Tuesday, July 07, 2009

From Brun Potatis to Choklad Papegoja: Desperately Seeking Stockholm's Sweet, Sticky Center

(Note: To read the orignal post on WFMU's Beware of the Blog, click here. )

Ed's note:

Welcome, comely and prudent reader, to the debut publication from the Swedish American Futurimagineering Institut (SAFI), our Orange Brief. SAFI is a genuine-fake-maybe-real-but-probably-phony-except-for-real-but-you-never-really-know-these-days-anyway culturobstretrical organization with a life-changing mission: to build bridges of understanding between the American and Scandinavian peoples. And in so doing, heal the universe. To achieve this we use the power of Ultramultiscience, a new way of thinking that fuses multiple disciplines—sound, embalmery, competitive eating—into a gel that, when mixed with bleeding-edge scientificalism, unleashes transformational power not seen since Nutella met Bisquick. Wielded wisely, it can fuel cars-that-go-boomlike engines toward a more pumpkinlier future.

This Orange Brief is a patent-pending hydron-condensed version of the SAFI Orange Paper*, a 200+ lb nectarine of cunt-punching erudition, bursting with scratch-n-sniff pop-ups and double coupons. The design is no laughed-so-hard-you-shat accident: Its brainfeel mirrors its subject matter—strange and familiar, wordy and unreliable, cursory, broad-brush, mythically sextronic. Loosely unarranged, it takes you on a fluid, urinelike journey into insight, contemplation and that feeling of release when the brain freeze abates. It assumes an "asymmetrically interactive" posture; you're thus encouraged to connect its themes to their oft-repeated parallels in convenience store hot dog theory. A "necessary cliché," as it were

Like an artistic masterwork or courtesan selling stew, the Brief will screw each reader individually. But a basic overview of it might help you feel less afraid: Parts I and II pop out of the brassiere of History to feel through the Experiment in blind boob Braille. Part III is your Dark Patchouli Mistress, buttplugging you into the bicycle-rich tumult of modern Stockholm straight from the scribbles of my notebooks. Part IV drives you up the mountain, forces its conclusions on you at Céline-point and grins smugly as you gaze upon the beauty below in the cupcake afterglow of the Acknowledgments.

Behold your adventure, taut and energy-conscious reader. Good reading, and may pumpkin's indecent ambrosia glide down your throat into your soul, filling you with oily orange Ecstasy.

(Click here for my "Sounds of Stockholm" mp3 that contains some of the audio research from the Experiment.)


For millennia, the idea of Sweden has enthralled the world's imagination with shots of hardbodied Vikings, ass-chapping winters, barbaric seafood concoctions, and fuck-off-style horned headgear that's perfect for when you're hung over and cranky. In modern times all this whimsical filligriboobery has ripened into a single prevailing stereotype: Sweden is a country of well-mannered blond beauties who celebrate high taxes, addictive pop hooks, cradling regulation, hard booze and isn't-that-dangerous? rituals involving candles. Until recently, this view was universally accepted. But a look beneath the latexy surface reveals that it completely misrepresents Swedish culture—the candle thing is completely safe, apart from a miniscule number of yearly burnt hair incidents (which, notably, fall well below average BHIs in the 63 NATO countries). Since a central centerpiece of SAFI's mission is to deglistenize the myths about Scandinavia and America, while simultaneously extolling their positive realities (muppetacular languages for the former and unlimited pizza buffets for the fatter), I, Researcher Ed Shepp, braved to conduct SAFI's first transcontinental Experiment: an observational visit to Stockholm, the self-described Scandinavian City That Almost Everyone Knows Isn't In Germany. The porpoise of the Experiment: To capture Stockholm's hot cultural jizz fresh from the spout, and use it in three ways: 1) as a launchpad to inform future research, (2) as a basis to issue edicts for change (3) as raw material for another bizarre Ed Shepp-style blog entry.

