This text reports on the Comedy of Things as it played out in Group 4 consisting of Anne Line Dalsgård, Matei Candea, Benjamin Alberti, Brit Ross Winthereik, and Morten Axel Pedersen. It recounts how the group did CoT – and came into being as a group in the process. This process took the form of five machines.
The working definition of a machine as we use it here is an assemblage of forms (things, bodies, concepts) that allows agency to be deferred. After having constructed and run five machines, we have observed that an important element in how these machines work is that they took themselves apart shortly after their construction. Comedy of Things machines outlived themselves at the point at which they started working.
Machine #1 What might the Comedy of Things be?
This was the question asked to us by the parcel we received by mail prior to the workshop. The parcel arrived well before it was to be opened, some had to go through considerable effort to retrieve it, for others it had arrived without problems and now it sat there on a table or in a cupboard ready to be opened. The official starting date of the workshop was August 21.
The parcel contained a Dictaphone with instructions for use (first layer), three DVDs, a t-shirt with a printed Comedy of Things logo and a countdown clock (second layer). The Dictaphone contained a lengthy fanfare and a spoken message by the workshop organizers. Amongst other things, it required us to bring four texts and two objects (a joke, a myth and an object from places we identified as home and field respectively) (See Appendix A) and a text describing what the comedy of things might be (see Appendix B).
Machine # 2 – Fold and Pass
On the first day the workshop organizers had given the participants the task to condense the four blubs into a shared document. We met in the group room, all dressed in our dull, green CoT T-shirts. Papers and pens were our only security; beside that everything was uncertain. No figure, no ground, it seemed, just a slight sense of anxiety. “What might CoT be?”, the organizers had asked. We had to present the answer (max 2 pages) at 17.30. We had also been instructed that in presenting the materials we had prepared to the other group members, time would be limited. An egg timer managed by Morten would make sure that nobody would exceed the time available for each presentation.
We sat around the table reading aloud our reflections upon CoT and the myths and jokes from field sites and primary sites of origin. Then we began the work of constructing a two-page document that would summarize what CoT might be. It was given in the task that the document had to be a joint endeavor, or this at least was how we interpreted it. However, compressing the four pages into two was quite an impossible task. We did not know each other. We did not trust each other. We were not able to let the texts stand in a relation to each other as texts; they were still part of our individual trajectories and part of our individual reasons to be at CoT. Pressed by time we decided to depersonalize them by cutting them into pieces.
Still no progress. We shifted around blank paper with the hotel’s logo on them when the idea arose to make a ‘poem’ from text sections picked from the documents. We followed the rule that the sections should undermine each other or talk against the previous sentence. We also tried a method of folding into which each one added his or her contribution without knowing which whole it will would fit into. As a result of this our presentation was the following: a jointly made drawing, a jointly made poem entitled “The Comedy of Things – a Manifesto?”, and a jointly made photo of time in the bin. Everyone in the group participated in making the presentation, but while it was able to accommodate a new group member (a mac book voice) it was unable to accommodate standard academic text and a structured argument.
The Comedy of Things, a Manifesto?
It is not the things that are funny;
it is we, the persons.
Balloons fart, fluids explode.
I give myself to laughter
at the outrageous and grotesque
in my pots.
The challenge of relinquishing control-
at heart, an issue of context.
The master planner is sly. She hides behind
disguised as surprise.
The thrill – everything looks unprepared,
The figure that stood out after the first day was a monster, a bunch of depersonalized parts forced together into one figure by the time pressure.
Machine # 3 – The Levi-Strauss Machine
On Day 2, the Comedy of Things machine compelled us to create a dialogue between the four texts each of us had brought (see Appendix A below). After the first day’s recursive reflections on reflections and attempts to contextualize context, we were raring to really get to grips with some actual material. We laid out print-outs of each of the stories neatly on the table, side by side, in no particular order. Resemblances, analogies, comparisons, connections, metaphors – even differences – everything becoming related to everything else.
