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Posts Tagged ‘sweden’

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I wanted to share a few recent photos. Most of them were taken by me in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but Stuga40 sent the flower cross from her neighboorhood park in Stockholm. It’s part of the Swedish Midsommar tradition.

The KindnessRocksProject seemed like a wonderful idea. You take a rock when you or others need a little kindness and you leave a rock with a kind message for someone else. This iteration of the project was at a day camp, where children were working on the messages.

The next two photos were taken in newly preserved land along the Concord River, a beautiful area for walking and enjoying nature. After that, there’s a geranium that is glowing in the evening light. If I had taken the shot from the other side, it wouldn’t have looked nearly as magical.

Next is some street art on the remnant of an old building in downtown Providence, an area where a morning walk always provides curious photo ops.

The street art is followed by three experiments with sunlight and shadow and then two of my grandchildren at the parade on the Fourth of July.

I felt ambivalent about the Fourth this year, when Frederick Douglass’s speech “What Is the Fourth of July to the Slave?” seemed more relevant than ever and the darker parts of the Declaration of Independence took on new prominence. And to the kids pictured here, all the parade meant was candy, and things did not end well.

Not to worry. Gives us a variety of goals to aim for next year.

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Photo: Målerås
Glassworkers in the Målerås factory in Sweden. The company successfully brought on refugees when it was short-handed.

This story combines two of my great interests: Sweden and helping refugees. Erik’s homeland showed compassion by taking in 32,000 asylum seekers in 2015, but in a win-win scenario, some Swedish design companies have benefited.

Alicia Brunker writes at Architectural Digest, “Rather than fear that refugees will take jobs away from locals, the Nordic country views Syria’s tradition of handicraft skills as a way to smoothy integrate its people into their own design-centric society. This mindset is especially true for the design community in southern Sweden, also known as Småland, a vast region that family-run glass workshops and international heavyweights, such as IKEA, call home. …

“Five years ago, the Scandinavian design purveyor began working with the women’s co-operative [Yalla Trappan ] to offer marginalized groups opportunities for livelihood, including Syrian refugees who have settled in southern Sweden without employment. As a way to give them economic independence, IKEA hired 10 women to work at their Malmö store, offering sewing services. …

“Whether a local customer needs a quick repair to their Ektorp sofa cushion or requires custom embroidery, the women at IKEA’s Malmö store will take the order at their sewing atelier and stitch it off-site.

“Beyond in-store sewing services, IKEA has recently teamed up with the Jordan River Foundation, opening up a production center in Amman. … At the facility, the Jordanians and an IKEA designer collaborated on a new range of textiles — including pillows, rugs, and baskets — that meld both culture’s styles into a single object. …

“The Jordanians lay the yarn on the floor and weave by hand on their feet. However, with IKEA’s ultimate goal of making these women employable in the future, they plan to teach the refugees more modern stitching practices with machines for upcoming collections.

“Inadvertently, IKEA has also provided employment for refugees through their annual Art Event. This year, the design giant enlisted local glassworks company Målerås to work with international artists on a limited-edition series of contemporary glass figurines.

“During the production process, the factory was short-handed and decided to add a dozen new contractors, four of which were Syrian refugees, to their workforce. Though they didn’t have glass-making experience, the men were familiar with working with their hands. Through an eight-month training period, the refugees learned the various steps of production and they picked up on their new country’s language and culture. …

“Benny Hermansson, owner and CEO of Gemla Möbler, the country’s oldest furniture factory, says the practice of working with craftsmen from other regions dates back to the 19th-century. … One of the [Syrians] who joined Gemla worked at a furniture company back in Syria, crafting headboards and cabinets out of wood. …

” ‘There are fewer and fewer schools educating students in these fields,’ [Hermansson] says. ‘It has become difficult to recruit people with the right competence. We have a need, and so do these refugees.” More here.

This is reminding me of a Syrian carpenter that I helped out a bit last year. He was thrilled to find work in Rhode Island installing insulation. I wonder if he has gotten into woodworking since then.

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Photo: u-theopera
A scene from “u,” the first Klingon opera on Earth.

I was late to the Star Trek party. I didn’t get hooked until the spinoff Deep Space 9, which featured an actor I had performed with as a child (René Auberjonois). But I have friends who are lifetime Trekkies — Asakiyume for one. (She’s a Vulcan.)

Partly because I’m interested in invented languages like Esperanto, I have written before about Klingon, a language created for Star Trek. Today I’m here to tell you about a new Klingon center — in Sweden, if you can believe it.

Lee Roden writes at The Local, “The world’s first ‘Klingon tourist centre’ [opened February 3] in Sweden, in a collaboration between a Stockholm theatre and an organization which calls itself the Klingon Institute of Cultural Exchange.

