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The Selfish Idealist


If 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.

The moon, an old friend.


Other things Posted on 14 Nov, 2019 18:42

“Where do you come from?” is also often not the wrong question to ask if you want to get to know a Norwegian, geography carries a lot of meaning here and has meant even more historically than today.

There were conflicts across those distances, but also friendship. In general, to say that Norway is a small country is of course nonsense if you talk about distance. The 1700 km along the road from Oslo to Tromsø illustrates some of it. Add Finnmark, and you may understand even more, stretch the distance from here to Lindesnes and Stavanger…maybe you’re beginning to get it. Hills, mountains, plains, bays, cliffs, lakes…if you have been hiking in Norway for a little more than a day you might get an idea of distance that hardly lives in a concept, it is not easily described in one word, really. Han hadde gått langt, og lenger enn langt…he had been walking far, and farther than far…maybe a clumsy translation, but this quote from one of our fairy tales tells this story.

I was once told that there is a saying among Sami people that if you have to walk a long distance, don’t think about the distance, just go on walking.

Everyone who has tried, I think, can say that this works pretty well. It may sound drab to some, but if you enjoy walking, it can actually be very nice.

Sweet Velvet

Tourist at home Posted on 10 Oct, 2019 16:38

I have started exploring the other way from my little flat, along Trondheimsveien instead of Grünerløkka. Løkka still has possibilities, which I discover every time I go out with another city dweller, when they have other habits and know of places I have never seen.

This time only a small dessert at what is probably a Syrian restaurant, since the name on the door is Damaskus.

It’s true, what a friend once said, that you don’t know what happens in your mouth when you eat sweet stuff from the Middle East, or even more Eastern parts. The Pakistani sweetshops in Grønland, a part of town not far from here, also have a lot of strange and enchanting thing to feed your sweet tooth, and I am going there whenever I have something to do there, or just take a stroll to buy these pink and green and otherwise coloured things. They often taste very sweet, but one of the guys in one of the shops said that they did not use that much sugar.

Today’s pudding was not too sweet, but warm, and the experience was a little circus-like and sensuous, as the last time I had it.

I always feel very relaxed among Muslims, they have, when I meet them, a very soft and friendly attitude which in a café like this makes me feel like I am paying for luxury, and, well, in a way you always do that in a café, but this time, cheap luxury.

Too Much Respect, but Which Way?

Comment Posted on 07 Oct, 2019 19:25

I saw a movie the other night, “Barn”, Children, by the Norwegian director Dag Johan Haugerud.

I can truly say that in many ways I have never seen a more unrealistic Norwegian film, both the environment and the characters are, if my experience as a teacher is worth anything, pretty far out as a description of a school and its inhabitants.

I would like to send my congratulations to the ones who have instructed the actors, though, because for the first time I see my friends and colleagues, a familiar environment to me, represented on film in a pretty realistic way when it comes to both verbal language and body language.

But the trouble is the story, how they think, what they actually say.

The setting is a school somewhere in Oslo or one of its suburbs, the filming has been done in the city and close to it. Two kids of 13 quarrel, and the girl actually kills the boy with her sack by hitting him. 

In itself not a very realistic story so far here in Norway, even though probably some people fear something like this is going to happen, after reading about school shootings in the USA. I still think Norway is a much calmer place in many respects, but the talk these days is loud.

The father of the boy is what we call a populist, Progress Party (FrP) politician, and I believe the headmaster of the school is a social democrat. They have a secret relationship, and the headmaster chooses to keep this a secret even after the boy’s death, until it can no longer be hidden.

This is just one of the things that seems to me wildy unrealistic: Not to say anything when actually your boyfriend’s son is killed on your school – I simply don’t think it would happen. It would be one of the first things in the mind of a headmaster or a teacher if such a thing should be happening.

Practically all reactions from teachers in the film are what you could call too nice, even sloppy, in dramatic and really demanding situations. The film smells all the way of those comments or reactions to what outsiders think is a lack of ability to give rules, set borders, etc, basically the call for discipline, another thing which I would believe still looks very different from the inside of a classroom and the outside. 

