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The Selfish Idealist


When you do things for yourself, do you have to be destructive towards the world? Life can be made fairly good both for you and for the rest of us.

Maybe you'll not only help out, but even give everybody a good laugh from time to time.

Interesting titles...from a bookshelf in the used books-shop Cappelens forslag in Bernt Ankers gate, Oslo. I won't try to translate the pun, I think, but it is a fun place to go and to shop.

Build-up of violence

Oslo Posted on 10 Aug, 2021 07:34

For those of you who do not read Norwegian, or who understand both English and Norwegian:

Things are happening in the relation between the “immigrants” and the “Norwegians” in Oslo.

The Progress Party has been talking for many years about “Swedish conditions” – according to them a surplus of violence and “trouble which the foreigners bring with them” – and to counter this they have argued in favour of laws that are unlawful, double sentence in particular areas etc, things that has been done in Denmark.

They managed to get an extra 50 million kr to the Oslo police for the purpose of “curbing the gang problem”.

This problem has been a marginal one until now.

Now Jon Helgheim, the party’s spokesman for immigration, is leading a campaign which I consider racist and violent. More news about confrontations between young people and the police are being published. Until now Oslo has been a fairly quiet and peaceful place.

He is shouting about a problem that he and his party is in the process of creating.

They have a sense of reality that is so slanted on this, they end up aggravating small problems and then blaming “mainstream society” for something big.

I would recommend everyone interested to read the news with my comments in mind, in other ways seek information about this, from other sources, and please, comment where and when it is practical.

From being a city with a peaceful coexistence, there are forces in play, mostly actually from outside the city, who want conflict, and who are prepared to use unlawful legislation to deal with matters they hardly know anything about.

They do this out of their own private assumptions, mainly built up from the outside of Oslo, which hardly match reality.

Their ideas and methods are authoritarian.

This piece of news tells about a confrontation between young people and the police, with a comment from Jon Helgheim on top.

Oslo is not a dangerous city and never was.

By the way, Jon Helgheim lives in Drammen, not in Oslo.

City Life

Oslo Posted on 26 Apr, 2021 08:50

Free shoeshine.

Alcohol restrictions

Oslo Posted on 01 Feb, 2021 01:39

There was a rule in town once, I mean in Oslo, that if you wanted to buy alcohol, beer, in a shop, and it must have been after a certain time in the evening, you had to buy food or something else for as much as the beer cost. The place where it meant something for me, I think, was the Jens Evensen supermarket which was then at Grønland, at the subway station, because it was open late, I think until 10:30 pm or something.

Nice cliché

Oslo Posted on 01 Jan, 2021 23:14

Strolled through town in the afternoon, and it gave a really peaceful feeling. Grønland especially, the shops with lights in the windows or inside, the doors often open, people buying sweets or other stuff.

In Studenterlunden the Christmas market, the Ferris wheel was running, encouraging things in gloomy or strange times.

I hope the general feeling was right and that it goes on.

…and one answer

Oslo Posted on 19 Nov, 2020 14:35

…to the restaurant initiative.

‘Dear Noel,Thank you for your email.

We are fully aware of the extremely difficult situation for the uteliv branch i Oslo and other places throughout the country. We know that the compansation scheme suggested by the government is inadequate in many ways in the sense that its to rigid and will arbitrarily not capture businesses that are equally deserving of support than the ones that accidently are captured by the scheme.

Additionally we are also not accepting the governments explanation for developing a totally new scheme with a different governmental agency than the agency responseble for the last one, causing payments to be delayed possible to february.

We will propose in parliament that the government immediately broaden the scheme and let the former agency run it so that they can start payments within weeks.

Unfortunately we are outnumbered in parliament, so we have little power to win a majority for our proposals.But we will continue to follow this up all the way, and we will appreciate feedback and suggestions on what we can do from you and the rest of the branch.

Thanks again for your email and best of luck to you and your collegues.

Best regards, Reber Iversen, Political advisor, SVs parlamentary group’

Killing a business or not?

Oslo Posted on 18 Nov, 2020 06:06

Here is a letter from an English guy who runs a bar in Oslo.

I don’t know what else but to start writing letters. I’m Noel the Daglig Leder at Henry & Sally’s. As an English-speaker I may have missed some of the nuances in the stack of shit-cards we have been dealt.


I am writing to you on behalf of my business in Oslo and in solidarity with hundreds of similarly-affected bars and restaurants. This is a matter of grave urgency as many of us in the uteliv branch are facing the immediate threat of bankruptcy. 17,000 people are employed in Oslo alone and contribute a significant amount of money towards the economy of Oslo. The loss of these businesses will affect the cultural life of Oslo for years to come.

On the 10th November we were forced to close due to the loss of our main source of income. As I am sure you are aware, this has left many businesses facing a dire future. Indeed, this was recognised as the government hashed together a ‘support’ package for our industry.

I have yet to meet a business-owner affected who thinks these measures are in any way sufficient to deal with the scale of financial hardship we face. Not only are they economically inadequate but they display a complete lack of sensitivity to the pressing needs of our industry sector.

We fully understand the need to do our utmost as individuals, business-owners and as a sector to reduce the threat of the coronavirus spread as much as possible. We have reduced our seating capacity (and by extension our revenue), we have introduced and adhered to regular and extensive cleaning routines, we have fully implemented customer registration, use of facemasks and stood steadfast to the reduction in our opening times. The latter has resulted in a huge loss of income. These efforts have been well-received.

In the meantime we stood shocked as cafes, gyms, shopping malls, public transport, bus stations, train stations, kiosks and shops were not asked to enforce mask-wearing, to enforce capacity controls or be regularly checked for adherence to covid-19 rules. As bars are forced to shut we are facing a situation where alcohol consumption will no longer be covid-regulated, indeed, private parties will grow exponentially and the rate of infection will increase. According to FHI figures, serveringssteder have been responsible for 0-4% of confirmed cases in Oslo. This is clear evidence that the covid protocols in place for uteliv were being adhered to and our industry is not to blame for the second wave. Nevertheless, with an infection increase we are the first industry to be treated with scorn and new restrictions.

Moreover, we find it shocking and insulting for Minister of Industry Iselin Nybø to state that “ellers levedyktig bedrift“ business-owners should weather this covid storm easily. Such statements display a profound ignorance of an industry she should know extensively. The vast majority of our businesses run at a profit, pay staff wages on time, pay our taxes and invoices and can survive the normal ebbs and flows of a financial year. There is no such “levedyktig bedrift” that can survive losing its primary source of income for long periods twice in one year, lose 2/3 of its capacity and still continue to operate. Everyone must know this.

Those with an iota of fiscal knowledge must be aware that being unable to even apply for compensation for fixed costs until January is completely inadequate. Who knows when businesses will receive this much-needed compensation? Many will be bankrupt before then. It seems a logical extension to suggest that the government know this and indeed are hoping for precisely this so the state picks up less of the bill.

In addition, how is that financial help in terms of postponement of VAT payments was deemed necessary in March but not in November when everyone’s situation is WORSE now than it was earlier in the year?

We are not interested in the assignment of blame. We are interested to know what are you doing to fight on behalf of 17,000 employees in Oslo alone? 17,000 people and hundreds of businesses are facing unemployment and bankruptcy. The loss of these businesses have a subsequent impact on an entire supply chain of other businesses such as cleaners, accountants, security guards, suppliers, distributors, transport and waste management.

We would like to know which precise steps are being taken to pressure for an adequate support package.

Your action is required now and is a matter of grave urgency.

Yours in sympathy,

Noel Heath

From here, I go on writing.

I really love the fact that Oslo and probably other places in Norway has got an international touch, in our case from being a small and a little sleepy city at least parts of the year, to becoming, at least partly, vibrant and alive, even if we are still small.

Small – is beautiful.

And this, I think, is great.

The city has been packed with good food, music and other events.

There is still a lot of money in the oil fund, and I will try to be reasonable when I talk about things, but there have been things going on that are almost on par with Donald Trump’s or other populist leaders’ actions, with a populist party in government since the formation of Solberg’s first government, in 2013, until last winter, when the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) left the government.

In the corona crisis the art- and cultural life is and has been fighting for its life, but seems to be at least partly listened to and understood, but the restaurant business, which has also had a real boom in Oslo the last 5-10 years, together with music and arts, is not yet being compensated to the necessary extent. Oslo experiences right now a prohibition against serving alcohol in public cafés and restaurant etc, imposed not by the government but by the City Council, and practically the whole business is in danger of breaking down, as is or has also been the case this year with freelance musicians, other artists, organisers, technicians etc., in short the cultural life of Norway.

The tourist business, hotels etc are more or less in the same situation.

The shops still sell alcohol.

The two businesses, culture and restaurants etc, are very different organised also when it comes to money and income, and the authorities, especially the government, seemed or seem unaware of how things are done, quite simply, and act late and seemingly incompetent, at least at first.

The cultural people seem to be able to talk for themselves, at least.