These multilateral connections made obvious once again the arbitrariness of our initial starting distinctions. Home and field (obviously) joke and myth (perhaps not so obviously) were constantly collapsing into one another. The arbitrariness of the starting points was clearly an inherent part of the CoT machine, but what if we could potentialize, focus and amplify this arbitrariness, make it do some work? A familiar form haunted this idea: two paired opposites, four possibilities.
Armed with this new technology of division – the morning had begun with an injunction by the organizers that playfulness should be serious – we produced an algorithmic machine for typologising relations.
We initially saw the machine as offering the potential for four runs (as above) – we stringently allocated 45minutes per run. We were about to crank it up, when we realized we had omitted a crucial variable: each set of four runs could itself be run both within and across the sets provided by individual authors. A full application of the machine to our material would therefore involve at least one hundred and twenty runs.
We decided to run the simplest combination only, in which texts provided by the same individual would be paired. The first run involved the analysis of the following pairs:
This machine seemed to require us to give each author priority in drawing out the connections and differences between their paired texts. Over-enthusiastic interruptions, when other took the floor before the author had a chance to have their say, were frowned upon. More gentle, gradual, interspersing of comments and suggestions as the author petered out became the collaborative norm.
Collating the sets of connections produced through this process, we then parsed these horizontally and found our original hypothesis confirmed: relations set up between jokes and myths in the same site tended to reflect strongly the concerns of the author. We wondered briefly whether this might have been an artifact of our method.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time. The experiment was therefore inconclusive. Along the way, however, unnoticed to ourselves, an interesting by-product had reappeared. Machine 3 – the Levi-Strauss Machine – reintroduced individuals into the process, and provided a new – inverted – balance between seriousness and play. The combination of these byproducts also set us up for a new working relationship.
Machine # 4: Box
On days 3 and 4, in line with the instructions to pair objects through associations through a method somewhat mysteriously explained as “totemic dialogue”, we laid all the objects out on a table. We had the following items in front of us (photos and further descriptions of these artifacts can be found under “Exhibution//Database” on this website):
1 handmade ceramic pipe from Mongolia shaped as a bear with a wooden mouthpiece;
1 blue anorak bought in Sweden (without hood);
1 wave from Denmark imprisoned in a jam-jar;
1 aquarium with air pump, including a transparent tube;
2 sandals of the brand Havaianas, one used and plain green, one new and green with blue-white-yellow stripes along the side and a Brazilian flag;
1 print of a photo of a blue wedding dress from 1945 worn in Tarm, Denmark;
1 Backgammon set (a black suitcase with two cups, dice, and red and white counters);
1 Psion Organizer II handheld computer;
1 contemporary reproduction of a first millennium AD zoomorphic ceramic vase from northwest Argentina.
The moment we began, things moved quickly — ten hands grasping and shifting objects; five heads spitting out words in a flurry, attempting to do something meaningful with the objects on the table. Objects of similar materials were paired; open and closed containers juxtaposed. A jar of water was paired with a fish tank. Anorak to Psion, pipe to air tube, red and white dice were lifted into the aquarium; the glass with the wave moved into the aquarium, then the new sandal. The dress next to the anorak, then cast aside. Associations of different kinds were made. Some were narrative: This is a man, he is playing backgammon. This is a sandal on a beach. This is a face and here is his pipe. But some were also based on the material: this is glass and glass, black and black, anorak and dress. And one was poetic: captured (actually double-captured) wave in glass in aquarium. There was a great deal of on-going talk about the associations and why we were doing them. The recognition of the objects as potentially fragile collections of materials pushed into our conceptual work at moments. The jar of water was treated with great care. And as the group prepared to move to the tent, fragments of the ceramic pot spilled out from its interior, causing some concern for the integrity of the object. But then what is the object? A momentary stabilization of materials.
