Saturday, April 03, 2004

Too American? 

Had to check in on the Copenhagen Post before logging off, and noticed this:

Foreign policy experts on both sides of the Atlantic say Denmark's self-styled role as transatlantic "bridgebuilder" is exaggerated.


"Anyway, we in Denmark are not even the ideal 'bridgebuilder' in the conflict between the US and Europe. We've leaned too far to the pro-Atlantic side, and everyone knows it," said Mouritzen.

Neither Glenda Rosenthal nor Hans Mouritzen expects next month's EU enlargement to bring about any changes to that pattern.

"EU expansion will improve Denmark's position within the EU, because we'll be admitting several countries that back Denmark in transatlantic policy issues (the Baltic States, Poland, and Slovakia). But in terms of formulating an EU foreign policy, it's going to make it even harder to reach consensus," said Mouritzen.

Think of it. In Denmark, the worst criticism you can make of a public policy is that it risks bringing about "American conditions," yet Denmark considers itself too pro-American to be taken seriously as a "bridge-builder" between the U.S. and the rest of Europe.

Abroad at Home 

After about twelve hours of travel we got into Logan Airport at about 6pm Thursday evening. My father met us at the arrivals area and drove us out to my sister's place in Chelmsford. It was a horrible rainy evening and the ride took a while. Neither of us lasted long into the evening, and we were both wide awake by 5:15 or so this morning (Friday—I realize it's already past midnight in Denmark, and I've set my blog to time- and datestamp on CET). We lay in bed and talked until about 6:30. We got the nieces off to school then went out for a bagel with my sister and brother-in-law, and afterwards went on a wild binge at Wal-Mart. I've never been so excited to go shopping for common household objects in my life. We probably spent fifty bucks on pharmaceuticals alone. Another fifty on shoes. Some cheap summer clothes for myself. All kinds of stuff. Why am I writing about this? Because my inner editor is still asleep.

Several times already I've been in a position where I've had to talk to a cashier or clerk, and have instinctively turned to someone else to do the talking for me. It's embarrassing, but that's how accustomed I've become to having intermediaries conduct my business conversations for me. At the bagel place, for example, the cashier looked right at me and said, "Yes?"

I turned to my sister, beside and a little behind me, and said, "I want a salt bagel with scallion cream cheese."

"Okay," my sister said. "Go ahead and tell her."

It was liberating to be able to communicate what I wanted. It's also been astonishing to hear the constant hubbub of voices all around me and actually understand them. There's so much I'm missing in Denmark! The little bits and snippets you pick up all around you everyday are priceless, and I've been missing out on them for over a year.

It's also nice to see New England, where I did most of my growing up. The wooded hills, the ubiquitous steeples, the crumbling infrastructure, the Byzantine traffic signs, the stony gray stoicism of a rainy New England spring... it's oddly reassuring. I know what to expect, here. I know what's expected of me. I know what I can get away with.

I'm still whacked out of my mind with jet lag and the novelty of everything is still overwhelming me—I laughed out loud when an ATM spat out a handful of green twenties at me, because American money looked so strange to me—it wasn't how funny the money looked that made me laugh, I don't think, but rather the fact that it looked funny to me.

There's other stuff, too, but I just got up from a nap and really don't have my shit together yet. Probably I shouldn't have even written this. But I'm going to let it stand because otherwise I'll either have to delete it and regret the time I wasted on it, or go back and try to make it funny and interesting and end up wasting even more time—and probably not coming across much better in the process.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

On Our Way 

The DMG and I are about an hour away from getting onto a subway that will take us to a train that will bring us to an airplane that will take us to another airplane that will take us to Boston, where at about 5:00 pm this evening I will set foot on American soil for the first time in 368 days.

I fully intend to chronicle our American Adventures, at least sporadically, but I've never blogged from another computer before, so if you don't see any new posts over the next 12 days it doesn't necessarily mean we've been abducted by vegan flat-earth militants—it probably just means I've been too clueless to figure out how to log into Blogger from a computer that hasn't memorized all my access codes and passwords for me.

Meanwhile, here's a suggestion for some diverting entertainment: I somehow missed the release of the Viking Cats doing "Gay Bar." That's absolutely worth a few moments of your time, but you may find, as I did, that it just makes you nostalgic for the original spoof with Bush and Blair. And if you're too cranked up after watching both those videos, relax: the cats can chill.

Here we go...

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Look at a Tree 

On our way home from an errand this evening, the DMG got a little winded and decided to take a momentary break at a bus stop. She sat down on the bench and we both began looking around in that useless, gawping way that married couples look around at things when they don't have anything in particular to talk about.

I noticed what looked like a post-it note stuck to one side of the bus-stop and stepped closer to read what it said.

