Jacob Christensen

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The Forgotten Neighbourhood

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Søren Ulrik Thomsen and Det Glemte Kvarter perform “Ode til regnen”

I took a trip to Svendborg on Saturday because the poet Søren Ulrik Thomsen performed with the septet “Det Glemte Kvarter” (The Forgotten Neighbourhood) – named after one of his early poems. Thomsen has been set to music before – Lars H.U.G’s “City Slang” is a modern classic – but Det Glemte Kvarter’s style is very different from H.U.G’s frenetic techno-rock. The performance Saturday was quite an intense affair and the clip above only shows one dimension of what we who were lucky to be in the audience saw and heard during the evening.

Interview and reading by Søren Ulrik Thomsen

Oh, and a big thank you to Esma – aka @adlaramse on Twitter – who inadvertently made me aware of the performance.

Note: For some reason the embedding of YouTube videos is acting up so you will have to follow the links.

Written by Jacob Christensen

April 21st, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Spare time

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Suggested Readings

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“There’s an age when boys read one of two books. Either they read Ayn Rand or they read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. One of these books leaves you with no grasp on reality and a deeply warped sense of fantasy in place of real life. The other one is about hobbits and orcs.”

Paul Krugman has more.

And yes, I read the one about the hobbits and the orcs.

Written by Jacob Christensen

June 19th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Vacation Reading

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Just two quick notes about my vacation reading – vacation, that is when I’m not finishing manuscripts:

1. Peter Baldwin: “The Narcissism of Minor Differences

US historian with European links goes mediaeval on tales of American exceptionalism and whatever Europeans have claimed in their favour in a frenzy of (easily accessible) statistics. If it wasn’t for the size of the country and the level of GDP (yes, the Americans are wealthier than we are), Martians would think that the Americans were sort-of-Europeans.

Read it before (or rather: instead of) your newspaper columnist.

Bonus info: The Swedes have guns. And they are not afraid to use them. The NRA would love Sweden.

2. Pranab Bardhan: “Awakening Giants. Feet of Clay

US-Indian economist looks at emerging economies and helps you sort out facts from globalisation-babble. 160 pages. And no: You do not have to be an economist to get the picture.

Written by Jacob Christensen

July 27th, 2010 at 7:45 pm


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Laura McKenna wants to know.

Here goes (with my address of that time thrown in for good measure), for GBP 73,08 I ordered these:

Remember the days when you went to a bookstore to order foreign books?

Written by Jacob Christensen

May 3rd, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Posted in General

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You Belong in Academia. Or Do You?

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Via Scott McLemee who, bravely, avoided the lure of graduate school, we are lead to Thomas H. Benton (alias William Pannapacker) who takes a dim view of the entire affair:

Graduate school in the humanities is a trap. It is designed that way. It is structurally based on limiting the options of students and socializing them into believing that it is shameful to abandon “the life of the mind.” That’s why most graduate programs resist reducing the numbers of admitted students or providing them with skills and networks that could enable them to do anything but join the ever-growing ranks of impoverished, demoralized, and damaged graduate students and adjuncts for whom most of academe denies any responsibility.

Topic for discussion: Consider similarities and differences between the humanities, social science and science.

PS: You may also want to follow SML’s advice and take a look at comment #75. Is there “a life of the mind” outside of academia. Yes or no?

Written by Jacob Christensen

February 16th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Getting Rid of Books

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I hope Fred Bass and “The Editors” will forgive me for lifting his advice about getting rid of books:

My advice is to first clean out duplicates and books with repetitive information — why do you need six dictionaries? Next, remove all books with out-of-date information, like atlases and reference books. Political, economic and topical books should be the next category to sort through; you don’t really need that copy of Richard Simmons’ “Never-Say-Diet Book” (a 1981 best-seller), or a book on the future of the Democratic or Republican parties, written 20 years ago.1

One should eliminate books that are in poor condition unless they hold sentimental value and remove those you never intend to read again.

Once you have weeded out the duplicates, the out-of-date material and those moldy, unreadable tomes, make sure to note any first editions or autographed books, as they could be valuable if they are in good condition. Put them aside and store them properly — away from direct sunlight and humidity. You might consider investing in some Mylar, as that is the only proven way to keep a valuable book in perfect condition.

I went through the pain last summer (2008, that is) and I’m more or less trying to figure out what to do with the different parts of my library in about a year’s time. Getting rid of old textbooks and books bought for a specific project is the easy bit, weeding out fiction and stuff bought for personal entertainment is much, much trickier. Still, there is something comforting in reading that other people make the same mistakes as I do when it comes to buying books.