The group moved to the tent to meet the installation artist. We were presented with more materials — the box, epoxy, wire, wood, etc. A method was suggested: to break the flow of moving objects and voices we selected two persons who would make notes while the others worked in silence with the objects (a technique that was, quite unintentionally, repeated in the embodied machine, below). This was done in order to make a division between pairing/creating and conceptualizing or narrating and to cut through the chaos. Some objects were put together and stayed what they were more or less – they made sense together as montage (backgammon, sandals). Other objects were put together and in the movement they changed and their meaning shifted (the pipe, the aquarium and the pump). Some things requested a certain measure of respect (the wave). The dress became an origami fox; a figure emerged from anorak and Psion; tubes ran into the pipe, the pump and into the wave.
In a strangely silent, emergent choreography of hands and objects, a narrative scene appeared: an anorak clad figure playing backgammon with a fox. Quite quickly the remaining objects were merged into the scene, some arranged to enhance the event of the game and make its narrative and message coherent, others simply because their material affordances suggested it (the anorak sleeve, now a person’s arm, emerged out of the ceramic pot like a genie). The desire to introduce movement and sound, to somehow animate this strange tableau and involve a potential audience resulted in the pump generating bubbles in the jar and, quite accidently, the hypnotic and machine-like sound of the hum of the pump heard when holding the pipe to one’s ear. A title emerged: Fox and the Fieldworker.
Next morning, we met around the table in a new room. Cups of coffee, a conversation beginning on many fronts at the same time. But the conversation soon centered on the doubts that several of us had about the installation. Several found it to be ugly and/or too crude in its explicit symbolism, one found it unethical or at least not the kind of anthropology she would promote, one considered how it would be understood when taken out of context. We talked about it for more than an hour.
We discussed whether the title could save us. What if we named our box “Science can also be ugly”? Or “Innocent Monster”? We also discussed whether we could signal to the future audience that “this is what we made out of it, but you can do it differently”, if after having taken a photo of our box we took it all apart and just put the objects in the box as they were. And yet, we kept returning anxiously to the box as we had made it, ugly perhaps, perhaps also too literal in its content; but nevertheless our box. What else did we have time to make?
At a certain moment we were told to inform the artist about the next step in his work on our box. We asked for 15 minutes extra time. The time pressure made us think faster. What to do? Then one among us proposed that we broke it all into pieces after having finished it as planned. It would show that the box itself had played its role and was now superfluous. That it had given life to a myth (“Fox and the Fieldworker”), and that from then on it had lost its meaning.
It was a breakthrough. Excitement and a lot of ideas and methodological and theoretical reflections were released: breaking the installation and making a new one comprised of different piles of rubble, fragments and pieces felt like a perfect solution to several problems at the same time. The title of the new installation came quite easily: Afterwords. Later, we changed it.
We were laughing uneasily when we walked over to the artists’ tent to announce that we wanted a finished box only to return and destroy it tomorrow. The artist seemed unaffected, though, noting that “sure, this happens all the time”.
Machine # 5 – Improvisation
Machine # 5 generated the elements of a myth, both in the form of concrete images of relationships and situations, and as a concept: Observation with care. In that moment we no longer needed to make a myth. Like had been the case with the other machines, Machine # 5 dissolved itself just in the moment in which it had begun working.
On the morning of the third day stand up comedian and dancer Christópher made a physical improvisation of some of the texts written by the workshop participants. After his performance we got together in the group to discuss what our myth would be about and how to write it. After a while we settled on improvisation as a process for generating a myth, and asked Christópher to help us realize this form. One of us briefed him on the idea of working out the myth through improvisation, asking if he could think about a few exercises that would allow for a collective imaginary of the relation between fieldworker and fox, two concept-entities generated by Machine # 4.
These happened smoothly, as part of the series of exercises. The machine was doing its thing. Two improvisations took form in which the actors impersonated fox and fieldworker and explored their relation through different tableaus. Elements emerging from the improvisation were: Fox, fieldworker, trickster, shadows, observing with care. We also tried to name elements from the myths we had brought with us, that we would like to be in the myth we were making: Someone at a bridge or under it, big ears, too much or too little hair, a riddle that doesn’t make sense or is insoluble, a sense of being followed, manly and brotherly dogs, uncertainty in a relation or an interaction, bits of flesh in water, violence, snakes, absence, pipe, eating, transformations, specific sentences (for example: “There was a rock in a river in a forest in a valley. But this rock is not of importance”, “Fox never tired of asking questions”).
