Thursday, January 15, 2009

500th post - an interview of me by tangobaby

that 499 was staring me in the face in my blogger dashboard this morning. i knew this would be my 500th post and i had nothing but a really weird dream that i had last night (strangely not in a mall) which although i took a page and a half of notes when i woke up from it, wouldn't have much sense to all of, i was very fortunate that the lovely and talented tangobaby was staying up late during her staycation and just sent her 5 interview questions for me. we can all breathe a sigh of relief about that one! especially me, because i didn't want to waste my 500th post on drivel. so, here goes...

tangobaby:  I see now in your profile that you're currently working as a bee charmer. Since previously you were in the shipping industry, can you please elaborate on the change of career and tell us how you do charm bees. Is charming a bee easier than charming a sailor?

me:  back in '97 when i was on my fulbright in macedonia (at the point where i was just hanging out because the subject of my research turned out not to exist), a couple of NGO/peace corps types who i had met in the ex-pat community in skopje were going to travel to russia during the summer. they had been to the russian embassy to acquire their visas and had faced a lot of bureaucratic red tape and had come away discouraged. one of the women, bless her heart, was a prematurely grey 40-year-old with one of those eyes that looked off the other direction during the conversation and the other was a frumpy, slightly lumpy, no makeup, very granola-type. they were very nice, don't get me wrong, but they just weren't getting anywhere on the visa front. they knew i spoke russian (and had a few very short skirts and some nice new high-heeled sandals), so they asked me to help them out.

it just so happened that i needed a russian visa myself as i was headed on my friend gabi's honeymoon. so, i took my paperwork and theirs, put on my short orange dress and walked over to the russian embassy, which was about two blocks from my apartment. the dress is here on another occasion (when i was too afraid of heights to stand all the way up on a column at a ruin in central macedonia):

in those days (and maybe still today), you needed an invitation to get a visa to russia. my friends had a formal invitation from the place they were going to stay--very official-looking. i had an invitation from some friends. now there were some issues with my invitation. for one, it only had my first and middle names on it, not my last name. oh, and although the passport number was correct, it said i had a german passport. so, when i fronted up with a last name and a US passport, i expected i'd have some explaining to do.

it was a bright sunny day in early june. very summery and i was in a buoyant mood (it was probably the dress). i was let into the courtyard to the consular window by the guards. you actually stood outside and there was a picnic table there where you could wait. i went up to the window and explained in my rusty russian about the three visas and avoided mentioning the problematic bits with my invitation, hoping they might not notice.  then, i sat down at the picnic table to wait.

before long, the visa officer, a stocky, 50-ish russian gentleman, came out to the picnic table. he asked if i'd like a coffee and i said, yes and he asked someone to bring us coffee. then, he asked me about my invitation. he pointed out that my last name was missing and that it stated that i had a german passport. i was, of course, aware of these facts. but he was quite nice about it, laughing a bit and not at all intimidating. i explained that i was going together with german friends and they had arranged for our invitation and the russian friends must have not realized i wasn't german too. and then he laughed and said he'd issue the visa and that i should have a nice trip. and that i was welcome to come back anytime for coffee. then he went in and issued all 3 visas while i waited (which was quite unheard of, people normally waited at least a week).

when i went back to my friends to give them their visas, ellen pronounced me a bee charmer, so that's the long version of where that came from. actually, i think it's a line from the lovely 1991 movie fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe.  that same summer, i had several other bee charming experiences, which i'll save for another day, so it was somehow the place i was in and the aura i was giving off.

i decided that i wanted 2009 to be such a bee charming year--to call some of that positive energy back into my life, so that's why i recently changed my blogger profile. and sailors are just as subject to bee charming as anyone else (if the queen bee can swear), so i expect to keep right on charming them as well.

tangobaby: You're remarkably candid about your feelings on your blog, especially in the area of the media and politics. If you could distill the greatest differences between the media and politics in Denmark and the US, what would they be. If you could infuse part of Denmark into the US, what change would be most beneficial? (Feel free to expound voluminously.)

