Henry Rollins

 This is Henry Rollins and last night I saw him do a spoken word show here in Stockholm and he was FUCKEN AWESOME MAN.

So who is Rollins and why is this aging alternative icon one of my favourite people in the world? He’s 46, American and he used to be the lead singer of a punk group called Black Flag After they broke up he hit the road trying to get gigs and started to write down his experiences and also started to do these speaking shows in crappy little venues wherever he was to pay for the next meal. He talks about everything, his experiences in life which never end, music, politics, men trying to deal with the world, women trying to deal with the world, culture, you name it. He works like a madman, does about 250 shows a year inbetween running his own publishing house, and doing a weekly TV and radio show in the US.

He is amazing to watch on stage, he talked for 2 hours and 15 minutes STRAIGHT and then came back for an encore of 30 minutes, not even taking a sip of water in the middle. He travels, he meets people and listened to their stories and goes out and tries to educate himself in the world so he can have an opinion on things. Hes the best talker ive heard, Henry is everything I wish i could be in a communicator, funny, serious and speaks with unending intense energy. In a world where guys have some pretty messed up role models, hes someone men can look to for a few extra guiding words because at 46 he hasnt given up, hes still out there travelling the world, living life and hes as passionate and insane as ever and wants to tell the world.

Im well fired up from it. Get some go again!

ps. the first pic isnt mine, this blurred one is however. When will people learn that a flash doesnt work in a theatre? At times it seems like the audience is trying to launch some shock and awe onto his ass.

Cultural Learnings Of… I TOLD YOU THERE WAS A LENIN STATUE IN TALLINN

Oh cripes, I almost fell off my chair. I TOLD YOU ALL THERE WAS A STATUE OF LENIN IN TALLINN. Ok let me take you back.

Id just come back from Finland, tail between my legs and I was checking out Tallinn, I walked along the waters edge to that BFO ugly soviet monument, the one on the way to Pirita with the tall concrete tower and the cemetary behind it. Now I was armed with my trusty Lonely Planet guide where I had just been reading about Narva, the town on the border with Russia which is populated by almost exclusivly ethic Russians. Only some ten minutes before I read this line

"… and the castle grounds are the refuge of Narva’s statue of Lenin – the only fully intact one left in the Baltics"

Fair enough, it was troubled times and aint nothing a revolution crowd loves to do more than a "Saddam drag" of a former leaders statue.

SO Im waking back to town via a small bike track which goes behind Maarjamäe Palace, the Estonian history museum and from a distance of 100+ meters WHAT DO I SEE SITTING IN THE BACKYARD? I made my way through the scrub and took these shots so i could get a third umpires opinion

HERES A FUN FACT, that baldy head is none other than good old Lenin! Sitting outside in Tallinn! Thats not what my guide book just told me! so i crapped onto anyone who would listen to me and its not that people didnt believe me, its just a) not interesting to say… most people and b) whipping out my laptop to show the proof is just weird.

So imagine my surprise and happiness when I come across this entry in my new favourite "English Russia" blog! No Way! I didnt even see the half of it, they have Stalin too! Rock on! Far better than the crap they have downstairs in the occupation museum. Finally, VALIDATION that im not insane. Just tragic and sad but not insane.

I share the blogs view of WHY ARE THEY HERE AND NOT PRESERVED but not from a soviet good memories of the old days way, just because these are important historical artifacts which should be looked after, you gotta remember the bad with the good too ya know.

Heres the location on the map. Next time I go to Tallinn im going there to ask what the deal is. WHATS THE DEAL? Thats what im going to say.

Cultural Learnings Of… Kick Ass Blogs

Ok if you logged in 2 hours ago you would have seen a different blog post here, it was long boring and full of crap. awesome. However in the meantime i found a site listing stacks and stacks of great european blogs about all kinds of stuff, so instead in here to amuse you with these, taking a lesson from my comedy mentor Jon Stewart, that if I can make you laugh, youll probably remember more than if I bore you with facts. What a crazy idea.

Ive been laughing for the last hour at this website, "English Russia", it basically shows crazy stories of insane stuff which happens in Russia. I LOVE IT. LOVE IT. Check this photo I pinched, look at the horizon. GOLD! Its not fake either, theres a video on the website which it would be rude to hotlink off.

Siberian Light: Some rooooly smart russian guy made some nifty code which Russian people can put into their blogs and have it blocked from people in Estonia looking at it. Clever move mate, now the 1/3 ethnic Russian population of Estonia cant read it either!