Fox and Fieldworker: a myth
Written and destroyed with care
Below, we offer the original myths and joke materials prepared beforehand by each of us in case readers wish to complete the full run of the Levi-Strauss machine. However, readers should be aware that some of the contents are missing, for a range of reasons such as ethical concerns about disclosure and dissemination, copyright issues, or concerns about putting out into the world sloppy writing. In making this decision some of us have intentionally disobeyed an injunction of the Comedy of Things machine. Not for the first or last time.
Three construction workers in New York, sitting on a steel beam high above the busy streets, in what will one day become a skyscraper. They have their lunch break. One of them, a Mexican, opens his lunch box and says: “Oh, no!! Tortilla again today, I cannot take more of that stuff. If I get tortilla again tomorrow I will throw myself out”. The second man, a German, opens his lunch box and says: “Oh no! Bratwurst again today! If I get bratwurst just one more time I will throw myself out”. Then the third, a Dane, opens his lunch box. “Oh no!” he says, when he sees what is in it: “I cannot take more of that stuff. If I get liver pate just one more time I throw myself out”.
The next morning when they reach their lunch break, they sit down on the same steel beam and open their lunch packages. “Oh no, tortilla!” the Mexican cries, make the cross for his breast and jumps. “Oh no bratwurst!” the German says and jumps after the Mexican. “Oh no”, says the Dane when it is finally his turn, “that is enough! Liver pate again!”, and then he jumps too. The police, who has to tell the sad occurrences to the wives, feel obliged to explained the painful details with the food as well. “Oh my God, had he just told me!” the Mexican wife cries while she desperately begin to pull her hair. “Oh mein Schatz, why didn’t you tell me?” says the German wife, and crying she collapses on the floor. When they tell the Danish wife of her husband’s suicide, she is silent for a moment, then scratches her nose and says:” Well, that is really strange, he always makes his own lunch packages….?
Three men were on a course on corporate leadership in Brazil. Among other things they learned how to attain one’s goals in life. The recipe was simple: Just imagine what you would like people to say at your funeral. One of the friends said: “Oh I wish people to cry and look at my coffin and say to each other, ‘He was a really good and honest man. Always loving towards wife and children, always generous and joyful with friends’”. When it was his turn, the second friend said: “Oh, I want people to look down on me as I am lying there in the coffin and say, ‘He was a re-a-l-l-y good businessman. Innovative and industrious, you could rely on him. Had he set himself a goal, he would always reach it. He was one of the biggest within his field!’” The last friend thought for a while, looked up as if in doubt, then strengthened his back and said: “When family and friends are joined around my coffin I hope they will look at me as I lie there in my suit and then one of them will suddenly say to the others: ’Hey, wait a minute, didn’t he move a little?’”
B1) The Lambton Worm
Young John Lambton, son of a lord in county Durham, northern England, went fishing one Sunday morning instead of going to church. An old man appeared and told him no good would come of it. Heedless of the warning, John continued to fish, though he caught nothing until the service was over, at which point he pulled out a strange eel-like creature with nine sets of eyes down its side, no bigger than a thumb. Thinking he had caught the devil, he threw it down a well rather than carry it home. John promptly forgot about the creature; he set off soon after for the crusades in order to atone for his bad ways. In the meantime, the worm grew and grew until it filled the well. It then terrorized the countryside, eating sheep, cows and small children. At its full size it was said to be able to wrap its body seven times around worm hill — the marks of its great body can still be seen today. Many knights attempted to the kill the beast, but failed, as any bits cut from it would reattach themselves. Lord Lambton, John’s father, eventually devised a means to placate the beast, offering it the milk of 40 cows and two sheep every morning on his estate.
