Monday, October 31, 2011

Presentations/Movie Today

I am going to attempt a double post here.

I thought the presentations were very informative. I learned a lot about subjects that I probably would have never learned about, like Swedish prisons and Finnish logging. I found that each presentation gave me enough information to get a good picture of what the subject was about and sparked an interest to learn more about it. I look forward to the next round.

Now switching gears, I found the movie today extremely enjoyable. I was hooked right from the beginning and I can't wait to find out what happens. The story line is very intense and I can't say that I've seen a movie that is anything like it. I'm pulling for the boy to stay with the Swedish family, but that's just my opinion.

Comments on the Film

I also really enjoyed the movie today. I think it's interesting to see a movie from the point of view of a child, because films usually tend to focus on the action of the war itself, rather than the widespread impact it has throughout all aspects of society. On a somewhat related note, if anyone is interested in the WWII era in general, there is a really good Danish film, called Flame and Citron, that I just watched about the Danish resistance in WWII. It's a different country and different perspective of the war, but it is a very interesting movie, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the time period and how the war affected the Scandinavian countries.

Today's Movie

I loved the movie today. I thought that it gave a such a powerful message and an accurate portrayal of what went on in Finland during the war. I was curious about how many children got shipped away, and I am really looking forward to watching the rest of the movie, and seeing what happens to Erro.
I thought the presentations were a great way to learn about things that interest our classmates. They were very informative, and I look forward to the next round of them. The big thing that stood out to me, was that Scandinavia is just awesome... except for maybe the sterilizations. In general, Scandinavia is a world leader in many fields, and has a very rich culture. Like I said before, I'm excited to listen to our next presentations.


I really enjoyed the presentations. It was a great way to learn about a wide and interesting variety of topics that in the end gave a broad picture and outline of Scandinavia. I think what I learned about Scandinavia, like the presentations, is that there are a lot of really interesting topics and cultures that make up Scandinavia and to learn about. Eco-friendliness and technology are forefront and center in Scandinavia, and because of this they are a global leader in innovation. Art, history, nature, culture and traditions are all important as well. While they are involved in and care about the future, they also make sure to place an importance on the past and on keeping and celebrating traditions.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Presentation Reflection

Like everyone else, I found the presentations to be very informative and interesting.

I was especially surprised by the Swedish Eugenics presentation because I had no idea that actually happened, and so (relatively) recently at that! The Nuclear Power information caught me a bit off guard as well. In 1980 Sweden actually planned to close all their power plants by 2010? What a surprise! I would not have though that from the reputation Scandinavian countries have about their "green" cities and culture. Though it is important to remember that Nuclear energy is not renewable, but is preferable to burning coal because of the extremely limited carbon emissions involved in the energy system.

However, listening to all the good, happy, and "better-than-thou" presentations about Scandinavia actually made me curious about what the countries actually do wrong! You can't truly understand a country or a region if you only know its positive aspects--that's only half the story. Perhaps that's why I found the Eugenics and Nuclear energy information so impressionable. I'll be interested to hear more about the controversial and "hot" topics in Scandinavia.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Paper Presentations

I think the presentations from this past week really helped to sort of describe in detail the types of things we highlighted in our group presentations on the countries. It was great to see so many specific examples of all of the broad topics we covered. It was also interesting to learn about such a wide range of topics from art to sustainability and everything in between. I think it helps us paint a good picture of Scandinavia, while at the same time reminding us that generalizations are just that: generalizations, and their is a lot of specific knowledge to be gained from every aspect of studying the Scandinavian countries, and also by looking at them from the perspective of each individual country. I thought it was interesting learning about prisons in Scandinavia, because it had not been something I had though about before, but when you look at the way they build and run their prisons, I think it's incredible how different it is from other regions/countries, and I found it very interesting. Also, you can see how it fits into the general structure of society, and how they are more focused on positive things and moving forward, like rehabilitation and believing in a person's ability to change, than negative things, like punishment. Just by looking at a smaller aspect of society, we can begin to see a broader picture, and it seems that these more specific and focused studies reflect broad Scandinavian views and are consistent with general societal values.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Presentation Reaction

