Random weirdness for the week of March 17, 2015

freehugs

The corner outside Karls-Berger Pub isn’t exactly the hottest red-light district in the world, but at least the price for exchanging bodily DNA is right. Benjamin Vidmar, seen here sharing his affections with Elin Amundsen, offered frees hugs for two hours Saturday afternoon as a project for Elos’ Transformation Games, which seeks participants trying to to “transform the world around you.” “The Action went much better than I expected and mostly everyone gave a smile when they read my sign,” Vidmar wrote in one of a series of updates at the Elos website. “I also noticed that once a person gave me a hug they would start to speak with me. While they were speaking with me, then it would be much easier for others to come up and give me a hug.” Although he said he felt uncomfortable and only got couple of takers during the first 15 minutes, the final tally was was “Dogs-1 Girls-4 Boys-8 Ladies-24 Guys-19.”

unisskeptch

We pitifully begged for permission this time: Not only did he consent, but he didn’t threaten to sue for illegally printing his work in February. Artwork by
Aurélien Froment

Remember that guy who earlier this year wrote the greatest article we’ve ever seen about Polarjazz even though we didn’t understand a word of it? He’s back and devoting his pen (or whatever he uses) to another sketchy profile, this time focusing on The University Centre in Svalbard. We didn’t get his permission to reproduce a tiny image of his work back in February, but we did finally reach him shortly after deciding to pilfer the image at the right if we struck out again because his stuff is too cool for people not to know about. It helped that this time we were able to learn who he is and where lots more of his work can be seen. Aurélien Froment, who goes by the pen name of Aurel, drew his sketches and accompanying essays of Svalbard for Le Monde, but has penned comics, essays and other works about jazz, politics and other subjects for more than a decade. While it’s all in French, some projects – including his Polarjazz feature – are supplemented by content such as music and interviews in English. The full tour is at www.lesitedaurel.com.

russiabases

So sought we’re secret: Or maybe Svalbard isn’t “what’s next” for Russia after the Ukraine. Map by the Heritage Foundation.

If we were picking Aurel’s next Svalbard sketch we’d send him to Barentsburg to see what the Soviet-era settlement is plotting these days as Russia is “completely militarizing its Arctic frontier,” to quote a new analysis by the Heritage Foundation. A map showing sites where Russia is fortifying its military Arctic bases reveals several in the regions surrounding Svalbard to the south, but nothing in the archipelago itself. While that’s hardly a shock, it might offer some relief to analysts who suggested Svalbard might be the next Ukraine since Russia has never accepted Norway’s sovereignty claims in the area. Then again, maybe the invasion is one of those top-secret things and the map is a diversion.