Monthly Archives: January 2007

(Red)tarded

We had a presentation at work today about the malignant, undead '(Red)' phenomenon. For the fortunate people who aren't acquainted with this scheme, it pretty much revolves around a bunch of big companies offering so-called 'Red' products. You buy them, says the 'manifesto', and some of the money goes to help AIDS in Africa (or breast cancer, or tuberculosis, or whatever cause Paris Hilton has learned to spell this week).

I've been skeptical of this thing since day one, mostly because it's fortified with 107 different kinds of corporate and celebrity self-righteousness, and seems more concerned with making people feel like they're John D. Rockefeller than actually helping anyone with AIDS. Which is just a long way of saying that Bono is involved.

Luckily I work at a human rights institution, where we have teams of people that exist to call bullshit on condescending marketing behemoths like this. Some of the researchers reported this morning that, after a year in operation with over 100 companies (Apple, Nike, Motorola and other gracious, publicly traded souls) the program has raised 20 million dollars. Roughly equivalent to what Nike spends on non-dairy creamer every year.

In addition to its monumental irrelevance, the fund is actually harming human rights elsewhere in the world. You know that (red) T-shirt that you felt really good about spending your (green) on? It was most likely made in a sweatshop somewhere in Vietnam. And The Gap made a huge profit off of it. All the signatory companies, in fact, are posting great returns on this whole thing.

So next time someone boasts about their newfound crimson philanthropy, remind them that they would have been better off just giving their money to the nearest sign-bearing homeless person. At least he wouldn't pay Bono with it.

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Things I had forgotten about Denmark

This country wants you to be in shape. Take yesterday, for example. In the course of a normal day (bike to work, home, to the store, then over to a friend's for dinner) I realized that I had gotten a bit over 2 hours of exercise. When was the last time you accidentally exercised 1/8 of your waking hours in the States? Between two-wheeled poverty and the hearty, fibrous food that is the only available sustenance, life here is making it incredibly easy to burn off the Panama that's currently hanging over my belt.

I don't mind winter. I grew up in Seattle, where winter just means the city turns into a dark, moist armpit for three months before getting sunny again in March. Here in Europe, summer kicks off in June (if you're fortunate), and winter means living (and biking) through some serious Fargo shit. I crunched home on Saturday night in a snowstorm where the flakes were as big as cat paws, and the entire city decided to ignore the traffic signals and just silently cruise through every intersection. I wouldn't trade that for a few damp degrees above freezing.

Shawarma is the world's best fast food. I'd elaborate, but my mouth is full of formerly rotating lamb…

I am ridicuously far from the equator. I'm at this great time of year now where I go to work at sunrise and come home at sunset. I know everyone says this about everywhere they go, but the sunrises and sunsets (or 'sun up-way' in Danish) here are incredible, and the massive tilt from the earth's torso makes for some Monetishly moody scenery along the canals.

Danes are intimidating. Every time I meet a new one, I'm impressed in a different way. Last weekend at a party, I ended up talking to a Danish chick who was moving to Nepal to do development work for the UNDP (my response: 'Oooh, that starts with 'UN'. You must be good!'). And this is the second Dane I've met this month who's going to Nepal. It doesn't help that self-deprecation isn't really in the vocabulary here, so these conversations tend to consist of:

     Me: 'That's awesome!' 

     Her: 'Yeps.'

The music scene here inexplicably rocks. In the 10 days I've been back, the following bands have either played or gone on sale: Razorlight, Jarvis Cocker, Rhonda Harris, Ratatat, Joanna Newson, Imogen Heap, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails, Wolfmother, Dave Matthews (who no one has heard of here. He's probably playing outside of a 7-11 or something), Damien Rice, !!!, Bloc Party, and Pearl Jam. How does a city this small get so much great music?

Danes take a really long time to warm up. I'm finally getting to the point with my Copenhagen friends where we talk about personal shit. In Denmark it seems to take about a year to get really up and running with any intimacy. In the States, this takes roughly six minutes.

Going out here is savage. I have to re-acclimate myself to the Danish Weekend Standard Time of going to bed between 4 and 7 am after about 12 hours of Carlsberging (they seem to really hate good beer here), then spending the next day in a state of complete mechanical failure. When it's Sunday and you find yourself thinking 'I want some cereal, but it's too much effort'… You might live in Denmark.

