Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie: New York Stories



This movie consists of three shorter movies, by the master directors Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen.

Martin Scorsese's piece ("Life Lessons") is the best one, in which we see an artist (Nick Nolte) struggling to keep interested in human beings in his life, while trying to create art for an upcoming exhibition.

Francis Ford Coppola's "Life without Zoe" is the weakest, being unable to keep up my interest. It is about a 12 year old living in a hotel room while her parents is away. I guess the humour just didn't get to me.

Woody Allen's "Oedipus Wrecks" is funny. It is also "trademark Allen", with a Jewish guy having problems with his mother and letting these problems affecting all parts of his life. Some of the dialogues between his mother and his girlfriends are hilarious.

But all in all, it is too uneven, and I would much prefer to see one full-length movie by one of these directors than this package of three short ones...

New York Stories (1989)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Funny Quotes of the Week 39

"I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me."

"We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done." (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

"I always like to know everything about my new friends, and nothing about my old ones." (Oscar Wilde)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Movie: Angels and demons



I went to this movie with much scepticism, but all in all, it wasn’t all that bad. The story was fairly interesting and the actors were good.

It also had a few things in common with Night at the museum 2. First of all, the environs in both movies were additional bonuses, so that it was interesting to watch them even when the action wasn’t enough in itself. Secondly, inanimate objects played a part in helping the main characters. And thirdly, in the end, a helicopter/airplane played an important part.

So, for everybody who wants to see Night at the museum without the humour, Angels and demons is an interesting choice... :-)


Angels and Demons (2009)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Movie: Public Enemies



After seeing this movie, I find myself considering what it would have been like with a less impressing actor than Johnny Depp in the lead role. I think that the whole movie could easily have collapsed. But with Depp, the enemy of the people John Dillinger is worth following.

Dillinger is a bank robber who becomes a symbol for the crime-fighting efforts of J. Edgar Hoover. Preferably, Dillinger would have liked to keep doing old-fashioned bank robberies where people were seldom physically injured and where only banks were hurt, but as the cat-and-mouse game gets on, more and more people turn into casualties.

Public Enemies (2009)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oslo's main nude beach

If you are a tourist visiting Oslo in summer, you may want to know where the nude beaches are. There are several. The main one is the one at Huk at the peninsula Bygdøy. It is really easy to get there by taking the 31 bus from the centre of town all the way to the end. Then, you only have to choose the right path from there.


View Larger Map

The place has both a sandy beach and good grassy areas - also with shadows from trees for those afternoons when you have brought too little sunscreen.

The beach also has the advantage of being less crowded than the nearby textile beach.

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There are other nude beaches in Oslo as well, including one at Langøyene and a gay nude beach on Bygdøy. But details on these will be left for another post.

New swimwear

The Village Voice website showcased some new swimwear lately. While you will never, ever, ever see me wearing any of these on a beach, you might still want to see the photos...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Movie: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day



This is a wonderful performance by Frances McDormand. She plays Miss Pettigrew, an out-of-work governess who fakes her way into a position as a private secretary for actress Delysia Lafosse. She turns out to be a match for Jeeves in solving Delysia’s lots of problems. The film is quite funny as well as romantic. The main theme of the movie is the quest for love…

I also find the 1930s atmosphere delightful, with music to match, of course.

There is something almost "Coen brothers-like" in the way this movie is presented – which is a compliment to director Bharat Nalluri, of course. In fact, think of the movie as a cross between Wodehouse and Coen, and you get an idea…


(Phil Goldman meets Miss Pettigrew for the first time)
Later in the movie:
Phil: I'm sorry... it's Phil Goldman. How do you do?
Guinevere Pettigrew: We've met before actually. You were entirely naked at the time.


By the way, does this actor (Tom Payne) look a little like my favorite actor Rupert Graves in his Freddie Honeychurch days?





Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Funny Quotes of the Week 38

"There it was, hidden in alphabetical order." (Rita Holt)

"I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex." (Oscar Wilde)

"Most of the time I don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all." (Woody Allen)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Movie: Patrik 1,5



A gay, married couple wants to adopt a child. They get very excited when they get a letter saying that a 1.5 year old child named Patrick is in need of a family. But when he arrives, it is quite easy to see that an error has been made: he is 15.

I find the portrayal of Patrik quite moving. He is a boy who hasn’t had an easy life, his father unknown and his mother dead at an early stage. He has been in and out of homes for children, but he has never fitted in. And his talents have never been seen.

Then there is the story about the relationship between the two gays, who are having quite normal problems in their marriage, but also problems trying to fit into the “normal family” stereotype. And then there’s the problems of neighbours, who don’t know how to deal with getting a gay couple next doors.

So this is certainly a “gay movie” in one meaning of the phrase, but it would certainly also have been powerful just as a portrayal of how children in need are taken care of (or not).



Patrik 1,5 (2008)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Traffic rules in China

In Northern Europe, I'm used to people treating traffic lights as gods: they will stop on a red light and will go on a green light even if there is a baby sitting in the road in front of the car. In China, it seems that a green light is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for driving.

Rather, the traffic seems to be using the same set of rules as I'm used to on European side walks: you just walk, and if you face imminent collision, you or (preferably) the other guy change course.

The system does take a little time getting used to, but it does, on the whole, work remarkably well. When you want to cross the street, you just start crossing (preferably on a green light), and if there is traffic that is heading in your direction, you hope for them to stop or at least turn away from your path. If they don't, you get out of the way...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie: Once upon a time in America



I’m still surprised by how often I’ve decided not to see a movie based on a totally inaccurate impression of what kind of movie it is. Once upon a time in America is such an example. I’ve associated Sergio Leone with “spaghetti westerns”, and I mostly associate western movies by boring stories which often end in a shoot-out where I tend to root for the “wrong” side – for instance the Indians. Of course, it also didn’t help that I didn’t like “Once upon a time in the West” much.

However, the associations were entirely wrong. This is certainly no western, but more a biographical movie about a man who grew up to take advantage of the prohibition era by getting into smuggling. It is a huge story, each of the main periods of his life that is covered is given about an hour each, I guess. We see his childhood and how he got involved in the mafia. Then we see the pinnacle of his career – and then him returning to the city in old age.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving away anything here. We visit all these periods in the beginning of the movie. And that’s my main problem with the movie – that we jump so much from one period to another.

Of course, the actors are great and the time periods are believable. This is considered one of the best movies of all time in all lists. Which is, in my opinion, reason enough to see it – just in case you may happen to agree.


Once upon a time in America (1984)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Swine flu activity tips

Virrvarr has swine flu and has posted some "activity tips" for keeping out of boredome while getting well. They are in Norwegian, but the videos included are still cool for non-Norwegian readers.

Liam Lynch's interview with the Three Little Pigs is very appropriate...

New Asia Hotel in Shanghai

New Asia Hotel is situated about 10 minutes' walk from East Nanjing Road. It is moderately clean, has ok rooms and is affordable. It also has a friendly staff.

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Two small problems I encountered. First, the food I ordered via room service was cold. I'm not a big fan of cold french fries or cold bacon with cold eggs - eat elsewhere.

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Second, if the weather is too hot and you plan on navigating the city on foot (and by metro), the additional ten minutes to get to your hotel may be unpleasant. In that case, consider an even more central hotel. (If you, on the other hand, plan to take taxis, this is of course not an issue.)

Otherwise: enjoy.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movie: Kika



Pedro Almodóvar is one of my favorite directors, "All about my mother" being one of my favorites. The main story (the frame) of the movie is the death of Ramon's mother and its circumstances. However, the movie is inhabited by lots of strange but meaningful characters, not the least Andrea (Victoria Abril), who is sensationalist and manipulative news media personified. But the movie could - of course - also be seen as a portrait of the title character, Kika.

