Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

God, It's So Hard Being Spiritual





So many people laugh at mystics like me, but it's not easy being spiritual. It's probably harder than laying bricks or climbing Matterhorn. It will even affect your wardrobe.

When you're spiritual you have to be mindful, compassionate, clairvoyant, clairaudient, clairsentient, interpret your dreams, interpret other people's dreams, check your Neptune, polish your chakras, and send light to your kidney stones.

You have to talk to guardian angels, ascended masters, descended devas, invoke Osiris, channel Mother Teresa, pray for Donald Trump, read The Power of Now, yell at Caroline Myss, find twin flames on Facebook, and get a Rumi tattoo on your left butt cheek.

Being spiritual also requires a lot of exhaustive traveling. You have to buy fake crystals in Sedona, walk the Camino with Shirley MacLaine, heal past lives in North Korea, drink organic chai in Benares, do Tibetan chants in Dharamsala, be abducted by gigantic space ships, and have tantric sex with Scorpios.

No wonder that a lot of spiritual people give up and become yoga teachers!





Rewritten Facebook post from my private account and from my author page, Peter H. Fogtdal Novels  Please drop by and say hi from me.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Did You Know That Mount Hood in Oregon Is the Only Transgender Volcano in the World?



Mount Hood is our local volcano in Portland, Oregon. It's less than two hours away and when it isn't cloudy or smoggy we can see it from downtown. We just talked recently, Mount Hood and I, and Mount Hood has promised me it won't erupt until May 2108. At that time there will be an iPod museum in Pioneer Square and Arsenal will have won the Premier League.

Mount Hood in Oregon is solid, stoic, and gorgeous. It's the home of bob cats, bears, and hipsters with snowboards. You can swim in great waterholes like Lake Trillium and Lake Timothy, and it's fun to body shame the locals who'd rather die than get a sun tan. We're all very pale here. The tattoos look so much better that way.

And Mount Hood is always watching you in Oregon, always! If you don't recycle your banana peels, Mount Hood knows. When you steal medical marijuana from senior citizens on NW 23, Mount Hood calls the cops. You may fool Mount Everest, Matterhorn, and the Andes, but you don't fool Mount Hood.

By the way, you may not know this, but Mount Hood is also the only transgender volcano in the world, so if that bothers you, you should visit South Carolina instead!

Here are some pretty pictures from my adopted home. You're welcome.

Lake Trillium and Mount Hood. A small, gorgeous lake an hour and 15 minutes from Portland. 

Lake Timothy is a gorgeous place except for Saturdays and Sundays during summer where you have two thousand campers shouting at their toddlers.

The annual meet-up for Basset hounds in Cannon Beach, Oregon?  I fell in love with all six of them, that's for sure.

The Oregon Coast may be the most beautiful coastline in the US. If you're from California or Washington you may disagree but that's only because you don't know any better.


Typical sign in SE Portland, but before you laugh that evil Starbucks laughter of yours, just know that we value life in Oregon. Even rattlesnakes and Republicans are welcome.


The biggest public library in Portland. It gets crowded on Fridays.


Portland is the biggest cycling city in America. To the left you see one of our daily commuters. She may look a little skinny but that's what happens to you when you don't wear a helmet.



Breitenbush Hot Springs about ten miles from small Detroit and two hours from Portland. This is Oregon's finest hippie retreat, perfect for inner reflection and organic tofu. Welcome back to 1972, folks. You may walk naked around in the forest and scare the squirrels, or you can meditate on your nipples in one of the meditations yurts.
PS. You're not allowed into Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat unless you bring your Tarot cards or can prove that you have at least three planets in your twelfth house.

Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent.


*****

Thursday, August 4, 2016

In an Ancient Forest in Oregon (Where Nirvana Is Just a Short Cut Away)



I love the silence that falls from trees. I'm not sure I can live without this majestic void where everything is possible, where the sound of the world is crucified and everything dissolves, reincarnates, breathes.

Suddenly you hear the sound of wings, a symphony of ants marching through the grass; a squirrel staring at you through the leaves followed by stillness. It's two seconds of Paradise you want to hold on to, so you can forget your mind monsters - doctor appointments, the vapid insults from September, 2002, those mails you shouldn't have written yesterday. Now an inner voice cuts through the white noise, descending from angels and devas, or perhaps it's just another podcast trapped in your subconscious.

Then silence again, this eternal stillness where nothing and everything matter. You can hear your heart beat through your T-shirt - and the world's heart, too, as if you and everything were part of it, and you are, we all are.