Seven years passed and John Lambton returned from the crusades. Distraught at the condition of his father’s lands, he visited a witch to seek advice on how to get rid of the worm. The witch explained the origins of the creature and also how to kill it. John was to equip his armour with the ends of spears and to fight the worm in the river Wear, where it had taken residence on a great rock. Importantly, he was to kill the first living creature he came across after defeating the creature otherwise nine generations of Lambtons would be cursed to not die in their beds. John arranged with his father that he was to release his favorite hound when called, which would be killed and the curse avoided.
John fought the beast, which impaled itself on the spears. As young Lambton severed sections of the body the river swept them away; until one final, mighty blow to the head dispatched the worm. In his excitement, however, John’s father rushed out to meet his son. John could not kill his father, so did away with his favourite hound instead. But, it was too late to avoid the curse, and nine generations of Lambtons did not die peacefully in their beds.
A billboard in England shows a very large pint of Newcastle Brown Ale, beside which is the text: “Making British food palatable since 1927.”
Martín Gomez, a football player with Independiente Rivadavia de Mendoza, tweeted the following:
“Despertando con calor. No me gusta tucuman. Seria buena idea q los ingleses se queden con tucuman y nos devuelvan las Malvinas”
“I wake up hot. I don’t like tucuman. It would be a good idea if the English kept tucuman and gave us back the Falklands.”
(Source: La Gaceta online)
B4) Fox and the Old Mortar
Svend Felding opholdt sig i Egnen omkring Aakjær. Saa en Aften han gik om efter Bilsbæk til, det er en Gaard, der ligger deromme, og kommer over den røde Bro, saa træffer han lige ved Broen saa et meget underligt Fruentimmer.Da han nu havde hilst, saa spørger hun om, hvor han vil hen. Ja, det siger han. Saa tager hun igjen Ordet og siger, at dersom han vilde hjælpe hende med at slaa en Person ihjel, han kom til paa Vejen, saa vilde hun give ham tolv Karles Kræfter. Han siger: “Ja, det er godt nok, men Kræfterne maa a have først, for det kan jo være, det er en slem ‘en, a kommer til.”. -“Ja, prøv så at drikke af den Flaske og løft saa den Sten.” Den Sten var stor for Alvor, den laa paa Pladsen, det første a kan huske, og min Fader viste mig den. Men han kunne ikke løfte den. Saa drak han igjen og prøvede atter.Nu kunde han lige rokke den. Saa drak han tredje Gang, og nu kunde han temmelig let flytte den. “Nu er du Karl for at slaa ham ihjel, naar du vil. Nu kommer du først til en sort Person, den skal du ikke gøre noget, men saa kommer du til en rød Person saa herned med ham”. Han gik saa videre frem og møder ogsaa en sort Person, men han lader ham gaa. Dernæst møder han den røde, og saa kløv han ham fra Ende til anden med sit Sværd, som Fruentimmeret havde givet ham, og som han siden bar. Han fik siden snak md Hende igjen, og da sagde hun: “Du bebik en Fejler, og derfor skal du nu hver Dag have tolv Karles Mad.” Men da han fra den Tid spise saa meget, saa tog Herremanden paa Aakjær ham til sig, og der var han og døde. Hans Dovregryde har været paa Gaarden til de sidste Tider, og hans Sværd var ogsaa der, da a var der inde, det var et stort Sværd for Alvor”
[A man called] Sven Felding […] was walking on route to a farm. As he crossed the red bridge [on the way], he encountered a very odd woman. When he greeted her, she asked where he was going, which he told her. Continuing, she proposed that that if he helped her to kill one person, she would give him the strength of twelve lads. To which he replied, “Very well, but I will need to receive the strength first for it could be that he that I am about to meet is a bad one”. “Yes”, [the strange woman said], “now try to drink from this bottle and to lift that stone” […] But he was unable to lift it. He than drank again and gave it another try. Now, he could barely move it. He then drank for the third time, and he could move it fairly easily. “You are now a man who is ready to kill him, when you wish. First, you will now encounter a black person, whom you must leave alone, but when you then meet a red person, then bring him down here”. So, he continued walking and did encounter a black person, whom he let go. He then met the red person, who he chopped from head to toe with the sword that the woman had given him, and which he from now on always carried. One day, he met the odd woman again and she told him “you committed a mistake, so from now on you always be eating the food of twelve lads”. From this point onwards, Sven Felding ate so much that the local landlord took him in, and he stayed there until he died. Until recently, his bowl and his sword were still there – and a mightily big sword it was”
An American couple, an English couple and a Danish couple were having breakfast together.
