Saturday, June 18, 2005

Savage Nobles 

The Folketing (parliament) is finally amending the Danish naming laws, liberalizing the regulations concerning what Danes may and may not legally call themselves and their children. ("Molli" would still be a problem, however, because alternate spellings will still be frowned upon under the new rules.)

It's nice to see these ridiculous laws being eroded. I don't have much to say about it, however, because it's largely technical and complicated and boring. One thing that seems to have kicked up some exciting controversy, however, is that in opening up Danes' ability to choose their own last names, a certain class of Dane has felt their status demeaned: the Danish nobility.

Yes, there actually is such a creature—a creature that must appear in the bestiary somewhere between Buddhist field marshalls and Irish teetotalers. (If only for alphabetical reasons.)

I'd like to translate Politiken's article in full, but don't have time. Suffice to say there's actually something called the Danish Nobility Association, or Union of Danish Nobles, or whatever you like along those lines, and they're furious that any Hans, Jens, or Jesper can come along and give themselves a name previously only available to nobles.

The money quote defies parody:

Dansk Adelsforening frygter, at forslaget i sidste ende kan føre til en opløsning af adelen: »Det savner mening, hvis 2.000 mennesker, som ikke er adelige, bærer et adeligt navn«, påpeger Wedell-Wedellsborg.

The Danish Union of Nobles fears that the suggestion can ultimately lead to the withering away of the nobility: "It lacks meaning if 2000 people who aren't nobles carry a noble name," points out Henrik Wedell-Wedellsborg.

Cry me a river.

I'm not surprised that Danish nobles would be perturbed by the suggested changes in the law, but I'm absolutely astonished that they'd actually articulate their unhappiness—and that they'd do it so badly.

And frankly, if my name were Wedell-Wedellsborg, I'd be honored that anyone else even wanted a piece of my name.

An illustration accompanies the article:

Tegning: Jørn Villumsen for Politiken

"The rabble are insatiable, Von Boastcastle."

"Absolutely, Von Fatshield! It is and remains too good for them!"

Why not save these anachronisms the prolonged agony and just abolish nobility altogether? Exile them to Sweden or something. How can the pathologically egalitarian Danish spirit abide this affront to their sensibilities? Aristocrats in Denmark?

At least in America we make our half-assed celebrities earn our contempt...

[Linguistic note: adel and its variants can be translated as "nobility" or "aristocracy" and their variants. My Danish dictionary defines adel as (I translate) "a group of people with inherited titles such as count and baron; in feudal culture the adel were the highest cultural class, with hereditary, social, and political privileges."]

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Agent 47 Gets XXX Treatment 

It's official: Vin Diesel will be Hitman. Doubt I'll get to do much of the dialog on that, project. (But I am available, Mr. Diesel!)

English language coverage here, among other places.

Ellers Nej... 

Politiken reports that new opinion polls show EUrophilia dropping in Denmark. Conventional wisdom prior to the French and Dutch votes was that support for the Euro Constitution was strong. Current polling suggests 41% of Danes would vote Nej and 32% who would vote Ja. The remainder (27%) say they don't know.

Obviously a "Don't Know" demographic of that size could win the election handily for either side, but the feeling seems to be that a popular vote would only result in a No at this point.

Which may not even matter: another poll shows that "every other Dane" believes the vote should be canceled, while only one in three wants to see it take place.

The scramble to "save" the constitution still bewilders me—by its own laws, the Constitution cannot pass. ("This Treaty can only enter into force when it has been adopted by each of the signatory countries in accordance with its own constitutional procedures: this is called the ratification of the Treaty by the Member States.") Demonstrating a willingness to break the laws of the very Constitution you want your people to adopt hardly strikes me as the best way to go about addressing the crisis.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Things You Don't Normally See in Denmark in June 

15 Celsius = 59 Fahrenheit
20 Celsius = 68 Fahrenheit
25 Celsius = 77 Fahrenheit

I may not be blogging much in the days ahead. (I probably shouldn't anyway, since I've got the oral component of my Prøve i Dansk 3 exam on Monday.)

I know the high seventies may not seem like much to Americans who've been sweltering recently in blistering heat and drenching humidity, but it's about as good as it gets here in June. Just look at the reaction: Summer on the Way: 27 Degrees on Sunday.