The Great Firewall Of China: Maybe you have heard the Chinese censor a lot of the net and this site will help you check if a webpage is blocked inside of red china or not. They blocked me! What did I do? Russia ok maybe… was I too critica of communism? hey relax guys!

Oh god, I have to go, Im laughing too much at the English Russia site… and you all wonder why im facinated with this country! I could look at pictures of crazy russian stuff all day.

Cultural Learnings Of… The Putin Youth

Remember that whacky group of kids in Germany just before the turn of the century called The Hitler Youth? What a crazy bunch! Well being the gentle statesman he is, Putin has decided to learn from this, what a fine diplomat!

Heres an article in the international edition of Newsweek which is coming out soon, talking about these well organised Russian youth organisations which are popping up around Moscow. Its the latest most hip thing, i swear.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18753946/site/newsweek/

I’ll save you the two page read. Putin learnt something from the Orange revolution in Ukraine and indeed almost every uprising against in Communism that occured across Europe, that it starts and ends with the young people. Old people are old and resistant to change, but young people are passionate, idealistic and often prone to influence. I can say that now im 27. So instead of letting the young of Russia succumb to the likes ot MTV and McDonalds, his good buddies in the Kremlin (now incidently well under his thumb) have done the following

  • Sponsored these youth groups lavishly with money, including special deals for members into certain schools and places in society
  • Last month 15,000 of these youths turned out to distribute leaflets, adorned in red jackets (don’t underestimate the power of a color here)
  • They also handed out special SIM cards in which the youths can text message the Kremlin to report when the shit goes down and when it does go down, to get instructions on what to do. An exercise which alone cost $220 million.
  • Theres also some hardcore paramilitary sections to these guys too. Wanna know how to field strip a Kalashnikov? This is your place comrade!

Who do you think has been staging the protest out the front of the Estonian embassy since the statue was removed? So why? A very astute question, answered by a spokesperson for one of the groups

"We explained to Muscovites that we should all be prepared for the pro-Western revolution, funded by America"

Oh yes watch out for that American funded revolution! You see, it was the Americans who liberated Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. Oh yes, it wasn’t the peoples will and uprising which did it. Oh no, only a fool and a communist… oh wait… now im quoting the wrong comedian… a fool and a capitalist would believe that.

On top of this, the Russian government is sponsoring an anti Estonian campaign in the wake of the bronze statue being moved. Remember that guy i spoke once or twice about? Whats interesting is most foreigners i speak to in hostels (yes I still attend them occasionally) dont realise it was MOVED not REMOVED and from a central bus stop to a proper war cemetary. A small point russian may have forgotten to mention to you.

Here are some choice signs from inside of Russia

The word which is crossed out is "Estonia" in Russian. I’m reliably informed it more or less says "we know its cheaper and nicer but do the right thing, stay in Russia" Lets not also forget Kaliningrad makes a great substitute!

Once again, if your Russian is a bit rusty  "there are no products from Estonia in sale and thre won’t be any as well!". Come on average Russian, ride that bangwagon pulled by the horse of Putin, c’mon!

Both photos ripped off from here and thank you to Meelika for pointing me to this fine information, getting me some choice Russian translations and making sure my facts are atleast partially correct. Glory for you comrade when the tanks come back!

Baltic Days

Enough with the words already, I only had my camera phone this weekend, 3 nights in Tallin, 1 in Riga, 7:10am flight back to Stockholm monday morning. Love it.

The islands off Stockholm, god bless you Tallink and your wonderful party boat.

The park where the bronze soldier *used* to be.

Someone has left a solitary red flower symbolising the soviet times in the newly planted garden.

Tallinn main sqaure. Kevad ja elu on ilus!

Ilus Tallinna

Its another weekend in old town Tallinn, Riga was pretty busy so I decided to stay here instead. The boat over was awesome, a really good party night, made a stack of new friends, including people who live in Stockholm and Tallinn, drank a boot load of grog, danced, had a good time. I also realised something..who the biggest sex tourists are.. is it the british guys coming for a stag weekend? is it the Finnish blokes coming across for a boozy weekend?

No. Its middle aged Swedish women. All Swedish go crazy on the boat, they love it, step on that floating RSL and its a ticket for them to break free of their regular lives. So get these women away from their husbands, on the boat and a few drinks into them… its a problem im telling you, protection is required. Find someone nice and say shes your partner. Even this doesnt slow their efforts down too much… It must be something about the boat however because in Tallinn they are more subdued. I wondered if there was a way we could pair off this social group with the drunk guys from Britian, just like introducing another foreign animal to get rid of the cane toad in Australia but alas, it doesnt work that way.

