Saturday, March 07, 2015

Travel Sweden Feb 2015 part 2: More on Uppsala and Television

It used to be, in the old days, you wouldn't leave the hotel for fear of hostile natives. Now you don't leave the hotel because you don't want to lose wifi. It's called progress. 
Uppsala is a small town dominated by a university and a cathedral.

University building: 4 people in this picture are statues.
Maths ball on top of university building.
Whilst the cathedral is big and impressive, the university has many buildings and some are quite intriguing. I’m not sure if the university and the cathedral have some sort of rivalry. It’s easy to imagine they do as they kind of represent opposing forces. Although they are both about receiving knowledge, how this knowledge is discovered is wildly different.
Something pink poking out of the undergrowth.
Also competing for dominance of the town is a large castle (or slott, as the very satisfying Swedish word for it is). It sits on a hill and tries to look all buff, but it's a bit too pink and phallic to be taken seriously. And not phallic in an imposing way, more of a comical way. It’s possibly a bit too short and squat to really do that dominance thing. How the castle really exerts is authority is by having six old cannons all trained on the church. It clearly isn’t worried about the university.
"Your move, God!"

Uppsala also has some theatres. But its rare for a city’s theatres to be the dominant force. The theatre I was there to play in (see my impro blog later for more details) was the Regina Theatre which is apparently famous (in part) because a well-known actor once died on stage there. I had always thought given the general state and intensity of most actors, that every stage everywhere had had some actor of note keel over on it at some point. Maybe it happens less than I expect. (As ever, Wikipedia already has a list of these things)

This relationship is clearly not working.
I think it seems a big thing for me because some big names in comedy history from my own country have died on stage or in front of the camera. Most notably Sid James, Tommy Cooper and Marty Feldman. If you don’t know who they are then I don’t know what they are teaching in schools these days.
Early attempt to create android.
From the theatre, one moves easily up or down (depending on your leanings) to the television. Sweden is like the Netherlands in that all foreign shows are subtitled rather than dubbed. It’s probably one of the reasons why Swedes speak English more good that what many of us does.

Every country has TV gems in the department of “what the hairy Jesus was that?” Sweden is no exception. The gem here is “Hasselhoff - en svensk talkshow.” If any of those words need translating, it’s “svensk” which means Swedish. If you need Hasselhoff translating, you have not been paying attention at all in celebrity culture classes, which is not necessarily a bad thing. So this show is exactly what you are thinking it is: a talk show on Swedish television hosted by David Hasselhoff. Now it sounds on paper like it could be a fun, kitsch idea, and its clear that this is what it’s meant to be. Unfortunately with its painfully flat jokes, lame pranks and just all around feeling of awkwardness, it’s not fun. At least based on the half a show I saw. Watch it here:

Not to suggest the Swedes are obsessed with kitch (as it’s me who’s pointing these things out and so that is probably where the problem lies) but the big thing on TV the weekend I was there was the Eurovision Song Contest heats. One of a series of 4 heats to determine which of the nation’s musical talents would go to represent them at the Eurovision Song Contest proper.

The Swedes are almost Eastern European in their appreciation of this event. Even for the heats, there were groups of people walking around town dressed up like British hen parties because they were on their way to a Eurovision party.

In the heat I saw, there was a broad selection: an old-style crooner; a young guy who sang country-infused guitar pop; a singer from the world of musicals; a nightclub soul singer;  a loud, blond woman who sang over the top of some 90s dance track; a band of cheeky, fresh-faced boys; and a man so obsessed with the 80s he could have been the very ghost of Limahl.

Some of them went through to the next round and one of them may have even won and can be seen at the Eurovision final. But as with football and porn, if it’s not happening right there in front of me, I really don’t care.

In case you think Sweden is kitsch and behind the times,
here is a poster I found in the theatre.
Now, I should really get out of this hotel.

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