me:  first, i guess i'm remarkably candid about my politics and opinions in general pretty much all the time, so it's natural for me to be so here on my blog as well. my blog is an extension of me, so to speak, so i behave here like i do in "real" life. and i guess i'm honest to a fault. husband has said that he understands the phrase "brutally honest" now that he knows me. this has been both good and bad for me, but is so closely tied to my identity and how i want to live my a very real, raw, true manner, that i can't imagine being otherwise. i have tried to learn to temper it a bit when necessary, but i don't always succeed.

now back to media & politics...the largest difference surely comes from the fact that running denmark, with a population of 5 million, is like running a moderately-sized US city. of course, cities don't have embassies or a navy, so that's a bit of an over-simplification, but, it's still a scale. it's a bit easier to put a national health care system in place for 5 million people than for 300 million, just as one example.

there are a lot more parties in danish politics than in the US and people are starting new parties all the time. and because denmark is so egalitarian, it's really quite difficult (for me at least) to see any real difference between parties. the social democrats, the radicals and the socialists are the opposition to the coalition government that's in power at the moment, which consists of the left (venstre) party (which confusingly, is actually right), the conservatives and, as a "supporting partner," the danish people's party (dansk folkeparti). dansk folkeparti is the most colorful party, with a very colorful leader named pia. she's a real piece of work with her madonna-esque gap between her front teeth (the comparison most decidedly stops there) and speaks for the lower classes (whatever they may be in denmark, since everyone is SOOooo middle class)--those people who want to keep denmark for the danes, who are afraid of any foreigners and who go on charter holidays to mallorca, where they take their rye bread and liver pate along from home and stay in a hotel full of other danes. i'm sure that the woman who ran into the disabled guy in the wheelchair the other day was a member of dansk folkeparti's core audience.

as far as media, there is DR--danish radio, which would, in being publicly funded, be something akin to PBS in the US. however, it's a major media force in denmark--with two t.v. channels, 4 radio channels and lots of local radio. they do a limited amount of own production quality t.v. dramas and then crap like a danish version of x-factor (5 million people is not a large enough pool to draw talent from, let me tell you), which appeals to the masses.

i learned just the other night that if a t.v. station broadcasts from denmark, they cannot have commercials during their programming, only between the programs. a friend of ours works for a commercial station that broadcasts from the UK to get around this. weird how these things work.

as for other media...we have disney (the hannah montana channel, as nearly as i can tell), which strangely has ads only for their own programming, discovery, BBC world, CNN, BBC entertainment, 3-4 swedish channels, a couple of german ones, one swiss, a couple of french. but the main thing i watch is british detective shows and comedies. nothing is dubbed in danish (except children's programs and hannah montana for the morning broadcast), the market is too small, but it's good for people's english.

the DR popular radio station, P3, is great. they are some of the funniest DJs i've ever heard on radio (and i  lived in the southern california, chicago and phoenix radio markets) and they do a lot of really edgy stuff. the DR satire department is not at all afraid of lampooning any aspect of danish society and current events. nor do they have issues swearing on air. much freer in that sense than US media and not so restricted by political correctness.  i think it's this that i would infuse into US politics/media. a figure like jon stewart is doing so in the US, but he's on comedy central and that's not exactly wide distribution/mainstream media.  here, the daily show is broadcast on CNN and DR2, which says something interesting.

another interesting aspect of denmark that i'd like to inject into the US is a bit hard to describe. one of our best friends is black--her danish mother was studying in london and met a nice nigerian boy and produced our friend. she grew up in denmark, as danish as can be, but her skin is really black. and i always joke (even to her), that she doesn't know she's black. not in the way that people who are black in the US know they are black. she's completely complex-free and that's so refreshing. the US could use more of that and perhaps it will come for the generation growing up today now that obama is our coming president. i would wish that for the US.

tangobaby: You're a girl of many blogs. What does your hubby think of all of us in Bloglandia? (I ask this because my Boy is still befuddled about it all.) Does he encourage and/or enjoy your pursuits, or does he try to unplug your computer and hide it?

