The Bush Generation Gap

Just returned from Sardinia, watching the grey skies outside my window in Famous Middle of Nowhere, Home not of the Brave, but Home of the Euro (for who knows how long), and pausing a moment to reflect on how post-holiday life has been rather “privates” centered. Our dog, a fuzzy 10 month old white Bichon left in the care of a family while we gobbled up the sun in Sardinia, has licked to his fast beating heart’s content at its privates till his testicles are an alarming raw bundle.  His “lipstick” now comes out in the brightest shades of carnation red at the mere sniff of one tiny morsel of cheese from two rooms away. We left an adorable fuzzy, fluffy, cuddly white Bichon with sparkly “hug me” button eyes and little rosy tongue panting eagerly out. We come home to find all that and a very straight, pointy and constant psychedelic red erection. A perfect Beate Uhse shop window doll.

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And then there’s the bush thing. My kid goes on a sleepover at a friend’s house. Comes back the next day announcing, “MOM, do you know that [name of friend’s mom] has no hair in her SNIPPA?!!!”

“Snippa” is a Swedish word to describe the female privates in a cute way, like the word “snopp” for the male privates that has been around much longer than “snippa”. Both words are a cute way to refer to the privates when talking to children – there’s even a video about it – instead of their clinically precise, but not very cute names, or charming but imprecise euphemisms that totally confuse children, like “Peepee” and “Pom-pom” or “Front Bottom” and “Little Man”.

I asked my daughter about how they came up with such a topic. She shrugs and mentions that they were building a large, bubblegum-colored Playmobil fairy castle on the floor, and “just came up with it”.  When I’d picked my daughter up, the girl’s mother, who’s about 15 years younger than me,  had taken me to her daughter’s room and showed me the result of an afternoon of pink real estate development : “They were so sweet and played so well, look what they built!” Bracing myself for what I already knew, I asked my daughter now if she told her friend about the condition of my privates, to which my daughter replied, “Of course!” As in, of course you SHARE information, duh. She tells me about her mom’s privates’ hair (“bald”), I share mine (“bushy”).

The next day I meet said mom at our kids’ school. We share the humor, and she tells me that her daughter ” was also in shock! She came to me and said, MOM: do you know that some women have HAIR down there?!!!!”And a few days later, I read in the book I am currently devouring a definition of “old porn”: early 1990s porn showing hair “top and bottom.”

That’s when I realized this: for people in their 30s or younger now, having bottom hair at all is about as obnoxious as the bushy armpits and hairy halos bursting out of bikinis barely covering the young, blonde and beefy German backpackers setting camp all over Southern Europe in the 1970s.

Moral of the story: I’m officially the older generation. Blame it on the bush.

PewDiePie, CutiePie – What’s my Pie?

Ok, so I just started this new venture together with my kid’s godfather aiming at narrowing the gap between what Swedish companies could sell to Germany, and what they actually do. Germany loves all matter of things Swedish, and would buy more if only they knew about it, but the current Swedish generation isn’t telling much, or at least not in a language that Germany would understand. So there you go, a la grecque: EUREKA!!! Or more to the point, like one would put it in Swedish: VILKEN DUNDERIDÉ! [Pronounced doon-der-eee-day]

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We have a working name for the venture, but as it turns out, it is not a very original one. Google being the new de-facto global trademark registration office, we googled it, and it’s the opposite of ogooglebar, that Swedish word that Google couldn’t live with and means ungoogleable. So I was driving at crawl speed on the autobahn on the way back from dropping my kid at school – My Own Private Version of counting to 10 when you´re mad at something at those times of the female month – and trying to come up with a word that would convey the essence of what Germany likes about Swedish products, and is not too offensive and in-you-face about the knack for stylish innovation and trendsetting creativity that Swedes have and Germans lack in equal abundance.

A  little market research, i.e., a lunch or two with some people in the business at the local Italian, produced a worthy ROI as the subjects at the table were Germans talking about themselves, and not Swedes dissing Germans and commiserating the misfortune of can’t helping themselves from doing business with this large, sausage eating, beer guzzling, Speedo black swimming briefs wearing, pot bellied, rich market. The two insights:

One, Germany is a big and solidly risk averse culture with a lot of money, while Sweden is small and very inventive, and consumerism very ambitious, but not very rich. So it’s very good to let Sweden come up with and try new things first, and German business may co-opt it if it looks like it could work over here too. Like Hollywood re-doing The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo with their own born-and-raised-in-the-USA cast.

