Archive for September, 2007

Thomas D. Kennedy; writer in Copenhagen

tekcarlos.jpgSometimes it takes an expat to highlight the cultural and social characteristics of a country. This is because ‘they’, who are initially ‘outsiders’ in that country, are used to viewing life relative and contrary to where they came from.

Today I came across an essay titled ‘Life in another Language’, by the writer Thomas E. Kennedy. It is a witty and concise account of life in Denmark, as seen by an expatriate living here for three decades. Kennedy touches on aspects of Danish mantality, and cultural quirks in the Danish language that demonstrate how people think, and believe. He also describes the good life, the bad life, social rituals, irony, the Jante law ( a Danish way of thinking that can otherwise be interpreted as the ‘tall poppy syndrome’) and contradicts this with aspects of life in New York city, where he lived previously. I found myself nodding in agreement at every paragraph to this essay and simultaneously learning more about the place I have lived in, for the past three and a half years.

Kennedy is the also author of four interconnecting novels, The Copenhagen quartet, linked by structure, and each set in a different season. For this work based on life in the Danish Capital, Kennedy has been likened to ‘James Joyce’s Dublin’. Kennedy draws on the impact of the changing seasonal light in this Northern country, that is something everyone feels profoundly. The moods of each season can be contradicted, and can lead from one to another with hope and yearning.

Here is an excerpt from ‘Bluett’s blue hours’ Book II of the Copenhagen Quartet:

‘Tightening the fur collar around his throat, he steps up onto the embankment, tries to stamp warmth back into his soles, crosses to the Front Page Café, nearly empty at this hour. L’heure bleu comes charitably early at this parallel in winter. Eyeglasses steaming and nose running in the sudden heat, he strips off his coat and scarf and gloves and Kangol, mops nose and lenses with a clean white handkerchief, and proceeds to the bar.’

The moon on the lakes

The moon was full and underlating last night in Copenhagen, a fitting tribute to Chinese moon festival.  Peering through a thin layer of clouds, above sparingly lit buildings, I watched its changing face. 

Chinese moon festival cakes: commonly filled with sweet beans, salted egg and nuts.

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The lakes (Sankt Jorgens So, Peblinge So, and Sortdams So) provided the perfect viewing spot. This famous Copenhagen landmark, that spans the border between inner city Copenhagen and the suburbs beyond (Vesterbro, Nørrebro, Østerbr0), is host to joggers, dog walkers and late night strollers.

After the rain, puddles accumalate and are hard to avoid. As are acorns that cover the path and roll under your feet precariously.

It certainly one of my favorite places in Copenhagen because of the quiet expanse, and space, combined with inner city bussle. If you want a sense of this, a fellow blogger Flemming takes wonderful panoramas here.

Bubble

There is something about seeing Copenhagen through a bubble. A recent exhibition at Kongens Nytorv (in central Copenhagen) shown in the picture below has got me seeing things. My view of cobbled streets and cyclists is hazy and distorted.

I often wonder if being a foreigner outside your country of origin puts you inside a bubble. Inside the sphere there is a parallel life, sometimes exciting, rewarding, sometimes demoralising…. You are forever trapped with the knowledge that someone thinks you don’t belong. Does the bubble ever pop and allow you to disperse?

The Cat Empire

In November The Cat Empire plays at Vega in Copenhagen. They are an Australian band of huge energy, optimism, a fusion of jazz, ska, funk, rock and heavy Latin influences. (Good company on a recent road trip I took last summer in New Zealand). Their music is full of moral and political messages, a rejection of materialism, war and intolerance and an enthusiastic embrace of cultural diversity and a simple, carefree life. Thank goodness they chose the darkest month of the year in Denmark to come and cheer us up! They have recently achieved fame outside Australia, including a debut on network television, on the David Letterman show.

Below is ‘sly’, and something more wistful, ‘no longer there’ (I must be getting softer with the accumulating years). Also check out myspace, especially since the sound recordings seem to better there.

Copenhagen International Film Festival

Here comes the Copenhagen International Film Festival.

In the next few weeks, Copenhagen’s numerous independant cinemas will be buzzing with activity and the serious film goers clutching their programs.

This year highlights a number of German, French, Spanish films, and pays tributes to old masters. Although the best ones usually make it back to general distribution, this is your only chance to see these movies in English subtitles. This is perhaps a crucial issue when your Danish reading skills are a lacking in speed and fluency.

Moreover, making it to just a few of these screenings requires considerable premeditation and planning, as more than often they are sold out. So you might need to pop out at lunch time and buy your tickets in advance!

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Danish apples

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Where I work in Copenhagen, Danish apples have been the talk of the week. And as the nights turn chilly, we conquer up images of hot apple pie, (ideally accompanied by warm flowing custard), a hearty affair to bring comfort to our weary bones. They are unequivocally the sign of Autumn and of the shades of darkness to come.

On a brighter note (and to avoid being too presumptuous), our university canteen demonstrated its support for local produce by selling various self-plucked varieties. To my surprise and delight; apples and pears fresh from the gardens of Vedbæk, north of Copenhagen, or Funen, an Island to the west of Copenhagen. I’m told that there is more to be found down at the harbor at Nyhavn, where the boats sail over from the Island of Fanø, South of Copenhagen.

Look for the Danish varieties ‘Discovery’, ‘Guldborg’, and ‘Clara Friis’ – in store now.

Grape genome

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A group of French scientist revealed last week that they had sequenced the grape genome. A Pinot Noir to be more precise.

The Full analysis  of the more than 30,000 genes contained within the sequence, have revealed many that are responsible for flavour (tannins and terpenes) and could be useful for altering the taste, aroma of wine and increasing the resitance of grape vines to disease.

There lots of interest for the plant scientist here, but what about for the rest of you? Is there fear, distrust and scorn about the revolution of this age-old tradition? 

Wine is well on the way to being a ‘functional food’ that is designed and engineered to meet your requirements. So you better think about flavours you want on your palette now.