Overall, I think the presentations in class over the past week have helped give me a more nuanced perspective of Scandinavia. Frequently, many of the positives and negatives about Scandinavia are glossed over and generalizations are made that limit Americans knowledge about the region. The presentations emphasized the diversity of the peoples and cultures throughout Scandinavia. I thought many of the presentations showcased the economic and environmental innovations that are found throughout Scandinavia well. Additionally, the cultural and historical background provided by the presentations was helpful and put some of the group presentations earlier in the year in context. I liked that many people focused on specific countries, highlighting the many unique aspects of all the Scandinavian cultures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Thoughts

I have learned so much in the past three days, thanks to everyones’ presentations. Previously, I knew very little about Scandinavia. I was aware of silly things such as IKEA and Volvo and a few broad things like the eco-friendliness and high taxes, but I now know so much more. Scandinavia has been leaders in vastly different subjects areas for a long time. The rest of the world has a lot to learn from them, anything from the production/distillation of vodka, to the health care system. It seems that they all have a great sense of happiness, wealth, health and government and it really makes me want to study abroad there this summer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thoughts After the Presentations

Before I took this class, I knew that Scandinavia had high taxes and a lot of government programs. I was a little skeptical of this and I thought the people of Scandinavia would be dissatisfied by it. But through this class and the presentations, I can see that Scandinavia actually has a pretty good system. I am most impressed by the high quality of life and high happiness ratings. It seems to me that even though Scandinavian countries have high taxes, the people are happy because the governments use the taxes in ways that benefit their citizens. Their healthcare system seems to work and the government has programs that directly help out the citizens instead of giving money to the military and big corporations. I am most impressed by the way they try to look into the future by making education a top priority for students.

A Better Understanding of Scandinavia

Over the past three classes of presentations, I feel that I am starting to get a clearer picture of Scandinavian civilization and the important aspects of each country. There were a few central themes of the presentations: innovation, health and wellness, and a high regard for culture. All three categories were covered in the presentations of our five countries, and again in the individual presentations of the last three weeks. Concerning innovation, the Scandinavian countries are not only pioneers in various industries, but they are now applying the ingenuity to solving the global climate crisis. For health and wellness, there seems to be value for healthy development through the lifespan of Scandinavian citizens. Scandinavians are lifelong learners, and they value a healthy and happy population so that everyone thrives, not just the people with the most money. Finally, culture is important to any country or region of the world, but Scandinavians seem to keep culture as a higher priority than some other countries. Whether it is theater, literature, music, sports, or art, Scandinavians keep their history and culture at the forefront of their lives.

Aung San Suu Kyi

I found the Wallenberg lecture very interesting yesterday. Aung San Suu Kyi delivered a lecture that had been pre-recorded, and she gave a good background of what she had been through and the feelings she encountered along the way. Despite winning the popular vote in the 1990 election, she had already been placed under house arrest by the Burmese government for opposing the system in place. She served under house arrest for 15 of the last 20 years, and was just released last year. She stressed the importance of freedom and defined it as "freedom from fear", mainly fear of the government. During her time on house arrest, she still gained supporters and made efforts to educate the Burmese people about democratic processes. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

The real treat came after the lecture, when San Suu Kyi joined us via Skype from Burma for a question and answer session. As students posed pretty challenging questions to her, she was able to rattle off extremely intelligent answers right away with no problem. I was shocked by her eloquence and ability to address every single question. She mainly stressed the importance of non-violent movements, and garnering awareness about democracy in less developed countries like Burma. I'm glad I attended the lecture and gained insight into the issues that the Burmese people face today.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New tax on fatty foods in Denmark

A tax on foods high in saturated fat would basically never fly in the United States, but I think it's an interesting idea.  It's a deterrent for buying fatty foods AND increases revenue for the Danish Government!

Learn more here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ingmar Bergman

I really enjoyed learning about Ingmar Bergman last week with Professor Cohen after finishing the Virgin Spring. I honestly had no idea who he really was, so it helped put into perspective just how influential his work was. I can see the how the Virgin Spring would be considered very controversial considering the rape scene, and the conflicting religious implications. After watching that I definitely want to see the Seventh Seal and see just how far he goes in terms of questioning God's existence. It's crazy to think how his personal battles would be reflected in his work, as he himself had a near death experience after which he loses his belief in God. That was relatively early in his career, so the conflict may have been evident through his later works. Bergman's career also was very intriguing because he went from a national celebrity to being exiled from his own country by the government on a botched tax evasion investigation. I would imagine the citizens of Sweden we outraged that their government would oust their own "hometown hero".