Two, Germany is puzzled by, but understands that Swedes look down on them, because German business people often feel the same about Swedish businessmen who, more often than not, display a baffling lack of sense for the importance of perfectly tailored business suits and precisely knotted ties. Swedish businessmen enter German business territory a bit like the Turkish Astronomer in St. Exupery’s “Little Prince” first presenting his discovery to the International Astronomical Congress: in Turkish garb, rather than Western clothes, so the Congress couldn’t take him seriously. Also, and perhaps more to the point, many German business people felt exactly about Russians the way many Swedes feel or have felt about Germans: Rich and Tasteless.

Thus I went to the drawing board: what seriously cool  word would roll into one the concepts of Swedish, Pioneering, Innovative, and Excellence? The acronym stared at me in the face: SPIE. Which Google promptly told me was ” a not-for-profit international professional society for optics and photonics technology, founded in 1955″. Bye-bye, SPIE.

Still, I wouldn’t easily let go of that PIE bit in “spie”:  a seriously cool and immensely trending suffix on YouTubiana, as shown by  PewDiePie, the latest Swedish celebrity after the Swedish House Mafia closed shop. Né Felix Kjellberg in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1989, Sweden has a new global young celebrity (aged 24 at the time of this post) whose YouTube videos have been watched over 2.2 billion times, and is the owner of a YouTube channel with 13 million subscribers (called “Bros”). Yes, that’s more subscribers than Smosh.

From what I gather, the young Swedish YouTube celeb got famous doing a modern video-gaming version of  Mystery Science Theater 3000, MST3K for short,a TV cult program from my once-upon-a-times in America. MST3K premiered in 1988, about a year before young Felix was born, and showed stupendously bad movies  (e.g., Time Chasers) with running wisecracks by a man and a couple of robots stuck inside a space station. The viewers watch the movies with the silhouettes of the pundits in the bottom foreground of the screen where subtitles usually go. Just like the commentary in MST3K made most of the TV program – the other part is the numbing, dumbing self-schadenfreude of watching those worse than bad movies – PewDiePie’s running commentary in a little side window makes up for the edgy fun of the mostly horror and sci-fi videogames he walks us through.

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Godzilla on Mystery Science Theater 3000

But that’s not all. According to Wikipedia, after high school, Felix “went on to pursue a degree in Industrial Economics and Technology Management at Chalmers University of Technology, but left the university in 2011 to focus on his YouTube career.” And there’s more: Felix “PewDiePie” from Sweden is dating Marzia “CutiePie” from Italy, another YouTube celeb, aged 20, with a YouTube channel since 2012 now subscribed by 1,000,000 “Marzipans”. They met on the matrix: a friend of Marzia emailed her about Felix PewDiePie, she checked it out and liked what she saw, wrote to Felix, and the rest is happy F2F. They now live together with a pug  with its own YouTube special called “Puga Does Everything“. Felix and Marzia also do YouTube specials on Swedish vs Italian language, kissing, et al. The happy family may well be the pioneers of Reality YouTube: You live it, YouTube it (*)

Back to Sweden-4-Germany business innovation: how about MoWiPie = 1st 2 letters of my real surname (Mo) + initials of my partners real surname (Wi) + Pie as in cool suffix AND acronym for Pioneering Innovative Excellence? It is “ogooglebar”… and that may well be the best said about it. Bye-bye, MoWiPie.

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(*) © The author of Miss Morninglory’s Wall blog hereby asserts the right of authorship of the expression “You Live it, YouTube it.”

Whistle Blowers and Willful Blindness

“May you live in interesting times”, says the Chinese curse. In interesting times, whistle blowers pay with their lives while the willfully blind multiply. Totalitarianism, plutocracy and even the ancient Chinese Legalism experience rampant comebacks, sometimes under obscure new names such as inverted totalitarianismwhile pluralism and idealism become tell-tale signs of moral weakness or dissent. Assange, Manning, Snowden – martyrs or traitors, heroic or evil? Putin – neo-autocrat or return to Virtue crusader?

