Sunday, October 17, 2010

Copenhagen part 4: bikes revisited

Today about flow and control.

There's something intensely satisfying about using the bike to get around. While biker weblogs in Copenhagen worry that Danish children don't learn to play with and enjoy bicycles, I am rediscovering the sense of freedom I used to feel as a teen-ager, the agency and control the bicycle gave me.

My first bike was stolen though, and it was years until I had another bicycle of my own: at high-school I bought a Raleigh racing bike that gave me a sense of flying, as I zoomed past the cars stuck on the road into Ålesund every morning in the seventies. I used that bike for years, and I also used it to ride almost to the railway station. Now, that may not sound like such an achievement, but where I grew up that was a 2-300 kilometer ride, included crossing at least one mountain, and at the time also came with bonus sleet, the terror of brakes failing in a frozen, wet downhill trek with a heavily loaded bike, and nowhere to sleep over when I reached my destination.

Imagine my delight today, when I rode down to the railway station, zooming through the sunny, quiet Copenhagen Sunday streets, to buy tickets for the IR 11.0 conference.

Now, a regular morning or afternoon in rush traffic, biking isn't all that easy. I am learning the trick to it, and the number of rude comments yelled at me are slowly growing less, but I still have to focus. Even experienced Danes have to focus, as proven by the encounters I witness: bikers almost getting into fights as they ride side by side, disagreeing about some move that happened behind me before the two (normally male) push past me in angry competition - just to have to stand still and ignore each other at the next red light. And sometimes my biking colleagues come into the office, all shook up, talking about how they were hit - several times - by other cyclists, in the 20 minute ride through morning traffic.

Copenhagen bikers come fast and ride with intent. But on a sunny Sunday, the air crisp and clear and the sun low, throwing the glare off the water into my eyes, biking in Copenhagen is just the right balance between challenge and mastery. I own the streets. I make clever rounds in order to get at the place I want to go in the best manner, and I smile secretly at other bikers as we move smoothly from being on a vehicle to being pedestrians. We have all the options, and then some. And so I make an extra loop around the block, to come from just the right angle into the back yard, and I roll into place with a wide grin plastered all over my face. The act of biking is putting me in a flow state of mind, where I could go on and on, exploring Copenhagen just because I can.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Copenhagen part 3: Advertising

I have watched way too much TV the last few days. The literal pain in my neck has done anything else absolutely unbearable. This means I have found myself mindlessly watching more than a few ads.

Before I left Norway, my husband noted that the trend was towards stupid men. Here, the trend is towards unreasonable, idiotic, furiously raging women. There's particularly this one television channel that annoys me at the moment, YouSee. What happens is: He, friendly, relaxed and reasonable, comes into the room, and she goes into attack mode immediately. She tells him her favourite sex in the city episode is on, and no way is she missing that rerun just so he can watch the match he has been waiting for all year. He just smiles, nods and grabs his computer. She keeps yelling, angry and obviously after a fight, but he just smiles and agrees and goes into the next room, turning on the computer. Of course, he has broadband from YouSee, and so he can get to watch all the matches he wants, without having to fight with her over it.

There are more of these, such as an ad for beer, where the women go crazy over a lovely walk-in closet in the new home of the hostess, pointing out details such as shoe-racks and large mirrors. This is all done in slightly hysterical, whiny squeals of delight. Then we hear a deep, full roar of happiness, and we see where the men have ended up in their tour of the house. They have found the important closet: the walk-in cooler for beer, where they express their delight in a manly manner, the anti-thesis to the materialistic exstacy of the squealing women.

And another: he has installed video on demand, so when she shows up with large bags full of delicacies, ready to settle down for a romantic night with dinner, a movie and some nice wine, he hasn't rented the movie he should. Instead he keeps telling her "video on demand", while she goes crazy and yells at him and walks out without him getting more than a constant repetition of those words in. He shrugs, and settles to watch the movie. Now, I am not sure who is more stupid here, he COULD have said: I have the movie, darling, I just have to put in the right codes on the TV, and we'll have a lovely evening. Instead he stands there repeating three words which obviously means nothing to her. But that's because he's so clever and "in" on what goes on, and she's a technological moron.

Somehow, I don't feel like buying YouSee, beer, or video on demand after watching those ads. I just watch the Danish Radio Culture channel (DR-K) instead. They have some extremely interesting programs on art, and artist portraits. And, most important, no ads.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Computer games in the libraries

A very short, but very nice, press release, notifies the public that the Norwegian government suggests in the budget for 2011 to put aside 2 million Norwegian krone to buy games for libraries. "Innkjøpsordningen" is the system that secures a certain number of copies sold to public libraries of all books published from certain publishers (I don't know if self-published books count.) This will now be increased with a sum earmarked for games.

Two million krone isn't that much, but there aren't that many Norwegian language games out there. However, the most interesting part of the release was this:

Dataspill har blitt et sentralt kulturuttrykk og er en viktig del av særlig barn og unges kultur- og mediehverdag. Markedet domineres i dag av utenlandske spill. Det er derfor behov for å sikre barn og unge tilgang til alternative produksjoner med norsk språk og innhold.

Quick and dirty translation: "Computer games have become a central cultural expression and an important part particularly of the culture- and media everyday life of children and young people. The market is currently dominated by foreign games. There's a need to secure access to alternative productions with Norwegian language and content."

After years of repeating this almost every time I get asked why I think games are important and deserving of research and attention, it feels very good to see it in a public press release, as the reason for such a very sensible proposal.

And thanks to Pål, who knew I'd be very happy to see that press release!