Sunday, 30 September 2007

Questions about Scandinavia

It seems that everywhere I go these days, someone comments on Scandinavia, and what an amazingly enlightened, developed place it is. The other night someone spoke of Scandinavian environmental habits with almost religious reverence; my social work professor the other day went so far as to imply that Scandinavians are more highly evolved as human beings than Americans(1). Progressive intellectual America has a Scandi-complex; we all want to be like you!

So, I thought I would take advantage of this blog to ask some questions; non-Scandinavian readers, please feel free to chime in with any questions of your own (comments are now available to EVERYONE). And my dear Norwegian cohorts, won't you please enlighten us?

1. First of all, will you please clarify a little bit about the tax law? Up to 56%, said my social work professor (the class bristled). At what point do you have to start paying taxes? I know this was a relevant issue to your summer, Sofie. What are the tax brackets like; ie, who has to pay how much?

2. How does the government justify taxing so much? How do people accept it? Is there a clear general awareness of where exactly the taxes go? Is there a major sense of collective responsibility in Norway? Is it because you are more highly evolved?

3. What, then, is the incentive to work? For example, Sofie, why did you even work the extra hours at Fiskebrygga this summer if you knew that you'd have to work more than double the amount of time for only a little bit more money than you got last summer?

4. It can't be that Scandinavia is without social stratification. There are rich Norwegians and poor Norwegians, right? Or are there just rich Norwegians and richer Norwegians? What is the difference between a rich Norwegian and a poor Norwegian?

5. What exactly do you get from your government? Baard's civil service deal sounded pretty sweet. But Else, are you getting a free education? Sofie, are they giving you money for Glasgow? What about healthcare? Also, is it true that the Norwegian government sends old people on vacation to the Mediterranean in the winter months so that they won't get sick?

6. Finally, Else, I have heard that the Scandinavian countries have the highest suicide rate due to lack of sunlight in the northern regions. Do you have one of those sun lamps up there in Tromso? I certainly hope so.

So, stay tuned for answers to these questions, & feel free to comment with your own!

(1) Or at least that's what I understood. Then I text messaged Ola to ask if it was true, and he replied that it definitely was. Asshole.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Energy & the Elliptical Machine

These days, I have taken to periodically visiting NYU's beautiful gym facilities. Please don't laugh. I like the elliptical machine best: I smoothly propel the pedals up and down to the beat of Mahi Ve; I sweat and I sweat and I go nowhere. There are always a lot of other people there, sleek fitness-type people pushing the handles of their elliptical machines back and forth or running to nowhere on the treadmills; we stare up at the wall of TV screens and pour our energy out, in place. The machine tells me (a) how many calories I have spent, and (b) how many miles I would have gone if I had been running in the real world. Sometimes I imagine it to be a small energy factory: I picture all of our burned calories running the subway system, and we seem very mighty indeed. Of course, this has no basis in fact.

Doesn't it seem completely counterintuitive and unnatural to rid yourself of your body's precious energy on a machine that in turn demands more energy, in a building that demands still more? Isn't it funny to think of all of this machinery dedicated simply to burning calories? Shouldn't the sweat of our brow be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself? Silly kids, stop running on your hamster wheels! Go out and plow a field or something! Hunt down a turkey!

Well, maybe. Find me a field to plow in New York City and I'll plow it for you. But honestly, I'd rather move my legs back and forth, back and forth, to nowhere on the elliptical machine. I've never felt so good running in the real world as I do on the elliptical machine (not even running with Christie!). The feeling of my feet connecting with Mother Earth just hurts my knees and gives me cramps; I'd much prefer the smooth plastic and gratifying calorie count and I imagine the sleek fitness-types who shame me into five more minutes every time would agree. Is this deplorable? Have we lost touch with our natural selves?

