31 May 2010

True crime

Spotting a stolen bike is so easy that it is an insult how few actually get caught. Or rather how the law against stealing a bike appears to not be enforced at all. Danish TV2 recently made an undercover operation, mounting a gps to a cargo bike. This simple move caught a group of organised thieves on film, documenting every stage up until the resell of the stolen goods, fake papers and all. The gang was handed to the police on a platter, and still they have not been held responsible. The police awaits the bad guys to turn themselves in, and offer an explanation. That has not happened yet.

Before anyone starts telling me that the police have better things to do: last week they dedicated a whole day to stopping and fining bicyclists in violation of the traffic laws. Crossing a red light, riding on the sidewalk and so on. The raid made it to the evening news, and all the focus was on how badly we the bicyclists really needed a good talking to. I will admit that we have the occasional bad seeds, like the hard hat bullies, and they do deserve a slap on the wrist (and a few other places I can think of), but to single them out, all the while letting the bicycle thieves roam free, that is the true crime.

Copenhagen bicyclists on a vintage photo postcard, post stamped August 5 1938. 

Copenhagen: Bicyclists on Osterbrogade

You gotta love ebay!

29 May 2010


The public space is crammed with advertisements. Everybody is making a buck renting out space, and anything goes if the price is met. Most of us have gotten so used to this itch in our eyes that we tune it out. A fact that does not discourage the dinosaurs of advertising, who in return just go bigger and louder. But as not everybody can afford to cover a house with the image of anorexic teens posing in skimpy bikinis, "bike-vertising" is picking up the pace.

The flyers
As most Copenhageners have a bike, it is an easy way to get our attention. Some leave flyers on the rear rack of your bike, the equivalent of the windshield wiper of a car. It is just as annoying, and always winding up on the ground. And leaving stuff in peoples bicycle baskets is just not a good way to start a relationship. But the latest gimmick of attaching the message to your seatpost may just work. Being original still have its advantages.

The seat covers
An increasingly popular little slice of "give and take", tolerated for its usefulness. Advertisements are a pain in the ass, but at least this one keeps it dry.

The advertising bikes
The two most obvious benefits af advertising on a bike is: it gets around, and it has the advantage of free parking. No one is going to charge you for parking a bike even at the priciest spot in Copenhagen. The big brands say it with advertising bikes, placed at strategic and busy spots, like the Heinz bike casually parked next to the hot dog stand at Norreport Station. On the same day I spotted another ad bike in my local Irma, from the makers of Bella Donna cheese, up for grabs in a lottery. A week later the bike was picked up by a happy customer, now advertising Bella Donna all over town. 

The low budget
And then there is the low budget way of getting the message through, and I may prefer this one: a home made sign attached to an old bike. I have seen them selling anything from paint to coffee makers. Like the one below, parked on a busy corner on Osterbro. The message minus the headache. 

A danish website connecting helping hands. Give a hand, get a hand.

Pushing the cappucino maker. Very Osterbro.

27 May 2010

Cry of nature

Today the rumours are spreading like a bad disease from the government that the minister in charge of our environment has forced a plan through that will demolish one of our most beautiful nature reserves, on the coastline of Jutland. In order to fit in a wind farm 3.5 million trees will be chopped down, to fit in the 250 m high ocean (!) wind mills. True to form any experts who are not agreeing with the agenda is ridiculed, or just not invited to the party. And the politicians enlightened enough to oppose this plan was according to the newspapers told to get along or leave the meeting.

It is not that I am against alternative sources of power, I am a big fan of wind energy, but not at any cost. And certainly not at the cost of 3.5 million trees and a rare piece of protected coastline. I think that we have an obligation to preserve whatever green is left in this world. Starting on our own doorstep. 

Old friends.

The dead and the living.

In the late 1990s a sticky fungus on a beetle, also known as the dutch elm disease, took out nearly all the elm trees in Denmark. The only known way to deal with this disease is to cut down the infected trees, and Copenhagen was let bare by the roaming beetles. But by the last lake stands an old couple that grew up together, and never gave up. Even if the old elm has passed on, it still lives on in the arms of its old friend.

26 May 2010

Robin in the Hood

The Armsrock exhibition "Zettelkasten" has hit the streets of Copenhagen. That of course means that no one forked out the asking price of 120.000 danish crowns for the entire show. With the big hype it made in the news here, I am convinced they could have made a nice profit splitting it up and selling it in separate pieces. But rather than sell it to the rich, they preferred giving it to the people. A nice change from the current line in Danish politics, if I may say so...