let me explain all those blogs, because they're for different purposes and not all active.
  • moments of perfect clarity - this is the main blog. this is the one i write on (nearly) every day and where it all happens. this is my REAL blog.
  • balderdash - this blog seemed to be needed as a place to put the funny made-up definitions i was coming up with for the WV words. and making a new blog afforded me the opportunity to invite a others to contribute. i've found that i really need to be inspired to write them and so my entries there are more sporadic than i would like them to be. i faithfully write down the words tho', they're scribbled on surfaces all over the house.
  • just know where you are - this is the blog my sister and i put up about a year ago, when she was getting ready to go home to the US after being here for five months. we thought we'd continue our conversation there. that hasn't really happened (mostly because i think she lost the link and doesn't remember it exists). it has ended up being a place where i post pictures and small vignettes of what's been happening on our side of the atlantic. i do this because i have set it to send an email to our parents when there's a posting there and it's a good way to keep them informed when i don't call them often enough. i also post recipes there and i do think my sister goes there to look those up. we named it just know where you are because my sister wanted a GPS last year for christmas and husband's response was to buy her a map and a compass and tell her, "just know where you are," which i thought was pretty clever.
  • too late nathan - my cousin does a family newsletter twice a year. i put up this blog as a supplement to be a place where we could share a few more pictures and where my cousins would tell their stories. they haven't really done so. i think my family is actually rather luddite, if i'm honest. and it disappoints me a bit, because i have 29 cousins and i know that some of them must have something witty and/or humorous to say.
  • getting it outta my system - only has 3 posts in it, but i write there when i want to vent about something that no one else should read, but which i need to get out of my system to move on. it's completely private and no one can go there but me. :-)
  • sea skill - this is an invite-only blog where i put my work-related writing over the past year. i was having a writer's block in october and thought it might help cure it, since i seemed to have no trouble writing within this little blogger compose space during that time. it did help. it was also a way to solve the problem of my working on a mac in a PC environment and the issues i had with working on three different computers and never having the file i needed on the computer i needed it on at the moment i needed it.  basically, it's a sharepoint.
and as for husband's opinion...he thinks it's madness. i'm occasionally petulant to him about him not reading my blog, but he says, "i get to have the conversation with YOU, in person, i don't need to read it." and he's really right. many of the things i write about are the result of conversations i've had with him over a cup of tea in the evening or breakfast on a sunday morning.

tangobaby: As a former almost beauty queen from SD, what in your childhood prepared you for your life abroad and your years of travel? 

me:  i didn't have a passport or travel outside the US (except to canada and mexico, which didn't count since all you needed was a blockbuster card) 'til i was 26 if you can believe it. but, despite growing up in a very small town (1334 people), i learned to be outward looking from my mother, who hauled us in a 7-state area showing horses every summer. she drove us miles and miles and i learned from that to be fearless and that you didn't have to sit around waiting for a man to do stuff for you, since dad stayed home and golfed and no doubt enjoyed the peace and quiet.  and i've written before about how the made-for-t.v. movie the day after with jason robards and a deep and abiding loathing for ronald reagan (which i must have learned from my dad) made me want to study russian and visit russia.

i don't think i ever imagined that i'd live outside the US, especially not in denmark, which wasn't even on my list of places to visit--kind of in the same way that north dakota wasn't really on my list either--it just seemed boring. it just goes to show that you have to be open to what life throws at you and just go with it. and that, i learned growing up.

as for the beauty queen thing, i don't think that had anything to do with it, that was about revenge on a boyfriend who dumped me.

tangobaby:  To me, your photography is very graphic, vibrant and playful. Does your vision of the world inspire this aspect of your photography? What do you wish to learn most through your photographic exploits, what lessons are you looking for?

me:  this is an excellent question, mostly because it's provoking me to think about something that i never really thought about before.  i think that i'm very attracted to strong colors (which may contribute to my winter depression in this dark, grey danish landscape) and find myself taking pictures of things with strong colors. i only just started to play with the black & white presets in lightroom, to try to force myself off the direct positive and to expand my horizons (hence the new avatar pic).