Maybe. Perhaps a primitivist would say so. But I don't really think so. Actually, I think it's perfectly natural, a logical step in our adaptation to our changing environment. By 2050, says Wikipedia, "over 6 billion people, over two thirds of humanity, will be living in towns or cities." It's rather unavoidable: as human beings we are becoming more and more detached from the earth, and more and more attached to the plastic of the elliptical machine. We still have to live on the earth, though, and that's what we need to remember. Instead of denouncing urbanization, I think we need to accept it and work with it. Like my friend Adam (who's a lot smarter than I am and writes far more intelligent things on his blog) said the other day, we need to think about how we can make cities sustainable rather than decrying their very existence.

So, scientists, what about my energy factory idea?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

i need help

well, i don't really NEED help, but i do want help.
in uni, this whole term is dedicated to studying an activity, involving around 10 people. we are going to make cubist paintings, collages, video montages and digital representations of this activity, and after christmas, our two terms are dedicated to designing a building to house the activity. it seems that most of my class want to do some form of dancing, because it should be an activity with a distinct pattern that we can make diagrams of and eventually draw in plans and sections. AND it should be an activity that we are interested in, because after all we will be spending half a year studying it. which does sound really interesting, but you know, i don't feel up to drawing salsa dancing every day.
AND, it can not be a sport, because sport arenas are too big for the scope of the project, so there's volleyball out the window.
i need your creative input on this one! i was thinking about kathakali dancing, which i think would be pretty cool, but how on earth will i find a kathakali group in glasgow?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Summary (Montreal! Americans!)

Now this was a lovely weekend: I went to Montreal! Oh it's such a beautiful place; I try on cities like I try on clothing, and Montreal is my new favorite dress. I visited Sukanya, & Srishti & Alissa, and my cousin Jamie, and the colors were really bright, essentially. And the feeling of being in motion again (& my first overnight bus ride on American Soil) was pretty fucking lovely, too.

I won't narrate too much, but here's what happened after all the fun was over and I was sleeping my way south:
Coming back over the border was hilarious: an overweight, pink-faced, crabby female customs officer got on the bus and jarred me from my sleep with her squeaky & repulsive voice. "TAKE ALL OF YOUR BELONGINGS WITH YOU. LEAVE THEM ON THE KERB OUTSIDE AND PROCEED DIRECTLY THROUGH THE GLASS DOORS. THERE IS NO RESTROOM INSIDE; DO NOT ASK." I briefly entertained the notion that it could have been an ironic joke, but then I looked at all the French Canadians giving each other knowing looks, and I realized, no, it is not an ironic joke. It's just America at its best.

Which city is your favorite dress? Or pair of sunglasses? Etc?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Sinful joy

The two of you are very active, and I must say I am enjoying to read and to peek into your lives that are being lived far away. First of all I must ask (asking questions) what are hula hoops? Is it “rokkering”?

Oh! Now the Internet tells me; YES, that is exactly what it is. I love the image I have in my mind of this man with the hula hoops on the subway. Makes we want to go to the store right now and get hula hoops my self. But where do they sell hula hoops these days? Haven’t seen any in years

Talking of plastic, today I experienced how much joy material things can give me! Made me feel sinful! We all know how elegantly the Macintosh business works (shrewdly works its way around the neo-liberal system and we all love it). Push a few buttons on your keyboard, and whoops – there’s a brand new beautiful machine on your doorstep a few days later! Today I was as privileged as to receive this toy of a laptop. A brand new, black MacBook, smiling at me. I sat for a long time playing with the photoBoth, and even playing with the advanced new Office version (I had no idea Word could be so much fun), being amazed how this product had developed since my last iBook, which left the surface of this earth a little while ago. So now I have New York- and Edinburgh-time on my desktop. It was funny because last night I was out at a concert, and I had a few drinks and it got a little late. Besides the point really, but therefore today hasn’t been a productive day. So when I looked at the New-York time on my screen a thought: aah, the day is passing and I haven’t done anything and Shane has the whole day ahead of her! And right now even more of the day has passed and Shane sill has a lot of the day left. But I like the contrast between having days with intensity and productivity (in whatever form) and those days where you sort of drift. This is one of them, and I think my ability to properly reason is drifting as well today because I was planning to write a response to Sofie’s post about travelling. But I keep loosing my argument the moment I start formulating it. So what is the point. I shall rather do it one of those awaken days.

