Friday, March 05, 2004

Public Service 

A little item in today's Urban caught my eye. I had to translate it myself but the DMG checked my work for errors. I herewith present the approved version, which probably owes more to her than to me:

Military Think-Tank without Danish Officers

DENMARK - Brigadier General Michael Clemmesen believes that a new military think tank, which a majority in Parliament supports, should be manned by foreign and pensioned officers, because the military's own people can't think independently.

"Something else will only become possible when the military begins to promote and reward independent thinking," says Michael Clemmesen to Dagbladet Information.

I can understand a brigadier general being frustrated with a lack of independent thinking in his nation's military establishment, although it's sort of like hearing a cook complain about the food at his restaurant. But the idea of developing a state-financed military think-tank that deliberately excludes active officers strikes me as quintessentially European.

The Danish military is not without its problems (snowplows in Iraq?), but you have to wonder if Brig. Gen. Clemmesen's attitude isn't one of them.

Since I know the Danish Parliament and Military look to me as an important source of ideas, let me offer a compromise: set up your military think-tank with foreign and pensioned officers, but include within that think-tank a mandatory training program for Denmark's commissioned officers—a program that will help them foster their creative and independent thinking skills while at the same time keeping the think-tank itself in touch with the contemporary Danish officer.

The government may once again claim my idea as its own in exchange for the usual fee delivered to the usual account.

Undisclosable Friday 

The good news is it looks like I've got some writing work lined up for the spring and summer. The bad news is I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning it won't give me much to talk about here.

It's probably safe to mention that the company is Io Interactive and that the project is a videogame. After all, it's no secret that Io is based in Copenhagen or that they make videogames. In fact, they've been all over the news this week because they just sold themselves to the English game distributor Eidos for $256 million kroner—about $43 million. That's one happy office, let me tell you!

It's probably also safe to say that I've had some association with these guys in the past and think they're as cool a crew as I've ever worked or drunk with. A bunch of them still bear me a grudge for having taught them craps inadequately last spring before their trip out to the E3 convention (or whatever it was) in Las Vegas. It wasn't so much a question of my not having taught them the rules correctly, but not having instructed them on precisely how to win. Actually, I think I have a photograph from that tutorial session... yes, here it is:

Look at that hand-drawn craps table! It took me at least twenty minutes to draw that! And observe the genuine clay chips—do you have any idea how many Marlboros I had to smoke to accumulate enough miles to get those chips? It was obviously a quality lesson and if they didn't have the sense to take advantage of my tutelage to make their millions in Vegas, it's a damn good thing they found another way to their millions. Lousy ingrates. Did I say I liked those guys?

* * *

On the way home from my meeting this afternoon I walked by Tivoli. One of the gates was open and I got a good look at the new roller-coaster they're building. Here are a couple of shots:


I bumped into another gawker who mentioned that the entire construction process can be viewed on the web. Sure enough, here it is.

* * *

The only other thing I wanted to mention was that the Easter Brews come out tonight. The DMG and I will not be lining up at a bar to taste it upon its official release at 20:59 this evening, but we'll certainly be in the minority.

The release of the Påskebryg isn't quite as big an event as the release of the Julbryg before Christmas, but it's bigger than the start of the new asparagus season (yes, that's really an event). Every major bar in the city is loaded up with the stuff, but it's embargoed until 8:59 pm. At that moment—2:59pm Eastern time—it's pretty safe to assume that half the population of Denmark is quaffing, or waiting in line to quaff, the first Easter Brew of the season. The other half is either pregnant, retired, prepubescent, reviewing their twelve steps, or sipping the less publicized Passover Brew—an unhappy concoction that has to be brewed without yeast.

The DMG will probably already be asleep, getting the rest she so badly needs to keep our bean growing strong, leaving me to spend another Friday night watching bad movies on the Hallmark Channel, or surfing the web aimlessly, or playing one of my three-year-old computer games, or...

Actually, now that I think of it, maybe I will find my way to a Påskebryg tonight...

Thursday, March 04, 2004


Norway: Bjørn Stærk has a great essay on the Norwegian view of the world.

