Oh Radio

Oh Radio

It suddenly occurred to me that I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. I used to love listening to the radio. When I first moved to Sweden back in the mid-90s, there weren’t so many commercials on TV or radio stations. It was bliss. You could listen to close to an hour of music without interruption. There’d be one long commercial break so you had time to go to the bathroom, take a ciggy break if you smoked, or make more coffee and fix a sandwich. And in the early days when I couldn’t speak or understand Swedish, Sveriges Radio (their version of NPR) broadcast news from the US in English twice a day and even rebroadcast some programs from NPR.

Then something happened a few years later. Many Swedish radio stations started doing that annoying thing of squeezing in commercials between every 3-4 songs. Often the difference in volume was so high it felt like, during the commercial breaks, your radio was jumping up and down on your shelf or tabletop.

It also began to feel like every single station was playing the same music–and I didn’t like any of it. I eventually stopped listening to the radio. Instead, I listened to my collection of CDs and stopped worrying about new music. Sometimes I’d watch ZTV or MTV Europe to see if there was anything worth checking out. Occasionally something would jump out at me like Mando Diao, Saybia and Mew. But mostly I ended up listening to the same music I’d liked when I still lived in the US.

 

It went on like this for a while.  I found some online radio stations I could listen to, which was great. I found more new music to listen to–and not so many damned commercials. Can you tell I don’t like commercials very much?  Nowadays, I subscribe to different bands’ YouTube channels (like Mew, Lianne La Havas, Robyn, etc). But even with signing in, I can’t always escape the commercials. Some you can skip after a few seconds, others refuse to be skipped.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Chance the Rapper. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe it was seeing him on SNL that did it. I liked his performance of “Same Drugs” and now I’ve been listening to it a lot on Spotify. I have the feeling I’ll be listening to a lot more music and watching TV less. There’s a certain orange man I hate seeing on my TV screen, so Spotify and YouTube will be my saviours the next 4 years.

So now I wonder…everything changes so quickly these days, how will I discover new music in the future? And when will I ever listen to the radio again?

Dark days in Sweden…and trying to be thankful

Dark days in Sweden…and trying to be thankful

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Sweden’s deputy prime minister and prime minister announcing Sweden can no longer handle the stream of asylum seekers.

Yesterday was a sad day in Sweden. Our prime minister, Stefan Löfven, announced that we could no longer handle the number of refugees who’ve come seeking asylum. As the announcement was made, our deputy prime minister was in tears. On the other side of the political spectrum, the far-right party, Sveriges Demokraterna (who are not very democratic, considering its connection with neo-Nazis) celebrated the news as though they were celebrating New Year’s Eve.

I shouldn’t be surprised. They have no love for anyone who is not Swedish–and by Swedish, they don’t simply mean Swedish citizenship. If you are not white, if you cannot prove you are an über-Swede, then they have no use for you. They claim they don’t hate immigrants, but all they do is demonise immigrants and claim we are the root of all Sweden’s evils.

Today is a day when I should be thankful. And, in many ways, I am. I have a roof over my head. I have a job. I am loved. I don’t have to worry about where I will sleep at night. Everyday when I am on my way to work, I pass by homeless people selling Situation Stockholm, EU migrants from Romania who are trying to find work or get money to send home… Stockholm keeps rolling. People keep streaming into department stores buying things they don’t really need, stressing over Christmas presents or whether their smart phone is the smartest of them all. Some give their time and energy to help charities. Others devote their spare time to how they look or who they know. And me? I write. It gets me through the dark winter months.

But right now, I find myself thinking about the people who need help and wonder why I am so lucky.

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Refugees arriving in Sweden at Hyllie station. Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk

The stream of people fleeing war, searching for a safe haven, are not the enemy. People like the men and women in Sveriges Demokraterna or the people who cheer on Donald Trump would have us think that the asylum seekers are terrorists or that they want to take everything from us. I refuse to believe they want to take anything from us. I am sure there are people who think I am naive.

The Donald Trumps of the world would say I am part of the problem because I empathize.

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My colleague, Åsa, who is one of the selfless volunteers helping refugees arriving in Europe.

But I know that–if I were in the same shoes as the asylum seekers, if I were fleeing war, I would want to come to a country like Sweden or Denmark or Germany or…*anywhere* where I could feel safe and hope that I could find shelter.

So I keep telling myself that–in spite of what the politicians say–there are still good people in this world who will keep doing everything they can to help–people like my friend and colleague Åsa Swee who volunteers her time at Stockholms Stadsmission and who’s gone to Greece and helped refugees arriving on European shores. I am thankful that people like her are shining a light even on these dark days. I am glad there are people like her who never give up hope and who keep doing what they can to help others–even when the darkness of far-right anti-immigrant rhetoric threatens all the places that should be safe havens.

I know we cannot help everyone, but we can at least try.

 

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Summer moved on…or how a-ha pretty much summed up Swedish summer

After two weeks of sticky summer heat in New York and Philadelphia, I’m back in Stockholm–where it’s already beginning to look and feel like autumn. Yes, you heard me correctly–it’s beginning to look and feel like autumn…and it’s only the first week of August. The sunlight is already paler than it was a few weeks ago (when we had it, since it was raining nearly every day). The air is noticeably cooler. The foliage on some of the trees dotting the hillside behind my apartment building is already beginning to turn from green to red. Summer just feels like it eluded Sweden. And now it’s already moving on.

And that reminds me of two songs by a-ha. Yes, those cute Norwegian guys who brought us everyone’s favourite 80s song, “Take on Me”. They made a lot of other really great songs too, but the only one most Americans remember is “Take on Me” — probably because of its catchy tune and iconic video.

But right now, there are two songs by A-ha that pretty much sum up what this summer has been like in Sweden: “The Sun Always Shines on TV” and “Summer Moved On”.  Admittedly, we’ve had a few good days of sunshine but they were few and far between. Here’s to hoping that next summer is better.

 

 

 

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