Tonight I am also going to a concert. To listen to man sing about shoes, scouts and asphalt (Bare Egil Band). That will probably fuel some useful insights about the world and other issues. So long.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Questions of Travel

i decided to post my reply to shane's school assignment here.
i also decided to focus on the Questions of Travel

i think this is what it all comes down to, questions. yes, i think that if we had stayed at home, we would have asked questions, and yes, we might have found answers to them. the difference, i think, is the kind of questions we ask.

i find this really hard, i have deleted and re-written this paragraph about four times now.
in essence i think that shane, you are right, we are better off with the experience. even though when it comes to questions, i still tend to wonder "when will i have enough money to buy those nice winter boots?" rather than "when will the genocide in sudan stop?"
i think i am, in a way, defending my worries about silly mundane things by thinking that, well at least now i am educated enough to think of the genocide in sudan once in a while. like, now at least i kind of know what it is. there may be many better examples of this, and i do still feel rather uneducated.

i have so many things to say and such bad organisation of my thoughts!!!
i think i will continue in bullet point form

1. the other day i was at a dinner party and i was talking to a middle aged american woman who was "very worried" about the fact that american high school students don't even have to study world history. i agree, that is rather worrying, but you don't have to study history in high school in norway either, or britain for that matter (i think), and (sorry, american kids, i'm sure there are many exceptions to this one) europeans still seem to generally be more aware of what's been going down around the world in the past. so maybe education is not the problem? maybe it's the media, maybe not, maybe it's the conversations you have with your friends, maybe it is what is talked about around the dinner table.
i remember going to ola's house, sitting around the dinner table talking about politics and history and whatever (this was pre-muwci) and i remember thinking that "this is how kids learn. why isn't my dinner table like this?" ok i realize i am digressing here, but i guess my point is that you learn so much from the people around you and that maybe, yes, you learn stuff in school, but unless you learn to think critically (as you might learn from discussions around the dinner table, maybe even over a beer in paud) that knowledge is worth nothing.

2. at this afore mentioned dinner party, i disagreed with most of what the american lady was saying, but i was really appreciating the conversation! (it helped that there was a very intelligent guy from bangladesh there, and one from germany and one from england and an american girl) i think this is the essence; we were from all over the world and so we had so many things to learn from each other, and so many things to tell. i think this is how we learned in muwci.

3. a guy just walked by, outside the internet cafe window in glasgow, wearing a "same same but different" shirt. i wonder if he went to india, and i wonder is he asked many questions while he was there, and i wonder if he asks different questions now than he did before. (maybe he went to thailand or morrocco for that matter)

4 this is the most incoherent thing i have written in a long time. shane, i think it's good that you're the one taking a writing class.

5. i am listening to sufjan stevens, he is talking about running out of springfield, maybe he wants to go out and learn about stuff so he can ask new questions.

hmm i think that when you're in a place for too long, you kind of run out of questions to ask and things to talk to people about, so you start talking about the new, modern roof of the local shell-station and forget that there's a world out there. it's dangerous, and i feel myself falling into that trap! i'm forgetting to ask questions and i forget to remember what i've learned, and when the news come on, i switch to "america's next top model".

where will this end.
thank you girls for making me think at least a little bit.

Monday, 17 September 2007

An Angel

This is the story about my subway ride home on Friday night. The first part is a funny anecdote and the second part is the meat of the story:

So I wandered/tottered, ecstatic, into the subway near where my friend Raia lives; it was about three in the morning and I have to confess to some problems with my Metrocard. But eventually I made it through the revolving gates (everything in fucking New York City REVOLVES), and as I walked in, three very disgruntled Frenchmen walked out: 'Well,' they said, 'you can wait but ze train eez not goeeng to come.' They obviously thought that America sucked. They were right in many ways, but wrong in a very crucial one, because five minutes later, the train came! & I got on.

