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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Watching Sumo

Watching Sumo

Sumo 3
I’ve started watching Sumo wrestlers – mass reality. 450 pounds the heaviest I’ve seen so far, the tallest 6’-7”. Wow. Most matches only last a couple seconds, ten seconds is a very long match, but the Japanese make up for with ritual and decoration, referees wrapped up like Christmas presents, costumes must cost thousands. Over-judges dressed in black make final decisions if the outcome is uncertain, often a matter of who touched the ground first. You must not touch down with any body part.

Sumo 2

I think what I like most is contestants aren’t beating each other half to death. There are no knockouts, cuts or bleeding, other than occasional minor inures and sprains from falling down, sometimes on top one another. It’s also been interesting to watch the women in the crowds attending. They seem delighted as opposed to women seen at boxing matches who seem, at best, uninterested, often bored.

Just thought I’d pass this on. A program called Fight Sports here in Sweden, but I think it’s on TV almost everywhere. Takes a few viewings to get into the rules and subtleties.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Didc Head
Bruce Louis Dodson

Our enemy is faster
Without doubts and
Unencumbered by the cloth of ethics
Without mercy
Wearing skins of every race
Beyond the reach of simple justice.
Do not think that he is beaten in a single battle
Or in many
He will follow us through lifetimes
Killing as he goes
Unseen by most
And weakened only be the love of men
For one another
Strengthened by their hate and anger.
Do not feed him!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Observing Sweden - Driving Me Crazy


One of you asked about my progress with my Swedish driver’s tests. As the nun said, “It is not good.” As most of you following know, I’ve gone through hours of alcohol & drugs class. I have passed the famous icy road test, (hit the bakes at 60 Kph brakes to see if you can keep from spinning out), and have paid fees to take three pre-test, tests. Socialism is so expensive.

I’ve paid for driver school, and had 3 private lessons in a car which they provide, and is unlike my own. I’ve paid for books, and a computer on-line practice site. There are seven varieties of the computer tests, each variety having its own variations of the tests. Must be near a thousand possibilities. Takes me twenty minutes to do a test, which is faster than required, a half hour is allowed. Answering the questions is like being in Las Vegas. What will come up next?

“If a 3,500 kg trailer must be left at the said of the road, what lighting it have: A. white lights in front and back. B. Fog lights and tail lights in back white lights in front. C. White lights in front and yellow lights back.”

Got me with that one, only seen it come up once in all the 107 practice tests I’ve taken since May of this year. That’s more than 30 total hours of on-line practice. I got good at them I never failed to pass a practice test . . . at home. I felt secure and confident on entering the driving tests building, two floors of first class, modern architecture. There was even a fair sized library with thousands of books about drivers, cars, rules, laws, and such.The Swedes are very series about driver safety. Their goal is to experience a year with no fatalities in the rear future.

I went up a flight of stairs with twenty others, (seven Swedes, the rest of us from other places) to a test room with computers, desks, and earphones for translations for those who could read Swedish, or English. Cell phones must be turned off. An administrator walked up and down an aisle between computers, keeping an eye on things.

I saw only 5 familiar questions on the test. Some of the others required only logical answers, but the rest . . . I was clueless. After ten minutes it was obvious I wasn’t going to make 63 points and I kind of slacked off, answered all the questions, but without thinking a long time about the ones I didn’t know. It takes 63 points to pass the practice tests for P/Cs I was given. “You either know it or you don’t,” I told myself. Young Swedish guys were first to finish, then myself, a mix of other races left behind, still thinking and with time still left to do that. I scored 51 on a test and found out I only needed 53 to pass. I could have been a contender!

Now I’m reading the book the school gave me ─ lots of pages. Wife says I should keep doing the computer tests. They might be the questions asked next time? It’s like Vegas, but I guess I get to play as long as I have money. I will try again, and have a feeling I will get to pay a fee to take the test again.

It gets worse!

Even after failing the computer questions you are moved on to take the driver’s test, which worried me a lot after driving with my practice driver from the school. They’re nuts about slowing down for cross streets and that possible running away bus that hurls itself at a you from a blind spot.
“Made that left turn too wide. There may have been a car there,” the instructor tells me.
“But it was obvious there was no a car there.
“Doesn’t matter on the test,” he says.
On being older.