Cell phone mama, my favourite from the show.

A new one covering an old one.

 Aging with grace.

25 May 2010

Art critic

Dromedary dumping with a review at the lakes: f*ck art.

Reclining Figure (1981) by Søren Georg Jensen 

24 May 2010

Say cheese

It is a national holiday. Again. But because one of the sacred days are placed on a weekend, it is not as long as usual. On the bright side it keeps life in the city. On the not so bright side it makes my new insomniac party animal neighbour throw a 3 day 24 hour party on the other side of the paper thin walls. I feel like I have been beaten with an old couch. No matter how hard I try national holidays never work out for me.

But there was a highlight yesterday when I took a walk on Vesterbro. To get to Westend (a street curiously named in English), you must pass a gate, and on the inside of that there was a street art event in progress. The owners of the building have wisely acknowledged that the walls will be painted no matter what, and have invited the artist collective "Rumkammerat" (space buddy) to curate an ever changing show. The paint is sponsored, and every 3-5 weeks the walls are painted over by a new artist. I was curious if the streets would let the show stand, but it turns out the concept has gained some street credit, and in any case the prospect of the work being frequently painted over keeps most uninvited hands off. The contributions comes from all over the world, but this one is local. It is by the all female "Firmaet" (the firm), and the theme is the firms latest source of inspiration. I will let you guess which...

22 May 2010

Hello Irma

There are quite a few things I want to bring up in here, that all begins with you knowing Irma. My favourite supermarket chain Irma was founded in 1886, but to me it peaked in the 1970s when artists got involved. They decorated the Irma-cans for a period of 21 years (collectibles today, of course), and the plastic bags. The idea of having art on the bags came from the wish that people would love the bags so much that instead of throwing them out, they would reuse them. And it worked. It came to a total of 409 artist plastic bags before someone only recently decided to retire the idea. The bags were so appreciated that I remember them being sold as posters, even when I was a child.

But my absolute favourite feature was the printed fabric sticker heart. It was given to you when paying for your groceries, and every once in a while the words would change. But it would always be about staying positive and smiling: "remember to smile", "smile with your heart" or "smile to the world". It was such an effective way of branding that they did not have to spell out Irma anywhere on the sticker, because everybody knew. Irma carved a place in my heart, and I still get all fuzzy when I see the outline of the cartoon logo, the Irma girl. So it is not that I don't understand it, but I can't help but being impressed when it turns out that my girl is in high demand in... Japan. Apparently tourist busses full of japanese Irma girl lovers frequently pull up to the curb at my favourite supermarket. Forget about Kitty, say hello to Irma:

Remember the heart 

What I would not give for one of these old stickers today. And this girl stuck it to her bike...

The Irma hype (in Danish).

18 May 2010

Macro magic

This location has been a health food spot since the 1970s, when it was named The Sunflower. Today it is called Pure Food, and the owners on an estimate date the flowers back to the early Sunflower era. I am powerless: it is always the details that suck me in. If I was a camera,  I would be stuck on the macro lens. The danger is obviously to miss the bigger picture, and I often wish that I could spot people the same way, but it is not a choice really. That is just the way it is. For me it is a big day when I discover wet, ceramic flowers planted in the pavement. Having never not been me, I have no way of knowing if it is just beautiful in my head, or if it really is utterly fantastic...

17 May 2010

Talking trash

The City of Copenhagen: Paste ups forbidden.

The People of Copenhagen: Enough! Dear City Cleanup Crew, why do you insist that Copenhageners must look at ugly and boring garbage cans and electric cabinets? We are a large group of people in society in favour of legalising the exchange of culture in the city spaces. Stop the witch hunt on posters and culture. Allow paste ups.

16 May 2010

Copenhagen cover up

As you may have noticed on the liberation day post, Copenhageners are not into covering the windows much. It could be that we just want as much of the sparse daylight into our homes as possible. For those who live on the ground floor, it gets a little more complicated. There are a number of solutions in use to protect the privacy, like matted glass or plants, but sometimes it is more like a show, and it can be real hard not to look. In these cases I took the pictures because, well they begged me to, and I gave in because no private parts are on display (if you know what I mean?). Oh, you tell me you would not stop and stare if you encountered a life sized man made of stone, wearing a top hat in a ground floor window?

Beautiful scraping patterns and painting on the inside of glass, yum! 

