"People in Norway have a spiritual relationship with fire," said Rune Moeklebust, a producer with Norway state broadcaster NRK. "Fire is the reason we're here. If there was no firewood we couldn't live in Norway. We'd Freeze."
Actually, Norway has a lovely climate, if you're a moose. Moeklebust's point is well taken, however. The common human recognition that a place where daytime highs on an especially nice winter's day might creep into the teens is a damnable place indeed sends Norwegians into a consumer frenzy for all things fire-related.
Take, for instance, the case of Hel Ved, a book about firewood by Lars Mytting, "Norway's biggest firewood celebrity," which sold 130,000 copies in a country with 5 million residents. In the holiday season just passed, only 50 Shades of Grey outsold Mytting's book in Norway, suggesting that right behind chick porn, firewood and discussions thereof are the best way to pass a winter that would otherwise drive a shut-in Scandinavian crazy as a peach orchard boar.
As I type this, it's nigh on March and it's 10:00 p.m. in Oslo, where locals are enjoying an unusually balmy 32-degree night. It's warm enough that if you froze they could thaw you out with a hair dryer. Of course that's in Oslo. In Hammerfest, 833 miles to the north, it's so cold the local flasher was caught describing himself to strangers. Hammerfest could freeze the nuts off the Guy Lombardo Bridge. Norway in general is so cold Canadians won't go there. It's so cold, Norwegian lawyers put their hands in their own pockets. Squirrels bury Sterno.
So it's little wonder that NRK broadcast a program this past weekend consisting of 12 hours of burning wood, albeit inter-spliced with music and poetry. Moeklebust called it "slow but noble television," adding, "We'll talk about very nerdy subjects like burning, slicing and stacking the wood," prompting teenage boys all over Norway to crack, "I've got some wood you can stack..."
It's odd, to be sure, but is 12 straight hours of fire on television any lamer than, oh, where to start... The Bachelor? No matter what, a 12-hour broadcast about fire isn't nearly as unconventional as NRK's 2011 live broadcast of a cruise ship traversing the waters of Norway's coast, a show that ran for 134 continuous hours and drew 3.2 million viewers, which is 60 percent of all men, women, children and yetis in Norway. That particular event aired just once, but a prior NRK broadcast of an eight-hour train journey from Oslo to Bergen was so popular the network had to repeat it.
Of course they had to repeat it. Eight hours occurs in the blink of an eye over the course of a Norwegian winter.