Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Now it's officially Christmas season; I heard Shu-bi-dua's Christmas song - Nu det' Jul - on the radio this morning. Shu-bi-dua is a Danish group from way back, currently on hold because the lead singer had a blood clot to the brain but is recovering. He says that like a Shubinator, he'll be back. JUL is pronounced Yule - you probably guessed - so it's a true Yuletide carol.
     Shu-bi-dua's Christmas song was the first Danish pop Christmas carol I heard when I got here in 1973 & it's classic:
"Jesus is born on the second floor / of Magasin du Nord (the classiest Copenhagen department store)
He waves when you press a foot pedal / says Good Day to his mother."
Jesus bliver født på anden sal / i Magasin du Nord
Han vinker når du trykker på en fodpedal / siger Goddag til sin mor.

That rhymes in Danish, of course & charms in any language. Such a good summing up of our western Christian tradition: the birth of Christ & all out consumerism. Most stores have Santas, with or without the elves, but the birth of Christ IS still there somewhere & kids still learn about it in school. I hope that does not change. No matter what beliefs all the parents of any given school class may have, this is the one that formed Western civilization. Even the shopping for gifts nobody really needs & half the time can't afford might remind us that it's somebody's birthday, somebody big. 
      I found the coolest fold-out & stand-up children's book in the gift shop of the National Gallery. You might know it's originally Italian; there they still do the whole Nativity scene in unabashed Renaissance style, angels all over the place, where Danes & Americans are more restrained - or self-conscious? Can't wait to go through it with the grandchildren. I've got The Night Before Christmas in fold-out too but this Italian number is really a work of art. Like the Shu-bi-dua Christmas song, that also mentions God's small angels - who might just be regular kids looking forward to Christmas. Funny thing is - most of the Danes I know don't feel Christmas is officially here until they hear Last Christmas by Wham. Okay - a bunch of us old bats ogled George Michael until he made public his sexual orientation, but for me it's Shu-bi-dua every year.

Hope it can get me in the mood to decorate ....

Cheers, eveybody. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good ships & bad business

Reading up to be 'exam censor' in January at the maritime academy where I taught English for a couple of years & now get called in sometimes as the second opinion at oral exams.

The articles are all about the latest developments on the high seas. Shipping is a huge international project that has often been criticized for polluting the air & ocean, & introducing invasive species that take over the defenseless areas where they land. All true BUT shipping is cleaning up its act fast. The IMO - International Maritime Organization - has imposed hefty restrictions on emissions, ballast water dumping & handling of the heavy fuel oil that still powers most large container ships. Actually, it's more like tar, the gloopiest residue from the bottom of the refining tank. Technology is hurrying to comply with all the rules & change the whole game - from slower steaming, Sky Sails to catch the wind & reduce fuel consumption, liquefied natural gas as fuel, exhaust scrubbers & oil filtration.
Truly impressed by this Shipping News - GOOD NEWS!

Then I read my mail from Avaaz, the watchdog online petition gang, & that was the BAD NEWS.
Once again Wikileaks has broken a story that the creeps who run Monsanto, among other heartless multinationals, hoped would never make it into the light. It's called TTP.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a huge, ultra-secret deal among twelve major countries & especially major corporations. It would allow them to sue our governments for passing laws that protect us, but reduce their profits! This could apply to everything from labeling GMO foods to protecting internet freedom.
The leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership drafts read like a big fat Christmas wish-list for big business. A system of courts could be used to limit access to cheap generic medicines in favor of brand names & even allow cigarette companies to sue governments over health regulations that they say threaten profits! It’s almost too crazy to be true. No wonder Monsanto & Co. are keeping mum.

Good going Wikileaks! Leaked texts have shocked politicians & citizens from Chile, New Zealand & Australia. They are pushing back on the corporate bullying. Three out of 12 sounds pretty lame, but it would seemingly be enough to unbalance the deal. Maybe others would see the error of their ways then.
I signed that petition immediately & fired off emails to ministers in Australia & New Zealand. Hope it all does some good. I would like the new spirit of corporate social responsibility to be more than a myth, but can't take it seriously just yet.

