Tag Archives: scandinavia

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Incredible piece about the attempts of researchers to understand the migration and behavior of Great White sharks.  What do you do after spending years of your life and lots of money and your conclusion is:  ““There’s no frickin’ pattern at all,”

The Scandinavians have been producing quality crime fiction for years.  Who knew they also produced some of the more intriguing crime reality as well.  GQ puts together a lengthy piece about a man who may be a serial killer, cannibal, sadist, pedophile…or he might be a really disturbed guy who was almost a killer, sadist and pedophile who was (intentionally or not) set up to take the blame for 30 homicides by an incompetent and overzealous judicial system.

The Boston Globe has done an amazing piece of investigative reporting about the Tsarnaev brothers (of Boston Bombing infamy).  Really, you don’t want to miss this.

In the daily to and fro of putting out fires and addressing the next crisis, is anyone thinking about out long (and I mean long) term survival as a species?  After all, over 99% of all species that have lived are now extinct and we continue to learn new ways we might get snuffed out all the time.  Here’s a piece about a group of people thinking about what our existential threats might be and how we should think about them.

I was really shocked when I saw Supersize Me! back in 2004 but now research is indicating it might not be quite as cut and dried as that documentary looked.
I really thought I enjoyed the first season of House of Cards.  The plot kind of went off the rails and it was almost like the writers ultimately felt like they couldn’t commit to a straight up political drama and so had to get all John Grisham in there.  If you’re looking for a good political drama I highly recommend the Danish series Borgen.  Really quality acting and plotting.  Check it out.
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I don’t know what’s going on but the past few years have seen an explosion of quality TV and film from Scandinavia.

Scandinavian drama

Mrs. TwShiloh and I have recently stumbled upon a couple of Scandinavian dramas that we can recommend highly.  I’m not sure what’s going on with those Scandinavians but they’re making some pretty good TV and movies lately.

First is Anno 1790, which is a crime drama that takes place in Stockholm at the end of the 18th century.  That time period is pretty exciting as it’s right after the French Revolution and a few years before the Swedish king will be assassinated.  The main character is a sympathizer of the enlightenment but finds himself working for the powers of the status quo.

I’ve watched fewer than half of the 10 episodes and it definitely getting a Holmes/Moriarty feel to it.  It’s not derivative though and there’s a lot of 18th century and Scandinavian newness here to keep you occupied.  You can get the whole season from Amazon with English subtitles.

Here are the first 15 minutes from the first episode:

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The second series is a Norwegian series called Lilyhammer.  It revolves around a NY mafia member who decides to testify against his former compatriots.  In exchange we wants to enter the witness protection program.  Unlike other mob informants, however, he demands to be set up in Lillehammer, Norway.  I’d describe this as a cross between My Cousin Vinny and the Sopranos.  Not as over the top comedic as the former or heavy and grim as the latter.

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Scandinavian surprise

9 Swedish words that can’t be translated into single English words.  I’m not sure how much the English speaking world needs quick and handy words for these terms but you never know.  Still ‘linslus’ might come in pretty handy now and then.

Wanna see some Swedish beaver?

Kypck is a Finnish band that sings in Russian.  I’m usually not into doom metal but this song is quite good.  Enjoy.

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The Horror Etc. podcast has not one but TWO (!) episodes centered around Nordic horror.  Horror Etc. is fast becoming one of my favorite podcasts as it brings the right level of quality, likability of the hosts, geeky levels of enthusiasm about their subject and horror.

Matter is a kickstarter project looking for donations to provide weekly, in-depth reporting on science and technology.  If you’re interested in that sort of thing (as I am) and you’ve got a few bucks to spend, please consider supporting them.  They’ve got some nice rewards for modest donations ($25 gets you a 3 month subscription and $10 will get you their first 5 stories free).

Even if you aren’t interested in that particular project, think about browsing the kickstarter site (or RocketHub) and funding some other project.

I can’t remember if I posted this or not but even if I did, it’s worth a second look.  amazing dogfight animation that makes me want to watch more.  Check out Paths of Hate.

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God may have 1,000 names but hobos had 23 in the 16th century.  I wonder if the need to name so many particular varieties of vagabond was like the Inuits having 18 different words for snow?

Finally, I just finished reading ‘Tooth and Nail” by Craig Dilouie.  There’s not much character development here and a bit too much military jargon but this guy can write some great action.  Think Black Hawk Down in New York City during the zombie apocalypse.  Very quick and very fun read.

