Thursday, April 29, 2004

Powell in Frederiksberg 

Colin Powell came to Frederiksberg today. He was also gadding about in Copenhagen, meeting with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and their cronies, but it was the visit to Frederiksberg that seemed to win the "hearts and minds" of the Danish population.

He visited Frederiksberg Gymnasium with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He spoke to the students of that educational institution and answered some of their questions. The questions were about what you'd expect and the answers were about what you'd hope (assuming you're an American who wants to see your nation well represented).

One of the news magazines this evening featured an interview with three of the kids who'd asked Secretary Powell questions, two girls and a boy. The three of them were still giddy from the experience, emanating the kind of wild excitement you'd expect from teenagers who'd just met their favorite rock star.

One, the boy, was the son of parents who'd immigrated from India. He'd asked Secretary Powell why the war on terror couldn't be fought the way Gandhi "fought," with non-violence and passive resistance. Secretary Powell had apparently answered that one always hoped to resolve conflicts without violence, but that once diplomacy had been exhausted it was sometimes necessary to take more strenuous measures against one's opponents.

Asked during this evening's interview if he had been satisfied with the answer, the kid seemed kind of torn: on the one hand, he'd obviously been deeply impressed by the Secretary. On the other hand, it wasn't the answer he had wanted. Which is more or less what he said, if the DMG can be counted on for translation (she usually can).

That's refreshing candor. It would be nice to see EuroCNN follow this kid's lead. "Up next: the United States does something of which this network doesn't approve, but expresses some reasonable arguments in support of their actions and clearly has honorable intentions."

But listen to me—hoping an international news organization might exhibit the same sense of balance exhibited by a nervous adolescent. Fever dreams!

Retail Jenteloven 

Today's extremely bloggish Almanac is up and covers singing Scottish hooligans, a calzone the size of a schnauzer, and Jenteloven at the retail level.

I should also mention that Colin Powell is in town today and will be addressing a bunch of gymnasium students at a school here in Frederiksberg. I notice (to my horror) that our building has turned off the water and won't be turning it back on until 2pm. Coincidence, or what?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Last night the DMG and I were watching EuroCNN when we were suddenly captivated by a commercial we hadn't seen before. A bunch of grizzled Arab dudes in western dress—jeans and shirts—were sitting around a cafe or something, sweltering in the heat and trying to get a signal off an old radio. After a moment or two, the static of the radio is interrupted by the plaintive bleat of a cell phone. A guy reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a cell phone. Suddenly other cell phones start going off and before you know it everyone's talking away like mad. The ad was for "IraQNA," Iraq's biggest mobile telephone company. It was the first ad for an Iraqi product or service either of us had ever seen. (EuroCNN is actually global CNN, if I'm not mistaken, so you catch a lot of ads for products and services in faraway places, though most are for tourism or global business solutions.)

I don't have anything in particular to say about the ad. I just thought I'd mention it because it may not be playing in the states, and I thought something so ordinary coming out of Iraq might warrant interest.

Wished-For-Child, Ended-Up-With-Collie 

Today's Almanac, all about the importance of prepositions, is now up. Also, I never posted a link to yesterday's Almanac, A Prologue to Studieskolen. It's all bloggish stuff.

Interesting feedback on the name "Molli Malou" from my sister, even though family members had been urged not to opine on our ongoing baby name meditations:

I looked up Malou in my baby names book and came up with Malu which apparently means "peace" in Hawaiian. Another Hawaiian name, "Malulani," means "under heavenly protection". Totally Righteous, dude! By the way, Molli is derived from Miriam which means "wished-for-child" or "sea". So, Molli Malu is a wished for child under heavenly protection. I think that name has excellent Feng Shui!

I absolutely agree, but I have a couple of nits. First, Malou comes from Marie Louise, not Malulani, and should probably be researched accordingly. Second, I don't think "wished-for-child" is a very nice concept; I think "wished-for child" is lovely.

However, "wished-for child under heavenly protection" is tough to beat, so I think we'll hold onto that regardless of the dubious research.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I Don't Feel a Draft... 

I still feel pretty connected to life in the states, despite living, working, and building a family 4000 miles away, but every now and then I'm reminded that despite the Internet and CNN and Express Mail, I am in fact severed from American culture.

Today's reminder came in the form of an email from CBS/Sportsline urging me to renew my online Fantasy Football League (I may be living in Copenhagen, but I'm still the Commish for a 12-member, mostly American fantasy league coming up on its ninth or tenth season). What threw me wasn't the reminder—they're ruthless with their reminders—but their having mentioned that my thoughts should surely be turning back to football, "now that the NFL draft has come and gone."