“The doors of ‘Visit Qo’noS’ [are] open at Turteatern in southern Stockholm … until late March. No stone has been left unturned at what Turteatern’s Theresa Jonasson told The Local is the ‘first Klingon centre in Alpha Quadrant’ (which apparently is the part of the Milky Way where Earth lies, in Star Trek lore).

” ‘The visitors check in at the reception desk, where they will get some tourist information, such as a visitor map of the Klingon capital First City. They will then be invited into the ceremonial presentation hall. The non-hologram live-act presentation is performed by the four Klingon ambassadors Ban’Shee, Mara, Morath and Klag, all from the House of Duras,’ she explained.

” ‘The visitors/audience will be introduced to the Klingon culture and customs and acquire lifesaving tips to apply when interacting with Klingons. There will also be a singalong, dancing, Klingon opera, and scenes from the famous Klingon play Romyo je joloywI’ (better known on Earth as Romeo and Juliet), by Shex’pir.’ …

“Even by science fiction standards, Star Trek fans are known for being a particularly passionate bunch, and the Stockholm theatre has been careful to try to meet their high expectations when it comes to costumes and staging. It has also called upon the help of Klingonska Akademien (The Klingon Academy), an Uppsala-based society with expertise in the Klingon language. …

“The Klingons will be of the more traditional kind [says Jonasson]:

‘The most common question is if the Klingons look like the Klingons in the new Star Trek TV series Discovery, which of course they do not. That series is offensive for Klingons, and should not be mentioned during the presentation.’ …

“For any readers fluent in alien languages, a message from the Klingon Institute of Cultural Exchange in Klingon can even be found here.”

More at the Local, here.

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Photo: Pieter Kuiper
Entrance of High Chaparral in Sweden. The Wild West theme park has been used to house Syrian refugees.

I knew that Italians were fascinated by cowboys in the Wild West. I knew they made “spaghetti westerns.” But it turns out that legends of the American frontier have intrigued people in many other countries as well.

In fact, in Sweden, Big Bengt was so fascinated that he built a Wild West theme park, calling it High Chaparral. It employees Syrian refugees, among others.

Reports On the Media (OTM) at WNYC radio, “In the middle of nowhere southern Sweden, there’s a popular Wild West theme park called High Chaparral, where Scandinavian tourists relive the action of the old American cowboy films. For over a year, the park served another function: a refugee camp for some 500 of the 163,000 migrants – many from Syria – who applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015.

“That Syrians would find refuge here actually jibes with High Chaparral’s interpretation of the Old West, which emphasizes the new life that the frontier offered to beleaguered pioneers, and the community that was required to survive there. …

“OTM producer Micah Loewinger traveled to High Chaparral last summer, where he met Abood Alghzzawi, a Syrian asylum-seeker, who embarked on an incredible journey to the Wild West of Sweden. …

“Special thanks to David Smith, author of the forthcoming book Cowboy Politics: Frontier Myth and the Twentieth Century Presidency from University of Oklahoma Press. For more about High Chaparral, check out two fantastic documentaries about the park from David Freid and MEL Films”: here and here. You can listen to the WNYC radio feature here.

I wanted to know more about the park’s founder, so I went to Wikipedia: “Big Bengt was born in 1922 in Brännehylte, Småland. His parents owned a forest farm and a wood mill. Big Bengt was involved in starting [many] companies. His interest in the Wild West was born from coming from a countryside where many had emigrated to America and from the stories they told. Bengt went to the United States himself in 1956 and in 4 months covered 4,000 km. He came back to Sweden with a lot of impressions. When the Swedish national phone company had to get rid of 200,000 telephone poles, Bengt took the opportunity and constructed a fort. When many people started to get curious about the place, he realized its possibilities.”

Photo: Micah Loewinger
Abood Alghzzawi, dressed as a cowboy, poses with other High Chaparral employees in southern Sweden.

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I once posted a picture of Legos used to “repair” a wall in Fort Point. A tourist brochure ended up using it. I’ve also featured artists like Slinkachu and David Zinn, who create tiny scenes in streets. Today I want to tell you about mouse storefronts mysteriously popping up in Sweden.

Reports the Swedish edition of The Local, “The appearance of anonymous art has brought smiles to the faces of Malmö residents after a miniature, mouse-sized shop and restaurant took up residence on one of the city’s streets.

“Anyone in the area of the intersection between Bergsgatan and Almbacksgatan in the southern Swedish city should pay attention to where they walk: hidden at ground level lies a French nut store named ‘Noix de Vie’ (Nuts of life) selling a range of nuts for the city’s mice.

