Saturday, November 19, 2005


There are some things about the EU that I will never understand.  For example, that a sentence like this could be published without sending the radical masses of the whole quasi-socialist continent into riotous demonstrations: " In 2000, EU accepted Denmark as a wine-producing country, but only granted it permission to produce table wine without geographical denomination." 
Quick, what do you call a sovereign nation that needs permission from the EU to produce any kind of table wine it wants?  Sorry, trick question: a sovereign nation don't need no stinkin' EU permission.
What the hell kind of regulation is that, anyway?  Do we (in America) have federal laws that tell the various states what kinds of products can and cannot be produced by private parties within their borders?  I mean, I'm not even a Dane, but my wife and daughter are Danish and the craven obsequity of this paragraph makes my skin crawl on their behalf:
Armed with the escalating production figures, the [Danish] government is prodding the European Union for permission to produce wine with etiquettes indicating the region, grape type, and vintage.
"Can we please, please put this information on our labels?"
"Absolutely not!  There must be no such disclosure on Danish wine bottles!  Consumers must be kept completely ignorant of the contents of Danish wine!  You're lucky we let you bottle and sell that nordic vinegar as wine to begin with... don't push your luck!"
Anyone want to explain to me the logic behind a prohibition on labels saying where and when a given wine was produced, and what sort of grapes went into it?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Denmark, Colored by Numbers 

Among other things revealed by Politiken's politically-colored map of Denmark: Copenhagen is ten times the geographic size of Frederiksberg, but has only about 5.5 times the population.  That means Frederiksberg, with its 91,000 inhabitants crammed into just 9 square kilometers (as opposed to the half a million Copenhageners lolling about in almost 90), is almost twice as dense. 
But that's just demographics.  The politics are interesting too: I didn't realize how conservative Frederiksberg was until this past election.  Thirteen of its 25 seats are in the hands of the Conservative party; only one belongs to the Prime Minister's Venstre party.  The Social Democrats have just 5 seats, and the remaining six seats are evenly divided between three parties which are, if I'm not mistaken, all to the left of the Social Democrats.
Strange to think that in Denmark I'm living in the most politically conservative neighborhood I've ever lived in (most of my adult life prior to moving here was divided between the conservative bastions of greater Boston, Hollywood, the north side of Chicago, and the borough of Queens).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Turkish PM Walks Out on Danish Presser 

The Turkish Prime Minister cancelled a joint press conference with Denmark's Prime Minister here in Copenhagen this afternoon because a journalist from Roj-TV, a Danish TV station that serves the Kurdish community in Denmark, was among the press.  Turkey claims that this television station is funded by the separatist Kurdish terrorist group PKK.
Here's a nice streaming video of Anders Fogh Rasmussen explaining all this to the press .  Don't worry: the first half of the clip is entirely in English.

Turkey Reconsidered 

[Note: I'm experimenting with posting via email and until I get comfortable with this process there may be certain formatting glitches that mess up my posts.  I apologize half-heartedly for any inconvenience. ]
Right up until about fifteen minutes ago I was a big supporter of getting Turkey into the European Union as swiftly as possible.  There were a lot of reasons I felt that way, but all of them have been bitch-slapped to death by my sudden realization that it's a horrible idea for Turkey and for Europe.

