08 October 2009

The Book People

Well it's that time again . . . time for the Frankfurt Book Fair. I can't wait to hang out with The Book People and be reminded that there are indeed a lot of people who still care about books, despite what the doomsayers would have us believe about the demise of the printed word.

So with that in mind, here's my tribute to book lovers everywhere--one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written for film. It's the finale to Bernard Herrmann's score for Fahrenheit 451. The music accompanies the scene in which Montag has finally found his way to The Book People and begins the task of committing to memory Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe. Oh and in case you're wondering, my book would be The Bone People by Keri Hulme . . . and if you don't know what I'm on about then read Bradbury or see Truffaut's adaptation.

Okay, if that doesn't grab you, try this one!

Blogging will resume in about two weeks . . .

03 October 2009

29 Settembre (Updated)

Thanks to my friend Dario, I now have an actual translation of the Lucio Battisti song, "29 Settembre." After reading the lyrics, I can only wonder why my dear friend in Florence misled me about the true nature of the song. Because yeah, the guy meets a beautiful girl in a cafe and has a wonderful time with her, but my friend neglected to mention that the guy already had a girlfriend. Ah well, perhaps the fact I consider this an issue just means that I am a little prude born and raised in the US . . .


It's still a beautiful song . . . see I am becoming Europeanized . . .

Many thanks Dario!! This was a lovely birthday gift.

Original Italian lyrics:
29 Settembre (Battisti, Mogol 67)

Seduto in quel caffe'
io non pensavo a te....
Guardavo il mondo che
girava intorno a me...
Poi d'improvviso lei
e ancora prima di capire
mi trovai sottobraccio a lei
stretto come se
non ci fosse che lei.
Vedevo solo lei
e non pensavo a te...
E tutta la citta'
correva incontro a noi.
Il buio ci trovo'
un ristorante e poi
di corsa a ballar sottobraccio a lei
stretto verso casa abbracciato a lei
quasi come se non ci fosse che,
quasi come se non ci fosse che lei.
Mi son svegliato e
e sto pensando a te.
Ricordo solo che,
che ieri non eri con me...
Il sole ha cancellato tutto
di colpo volo giu' dal letto
e corro li' al telefono
parlo, rido e tu.. tu non sai perche'
t'amo, t'amo e tu, tu non sai perche'
parlo, rido e tu, tu non sai perche'
t'amo t'amo e tu, tu non sai perche'
parlo, rido e tu, tu non sai perche'
t'amo, t'amo tu, tu non sai perche'.

Dario's English translation:
29th of September

I was sitting down at that Cafè…
I wasn’t thinking of you
Only looking the world going
around me
Then she suddenly
and even before to understand
I was “with my arm under her arm”
walking close as she
was the only.
I saw her only
and I didn’t think of you…
And all the city around
ran to meet us.
The dark surprised us
so close
A restaurant and then
fast to dance “with my arm under her arm”
embraced going home
as she was the only
as she was the only one.
I woke up and
and now I think of you.
I only recall that
yesterday you weren’t with me…
The sun erased everything
and I suddenly jump out the bed
and I run there at the telephone
I speak, smile and you…you don’t know why
I love you, I love you and you…you don’t know why
I speak, smile and you…you don’t know why
I love you, I love you and you…you don’t know why
I speak, smile and you…you don’t know why
I love you, I love you and you…you don’t know why

[Literally: “be with my arm under her arm”, it means to have an intimate relation of friendship or love with a person in Italian.]

29 September 2009

29 Settembre, Daydreams, and Marty

In 1998, I was lucky enough to wake up in Florence, Italy on my birthday. The friends who hosted me during that trip gave me a CD, which was a collection of Lucio Battisti's greatest hits. They picked this gift because of "29 Settembre," a song Battisti recorded in 1969. As far as I understand it, the song is about a young man meeting a pretty girl in a cafe. It's a lovely song and I enjoyed the other tracks on the CD as well. Unfortunately, there are no videos on YouTube which feature live performances of this song, but there are some nice photos in this tribute.

Released by the Loving Spoonfuls in 1966, "Daydream" was my absolute favorite song when I was a little kid . . . well, at least until "I Want You Back" was released a few years later in 1969. In any case, I'll never forget sitting at the breakfast table one morning before school and hearing "Daydream" dedicated to me on the radio. The dedication came from my mom, who sent birthday greetings to me that the entire city could hear if they were listening. What an incredible feeling, what a great song, and a very nice video from Hullabaloo.

