Sunday, November 30, 2003

On Thursday, the husband and I went to see a friend dance at Kulturhuset.

The performance started off with a cheap but effective trick: One of the dancers came out and told the audience that another dancer had gotten hurt during the rehearsal and there would be no performance. After a bit of jostling and sighing and disappointment and dismay and putting on of scarves and gloves and overcoats, the performance started in earnest.

It certainly raised hopes, dashed them, and then after planning for a minute what one would do with an evening now free, put one in a state of confusion.

I can't say I approve of such patent manipulation, but the dance itself - exhaustingly athletic, funny, witty, breathtaking at times - didn't disappoint.

The Swedish word for the day is förväntningar. It means expectations.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

A., the assistant director, is at last back from her five week sojourn in Marbella working on one of those cheesey but very popular docu-soaps. She worked her beautiful ass off.

"I fainted once," she told me as we sat having a more than two-hour long lunch at the Lydmar Hotel, me forgetting completely that I should have been getting back to work. "We were in Marrakesh and I hadn't eaten all day or drank enough water. I'd just finished doing everything I needed to do for the day, and then I got up and fainted. I'm so professional, I waited until I was done with my work."

She laughed. And I realized that she is, without a doubt, my best friend. Damn, but it's good to have her back. I missed her like hell.

The Swedish phrase for the day is att dö av törst. It means to die of thirst.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

And now, to honor two requests.

1. Almost two weeks ago, Martin Pawley asked me to remember the one-year anniversary of the wreck of the Prestige, which ruined the green coast of Galicia in Spain one year ago on Nov. 13. (Beware the pop-up).

2. Robert Dunlap, who seems to live in Sweden although I'm not entirely sure, asked me to comment on the recent court decision in Massachusetts in the U.S., in which the court declared that it was discriminatory to not allow gay people to marry, I mean really marry, not just become legal partners.

I thought I didn't know what to say about it, but I ended up blathering on and on:

I suppose it comes down to the issue of whether it is possible to have situations that guarantee people separate but equal rights. Fifty years ago, the U.S. courts found this unconstitutional when Brown v. Board of Education came down the pike, undoing the awful previous 19th century Plessy v. Ferguson decision.

But I think you're right in saying that it's mostly symbolic as far as I can tell, aside from the fact that so far it is not, as you pointed, recognized universally, which actually is a fairly big thing, since gay people would lose their rights as couples upon entering states that don't recognize it... so gay people would only want to live in certain states, they would be at risk of being denied the right to see a dying partner in the hospital if they were on vacation in the wrong state when one of them took sick, etc.

What bothers me most about this is that for the most part, the arguments against it are all on religious grounds, and are a direct echo of arguments against, um, "miscegnation," which were made as short a time ago as the 1960s. Interestingly, it seems that the courts are at last leading public opinion rather than the other way round on the issue of gay rights, a war whose battles have been won largely on the cultural rather than the legal front - instead of courts barring discrimination, companies and municipalities have set up their own pro-gay policies because they have decided it's good business mostly. This is quite the opposite of what happened on the issue of race, where the courts led the way.

Here in Sweden, of course, it is partnership and not marriage that is the option for gay people, which guarantees, as far as I know, the same rights as marriage. The difference is that this is a law on the federal level in Sweden. But, in a way, it's ever so slightly worse in Sweden to not allow gay people to actually get married, since the church is much more of a state institution, although I think technically there is no more state church in Sweden. I think the government is talking about making the change. To my knowledge, the Netherlands was the first country to open up the institution of marriage, real marriage, to gay people.

See, I did have quite a bit to say about it after all.

The Swedish words of the day are äktenskap and partnerskap. They mean marriage and partnership.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Yesterday, I sat in a café just off Karlaplan with a microphone perilously close to my chin as Sophie, a journalism student who was working on a radio project that involved the concept of alien, asked a whole raft of questions.

She wanted to know what is alien about Sweden to those of us coming from the outside.

I answered, in my halting Swedish, all of her questions, telling her about meeting the husband in Barcelona, how Spain is more foreign than Sweden to an American, that Sweden is deceptively Anglo on the surface but in fact the culture is decidedly non-Anglo, a consensus culture as opposed to the individualist culture of my native land. I told her that I didn't think I'd ever really be Swedish, but I didn't care. I told her that I felt most Swedish when I was in the U.S., where I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the overabundance of, well, things. And I felt quite Swedish when Anna Lindh was assassinated. I told her that the first thing that struck me when I moved here is how people bump into each other on the street and they don't say "excuse me" or "sorry." But I hardly think about things being alien any more, because they aren't any longer.