How do I draw such a rash conclusion?  Because of this recent statement from Turkey's sitting Prime Minister (who may in fact have been standing at the time) Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
"Freedom of speech is important, but it's more important, what's sacred for me.  I would never abuse my freedom of speech to attack things that are sacred for Anders Fogh Rasmussen," said Erdogan.
The irony here is that in attacking the notion of free speech, Erdogan is attacking something that's sacred to the Danish Prime Minister, and he doesn't even realize it.  The same way, I'm sure, that we dimwitted secular westerners have no idea just how horribly offensive a cartoon of god almighty might appear if we had been raised to perceive it so.
But the fact remains that a country whose prime minister is unable to embrace free speech as a political principle--whether because that prime minister really doesn't get it, or merely because he feels that he has to pretend not to get it--just doesn't strike me as ready to be part of modern Europe.
"It's therefore with deep regrets that I've been following the current developments.  We have things that are sacred to us, and no one should attack these things.  You have to respect my faith, as much as I respect yours.  Otherwise we can never speak of a world where we live together in peace and harmony," said Erdogan.
There are so many logical flaws in that reasoning I'm not even going to address them--although I'll acknowledge they're only logical flaws if we're agreed on certain Aristotelian principles of logic and certain Enlightenment ideals of political liberty.  Which we may well not be.
In a companion piece, it's noted that the Danish Prime Minister intends to try and educate his Turkish colleague about freedom of the press when Erdogan is in town for a NATO meeting in a couple of weeks.  I'm one of the 17 people left in Denmark who likes the current Prime Minister, but this is about as diplomatically ham-handed a gesture as I've seen since Jacques Chirac chided half the population of Europe for "having missed a good opportunity to shut up."
Or is it?
A REAL OPTIMIST, of Candidean magnitude, would assume that both of these politicians were playing to their domestic bases.  Erdogan is playing to the affronted Muslims of Turkey; Rasmussen to the affrighted secularists of Denmark.  Behind closed doors they'll laugh merrily about the whole thing as they buy each other drinks and and do body shots off strippers.  But from where I'm sitting (in the cheap and less than-entirely-optimistic seats) that's only more of an argument to keep Turkey out of the EU for the time being.  Does it really serve any of our needs if western European and Turkish political leaders are going to exacerbate the existing tensions between "average" secularists and "average" Muslims by making political hay out of every little scrap that comes along?
I don't think so.  I think, to my own deep disappointment, that East is East and West is West and the twain are nowhere near prepared to meet.  Not yet.
But boy would I love to be wrong...
(Note: I realize the same logic I've been using against Turkish EU membership suggests Bosnia should be bounced out of the club as well, but what's done is done.)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Youthful Indiscretions 

Louise Frevert is an interesting case study in something. You may remember Frevert as the Folk Party politician who got into trouble over racist remarks on her website earlier this year. Now she's apparently getting massive exposure on the eve of tomorrow's elections.

I haven't seen any of the forged posters referred to in this article, but there are links to still shots from her youthful exploits here (stand warned: although it's not a pornographic site, in this post about Frevert's past they do have links to extremely pornographic images).

A couple of new advertisements on television have also had me thinking about the different American and Danish/Euro attitudes about sex.

In one, a young man is going down on a young woman when he suddenly lifts his head up to spit out a bit of fluff... bit of hair on his tongue or something. The girl looks embarrassed or offended, but then he repeats the muffled spitting sound again, and again, and next thing you know it's a bass line. The girl smiles, picks up the mobile phone on her nightstand, and cues up "Like a Virgin." As it begins to play, her lover lowers her head back to her loins and she leans back with a beatific smile.

In the other, a young woman in bed gets a video message on her mobile phone from a friend at a big party or concert or something. "You gotta come," the friend is saying, "this party is huge!" But the girl in bed is not convinced. "Not now, thanks," she replies into the camera-end of her mobile phone, "I've got something bigger right here!" And she lowers the phone under the quilts toward the crotch of the young man we now see she's in bed with.

There's a third ad I think I've already mentioned, in which three girls step up to a bar, order chilled Jagermeister, then giggle and cover their breasts after the Jager shots cause their nipples to stiffen conspicuously.

I just can't imagine seeing any of these ads in the states. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's clearly a thing and I've been meaning to mention it.

So I have.

Daddy & Mor 

I haven't blogged in a week, and almost all the recent blogging up until then was about Islamofascism in and around Denmark. This isn't supposed to be "JihadWatch: Denmark," so I'm going to hold off on posting anything about Hizb-ut-Tahrir's weekend conference—tempting as it is. Frankly, I like when the bad guys declare themselves out in the open.

But I've been writing all this pointless political pontification at the expense of indulging my paternal pride. I ought, for example, to have shared this series of pictures at least a week ago:

Notice that the cap is on the bottle.

At about this point Molli Malou got tired of sprinkling "pretend" hot sauce all over her meal, so before we could stop her she jammed the top of the bottle into her mouth and sucked hungrily at it. Immediate reaction:

Long-term reaction:

Full disclosure: I'm exaggerating. No child was hurt in the production of these photographs. Molli did appear to get a little hot sauce off the top of the bottle, and wasn't exactly thrilled about it, but she didn't really freak out until we snatched the bottle away from her. So you don't have to call social services after all.

