March 7, 2017

We Have To Talk About Zlatan

I have written a couple of dozen blog posts about Zlatan Ibrahimovic in my mind, but nothing on paper or on this blog. So I have decided to just start somewhere, and rather get back to him again now that I'm coming out of the closet. It used to be that my friends teased me for having a soft spot for Ricky Martin and his type of music. Now they tease me because of Zlatan. I just reply, fine, tease away, I don't care.

No, it is not a crush. He is my spirit animal, my totem. And I feel sorry for you who don't have one as magnificent as mine.

You talkin' bout me?


The irony, of course, is that I have found a gladiator as my spirit animal, and not a philosopher. Some of you may quickly point out, as admitted in my most popular blog post, The Philosopher and the Gladiator of football - Messi and Ronaldo, that I have previously confessed my love for the philosopher over the gladiator. That is, I prefer Messi over Ronaldo, even if Messi's underwear ads are rather awkward (as can be seen in said post).

The young Zlatan could hardly be called anything but a gladiator.

Rrrrrrrroarrrrr......
If you touch me like that again, I will flatten your bald head.


But his gladiator-ness is of a different hue than Ronaldo's. It is less contrived. All gladiators are born from carrying chips on their shoulders. I don't know enough about Ronaldo's chips, but I learned plenty about Zlatan's when I read his most excellent biography I Am Zlatan (which I read in Swedish, just because I can, can, can). I think there is some truth to this line I picked up from a movie. A husband was listening to his wife's insecurities well up, where she traced a specific feeling back to high school. He said: "Honey, high school is over." She looked at him, incredulously and yelled: "High school is never over!" Ain't that the truth. Zlatan's childhood was never over. And isn't that the truth for us all?

Zlatan had a rather rough childhood and youth. His Croatian mother and Bosnian father met in Sweden, both war refugees. They divorced when Zlatan was an infant and each of them presented challenges in their own way. Although he makes it clear in his book that he loves his parents, he also writes that his father was more into drinking and listening to nostalgic Bosnian music than providing food for a growing boy; his mom had a habit of beating Zlatan and his sister with wooden spoons.

However, the greatest challenge was presented by the Swedish society itself. He felt comfortable in Rosengård, the ghetto area of Malmø where he lived, but never quite in the larger society. He was on a path to nowhere; stealing bikes, dropping out of school and causing trouble with his temper tantrums. The high school headmistress said Zlatan was easily one one of the most disruptive kids who had ever attended the school - "a prototype of the kind of child that ends up in serious trouble." Zlatan agrees. In a BBC interview, he admits: "I was rowdy, I was wild. But I had character as well."

Zlatan as a youth player


Luckily, he could put his character into football. In the same BBC interview, Zlatan talks about how his hot temper almost stopped that path, as well:
For me to succeed as a footballer was difficult because of my background," he explains. "But I was difficult too. At one training session I head-butted my team-mate. If I could put myself in that moment today I would say to myself 'don't ever do that', but I was an angry young man.
"The player got a letter from his parents and asked people to sign it to kick me out of the club. I did many stupid things, I made many mistakes, but I learnt from everything. I still make mistakes, I still learn from them. Nobody is perfect. I had a lot of walls to break through to get here.
Zlatan turned 35 a few months back, and his philosopher shades are shining ever brighter. Although recently given a three-match ban for an elbow in the last match against Bournemouth (where he claimed the defender "jumped into his elbow"; I must admit I think it was a revenge for said defender just a minute before stamping on Zlatan's head as Z was on the ground - and well deserved reply, I felt), Zlatan is definitely mellowing. It is not usual to see him flare up as he did in younger days. He is a calmer man. His rock solid family life seems to be a big reason for this. His partner Helena, 11 years his senior, seems to be the person who knows how to calm him as well as keep his arrogance in check.
She wasn't at all like the younger girls I'd met. There was none of the hysteria, not at all - she was cool. She liked cars. She'd left home when she was seventeen and worked her way up, and I wasn't exactly a superstar to her. Or as she put it, "Come on, Zlatan, you weren't exactly Elvis who'd beamed in." I was just a crazy guy to her who wore hideous clothes and was totally immature (...) the whole thing between us was so wrong it somehow felt right, and we had a good time together. "Zlatan, you're an absolute idiot. You're so much fun," she'd say. And I really hoped she meant it. I enjoyed being with her.
 When Kevin Boateng was interviewed about his football career and the players he had met, he said:

Zlatan was the most imposing. "You think he's this arrogant, big fucker and competely not a nice guy but he's quite the opposite: laughing all the time, cracking jokes. On the pitch, he's very serious, very professional. But off it, the funniest guy ever." So his persona is a facade? "Yeah of course because he doesn't want to talk to you," Boateng laughs. "So he puts that face on so you don't even ask him a question."

