Displaying articles for: May 2012

Fetch the Remote


"Plenty of things will grab a dog's attention: squirrels, tennis balls, funny smells, other dogs. But a TV channel? Absolutely, say the makers of DogTV, the first cable network to deliver 24-hour programming for dogs." -- The New York Times

"Okay, I've had Wolf Blitzer's agent on the phone for an hour, and he's not going to sign. Without Wolf, we don't have a morning show. Not after we lost Ellen Barkin. We can't keep rerunning Fox & Friends."

"Our audience loves Fox & Friends. Especially the fox. I don't think the morning is our problem. Throw a few reruns of Bones in there, and everyone's happy."


"I didn't get into this business just to program reruns. I want to develop new programming. I just screened the pilot of Ruff Justice, and I think it's a winner. We can pair that with Mike & Collie and that's Monday night, completely taken care of."

"Yeah, at a thousand times the cost of our flying frisbee show -- and we haven't had a single complaint about twelve hours a day of flying frisbees. I don't know what you're worried about."


"I'm worried about stagnation. We can't keep running frisbees, mailmen, Lassie episodes from twenty years ago, and old Alan Ladd movies and expect our audience to stick around. We have to innovate. I have a doggerel competition in development -- surely we can do something with that. I've had interest from Claire Danes to be the moderator -- she'd obviously be great. She even volunteered to read some Archibald MacLeish poems."

"Did you even read the focus group reports? Our audience wants Goofy and Pluto cartoons, Alpo infomercials, and selected episodes of America's Funniest Home Videos -- at least three times a day. You're barking up the wrong tree. They don't want highbrow."


"They don't know what they want until we give it to them. I want to do a political hour. I have a call in to Barbara Boxer. She'd be perfect. Plus, Angela Bassett is interested in narrating a documentary about the Bouvier family."

"Don't be so cavalier -- you're not listening. I want wagging tales and fetching beauties. You saw what happened with your attempt last season at a game show."

"Heel of Fortune could have been a huge hit if we gave it more time. There's a learning curve. Our audience needed to get used to the format. We had the perfect host, and now I don't know if Bob Barker will even take our calls. You're not thinking about the future. At some point, we're not going to have any episodes of Benji left in the vault."

"Then we'll run them again. Our viewers won't know the difference."


"This is what you always do -- you underestimate our audience. We don't have to pander to the lowest common denominator. We can enlighten while we entertain. I'm not saying we need to cancel the bouncing balls. I'm just saying we don't need to run a marathon of them every single weekend. What about some service journalism, a Jim Shepard story reading, or maybe an evening concert with the Pointer Sisters?"


"We don't have the budget for any of that." 

"Which is why no one watches our late-night programming. It's all infomercials for chew toys and three hours of a dancing stick."

"That stick gets our highest ratings."

"We can do better -- especially with our older, more mature, middle of the night viewers. I know I've pitched this before…"

"No -- for the last time -- DogTV After Dark is off the table."


"I'm just saying, there's an audience for that kind of thing. And we already have the collars and restraints…"

"There is not an audience for that kind of thing."


"At least let me develop some reality shows. Jersey Paw?  Actual Dog the Bounty Hunter?"

"No. We just need more frisbees. You get me more frisbees, and then we'll talk. They are the warp and woof of our business"

"Fine, Buster. I'll get you more frisbees."


"Thanks, Buddy. I appreciate it. And I hope the station owner gets back soon. I really need someone to take me out." 


Jeremy Blachman wishes his apartment building allowed dogs.


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Dan Bergstein is a writer whose work has appeared on Twitter.


Enormous, Blonde, Herring-Scented, Nauseatingly Fair-Minded Nymphomaniacs in Clogs


Part III: Flat-pack Your Ego, Darling. You're Nothing Special!


By the way, what is love? The writer Hjalmar Söderberg called it "nothing but the lust of the flesh, and the incurable loneliness of the soul." This kind of gritty, unromantic realism endears the Swedes to me. They don't expect happiness. In America, we consider happiness our birthright. The Constitution instructs us to pursue it. We're brought up to think if we're not happy there's something wrong. To my way of thinking, this is asking for trouble.


Here's a little poem that says it all:



Ångest, ångest är min arvedel,

min strupes sår,

mitt hjärtas skri i världen.


-- Pär Lagerkvist (1916)





Angst, angst is my heritage,

my throat's wound,

my heart's shriek in the night.


Isn't that cute?


Another verse, from a song, which is actually Danish, sums up what is, to me, a typically Scandinavian world view: "Life is not the worst that we have, and pretty soon, coffee is ready!" This is my kind of philosophy.


In Sweden, being ordinary rules. Remember, you're nothing special! Or, as Swedes might express it, you are "Inte mycket att hänga i julgranen!" (Trans: Nothing to hang on the Christmas tree!)


