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Monthly Archives: May 2012

On Tuesday evening, the Norwegian press received quite unexpected news. It appeared that pop sensation (aka Disney puppet) Justin Bieber had landed at Oslo Airport. Somehow, his fan community had gotten word of it already and crowded the airport terminal. The star himself was therefore driven directly from the plane to the VIP terminal and from there on to Oslo. The chaos the fans created at the airport was just one of the many things to come…

When he arrived in Oslo, the Canadian artist checked in to Hotel Royal Christiania; which is unusual as most celebrities stay at Grand Hotel on Oslo’s main street, Karl Johan. His fans had also expected him to check in to the Grand, with the following amusing results when tabloid newspaper VG’s journalist informed them of the mistake:

Beliebers being redirected

(And the police said “thanks a lot, dude” to the journalist before rolling their eyes and running after the hordes of teenage girls now headed for the other hotel. Fortunately, most of that area is pedestrianized)

Here’s where things get dangerous. First, Bieber’s motorcade exits the hotel and drives in the direction of the Royal Palace (the author still not sure what they were going to do, but is pretty sure it wasn’t visiting the King). The thousands of fans gathered outside the hotel RAN AFTER the cars, straight into heavy traffic including a tram. Nobody was hurt, fortunately, but reportedly, police officers in Oslo suddenly acquired an average of 25 % more grey hairs that evening

.

On Wednesday morning, the author arrived in downtown Oslo for a “class excursion” (motivational Norwegian for “field trip”). The city was already filled with young girls dressed in purple. It had by now been unofficially confirmed that there would be a free concert on the roof of the Opera House. There was already a specially-built stage in the harbor for a more traditional concert in connection with the King and Queen’s 75th birthdays. Bieber would use this stage and have the audience sitting on the opera house roof. At this point, most of the girls had gathered outside the hotel, and screamed every time something resembling movement could be seen through Bieber’s hotel room window.

As the author walked up on the opera roof, chaotic scenes had already begun. A good estimate would be that at 10 AM (i.e. about six hours before the concert was supposed to start) about a thousand people were already on the roof. By the time the field trip was over, the police had blocked off the pedestrian bridge to the opera, and many fans had instead gathered at Jernbanetorget. Eventually, police had to intervene and cancel the planned press conference due to the hysterical amounts of fans. Meanwhile, Bieber’s record company, Universal, finally *officially* confirmed that there was going to be a concert and announced that it would be delayed from 4 to 9 PM. Also, JB would only perform six songs. After much joking that the crowd would be much reduced because the youngsters had to make it home before bedtime, police finally said what needed to be said. In short, they demanded that the concert be held earlier, and they told Universal Records to go **** themselves.

The concert finally occurred at 9 PM and Bieber performed a whooping seven (!!!!) songs. Around 100 fans had to be evacuated due to crushing, dehydration and other problems. Bieber left the stage after about half an hour, and to add insult to injury Universal then did not inform the police where he was going or when he was leaving the country.

Despite the fact that cleaning crews in the capital are currently on strike, the mountain of trash all around the roof of the opera house is the least of the city’s worries. Officials are furious, and have every right to be. Mayor Fabian Stang compared what happened to “setting fire to a wall and being surprised when the house burned down”. The police admit to being underprepared, but are also angry with Universal Records for basically being given responsibility for a situation they were not sufficiently informed about. Universal has, wisely, kept their mouth shut.

This morning Justin Bieber and his crew left for Paris. The Oslo police department said “bonne chance” to the Paris police and took a long-awaited sigh of relief.

Both images in this post are copyright Verdens Gang.

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http://www.cphpost.dk/news/local/sex-video-stuns-graduation-ceremony

So basically, yesterday, at a high school in a rather wealthy suburb of Copenhagen (Hellerup), senior students were having one of their last assemblies before graduation – principal and all in attendance. Earlier that morning, teachers were given a quiz where they were told to “gætte klunker” – an expression that a Danish friend translated as “guessing d*cks”. They were shown pictures of students’ genitalia and told to guess who it belonged to. The teachers all found this to be in very bad taste, and refused to take the quiz, but took no further action. Later, students were shown the same genitalia on the big screen in the assembly hall, and told publically who it belonged to. Teachers did not take action here either.