To become a teacher and survive as one you have to not only address this question, but you have to solve it, in your own way, there is no way around this and has never been. Of course there are natural talents here as everywhere else, I have met people who do it naturally and claim they didn’t have to work for it, but normally you start in chaos and have to establish order in your own way. If you can’t manage this I think you normally leave the profession, it is too difficult and unpleasant to go on working if you don’t fix it.

But there is a generation gap and different ways of thinking about this. A big issue in itself, but not one with an easy solution.

You could maybe say that all the lines in the dialogues could in themselves happen, be seen as realistic, but put together in the way that it is done it loses the main point. No school would react as feeble and both unresponsive and unresponsible as is the picture here. A lot of important discussions stops just before a crucial point is about to emerge, before one really goes into matters, because, either the headmaster have to run to some administrative appointment or write a report, or the colleagues and friends are too shallow and unrealistic to actually tackle the problems at hand. They stop at the worry level.

Many of characters are unusually neatly drawn for a Norwegian film, but what they actually say is one-sided or as I said, downright unrealistic, seen as a whole.

Eastside-westside is an obvious theme in the film too, but the differences between those two sides of the city are not very clearly delineated.

This can very often be the case in everyday life in Oslo too, but even if the two parts of town is merging, the line between upper and working class is still not gone, and this story is confusing some things which can be seen and understood as separate phenomenons, which they still are to a certain extent, and historically it was definitely so. 

Maybe I don’t know the east side if the city well enough, but some of the dialogues seems too much likeWest End to be realistically East End dialogues to me, maybe because of the background and the education of at least some of the actors, I don’t know. Maybe this is the whole problem.

But it is sometimes a confusing mix.

Basically I don’t believe that any Norwegian school, or maybe any school, would react both so almost unemotionally and so feeble to a kid being killed by another kid at school. That the father was contacted only after several days, both by the school and the parents of the girl is not to believe.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I have been teaching in both a vocational school with basically eastside kids, and a very oldfashioned (and nice) school with an overweight of west end kids. 

I feel the whole story ends up practically as a lie, not least because the character drawings for once are very professionally done. I do not claim that this is the intention, absolutely not, but the effect in my mind.

It seems too much based on official, newspaper versions of school dramas, and I believe that as in any other profession, some things may be hidden in everyday life to give oneself the possibility to work, and many discussions in public are also very often going to unrealistic places because of the heat of an argument.

The least realistic person on the screen is actually the father of the boy,  a shallow and hero-like character which I have never met the like of in Progress Party circles. Their biggest problem is, I think, too strict upringing and too much humbleness, but in my experience it comes out more in politics these days, on a friendly level they are to me often very sympathetic and fun, but there may be professional problems among them because as I saidtoo much humbleness, especially towards theoretical education. Status and confidence are central problems, the feeling of too little of both, and professionally at least more than privately.

It is maybe not fair to talk about a group, sociologically, like this in public, but it is an issue which has to be addressed, and a film is also a natural place to do it. 

 This film is also full of accusations of condescending attitudes towards the FrP-politician from the teachers, which mostly stand uncommented. Although this absolutely exists in real life, it goes both ways, and I feel everyone is trying to behave and go big rounds with temselves to be accepting even to unrealistic comments and demands.

In one of the scenes the father is presented in a way that is not far from propaganda, he reminds me of the picture drawn of Norwegian resistance heroes from the war, which has also been psychologically mainly uninteresting and one-sided on the screen.

The truth behind both types, in life, is psychologically much more complicated than both what has been shown in recent Norwegian films.

It is definitely a good thing that the issues are presented on film in a serious way, the conflict between education and “the school of life”. I look forward to the next time I see this done, but hopefully less full of suspicion, and actually giving a fuller picture of what goes on both in the common rooms in schools and in teachers’ minds, and in the minds of what is called populist politicians, which I suspect is as usual both simpler and more complicated when you get down to what is really cooking and what is actually the basis of problems and conflicts.

I hope we are on the way to normal communication and conflict solving also along these lines, and film is certainly a media suited for getting there.