The practice tests had questions about people who were 75, or more. “Not as able to think about more than one thing at the same time.” Stuff like that. I feel driver’s license people’s hawk eyes watch me like a rabbit. “Look Ingrid, these goes one of those old fukers. Don’t let him pass the test!”
I had to take the test in the driver’s school’s car, which has a passenger side foot brake the instructor can use to avoid certain death if headed in that general direction. An employee from the driving school dropped me off, and a few minutes later the inspector showed up with her laptop and with a twenty-something woman who’d just failed the test. Bad sign.
We got inside the car and I was asked some simple questions for official records, “Did I have any other European driver’s license?” Stuff like that. Then it began.
Another trick. I need to safety check the car before I drive. I’m told to turn on the front windshield wipers. I was clueless. I knew about where the switch should be, but no idea what it looked like, or how to operate the thing if found. I found it, and managed to fumble the thing on. “Now the washer fluid,” she said.

That’s when it all went sideways. The back window washer came on. I tried to turn it off and somehow manage to get the front window wiper going at top speed. I flipped every switch I saw and couldn’t turn the damn things off. I must have gone through maybe 30 seconds very fast intermittent, spasmodic, squirtings, and wipings. It seemed much longer at the time, but at last I got the damn things stopped. I saw her writing on her laptop, “Old man. Do not pass.” Something like that.
I was totally rattled and wanted to tell her, look, there’s no sense going though the motions. Why don’t you just fail me now and we’ll save time. But I drove on. Not knowing is the strength of man and beast.

Do you know what the speed limit is where we are?” she asked when we were on the road.
I’d glanced at it, but had no memory of what it said. I was sure I wasn’t over the limit. “Not really,” I told her.” 
Another mark in the book. “It’s 100 Kph here. You’re only doing 80 Kph. You will slow up other cars, behind you.” Made no difference that there were no other cars behind us.

“Turn left at next crossroad,” she said. I turned right, realizing what I’d done too late. There was some kind of a parallel road running alongside ours, and a connecting blacktop lane between the two. I had no idea if it was legal to drive there, but took a chance and used it to back up, with expertise, I must admit. I got us turned around and got us started back the way she wanted.

We went in to town next and into one of the many roundabouts in this area. This one was without the usual divider lines. I drove too close to center, and failed to look and see if someone was coming at me from an exit to the right, even though I have already scanned that exit when I entered, and had the right-of-way.

She was on the keyboard again and made a few final pokes as we entered the parking lot where we began. Something about the way I crossed into the area, something unsafe, although there were no other cars in the 200 yards that I could easily see surrounding us.

I figure we’re up to about $700 now in fees and driver school costs. I will be taking 3 more practice drives with instructors, and another computer test, then the on-road driver’s test . .  .  . again.

I want my life back!

Friday, November 20, 2015

November - Sweden

November Morning

This morning’s sun unable to gain altitude
floats parallel above the frosted yards
its momentary blinding light
spears through my window
circling the horizon
passing by, not over
hard blue sky above
soon to be arctic cold.
The air so fresh and clear
it almost hurts to breath
exhilarating if it doesn’t kill you
the beginning
snowfall soon
it will get colder

I look forward to it.

Sun Good
                   1 p.m. Borlänge, Sweden

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Observing Sweden - Immigration 4

More From The Media:
From Daily Kos – A weblog with political analysis from a liberal perspective.
14 Nov 2015

The far right has been on the rise in Europe ever since it became obvious that the neoliberal, center-left had no idea how to fix the economy after the 2008 crash. With the center-left already discredited, the far-right was slowly rising in popularity based on an anti-immigrant platform.
While still scary, the situation was still under control as long as nothing dramatic happened which would completely up-end the entire social structure of Europe, and what were the odds of that, right? Something like that only happens once every couple centuries.

Sweden long prided itself on its generous asylum policy, welcoming twice as many refugees per capita as any other Western country. In 2014, for example, the country of 9.5 million took in more than 85,000 people, mostly Muslims from Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. But the new arrivals’ failure to assimilate has sent voters stampeding to the right. The Sweden Democrats, a once-reviled party with roots in neo-Nazism, took 13 percent of the vote in last year’s election to become the third-biggest party in Parliament, mostly on a campaign to halt immigration. Over the summer, as the flood of refugees pouring into Europe dominated headlines, the popularity of the Sweden Democrats soared, and now they are the most popular party in Sweden, with more than 25 percent support.

The Swedish Democrats are not the most popular party in Sweden, and they do not have 25 percent of the vote. This is bogus. I am also unsure of the constant, “Neo Nazi” tag adversaries constantly throw at them. It seems to me, as soon as someone has any negative comment about immigration, the Nazi word is thrown at them by those who disagree. 

When I left the States a couple years ago some haters stood on corners, downtown Seattle, holding posters that proclaimed Obama a Nazi. Name calling is an easy to do. It doesn’t mean much.