On the "yta", or surface, Sweden doesn't really seem that different. But the more often I return, the deeper that "yta" is scratched. For one thing, the following scenario would never have played out on the home front. I made a "våldgästade" (trans: "violent visit", or unexpected visit) to my friend Lene's apartment one Sunday afternoon. Now, this is a vibrant and beautiful thirty-one-year-old woman. She was happily occupied with a task I couldn't fathom. "What are you doing?" I asked.


"I am making washcloths" she replied.


I just thought about that for a while. There is a scene in Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits where a neurotic and glamorous neighbor visits the calm domestic scene of chez Juliet, played by Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina. "What are you doing?" the neighbor inquires. "Stringing peppers," replies Masina. "Ah!" cries the woman, "if I could string peppers, I would be saved!"


Swedes don't need yoga. They find inner peace through home economics. How many men do you know who make their own pants? How many bachelors, of any sexual proclivity, who bake fresh bread twice a week?


I lost my virginity in Central Park. I danced every night at The Mudd Club and Studio 54. I've lived in Paris. I was on The Sopranos. David Bowie bought me a cheeseburger. Now, there's little I want more than this, my remote Scandinavian backwater. Wait -- I take that back. I need New York too -- like the turkey needs the axe.


As an illustrator I can work, via e-mail, from anyplace there is internet access. New York and Sweden. I want both. Toward that end, I am now in the process of applying for a Swedish green card. I was complaining of the difficulty and expense of this bureaucratic nightmare, when Lene pointed out that I was blessed to have marvelous lives on either side of the pond and had no right to grouse. She said, "We have an expression in Sweden: It's like you want to have your cake and eat it, too." I corrected her. "No. It's like I want to have my cake, eat it too, and then I want more cake!"


I had a frank conversation with immigration. It went something like this:


LR: I'm an American citizen, but I want to buy a house in Sweden. What are the rules for residency here?


IM: So you're married to a Swede?


LR: No, I'm not married.


IM: Oh, so sorry. So you're living with a Swedish man, then.


LR: No. But I once was married to a Swedish man.


IM: Okay, then!


LR: But we divorced in 1985.


IM: That's too bad.


LR: You're telling me!


IM: So, you have children in Sweden? Swedish children?


LR: No. No children.


IM: No children? Oh, well. Perhaps a Swedish company employs you.


LR: No, not employed.


IM: No job?


LR: I'm freelance.


IM: [Silence]


LR: But I have a lot of friends here.


IM: Oh, friends don't count.


LR: [Silence]


IM: But what reason could you possibly have to want to live here?


LR: The way you're talking, you make me feel like I have no reason to want to live at all. No man, no job, no children…Wait! I have an ex mother-in-law in Helsingborg.


IM: That doesn't mean anything.


LR: But she loves me very much!


IM: Look, we here in Sweden are very liberal. You don't have to be married. But to live here permanently and get a green card, you have prove you are in a serious personal relationship. Like for a couple of months or something.


LR: A couple of months? Is that all you people care about? Sex? I have to be having Swedish sex?


IM: Well, yeah!


LR: I'll see what I can do.


The city of Gothenburg was built on highly absorbent clay. Legend has it that this clay makes one sink in and stay. There might be something to that because while you are reading this, I'm on my way.


Rosenwald wrote New York Notebook and And to Name but Just a Few: Red, Yellow, Green, Blue. Her work can be enjoyed on www.rosenworld.com.


Enormous, Blonde, Herring-Scented, Nauseatingly Fair-Minded Nymphomaniacs in Clogs


Part II: Even Lisbeth Salander Shops at Ikea


It's no coincidence that Swedish authors have produced two of literature's most heretical characters. Rebels! Misfits! Horse lifters! Girls! Lisbeth Salander, according to her creator Stieg Larsson, was meant to be a modern apparition of Pippi Longstocking, picaresque protagonist of the children's books written by Astrid Lindgren in the 1940s.


The thing to remember with these radical gals who answer to nobody and follow no rules is that they are, and must be, entirely fictional. Because whether you're a pierced and tattooed bisexual master hacker with a mohawk in Söder or a freckle-faced, crimson-pigtailed orphan in Villa Villekula, living with a monkey in a green sailor suit and a polka-dotted horse and possessing "the strength of ten policemen," there's one rule that supersedes all others in Sweden: Jantelagen*.


What does it mean? Fit in. You don't want to stick out! Even drop-dead rebel Lisbeth Salander shops at IKEA and eats Billy's Pan Pizza.


