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)

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Spiritual Perspective On The Russia-Ukraine Crisis And The Ego's Need To Feel Superior

Some months ago, a Ukrainian reader wrote me a fan mail about my novel, The Tsar's Dwarf that was translated into his language in 2017. Naturally, I loved the feedback and after a few mails back and forth, the Ukrainian told me that I wouldn't hear from him for a while because he had just joined the air force to fight the Russians.

I remember thinking, is that war from 2014 still on? And yes, unfortunately it is. Over 10,000 have died in Eastern Ukraine. The Western media just "forgot" about it until a few days ago when Russia attacked and seized three Ukrainian ships off the coast of Crimea - the Ukrainian peninsula Russia annexed four years ago. The conflict could turn into a full-scale war that might affect us all.

So right now my thoughts and prayers go to my Ukrainian publisher-friends at Fabulabook in Kharkov which is close to the war zone in Eastern Ukraine - and to the many awesome readers and writers I met during my two memorable trips to Lviv.

But my thoughts also go to the millions of Russians who want peace with their neighbors. The extreme nationalism we see everywhere in the world is dangerous whether it's by the Black Sea, in small-town America or in Brasilia.

Extreme nationalism is always the work of the human ego and will only cause strife because  politicians love to exploit the ego's need to feel superior to its neighbors! So if we don't understand why there are so many wars, we should just look at the place in ourselves where our Inner Bully wants to control others. All of us need to raise our consciousness to create a better world. Ranting at warmongers, manipulative politicians, and the press is a good way to let off steam but won't do the job. We need to see ourselves as co-creators on this planet instead of powerless zombies in a random and cruel universe.

Non-violent resistance, the arts, and international connections with people who broaden our horizons can help with that. So can small "insignificant" gestures like being nicer to everybody we meet, whether it's online or offline. A better world starts wherever we are right now, not tomorrow, and definitely not when our favorite party wins the election. The true revolution can only come from within. Revolutions aren't decided in voting booths or by wearing red baseball caps. Sure, our leaders are important but not half as important as we think, so perhaps they don't deserve as much love or scorn as we shower them with?

But for now let's pray that the Ukraine-Russia conflict doesn't become a new bloody chapter in the dysfunctional history of humankind. It might sound like a spiritual cliché, but if we don't see everybody as our sisters and brothers, this planet doesn't stand a chance. However, I do think that the collective nationalism will be gasping for air soon because globalization and major changes for the better are coming and we can't stop the spiritual awakening around us, even if we tried.

Unless, of course, there is somebody out there with a lock to the Internet and the human soul, which thank God there isn't.

(Photo: Peter from Denmark, Natasha from Ukraine, and Tatiana from Russia at the International Book Forum in Lviv, September 2017)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Denmark for Dummies 2019 - A Superficial Guide to the Greatest Nation on Earth (Except for Bhutan, Perhaps)

You're smart.

You're planning to visit the greatest of the Scandinavian countries.

Yes, admit it, you've always wanted to go to Denmark much more than Sweden because the Danes invented the atomic bomb and hygge. You tell yourself, "Why would I want to go to the French Alps when I can go rock climbing on Falster? I'm trendy, I want to ride my bike with the xenophobic Danes because they're the happiest people in the world." 

Actually, that's not true any more. Finland and Norway beat us this year, but unlike them the Danes always make the news for positive reasons, like killing healthy giraffes in Zoos, or harassing refugees at the border or locking them up on small islands so they get so desperate they flee to Sweden.

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

                    GUIDE TO DENMARK
                                    A superficial introduction to our Scandinavian Paradise. 

Name in Danish: Danmark

Inhabitants: 5.7 million

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

Capital: Copenhagen, Copenaghen, Kopenhagen, Copenhague, København (1.5 million)

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

Other Top Rankings That We Take Pride In:
a) Most Trusting People.
b) Average Consumption of Beer (Fourth highest in the world.)
c) Crime per Capita: Fourth lowest in the world.
d) Best Government in the World (2014)
e) Second Best Country for Women (beating Saudi Arabia)
f) Second Best Country for Singles Traveling Alone.
g) Lonely Planet's Top Destination in 2019, Copenhagen.
h) Least Corrupt Country in the World (We bribed us to that)

Language: Guttural.

Government: Constitutional monarchy.

Currency: Kroner. (6.50 DKK to a US dollar, 0.04 to the Angolan Kwanza)

Religion: No, thank you.

Name of Queen: Margrethe II.

Name of Prime Minister: Mette Frederiksen.