Future generations will  have a clearer picture than ours of the moral value of their actions in our times. For now, here is a spellbinding tale fit for these interesting times we are living in:

P.S. – Segment on “whistle blowers” starts at 08:43.

BURQA DEMOCRACY

Summer 2013 has been one of the hottest on record in many parts of the world. In Sweden, June temperatures reached record highs, leading over-heated tram conductors in Stockholm to an unusual but logical decision: to wear skirts. The policy of the company running the trains forbade men from wearing shorts to work, trousers were too hot, there was no policy on skirts for males, so there you go. Later in June, the policy changed to allow shorts, and a company spokesperson told a Swedish daily that the company expected the male staff to gradually move from skirts to wearing shorts that she believed to be “more comfortable and practical”.

On this note, I came to think upon a hot topic du jour, to ok or not burqas in offices, schools and public places (Western places, that is.) Logically, it could make a lot of sense for not only women, but for men to be encouraged to wear the garb on th e same principles that apply to women: modesty and decorum. Here goes an illustration of my case:

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Are there limits to Tolerance?

Today was a sunny morning, so instead of reading the BBC News of the day on my iPad while breakfasting in the kitchen, I got the paper version of the International Herald Tribune and Le Monde and went to a nearby café. The IHT quickly revealed itself much the same as any daily online BBC News, only on paper. So after folding it as a handy swat for the pesky wasps plaguing central Europe in general and my table in particular, I turned to Le Monde.

Germans have a good reason for rebelling against the NSA, one idées article read, and went on to make a couple of points particularly apt for these days of burqa bans and trending civic disobedience on the digital interstate highway. Drawing on the lessons from the former undemocratic German republic, the author notes that just as the Stasi had no manpower or systems to analyze the mounds of information it efficiently collected from all and sundry, neither has the NSA the ability or imagination to deal with all it stores about the common citizenry.

Not to worry then about having your average anonymous life being stored live on some archive somewhere? Not so.

Mass surveillance is the darling weapon par excellence of regimes and autocratic brutes bent on busting democracy and other such lofty idealistic fluff-ware to smithereens; and its sugar candy motto, “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”, is what keeps the wheels of totalitarianism oily. The problem with mass surveillance?…  Oh, things like, living in a state of fearing thy neighbor, thy fathers, thy sons (note that I am not saying thy mothers who lack the testosterone needed to understand the virtues of war and 10 eyes for an eye). Or, so long, democracy. Or, bye-bye, entire non-aligning swathes of populations.

From an eternal perspective, there is nothing in life to fear, only to understand, said Marie Curie. Thing is, I don’t have an eternal life, but a rather limited one. And I have kids with equally limited lives, give or take a couple of years’ shortage or extension of average life spans. And humans thrive in diversity, not uniformity. Standardize the human race and we die. Mishmash everyone’s biology and what wipes one can wipe us all. Mishmash everyone’s morals and ethics and what you got is, at best, a publicly funded Geriatric Ward. At worst, it’d be a matter of time until the agreeable stability of universal chaos would wipe us (humans) all.

Polish born Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize and did seminal work on radioactivity (a term she also coined.) Her papers remain radioactive: radium-226, the most common isotope of radium, has a half life of 1601 years. She died on the day of my birth, July 4.

Polish born Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to ever win a Nobel Prize and did seminal work on radioactivity (a term she also coined.) Her papers remain radioactive: radium-226, the most common isotope of radium, has a half life of 1601 years. She died on the day of my birthday, July 4.

For now, we know that private Manning got a lifetime in jail, and so would Assange and Snowden if only one could get their feet on US soil. Thanks to a Brazilian guy connected to a reporter working on the Snowden story, we just learned that the UK has a sinister thing that could happen to anyone called Schedule 7 that hit the headlines a tad too clumsily close to the US admitting to the existence of Area 51. We should probably check if countries that we’ve so far regarded as benevolently democratic bonanzas have something like that before booking our next transcontinental holidays. For now, we know that countries one learned to love when growing up, the USA and the UK, are inching ominously closer to the dystopic America fantasized in Super Sad True Love Story.

