Thursday, February 21, 2013

People in Norway are really into firewood

Sarah Lyall of the New York Times reports:

OSLO — The TV program, on the topic of firewood, consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace.  Yet no sooner had it begun, on prime time on Friday night, than the angry responses came pouring in. 

It seems impossible that these two sentences were intentionally printed together.  If you were on Family Feud and the category was "TV shows people might be upset about on a Friday night", answering "a show about a fire burning for eight hours" might provoke Steve Harvey to make this face:

 “We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the program,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book

I just want to emphasize that the following is the title of a bestselling book in Norway, for real.

“Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood — and the Soul of Wood-Burning” inspired the broadcast. “Fifty percent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.” 

Not only do Norwegians have strong opinions about stacking firewood, but they are dramatically diverging opinions, leading to spirited debate.  In the words of Mr. Mytting:

"One thing that really divides Norway is bark.” 


One thing that does not divide Norway, apparently, is its love of discussing Norwegian wood.

 Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point to the program, which was shown on the state broadcaster, NRK.

 For reference, about 36% of Americans watched the Super Bowl this year.

In a country where 1.2 million households have fireplaces or wood stoves, said Rune Moeklebust, NRK’s head of programs in the west coast city of Bergen, the subject naturally lends itself to television. 

Does it?

“My first thought was, ‘Well, why not make a TV series about firewood?’” Mr. Moeklebust said in an interview. “And that eventually cut down to a 12-hour show, with four hours of ordinary produced television, and then eight hours of showing a fireplace live.” 

So they had to talk you down to only 12 hours of firewood-related coverage? 

There is no question that it is a popular topic. “Solid Wood” spent more than a year on the nonfiction best-seller list in Norway. 

Also popular in Norway:

“National Firewood Night,” as Friday’s program was called, opened with the host, Rebecca Nedregotten Strand, promising to “try to get to the core of Norwegian firewood culture — because firewood is the foundation of our lives.” Various people discussed its historical and personal significance. “We’ll be sawing, we’ll be splitting, we’ll be stacking and we’ll be burning,” Ms. Nedregotten Strand said. 

But the real excitement came when the action moved, four hours later, to a fireplace in a Bergen farmhouse. 

The fire on “National Firewood Night” burned all night long, in suspensefully unscripted configurations. Fresh wood was added through the hours by an NRK photographer named Ingrid Tangstad Hatlevoll, aided by viewers who sent advice via Facebook on where exactly to place it. 

This actually does sound marginally more interesting than voting on how Hawaii 5-0 ends, which is an actual thing American viewers were invited to do recently.

"I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer called niesa36 said on the Dagbladet newspaper Web site. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher. 

“I’m not being ironic,” the viewer continued. “For some reason, this broadcast was very calming and very exciting at the same time.”

Is anyone else concerned that niesa36 might be an arsonist?  This sounds like how an arsonist would react. 

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