The movie also includes healing make-up, triple rape, voyeurism, corruption, love, sorrow, violence and plenty of blood. While that would perhaps not necessarily guarantee a nice time in front of the TV screen, with the name Almodóvar on the cover, you will not be disappointed...

Kika (1993)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Funny Quotes of the Week 37

"When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained." (Edward R. Murrow)

"Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." (Woody Allen)

"I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce."

Nude reporter

How do you keep your radio listeners interested through a long summer?

Last year, NRK had a project in which the listeners to the radio show "Osenbanden" were to decide the topics. Obviously, on day the topic was whether you could be a nude radio reporter for a day...




According to reporter Nareas Sae-Khow, it turned out fine, although the weather was too cold... But somehow, radio is better with pictures...

Naked bike ride
The Bike Ride

Friday, August 14, 2009

Movie: One flew over the cockoo’s nest



The main question of this movie is simple: who are craziest, the patients or the mental hospital itself?

Of course, it’s strange that I haven’t seen this movie before. It’s on many “all-time best” lists, got a Best Picture Academy Award and includes a stellar performance by Jack Nicholson. It is a deeply disturbing but also very, very human. At the same time, it’s at times hysterical.

Of course, psychiatry has done much harm through the ages, with considerable self confidence. Therefore, this movie must have been an important, if not welcome, contribution to a debate.

One flew over the cockoo’s nest (1975)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

I wonder...

...why announcements at Shanghai airport includes the phrase "from Shanghai" (as in "Flight xxx from Shanghai to Hong Kong is...") Shouldn't passengers be expected to know where they are flying from when they're at an airport?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Learning to be rude in Shanghai

As an obvious tourist walking down East Nanjing Road, I got a bit more attention than I expected. Every ten meters, someone would ask me if I wanted watches, DVDs, iPhones etc. Their English was very good, but “No thank you” was not recognized. They would follow me down the street, even though I tried to say “No thank you” as politely as I could.

My second strategy was just to say “No thank you” once and then disregard them. That didn’t work much better. Walking faster felt like I was running away from someone – and that was not what I wanted. Moreover, in 35 degrees (Celsius), walking should be done carefully…

Then I started to ignore them altogether. I find it very rude not to answer people who talk to you, so I didn’t feel good about that either.

Finally, I found the solution – of sorts. I started holding my cell phone to my ear. Magically, no one bothered me anymore. I just uttered the occational “yes” to make it seem I was actually in a conversation, and apparently, people found that I was too important to be stopped… :-)

In the area around People’s Square, I had other conversations. Three times, groups of students would approach me and start discussing the city and so on. And two times, Chinese girls asked me to take their photo (with their camera) and then started conversations. Inevitably, they wanted to take me to a tea ceremony. Being a bit nervous after reading about scams looking much like this in the Lonely Planet guide, I answered that I preferred to stroll around outside. Apparently, you may find yourself in an unpleasant situation with a huge bill if you go along. On the other hand, it’s really rude to just walk on when someone wants to talk to you, isn’t it? The solution: the cell phone. As soon as I get to the area around People’s Square, I get my cell phone and hold it to my ear. Works as a charm. And feels quite silly.

By the way: the Shanghai trip hasn’t lived up to expectations. Of course, it’s terribly hot out there, but I can live with that. The main attraction, The Bund, is apparently (partly) under reconstruction, so there’s not much to see there. And then there’s the thing about having to walk around with a cell phone all the time… :-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Movie: Brideshead Revisited



There are many ways of being cursed. You can be cursed by growing up in a terrible family, and you can be cursed by growing up in a terrible religion. Sebastian happens to be cursed in both ways at once, which actually makes this movie rather sad. He has too much anger. Charles, the other main character of the movie, has too much love.