as for the lessons i'd like to learn through my photography...i'm not sure i have consciously had any. but, i've been positively surprised on numerous occasions to notice some detail in a photo that i didn't realize was there when i was taking it...a shadow, a detail, some depth. i enjoy noticing those things. and i would say that noticing my surroundings has been one side-effect of photography. i think in photographs now in a way that i didn't used to. i tend to have a camera on me all the time, tho' i discovered the battery was dead on the pink sony when i was in ikea the other day and had to use my iPhone, which takes crap pictures, but i NEEDED a picture of this lamp to show to husband:

i'd like to learn a lot more about my camera. i have a nikon D60 DSLR and i've invested in some great lenses--an 18-200mm zoom lens and a macro, plus a fun lensbaby. i'm using the manual setting and choosing my own ISO more and more often, but still use it on auto settings most of the time. so from a learning standpoint, i'd like to work more on manual. my rolleicord TLR and other analog cameras help me on that front as well. i guess developing a photographic eye involves new, fresh ways of looking at the world. i look at things more closely than i used to, noticing chipping paint and details that i wouldn't once have noticed. photography grounds me and places me more firmly in the world, here and now. and although i hadn't articulated it until you asked me, that's what i want from it.

* * *

well, that's it, that's my 500th post and my interview with the fabulous and wonderful tangobaby. thank you, dahling, for asking me these great questions! and now i've got to go pick my sister at the airport, which means my postings for the next ten days may be sporadic at best. but i'm sure i'll find time to share some pictures!


Sebrina Wilson said...

Congratulations on 500 posts!!!! This was so interesting to read!

smithkaichjones said...

I am sitting here waiting for my pizza to be done - breakfast of champions! - and thoroughly enjoying the newfound luxury of catching up on blogs at home, instead of at work. 500 posts! Congratulations, you bee charmer you! Loved this interview, and really liked that Tango asked about your photos - they have always struck me as quite playful & not-serious, and on my more introspective days, always made me smile & then wonder why my photos were so different. The mere fact tht you have a pink Sony tells me all I need to know! LOL!

Again, congrats!
:) Debi

tangobaby said...

Wow, dahling (to steal from the best and brightest). Wow.

Not only am I pleased as punch to be the impetus for your 500th post (wow), I'm trying to think of what kind of recognition I can give you for this incredible interview since you already got the Fulbright.

You, my dear, rock. Seriously.

Now go have tons of fun with your sister! xoxo!

will said...

I enjoyed your thoughtful answers, nicely done. Weather wise, seems the Dakotas would be good prep for Denmark.

There was a great woodworker and teacher who much influenced US woodworker, his name, Tage Frid. I once attended one of his seminars, the topic was "Finishes", you know, varnishes, lacquers, etc. Anyway, Tage began his lecture by reaching under the table and lifting a product container and setting it on the table.

He then said, "My lecture is going to be very short, this Watco's Danish Oil. I'm a Dane, what else would I be using?"

Nothing complex about that .. tho the audience was hoping he would say more... and he did.

Char said...

great interview - very interesting and insightful answers.

Tess Kincaid said...

Excellent interview!

WT doesn't read my blog either, unless I force him. ;^)

paris parfait said...

Fascinating stuff! Congrats on your 500th post! Here's to the next 500 (imagine champagne glasses clinking in Paris). :)

Dutchbaby said...

Loved the bee-charming story.

Great questions - Great answers! Well done, Ladies!

Just Jules said...

Wow! I am glad I came back to this tonight when my brain could focus and my eyes stopped skipping words. Very well written. Great answers for great questions.

heidikins said...

Reading this gives me hope on my Travel the World dream, (hello, age 25 and no passport, yet.)

Great interview, love it!


Magpie said...

That was fascinating. Thanks!

Laura Doyle said...

I supremely enjoyed your interview and I ALWAYS find it interesting to read of life in other parts of the world. I am truly curious though, on how one comes to speak russian.

Michelle said...

Well done short orange dress girl! I can well imagine the "bee-charmer" incident! I'm so pleased that you have shared your MK memories...

Unknown said...

You are so open about who you are and what you are doing. I like reading about your adventures.