France: An interesting overview of the French rail terror threats at EURSOC.

Denmark: Troniu the Romanian (in Denmark) keeps improving his site, which is not a blog. His Daily Photographs of Copenhagen are fantastic, even if you don't speak Romanian.

France: Courtesy of Moe Freedman at Occam's Toothbrush, a Commentary article by Nidra Poller entitled "Betrayed by Europe: an Expatriate's Lament." I hope it doesn't violate Netiquette to cite the same paragraph that seemed to catch Freedman's eye (or brush):

We are not free in France. I know the difference. I come from a free country. A rough and ready, clumsy, slapped together, tacky country where people say wow and gosh and shop at Costco. A country so vast I haven’t the faintest idea where I would put myself. A homeland I would have liked to keep at a distance, visit with pleasure, and leave with relief. A native land I walked out on with belated adolescent insouciance. A foreign land where I was born because Europe vomited up my grandparents as it is now coughing up me and mine.

It's a powerful, sharply-written article that's well worth reading. I like to think Europe hasn't descended quite that far into the abyss yet, but I'm in Copenhagen, not Paris.

Russia: The Russian Dilettante flags a story about the Russian Duma's plans to pass legislation requiring some kind of special license for Internet access.

Denmark: At Scandinavia's Cross, concern about graying Denmark: how does a welfare state work when the people it has to support outnumber the people that have to support them? It's the American social security problem write large.

And back in the states, Marie at the Blue Ridge blog has a shot of "the unofficial mayor of Valle Crucis." It's like Norman Rockwell picked up a camera. Her other pictures are great and definitely worth your time, but I love that dog.


When the DMG and I first moved from Chicago to New York in 1998, we spent a lot of time at toll plazas. They weren't destinations we sought out for a good time on a Saturday night, or even a Tuesday morning, but time after time we found ourselves idling for thirty to ninety minutes at the toll plazas of the various bridges and tunnels of the metropolitan area.

We'd look enviously at the cars whizzing by us through the "EZ-Pass" lanes, barely slowing down as they whisked through their privileged lanes. Lucky bastards, with their dashboard transponders that rendered loose change obsolete!

You better believe it was a red letter day on 31st Avenue when we got our EZ-Pass transponders. How contemptibly we raced by the clogged lines of coinage-dependent drivers as we made our effortlessly way through every toolbooth from Boston to Trenton, from Staten Island to Buffalo. We laughed at their misery and applauded our own genius every time.

But EZ-Pass ain't got nothin' on BabyPass.

I've only become aware of BabyPass recently, as my formerly child-averse eyes have begun adjusting to the tram-choked world of Copenhagen. A brilliant example struck me just moments ago on my way out of Føtex, the grocery store down the street.

The store itself is situated on what we'd call the second floor of the building but which Europeans insist on calling the first. You get up or down by means of long, slow, gently-sloped people-movers—escalators without the steps. You'd think such a virtual ramp would be a considerable hazard to people shoving shopping carts around, but Danish design has an answer for everything: the wheels of your Føtex shopping cart are grooved, and "lock into" the conveyor automatically.

Baby carriages and strollers do not usually come pre-fitted with wheels grooved to the Føtex specifications, I've learned, but most do have emergency brakes that ensure no babies will be sent careening down the ramp, out the doors, and onto the killing fields of Nordre Fasanvej.

The ramps are just wide enough to allow people to stand on the right and pass on the left, as they would on an ordinary escalator. They're even wide enough to allow unencumbered shoppers to walk past strollers or carriages—assuming the pusher of said infant transportation device (ITD) has been courteous enough to "park" his or her ITD to one side of the ramp. An ITD parked in the center of the ramp affords insufficient passing room on either side. These are long, slow ramps, as I've mentioned, so it's more than a courtesy—it's just good manners.

That's where BabyPass comes in. EZ-Pass is a pleasant municipal expedient, but BabyPass is carte blanche for the busy, infant-accompanied shopper to do whatever he or she wants, whenever he or she wants.

Moments ago, for example, I not only got stuck behind a woman who'd parked her ITD in the center of the Føtex down ramp: we both came within inches of barreling over a baby carriage that had been parked at the base of the ramp in a way that made it necessary to either jog immediately to the left after stepping (or rolling) off the ramp or go barreling through the carriage itself.

But I wasn't irritated. I was envious. In just five months I, too, will have BabyPass. I, too, will be entitled to cease acknowledgment of my fellow human beings. The world will be reduced to me and my child (just as it was in last night's dream, if you care to scroll down), and nothing else will matter. I will roll his carriage over unwary feet, will use his stroller as a defensive instrument in lines, and will give nary a thought to any inconvenience or disruption I may be causing when I park his tram this way or that.

How I will laugh at the poor, childless fools around me!

Why didn't anyone tell me about BabyPass sooner?

Is it a secret? Did I just blow it?

Or what?

Thinking Too Much 

I was just organizing some of the photos I've been taking lately, and I came across this one:


It's a sight I see almost every day, an enormous mural painted on the side of a building a block or two up the street on the corner of Finsensvej and Nordre Fasanvej. It's very colorful, as you can see, and I like the trompe l'oeil effect of the tree and the sky.

But I don't get the pot leaf. Never mind the psychedelic coloring, which suggests the leaf is dangling off a New Hampshire plant in October. Just contemplate the fact of the leaf itself. What is the artist saying?

If it were a maple leaf, you might surmise that artist was saying, "Hooray for Canada!" If it were a mistletoe leaf, it'd be safe to assume the artist was a big fan of Christmas. If it were a sprig of parsely, the artist might have been a partisan of Judaism in general or Passover in particular. A pot leaf, as best I can figure, says only, "Hooray for pot!"

The value of a symbol is in the meaning of the object it symbolizes. A maple leaf doesn't stir the Canadian heart because Canadians are innately fond of maple trees, but because Canadians love their country. They see their national symbol and think, "Ah, Canada!"

What does a pot-leaf represent? Pot.

So it's not surprising that in my own experience, people who go for the pot-leaf symbol are people who like pot. Period. They may or may not like Hendrix or the Dead, may or may not be vegetarians, may or may not know how to play a musical instrument; they may be Democrats or Republicans, cat people or dog people, optimists or pessimists, gay or straight. The only thing that unifies people who rally to the sign of the pot leaf is that they really like to smoke pot.

Fair enough.

So we've got this giant mural down the street that roars, "I really like to smoke pot!" every time you see it. Here's my emotional response: "Okay."

But why does the artist want everyone to know how much he or she likes to smoke pot? What do we care? Are we supposed to be shocked? Amazed? Knocked out of our bourgeouis sensibilities altogether?

"Holy shit! Here I was living my life of careful conformity, and suddenly I realize how shallow and banal my existence has been—somewhere out there is a guy who really likes to smoke pot! My world is shattered!"

Or maybe he's not a subversive at all. Maybe he just loves pot so much he wants to share his love with the world. Maybe I'm supposed to react by thinking, "Wow! Pot leaves are really beautiful, almost as beautiful as the golden buzz you get from a few tokes of some organic Yuba County spliff..."

Or maybe I'm not supposed to think at all. I'm sure that's the case.

It almost always is.

Thursday Almanac 

(I should have mentioned that the Thursday bloggish is up on JustMorons.)

Baby Dream 

Last night I had my first Bean-related dream in which the DMG's labor produced something other than a puppy. It was, at last, a baby boy.

The birth hadn't occurred in a hospital. Or maybe it had—I wasn't around for the birth. Or if I was, I didn't notice it. I only became aware of it in the living room of a large, oak-paneled living room somewhere in America. I was standing in that room with some family and friends. The DMG sat beside us in a large easy chair, fussing over a bundle of linens.

She held the bundle up before me and said, "Here, you hold him."

I took the linens from her and realized they were too heavy to be constituted of mere textiles. Peeling away a layer or two of blue cloth to see what secret source of weight lay within, I was astonished to discover a son.

Yes, somehow I knew it was my son, and that the DMG had recently given birth to him. I was unconcerned with the kinds of questions that might have plagued me in real life—when did this happen? why wasn't I told? why are all these people here? where are we? Instead I was flooded with joy and relief.

