WEEKEND BRIEFINGThe Colossus of Copenhagen
Sep. 12 - Reflections on 9/11, the assassination of Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, and the Danish national team's last-second tie with Roumania were big news over the last 36 hours. They were big enough stories that a littler one got away:
According to an English-language news weekly, The Copenhagen Post, "Copenhagen's world-famous tourist symbol, the Little Mermaid statue, was found in the water after being knocked off her harbourside rock by unknown vandals [Thursday night], police reported."
The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue) is always getting into one kind of a scrape or another. She's been decapitated, her limbs have been severed, she's been painted-over, graffitied, and subjected to so many other indignities and abuses that it's a wonder she hasn't swum off to greener seabeds long before now.
Edvard Eriksen's 1913 sculpture is a tribute to H.C. Andersen's fairy tale of the same name. She's one of Copenhagen's best known symbols and one of their tourists' biggest disappointments—although she's worth hanging around if you want to learn how to say "I thought she'd be bigger" in a hundred and fifty languages.
There's a lot of statuary in Copenhagen, a lot of it much more impressive than the diminutive lille havrfrue. Tourists walk right by dozens of these lovely works every day without even noticing them. And yet they're compelled—I myself was compelled—to make the inconvenient trip out to stand and gawp at this silly little half-fish on her silly little rock.
I don't mean her any disrespect. I realize her value is not so much in the artistry of her form, but the sense of Danish enchantment she represents. And I suppose she is enchanting, what with her faraway gaze, languid tail, and supple breasts. Yet I can't help thinking that the Danes would be well advised to commission a new mermaid on a scale that would prevent her being decapitated by vandals, blown about by light winds, or trampled by hermit crabs. Instead of the Little Mermaid, she could be the Great Mermaid. She could tower over the city like the Colossus of Rhodes—if the Colossus of Rhodes had been a 34-B. (It probably wouldn't hurt to upgrade her to a C cup while they were at it.)
The police say she probably won't be restored to her place for some time. Hopefully that's just a smokescreen to buy some time for enlargements and improvements. Hopefully we're finally going to see the 40-foot Colossus of Copenhagen that the world so richly deserves.
And hopefully it'll be a warm, sunny winter.
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I didn't mean any disrespect to the passing of the Swedish Foreign Minister by glossing over her tragic death so lightly. In fact I'm surprised the European and American media haven't paid a little more attention to the story, 9/11 reminiscences notwithstanding. This was a major figure in a western government, stabbed to death in a department store by an unknown assailant.
It's a big story, whatever you think about Abba.
My friend Lisa has a blog of her own that's a lot more bloggy than mine. I mean that in a good way. I still haven't got the hang of this blogging thing—she's more honest than I am. She doesn't reduce everything in her life into some half-assed anecdote the way I do. Anyway, it's a fun site and she's updating it just about daily. (She blogs on weekends and everything.).
The Salvation of Western Civ
September 12, 490 B.C., looked like it was going to be a pretty bleak day for Western Civilization. The Greeks, who were not yet Ancient or Classical, were facing a massive invasion of Persians.
Persia was not yet part of the Axis of Evil, but was pretty nasty just the same. They had more soldiers than the Greeks, better cavalry, and better weapons. (They did not have ouzo or moussaka, however; it may have been envy of those quintessentially Greek achievements that drove them to invade.)
The General in charge of the Greeks was the Athenian Miltiades, also known as Uncle Milti. In addition to his own Athenians, he had been given Plataean soldiers and the promised support of Spartans. It was the first time the various city-states had prepared to fight together against a common enemy.
Despite his strong defensive footing, entrenched in the hilly terrain of Marathon, Uncle Milti was afraid that the superior numbers of the Persians would allow them to fight their way through the Greek defenses and destroy Western Civilization. In order to prevent this, he launched an offensive.
It caught the Persians off guard, driving them off the land, into their ships, and back to Persia.
This was the Battle of Marathon, at which Western Civilization was saved for the first time—ensuring a future for diet cola, fat-free potato chips, and pay-per-view sports.
(The Battle of Marathon is not related to the Marathon Bar or Marathon Man, but neither of them could have come about without it.)
Ivan Pavlov was born on September 14, 1849. Pavlov was a Russian scientist who discovered that dogs drooled whenever bells were rung. Only after his death were his ideas discredited, by a group of Swedish scientists who determined that dogs also drooled when bells were not rung. In the decades since, science has repeatedly and conclusively demonstrated that dogs will sometimes drool or not drool.
Holidays and Birthdays
Today, September 12, is the DMB's birthday. She shares her day with Rachel Ward (1957), Barry White (1944), Jesse Owens (1913), Maurice Chevalier (1888), H.L. Mencken (1880). She is younger than all of them, and much more fun to be with.
The 13th is the birthday of Fiona Apple (1977), Nell Carter (1948), Jacqueline Bisset (1944), Mel Torme (1925), Roald Dahl (1916), Claudette Colbert (1903), and Sherwood Anderson (1876).
The 14th is the birthday of Sam Neill (1947), Joey Heatherton (1944), Nicol Williamson (1938), Harve Presnell (1933), Clayton Moore (1914) and, of course, the aforementioned Pavlov.
The 12th is Day of the Nation in Cape Verde, Popular Revolution Day in Ethiopia, and Amilcar Cabral's Birthday in Guinea Bissau.
The 14th is the Battle of San Jacinto Day in Nicaragua.
Enjoy the weekend!
© 2003, The Moron's Almanac