Monday, October 17, 2011

Virgin Darkness

I started the "Bergman Experience" with the youtube video that interviewed him on his private island.  It was clear that he was a reclusive man and uninterested in the happenings of the modern world.  I was surprised to see the type of life he had decided to life and what led to him living that way.  By the end of the clip, I realized that I had seen his film The Seventh Seal in high school.  I recalled it being deep fantasy and dark.  Beyond that, I really had no other memory of the plot.  
Going into The Virgin Spring I really had no idea what to expect.  The film appeared to be set in the late 1800s and I feel it achieved representing that time well.  The tradition of the virgin delivering the candles to church was new for me.  Is that something that happens after the spring thaw or is it more regular?  I've always known that virgins, in that time, were regarded as extremely sacred and special, but I was unaware how the non-virgin maidens were treated as such deviants in society.  
The movie followed a fairly predictable course: introduction of the main characters; set the scene for the activity of the movie; the journey to the church, but then the introduction of the old man on the creek and the killing of the virgin were very unexpected events.  I did not understand who, or what purpose, the old man at the creek was or served.  Then the rape and killing of the virgin was a major shock.  The realism and brutality of that scene, I believe sent shivers down all of our spines.  The darkness in contrast to this beautiful spring setting was overpowering.  I started to ask the question to myself, "if this journey is so long or dangerous, why did she almost travel alone or feel at ease during the entire trip?" 
I was puzzled throughout the movie by the involvement of the frog.  What purpose did it serve and what did it represent?   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Deer Tracks, Swedish Band, Music

Hey all,

I've taken advantage of my fall break to update/organize parts of my music collection (what little there is, I don't know what I'd do without Pandora). So I was surfing Amazon's free mp3 songs/albums when I came across and downloaded the song "Ram ram" by The Deer Tracks. It was a song in an album called Scandinavian Gold. I didn't realize they were a Swedish Band until I listened to the one song and then they started speaking Swedish.

I did a quick google on them and it's funny how "stereotypically scandinavian" the band is in the sense that they are very nature oriented. The band has it's recording studio in a wooded cabin and takes breaks "splashing in the rivers". Just thought it was an interesting piece of information I stumbled upon and wanted to share. Here's their website if you want to read more about them:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Movie Response

The Virgin Spring had the special quality of being relevant in today's society despite being filmed about 50 years ago. In the 60s, it would have challenged the mainstream's ideas about sex and violence in film as well as religious ideals. Today, it still encourages conversation about who God is, what his role is in human life, and if there even is a God. I also felt that it posed a question about the validity of capital punishment as a method of justice.

I was especially impressed with Bergman's ability to make the rape feel as violating and uncomfortable for the viewer as it did despite it not being outrageously graphic by today's standards. The actions of the characters included subtleties that added numerous layers to the their motives and the story as a whole. This is why it was so interesting to hear from Professor Cohen about different aspects of the movie. He pointed out the meaning of details that I hadn't even considered. I currently plan on watching The Seventh Seal over fall break -- he basically made me a Bergman fan over the course of his talk.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Virgin Spring Response

I found the film to be quite interesting. Especially for having been filmed in the 1960s, it seems like it must have brought up a lot of issues in society. The film, comes off quite dark with many controversial themes. The rape scene in particular was shocking to me. I can only image when the film came out it must have been reacted to far worse. What came across the most to me as one of the most shocking issues was the questioning of religion throughout the film.

movie reaction

As I walked into the room, a few minutes late, I was greeted by the scene of the wretched girl (whose name I cannot recall) talking to Odin. The look on her face looked as if she had been possessed and my initial reaction was confusion about what exactly was going on. The one thing that was clear, however, was the fact that this woman is full of evil intentions. This idea was confirmed when the girl Karin was introduced. The scene where Karins mother helps her daughter get dressed allowed the viewer a recognize the contrast between the two girls. Karin is presented as this sweet, young, innocent young lady who is full of joy. Granted she is spoiled by her parents, she is overall, full of goodness. It becomes obvious that Karins parents devote much attention and love for their daughter, while for the stray girl, who is a part of the household, the compassion is lacking. It makes it obvious now, that the stray girl is full of hatred for Karin. This sets the field for what happens next as the girls are set out to town to deliver candles to their church. The events that follow become pretty graphic, when in short, the evil girl abandons Karins presence and sets a couple of woodsmen to brutally rape and kill Karin. The degrees of extreme that the movie quickly jumped to caught me ax a surprise but I am excited to see how Karins father Is going to deal with the men who killed his daughter now that they are spending the night at their farm!