The American man asks his wife, “Will you pass me the honey, honey?”.
The Englishman asks his wife, “Could you pass me the sugar, sugar?.
The Danish man considers for a while. Then he tells his wife, “Stick me bacon, you fat pig”
Some years ago, a man from the West travelled all the way to our country. He was a big man, tall, dark, with broad shoulders and a full beard. Back where he came from, he lived an ordinary life as a teacher, but people who met him in the city said he had an intense and determined look in his eyes. Clearly, this was a man with a purpose. But he was also very secretive, always careful not to tell anything about where he was going and what he was looking for. So, it was only after he had arrived in the south and everything was set for him to venture into the desert on camel back accompanied by a foreign-speaking local herder that he revealed the nature of his quest. “Almas“, he whispered in the only word that he ever picked up from our language, “I wish to find the almas and get proof of its existence. I want to be the person who finally show the world that the almas exists, and you are going to help me fulfilling my dream!”
Alas, they were conducting their search in the wrong place. Although the two men travelled on their camels for several months all the way of from the eastern to the western corner of the southern deserts, their effort did not bring fruit. Their eyes were constantly scanning the sandy desert for potential footprints, and every herdsman and nomadic household encountered en route were carefully questioned, but to no avail. When they finally arrived at the foothills of the mountains in the far west, they were exhausted, short of supplies, and in low spirits. On the verge of giving up, the foreign man decided that they must try their luck deep in the mountains. Perhaps, by making a last push into this wilderness, they would find almas.
Several weeks passed and it was already well into the autumn, when, one chilly afternoon, the two travellers spotted a lone yurt across the bank of a half-frozen stream. Once inside, they were greeted by an old man and his wife. When the latter had served fresh-boiled salty milk tea and all customary greetings had been exchanged, the real conversation could begin. “This man here has travelled from afar to look for almas“, the foreigner’s companion grandly explained, opening a string of questions that he had rehearsed and perfected for months: “have you or anyone else you know stumbled any strange footprints or perhaps bones on the pastures around here? Do the men on this land ever talk about freak encounters with human-like beasts, whilst, say, hunting alone in the wilderness? Are there any tales of children who have been abducted by a wild man, only to return unscathed to their families years later?” And so forth.
A long silence fell over the yurt as the old tried to light his pipe, interrupted only by the cricking sound of sparkles from the fire. Finally succeeding, he turned towards his honourable guest, and said, “In fact, I may myself have seen the creature you are looking for. It is pretty big and bulky, right?”. “Yes yes!”, shouted the foreign man upon receiving the translation, “that sounds like just like it! But do tell us more – did the beast have any other characteristics, such as thick black fur”. Stealing a glance towards his wife, the old nomad continued, ever so soft-spoken and with a deadpan expression, “well actually, now that you mention it, its entire body and face appears covered in an impenetrable layer of dark hair. So yes, it would indeed seem that I have found the almas …. it is sitting right across from me, having this very conversation!”.
Soon after, the foreign man returned to his own country and to his old job, never bothering to venture abroad again. After all, his mission had now been accomplished: he had found the almas, albeit where he had least expected it, namely in his own reflection in the bedside mirror.
Here in our homeland, there was one girl. She was serving with a family, and one day left to the south, begging. From her one son was born. Down there in the south, some diviners and learned people saw (üzsen) that the boy would one day become the leader of the local shire (otog) and become very rich. There was talk going on like that and eventually the woman heard it herself. She said to herself: “If I have made a good boy then I can get my own land and make him the master of it. If I have made a bad boy then I can get my own land and put my boy inside a dung-collecting-bag (argal tüüdeg aragt) and steal [it]”. Then she took the back to this land and settled at a place called Böörgiin Honhor. They were poor. She made teepee out of wood and they lived in the wilderness. The boy became a man. He went hunting (back then, the hunting was unlimited). When he was seventeen years old, he killed a a deer with gigantic antler, whose blood he dried and sold. From that he received some diamonds (jigig yumnuud) from whih ehbought 70 calves. Eventially he became the leading and wealthiest man of this land.