You slowly close your eyes and the world disappears. Your breath goes deeper into your lungs, chest, and stomach, into the ocean that's the ancient you. You're with the gods now, Nirvana is just a short cut away, Enlightenment appears as a gentle breeze that's about to engulf you; then a sudden longing for gelato and blow jobs, and you want them now, they can't wait ... but those longings disappear as well in the sagebrush, the wild bleeding hearts, and into the secret forest you thought belonged to fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

Dusk breaks through the maple trees. Every branch becomes golden, as if it's lit up from within. Goosebumps travel up your legs because everything is so holy and sacred that you want to cry - the light blue sky, the joy that rises out of bird song, the cravings that spice up your life. On your way out of the forest, you run into a family with a pitbull that smiles at you. You're alive.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How One Memorable Line in Dennis Potter's 'The Singing Detective' Stayed With Me for Thirty Years



Almost thirty years ago, I saw a brilliant British TV mini-series and musical by Dennis Potter called The Singing Detective that is considered a classic today. Michael Gambon played a bitter and darkly funny mystery writer hospitalized with a severe form of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. His name was Philip E. Marlow (!) and he often fell into fantasies about being a suave detective, but when he was awake in his hospital bed, he made life miserable for everybody around him.

At one point, one of the doctors had the guts to ask Marlow why he was so angry. What did he want from life when he was a younger man? For the first time Michael Gambon's character softened up and whispered, "I would have liked to have used my pen to praise the loving God and all His creations ... I would have liked to have seen hosts of translucent angels climbing on spinning shafts of golden light deeper and deeper into the blue caverns of Heaven."

I remember how those lines hit me in my thirty year old gut, even more than the dark humor, the melancholy, and the hilarious fantasies. It was surprising because I was pretty much an atheist back then - but ten years later I understood why. Even though I've never been bitter and hospitalized (at least not hospitalized), I was an extremely frustrated writer in my early thirties. I wrote humorous TV-plays and sketches for national Danish TV and radio and didn't like it, even though I thought I should. I sensed there was more to life and me than satire and one liners, but I couldn't find out what. It was only when I became a novelist and gave my books a spiritual angle, I felt proud of my own work.




So why do pieces of dialogue stay with us for decades?  Do I want to praise God and all His creations in my work?  Do I see hosts of translucent angels climbing on spinning shafts every time I reach for my notebook (or brush my teeth)?  

I wish, but today I am a mystic who wholeheartedly believes in the good in the universe. I want my novels to be uplifting and quirky without being sappy. Like the world, my work is full of drama, conflicts, and sadness, but they always have hope. I refuse to write fiction that is cynical. Even The Tsar's Dwarf that has a darkly funny protagonist leaves the reader with a sense of hope - at least I hope so. The dwarf Sørine has been abused all her life, but she opens up and slowly starts to trust others. That's how real life starts - by trusting other people and by consciously choosing not to become bitter.





The Singing Detective is a very funny masterpiece about self-discovery through imagination, reliving and editing the past, and rising above adversity in unexpected ways. The video above is a scene from the first episode of the mini-series. It's not spiritual in any sense. Actually, at first it's really sad, but if you watch the whole scene you'll be rewarded with one of funniest musical numbers of all time.



PS. The Singing Detective was later turned into a Hollywood movie with Robert Downey Jr. in the lead, but as most people agree, it didn't capture the magic of the original starring Michael Gambon.

 *****


Monday, July 11, 2016

I'm Cleaning House (Be Here Now)


I'm cleaning house.
Yesterday I threw out cardigans,
sun bleached T-shirts
and death threats from my dermatologist.
I even found a moldy cupcake
and some frozen love songs
in a corner of my fridge.
It was rewarding and fulfilling,
this purging of clouds,
memories, 
and recycled brain cells.  


I'm cleaning house.
Yesterday I forgave myself
for my countless imperfections.
I exorcised demons from the 12th century
and owned up to to the punch lines
that are tattooed on my biceps.
What a joy to let go of traumas,
unwanted DNA,
and anxious cobwebs.
Those museums have to close.
So arrivederci, farvel, fuck off.


I'm cleaning house.
Yesterday I stopped blaming others
for the echo chamber in my chest.
The past only exists in obituaries,
history books and arthritic elbows.
Remember, life is so beautiful,sacred, and nutritious.
So from now on
I'll reincarnate into my goosebumps  
and the gorgeous lover in my bed.
From now on 
I'll listen to the wind in the birch trees
that whispers, be here now.




