by Tim Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Following up on my last article about Copenhagen's housing market (The sound of the popping bubble: A bit about psychology and Copenhagen's housing market) that talked about how the housing price bubble in Copenhagen that has now burst, here's some additional rather useful information, particularly if you are a prospective buyer of an apartment or house in or around Copenhagen.
There are a couple of excellent websites that, particularly when taken together, give and excellent overview of the market in Copenhagen (and around Denmark).
The first is a site, www.boliga.dk, which lists all the houses and apartments for sale in Copenhagen, including the cost of these properities per m2 - and provides links to the agents who are selling each of them. This site has been stirring up some controversy thanks to the Danish Real Estate Agents Association, who objected the manner in which the site obtained the information the housing market statistics it calculates (well, used to - it has now stopped, thanks to these objections).
These statistics included a calculation of how much the entire market rose or dropped over the past day. Needless to say, they showed that the housing market has been in quite a freefall recently.
But about the trends. I also noted previously, that a real estate agent in Copenhagen who I had spoken to had noted that asking prices were around 25% higher than selling prices in Copenhagen, at present.
Now, as one would expect, one would expect the next step would be to see asking prices begin to fall - and probably quite drastically - as increasingly desparate sellers begin to take steps to attract the relatively few buyers that are out there.
And guess what? That is exactly what is happening.
Which brings us to the second useful website, www.tipenbolig.dk, a site that provides a daily list of all properties in Copenhagen (and across Denmark) with changed asking price - and the amount of this change. Obviously, this gives a pretty clear picture of the market trend - particularly since about 99% of the price changes registered each day for the past several weeks have been reductions in asking prices (and there have been a lot of them).
In fact, in total the asking prices of properties across Copenhagen have fallen by 1.2bn (!!) kroner since November 2006. That's quite something. You might want to hold off buying a new place in Copenhagen for a little while longer...
snow, snow, snow, snow...
Yesterday's top news story in Denmark was the snow, of course. Fair enough, a lot of it had fallen over the previous 24 hours. As I happen to love snow, the more of it that falls, the better my mood.
Nonetheless, one of my (least) favourite pastimes is being subjected to the evening news in Copenhagen. The fact that a snowstorm is big news should give you an idea why. Be it the national news or the local news, you can be certain of one thing - Danish news is dead boring. I would say it is nearly unwatchable (an opinion that tends to create a little bit of friction in our home whenever the news is turned on).
Not that those responsible for broadcasting the news seem to agree with me - in December, a 24-hour news channel focusing on Danish news went on the air.
The 24-hour news station even cobbled enough kroner together to buy a helicopter (they keep on their helipad in front of their office in Copenhagen). Now you can be sure there has yet to be anything newsworthy enough in this country to actually put it to good use since then, but it makes a lot of noise when they fly it around the city, which they do like to do. And I suppose it does give a sort of illusion that something newsworthy is occurring in the city right at this very moment.
But trust me when I tell you that as this is Denmark, there surely is not. This is not a bad thing - in fact, it's a very good reason to live here. It just doesn't make for terribly interesting news broadcasts. There's not even enough traffic in and around Copenhagen to usefully report about.
I've always imagined it must be quite funny to be a producer in the newsroom in Copenhagen putting together the day’s news and trying to find the stories to fill the air-time with. As a producer, listening to non-story after non-story being pitched, how exactly do you actually choose between them?
There is a silent 'click' each night that occurs immediately following the one or two mildly newsworthy items, when the 'filler' news stories begin.
But watching the news does provide moments of amusement, from time to time - and this brings us back to yesterday's newsworthy topic: the snow.
One of yesterday's classic news moments involved a snow story, naturally. It was live remote report (from Slagelser) - a classic way to make non-news seem important. It's a technique employed regularly during new broadcasts in Denmark, especially in Copenhagen where reporters are constantly spread across the city to deliver their reports 'live'.
In the same vein, the classic technique of changing the camera angle on the presenter constantly after each news item is delivered (and oftentimes during it) is also vigorously employed during all Danish newscasts. Did they never watch Monty Python?