Then one day a kind called Donkey Khan came here. It is onknown what kind of king he was, but he had his hair cut bald and his ears were the size of the distance between an outstretched thumb and middle finger. He let it be known that if any person become stronger than him, he would have his hair cut off and killed. But the son said to his mother “First I will cut my hair off and then the khan’s hair. After cutting it I will kill him”, and the mother said, “ok, go cut your hair off, we can take care of this problem. For even if Donkey Khan becomes bald, his ears will always be four fingerlengts along, that’s as sure as the wind blows”. And so the son cut his hair of and went to the king and told him “You can cut your hair as much as your like, but go outside and you will see that you are still the same”. To which the khaan responded, “Very well, don’t kill this boy. He is smarter than me. So now I will run away”, he said and left.
Three shepherds (one Moldavian, one Transylvanian, one Vrancean) meet as they bring their flocks down the mountains to the same vale. The Transylvanian and the Vrancean plot to murder the wealthier Moldavian, and to take his great flocks of beautiful sheep, his well-trained horses and his fierce and trusted dogs.
The third shepherd’s favourite little dappled ewe, Mioriţa, has wind of the plot. For three days she refuses to eat and bleats incessantly, until her master asks her what is wrong. Oh my darling master, says Mioriţa, call up your best and most faithful hounds (in the most famous version of the poem, ‘your most manly and most brotherly hounds’), for at sunset the shepherds plan to kill you.
To which the shepherd replies that if the ewe speaks true, his fate is sealed. Ignoring the suggestion to prepare, he instead gives the ewe instructions to be carried out once he is dead, in the form of three messages to convey.
To his murderers she is to say, that they are to bury him here in his sheepfold, where he can hear his dogs. And by his head they are to place three flutes – one of beech, one of horn and one of elder – that the wind may play them, and his sheep may gather and mourn his absence.
To the other sheep she must not speak of his murder but rather say that he has gone to wed a beautiful princess, and that at his wedding a star fell, and the sun and moon held his wedding crown, and that his guests were the pines and his priests were the mountains, and the birds his wedding singers.
And to his mother, searching for her beloved son, Mioriţa is to say only that he has gone to wed a beautiful princess. But of falling stars, suns and moons and trees and mountains as wedding party, she is to breathe not a word.
The most famous version of the Mioriţa story is a ballad in verse published by poet, folklorist and 19th century Romanian nationalist Vasile Alecsandri. Alecsandri claimed he had collected the ballad from an informant in the Carpathian mountains. He was known to have at the very least heavily inflected, if not entirely penned similar ‘folkloric’ works.
Every Romanian child learns Alecsandri’s Mioriţa in school to this day. They also learn that literary critic G. Calinescu has described it as one of the foundational myths of the Romanian psyche, symbolizing Romanians’ sense of their cosmic situation.
A lumberjack, alone in the forest, finds an old oil lamp in a hollow tree. Noticing some faint writing on the side, obscured by years of dirt, he tries to wipe it clean. As he rubs it, a genie appears. “Friend” says the genie “you have freed me from this prison and in reward I will grant you three wishes. What is your first wish?”
The lumberjack ponders for a moment, and, with a slight shrug, says, ‘turn my head into a boar’s head.’ The genie, nonplussed but obedient, gestures and with a ‘whoosh’, a large pair of tusks grow on the lumberjack’s jaw and his head turns into that of a bristly boar.
“What is your second wish?”
The lumberjack, with a long sigh: ‘give me the legs of a duck’. Another whoosh, and his legs vanish to be replaced by a duck’s.
‘What is your third wish?’ The genie asks, adding in a warning tone, ‘Remember, now, this is your last. Choose wisely!’