The icing on the cake came when a “sex tape” of a student and an unknown young female was shown on the screen. Students at the school have said that the “tape” was basically a montage of poor-quality photos of the pair engaged in carnal relations, but nonetheless, it was obviously found to be disgusting. The principal and the teachers delivered stern reactions after the tape was finished, they also reported it to the police (it was assumed that neither party in the tape had consented); but did not attempt to stop what was happening during the two minutes the video lasted.

Danish media have since been running stories about the ways the various high schools (gymnasier) have been trying to attract students over the past few years. Instead of academic performance and quality; it seems many schools have attempted to market their party atmosphere. The Danish People’s Party (who are otherwise known as right-wing a-holes in the mainstream press) were the first to respond, calling on the government to stop this insane low culture at high schools. While the author does not agree that this should be a governmental matter, it certainly does not bode well for the Danish educational system if students choose their schools primarily based on the parties and sexual cultures offered at each institution.

All that aside, in Norway we are having great fun saying “Only in Denmark”. After all, Denmark is the only country where this:

…Is considered a breakfast drink.

http://www.cphpost.dk/news/local/sex-video-stuns-graduation-ceremony

It’s hot, it’s late in the school year and nobody has anything to do. The result is that at school, students are enjoying more of a vacation than many of them will during the actual summer break. Students are playing volleyball, football, ultimate frisbee and “enspretten” (no idea what this is called in English, the idea is to pass the ball between people without it touching the ground more than once); there’s ice cream everywhere, people have even brought waffle irons and small disposable grills (engangsgrill) to school. Teachers have classes outside, and most of them do not mind at all that students are goofing off. The author is writing this from a black keyboard in the sun and is therefore making an effort to make each key touch as short as possible.

This is when Norwegians enjoy life the most. People are out walking at midnight, when the sun is still up and the temprature is still comfortable. There is little to complain about, which is probably also why the government has strategically scheduled wage negotiations, and thus the time of year when strikes are most likely to occur, for around now. Teachers across the country are on a brief strike – but nobody seems to notice. Norwegians have ingrained in their genetic code that life is to be enjoyed when the weather is good, and a little labor dispute is not going to be put in the way of that.

Doctor’s certification

I refer to my previous certification, dated April 18 2012.

To satisfy the complete lunacy/idiocy in the welfare office system, I confirm that she is still pregnant, with due date based on ultrasound as before, on August 5 2012.

Olav Haugen
General Practicioner

This letter was sent in the direction of the welfare office (NAV) on Stord, an island on the west coast, on May 18. A pregnant woman had sent a letter to NAV notifying them that she was pregnant, and thus eligible for support payments. NAV did not reply, and when she contacted them she was told that she had not come far enough along when the letter was sent. Therefore, they had to return to their family doctor (fastlege) and get him to write out another letter. The doctor was, understandably, somewhat frustrated.

The picture has made its way all across the Norwegian interwebz, and the couple has recieved thousands of declarations of support from people who have had equally frustrating experiences with the welfare office. Since agencies responsible for unemployment insurance and welfare payments were combined into NAV (meaning “hub”) in 2006, the system has become even more notorious for being rigid, disorganized and hopelessly unhelpful than before. Tales of lost documents, refused certification, frightening budget deficits and other bureaucratic mishaps have become so common, they have lost their noteworthyness in the media. For this general practicioner, things had obiously gone too far.

Exam season has begun at Norwegian high schools. Thousands of students have gotten to know about their written exams, which will take place over the next two or three weeks before oral exams begin in mid-June. The author himself is finishing up his second year, and will only have an oral exam (the second year has a 50/50 division between oral and written exams). Third-year students in the college preparatory program, meanwhile, have been picked for written exams in three subjects – namely their primary form of Norwegian; and two of their elective subjects (or one elective subject and their secondary form of Norwegian).