So - the shipping news is good. Boycott Monsanto & ship with Maersk! There must be some good guys out there in business. Not? Um ... maybe not ...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Husk Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends & Happy End of November, everybody else.
This greeting has nothing to do with corn husks, if you're wondering. "Husk" - pronounced hoosk - is Danish for "remember" & "Husk Thanksgiving" appeared Saturday in the ad paper from a supermarket that's a national chain.
Husk Thanksgiving - what's that all about, forcryingoutloud? Thanksgiving is the most American of holidays & the only Danes who have even an inkling of what it is are the ones who watch American football. Or have seen a film such as 'Pieces of April'. Or who know an ex-pat, such as me. I've probably explained Thanksgiving 50 times to various friends & colleagues & every other American ex-pat I know has done the same. Often as not it ends with a comment from one or the other about how the Indians - oops, I mean Native Americans of course - must regret saving that gang of pilgrims, even if they were invited to a feast in sincere gratitude that very first Thanksgiving Day. I will not speculate about that here because my title is (for the third time) Husk Thanksgiving.
What it was all about was sales. What else is new? The stores were trying to sell turkeys; very handy for Americans abroad. I bought 2 today after a long search through all the freezer compartments that were full of ducks, presumably left over from the Martinmas - Mortens Aften - on November 10th, a very big deal here. There was one turkey left after I nabbed my 2. Don't know how many they originally had, but turkey is becoming more popular in Denmark all the time, mainly because it is less fat & greasy than duck or goose.
But what about the menswear store & their Black Friday sale? Come on. Tomorrow is Open by Night here in Svendborg, meaning all shops open all the way until 10.00 pm with special offers everywhere you turn. This happens every year on the last Friday in November but as a kickoff of the Christmas season. The tree in the central square gets lit up with all due ceremony at 5.00 pm. So Black Friday ...? I would talk about the universality of culture but even taking 'culture' in its broadest sense, I can't bring myself to use the C-word for one more stupid sales pitch. Or in this case, two.

I made a pot of chili con carne for dinner & my husband & I wished each other Happy Thanksgiving. On Sunday a large but exclusive group assembles for turkey & all the trimmings, one of the year's absolute high points. I am thankful for so very much. But as for sales pitches, I say Bah Humbug! International finance is enough of a mashup already. Spare us, pleeeease, for Husk Thanksgiving & Black Friday sales where they do not belong. Let us celebrate from the heart - not the coolness quotient or whatever it's supposed to be. I'm glad I can buy a turkey in Svendborg - no matter that it comes from France. My holiday is none of their business.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Walking with VIM - & sometimes vigor

 Sometimes VIM - my Very Important Man - & I walk hand in hand or kind of bouncing off each other, chatting a bit, smiling private smiles, complete together. We enjoy walking together & in Svendborg most of town & lovely surroundings are within walking distance. Other times VIM has something on his mind, something demanding all his attention. Then I end up charging after him, short legs after long, rushed wifey after philosopher with wrinkled brow. I try not to think about how silly we must look because he never does it on purpose & I'm sure nobody who knows us even notices anymore. Of course I can get annoyed, like when my bag’s heavy & I’m trying not to dislocate my shoulder or level all the displays Svendborg’s trusting merchants put out in front to lure the undecided consumer. Or when I’m the consumer and would like to juuust check out one little thing, but I know he’ll be 100 m. down the street & won’t look back to see what happened to me.
      One of these days, when we're in town together, I'm also going to show that annoying Albanian who's shorter  than me. I made the mistake of speaking to him in the Mini Asian Market. Honest mistake – I thought he worked there – but ever since then he's tried to get invited home. One day he’ll see me with my tall handsome husband, all cozy & complete. He’ll finally get the message.
      Oh NO! There he was. What he saw was me huffing to keep up with a preoccupied man who ignored me – ideal male-female behavior such as you seldom get at this latitude. So he still sidles over when he sees me & attempts a come-hither look - not easy since eyebrows fill half his pudgy face.
        Thought about mentioning it to VIM but that would just be mean. What good does it do to tell an unconscious man – out cold on the floor – that he should have opened that door before he walked into it? I try to think of it as a valuable weapon in the fight against vanity. Sometimes that works ....

Monday, September 30, 2013

World's happiest people/Verdens lykkeligste folk

World's happiest people
Back to blogging after a long hiatus. Hope to keep it up from now on.
Just watched Detektor, a Danish TV program where the (semi-gorgeous) son of one of my colleagues, no less, investigates all manner of claims made by politicians, journalists & people who want to sell you stuff, as well as national myths, past & present. Today’s myth turns out to be true enough, but the investigation was dumb – as if the detectors were meeting actual people on the street for the first time.
So – it turns out that Danes really are the world’s happiest people when the criterian is satisfaction with one’s life. That IS the criterian, not? Most people talk about freedom but prefer security when it comes down to basics & Danes generally have both. Yes, the taxes are high & unemployment likewise, although improving gradually. The winters are long & dark (see blog Midwinter), the school & health systems not nearly as good as they try to tell us, but generally Danes have both a social safety net & a great deal of control over their own lives.  These are the 2 main aspects of feeling satisfied & by extension happy. Danes also work shorter hours than most other countries, but produce just as much because they are effective. So far very good, but …
The detectors asked people on the street & one on a bicycle – cute to see appealing host Thomas Buch Andersen sprinting after the biker with his mic arm extended – if they were happy. Come on, guys. No Dane, probably no anybody who hadn’t just won the national lottery or fallen in love, would admit that.
“Both/and” they said, a phrase even dumber than the question, meaning ‘yes & no’. Surprise. Danes – Europeans, I think – for all their cushy quotidian, love to find fault & complain. This is how things get even better, of course, get thought through & new approaches tried out, but actually admitting to happiness here & now is something no understated citizen of the semi-frozen North would ever do. They would have to find something to complain about, or at least twist their answer so the famous Danish irony came into play. (Don’t get me started …)
It didn’t puncture the myth, just proved once again that we love TV journalists because they ask the questions that immediately spring to mind but that the rest of us would not ask because they are too silly. Should we admit to feeling happy about that?

