Saturday, April 30, 2011

Spotlight on Bastøy Prison

Have you had a chance to check out Ann Pedersen's article on Norway's progressive prison system in the May issue of Viking? This article has already generated some interesting reader feedback, both from those who admire Norway's approach to incarceration and from others who feel this philosophy could never work in the United States. If you've got an opinion to share, I'd love to hear it. Write me at

Viking readers aren't the only ones talking about Norway's prisons. If you'd like to learn more about Bastøy prison, one of the two facilities featured in Pedersen's article, you can watch these reports from Deutsche Welle TV and AlJezeera's English Channel.

While Bastøy today is a model of progressive justice, it hasn't always been the case. If fact, for the first half of the 20th century, Bastøy was home to a notorious bording school for disadvantaged boys. The 2010 film "King of Devil's Island" (Kongen av Bastøy) dramatizes the true story of a violent uprising led by the youth in 1915. The Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, (Norsk Folkemuset) has collaborated with the filmmakers with their current exhibit, called "Bad Boy? Bastøy Boys' Home." If you're in the Oslo area, check it out!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Ulf Larsen, Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grete Waitz: Legendary Athlete, Role Model

I was sorry to hear of the passing of Norwegian runner Grete Waitz this week. In the November 2010 issue of Viking, Åge Dalby of the Norwegian Olympic Museum calls Waitz the most influential long-distance female runner of all time. In addition to winning the title of marathon world champion in 1983 and a silver medal at the 84' Olympics, she won the New York City marathon an astounding nine times.

In Norway, Waitz's accomplishments made her a hero. Her statue, pictured here, stands outside Bislett Stadium in Oslo and a Norwegian postage stamp was issued in her honor in 1997.

But while Waitz became famous for her athletic prowess, she also will be remembered as a role model to a generation of female runners. She was a spokesperson for corporate health and wellness and organizations such as CARE International, the Special Olympics, and Aktiv mot Kreft (Active Against Cancert), the foundation she started in 2007.

To learn more about Grete Waitz and nine other great Norwegian athletes, check out "10 Athletes Who Shaped a Nation" in the November 2010 issue of Viking.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo courtesy of Flickruser aktivioslo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Royal Visit

The Palace in Oslo recently made the official announcement that Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja will visit the United States this fall. The 12-day trip, scheduled for Oct 11-22, will include stops in New York, Minnesota and Iowa. While in New York, Their Majesties will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the American Scandinavian Foundation, in addition to attending other business and cultural programs. In the Midwest, the king and queen will visit Norwegian-American cultural organizations and communities.

To learn more about the royal family, check out the feature story "A Thoroughly Modern Family" in the December 2010 issue of Viking magazine. The article includes a royal family tree and a history of the modern monarchy.

To get you in the spirit of this historic event, we thought you'd enjoy this video clip of the 1968 royal wedding of King Harald and Queen Sonja in the Oslo Domkirke. And stay tuned for more details on the royal visit!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finding Norwegian Film

If you're a fan of Norwegian film and you live in the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival begins today and runs through May 5. This year's festival, which includes more than 170 films from 50 countries, will feature several Norwegian films and an appearance from Norwegian filmmaker Bent Hamer.

The good news—no matter where you live—is that it's never been easier to watch Norwegian films. A number of cities, such as Seattle, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and Austin, are host to Nordic film festivals. Scandinavia House in New York shows Nordic films year-round. There's also a growing number of Norwegian titles available on Netflix. Finally, don't forget the Sons of Norway media lending library, available as a benefit to membership! (Log in as a member on Sons of Norway's website to read more about it.)

Want to learn more about the past, present and future of Norwegian film? Check out Rob Nelson's article in the August 2010 issue of Viking!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Mystery Behind IKEA Product Names

Swedish furniture retailer, IKEA, is often known for its affordable and Scandinavian-inspired products, do-it-yourself assembly and large showroom stores. But, perhaps almost as well known, are their product’s distinctive names. A simple google search brings up numerous articles on the topic, a game dedicated to matching IKEA’s product names with the item type, even an interactive product name generator application. What might seem to be a mishmash of unfamiliar words and characters to the average shopper is actually much more. With product names ranging from “Billy” to “Snitta” and everywhere between, IKEA actually employs a complex Scandinavian naming system to the over 10,000 products they sell.

For instance, in my home there is an Aneboda, Bjursta, Malm, Aläng and Mongstad, or in other words, three locations in Sweden and two in Norway. So how do a dresser, dining table, bed frame, lamp and wall mirror turn into place names? Here are just a few of the Scandinavian naming rules that apply to IKEA’s many products:

• Beds, wardrobes, and hall furniture: Norwegian place names
(e.g. Elgå - “Location in Norway” - wardrobe)

• Children’s items: mammals, birds, and adjectives (e.g. Mammut - “Mammoth” - wardrobe)

• Bathroom articles: Scandinavian lakes, rivers and bays
(e.g. Boasjö - “Swedish lake name”- 5 piece bathroom sink set)

• Chairs, desks: men’s names (e.g. Gustav - workstation desk)

• Textiles, curtains: women’s names (e.g. Felicia - throw blanket)

• Upholstered furniture, coffee tables, bookshelves, media storage: Swedish place names (e.g. Ektorp - “Location in Sweden” - upholstered sofa)

• Kitchen utensils: foreign words, spices, herbs, fish, mushrooms, fruits or berries, functional descriptions (e.g. Snitta - “To cut”- knife set)

• Carpets and rugs: Danish place names (e.g. Gåser - “Location in Denmark” - floor rug)

Now you are probably asking yourself, “where did the idea for these IKEA names come from?” Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, created the naming system in the hope that naming the products with words and proper names rather than numbers would be easier for the shopper to remember. It was also helpful for Kamprad, as he is dyslexic.

While IKEA’s unique naming system is certainly one of the most well known, it is hardly the beginning of the trend toward retail product naming. Furniture Chairman at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Antonio Larosa, pre-dates the idea much farther, saying, “Throughout history, furniture pieces were given the name of a monarch, such as Queen Anne or Louis XIV, to gain favor and influence.” Giving proper names to retail items creates a visceral connection and many retailers have taken cues from these early ideas in an effort to lure shoppers.

No matter the reason behind IKEA’s product naming procedure, one thing is certain, knowing the nomenclature makes a trip to IKEA all the more interesting, and perhaps even informative.

Itching for some additional examples of IKEA items with a Norwegian moniker? Here are a few to get you started…
Trondheim: Collection of bedroom furniture
Tromsö: Collection of loft and bunk style beds
Stolmen: Collection of wardrobe furniture
Fåvang: Collection of foam mattresses
Figgjo: Decorative bathroom mirror
Nidelva: Bathroom storage tins

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sweet Treats

It was a pleasure to work with Kari Diehl on "Sweet Talk," Viking magazine's cover feature for April. I came across Kari's Scandinavian food blog a few months ago and have been a fan ever since. If you enjoyed her article on Nordic coffee celebrations, then you'll enjoy this expanded post on the same subject, with plenty of recipes for cakes, tortes and cookies.

As if that weren't enough, Sons of Norway's website is loaded with dozens of great Norwegian recipes for breads, desserts and baked goods as well. When the treats come out of the oven, all that's missing is good coffee and conversation!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.