From Reuters – Written by Olivia Goldhill
5 October 2015

This is where some mainstream liberals often fail to get it. It’s unrealistic to expect regular people of Europe to just suck it up. A political backlash of some sort is a reasonable response.
Personally I find the obsession with race, ethnicity, and nationality, both on the left wing and the right wing, to be what Sigmund Freud termed the “narcissism of small differences”. I think people that obsess on these things are disconnected from reality and issues that actually matter.
That being said, I recognize that the world we live in is full of people who do think these things are important, and that makes these things important. Thus asking people to just ignore or accept a huge flood of strangers changing the very culture of their communities in a flash is not a realistic attitude.
A backlash to the flood of immigrants isn’t always based on hate, or even fear. Sometimes it is simply about fighting back against the chaos. It only appears xenophobic.

In my opinion: 

I cannot imagine how any country could make a more honest and heartfelt effort to support and grant asylum to those who need it. Are there racists here? Of course. No country is without them. Incoming immigrants are not without them, but I think one will find fewer here than elsewhere. Both the Swedish people and their government are doing the best they can, as much as they can. It’s been a heroic effort, and I don’t see any other country doing more, or better. I just hope it works.
My greatest fear is that an underclass will be created. Some say there already is one. This could make for painful problems in the future.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Center Will Not Hold

From Daily Kos – 2004

The cycle of violence may be vicious, but it is not pointless. Each round of strike-and-counterstrike makes the political center less tenable. The surviving radical leaders on each side energize their respective bases and cement their respective holds on power. The first round of the playoffs is always the two extremes against the center. Only after the center is vanquished will you meet your radical counterparts in the championship round.                       
                                                                             Doug Muder

*                        *                          *
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                      William Butler Yeats

Observing Sweden – Immigration 3

Things here are happening faster than I can assimilate. It’s not just me. It seems we’re all just trying to catch up with news of what must be one of the biggest changes in our lifetimes.

Swedish Democrats again.

Seems I keep coming back to them, as they’re the only ones who dare to speak the obvious in this land of the politically correct. They’ve been passing out flyers to immigrants passing through other countries, on their way to Sweden. They are headlined: No money, no jobs, no place to live. The S.D.s have been criticized as tarnishing the Swedish image, but in my opinion what they say is true.
Last week, in my Swedish For Immigrants class, one of the SFI officials showed up to talk to students in regard to their continuing to upper levels of the language classes. Some worried about what they’d heard on Face book, or the Internet . . . wherever. The official spoke to them in Swedish, which everyone in the class understands better than I do, but I understood enough. “There are jobs!” he told them. “There is money! There are places to live!” I don’t know where he gets his information, and I’m sure he’s more aware of how things are than I . . . but still.

80,000 came to Sweden in 2014, another 80,000 have arrived so far this year, and more on the way. What are the jobs I wonder? Where are they? Not in here in this small town where I am. Almost all the new arrivals coming in are relocated to small towns much the same, and housing? Last I heard was talk of using some kind of Army tents. Some new arrivals were moved farther north in Sweden, to what has been some kind of a resort housing. They kidnapped the bus they arrived in as protest against being left ‘out in the north woods.’

“It’s the middle of nowhere,” they complained. Local TV showed photos of the housing, very nice, they said. Well cared for. With a pool, they added. Right – almost December here in Sweden. It gets cold. How many coming in have ever seen it snow? Somehow they’re finding still more places to house new arrivals, but the locations are kept secret out of fear of arsons which become more frequent ever month it seems.

(Swedish Paper)

Excerpts from Aftonbladet 10 November 2015:

The EU holds summit after summit to resolve the refugee crisis, but almost nothing happens. Europe wants to close the door but does not know how to behave. The panic in worst case has let to bloodshed.

Germany is about to reintroduce the Dublin Convention. This would send refugees back to the European country where they first arrived, to have their asylum proceedings there. Sweden and Germany, the countries that have taken in the most refuges, are about to apply the emergency break. There are no longer places for newcomers to stay. 

One wonders what an EU decision is rally worth when every meeting only results in meaningless declarations. The feeling is that the EU does not have any control over the refugee situation and that it may soon go really bad.
*             *             *
The news from Paris came as I was finishing this post at 2 a.m. last night. The happenings have now reached warp speed. What will happen next? And where?

Not knowing is the strength of man and beast.

Tomorrow – Excerpts from The Daily Kos, and Reuters.

