Monday, August 29, 2016

Mission Statement

From a Guardian article about six scientists who have just completed a year-long simulation of a Mars mission:
They managed limited resources while conducting research and working to avoid personal conflicts.
This strikes me as a worthy goal for humanity in general.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Third Sex

Sign at an upmarket store in Copenhagen:

men, women, furs next door

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Little Mermaid

One of my happiest memories of my time in Copenhagen is of going to see the mermaid at dawn.

The first time I saw her was on a sunny afternoon. The waterfront was teeming with tourists, some of whom were clambering up to pose and take selfies with the statue. I kept my distance and resolved to come back at a quieter time.

Towards the end of my stay, I woke up one morning at 4 am. Unable to go back to sleep and having nothing better to do, I cycled across the city to the waterfront. On the way, I stopped on Dronning Louise's Bro (which some Copenhageners call hipsterbroen or 'the hipster bridge') to watch the dawn breaking over Sortedam Lake.

Some tourists were passing by. 'It looks like my asshole!' one of them shouted at me, for no apparent reason. 'Yours is redder,' I shouted back, and his friends went 'Ooooo.' I'm usually not good at spur-of-the-moment comebacks, so I was pleased with myself.

I reached the statue just before sunrise. There were only two other people there, and they – like me – quietly sat on a bench overlooking the statue and the sea.


Many visitors find the Little Mermaid underwhelming or kitschy, but I've grown quite fond of the statue (in any case, I have a soft spot for disappointing monuments). Even with crowds of tourists swarming around her, she seems dignified and aloof, her gazed fixed on some distant point on the shore; of course in the original fairy-tale, unlike in the Disney movie, the Little Mermaid suffers unbearable torments but does not get her man.

The two other people on the scene were 18-year-old guys from Belgium, returning home after a walking holiday in Sweden. Their ferry arrived the night before and their train was in the morning, so they spent the night on the beach. At one point, they said, it got really cold.

It struck me – not as a cause for regret, just as a fact – that this is the kind of thing I once used to do, but these days I'd be more likely to book a cheap hotel (except perhaps in the company of Bunty, with whom all bets are off).

I turned 30 last year, and it feels like a more significant threshold than turning 18. Lather was 30 years old when they took away all of his toys; his mother sent newspaper clippings to him about his old friends who'd stopped being boys. And the poet Brian Howard said, 'Anybody over the age of 30 seen in a bus has been a failure in life.' I cheerfully take buses and, like Lather, draw pictures of mountains that look like bumps, but I may be less likely to sleep under the stars in northern latitudes.