Verdens lykkeligste folk
Har lige set Detektor, hvor en kollegas søn (virkelig) undersøger alle slags påstand af journalister, politikere og folk, der vil sælge dig noget, samt nationale myter i fortid og nutid. Aftenens myte viste sig at holde stik, men undersøgelsen var dum – som om detektorerne mødte folk på gaden for allerførste gang.
Så – det viser sig at danskerne virkelig er verdens lykkeligste folk, hvis kriteriet er tilfredshed med livet. Det er kriteriet, ikke? De fleste snakker om frihed men foretrækker tryghed og danskerne for det meste har begge dele. Okay – skatten er høj og arbejdsløshed ligeså, men i forbedring. Vintrene er lange og mørke (se Midtvinter), sundheds- og skolesystemet ikke nær så gode som man vil bilde os ind, men generelt har danskerne et socialt sikkerhedsnet samt kontrol over eget liv. Danskerne arbejder færre timer end de fleste andre men producerer lige så meget fordi de er effektive. Så vidt meget godt men …
Detektorerne spurgte folk på gaden om de var lykkelige. Helt ærligt, gutter. Ingen dansker, sikkert ingen overhovedet der ikke lige havde tippet 13 eller var nyforelsket ville indrømme dét.
”Både/og” svarede de – en frase der er endnu dummere end spørgsmålet. Surprise. Danskere – europæere, tror jeg – trods deres velpolstret hverdag elsker at finde fejl og kritisere. Sådan bliver ting endnu bedre, ja, tænkt igennem og nye løsninger fundet, men at ligefrem indrømme at man er lykkelig er der ikke nogen borger fra det høje nord der ville. Eller i det mindste ville de dreje svaret så de kunne inddrage den berømte danske ironi. (Host)

Så myten blev ikke punkteret, men programmet viste endnu en gang hvorfor vi elsker journalister. De stiller det første spørgsmål, alle kommer i tanke om, men som de fleste af os ville droppe igen som for fjollet. Skulle vi indrømme at det gør os lykkelige?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Clean Conservatory

Cleaned up the conservatory yesterday – about time. Meaning about time it’s warm enough to use it. Pentecost Sunday & spring is finally here in its delayed glory. Has been for a while but no time for the conservatory. 

I love that word – conservatory. In Danish it’s just called havestue – garden room – because that’s what it is, a glassed-in room that lets us enjoy the backyard a month extra at either end of summer. Conservatory sounds like a place for black coffee & profound musings on deep matters, when I just want a place to eat food that doesn’t blow off the plate & maybe a glass of wine. I could send Thoreau grateful thoughts as I gaze out onto our primeval – read: unkempt – garden, but that’s as conservatory as I get.

“Guess I didn’t clean up as much as I thought,” mumbled my absolutely better half as he gathered up his tool collection from all the repairs etc. he’s done in the conservatory since last fall. Guess not, but that’s just how it is with a conservatory in this climate. We feed the birds all winter from an ingenious feeder from World Wildlife Fund – an upside down 2 liter Coke bottle with a seed dispenser screwed onto the top. Empty birdseed bags floated over empty apple boxes & plastic flower pots that aren’t good for anything after I transplant what was in them, so why don’t I get rid of them? I will I will.
Filled the entire tank or drum or whatever you call the receptacle on a bagless vacuum cleaner/hoover, mainly with pine needles from last December. You should see it now. As a last detail today I hung a net bag with dried lavendar from last year. For a good week or 2, if I’m lucky, it really will look & smell like a conservatory. Then it will revert to havestue. Cheers everybody. Have a fun summer.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Academic drivel - part 2

I played this mental game after my first Danish husband & I split. If you’ve been divorced – especially if you occasionally ponder what you saw in your ex- in the first place – you have probably played it too. It’s called If I paid attention when he said/did … (fill in the blank) … then I wouldn’t have married him/waited all this time. It’s a useless game, truly a waste of energy, but like so much else that pops up in the rearview mirror, we can’t seem to leave it alone. Then of course sometimes we do pay attention & protest, but it never gets further than that. Maybe the ex- actually paid attention then, nodded sagely or repentantly & said you were right & it wouldn’t happen again. Often enough that was just to shut you up, but sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes we can almost take our words back, never quite. We all say really stupid stuff, & I groan to think of Mr. Past History playing the same game with things I said and did. (Less unsettling just to remember his.) His biggest pecking point was intellectualler-than-thou. The fact that I talked about feelings & ordinary happenings & people I knew meant I was not intellectual. Like the day I came home from a class where the lecturer got a discussion going on whether or not a book has a life on a shelf if it’s not being read. Now there’s a real milestone in intellectual history. All around me the discussion rambled for about half the class time & I practiced acting by looking halfway interested. When I got home I griped about the waste of time. Mr. PH answered by carrying on the important discussion right there in our kitchen. I got his point; didn’t look like he got mine. Some books I love, even when I’m not reading them. I quote them when appropriate to a conversation, don’t forget them even though I read on. Others I wouldn’t miss if they committed suicide because someone told them they don’t have a life. Still others are there mostly for show, because everybody’s supposed to own those particular classics & I can say I’ve read them but that’s as far as it goes. I guess they have a sort of life, rather like a piece of Royal Copenhagen porcelain you don’t really care about, but it looks cool on the windowsill.