I'll be most curious to hear what I sound like when you finish, Sophie.

The Swedish word for the day is främmande, which means, of course, alien or strange.

- by Francis S.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Jonno has found hisself another job: editor of Gawker's slutty cousin, Fleshbot, (as if Gawker itself weren't the nastiest, sexiest, funniest whore around, fooling everyone into thinking it is just a blog). Fleshbot is no doubt the knowingest porn site on the Net.

Go, Jonno, go.

And to think, my prediction nearly two years ago that he would make a good pornstar has come true, sort of.

The Swedish phrase for the day is i hetaste laget, which is the Swedish title of Billy Wilder's great Some Like it Hot, the movie with my all-time favorite final lines. I thought that it literally meant something like in the hottest company, but John Eje assures me it means getting a little too hot.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Undoubtedly, one of the most peculiar things about Sweden is The Ice Cream Truck.

It's not that strange that people would buy cartons of mediocre ice cream from a truck with a horn that tootles the opening bars to the theme song from old Laurel and Hardy films. What's strange is that there are trucks meandering around the city in the dark on a cold and rainy November evening, tooting their horns and then people are actually coming out of their apartments to buy ice cream.


Aren't these people cold enough already?

The Swedish phrase for the day is det stämmer. It means that's right.

- by Francis S.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Whatever happened to quaaludes? We thought we were such hot shit in 1978 when we were teenagers, taking quaaludes. Even if they did make me puke. Or was it my brother who threw up?

The Swedish phrase for the day is periodiska systemet, which as far as I can tell is what the Swedes call the Periodic Table of Elements, akin to the web's own baseball poet Score Bard's Periodic Table of Bloggers, where I sit near the lower left-hand corner of the chart.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

On Saturday, we had dinner with the manager of the r&b star, the fashion photographer and the guy on disability. A sort of men's night out, except we were sitting in our dining room.

The conversation, as it always does with the manager of the r&b star, meandered toward the topic of conspiracies and the evil of big anything, be it government, business or appetites.

And then came a round of bemoaning how things have gotten so much worse in Sweden over the past 15 years. I, of course, have no opinion, having no idea what Sweden was like 15 years ago and there is simply no comparison to the land of Mammon, um, I mean the States.

"Nobody has any morals anymore," the r&b manager said.

"All people care about is money," said the fashion photographer.

And I wondered, is it possible, as one gets older, to not think things were better when one was younger?

The Swedish word for the day is tjugolapp. It means twenty bucks, more or less, that is if one Swedish crown equalled one U.S. dollar. Oh, and happy birthday, Mom. Ja, må du leva uti hundrade år, and all that.

- by Francis S.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Today is 16 Brumaire in the year 212 de la Révolution according to the French Revolutionary calendar.

Just think, if Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo, the, um, lingua franca might still be French!

And furthermore, if he hadn't caved into the Catholic Church, today could still be 16 Brumaire.

The Swedish word for the day is Frankrike, which is what the Swedes call France.

- by Francis S.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

As we sat and watched tonight's rerun of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," (which is called "Fab 5" on Swedish television - I guess it doesn't translate well into Swedish... bögöga för heterokillen? Nah, that sounds really, really wrong; idiomatic expressions and humor, or the attempt at it, rarely come across properly in translation), the husband pointed out that the commercials were not for tampons and hair color, as they were when the show first aired. Tonight, it was all beer and cars. Which must mean that it's not chicks watching this show, as Channel 3 must have originally assumed, it's the laddies.

Beware. The, um, gays are taking over. No wonder all those African Anglican Primates are so worried.

And, you've already gotten three, count em, three Swedish words of the day!

- by Francis S.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I came back from nearly a week of being sick at home only to find that at long last, the little company I work for is making the switch: Our official language is no longer English, but Swedish. Which shouldn't faze me at all as for nearly two years now, meetings have all been in Swedish. Plus I'd already asked my fellow workers to stop speaking English with me, which has been moderately successful both from my end and their end.

But, I was still a bit stunned when the news came. And I realized, with a little pang in my stomach, that I am the last native-English speaker left in the office.

I'm alone, it's just me and the Swedes.

I hate how clingy I can be about English, as if it would abandon me somehow or that it was a precipice I could tumble over.

The Swedish word for the day is rädsla. It means fear.

- by Francis S.