Liz - Movie Response

I was honestly pretty horrified after watching the majority of this movie. It seems to be in-keeping with the theme of morbidity in Scandinavian fiction (children's books excluded). As for what I think will happen next, the girls father has a butcher knife, and they have shown virtually ever other graphic scene in it's entirety, the last scene will probably be no different. Duly noted is the lack of music; it makes for a very exhausting plot with nothing to guide the audience emotionally.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Virgin Spring Response

I thought the movie was excellent. Although I am not a movie buff, I have seen other Bergman films, and they usually include a lot of suspense. This one definitely follows in his tragic and suspenseful themes. I was very interested in the relationship between the father and the daughter, as I felt the mother was jealous of her husband, and wanted to receive more affection back from her daughter, which is why she bent over backwards to please her. I am also surprised the father did not kill Ingerid. She seems to cause a lot of trouble, and it killed me that she just stood there and watched her "sister" get raped and murdered. It was extremely graphic and somewhat shocking to see, however, it really added to the plot, and I cannot wait to see what more is in store and how it ends!

Virgin Spring Response

Like many on this blog have already admitted I had my doubts when the movie first started. It seemed to be a slow moving black and white film with no action. As the movie progressed, I realized how wrong I was, and I found the movie really interesting. After we finished watching the movie on Monday, I did some background searching and found out that the movie takes place in the 1300s and was made in 1960. It was obviously a highly controversial film at the time, but it also won many awards, a lot of which were foreign film awards. The most noted controversies were obviously the rape scene, but also the scene where the boy is throwing up, and it is believed to be the first film that showed that on screen. As for predictions for the ending, I think that the father will murder the guilty men, and I think it will be interesting to see if the film depicts the living sister and the rest of her life and whether or not she feels guilty. I am anxious to see how the movie ends.

Virgin Spring

Virgin Spring definitely started off very slowly, but after a bit it became very suspenseful and intriguing. When it was slow in the beginning, I found myself looking for themes and other cinematic strategies. While cinematic techniques do not have much to do with Scandinavian, or specifically, Swedish culture, one of the themes definitely did. The theme of the Norse God's versus Christianity prevailed throughout the film. To me, it seemed as though Bergman favored Christianity. Ingeri represented the old Norse Gods, while the innocent wealthy daughter represented Christianity. The vast majority of characters prayed to the Christian God for simple and nice things like for God not to smite them on that day. Ingeri, on the other hand, prayed for and "willed" the daughter's rape/murder to happen. However, she did feel extreme guilt and confessed. Perhaps the ending to the movie will shed some light on which religion, if either, Bergman wants to portray as superior.

Virgin Spring Reaction

It appears that one of the themes of the movie is the conflict between Norse mythology and Christianity. The family is Christian and Ingeri follows Norse mythology. I think that this difference in religion helps to show what Sweden was like during the conversion to Christianity. From what I have read and heard, it was almost like one day Sweden wasn't Christian and the next day Christianity was the official religion. So, some Swedes converted right away and other Swedes had no idea Christianity existed. The two religions both remained side by side for many years after the official conversion.

Movie Post

I'm not going to lie when I say that I was completely uninterested in watching this movie. It started out slow and confusing, but quickly picked up into a pretty suspenseful film. I am still shocked that they showed the rape/murder scene. I definitely was not expecting that. Overall, I think this movie is very good and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Bjork in Michigan Daily

Check it out...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bergman's Virgin Spring Reaction

What I found most interesting about the film was its portrayal of religion in Sweden in the 1300s. It reminded me of something we had discussed throughout the Icelandic Sagas class, as the sagas were written around the same time. We focused a lot on the conversion to Christianity, and how it was likely a slow transition as opposed to a sudden and abrupt change. I think the way Christianity is portrayed in the film demonstrates this, in that Ingeri makes references to Odin and the strange guy in the woods seems to practice pagan rituals, despite the fact that this is many years after the conversion and though Christianity was becoming more widespread, the presence of the pagan religion was embedded into their culture and still remained years after converison.

Response to Virgin Spring

For this to be a film from the 1960's, you can tell that it was extremely controversial. But despite the obvious, I really thought there was some unique symbolism. The pregnant sister I felt really represented that there are flaws in every family. The little boy who was with the older brothers who committed rape seemed to feel true sorrow when he couldn't even eat at night. The suspense built was a good process, because everybody is waiting for the end of the film to tie everything together. I also enjoyed some very cool camera shots, like when the father was knocking down the tree with the horizon in the background. I didn't expect to see such great qualities in such an old movie.