But so what? It’s like that old – pardon the expression – chestnut: If a tree falls in the forest & nobody hears it, did it make a sound? C’mon. It would have to be one unusual forest if there were no birds, bugs or small animals around to hear – or did the inventor of this particular bit of academic drivel feel that only people had the right to determine whether or not there was sound?  And why should we care?

Of course it’s a terrific way to play clever & keep your feelings & anything that touches real life at bay. Might even be marginally less a waste of time than that divorcee game. But only just.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Melville, Michael & Literary Drivel - part 1

The illustration’s better than the article, but I appreciate both. In the book section of today’s Weekendavisen Danish author Ib Michael has written a mildly witty but timely satire on the current state of Danish/Western literature. The illustration shows an appalled Herman Melville watching as an editor at Glydendal, the largest Danish publishing house, hacks bloody chunks from his manuscript for Billy Budd with a scalpel.
“Redundant, Herman,” the editor brays as he hacks away. We can understand he has already reduced Moby Dick to a 70-page nonentity entitled From Roedby to Puttgarden, (the 2 ends of a popular ferry route) but tightened up – that it was.
I’ve never read a whole book by Ib Michael & do not feel the urge now, but an excerpt once printed in Weekendavisen impressed me. It is from his book The Midnight Soldier & describes how a Spanish soldier who is freezing his ass off on guard duty one night in March 1808 keeps building up the fire in the fireplace & ends up burning the castle of Koldinghus to the ground. It is doubtless the best description I have ever read of feeling chilled to the bone, simply unable to get warm. I guess Michael should know. He’s yet another Dane who heads south in the winter, like a gray goose, because he can’t deal with the cold dark months.   (see post from Feb. 2 )
Today’s book section essay is a bit disingenuous because nowadays Melville’s style would likely be tightened up by Random House too & abridged versions have been popular for ages, but I still appreciate the thought. Thank you, Ib. I have a problem generally with modern Danish literature, but it’s my problem. There are really a lot of good books out there, but even the chick lit sounds stylistically like Ernest Hemingway, short, tight & lacking in musicality. Partly the language, partly the national esthetic, wholly uninspiring to a rambler & lover of metaphor like me. Melville’s all over the place, a well of words overflowing its pool. Readers have to make an effort.
“Maybe it’s time for a new voice,” says my absolutely better half, whose generous soul can see beyond his own likes & dislikes. He couldn’t plow through Moby Dick, while I liked it even better on the 4th reading because by then I had taught a few years of Maritime English at Svendborg’s maritime academy so I understood more of the sailor talk. (At my job interview I pointed out that the closest I had ever come to maritime anything was 3 readings of Moby Dick. They hired me anyway but I could not get one single student to tackle that wonderful book. Maybe I should have tried Billy Budd. I love it almost as much, but the hero is a midshipman who kills an officer with a single punch & hangs for it. How would a class of future junior officers take sides?)
I hadn’t realized the phrase ‘fit for (a) fight’ came from Moby Dick because it hadn’t become a catchphrase until my 4th time around. I guess a modern editor would have left that scene in, not least because the speaker is a naked stud – Queequeg from the West Indies – posing harpoon in hand on the gunwale. Comments on religion & racial differences – tolerant & on the light side – would probably have made it too. They were ahead of their time. In sooo many words. Hee hee.