For now we know about another charming country, France, banning scarves covering women’s hair in its entirety, plus a host of pundits clamoring about the irrationality of a law based on pure fear that in reality affects a nano-who-cares-per-cent of the French population. Maybe the French ought to be a bit careful about laws about scarves. It’s after all the country that gave us Hermés, and with their low to mid range cost exports on a free fall, one would think it a good idea to protect their still thriving luxury exports, such as the larger Hermés scarves big enough to cover the normal-sized hair of foreign women with access to enormously sized wallets.

Hermés considerations aside, I find the law over the top but by no means something that only affects an infinitesimal percent of the population. Au contraire: it affects every woman and girl in the country and beyond. It happened to Iran, it could happen to you.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis wearing a Hermes Astrologie scarf in the sixties.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis wearing a Hermes Astrologie scarf in the sixties.

That the Muslim community has no consensus about the interpretation of women’s dress code as told in the Quran, or that pro-burqa wifes, mothers, sons and daughters need their freedom of interpretation of religious dress codes respected – this is all beside the point. The point is, everything only exists within limits, the limits of what is best for the survival of the (human) species. Everything: including Tolerance. To tolerate everything is to dissolve the diversity that is best for human evolution. Westerners are not about to accept whatever tribe last came out of whatever jungle remains after decades of logging and deforestation, to come live among us in the near-buff. It’s all very well for the Annual Pride Parade, or for secluded nudist spots along mile-long stretches of Catholic country beachfront that every devout soul knows precisely where they are (but never been). Not so for genuine pure shamelessness about the naked body.

As a Western woman, I am ok with head scarves, which is where I draw the line. I find women in burqa as difficult to behold as ladies in burqa would find nip-tucked grandmas baring it all at Club 55. I try to respect the customs of places I visit, cover shoulders and knees, wear or discard shoes, but  have no interest in setting a foot in countries where non-observance of burqa or niqab code is punishable by law. It’s my way of showing respect for something I could never understand any more than the burqa police could understand the point of an annual Pride Parade on their streets. Respecting oneself and others needs boundaries.

And yet, and yet. Having said all this, I must also add something else that will entirely undo my point that for the benefit of the human species, tolerance must have limits. How the Monty Python People would have put it, “And Now for Something Completely Different”:

Tolerance is not to accept the range of all that we understand from a little bit to a lot. Tolerance like that is very comfortable, and not really tolerance, but a convincing simulation of tolerance. Like the model home in a brand new housing development.

Tolerance is to accept what we can’t understand at all. And that can’t possibly dissolve the diversity that is best for human evolution.

A bientot.

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Les Restes, vulgo “leftovers”

A miscellany of snacks-for-thought that I never got to turn into blog posts at the busy festive end of 2012:

 

Mankind’s Daddy 3000 Years from Now

Someone out there today will be the common ancestor of all mankind 3000 years from now; and a single immigrant breeding once into a population stands an 80% chance of becoming a common ancestor of that native  population.  Check the short why here, and the full explanation here.

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Brand Ambassadorship Overload

The Ralph Lauren Polo branding intelligentsia reminds me of a toddler with a temper tantrum: pushing it as far as it can. How giant can we get the logo on the garments  till people will stop wearing our stuff? Judging by where I live – Moneytown, Middle of Germany – the sky is the limit. Affluent ‘hood housewives here don’t seem to ever get enough of dressing themselves like old leather suitcases covered with exotic travel labels.

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Everyone Must Eat Cake!

And now for a Fatty Tale of Democratic Cake: instead of being beheaded, Marie Antoinette becomes the Evita Peron of post Revolution France. Initially, she charms the peasantry by offering cheap cake to all – cake no longer a privilege of the wealthy few, but an affordable right of the masses. As her power rises in the shadow of her feeble son, the official ruler, Let Them Eat Cake is subtly but solidly repositioned as Make Them Eat Cake.  Once a critical mass of cake devotees is in place, a law is issued to enforce the rule, a Body Police is formed to catch healthy eaters a.k.a. slim peasants. Marie Antoinette can now rest assured, for a while: she, and those in her circle, will now have the exclusivity of “slim as beautiful”. Everyone else must eat cake.

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