To prepare for the Experiment I baked the following recipe, with half the ingredients, for half the time and at half the temperature, for consistency:

Firstly, following my Facercise® instructor's practice of finding truth through bulleted lists, I created numberless agendas catalogues outlines timetables canons indices lineups and dockets. 37,000 pages of dots and fragments about everything conceivable: foods to eat weddings to crash snakebites to fake ways to wear a fake shit-stain on my pants and bring up the topic of Hitler at inopportune times. Purselessly I listenumberumerated until my consciousness reduced to only a beating heart composed not of living cells but of spreadsheets. From the tendrils of dusk to the fists of dawn, I steeped in this moment. Then I ripped the lists to shreds like so many paternity suits and flung the vodka-soaked mess on the Denny's floor and lunged to ignite it before security showed me out. And there in that life-giving parking lot, I willed myself to absorb all the lists and recall them instinctively when needed, like the street whore recalls the car of the plainclothes cop, before shapeshifting back into rat form.

Aquitionally, I gulped down many salty loads of advice, most of which reiterated the same plan: "Get laid a LOT!!" While such advice was adequately helpful, like a rubber butthole, I needed meatier counsel. Then finally one ghastly, grim and ancient raven volunteered an instruction that scraped the eye-boogers from my consciousness: "Assemble of your mind the Void," it crowed, "and ever you are given the tender, rejoin, YES! YES! YES! 'Fancy a herring-lingonberry-reindeer popsicle?' YES! 'Escape to Skåne for a Druid ritual and return riding atop train cars drunk on herring-reindeer vodka?' YES! Come to my flat and star in my movie, Herringly Insatiable: An American Annabel Chong in Sweden?' YES! And while, frankly, his examples seemed to me properly queer, the philosophy behind them gripped me like a crackhead octopus (or maybe just a crackhead), and I vowed to live it with the same devotion I live the Holy Orangitude of Brand Ed Shepp.

Further, I endeavored to annihilate all expectations I had (keeping, of course, a respectful fear for the cuisine, as one would for God or an ugly baby) and submerged myself in galaxies of disinformation, all to avoid creating My Own Private Stockholm in the gallbladder of my brain. Every night I drank Ukrainian amounts of a Nyquil-bacon mixture to corrode any preconceptions I'd formed. I appeared nude on Slate, wearing a blank foundation. (Remember, podiatry-aware reader, that it is only possibly to eradicate ones preconceptions to an certain limit. Brainwiping is an inexact science, like anal bleaching. Residue always remains. For more on residue, see Dr. Robert Mariah Carey Olson's seminal work, Streaks on a Microscope.)

Lastly, I'd like to introduce you to my Jonah Lehrer Magic 8 Ball. (For the unaware reader, Jonah Lehrer is a modern-day oracle, who provides counsel to people in need with his books and articles, through the lens of "science." His book, How We Decide, changed my waiting-in-the-airport-for-my-flight experience forever.) Sometimes, when faced with a novel challenge and neither a night of Correctol nor a chat with the mole people brings me clarity, I consult my Jonah Lehrer-branded Magic 8 ball. This was one of these times. You see, succinct reader, my adademinicity and scollershrimp have always served as my Achilles flaw, and I wondered if it would behoove me to approach my Experiment less intalectiually. I conferred with the JL8B, and it validated my intuition: "Let your emotional brain guide you," it said, "and you will absorb what data you need. Insight will surface, and bubble out like peroxide on a scab. Allow it to percolate and unfold, and it will bless you a unifying theory. Or a cowlick." Yes, his messages are incredibly long—thankfully the ball contains only one. Well, that's Banana for you!