  1. For “Democratic or Republican parties, insert relevant European party or “the European Union” []

Written by Jacob Christensen

December 28th, 2009 at 11:24 pm

My (or rather: Randall Munroe’s) Only Possible Comment on COP15

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I think this one pretty much nails it.


Written by Jacob Christensen

December 22nd, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Spare time

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Krause on Løkke

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As I read it during the week-end, here are some short notes on Niels Krause-Kjær’s biography of Lars Løkke Rasmussen:

The book is mostly a journalistic biography using template 1A. It is easily read, but on the other hand the tendency to use casual spoken language in a written text occasionally annoys me. There aren’t any revelations in the stricter (media) sense, but it is a very useful summary of Løkke’s twenty-year career in Danish politics. A number of observations still stand out and – at least in my opinion – could merit some attention, also by PolSci types.

So: What did we learn and what might merit some further discussion?

1. For a Danish top-level politician, Løkke has stayed unusually close to his (geographical) roots which are the village of Græsted in Northern Zeeland. He never really went through the socialisation, moving to Copenhagen or Århus meant for Poul Nyrup Rasmussen or Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Somehow, Anker Jørgensen comes up as a parallel, and even he moved from Christianshavn to Sydhavnen.

2. As Krause-Kjær also points out, Løkke’s background in local and regional politics is highly unusual despite all talk of local politics being the entry to a political career. The high-flyers go directly for the national arena, one way or the other.

3. For a long time, Løkke looked like the heir presumptive in the Liberal Party to most people, but Krause-Kjær argues that Løkke through his youth and much of his early years had a tendency to live on the edge in career terms. Does this also apply to his approach to politics and policy decision-making?

4. Kause-Kjær also implies that Løkke will be happy basing his government on the Danish People’s Party. As long as we have a VKO majority, a continued polarisation between the left and the right blocs looks likely. How important is his socialisation in internal party politics and local politics in this aspect?

5. Løkke has a degree in law but has never practised as a lawyer. In fact, the biography makes no mention of how having an academic education has influenced Løkke’s way of working or thinking. When I read Anne Sofie Kragh’s biography of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, I noted that the same applied to him. Which begs the question: These days most top-level politicians have an academic degree, but does having a degree in higher education play a role in practice? Is it mostly a training in managing and presenting a large amount of information (in itself very useful), does it have some substantial impact or is it in fact irrelevant?

6. Kause also points out that Løkke’s personal network is based on party contacts. PolSci people have for a long noted that traditional party organisations were being replaced by smaller, more professional ones, but Løkke has made much of his career in the town halls in meetings with local party activists. Did we underestimate the role of party organisations (we are talking the 90s and the 00s here) or was this another indication of Løkke living dangerously?

Finally, Krause doesn’t compare Løkke with any of his predecessors (needless to say, Kraus notes how Løkke is different from his immediate predecessor Anders Fogh Rasmussen), but I would offer Erik Eriksen as the most likely parallel. Unlike Løkke, Eriksen never appeared as the obvious leader of the Liberal Party – until he seized the day. Similarly, Eriksen became prime minister by seizing the day. For an immediate observation, Løkke was biding his time, but as Krause notes at several occasions, Løkke also knew, and knows, how do identify his moment of opportunity.

And to quote (from memory) what Søren Mørch wrote about Erik Eriksen: He was a friendly man which often misled others to believe that he was their friend.

The advice “If you want a friend in politics, get a dog” still stands.

Niels Krause-Kjær: Lars Løkke – et portræt af Danmarks statsminister. Jyllands-Postens Forlag, 2009.

Update: Anne Sofie Kragh’s name corrected. Apologies.

Written by Jacob Christensen

November 5th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

The One in Which I Caused Swedish Poetry

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Lights. Camera. Action.

I’m not sure if I won or lost all possible street-cred here. Never mind: PSW is the real culprit. Or maybe the buck stops with Roland Poirier. Anyway: Swedes can in fact be funny, though I still think the Germans are in front when it comes to razor-sharp satirical wit.

In case you would like a dose of contemporary Swedish poetry in the grand tradition, PSW is ready to take your challenge.

Written by Jacob Christensen

October 27th, 2009 at 1:38 am

Posted in Spare time

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Farewell GeoCities, We Hardly … well, We Did Know You

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Hurry over to XKCD to behold the resurrected glory of GeoCities.

Billede 1

As a commenter wrote: This is beyond #win (If you have just the least idea about html, check the source code). Indeed. Also: XKCD’s forums.

HT: BoingBoing.

Oh, and Flash is for today’s web what animated gifs were to web 1.0.

Update: A reply in kind.

Written by Jacob Christensen

October 26th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Spare time

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