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All it takes to become a Copenhagener is time
-The Copenhagen Museum
The longest conversation I had with a real ‘Copenhagener’ was with a young man named Mehdi. He worked at a cafe owned by his aunt who, like his parents, emigrated from Morocco years ago. For about an hour he leaned over my table, marking spots on my map, indicating where I should and should not go while in town. He had loads to share about the history of each attraction, from the original city walls to Christiana, to the cemetery in which Kierkegaard is buried.
I thought of Mehdi the next day while visiting the Copenhagen Museum (which, as you might guess, is a museum dedicated to the history of the city); the opening gallery is devoted entirely to the immigrants of Copenhagen, then and now: every day Muslims, Romanians during the 20th century, and Germans from the 16th and 17th centuries. One line read, “All it takes to become a Copenhagener is time”.
But that’s not how a lot of Europeans see it. From Germans resenting their large Turkish population to the Swiss and Italians fearing the influx of refugees from North Africa, many Europeans are terrified of and hostile toward (isn’t it usually the case that one follows the other?) “non-European” immigrants. I can’t prove this statistically; it’s simply a conversation I had again and again during my three week stay in Europe.
For all the ways Europe excels the US (and there are many, from universal healthcare to labor laws to respect for the environment) they seem to be, on this particular issue, as far back as Arizona, which in recent years has legalized racial profiling.
Similarly, Denmark has passed “tough” immigration policy in the last decade- and has since come under heat. This is why, I believe, the museum has decided to consciously voice the acceptance of people like Mehdi, to counteract the knee-jerk, xenophobic reaction against immigrants found throughout the rest of Europe.
Personally, I believe it requires no backbone to blame the poorest, most marginalized section of the population for your economic woes. Europe (and America) were OK colonizing countries like Morocco, but now can’t (under)stand the chickens coming home to roost.
Today’s audio piece is an amalgam of sound collected in Copenhagen: two street performers (one accordionist, one magician), Danish television, and the voices of Arab-Copenhageners protesting at a rally against the Israel occupation of Gaza. This I have never seen in the States (thanks PATRIOT Act). The only down side, from my perspective, is that the string of protestors had two halves: men in front, women and children in back… this is too complicated for a single blog post… I’m open to feedback via comments or e-mail.
[For Quality Purposes, please refrain from using a cellphone to listen to the songs in this piece]
The Danube River, or Donau, as it’s called auf deutsch, is an ancient and mighty river that begins in the Black Forest in Germany and empties into the Black Sea, connecting such cities as Passau, Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade. It also flows 15km south of Putzleinsdorf, my ancestral homeland in Upper Austria.
Last month I was there for a family reunion, reconnecting with family from both sides of the Atlantic. One of the planned events was a boat-trip along the Donau. Pretty typical, many oohs-and-ahhs at the glorious green hills rising above the river. Then a few of my relatives, Tomasso Huber and his partner Clarigna Kueng, began to yodel. Singing credits also to the bubbly Lisi Past.
Below: The best thing I brought home from Europe
Below: Two songs, one song harmonic, the other mournful
Above: a yodel about the Danube, the river we were actually floating on (meta)
Below: a contrast in style- Swiss yodeling
Above: two duets
Below: “kennst du?”
And lastly, above and below: “Putzleinsdorf” with lyrics by Johannes Huber
Thanks to everyone who made this boat ride nothing short of a spiritual experience. And thanks to all of my Austrian cousins for making me feel at home.
One more for kicks:
Photos by Peter Taschler
I lap up the last drops of existence
and wipe my mouth of essence
Since childhood I
Nauseous in the clothing department
Now I’m in a big city
and everyone is walking by overflowing
with their present selves
The saber-toothed tiger
as a species
its teeth were sharpest
just before going extinct
I think it sad how
the simple senses
of sound and light
smell and taste
go passing by unappreciated
The most useless phenomena are the most significant
to the dying man and his seconds of pleasure.
(what would Walt Whitman do?)
What makes Live Lit so intriguing from a performer’s standpoint is that- because it’s a young art-form- there aren’t any rules yet.
Be funny. Be sad. Be serious. Be thoughtful. Be absurd… the list goes on and on. Unlike a comedian you don’t have to make people laugh. Unlike a story-teller, you don’t have to tell a story.
Live Lit also avails a wide birth to be either conversational or highly literary. Different shows have different expectations. Guts & Glory, arguably Chicago’s best Live Lit show, has performers read directly off the script. Other shows allow you to speak off the top of your head/directly from the heart.
Each method has its own (dis)advantages. On the one hand, having things scripted leads to a more concise, non-bullshit performance. On the other hand, not having everything written down allows more room for inspiration and the ability to feed off the audience. Most of us land somewhere in-between, depending.
Here’s my crack at the conversational variety at a small show hosted by Metropolis Coffee known as ‘Live Lunar Lit’. OK I host the damn thing too. Everyone’s welcome, every full moon.
Nearly every day of the year you can walk down State St. in the loop and find tourists, shoppers, corporate employees on their smoke break, and a “preacher” who shouts non-stop into his microphone about how we’re all going to hell unless we give up “fornication, weed-smoking, homosexuality and accept Jesus Christ”. Jesus.
Many stop, amazed. Others stop and shout back, challenging his message, but it never seems to work. I took out my recorder and held it up to his amplifier thinking maybe he’d get self-conscious and stop. Nope. But one of the challengers did come up to me and share his opinion.
Also on State St. is a drummer, a street performer. Mixing it all together to make this week’s sound collage.
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Thank you to the young devotees of Krishna for allowing me to record their chant. Cheers to all the lost souls disappointed by the spiritual menu of the West.
why are we alive?
you’re what happens when two substances collide
and by all accounts you really should’ve died
The Dao is plainly spoken;
it’s so ordinary, people
don’t even hear it.
This spring I took a class on Live Lit at the Story Studio. The Story Studio is a place where writers can go to take classes and workshops, or just hang out and write.
The concept of the class was writing for the page versus writing for the stage. What you’re reading right now is the page. You can start reading and stop, go back and read something or skip ahead. Reading on stage isn’t like that. Time is an arrow and it moves in one direction. Clicking above brings you to the stage.
It’s a different kind of attention.
Our first assignment was to write something one minute long, then two, etc., working our way up to five. The biggest lesson was that an audience never actively wants to see you fail but actually hates seeing you fail because they’re (usually) empathetic and it makes them feel uncomfortable to see you bomb. Their empathy and attention, however, are finite resources. So use your time wisely, and don’t abuse the fact that you have their attention.
I try not to. Here’s me performing my final piece. I went long. Sorry.
Is it female?
Or is it male?
The questions themselves are false.
German scientists have recently proved plants actually have orgasms. The result?
These plants were photographed at Longwood Gardens, the premier botanical garden of the continent of North America.
Photos by J. Napolitano