The Norwegian school system can be said to attempt to do as much sorting of students in three years as the Dutch, French and German school systems give themselves between six and ten years to do. After ten years of obligatory and comprehensive education, where students are hardly given any choice of courses and where the network of advanced courses in various subjects is patchy at best and up to the discretion of individual teachers, students are given twelve different programs to choose between at the age of 16. While most students choose the college preparatory program mentioned above (studiespesialisering), it is also possible to choose programs like “music, dance and drama”, “electro subjects”, “design and crafts” and “service and transportation” (the latter program seems to have been made as an arbitrary mix of whatever was left). For their second and third years of high school, students outside the college preparatory program are able to pick between dozens of other courses, and will in all cases be able to switch over to an intensive college prep program (among other things involving ten classes of Norwegian a week, something many find very hard to stomach.)

The system seems ideal on paper – students are given a much greater degree of choice than in other countries, and are given the right to choose at an age where they are far more mature than, say, in Germany where the choice has to be made at ten. In practice the system poses as many problems as any other educational system. For one, there is a deep divide between the various vocational programs and the college prep. This divide has its roots in the old system that existed until 1994, where vocational schools and “gymnasiums” (traditional secondary education) were two separate institutions. With the 1994 reform of the educational system; in the interests of traditional Norwegian equality principles, everyone had the right to a place in a secondary education institution and the two institutions were theoretically merged. The result would ideally have been a reasonable amount of vocational schools and a reasonable amount of theoretical schools; instead there is a large surplus of college preparatory students. Many of them would likely have been both happier and better suited in a vocational program, but the counties funding secondary education in Norway have discovered that college prep courses are much more cost-effective and therefore massively invested in them. The result is that Norway now has to import practically every kind of craftsman – from plumbers and electricians to painters, bus drivers and chimney sweeps.

Another result of the high amount of choice is a serious lack of students specializing in natural sciences. In the college preparatory program, students are in practice allowed to drop math after their second year and are only required to take a generic natural sciences subject in the first year (naturfag). Students are allowed to pick three elective subjects, and many now choose to fill these with things like philosophy, marketing and sociology. While it is true that many students (including the author) do not exactly excel in natural sciences, numbers from the welfare office (NAV) suggest that the Norwegian economy is short 16 000 engineers at the present time, and will require many more in the future. Unless there is a sudden and dramatic change in the future, or Norwegian companies open up for more engineers from abroad (there should certainly not be a shortage of unemployed engineers in the EU, with stories of Portuguese engineers moving to Angola for work), the Norwegian government and economy faces a grave crisis.

Fortunately, there are exceptions. The author himself attends a school where there are no fewer than five physics classes in a year of around 160 students, where 21 students are taking an extra math course exclusively for fun, and where more than half of the year is likely to end up in Trondheim at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Such schools exist in practically all counties, and will likely be important contributors to Norwegian society in the future.

Valler videregående skole – Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

To start off this blog, here is a recap of what has happened to Norway’s greatest footballing export, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, over the last few days.

Since giving up his legendary playing career at Manchester United in the late 2000s, Solskjær has ventured into coaching. At first, he stayed loyal to his old boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, and coached Manchester United’s reserve team. However, during the dying days of 2010 came an offer he could not possibly refuse. Molde, the top flight club nearest to his home town of Kristiansund, offered him a position as Supreme Overlord (aka Manager) and amazing sums of cash to help him build up a good team.