*******
Copyright Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sixty Years Old (Worn Out Sandals for Sale or I Still Jog Through Cemeteries in Light Blue Trainers)



teeth fall into the grass

wrinkles take off

living a hard life

in soft spoken mirrors



counting:

lost an eardrum in december

caught up with my liver

thanksgiving



for charity: 

bald spots

abused eyeballs

take away armpits

cheap



nothing is left

but me



it’s really like this:

reality = nosebleed


or:

worn out sandals for sale



trust me: i’m no one’s hunk of a man

just soy breath

and a yearning for tape decks



so thank you migraine

root canal

love handle



goodbye cleavage

bee gees

midnight margaritas





i'm gone






Yet

I still

see the beauty in zebras

crossing my pathway



I still

laugh at Tikka Masala

under my eyelids



I still

jog through cemeteries

in light blue trainers



I still

admire the unseen world

between my kneecaps



It’s really like this

Reality = Goosebumps



or

the unraveling of sore thumbs



So thank you gelato

viagra breath

rising keyboards



goodbye monster mind

pimple mirror

punch drunk navels



I'm here







****

Friday, June 17, 2016

San Marino - Long Live All the Tiny Countries in the World, Microstate Kitch and All



San Marino is a country that makes Denmark look like a continent.

This miniature state is only the size of a toenail, surrounded by Italian foothills, a speck of dandruff in the short hairs of Dante and Berlusconi, cute as a button, graced as it is by a medieval fortress, Borgo Maggiore that you don't see better in Transylvania or Disneyland.
 
Tourist shops galore are scattered in the cobble stoned streets. Some of them even sell the kind of assault weapons that would make your Republican congressman drool, but you're better off buying an ashtray in San Marino's pale blue colors - a memory of the sore hamstrings you got climbing the streets in this memorable and adorable kitsch museum. Yes, Americans, in San Marino you have to walk. No wonder so few of you have been here! The air condition doesn't work that well, either. The locals, all 32,000 of them, prefer the fresh mountain air, primitive as they are.

And hey, let's not forget San Marino's football team that's ranked 179th in the world. They've only beaten Liechtenstein which happened April 28, 2004, a national holiday now, or at least it should be. I do hope San Marinos make it to the Euro or the World Cup some day. If Iceland can, everything is possible!
 
 
 

Yes, it's hard being small, a Dane should know that better than most, but San Marino has survived for centuries. It may be the oldest republic in the world, smiling wistfully at the tourists coming up in buses from skanky Rimini. Tanned Austrians roam the streets in search of decent wiener-schnitzel; drunk Estonians drink everything they can get their Baltic hands on. Even the Brits with their delicate lobster skin look for the meaning of life while admiring the gorgeous views from the restaurants that are glued to the mountain side and could fall off if an earthquake hits the area. 
 
But don't worry about that, people. God and Saint Marinus have protected the microstate for centuries. God has kept San Marino out of the European Union and saved its trigger happy citizens from the all-American massacre that would destroy tourism. I mean, La Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino has outlived all other Renaissance city-states on the Italian peninsula. When global warming has melted the last gelato, San Marino and the cockroaches will still be here.

So please visit the picturesque Republic of Legoland, friends. I seriously camp-loved it and would recommend it the same way I recommend Solvang, the Danish hamlet surrounded by airhead Californians, or Monaco, the tax free Botox haven of Southern France where you can whitewash your money while you get shitfaced on kir.

Long live tiny countries. The world needs us more than you think! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Denmark for Dummies 2016 (A Superficial Guide to the Happiest Nation in the Universe. And That Includes Mars, Too)


Winner of www.Denmark.net's International Contest, 2009. Updated May 2016.

All Danes are blond and gorgeous. And every single of us have a cabin with a view of a lake. No wonder the whole world wants to be Danish, but don't get your hopes up. We're very protective of our gene pool.
                                                                   

You're smart.

You're planning to go to Denmark.

You've always wanted to visit our country because you know that it's the most exciting in the world. You tell yourself, "Why would I want to visit Barcelona, Berlin or Nepal when I can go rock climbing on Falster?"

"Yes, I'm trendy. Aarhus is going to be the European Cultural City in 2017, and the Danes are so green with their bikes, cuisine, and wind mills. And they're the happiest people in the world. Denmark always makes the news for positive reasons, like killing healthy giraffes in Zoos, or harassing refugees at the border so they get so desperate they flee to Sweden."