Shut up or the goddamn whale gets it!

Another winner from Scandinavia and the World.

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When I was a child I once (it only takes once) gorged myself on Twinkies. For years afterwards I’d get nauseous even looking at them.  Even today, despite an incredible sweet tooth I never even contemplate eating the things.  Here’s the evolutionary reason why.  (h/t Mrs. TwShiloh)

Red Cliff (Chi Bi)

Red Cliff (Chi Bi) (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

Months ago YT recommended a Chinese film called Red Cliff.  I’m finally getting around to watching it (it clocks in at around 5 hours) and it’s great. From the Pedia of Wiki:

…a Chinese epic war film based on the Battle of Red Cliffs (208-209 AD) and events during the end of the Han Dynasty and immediately prior to the Three Kingdoms period in ancient China.

It’s got amazing effects and battle scenes and while you can see some traditional action movie tropes here there are many, many places where you see Chinese influences that simply never would make it into a Hollywood movie (and thanks to my multicultural literature class, circa 1991, for helping me clue in on some of those).  The movie obviously doesn’t strive for historical accuracy and I almost got the feeling it was a bit like ‘Troy’ should have been with heroic types.  Great film that has definite ‘rewatch’ potential.

Scandinavia isn’t exactly known for bright, sunny skies all the time.  So how the heck did the vikings navigate around foggy old England and get to Iceland and Vinland?  Well, researchers have an idea:

It was, in fact, a transparent calcite crystal known as Iceland spar. It’s found all over its namesake country, and Vikings could have used it to depolarize light, which means the crystal is able to split light along different axes.

That optical effect, amazingly enough, was all ancient navigators needed to locate the Sun, even when it was completely hidden from view.

I just started listening to The British History podcast by Jaime Jeffers.   and the TwShiloh team recommends it highly.  Jaime puts the history of Britain in an easily accessible, fun style.  I’m not totally convinced all the analysis and commentary meets a highly rigorous standard (but I might be saying that because I’m also listening to the most excellent History of Rome podcast which delves into much greater detail about the imperial period and I see some simplifications or small discrepancies between the two when they cover the same issues).  Still, Jaime delivers his product in a great style and it’s a very entertaining podcast.  Also interesting is how Jaime is ‘monetizing’ his work.  The core podcast is free and you’re free to donate (as is the case for most podcasts).  He does provide for a ‘subscription’, however, where (for as little at 2.99 a month) he provides ‘exclusive’ content.  Essentially bonus episodes that only subscribers get.  Really great idea…

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EnglishRussia scanned some illustrations from a Russian version of The Hobbit.  Very cool stuff, including this version of Gollum.  At the bottom of the post are some video clips of a Soviet b-movie version of The Hobbit which you can miss except the last one which has their version of Gollum which isn’t to be missed.

Ever wonder what it might look like if you combined the Tea Party anger at incumbency with Nordic politeness?   Well, wonder no more!  The Icelanders have created a new political party (the Best Party) and created their own music video. (h/t Foreign Policy)  Of course, it’s not a perfect analogy…you won’t see any guns, pictures of Hitler or references to Chairman Mao but close enough.

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Yeah, keep trying to convince me that there are no such thing as the mole people.

Sven talks about tactical agility.

Salt is attracting some negative attention and there are calls it should be regulated by the FDA as a food additive.  May I just take a moment to thank my ancestors for endowing me with the genes for a slightly low blood pressure.  Not low enough to be a concern but low enough for my doctor to tell me “Hey, you like salt?  Dig in!’

Steve Coll summarizes his lessons learned from blogging before taking an extended break to write a book.  I’m not naturally inclined to write and so this exercise (now in its fifth year) has been a great experience.  I think I’d find it valuable even if no one read this blog but it is also quite nice (and a bit humbling) to think of people deciding to spend their time on what I may have to say.

Some things I did not expect that turned out to be true: 1) An awful lot of people read blogs. Spontaneously conceived essays (if they deserve that elevated name) that are not particularly well-thought-through can instantly go viral on you without warning. …That was a sobering discovery. 2) Goofy experiments that would not work in any other format, such as deciding to read the entire 2009 stimulus legislation and blog about it will be forgiven by many readers on the grounds that we’re all in this experiment together; it’s like going to a rock festival and hearing terrible music but feeling really good about being there. 3) Aggregation and calling attention to other people’s good work without much effort on your own part is enough justification for blogging in the first place.

