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Bork! Bork! Bork! Or: How I Learned To Stop Being Afraid and Embrace Swedish Contributions To Our Culture

Swedish-chef The possible demise of Saab - thanks, GM! Good work! - does more than signal the potential end of a beloved-by-some automotive brand whose Scandinavian roots and design quirks established it as a driveway staple in... uh... driveways across... uh... Scandinavia. And, also, carefully demographically defined segments of North America. It also serves as a reminder of the great and subtle ways that Sweden has infiltrated multiple aspects of our culture, popular and otherwise.

• Meatballs! Swedish Meatballs! They're small, they're meaty, they're saucy... for all intents and purposes, they're everything we know and love about round meat.
• Fish! Swedish Fish! These are the ne plus ultra of the candy world: perfect, glistening little blood red slabs of fish-shaped glycerin made of artificial colors, artificial flavors, and love. Plus, as fish, they technically count as brain food.
• Keurig! Tiny little insta-coffee! Okay, technically it's Dutch and not Swedish, but I just started drinking it at work (I've never been a coffee drinker before) and WOW! COFFEE! I'M FULL OF ENERGY! IT'S LIKE MY SKULL IS FULL OF LIGHT! LET'S GO ROB A CONVENIENCE STORE!
• The Swedish Chef. He is (was?) the greatest chef the world has ever known — the man/muppet who made Julia Child break down and weep in gratitude for the unnatural things he did to chickens. If you've ever eaten food and been happy, you owe the Swedish Chef something. You get to choose what. Fist bump, hug, a kind note... really, the choice is yours.

Let The Right One In was, clearly, the best vampire movie of the past decade. It's not even close. Twilight? Sorry. Suck it, Edward — Eli the eternally 12yo creeptastic girl blows you clean out of the water. Her loneliness, her hunger, her yearning for connection... all feel real and relevant in a way that Stephanie Meyer never even dreamed possible. (Semi-related note: If/when you rent this movie? Do NOT get stuck with the dubbed version. Baaaaaaaaad mistake.)
• Lasse Hallström — He's done great things (Who's Afraid of Gilbert Grape and My Life As A Dog), critically acclaimed but really kind of mediocre things (Cider House Rules and Chocolat), and dull cable timekillers (Something To Talk About and An Unfinished Life) that make you ask yourself "I wonder what's on VH1 Classic right now?" but what you really need to know about him is that 1) He's a relevant Swedish filmmaker and 2) He started his career directing Abba videos. And Abba: The Movie. Not even kidding.

• Forget I mentioned Abba. That never happened.
• Also: forget Ace of Base. That never happened, either.
• On the other hand: EUROPE! (cue cheesetastic synth...)
• Somehow, over the course of 20 post-The Final Countdown years - during which time North America decided to collectively ignore the bulk of music produced by Swedes - their music somehow evolved, morphed and mutated from the Velveeta of <see all of the above> to Mew. Wait... you don't know Mew? Cool — because I'm about to make your life about a million times more cool.

• Also... were you aware that the best Cure album of the past 15 years didn't actually involve the Cure? True story. The Shout Out Louds' Our Ill Wills is pure Robert Smith-infused ear candy. It's manic-depressive Swedish fish for your brain. Honest.

• I'll leave it to other, more sensitive souls to tell you about the gentle quasi-folky awesomeness of The Perishers, Peter, Bjorn and John, Jose Gonzalez and other luminaries of the field. But for those who dare to embrace their inner Swede... these and other bands are out there in the darkness, waiting to be discovered. Like Nordic chupacabras with acoustic guitars.
• Speaking of waiting out there in the dark, there's also a thriving Swedish metal and post-metal scene. Opeth, anyone? Meshuggah? Cult of Luna? You know there's a place in your heart for Cult of Luna. 

• But wait! There's more! Actually, there isn't. Because we're not going to talk about Ingmar Bergman. And IKEA kind of sucks. And Volvo was ruined by Ford. And...

All right. Sweden is tapped dry. Next week: the post-Soviet Central Asian Republics!

. . . . .
TwoBusy bork bork bork.

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I would like to personally thank Sweden for Alexander Skarsgård.


I heart you and this post.

Alexander Skarsgard's picture should be on their flag - along with meatballs and Swedish Fish.


another vote for alexander skarsgard. certainly it can't be denied that he's one of the most delicious imports, even above the tastiness of swedish fish.


ABBA rocks! I don't care if you don't find it cool, I dare you to find a band with more catchy tunes and great vocals.


As a penised-American, I'm afraid I don't share your overwhelming passion for Mr. Skarsgard and ABBA. That said, consider your appreciation for Swedish culture officially noted in the MamaPop hall of records.


