Saturday, April 23, 2005

Machinegunning a Nerve 

The Danish media are crackling with the sound of... I don't know. It's a strange and unfamiliar phenomenon to me, so I'm just going to go through a couple of newspapers and summarize what's being reported.

In B.T., the headline story is First Casualty in the Hash War. The article cites police saying that "immigrant gangs" (invandrebander) want to take over the hash market, and that the Free State shooting was a revenge action. The article calls the four shooters a "murder patrol" (mordpatruljen). The police still have no official motive, but speculation seems to be swirling around the possibility of the attack being a revenge action for the Wednesday evening shooting of a Palestinian (palæstinenser). Police still have no proof that the Wednesday shooting even took place. There's apparently a long-standing feud between Christiania's hash-peddlers and criminal immigrants who want a piece of the brownie, and the article explores the causes and effects of this conflict.

Another B.T. headline declares that "Life's Joy Has Disappeared" in Christiania since the shooting. The article gets feedback from several Christianians about the shooting. Two out of the three interview subjects blame the police for having closed down the (illegal) hash-stalls of Pusher Street, thereby forcing the hash trade out into the city where any old immigrant could get involved, which virtually guaranteed this kind of violence. The third subject is glad to be rid of the hash, and she'd like all associations between Christiania and hash need to be severed. "Christiania and the hash-trade have nothing to do with each other."

Yet another B.T. story, "God Preserve Christiania," describes the memorial service held on Christiania to demonstrate opposition to violence and to say a last good-bye to the 26-year-old victim, Morten Homberg, and includes quotes from some of Morten's friends.

In "Priest: Legalize Hash," also in B.T., priest Fleming Pless explains that Christiania is a garden of Eden where violence won't be allowed, that the police have opened Pandora's box by closing down the (illegal) hash-stalls of Pusher Street, and that hash ought to be legalized like it is in Holland.

Politiken's lead story is "Police Fear More Hash Conflict after Killing," and offers a good analsyis of the conflict over the hash trade. One interesting wrinkle is that when the police started clamping down last March, they sent a lot of Christiania's hash dealers to jail. While those guys were serving their time, the hash trade moved elsewhere. Now they're out of prison and are trying to re-establish their businesses, which obviously isn't going over well with the people who stepped in while they were cooling their heels. They also cover the memorial service in some depth.

Zacarias Moussaoui has the lead spot in Berlingske Tidende online, but their coverage of the shooting lacks for nothing. (They've even got a nice graphic.) But their coverage is mostly the same: analysis of the crime itself, with exploration of the hash wars, and coverage of the memorial service. (Actually they have the most detailed account of the crime.)

The most interesting item in Berlingske Tidende's coverage was this quote from Inspector Ove Dahl (who seems to speak more often to that paper than any other):

»Maskinpistoler er heldigvis ikke noget, vi ser hver dag i de kriminelle miljøer herhjemme, men de to-tre gange om året, jeg har oplevet sager af den art, har det altid været blandt kriminelle andengenerationsindvandrere,« siger han til Berlingske Tidende.

"Machineguns are luckily not something we see everyday in the criminal environment here at home, but the two or three times a year I have experienced cases of this type, they've always been among criminal second-generation immigrants," he says to Berlingske Tidende.

If this is true, and I can't see why Inspector Dahl would lie about such a thing, it may help explain some of the anti-immigration fever gripping the country. Of course, immigration isn't the real problem in this case, is it? It's the reproduction of immigrants, whose issue grow up, buy machineguns, and start trying to take over the traditional Danish narcotics market.

I've given the "second-generation immigrant" question some further thought—it's been absolutely driven home to me that this really does just mean "Danish-speaking, Arab-looking person"—and I've decided we Americans should not be so smug about it. We're not much better with our use of "African-American," which has absolutely nothing to do with continent of ancestral origin, or even birth (ask Ms. Heinz-Kerry, born and raised in Mozambique), but is simply a way of communicating skin color without mentioning skin or color. Do you think American police or journalists would refer to a suspect who happened to be a white guy from, say, Libya as "African-American?"

The irony here is that to the best of my limited understanding, the term "African-American" was and continues to be propagated by Americans whose skin happens to be black, regardless of how many generations they've been in the states. Its racial purity is even carefully protected. Remember this:

But [Teresa Heinz Kerry's] claim more than a decade ago to being an "African American" drew sharply negative reactions. At the time, her spokesman explained that Ms Heinz Kerry had used the term in unhyphenated form. "African-hyphen-American belongs to blacks," the spokesman said.

