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Along with Vin Diesel and cheesy dance movies, epic sports dramas count to my motion picture guilty pleasures. This has compelled me to put together a list of my favourite such films. Blood, sweat, tears, corniness, and just some damn good cinematic moments, it’s all here. So pull up your leg covers, hit play and prepare for the kind of goose bumps that only happen when your love of climatic underdog victories and sentimental Hollywood claps triumph your better knowledge.

In order of release…

Breaking Away (1979) – Cycling

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Small town blue-collar boys who aspire beyond their circumstances in an Academy Award winning screenplay. One of the greatest movies made about bicycling, not to mention that the late 70s was the best period for filmmaking. Also, check out the cast: Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern, and that creepy guy from Little Children!

Escape to Victory (1981) – Football

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Michael Cane, Sly Stallone and Pele (yes, you read that right) as allied POWs preparing for a football game against the German National Team, while also making plans for their escape. Or in other words: This film is f-ing awesome!!!

Hoosiers (1986) – Basketball

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Gene Hackman plays a coach with a checkered past and Dennis Hopper is the town’s drunk (a role that earned him an Academy Award nomination) who assists him train the local high school basketball team (like Breaking Away, this plays out in small-town Indiana). Judging from the Internet, this is the most beloved basketball movie of all time and hailed as one of the greatest sports films ever made.

Youngblood (1986) – Ice hockey

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Unlike the majority of the movies on this list, this one is actually quite bad (and I’m being generous with “quite”); however, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Keanu Reeves with a shitty French-Canadian accent in his first film appearance, a main character called Dean Youngblood, classic lines such as "You can learn to punch in the barn, but you gotta learn to survive on the ice”, and the overall eighties awesomeness/ridiculousness earns it a firm place on this list.

A League of Their Own (1992) – Baseball

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Nineties girl power enjoyed immensely by an eleven-year-old me. Geena Davies was the shit in the early 90s.

White Men Can’t Jump (1992) – Basketball

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There’s nothing more nineties than this movie. Also, the "black ‘n’ white buddies that don’t like each other at first and spend most of the film bickering" element makes it feel like Lethal Weapon, just with a basketball instead of a badge and gun.

Cool Runnings (1993) – Bobsledding

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Out of small town America and on to underdogs in Jamaica! The early 90s was my coming-of-age era and this was one of my favourite, watch-every-day films as an adolescent, along with Cool as Ice and Class Act...

Rudy (1993) – American football

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Sean Astin ruled kids/teen movies in the late 80s/early 90s. Directed by David Anspaugh (who also did the abovementioned Hoosiers), here’s another blue-collar small town kid following his dreams and achieving the impossible. Oh, and this is a true story and apparently Rudy was the only Notre Dame player ever to get carried off the field by his team mates during a triumphant celebration. PS. Vince Vaughn makes his film debut here!

Bring It On (2000) – Cheerleading

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Yes, this totally counts as a sports drama as it has all the classic elements: A team has to pull together in order to defeat the “bad guys” in an epic competition at the film's climax. But there’s more here than meets the eye. What’s so brilliant about Bring It On is that the line between the good guys and the bad guys is completely blurred and you don’t really know whom to root for. There's nothing more satisfying than breaking down the stereotypes in a movie that at first glance appears as your typical shitty high school flick.

Wondrous Oblivion (2003) – Cricket

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A Jewish kid obsessed with cricket, yet naturally bad at it, befriends the Jamaican girl next door and her dad ends up teaching our protagonist the tricks of the sport. Lovely film set in 1960s London, and the terrific rocksteady soundtrack alone is worth a watch!

Coach Carter (2005) – Basketball

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Black kids playing basketball at an inner city high school with Samuel L. as their tough-ass couch, what’s not to love?!

Invincible (2006) – American football

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I was not expecting this film to be as good as it was, but I was already hooked at the 70s-esque intro over Jim Croce’s I’ve Got a Name, and between that and the final touchdown it delivers everything you’d want out of a true underdog sports movie. Also, it stars Mark Wahlberg.

The Wrestler (2008) – Wrestling

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Darren Aronofsky directing Mickey Rourke in a phenomenal come-back role in a movie that got nominated for a whole bunch of Oscars (and won some). Amazing shit.

The Damned United (2009) – Football

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Michael Sheen has been one of my favourite contemporary actors for a good few years now, and I think this role as legendary Sunderland trainer Brian Clough sealed the deal. Possibly the best film on this list.
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The X-Files effect

No matter how shit I think the world is now, I'm still eternally grateful for having been a teenager in the nineties. We had it all: britpop, hip-hop, a boom of indie filmmakers, some of the best TV shows ever made, and a slew of ambitious and well-cast sci-fi films. It must've all begun with The X-Files ('93) because during those years you couldn't go to the movie store on a Friday night without discovering some new gem of the genre. I have fond memories of seeing the following flicks either at the only cinema we had in my hometown in Northern Iceland, or at some slumber/birthday party or other, when we were getting a little too old for just straight-up horror movies and craved something more substantial. So, in chronological order…

Stargate ('94)

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The early days of the sci-fi explosion saw a few cheesy releases like this one, a remnant of the blockbuster-minded 80s. Things wouldn't really kick off until the following year...

Twelve Monkeys ('95)

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1995 was a great year for film in general. That year I also went to see Seven and The Usual Suspects at the cinema and I remember thinking that I was so lucky to grow up at a time when movies were this good. This was the year that the "surprise ending" element really kicked in and would become a benchmark for screenwriters in the years that followed. As for the time-travel genre, this is one of the best of the bunch.

Strange Days ('95)

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I just re-watched this the other day and it's still great! Sure, it's painfully 90s (to the point where Skunk Anansie works as a kind of a "house band" for this fictional future) but it's still just as engaging as when we watched it at a friend’s b-day party in the 9th grade!

The City of Lost Children ('95)

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A Jean-Pierre Jeunet classic, and possibly his freakiest film.

Tank Girl ('95)

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My whole wardrobe that year was inspired by this film! An absolute turkey for sure, but still so awesome when you're 14 and hyped up on Cool Britannia.

The Fifth Element ('97)

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Jeunet is not the only Frenchman to participate in the 90s sci-fi mania, and Luc Besson’s tribute was just as bizarre! I'd been in love with Milla Jovovich since the early 90s (who hadn't?) and was quite pleased with her carrot top in this one. Also, how friggin cool was Bruce Willis in the 90s?!

Gattaca ('97)

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Another re-watch for me this month, and I was surprised to discover that this film actually gets BETTER with time! Not only is it smart as hell, but the cinematography is an absolute killer (it was Oscar-nominated for best art direction). Side note: Uma and Ethan, the hottest couple of the 90s (or just ever) met on this film.

Event Horizon ('97)

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This movie gave me nightmares for weeks! One of the better space-travel movies ever and, as with many of its contemporaries, it has aged extremely well.

Contact ('97)

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Another space-riddle for ya, this one actually written by none other than Carl Sagan himself!

Dark City ('98)

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Such a haunting film and a great amalgam of the noir and sci-fi genres.

eXistenZ ('99)

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Another favourite of mine from the era and one which I’ve re-watched regularly through the years. That bone gun, man!

The Thirteenth Floor ('99)

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Okay, this one was a bit of a flop and nobody remembers it, but I had to include it as a relative part of the puzzle. Plus, it was a major influence on the greatest sci-fi film of the following decade: Inception.

The Matrix ('99)

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The Matrix took the sci-fi 90s to a whole new level. What had been a collection of smart and almost indie-minded films was now in the big leagues. '99 was another terrific year for cinema and The Matrix felt like a great culmination of the Internet decade. The future was finally here.

Despite the success of The Matrix, the genre has thankfully stayed quite indie and the films I've mentioned spawned a new generation of excellent sci-fi flicks in the following decade, such as Donnie Darko, The Cell, Pitch Black, Equilibrium, 2046, Children of Men, The Fountain, Mr. Nobody, Moon, Sunshine, Another Earth, Melancholia, Looper, and the aforementioned Inception. Each of these films has been incredibly fresh and fascinating and there seems to be no limit for the different speculations of what the future will hold for us. And that’s the beauty of sci-fi: The future will always remain mysterious, which in turn frees our imagination and inspires the most riveting visions.
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Being a nostalgia slave and being obsessed with time travel sort of goes hand in hand, so naturally I watch a lot of time travel movies. Maybe it all goes back to being exposed to the best time travel trilogy of all time at a very early age. In fact, one of my most vivid childhood memories is of 8-year-old me and my cousin being told we were going to see Back to the Future Part II in the movie theater, after which I madly started running around the house getting dressed up for this special occasion (still remember the outfit clearly: pink pantyhose, black jeans skirt/jacket combo, and of course bright pink nail-polish to top it all off).

