Get in touch with your inner Finn

In recent years, Finland has become the world’s model society in many categories and nobody’s as surprised as Finns themselves! Want to celebrate the eastern European country like a native? Here’s how.

Do not call Finland an “eastern European country.” Yes, it is the eastern-most country in the EU, but it took decades for Finns to convince themselves they were a part of the West. However, to get a feel for that 1970s eastern European flavor, stop by U.Kaleva, a bar named after Urho Kaleva Kekkonen, who was the president of Finland between 1956 and 1981.

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How to make a hit TV show

Long gone are the days when television was simply a box in the heart of the living room. Instead, television is everywhere – in your living room, on your tablet, and – yes – even on that phone of yours, thanks to streaming and to new operators, such as Netflix and Amazon, who have entered the production game as well.

Who among us isn’t working her way through one or several TV shows right now? And when we’re not watching the shows, we’re talking about them. We want more shows, new shows, new things to devour, love and get hooked on.

Naturally, Hollywood and the new players are after hits. Shows and movies that get everybody’s attention. The must-sees. The challenge for the producers is that creating a hit is easier said than done. Here are ten things to consider.

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Smurf’s up!

In 1958, Pierre Culliford, better known as Peyo – a pen name he had coined after a cousin kept mispronouncing Pierrot, his French nickname – predicted that in “three years from now, no one will talk about them anymore.”

He meant a set of comic characters he had created, after he had forgotten the word for salt and had asked for “schtroumpf” instead.

What Culliford smurfed up was a magical village of blue creatures three apples tall and each with one distinct characteristic. They sing and dance, have parties and live a happy life under the guidance of Papa Smurf, their wise old leader.

The Smurfs made their first appearance in Spirou magazine in 1958, as secondary characters in a Johan and Peewit series, set in the Middle Ages.

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Marcus Samuelsson – community chef

Marcus Samuelsson is many things. He’s a father, a husband, a chef, an entrepreneur, an employer, an author and a TV personality. He knows what he wants, and just as importantly, he knows what he doesn’t want. But the thing he seems to like doing the most is to open new restaurants. And since achieving fame as the youngest ever chef to receive a three-star review from The New York Times in the mid 1990s, he has been opening restaurants all over the place.

Now 48 years old, Samuelson was born in Ethiopia and raised in Gothenburg and the village of Smögen. He began to learn his craft in his grandmother’s kitchen and at restaurants in Switzerland, France and Japan. He then moved to New York, where he now lives and from where he runs a network of more than two dozen restaurants.

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Gospel of Boston

His father and grandfather built houses, but rather than homes, Jonas Reinholdsson is turning his O’Learys into a sports bar empire.

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.” That’s the opening line of the 1980s TV show Cheers, about a Boston bar, its staff and all the regulars. Cheers was the place where “everybody knows your name.”

And it was that kind of place Jonas Reinholdsson wanted to open when, as a 26- year-old looking for a fresh start, he bought a debt-laden Gothenburg restaurant for one Swedish krona.

Today, Reinholdsson’s single restaurant has grown into more than 130 franchises in 12 countries. Most are in the Nordics but as far as Reinholdsson is concerned, the journey has only just begun – he foresees 150 restaurants in the Nordics and 250 restaurants in total by 2019.

“I want to grow into one of the world’s biggest restaurant chains. We opened 21 new bars in 2016, we’ll do 25 this year, 35 more in 2018 and 50 in 2019,” he says. “If things go to plan, we’ll be opening one restaurant per week.”

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Pesäpallo helps Finnish hockey goalies

Last season, 92 goaltenders played in the NHL. Eleven of them (12 percent) were from Finland. That was up from nine in the previous season and tied the record from 2009.

Over the years, 30 Finnish goalies have played 4,411 regular-season games in the NHL. But only five of them played in the league before 1999.

So why has Finland — with a population of 5.5 million, one-sixth that of Canada — been producing so many world-class goalies in recent years?

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Hjalmarsson hooked on winning

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Six years ago, almost to the day, the tiny village of Russnäs (population 90) in Sweden was bustling. Right at the intersection off the main road that leads to the big road that takes you to the highway, under the sign that welcomes visitors to the village, there was a big photo of Niklas Hjalmarsson in his Chicago Blackhawks jersey, with a message to the young man.

“Congratulations, Stanley Cup champion” it said in Swedish. Next to it, there was a tin-foil replica of the Cup.

The then-23-year-old defenseman had spent most of his two previous seasons in the AHL but had taken a permanent spot in the Blackhawks’ lineup that season. He addressed the villagers (and thousands of other fans) next to the playground where he had played as a kid, standing next to bales of hay and the Stanley Cup, his voice hoarse from a fun night with his family and friends.

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Inside the box

Jens Bergensten, the lead creative designer of the hit game Minecraft, doesn’t mind being boxed in sometimes. It’s a challenge that just keeps his creative juices flowing.

It’s been a whirlwind of a spring for Jens Bergensten. Not only has he seen the release of Cobalt, a game that took six years to develop, he also ­became a father for the first time.

And as lead creative designer of Minecraft, the award-winning, first-person sandbox video game, he is also kept busy ­overseeing its development.

It’s been less than six years since the lanky redhead started at Mojang, the game development company behind Mine­craft, which had been released about a year earlier. Bergensten was hired to work on Scrolls, another Mojang game. But over the Christmas holidays, when his colleagues left the office for vacation, ­Bergensten added a few things to Minecraft, such as a way to add color to wool blocks in the game.

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Straight to the heart

Emmylou Harris doesn’t care about labels too much. All she wants to do is sing, and tell stories with her songs. A lifetime of stories brought her the Polar Music Price in 2015.

You can’t tell stories without looking back, because without looking back, you can never tell which way the story goes. But in every story, if you do look back and look hard enough, you will find the point where it turns, and where the story begins.

For Emmylou Harris, that moment was when Chris Hillman saw her singing at a Washington, D.C. Coffeeshop, and suggested to former Byrds bandmate Gram Parsons that he check her out. Parsons was working on an album, and Hillman thought Harris would be an asset.

“When I got his call I didn’t know who he was. We met at the train station. I was playing Clyde’s that night. We worked up a few numbers between sets and sang them to this tiny crowd. Gram said it sounded good and he’d call me. I thought, ‘Oh, sure…’,” Harris has said.

She was on her way to the stars. The year was 1972.

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Comedy masterclass

One of them compares the relationship to a perfect marriage. The other says they’ve never had a fight. Comedians Henrik Schyffert and Fredrik Lindström are in perfect sync.

The first thing you notice about Henrik Schyffert and Fredrik Lindström is that they are big. Big men, that is. Both are tall, and both have what people call “presence.” In short, you will not fail to notice them entering the room.

That’s a good thing when you’re an entertainer working a room, which is what the duo has done most recently, touring the past two years with their two-man show Ägd (“Owned”).

(Full disclosure: My son played a small part in the show between 2014 and 2016, and as his traveling companion I’ve seen the show dozens of times.)

Schyffert and Lindström take a bow with Son.

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