The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Old Swede, Bad Swede & Carl Barks

The weekend is almost over, but somehow my Friday encounter with the Old Swede still lingers. Who was that masked bandit? And why did he sucker-punch me?

That night, in tune with my neverending quest to find the most obscure spots in Berlin, we wound up at the Eschenbräu brewery. It was on the Internet but not on any map. Its location in an underworld cellar of a decrepit student dormitory that time forgot, situated in Wedding, the least inspiring hood in all of Berlin, leaves a lot to be desired. It´s the kind of place from which you never leave unscathed.

It was "Alter Schwede" (Old Swede) night, so named since they were tapping a keg with eponymous beer. The kegs were buried in the courtyard as part of some secret fermentation process or perhaps as part of the gimmick I think I heard the brewer mention before mayhem set in. No, no, it was all very civilized. The basement was full of old-school West Berliners and lost tourists. We all sipped the potent brew and laughed merrily.

Alter Schwede is actually an expression in German, which means something like 'old chap' or 'old pal.' This country has an odd affinity for Sweden, so I suppose it's some kind of tribute. Less reverential is the expression "Behind Swedish Curtains," which is a slightly outdated reference to prison. In the 17th Century, Swedes terrorized and occupied Prussia so maybe that's understandable.

Following up on the prohibition post that introduced Systembolaget, i.e. the Bad Swede alcohol monopolist, I have now had the great misfortune of watching the video in question. To remind you, this tax funded propaganda is supposed to convince the European Union that Sweden's alcohol policy actually makes more sense than scuba diving in a jacuzzi.

Click here, watch the 'Dear Mr. B' video and weep. Sure, it's kind of funny (though 'borrowing' from South Park and Michael Moore techniques is not terribly original) but the underlying preachiness makes me as queasy as the thought of one more Old Swede beer right about now. And it reminds me of the Big Brother attempts to quash free speech in Sweden last week.

For more info on this authoritarian campaign, from the perpetrator's perspective, see here. This material offers the unvarnished version of what is anything but as funny and cutesy as the little film.

Lastly, something nice that happened after the Eschenbrau experience. We wound up in a gallery-bar nearby called Cafe Cralle. Another little oasis in a generally bleak area, but the real highlight was the collection of gigantic Carl Barks' Donald Duck prints on the walls. Carl Barks was an American cartoonist, a genius to many. He drew and wrote some of the most bizarre Duck Tales, including the legendary one featuring the square eggs. Check out this article about Barks as well.

When we were leaving I completmented the exhibit and the bartender promptly handed me a flyer with this quote by Barks himself:

"I always felt myself to be an unlucky person like Donald, who is a victim of so many circumstances. But there isn't a person in the United States who couldn't identify with him. He is everything, he is everybody; he makes the same mistakes that we all make. He is sometimes a villain, and he is sometimes a real good guy, and at all times he is just a blundering person like the average human being, and I think that is one of the reasons people like the duck."

In Sweden, Donald Duck goes by the name of "Calle Anka" (Carl Duck!) and since yours truly is also a Carl, I earned that nickname. I figured it just had to do with the name or perhaps a little with the Duck's legendary temper tantrums (an inspiration to John Patrick McEnroe one would think.) Looking at that quote, it's not really about being a victim, but rather being true to yourself. And so that nickname for this Old Swede suddenly makes more sense than ever.



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