Straight off the bat, in a resigned voice, the lumberjack replies: ‘Bah, give me the ears of a rabbit’. And hey presto, his boar’s head sprouts two long furry ears.
A brief pause. The genie, puzzled, looks the lumberjack up and down – legs of a duck, a boar’s head topped by rabbit ears – and can’t help himself: “Listen, friend, it’s time for me to go now, but I really have to ask: why? I mean my customers usually ask for, you know… wealth, love, eternal life…”
To which the lumberjack, with a heart-rending expression of horrified realisation replies: “What?! You mean I could have asked for those!?”
D3) Successful habituation
D4) The Raw and the Cooked
E1) Eat and work
E2) The girl from intestine
I come from a small town in Western Jutland called Tarm. Literally it means ‘intestine’. Many people in Denmark think this is funny. Just like in the 1970s on Sunset Boulevard ‘fucking’ or ‘pussy’ were funny words. Talking about such things in public clearly was crossing a line between what was considered public on the one hand and private on the other. Tarm makes people laugh and there are many jokes about this place. “What do they call the flower shop in Tarm? Tarm flora” (Hvad hedder blomsterbutikken i Tarm? Tarmflora).
As you can imagine, the entertainment value of these jokes is somewhat limited when you live in Tarm. Tarm is funny because the intestine is considered a private body part. Naming a public place after a part of the body that is private is hilarious. Bringing private issues into the public can be really funny. It can also be quite embarrassing of course.
Coming from Tarm makes me ‘the Girl from Intestine’ as an Australian friend once dubbed me in a poem. I never wanted to ‘come from’ Tarm, as I never particularly identified with the norms and values there. Now that I don’t live there anymore and haven’t done for a long time, I am quite satisfied being the Girl from Ins green energy adventure cameas, Denmark’the surfers make a living out of o use. Now Klitmøller is known hing to the local busintestine. I would not go so far as to say that I have grown fond of intestine-jokes, but I do appreciate that these (not so) humorous accounts relativize the place and ‘add to’ what Tarm is. The jokes make Tarm bigger than it is, not smaller as they ‘socialize’ Tarm. When seen through other people’s eyes and narrated by them Tarm is made part of an outside world. The jokes make Tarm a less out-of-the-way kind of place. I repeat: today I am happy being ‘the Girl from Intestine’.
E3) The Cold Hawaii
11 kilometers south of Hanstholm you find Klitmøller. The town used to be a fishing town but in the 1980 it was ‘discovered’ as a surf spot. Lots of surfers came to visit Klitmøller. They would be young people with no money, surfboards fixed on the roofs of their auto campers. They would camp illegally in the dunes. Jokingly, they referred to Klitmøller as The Cold Hawaii. Increasingly, the local fishermen got annoyed with these visitors, who came uninvited and stayed for weeks, but did not contribute any money to the local businesses. As a local fisherman said: “back then surfing had a bad name”.
In 2005 the Harbor of Hanstholm was planning an extension of the harbor. The extension involved placing a large fish farm on a spot dubbed by the surfers as The Middles. Investment in the fish farm would pay for the extension. The municipality, who was responsible for granting the various building permissions, did not know that The Middles was known as one of the world’s best surf spots. A conflict developed between the Harbor people, the municipality and the surfers. A local politician recalls how he went on vacation telling himself that “after his holidays all of this have passed”. When he returned two weeks later, the surfers had mobilized thousands of surfers worldwide as part of the online campaign Save the Middles.
It was then the name Cold Hawaii became famous. It emerged as part of a conflict over how the waves of the sea were best used. The surfers won their case and Cold Hawaii developed into a brand. Today, Klitmøller is known all over Denmark, and in many other places, as a great place for surfing. Today surfing means business.
 Hougaard Nielsen, Jens. Odder Lokalhistoriske Arkiv, 1994: 55
 “Almas: ‘abominable snowman’, legendary wild man (C. Bawden 1997, Mongolian-English Dictionary”, Kegan Paul International, London).