Tallinn is great, i love it here, I feel comfortable and at home. Despite having my first Swedish lesson the other day my brain is still wired to Estonia, I blame Tanel Padar rock and roll. Im going to learn estonian atleast to conversational level one day, ive come too far to go back now. The Swedish language is funny too, it comes heavily from both English and German so the word is 75% of the time is close to either of these languages, makes my time a bit easier for sure.

So im here to have a rocking good time for 4 days and im doing just that, feeling the mojo return. I missed you.

My efforts to increase readship to my blog are going slowly but surely, Ive got some funky google software installed which keeps track of visitor numbers, tells me roughly where in the world they are coming from and also what stuff people are typing into google to find me! I think this is seriously useful and sweet stuff, I get around 15 visitors a day to the site and most of them have come from the greater Sydney area. Tallinn and Tartu are next but this is explained by me staying in these places and checking it each day, as much as I know everyone loves me here. Ive got some good google searches which people have found me from too, so when people look for this stuff, eventually my site comes up (ok maybe a bit down the list)

"traditional australian dress"

"estonian mud wrestling"

"learning to shit your pants"

and my most proudest

"russian statue tallinn"

My Estonian mate Taavi has created a new blog about his interests in world languages, right now its in Estonian but im sure he’ll put some english stuff up soon

http://keeltest.blogspot.com/

Get Some Go Again In Stockholm

Ive been in Stockholm for a week now and what a week, lots of stuff has happened. I got into the plane to Stockholm and came straight to work, into my nice shiny, straight from a product brochure office, the "madman" Australian had landed on deck alright!

Ive spent the last week hooking a bunch of stuff up, im staying with a work mate, hes got a granny flat above his garage and hes kindly offered to let me stay, Thomas is a real champ. I really couldnt ask for a better consulting job I think, the company is slick and well run, ive spent the week working out my place in the company and having lots of meetings to introduce myself. Of course I drink the fruit scented water and liberal amounts of expresso each day, god bless you thoughtful company!

Ive got a bank account now, got a phone and il start looking for my own place next week. Theres a trendy cafe district just south of the center called Södermaim, i need cafes on sunday morning people, i said eggs and lattes! Stockholm is an interesting city, very beautiful because its actually on a number of islands so theres water all around. The alcohol can only be bought in 1 type of bottlo called "SystemBolaget" and they close painfully early and some (all?) not even on sunday. Make sure you stock up people. You know those guys who get off the Tallinn ferry with a shopping cart full of cheap Estonian beer? Thats gunna be me soon enough.

Heres Stockholm central, just south is the suburb i told you about. The marker is where my office is, right next to central station.

And in other exciting news, I discovered Henry Rollins is playing Stockholm on the 28th! Black flag Alright! Six pack c’mon! I rushed out and bought a ticket straight away, aint no way im missing the hard man of spoken word again.

So this weekend is a long one for me, thursday is a public holiday here and im taking friday off too and making 4 days out of it… so what am I going to do? Boat to Tallinn and flight back from Riga, jesus im a tragic for the baltics alright. I miss my friends and the land too, just 4 days, like a little hit, not  big one.. just a little one.

So things are on the up and up here, in 2 weeks i get my first pay and hello swedish kronor! A car is in the pipeline too. No 5 series for me, it will be the cheapest thing i can find to get me around for a while. I see the most common car in my price range is the Volvo 740 / 940. Dear god.

Happy Communist Day!

So the situation in Estonia has calmed down to a certain level, everyone was asking me "oh is it dangerous in Tallinn??". No way, the riots were just one night but thats all that has really been reported on foreign news, there have still been some simmering issues but nothing major. Walking around Tallinn, many shops are still boarded up and the general signs of events are around the place. The real test is coming today however, it is the 9th of May and this is when the Soviets celebrate the end of WWII day… its a crazy thing because of time differences, even though the papers were signed the day before in West Europe, it was 12:40am by Moscow time so they mark it the day after… those whacky commies always needed to be a bit different to the rest.

I went searching for the bronze statue all day, some minor setbacks like going to the wrong cemetary completly didnt phase me and eventually, just as I was about to give up, I found him, hes not so well marked, not *quite* a tourist attraction yet but that doesnt stop swarms of Russians visiting the site. There were Russian media there interviewing some old lady, taking some heart-string-tugging shots of her laying flowers.