That was news to me.

I'm not one of those people that gets all worked up about the NFL draft—I've never watched it past the first couple of picks, and most years I haven't even watched that much—but I've always been acutely aware of it. Not so, this year. It came, it went, it never appeared on my radar.

Here I sit, an avid American football fan who can't even name this year's number one pick (yet).

And just as I'm getting a little morose and homesick, the DMG, who's seated on the couch beside my desk, begins giggling uncontrollably.

"I love her so much!" she squeals. She's watching Everybody Loves Raymond, but I've never seen any of the actresses on that show elicit this kind of response from her before. I look over to see what's going on, and she's rubbing her hands over her swollen tummy. She explains that our daughter is squiggling like mad, kicking and flipping and flailing around merrily in her womb. I walk away from the computer, put my hand on her belly, and ask Bean to come say "hi" to daddy—and am rewarded with the most powerful little kicks I've ever felt. I'm awed by my unseen daughter.

"What are you writing about?" the DMG asks. I can't remember, which is strange because I'd thought it was something pretty important.

So, yeah. I missed the NFL draft.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Tragedy in 16 Verses 

I passed over the singing and dancing that occurred in Friday's Studieskolen class too briefly. I'd like to get back to it lest the full horror of it be lost on you.

This is, I remind you, a Danish class, the objective of which is to educate us in the speaking, understanding, reading, and writing of the Danish language. A lesser objective is to familiarize us with Danish culture—which, as I've learned, consists of more than just alcohol, fish, and taxes.

It also includes a godawful amount of singing, frequently accompanied by dancing. So it was only natural that they'd pop up in Studieskolen. That didn't make it any less horrifying.

Our teacher—a magnificent teacher (i.e., one with Internet access)—started us off by distributing little handwritten songbooks. They consisted of two sheets of A4 paper folded over and stapled together in booklet form.

The first song we sang was a lullaby whose first verse went something like this (I'm going from memory, so consider this a liberally misremembered paraphrase):

Out in the forest I saw a hill,
such a lovely hill I never have seen.

Subsequent verses followed the same form, but concerned themselves with the tree on the hill, and then a branch on the tree, then a twig on the branch, a leaf on the twig, a nest on the leaf, an egg in the nest, a bird in the egg, a feather on the bird, a pillow made of feathers, and concluded with a head upon that pillow—the head of the "loveliest girl I ever did see."

We sang the song seated at our tables. It was awkward but endurable.

The next song was a little older. It dated back hundreds and hundreds of year, to the troubador era. This required a history lesson: something about the history of song in northern Europe. I won't trouble you with that now.

The song had a very simple, very repetitive form. The first verse went something like this:

Oh, you great knight,
tell us about Lave and Jon.

I think it was a little more involved than that, but let's not get sidetracked with detail.

Our teacher translated the song for us, and it sounded like the synopsis of a Quentin Tarantino flick set in the Renaissance. You've got these two splendid knights, Lave and Jon, and they're both in love with the same lovely girl. She loves Jon, but her father arranges to marry her off to Lave.

When the father makes the announcement, Jon says, "That's great! I'll come to the wedding!"

After the wedding, the bride and Lave make their way home to consummate the marriage. Jon says, "That's great! I'll come along too!"

When they get to the house, Jon says "That's great! I'll come inside too!" Then he slams the door on poor Lave.

Lave is understandably distraught. Not distraught enough to actually do anything, but distraught enough to get up first thing the next morning (presumably at his parents' house) and head off to the king's place. He obtains an audience and explains how Jon crashed his wedding and slept with his bride. The king grants Lave's request for an "honor joust" with Jon.

Word of the king's edict reaches Jon, who says, "That's great! I'll come and kill Lave!"

They have a joust and Jon more or less decapitates Lave. He looks down at his fallen rival and says, "That's great! I'll let you lie there!"

Then the bride says, "This is great! I've never seen such lovely entertainment!"

And that's that: a tragedy in sixteen verses.

It wasn't enough for our teacher to have us sing this nonsense, however. She forced us to get in a circle, hold hands, and sashay about in a ring while singing the choruses. (Two steps right, one step left, repeat forever—or until you crush your neighbor's ankle, whichever comes first.) We made it through six verses before she realized she wasn't winning any hearts or minds to the Danish Way.

At that point she halted the exercise.

Hopefully that will be the end of our singing and dancing in Danish class. Maybe in Fridays to come we'll be indoctrinated into the pickling of herring, the brewing of beer, the evasion of taxes, or the science of design.

But I'm not holding my breath.

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