Famous Living Danes: Caroline Wozniacki (tennis player), Lukas Graham (singer), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Mads Mikkelsen, Lars Mikkelsen, (actors), Kevin Magnussen (race car driver), Lars von Trier (enfant terrible), Lars Ulrich (founder of Metallica), Helena Christensen (model), Jussi Adler-Olsen (the Danish Stieg Larsson, just alive), Christian Eriksen, Kasper Schmeichel, Michael Laudrup (soccer players), René Redzepi, Claus Meyer (chefs), Bjarke Ingels (architect), Mary (Crown Princess of Tasmania), Brigitte Nielsen (tall tabloid fodder who just gave birth to her grand child at 54).  

Famous Half Danes: Viggo Mortensen, Scarlett Johansson, Tordenskjold.

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

Danish Anti Heroes: Struensee and Nikolai Jørgensen.

Biggest Selling Pop Song of All Time:  7 Years by Lukas Graham (Grammy nominated for Record and Song of the Year in 2017 but beaten by an unknown singer from Tottenham named Adele)

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

Best Danish Word We Like to Shove Down Your Throat: Hygge. (Hygge almost always involves good food, akvavit, and lighting candles, even though nobody has died. Please don't embarrass yourself by trying to pronounce the word. We don't want to laugh at you)

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

Most Important Phrase: Tak for sidst.

Worst Sin You Can Commit in Denmark:  Not saying tak for sidst.

What Does 'Tak for Sidst' Mean? You wouldn't understand, anyway.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in Spain, Greece and 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 bikes.

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

Second Most Important Invention of All Time:  Lego

Third Most Important Invention That Actually Wasn't Invented In Denmark But We Take Credit For It Anyway: Danish pastry (Thanks, Austria)

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Into Knights in Shining Armor: Frederiksborg castle (Hillerød) 

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eight Years Old: Legoland.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eighty Years Old: Tivoli.

Most Overrated Tourist Attraction: The Little Mermaid.

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 beating the Germans 2-0 in the final, and the whole country behaved like a frat party.

Most Awesome Cities in Denmark Apart From Copenhagen: Helsingør (Elsinore), Ærøskøbing, Faaborg, Ebeltoft, Ribe, Silkeborg, Skagen, Svaneke, Aarhus (European Capital of Culture, 2017), and Christiania (if you still think that Che Guevara and bean bag chairs are cool)

Best Time to Visit the Land of the Danes: From late May to early September.

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

Most Patriotic Sacrifice for the Motherland to Make Sure Our Superior Gene Pool Survives:  Do It For Denmark


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

Worst Danish Traits: Intolerance, sarcasm, xenophobia.

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 Norwegian: Norway

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 is my favorite Scandinavian country.

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

Winner of's International Contest, 2009. Slightly updated January 2019.
Copyright, Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017

Most pictures are mine except the beautiful photo of the bikes in Copenhagen which I borrowed from VisitDenmark, and perhaps one or two more, so please forgive me, I mean well.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Travel Advice for Tourists: If You Don't Do This in Venice, You Need to Have Your IQ Tested

This is what you should do when you visit Venice, or I’m going to get so mad at you it’s not even funny!

First, you should go to Piazza San Marco like everybody else because it’s the most beautiful square in the world with the restored freschi on Basilica San Marco and the majestic Doge Palace facing the lagoon, but you WILL go way before 9 AM or after 8 PM unless you’re suicidal or want to bond with 25 Chinese tour groups, two thousand cruise passengers, and 333 pimpled teenagers from Belgium.

Also, you will NOT - I repeat NOT buy a selfie stick for 3 Euros because then you can be sure I'll unfriend you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or worse, I'll send you signed copies of my third novel that nobody liked except my mother, and she's dead.

However, on your second day, you WILL get up at 5.05 AM, throw away your cell phone and the wrinkled map you got for free at your overpriced hotel that's either close to the station or Piazza San Marco, which are the WORST places to get a hotel, but you're forgiven because you probably didn't know better - and now you WILL get lost in the REAL Venezia, enjoying the narrow canals, the red bras flapping in the breeze, the seagulls attacking the garbage bags outside the medieval palazzi, and tears will stream down your face because you didn't know how gorgeous, turquoise, and calm Serenissima was at dawn.

Yes, it's true. You WILL get lost without your GPS.

Your kids WILL scream at you.

Your partner WILL divorce you, but who cares because you've experienced the greatest city on earth before it's destroyed by mass urination, and the rising sea that some day will leave Venice at the bottom of the laguna like a 21st century Atlantis.

 Copyright Peter H. Fogtdal, Danish Accent who has visited Venice about twenty times, and suffers from a serious Venezia-addiction for centuries that can't be cured, thank God!