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Why Russia is fucked up: Quotes from the Russian Parliament member who talked at my work today

'Russia doesn't have bigger problems than any other country. The historical and philosophical problems are everywhere.'

'Russia is simultaneously living in three centuries.'

'Americans don't understand a place where human rights means access to clear water. They are too busy protecting the rights of sexual minorities.'

'Liberalism and communism have the same goal: Pushing the world toward cultural homogenation.'

'The problem with Europe is that it has forgotten its Christian traditions… Proclaiming human rights without traditions is empty.'

'Russia has not mistreated Chechnya. Look at British treatment of Chechnya before WWI.'

'Russia does not have a problem with press freedom. Look at the press in the United States.'

'If humanitarian intervention continues to occur, the era of nation-states will come to an end. Small states have no choice but to acquire nuclear weapons.'

'With the bankruptcy of the American ideals, the alternative used to be communism. Now it's terrorism.'

'Defined borders between countries reflect the Christian ideal of a distinct divide between good and evil. Western civilization's conception of humans requires that good and evil can be distinguished.'

 

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Yet another reason I’m glad I don’t date chicks

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I forgot about these, too

Did 'Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey' ever make it to Europe? These things, along with 'Office Space' quotes, are the only thing holding our generation together. I came across this one by accident today:

Maybe in order to understand mankind we have to look at that word itself. MANKIND. Basically, it's made up of two separate words "mank" and "ind."

What do these words mean? It's a mystery and that's why so is mankind.

A few other gems:

I bet when the neanderthal kids would make a snowman, someone would always end up saying, "Don't forget the thick, heavy brows." Then they would all get embarrassed because they remembered they had the big hunky brows too, and they'd get mad and eat the snowman.

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said. "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.

My favorite one is still this one, though

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."

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Things I had forgotten about the U.S.

Everyone is so nice. It felt a bit strange to be making ATM-queue small talk and catching strangers smiling at each other, but I realized really quickly how much I miss that. I read an article a few years ago that labeled these 'fleeting relationships,' and said that they were actually essential for health and happiness. I don't know about the health part, but it definitely makes me feel more connected to a place when I feel comfortable chatting about the weather or the Seahawks with a bus-stop-mate.

No word is too short to be shortened. Being 24, my slang dictionary is fossilized in 1998, but the language rolls on. Over the break, I managed to overhear 'budge' (for 'budget'), situashe ('situation'), 'tip' ('typical') and 'phisticated' ('sophistocated'). I'm definitely using that last one. But only because it makes me sound 'ticulate.

Food in America is terrible. And I love it. I grew up on styrofoamed teriyaki and Hamburger Helper (yes, Europeans, that's the powdered cheese you put on raw ground beef). Even after reading 'Fast Food Nation,' I can still stomach a 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell and chase it with a color-not-occurring-in-nature Mountain Dew. Even the natural shit is creepy. I don't think my countryfolk know this, but fruits and veggies are literally twice as big in the states as they are in other countries. Why eat an apple-sized apple when you can chomp one that's the size of Wilson from 'Cast Away'?

American TV is apalling. Between 'Lost' clones, 'CSI Helena' and 'Fear Factor: Special Victims Unit', the vapidity of mainstream culture is becoming so dense, it's about to split the atom.

I hate driving. There's a part of your brain that exists only to react to the sheer impotence of sitting in a traffic jam next to a bunch of other 3/4 empty cars, trying to find the radio station between Shakira-tating and the 200,000th rap song to rhyme "bitches" with "hittin' switches".

Americans are never afraid to tell you what they think. It's so much easier to have an animated conversation back home than it is in Denmark. No matter how asinine ('George Bush planned 9/11!') or uninformed ('Black people are still mad about slavery. I never enslaved anybody.'), it's refreshing to have an honest, revealing exchange with someone after the smallest possible canapé of small talk.

Yes, everyone has a beer belly. Most days in Copenhagen I can barely form a noun-verb-subject sentence because of all the fit, felt-tipped eye candy swirling about. In Seattle, it was nice to have a conversation in public without Tourettes-ing 'Got-damn!' every few minutes.