Ah, I love me some Mew. A couple of years ago, I was at Ye Olde Record Shoppe, and the clerk was playing "Frengers." Been a fan ever since.

Peter, Bjorn, and John however? No. Bought a used CD of theirs, and was unimpressed, and became even less impressed when they opened for Depeche Mode last summer. (DM, however, was awesome.)

foradifferentkindofgirl (fadkog)

I own every ABBA album. That's right - ALBUM. I once worked out a thought-provoking and equally heart string tugging dance routine to 'Fernando.' What say you of my awesomeness now, my good man?


IKEA may "suck" but they furnished my entire apartment for under a grand, so they cool in my book. plus, all their stuff has cool hard to pronounce names like poang! (insert umlaut over the "o'), beddinge! (sounds joyous) and grundtal! (sounds vaguely sexual).

Suzy Q

How can you dis ABBA? They were cool before you were born. Although I hated "Mamma Mia."


@Katharama I'm actually on board with you re: Peter, Bjorn and John. They've never floated my boat in the least. Kind of like the Perishers, however. (They have their moments.)


@steff Outstanding comment. IKEA products have always sounded like Tolkien place names to me.


@Suzy Q I'm afraid you antimisunderestimate my decrepitude. Tragically, I am indeed old enough to have vague recollections of ABBA in their heyday — and so I come by my distaste honestly. I'm not sayin' you can't like 'em... but I'm sticking by my own less kind assessment of the same.


As a Swede I would like to say, on the behalf of my country -

You are welcome.


Volvo was not ruined by Ford. Volvo ruined themselves by all the yupppies yammering to buy one in the 80's, sending the beloved 240 series to its demise. They don't have a good, solid, somewhat affordable box anymore. Plus, their service became crap. And, Edward seems to only drive them, so meh.


@G.G.R. You are a very gracious people.

@Jen I disagree with you on Ford/Volvo (although what Ford did to Jaguar was infinitely worse), but I'd completely forgotten about the insane stunt turbo microVolvo thing from Twilight. Easily the oddest and most blantantly wrong-headed automotive product placement in a movie that I can remember from recent years. "We need car that's going to be superfast, mean and aggressive, just like a vampire. I know: a Volvo! That'd be perfect!"


But not just the Twilight micro-thingie but the launch of the new suv-wannabe with New Moon.

I will say that Ford did benefit from the Volvo merger with getting its line back together. Volvo's platforms are much better than Ford's; Ford used them and the technology for some of their cars (ie, Freestyle, a XC-90 in disguise). However, Volvo still had issues in the '90s with their cars, recalls, and service, prior to Ford's involvement.

I miss my old 240 tank wagon *sniff*


' "We need car that's going to be superfast, mean and aggressive, just like a vampire. I know: a Volvo! That'd be perfect!" '
But safe; remember, Edward is all that but safe (heehee).


Uh, I think it's What's Eating Gilbert Grape, not Who's Afraid of Gilbert Grape. Though that sounds like an awesome movie too.


@Jen 1) Edward's safety is paramount. And just as he's protecting whatshername... the Volvo is protecting him. Excellent point. 2) Tragically, I have not yet seen New Moon, although I have little doubt my wife will force me to watch it at some point. 3) As for the Freestyle/XC-90 connection (shared platform)... I had no idea! MamaPop: Where People Come To Learn.

@Leandra Featuring Sidney Poitier as a pissed-off, 700lb mother who resents the fact that son Johnny Depp brings home Leonardo DiCaprio as his fiancee. This mashup needs to happen. In fact, I think Eddie Murphy may already have it in development.

Mrs. Påjala

Many of you beat me to it already, but I thank my ancestors homeland of Sweden for Alexander Skarsgard and his Dad, Stellan, both yummy. I love ABBA too, not because they are Swedish, but because their music has actual melody! Greatest hits are on my Ipod. And don't be dissin the IKEA, I love that store! Furnished my bedroom for less than $500, you can't beat that! Plus they sell hard to find Swedish food and have a kick ass cafeteria! YUM!

Suzy Q

Haa! I love that word "antimisunderestimate" and shall freely steal it to use. Look for your royalty check in the mail, Dancing Queen.

I also forgot another great semi-Swedish thing, as did you: The Sweded movies in "Be Kind, Rewind."


@Mrs Pajala "Hard-to-find Swedish food." Still processing that. I can only presume you're talking about some kind of salt herring product.

@Suzy Q EXCELLENT call on "Be Kind, Rewind." I'd forgotten about that completely.


My husband LOVES IKEA. He can spend hours looking at every little thing. I think he's going to trade me in for a "life partner".

Oh, and Swedish food SHOULD be hard to find. It's a Darwinian thingy.

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