Even though I find the movie very moving at times, as well as incredibly beautiful, it is depressing while also being slow, and that is a combination that I can’t really enjoy – even though there are great actors here as well. Emma Thompson does a believable role.



Brideshead Revisited (2008)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum is considered one of the best collections of Chinese artifacts in the world, almost (but not quite) as impressive as the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Plan to go there with a tour group to avoid the queue. I spent about one hour in the queue in the baking heat, which meant that one of the first stops once inside, was to the Tea Room to get some refreshments. Museum officials handed out umbrellas in the last part of the queue (which was under the sun), and that helped a little.

IMG_4607

The museum has an audio guide. I did consider renting one, but saw that the galleries had posters in English. As photography was allowed throughout the museum, I decided against carrying an audio guide as well and was happy with that decision.

The two most interesting galleries were on the first floor. The Ancient Chinese Bronze Gallery showed the development of bronze casting throughout Chinese history, while the Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery showed a number of interesting sculptures, including Buddhas and Boddhisvatas.

IMG_4632

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On the second floor was the Tea Room, offering much needed refreshments (including such western products as Sprite and M&Ms). The price level was much higher than on the street outside, but the temperature and location was also much better… On the second floor were also the Ceramics Galleries. I must admit that I’m not much of a ceramics (or porcelain) addict, so I mostly just strolled through these galleries, stopping at a few interesting-looking objects.

The third floor included the Chinese Painting Gallery (quite small), the Chinese Calligraphy Gallery (also quite small) and the Chinese Seal Gallery (justifiably small). Well – the Chinese Painting Gallery was actually occupying half the third floor, but didn’t give the sense of covering the history of Chinese painting throughout history. There are probably other museums for that (such as nearby Shanghai Art Museum, which I’ve decided against visiting, as it’s said to have almost no information in English).

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On the fourth floor, the Chinese Minority Nationalities’ Art Gallery was closed at the time. The other galleries: the Ancient Chinese Jade gallery, the Chinese Coin Gallery and the Chinese Furniture Gallery, were open. The jade and the coin galleries were much more interesting than I had expected, because of some interesting videos that were shown. I had not thought much about the process of creating the beautiful jade products, but was taken through the process in the video. And in the coins gallery, the making of coins was explained in similar way. As to the actual exhibits, the jade artifacts could not compare with those on display in Taipei, while coin galleries rarely manage to excite me.

IMG_4671b

Thus ended my visit to the Shanghai Museum. It was a modern museum, with everything we expect from a museum nowadays, and with one of the best collections in the world (and maybe the very best in mainland China) of Chinese historical artifacts.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Movie: Beautician and the beast



Fran Drescher plays a beautician who gets a job as a teacher/nanny for a rich guy. Which means that if you liked the TV series “The Nanny”, you’ll be quite safe if you choose this film.

Granted, the rich guy is an Eastern European dictator (played by former James Bond Timothy Dalton), so a lot of the context was fairly different from the TV series, but still, Fran was recognizable.

The movie is funny and a tad romantic, and quite unpretentious.

Beautician and the beast (1997)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Shanghai History Museum

In many big cities, you may tend to run through museums to get back outside to see other things. Shanghai in summer is not like that – everybody is so happy to be sheltered from the sun and warmth and humidity that they will want to be inside as long as possible. That is quite a nice opportunity for a museum.

Shanghai History Museum is in the basement of hideous Pearl Tower – that makes it easy to find, at least. The admission fee was 35 RMB and the audio guide 30 RMB. The audio guide contained lengthy accounts on almost anything on display – so lengthy, in fact, that I put it away and only used it when I saw something that fancied my interest.

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The museum consists of displays of stores, tea houses etc including waxworks figures. You get to see how the traffic of Shanghai evolved, how different industries developed and so on. The discussions of foreign influences are, unsurprisingly, quite nationalistic, but anyway it’s interesting to see how the English and French (and others) have influenced the city.