 When Zlatan played for PSG (2012-2016), Volvo cars enlisted him as their commercial face. The commercial became a huge hit as it also featured Zlatan's version of Sweden's national anthem (Du gamla du fria). As the captain for Sweden's football team, he never sung the national anthem prior to kick-off. Swedes, especially of the older generation, questioned his Swedishness. The Volvo commercial put those questions of nationalistic sentiments to rest - with Zlatan not only making his own, spoken version of the song, but in addition changing the lyrics from "I want to live, I want to die in the North" to "I want to live, I want to die in Sweden".


Is Zlatan a picture of hypermasculinity? If he were, he would never be my spirit animal. In fact, there are few hyper-masculine men who choose to sport long hair (Zlatan claims it is his secret weapon - like Samson's; it is where his power resides), and even fewer whose favorite type of music is raggae and favorite song Bob Marley's One Love. And my guess is that none of the hypermasculines would change their children's diapers:
"I changed diapers when they were babies," he said, adding, "I know other footballers may not, but I do." Then he shrugged, as if slipping back into character. "Of course, I am very good at it," he said with a grin.

Like Samson, Zlatan's power resides in his hair - or so he thinks.

I also applaud his wisdom in not becoming an underwear model (Messi clearly should have thought twice about it!). Although he has appeared in his underwear, plenty of times - but mostly for the amusement of spectators:

Why be an underwear model, when you can wear your underwear in public?

Zlatan is a complex person. People seem to disagree whether he is an introvert or an extrovert; a bully or an angel. But there is no doubt that it is impossible to be indefferent about Zlatan. In Sweden he has gotten his own stamp (or "Zlamp") and a verb "zlatanera", meaning "to dominate" has been an official Swedish word since 2012.

I could spend another ten paragraphs writing about Zlatan's football statistics. The number of teams, cup and league trophies, player of the year awards, or magnificent moments like this Puskas award winning goal in 2013:



But, you can find all the numbers yourself. To me, what cemented his status as my spirit animal was his choice to move to Premier League and Manchester United at age 35. He could have retired to an easy life in the Chinese or American football leagues and with much higher salaries, but he chose the challenge. His self-confidence is almost tactile.

The Red Devil Supreme

Yet, I also enjoy the fact that Zlatan still takes a deep breath in the middle of interviews, like a nervous boy, still insecure about his place in the world. There is a crack in his beautiful, hard shell.

Foreigners ask Norwegians, and we also ask ourselves: What will Norway do after the oil? Well, I am more concerned about this: What will Sweden/football/I do after Zlatan? I dare not think about it. Although there are people suggesting he may become a manager. Somebody even imagined him in the role, pictorially:

Manager Ibrahimovic - 2035?


I hope there is still years left in him - on the field. I am not ready for him to leave the stage.


My spirit animal with his spirit animals


October 24, 2013

Being Norwegian

Some times we Norwegians feel tough in our pajamas




















Today I opened the newspaper and read a short interview with the CEO of Coca-Cola Norway. After reading it, I felt good about being Norwegian. As I drank my tea for breakfast before the newspaper, I had felt utterly stupid. Who do we think we are, anyway, we Norwegians? We are smaller than a small state in the United States, yet we behave as if we rule the world. I am sick of this. What do we really think we can contribute to the world, beyond oil? When I say things like this, my dad gets annoyed. He starts listing all the valuable aspects of Norway. Then for a while, my inferior complex is calmed down. I know this oscillation between self-flagellation and self-aggrandizing is normal for us Norwegians – it may be argued that it is a hallmark of being Norwegian. 

One of my generation’s most favorite songs is a song by the Norwegian band DeLillos. It is called Tough In Pajamas and it goes like this:

Sometimes
I'm so stupid
that when I look in the mirror
I get irritated
I feel stupid in pajamas
I feel stupid in a coat
and when I get on the bus
then everybody sees

here comes stupidy, stupidy, stupidy, stupid
here comes stupidy, stupidy, stupidy, stupid
wow, wow
yeah, yeah
that’s the way this chorus goes

Now and then
I am so tough
that when I look in the mirror
I am impressed
I am tough in pajamas
I am tough in a coat
when I get on the bus
then everybody sees

Here comes toughie, toughie, toughie, tough
here comes toughie, toughie, toughie, tough
wow, wow
yeah, yeah
that’s the way this chorus goes

Now and then
It’s like this
that when I look in the mirror
I don’t see anything
I don’t wear my pajamas
I don’t wear my coat
and when I get on the bus
then everybody sees
then everybody sees

then everybody sees..?