Anyways, here’s my top 15, let's go!

15) Primer (2004)

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This low-budget indie flick is often called the thinking man’s time travel movie (the first-time writer/director was a math major/computer programmer!) If you’re one of the few that understood the plot, my hat’s off to you.

14) Source Code (2011)

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The Groundhog Day of the time travel genre.

13) Looper (2012)

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Bruce Willis returns to the world of time travel in this cool future thriller!

12) The Time Machine (1960)

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The original film based on H.G Well’s book of the same title, completed with kitschy sixties effects and gadgets. Way better than the recent remake.

11) Time After Time (1979)

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A clever take on H.G. Wells’ time travel escapades. Here Wells (played by Malcolm McDowell) uses his newly invented time machine to pursue Jack the Ripper, who has used the same invention to escape to 1970s San Francisco!

10) Happy Accidents (2000)

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Indie darlings Vincent D’Onofrio and Marisa Tomei are at the top of their game in this cute and quirky time travel story.

9) Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009)

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The British pub comedy takes on the time travel genre.

8) Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

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I absolutely LOVE the indie/sci-fi crossover that’s been going on lately. This was one of the best films I saw at the film festival last year, and I was even lucky enough to catch a Q&A with the director.

7) Sound of My Voice (2011)

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Another brilliant indie/sci-fi hybrid, and one of the best films I saw in ’11. (Shooting indie-star Brit Marlin was also heavily involved in Another Earth that same year, another amazing indie sci-fi flick.)

6) Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes) (2007)

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For years I’ve been saying that the Spanish make the best horror films and this one is no exception.

5) Planet of the Apes (1968)

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One of the most memorable endings in cinema history.

4) Twelve Monkeys (1995)

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More primates and time travel... Surely one of the best films of the 1990s and instant cult classic. (Fun fact: This is Terry Gilliam’s second time travel movie, the other one of course being Time Bandits.)

3) Midnight in Paris (2011)

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My favourite Woody Allen film after Annie Hall. Don’t think anyone has addressed the subject of nostalgia as well as he manages to do here.

2) Donnie Darko (2001)

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Blew me away the first time I saw it, and has continued to do so with every re-watch. That somber suburban eighties feeling, the soundtrack, that 2 minute uncut tracking shot, the skeleton suit, Frank, Sparkle Motion, Jake Gyllenhaal when he was still hot, Patrick Swayze in an unforgettable comeback role, and last but not least 26-year-old Richard Kelly with a fucking amazing debut film. (Too bad everything he’s done since has been absolute shit.)

1) Back to the Future (1985-1990)

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One word: Hoverboard.
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The Revenge of the Redheads

The eighties was the best decade for being a redhead thanks to John Hughes and his high regard for Molly Ringwald. Growing up during this fine decade meant dual delight for a ginger like me: Not only did the eighties produce the greatest teen movies, but the most enjoyable of those all seemed to star an offbeat blazed-haired heroine that I could so easily identify with. In the eighties universe inspired by John Hughes and other underdog appreciators (themselves all huge nerds of course), blondes were the bitches, brunettes made for cool and quirky sidekicks, and misfits came out on top, shaking their converse, checkered shirts and sizeable specs at a crowd of bimbos and beefcakes, all roused to a big Hollywood clap by the surprise of it all, while us geeks sat transfixed and grinning at the screen, feeling a little less intimidated about going to school the next day. Thank you Molly and Mr. Hughes for easing our childhood and shaping our future confidence.

Molly Ringwald

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The ultimate 80s princess. Not only was she a natural in the role of nerds and nonconformists, but she even slipped into the shoes of the popular girl, giving the rest of us a pinch of hope.

Kerri Green

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Another auburn-haired muse that managed to both be the only girl in a group of rowdy boys in cult hit The Goonies, and inspire football stud Charlie Sheen to leave his blonde cheerleading girlfriend (played by Courtney Thorne-Smith) in one of my favourite 80s pics, Lucas.

Jenny Lewis

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Best known today as the front woman of indie rock band Rilo Kiley, but back in the 80s this rrrrot redhead starred in the best ever video game flick: The Wizard! The film (which is basically an hour and half commercial for Nintendo's Super Mario Bros) also features childhood heros Christian Slater and Fred Savage, and a memorable appearance of the power glove!

Robin Lively

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The leading lady in under-appreciated 80s gem Teen Witch, a film every bit as awesome as it sounds.
(She later pops up in Twin Peaks, which as we all know is the greatest TV show of all time).

Megan Follows

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Anne of Green Gables is still to this day one of my favourite books and the TV incarnation couldn't have come at a better time, coinciding with my childhood days. In fact, I was around Anne's age when I was religiously watching the series and rooting for her as she gradually came to terms with being a ginger.
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In Memoriam of Television

I haven’t turned on the TV in about seven years. Or let me clarify: I still watch TV shows, just not on TV. This is of course due to the TV-on-DVD/torrent culture we now live in (thank Rod for commercial-free TV watching), but truth be told that whole revolution couldn’t have come at a better time as about 98.5% of all TV nowadays is absolute rubbish. Yes, HBO and Showtime keep on growing and are making more quality TV than ever (although a sizable chunk of this so-called quality programming is in fact garbage, let me cite True Blood as an example), but the antipode of that is the gigantic heap of junk TV produced in the last few years, most notably the reality TV format. We live in a world of TV extremes; on one hand we have high-standard cable stuff with a casting trend towards Hollywood, while the other hand holds a litter box of cheap shows that seem to share just one goal: to top each other in absurdity and kill as many viewer brain cells as possible in the process (no doubt in order to allow the following shows to become even dumber without anybody noticing).

I believe that the quality of TV reached its peak in the early nineties, when shows such as Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, Seinfeld and X-Files dominated the small screen (the first three all premiered in 1990, what a golden year for television), and has since then split in the two directions I mentioned above. Of course before the glorious nineties, TV was incredibly mediocre and viewers were resigned to the fate of channel surfing their way through so-so shows; at least now we can better distinguish between the trash and the treasures.

One thing I miss from those vanilla days though: There were actually old people in the world of TV when I was a kid. It is as if TV producers of the present decided that the best way to represent the world is without the presence of senior citizens. And not only is nobody old, but nobody is fat or ugly either. Seriously, let’s take a look at some of the most popular shows of yesteryear: Matlock (old), Murder She Wrote (old), Golden Girls (4 x old), Evening Shade (everyone in that whole town was old), Roseanne (fat), Cheers (a whole variety of fat, ugly and old), Jake and The Fatman (his body condition is in the title for christ’s sake!), Life Goes On (mentally disabled), and the list goes on and on.

A character like Mr. T could for example never exist in the uniform landscape of today’s TV clones. What’s remarkable is actually witnessing this hottie-oriented progress over the course of a few seasons of the same TV show. Take Scrubs for example. In the first season we witness charmingly bumbling Elliot, a “one of the boys” kind of girl, rarely seen out of her scrubs (just like everybody else on the show), her innocence underlined with her blond pigtails and neurotic attitude. Fast forward a few seasons and you have Dr. Elliot making rounds in a friggin’ gala dress and high heels, being all suave and elegant in her “took-two-hours-to-apply” make-up and hairdo. Yet everyone else is exactly the same, making Elliot look as out of place in Sacred Heart Hospital as Steve Urkel would be in the halls of West Beverly High.

And now, a trip down memory lane of the magnificently mediocre TV that’s stuck with me from the television-oriented era of my generation. As someone once profoundly remarked: Those were the days.

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Matlock

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Murder, She Wrote

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Cheers

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Roseanne

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Who's the Boss?

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The Cosby Show

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Quantum Leap

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The Wonder Years

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The Golden Girls

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Life Goes On

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Due South

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Fame

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Thirtysomething

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The Heights

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Sisters

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Booker

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Homefront

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Dear John

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Jake and the Fatman

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Evening Shade

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21 Jump Street


And a special homage to Brit TV, may it never stop casting unattractive actors!

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'Allo 'Allo!

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Birds of a Feather

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The House of Eliott

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Benny Hill


And introducing the inspectors:

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Inspector Wexford

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Inspector Morse

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Taggart

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A Touch of Frost

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Prime Suspect


Barbara Cartland TV films were all the rage in the female-reigning household of my youth.

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And lastly, Australia’s answer to Beverly Hills: Heartbreak High!