The infant had wispy golden hair and bright blue eyes and looked like an actual one- or two-day old baby might look. The rest of the world melted away from me; it was just me and my son. He was gurgling pointlessly, his little eyes looking left and right with indifferent bewilderment, saliva bubbling between his tiny lips.

Ah, I thought, he's really his father's son!

I made little cooing sounds and tickled his chin with my index finger. He smiled at me and spit up a little gob of something like cream of wheat.

"Yuck," I thought, and I set him down on the carpeted floor. I got down on all fours beside him. I began tickling his tummy, and he started giggling.

"Are you a good little boy?" I asked. "Who's a good little boy?"

He giggled, I laughed, and there was absolutely nothing else in the world. (I was aware of the DMG looking on beatifically from her chair, behind us, but everyone else was gone.)

That's about as far as it got. Next thing I knew I was playing with a golden retriever puppy. He rolled around on his back and made happy dog sounds while I scratched his belly, then all at once he flipped around and bounded off toward the door.

My only other memory of the dream is chasing him outside into a very deep snow. He'd leaped into a snowdrift he couldn't get out of and was yelping for rescue. He was nearby, so I wasn't worried about not getting to him in time. In fact, as I lumbered out into the snow toward the source of his cries I remember thinking, the little sucker's as stupid as he is cute.

But all I said aloud was, "He's buried himself in the snow, babe."

I heard the DMG call out to me from the living room: "Figures."

Then I woke up.

So although the dream did involve a dog in the end, it's still a major milestone in that it's the first dream of this pregnancy in which we began with a baby instead of a puppy.

Maybe by July I'll have dreams without any dogs at all.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


I just got back from my studieskolen test for placement in a state-funded Danish language course.

There were two parts to the test. The first was to write a little essay, in Danish, describing myself, my interests, my life in Denmark, and my hopes for the future.

The second was an interview in which an actual human being would review my essay, try to speak a little Danish with me, and figure out where I fit into the hierarchy of Danish language instruction.

I'm not proud of my essay. It began something like this:

My name is Greg Nagan. I'm an American. I have lived here eleven months. My girlfriend in the USA was Danish. After we moved here we were married (on 9 August). Now she is pregnant and we are expecting a child on August 21. I hope to learn Danish so I can speak to my child.

At least, that's how it ought to have begun. I'm afraid it actually read something like this:

My name is Greg Nagan. I'm Americanian. Here have I dwelled student months. My girlfriend in USA was Danish. After came we here was married us (on 9 August). Now is she pregnant and hope we to a child on August 21. I hope I can read Danish so can I talk with my child.

There were four of us in the little pre-interview room, scribbling away in our own uniquely individual interpretations of the Danish language. The interview woman—I suppose I can call her the proctor—came in and called one of us out. The rest of us kept writing.

I tried to go into a little detail about my life. Where we lived, where the DMG worked, where we had met. I began to get overconfident and found myself beginning sentences I couldn't finish. I scratched words out and wrote new ones. My essay was becoming a mess. Time passed. Everyone else was writing. I tried to press on.

"We have lots of friends," I wrote. "A lot of our friends are pregnant. We hope our children will be friends."

It was as stupid a thing as I'd ever written, but the Danish wasn't so bad, so I left it. What else could I say?

"We like our home. We think it will be too small when we have the child."

We don't actually think that, not at all, but it sounded like the kind of thing a worried parent might say and it didn't make any strenuous demands of my Danish vocabulary, so I left it.

"My parents live in Connecticut. My sister and her husband live in Massachusetts. They have two children. The girls are beautiful and I love them." This was also clunky and poorly put together, but I liked that it showed a strong family attachment. That would surely reflect well on me. It had also given me the opportunity to use the word pigerne ("the girls"), which seemed syntactically complex enough to impress the proctor. I wondered if I could somehow sneak in drengene ("the boys"), or a really weird one, maybe, like oplysingeren, which I had just this morning learned means "the information."

Another of my struggling peers was called in by the proctor. I kept writing.

"While I wait," I wrote, "I will write more. I write. I have writ for radio and theater and a book. Now write I a new book, and also the Internet."

