Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Royal Wedding in Pictures 

When we last left the royal wedding on these electric pages, Crown Prince Frederik was standing on the altar awaiting the arrival of his bride, Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Australia, and the DMG and I were on our way to join the celebrations downtown.

Needless to say, the bride did arrive at the cathederal.

Here comes the bride (accompanied by her father, whose plaid skirt stole the show).

The cameras lingered lovingly over the bride as she made her way into the church and up the aisle, but the image of the day was that of her groom, his eyes swelling with tears as she approached.

Probably just hay fever.

Those were the last images captured from our television: in fact, I had no sooner snapped the picture above than we were out the door and hustling toward the Metro. We braced for undulating, ululating masses of humanity clogging every subway car, and ever cobbled inch of the central city, but the weather conspired to help us out: the day was cool and gray and breezy, diminishing the crowds significantly.

That much said, the two of us were at least as interested in the crowd as in the wedding. Thinking ahead to the imminent arrival of our own daughter, we fixated on the thousands of little princesses blossoming all over the city.

Send in the frogs.

We got out of the train at Kongens Nytorv ("The King's New Square"). Stepping up out of the subway we found ourselves in a kind of corral, roped in and surrounded by police in a way that prohibited egress out into the square proper without first passing under (or, in my case, over) the watchful gaze of at least two of Copenhagen's finest.

We later learned that every cop in Denmark was being used for security: they'd called in retired cops, vacationing cops, rehabilitating cops—basically, if you'd ever been a cop in Denmark and could still walk, see, and speak, you had a job yesterday. There were literally thousands of them, very visible, all over the city. Buses came and dropped whole platoons off at a time.

Kongens Nytorv was overflowing with people. A large screen at one end of the square, set up specifically for the occassion, offered televised coverage of the wedding itself as it transpired a half mile away at Copenhagen Cathedral.

We made our way down Stroget to Højbroplads ("High Bridge Place"), where a similar screen was situated and where the DMG's mom and step-dad were holding a place for us at a table with a view from the second floor of a cafe on the square.

The view from Højbroplads.

We let them know we'd arrived but decided to hang out in the square a little longer before sitting down at the table. The view from the cafe would be great as the carriage rolled by, but for the time being we were far more interested in the crowd. A choir sang hymns a little further down Stroget, opposite Georg Jensen's flagship store. Couples posed and photographed one another in front of the rose-entwined hearts by the famous Stork Fountain. Even the concessions were interesting:

"Love for sale... Irritating royal love for sale..."

But it was the children that kept capturing my attention—specifically the little girls (please never take this sentence out of context). I kept seeing little princesses staring dreamily at the big screen and wondering how on earth I could possibly endure sharing my life with a little girl who actually gave a damn about all this saccharine nonsense.

Another little princess.

Sights like the image above persuaded me that I'd probably find a way to come to terms with it—but that doesn't mean I don't still want a son someday.

At last the royal couple, happily wed at last, stepped out of the church and into their horse-drawn carriage. It would only be a few minutes before they made their way through Højbroplads, so we hurried up to take our place at the table. We barely made it in: a bouncer said that they weren't letting any newcomers in until after the carriage had passed. The DMG persuaded him that we'd already been inside and even had our beers waiting for us at table, so we managed to squeak in under false pretenses. But in the end they weren't even false: the DMG's mom and stepdad had cleverly ordered a beer and a glass of water as "placeholders" in our absence. Is a lie still a lie even if it accidentally turns out to be true?

Our table was beside a window directly over Stroget—the royal carriage would be passing almost directly beneath us. We were across the street from Illum, one of Copenhagen's two upscale department stores. The store had closed for one hour, and their employees were crowding the windows to look down on the procession.

It's okay, they're off the clock.

At last we could hear, from the south side of the restaurant, that the royals were approaching. I rushed down to that end of the joint to get a picture of them as they approached.

Here come the artistocratic bloodsuckers.