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Death by Audio

Someone had to do it. The Worst Jock-Rock Bands/Songs from mid-1990s to mid-2000s, from pussy-blues-pop to millennium-douchebag-rock. These are the bro bands that inspire sports bars full of white guys to join together in a beer-spilling, arm-swinging, chorus-shouting camaraderie, and cause otherwise fairly normal people to blast testosterone-loaded music out of their open car windows while wearing backwards baseball caps.

Note: this list could similarly be called "Top 20 Worst Band Names Of All Time".

Warning: ears might start bleeding well before the list is over.

PS. Doing this in a chronological order as they're all pretty much equally bad.

Deep Blue Something       



Hootie & the Blowfish



Blues Traveler


Del Amitri



311 



Third Eye Blind 




Barenaked Ladies 



Semisonic 




Lit




Goo Goo Dolls 



Sugar Ray 



Limp Bizkit 




Smash Mouth 




Bloodhound Gang 




Live 



Filter 



Crazy Town



3 Doors Down 



Everclear 



Papa Roach 



Incubus 



Creed



Linkin Park 



Puddle of Mudd



Matchbox Twenty 



Nickelback 



And honorable mention goes to Kid Rock, king of appalling music making! 

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Bust a Move

Five periods, places and/or persons I would like to have shaken it with:


Northern Soul: A dance movement that blazed through Northern England in the late sixties and early seventies, creating lasting legends out of venues such as Wigan Casino, The Twisted Wheel, Blackpool Mecca and The Golden Torch, all of which attracted bus (and even plane) loads of enthusiasts from all over England and beyond. These esteemed beat-driven All-Nighters ran on Tamla-Motown tunes, Talcum powder, Trickers shoes and the most uptempo and frantic dance techniques seen on British soil.


Swing: Call it Lindy Hop, Balboa, Jitterbug, Jive, or Shag - swing dancing might go by many names and varieties of styles, but the allure of the four-beat feel melodies is strong enough to pull a dead man to the dance floor. Although the term has been labeled subjective, all agree that swing is understood as “music that makes you want to dance”. Prime spot for displaying supreme swing skills: The Savoy Ballroom, a popular Harlem dance hall that was unique for its integration of black and white dance fanatics. And swaying with Germany’s Swing Kids as they resisted nazi-conformity with their dance-crazed counter-culture, greeting each other confidently with "Swing heil!" (mocking the ritualistic "Sieg Heil!" chant made infamous at Nazi rallies) would’ve been a first-class blast.


Charleston: As speakeasies, bootleg liquor, and flappers reigned over the Roaring Twenties, a little move called the Charleston was the cat’s meow. Often practiced at the prominent prohibition-era Cotton Club (another legendary Harlem haunt), or amongst Lost Generation-ers in the Art Deco Paris of this glorious decade.


Boogie-woogie: Take me to a boozy, bluesy Juke Joint at rural crossroads of the Mississippi Delta in the early twentieth century, play me some rhythmic ragtime, pour me a cup of moonshine, and show me how to boogie baby.


Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly: Two smooth ballroom barons, the former a top hat tapper famed for his elegance and grace, the latter a casual Broadway bopper remembered for his vigor and informal approach. Both borrowed from a diversity of dance styles, resulting in a memorable hybrid of the most remarkable representation of talent and original moves choreography has ever known.

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Odd Jobs

Where do you apply for these?

Barker: “A human curiosity! A mystery of nature! A spectacle of wonder! Step right up to see the incredible Bearded Lady!!!” A barker’s job is to call out to passersby and attract costumers for such things as freak shows, sideshows, carnivals, circuses, fairs, theaters, etc. Perks include hanging out with oddballs and animals.

Fortune cookie writer: Time to spice things up a bit in this genre. “You will be bitten by a badger.” “A surprise party is being planned for your birthday.” “The owls are not what they seem.” “Remember to buy milk.”

Chandler: One who makes and sells candles. One of many charming old positions wiped away by modern-day ways.

Chimney sweep: Believe it or not, this is still a thriving industry, using the standard chimney brush and all!

Milkman: The face of nostalgia, and just like chimney sweeps these guys do still exist! In fact, I saw one in action last summer in England. A golden moment in my life let me tell you.

Crayola color-name creator: Banana Mania. Beaver. Bittersweet. Fuzzy Wuzzy. Inchworm. Laser Lemon. Jazzberry Jam. Mango Tango. Outer Space. Pink Flamingo. Purple Mountain's Majesty. Razzmatazz. Screamin' Green. Wild Blue Yonder. Somebody must be responsible for the various names describing the kaleidoscopic nature of Crayola’s products. Please let it be me.

Philosopher: Thousands of people graduate from this field annually, but where are they all getting employed?

Explorer: My absolute dream job. Can you imagine getting funded by a state to voyage to a terrain completely foreign to you, gathering notes, running into exotic creatures, encountering natives with unfamiliar customs and habits, maybe being gone for years, maybe never returning, but who cares as long as you’re experiencing the ultimate adventure.

Telephone/GPS voice: You will get the chance to speak to millions of people for a very long time to come, but with the added drawback of maybe becoming the most hated presence in everyday life.

Fantasy broker: Want to live in a ghost town? Be a stand-up comedian for the night? Have a pie eating competition with Heather Locklear? Sing the national anthem at a sporting event? Ride down 5th Avenue on a llama? Throw a party in a castle? Get locked inside a mall overnight? These real-life fairy godmothers can make it happen!

In-flight DJ: Who’s in charge of picking the music available on that handful of airplane radio stations? And how do I make that job mine?

Flag designer: This was actually the subject of a previous blog entry of mine (http://mousekevitz.livejournal.com/100014.html). I would love to design something as long-lasting as a flag, and besides, the majority of the world’s flags look incredibly dull and unimaginative, routinely recycling the same colors and patterns. As soon as there’s a new country, I’ll be all over it with some purple, orange and animal silhouettes.

Haberdasher: A dealer in men’s clothing. I want this job for the sole reason of being able to put that word on my business card.

Ufologist: Get a degree in physics or astronomy and then spend the rest of your life conducting research, doing field investigations, interviewing various close-encounter witnesses, developing theories, meeting real-life Fox Mulders, maybe getting threatened from time to time by middle-aged men in gray suits… I could do that.

Forest fire lookout: Nothing but wilderness and all the time in the world. The perfect job for the inspiring novelist. Downsides include chance of insanity. But hey, Jack Kerouac was once employed as one…

Lighthouse keeper: Same as above, except instead of gazing over a boundless forest, your vista would be an endless ocean.

Upholstery designer for motor coaches and city subways: I’m sure we can come up with something more tasteful than those random regurgitations of motely motifs associated with public transportation.

Whiskey ambassador: Yes, this is an actual occupation, one whose professionals are responsible for choosing the finest bourbons and teaching their clients the proper ways of tasting them.

Gum buster: This person goes around removing gum from various public places. So come to think of it, every time you mindlessly spit your gum out on the street you are in fact creating a job!
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Character Profile

A while ago I designed this character profile in order to get more familiar with the characters I created. This is just me testing it out and mucking about. Suggestions for additions are encouraged. 
 
