists. I don’t know if any of them will actually be in the article, so I thought I’d post them here so if they don’t get used they won’t go to waste.

I made Top Five lists of my observations about what I love and don’t love about Sweden, as well as what I miss and don’t miss about America. The charts that go with them are kind of the same ideas.

I added the parts in italics to explain a little bit here, so the italicized parts are just for you.

For example: Djungelvrål is very salty licorice candy that Swedish people are crazy about. It’s impossible to eat without making a face, but wholly different than Sour Patch Kids, if you can imagine. Knäckebröd is very thin, hard bread that would be like a cracker, except it’s not salty and it is bread size or bigger. Before I moved here, one of the Swedish language instructional recordings I listened to had the phrase “Alla svenskar älskar knäckebröd” which means “All Swedes love knäckebröd.” It’s true. They do.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT SWEDEN

1. Clean, safe, quiet, beautiful. The culture has a respect for nature, even in the urban environment. The society seems to have an awareness of our impact on the environment that is accepted and not treated as activism.

2. Public transit can take you pretty much anywhere in the city. The trains and buses are always on time and public clocks are accurate.

3. People are incredibly well educated. This makes a big difference for everything.

4. There is an attractive, simple design aesthetic to almost everything. Of course this includes architecture, signs, furniture, and appliances, but I also see it a lot in clothes.

5. Everyone I’ve met is incredibly friendly and curious about things around them and interested in my story.

6. Okay, I said I was doing Top Fives, but I have to add a Number Six on this list: I love the ideas of lagom and the fika. It’s like they were invented for me. These two words could really replace our entire conversation about why I moved here!

“Lagom” is a Swedish concept that basically means “just enough.” It’s prevalent in everything from the design of furniture to how hard people work. It is kind of like the idea that there’s no need to go too far or to do too much. Less is more. – “Fika” is the afternoon coffee break, which for some Swedes lasts a few hours. It’s usually accompanied by some sort of baked treat, bun, or similar snack.

WHAT I MISS ABOUT AMERICA

1. The extensive variety of food available, especially Mexican food and other spicy foods. Maybe the fact that there is so much food everywhere in America is part of the country’s problem with obesity, but I miss it nonetheless.

2. Stores being open late and America’s 24-hour culture. If I want to buy a book, eat some food, get a drink with friends, or call to change my cell phone service, I can usually do any of these things pretty late in the evening and some in the middle of the night.

3. The availability and variety of alcohol: hours, locations, prices, choices, character of independent shops. All the beer and alcohol over 3.5% is sold by the state-run chain of stores called Systembolaget. They are open only until 7:00 or earlier and closed on Sunday.

4. Being able to understand everything anybody says.

5. Of course, my friends and family.

WHAT I DON’T LOVE ABOUT SWEDEN

1. So much of the television programming is in English and from America and everyone in Sweden speaks perfect English. The prevalence of English makes it so much more difficult to learn Swedish and to use what little Swedish I know.

2. Surprisingly high number of people who smoke and use smokeless tobacco. This surprises me because Swedes seem so health-conscious otherwise and have a reputation for being healthy.

3. I feel pressured to wear black. Everyone is wearing black all the time. Sure, it looks smart and goes with everything, but a little color here and there doesn’t hurt. Sometimes I feel like I stand out because my coat is dark brown!

4. The weather – for now – is cold and I miss seeing the sun as often.

5. Some people here seem to intentionally ruin their natural beauty with fake tans, too much makeup, facial piercing, or inconsiderate behavior. This is rare, but notable.

WHAT I DON’T MISS ABOUT AMERICA

1. General noise: motorcycles, “high-performance” exhaust, car stereos, sirens.

2. Telephone poles, power lines, and unreliable utilities that come with them.

3. Corporate prepared food, fast food, and the sloppy lifestyles of the people who are duped by it.

4. Important decisions about society being made and defended by people who are uneducated about the issues, or those with a sense of entitlement.

5. Calculating sales tax when making purchases and tips (gratuity) when eating or drinking. Although the sales tax here is a steep 25%, it’s not so noticeable or painful because it is included in the prices. If you don’t study your receipts, you’ll rarely see the amount of tax. It seems that tipping is basically rounding up if you feel like being nice. I almost never see extra money left on the table or handed to a server. Maybe because everyone is paid enough to survive.

Tiger Lou


One of the bands Erik is in, Tiger Lou (video) played a benefit show tonight for Rädda Barnen, a group that helps children around the world. There were several bands who each played a few songs at the Debaser Slussen club. The club is underneath the street next to some locks in the water where boats pass through. The city of Stockholm is spread across fourteen islands, so the water is never too far away.

Sunshine and blue skies


This is near Slussen (the locks) and you can see some of the same buildings that are in the Metroschifter cover photo, but with much different conditions in the sky. Although it was very cold – right around freezing – I sat here and soaked up some sun for a few minutes. One of the Tunnelbana trains is going across the bridge.

Drive-thru blizzard

While walking and enjoying a sunny (but cold) day near Skanstull on Södermalm, a snow storm breezed through. It lasted just a few minutes and some parts of the sky were still blue while it was happening. It was very surreal.

Clear night in Hagsätra

The Metroschifter

I finished the artwork for the new Metroschifter CD this week and got it sent off to Louisville. Noise Pollution will be putting it out and we are doing a pre-order offer so people can get it personalized with their name on the cover. The cover photo is one I took here in Stockholm last August on the same day as the main photo on this page.. I think it’s another great example of what I was saying about the dramatic skies in Sweden. Of course, there’s not usually blood all over the place.

Hört, Pat, and I recorded this new CD in January. More about that is on our website at metroschifter.com.

Globen

More snow


All my talk about spring colors and the melting of the snow was a bit premature. I guess that shows what I know about living in Sweden. I sat down on my bed to do some design work Monday evening and was there for a few hours. When I got up to get some food, I looked out the window and the world had been covered in white again. This is that scene from my bedroom window.

Sergels Torg at night


One of the main plazas, Sergels Torg, Monday night.

Franz Ferdinand


One of my Louisville friends, Rachel, does music promotion work in London and got me in on the guest list to see Franz Ferdinand in Stockholm tonight. Iida went with me and we had very nice seats. The show was at Cirkus which has a capacity of about 2000. It is the same venue where I will be going to see A Camp next month.

The crowd was electric and it seemed that all the people there were totally excited about the show… except the band. They sounded fantastic, but their enthusiasm was that of a band whohad played the same songs for the thousandth night in a row.

Moving again in May

After just a few weeks in the apartment, my roommate has told me that he has decided to move back to Holland and sell the apartment. I will be moving in with my friends Iida and Erik on May 1st. They are a little farther from the city center, but their place is much nicer and bigger. They have a beautiful, eighth-floor balcony, big windows all around two sides of the apartment, a washer/dryer inside the apartment (a true luxury in Europe), wireless internet, cable tv, et cetera.

The biggest benefit is that they are Swedes and I am always learning and hearing more language when I am around them. My room will be, well, tiny and doesn’t have any windows itself, but the common areas, kitchen, et cetera, are large (suitable for guests) and my moving in will make life cheaper for everyone involved.

The first signs of spring are here. We’ve had 3 or 4 sunny days in a row. Today it was a positively sweltering 6°C (about 43°F). Yeah, I’m not just learning the language, I’m re-learning money, temperatures, weights, and measures at the same time. I have lost a little weight, certainly not from a lack of eating, probably from walking so much more and not drinking so regularly.

Sunset


Me with Friday’s sunset out my bedroom window.