Melville, Michael & Litterære Nonsens - del 1
Illustrationen er bedre end artiklen men jeg sætter pris på begge 2. I Weekendavisens bog sektion idag har Ib Michael en mildt underholdende men relevant satire over den aktuelle danske/vestlige litteratur. Illustrationen viser en bestyrtet Herman Melville, der ser til mens redaktøren på Gyldendal hakker blodige lunser fra manuskriptet på Billy Budd med en skalpel.
”Redundans, Herman,” bræger redaktøren, mens han hakker løs. Vi kan forstå, at han allerede har reduceret Moby Dick til en ”70-siders sag med titlen Fra Rødby til Puttgarden, men stramt, det var den.”
Jeg har aldrig læst en helt bog af Ib Michael og føler ingen trang til det nu, men en uddrag i Weekendavisen for mange år siden imponerede mig. Den var fra bogen Den Tolvte Rytter og beskriver hvordan en spansk soldat der fryser på sin vagt en nat i marts 1808 fyrer op i kaminen og ender med at brænde Koldinghus ned. Utvivlsomt den bedste beskrivelse jeg nogensinde har læst af fornemmelsen af at fryse helt ind til benet, umuligt at få varmen. Det ved Michael sikkert alt om. Han er endnu en dansker der flyver sydpå om vinteren som en grågås fordi han ikke kan klare de kolde mørke måneder. (se post fra  2. feb)
Dagens avis essay er noget urigtig fordi idag ville Melvilles stil sandsynligvis blive strammet op hos Random House også og forkortede versioner har været populær længe. Alligevel påskønner jeg tanken. Tak, Ib. Jeg har et problem med moderne dansk litteratur i det hele taget, men det er mit problem. Der er rigtig mange gode bøger derude, men selv chick lit lyder stilmæssigt som Ernest Hemingway, kort, kontant og blottet for musik. Delvis sproget, delvis den nationale æstetik, helt uinspirerende for en som mig. Melville er over det hele, en fontæne af ord der flyder over sit bassin. Læseren skal gøre en indsats. Heldigvis har Melville en ny ildsjæl af en dansk oversætter -
”Måske er det tid til en ny stemme,” siger min absolut bedre halvdel, hvis rummelige sjæl kan se ud over egne præferencer. Han kunne ikke pløje sig igennem Moby Dick, mens jeg kunne endnu bedre lide den ved 4. læsning, fordi jeg da havde undervist et par år i maritimt engelsk på SIMAC så jeg fattede mere sømandssprog. Først da kunne jeg også se at frasen ’fit for fight’ stammer fra Moby Dick. Det ville en moderne redaktør sandsynligvis have bevaret, ikke mindst fordi de siges af en nøgen hug, Queequeg fra Vestindien, der poserer, harpun i hånd, på rælingen. Kommentarer om religion og race forskelle – tolerant og på den lettere side – ville sikkert også klare sig. De var foran for deres tid. På såååå mange ord. Tihi.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Bravest Girl in the World

Time magazine’s special issue on the 100 most influential people in the world anno 2013 has reached Svendborg. The choice of cover girl is spot on: Malala Yousafzai, justly called the bravest girl in the world. Chelsea Clinton – no coward herself – wrote the magazine text & Malala is writing her memoirs, proving, says Chelsea, “She accepts that unasked-for responsibility as a synonym for courage & a champion for girls everywhere.”
When the Taliban shot Malala in the head last April, the bullet pierced a million hearts & ricocheted right back into the Taliban’s gut. The gunmen said they wanted to “teach a lesson” to anyone who dared stand up for education & girls’ right to same. Well, you’d have to say they succeeded. The lesson is, this time courage was rewarded & there will be no turning back, even though reform will not happen just this week or even this year, but …. Malala’s school now bears her name & that scared some students at first, but the decision stands. Malala is back in school in Britain & on the cover of Time, among others. Look into her big soft eyes that stare so directly at the camera & feel both admiration & relief. Maybe the world is not so hopeless after all. Malala made it back from near death & is just getting started.
Whenever I picture a Taliban fighter, I see a man with a long beard & a short cock. How else could they be so terrified of women? Of course that’s just an unfair stereotype. Some Taliban have nicely trimmed beards.

Den modigste pige i verden

Nyhedsbladet Time har udsendt årets særnummer om de 100 mest indflydelsesrige mennesker i verden. Forsidemodellen er lige sagen: Malala Yousafzai, med rette kaldt den modigste pige i verden. Chelsea Clinton – datter af Bill & Hilary – skriver i teksten at ”Malala har accepteret et ansvar hun ikke bad om, som symbol på mod og forkæmper for piger over hele verden.”
Da Taliban skød Malala i hovedet sidste april, rørte kuglen en million hjerter og slog tilbage i Talibans indvolde. Voldsmændene sagde, at de ville give alle der turde kæmpe for uddannelse og pigers ret til den en lærerstreg. Man må sige, at det lykkes. Læreren er, at denne gang blev mod belønnet og der er ingen vej tilbage, selvom reform kommer ikke i næste uge eller næste år, og dog … Malalas skole nu bærer hendes navn. Det skræmte enkelte elever i starten, men beslutningen består. Malala er tilbage i skole i England og på forsiden af Time, bl.a. Kig ind i de store bløde øjne der stirrer så direkte ind i kameraet og føl både beundring og lettelse. Måske er verden alligevel ikke så håbløs. Malala vendte tilbage fra døden og er lige ved at komme i gang.

Når jeg forestiller mig en Taliban soldat, ser jeg en mand med et langt skæg og et kort lem. Hvordan kan det ellers være, at de er så bange for kvinder? Men selvfølgelig er det bare en unfair stereotype. Nogle Talibanere har pænt trimmede skæg.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


On the way home today I encountered 3 different people all walking little bitty chihuahua dogs. If you can call them dogs. I’m not sure I would even call them animals. They look like big-headed rats but would doubtless get their tiny asses kicked in a punch-up with same. I almost rolled my bike over the one & nearly stepped on the second. It would have disappeared without a trace under my cruel boot, its blood blending with the red leather. Do you suppose it would even have made a proper lubricant? Probably not. There would only be enough blood there to cover the toe, but that’s also what scuffs the most. It must be nippy for the little nippers in this climate. They’ve no more hair than a bat missing its wings.
(Do you know what the baby rat said when a bat flew over? “Look mommy – an angel!”)
Cudos to the guys out walking their chihuahuas. They must not have any doubts about their masculinity, in contrast to the tattooed types with the Dobermans. My son tells me chihuahuas have been in fashion for a while now. Well, so have hoop skirts & leeches over the years. See what the ingenuity of mankind can accomplish? By careful breeding we can create not only sweeter grapes & larger nuts, but also dogs that look like vermin. They’re supposed to be cool. Now the only question is why???