The DMG was reading it from her seat. I asked her to read it out loud, which she did:

Se på et træ og læg mærke til, hvor uforudsigeligt, det er—hvis du forstår, hvad jeg mener. Eller er det uudsigeligt [sic]? Hvis ikke, never mind. Se på et menneske.

Then, of course, I asked her to read it aloud as if it were written in a language I understood—for example, English—and she was kind enough to comply:

Look at a tree and note how unpredictable it is—if you understand what I mean. Or is it unpredictable? If not, never mind. Look at a person.

I enjoyed this random intrusion into my evening, and therefore snatched the note off the bus-stop, scanned it, and share it with you right here:

Random intrusion

It's not philosophy, it's not poetry, it's nothing heavy or pretentious. It isn't even stupid hippie bullshit. I hope whoever posted it will post more, in the same light-hearted vein. I hope other people will do the same.

But then they'd probably start getting political, and artsy-fartsy, and scatalogical, and eventually they'd just be another goddam eyesore.

Never mind.

I Fell, You Fell, We All Fell for Eiffel... 

The Eiffel Tower is 115 years old today. I didn't get a chance to talk about that in today's Almanac because there was no Almanac today.

The Eiffel Tower as it exists today was built in 1889, but its history dates back to Gallic times. Documents that have been carbon-dated to roughly 200 B.C. indicate that King Catatonix of the Hellatians decreed, for no apparent reason, the construction of a big tower on the very site where the Eiffel Tower can be found today.

In Caesar’s “Reflections on the Garlic Wars,” the Roman general reminisces on having found “a curious wooden tower, tall and strange.” Baffled by this peculiar cultural monolith, and never happy to be baffled, he burned it to the ground.

Some four centuries later, with the western Roman Empire in collapse, wild-eyed Gallic nationalists rebuilt the tower using cheese instead of wood. They called it “La Grande Fromage,” from which we get the expression, “The Big Cheese.”

During subsequent invasions by and entanglements with Normans, Saxons, Angles, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Lolligoths, the Tower was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, always for no apparent reason. It had become a sort of habit by now, a national obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rene Descartes was born on March 31, 1596. Descartes said that he existed because he thought, and although he said it in Latin everyone still had to admit that it looked like Reason had finally entered the world. Therefore the Franks (who now called themselves the French, primarily to irritate Germany) lost interest in the tower, and at last abandoned the effort.

Unfortunately, in 1870 German chancellor Otto von Bismarck (born April 1, 1815) defeated the French army in a Sedan and laid siege to Paris. This made the French lose their heads (see also the French Revolution). They forgot all about Reason and made Gustav Eiffel build a Tower, this time using steel, which was stronger than cheese and not quite as flammable as wood. It stands to this day, a proud monument French culture, without which we would not have Champagne, Camembert, Brigitte Bardot, or the poetry of Dominique de Villepin.

Milking the System 

From Nettavisen: Anette Lie produced and sold 501.5 liters (132 gallons) of breast milk in 2003. She used the money to buy a car and insure it. I'm not sure if this represents a step up or a step down for Norway from the dog poop article cited yesterday.

Relativism, Anyone? 

It's just another culture, right? Who are we to judge?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

First They Came for the Poop, But I Was Not Poop... 

"Pick up your dog poop, or the poop police will get you," yell the children.

"...the children will pick up dog excrement and garbage. If we win, we will put up compost bins," said Linda Krogsrud, head of Skistua Barnehage.

I thought the quality of life in Norway was supposed to among the highest in the world?

One Man's Vampire... 

Some say he's a monster, others call him the spiritual father of... Transylvania? Nelson Ascher is spot on.

Almanacs Et Cetera 

Didn't get much chance to post yesterday, but yesterday's Almanac went up as usual, as did today's. Read all about the anxiety before, during, and after my first day of school.

On Thursday we depart for our 2004 Pregnancy Tour (Boston! New York! Connecticut!), and though there won't be any activity on the main site, I'll try to keep on bloggin'.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Czech It Out 

Just wanted to mention that the inspiration for the new logo came from The Daily Czech, which is always worth a visit.

Breakfast of Champions 

Breakfast this morning with the DMG's family; the usual lovely Danish spread. I notice something new on the table: ginger preserves. Looks like aspic, but smells like sweetened ginger. What the hell.

And the myth of the iron stomach takes another blow.

What's worse, I thought I could wash the flavor out of my mouth by knocking off the shot of gammel dansk I had warily accepted at the outset of the meal. (Everyone else had already finished theirs; I'd been sipping at mine—dare I say it?—gingerly.)

Consume gingerly, not gingery.

Advice to Americans not of Scandinavian descent: it is not necessary to sample ginger preserves to determine whether or not you'll like it. Should you be fool enough to disregard that advice, however (as I probably would myself), at least do yourself the favor of not chasing it down with a shot of gammel dansk bitters.

The preceding was a public service announcement.

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