So who's got the convoluted identity euphemisms?

Still no word on Jaguar.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Inspector Dahl and the Skoda Jerks 

Okay... so it wasn't an Audi, police now say. It was a Skoda.

(Americans don't know much about Skodas. These Czech-made cars were once the kind of tin cans we always used to make fun of Europeans for driving—the kind where the doors where just slabs of sheet-metal and the wheels were taken from roller skates. They're better these days, but they're still an economy brand.)

The Skoda was carjacked by machine-gun just outside Christiania, right after the shooting, and the four men were last seen heading toward Amager in the red car, registration PX 28 501. (Amager is the big island south-east of Copenhagen on which the airport, among other things, is located. Christiania is on Christianshavn, an island between Copenhagen and Amager.)

The murdered man was involved in the Christiania hash trade, and that's presumably the motive for the killing—explains our old friend Inspector Ove Dahl.

Many witnesses described the shooters as "second-generation immigrants," says this article, "mens den dræbte og de sårede alle var danske." That is, "while the killed and the injured were all Danish."

More subtext: second-generation doesn't count as Danish!

What the Danish police and media seem to be struggling so hard to say is that the suspects were Danish-speaking guys of a certain ethnicity, whereas the victims were all ethnically Danish.

The victim of the car-jacking (a "shocked male driver") is quoted in the article as not having much information: he says they were all in dark clothes and hooded with hats.

Inspector Dahl says the thing went down like a commando raid, swift and strong. He says three weapons were used (a machinegun, another automatic weapon, and a pistol), and that at least 35 shots were fired.

Inspector Dahl is on the case!

The Pusher Street Shootout 

Here's a little more detail on last night's Pusher Street shootout from an article on Politiken's website. The entire article is presented and translated below.

Ukendt motiv til skuddrab på Christiania

Politiet arbejder på at finde et motiv til skudepisoden, hvor én person mistede livet og tre andre blev såret. De formodede gerningsmænd er muligvis stukket af i en mørk Audi.

Politiet leder efter fire andengenerations-indvandrere i en stor, mørk bil – muligvis af mærket Audi A6 – efter at en person blev dræbt og tre såret under et voldsomt skyderi i Pusher Street i Christiania.

Ifølge kriminalpolitiets centrale vagtleder blev der benyttet to maskinpistoler under skyderiet.

Skudepisoden fandt sted, da de mistænkte pludselig åbnede ild ud for Fælleskøkkenet ved Pusher Street i Christiania.

»Jeg så silhuetten af en mand med en maskinpistol. Han skød nedad, så der stod en kraftig støvsky omkring ham på grund af kuglerne. Til sidst havde han ikke styr på pistolen«, siger et vidne til Ritzau efter skyderiet.

Mangler motiv

Flere flygtede i panik fra fristaden, da skyderiet begyndte, og politiet er indtil videre tilbageholdende med oplysninger.

»Vi ved ikke noget om motivet, intet overhovedet. Lige nu har vi sat ind for at få klarhed over, hvad der er sket«, oplyser kriminalinspektør Per Leo Jepsen til Ritzau, da han var i gang med at få styr på begivenhederne på Christiania.

Tilsyneladende kom mændene fra området ved Den grå Hal og gik hen til Pusher Street. Her trak de en maskinpistol og en pistol og skød løs mod de mennesker, der var i den gamle hashhandlergade.

»Hvad og hvorledes de ramte og hvem de skød efter, ved vi ikke på nuværende tidspunkt. Det er en ret omfattende efterforskning. Vi har mange afhøringer at foretage«, siger Per Leo Jepsen.

Ofre bliver afhørt

Indtil videre er der ingen oplysninger om de sårede og den dræbte.

»Vi ved egentlig ikke, hvem personerne er. Politiet er på hospitalerne for at afhøre dem, i den udstrækning, vi kan afhøre dem«, siger han.

Kriminalinspektøren kunne ikke sige, om der var tale om en aktion fra en af de hashklubber, der er skudt op ude i byen efter at politiet fik standset den massive hashhandel i Pusher Street.

* * * * * *

Unknown Motive in Christiania Shooting Death

The police are working on finding a motive to the shooting episode, where one person lost their life and three were injured. The suspected perpetrators possibly escaped in a dark Audi.

The police are seeking four second-generation immigrants in a big, dark car — possibly an Audi A6 — after one person was killed and threee were injured during a violent shootout on Pusher Street in Christiania.

