Archive for August, 2014

København (Copenhagen, a Haven of Sorts)

[This post includes an audio file. If you are a subscriber and receiving this post by e-mail, please click to enter the site. For Quality Purposes, it is advised that you do not listen with a cell phone]

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”.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Moroccan Mint Tea

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.

3julia hell

Water Mother, at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

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.

Børsen, 400 year old stock exchange

Børsen, 400 year old stock exchange

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Donau Yodeling

[For Quality Purposes, please refrain from using a cellphone to listen to the songs in this piece]


Our ride

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.

Above: “Schneit”
Below: The best thing I brought home from Europe

Claringa & Tommaso

Clarigna & Tommaso

Above: joyous
Below: Two songs, one song harmonic, the other mournful

My uncle Rick, asking for another one

My uncle Rick, asking for another one

Above: a yodel about the Danube, the river we were actually floating on (meta)
Below: a contrast in style- Swiss yodeling


The Big Picture

Above: two duets
Below: “kennst du?”

Pan Onboard

Pan Onboard

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



How real you are- contingent


I lap up the last drops of existence
and wipe my mouth of essence

Since childhood I
felt ill-at-ease
Nauseous in the clothing department
at Kohl’s

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.

1 Comment


(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.

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Jesus Christ

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.

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