It wasn't going well, but rather than go back and try to polish what I'd already written I felt compelled to keep writing more. I sure as hell wasn't going to dazzle them with brilliance, so it was baffle them with bullshit or die trying.

"I have read many children's books. The first book I read was 'Totten and the Cat Kisser.' My wife thought it was fun but it was not my favorite book."

It's hard to think I could sink lower than that, but I did.

"I can not say 'red ...?... with cream,' [a celebrated Danish tongue-twister that I couldn't even remember], but I hope I can learn it."

"I write too much. It is all so bad. I also do not hear Danish good. But read it can I good enough."

I cut myself off just in time to be called in for my interview. The proctor brought me into her office. We sat on opposite sides of her desk.

She examined the front of my essay carefully. She marked it up madly with a red pen, slashing extraneous letters out of existence, circling erroneous or superfluous words, underlining others. She never even looked up at me. Then she turned the page over and seemed surprised at how much I'd written. Perhaps my strategy had worked! She glanced up at me quickly, a little sparkle of amusement in her eyes, then continued reading. At length she giggled faintly, pushed the paper aside, and began the interview.

We exchanged three or four sentences. I had to ask her to repeat herself each time, and my replies were bumbling, poorly formed, terribly pronounced. At last we dropped the pretense of Danish and began speaking English. Things got better. Once in a while she'd toss some Danish at me and I'd handle it as best I could—usually by scrunching my forehead in faux concentration, saying "errmm" (Danish for "umm"), then offering a one- or two-word Danish response that would hopefully be appropriate. At one point she asked me something I didn't understand at all, and like an idiot I said ja. Her eyebrows shot up, she jotted something down on my form, and I squirmed in agony. What in the name of God had I just agreed to? Had I acknowledged some crime?

In the end she said she didn't know what to do with me. I obviously spoke some Danish, and had a good beginner's vocabulary, but there were some significant holes in my skills. For example, she pointed out, you have to know the numbers.

(She had discovered that particular weakness when she asked what year I had "completed university," and I had replied "eighty-nine" in Danish. She nodded and wrote '79 on the form. I corrected myself in English. She amended the form without further comment, but I knew I was sunk.)

"I think with the beginner class you would be too bored," she finally said, "but I think in the intermediate class you might be missing a few things that would slow you down. So I'm going to put you in the second half of the beginner class."

A stunning victory!

That had been my only goal—getting out of the first part of the beginner class. I couldn't bear the idea of sitting around with a bunch of other foreigners for two hours a day saying, "My name is Greg," "It's quarter past ten," "Would you like some potatoes?" "How much is the rye bread?" "Do you like chocolate?"

So there it is. Classes begin the last week in March. Hot damn.

The Moron's Almanac 

Since I'm not updating the main site today, here's the regular daily briefing for those who just can't live without it:

Russian Serfdom was abolished on this date in 1861.

The Russian serf lived a hopeless life of back-breaking labor and desperate poverty. Their oppression, which continued even after their liberation, caused riots, assassinations, and literature. Finally they had the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 to make the serfs equal to everyone else. It worked.

From that point forward, everyone lived a hopeless life of back-breaking labor and desperate poverty.

The American surf has caused only the Beach Boys and Annette Funicello.

Today is the birthday of Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1962), Herschel Walker (1962), James Doohan (1920), Jean Harlow (1911), and Alexander Graham Bell (1847).

It's Throne Day in Morocco, so the intrepid shopper can look forward to 20-40% savings on all thrones and accessories.

It's also Liberation Day in Bulgaria and Martyr's Day in Malawy.

Happy hump day.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Joy... and Terror 

It was a wonderful day, today, as I finally got my Danish CPR number, the equivalent of an American Social Security Number. Without it, you're no one. You can't do anything. No checking accounts, no contracts, no rentals, no leasing, nothing. But once you've got it, you the man.

I made way to Frederiksberg Town Hall today and met briefly with a Pleasant Clerk who asked me about five questions and then asked me to wait in the hall. Ten minutes later she came out and handed me an official letter that included my brand new centrale personregister (CPR) number. I'd share it with you, but then you could steal my Danish identity and make my life hell.