 

 

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We made it, ma!

Holy morning pastry, Denmark is nominated for an Oscar!

'After the Wedding' is officially in the running for Best Foreign Language Film. Woo-hah! I haven't seen this yet (mostly because Mother Russia Dot Bootleg doesn't sell movies) and don't know much about it, but I'm sure it has a sad ending and an epic, twinkly soundtrack. Go see it!

Denmark is officially in the same caliber as other 2006 nominees Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Marky Mark, 'Poseidon', Paul Haggis (the 'Crash'-tacular King of Subtlety), the 5-year-old from 'Little Miss Sunshine', and Canada. '06 is the new '92!

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Gecko vs. ants

I know, I know, the Panama stuff is getting old. But these are worth checking out, trust me, if for nothing other than Brock's handy summation of the entire trip: "Fuckin' ants, dude."

Gecko vs. ants I

Gecko vs. ants II

 

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Læse-y boy

Of the roughly ten books I began but didn't finish during my tundra-sabatical, my favorite so far is 'Mao: The Untold Story'. It's amazing to me how so much of the 20th century's supply of crazy seems to have been concentrated in a few lucky dictators; the book reads like a veritable index of batshit anecdotes.

As well as chronicling how Mao Tse-tung was pretty much the worst human being alive (Russia kidnapped two of Mao's kids to make sure he didn't step out of line, but returned them after realizing that he didn't care enough about his kids to make them good bargaining chips), the book has freshened my mind with the following informational Tic Tacs:

Mao didn't brush his teeth or take a shower for more than 25 years.

He slept on wooden boards, and used a buckwheat husk for a pillow every night.

After he came to power in 1949, he embarked on a genocidal campaign to rid China of … sparrows.

He suffered from constipation his whole life, and became strangely obsessed with shitting. He apparently reported his beems to his friends, and made the Russians build him a special squat-toilet when he visited Moscow because he couldn't shit sitting down.

Once absolute power was his, he started giving orders like 'My farts are socialist farts, and they must be fragrant.' (That's an actual quote of his from a memo. Imagine being the poor private who got that order. Where do you even start?)

He wanted to rule the world. Literally. Like he was Master Shredder or something. He wanted The Bomb so he could take out Tokyo and San Francisco. This is also why he started the Korean War.

He bombed an island between China and Taiwan every other day for 20 years. This was pretty much his version of a hissy fit, and the bombing stopped the day after he died.

He only ate in a restaurant once his whole life.

He fucked pretty much every Chinese girl under 19 that his people could round up for him … This is only notable because of the first fact.

 

And I'm only up to the 1950s so far. More 'Mao Say What?!' facts as I come across them…

 

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Things I had forgotten about London

Distance is completely subjective. It's not unheard of for a 3 km journey to take more than an hour on the bus (traffic) or Tube (unionized workforce). It would be faster to walk, but you're a Londoner, Goddammit. The sidewalks are where the commoners are.

Everything is so expensive, it's almost funny. It's like some sort of Dada art project: "Let's see how much people will pay for a cup of coffee." My Tube ride from Zone 1 to Zone 2 this morning cost 8 dollars. Eight dollars. Last night I paid $14 for an omelette, followed by a few $6 beers. Fines for riding the Tube without a ticket are roughly equivalent to a black-market firstborn baby.

Everyone is cooler than you. This thought struck me at the club last night as I sat next to a tall gentleman with Wicked Witch of the East leggings, a 'Dumb & Dumber' haircut and 'Garden State' ennui. He was telling his friends how he spent his Saturday making a movie on his mobile phone.

British accents sorta bother me. I somehow ended up watching 'Celebrity Big Brother' and, aside from being offended at the loose British definition of 'celebrity', all the contestants just sounded … annoying. Is that wrong?

London culture is awesome. In the three days I was there, I came across the following band names on assorted bathroom walls and Shoreditch posters:

Chechnya and the Rebels

Poppe and the Seeds

Ambulette

Forward, Russia!

I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness

Lets Get out of this Terrible Sandwich Shop

New Roman Times

Well Hungarians

 

…I still want my 8 bucks back, though

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