Basics
 
- Name: Gulla
- Age: Approaching 30
- Profession: Wordsmith, observer and a nostalgia scholar
- Ideal profession: Explorer, animal rescuer, astronomer, self-sufficient farmer, dancer
- Birthplace: Akureyri
- Current location: Stockholm
- Pets: Thelma (living in USA), Louise (deceased)
- Stuffed animals: Mýsla. My best friend and companion since birth.
- Hobbies: Dancing, analyzing film, planning trips and taking them, astronomy, cooking, making things (we can call it “crafting”), learning languages, playing games of all sorts, pursuing culture (both in the popular and pretentious sense), bike-riding, taking photographs, obsessing over the past, making lists for pretty much everything
- Clubs/organizations: Amnesty International and PETA, but my goal is to support anything and everything that matters to me.
- Schools attended: Snæló, Þeló, Breiðó, Austó, Gagginn, MH, FB, USM, Sorbonne
- Sports played: I don’t have a competitive nature, but I’ve been known to rollerskate, iceskate, cross-country ski, swim in every swimming pool in Reykjavík and some beyond, and is mini-golf a sport?  
- Transportation: Currently seeking bicycle.
- Race: “I ain’t white, I’m just light-skinned”
- Height/weight: 174 cm/70 kg
- Clothing style: 60s Parisian modette. Stripes, sailors, Jean Seberg and Bonnie Parker. And for shoe wear, Doc Martens and Converse. Basic.
- Hair color/style: Red and try to make it look like a cross between a 70s rockstar and an anime character.
- Eye color: Brown/green
- Piercings/Tattoos: None. I prefer my body au natural. 
- Bones broken: None. Physically I haven’t been very reckless in my life, but I’ve made up for it in most other avenues. 
- Allergies: None that I know of. I’m pretty healthy.
- Left/right handed: Mainstream in that category.
- Speaking style: I try to stay eloquent. Usually oblivious to new slang. 
- Languages spoken: Icelandic, English, Swedish, then some French, German and Spanish. Started deciphering Russian, Hungarian and a handful of others. My goal is Arabic.
- Zodiac sign: Libra
- Religion: Spiritual and interested in all religions, but follower of none.
- Political convictions: Now, in that domain I’m a lefty.
- Collections: Postcards (mostly film related), books, Converse shoes, ideas
- Relationship status: Married
- Family: Immediate family is very small (I’m an only child) but the “next level” (what comes between immediate and distant?) is a large collection of truly wonderful people, including many of my closest friends.
- Best friends: Hanna, Díana, Þóra, Tinna, Pálína, Tóta, Barði
- Idols: Oscar Wilde, Stanley Kubrick, Jarvis Cocker
- Gadgets: I stay away from those.
- Talents: Putting together words and food ingredients in a way that some people might find quite pleasing.  
- Ideal talents: I’d like to have some kind of a musical talent and I’ve always wanted to draw impressively. Becoming good at swing dancing and roller-skating is also on my to-do list. Archery and fencing skills would be desirable as well, and there’s a skateboarder inside of me eager to break out.
- Vices: Facebook, TV on DVD, chocolate
- Best/worst features: I have ambition and passion but sometimes lack motivation, which is just a really unfortunate combination. 
- Strengths: I can see the positive in everything and find the fun in anything. And I’m very open-minded.
- Weaknesses: I’m a slave of nostalgia and am in total denial that I live in the 21st century (this fact is actually the only thing that truly gets me down.) Also, I have so many interests and goals to pursue that I become totally fragmented and never become remarkably good at anything.
- Likes: Trains, receiving letters, standing on soft forest floors, leafing through a heavy Atlas, idling in bookstores, kneading bread, learning neat words, jumping into a cold lake on a warm day, camping, being on a vacation in a foreign city and just lounge around at an outdoor café consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes, petting animals, autumn leaves, farmers’ markets, flea markets, 60s “space age” furniture, girl scout cookies, picturesque villages, Sunday brunches, Absolut ads, water slides, lots of lamps instead of ceiling lights, coffeetable books, 80s movies, cheese plates, theme parties, looking through old photographs, cobble stones, tea and jazz in the morning, stripes, vintage Vespas and Volkswagen buses, creating things, gaining new experiences
- Dislikes: Puppets, reality TV, jock rock, homes equipped with dishwashers and dryers, paper plates and paper napkins, Wal-Mart, fast-food franchises, hypes, being late for the movies, cars, abbreviations, malls, movie trailers, gadgets (anything that starts with an “i” basically), bad spelling and grammar, poor geography knowledge, crying babies and whiny kids, taking a nap during the day and waking up when it’s already dark outside
- Hopes/Dreams/Goals: Visit all the continents; become self-sufficient; get a screenplay into production; write a few non-fiction books; learn how to make cheese, recognize most trees and birds, and how to read the night sky; become fluent in a lot of languages; knit a “lopapeysa”; build a tree house, gazebo and a cabin in the woods; go husky sledding and scuba diving; travel across the Atlantic in a ship; open up my own rural B&B, as well as my own “Cinema Café” (arthouse cinema with a café attached), and if there’s some time left, start my own magazine and perhaps publish a comic book.
 
Favorites
 
- film: It’s a tie between Shawshank Redemption and Amelie
- scary movie: The Shining
- comedy: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
- director: Stanley Kubrick
- actor/actress: A tie between Dustin Hoffman and Nicolas Cage, but also adore Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Johnny Depp and Timothy Spall/Helena Bonham Carter, but also favor Cate Blanhcett, Julianne Moore, Toni Collette and Lili Taylor
- TV show: Twin Peaks
- TV channel: Animal Planet
- cartoon: Rainbow Brite
- music genre: Soul
- band: Joy Division
- song: Love Will Tear Us Apart by abovementioned band
- singer: Stevie Wonder and Otis Redding
- rapper: Snoop
- music video: Hoppípolla by Sigurrós and, come to think of it, pretty much everything else with Sigurrós. Always been a big fan of Just with Radiohead as well. Also, every single video from Franz Ferdinand’s first album.
- instrument: Clarinet, accordion
- book: Revolutionary Road
- comic book: Lucky Luke
- writer: Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Richard Yates, Vladimir Nabokov, and Bill Bryson for humorous non-fiction
- magazine: Smithsonian for text, National Geographic for images, Ready Made for ideas
- video game: Crash Bandicoot
- website: imdb
- artist: Edvard Munch, but also have an avid appreciation for Carl Larsson, John Bauer and Norman Rockwell
- photographer: Anton Corbijn
- food: Cheese
- meal: Mushroom ravioli with homemade pesto, prosciutto, pine nuts, and loads of parmesan
- cuisine: Thai 
- drink: Milk
- desert: Tiramisu, but if that’s not available then cheesecake, or anything with marzipan
- ice cream: Brynjuís 
- fruit: Cantaloupe
- vegetable: Sweet potato, pumpkin (just think America in autumn)  
- berry: Raspberry
- soda: Appelsín
- candy: Nói Síríus, Appaló, Sambó, everything icelandic basically + anything containing coconut
- alcohol: Pastis (usually Ricard)
- pizza topping: Anything involving cream cheese (most often pepperoni, pineapple and mushroom) 
- café: String (Stockholm)
- bar: Kaffibarinn (Reykjavík) in 1999, followed by Pop-in (Paris) in 2006
- restaurant: Silly’s (Portland)
- game: Croquet
- board game: Scattergories, Popppunktur 
- sport: I love winter sports. Nothing beats ice-skating on a frozen lake or swooshing through a forest on a crisp and sunny winter day, with a break for hot chocolate and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Also, I like watching the World Cup and rooting for the countries that never win.
- place: Forests
- country: Sweden 
- city: Stockholm and Paris for living; Manchester for life
- store: Design Torget
- animal: Cat, fox, and everything else
- flower: Lupine
- subculture: Mods, followed by Swing Kids and Beatniks
- fictional character: Fox Mulder possibly
- cartoon character: Donald Duck
- holiday: Halloween
- season: Autumn
- month: October (my b-day month)
- day of the week: Mid-week is good
- weather: Fog, drizzle 
- time of day: Fika time (late afternoon). I like the buzz of people getting together for a beverage after work.
- time period: 60s. And the Roaring Twenties seemed fun.
- subject: English and history in general. Most fun class ever taken was Astronomy 101. Best class ever taken was a sociology class on modern food culture, changed my life.
- teacher: Þorvaldur Friðriksson, my high school English teacher.  
- possession: A vintage dress I’ve had since I was 15 and does the trick every time.
- color: Green and purple
- word: Amalgam
- swear word: Eejit. Also most British swearwords in general.
- name (boy + girl): Lucius + Hazel  
- number: 6
- noise: Rain on windows at night, kitty purr
- smell: Fresh basil, garlic frying on a pan
- memory: Akureyri during my childhood. I used to partake in so many inventive leisure pursuits with my cousins, like this one time we designed and created a mini-park in my grandparents backyard, with a grand opening/grand barbecue party on independence day. We put weeks of work into it and it was awesome.
 
Firsts
 
- job: Placing plants into plastic pots for my grandfather when I was 11-12
- album bought: The soundtrack to the Icelandic film “Veggfóður” when I was about 12
- concert attended: Saint Etienne when I was 12 (wow, apparently a lot of stuff happened when I was that age)
- film seen in the theater: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when I was 5-6
- trip to a foreign country: Portugal/Spain when I was 6 


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Show and tell

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I’ve always been one for toys. I had more than I could manage as a kid, and as an adult I’ve changed my home into somewhat of a nostaliga shrine made up of various thrift store findings in remembrance of my youth. Being an only child living with a single parent, I spent long periods playing in my room and these following items occupied most of my time:

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Stuffed animals (preferably from Russ Berrie)

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Playmo

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Lego (my cousin Binni and I built a whole town once, and a cruise ship!)

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Fabuland

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Smurfs

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Polly Pocket (I had this exact one, purple of course)

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My Little Pony (those were a bit lame for my taste though, and I was never into horses, opposed to just about every girl I knew)

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Fisher-Price Farm

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Sylvania Family

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Lady Lovely Locks

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Monchhichi

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Troll Dolls (they were kind of creepy though, not sure if I ever really warmed up to them)

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Stickers (which I collected in heart-shaped Hello Kitty sticker books)

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Erasers (I pretty much collected everything...)