I was ecstatic. I've waited eleven months for that little number. I was so giddy I even asked the Pleasant Clerk if I could take her picture. She declined, which is the only reason you don't see her picture here.

One of the unfortunate benefits of having finally received my CPR number is that I'm now eligible for free Danish classes at Studieskolen. I'd actually been looking forward to them until they became a reality: now I'm a little intimidated. I don't seem to have been designed to produce Danish sounds. I have an American esophygus, an American larynx, an American tongue. Trying to get Danish out of them is like trying to squeeze whiskey out of a grapefruit—you'll get something, but it sure as hell ain't what you're looking for.

I went online to see what classes I could sign up for and discovered that, since I'm beyond "beginner," I actually have to take a test for placement. There's a test tomorrow at 10am.

I haven't taken a test in about fifteen years. I don't even own any #2 pencils. I'm a little anxious.

I'll let you know how it goes.

The Quickening 

Today's Almanac is up, and it's an important one. It has a lot to do with the origins and future of this blog.

I'm also happy to announce that I got my first incoming link (I don't know if I was blogrolled, but I'll take what I can get) from the Blue Ridge blog, "the life and times of a hillbilly photographer." It's a fun, well-written blog with beautiful photographs.

Which brings me to the subject of blogrolls: I'm going to be editing my own list with a draconian hand later today or tomorrow, because right now the emphasis seems to be on the political. I enjoy those sites, but I don't see myself as a political site and should probably try to limit my links to more appropriate sites.

Here are my new criteria for adding links to my blogroll: they must either be (a) English-language blogs of persons living in (not just visiting) countries of which they are not citizens, or (b) English-language blogs of private people that focus on the humor and vicissitudes of daily life—people, that is, who can write about the very towns in which they were born with fresh and penetrating eyes. The aforementioned Blue Ridge blog is a good example of the second category, and has therefore been blogrolled. Sofia Sideshow and Across the Atlantic are good examples of the first category, and will therefore remain blogrolled. I'll probably also include English-language blogs from citizens of countries where English is not a predominant language.

(The exception will be Troniu the Romanian, whose mostly-Romanian blog about his life in Denmark mostly consists of his excellent photographs, which aren't hard to translate.)

As you'll see on today's Almanac entry (which you can access from the link above), I'm thinking a lot about what I want to say and where I want to say it, and I'd be happy to hear from you either in the comments feature below (if it's working—sometimes I find I have to reload the page a couple of time to get the comments link to work) or through an email to greg [at] justmorons [dot] com.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Time, Gentlemen 

An Austrian research team has recorded the shortest interval of time ever (thanks to the Captain at Across the Atlantic).

Researchers used short pulses of laser light to produce images of electrons leaving atoms and recorded what happened to within 100 attoseconds.

To imagine how long this is, if 100 attoseconds is stretched so that it lasts one second, one second would last 300 million years on the same scale.

That's one of the worst analogies I've ever encountered in a science article (how do you stretch a second into 300 million years? aren't they just talking about basic multiplication here?), but leave that aside. Everyone's always complaining about the increasing pace of the world. Too fast, too frantic, too manic.

(Okay, not everyone, not literally.)

Does the standardization of such a diminutive measure of time (one quintillionth of a second) speed us up even more and exacerbate our anxiety, or provide a sense of leisure? After all, would you rather have one second left to live... or a quintillion attoseconds?

Bin Laden for a Nuclear Pass? 

Stratfor, via the Agonist:

"[A]dministration sources have said that Washington and Islamabad have cut a deal under which the United States will be permitted to send thousands of troops into Pakistan and will be provided with Pakistani intelligence assistance as to the location of bin Laden. In exchange, the United States will not make an issue of the pardon given Pakistan's chief nuclear scientist, who was charged with disseminating nuclear technology."

But I don't really know the Agonist, or Stratfor. So see for yourself.

See also this Seymour Hersch New Yorker article, posted just today. I'm familiar with that source.

Or this New York Times item, also from today. I've heard of them, too.