På vejen hjem i dag gik jeg forbi 3 mennesker, der alle gik tur med småbitte chihuahua hunde. Hvis man kan kalde dem hunde. Jeg er ikke helt sikker på, at jeg ville kalde dem dyr. De ligner rotter med store hoveder men ville utvivlsomt få deres bitte røv grundigt sparket i et slagsmål med samme. Jeg var lige ved at rulle min cykel over den ene og næsten trådte på den anden. Den ville være helt forsvundet under min barske støvle, mens dens blod løb over det røde læder. Tror du, den overhovedet ville virke som læderfedt? Sikkert ikke. Der er ikke mere blod end til at dække tåen – men det er også den, der bliver mest snusket. Det må være koldt for de små kræ i dette klima. De har ikke mere hår end en flagermus uden vinger.
(Ved du, hvad rottebarnet sagde, da en flagermus fløj forbi? ”Se mor – en engel!”)
Ros til de mænd der var ude at gå med deres chihuahua hunde. De er åbenbart ikke i tvivl om deres manddom, modsat de tatoverede typer med deres Dobermænd. Min søn fortæller, at chihuahua vovser har været på mode et stykke tid. Nå, det har igler & pudrede parykker også gennem årene. Bare se alt det, den menneskelige opfindsomhed kan udrette. Ved omhyggelig udvælgelse kan vi fremelske ikke kun sødere druer og større nødder men også hunde, der ligner skadedyr. Og det skulle være cool. Nu er det eneste spørgsmål hvorfor?? 

Monday, April 1, 2013

3 days in London

3 days in London
Just home from London for 3 days in Easter week – made a rash decision. I recommend both – London & rash decisions. This last is not the same as throwing caution to the winds, but can be necessary to break a cramped sort of mentality that develops when there’s too much to do & a lot of it doesn’t really work to anybody’s satisfaction. When you feel Easter would be better spent under the duvet with the TV on, get thee to London. The temperatures were the same as here in Denmark but felt even colder - probably the dampness & the fact that in rentals the heat comes on from 7.00 - 9.30 morning & evening & THAT'S IT!
Another aspect of the rash decision is no time to make meticulous plans. Better & better. The lovely people we went to visit arranged a bit, but mostly it was up to us. Just now there's an exhibit of Ice Age art on at the National Gallery & we were all enthused, but so was half of London as it turned out, so we saw an exhibit of paintings & drawings by Barocci instead. I had not heard of Barocci because he's almost unknown outside Italy & was overshadowed by contemporaries who became internationally known. When your contemporaries are Leonardo & Michelangelo it's not so strange. No matter - his work is wonderful, especially the sublime preliminary sketches for large canvases. Complete serendipity followed by lunch at a restaurant on the 32nd floor with London all around. Went book & food shopping, trolled the British Library so now we've seen the Magna Carta & First Folio, among other treasures, plus a small exhibit in alphabetical order – Murder in the Library A-Z – all about classic crime fiction. I don’t even read crime fiction & still thought it was cool, so if you’re a mystery fan you’d better get over there. Next time plan to catch a musical but we were too last-minute & budget conscious this time.
If you’re going to get a true impression of a place you have to either stay 6 months or really observe what’s going on around you on the way in from the airport – or take a 3-day trip. I had expected London to be dirtier than Denmark & to feel rushed. Wrong on both counts. It was amazingly clean, noticeably free from cigarette butts all over the ground like here. (When I got here in the 70s, Denmark was pristine & my native USA & London grubby by comparison. Now it’s just the other way around.) Yes, London felt rushed because of all the people moving in droves, rather like wildebeests, & they work much longer hours than here, but they did NOT look pinched or pursued. I did expect them to be more polite than Danes – don’t get me started – & that they are. They are, they are. What a pleasure in a city where so many people move at close quarters. What a pleasure, full stop. It never goes out of style.
Home to 2 more days of Easter holiday then back on the job tomorrow. I came home snotty & sleepy but energized. Big busy cities will do that for me. I love London.