Response to Virgin Spring

Usually when I have to watch a movie for a class, I am disinterested and I keep one eye on the clock, waiting to move on with my life. While I was primed with that low expectation for Virgin Spring, I was gradually engrossed by the film. Maybe it is because it is based in a different setting than the movies I usually watch, or maybe it was the attractive blonde girl. Either way, it was a great way to learn about Bergman's work and gain a new perspective on screen arts and Sweden. Besides the educational aspect, this movie is edgy for something that was produced in 1960, and I can't wait to catch the ending on Wednesday!

Bergman Video Response

I was surprised by some of the content of the movie. Particularly the conflict between how religious the family appears to be and how they act. Ingeri is pregnant and scorned by her mother and the father seems eager to get revenge, for example. The rape scene was controversial and unexpected, and probably more so in the 1960's. I doubt it would be in many movies today, due to the graphic nature and sensitive subject matter that would offend a majority of audience members. I felt like showing it seemed unnecessarily dramatic.

The character I found most interesting was Ingeri, the other sister, because she appears to be the black sheep of the family and does not seem to follow their religious beliefs or be very popular with the mother. However, when she confesses to her father about willing Karin's death, he seemed supportive and sensitive. Overall, I also really liked the costumes and the scenery and am curious as to what occurs next.

Virgin Summer Reaction - Sam

I thought the movie was pretty good. Since the movie was created in the 1960, I thought a few of the scenes seemed rather modern for its time. I was surprised there was a rape scene shown, I am sure that scene was very controversial when it came out because I am pretty sure movies back then did not show such provocative and scandalous things. I am actually really interested in how the rest of the movie plays out, and whether or not the father seeks revenge and kills the two brothers who are still alive.
I do wish that I spoke/understood Swedish because event with the best translations you can loose some meaning. Regardless, this movie looks like it is going to be pretty good, as long as the rest of it is as good as what we saw in class already.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Internships in Sweden

It is very fascinating to listen to people talk about their experiences abroad, especially since they went to an area that I am also interested in. And just as Nina pointed out and Mackenzie said, it is so much easier to listen to these people talk and learn from then, rather than the usual route of memorizing hard facts with no real knowledge of what these facts mean.

It was great to listen to Collin and Andy talk about all the fun they had in Sweden and it makes me even more excited to study abroad in Sweden this summer. I even have this idea or hope of finding a job dealing with my major (biomedical engineering) that allows me to work out of the country and travel. Overall, I found their presentations on their experiences very insightful and I really enjoyed having them come to our class.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Scand Interns

The internship presentations were fantastic.  It was great hearing from American students about their journey to Scandinavia living there and working.  I thought the coolest thing was the small-world feel of their adventures.  It seemed like at every corner and in every city they were able to find friends that they had met along their journey.  All of these people sounded incredibly kind and open.  I spent the summer in China and understand what it feels like to live in another country for a summer.  Since they had the language proficiency, I believe their experience was totally different than mine.  I would like to live abroad next summer (work at the Olympics) and I will definitely remember their experience.  

Internships in Sweden

I totally agree with Nina. I always learn a lot of interesting things about a country when we have a speaker come in, and it seems more personal. I also was not aware of all of the opportunities open to us for study abroad and internships, both things that I hope to do, either in Sweden or somewhere else in Europe. I was actually worried that Sweden wouldn't have very many internship opportunities because of the size, so it was nice to hear from people who had worked there.

As Nina was saying, I also went on AISEC and it will be a great resource for finding an internship and actually going abroad.

Iceland Videos

As a follow up from the Iceland presentation today, here are 2 videos.

Bjork: All is Full of Love Music Video

2011 Iceland Tourist Video

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Internships in Sweden

I found the presentation on Swedish internships very helpful because I am also looking for internships at this point in my college career. I've been fumbling around with the idea of overseas internships but (obviously), it much harder to put together than one with a company close to home. The speakers gave me a better idea of what a foreign lifestyle might be like (language issues, travel, homestays, apartment prices, work schedules, friends, etc). The last five minutes of class was also helpful because I had never heard of AISEC before ( I actually did google it and read more about it).

I've found that its often the tangent conversations about the Swedish culture that I learn the most from the speakers, not the cold, hard facts about the country. Anyone else feel the same way?