DAILY BRIEFINGA Testing Week
May 10 - Editorial Note: The sun is up by 4:30 in the morning, now, and it's still light at about 10:00 pm. My springtime insomnia should start kicking in any day now. (I have nothing new to add to last year's observations on the subject.) Kindly lower your expectations appropriately.
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It had been a cool, gray, sporadically wet weekend until Sunday, when we woke up to gleaming sunshine and the warmest temperatures of the year. The DMG and I went about our day in leisurely fashion. By midafternoon she was drilling me on Danish vocabulary as we lounged on our patio, sweltering in the heat. At about three o'clock we decided we'd broiled enough and should probably take advantage of the weather and have a stroll through Tivoli.
We came into the apartment to change for the outing. Suddenly it darkened. We glanced outside: roiling clouds had filled the sky, a gusty wind had kicked up, and moments later it began to rain. Thunder rumbled in the distance.
So now it's officially spring.
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Danish television devoted a good chunk of the weekend to coverage of the royal nuptials. There was a special concert for Frederik and Mary on Saturday night, there were "Wedding Specials" on every channel, and even between actual programs there were public service spots, all hearts and curlicues over soft-focus images of the lovely couple, wishing them well and reminding them that Denmark loved them.
We scrupulously avoided all of it, although we were drawn in against our will to one little segment in which young children were asked what love was. "When you let a boy kiss you a lot instead of just once," one girl answered. "It's just a feeling in your stomach," offered another, "and you can't eat. Or you eat a lot." The childrens' advice was also solicited as to what Frederik and Mary could do to ensure a happy marriage. "Maybe he could come and sit next to her in her group," offered one young girl whose thoughts had apparently wandered to her own unrequited passions. "If they were in the same group."
(As usual, my translations are more than mere translations: they're Americanized adaptations of the DMG's on-the-fly corrections of my own incomplete understanding of what was originally said.)
Anyway, most of the coverage was treacly and nauseating, the sort of stuff you see in those Valentine's Day cards that you wonder who in their right mind would buy. Had I been paying attention, I'm sure I could have learned the Danish for "I wuv you." So when the DMG was flipping through channels during the rainstorm and observed that she'd found yet another Frederik & Mary event, I merely rolled my eyes and kept surfing the web.
"They're sailing," she called out to me. That caught my attention. "What's a match race?" she asked. At that point I joined her in front of the television.
Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, heir to the throne of the oldest continuous monarchy in the world, and his fiancee, the movie-star beautiful Mary Elizabeth Donaldson of Tasmania, Australia, had been permitted to plan a few of their own events amid the monstrous superfluity of formal functions required of them this week. And one of the events they had come up with was an afternoon of sailboat racing on the harbor—against one another. (The races had preceded the thunderstorm and were being rebroadcast Sunday evening.)
These weren't royal yachts, either. They looked to be 30-35 foot one-design sailboats, built for speed. Mary had the benefit of a former America's Cup contender in her Australian crew; Frederik had to make do with the best available Danish talent. But that wasn't really the point. The point was that given the chance to plan an event of their own, this thoroughly modern, thoroughly cool couple didn't host a tea at a castle, or a ball on some feudal estate. They didn't even go horseback riding in the forest or opt for a quiet afternoon alone together. No, they went head-to-head in a set of three hard-fought sailing races, getting bruised and wet in the process.
I was enthralled, as you can tell by my enthusiastic blog at the time. (The blog also contains links to coverage of the races.)
Anti-royalists like myself, along with feminists and Australians, will be pleased to learn that Mary won. When asked, after the race, what she'd say to the crown prince, here's what she said:
Well, before the race he said "May the best man win." And I corrected him, I said, "You mean may the best person win!" So now I'll tell him, "The best woman won!"She's cool, that Donaldson chick.
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The state-sponsored Danish-for-Foreigners courses are designed and implemented systematically.
There are three "tracks." Every student is sentenced to one of the three at the outset of his or her Danish education. Track one is for the illiterate. (Seriously.) Track two is for those who never completed secondary school. The third track is for wretched bastards like myself who lacked the sense to get out of the education system while the gettin' was good.
Once you're placed in a track, you have six modules to complete before the state is done with you. The modules are tailored for each track: the six modules of track one only take you as far as the first three of track two, or the first two of track three.
Each module is divided still further into segments, but I'm in no position to explain how many segments make a module, or why—at least, not without confusing you twice as much as I already have.
Long story short, this week I'll be taking my Module One exam. It's called the "Breakthrough" exam. If I pass, I'll begin Module Two next week and will face the "Waystage" exam toward the end of June. If I fail, it's Module One all over again. Neither prospect is especially exciting, but I'm hoping to pass if only because this impossible language is bad enough the first time around—it's not the kind of thing that's likely to be improved by redundancy.
I'll be taking my written exam today and my oral exam on Tuesday. On Thursday we regroup to get our results. I don't know what impact this is going to have on the Almanac or the blog—probably there'll be no impact at all and I'll end up wondering why I even bothered getting into it on these electric pages.
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There's no class Friday, which is perfect: that's the day of the royal wedding, and the DMG and I are going to brave the crowds to see what we can of it. (Our official invitation was apparently lost in the mail.)
I finally got around to ordering a new camera over the weekend, and it's scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, so I ought to be able to provide you with pictures and possibly even video. We'll see.
The word of the day is udlændinge, meaning foreigner.
On May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill was sworn in as British Prime Minister. He is best known for having been the most Churchillian leader ever. Three days after being sworn in, however, he told parliament that he could offer only "blood, toil, tears, and sweat." This was grudgingly deemed satisfactory by a palpably disappointed parliament, but only after he agreed to be fitted with an IV.
On May 10, 1871, France and Germany signed a peace treaty in which France had to give up a lot of land (Alsace-Lorraine) to Germany. They weren't happy about it, so after World War I they took it back. In the second World War the Germans reclaimed it. After the war the victorious allies held it briefly but decided not to get involved. They gave it back to France, where it remains to this day.
Birthdays and Holidays
May 10 is the birthday of one-name wonders Bono (1960) and Donovan (1946), as well as Pat Summerall (1930), David O. Selznick (1902), and Fred Astaire (1899).
It's Constitution Day in Micronesia and Inauguration Day in South Africa.
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac