Thursday, October 2, 2014

Verdens korteste krimi / World's shortest crime story

Crime fiction is more popular than ever & Nordic Noir is a whole new genre in books, film & TV. Stieg Larsson & Jussi Adler-Olsen are the leaders here & I do not doubt their mastery of the genre. I just don't want to read or see it myself. Two of Adler-Olsen's books have been filmed & in both cases the trailers were quite enough for me. In a word - yuck! The second started today, but friends who saw the first one have confirmed my first impression; dark & gruesome - yuck! Some thought it was great anyway. The English title is poetic: The Keeper of Lost Causes, but the Danish title says it straight - Kvinden i Buret / The Woman in the Cage.

In hard times, say the gurus & critics, crime fiction is especially popular because it presents an awful situation - not unlike one's own only with murder as the spice - but you get the solution at the end & if you've guessed right you get that warm 'aren't I clever' feeling as well. Yep, that's us anno 2014 all right.

A month ago the Svend Awards were awarded here in Svendborg. They are audience awards where just plain folks vote for their favorites, professional reviewers go hang. Two years ago the big favorite film got a hard time from the critics, so the director gushed, very understandably, "These are the real awards!" Okay, films are made to please moviegoers & pack the house, but if the critics like your film as well, even better. The big winner this year was - you guessed it - The Woman in the Cage. They even had to think up a new award - Best Non-Danish Actor in a Danish Film - so co-star Fares Fares could join the fun. I voted for the film that is the Danish entry for an Oscar, an intimate & painful story about the director's marriage & career in the years after his wife killed their infant daughter (off camera). The Danish title is Sorg og Glæde, Sorrow & Joy. Who knows how they will translate it, but as usual the Danish title says it straight.

But just to show that even a Scrappy Old Bat can be up on trends, I here present World's Shortest Crime Novel / Krimi, in both Danish & English:

DK: Den lyd igen – han stod som lammet, bange, skamfuld. Hun var på fri fod nu og ingen kunne vide hvad den skøre jaloux kælling, han engang elskede, kunne finde på. Søg i mørket, rystende. Opfør dig som en mand. Han tog et enkelt skridt frem. Deres tykke røde kat gled frem fra skyggerne og kiggede op på ham, undskyldende.
    ”Dumme kat!”
    Han grinede så højt at han slet ikke hørte suset fra hendes kniv.

GB: That noise again – he froze, afraid, ashamed. She was free now, and who knew what that crazy jealous bitch he once loved might think up. Search the dark, shaking. Come on, be a man. He took one step forward. Their fat orange cat slipped from the shadows and looked up at him, apologizing.
    “Stupid cat!”
    He laughed so hard he never heard the whish of her knife.

My copyright, everybody. Aren't I clever?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Happy Autumn

Happy autumn everyone. Today is the autumn equinox & just here a beautiful day. September is my favorite month, with golden & gray days trading off, rain & wind too, a taste of what's ending & what's soon to come. Get very impatient with folks who say that now the sun's going the wrong way, boo hoo, but shouldn't because it's their problem.

Do wish we were saying farewell to Daylight Saving Time as in years past, but now Denmark has coordinated with Southern Europe there's another month to go. Very bad news for families with children, especially school children who leave home at 8.00 only it's really 7.00 & chilly, wet grass & semi-dark. They start the day with wet feet & a jacket that's too warm, which they then ditch at the first recess & usually before their feet are dry. Ah-choo! I ran an after-school program for 4 years & have firsthand experience.

So nothing for it - we are now saving daylight until Halloween, but autumn in all its beauty is here. If you think that's cause for grouching, Get Over It.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sympathy in disguise ISN'T

Just read TIME magazine's coverage of the shooting of an unarmed 18-yr-old black guy in Ferguson, Missouri a couple of weeks ago. After the article 3 individuals expressed their sympathy & thoughts on what Americans should do to prevent this sort of thing in the future. One comment was by Rand Paul, Republican senator from Kentucky. We choose our sides, so I didn't expect anything intelligent, but this was even worse than I expected.
     Rand Paul blamed the whole thing on 'Big Government'! Huh? you say (anyway that's what I said), big ...? That's sure not what America has. Still, he feels the Obama government has "militarized the police" by helping the municipalities directly. Veeery interesting because even Rand Paul had to mumble something about the divide between poor blacks & rich whites, rich & poor generally. It is this divide Obama has been trying to close ever since his first day in the White House. His legislation has consistently sought to level the field just a bit & give the poor a break. Rand Paul & his cronies have blocked every move, unfortunately a time-honored tradition of the privileged. Yep, never miss a chance to bash the president, even if it has nothing to do with the actual topic. Basic selfishness has always been a strong motivator. Bad enough, but when it comes disguised as sympathy it's even more disgusting. 
     I am more & more sad & mad about the shocking division of American society. It can't be only Republicans whose dicks are too short & have to compensate, but that's the way it looks, it really does.  This comment on a tragedy takes hypocrisy to a whole new depth. I sent a shortened text of this post as a Letter to the Editor of TIME. Don't know if it will end up in print there, so here it is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movies & Poets