I then rushed back to our table, switched the camera over to video, and got an outstanding bit of video as the carriage did, indeed, pass directly below us—and the new Crown Princess waved directly at us.

("She looked right in my eyes," my skeptical republican wife remembered this morning. Maybe she was being facetious. I don't know and I'm afraid to ask.)

Here's a frame capture from the video:

Crown Princess Mary.

Not long after they rolled by the town reverted to form. Discarded Danish and Australian flags of paper and plastic swooshed harmlessly along the streets. The occassional red-and-white or heart-shaped balloon bobbed by languidly. Crowds thinned. The weather cooled.

I had hoped to be able to conclude this entry with the ironic observation that for all my plebian slumming around the fringes of the wedding celebration, my delayed invitation had finally arrived in today's mail. No such luck.

See if we invite them to our American wedding!...

Friday, May 14, 2004


As I mentioned in a comment to a post below, I've got some great video and photographs from this afternoon, including a great close video (I think) of the royal couple in their carriage, but I used up all my batteries and can't unload my camera until at least four of them are at least partially recharged.

These Words of Wisdom for Frederik and Mary from the children of Denmark are worth a look, though. My own personal favorite: "Only rich people get invited to royal weddings. Because they don't know anyone else."

Be sure not to get wrapped up in all this crap, though. You don't want to end up with Celebrity Worship Syndrome (which is based on actual scientific research!).

Frederik at the Altar 


Crown Prince Frederik just arrived at the church and is now standing on the altar waiting for his bride. The entrance was priceless: he and his brother Joachim showed up in full regalia, as you can see, but with matching 19th century headpieces that I can't bring myself to call "hats." They looked like they were getting ready to audition for a new "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album cover.

We watched all this on television and are on our way into the city now.

Queen Margrethe Video (Peasant's Eye View) 

Today's Almanac went up a while ago (it's a nice day for a white wedding), but just in case you don't check it out, here's a shortcut to the video that Troniu the amazin' Romanian was kind enough to host:

A peasant's-eye view of Queen Margrethe (et al.) entering Copenhagen's Lutheran cathedral the day before the wedding. (AVI, zipped, 6.7 MB)

I'll repeat what I said in the Almanac: first, don't bother downloading the video unless you've got broadband. It's not a high-quality, close-up look at the Queen: it's a peasant's-eye view. What I mean by that is that I'm holding my camera up in the air and angling the lens down toward the queen, while hundreds of people around me (including one especially annoying bastard right in front of me) do the same. If you're looking for a good little snippet of Queen Margrethe in action, this isn't the video you want. If you're an American wondering what it's like to be in a throng of nuanced Europeans mobbing their hereditary monarch, though, this is the real McCoy.

More pictures and maybe even more video later... we're just a little over an hour away from the wedding.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Queen Margrethe, Accidentally 

We had a last little Studieskolen class this afternoon—awarding of "diplomas," review of our exams, viewing of a movie, and so on. The last half hour of the class was spent wandering around central Copenhagen gawking at all the gawkers.

I had my camera.

Here, then, is one example of the saccharine kind of stuff cluttering the cobbled streets of Copenhagen these days:

It's like the city succumbed to a hostile takeover by Hallmark. I took some other pictures of the area (Højbroplads), but they're not especially interesting. They're variations on a single theme: too many goddam people.

I couldn't wait to get out of the area. As soon as our class was declared over, I walked my bike to the nearest street not glutted with ambling humanity and pedaled like mad. I hadn't gone far when I noticed a big throng of people gathered in a tight area. Human nature being what it is, I rode my bike toward the center of the crowd to see what was going on.

I no sooner joined the crowd than there was a roar of sirens. A motorcade pulled up. The crowd began applauding. On sheer instinct I began videotaping what I could of what I could see, which wasn't very much. Turns out I got Queen Margrethe and the whole royal family arriving at the church where the wedding will take place tomorrow.