The Experiment headquartered at fellow SAFI Researcher Nils Harning's laboratory, located in the dense thicket jungle of Södermalm. The central location permitted travel by the foot to all of Stockholm and the close proximity of the public transportation (known Stateside as "the shitbox"). The laboratory itself sported a Cluttered Gothic Trailer Kitsch theme, with, like the exotic dipping sauces at Burger King, a Swedish accent. As for Researcher Nils, if I were pacing a masturbatorium in a velvet jacket, smoking into a Dictaphone, 100 years ago, I might say that he had an artistic bent and involved himself in the theater. The Experiment spread itself over five days at the outset of summer and had no itinerary, thus allowing for 1) maximum serendipity and 2) the ever-lingering spectre of diarrhea.


  • Wu Tang Clan on flight! Swede from Philadelphia! Owner of purple ukulele! I'm smelling omens. The shitter's right behind me.
  • Famous Swedes on airport billboards. Dolph Lundgren is an engineer?!?! Note: get MFA in 'sexiness engineering.' Matriculate at Karolinska Institutet.
  • Checkmate. 7-11 victorious. Prize: ubiquity. Loss: Duh. Raise another glass for invasive species. Skål!
  • Souvenir crap carts renew me. Thank you, Floridian heritage. I burp a silent blessing.
  • Pistachio polymer chemasterpiece. Fashion me into tongue and pour your green sugar on me forever.
  • Tree sign: "Caution: Deer Ticks" or "Gay Gnome Sex Ahead"? "Gay Gnome Sex"=verbal MSG.
  • Borgerskapets änkehus: Once: "Home for Upper-Middle-Class Widows"; Today: punchline.
  • Buildings that aerially resemble a hammer & sickle. Everyone's gotta rip off Disney World. Sheesh.
  • Researcher Nils knows EVERYONE! ...So why hasn't he taken me to the elf underworld yet?
  • Katarinahissen? I'll wait for the space elevator, tacksa meekay (Thanks Bark Maratelli for that spelling). Or taxi mocha (thanks Japanese friend of Nils!)
  • Sample sale. Goo-goo-la-la-shi-shi-frou-frou-ding-dong. Pronounced: "Ock-NAYuh." Spelled: Acne.
  • Gorgeous Gothik Lolita. Too nice to hate on. Stockholm Syndrome?
  • Smell of Stockholm: rain, earth, white flower, crumpled up in a can of Glade Lilac Spring.
  • Youths in shadows. Flickering light. Sounds of partying. Eurovision theme song. Not gay. Not gay?? NOT GAY?!???!?!?!? Not gay.
  • Stockholm has enough streetlights to create artificial dawn? Or could that be REAL dawn at 2am?
  • If news shows in other countries were food, they would be good Belgian waffles. Not stupendiferious ones, but delicious anyway.
  • Election signs: everywhere. White tennis shoes: ditto. Starbucks: Oubliette.
  • Yogurt? YES! Granola? YES! Cashews? YES! Too-thick milk! WHADAFAAAH???!!! ...Oh. "Yogurt."
  • Plastic flamingo. Do they know it's Christmastime at all?
  • Does oxytocin stain?
  • State liquor store: great selection, always crowded, closed on Sunday. THAT's a business model I can get behind!
  • Shower?? Shudder!!
  • "American style"=thisiswhyyourefat.com
  • Giggly girls: annoying in every language and culture.
  • 40 kronor and my Big Mac is STUCK to the BOX?!?! Bitches need an exchange study program in Harlem.
  • Black pudding: Apple butter if it liked horror movies.
  • ---Hey guys, let's rent a Hummer stretch limo and drive around fucking in deserted parks!! Yeah, let's do it! While we're still teenagers! I've got Hummer fever!---


  • ---God, Mr. Eriksson is such an amazing boss, renting a stretch Hummer limo and driving through deserted parks. He's so classy and sophisticated. I think I'll give him a hummer later on. Oh, I feel his hand on the back of my head! Maybe sooner than I thought!---
  • "It's just too good here. It's too good in Sweden." I KNEW it. I KNEW it would be said sooner or later.
  • Lost! Help! Key won't work! So many ways to have a breakdown—how can I lose??! Wait! Random stranger from doorway. Lends me cell phone without eye-rolling. Explains to me how to dial locally! Valeriee, these are not people. They are angels.
  • Swedish hipsters DJing on boats. ...And we're back.
  • Noise music. Yawn. Wait! GIANT VIKING HORN?!? Fireworks from deep inside my bosom.
  • There's a Göteborg affliction of saying "or" after everything. If anyone can pull it off in the USofA, Ed Shepp can.