Just enjoyed a lovely visit from my absolutely better half's younger brother & his significant other. Relaxed & laid back, everyone just needed down time so DVDs were the best entertainment. I hauled out our films about poets + one policeman: From Hell, the story of the search for Jack the Ripper. A lot of research behind the story but the conclusion was just one of many possibles. Very convincing though. We didn't have time for The Raven but it's a big favorite of mine. Nobody knows how Edgar Allan Poe died & the movie's solution is not the least bit convincing, but suspenseful good fun. Somewhere in the literary oversoul Poe is high-fiving all those minor writers who will never be portrayed by John Cusack.
   We saw Finding Neverland too, where J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, takes the beauteous form of Johnny Depp. (A bit of a switch for Depp from the psychic cop in From Hell.) Both Edgar Allan Poe & J.M. Barrie were - by our standards - little squirts. Johnny Depp is middle sized, John Cusack very tall dark & handsome. (Off the subject - Michelangelo was an even littler squirt & I have never forgiven 20th Century Fox - Hollywood at its worst - for casting that  big dumb moose Charlton Heston to play him in The Agony & the Ecstasy in 1965.) Depp & Cusack are terrific as Barrie & Poe. So is Ben Whishaw as John Keats in Bright Star. He actually looks a bit like  Keats & is properly small, pale & delicate. Who else could you cast in that role? He reads the poetry beautifully too. Made me want to read it all again. I haven't seen Howl, but more of same - James Franco as the young Allen Ginsberg. Maybe Ginsberg was handsome when young, but I remember him as fat & hairy; gross-looking, no matter what you thought of his poetry. James Franco looks yummier than spaghetti carbonara & soulful as well.
You know, I really love it that poets & writers get movies made about them with gorgeous intelligent hunks leading the cast. High five, Edgar; 2 thumbs up, J.M.; ooooh John; what a hoot, Allen! There are all sorts of heroes & now even movie studios have figured it out. Who's next? I suggest Eric Bana as James Joyce in The Dubliner. What a cool mix of dialects. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Help the men!

     My center recently scored 2 fair-sized bags of money to fund programs for women. One is just for a weekend trip (to a Boy Scout cabin) for women & children - Danish & immigrants - who cannot afford a summer holiday. We have done this 3 times before & it's a big success.
The other is more serious: a 2-year program called Woman, Your Life is in Denmark. The goal of this program is to bring immigrant women out of their isolation & into activity, a network of new friends & new skills - like just taking the city bus alone. Too many immigrant women, especially from small immigrant groups from Asia & the Middle East, have such a strong wish to get back to where they came from that they are in denial. Almost total denial. The 2 most common ideas are
1. just a few years, then husband will earn enough money to move back home & buy a new house or
2. just a few years & the political situation will change so we can go home to the house we left ...
away from rain rain rain, cold dark winters, a difficult language & people whose idea of humor is giving each other a hard time. They usually end up in a Danish nursing home many years later with their non-existent Danish & sorrow because their children are busy westernized adults with no wish to install old mum in the extra room.
    Most of us working on this program are well-integrated immigrant women + the odd token Dane. How I hope we succeed & reach a large group. Ours is one of many programs for immigrant women all around - you might have heard of one or 10. I sure have, but I know of exactly one (1) program for men in the same group. Some years ago I taught Danish to immigrants as a semester substitute because their teacher - male - had a workshop class where the language teaching was part of a practical course with carpentry & general do-it-yourself skills in focus.
      We need more like that. A lot more.
      It's easy to feel sympathy & want to help women from macho societies, lack of education & skills, low status & often tyrannical husbands. Just as easy to despise the husbands, the bullies, big jerks, big jokes in the eyes of westerners. Why can't they see our way is a lot better since they all want to charge right up here & make a buck? If they can't figure it out why don't they get their sorry asses back where they came from? Not even their children can respect them when they grow up.
        Right - & neither can I. But ... I can see why they don't have a clue, feel terrified of losing all their status & respect - like the Burmese refugee who was told hitting children is illegal here.
       "How will I keep discipline?" he asked. A smack was the only method he'd ever heard of. Big jerk, big joke ...
      Many refugee women who come alone with or without children beg for a women's only asylum center. I'll say I can understand their wish, but also why it will never happen. Then the men would be even more of a problem, say the authorities. Help ...?
      The problem will never be solved until both sides get our attention. Anybody can figure that out, not? It's just so much easier to concentrate on the women, the repressed ones, the ones who don't make a fuss & admit they need help. Easier, yes, but I think their men need it more now. The ones with jobs do have that status & work is a terrific way to promote integration. Sports likewise, & school, but immigrant girls do a lot better than boys in school so there's one more area of insecurity & loss of status for many men.
      Don't know what to call a helpful program. Man, Get Your Head Out & Stop Acting like a Jerk would be tempting, but don't think many would sign up. Uh ... Man, Guide to Success in (fill in the blank) Society. That might work. Something has to, or else. Male teachers, coaches & pedagogues GOOD IDEAS PLEASE!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Oh, Mother-in-law(s)

Oh mother-in-law, sweet mother-in-law,
Forgive me for being so petty.
My baby son is 3 hours old
And I hate his wife already.