  • Jantelagen is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticises individual achievement as inappropriate. -- Wikipedia


Because of equality and fairness, there's something called "the Swedish standard" and it's pretty high. It means one can buy a Château Pétrus even in remotest Lapland. Liquor is sold only in state-run stores, popularly known as "Systemet." The System. The System closes weekdays at 6, closes at 1 P.M. on Saturday, and is closed Sundays. The most Swedish thing one can do is to go to Systemet on Saturday at Noon. You will take a "nummerlapp" (a number from the Turn-o-Matic) and wait calmly and patiently for your turn to insure a desperately rowdy weekend. Enterprising drunks outside the shop might sell you a low number for a few kronor. Otherwise, bring literature. Wait.


Even after years of psychotherapy, my most burning issue is a complete lack of patience. Seemingly, Sweden has been designed especially to help me learn this virtue. There are not enough people in Sweden, so even at better restaurants, salad, bread, and water are on the sideboard. Help yourself. I'm thinking, "No. Help me." The waitress, the cashier, the mechanic, the cleaning lady, and you are all equals. Not only is the customer not always right, the customer is just plain lucky to receive service of any kind. Tipping is nominal. There are no false smiles. You'll never hear, "Hey! I'm Pernilla! How're you folks doin'?" Never.


Beer is available in strong, medium, and light versions. The most oft-spoken words are "En stor stark." A big strong one.


My favorite Swedish words are "Undulaut" and "Förnuftig." "Undulaut" seems like it should be some punctuation but actually means "parakeet." "Förnuftig" means "clever," and it has always seemed like something made-up the Swedish chef would say.


In addition to a lot of baking, sewing, and indoor hockey, Sweden has an extremely active yogurt culture. Almost frantic. Choose between "filmjölk", kefir, and forty-five kinds of the stuff, which is available in Japanese style, Russian style, "farmer" style, among others, each in a stupefying array of flavors, including cloudberry. You can buy no-fat, low-fat, medium-low-fat, medium-fat, medium-high, and "call your cardiologist" versions of all these things as well as "long" filmjölk, whatever that is.


Swedes squeeze food out of tubes. Liver paté, mushroom/cheese spread, crab paste, and the infamous "Kalle's Kaviar" (lumpfish roe) are very popular. My favorite is black pepper/cognac. There are special gizmos in refrigerators to hold the tubes. They squirt this stuff onto knäckebröd (crispbread), which they store in the special cupboard above the fridge. For fourteen years.


Swedes also eat a lot of korv (hot dogs), usually with mos (mashed potatoes). When they speak English they invariably say "smashed potatoes," and I can't correct them; it's too charming. Then there are the ketchup udders. At every korv kiosk (hot dog stand) there is a shocking lineup of assorted mustards and ketchups, each in a long, squeezable rubber udder. There's no other way to describe them. Udders.


The most serious television news shows interview political figures with a charming and homey milieu, including flowered curtains, blond wood, colorful pillows, pastries, and coffee. Nightline, take note: Why not macaroons? And ask The Daily Show: wouldn't Michael Moore enjoy a freshly baked cinnamon bun? How about banana bread for Fareed Zakaria?


You can buy herring in any gas station. Many of my friends, both men and women, use "snus" -- chewing tobacco, either loose or in small pouches. Tucked into their lower lips, this habit results in a distinctive, puffy demeanor. Loose candy is sold by the kilo, everywhere. Try some Body Parts, Salted Herring, Pirate Money, Squid, Coke Bottles, Fried Eggs, Pacifiers, Tongues, Rats, and Peppered Skeletons.


Whatever their sex lives may include, many Swedish people sleep in single beds. Together. Peculiar. But cozy. And they all travel with sheets and towels. You can try saying, "You don't need to bring your sheets and towels; I have everything here," but they will bring them all the same. They cannot be stopped.

If you go on a vacation with a Swede, watch out, because when exposed to direct sunlight, they tend to burst into flame.


On every street there are five or six hair "salonger." Most have frightening English names, like "Klipper Krazy." There is even a "Sweeney Todd" salon in Stockholm. With what seems like one salon for every twenty-five citizens, it's surprising that Swedes have a hair left on their heads.


Toilet paper is packaged in gigantic, 24 roll bales, wrapped in clear plastic with a handle on top. People run around in public with these, constantly and shamelessly.


Swedes don't talk, except at the movies.


Christmas means one thing. Festive Pigs!


Eye drops are illegal. Crazy glue is illegal. Hair dryers never get really hot. Sweden protects you.


I realized something. I gravitate toward this safety, cleanliness, and order with the rabid enthusiasm that most people look forward to an all-expenses-paid luxury vacation in the tropics and a big Lotto win.


Oscar Wilde said that simplicity is the last refuge of the complex. I could have taught him a thing or two.


Rosenwald created the animated App "David's Diary" together with David Sedaris and wrote All the Wrong People have Self -Esteem. Please visit www.rosenworld.com


July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.


When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).