Bathroom 1) Bathrooms in Sweden are wrong. Exhibit A: Researcher Nils's. Behold the showerhead hanging lonely on the wall, unprotected by any curtain, door or tub. So when anyone takes a shower, the whole room showers with him, including the toilet and the gnome. This is wrong. Showers are one of the 37 experiences in life that live up to commercials: Orgasmic explosions inspired by hair conditioner are common. Stripping its defenses from the hostile world is to devolve the shower experience from that of a private sanctuary into one of a chambre of horror, reminiscent of those rooms where people were sprayed with hoses in prison or psychward movies. Imagine, pithy reader, attempting to enjoy a shower while struggling to avoid drenching your Naughty Dentists of Prague 1987 calendar or your 2-lb bag of Cheetos or the Readers Digest with the invaluable conversation tips, to say nothing of the paintings and the Mary Lou Retton commemorative plates. My scientific conclusion is that every bathroom in Sweden urgently needs renovation, and immediately. SAFI is presently in talks with DANIEL (not Mavis!) Libeskind about this important matter.

Note: Another Swedish-bathroom abomination exists, one that scrapes against the pinkest depths of inhumanity; but we at SAFI believe that its enormity demands nothing less than a direct communiqué to the King. Thusfore, hereinly it will pass unmentioned, like Aunt Tula's heart-stopping farts at Easter dinner. You didn't hear or smell anything.

Exhibit-b 2) Coffee in Sweden is wrong. Exhibit B: At every restaurant and coffeeshop I graced with my orangeness, milk flowed copiously, like a union of menstruating hippies. But half-and-half, in unspeakable contrast, was nowhere to be seen, its absence lingering like a fat ghost's fart. If you, price-wise reader, take your coffee as I do, with enough fat to lubricate every subway car in London, you will find yourself spasming and seizing in disbelief when you realize that no half-and-half can be had in Sweden. As both scientist and saint, I feel it my duty to speak out against this inhumane condition. Everyone, no matter how goatlike his airspace or gnu-like her countenance, deserves the lardicious comfort of half-and-half, in coffee, pee or any other nutritious beverage. Further research may reveal whether the void of half-and-half plays a role in explaining why the people of Stockholm appears so skeletal and undernourished compared to Americans. (Note: The adipose deficiency of Stockholm's residents is striking. Unprecedented and impossible, like skidless Saturday panties. Consider my experience with public transportation: Over multiple trips on different types of transport, I never once encountered another passenger's flesh spilling over her seat into mine. Not one person exceeded the seats' already lean capacity. In a deeply personal place, this saddened me. How desolate to never feel the plush, unsolicited caress of a fellow commuter's muffin top! It's been said that Stockholm can be a cold place, and in some ways, this rings all too true.) SAFI vigorously recommends that anyone moving to Sweden import a live-in cow to ensure that abundant cream is always on hand. Some h8ers in the medical community may brand drinking cow cream directly from the teat unsanitary and dangerous, but we at SAFI just call it "French."

3) Despite their emaciation, the people of Stockholm exhibit a statistical supersaturation of slammin überhotness. The factors that account for this are uncertain; perhaps the city sustains an mammoth sprawl of modeling schools; perhaps the contentious link between herring and hotness may contain more validity than previously thought. Surely intensive research is warranted.