Once the royals were safely inside, I took this shot of the church:

And then this shot of the media grandstand set up across the street from the church (where some media folks were already busy):

I tried to shrink the video of the queen down to a manageable size, but couldn't get it below 6.9MB, even when zipped, and at the rate my videos get downloaded that would burn through my bandwidth way too quickly.

Instead of the queen, then, here's a photo of a gigantic corn flake the DMG found in her cereal this morning (that's my watch, provided for a sense of proportion):

Mutant corn flake in the morning, surprise encounter with the royal family in the afternoon. What a day!

Denmark On the Brink 

Today's Almanac is up, and it's all about tomorrow's royal wedding between Crown Prince Frederik and Mary Elizabeth Donaldson.

As usual, I've posted the Almanac's "lead photo" (the photo that appears on the index page of JustMorons) above. It's a deceptive picture, however, and deserves a little context. Here's your context:

I'm standing on Kalvebod Brygge, shooting through the bottom of an office building and across the harbor to Amager, where someone has converted the entire waterfront side of their property into a tribute to Mary and Frederik.

I submit this not as an oddity, but a normality of contemporary life in Copenhagen.

I'm guessing it'll take about 48 hours for the Danish Attention Span to turn from the royal wedding to the European Cup, Danish participation in which begins, appropriately enough, exactly one month after the wedding with a June 14 match against Italy—followed by a June 18 match against Bulgaria and a June 22 match against the Perfidious Swedes.

(I like these international competitions where there's no U.S. representation, because they allow me to throw my undivided loyalty to Denmark.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Iraq, Prisoners, Torture, Yadda, Yadda, Yadda 

Given my pledge to keep my blogroll confined mostly to expats, you may have wondered why I've left Asparagirl up there all this time. This is why. Now instead of troubling myself with the (apparently) de rigeur blog on "how I feel about this whole mess," I can just say: Asparagirl. Amen.


Something fishy?

We're getting toward the end of Week 26. Some of The Literature says that means we're about to enter the third trimester, some of it says we've still got a week to go. Either way, as you can tell by the photo, this pregnancy is pretty far along.

And yet it was only last night that we hit a milestone we'd been anticipating for months—from the very beginning of the pregnancy, in fact: the DMG had her first craving.

It was early evening and we were beginning to wonder what we'd do for dinner. We had some schnitzels in the freezer and I was thinking I'd throw those on the Wolfgang Puck indoor grill, spritz 'em with a little fresh lemon, and serve 'em up with a side of broccoli or spinach.

The DMG stared at me blankly.

"I want herring," she said. "Lots of herring, on rye bread."

So we had herring for dinner. The DMG enjoyed it immensely. We weren't sure whether or not the request had come from the Bean—in fact, we'd both been worrying a little about her. She'd been very quiet all day. She's always quiet all day, as far as I'm concerned, but if she's not fussing around and kicking pretty regularly the DMG gets kind of lonely, and her loneliness gets her down, and I ask her why she's down, and she tells me the Bean hasn't been moving much, and I get worried sick, and her own anxieties then swell in proportion to mine, and my worries feed off hers, and next thing you know I'm crouched down beside her and yelling at her belly, "Wake up! Daddy wants to play!"

I'd tried this a little earlier in the evening, and although the DMG had felt a little wriggle, she wasn't sure that it wasn't "just an intestine." (I didn't ask the obvious follow-up about her intestines.)

After loading up on herring, the DMG reclined on the couch. She said she wasn't too worried, but we both knew that Bean normally gets pretty active between 6:30 and 8:30 in the evening, and as it was by now nearly 8:00 she was going to have to start worrying soon. I said I'd read that even in the late stages of pregnancy a baby could sometimes be quiet for an entire day or day-and-a-half at a time, although they said that if it went to two days you should definitely consult a physician. This did little to cheer my wife up. Fortunately it didn't need to: moments later she was giggling with glee as our daughter ran riot around her womb. Our Bean was not only active, she was exceptionally active, and remained so most of the rest of the night.

