Read my new article in The Huffington Post on How One Small Community Balances Two Conflicting Worlds. An excerpt: “The Amish are the rage among America’s reality TV viewers… Commentators are speculating over the public’s obsession with Hollywood’s arguably dubious and prejudicial storylines…But after living on an Amish dairy farm for a year, I agree with those who argue that the reality programs reflect a lack of knowledge of the plain folk. In contrast, the Amish community I associated with had an intimate and sensible relationship to the mainstream world. The beauty is how they managed it.”
Category Archives: Culture
A Good Amish Link
Want to learn more about the Amish? Follow this link!
Twitter Is More Than A Couch Sport @CaliforniaRobin
A dilemma for viewers in Denmark waiting for daredevil Felix Baumgartner to break the sound barrier was whether to switch to the international TV hit, The Killing (Forbrydelsen). Ten minutes before the show, sportscaster Ulla Essendrop voiced Denmark’s frustration by tweeting: “JUUUUUUUUUUUUMP.”
Two days later, Washington Post journalist Erza Klein tweeted “My sources say Obama will enter tonight’s town hall by space jumping from approximately 130,000 feet…” The President’s successful comeback that evening was dissected by 7.2 million tweets.
Of course, many still view Twitter as a fleeting pastime. But there are 140 million active users monthly and the company is valued at billions of dollars. To prove once again that tweeting is more than an official couch sport, here are four reasons why Twitter is important.
First, it provides up-to-the-second snapshots of events. Live blogging can only stream information through one channel. But with Twitter, users can tap into endless channels for instant fact checking, expert commentary and belly-aching humor. The result is a deeper, more sophisticated understanding.
This is illustrated by the Twitter reaction during the second presidential face-off. One debate question concerned the doubling of gas prices since Obama took office. Resembling two fighting bighorn sheep, the candidates clashed horns repeatedly, but generally avoided answering the question. The confusion was settled when experts tweeted that prices plummeted because of the global financial crisis and that gas prices are largely controlled internationally, with little help from the President.
Second, while breaking news used to be captured through photos or quotes, now it is tweeted. Similar to interpreting intelligence data, the trick is to find the gem. Last summer, many were convinced that America’s near-universal health care program, ObamaCare, was stillborn. This was because it was assumed that the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority would overturn it. But according to legal journalist Jeffrey Toobin, conservative Chief Justice Roberts’ switch to save the program was leaked via Twitter two months before the Court upheld it.
Third, Twitter further breaks down the barriers between average Janes and the famous. Michael Moore, the director of the film Bowling for Columbine, dedicated his day to getting Americans to vote on November 6. He provided his cell phone number, tweeting: “If u know someone who isn’t going to vote but might if I called or texted them, text me their cell # …” Five hours later, he tweeted his 1.2 million followers, “Thx for sending numbers of your loved ones who weren’t gonna vote. Have been on the phone or texting with scads of them for the past 4 hrs!”
Moore’s example provides direct evidence of a final advantage: Twitter’s potential to spur democratic participation. Admittedly, it can be difficult to measure just how effective Twitter is. But Lady Gaga tweeted and retweeted her 31 million followers 13 times on Election Day. One tweet read, “If you’re old enough to vote for the first time, exercise your right today! It matters & can change the world.” If anyone could convince a young American to vote, it is she.
Football and Danish National Pride: A Convert’s Perspective
Painting the flag on the faces of football fans on the way to the game against Portugal made me nervous. Was I getting the proportions right? After all, I am American. Luckily, I was sitting on a train with over 400 Danes covered in a celebration of red and white, including flags. By the end of the tour in Lviv, Ukraine, I could draw this cherished symbol and had become a convert of Danish national pride.
Call it arrogance, but Americans are used to relaxing and waiting for success. Of course this perception is unrealistic. The U.S. never made it past stage two of the 2010 World Cup, losing 1-2 to Ghana. Still, the feeling of being unbeatable persists because we say that football doesn’t really count.
In contrast, I found cheering for Denmark stressful, yet rewarding. The train nearly danced on the rails on the way to the Fan Zone and the game against Portugal. Having already won the Netherlands 1-0, we were euphorically jumping up and down, continuing at the stadium: “Dem som ikke hopper, de elsker Portugal,” (Those who aren’t jumping, they love Portugal).