But this film goes only half the distance in presenting the teachers and their workplace, and hardly starts on creating a realistic and interesting view of this politician’s world.

The story about the kid is also very much simplifying things, and I think brutalising something that is not obviuos, when the real explanation to why she killed her mate is some comment on her shoes that he made, or something similar. And the explanation to this is a couple where the mother gets into a fit, after the killing, towards her daugher, and tears off her headset because the girl sits in her bed and listens to Justin Bieber, for Chrissake, which is so forbidden in the mother’s mind. The father cannot even start to discuss the question of guilt, he excuses the daughter from the start practically to the end.

It is too stupid to be believed.

This part of the story, the killing, which is supposed to carry much of the drama, is taken from a granny’s unrealistic and bad dreams, not from the real life of a teenager. It probably exist bad feelings of this kind, when the talk comes to fashion, style and popularity, but as usual, sorry, as what you so often read in the newspapers, the focus seems all wrong, it is what it looks like if the 13-old thought and lived like her granny, which I think everybody by now should realise is not the case. To understand the next generation is not as easy as that.

It would be almost interesting, but very cruel, to see what the film actually goes a long way in suggesting, that a 13-year old is really evil, actually she starts to look like the main character in All about Eve.

That’s almost where the director is going.

Picasso & Carl Nesjar

Oslo Posted on 03 Oct, 2019 17:52

I’m not sure I agree with everything they say, but I am certain that I do not want the new government buildings to be built. 

What’s your move?

Comment Posted on 16 Sep, 2019 08:24

So…this is not so well done.

It looks, from out here, just as an excuse to bomb Iran.

You know, Don, no one doubts the US ability to perform military strikes.

No one doubts that you are strong over there.

But…we may sometimes doubt your mental sanity.

All cultures have brilliant sides, and stupid ones.

Of course.

But some stupidity stays at home, other things hurt others…more.

The USA have started quite a few wars during the last 80 years, contributing substantially to the amount of refugees entering all countries of the world. Of course, wars would probably have happened somewhere without you, but one must say you have contributed.

You have a ridiculously high military budget, the world’s largest per capita, I think.

This move looks stupid.

Why would a country like Iran do a thing like this in a situation like this?

I’m not even sure that a small group would do such a thing, knowing that…some people in your administration is just waiting for a reason to bomb Iran, to destroy the regime in Tehran.

So maybe they gave the opportunity to themselves?

It looks so much like a US setup, it’s almost comic.

That history with the tanker…

Not quite convincing either.

You know…sir…you’re actually not entitled to use the world as your battlefield.

To protect one’s country…I would say it is a last resort, but it is considered, by most, a right to do so when you have to.

But you’re not doing that.

You’re attacking another country which lies not even close to US coasts.

It’s all about oil, isn’t it?

We’re not so happy about American money everywhere, either.

I don’t see a lot of money as…success.

Helping others…helping the world. 

That’s success.

To give…is to get.

If you give aggression…you might easily get aggression.

If you give love…

It’s not an easy thing to do. 

I’m not saying I manage all the time.

It takes not only a good heart, it also takes cleverness.

Your heart is always in a concrete situation, and it’s not the same situation all the time. It depends what you do.

You have to think out what’s best.

Not only for yourself, you have to think about others too.

Both, I would say, is an ideal. But you often get something out of helping others.

You need to be someone to be able to give others something.

At least this is partly true.

I don’t mean someone big, just someone, as opposed to…no one. Some people are treated so badly as a kid, they have very little left of themselves when they grow up. 

The things that happened to you still sit in your personality.

You often don’t feel yourself if you’ve had to take too much beating.

It’s much more common than you should think.

I think everyone has had some such experiences.

It depends how bad it feels, and what part of you it occupies.

And the shit that you received, or the shit that the beating created, has to come out somehow, somewhere. 

The art of living…many things, but one of them, to create something sound out of the shit of your life.

Art, sports, hiking, I guess those are the most common means here. Eating together, actually, too.

Meditation. In church, in nature, anywhere.

To get rid of some problems, to get some air, give yourself a break. 

To get…real.

