Josefin Malmqvist

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How to become English: lesson 1

No, don’t worry. I’m not trying to remove my ‘Swedishness’. I promise! That’s not what’s it about. I am and will always be Swedish. Rather, I like to think that when you move to a new country; may it be for a week or the rest of your life, voluntarily or not, you should try to accustom or at least learn about to their traditions, routines, culture etc. So as long as I’m in England I’m going to try my best to be English – as far as that is possible. I must admit I feel a bit like “My Fair Lady”, but instead of learning how to become a lady – that might be the next project – I’m learning how to become English…

You shouldn’t be able to live a life in a foreign country without learning the language, getting to know the culture, the people etc., as is possible to do in my hometown Malmö. (Yes, where you can live an entire life without speaking a word of Swedish as has been proven.) That does not have to do with leaving your heritage though, as a lot of people tend to argue! No! That is the benefit of living in a multicultural environment. Different food, religions, traditions and so on enrich our lives and our perception of things.

The education may involve:
– Learning the National Anthem. (I’ve learnt most of it)
– Learning how to enjoy “local” sport, which definitely is an important part of the cultural heritage in this country. (I watched most of the rugby matches during the world championship, especially when England and Wales were playing, and playing each other! And yes, it is most enjoyable!)
– Wrapping yourself in the flag (Me and the flag; see picture)
– Language (Doing my best; working on it)
– Enjoying their food culture. (?) Well…

Today I took a new step I’ve long feared in my becoming-English-education: food. Yes, that’s right. And for those of you wondering, yes Britain has a food culture. May it not resemble much of the finesse of la gastronomie française or the splendors of Italian cuisine, but it still has traditions. And no it’s not about once in a while enjoying a fine pub meal with ale as it’s written in the guide books, but rather hard core English “cooking”. And cooking here involves heating in a microwave. (Gulp) So, today was The Day to try baked beans. It might not sound that bad, but white beans in tomato sauce is not my idea of great food and I’ve been traumatized ever since my first trip alone to Britain, 11 years old. I was forced to eat baked beans on untoasted toast bread every day for a fortnight.

Well, today’s experience wasn’t that bad, but I’m still hoping not all English people eat baked beans, so that there’s still hope for me to be a bit English…

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Page 3 debate at the Union tonight.

The Sun writes: ”The most famous institution in newspapers will be the centre of attention today at the world’s best known debating society.

That’s right, folks. Page 3 girls are to be questioned by highbrows at the planet’s poshest university.

The Oxford Union — which gives a hearing to the great issues of the day — will open its doors to hear our own Zoe, 25, from London, outline the importance of Page 3 to the nation.”

And the motion? This house believes Page 3 is unacceptable in the 21st century. I’ll let you know the scores…

Some more info from The Sun, the Page 3 homepage, the Facebook group.

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Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic…

So, instead of focusing on their common enemy, the Democrat delegates still try to kill each other. Very productive. They’ve got an electoral system created to benefit strong parties; a majoritarian system in practice creating two large parties. The idea was understandable: instead of having minority governments, made up of various coalitions, as a result of a for example proportional system (Sweden), a more, naturally debatable, democratic system was created (It can of course also be debated whether the authors really were so much in favour of full democracy… ) with two large parties and a strong executive.  

What we see now, is not, I’m sure, what Madison and Hamilton and the other authors of the constitution intended. The system of how the parties appoint their presidential candidates can of course not be attributed to them; however the election process is a result of what the electoral system looks like. This time it just happened to be two strong candidates.

Most Democrats probably wish this process was over long ago, so they could focus on defeating McCain and the Republicans instead. You can’t get everything you wish for. Last night, Clinton defeated Obama in Pennsylvania. But ”her margin wasn’t big enough to change the race or small enough to end it”, as John Dickerson at put it. Now the soap opera continues. Clinton determined to win by superdelegates and Obama trying to avoid yet another scandal. If they only could stop this mud wrestling so we could start talking politics here!

If you want to follow the development, check out this page for best coverage.

If you prefer it in Swedish, DN. If you didn’t read Per T Ohlsson (he’s a genius) (in Swedish) Sunday in Sydsvenskan, do it now for some background knowledge. 

And if you’ve got some extra time, please read the following on the topic. I don’t have time at the moment so if you do, please feel free to send a summary or tell me what you though of them! A Bound Man. Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win (Free Press) by Shelby Steele. Two Speeches on Race (New York Review of Books, Volume LV, Number 7) by Garry Wills. The Almanac of American Politics 2008 (National Journal) by Michael Barone, Richard E Cohen and Grant Ujifusa.

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Förbjuden frukt smakar alltid godast.

Paris är en stad som har oerhört mycket att erbjuda. Då menar jag inte främst iform av kyrkor och Eiffeltorn, utan atmosfären i staden. Själen. Paris är en av få städer jag känner som verkligen har en själ. Det må låta lustigt, men för den som har bott i staden är det självklart vad jag menar. Oftast handlar det om motsägelser.

När Eiffeltornet byggdes som entré till världsutställningen 1889 protesterade Parisarna upprört. De var bestörta. Hur kunde någonting så gräsligt och opassande få uppföras i staden. Då var tanken att tornet skulle vara temporärt. När det sedan var dags att plocka ner tornet igen, vägrade Parisarna. Nu hade de blivit förälskade i tornet. Samma sak hände när Centre George Pompidou byggdes. Protestlistor och publikstorm.

Nu är det åter dags för protester i Paris. Fotografen André Zuccas fotografier från andra världskriget ställs ut på historiska biblioteket  och som vanligt är fransmännen intresserade av en konflikt. Utställningen består i 250 bilder tagna under kriget, föreställande lyckliga Parisare. Zucca arbetade för nazisternas pr-byrå Signal och därför skildras inte krigets mörka sidor. Ingenting av förföljelse, matransoner, svält och elände finns skildrat i denna exposition.

Därför protesterar nu kulturborgarrådet Christophe Girard i en intervju i tidningen Journal du Dimanche. Han anser att det är fruktansvärt att kriget framställs i en så ”positiv” dager och att de mörka sidorna utelämnats. Han kräver att utställningen stängs omedelbart. Bibliotekschefen Jean Dérens däremot hävdar att utställningen är historisk då det är den enda betydande samling färgfotografier som finns bevarade från denna tid. Därför vore det censur att stänga. Mitt i skottlinjen hamnar nu Paris redan väldigt omdiskuterade borgmästare Bertrand Delanoe som försökt medla mellan de två parterna. (Han kom ut som homosexuell mitt under sin valkampanj till borgmästare vilket väckte visst uppseende…)

Under tiden vallfärdar Parisarna till utställningen – i vanlig ordning. 100 000 har ännu så länge hunnit titta på bilderna. Det är fåfängt att tro att man skulle kunna stänga någonting sådant i Paris. Det händer bara inte. Tvärtom blir människor bara mer intresserade. Om man vill förbjuda bilderna från att visas för allmänheten är det väl klart att människor blir nyfikna. Förbjuden frukt smakar alltid godast.

Läs mer om utställningen på Journal du Dimanche, Le Monde eller DN.

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Brown eyed girl.

Isn’t it wonderful how some songs just make you feel better, no matter how low you feel? Van Morrison singing ”Brown eyed girl” is such a song for me. Everything can be upside down; nothing going your way.

It makes me feel like just after a massive rain. You know when it’s been raining for hours and hours; everything looks dark. Then suddenly, it’s just quiet. It stopped raining when you least expected it. You open the door: everything is wet, but sunrays start to appear in the sky. Everything’s going to be alright now. I can feel it.

Listen and enjoy.