3 dage i London
Hjem fra 3 dage i London – tog en rask beslutning. Jeg anbefaler begge dele – London & raske beslutninger. Det sidste er ikke det samme som at give slip på al fornuft, men kan være nødvendig for at bryde en krampagtig mentalitet, der kommer snigende når der er for meget at lave og meget af det ikke vil lykkes til nogens tilfredshed. Når du føler påskeferien burde tilbringes under dynen med tossekassen tændt, tag et smut til London. Temperaturerne var de samme som her med føltes koldere, nok på grund af fugtigheden & det, at i legeboliger varmen kommer på fra 7.00 – 9.30 morgen & aften & DET ER DET!
(Jeg skipper beskrivelsen af de ting vi lavede. De er kun på engelsk.)
Hvis man skal danne et sandt indtryk af et sted skal man bo der i 6 måneder eller jagttage nøje på vej ind fra lufthavnen – eller besøge i 3 dage. Jeg forventede at London var mere snavset end DK samt mere forhutlede. Forkert. London var forbløffende ren, især fri for cigaretskodder over det hele som her. (Da jeg ankom i 70erne var DK pæn ren mens mit hjemland USA & London var betydelig smudsigere. Nu er det lige omvendt.) Jo, London kunne føle forhutlede fordi så mange mennesker bevæger sig i flokke, ganske som gnuer, & de arbejder flere timer end her, men de ser ikke sammenbidt eller jaget ud. Jeg regnede med, at de var mere høflige end danskere & dét er de, ja de er. Men det ville være mærkelig andet. Sikken dejlig oplevelse i så stor en by. Sikken dejlig oplevelse, punktum. Går aldrig af mode.
Hjem til 2 dages frihed før arbejde i morgen. Jeg kom hjem snottet og søvnig men med ny energi. Store travle byer har den virkning på mig. Jeg elsker London.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Hushpuppy
Everybody – go in & see Beasts of the Southern Wild if you haven’t already! A lot of films claim to be oh so original, but this one really IS & if there is any justice in Hollywood – always debatable – it will win Best Manuscript at least; Best Director would be fair.
Cool that the title comes from English literature, not even American. It has to be from William Blake’s The Little Black Boy, not?
My mother bore me in the southern wild
And I am black, but oh, my soul is white.
That’s how an Englishman would see it anno 1830 or thereabouts. Not quite politically correct today. Doesn’t matter a scrap either. I’m just showing off because I’ve read a lot of poetry. Most moviegoers won’t have any idea where the title comes from, just that it’s a wonderful title for a wonderful film.
Imagine – there’s no F-word, no moralizing & certainly no glamorizing; brilliant performances from non-actors & gorgeous photography. The tears flowed several times, but the film is unsentimental too. Don’t miss it.

Allesammen – tag ind og se Hushpuppy hvis du ikke allerede har. Mange film hævder at være åh så original, men denne film ER og hvis der er retfærdighed i Hollywood – kan altid diskuteres – vinder den i det mindste Bedste Manuskript. Bedste Instruktion ville være passende.
Bare tænk – ingen siger fuck – ingen løftet pegefinger og sandelig ingen glamour i situationen; suveræn skuespil fra ikke-skuespillere og underskønne billeder. Tårerne flød flere gange, men filmen er heller ikke rørstrømsk. Se den.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Midwinter - Midvinter

Yep, it’s midwinter, Candlemas or Groundhog Day, traditionally the coldest day of the year, although it didn’t live up to that here. Beautiful clear frosty day & at midday shadows were as clear as the nearly cloudless sky. Folk tradition therefore predicts 6 more weeks of winter, but there’s about an hour more daylight than there was around Christmas, when the days were darkest.
For many years I found it very strange that a former desert rat like myself could be so very fond of winter, long dark nights & howling wind. I’ve lived here twice as long as Tucson & I still love all 4 seasons – it’s the natives who gripe. At a post-meditation assembly in December where the topic was acceptance, the first remark was, “I can’t accept that it’s so dark all winter. It gets dark at 3 in the afternoon. It’s like a 5-hour difference. I can’t accept that.”
So move to Spain, I thought, that’s the dumbest remark I’ve ever heard. The same woman’s later remarks proved again & again that she is not the sharpest tool in the shed, but still. SO many Danes gripe & grump all winter long or else basically hibernate & walk around like a cross between a popsicle & a zombie. I have a colleague who extends this to rainy days. You’d think the universe was piddling on her head for pure spite, the way she goes on … & on & on.
My first trip to Europe in 1971 brought me from Tucson – where we had not had one drop of rain in 5 months – to Ireland, where it rained the day after my little son & I arrived. The neighbors thought we had lost it when we ran around the garden with our tongues out. I still put my face up in the rain if it’s less than a torrent – then I’d probably drown.
So I guess there’s an explanation. People brought up in northern countries were meant to hibernate in winter. Farmers couldn’t do an awful lot. Tradesmen could but there wasn’t as much of everything – mainly food – as there was the rest of the year, so everybody conserved energy, just like their animals. It makes me feel more tolerant, realizing it’s all ‘society’s fault’ – the way we’ve turned up the volume & the speed & keep everything going when we should really be curled up by the fire with a good book & the last bit of coffee from the bottom of the jar. Danes & who gripe all the dark months are still a royal pain. So I am here griping about them. Ahhh – that feels good.