And that thing with money…they don’t really give you a life, do they? You need money, of course, and yes, they can be used creatively or destructively, but…

Actually you create a life out of something else.

Working for others, not yourself.

Working for yourself is ok, I guess, but if you do only that…I don’t think that’ll work.

Working because you love something, either the thing you do, or the things that it creates.


Giving love to your kids.

Thinking about what they need.

Giving unconditionally to someone, with a risk of being hurt or with the risk of being…what’s it called?  Turned away. Dismissed. No, thanks, I don’t want your love, your attention, whatever.

If you really want something.

To risk the danger of looking stupid, if you need to say something plain…and nice.

Not easy.

It has to be true, too.

Honesty is considered very important in my country.

Being able to receive from others.

To actually receive compliments, love.

I find that difficult.

We don’t want the world to be swarming with…your refugees.

Maybe you could take them all on?

I don’t know…a few hundred thousand Iranians? A million this time?

They are actually pretty nice.

I like them.

But why should we do it?

enjoy immigration to my country, but some people here don’t.

I’m a little tired from explaining to them that refugees come for a reason.

As I see it, you create part of that reason.

You’re about to do it right now.

RefugeesI don’t think they want to move.

Don’t you think they’d rather be home, like you and me, we like to have a home, don’t we?

I enjoy my city and my room, the view over the small river and the trees outside.

The sound of the tram passing by.

I would like others to have what they like.


Comment Posted on 28 Aug, 2019 23:17

A lot goes on in Norwegian newspapers and among people right now, I’m thinking about discussions about immigration and cultural meetings in general.

I am sympathetic with the voices that speak of being colour blind as an ideal, I feel that what you do and say should normally be the proper criteria for becoming an insider, not where you come from. There are functions that demand insider knowledge, but I feel that where you come from should not be the general criterion for participation, rather what you can contribute.

But you should know that this question, Where do you come from? has a tradition as a completely normal icebreaker in Norwegian conversations. It does not necessarily imply anything else.

Consider also that identical words, in many other connections, in our language, can cover a huge variety of meanings, that Norwegian, I believe, is a language with a lot of special features in that understatements, insider humour (and not one type, many), humour with double and triple meanings, hints and allusions, the tone of voice, give the words its final meaning, in short a language which covers itself up even for native speakers, so that in a time where suddenly everybody meet because of the Internet, all those double meanings and hidden irony become problems even for inborns, because the expressions and ways of communicating have belonged to special groups and in specific settings, they have not all been common language and have not always meant the same.

Also think about the cultural isolation we grew up in (I am 55) – where other cultures were far away and for many of us not well known.

We are in some ways a young nation, and have had little time to get used to The world will live as one.

Be a little patient, and if you grew up here but was born into a “foreign” or foreign family, just see the whole integration thing as a process.

I want it to happen, and I am not alone.

Even if some hasn’t gone into that process, many of us have, and it probably needs to go through some specific stages even if they come late or for some reason are postponed.

In waiting

Tourist at home Posted on 26 Aug, 2019 17:08

I was going to take a walk and take a look at a statue of Rodin, which stands in Solli plass, kind of the beginning of the West End, Vestkanten, as different from Sentrum, the central parts of town, which is of course a concept with a little changing content.

But anyway.

The statue wasn’t there, just a kind of box which could have hidden and protected the sculpture, and with a picture of it on the outside, but the inside was empty.

I don’t quite know why.

One could phantasise about anti-art governments or politicians, who don’t care about art, and who don’t push those processes which always go on in administrations, necessarily so. Those processes, I believe, although I’ve never been an insider, often depend on people who wants this or that and push things they feel are important in a particular direction. In the direction of doing, not just thinking, which, I acknowledge that, is also necessary.

But I ‘m sure there is a good reason that the statue is not there.

Dead sure.

I passed Ibsen and Bjørnson on my way there, they were standing in front of the National Theatre, and looked a little high up, which is of course an unneccessary way of seeing them, as long as you stick to what people write and not what someone says about them, I mean, their art is a lot more interesting than their lives, at least it should come first.