Interesting stuff... but now all the breaking news is about the Aristide "kidnapping" issue (the issue being, I guess, whether or not those scare quotes are justified), and the White House is addressing it live now, so I'll go watch that...

Stress on the Job and in the Jails 

The Copenhagen Post reports today that "a new report finds that telecommuting and flextime actually adds to work-related stress."

According to Danish management magazine Lederne, the plan was designed to make employees responsible for their own work schedules, allowing them to show up at their leisure, and work during hours that fit with their family lives. The company used the policy to stress the importance of achieving personal balance in work life.

Alas for personal balance!

According to Pie Møller Appel, the Danish personnel director for Hewlett-Packard, "The analysis showed that employees had a feeling that they had to be available all the time. This actually added stress, and we're working to phase out that kind of work culture."

This is the problem with human beings. You give them an iron-clad schedule, they complain about rigidity. You let them set their own hours, they can't handle the stress.

If I ran a big company, I wouldn't hire any human beings. I'd hire dogs. Dogs will do anything to please you, they never complain, and they almost never stress out. Even when they do, it usually has more to do with cats, squirrels, thunder, or vacuum cleaners than anything like "personal balance."

But flex-time isn't the only newsworthy stressor in today's Post. We've also got a dangerous level of stress in the Danish prison system! Yes, listen to this:

If the government carries out its zero-tolerance policy on drugs in the nation's prisons, inmates could react violently: so says the chairman of the Association of Danish Prison Chaplains, Susanne Bjerregaard.

Never mind that drugs are illegal in Denmark. Enforcement of those laws in prison could be catastrophic!

"We'll see a cycle emerge of action begetting reaction. Inmates in state prisons have felt the pinch in prison conditions in recent years, and if additional restrictions are passed, such as removing marijuana completely from prison areas, I'm afraid some inmates will start vandalizing or destroying their cells," said Bjerregaard.

In other words: prison is stressful enough without a bunch of Nosey Nellies butting in and harshing the mellow.

"The government crackdown is a very shortsighted policy. All of these people, who have been sent here under very unfortunate circumstances, will have to be let out again at some point. If they aren't given reasonably livable conditions on the inside, their frustrations will bubble over, not just within the closed walls of the prison, but later on, when they're released into society," said Bjerregaard.

Personally, even though I'm not a user, I'd like to see marijuana and hashish legalized, or at least decriminalized. But they haven't been—not back in the states, not here in Denmark. Who's being shortsighted here? If you're worried about rehabilitating your convicts, wouldn't you want to get them used to the idea of obeying the fucking law?

Can you see where Ms. Bjerregaard's compassion is leading? Some "very unfortunate" convict is finally released from prison. Straightaway he heads to his favorite park, sits himself down beneath a lovely Danish Elm, and fires up a blunt.

And bam—he's arrested again.

"What's the big deal?" he protests at his arraignment. "It was legal in jail!"

The best way to stay out of jail is to obey the law. It would be nice to instill that habit in one's convicts before releasing them back into the wild.

Lucid Analysis of the Woman's Magazine Cover 

Philosophy and politics are well and good, but they tend to get too abstract too quickly. I like a more homely line of dialectical reasoning, like this: what are those women's magazine covers really saying? It makes me wish I could read the magazine covers here to compare Danish to American "messages."


I'm finally a legal resident of Denmark... read all about it in today's Almanac. (And find out what beachwear was inspired fifty years ago today.)

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Last Thought on Same-Sex Marriage (Really) 

Although I still can't find a reason to support an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment to the Constitution, or to oppose the civil union of two dudes or chicks who want to marry one another, I think the activists supporting the "civil disobedience" in San Francisco ought to be really, really goddam careful. How would you guys feel if a judge or two decided that gun owners in your state were entitled to pack concealed heat at all times? Or that it was permissible to shrink wrap abortion clinics? If guns or abortions don't do it for you, pick the hot-button issue of your choice. Timber rights, arctic drilling, Roswell, whatever.

The arbitrary abuse of power doesn't seem arbitrary when it's redounding to your benefit, but it's still abuse—and its arbitrariness will turn around and bite you in the ass before you know it.