14 May 2010

The park-mobile

This "car" has been on my hit list for so long that this post should come with a fanfare. It is one of two prototypes for a new cargo bike parking device, that I call the park-mobile. One is located on Vesterbro (pink), and one on Osterbro (green). It is so much bigger than I expected, about the size of a car and a half, and holds up to 4 cargo bikes. From banging on it with my knuckles, I learned that it is made from fiberglass, and much like a crazy Italian sports car the "doors" are vertical opening. The whole thing is just impressive, not to mention the fact that there are parts of Copenhagen where something this inviting can stay pink and unharmed.

As I was taking the pictures, one of the locals stopped by to give his praise. Apparently the parking situation with the bigger bikes is getting out of hand, along with the problem of people using them for toilets (!) and garbage disposals. It is interesting how some people see these big bikes as the enemy, and not the cars, taking up all the space, and bringing the real danger with the heavy hitting metal and toxic exhaust fumes. For every small family that owns a cargo bike, there is a car less on the streets. I say more power to them, we can not get the park-mobiles put into production fast enough.

Made by Goodmorning Technology, on initiative of the City of Copenhagen.

13 May 2010

A for effort

Let me introduce you the the concept of Copenhagen Zombie Crawl. This year marks the third of its kind, and if you are not prepared for the sight, it can be quite the creepy experience to be swarmed by 600 roaming, roaring, bleeding zombies in the street. But creepy as it is, you do get that it is done in a good spirit. And I admire the effort that goes into keeping up appearances. As any woman would tell you, you don't just roll out of bed looking like this: 

(I know: the grain, the shakes... You try and make drunken zombies stand still, it is not easy.)

10 May 2010

You call that spring?

I am cold. There is very little direct sunlight, the temperatures are lingering around 5 degrees, and it is starting to affect me. See, this winter was no big deal to me. I loved the snow and the blue sky and all the changes, no two days looked the same. But living in a chilly grey pulp is not for humans. I dug into my creative archives to fully illustrate how I feel about this weather (it sucks). And on the bright side of that, I am now considering getting into creative photography again. What do you think?

09 May 2010

Organised crime

A while back someone pointed my attention to one of the many inspiring Ted Talks. As the concept dictates, it is a stand and deliver speak (in 18 minutes or less) from brilliant minds in all fields. This is the one of hacker and writer Joshua Klein, on the subject of crows. Stay with me, it gets really good, I promise. Before letting him loose, I will just say he changed the way I perceive obstacles, teaching me to try and make them work to my advantage.

This talk came back to me the other day, as I noticed the truck of my local florist, spray painted in a happy flowery theme. Now, one of the latest playgrounds for Copenhagen taggers and street artists is white trucks and vans. As a car owner you have no choice in the matter and cleaning it up is borderline pointless. If you really want to do something about it, you must catch them in the act. As was the case of my florist: a group of kids had been busy tagging his truck, when he caught them red-handed. But instead of turning them over to the police, and having their parents pay for the cost of restoring his truck, he made them an offer they could not refuse: their punishment was to decorate it properly, and to his satisfaction. I think this would have made the crow speaker proud. And it also makes me think that maybe there is another way to deal with the nuisance than just cleaning it up and labelling it a crime. 

Ullas Blomster / Ullas Flowers

Update: In case you did not read the comments section on this one, here is a cool link.

07 May 2010

Do you speak Swan?

The lakes are bird territory once again, and the small patch of land that briefly had a sofa, is now occupied by one of two swan couples nesting. We sort of take our swans for granted, but in the 1920s the mute swan was becoming extinct. It was around that time they were declared an endangered species, and today we are up and running again. But still, when I see a man straddling a swan in broad daylight I find it hard to mind my own business. One thing about swans: they are loyal. The mate of the grounded swan tried to intervene, and made a big fuss from the waterside. And all the rest of the gang was there to show support. I gathered that the swan handling was friendly, and after about 5 minutes it was released.

It turns out the man was from the Zoological Museum, in charge of band marking the birds, and this young swan was missing an id. Having such an authority handy was like a present I could not resist opening. He squirmed much like the swan had done moments before, but I learned about the water plaque (you will too, in a later post) and just before I released him, he gave me the best news: the two nesting swans are expected to deliver in early June. 

Almost done. With a dry mouth from all that hissing.

I don't speak Swan, but I know a dirty look when I get one. 
And perhaps even a suggestion as to where to relocate that camera.