4) The thoroughness of 7-11s colonization of Stockholm is staggering and strange. The phenomenon seduces you in stages: It perplexes, overwhelms, paralyzes, then transfixes, alarms and appalls, and finally soothes inexplicably, as if some neuronal Pixie Stick broke in your crapstorian lobe, slathering it in synthetic sweetness. Compounding the oddity is the Fanta-commercial-subtle slogan trumpeted from every 7-11 in Stockholm: "Coffee. FOR REAL." Judging by its flavor, the coffee's authenticity was indeterminate, but Stockholm 7-11s' coffee experience, compared to its American counterpart, leaves much to be desired. Example: American 7-11s are required by the Church of Neon Ubiquity to offer a vast selection of flavored coffee creamers. In Stockholm these creamers were inexplicably absent. All things ill-considered, however, this researcher must concede that if being able to get a Slurpee on every corner (even if it is a green tea-peppermint-jingleberry-salmon flavored one) is not a sign of an advanced society, then I don't know what is.

CONCLUSION: Further research is vital. (Indeed, it has already begun—this researcher is presently wearing Björn Borg underwear, measuring its putative advancedness.) Five days might suffice to grasp the phenomenon of Dolly Parton, whose wigs, layed strand-to-strand, could cover the entire land mass of Scandinavia six times over. But alas, It is a sorely inadequate timeframe to attain understanding of the culture that has given us Roxette, Absolut, IKEA, and herring gelato. Multiple projects are presently in development by SAFI's think tanks, and the many targets for study ensure a bright future for SAFI, and the Universe as a whole.


I'd like to thank everyone who made this research voyage possible: SAS airlines, Newark and Arlanda Airports, orbitz.com, Jesus for all he does for me every day--you da man!, CandyApple Sharonta productions, L'Orilivia Shite Management, Sharon Levine, the most patient editor on earth who will wait through the longest stretch of constipation known in the Western world, Avril--guuuuurl, we gonna do spa day again soon w00t w00t!, the borough of Södermalm, repreZENT!, WFMU, Courtney L. for all the hours you spent with me on the phone when I was freaking out or not--you are my therapist, the State of Florida for bringing two so amazing people together as my Mom and Dad, so they could then have ME. Oh yeah, and those two others. I love you, Mom. Peace up, A-Town down, Dad. No, I don't know what that means. Ummmmmm, let's see. I don't want to miss anyone but don't freak out if I do cuz guys, this is like crazy, ok?! A sincere thank you to the madwoman raving on the street: you gave me new life. I choose you. The entertainment you give the world can't be measured. Maybe in minutes. I'd like to thank all the great people on the World Wide Web who talked to a little American with a big dream. Thank you V and Nena and Mount Dora and Lake Square Mall and Burger King for the solid foundation you gave for my EdSheppness. Thank you to Tallahassee. And thank you New York for being such a shithole—if you never stank like you do or were loud and crowded like you are, I may never have needed the escape to Stockholm. Peace, my Stockholmies for speaking English with me and for pretending that they way I pronounced "meat balls" sounded like I was saying "butt balls." Thank you, SAS again, for the two complimentary alcoholic beverages! Thank you, other passengers, for not getting sloshed like I did. That's so crass.

And if these were real acknowledgements, I'd of course thank Researcher Nils for everything. And to D (and everybody) for putting up with my lost-sleep crabbiness.

Lastly, thank you Ed Shepp. You did good, beeyotch. You had a good trip and good things to say about it in your good epistolary piece. Rock out with your good self! W00t w00t!

*An Orange Paper, which can only be issued from the Swedish American Futurimagineering Institut, can be compared, for the unfamiliar reader, to a "white paper," in which it shares many characteristics, one of which being the gravitas and "officialness-n-stuff" connoted by the concept. Moreover, like many whites paper, it is neither white nor on paper. The most salient divergence, however, between the two is the name: The Orange Paper. And of course, if printed, it would appear on orange paper. A less immediately evident aspect of the Orange Paper is that it also exudes all the unique aesthetic and genius connoted by the color orange.

This has been an Orange Brief from Swedish American Futurimagineering Institut.