According to the police, two machine guns were used during the shootout.

The shooting took place when the suspects suddenly opened fire just outside The Common Kitchen by Pusher Street in Christiania.

“I saw the silhouette of a man with a machine gun. He shot downward, then there was a big dustcloud around him because of the shots. Eventually he lost control of the gun,” said one witness to Ritzau [news agency] after the shooting.

Missing Motive

Many fled the Free State in panic when the shooting began, and the police are holding information back for the time being.

“We know nothing at all about the motive, absolutely nothing. Right now we’ve just sat down to get clear about what happened,” Crime Inspector Per Leo Jepsen informs Ritzau, while on his way to take leadership of the events in Christiania.

It seems the men came from the area by The Gray Hall and went along to Pusher Street. Here they pulled out a machine gun and a pistol and opened fire on the people that were in the old hash trade street.

“What and how they shot and who they were shooting, we don’t know at the current time. It’s a real wide-ranging investigation. We’ve got a lot of questioning to conduct,” says Inspector Jepsen.

Victims to be Questioned

For the time being there’s no information about the injured and the killed.

“We don’t precisely know, who these characters are. The police are at the hospital to question them, to the extent that we can question them,” he says.

The Inspector couldn’t say whether there was talk of an action from one of the hash clubs that popped up out in the city after the police stopped the massive hash trade on Pusher Street.

Four guys open fire on Pusher Street with at least one automatic weapon. Go ahead... take a wild guess at the motive!

The use of the phrase "second-generation immigrants" in a second article, from a second paper, suggests it's the actual phrase the police are using with the press. I find this baffling. Imagine witnessing a shootout in the East Village, and telling the police, "The gunmen were all second-generation immigrants." Seriously, stop laughing. Now imagine the police actually nodding thoughtfully and going off to their press conference and telling the media that the four suspects are all second-generation immigrants. And imagine all the media dutifully reporting that.

Of course it's ridiculous, since a big chunk of the East Village, the NYPD, and the New York press are probably second-generation immigrants themselves. Not so in Denmark. Most Danes are just Danes, with an occassional Swede, Norwegian, or German in the family tree.

I think my first hunch was right. I'll go out on a limb and guess that "second-generation immigrants" really means "Middle Easterners who speak Danish." Because when Danes speak of "immigrants" in general terms, they almost always mean Middle Easterners, and if they didn't speak Danish, how would you know they were immigrants of any generation and not merely very angry tourists?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Murder in the Free State 

Another big murder in Copenhagen today, if you're willing to concede that Christiania is part of Copenhagen. Long story short: a machine-gun shootout on Pusher Street resulted in one death, three wounded, and a wave of panic through the "free state" of Christiania this afternoon.

According to the article linked above, police are seeking "four second-generation immigrants in a big, dark car." This is obviously some kind of Danish code, because "second-generation immigrants" is such a broad description that it actually includes my own infant daughter.

I'm not sure what "second-generation immigrants" is supposed to mean. "Immigrants" is pretty vague: it could apply to Chinese, Nigerian, Guatemalan, French, Eskimo, Norwegian—you name it. And how do the cops know they're second-generation? All four of them? What if one is a third-generation immigrant, two are second-generation, and one's just here on a visa? Or did someone actually take the time to check their papers while they were peppering the area with automatic weapon fire? If they did, wouldn't they also know their names? And wouldn't the police then have said something like, "The suspects are John Smith, Jack Jones, Paul Johnson, and John Paulson?"

I hope I'm wrong—for a lot of reasons—but I'm afraid "second-generation immigrants" may be the politically correct way of saying, "Arabic-looking people who speak Danish."

In any case, it's a hell of a crime and I'll try to translate some articles and get the facts out for you soon. (It's late now, and I'm going to bed.) Maybe this will help pass the time while we wait for Chief Inspector Dahl to make his next move on the Chainsaw Murder.

As I wrote this, a new story hit the wire: Christianians are holding an extraordinary community meeting this evening, and advising hash-buyers to shop elsewhere.

Yes, I'll definitely have to do more translating tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

"Home of the World Barista Champion!" 

Another major Danish victory on the world stage! Troels Overdal Poulsen of Copenhagen has won the Sixth World Barista Championship in Seattle.

According to this story, he brought his own milk all the way from Copenhagen. He wowed judges with his signature coffee drink, "flavored with pepper and lavender."