Besides, Molli does appear to enjoy spicy food, within limits. I spice my lunch soups to the point that Trine calls them "pepper soup," but our daughter seems to enjoy them as much as I do. Molli also likes Danish blue cheese, gorgonzola, and even mellem-lagret (as opposed to mild) Danish cheeses. (Most American adults I know are, say, unenthusiastic about anything mellem-lagret or stronger.)


One afternoon last week I went to pick up Molli at her mormor's: no sooner had mormor opened the front door of her apartment than Molli caught sight of me and squealed excitedly, "Da-dee! Da-dee! Da-dee!" It was the first time she'd called me daddy so unambiguously. This is one of the great moments of your life, I told myself. I hurried over to Molli to share all the love and awe that was overwhelming me. She shrieked, ran away, and started to cry. Remember that she did that, I told myself.

Chekhov in a Nutshell

It is a strange behavior, the way Molli and other children her age get so obviously thrilled by the sudden appearance of a loved one—then suddenly have no idea what to do with all their emotions and typically end up crying or turning away or ignoring them altogether. I guess it's no stranger than wanting to eat paper, chew keys, or climb radiators, but it's much more personal.

Even before last week's triumphant realization that we can be addressed as daddy and mor (more on mor below), Molli would often light up as soon as she saw us arriving to pick her up at vuggestue. She'd run straight toward us with giggles and a big smile. Then she'd falter a few steps short of us and pretend she wasn't really that excited after all. It struck me as an astonishing level of emotional manipulation for someone of her age until I saw the same behavior exhibited by some of her classmates. Thinking back, I could even remember her cousins doing the same:

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you — wait a second, you're no big deal, never mind—look, a leaf!

The fact that every toddler seems to do this suggests it's hard-wired into us. I'm going to go out on a limb and declare this Chekhov's great secret. Didn't see that coming, did you? Neither did I. But I had to declare something once I announced I was going to go out on a limb, and I really didn't know what to say. On reflection, I think "Chekhov's Great Secret" was pretty good.

What the hell are you talking about?

If you've never seen or read Chekhov, never mind. But if you have, take another look at that toddler formulation: I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you — wait a second, you're no big deal, never mind—look, a leaf! Isn't that every Chekhov character in a nutshell?

The more I think about it, the more I see all kinds of toddler behaviors in his major characters. That's probably just because he was one of the best illustrators of character ever, and toddlerhood is the true window to our soul.

From now on I'm going to look for the latent toddler in everyone I meet.

More on Mor

The Danish word for "mom" or "mommy" is mor, pronounced more or less as a Bostonian might pronounce "more". But that's not what you hear Danish children call their mothers. Instead they turn it into a two-syllable word: mo-ar. (Which is, I suppose, actually even closer to how a Bostonian would pronounce "more": Danes drop their trailing R's just like Bostonians—it's one aspect of Danish that my New England upbringing has made a little easier.)

When Molli Malou says what you or I would hear as "more," she really does means "more," although she's much more likely to say "mee-ya" (for the Danish mere) in those cases. When she's talking about or to her mother, though, it's almost always the two-syllable "mo-ar" (or "mo-ah"). Once in a rare while, if she's talking to me, she'll say "mommy" when referring to her mother. I find that interesting. I've never heard her refer to me as far, probably because Trine and her family have done a much better job of referring to me as "daddy" in Molli's presence than I have of referring to Trine as mor.

She's also recently aced nej and no. She knows both and isn't shy about using them. At first it was cute: we'd be telling her not to do something and would bark out a stern, "no!" Then she'd kind of backpedal away from the activitiy and shake her head, muttering, "no no nej nej no nej no nej..."

But she's evolved. First of all, she's learned that she can use the magic n-word in either language to refuse things. That's very helpful when she's saying "no," "nej," "nah," or "naw" to decline a piece of fruit or a cup of milk. It's much easier and more pleasant to deal with a verbal "no," after all, than a vicious swipe of the hand that invariably sends everything flying. It's much less pleasant, though, when it comes to things like changing diapers or getting dressed.

Even worse, she's learned that our word isn't universal law: that just because we're saying "no" as she reaches out for the catfood, it doesn't mean she can't get a handful into her mouth before we actually get close enough to physically stop her.

It would be useful if we could give her a little electric shock every time we said "no" and she disobeyed us, but probably that would run afoul of some overprotective legislation—legislation that I promise you was not drafted by parents.

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