Kat Art - 5

Monday, November 9, 2015

Berlin Wall Anniversary

Berlin Wall

From: Writer’s Almanac – 9 February
It was on this day in 1989 that the Berlin Wall came down in Germany. After World War II, Germany was divided into four parts, each occupied by one of the major Allied powers – France, England, the United States, and the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for relations between the Soviet Union and the other Allies to deteriorate, at which point the Soviet portion became East Germany, and the rest became West Germany. Berlin was also controlled by all four powers, so it was divided similarly to the rest of the country – into East and West Berlin – even though it was entirely surrounded by East Germany.

   Photo: Berlin Wall Graffiti – 2009

Click To Enlarge

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Observing Sweden - Immigration 2

They’re all people on the bus
like us
some good ones
and some bad ones
just like always
Sweden’s unexpected guests
for better or for worse
they won’t be going home
this marriage hard to disavow
what now?
Europe waits to see what happens next.
*            *          *
“All I know is what I read in the papers.”

I had thought to write this post about the news, or lack of it in Sweden. First thought that comes to mind is, ‘I don’t know,’ in Swedish, ‘Jag vet inte.’ Who, or what, can we believe? The world’s mass media controlled by less than ten vast corporations, each with its own agenda, points of view. Facebook and Photoshop, exaggerated local color, pictures worth a thousand words – no more, or less believable than text.
“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”

A friend in Canada advises, “Swedish papers are controlled. Papers like Aftonbladet receive grants in addition to ad based revenues. He forwarded the article below, from FriaTider – 2013.  Fria Tider (Free Time) is a Swedish newspaper that takes a critical attitude to the Swedish immigration policy. It is detached but in ideological terms considered to be close to the Sweden Democrats.


Adelsohn-Liljenroth notes it was against this background (Nationell Idag granted a press subsidy) that she gave the Parliamentary Committee on Press Subsidies the directive to determine whether rules should call for “respect for the ideals of democracy” or otherwise ensure that subsidies are justified from a “democratic perspective.” The wordings denote the sharing of views on migration policy proposed by the Swedish government, most political parties and mainstream media. However, the ministerial directive to the committee resulted in an unwelcome conclusion.

Adelsohn-Liljeroth: “The Committee concluded that such a requirement could be seen as a way to hinder the printed word. I disagree with that assessment.”

The Swedish government now threatens to introduce a political section in the subsidy rules nevertheless – even though all members of the relevant parliamentary committee oppose it. “I am now awaiting the respondents’ views on the proposal of the Press Subsidies Committee. I hope the responses provide a basis for imposing a democracy clause in the new press subsidy regulation,” Liljeroth concludes.
*           *           *
The Swedes are so politically correct, you don’t hear much about incoming problems, other than the recent arsons which are not so easy to ignore. Another housing facility was torched this week. More than a dozen here now.

This from the Danish newspaper – Berlingske, re-posting comments from a poll taken by Aftonbladet.
Sweden is worried about all the asylum accommodation fires and seeing reactions that are not only about asylum polices, but that Sweden has not allowed discussion of the difficult issues surrounding integration immigration. It is dangerous to put a lid on these debates. Here in Norway, it has been discussed it more openly. Hanne Skartveit, politcal editor – Norway.

Question: What do you think about the way Sweden is handling the refugee crisis?

I have grown up with Astrid Lindgren (Sweden’ much loved children’s writer) and love moose. But now it seems the Swedes are about to devastate their country. Sweden can be changed until it is unrecognizable. I know it’s been done with good intentions, but the Swedes have become slaves of humanism. It’s hard to imagine that so many from Muslim countries will adjust to living in the same way as they. You cannot integrate so many people at once.  Anna Libak, Foreign Editor Berlingske.

Question: What do Danes think about the Swedish situation?

We think they are naive. Previously Sweden was an example of the Danish left wing, but now they’ve reached a point where even the left recognizes Sweden is about to fall apart. Everyone agrees that Sweden is going to have some very big problems.

WA Post

The people of Sweden are very good,” said a grateful 34-year-old from Iraq.“I want to make my life here.”

But behind the warm embrace, a very different reaction to refugees is brewing in Sweden. In this Scandinavian country famous for lit progressive politics and unfailingly polite citizenry, a party with roots in the neo-fascist fringe has surged toward the top of recent opinion polls with a defiantly hostile message to refugees: Those on their way to Sweden should stay out. Many of those already here should go home.”

The growing popularity of the far-right Swedish Democrats mirrors a backlash being felt across Europe as the continent reckons with a refugee crisis that has broken all modern records and shows no signs of abating. The impact can be seen in country after country, with far-right parties hammering away at authorities deemed too permissive in allowing those fleeing war and persecution to find a home in Europe.