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Coloring books...

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... decorated by Crayola of course

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Electro

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Memory

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Wind-up fishing game

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Viewmaster

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Yo-Yo (the Yo-Yo world champion visited Iceland once and boy was he awesome! Everybody had a soda-brand yo-yo after that, I had the Fanta one (my soda of choice ever since childhood))

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Slap bracelets

And let’s not forget the Japanese Sanrio cuteness extravagance:

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Hello Kitty

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My Melody

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Little Twin Star

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Tuxedo Sam
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Favorite Genres

There’s always been something so fascinating about war and prison films that’s captivated my attention since childhood. The pure male bonding and comradeship, the lack of love stories and whiny women, the spiritual journeys and the philosophical musings they inspire, and the compelling tales that arise from such unusual settings, arduous circumstances and overall detachment from reality, so far removed from anything most viewers can identify with.

Here are my top tens for both genres. The Great Escape and La Grande Illusion actually connect the two groups as they observe both. And although One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is technically not a prison film, it obeys all the guidelines of the genre.

War

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1. The Deer Hunter

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2. Full Metal Jacket

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3. The Thin Red Line

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4. The Bridge on the River Kwai

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5. Platoon

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6. Saving Private Ryan

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7. Apocalypse Now

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8. Dr. Strangelove

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9. The Great Escape

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10. La Grande Illusion


Prison

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1. The Shawshank Redemption

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2. Cool Hand Luke

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3. American History X

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4. The Life of David Gale

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5. Dead Man Walking

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6. In the Name of the Father

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7. Holes

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8. Greenfingers

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9. Lucky Break

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10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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This week's boy to hold hands with.

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Ken Watanabe
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Saturday Morning Special

I often reflect on how fortunate I was growing up during the golden age of cartoons.

The great thing about being from Iceland in this regard was that our TV schedule drew equal influence from Europe, America and Japan so you would sort of end up with a “best of” from the cartoon world (in fact, one of the most popular shows in Iceland came from Czechoslovakia). I remember getting up at 9 AM every Saturday morning because that’s when you could watch like three hours of non-stop cartoons! Weekend mornings and a brief slot before the evening news was all us kids got in my home country, rest of the time we were busy inventing some games and things, believe it or not. One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting with my cousins on my grandparents’ couch (having dragged it as close to the TV as they allowed us) on Saturday mornings and my grandfather bringing us cheese toast and hot chocolate for breakfast. Those mornings were rare as we lived hours apart and I therefore cherished them as much as the cartoons themselves.

The following is a collection of my favorites from back then (Icelandic titles in brackets, that’s all I knew them as my entire childhood).


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Rainbow Brite (Regnboga Birta)

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Raggy Dolls (Tuskudúkkurnar)

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Il etait une fois....l´homme (Líf í nýju ljósi)
(This was a brilliant french show about what goes on inside the human body!)

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Count Duckula (Brakúla Greifi)

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Mysterious Cities of Gold (Gullna borgin)

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Pat & Mat (Klaufabárðarnir)
(The Czech show I mentioned above)

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Alvin & The Chipmunks (Alvin og íkornarnir)

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Babar

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Duck Tales (Sögur úr Andabæ)

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Jem

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Barbapapa (Barbapabbi)

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Teddy Ruxpin (Bangsi Bestaskinn)

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Gummy Bears (Gúmmíbirnirnir)

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Maya The Bee (Maja Býfluga)

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Woody Woodpecker (Villi Spæta)

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Huxley Pig (Hlöðver Grís)

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Bananas in Pajamas

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Mighty Mouse (Magni Mús)

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Postman Pat (Pósturinn Páll)
(This is what I love about England; when American shows were all about He-Man, Transformers and other spectacular heroes, the Brits came out with a show about a postman. And it was such a hit!)

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Care Bears (Kærleiksbirnirnir)

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My Little Pony (Folinn minn litli)

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He-Man

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The Wuzzles (Furðudýrin)

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The Monchhichis (Monsurnar)

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Nick Knatterton

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Thundercats (Þrumukettirnir)

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The Moomins (Múmínálfarnir)

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Ganbare! Kickers (Kalli og Kýklóparnir)

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Moero! Top Strikers (Skot á Mark)
(The Japanese clearly had a thing for football for a while there)
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The Perks of Being a Backpacker

- Hearing foreign tongues everywhere around you and not understanding what anybody is saying

- Browsing through markets and grocery stores like they were museums

- Getting exotic stamps in your passport

- Unexpected experiences, often resulting from participating in things like couchsurfing, ridesharing or hitchhiking

- The absence of shallow and time-consuming entertainment such as internet and television

- The simple pleasure of having clean laundry

- Having lots of time to read books, often caused by hours spent on trains or buses

- Colorful currency that changes with every country

- Having a new map to pore over each time you arrive to a different place

- Getting inspired by the change of scenery and cultural climate


I’ve also found out that it’s best to travel in the fall for two reasons:


- It’s not too hot but still balmy and incredibly beautiful due to the assortment of autumn leaves

- There are not as many tourists around which makes the bicycling students and ordinary locals more noticeable



Backpacking 2008


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Gamla Stan, Stockholm

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Södermalm, Stockholm

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Skansen, Stockholm

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Fun in Skansen

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In the beautiful countryside surrounding Stockholm

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Strolling around the environs of Järna, just outside of Stockholm

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Biking in Bornhom

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The island of Bornholm

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Budapest synagogue

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Bathing in Budapest

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Maramures, Romania

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Local farmer in Maramures

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Tuscan perfection

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Chilling in Tuscany

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One of Rome's many cats

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Amalfi coast

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Marseille

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Enjoying boullibasse and pastis at a seaside restaurant just outside of Marseille

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Provence

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Paris


Backpacking 2010

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Yorkshire Dales, the most perfect countryside in the UK

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More Dales

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The Lake District

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Oscar Wilde hangs out in Dublin

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Tartu, Estonia

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Viljandi, Estonia

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Warsaw

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Birkenau

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Traditional Viennese café

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The Wachau, the Danube Valley's most beautiful stretch famous for its riesling wines

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Surfers gather at this river in Munich

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Neuschwanstein, a fairy tale come true

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Gengenbach, archetypical Germany in the midst of the Black Forest

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Heidelberg, an idyllic little university town

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There are many things to admire in Heidelberg, this castle being one of them

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Bacharach, a gem in the Rhine Valley

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Berlin Wall

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The DDR Museum in Berlin, the best museum in the world

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Amsterdam

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Brussels, comic book capital of the world

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Lisbon

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Rabat, Morocco

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Souking it up in Rabat

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Imperial Meknes

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Just another day at Fes' souk

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Marrakesh is famous for its many snake tamers

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Mountains of spices and my dreams come true

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The famous Djamaa El Fna square in Marrakesh...

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... is bumping after dark

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The ultimate Giza shot

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Giza's family of pyramids

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Giza locals

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Those pyramids are quite photogenic

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Valley of the Kings, Luxor

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Wadi Rum, Lawrence of Arabia's beloved desert in Jordan

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Ancient city of Petra, one of the "new" seven wonders of the world
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My Life in 20 Albums

In chronological order of my discovery


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Doggystyle – Snoop Doggy Dogg

Everybody remembers that revelation of recognizing the existence of good music for the first time. Snoop Dogg inaugurated me into this new and exciting world. I was twelve and my one-year-older cousin had just gotten Doggystyle for Christmas. In my eye’s mind I can see us sitting on his bedroom floor, dressed in our finest Christmas threads, giggling over that little kid saying “I’m gonna be a motherfucking hustla”, and literally becoming teenagers in those 53 minutes. And I love the fact that Snoop is still schooling today’s youth on proper tunes.


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Music for the Jilted Generation – The Prodigy

And from hip hop the musical route took me to hardcore electronic dance beats. I was just weeks shy of thirteen when I first saw The Prodigy live. This was at the height of the ecstasy/rave era and I remember thinking, as I bounced to the music in a state of boundless bliss, why anybody would need a substance to heighten their experience when there was music like this. Ten years later I saw them perform again, which evoked much of the same feelings as the first time.


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Parklife – Blur

My music taste was pretty much tamed at the discovery of Britpop when I was thirteen years old, and has not changed much since. Having dabbled in rap and rave, I finally found my calling. In this new world I was introduced to horn-rimmed glasses, argyle sweater vests, Camden Town and Portobello Road, the revival of “cool Britannia”, and the three most beautiful boys on the planet: Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon (my number one crush at the time), and Alex James. It just so happened that these people became obsessed with Iceland around the time I became obsessed with them, resulting in a couple of run-ins and chitchats with my idols. Teenage years have never been this sweet.