Here is DeLillos on YouTube performing Tøff i pyjamas:



Here is the interview with the CEO of Coca-Cola Norway – somebody who makes us feel lovable. Translated by yours truly. 


CEO of Coca-Cola Norway - Ignace Corthouts















Now he quits at four o’clock

As the new CEO of Coca-Cola Norway, Ignace Corthouts felt embarrassed to leave work that early. That was before he broke the Norwegian code.

By Marita E. Valvik
 Aftenposten, October 24, 2013

-You are born in Belgium, and have worked there as well as in the Netherlands, Los Angeles and London. How is it to be a manager in Norway compared to the other countries you have worked in?

-In Los Angeles, people give you an evil eye if you leave the office before six thirty. In Brussels, you had to stay until five thirty, and in London, nobody left before five. Here many people leave at four. People are careful not to accept meetings after three o’clock, because then they might not be able to leave until after four or four thirty.

-Are you skeptical about the fact that we work considerably less than employees in other countries?

In the beginning I was. Now my answer is no. I have understood it is not about when you leave work, but how much you get done while at work. I am impressed with Norwegians; we are so effective here. Surprisingly effective. When we enter a meeting, we are not always 100% prepared, but we make decisions and implement them. This makes Norwegians unique.

-What about you; do you leave at four?

-In the beginning, I felt uncomfortable leaving the office before five thirty. It is quite a task to explain this to the managers outside of Norway. Now, I am proud of myself when I leave the office at four.

-In what way?

To work in this country adds quality to life. I have discovered how wonderful it is to have time for other things beside work, like making dinner every day with my wife. Or, go skiing in the evening. I am simply very happy here.  

-But are the bosses in Atlanta happy with a country manager who doesn’t work night and day?

-It is the results that matter. To accomplish what we want in Norway I have to make them understand that people in this country are unique – in a positive way. For instance, when we want to launch an Easter campaign, the other managers need to understand the concept of Easter in Norway. Try explaining to a foreigner that everything in this country shuts down for a week. In other countries, it is one day. They don’t understand that it is possible to shut down the whole country for a week.

-You have worked in many countries. How do you adapt to the different cultures?

-The most important thing is to understand why things are the way they are. With understanding comes respect. With respect one can begin to like it – and then to love it. Understand, respect, like and love. That’s the principle I live by.

-How does that work out, in practice?

-When I came to Norway, I understood that the only thing people talked about on Monday was what they did in the weekend. Everybody had been skiing. Then I had to try that. It was fantastic. Now I have packed away my bicycle and am waiting for the snow.  I look at the cabins, the locals sitting in the snow with Norwegian flags, barbequing hotdogs. Now I feel I understand Norwegians, and I love it. Such understanding makes it easier to work together, to pull in the same direction when decisions need to be made.

-Earlier in the interview, you said that we often are not fully prepared, but we make decisions and implement what we have decided. Do we often make mistakes?

-Things move faster, and we make some more mistakes. But, we take risks here that I like taking. I myself am not a person who follows the flow.

-In which ways does this impact the managers outside of the country?

-When they send us a list of activities they want us to carry out, the items on the list may not be suitable for this country. Then we have to dare to do it in the Norwegian way.

-It sounds like the other managers meet some resistance?

-Yes, my wife can affirm that I push the boundaries, and that I take calculated risks. You can’t achieve success if you don’t take risks or do things differently. My job is to make sure we develop the Norwegian business; to do that we must push the limits.

April 16, 2013

The China Study - finally in Norwegian

Ooops, it is 2013! I have not blogged for a while. I have been busy with the translation and marketing of The China Study. And that is the news I would like to report today.

A while back I blogged about The China Study and its main author, the father of modern nutrition, T. Colin Campbell. The fall of 2011 I was in Washington D.C. and sat down in my hotel room to watch TV as hurricane Irene was ravaging outside. Dr. Sanjay Gupta had a program on CNN called The last heart attack. In the program Gupta interviewed President Bill Clinton about his heart condition and about his switch to a plant-based diet. Clinton talked about Dr Campbell and the China Study. Soon I got my own copy of the China Study, and it was clear to me that this was a game-changer that needed to be translated into Norwegian. I consider it my contribution to the Norwegian health debate, which currently is quite dominated (in the media, at least) by the HFLC (High Fat Low Carb) evangelists. I guess I can be called a LFHC (Low Fat High Carb) disciple :)

So, dear readers, after some blood, sweat and tears, The China Study is now available in Norwegian. It has been a long journey, but - it was fun, albeit tiring. This is what the cover looks like in Norwegian - quite snappy, I think.