That's right. Four times Denmark was named the happiest nation on earth by the UN World Happiness Report. And I'm living proof of that. Right now this novelist is staring at the sleet, enjoying the 44 degrees of sloppy spring, while sipping his $12 latte.

Come and visit us, will you? And please bring all your credit cards because God knows you're going to need them!


                    GUIDE TO DENMARK
               A superficial introduction to your Southern Scandinavian Paradise. 

Name: Denmark (Danmark)

Inhabitants: 5.6 million

Capital: Copenhagen (1.5 million)

Ranking: Most Livable City in the World (Monocle, British Magazine, 2008, 2013, 2014)

Other Top Rankings That We Take Ridiculous Pride In:
a) Most Trusting People in the World (April 2011)
b) Best Restaurant in the World (Noma, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014)
c) Most Pork Consumption Per Capita (not counting your neighborhood Sheikh)
d) Best Government in the World (2014)
e) Second Best City to Visit in Europe in 2016 According to Lonely Planet: Aarhus
f)  Least Corrupt Country in the World, 2016 (We paid a lot of bribes for that position)

Language: Danish.

Government: Constitutional monarchy.

Currency: Kroner. (6.6 DKK to a US dollar, 0.04 to the Angolan Kwanza)

Religion: No, thank you.


Name of Queen: Margrethe II.

Name of Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, or as the opposition calls him, The Little Swindler.

Size: The 8th biggest country in the world if you count Greenland. (Always count Greenland).

Weather: Not really.




Unemployment Rate: Rising

Hospitality If You're Not White: Falling

Crime per Capita: Fourth lowest in the world.

Average Consumption of Beer per Capita: Fourth highest in the world.

Best Selfie of the Decade: Ex-Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt with her two secret lovers.



Famous Dead Danes: Hans Christian Andersen, Søren Kierkegaard (philosopher), King Canute (conquered England), Tycho Brahe (conquered the universe), Isak Dinesen (conquered Africa), Karen Blixen (conquered Meryl Streep), Vitus Bering (explorer, had a strait named after him), Niels Bohr (physicist), Georg Jensen (design), Carl Nielsen (composer), Carl  Dreyer (film director), Victor Borge (comedian), Bertel Thorvaldsen (sculpturer), Hamlet (Shakespeare's boy toy).

Famous Living Danes: Caroline Wozniacki (tennis player), Lukas Graham (singer), Lars von Trier, Susanne Bier (film directors), Margrethe Vestager (EU Commissioner and Google's worst enemy), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Mads Mikkelsen (actors in Game of Thrones, Hannibal, James Bond), Lars Ulrich (founder of Metallica), Jussi Adler-Olsen (the Danish Stieg Larsson, just alive), Kasper Schmeichel, Michael Laudrup, Lord Bendtner (soccer players),  René Redzepi (chef), Bjarke Ingels (architect), Margrethe II (Queen of Denmark), Mary (Crown Princess of Tasmania)

Famous Half Danes: Viggo Mortensen, Scarlett Johansson, Ludvig Holberg.


Danes Who Ought to Be Dead: Jante.




Danish TV-Series That Have Conquered the World and Perhaps Mars, Too:  The Killing (Forbrydelsen), Borgen, The Protectors (Livvagterne), The Bridge (Broen, co-production with Sweden).

Biggest Danish Single of All Time:  7 Years by Lukas Graham

Most Famous Danish Building: The Opera House in Sydney (Jørn Utzon)

Danish Imperialism: Lego, Maersk, Ecco, Vesta, Bang and Olufsen, Carlsberg, Tuborg, Tiger.

Best Danish Word We Like to Shove Down Your Throat:  Hygge.

Best Danish Word You Shouldn't Teach Your Children:  Listepik

Daily Smokers: 10% of the population. (All of them will be sitting on your lap when you go to an outdoor café)

Obesity Rate: 22% of the population.

Best Danish Food: Moss, lichen, and soil mixed with bone marrow from an animal you wouldn't want to eat. (All from Noma, the world's best restaurant. You can now make reservations for January 2024)




This picture is not from Noma. It actually has a view and you don't have to pay $100 for a glass of water.


Denmark's Claim to Fame in Spain, Greece & Cyprus: Blond girls with herpes.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Far East: Badminton.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Middle East: Cartoons.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the UK: Bacon and Sofie Gråbøl's sweater.



