Big Brother is watching you

By Dom Cioffi

I was in Copenhagen, Denmark, on business this past week. It’s a bustling city, but not in the way Americans think of bustling cities.

First of all, because of the economic system that’s in place in Denmark, it’s extremely expensive to own a car (taxes on car purchases and gasoline are outrageous). Consequently, most everyone rides the municipal buses or trains. Or they ride bikes… by the thousands.

In fact, I have never seen more bike riders in my life. They’re everywhere and if you’re not careful you’ll get pummeled by one, which nearly happened to me on several occasions.

The other interesting thing is that the bikes are ugly – at least from my skewed American viewpoint.

I have a stylish mountain bike with a shock absorber system, aerodynamic design and cool coloring. The bikes in Denmark look like something that my grandmother rode in the 1940s, complete with tiny fenders and Dorothy’s handlebar basket.

But no one seems to care. The fact is that the bikes get them from point A to point B with little to no money involved.
It should also be noted that these folks are not fair-weather bikers. The average temperature while I was in town was 30 degrees, but this did not deter anyone’s commute.

While I was huddled up in my winter clothing jumping from cab to cab, the locals were ripping around the city streets on their bikes, moving at speeds that must have made the air feel at least 20 degrees colder.

The other interesting thing about the Danes is the way they approach their meals.

These are very healthy people who take their dining experiences very seriously. While Americans are more interested in “fast” food, the Danes insist on taking their time while eating quality food.
I was warned ahead of time that the one night that was reserved for a corporate meal would probably take 3+ hours to complete.

Initially this concerned me. After all, I have a hard time holding a conversation with family members for an hour at Thanksgiving, how was I going to keep things flowing for three hours with virtual strangers?

In the end, however, it was a complete joy because the Danes have such a grand appreciation for the conversation that accompanies their dining experiences.

And the food! Not only did I find it delicious, but it was so much healthier than I was accustomed to.

There was a cafeteria at the corporate offices I visited that was available to all employees and guests. But this was no American cafeteria; there were no peanut butter sandwiches, no donuts, and no Jell-O pudding.

Instead, I was inundated with healthy salads, various fish dishes, whole grain breads, and a wide selection of gourmet cheeses and pâté.

Most surprisingly, however, was the absence of sugary drinks and desserts. In fact, the only beverage available was fresh water; not one soda, not one energy drink, not one iced tea or glass of Kool-Aid. And the only thing that remotely resembled a dessert was an apple and ginger puree that came in a tiny shot glass.

One of the gentlemen I ate lunch with (who just happened to be an overweight American), was put off by the fact that he didn’t have access to his usual Diet Coke and chocolate chip cookies. He said it was too controlling for a company to determine what he could or could not eat; that it was too controlling for the government to tax cars and gas so much that people were forced to ride bikes.

I’m also for freedom of choice, but I have to admit, I was not offended by the Danes’ approach. It may be a bit Big Brother-ish, but the fact remains: these people are healthy, thin and in amazing shape. Is that so bad?
This week’s feature, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” is also about control, except in this case it’s the control expressed in a highly-charged relationship.

Based on the best-selling book by E. L. James, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the story of a brooding billionaire with domineering fetishes who sets his sights on a recent college graduate.

My expectations were very low going into this one (based solely on what I had heard others say about the book and movie), which could be why I didn’t find it that offensive. So while I wouldn’t qualify it as an award-winner on any level, I did find the dynamic between the two main characters both erotic and alluring.

Lots of folks are taking issue with the controlling nature of the featured relationship, particularly the dominating role of the man over the woman. However, if you look closely, the reverse scenario is at play as well.

In the end, however, if you take away the unique perversion, this is nothing more than an uneventful love story. It’s the taboo subject matter alone that give it mass allure.

Check this one out if you’re open-minded and curious – just be prepared for some intense sexuality peppered with a fetish slant.

A restrained “C+” for “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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