Anger over the refugee influx is increasingly fueling violence as it appeared to do over the weekend when two Swedish schools that were being converted into shelters for asylum seekers burned down in what the police said we suspected arson attacks. In the German city of Cologne, a leading mayoral candidate and ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel was stabbed in the neck by a man who authorities said had “anti-foreigner motives.”
*           *           *

This post has gotten more verbose than I intended, but I felt the need of some established background. Next post (Next Sunday) will be concerned with media again, but with more personal, subjective, point of view.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Burning Leaves

Dog in Bag - Name

Burning Leaves
The smell of burning leaves remembered
small town, in November
Southern Illinois
the turning foliage
gone prismatic in the light
then fallen, raked, and set on fire
joss sticks turned red
white scarves of smoke
nature’s perfume
sweet scented sendoff
into hemispheric night.
Leaves at Dump - Name 
Leaves as Disposal Site – Borlänge, Sweden

I never thought about it at the time, a passing thing. Do people still burn leaves? Not here in Sweden. We have plastic bags now, we rake the leaves, and put them into plastic bags, then take the bags to a disposal area, where something clever with them. Some leaves go to little compost boxes people have in their back yards. All very practical. Not so romantic. There are bonfires here in Sweden, big ones, every year. It’s not the same.

Kat Art - 4

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Observing Sweden - Immigration: Part 1

 Observing Sweden - Immigration: Part 1

This will be a series, once a week I think, on Sundays, maybe. I am not Swedish, but a permanent resident in a small town of 50 thousand . . . was 50 thousand, more than that now. My opinions are purely my own, as an observer who does not speak Swedish and with little understanding of the county’s politics. Yet, I am here, and in the middle of it, an off center immigrant myself.


I recently saw a politically correct comment on Facebook, re: immigration. Someone explaining an incorrect analysis for what is going on. “It’s not an invasion,” they said. This caught my interest. The ‘invasion’ word has crossed my mind at times. I was inspired to look it up.

Invasion: A military offensive in which large parts of combatants of one geopolitical entity aggressively enter territory controlled by another geopolitical entity, generally with the objective of either conquering, liberating or re-establishing control or authority over a territory, forcing the partition of a country.”

So, immigration’s not aggressive. Maybe passive aggressive – something more powerful than aggression–Surrender. “Please, just take me in. Give me a place to live, a job, a life. Don’t let me drown!” There’s no defense. You can’t say no. We can fight wars, kill millions, but we can’t say no to this. The picture of the dead child on a beach, this lifeless poster boy who captured hearts of millions. Of the thousands of photos of immigrants, this is the one we will remember. “We’ve got to do something!” Over two thousand have drowned at sea.

It’s not an invasion, but there are casualties, and soldiers, and barbed wire, and resistance. I think Europe has done very well, so far, but welcome mats are starting to be taken off the porch.

Change and social tensions.

I watched French politician, Jean-Marie La Pen being on ‘Hard Talk,’ last week. He is 87 now.

“Let’s face it, your an old man,” he was told, and then accused of too much ‘looking back’. He wanted France to remain French in personality, to be as it has been. Not hard to understand. Most people do not welcome big changes in their lives. We like to know what’s going on, and what is coming up, a dependable status quo.

But it’s not an invasion. Let’s call it in an infusion that will change things, now and in the years to come, far distant futures.

I was in Sri Lanka in the eighties, when the Tamil Tiger Liberation terrorists were killing people. They were Tamil Nadu, Hindus the English brought over from India to build the tea plantations. Years passed, and generations of Tamil children were born as the plantations were built. Then the English went home in 1948, and the Tamil, Hindus were stuck on an island of Ceylonese Buddhists, without passports or civil rights. India didn’t want them back. The Tamil Nadu region had more poverty than it could handle, and did not want more.

Papers were shuffled between India and Ceylon (by now Sri Lanka), for years. Agreements were signed, then broken. Four decades later a boat load of Tamils got chopped up with machetes on a ferry coming over from India. The Tamils retaliated by slaughtering a bunch of Buddhist Priests. The Tigers were born, with religion a driving force between on both sides. The Tigers were the first to blow up an airliner, a plane load of Germans on their way home. The plane was still on the runway, in the process of taking off.

It can’t happen here, of course. But it’s hard not to see similarities, and possibilities if things go sideways. This mass infusion’s happening so fast. Does anyone have time to look ahead for twenty five or thirty years?

 Next Week: What’s Not News In Sweden