So, yeah, I'm all for civil unions, I guess, but I'm also for judges and elected officials who see the law as something more than a set of guidelines to be obeyed when convenient. For God's sake, we're not a theocracy or a monarchy or an aristocracy or a pure democracy... we're a fricking republic, so the law is all we've got. Take it away and there's nothing left. There's nothing behind the curtain.

So let's be careful out there.

Why the DPRK Post Was Interesting 

The DMG read the DPRK post (below) and I asked her what she thought.

"I don't get why it's funny," she said.

"It's funny because it's an actual government bragging about some idiot having made a free webpage about them on fricking Geocities," I said. "That's why I showed the whole web address. I mean, seriously. Geocities! Any ten-year-old with a modem and a half-hour of time to kill could have created that."

"Oh," she said, nodding vacantly. "So the part about wanting to destroy America, that wasn't supposed to be funny?"

I stared at her.

She stared back.

"Not in the laugh out loud sense," I said.

"Oh," she said.

"So basically you're saying... stupid post?"

She shrugged. "Just because I didn't get it doesn't mean no one else will. I mean, maybe the kinds of people who read blogs, they'd probably understand about Geocities and everything."


What I think the DMG meant to say was, "The meaning of that post is completely opaque to me. It wasn't funny and I don't know why you wanted me to read it."

So, in case you feel like her, I thought I'd include this post to explain why the previous post was interesting. That's the kind of dedicated scrivening you get from me. No other blog does that. So forget the rest and stick with the best: MoronAbroad is your one-stop shop for all your blogging needs.

And so on.

The Sun of the 21st Century 

The Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK is excited to announce that the U.S. Group for the Study of the Songun Politics has... get ready... "opened [an] Internet homepage." Their excitement is understandable:

Edited in the homepage are the full text of leader Kim Jong Il's famous work "Abuses of Socialism Are Intolerable," propositions from his work "Let Us March Forward Dynamically along the Road of Socialism and Communism under the Unfurled Banner of the Anti-imperialist Struggle" and the full text of the book "Songun Politics of General Kim Jong Il".

But that's not all:

Also carried in the homepage is an article of Jo Il Min, chief of the Pyongyang Mission of the National Democratic Front of South Korea, titled "Why do we worship and uphold General Kim Jong Il".

The article said:

Kim Jong Il is a great thinker and theoretician, a great statesman, a great man and the sun of the 21st century. His thought, statesmanship and achievements, all of them reach the acme of charm.

Strangely enough, however, the announcement doesn't include a link to the page they've been talking about. I did a Google search on "U.S. Group for the Study of the Songun Politics" and found it here:


That's a website you don't want to miss, my friends. Especially interesting is the "New Year message from the Socialist Arab Coalition in North America." At the risk of boring you to tears, or killing you with laughter, I cite the message in its entirety (copied and pasted without editorial interference on my part):

Dear comrades of the NDFSK,

We, greeting the upcoming 2004 year, look forward to the inevitable victory over the imperialist monsters in the United States to smash their arrogance with the fierce resistance and steadfast principles of Marx and Lenin and those who follow in their footsteps.

We understand that our struggle is an internationalist one and we stand shoulder and shoulder with you our Arab fists with your Korean fists to destroy the enemy of all humanity that of US and Anglo imperialism.

In Iraq the US imperialists are in great trouble and they want Japanese money and Korean blood to be spent to save them from the resistance.

Like the Korean nation that is eager for reunification and has suffered so long because of US colonial occupation, the Arab nation also is much eager for its reunification and to kick out the Yankee imperialists and to move on with its development.

Today just as the revolutionary potential exists in Korea with the leadership of the DPRK it also exists in Iraq and in Palestine and we are marching on the same anti-imperialist path.

Forward, comrades, and we look to a more revolutionary year in the year 2004.

with much appreciation for your camaraderie.

Death to Imperialism

Long Live Marxism-Leninism

your comrade,


Socialist Arab Coalition in North America

Those of you who read my website may remember my recently having wondered aloud, or at least in virtual print, about the actual definition of "progressive" these days. I wonder anew.

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