He calls the drink "ESB" for "Enhanced Sensory Balance."

It's the third world championship for the coffehouse where Poulsen works, meaning they've won half of the world championships to date.

So you can keep your lousy World Cup! Denmark's got the WBC Cup!

Or mug.


* * *

It's a very busy week for me, so there aren't going to be any almanacs. But I'll be sure to keep you posted on important breaking news like this.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Babette's Feast...... 595 kr. 

Yesterday was the 120th anniversary of Karen Blixen's birth. (Most Americans know her better as Isak Dinesen.) To mark this anniversary, Nanna Gårdbo Jensen served the famous meal from Blixen's famous novel, Babettes gæstebud (Babette's Feast), at her restaurant. 595 kroner, a little over a hundred bucks, got you in for a reading from the novel itself, then Babette's celebrated feast:

DK: Klar kalvesuppe med revet trøffel, hertil sød Rasteau-vin.

Så kommer blinis Demidoff (blinis med fransk kaviar), som skylles ned med champagnemærket Moët & Chandon.

Efter denne godbid er turen kommet til indbagte franske vagtler (caille en sarcophage), hvortil der hældes rød Bourgogne i glassene.

Og endelig skal den søde tand tilgodeses med druer, ferskner og figner marineret i hedvin og serveret med crème sabayonne. Og at drikke til? En Sauternes!

EN: (I'll just translate the menu, not the superfluous narrative.)

Clear calf soup with smoked truffles, accompanied by sweet Rasteau wine.

Blini Demidoff (buckwheat cakes with French caviar), served with Moët & Chandon champagne.

Caille en Sarcophage (Quail in Puff Pastry), served with red Burgundy.

Grapes, peaches, and figs marinated in white wine and served with Sabayonne sauce, served with a Sauternes.

I don't know why the veal soup has been substituted for Babette's turtle soup, but I still think 595 crowns is a hell of a deal, considering it costs about 100 crowns for two single-served pizzas to go at most pizzerias.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

This Is News? 

Tits are popular in Denmark. Really. They had a poll and everything.

The Gospel According to [Your Guess Here] 


The story is here, under the headline, "Eureka! Extraordinary discovery unlocks secrets of the ancients."

The article, by David Keys and Nicholas Pyke, concerns the application new techniques of infrared technology, originally developed for satellite imaging, to a hoard of ancient manuscripts discovered over a century ago in Oxyrhynchus (pronunciation is not an option).

As a fan of classical literature, I'm excited about this find:

Among treasures already discovered by a team from Oxford University are previously unseen writings by classical giants including Sophocles, Euripides and Hesiod.

But as a curious on-looker to history, I'm absolutely astounded by the last sentence:

The thousands of remaining documents, which will be analysed over the next decade, are expected to include works by Ovid and Aeschylus, plus a series of Christian gospels which have been lost for up to 2,000 years.

A series of Christian gospels which have been lost since before the formal development of Christianity? Can you imagine? The implications are too staggering to contemplate. Or rather, too staggering to avoid contemplating. What if there were a "Gospel According to Jesus' Wife," or a "Remembering Daddy: the Gospel According to Jesus' Only Begotten Daughter?"

Even more conservatively, how about Gospels that are mostly in synch with the Fab Four (John, Paul, George, and—I mean John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew), but toss up new revelations that directly contradict church orthodoxy?

What if they're entirely consistent with the existing quartet, but offer surprising new quotes from Jesus?

If I were a conspiracy theorist (and a better gambler) I'd bet these documents never see the light of day.

As a non-conspiracy theorist, though, I'm still guessing there's going to be a lot of litigation over these documents, and a lot of hysterical pre-emptive spin from authorities religious, secular, and literary alike.

With a link from Drudge, the story is going to get enormous exposure. The new gospels are here! The new gospels are here! Are you scared? Excited? Curious? Nervous? Whether you're a hardcore Christian fundamentalist or a half-assed agnostic like myself, I don't think it's overstatement to say that this could end up being one of the most significant events of the... well, one of the most significant events of last two-thousand years. New source documents relating to the establishment of the religion adhered to by over two billion people?

This is going to be fun...

I think it's wonderful the news even made it out to the public at all. So much for the "Raiders" theory of anonymous government warehouses for artifacts too hot to handle. Oh, the wild rumpus that awaits!

(Still no news in the Danish media about the Chainsaw Murder, but I have heard rumors from reliable sources that don't bode well for Mr. Heller's innocence.)

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