So to describe my favourite story of yesterday:
It began with the reporter standing outside and in the middle of nowhere, naturally surrounded by a lot of snow. He informed us that there was a lot of snow and that this snow was keeping Falck drivers very busy (surprise, surprise - Falck being the equivalent of the 'Danish automobile association' - they're the people you call when you need a tow). But this introduction was really just a little trick, as at this point the camera panned over to a...Falck driver! Yes, he was standing there ('live'). The Falck driver then got to say a few words about how many people had (predictably) gotten stuck in the snow and how busy he was because of this. Fine, fine. Alas, this was only another little trick. With another little pan of the camera, a minivan stuck in the snow was revealed. That's right, stuck in the snow - 'live' during the broadcast! A microphone was foist into the driver's face ('Yes, I'm stuck in the snow, so I had to call Falck...') and then the moment of truth was upon us. With a shout to his colleague in the tow-truck, 'live' across Denmark we watched the Falck truck pull the minivan out of the snow. Another sterling moment for live news reporting.
Then back to the newsroom in Copenhagen we were taken. For more, um...news.
'So tell us, is it snowing where you are Mr. Anderson?'
'Yes, there's a lot of snow. And it's cold. Very cold.'
'Are you expecting more snow?'
'Um, yes, I think there will be...'
'How are people coping with it?'
'Well, it seems most people are choosing to stay inside.'
'Yes, that's probably a good idea. Thanks very much for that live report. And try to stay warm.'
by Tim Anderson (email@example.com)
Ratatat in Copenhagen...
There is pretty much no better way to break up the week a bit then to stick a nice, loud guitar driven concert (preferably with an electronic edge) right in the middle of it. Last night Ratatat, a band straight from none other than New York City, was a perfect fit for the job. And they delivered the goods.
In choosing to play in Copenhagen at Loppen (in Christiania), the guys couldn't have made a better choice. Loppen has a capacity of 200 people, though nobody seemed to be counting last night. There was rather more people then that stuffed into the place.
The sonic boom of Ratatat's rumbling (and remarkably clear) bass sound literally shook the walls and floor at times (and of course whenever enough people start jumping a little bit in Loppen, the place actually moves). But the remarkable wooden beams of Loppen (a common feature of Copenhagen's often ancient architecture) have proven again and again capable of standing the test of time (and a lot of excited people).
Ratatat's music is raw and full of power. It is in your face. You can feel it reverberating through your bones. It gets you moving. Subtle, it certainly is not. It sounds pretty good on CD (or mp3...), but seeing them play live one quickly understands what they are really all about.
Ratatat's songs are essentially an exploration of a distinct and unique style and sound - characterised by a particular set of chords structures, keyboards, elements of distortion and a unmistakeable and kind of wailing harmonic guitar sound. And no vocals.
Listen to a couple songs on Ratatat's MySpace page to get a pretty clear idea of what I'm referring to (or click over to their homepage). And Ratatat are hardly unknown, but they certainly aren't well known either - even if their song Wildcat has been played some 525,000 times on their MySpace page...
Now in art, there is a long tradition of artists choosing to explore certain thematic areas and confining themselves for a while to a (oftentimes surprisingly) limited artistic space within which they let their creativity to wander, rarely venturing outside of it.
To mention a couple random examples, think of the countless water lily paintings of Monet's (inspired by his own back garden). Or perhaps the best example, the pop art of Andy Warhol. In other words, creativity does not necessarily need to be sprawling and ever-shifting to be captivating.
So though the uninitiated may be tempted to level the obvious criticism at Ratatat that their music is prone to a certain and distinct 'sameness' (you could essentially put all the songs from their two studio albums into one big pile), this is what the group is all about (thus far into their career, at least). However, because Ratatat's songs are full of moments of genius and brilliance and are so distinct, in spite of being confined to this specific and fairly narrow sonic space, to accept them for what they are is the most fruitful approach to take.
If anybody had predicted that the cold, snow and bluster of the weather in Copenhagen yesterday would have been enough to keep away the crowds for the Ratatat concert last night at Loppen, it would have been a very wrong prediction, indeed.
a full house in Loppen...
and plenty of snow outside...
Martynas Svegzda von Bekker (violin) and Indre Baikstyte (piano) at Copenhagen's Odd Fellow Palaeet
Yesterday was Lithuania's national holiday, a fact that would have entirely escaped my attention (as it has every other year until now) accept for the fact that Elisabeth and I were invited to a delightful little piano and violin performance put on by the Lithuanian Embassy in Copenhagen, in celebration of this fact.
Since the last entry on this blog discussing music in Copenhagen was about the underground electonic music scene, I figured a little entry pertaining to a performance of classical music in Copenhagen would make for a nice juxtaposition.
For those with an interest in classical music, the concert featured two classically trained Lithuanian performers, Martynas Svegzda von Bekker (on violin) and Indre Baikstyte (on piano).