Most Important Danish Invention of All Time: The atomic bomb (Niels Bohr)

Denmark's Biggest Contribution to American Sports: Morten Andersen, the all-time leading scorer in the NFL. (Kicker)

Denmark's Best PR Agent in America: Bernie Sanders




Best Tourist Attraction If You're Into Knights in Shining Armour:  Frederiksborg castle and Kronborg (Hamlet's castle) 

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eight Years Old or Behaving Like It: Legoland.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eighty Years Old or Behaving Like It: Tivoli.

Most Overrated Tourist Attraction By Far: The Little Mermaid.

This is the kind of abuse we Danes have to tolerate every day: Foreigners who fondle our national treasure. Shameless, that's what it is.


Time of Glory I: When the Danish vikings conquered England in the 11th century.

Time Of Glory II: When Denmark won the European Championship in football (soccer) in 1992 and the whole country behaved like a frat party.




Cutest Cities in Denmark: Helsingør (Elsinore), Ærøskøbing, Faaborg, Ebeltoft, Ribe, Skagen, Svaneke, Aarhus, Copenhagen and Christiania (if you still think that Che Guevara and bean bag chairs are cool)

Best Months to Visit the Land of the Danes: From late May to mid-September.

Best Month to Commit Suicide Because It's Dark, Dreary, and Everybody Wish They Were in Thailand: January.

Best Danish Traits: Tolerance, sense of humor, informality.

Worst Danish Traits: Intolerance, pettiness, self-satisfied grumpiness with a hint of racism.




What You'll Miss the Most If You're an American Visiting Denmark: TV anchors with perfect teeth.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Italian: Bread and Berlusconi.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Norwegian: Norway

Most Beautiful Area of Denmark: The Silkeborg lake district in Jutland and the island of Bornholm.




Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Now, which part of Germany are you from again?

Second Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Sweden and Norway are my favorite Scandinavian countries.



Enjoy your stay.  And tourists, please forgive Copenhagen for looking like Pompeii. We're building a Metro that we don't really need.



Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Global Warming (A Plea for Bear Hugs & Mindful Heartbeats)



1.
The sun tan on our shoulders

is like a blanket of freeways

peeling off at the speed of sound.

It’s 96 degrees in the shade,

mercury rising, worlds melting away,

one hibiscus at a time.

Soon bridges will crash under the weight of tow trucks.

Mosquitoes the size of helicopters

will inject poison into the armpits of Olympians.

Planet Earth used to be a holy space for lovers and warriors,

but now we only talk to the help desk at Apple.

Our home is a scorcher where polar bears rent freezers

so they can breathe in the tundra.  

Where else are they going to live

when the only iceberg is in a museum in Brussels?





2,
Soon an orange ghost might move into the White House

and admire himself in his endless mirrors.

He might be lethal but not as lethal as we are

with our selfie sticks and lust for punchlines.

Yes, the boat is leaving the shore,

even though there isn’t much water in the sinkhole.

The last drops have been reserved for small businesses 

while the horizon melts like ice cream

because we mistook it for a bank vault.

Now oak trees look like x-rays

with traffic jams moving through the sun roof of our blindness

Drought has become a way of life.  

What else can you expect  when you dry hump the planet 

and cuddle with credit cards instead of pandas? 

WE ARE SHORT OF LOVE, DAMMIT.  
 
Butt-dialing our mother is not an act of kindness.

Tripping over the homeless can never be a tax shelter

                                                                         so wake up!




3.
From June 1st you have to declare your appendix

when you land in O’Hare.

No wonder we need body bags to get through the airport.

Flying is as dangerous as breathing, only fools recommend it.

You might be strangled by stewardesses with secret burkas,

or forced into a love affair with Prozac.

Fear is a cloud, creeping into lungs and breast pockets,

yanking the soul out of our bodies.

Sexpect angels to  descend with eyes full of mischief.

They'll throw away the key to the Internet

and worlds will disappear like endangered species.

For a week it would be a sad goodbye

to cheerleaders giving head in Volvos.

Centuries of Snapchat, gone.

                     Millions of cat videos, purged.

                               Hedge funds and death certificates, stumped.

No need for passwords the length of novels

or tweets from dyslexic cowards.  

We can just pet neighborhood poodles and live.
                                                                                                                                                                                         




4.
So this is a bear hug from one of the monsters.

There are forces for good everywhere, 

ready to serve us with mindful daggers.

Messengers are working with beings we thought were fiction.

Wake up and the world won't turn into a beehive 

because every heart is connected to the universal chest.

We just have to plow through the insanity 

and the morning dew will be back on the prairie again.




********
Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, slightly revised, August 9, 2016
The iconic photo of the polar bear was manipulated by me. I don't know who took it but thanks.

**********