So, all in all, it’s a fun museum, and certainly better than the alternative – if the alternative is walking the streets in 35 degrees Celsius.

Photo search

FlickrStorm is a good search engine for Flickr images which are CC. Here are a few of the great photos I found with the search word "Oslo":

YAY Its 2008 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Viking boat

sunset romance

Funny Quotes of the Week 36

"I can see your point, but I still think you’re full of crap."

"The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were." (David Brinkley)

"Genius is born--not paid." (Oscar Wilde)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Movie: Seven Samurai



A romantic comedy with bits of slapstick added. And a healthy dose of violence towards the end.

In 16th century Japan, a tiny village needs protection from bandits, and hires seven samurai to help them. This classic movie by Akira Kurosawa is long (I saw the 200 minute version, but there exists longer ones), and the good thing about that is that you get to know the people before the main fighting starts, which means that you might get emotionally involved. However, some of the acting is painfully bad, which makes it a bit difficult to get too carried away anyway.

Still, there is enough human life in this movie to make it worth seeing on a rainy day.

Seven Samurai (1954)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Second time in Shanghai

I’ve already posted about my first time in Shanghai. That was a very short stay and very stressful. But it went well in the end. My second stay didn’t start very well either. And that had much to do with money.

First of all: I entered China without a single yuan (RMB), but armed with a Visa card and an American Express card. That seemed fine until I couldn’t talk any of the ATMs in the arrival hall to accept any of them. However, there were a girl who helpfully suggested that I could take a taxi at a fixed price of 250 RMB (about 35 USD or 30 Euros?) – in that case I could pay with credit card. I hesitated – as Lonely Planet had warned against accepting taxi services from people in the arrivals hall, as you would be better served by going outside to the taxis, and pay about 140 RMB. So I walked on. Then at another counter, another girl adviced me to take a taxi to my hotel – for the fixed price of 300 RMB. At this time, I started to get tired of the entire idea of taking a taxi.

Moreover, I still wanted to get some cash. Getting to the hotel in the evening and maybe having to start looking in dark and unknown streets for an ATM didn’t seem very tempting. So I went up to the departure floor to try my luck with the ATMs there. No luck. So I asked the people behind the Exchange counter if I could withdraw money from my credit card there? No, I couldn’t, but the girl there pointed out yet another ATM. So I tried it – same result. Still no money.

By this time, I guess I had walked around the airport for almost an hour. I was in no rush, and I did have a backup plan – I had 30 Euros which I could exchange. I went back down to the arrival floor, and asked in the Exchange counter there if I could withdraw money from my credit card there. Yes, I could! A surcharge of 3 % seemed like nothing – and I was a bit upset that the girl in Departures could not point out this simple fact…

So with 2000 RMB in my pocked, I still didn’t want to cave in to the taxi people, so I took a bus to the Shanghai Railway Station. I happily paid 33 RMB for the ticket, only to find out later that I had payed for two people, due to some strange misunderstanding involving a woman behind me who wanted her husband in front of the bus to pay for her. The ticket woman payed me back 20 RMB, so the bus ticket was 13 RMB.

However, at Shanghai Railway Station, things started to get silly again. After fighting off the hotel people hitting me with their brochures, not wanting to accept the fact that I had already booked a room, I was approached by a guy wanting to take me to my hotel. He wanted 80 RMB. I knew that the distance was perhaps 2 km, so I didn’t accept. He suggested 70 RMB. I went over to a taxi, and the taxi driver wanted 100 RMB. By this time, I just walked away, planning to just look at the map and try to start walking (it was still daytime). But then the first guy came running after me, suggesting 50 RMB this time. I accepted.

There’s something silly about all of this. In Norway, I wouldn’t hesitate to pay the equivalent of 80 RMB (which is, by the way, about 80 NOK) for a short taxi trip. But I know that things are cheaper in China, and the feeling that I’m being cheated is not pleasant, even though I can certainly afford being cheated. It’s a bit tiresome. I don’t mind paying a bit too much, but would prefer not paying double of what other people pay…

Anyway, I got to the hotel, and by the time I was settled in the room, it was 8 at night. So I decided to call room service for something to eat and call it a day. I always prefer to start investigating an unknown city in daylight.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

1,111,111 hits...