Of course, they could have said: "Summer on the way: spring ends in seven days!", but Danes don't use the scientific seasonal calendar. Danes are taught that spring is March through May, summer is June through August, autumn is September through November, and winter is December through February. They don't want to hear about any damn solstice. Try to tell them summer begins on the 21st of June and they'll stare blankly back at you and change the subject.

Let them. Anyone who's suffered through a lifetime of Danish winters without blowing their brains out has earned the right to call the seasons whatever they want.

Blood Money 

The next game in Io Interactive's Hitman franchise, due for release later this year, is called Blood Money. You might think the early marketing and the game's good showing at E3 was paying dividends, because Blood Money is the talk of the town these days.

Unfortunately, it's got nothing to do with that excellent game and everything to do with the fallout from the Nørrebro shootings of a few weeks ago. Fortunately, however, it's back in the news because the Imam who publicly called for a payment of Blood Money to the victim's family by the shooter's family has finally changed his tune.

In Politiken, Imam opgiver idé om blodpenge("Imam Gives Up Blood Money Idea"), it appears that Imam Abu Laban of the Islamic Faith is now calling for a collection to be taking up by Muslims, out of which 100,000 crowns (about 16,000 USD) could be given to the family of the man slain in the Nørrebro violence. He categorically denies having suggested Blood Money earlier, saying "Jeg blev spurgt, om blodpenge var en mulighed, og så sagde jeg, at det var det i henhold til islamisk lov. Men der har aldrig været noget konkret forslag om blodpenge. Jeg tænkte bare højt." ("I was asked whether blood money was a possibility, and I said that it was consistent with Islamic law. But there was never any concrete suggestion about blood money. I was just thinking out loud.")

I don't honestly know whether or not the Imam actually did explicitly suggest the infamous 200,000-crown solution, or whether it really was something he just mentioned that the spokesman for the Islamic Faith picked up and ran with, but it's good to hear him reverting back to more customary western notions of community philanthropy.

It's still troubling that the Islamic community seems to be holding the shooter's family accountable for the shooter's actions, and that there seems to be no acknowledgement that the shooter was being attacked at the time he drew his pistol, but the retreat from feudalism is heartening.

Sort of:

Islamisk Trossamfund vil samtidig med en indsamling fortsat forsøge at få en aftale på plads om, at drabsmanden og hans familie flytter ud af København for at undgå hævn fra den dræbtes familie.

Islamic Faith wants along with a collection to continue trying to get an agreement in place that the killer and his family move out of Copenhagen to avoid revenge from the slain man's family.

Whoops... back to the dark ages.

A little more reading on the topic, also in Politiken (I'm being lazy): Politisk foragt for blodpenge ("Political Contempt for Blood Money"), in which we have the slightly ridiculous spectacle of Danish politicos explaining why extra-judicial solutions to felonies really aren't a very good idea. Coming next week: why we don't burn witches any more, and—Danish scientists remind us that the earth isn't flat!

Monday, June 13, 2005

You've Got to Watch the Nice Ones 

The headline is Attentat-sigtedes bekendte: Det kunne han aldrig finde på. The (idiomatic) translation is "Acquaintances of Accused Attacker: He'd Never Even Think of Such a Thing."

The 34-year-old suspect continues to deny his guilt, but acquaintances interviewed by Politiken paint him as a highly unlikely arsonist (a little on those italics later).

He's a "friendly guy," a "quiet creature." It is "absolutely unthinkable" that he did it. He's "the world's gentlest person. Super sympathetic, very decent and nice."

When you hear things like that, you realize the suspect almost certainly isn't a political arsonist. He's obviously a serial killer. Serial killers are always the nicest guys.

Weirdly, however, Politiken casts doubt on its own story about the suspect's super niceness by observing, "Alle de bekendte, som Politiken har talt med, understreger dog, at de ikke kender hans nærmeste omgangskreds."

In English: "All of the acquaintances Politiken spoke with stressed, however, that they don't know his closest circle."

In other words, none of the people quoted in the article even know the suspect well enough to know who his close friends are—suggesting they hardly even know him.

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