Molde was not and has never been a poor side in Norwegian football, mind you. Hailing from a town of barely 25 000 inhabitants, they reached their first cup final in 1974 and had racked up two cup triumphs and an almost heartbreaking display of second and third places in the league by the time Solskjær arrived. Over the last decade and a half, they had also received extensive financial aid from favorite sons Bjørn Rune Gjelsten and in particular Kjell Inge Røkke, who was Norway’s richest man at the start of the new millennium. Røkke also built a new, modern stadium for the club in the late 90s. The 2010 season, which followed another second place (their seventh) in 2009, was dominated by a combination of misfortune and mismanagement which resulted in a disappointing 11th place finish and the firing of Swedish coach Kjell Jonevret.

Solskjær’s arrival prompted a promise of practically unlimited funds from Røkke’s Aker Group, and many Norwegian football fans believed the floodgates had now opened for a Norwegian Manchester City (irony of ironies). Instead, Solskjær based his team mostly around young, mostly local talent as well as building on the excellent squad he already possessed. Thus, Molde ended up taking home their first league title in November 2011, and speculations were ripe that he would end up being picked by an English Premier League club – and even that he would become Sir Alex Ferguson’s eventual successor at Manchester United.

Well, that is exactly what brought up the story that has amused and puzzled football pundits and fans across Norway over the past few days. Aston Villa of Birmingham fired their under-performing manager Alex McLeish on Tuesday. The English footballing press launched Solskjær as a candidate to take over. So, only 24 hours after leading his team to a 2-0 win over Fredrikstad on Norway’s “National Day of Football”, and on the evening of Norway’s Constitution Day (May 17), Solskjær was informed that the private jet of Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner (also owner of the Cleveland Browns v2.0) had landed at Kristiansund Airport. The plane left the town on the morning of the 18th, carrying Solskjær and his wife with it. The couple returned from Birmingham only a few hours later to find that total chaos had erupted in all channels of Norwegian media.

Several media sources, most notably TV2 (broadcaster of the English Premier League in Norway), had practically decided that Sunny (his nickname at Man Utd, somewhat easier than Solskjær for the average English speaker,) was going to end up at Aston Villa. The man himself defused the rumors, claiming that the parties were only in “beginning, informal talks”. By evening of May 18th, however, all hell had broken loose. Kjell Inge Røkke, the man who is responsible for the financial element of Molde’s success, announced that due to Solskjær’s “disobedience” (sic) he would be withdrawing Aker Group’s financial support starting in 2013. Molde fans understandably felt like they were experiencing their worst possible nightmare coming true.

For the rest of the evening, the media focused on the contradicting statements made by Røkke and Solskjær. Both claimed that the businessman had asked his manager multiple questions before the flight across the North Sea. Solskjær also claimed that he had answered these questions, and had received Røkke’s approval before beginning talks. Røkke claimed the exact opposite.

Chaos in the late evening of the 18th. Top story: “Solskjær to nrk.no: ‘I have answered Røkke’s questions’. Bottom left: Røkke claims “Solskjær went to England without answering my questions”. Bottom right: “Supporter club: ‘Everyone has failed’.” From public broadcaster NRK’s website nrk.no.

By morning, there was extensive fence mending going on in all camps. Molde and Ole Gunnar Solskjær confirmed in unison that he would stay on at the club (though Solskjær admits that he wants a job in the Premier League at some point, and Molde confirmed that they have lost some confidence in him), and Røkke seemed to confirm that he privately would still support Molde financially. Norwegian media analysts seemed to be in agreement that both Solskjær’s actions and Røkke’s reaction were ill-placed, and many even classified the latter as a temper tantrum. Over the web, rumors and speculations spread that Solskjær will leave Molde during summer break. Candidates for his successor were launched, among them German Uwe Rösler (currently manager at Brentford, and the only coach in Norwegian football who has been seen above the Arctic Circle in shorts in March). Aston Villa sources report that he is still top candidate for the job in Birmingham. “Og sånn går no dagan”, as we say in Norwegian (1). The entire story may very well turn into something resembling an ancient saga.

(1)    = “Og sånn går no dagan” is an expression meaning something along the lines of “And thus the days pass”. It can be interpreted as meaning “An absolutely ridiculous situation that has become normal and expected”.