“Next door, an Italian restaurant called ‘Il Topolino’ (the Italian name for Mickey Mouse) has moved in, complete with a pin-sized menu attached to the wall detailing its range of cheese and crackers. There are even posters for mouse-related films, and a tiny power station and bicycle outside.

“So who is responsible for the inventive work? An anonymous artist (or artists) going only by the name ‘Anonymouse.’ He, she or they have been periodically posting images on their Instagram account detailing the installation, from the construction stage onwards.”

More at Sweden’s The Local, here.

From Bored Panda: “Anonymouse was fed up with the lack of shops for rodents, so they decided to open a couple of them at once. The 70×30 cm (about 25×12 inch) stores are located in Malmö, Sweden, and they have wide menus that mice can choose their meals from. …

“Besides the well-crafted interiors, there are posters about upcoming mice concerts and other events.”

Find these photos and more by searching the hashtag #Anonymouse_MMX on twitter. The twitter account itself seems to have been removed.

Hat tip: @morinotsuma on twitter.

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After my two half-Swedish grandchildren were off breast milk — or even before — they started on bottles of a ground-up oat concoction that I’m told all Swedish children drink rather than cow’s milk. Välling. We can’t get along without it.

So the following story from the Guardian is not as curious to me as it might be to others.

Tom Levitt reports, “Adam Arnesson, 27, is not your usual milk producer. For starters, he doesn’t have any dairy cattle. Our first photo opportunity is in the middle of one of his fields of oats.

“Until last year all these oats went into animal feed, either sold or fed to the sheep, pigs and cows he rears on his organic farm in Örebro county, central Sweden.

“With the support of Swedish drinks company Oatly, they are now being used to produce an oat milk drink …

“ ‘The natural thing for us would be to increase our livestock numbers, but I don’t want a factory,’ he says. ‘The number of animals has to be emotionally right so I know each of them.’ …

“The rearing of livestock and meat consumption accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Alongside carbon emissions from deforestation (for pasture or crops to feed animals), the livestock sector is also the single biggest human-related source of methane (from cattle) and nitrous oxide emissions (from fertiliser and manure), two particularly potent greenhouse gases. …

“ ‘I had a lot of arguments on social media with other farmers, because I thought what Oatly was doing could bring better opportunities to our sector,’ says Arnesson, who decided to contact the company in 2015 to see if they could help him switch away from livestock. …

“After the first year of producing oats, analysis by researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that Arnesson’s farm was producing double the amount of calories for human consumption per hectare and had halved the climate impact of each calorie produced. …

“ ‘I don’t want to take pride from having a tractor or producing 10 tonnes of wheat or a sow with 10 piglets, but in feeding and preserving the planet – that is one of the big things I want as a farmer to be involved in changing,’ says Arnesson.

“Oatly said it plans to work with three more farmers to demonstrate the environmental benefits of switching from livestock to more crop production. But Arnesson says livestock farmers need government support in order to do so in large numbers.”

More at the Guardian , here.

Photo: Tom Levitt for the Guardian 
Adam Arnesson in a field of oats at his organic farm in Örebro country, Sweden.

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Artist's impression of the MTR Express' newly unveiled Trainy McTrainface

Photo: MTR Express
Artist’s impression of a Swedish rail company’s newly unveiled Trainy McTrainface.

Heraclitus said you cannot step in the same river twice. (It is never the same river; the water is always new.) But as if they actually could keep stepping in the same river, human beings keep trying to replicate whatever was once popular.

It was kooky enough to try naming a boat Boaty McBoatface, now the popularity of that name is supposed to give a boost to a similarly named train.

Alex Hern writes at the Guardian, “It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

“Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro. …

“The other trains have already been named by the public: one is named Estelle, after the five-year-old daughter of Sweden’s Princess Victoria, the next in line to the Swedish throne.

“Another is named Glenn, after a long-running joke that everyone in Gothenburg is called Glenn.

“The joke has a basis in fact: the name is particularly common in the city and its surrounding area, with its popularity stemming from the 1980s, when local football team IFK Göteborg had four players all called Glenn in its lineup. Forty-three per cent of voters supported the name Glenn. …

“The public vote was eventually overruled in the case of Boaty McBoatface and the ship named the RRS Sir David Attenborough, with an onboard submersible receiving the Boatface appellation.

“MTR Express said the McBoatface decision had led to disappointment worldwide and it hoped the name Trainy McTrainface would ‘be received with joy by many, not only in Sweden.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

Even if you believe in the wisdom of crowds, using a crowd to name a product rarely results in an inspired selection. I remember how disgusted Ursula’s mother was after a food company to which she had submitted creative names for a new margarine made the boring choice of Blue Bonnet.

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