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 ...