For more about a previous performance featuring these two, read this little article, which pretty much encapsulates my feelings about yesterdays performance as well.
To add my two cents (ahem, I mean kroner, since we're in Denmark), as a non-violin player and a person with an admittedly passive interest in classical music, I can simply say that aside from the majestic asthetic and emotional beauty of the performance - which was something in itself to behold - on the technical side of things I certainly learned something yesterday. Martynas Svegzda von Bekker is capable of feats of technical prowess on the violin that I was unaware were even possible. It is indeed both awe-inspiring yet oddly daunting to witness a performance featuring such a rare force of talent.
For those with a deeper interest in classical music, highlights of yesterdays performance included Henryk Weniawski's 'Variations on an Original Theme op. 15' and Maurice Ravel's 'Tsigane'.
by Tim Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(please forgive the grainy low-quality mobile phone pictures...)
Digging deeply into Copenhagen's underground electronic music scene has its rewards. It also has its challenges, since though it's out there, its extent is relatively limited - particularly the further below the surface you try to get.
If you're into electronic sounds, the various arrangement put on by Komponent (www.komponent.dk) are about as deep as you can get in Copenhagen - both in terms of music and venues. At least that is my belief after 6 years of exploring. They are well worth getting into, in my own opinion.
Komponent's usual venue of choice is Lab, a space that could not possibly be any less pretentious. Lab is hidden away in the courtyard at Vesterbrogade 107b (http://lab.107b.dk - site in Danish), and it would take about 3 minutes to convert it into a motorcycle repair shop.
The term 'underground' or 'underground scene' is not terribly revealing in itself, given that the range of activity that can fall under it's broad remit are as majestic in scope as the range of activity that could be said to be 'mainstream' (and that's a pretty wide range). As I see it, about the only criteria for the tag 'underground' to be applied to an something, is that it can only have attracted the most minimal amount of 'mainstream' attention (i.e. press/media).
In other words, by definition, music that could be termed underground is no longer underground once picked up by 'mainstream', even though, in itself, the music may remain unchanged. To put it another way, music doesn't necessarily have to be 'weird' to be underground, as many tend to believe.
That said, the events staged by Komponent tend to fall within the remit of the more 'stereotypical' association that is made with the term 'underground'. They can be somewhat 'weird'. Sometimes in a very good way, sometimes less so. Attendees at these events range from hooded, pierced and tattooed types, to those of a more nerdy appearance and disposition. Very few of them would be likely to be asked if they had just come from a classical music performance or an opera.
The music of Komponent performances mostly consists of two elements: an assortment of computer generated/manipulated blips, beats and growls and a visual element - oftentimes an equally idiosyncratic series of video or photo projections.
The visual elements are notable creations in themselves, often astoundingly original and well-suited as accompaniment to the eccentric music at hand. All of which one may find eclectically brilliant or just outright strange, depending upon your particular sensibilities.
the trusty Mac computer - a staple of the underground music scene...
the vj at the back responsible for the visuals and light, giving life to the music...
In terms of my own tastes, I find Komponent events at their best inspiring and refreshing. At their worst, I'm out the door pretty quickly. When a sort of beat eventually emerges during the sets (and it doesn't always, believe me), or there is some sense of progression to the music (and ideally some portion of it that could be said to be 'danceable'), they are fantastic - even if it's not the sort of music I typically listen to at home. Since a good chunk of the music being played is homemade by the DJ's themselves, one must appreciate that there is a degree of artistry involved that goes well beyond simply pushing buttons and matching beats.
More importantly, these are the sort of audio and visual performances that can provoke a person to dig into certain emotional corners in a way that just doesn't happen while watching reruns of 'Friends' or listening to 'U2' (though I happen to have my occassional moments enjoying both of these, as well). They are, in that way, an acquired taste with an oddly compelling appeal.
indeed, that's a truck cab hanging off the ceiling...
visuals on every wall...
yep, a Macintosh computer, circa 1984, displaying the drink menu at the bar...
jump outside for a quick breath of fresh air...rather cold winter air on this particular night
This article was also published on Shortcut - A European City Blog. Wanna see it? Click here.
Windmills aren't ugly (or expensive). Pollution is. Fortunately, the priorities of the Danish government in this area are spot on.
by Tim Anderson (email@example.com)
I've always found it odd and annoying that whenever the mainstream western media cares to comment on clean, renewable, environmentally friendly energy sources, they often feel obliged to balance the story by making up a side of the story that basically doesn't exist.
