Tuesday, May 16, 2017

ID16 ft. Fanny Andersen – "Hundremeterskogen" (2013)

We make fantasy a reality
Our bus is really bold . . .
Our bus is a well-traveled beast

(You’re going to think I made up all the stuff in this post, but I swear to God I didn’t – there's no fake news here!)

Last year, my fellow blogger (and fellow parent) Brienne Walsh Zipperer recommend that I read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume My Struggle, which is roughly 3600 pages long.  (Thanks, Brienne . . . I think.)

Karl Ove Knausgaard
I’m just starting the fifth volume of My Struggle, which is ostensibly fiction but which reads like autobiography.  

Critic James Wood had this to say about Knausgaard’s magnum opus:  

Many writers strive to give you the effect, the illusion, of reality.  Knausgaard seems to want to give his readers the reality of reality – to strip away the literary tricks, to burst through language, to explode the artifice.  And he achieves this.  You read Knausgaard almost as if in real time.

Wood goes on to say that “even when I was bored, I was interested,” which is exactly right.  

My Struggle cover
My Struggle is both compelling and boring, and what makes it compelling is the same thing that makes it boring.  The book doesn’t just appear to be about real life — it is about real life.  

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In volume four of My Struggle, Knausgaard describes his participation in russefeiring, a coming-of-age celebration for Norwegian students in their final semester of high school.  

Russefeiring celebrants
Russefeiring, which is several weeks long, ends on May 17 – Constitution Day (which is the Norwegian equivalent of July 4th).  Funny coincidence . . . that's tomorrow.

The students who participate in the celebration – who are known as russ – are finishing up their compulsory schooling.  Some of them will go on to universities, others will get jobs or join the military.    Most of them are 18 years old, which is important because you have to be 18 to drive a car or buy alcohol in Norway.

Graduating from high school is a significant rite of passage for American teenagers as well, but we nothing to compare to russefeiring.  I’m not going to attempt to provide a comprehensive discussion of all the many aspects of russefeiring.  instead, I’m going to discuss three aspects of the celebration.

Drunken russ participant
First, there’s alcohol.  Most russ are drunk for the better part of the russ celebration.  And I don’t mean slightly tipsy – I’m talking about pass-out-and-choke-on-your-own-vomit drunk.

Second, there are the russ vans and busses.  Groups of students go together, buy a van or a bus, and customize it.  The russ celebrants invest in crazy paint jobs and elaborate stereo systems, which blast out russ songs at ear-splitting volume as the vehicle travel from celebration to celebration.

Russ bus
Traditionally, students would buy beat-up old vans or busses that barely ran.  But today, each student in a group may invest as much as $30,000 apiece to buy and equip a russ bus.  ($2000 to $6000 represents a more typical student investment.)

Another russ bus
When you combine large and unwieldy vans and busses with scores of drunken teenagers, you’ve surely got trouble . . . with a capital ’T,” and that rhymes with “P,” and so on and so forth.  So the law now requires russ bus owners to hire a professional driver.  (Those with vans can get by if they give the keys to an older sibling or a teetotaling russ celebrant.)

Yet another russ bus
My favorite russ bus is this one, which is covered with tennis balls:

A tennis-ball-covered russ bus
But I really like this one, too:

The Candyfornia russ bus
Third, there are russ knots.  The russ caps worn by students have string hanging down from them, and celebrants who accomplish certain feats are entitled to tie distinctive knots indicative of those feats in those strings – or perhaps attach small tokens representing different accomplishments.

Some of the russ knot acts are fairly benign.  For example, if you spend a night in a tree, you can tie a twig from that tree to the string on your russ hat.  (The string is similar to the tassel on American academic caps.)  If you ask random people in a mall to give you a condom and one of them finally gives you one, you tie that condom to the string.  And if you crawl through a supermarket while barking and biting shoppers on their legs, you get a dog biscuit to tie on your string.

Russ hat with random
stuff tied to its string
Other knots require unsafe or unhealthy actions.  For example, you can win a knot by drinking an entire bottle of wine in 20 minutes or less, or consuming 24 beers in 12 hours or less.  (Girls are allowed 24 hours to drink the 24 beers.)  

There are a lot of sex-related knots.  If you have sex outdoors, or sex with seven different people in seven days, or sex with two different people with the same first name on the same day, you’ll win a knot.  Those knots don’t sound to bad, but remember that all knots have to be witnessed and confirmed by fellow russ celebrants.

There’s much more information about russ customs out there if you’re interested.  You can click here or click here or click here to learn more.

Personally, I have only one question about russefeiring: how in the hell did Norwegian parents get so stupid as to allow this insanity?

Drink up, kids!  It's almost May 17!
American parents go bonkers over proms – we spend way too much money to buy fancy prom dresses for our daughters and rent limos for the kids to ride to prom in, and we mostly turn a blind eye to the drinking and drug use and sex that goes on.  But Norwegian parents are far more irresponsible.

Just imagine if russefeiring was an American, or German, or Japanese, or Russian phenomenon.  The whole world would be scandalized.

But when’s the last time you paid any attention whatsoever to anything that happened in Norway?  After all, Norway’s population is barely 5 million people.  (I live in Maryland, which is a very insignificant state.  But Maryland – which is responsible for less than 2% of the population of the United States – has about a million more residents than Norway.)

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“Hundremeterskogen” is Norwegian for “Hundred Acre Wood,” which is where Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends lived.  

Actually, I believe that the literal translation of “Hundremeterskogen” is “Hundred Meters Forest,” which is not the same thing as “Hundred Acre Wood” at all.  

In fact, a patch of forest that measures 100 meters by 100 meters covers about 2 1/2 acres – which is a far cry from 100 acres.

But our featured song mentions Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, and Piglet, so it’s clear that its title is a reference to the Hundred Acre Wood.

“Hundredmeterskogen” was a popular russesang (“russ song”) in 2012.  Some russ songs are written especially for russ, while others are simply pop songs that the students celebrating russ like.

ID16 – a group of three young Oslo DJs – and Norwegian pop singer and blogger Fanny Andersen have teamed up on several popular russ songs.

Here’s “Hundremeterskogen”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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