Somewhere in the seventies, I believe, a tall thin man with red-rimmed eyes, long white pants, and a shimmery pink shirt got on, carrying a pair of hula hoops. I was getting pretty into the Side Brok I was listening to at the moment, so I didn't ask what the hula hoops were for, I just looked at him: he had a sympathetic face. He pointed to where a watch would be so I showed him with my fingers 3 0 4. And then I thought, I can listen to Side Brok later, so I asked: 'What are the hula hoops for?'

The hula hoops? he said, They are for dancing. This is how I make a living. Well, one quarter of a living. You can only make one quarter of a living dancing with hula hoops, but it is worth it if dancing with hula hoops is what you love. And he explained to me how he makes the other 3/4 of his living; I have since forgotten.

This was an introduction to a fifteen minute motivational speech on the importance of following your dreams and doing what you love. Security, he told me, is overrated. It is important, you need to pay the bills, you should not get into too much debt, but sometimes it is worth it to get into a little bit of debt if it means that you are more alive as a person. If you follow your dreams, he told me, the most likely outcome is that you will be disappointed. Probably, your dreams will not come true. But there will be the tiniest sliver of a chance they might, and, he said, in his opinion it is better that there be a tiny sliver of a chance that they might come true than certainty that they won't. Because although at the end of the day you will probably go to bed in the same bed you would have had you walked the safe line, at least you will be able to sleep peacefully, not wondering what if? What if? So, he said, follow your dreams. Do crazy things. Probably, it won't work out, but maybe it will. And he got off at 14th Street and he was gone.

Happy I danced home in the rain. The end.

Friday, 14 September 2007


dear friends, thank you for helping reviving the blog!
we are bringing back the muwci conversation, in internet format! it is indeed about time for some creative and critical thinking and writing.
i am not going to make this sentimental, though i do agree, i miss muwci.

my life is quite A4 at the moment, working 9-5 for service and devotion, going to the pub in the evenings.
i work in the other end of the city, so i get a nice long bike ride in the mornings. biking is so good! i like looking at all the suit-clad gentlemen and the fat, pale glasgow gals in their tracksuits, golden earrings and high ponytails, often pushing a pram around, alternatively a man, in a similar tracksuit, just black instead of white, wearing silver jewellery instead of gold. arguing, screaming "aye man, what shait!". glasgow is quite funny. there is so much comedy on the streets! the other day i overheard a conversation between three old men outside a pub, at about 5 in the afternoon. one of them was quite angry about something, and chatted with the other man and he said; what the fuck is going on here?" and the third guy said; what do i know, i'm jus' 'avin me fag!
it's mostly the accent that does it for me. so funny.

ah talking about what's going on on the streets, the other day day i had my first driving lesson on the wrong side of the road! all went well until i drove back to my house and entered the one way street in the wrong direction! what shait man. also they have some weirdo rules about how you're allowed to hold the wheel when you steer, the PUSH AND PULL method which i've never even heard of. it looks silly and it feels even more silly for my hands to try and do it when they know pretty well how to steer a car anyway. oh well.

well this was not really about the world and other issues but i do have one issue to raise, related to my story; we need more cycling lanes! in all streets! and cars need to be fined for driving or parking on them!
cars are big and ugly and bikes are small and sexy and so cheap and air-frendly. shall we start a campaign for more bike lanes in this world?

(how ironic i am working on getting my lisence)

The wonders of those big black bags!

Now there is an old adage that says that one man's trash is another man's treasure. This, I have realized tonight, is very true, especially when one of the men is a store or supermarket owner!!

