CULTURAL BRIEFING
Same As It Ever Was...

Mar. 31 - "A nation burdened by heavy taxation, dogged by a flagging will to defend itself, plagued with a lacklustre administration, monotonous uniformity, plodding mediocrity and a dearth of dreamers and enthusiasts..."

That's the British Ambassador describing Denmark to his fellow Britons—in 1692.

The article appeared in last week's Copenhagen Post, the city's only free English-language weekly.

The similarities between late 17th-century Denmark and the Denmark in which I live today are striking:

The Danes are ‘much addicted to drinking,’ he notes, listing Rhenish and French wines and cherry brandy as the favourite tipple of ‘persons of condition’, whilst ‘the poor people indulge themselves in bad beer.’

~ ~ ~

"...you shall meet with none of extraordinary parts or qualifications, or excellent in particular studies and trades; you see no enthusiasts, madmen, natural fools, or fanciful fools, but a certain equality of understanding reigns among them: everyone keeps the ordinary beaten road of sense, which in this country is neither the fairest nor the foulest, without deviating to the right or left..."

~ ~ ~

"The ancient love of liberty seems to be quite extinct in the North; and in its place to have succeeded the conveniences of a dull obedience."

~ ~ ~

"In Denmark there are no seditions, mutinies, or libels against the government, but all people are, or appear to be, lovers of their king, notwithstanding their ill-treatment, and the hardships they groan under. And I suppose one principal reason of this to be the equality of the taxes, and the manner of taxing. It is not to be imagined by those that see it not, what a comfort it is to the sufferers to be ill-used alike."

But go on and read the whole article—it's very short and it's entertaining as hell.

* * *

Meanwhile, on Moron Abroad: An American in Denmark, I've been trying to keep up with the investigation of the Easter Dismemberment murder. The police say they've identified three suspects, now, and that it's just a matter of time until they're arrested—but they still haven't figured out motive.

I wondered over on the blog why the killing isn't being called a murder in the Danish press, and I speculated it may have had something to do with the legal niceties of Danish journalism. I was clearly wrong: a sub-headline today still referred to the "killing" rather than the "murder," but also spoke of the police investigating the "crime." So the difference between drabet and mordet is obviously more complex. I await enlightenment by one of my Danish readers.

* * *

I subscribe to a couple of Google news alerts to keep me informed of news about Scandinavia from all over the world. This just popped into my inbox a moment ago (it's from the Newark Star Ledger):

During a tour of Scandinavia, we plan to go by ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo, an overnight trip. What can you tell us about the ferry service? Should we be prepared for rough water?

-- G.O., Annandale

You can read the actual response here. But in case G.O. of Annandale happens to stumble across my site but somehow misses my account of Oslo, I'm going to answer him or her right here.

Dear G.O.,

In asking about the ferry service between Copenhagen and Oslo, I notice you've neglected to ask about Oslo itself. That you will be in Copenhagen is clear, since you can hardly board a ferry in a city you're not in. It's also clear that you intend to go to Oslo, since one rarely takes ferries to destinations one doesn't intend to visit. What's not clear is why in the name of God you want to go to Oslo.

Copenhagen is cheaper, bigger, and prettier than Oslo. The weather is typically better. The people are smarter and better looking—and they don't eat whales.

As a resident of greater Newark, your taste in cities is already suspect. But it seems to me that even someone born and bred in Newark would find Oslo wanting.

Enjoy the cruise... it's a good one. But when the boat docks in Oslo, stay on the ship.

I suppose I'll be hearing from the Oslo Chamber of Commerce one of these days, but until I'm offered some cold, hard cash to pipe down, I feel a certain civic duty to steer Americans clear of Norway's execrable capital.

* * *

Today is the birthday of Ewan McGregor (1971), Al Gore (1948), Rhea Perlman (1948), Gabe Kaplan (1945), Christopher Walken (1943), Herb Alpert (1935), Richard Chamberlain (1935), Shirley Jones (1934), Gordie Howe (1928), César Chávez (1927), Leo Buscaglia (1925), Henry Morgan (1915), Octavio Paz (1914), Joseph Haydn (1732), and Rene Descartes (1596).

It's Independence Day in Georgia and Freedom Day in Malta.

Happy Thursday!

© 2005, The Moron's Almanac™

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