The restaurants, however, has, I believe, not quite reached a point where the politicians and administrators in case understand and actually accept what is going on.

The spreading of the virus has mainly not gone through the city’s cafés or restaurants or even night life, according to statistics from Oslo kommune recently. With a few exceptions it has been happening mostly at home, and partly at schools and universities. People working in bars etc do figure in the statistics, but they are of course not allowed to work when they are ill or contaminated. There have been cases of shutting down of places because of the necessity of a quarantine period, because of contamination.

It should be said that there is also a substantial part of spreading which is unaccounted for, around 20 % of the cases in this registration.

Part of the picture, I would say, is the peculiar traditions in Norway of temperance and abstinence when it comes to drinking, some are looking at any alcohol consumption with suspicion, and there is a wide-spread opinion, in general, among quite a lot, that “people can’t behave” when they drink, even if, as I said, the business seem to have tackled the whole thing professionally and has managed to avoid a big spreading of the virus at any point this summer and autumn, during a long row of different regimes from the authorities since March. This has been making life difficult and right now almost impossible for people who run places to eat and drink. 

To put it bluntly I think some people don’t care.

Drinking habits have also changed a lot, say in my lifetime.

I find it obviuos that the hotels, restaurants, travel business and culture and arts all belong together in an economic and cultural package, relying on each other for getting visitors, guests, audience.

The restaurant business employs some 17 000 people in the city of Oslo, in a population of roughly 650 000.

The money is there, what is needed from the government and it seems also from the City Council, is understanding the problems of the business right now, and how things functions for them in general, just as with the arts and cultural world.

The whole city has enjoyed a huge social and economic contribution to its culture during the last years, as I said, both in arts, theatre, cinema, concerts and not least, food.

The statistics in question, from Oslo kommune, helseetaten:

French culture in the north of Europe

Oslo Posted on 07 Sep, 2020 00:35

I am sorry to hear that the French government is considering to close the French Cultural Institute in Oslo, and maybe in other cities as well.

The language courses here have been privatised and given, I think, to people who already worked with it. I wish them the best of luck and hope that they will succeed in going on with their work.

If their government actually close the cultural centre, it will be a loss for the culture of Oslo as well. Together with the different centres of other countries, like Italy’s cultural centre or the German church, where I used to work, both just around the corner, the Goethe-Institut, and probably other places that I don’t know of, and of course all the restaurants of different nationalities and other places I don’t know of, all those places have been drawing musical folks, food people and other culturally interested and interesting people to the city.

I sincerely hope that the French politicians will think again and use the centre for the benefit of France and Norway.

We certainly need you.

The Oslo Cathedral and decorations

Oslo Posted on 13 Aug, 2020 02:54

Hugo Lous Mohr (1889-1970) made the paintings in the vault in the Oslo Domkirke, the Cathedral called in English, although it is not really a large building, as churches go. 

Mohr was appointed to do the job in 1935, but it was finished after the war, in 1949. The paintings belong to a period which I don’t usually like that much because of the style, but I still sympathise with much of the art from this period because of the political message which is often there, very visible for instance in the paintings in Oslo City Hall, made by many different artists, where among other motives many branches of society are represented, sailors and ships, industry and industrial workers, etc. There still seems to be a need to defend some of the values from this period, but maybe not all the political habits… 

With the work of Per Krohg in the City Hall there is a story which I maybe have to tell one day, his murals there were made from 1940 to 49, through the war, with a break in 42-43 when the artist was first sent to Grini, a Nazi political prison camp in Bærum outside of Oslo, and he also had to do road work, as a punishment.

Henrik Sørensen, another important artist from the same times, also contributed substantially to the decoration of the City Hall. He was born in Sweden and lived there until he was twelve, then moved to Norway with his father and lived here.

Even if Hugo Lous Mohr’s motives in the church are of course not worldly in the sense that Krohg’s and Sørensen’s in the City Hall are, the way of depicting and perceiving humans are not that far away from each other.

You can see this also in Krohg’s and Alf Rolfsen’s illustrations of the fairy tales, Asbjørnsen og Moe, the pendant to the Grimm brothers in Germany, scholars who traveled the country and collected the tales. Per Krohg’s and Alf Rolfsen’s illustrations are very different from Erik Werensḱiold’s better known drawings, Werenskiold has quite a few shrewd portraits both of Askeladden and others, also the king, a person who appears in many of the stories.

Erik Werenskiold is more than 30 years the senior of Krohg, and draws and paints in a completely different style, belonging to the 19th century or to the turn of the century, but lived until 1938.