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Different Class – Pulp

Chief of corduroy wearing, spectacle bearing trend amenders and heirs of eccentricity. Jarvis Cocker inspired me to renounce the accepted small town culture I was surrounded with and dream of escaping to London. Around the time I met the boys of Blur, I met Jarvis and asked for a hug, to which he replied in his opaque Sheffield accent “go on then”. A few years later I did escape to London and it was truly wonderful.
A couple of years back I saw Jarvis live for the first time since half my life ago. He was still wearing big horn-rimmed glasses, which his graying hair had slightly overgrown, and he still looked as oddly attractive as ever. Jarvis Cocker will never lose his distinctive element, and I will never lose my veneration for what he stands for: The defeat of the ordinary.


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Suede – Suede

Suede brought a bit of an edge to Britpop. While Blur were cute and poppy and Pulp were odd and eccentric, Suede spoke of heroin and homosexuality like it was a common thing (which for them it was). My favorite song for a few weeks of my thirteenth year was “Sleeping Pills”, a song about suicide and being high on Valium. Brett and Bernard made up the most fruitful collaboration between singer and guitarist since The Smiths’ Morrissay and Marr, and the Britpop world suffered a great loss when Bernard Butler, the genre’s most talented guitarist, stormed out of the studio one day, leaving years of yearning for a reunion in his wake.


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Doolittle – Pixies

Having consumed the complete Britpop catalog, I found out about Pixies, which would become my favorite band at the age of fourteen and stay that way for years to follow. I used to dream of the inconceivable reunion and decided that if it would ever happen, I would be found in the front row, no matter where in the world it would take place. Incidentally, their first tour in over a decade was kick-started in my home country, and I believe it’s the only concert I have shed tears at.


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Grace – Jeff Buckley

After listening to the roaring Boston rock of Pixies for years, I mellowed down somewhat and started noticing Jeff Buckley, who had recently passed away at a way too tender an age. Of course the fact that he was beautiful and died tragically just added to the emotions that poured out of my modest speakers and filled the room day and night, yes night because my roommate and I used to fall asleep to this album every evening for an entire winter. In fact, I got so infatuated with the talented musician that for a while one of my initial inquiries to a potential love interest was if he liked Buckley’s music. But I don’t think I ever met anyone who didn’t.


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Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder

My introduction to the Reykjavik nightlife (which by the way is, or at least used to be, the greatest in the world) took place by the backdrop of Stevie Wonder’s ultra-agreeable voice. Blind from birth, Steveland Morris was just eleven years old when he signed with one of the most prestigious record companies in the world, Motown, where he earned the nickname “Wonder” from Berry Gordy himself after stunning the company’s founder with his vocal abilities. Half a century later and Wonder is one of the most successful recording artists in history, filling dance floors every decade throughout his career and getting generation after generation acquainted with genuine soul music.


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The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths

And thus began my obsession with the great musical city of Manchester. Hate it or love it, but there’s no denying that Morrissey’s falsetto wail is one of the most recognizable trademarks on the indie music scene. There’s something so tragically charming about being a teenager listening to smart socialist pop and I wonder how many souls Moz has turned vegetarian. Long since an icon and the subject of many cultural historians and scholars’ work, Morissey’s melancholic melodies inspired every Britpop band I ever cared about, and he has probably done more for England than any politician has.


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Känn ingen sorg för mig Göteborg - Håkan Hellström

Moving to Sweden opened up a whole new realm of music for me. Håkan Hellström was the hottest guy in any town; god how we loved him in his sailor suits and neon pink Converse shoes. Seeing him in concert was the highpoint of my young life (when seeing somebody live always marked a new highpoint), and I honestly don’t think I’ve been as captured by a live performance since.


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Om Bobbo Viking - Magnus Uggla

You’d never guess that Magnus Uggla was a member of the Swedish nobility. Twenty year old, glam-rock inspired Uggla released his debut album in ’75, I discovered it a quarter of a century later, digging it for the insight it gives into Stockholm life in the seventies (when my young mother lived there) and for the fact that every song on the album is gold.


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Is This It – The Strokes

My good friend Fía said it best when she stated “I’d do all of them, even him”, pointing at Albert Hammond Jr. on the newspaper clipping I was presenting her with. At that point, neither of us had heard their music, but they were already my favorite band. Luckily, their music matched their extreme good looks and kept me in kind of a hipster daze for years.


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#1 - Fischerspooner

Moving to NYC presented me with yet another music genre: The surging and soulless sounds of electroclash, the music world’s most pretentious scene to date. For one glorious summer I partied with Felix da Housecat, Tommy Sunshine, 2 Many DJs and other rulers of the scene (my boyfriend at the time worked in music business and was a member of the inner circle) and man was their music monumental. I still think Emerge is one of the most powerful songs ever composed, never failing to produce goosebumps on a crowded dancefloor.


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Quiet Is the New Loud - Kings of Convenience

Towards the end of my NY summer I hung out with Erlend Øye for a night and the following day I heard Kings of Convenience for the first time as I saw them live in some spectacular old church on the Lower East Side. I’ve been a fan ever since, not only of Kings but everything Erlend Øye gets involved with, which is a lot. Possibly the most gifted musician of the last decade or so and a better publicity for Norway than the fjords.


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Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

Thank Rod for bands that are both ridiculously attractive and ridiculously talented. Descendants of the art-school rock and intelligent pop scenes, disguised as sexy schoolboys clad in slim-fit French designer wear, demonstrating the freshest dance moves since Jarvis Cocker was king of quirk, FF was the greatest thing to come out of the UK for over a decade (or since Britpop faded) and the most stimulating thing to happen to music in eons. Needless to say, I was beyond thrilled.


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Get Rich or Die Tryin' – 50 Cent

Who doesn’t remember my 50 Cent phase, seriously. From G-Unit t-shirts and henna tattoos to reading his biography in one sitting and devising a “rock, paper, scissors” replacement game based on the cover of this album, my passion was ceaseless. Fiddy was a world of guilty pleasure wrapped up in one tough gangsta from the shady side of Queens, and by the way, “In da Club” is still my cell phone ring tone. Some vices are hard to shake.


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Deep Cuts – The Knife

My first visit to Sweden since I lived there and I already have a new favorite band. Eerie vocals and elegiac electronic beats combined with the mystery of the duo’s identity and their northerly origins make The Knife’s music eternally haunting. Deep Cuts was my introduction to the band and contains their disturbingly beautiful magnum opus “Heartbeats” but their darker and less poppy sophomore album Silent Shout is even more solid.


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#3 - Suburban Kids with Biblical Names

I actually didn’t have to live in Sweden to get acquainted with my favorite contemporary band, but my friend Fía later told me that she was friends with these guys when I did live there and that we used to move in the same circles. Be that as it may, listening to their lyrics delivered in an adorable Swedish accent always fills me with fierce nostalgia and longing for my home of Stockholm. Unfortunately they’ve only released this one album, which has kept me occupied for the past five years, but I could listen to it for another five without tiring.


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Closer – Joy Division

In 1978, the great late Tony Wilson, music mayor of Madchester, signed Joy Division to his brand new label, Factory Records, by writing out the contract in his own blood. He then paired them with the finest producer of all time, Martin Hannett, and thus began the creation of the best music I have ever heard. Centuries before, the industrial revolution was born in Manchester; Joy Division not only pioneered the post-punk movement, but started a musical revolution of their own, making Manchester the centre of the music universe. Unfortunately, only two albums were recorded by the band; fortunately the music they contain was delivered by the most skilled musicians since instruments were invented.
Last summer I made the long-awaited pilgrimage to this musical mecca of mine, where I visited the house Ian Curtis drew his last breath, and the spot where he was then laid to rest, as well as the legendary Hacienda nightclub (a Manchester institute run by Wilson, sadly shut down years ago) and the former Factory Records headquarters, now a nightclub owned by Peter Hook of Joy Division/New Order fame. Best weekend of my life.


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Chet Baker Sings - Chet Baker

This is where I’m at today, sitting around drinking tea and listening to cool jazz of the West Coast variety. Chet Baker sure knew how to blow his trumpet, and continues to allure the ladies with his voice way past his departure date.
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Top 15 Books

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Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates

Never before or since has a writer a) so completely understood the complex dynamics of a long-term relationship and
b) been able to pen them so perfectly.


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American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis

Easton’s first person narrative, with its obsessive eighties pop-cultural references, makes Patrick Bateman one of the most memorable lunatics of the literary world.


