Crazy Homeless People

Dear Sweden,

Here in America, all members of the citizenry yield to crazy homeless people. When confronted with a bleary-eyed old man who screams unintelligible swearwords through a greasy beard, all people follow the same three rules of American etiquette:

  • Don’t make eye contact.
  • Pretend like nothing.
  • Keep walking.

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The American Gaze

Dear Sweden,

Here in America, the people suffer under the scorching sun of the American gaze. They drink this water. They breathe this air. And inevitably, they become aware that their bodies are being viewed.

The psychological effect, Lacan argues, is that the subject loses a degree of autonomy upon realizing that he or she is a visible object.

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The Thanksgiving

Dear Sweden,

Here in America, the observance of Thanksgiving Day falls on the fourth Thursday of November. During the week of Thanksgiving, mainstream Americans meander through their local communities and greet each other by saying, “We are celebrating that we killed all the Native Americans.”

The appropriate ceremonial response is, “And we stole their land.” Continue reading

The Curse of the Chicago Cubs

Dear Sweden,

Here in America, many people believe in sports-related folkloristic superstition. Unlike folklore in the old country, belief is widespread and not limited to elderly rural populations. One notable memorat of folk belief is the curse levied against the Chicago Cubs baseball team. According to popular legend, a man was expelled from Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series because the odor of his pet goat was bothering people around him. The disgruntled man proclaimed that the Cubs would never again win the World Series—or at least not win until the world was ending. Continue reading

Italy—as seen from the shores of America

Dear Sweden,

Here in America, you can learn a lot about the world. You can order a caffe latte. Your drinking experience will act as a tiny window into Italian culture. You can also enjoy a breve latte. This is a coffee drink prepared by mixing an espresso shot with steamed “Half & Half” (an American dairy product containing 18% fat, compare: kaffegrädde). The breve latte is always ordered in the largest available size and usually contains more than 3000 calories. Continue reading

The Tyranny of Their Breakfast Cereal

Dear Sweden,

Here in America, I eat a lot of breakfast cereal. I have a cupboard full of cereal boxes and I arrange them based on nutrition: the healthiest on the left (GoLean) and the deadliest on the right (Cocoa Puffs). A few days ago, I stood in my kitchen—waiting for the election to be over—and perused the “Nutrition Facts” on the side of each box. I went from box to box, calculating calories per gram, and it slowly dawned on me that they all contained about 400 calories per 100 grams. I heard myself say: “I have made a huge mistake.” Continue reading

My First Credit Rating

Dear Sweden,

When I was fourteen years old I saw the movie Fight Club and was gobsmacked by the coolness of Brad Pitt trying to sell soap to rich women. In one scene, he leans over a glass counter in a non-descript mall and his 90s shirt rides up to expose his ripped physique. That frame is still crisp in my mind. Continue reading