I met Ibsen once more, sitting outside his extravagant appartment in Drammensveien, which is now Henrik Ibsens gate… Here he looked a little comic, sitting on his…pedestal would maybe be a proper name for it, I don’t know if the artist had a particular reason for making him look funny, this could be interesting to know, or just had a thing with humour in general.

I have nothing against making fun of Ibsen, but I would love to know the reason for the mocking. I’m not bigger than that…

I don’t know why Ibsen is considered our only great playwright, and I say this straightforward, I don’t know it, but I believe we could as well get others out from the shadows and read them and play them.

It’s probably done already too, just as the music of Norwegian classical composers are coming out from their shelves, where they have been sleeping for quite a while. Everybody who are into classical knows Grieg, Svendsen, Halvorsen, but seriously, there is also Catharinus Elling, Johannes Haarklou, Hjalmar Borgstrøm, there are loads of composers and fantastic music which only need to be understood and played.

Actually, it seems to be happening. New recordings emerge, more and more interesting.

A national renaissance? Why not, we’ve been actually too timid to appreciate our own stuff properly. As long as it’s used for thinking and contemplation, not war, I find it totally in order to revive this part of tradition.

No war against other nations, and no war against popular culture, which was always strong here and should go on being important.

Why not have it both ways?

I think it can’t be wrong.

So I guess I’ll check out Bjørnson, which I have read just a little of so many years ago that I can’t remember what it was.

Or someone else.

The same with painters, the last years we’ve seen things of women, Harriet Backer was of course known, but had a lot more than I knew, Kitty Kielland, there are doubtless more of them too, men and women, painters I didn’t know of.

In this vein Lillehammer kunstmuseum is worth a visit, I believe, and others, I shoud not say too much, I’ve been too few places. There are regional museums around the country.

They have closed the National Gallery in Oslo in waiting for the big new museum…they, maybe some of them could emerge from their shadows and tell us why. Kunstindustrimuseet, also closed, used to be a beautiful place, I thought.

The Munch Museum is still going on like before, even if this museum is also moving into another new, huge building.

The Høvikodden and The Astrup Fearnley, modern art places, I haven’t been there for a while, but I usually check out what’s happening when I feel like it.

The Rodin statue is nothing big, and it’s a copy, but I guess those greats had people working for them anyway, they didn’t actually do all the work themselves all the time, although the shape, of course, the mould or the result is supervised by them and the form is…formed by them.

He’s just a sculptor I really like.

But right now I didn’t find him where I thought he’d be.

“Second rate” music revived

Music Posted on 22 Aug, 2019 05:47

Really well played, those pieces of Clara Schumann, which proves my point from a few years back, that her music is firstrate, and in my opinion still, alongside other female composers and alongside so-called secondrate male composers whose music has been laying in the shelves, but is actually beginning to enjoy a renaissance.

People like Agathe Backer-Grøndahl from my own country, Catharinus Elling among the men, Hjalmar Borgstrøm, Alf Hurum. David Monrad Johansen is known, but not for early, romantic pieces – a violin sonata and other chamber music has got a fantastic new recording by the Oslo-based ensemble Fragaria Vesca.

I still feel there is sometimes a tendency to overemphasize the classical, European side of this Norwegian music from the romantic period, and even if this side is often a really well done part of the compositions, we also need to hear the real shit of the trolls and the harmonic strangeness not least, which exist in some of these pieces.

It’s often there, but I feel it could sometimes be interesting to experience more of it, to have the courage to be…sorry, more strangely Norwegian and not see this feature as German or European music, just not quite as good…

After all this music was made in a period where nationalism established itself throughout Europe and perhaps wider, and today we could need this base in order not to exaggerate it – as long as we have it, what’s the point of bragging or be afraid of other countries’ culture?

Much of it was meant to explore the special and peculiar sides of a country 100% when it was written, its character as different from others, but of course in a common idiom, a more or less similar style across Europe. Today we can use it for adjustment to other cultures, to tone down sides of our own culture is easier when you feel confident, and one may listen to others without losing oneself totally.

Just a bit.

Here is the first movement of Monrad Johansen’s piano quartet:

His violin sonata also deserves attention. Here is the second movement:

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