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North is back from its unplanned hiatus (I was recording music: a still-unfinished Dacianos innspilling) and I type this as parked cars disappear beneath the white blankets of snow and the air is filled with small white angels falling in heavenly silence. Or something. Anyhow, as the winter bites and the outskirts of the city fall prey to Polar Bear attacks, I fearlessly report to you, my worldwide readership, on one of the most controversial subjects in Norwegian culture: the invention of the paperclip. Aye, the paperclip. Binders it's called in Norwegian. Why is it so important to Norway? There was a 7-metre paperclip erected as a monument to it in 1989, Norwegian patriots during the Nazi occupation wore paperclips in the 1940s, and I even found a paperclip in the shower the other day. The paperclip lies at the heart of the Norwegian experience - yet there is great...

About once a year, I almost gaze down from my Arctic tower to the (alleged) world below, but then I realize I don't need to do this, because my loyal servants are able to fax me statistics upon which I can pontificate (if, that is, I feel like pontificating). This year, I'll fill you in on gross national income, press freedom and higher education, three subjects you are no doubt fascinated by. GNI Every year a list of countries is published by the World Bank, ranked by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita: 'according to the Atlas Method, an indicator of income developed by the World Bank'. The Wikipedia definition of GNI says it 'comprises the total value produced within a country (i.e. its Gross Domestic Product), together with its income received from other countries (notably interest and dividends), less similar payments made to other countries'. The World Bank's calculations...

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Yes, No Music Day came around on 21 November (this past weekend) and we put on an event to honour it. The brainchild of KLF/K-Foundation musician/artist Bill Drummond, ours was one of a number of No Music events worldwide, as listed on the17.org and penkilnburn.com, the main event being in Brazil this year. What's No Music Day? 'No Music Day is on 21 November because 22 November is St Cecilia's Day. St Cecilia is the patron saint of music. In many countries 22 November was the day chosen to give thanks for and to celebrate the existence of music' - nomusicday.com. Therefore, we banned music from our music venue for 24 hours, and didn't listen to any music at all until midnight of the 22nd, when our designated DJ put on some 50s Trinidadian calypso (for the record, "Fed-a-ray" by Lord Beginner, if you ever want to try it). But...

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Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin'! I was in Berlin for a whirlwind overdrive week in late October with the Norwegian band Masselys. This is the band Bjarne, Jomba and Kjell-Olav formed earlier this year when Salvatore split up. The band also consists of Jonas (from 120 Days) and a singer called P.A. with no previous records. I was with them to play on the album they were recording with German producer Boris Wilsdorf, who famously records and mixes Einstürzende Neubauten. andereBaustelle Tonstudio was a studio with a difference, as you can see from the metal hanging behind the drumkit. During the week I also got to see much more of Berlin, so I've revised my opinion of the city from last time. Come join me on this musical travelogue... Mo Monday night I arrived, finding the band in an apartment in Charlotteburg owned by a Norwegian songwriting organization....

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You may remember that back in April and May 2007 I reported on the plight of small businesses in my part of Oslo (Grünerløkka). Since then, over 70 of these businesses - including Sound of Mu (pictured) - have banded together to form an organization called UNiK, which even has a discount card for sale. The UNiK card can also be used in London, in any of the shops that are members of Wedge. Here's what UNiK has to say about itself: "UNiK Grünerløkka was founded on the 11th May 2007. It is a movement consisting of residents, artists, shop owners and other concerned individuals who live or have their work in and around Grünerløkka. We want to take care of this diverse borough, which we believe is one of Oslo's most important social spaces. UNiK is politically independent. We believe that a diverse district benefits everyone, regardless of political...

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Is there anything about Norway I am reticent to investigate? Certainly not. On North I get ever closer to the heart of the matter, and tonight I reveal something very essential to this depopulated Scandinavian nation. I don't know whether tonight's subject is a Norwegian invention or a Norwegian cultural practice, but it's something you have to learn if you live here: how to open a beer bottle, the Norwegian way. Gaze upon the picture above. See the beer bottle? It isn't open. There is beer inside. We need to get the beer out. This is not an Australian-style screw-top bottle, so you can't use the palm of your hand. And don't use your teeth, you reckless idiot! And no no no you cannot resort to using a bottle opener; that might be all well and good inside the E.U. but it is not the Norwegian way. I'll tell you...

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(Photo: Design for the other 90%) I'm adding 'Norwegian inventions' as a new category in the North blog. There aren't going to be that many inventions to cover, but this must surely be the greatest: the treadle pump, invented by Norwegian Gunnar Bårnes in 1980. The fundamental thing that will get a subsistence farmer out of poverty is the control of the water for the crops. Now, this can be done without some massive dramatic project that will cost billions. So no big dams. It can even be done without diesel pumps or anything complicated like that . Because Gunnar Bårnes's pump is a simple thing for subsistence farmers and it's powered by walking feet. And it's affordable. Scientific American in the special issue of september 2005, 'Crossroads for Planet Earth', explained that the pump costs $25 and can irrigate half an acre, 1,500,000 Bangladeshi farmers have purchased treadle pumps,...

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(click for closeup) On 4 October I took my third trip this year to Skien with the Sound of Mu collective... This time it was the "finisage" of the summer-long Tempo Skien art festival. We converted an extremely commercial-looking venue into a more appealing "cabaret" with fake trees. Two of our bands played: Jae and Dacianos. Dacianos is of course my own band. The line-up for this show was: Barry Kavanagh (voice, piano, guitar), Håkon Larsen (drums, egg), Marius Kolbensvedt (metallophones, bass, egg), Ilmar Wilbers (cello) and Anne Gunn Fossland (voice). We travelled together with the 3 members of Jae, a driver, our own soundman and two Mu people to set up the exhibition and "do art". It was also a free food, hotel rooms kind of deal, which I always like! We (Dacianos) changed our setlist considerably for this show, and seemingly long-term members of our audience were much...

Barry Kavanagh interviews the Norwegian artist Trond Arne Vangen. Mp3 5 min 15 sec. Recorded by Barry Kavanagh and edited by John Birger Wormdahl. The editors of Blather.net offer no apologies for the content of this podcast. Update August 2009: owing to Capricorn entering Leo in the fifth house one too many times, this podcast is no longer available.

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In this page of the newspaper Østkantavisa you can see my street, and my local grocery store. If you click the image it'll enlarge, and you'll see that above the shop is a banner with the words "Vi bor her. Vis ser deg. Ikke kjøp dopet ditt her!", which means "We live here. We see you. Don't buy your drugs here!" Recently in passing I reported that 48 hash dealers were arrested in my area, thus removing the street trade. Apparently they have all been deported. I'm told by someone who was friends with a dealer a while back that these guys come into Norway from places like Nigeria and to avoid instant deportation claim to be under 18. They are then sent to immigrant camps way up north to be 'processed'. Being in reality over 18, they escape from the camps, and come down south to Oslo where they...