Windmills are 'green'. If civilisation still exists in a few hundred years, or few thousand years, I'm convinced windmills will still be spinning on the horizon, somewhere. Probably in vast numbers.
When mainstream media 'debates' the merits of windmills as an alternative energy source, the issue of 'ugliness' (of windmills and windmill farms spoiling the landscape) tends to appear as part of the 'downside' analysis, often coupled with a quote from someone like 'Farmer Bob' saying something like, 'windmills destroy the natural landscape so I don't like 'em!'
The problem when this occurs is not 'Farmer Bob's' view, which may or may not be real. The problem is the media actually bothering to print it. If you want an example, here's a typical one.
That fact that pollution is ugly kind of neuters this argument. You see, never ever in the history of mankind has there been invented, much less seen, a conventional powerplant of any kind that was especially beautiful - try as the French do to draw nice pictures on the side of their nuclear generators.
you gotta love the French for trying...
this power plant in Norway (that I recently drove by) is
perhaps about as close to beautiful as is possible...
This means that debate over the potential 'ugliness' of windmills (miring the landscape) is a non-debate. It is contrived. It exists purely to provide (false) editorial balance.
On the other hand, cost is a real issue. Simply put, windpower remains a more expensive alternative to conventional power sources. It is getting cheaper, of course. Therefore, it takes a certain amount of political willpower to push on with it as a national project while it remains, in relative terms, financially costly.
As The Copenhagen Post noted recently, Danish government policy does a good job stimulating the production of wind power by guaranteeing the rate at which it will buy power from windmill owners. This is costly, but windmills continue to spring up all over Denmark, so it seems to be having it's effect - there are currently some 5400 of them across the country, apparently, providing just under 20% of the country's power. Not bad at all.
This is an example of government policy at it's best, and the Danish government (who I have been known to criticise) deserve full credit for it. Intervention in an area where the economic cost remain hard to pin down (higher cost of energy dragging down the economy vs. an increasingly dirty and polluted country - whatever the precise economic costs of this pollution).
You see, whatever the financial or economic costs, common sense shouts the answer loud and clear. More windmills, please!
Just imagine if governments of the various developing economies of the world simply insisted on focussing on green, renewable energy sources and perhaps even chose not to develop any faster than they could implement them.
Unfortunately, unlike when I write something on my little blog, space in newspapers is limited, so the article from The Copenhagen Post failed to get to the more important outcome of this policy - namely stimulating research and development which is what really reduces the cost of windmill energy generation.
Denmark is a world leader in windmill technology, lead by Vestas, so it's smart policy of the Danish government, and a good lesson for other governments - particularly of small countries.
It's still not easy for your typical economist to account for environmental costs in a meaningful analysis thanks to decades of overfocus on outdated neoclassical economic thinking, which is still by in large overrepresented by the mainstream media and most MBA classes - and which should more meaningfully be called 'tunnel vision'. Still many economists are fully aware of the issue and try to account for it (as a mainstream publication, The Economist, is one of the best).
Fortunately, common sense is typically capable of fast-forwarding to a sensible and meaningful conclusion, even if the details of the analysis remain sketchy (cue the economic researchers).
So kudos to the Danish government for having the courage to subsidise producers of windpower. Let's hope more countries follow suit.
The cost of power in Denmark: A little bit of dignity, a lack of moral conscience and a few thousand immigrants
A friend of mine recently asked me to edit an article she's is hoping to have published that details the sad state of affairs resulting from Denmark's current immigration policies. This inspired me to comment on the situation, as I have a few times in the past on this blog. I try not to get too political here, or at least not too often, but once in a while it is necessary for my own sanity. I should also add that I do believe that these policies I'm complaining about will change before too long. It can't happen soon enough.
To be perfectly clear about my views on Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, I'm not all that fond of him, to put it mildly.
please Danish voters, no more of
this guy after the next election
Yes, he's done some good things during his time in office such as supporting EU expansion, keeping the Danish economy generally purring and supporting green energy policies (to be explored further in an upcoming article). However, when it comes to the fundamentals - like implementing policies that ensure as many humans as possible are treated with the respect and dignity every one of us deserves - he's a complete and utter failure.
I'm singling out a couple of policies of his government, above all others: his support of the U.S. in Iraq from the start (and his continuing gutless lack of criticism of the situation there at present, discussed previously in this article), along with the highly xenophobic immigration policies (as noted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, among others) that have become a sad reality in Denmark over the past years.
