Jul. 15, 2002

Things I Learned in Denmark

by Kathryn Kysar

MONDAY, 15 JULY 2002
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Poem: "Things I Learned in Denmark," by Kathryn Kysar from Dark Lake (Loonfeather Press).

Things I Learned in Denmark

         Don't put 20 krona coins in public phones:
         they don't make change.

When eating eel,
place the bones
around the edge of the plate
in a circle, then make a cross
to save yourself from a sailor's death.

         Don't put stamps on postcards.

When opening a bottle-capped cola,
gently rotate the bottle
as you pry the lid off.

         Meat and potatoes sustain the soul.

I do need a walk daily.
I don't need coffee before bed.

         Children in all countries like bears and farts.

It's good to dance with students
to old Beatles tunes while drinking beer.

         Sailors wear yellow rubber raincoats;
         little girls wear red.

Bring wine to everyone's house for dinner.

         Do point to your hometown on the map.

Take naps whenever possible.

         Expect rain.

Today is Saint Swithin's Day. "Saint Swithin's day, if thou dost rain, for forty days it will remain. Saint Swithin's day, if thou be fair, for forty days 'twill rain no more." Swithin is now the patron saint of rain - both for and against it.

It's the birthday of journalist, television broadcaster, and writer Arianna Huffington, born in Athens, Greece (1950). While attending England's Cambridge University, she became only the third woman to preside over the Cambridge Union, the school's famous debating society. In 1980 she moved to America, where she met and eventually married Michael Huffington, a Texas multi-millionaire. She continued to write, but also supported her husband's political career. In 1992, he was elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives. After only eight months in Congress, he ran for Senator against incumbent Dianne Feinstein, and spent twenty-eight million dollars on his losing campaign. Although Michael Huffington disappeared from public view, his wife went on to become a popular conservative columnist and talk-show personality. In 1995, she published Greetings from the Lincoln Bedroom, a satirical novel about President Bill Clinton and his administration. Over the years, however, she has become less and less conservative, no longer believing that government has no place in fixing social ills. She said, "One of the definite changes in my thinking was born of the hard reality I confronted when I discovered how much easier it was raising money for the opera and fashionable museums than for at-risk children. So I came to recognize that the task of overcoming poverty will not be achieved without the raw power of government appropriations." Her latest book was How to Overthrow the Government (2000).

It's the birthday of writer Iris Murdoch, born in Dublin, Ireland (1919), who wrote twenty-six novels over forty years, all of them written out in longhand, twice, and then handed them over to her publisher in plastic bags. She was a perfectionist who never let editors change her text. Her first novel, Under the Net, was published in 1954. She went on to publish many more novels, including A Severed Head (1961), The Black Prince (1973), The Sea, The Sea (Booker Prize winner, 1978), and The Message to the Planet (1989). Iris Murdoch, who said: "We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality."

It's the birthday of painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, born in Leiden, Netherlands (1606). Most of his early works are small, precise studies of Biblical and historical subjects. In 1632, he moved to Amsterdam and began to paint portraits of wealthy middle-class patrons. He became wealthy himself, and purchased a large, heavily-mortgaged house. During his lifetime he created more than six hundred paintings, three hundred etchings, and fourteen hundred drawings. He painted portraits, landscapes, nudes, and scenes of everyday life that gave later generations a vivid portrait of contemporary Amsterdam life. Rembrandt's most famous painting, The Night Watch, was painted in 1642. It was said that the people in the painting paid to be included, and that the people shown in the foreground contributed more than those in the back.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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