Our high spirits burst like a punctured balloon when the Portuguese scored in the 24th and 36th minutes. We were flying again before the first half ended, when Michael Krohn-Dehli headed the ball in for a goal. “Ole, vi er Danskerne, vi er Danskerne!” (Ole’, we are the Danes, we are the Danes!). Hope peaked to new levels when Nicklas Bendtner headed the ball in to make it 2-2. With only 10 minutes left of the game, we waited out the tense atmosphere, but were again disappointed when the Portuguese scored with 3 minutes to go.
There was no party that night. Yet hope sprung eternal because Denmark won the European Championships in 1992. Marching into the Fan Zone before the game against Germany, there was a feeling that it could happen again. “Deutschland, Deutschland alles ist vorbei!” (It’s all over Germany!).
When our red and white force of over 400 was met by Ukrainians smiling from the sidewalks and waving from the balconies, I was surprised to find that I felt like crying. Although we lost the game to Germany 1-2, I had become a convert to Danish national pride. Here success doesn’t come by default and we run into walls most of the time. Instead, success requires an unwavering collective belief and a stubborn tenacity to hold on for the ride. Because we know, one day, it will be like 1992 again.
Artists’ Corner: Sound Out Jazz Saxophonist Francesco Bigoni
Called “one of the best saxophone players of the latest generation,” by the Italian press, jazz saxophonist Francesco Bigoni could have been stymied by moving to Copenhagen three years ago. But such a personable and creative advant garde musician could only move one way: forward.
A largely self-taught improvisationist and composer, Francesco recently completed a 2-year advanced diploma in music performance at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory. He also fused two bands to form an Italian/Danish quintet, temporarily called Hopscotch Meets Crisco 3. And he released an album with the new trio Hopscotch on ILK records. This is the twenty-fifth album Francesco has played in, including The Cosmic Band’s Coming Tomorrow – Part One, which resulted in a vote of “band of the year” by the Italian critic’s poll.
Francesco’s life in Denmark started after a holiday road trip with some friends to west Jutland and Copenhagen in August 2008. He met his future wife at a bar in Frederiksberg. “It was a fortuitous and romantic meeting in a pub, nothing to do with music,” muses Francesco. Less than a year later, he had moved permanently to Denmark.
There are many things that captivate his imagination here: taking small trips outside of Copenhagen, the unwritten law of understatement and the bicycle culture. “After growing up in the Italian car culture, I am still amazed by being able to bike to rehearsal spaces,” the Ferrara native says.
Too busy traveling and playing music, he skipped the free Danish lessons offered by the government and taught himself. He spoke to his wife, watched TV, read children’s books and did crossword puzzles. “The hardest part about learning Danish is getting the sound of it, which is crucial since Danish is pretty much sound-based,” states Francesco.
Yet sometimes, Copenhagen feels too sleepy. “From my perspective, the city gets incredibly lively twice a year, during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival in the summer, and to a lesser extent, in the winter.” On the other hand, the quietness is a major benefit to Francesco’s new, more structured lifestyle: “After three years I’m married, I’ve completed a degree at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory and am writing a lot of music for my own trio and quintet.”
As to whether living in Copenhagen has influenced Francesco’s music, you have to judge for yourself. Just hear him play at this month’s jazz festival or sound out his website.
Fodbold og dansk, national stolthed: fra en konvertits synspunkt
Det gjorde mig nervøs at male flag i ansigtet på fodboldfans på vej til kampen mod Portugal. Var proportionerne rigtige? Jeg er trods alt amerikaner. Heldigvis sad jeg i et tog med over 400 danskere, der var dækket af de rød-hvide farver, deriblandt flag. Imod slutningen af turen til Lviv, Ukraine kunne jeg male det elskede symbol og var konverteret til dansk, national stolthed. Continue reading
Read This: European Football Championships 2012
The British magazine, FourFourTwo, provides the best coverage of the European Championships I’ve seen. Several issues highlight the teams, their prospects, individual players and referees. When the championships end this Sunday, they will no doubt provide a complete analysis. Unfortunately, like most sports news, one has to pay – one pound for the three championship issues.
Danish Football Fans
Over 400 hundred Danish football fans, known as Roligans, stayed at Camp Denmark to cheer the national team. Roligan, comes from the Danish word “rolig” which means calm and hence the opposite of holigans.