The reasons for his actions in the area of immigration are quite simple: he needs the support of the highly xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti (who garnered 13% of the popular vote last election) to stay in power, otherwise his government likely falls. The consequence is a rash of policies designed to appease these xenophobes (and the Dansk Folkeparti, understanding that this is as close to office as they are ever likely to come, shrewdly continue to cooperate by taking whatever they can get).
For the simple cost of a large chunk of his soul, Rasmussen has maintained his grip on power. Sadly, too many Danish voters have went along with him.
Yes, Danish voters actually voted him in again for a second term, opting to cover their eyes, ears and nose to the unsightly stench that are the highly undesirable effects that these policies have been having on people - real people. Human beings.
When you live in a largely insulated little bubble, as Denmark is, with it's highly developed (and tuition-free) education system, high salaries and cradle-to-grave social support system, it's easy to pretend that on a grander level it's irrelevant whether the policies of the government of your country just might be having perverse effects on real people just outside of your own limited line of vision.
It is also easy to not think about whether they reflect how you would want to be treated, if they were policies that directly affected your life. I believe that's called following the 'Golden Rule'.
And nobody in their right mind would want to be treated the way Denmark treats it's potential immigrants and asylum seekers.
Denmark, as a small country with a small population, certainly can't solve the problems of the world simply by taking in every potential refugee there is. Fortunately, relatively few of these potential immigrants ever get the idea to come to Denmark, and even fewer actually try. And the ones that do are generally quite energetic, determined and more than willing to do whatever is necessary to make a life for themselves here and contribute meaningfully to society.
So it isn't that big of an issue. Or it shouldn't be.
What's more, the fact the Danish language skills of the average immigrant are limited tends to prevent them from immediately 'stealing' those really desirable jobs away from Danes - as one of the typical arguments made by those against allowing in more immigrants goes. Rather, they tend to end up doing the jobs most Danes don't really want anyway.
What are some of the effects of these policies?
Apparently since 2001, the number of as refugees accepted into Denmark has dropped 95%. About 1% of claimants from Iraq are accepted these days. You can thank the influence of the xenophobic Dansk Folkeparti for that, and it's an accomplishment they are quite proud of, thank you very much.
There are a serious problems with the immigration process as it stands currently.
Potential immigrants and asylum seekers are not allowed to work while their application is pending - a process that often takes years. This is ridiculous and unnecessary, forcing these immigrants to rely on the meagre handouts they receive from the state, while their minds and bodies languish. If countries like Sweden and the Netherlands can let applicants work (and they do), there is no reason Denmark can't as well. Such treatment falls well below the threshold of the 'Golden Rule' - a more meaningful threshold then any law can ever prescribe or explicate.
It is a sad state of affairs to hear about the holding tank at Sandholm, where many of Denmark refugee claimants are housed, stuck in a state of inhuman limbo while their application and various appeals are pending.
Danish citizens seem to understand, a recent survey suggested that almost 97% of Danes believe that Iraqi waiting for there claims to be precesses should be allowed to work while they wait, and almost 88% believed they should be able to pursue an education. Unfortunately, only 25% believed they should be offered a full residence permit. So what is the government, lead by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, waiting for?
There are other areas of policy that hit closer to home for a lot of people and their families.
Thanks to recent changes to immigration policy, any Dane under the age of 24 who marries a foreigner is not considered to be mature enough to enter into such a decision - and so they kindly asked not to apply to bring their spouse back to Denmark on this basis. I would be unable to look myself in the mirror every morning if I was responsible for such tripe and the effects it has on real people and real families with real lives and real emotions.
No person in Denmark can claim to have done more to keep families and loved-ones apart in the past few years than Anders Fogh Rasmussen can.
Priority for voters should be clear: if there is one thing that stands above all else in life, it is the necessity to ensure people are treated with dignity and respect, and to respect and help those who desire to be together with loved ones and families. When government creates policy that does the opposite, it is bad policy and the citizen's in such countries should vote them out of office immediately - regardless of whatever else they may have been doing as a government. It's that simple.
Too many Danish voters have sadly abdicated this particular set of responsibilities.
The necessity of taking this responsibility is best highlighted by planing a simple mental exercise: how would the world look if every government around the world moved in precisely the same radical and xenophobic direction as Denmark over the last years? It would not be pretty.
Of course, a simple look into Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s eyes tells you he knows full well that the remaining shreds of moral consciousness he may have possessed were sold off long ago for a few extra years in office, human dignity be damned.