Det er Kyndelmisse, i år ikke årets koldeste dag, men det er dens ry. Smukt klart frostvejr så skyggerne var så synlige som den næsten klare himmel. Ifølge folketroen betyder det 6 uger mere af vinter, men der er en god time mere dagslys end omkring jul, da det var mørkest.
I mange år synes jeg det var mærkeligt, at en ørkenrotte som mig var så glad for vinter, lange nætter og hyldende blæsevejr, mens de indfødte hele tiden klagede. Med til en efter-meditation møde i december hvor emnet var accept. Første bemærkning, ”Jeg kan ikke acceptere at det er så mørkt. Det er mørkt kl. 3, det er ligesom 5 timer mere end sommer. Det kan jeg ikke acceptere.”
Så flyt til Spanien, tænkte jeg. Det er den dummeste bemærkning jeg har hørt længe. Kvinden der sagde det snakkede videre og det var klart at, her havde vi ikke det skarpeste redskab i skuret, men alligevel. SÅ mange danskere klager og mugger hele vinteren eller går rundt som en blanding af en ispind og en zombie. Jeg har en kollega der klager højlydt hver gang det regner – som om universet tisser på hendes hoved af ren ondskab. I DK. Hun må være utilfreds det meste af tiden, ikke?
Da jeg rejste til Europa første gang i 1971 fløj jeg fra Arizona – hvor der ikke havde været en dråbe regn i 5 måneder – til Irland, hvor det regnede dagen efter min lille søn og jeg ankom. Naboerne syntes vi var helt fra den, som vi løb rundt i haven med tungen ud af munden. Det gør jeg stadig her nogle gange – skønt.
Så forklaringen må være at folk der bor langt mod nord burde gå halvt i hi i de mørke måneder, spare på energien og den (dengang) sparsomme mad. Det hele er samfundets skyld! (Det har vi hørt før i andre sammenhænge.) I stedet for at arbejde som gal, burde vi hænge ud foran pejsen med en god bog og de sidste kaffegrums fra bunden af krukken. Okay, nu føler jeg mig mere tolerante. Men danskernes lys mangel syndrom er stadig dødhamrende irriterende, endnu mere deres klageri, så nu klager jeg over dem. Hihi – det var dejligt. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Up in Smoke

Up in Smoke

I did a good deed today. Okay, actually not. In fact I was a real bitch but I did take her mind off the problem for a few minutes. Here’s the story: Walking to the library today on relatively clean pavement because the library is a bit off by itself, I met a girl who was most likely leaving the library & mad as a hornet. She was shading to purple right there on the sidewalk. No idea what made her so mad, but what made it worse was that she was out of cigarettes. She clearly wanted to shove one in her face & light up but instead came up with an empty pack – which she wadded up to a ball & threw to the ground, whammo!
As I passed I oinked, not actually like a pig – I am a lady of a certain age, after all – just said “Oink oink”.
“Same to you!” she hollered, & followed this with a stream of abuse I didn’t catch but could figure out for myself. See – now she had me to be furious at too, scrappy old bat making fun of her need. Redirecting anger – isn’t that healthy? No, it’s not. Yes, I grinned all the way home anyway. Mea culpa.
A few years ago I worked for an idealistic travel agency that sent people out as volunteers all over the place. It was really interesting & I admired the people – especially the young people – who paid good money to go work their tails off someplace with no hot water. Once 3 young Frenchmen landed in Vietnam just as a spring flood struck & they were marooned in their hostel for several days. You could hear their emails yelling, they were so frustrated because they couldn’t get cigarettes. (Food was barely mentioned.) Our German cooperation partner & I had a lot of online fun about it, but my boss, who lit up every time things got complicated, wasn’t laughing. I understood, of course. When you’re in a stressful situation, that’s when you really need the nicotine, just like the angry girl who was library-livid today.
The thing is, the rest of us are so annoyed by the general run of smokers that our sympathy is all used up. I remember walking home from a café with a smoker friend who thought she could buy cigs at the train station but could not. She assaulted every person we passed trying to cadge a smoke. Unsuccessfully. It was like the time my little brother thought it was a hoot to wear a silly lady’s hat one of our grandmother’s friends forgot & I walked on the other side of the street, as if that fooled anyone. I guess it was just the demonstration I was going for. You do that when you’re big sis. I didn’t do it with my smoker friend, but the urge was there.
When I first got to Denmark in 1973, half of the population smoked but it seemed like more because they had total dominance. If you asked them not to you were violating their rights & acting prissy as well. If you wanted to take pictures at a party it had to happen in the first hour, after that there was a blue pall you could barely see through, no matter how many children or asthmatics were present. There were already smoking laws in the US & I was appalled at the Danes & their cigs, but always impressed at how clean the streets were. Now there are also smoking laws here, thank goodness, but the streets are no longer so clean. Back then they smoked indoors with ashtrays all around. Now they’re out in the cold & too many smokers just drop their butts where they take the last heave. I know they are a minority but they make a big mess. Maybe they know they are a pain & the reason smokers are the new lepers. Many smokers feel terribly abused. I hope they know they which of their soulmates to thank.
Oink oink – man, that felt good!
Happy New Year!