DAILY BRIEFING
Honeymoon Over?

Oct. 17 - "Frederik langer ud efter USA," screamed the headline of B.T., one of the big Danish tabloids, as I checked out of the grocery store. "Kronprinseparret vover pelsen i fransk interview."

"Og Mary synes, danskerne er lidt langsomme," a smaller headline added.

What I understood of that front page amounted to this: "Frederik [somethings] out after the USA... Crown Prince dares [something] in French interview." That piqued my curiosity, obviously, but didn't tell me much. I did understand the part about Mary Donaldson, however: "And Mary thinks Danes are a little slow."

So much for the Danish love affair with the Crown Prince and his Australian fiancee, I thought to myself. They'd been the toast of the town a week ago, when their engagement was formally announced. Now he's sticking up for America—not something you'd expect from a half-French Crown Prince—and she's trashing her future subjects. I bought the paper, eager to know more.

When I got home I consulted my dictionary. I was relieved to see that, as I'd hoped, Frederik was reaching out to the USA, and that he had dared to stick his neck out (literally "risk his hide) in that French interview.

Had he pissed off the French, the Danes, or both? Either way, he stood in no risk of losing my affection.

Until Trine came home.

"Look," I said, "Frederik gave an interview to some French magazine and risked his hide by reaching out to America."

"Mm," Trine said.

She corrected my translation. "Langer ud efter doesn't mean 'to reach out to,'" she explained. "It means 'to strike out at.' You know, with your fist."

"Mm," I said.

Together we opened the newspaper to the pages on which the article itself appeared. "Amerikanerne er simple," trumpeted a monolothic headline. I knew what that meant: Americans are simple. Of course we are. We're easy as pie. Everyone knows that.

Trine read ahead while I struggled to decipher a photo caption.

"When he was young and spent a lot of time in the states he always admired Americans' energy and enthusiasm and productivity," she paraphrased. "He liked how simple and direct they were, but then when he spent more time in other countries, especially France, he developed a more nuanced way of thinking..."

Nuanced. That set off some bells.

"He thinks that Americans like being direct about things, and that this tends to give them an over-simple, over-generalized view of the world."

"So he's saying that 280 million Americans tend to generalize? An unelected king-to-be being interviewed in a popular magazine insults 280 million people because they're not as nuanced as him?"

Trine looked at me without saying anything. She can be very diplomatic.

"All right, what about Mary? What'd she say? Why does she think Danes are slow?"

Because really, it did seem unbelievable. Surely Mary had been talking about highway traffic or something. Danes are about as slow as Germans—every time you turn around they've built a bridge, thrown up a windmill, installed a new subway line. I've been at parties where I've excused myself to go to the bathroom and returned to discover they'd retiled the kitchen or installed track lighting in my absence. Danes even finish road work ahead of schedule—road work!

But Trine had already lost interest and was petting the cat.

I scrutinized the paper carefully, looking for the citation quoted on the front page. After patient searching I found it. "The Danes are," Mary said, "without a doubt, a little slow. And winters here can be a little too long, sometimes."

In fairness to Mary, she'd been asked by the Crown Prince's French uncle if there was "nothing negative" about her experience in Denmark, so I'm inclined to give her credit for actually saying something instead of dodging the question and saying that "every country has its own charms and distractions" or something.

Direct. Simple. I may disagree with her on Danish slowness (I'll withhold judgment on Danish winters until I've survived one), but I admire the honest and direct way in which she spoke. Must have drove her husband crazy. "Lousy, over-simplifying, over-generalizing bitch! Just like an Australian!"

He's probably slapping her around as I write this.

I begin to see the attraction of monarchies. You get this whole family to scrutinize and mock and love and hate, and they never go away. Celebrities and politicians rise and fall, heroes come and go, villains wither and die—but a royal house is forever. Having admired Frederik and wondered about Mary, I now get to be irritated by Frederik and bemused by Mary for a while. Then something else'll happen, and I'll have to reappraise the relationship all over again. And on and on it will go, as long as the seed of the royal house can perpetuate itself.

And perpetuating yourself ain't too hard for billionaires.

* * *

I should point out that the bit about Trine being distracted by the cat and everything was just a stupid joke playing off the whole "Danes are slow" thing. Actually she translated a good chunk of the article for me. One of the most interesting parts, I thought, was the speculation about the possible political fall-out of Frederik's remarks.

"Well," some idiot Danish professor of international politics observed, "it probably won't get much play in America, because the American media don't like to play up bad foreign press." Yeah, that's a guy who deserves tenure. You wonder if he's ever seen an American newspaper. Hell, you wonder if he's ever watched CNN.

And we wonder why Europeans don't understand us...

But there I go, over-simplifying again. Hell, it's Friday. I might as well just let it all go and relax.

* * *

I woke up this morning and hopped online just in time to watch (?) the Yankees score three runs in the bottom of the 8th. It's the bottom of the 9th as I write this, and the game is tied 5-5. Please, Sox. Please.

* * *

Birthdays, Holidays, Whatever

The Sixth Crusade ended on this date in 1244 after the Saracens ("Infidels") defeated the Franks ("Infidels") at Gaza.

My friend Chris—one of my friends named Chris—turns 40 today, which is staggering. That's two old friends hitting that mark in the same week.

Two older friends.

Today's birthdays include Howard Rollins (1950), Margot Kidder (1948), George Wendt (1948), Evel Knievel (1938), Jimmy Breslin (1930), Montgomery Clift (1920), Rita Hayworth (1918), Arthur Miller (1915), Jean Arthur (1905), and Charles Kraft (1880).

Enjoy the weekend!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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