Earlier, I went to a panel called "Extreme Green," about people who are so environmentally friendly that if I had a more developed conscience they would make me feel terrible about myself. One of the panelists was a woman who is a freegan: she lives, to the extent possible, off of what our society discards; we are American so we discard a lot!! (See for more.) After the panel she took some of us wide-eyed listeners on a walk around the neighborhood for an informal "trash tour". This is what I brought home with me:

-A whole bag full of soft, fresh bagels.
-Three 'snack packs' of carrots, baby tomatoes, broccoli, and ranch dressing.
-Two 'party packs' of sliced carrots and celery.
-Some strawberries (packaged, do not fear) yum yum yum.
-An adorable little chair which I am sitting on right now!!!

Much of the food I think I will have to give to my friend Raia, for most unfortunately, I do not have a kitchen. But if I had a kitchen, I could have brought home even more, and it would have been a week's worth of groceries!

The point of this all, though, is not for an over-privileged little girl like me to get free groceries. The point is, of course, that we are so terribly wasteful, that there has to be some sort of way of re-distributing this food, or of not creating all that waste in the first place. This is, I suppose, what the freegans are struggling toward, and I applaud them for it, although I am not sure yet if I am so very dedicated to their movement. Re-distribution, certainly, to bring those bagels to soup kitchens: this seems very practical and possible and I would like to see if I could get involved with it in the future. Actually, I was told, much potential waste already is redistributed like that.

But we must get to the root of the problem, the wastefulness of the consumer culture of my beautiful nation, say the freegans. And this, I think, is hard. Social work is often criticized for being a band-aid type of social change; Jane Addams (the mother of social work in this country) wrote of being frustrated by fixing things that should not have even needed fixing in the first place: isn't it futile to fix a situation that is the result of a larger problem if you don't fix the larger problem itself? Maybe. And maybe I am just a band-aid type of a person, because I feel like our culture's wastefulness is such a huge problem that it would take lifetimes to even address, and in those lifetimes would exponentially multiply to the point of being simply unsolvable. Re-distribution, on the other hand, seems relatively doable, not quite so lofty, but a good way to remedy a fucked up situation.

And to get me free groceries!!!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

I ain't got no one to be gussied up with (except that Vietnamese woman sitting next to me, but that was a long time ago)

Dearest, most precious, friends.

I just spent the past hour reading Sofie’s blog. It provoked sentiments and even tears! I am moody these days. The image of Sofie, always sitting out there on that stony floor, smoking too many cigarettes, producing, oh so many, wisdom words. It’s been a long time since I missed, and treasured the value of, MUWCI as much as in this very moment. And strangely, what I most feel the urge of doing right now, is to stand outside the Bombay airport in the humid, polluted, air and hear Sofie shout at the jeep drivers. It is like I am floating in that air, but not being able to inhale it.

So, the world and other issues? Does anyone really write/read blogs anymore? Well, I think we should. I also think we should all move together to, say, Vienna (open for other suggestions, I don’t think Vienna is the best idea. In Vienna there’s ten pretty women, and we’re only three. But we probably count as ten. Or we could make seven pretty female friends). Alternatively we could establish an organization constructing and managing buildings (Sofie, the architect) where various forms of social work (Shane) could take place (and I can deal with the philosophical/political/economical aspects). And if we can’t wait that long to interact and cuddle we can meet in London (Glasgow?) this spring! And we can even travel to India the summer of 2010. Inhale that dusty air. I feel it.

I don’t know which part of my rational mind that convinced me to go and study at the worlds northern most university. Shane tells me she loves New York, and it stings my heart and my urge for the urban. Sofie is in Glasgow, which is also urban. No, it’s not the urban thing, urban enough it is here, at least for me. I think it’s more a matter of gravity. It sometimes feels unnatural, against the way nature has meant for it to be, to be on top of the world, miles away from the continent. It is like I am being dragged down. Okay, I know gravity doesn’t work like that: we are pulled towards the core of the planet earth (at least we think so). But before I remembered that, it seemed like a very likely theory. And if the theory is altered a little, it still works; because it is more of a sentimental gravity where my body pains because you are so far away. Thus dragged down.

If you don’t want to make our relationship a professional one, like in the building of social work and philosophy (which doesn’t necessarily need to be professional), we can group up in an Israel-style kibbutz and raise each others babies!