The China Study cover  - in Norwegian



And here is the good feeling of seeing my name under the title on the first page of the book

The first page of the book - translated by yours truly

Here is the only other trace of the translator, a comment on the second page on how I chose to translate the concept Whole Foods (which we don't have in Norwegian, so I made one):

Translator's note - on Whole Foods
(sorry for the blur - it was hard to take the picture with one hand :))













Here is what it looks like in the bookstore:

The China Study - 
waiting patiently for customers in the bookstore


The other day I was playing with the text and put the whole text of the Norwegian version through Wordle. It came out, appropriately, as a potato. Real plant-based stuff.
The China Study - as a potato
through Wordle.net

The China Study - in black and white - still a potato
through Wordle.net

If you are a Norwegian, you can obtain your very own copy through www.flux.no, or any online bookstore, or even some of the major bookstores in Oslo. You can even request your local library to buy a copy. I think every library in Norway should have one. You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter. Just look up "Kinastudien".

Right now it is quiet before the storm. But I do expect there to be just that - a storm.

I will keep you posted.

July 22, 2012

A Magical Moment - July 21

Songwriter and singer Laleh Pourkarim


















Yesterday I had a magical moment. I had gone with some friends for a walk along the coast in the sunshine, and at the end of our long walk we took the boat, rather exhausted, to Oslo to have dinner. As we arrived at the dock in Oslo, I could see the gigantic stage rigged in front of the city hall for the memorial concert this evening.Today it is one year since a young Norwegian man blew up the government building in central Oslo (killing 8) before he proceeded to the island of Utøya to kill 69 people, most of them teenagers. All in the name of anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism and anti-feminist ideology.

Back to my magic moment. The stage was already rigged and there were large screens next to the stage, for projecting the concert to those standing far away, as around 100 000 people are expected to crowd the little square in front of the city hall this evening. But yesterday, there were hardly any people around. Almost like the silence before the storm. I was sitting down with my tired legs, waiting for a delayed tram. That's when the music came - a very soft orchestra started playing, and soon there was a delicate female voice:

I will tell your story if you die
I will tell your story and keep you alive
The best I can
I will tell it to the children
If we have some, if we have some
But I've always felt a feeling we would die young
Some die young
Some die young ....


I thought it was a recorded song being played to test the speakers, but I suddenly realized a woman on the large screens projecting from the stage. A delicate, exceptionally beautiful woman, with the gentle evening sun making her hair sparkle. She was singing her song Some Die Young. I figured it was a test song the day before the real concert. I was mesmerized.

Later I found out that it was Laleh - the young Swedish (born to Iranian parents) singer and songwriter. I would like to share the song with you - actually two versions of it; one where she is singing on an open air stage in Sweden and then a version where she is singing live on a Norwegian tv-program. And finally I will provide you with the lyrics.

When I see and hear her sing, I feel hopeful for the world.







Here I sneak in a fresh video. The memorial concert is just finished, and some lovely person has already posted Laleh's performance on Youtube, so here you can see Laleh singing at the July 22th memorial concert:


Some Die Young
Lyrics
by Laleh

I will tell your story if you die
I will tell your story and keep you alive the best I can
I will tell them to the children
If we have some, if we have some
But I've always felt a feeling we would die young
Some die young
Some die young


Some die, some die young
But you better hold on
So many things I need to say to you
Please don't, don't let me go
and we said we would die together
Some die young


I will tell your story if you die
I will tell your story and keep you alive the best I can
I will tell them to the children
If we have some, if we have some
But I've always felt a feeling we would die young
Some die young
Some die young

Some, some die young
But you better hold on
So many things I need to say to you
Please don't, don't let me go
and we said we would die together

Some die young
But you better hold on
So many things I need to say to you
Please don't, don't let me go
and we said we would die together
Some die young

I will tell your story if you try
but how long will your thoughts
of valleys stay green
when the world you were born in
changes with seasons
Will you run with the stream, will you run along
or will you run against and finally reveal
Why some die young
Why some die young
Why some die

Some die young
But you better hold on
So many things I need to say to you
Please don't, don't let me go
and we said we would die together


Some die young
but you better hold on
So many things i need to say to you
Please don't, don't let me go
and we said we would die together
Some die young

But you better hold on
So many things i need to say to you
Please don't, don't let me go
and we said we would die together
Some die young


Some die young

She walks with her head in the sand
They will never die

Some die young



March 25, 2012

The Movie of the Year - the Artist

George Valentin - a man with an edible heart























Oh, wow.