Some problems that I half-expected that also turned out to be true: 1) Writing fast about serious subjects because they are in the news, without doing a lot of reporting first, can produce crap. 2) Even the better instances of that sub-genre are still not very satisfying over time to the author. …This is just a blog post, however; I am free to revise my thinking in an hour, or whenever…and presumably no one will notice.

Patrick Stewart was apparently just knighted…I wonder if he made the Queen’s clothes just drop off?

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Frozen Hell

Think this winter was tough on you?  This week a number of ships were stuck in the Baltic Sea as unusual amounts of ice froze them in place.

Several vessels, including a Viking Line passenger ferry carrying around 1,000 people, had collided with each other as they drifted amid huge blocks of
moving ice.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the ferry system that crosses the Baltic it consists of a number of cruise lines that carry people and goods between the various nations that adjoin the Baltic.  Most trips take from a few hours to an overnight and their big attraction is that passage on these ships entitles you to shop at the duty-free store on board.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to take a short trip (they’re pretty cheap) solely for the opportunity to stock up on booze and smokes.

And for short journeys, the ferries are pretty sweet.  They’ve got a few restaurants, a (really, really) small area for limited gambling and entertainment.

Well, I use the word ‘entertainment’ in its broadest and most general sense.  There’s usually some sort of floor show which is usually just terrible.  Imagine a Vegas show (and since I’ve never been to Vegas perhaps I should say ‘Imagine what you imagine I imagine a Vegas show would be like’) on a stage too small by half, choreographed by someone who’s an undergrad hoping to one day get a degree in dance (or whatever it is choreographers get their degrees in) and thinks he/she is the next -insert famous choreographer here since I don’t really know any- staffed by twice as many people as can comfortably fit on the stage and who are all mildly uncoordinated.  Mix in costumes and generic music left over from the 70s disco era and viola!  You’ve got a ferry line show.

So imagine the horror of being stuck in the middle of the Baltic with nothing to keep madness at bay except endless showing of the ‘Buena Vista Social Show’.  I few years ago we saw the show ‘Fire and Ice’ on the ship’s CCTV and we still cringe at the thought of it…

So take a moment, won’t you, to say a prayer for the poor unfortunates who’ve been stranded in the middle of the Baltic listening to countless hours of disco schlock.

Hopefully the bars were well stocked…

Happy Saint Lucia

To all you Scandinavians out there.  More about the holiday here and here.

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On my recent trip to Sweden I took a side trip to the Åland Islands.  It’s really a fascinating place.  While technically part of Finland, the islands are:

…politically neutral and entirely demilitarised, and residents are exempt from conscription to the Finnish Defense Forces.

The place is frequently overlooked and known primarily as a stopping point for ferrys transiting the Baltic Sea.  As I understand it, a brief stop at one of the islands two main ports allows the ships to sell items duty free and have gambling.

That’s a shame because the islands actually have some interesting history.  For example, Russia took the islands from Sweden in 1809 and began construction of a huge fortress complex called Bomarsund.  Unfortunately for the Russians, the 19th century was a time of rapid technological change and the a joint force of British and French forces destroyed the incomplete complex as part of the Crimean War.  You can see pics of the ruins here.

Here‘s an account of the battle from the U.K. embassy in Finland.  My favorite part is the description of how two Brits were awarded the Victoria Cross during the battle:

…Lieutenant John Bythesea and William Johnstone, Stoker. Both went ashore from the Arrogant with the intent of stopping the mail flow from Bomarsund across Wärdö to the mainland. They lay in wait for three days until five Russians arrived on 12 August with the postbags. Johnstone ambushed the men, at Bythesea’s signal, attempting to throw a rope around the group whilst Bythesea provided cover with just one pistol. Two of the men dropped their bags and fled while the remaining three finally surrendered. Bythesea ordered the men back to their own boat and then forced them to row it back to Arrogant, with the mailbags.

Trying to throw a rope around the group?  Did this guy read too many stories about cowboys lassoing cattle in the Wild West?  How great is that?

If you like castles, Åland’s got one of those as well.  The very nicely restored Kastelholm.  (pics here).

While Bormarsund is just a ruins, both sites are great for exploring and there’s good background information about each.

I was only there for a bit more than 24 hours but the place looks fantastic for biking.  Really well maintained bike trails are everywhere, there are a plethora of beautiful views and there are a variety of camping options (from B&Bs to tent sites to small cabins).

So, if you happen to be near the top of the world go check it out.  But only during the summer months…