My blogs passed 1,111,111 hits today.

As I forgot to mention passing 1,100,000, I thought maybe it was appropriate to mention this cool number... :-)

Movie: Kurt blir grusom



Kurt is a Norwegian children’s book character, and this animated movie is the first time I’ve made acquaintance with him. Some of the animation is very good, and I really enjoy Atle Antonsen’s part as Kurt (voice). However, it will probably be funnier for kids than for me…

Kurt blir grusom (2008)

(See a register of all movies I've seen at Collectorz.com.)

Garbage collection in Taipei

"Für Elise" will never feel the same.

Every afternoon at 10 past 7, the garbage collector van passes in the street outside, and from every apartment a person emerges with today's garbage.

Probably necessitated by the climate, the system is also an interesting social ritual in which neighbours see each other every day. Any research on the consequences for social stability and understanding?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Taipei Zoo

I had a great day in Taipei Zoo, even though it was raining quite a lot in the beginning. Here's a slide show of some of my photos:

All movies I've ever seen

Being a statistics nerd, I'm happy that I'm now having a "database" (of sorts) of all the movies I've ever seen, online: My movie database. (I've kept track of all movies I've seen since 1984...)

Currently, it's not very searchable, though, it seems it can only search on movie titles so far.

1416 movies are included. Which gives me the chance to look at some statistics that are interesting to me. (The statistics are from the desktop version of the collectors.com software):

Directors:
I've seen 26 Woody Allen films. Other directors:
2. Pier Paolo Pasolini 12
3. Pedro Almodovar 11
4. Joel Coen 9
4. Alfred Hitchcock 9
6. Richard Linklater 8
6. James Ivory 8
6. Sydney Pollack 8
6. Steven Spielberg 8

Actors:
1. Woody Allen 23
2. Harrison Ford 16
3. Peter Sellers 14
4. Antonio Banderas 13
4. Gene Hackman 13
6. Johnny Depp 12
6. John Cleese 12
6. Eddie Murphy 12
6. Jack Nicholson 12
I'm fascinated to see that there are no women among the top 9...

Genres (according to Collectorz.com):
1. Drama 819
2. Comedy 616
3. Romance 274

Country:
1. USA 661
2. UK 169
3. Norway 97
4. France 92
5. Italy
(in all, 60 countries are represented)

I have no idea, by the way, why I saw only 21 movies in 2002, while I saw 135 movies in 1997. This year (2009), however, I will see more movies than any year since 1997.

According to the database, the 1416 are a total of 2481 hours 27 minutes. That is only 103 days of watching movies (only counting the first viewing of every movie).

This is all very well, and probably more interesting to me than to anyone else. But the point of blogging about it is that there are (finally) some okay software around for keeping track of movies...

Movie: Honokaa Boy



A Japanese movie taking place in Hawaii (USA), with no car chases or explosions but with lots of original characters and human emotions.

This movie is slow, but never boring, magical without losing touch with reality completely. Should we call it a movie about finding peace?

The good thing about being locked in an airplane for nine hours is that I see films that I otherwise would never have even heard of.



Honokaa bôi (2009)

Director: Atsushi Sanada

Interesting actors:
Masaki Okada as Leo
Chieko Baisho as Bee

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Funny Quotes of the Week 35

"What do I think of Western civilisation? I think it would be a very good idea." (Mahatma Gandhi)

"You have to be 100% behind someone, before you can stab them in the back." (David Brent)

"Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon." (Woody Allen)

Frikar article in Aftenposten

Aftenposten has an article today about Frikar, the group of dancers dancing for Alexander Rybak (among other things). Seems cool!