Author unknown; I read that in a women's magazine 100 years ago & thought it was funny, but I was young & had no experience. Thought of it just now because I've been having some fun with poetry - sublime & sappy - in my last posts. I am happy to say it is NOT the case with me & my oldest son's wife (but is she really good enough for him?) & certainly was not the case with my own mothers-in-law. Mea culpa - I've had 3. Two now deceased & I hardly ever see the first one because she lives in Tucson & we don't have a lot in common anyway.
     Mothers-in-law are very important when you move abroad & marry a native. Families-in-law generally, but especially mum. One of my friends married a single mother's only son, won the ongoing struggle after many years but it sounded exhausting. My first Danish mother-in-law was a wonder of sweetness & support, even though I often felt like Motor Mouse bursting into Bambi's quiet clearing; there was such a difference between my American decibel level & the Jutland reserve. We stayed friends long after her son & I called it quits & found better replacements. I loved my next, longest lasting mother-in-law dearly, but I was glad she wasn't my mother. (They did have a fair amount in common.) She was interesting, inspiring even, entertaining for sure, noisy, excellent company for adults. When I made the move to Denmark I also made the entirely bratty statement that now I was a suitable distance from my mother, but I wised up & got more tolerant when I became a mother myself. That does tend to happen, not? You say - if you're like me - "I'm sure not going to ........... (fill in the blank with whatever mom did that drove you right around the bend) .......... when I have kids!" Right. I didn't either - I just did other original stuff that was equally irritating. At least I said I'm sorry.
      My mother-in-law never ever said she was sorry. She DID often say outrageous things straight out, things that could really hurt, but somehow she always got away with it. Somehow it never seemed malicious; it was just the way she saw things. It was of course very funny when it was aimed at somebody else or at herself, not so much when it came straight at me or mine - especially my husband, her son, who I always defended when she criticized him because he seldom gave her any sass, conditioned as he was from childhood & a mild nature generally.

      But ... I do the very same thing & get away with it too - time & again.  There's a trick to that but I can't really say what it is because I/we aren't/weren't tricky. If we were it wouldn't work. We're not 'cute' either, but must be somehow appealing, not often negative & also appreciative of the good stuff in others. We dare say nice things straight out too. Maybe that's the secret. Older & wiser, sure, but like mother-in-law I seem doomed to be "spontaneous" until I gasp my last - silently, I hope. What if I blat out some ancient secret that's best kept secret? (Do I even have one?) A lot of people do that. It makes for interesting books & movies, but has to be major trauma for whoever hears it. Then they can't apologize because they're dead. It's important to apologize when you really step in it. I didn't apologize for the worst thing I've ever said, but wish I had. That arrow landed smack in my mother-in-law's heart. All wide-eyed & only the tiniest trace snarky, I asked her what possessed exactly her to have 6 children (with 2 men). I really was curious; couldn't figure it out at all. It's the only time I ever saw her at a loss for words. She looked everywhere but at me & then answered, "Uhhh, everyone else was having children, & it went quite all right". (Alle andre fik børn, og det gik da meget godt.)  I only realized later what a rotten thing that was to say, but she forgave me before I realized I needed forgiving. She was generous & we loved each other best. She also loved me for loving her big gangly son. Two scrappy bats joined the same belfry. And then, after she died, my husband & his sister figured out what possessed her & it was not mother love - but that's another story. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

They were also environmental back in the day ...

Lovely summer so for some reason thinking of silly poetry from my childhood & youth.
Author unknown from an anthology for kids:

I love the good old world, I do.
I sing its praise in song & sonnet.
Strange it's not a whole lot worse,
With everybody picking on it.

That about says it today, not? Then there's that classic of sappiness & inverted tree-anatomy that we all had to study in grade school: Joyce Kilmer's TREES, which starts

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

It gets even dumber because if the tree's mouth is at the bottom, that "nest of robins in its hair" must be pubic hair, since apparently the tree is standing on its head on Mother Nature's boobies. You don't think about that stuff in 4th grade, but the sappiness comes through & we all ran around making up parodies (which I have mercifully forgotten). But what can you expect from an unfortunate whose mommy named him Joyce? He is at least modest enough to admit, "Poems are made by fools like me". I do remember the brilliant poet of silliness Ogden Nash's inspired take: The Song of the Open Highway

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
In fact, unless a billboard falls,
I shall not see a tree at all.

Ah yes, they were also environmental back there in the 50s when we thought it was all about progress & earning a bundle after the war. Which inspires me to compose my own poem, on the subject of the TV programming here in Denmark. Meaning no disrespect for the brave soldiers & civilian sufferers of that colossal tragedy, but:

I think that I shall never see
The final documentaree
About horrific World War II,
But think it's about time,
Don't you?