Fun fact of the day: The Finns are sociable and upbeat.
If you don’t know me – well, even if you know me – you may be surprised to hear that I have no fewer than 43 (fourty-three) cousins.
The math goes as follows: My maternal grandparents lived in Åbenrå and had five children – four girls and one boy, born between 1931 and 1941 – and they had ten children in all. This means that I have nine maternal cousins, aged 35 (I think) to 52.
My paternal grandparents lived in Vejle, were a bit more active on the domestic front and had fifteen children, born between 1922 and 1947, who in their turn had thirty-five children. That’s thirty-four paternal cousins, aged 23 to 55.
34 + 9 = 43. (I’m a single child. For some reason)
At this point I should note that I can name all of my maternal cousins but not all of my paternal cousins and I rely on information about the exact number of paternal cousins from one of them. Apologies if I’ve got the numbers wrong.
I suspect that all of my maternal cousins haven’t met since sometime during the mid 1970s and cousin-gatherings aren’t an everyday event in my father’s family. One reason is that we are spread out over a large part the Northern hemisphere. Another that we are spread out over nearly all walks of life.
In any event, my cousins Bettina and Ghita (they are the daughters of my father’s oldest younger brother, Ervin) took it upon them to gather the surviving seven siblings, cousins with partners and their children. I haven’t got the official count, but I’ve been told that the total attendance was somewhere around 100 persons. Remember that we are talking about the closest family here. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to Givskud, but my mother did and enjoyed it very much.
Now my cousin Monica (oldest child of my father’s third oldest older brother Orla – that’s a man’s name in Scandinavian) has sent me some photographs from the party and it’s been very interesting to see them. Some people I can recognise, others are complete unknowns. Did I have a cousin called ***? Well, yes. And is this a cousin or the partner of a cousin? Not always easy to tell.
Oh, and I should note that the Danish People’s Party has proposed to limit child support to two children in every family. You see, according to the DPP true Danes only have two children. It seems that my family isn’t Danish after all.
PS: As a matter of fact I know why I’m a single child. My parents had different rhesus-blood types which meant that there was a substantial risk that child #2 would have been born with hemolytic desease.
The Danish public service broadcaster DR is in a very bad state these days. It’s difficult to say whether the rot originally had political or economical causes but the effects are beginning to be obvious: DR is short of money, talent and management and it is no longer completely outlandish to imagine a situation where public broadcasting will be reduced to a marginal role in the Danish media landscape.
The economic problems started with the decision to build a new media centre in Ørestaden to replace the existing radio and TV centres placed on Frederiksberg and Gladsaxe and dating back to the 1940s and 1960s, respectively. Building a new media centre was an obvious idea as audiovisual technology has changed dramatically in the last decade and the old premises were to inflexible for new demands, but the construction quickly turned into an economic nightmare, eventually costing Director General Christian Nissen his job.
Politically, DR has been out of favour since the present government took office in late 2001. Liberals and Conservatives always suspected DR’s journalists and management of having a leftish bias and where the Liberals and Conservatives were critical, the Danish People’s Party was outright hostile. During the last six years we have seen a repolitisation of DR’s – politically appointed but officially neutral – board where especially Liberal and DPP representatives have mounted a barrage of attacks against the management, programmes and individual employees.
When Kenneth Plummer was appointed Director General of DR in 2005, he was taking over an organisation which was already in internal and external turmoil. DR enjoyed very little support from the government – and there was definitively no prospect of the government bailing out DR of its economic troubles – and all indications are that the staff generally was skeptical – to say the least – of the new management.
Just to add to the problems, Plummer’s background was in private enterprise as a professional manager – he had held executive positions at O Kavli (a company producing soft drinks), Walt Disney’s Nordic banch, Mattel and finally Danish media conglomerate Egmont – not as a politico-administrative operator. Traditionally, Directors General of DR were recruited from within the organisation and well acquainted with the quirks of the organisation (being a member of the Social Democrats didn’t exactly hurt your prospects, either). Christian Nissen was an outsider but he did have experience of navigating the politico-administrative minefields before being appointed Director General.
In any event, Plummer had to realise that his task wasn’t so much to develop the organisation and its output as cutting budgets (i.e. sacking large numbers of employees) and pleasing his political masters. To succeed in all three areas at the same time you would need to combine the ruthlessness of a Stalin with the diplomatic skills of a Talleyrand. Quite a tall order.
Plummer had no choice than to sharpen his axe and start cutting (note to Swedish readers: Denmark does not have the specific regulations that you find in LAS) and pleasing – and to become a hated and ridiculed man. The broadsheet Politiken’s cartoonist Roald Als regularly portrays Plummer as a tame dog kept in a tight line by Minister of Cultural Affairs Brian Mikkelsen. Plummer has complained publicly about this, noting that he actually is a descendant of African slaves.
It was perhaps an attempt to repair his damaged image that led Plummer to appear at this years
Mud Roskilde Festival wearing a t-shirt supporting – of all places – Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen. That did not go down well with the government.
But back to DR itself. Plummer may have been a novice in the political world but he had learned a thing or two about managing people during his career and when he introduced a major restructuring of the management level – a restructuring which to the joy of right-wing critics cost the Editor of the News Division Lisbeth Knudsen her position (she’s now the editor of the Conservative broadsheet Berlingske Tidende. Go figure) – he introduced a curious system of dual management: DR would now have human as well as programme managers. The idea was that the human managers (menneskechefer – if you know just a little Scandinavian, you’ll note the hilariousness of the title immediately) should be in charge of the general well-being and professional development of the staff. Exactly how the two lines of management should work together was a bit of a mystery and last week the head of programming left his job, officially after mutual agreement.
On Monday it was announced that the experiment with dual management had ended – the human managers are no more. They will be transferred to other positions in the organisation.
To quote Pink Floyd: Welcome to the machine.
… and this time they won’t be driving tanks.
The full story is that Danish local transport operators now have so big problems recruiting bus drivers that Arriva Denmark (that’s a UK based firm, by the way) has hired a number of German drivers to staff local buses in Copenhagen. Proof that the Danish labour market is running on full speed, while the German still isn’t.