I saw a movie a few weeks back with Senior S and Junior S. Let me tell you: It blew my heart (I think it is possible not only to blow one's mind, but also one's heart).

Senior was a bit skeptical. He prefers soft action movies or romantic comedies. Junior and I had to convince him that it was worthwhile. Why was he hesitant? Because it was a silent movie, and it made him think about Charlie Chaplin and he wasn't in the mood for a modern day Charlie Chaplin movie. A silent movie. Yes, Sir. Some ingenious director (read: Michel Hazanavicius) came up with the idea to make a silent movie again. And he did it to boot.

The product is The Artist, the movie that swept the Oscars a couple of weeks back. Although the movie is French, the setting is Hollywood between 1927 and 1932, at the time when the movie industry was transitioning into "talkies", or movies with sound. The hero of the movie, George Valentin, is the heart throb of the silent movie industry before he is plunged into irrelevance by the emerging "talkies". The movie depicts the fall and rise of this artist. And of course there is a touching love story that will melt a stone's heart.

It was a strange feeling as the movie began. There was only music, filled with emotions, twisting and moving with the story. And the odd title card, that would flash on the screen when a snippet of a dialogue was deemed important, such as:

Go and buy a piece of jewelry for my wife.  A nice piece, to make it up to her.
 or 
We belong to another age, you and I, George. Nowadays, the world talks.


(Oh, I love it!)


I was entranced. The faces and the bodies of the actors took on a new dimension. I don't know how to describe it, but this movie awoke a greater range of emotions in me than most other movies I have seen. And it was so blissfully wordless. A perfect anti-dote to modern day life. Not that I am against modern life. But I want a new kind of modern life - with more silence and dance and....men like George Valentin. Perhaps that is what I want most - more men like George Valentin. There is a saying in Hungarian that goes something like this: You're heart is so tender, I feel like eating it. Georg Valentin, acted superbly by Jean Dujardin (France's crushing answer to George Clooney), has an edible heart.


Valentin contemplating his fall from greatness

Seeing Peppy for the first time

Smiling to Peppy






George and Peppy


The next day I phoned another group of friends and urged them to see it. So it was a good excuse to see it again - with them. I think I will see it several times, like Slumdog Millionaire, and Good Will Hunting, and The King's Speech, and O, brother, where art thou, and Moulin Rouge, and Chicago, and The English Patient and....that's enough for now. 


I finally located my favorite scene of the movie on Youtube. It is the scene where George Valentin falls in love with Peppy. It is called Peppy's Waltz.




I will add two more bonus tracks here at the bottom; the movie trailer and Jean Dujardin's acceptance speech at the Oscar:




And here is the link to Dujardin's acceptance speech when he received the Oscar for best actor. I have never before seen such an excited winner.

P.S. 


I think it is interesting to watch the comments under the trailer of The Artist in the Youtube comment field. It is fascinating to see how some people are very upset that this movie won the Oscar award for the best movie, calling it by shameful names. I have not understood if it is Americans irate over the fact that the movie is a French production (maybe they still have Dominique Strauss-Kahn's naked butt fresh in mind), or if it is because they can't handle the silence - it might simply be too loud for them.

A funny analogy fell into my head. In the beginning when I stopped eating meat, it happened quite often that some individuals became aggressive upon hearing my preference, as if going vegetarian (or vegan) was an act of war against them. Now I wonder if these nasty commentators might be offended by the vegetarian version of movies - they can't handle a movie meal without meat! Ha, ha!


That was a rather clever observation, she said self-congratulatory....

March 7, 2012

Jonathan Safran Foer and Animals

I remember almost falling into a trance when I read the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. To my great delight, the book has just been released as a movie this year. He has since written other books, one of which is the important On Eating Animals.

I came across this video with this wonderful conversation with Jonathan Safran Foer talking about On Eating Animals. Please enjoy!

February 29, 2012

Dr. T. Colin Campbell - the Father of Modern Nutrition



This is yet another follow-up to my wish for a healthy year for everybody. Below you will find a lecture by the father of the China Study - and thus - of Modern Nutrition, Dr. T. Colin Campbell. Although it was taped a few years back, never mind - this is how long it takes for good messages to get around! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I have also found a great nutrition information site - please have a look at Dr. Greger who runs through the latest, top research in a very easy and informative way - the site is: www.nutritionfacts.org

And at the very end I have found a beautiful video for how to make nut milk - delicious stuff! I came across it on this blog: http://toyourhealthnutrition.blogspot.com

Ok - here he is: Dr. Campbell - introduced by Dr. Lisle.





And here is the nut milk video: