Fantastic article on a forgotten Iraqi

From the Financial Times:

Today, al-Kasim is well known and liked within the older generation of Norway’s oil community (for whom his impromptu visit to the Ministry in May 1968 has entered the folklore). Beyond that limited circle, however, he is virtually unknown. The big newspapers have not profiled him; an internet search reveals little. I first learned of his story by coincidence, when a Norwegian development official mentioned him in an off-hand remark. The government has an ambitious aid programme (now called “Oil for Development”) to help poor, oil-rich states manage their natural resources. The official pointed out the irony in this, given that “it was an Iraqi guy who helped us set everything up in the first place. Without him we would just have let the American oil companies decide how to do things.” What a great story, I thought, almost too good to be true. But if it was true, how come so few people in Norway knew about it?

Time for people to learn about the Iraqi who saved Norway from the misery of other oil states, Farouk al-Kasim.  As the article notes, “Farouk is perhaps the greatest value creator Norway has had.”


Well this is awkward for the normally mild-mannered and somewhat inconspicuous Norwegians.  Norway is a huge favorite heading into Saturday night’s Eurovision Song Contest.  Norway is certainly used to playing the underdog role in almost every competition since raping, pillaging, and plundering went out of style about a thousand years ago.  But favorites?  Not so much. 

After a strong performance in Thursday’s semi-final and securing a second-half draw in the final, Norway are now Sky Bet’s odds-on favourites at 10//11 to win on Saturday. 23-year-old Alexander Rybak is the hottest favourite the competition has seen since Cliff Richard and ‘Congratulations’ and it looks like Eurovision will be heading to Oslo in 2010.

You’ll note that at 10:11, the bookies don’t quite give Rybak a 50% chance, but it’s really close. 

Around Oslo, I know several people throwing Eurovision parties this Saturday.  Unlike the usual Eurovision atmosphere which consists of enjoying some alcohol, laughing at ridiculous eastern European performances, and hoping Norway doesn’t embarrass itself, there is a marked tension in the air. 

We’ll see how Rybak handles it.  He nailed his semifinal performance:

If he can do it again, Oslo will get to have a schmalz contest huge party next May in addition to the usual festivities on the 17th.

Perhaps Drillo shouldn’t be named coach for life quite yet

On the heels of the great victory over Germany (in a friendly), Norway promptly lost at South Africa (2-1) and came from behind to beat Finland at home (3-2).

Although the FIFA rankings aren’t the most accurate system ever conceived, they do give a rough idea of the quality of teams. 

  • Germany: 2nd
  • Norway: 45th
  • Finland: 57th
  • South Africa: 72nd

If Norway hopes to qualify for the World Cup, it’s going to have to have a lot better results against teams worse than it.  I’m not sure these last two results are that good an omen.

In surprising soccer related news (via my favorite soccer blogger):

*According to FIFA, the country that has requested the most World Cup tickets (other than host South Africa) is the United States. Go figure. Britain is third, followed by Germany, Italy and Australia.


I can now afford bread

Or so says the Economist Intelligence Unit.

SINGAPORE (AFP) — The strong yen has made Tokyo and Osaka the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates while sharp currency declines lowered living costs in Australia and New Zealand, a survey showed.

France’s capital Paris is now the world’s third-most expensive city, down from number two in the EIU’s previous survey, followed by Copenhagen and former number one Oslo.

Chant with me, “We’re number 5!  We’re number 5!”

First beer outside


One of the more minor Norwegian competitions/traditions is seeing who can have the first beer outside each year.  There are only a few hard and fast rules:

  • You have to drink the beer outside
  • You have to drink the beer in Norway…beer in January in Tenerife doesn’t count

I have a strong entry in the competition, having had beer outside in the sun yesterday at Aker Brygge.  Even if the beer was overpriced and it wasn’t exactly warm outside, it sure felt better than cold and gray. 

Alexander Rybak

And we’re back after a brief outage to format the hard drive and install Windows 7.  The biggest news during our absence?  A certain singer looking to make history for Norway.

Alexander Rybak won the Melodi Grand Prix, Norway’s qualification show for the Eurovision song contest.  Not only that, but some commenters are calling “Fairytale” a favorite heading into the competition in Moscow in May.

Here’s a link to his performance.  The song invokes traditional Norwegian music and the dancers match with aspects of traditional Norwegian dance.

Concert summary

Good show, particularly for a band that has been together for only a year.  The only real problem was that it was much too short at approximately 25 minutes.  I realize the festival has tons of acts at lots of venues, but 25 minutes is barely enough time to let an artist get warmed up.

That being said, by:Larm is still going on today and tomorrow and it is possible to see a lot of bands in a little time.