So on my way out a confused looking guy asks me for directions, turns out hes a journalist from Kommersant, which is the only independant Russian newspaper yet. His name was Michael and he was a really interesting bloke, I spoke to him for about half an hour on a range of issues and it was great to here his insiders view, as I have mentioned before I dont *really* know any Russian people and yet I make enough broad ranging comments on their country and culture. He was in Tallinn to cover the 9th of May events incase the shit went down again, his first article has already been put online at the newspapers website. Im dissapointed he didnt mention meeting me, come on! How many aussies go and visit old Soviet statues in formerly occupied nations?! Some of the things I asked Michael

Him: We are the only independant newspaper left in Moscow and we publish in English too
Me: So do you feel any pressure from the Kremlin however anyway?
Him: Maybe you didnt understand me.. i said we were the only independant newspaper left.
Me: Yeah… I know that but still… they can *try* and put pressure on you right?

Me: So can you openly critise Putin?
Him: Sure, we do it all the time

I wish i had more time to talk to Michael but he had to run off to the interview with the extreme right wing Russian dude he mentions in the article.

So thats it, Tallin is peaceful and I think its going to stay peaceful even today, the day the Russian guys promised to start it all up again. Everyone is prepared now, its expected, I think things will stay in control but tonight will tell.

Ive really loved covering the events of the past few weeks in Estonia, Ive really felt like Ive been amongst the action, like ive seen history happening in front of my eyes, hearing everything as it happens and being able to gauge local peoples feelings and thoughts on a daily basis. Ive got more shots of the big bronze dude in the gallery, go check it out.

Cultural Learnings Of… Bogans in BMW

So if you know me then you know how much I love to drive, its in my nature, one of the many attributes I get from my Father no doubt. My ideal car, within a reasonable price range of course is the BMW 5 series. Its a big car, got some German class, sticks like poo to a matress and plenty of kick when needed. I used to bore everyone back home at Christmas time with my stories of how cheap the second hand BMWs were in Germany and across mot of europe and as soon as I get my hands on a few €€€ then Ill get one.

But when i was in Germany I was thinking to myself  "so where have all the old BMWs gone anyway?" Germans love new cars in general, theres not THAT many old heaps getting around the Autobahn. where are the cars i though… I want one… bad.

And then I came to Estonia.. and had my question answered… all the old BMWs have gone east, like birds going back for the winter or something. Back home in OZ, we have all these young guys out buying jap cars, maybe doing some turbo sweet mate mods to them… well take the same demographic in Estonia and they buy old BMWs instead.. and not even THAT old ones, anything pre 2000 seems to be fairly obtainable for these young guys with a bit of cash.

The Estonian word for bogan is "Rullnokk" and it literally means "Truckers Cap" because this is the sort of stuff these kind of guys wear. Sounds pretty familiar right? So now Im left with a problem. I now associate BMWs with being a hardcore bogan… a situation i never thought Id be in either. The new Volco C30? oh man.

8 Foot Tall, Dark Skinned Russian found in Tallinn

So check him out, there he is, unvieled yesterday at the Tallinn War Cemetary is our old mate the Bronze Staue. See he was never going to be REmoved, just MOVED to a more appropiate location, amongst the dead of ALL countries, Estonians, Russians, Germans, even Brits lie in this site.

Watching Estonian news is fun, I cant understand whats happening but the pictures are pretty anyway. The Russians are going ape shit over this, the Estonian embassy in Moscow is being blockaded, by mainly young people holding signs of which my favourite is "We Will Be Back". WHAT THE HELL. "WE WILL BE BACK?" See thats the thing in all of this, the Russian government, which in turn feeds the information to the people, DOESNT ACTUALLY GET THAT OCCUPYING THE BALTICS WAS WRONG. How can they make such outrage over someone elses country?

Ok so heres the best, this is my favourite, very favourite. I saw a report about a bunch of stoney face Russian politicians who travelled to Tallinn yesterday to express their outrage and demand the Estonian prime minister (or was it the whole government) be removed… AGAIN. HELLO RUSSIA. What country sends an official envoy to another country to demand the removal of its government? How can they do this? Can you imagine if Australia sent an envoy to America, not to express some concerns over foreign policy but to say "BUSH GET THE HELL OUT". You cant, diplomacy doesnt work like that, its another independant nation.

For the Estonian people this seems more of a rallying point, a center for pride that they can be themselves and not be bullied by their old occupier. All power to them I say.