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The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is my idol. His charm and wit will never be matched by another human being as he was entirely in a league of his own, and every sentence he ever uttered or wrote down can easily be entered in any “greatest quotes” book.


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Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

Another hero of mine for obvious reasons as Nabakov was able to write in a language other than his own better than most writers manage in their mother tongue.


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Watership Down – Richard Adams

A cross between Peter Rabbit and Lord of the Rings, this book is more engaging than anything else I’ve read.


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On the Road – Jack Kerouac

The book that defined a generation and finally created some conflict in the suburban dream that kept America asleep in the 1950s. The beats were the subculture that influenced every counterculture that followed, and in the tone of the era Kerouac captures the mood of the time flawlessly in these 320 pages that allegedly were typed on a gigantic roll of paper over a drug-inspired weekend at the legendary Chelsea Hotel.


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In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

Along with Richard Yates (see nr. 1), Capote is my favorite voice of the seemingly ideal society of the 1950s, and like Yates, Capote is also an impeccable author. With this book he invented a new literary genre, the Nonfiction Novel, proving yet again what a versatile writer he was.


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Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

An instant cult classic, this might be the coolest book ever written.


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Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

A hilarious war satire unlike anything else published on the subject.


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Perfume – Patrick Süskind

Writing is all about appealing to the five senses, and never has anybody appealed as strongly to the sense of smell as Süskind does on the opening page of this book.


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About a Boy – Nick Hornby

Hornby is the kind of writer you read in one sitting. An expert on pop-cultural knowledge, entertaining phrases and compelling prose, his characters never fail to hit close to home, no matter who the reader is.


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A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

Bryson has the capability of turning the most mundane object into the most fascinating subject. This list might as well be composed of the fifteen books he has published, as he is the most amusing writer there ever was. I chose this one since it’s his most significant book, an absorbing educational tome disguised as a humorous non-fiction delight.


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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls – Peter Biskind

The film-buff’s bible, written by the master of cinema history. As with Bryson, I recommend anything Biskind has published, but this book deals with a particularly interesting period: The seventies rebels who stood up to the stagnated studio system and created the independent film scene with the most important revolution Hollywood has seen.


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Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery

My favorite books as a kid, which I still read with much regularity. The heroine is a quirky, intelligent, and imaginative redhead fascinated with books and nature. Sound like anyone you know?


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Isfolket – Margit Sandemo

These are the books that constantly got me into trouble at school over a three month period (the time it took me to read all 47 books) when I was fourteen years old, as I either failed to show up for class due to an all-night reading session, or exchanged them for the dull textbooks that were meant to be open on my desk. The supernatural family-drama of the cursed Ice People (their story spanning half a millennium full of sex, sorcery, and all the other stuff that tends to capture teenagers’ attention) was the perfect escape, and never since has a book (let alone 47 of them) managed to occupy my interest with such intensity.
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Top 15 TV Shows

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Twin Peaks

And just like that, David Lynch revolutionized television forever.
Think about it, before Twin Peaks you were watching Matlock, Rosanne, Cheers, Who’s the Boss, Golden Girls and a buffet of other mediocre and generic shows, but after Lynch’s introduction to the bizarre yet hilarious town of Twin Peaks, where the owls are not what they seem (or anything else for that matter), it was all about Northern Exposure, The X-Files, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Carnivalé, Lost, Deadwood and a number of other high-quality and ambitious TV series developed, directed and depicted by people who equally belonged in film business.
Twin Peaks proved that the American audience was ready to think and all of a sudden there were endless possibilities. Just turn on HBO or Showtime at any given moment and see the Twin Peaks legacy linger on in a medium that will never be the same again.


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Freaks and Geeks

I have immense respect for Paul Feig for eliminating the stereotype from the hallways of McKinley High. Although his characters are neatly divided into the two subculture groups the name of the show suggests, there are constant crossovers and clashes as characters expose hidden sides of their personalities, surprising the viewer in every episode. Demonstrating some of the best character creation, funniest dialogues, coolest wardrobe and greatest soundtrack seen and heard on TV, it’s a scandal that this cult show was cancelled after just one perfect season.


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Northern Exposure

If I could live in any fictional town, it would be Cicely, Alaska.
Possibly the smartest show ever made, with philosophical undertones and frequent references to literature and/or cinema, it’s a wonder that it lasted as long as it did (whole six seasons, while most of my favorite shows get cancelled way too prematurely after 1-2 seasons). Its success boils down to the fact that it demonstrated every element a good TV series requires: drama, comedy, romance, conflict etc. but presented those in a completely fresh and original way through one of the best character cornucopia crafted for the small screen. And I don’t believe TV writers have been this creative since.

A fun little footnote: A couple of years ago, Aaron and I visited Roslyn, Washington, the location the show was shot on, and this turned out to be the most perfect little town in the United States (and I’ve been all over the country let me tell you), situated in its loveliest state. It was like stepping onto a set, as the town hadn’t changed one bit since it was featured on TV during the early-mid nineties: The same old pick-up trucks lining the streets (which were already old when the show was made), the same restaurants, same everything. And amazingly enough, the town Twin Peaks was shot in was just down the road. A perfect TV paradise in the Pacific North-West.


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Pushing Daisies

Brian Fuller is a genius. Pushing Daisies is yet another example of a great show that got cancelled long before its time (lasting just two brilliant seasons), but here the reason was that the fantastical storylines Fuller fabricated every week were simply too expensive to produce for the small screen (it’s not the first time a Fuller show got pulled off the air after a brief lifespan, Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls went the same way, which tells me that Fuller’s mind is simply too big for TV and he should venture into the world of film). Alluringly colorful and Amelie-esque, Daisies is as comforting as the pies it prominently features and its dreamlike qualities, tongue-twisting dialogues, and storybook-like characters spin a spellbinding world that extends far beyond the limits of television.


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The X-Files

X-Files was THE show in my day. I can’t think of another show that created as widespread and long-lived a catchphrase, and characters that enjoyed such a cult status. In addition to this, X-Files was responsible for breeding an entire generation of geeks. Aaron and I recently engaged in an extended marathon where we acquired a whole new level of appreciation for this cultural touchstone of the glorious nineties.


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Seinfeld

Another gemstone of the nineties treasure trove (you may have noticed by now that most great TV shows were generated in this particular decade). Solid throughout its nine seasons, Seinfeld reinvented the sitcom just as Twin Peaks transformed TV drama. I’ve also done a watch-a-thon of this lately and can report that this is one show that will never age, as the habitual antics of Seinfeld and co. are wholly in a league of their own.


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The Office

When I first heard they were making an American version of the ingenious Office, I swore I would never watch it. But one day, not so long ago, I snuck a peak at one episode and instantly became a devoted follower. Do I dare admit that the American edition is better than the original, due to its flock of full-fledged characters, each more interesting than the next? The Office is not just a rollicking satire, but an earnest insight into the human condition and the unpredictable connections that transpire in our seemingly mundane lives.


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Curb Your Enthusiasm

You’d think that Larry David (co-creator and writer of abovementioned Seinfeld) would’ve run out of quips after a near decade of the finest comedy writing seen on any medium, but far from it. Not only is he as humorous as ever, but has yet again created a groundbreaking television series, once more setting the bar higher for future funny men. (Plus, kudos for bringing the Seinfeld gang back together for a fictional 10 year reunion show!)


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It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Speaking of the ludicrous and unusual. Loserdom has never been so cool, and neither has lampooning taboo topics, artlessly rendered over a pint of Paddy’s cheapest beer in the shady side of Philadelphia. Describing itself very accurately as “Seinfeld on crack”, Always Sunny is laughing gas in digital format.


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Misfits

An amalgam of The Breakfast Club, Heroes and Pushing Daises, Misfits is the most refreshing show to hit the small screen in seasons. Howard Overman’s razor-sharp and streetwise script brings britwit and raised hormone levels to the current TV climate, which he then pairs with a smashing soundtrack and wicked cast, leaving the audience no choice but to surrender to this sheer brilliance.


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Arrested Development

The term “dysfunctional family” gained a whole new meaning when the Bluths entered the screen scene, presented by a dream team of farcebiz’s finest armed with the most innovative comic material seen outside of Larry David’s domain. When the last laugh track has been silenced, only delightful absurdity will endure.


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Scrubs

The only good hospital show ever to be televised. Scrubs’ winning formula is based on a rapid narrative, wonderfully whimsical characters, surreal daydream scenarios and often sobering observations delivered in Braff’s boyish voice-over.


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The O.C.

Once upon a time I exchanged my life for this epic and emotional family dramedy. All of a sudden, Southern California was appealing while Seth Cohen blurred the line between hip and square, making geeks mainstream and desirable to the rest of the world, and for just that moment, popular TV became the countercultural rage.


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Jeeves and Wooster

The dimwitted idler and eternal dandy, Bertie Wooster, and his resourceful and reliable valet, Jeeves, made a splendid pair, matching up like golf on a Sunday, fingers on piano keys, members of gentlemen’s clubs committing foolish pranks (often involving nicking hats from police officers), stern aunts on surprise visits, Gussie Fink-Nottle and his treasured newts, Tuppy Glossop’s naughty midnight snack trips, and the boundless shenanigans that defined this amiable relationship between master and servant.


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North and South

Picture Patrick Swayze as Orry Main, wearing a cape and long hair, both fluttering in the wind as he rides his prized stallion through an avenue of moss-covered oak trees, on his way to West Point Military Academy where he will meet his best friend for life, George Hazard. Only problem is, Main is a plantation owner’s son from the South, while Hazard’s father is a steel factory owner from the North. You can envision the chaos that arises between the two families when the Civil War breaks out. Women in big dresses, mansions burning down in fires, the most dramatic theme song imaginable, David Carradine as Swayze’s arch nemesis, Johnny Cash as John Brown, evil officers, malicious sisters, fanatic abolitionists, slaves with hearts of gold, family secrets, forbidden love affairs, betrayals, duals, revenge and, above all, everlasting friendships are at the core of this best soap-operatic mini-series ever made.
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Ode to the Orient

If I could have any job in the world, I’d like to be an explorer. Unfortunately, the age for this profession already passed about a century ago when every blank in the world’s map had been filled by eager European adventures with the lust of being the first to chart undiscovered territories, and naming the landmarks that happened on their way after themselves or their beloved monarchs.

Of those, Richard Burton (not the actor) is somewhat of an idol to me. Burton was one of the first Europeans to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca and had to do so in a disguise and if discovered would've been killed on the spot. He was also the first European to enter the mysterious and religious center of Harar (in present day Ethiopia) where he was lucky to escape alive after being held prisoner for several days. Next he explored central Africa well before Stanley and Livingston arrived on the scene (in fact, the duo used Burton’s books as guidance). Between his famed expeditions he found time to translate 1001 Nights (aka Arabian Nights) and the Kama Sutra, learned to speak around thirty languages, was interested in all religions to the point that he became an expert but was a non-believer to the end of his days, mastered fencing and falconry, and of course traveled to every corner of the world. He was mostly intrigued by the odd and unusual, as well as the more unfortunate and lowlier natives of the lands he visited, never really blending in with the elite but rather seeking the company of gypsies, Bedouins, prostitutes, nomads, and remote tribes of all sorts. In the end he had written something around 100 books on his experiences, accompanied by sketches of what he witnessed on his travels, but always remained unappreciated by his contemporaries and is fairly unknown still to this day (resulting in the constant identity confusion with the actor of the same name).

But what Burton was best known for was his passion for the Middle East, giving him the distinction of being an advanced Orientalist, and that’s where mine and his admirations intertwine, for I am namely also a dedicated follower of most things Middle Eastern. Snake charmers, harems, mosques, mosaic, minarets, camels, sultans, turbans, souks, hookahs, hoummos, couscous, baba ghanoush, mint tea in small gold-brimmed glasses, coffee thick as mud, mountains of spices, oasis, olives, dates, palm trees, imams, khamsins, chibouks, burqas, sheiks, and Berbers are all things that could occupy my mind a great deal, and that’s just naming a few.

Then there’s T.E. Lawrence, better known as “Lawrence of Arabia”, who was doubtlessly inspirited by Burton’s countless odysseys. When just twenty years old he set out alone on a three-month walking tour of crusader castles in Ottoman Syria, during which he traveled 1,000 miles (1,600 km) on foot. As Burton, Lawrence was a polyglot and the two also shared the idealization of Syria, where Lawrence worked as an archeologist for a spell. However, he was of course best known for his alliance with Arab troops during WWI in the extended guerrilla operations against the armed forces of the Ottoman Empire, where Lawrence and his companions successfully drove back the opposition.

And finally to Gustave Flaubert, another desert devotee and enthusiast of the eastern way of life. At twelve years of age, Flaubert’s greatest wish was to become a camel driver in Egypt and lose his virginity in a harem. His native France bored him to no end and he had a lifelong obsession with the Orient, resulting in an extended trip to Egypt when he was in his early twenties, where he immersed himself in the customs of his most favored country. Flaubert was never content with being a mere European and he went as far as proposing a new method for ascribing nationality –not according to the country of birth or ancestral origins, but instead according to the places one was attracted to (needless to say, I’m a big fan of this theory). He felt that in adulthood we were granted the freedom to re-create our identity in line with our true allegiances, and although his body would remain in France, his soul would forever belong to the arid terrain across the Mediterranean.

That being said, I’m about to embark on a long-awaited journey in the footsteps of these great men, visiting Burton’s Damascus, Flaubert’s Cairo, Luxor and the Nile, and Lawrence’s crusader castles and the Wadi Rum desert with its Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Great adventures await!


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Sweden

A sample from my brochure writing. Please keep in mind that a) brochures consist of horrible writing as the ultimate goal is to sell and you're just expected to throw in a lot of adjectives and superlatives, only show what's good about the place and even exaggerate and b) the people we're trying to sell these tours to are middle-aged, small-town Brits. That being said, enjoy.


With its mosaic of natural beauty and cultural treasures, Sweden is a destination which should not be left out of your itinerary. The country is adorned with charming farmland and scenic beaches to the south, dramatic forests and vast tundra to the north, bustling city life and enchanting archipelagos to the east and west, and idyllic lakes and cosy cottages in the centre.

Connecting the two coasts is the Gota Canal, Sweden’s greatest civil engineering feat and most popular of the “Seven Wonders of Sweden”. A boat ride through the canal is an unforgettable experience and offers views of Sweden’s many trademark red and yellow timber houses and fetching castles, as well as the pastoral landscape that characterizes this ideal setting.

The unique “right of public access” allows you to enjoy countless activities for all seasons in the unlimited surroundings. Hiking, cycling, sailing, swimming in one of the many alluring lakes, fishing, foraging for those renowned Scandinavian berries, skiing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling are simply a sample of the adventures awaiting you. Just follow the lead of the locals you’ll encounter, as the Swedes have more boats and summer cottages than any other nation and truly appreciate their hard-earned holidays.

History entwines with nature in this land of Vikings and reputable royalty, evidenced by the World Heritage awarded Viking trade centre of Birka, the rich medieval island of Gotland, and the glorious Vasa war ship (another Wonder of Sweden).

Regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Stockholm is a capital built on islands and has therefore been dubbed “Venice of the North”. Nature is omnipresent in this town where water, green spaces and habitats each have an equal share of the area. The heart of the capital is Gamla Stan (Old Town), Europe’s largest and best preserved medieval quarter which will awe you with its story-book buildings and maze of razor-thin cobblestone streets.

Sweden’s ample and diverse cultural background contributes the botanic brilliance of Carl Linnaeus, the prize bestowing legacy of Alfred Nobel, the inspiring illustrations of Carl Larsson, and Astrid Lindgren’s genius storytelling which is an essential element of Sweden’s national psyche. The range of literature includes everything from the prolific writing of cultural icon August Strindberg to the spine-chilling thrillers of Stieg Larsson, and the cinematic tradition set by Ingmar Bergman has developed into a flourishing scene of modern film directors. As the world’s third biggest music exporter, Sweden boasts an assortment of famed musicians and bands from ABBA to contemporary rock and pop artists that have topped the charts worldwide. Sweden is also a leading force in art and design endeavours where glassblowing is king, the Dala Horse has long since become a symbol of Sweden, and companies such as IKEA and H&M are familiar in every corner of the world.

Engaging in festivities is yet another Swedish virtue. Whether it’s dancing around the Maypole and indulging in a spread of meatballs, herring and plenty of snaps at “Midsommar” (midsummer), or feast on freshly caught crayfish during “Kraftskiva” towards the end of the summer, Swedish celebrations are extremely social and common customs are valued above all. The café culture is another cherished leisure pursuit and there’s always time for getting together with a friend for a “fika” (a common term for meeting up for a coffee and pastry).

All this buoyancy, paired with one of the most equal social systems in the word, has resulted in the longest life expectancy in Europe. Spend any amount of time in Sweden and its spell will linger on for a lifetime.


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Stockholm.

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Gamla Stan.

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The man who created the "Swedish style", Carl Larsson...

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Mythmaker John Bauer...

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Astrid's heroine.

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ABBA

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The Dala horse.

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Midsommar.

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Best snack in the world.
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