Friday, October 31, 2008

The All-time Top 25 Countdown: Number 19

(for the previous entries on the list, see my old blog on motime,

We've only just begun-The Carpenters, 1970

If you are told to think of something repulsive, what mental image makes its terrifying appearance? A maggot? A man’s hairy bottom? A potato-sized pimple that changes colours every five seconds? The combined audiovisual impact of the singer Anastacia making you want to poke out your eyes and amputate your ears? While there is common agreement that these things are indeed vile, their obscenity pales in comparison with the latest universal object of disgust: The bank manager. The financial wizards who stole our savings. The kind of monsters that would never sell their grandmother: No, they would lend her out at an extortionate interest rate to make even more money on her and use her mohair beret to blow their cocaine-stuffed noses.

However, it is easy to forget that however much these degenerate monsters have tried to make our world inhabitable, they once created 3 minutes of exquisite, undiluted beauty. A person who can listen through The Carpenters' 'We've only just begun' without feeling almost intimated by its beauty, is a person whose sense of aesthetics has more than a little in common with that of a dung beetle.

Karen and Richard in the White House on behalf on the carpenters' trade union to conduct the difficult but ultimately successful annual wage negotiations.

What am I driving at? This divine song, dear Reader, started out as a commercial jingle for Crocker National Bank in California, before it was discovered by Richard Carpenter, who, together with his sister Karen, rendered it timeless. While the Carpenters certainly deserve the major part of the credit, this record would never have seen the light of day had it not been for the bank management’s degenerate desire for profit. Thus, our most evil instincts can inadvertently produce something beautiful.

What moral lessons can we draw from this? Are we suppose to consider financial asset managers human beings now? Like invite them to our birthday parties and let them marry our daughters and stuff? Of course not, they are wicked beasts capable of acts of such depravity that an award-winning serial rapist would recoil in horror. But something which is subjectively evil can sometimes produce an objective good. After all, without greed there would be no Capitalism, and without Capitalism we would still be living in stinking plague-infested mud huts together with our pigs and hens and half-dead grandparents and would have to get up at 4 in the morning to help the family cow get rid of its constipation. So while the financial sector (which by the way is not the entire economy, as some commentators seem to think) certainly needs to draw a lesson from the latest events, society should not try to abolish greed, which after all has given us both prosperity and the otherworldly beauty of ‘We’ve only just begun’.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Norwegian ‘hyttetur’ Russian-style

A couple of months ago, Times London could report that Russian oligarchs are upsetting the real estate market on the French Riviera, by insisting on paying millions of Euros more for a house than the seller asks for, and arranging parties where they amuse themselves by throwing 500 euro notes up in the air while the staff wait patiently around to sweep the ashes. One mysterious unknown Russian beat all records by paying 500 mill Euro for one single property.

Those merry days seem so far away now, as the stock markets nosedive like a mole who mistook a Swiss cheese for a parachute and the financial institutions collapse like drunken cows on ice skates. Will the joyful Russians prevail through the crisis? And maybe even more importantly, will they continue to observe the grand tradition of reckless overspending? Will they continue to liven up French coastal life with their Euro-fuelled antics? Or will they be forced to depart with their spirit of mind-defying happy-go-lucky wastefulness in favour of a dull measly approach to money that bears more resemblance to Uncle Scrooge?

Only time will tell. However, what can we do to pay honour to the name of these fun loving oligarchs? I am directing myself primarily to the Norwegian readership , or anyone familiar with the Norwegian concept of ‘hyttetur’, ie ‘trip to the cabin’. (Of course, this phenomenon is by no means exclusive to Norwegians, but I think it is a more central part of Norwegian culture than for most nations.) Can a tradition created by Russians on the French Riviera be transplanted to Norwegian soil? More precisely, can we, packing our rucksack and sleeping bag to take our annual autumn trip to the family cabin, let ourselves be imbued with the cheerful spirit displayed by our Eastern cousins on the Mediterranean coast? What follows are a few practical suggestions on how to turn this autumn’s ‘hyttetur’ into a celebration of wealth worthy any Russian oil magnate.

Now that winter is approaching, the damp basement of your cabin is likely to be visited by mice escaping the cold. You employ a Bengal race cat to exterminate the annoying rodents. If the cat is not up to the job (a quite likely scenario since race cats are the feline equivalent of the nobility in the Feudal era, whose daily work consisted mainly of choosing which whig to put on), you leave a solid piece of Bjørsholm moose cheese, at $500 per 450g, in the mousetrap, which the little fourlegged cheese connosieurs surely will find it impossible to resist.

It is October and the season for moose hunting. You order a heat seeking missile from the States to take down the moose. If the stubborn beast refuses to die, you finish it off by strangling it with a Gucci tie .

Should the ‘King of the forest’ still show signs of resistance, you drag it by its horns to your $1 billion jungle reality park, where you have imported rain forest vegetation, snakes, monkeys and various endangered species to create an authentic jungle in the middle of the Norwegian forest. The Norwegian moose has never been exposed to a jungle climate and will struggle to stay alive for more than a couple of days. When it’s finally drawn its last breath, you dismantle the entire jungle park, because your wife claims it blocks the passage to the 'utedo' (a kind of shack used as a toilet).

The king of the forest - the laughing stock of the jungle

Although the high season for collecting blueberries might be over, you and your family don your rubber boots and go to the forest, equipped with 4 Louis Vuitton bags to gather blueberries in. It is advised that you stick some holes in the bags, this will help keeping the blueberries fresh.

Finally, Friday night arises and it’s time for you and your wife’s weekly sex sessions. Your youngest kid is a nuisance and starts to weep loudly just as you have placed yourself on top of her (i e your wife). At that point you charter a special luxury plane and have the 3 tenors (Pavarotti and the 2 other ones) flown in to sing lullabies for the little troublemaker, leaving your wife and yourself alone to ‘roll in the hay’ for 3 minutes until you have your orgasm and fall asleep immediately.

It’s the end of October, in other words, you can expect the first signs of snow. As the head of the family, you are the one responsible for snow removal, so that the family Lada doesn’t get stuck. What better tool to use for shovelling snow than the British artist Damien Hirst’s stainless steel construction Lullaby spring , which was sold for 14,2 million Euros at an auction in London last year.

No cabin trip is complete without a visit from your half-blind uncle Kåre. His favourite pastime is playing dart, so you place your Mona_Lisa original on the wall to use it as a dartboard. Due to his handicap, Kåre is not a skillful dartplayer. He gets himself drunk on homebrew and pukes all over the ‘utedo’. Alcohol is known to be a disinfectant, so you give your wife 5 bottles of 1990 Roederer Louis Cristal Champagne to clean the utedo with. Just make sure that the incorrigible Uncle Kåre does not drink it all before your wife has finished cleaning.

And with that CDHN wishes its cherished readers a nice cabin trip this autumn!