The troll has captured the princess, a common theme in the folk tales of Norway. Drawing by Erik Werenskiold.

Theodor Kittelsen’s spooky and mysterious trolls and other creatures from the woods and mountains, also illustrating the fairy tales, and appearing elsewhere too, is a story in itself, well known here and for a good reason. Our soul, I more or less subconsciously thought when I grew up. Today there are many other art things in my mind from my country which deserves attention, but Kittelsen is still something special.

Something from Store norske leksikon, the biggest Norwegian encyclopedia, in Norwegian, but with a couple of the most famous pictures by Kittelsen:

Per Krohg’s world of people, and to a certain extent Hugo Lous Mohr’s too, gives me a much more everyday feeling than Kittelsen and Werenskiold, no-nonsense and straight forward. Functionalism made its way into design and architecture in the same period.  Everyday life seen from another angle…

In a church context I sympathise quite a lot with the attitude that Hugo Lous Mohr and the rest give us, especially today, when the Norwegian Church has partly moved into much more humane attitudes than used to be prevalent, at least according to common prejudice.

I wouldn’t be able to say too much about the Church here at the time the cathedral was built, in terms of attitude or theology, my knowledge is too scant. I feel when entering the Cathedral that I am more interested in the aesthetics of the old church, including the altar piece and the rest of the decorations, but more drawn to the attitude or the feeling that comes out of Lous Mohr’s paintings. Scizophrenic? Maybe it is.

The decoration in the middle of the cathedral ceiling, with the inscription «Gloria in excelsis Deo» also resonates well with the feeling of mystery that I think many here actually share, within or without the church, an abstract decoration which in a way excludes no one, which is, I think, the core of the positive side of culture here, when it is present. The stripes around it covers a huge part of the vault.

The fact that the whole thing makes a contrast to the rest of the decorations as almost solely abstract figures and not pictures, makes perhaps the thought present that God is impossible to depict…

Henrik Sørensen’s portrait of Christ is rightly famous, I think. Sørensen is maybe a more popular painter than Per Krohg, his works also perhaps gives me more space to think and to feel free, in several directions.

Henrik Sørensen, Den unge Kristus, 1955 – 58

I see when I read about his version of Christ that some in Sweden have seen it as «Aryan» and that it caused a lot of uproar when it was first made and mounted in the Linköping Cathedral, a few years before the war. Dismissed by some was also (t)his use of the church room.

When seeing pictures from the church I can understand that his altar piece in Linköping could be felt as a revolution inside this building, but today the criticism of a blonde Jesus seems to me strange. I feel as accepting as anyone towards the cultures of the world, I have no objections to depictions of Christ as black or Indian or gay or in other ways new or different from the Middle East where he was born. I haven’t seen any of the versions of this picture live, but to me this portrait can function as the liberation from a dark and unpleasant version of Christianity that we have had to live with for centuries here, it radiates friendliness and openness, totally opposed to the moral madness that I believe still some religious movements here employ, even if what is mostly left of it (I hope) is remembrances. 

They prevail, at least, no doubt about that.

But I don’t know of the person Henrik Sørensen and what he meant with the picture, I have to read more to say more.

As a Catholic I sometimes feel a lack of closeness to the mystery in Protestant theology and preaching, but I more and more enjoy the human presence, advanced and honest friendliness, if you can put it that way, in a lot of the work the Norwegian Church does, from helping people on the street, to conversations and simply therapy, given by the same preachers when they sit in a chair and talk rather than stand at the pulpit.

The fact that higher education had to be done in Copenhagen or elsewhere in Europe at the time the cathedral was built is of course also there, another feeling of smallness, that fact goes also for priests in the church, who were also the only ones allowed to preach here until the early 19th century.

But one should not forget that even if we lacked a university until a few years before the establishment of our Parliament in 1814 and the writing of the constitution, free schools for kids became law in 1739, and the Cathedral schools, which taught on a secondary school level, were built in late Medieval times like in the rest of Scandinavia, I believe, I think the first ones were built here in the 1100s.

And seriously no hard feelings today towards Danes, or Swedes for that matter, even if you could believe it sometimes, it is too long ago that Norway was a Danish province and Sweden and Norway The Twin Kingdoms or something like that. The Swedes let go of us with no attempts of war, even if we actually mobilised. 

As I write this, I feel the need to go to the National Gallery to have a look at some of the works I am talking about or similar ones, but the National Gallery has been closed for a long time, just like some other important museums in Oslo, and I don’t know why.

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