Was it the herring? I don't know. But if it was, there can only be one of two conclusions to be drawn: either our daughter has Danish tastebuds and was jumping around in ecstatic celebration, or else she has normal tastebuds and was lurching around in disgust.

I won't even hazard a guess.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Yeah—She Can Talk 

These are photos of the tabloid covers that appeared on sandwich boards around Copenhagen this morning. (The photos were taken with my new Canon Powershot A70, which arrived at 10:00 this morning. The camera rocks. More about that later.)

Observe the paper on the right (Ekstra Bladet). The text to the left of Mary's face says, "Mary's TV Exam." The massive headline beneath her proclaims: "PASSED." The subhead under that says, "Yes—she can talk."

I snapped these pictures in front of the 7-Eleven right next to my Studieskolen building, mere moments before taking my own oral exam in Danish. I interpreted the coincidence as a positive omen—which it turned out to be, but more about that tomorrow. First, a little bit about those headlines (the one on the left observes that "Mary has taken the Danes by storm").

Last night one of the state-run channels broadcast an hour-long interview and documentary with and about Mary. It was the most inspired political performance I've seen since Nixon's Checkers speech. (If you don't think it was a political performance... well, for God's sake, never mind.)

Don't get me wrong: I adore Mary, the same way I adore dozens of other extremely attractive women who appear frequently on film, television, or in the print media, but are otherwise inaccessible to me. Which is to say: I like to look at her and I think she seems like a decent person. (This distinguishes those few dozen women from the several hundred whom I like to look at but who don't seem like such decent people.) But I marvel more at the dexterity with which she's ingratiated herself to the Danish people than I do at her homespun charm and authenticity.

Mary seems to be a bright, clever, fun, competitive, good-humored, honest, and fairly straight-forward young woman. I'd like to think she is all those things, but I've got no primary sources on her so I'm going to reserve judgement for the time being (or until that wedding invitation shows up in the mail). My own reservations, however, are beside the point. She has won the Danes over completely, as those headlines make clear.

Which gets me thinking.

You take a beautiful woman like Mary, hook her up with the Crown Prince of a fairyland nation like Denmark, and everyone talks about how "real" she is. This in a country whose government confiscates parents' money and pays it back to them incrementally in an effort to minimize "inappropriate" family financial planning. A government that you actually have to petition for permission to give your own child a name that doesn't appear in the official book of approved names. A government that imposes a 180% luxury tax on automobiles and a 25% sales tax on virtually everything else. A government that does all that—yet still endures the burden of hereditary monarchy.

I've said in the past and will say in the future that I have enormous respect for Crown Prince Frederik and his bride-to-be. But when push comes to shove, I'm still an American and I think the very notion of hereditary monarchy stinks out loud.

Which is all a very elusive way of saying that I'm still waiting for that goddam wedding invitation.

(My own favorite moment from the interview was an anecdote from her high school days. She was a chatty student, she acknowledges, and always had a hard time with math and science. One day during a science class she was being especially chatty. Her teacher asked her to quiet down. A few moments later he had to repeat his request. A little later he had to repeat the request yet again, but this time he accompanied the request with a whack on her head. She was mortified, humiliated, and embarrassed—until the very next day, when the whole class showed up in crash helmets.)

Monday, May 10, 2004

Testing Times 

Today's Almanac has been posted. Incipient insomnia, a pending breakthrough, and more on the Frederik & Mary match race.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Love This Country—Love It! 

Just five days until the royal wedding, and what's our royal pair up to today?

How about match racing in one-design sail boatsagainst each another!

I may be mistaken, but I think this is the first time in history a crown prince has engaged in an athletic competition with his bride-to-be on the very brink of their wedding—at least since mythological times, anyway.

You know what's even cooler? Mary won.

You know what's even cooler? Neither do I.

The commoner beats the Crown Prince, the chick beats the dude. . . and they love each other wildly and they're getting married anyway.

Keep your lousy Chuck & Di fairy-tale. These guys rock.

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