And to wrap up this little musical musing on birthdays past, I can't forget last year, when I woke up with the music in me. Unfortunately, the video is no longer available due to copyright claims, but what does remain from that post is my dear friend Marty, who found my blog after Googling the New Young Radicals, thus beginning a transatlantic, southern folk, meeting of the minds. Marty, thanks for all of your stories, comments, and advice. Keep fighting the good fight for justice and equality, which is so desperately needed in the world.

This one is for you my friend.

26 August 2009

On the use of the word "Nazi"

For me, it began with Seinfeld and the Soup Nazi.

While I found the character hilarious, I never understood why the word "Nazi" was being used to describe the soup guy's psychotic behavior. Soon, however, it seemed that Nazi became an acceptable adjective to describe a range of ailments, and since the Seinfeld days I've heard or read the term Shoe Nazi, Food Nazi, Club Nazi, and the ubiquitous: "God, you're such a fucking Nazi," which when translated means, you have a different opinion.

Moreover, the term has been dusted off and used in a non-humorous (?) context to describe the President of the United States. And while that may be hilarious in what it reveals about the complete batshittiness of what's left of the Republican Party, it's still a disturbing misappropriation of a word whose referent should remain clear and undiluted.

Perhaps I'm sensitive because I live in Germany, but each time I hear or read the word Nazi to describe someone who doesn't have anything to do with real Nazis, I get a bit stabby.

To be clear, here are some Nazis:

Humiliation of an elderly Jew in Poland
(Courtesy of www.isurvived.org)

And here is some more of the shit they did:

I fail to see the humor here and so I'm calling bullshit on the use of that term in a humorous context. In fact, I'm calling bullshit on its use in a non-humorous context as well if it doesn't have anything to do with the fucking Fascists for whom the term was coined.

22 August 2009

Für Dich

Was man so braucht . . .

Man braucht nur eine Insel
allein im weiten Meer.
Man braucht nur einen Menschen,
den aber braucht man sehr.

Mascha Kaléko

14 August 2009

The Green Party Posters . . .

. . . that I was bitching about on Tuesday, have been removed according to this article in The Local.


The way to the heart

I've been living like a princess the past few weeks, having been fortunate enough to meet someone special who loves to cook. Alas, it was eventually my turn to rock the pots and so I returned to an old favorite, which I hoped would do just a little bit to impress a food "snob."

Herb, Garlic, and Lemon Roast Chicken

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Minced zest of two lemons
5 or 6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 Tbsp minced fresh thyme, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme, finely crumbled
2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary, or 2 Tsp dried rosemary, finely crumbled
2 Tbsp minced fresh sage, or 2 Tsp dried sage, finely crumbled
5 to 6 pound roaster or capon
About 2 Tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375º F.

In a small bowl combine the butter, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sage; blend well. Reserve.

Wash the chicken and dry thoroughly, inside and out, with paper toweling. Beginning with neck opening, slip your fingers between the chicken skin on one side of the breast, leaving the skin attached at the cavity opening, Using your fingers in the same way, work under the skin of the thigh and leg, leaving the skin attached at the end of the leg. Loosen the skin on the other side of the chicken in the same way.

Insert most of the lemon-and-herb butter under the skin with one hand, using the other hand to distribute the butter evenly from the outside. Rub the remaining flavored butter inside the cavity. Pull the skin at the neck over the opening and skewer it or sew it with heavy kitchen thread to the back of the chicken. Tie the legs together with cotton string.

Rub the entire outside surface of the chicken with soy sauce, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350º and cook, basting with pan drippings every 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced, about 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 40 minutes (or 20 minutes per pound) total cooking time. Remove the string, stuff the cavity with fresh herbs, and serve hot or at room temperature.

With this I served garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli tossed with lemon juice and butter.

I was a bit disappointed with my wacky oven, which has a very uneven heating pattern. This meant that I had to adjust the cooking time and temperature and pay closer attention to the process than I usually do.

Whatever, HE seemed to enjoy the finished results . . . and I did, too, for that matter.

Okay, so now I can go back to being a princess for the next week or so. Hmmmm . . . I wonder what's for dinner on Sunday.


13 August 2009

Dr. DJ

My dear friend Pedro recently had the opportunity to act out his John Peel radio fantasies, and the results were fantastic. Pedro is from Portugal, so unless you can understand Portuguese the lovely DJ banter will be lost on you. That said, Portuguese is a beautiful language so it doesn't matter really whether you understand it or not.

Okay, it doesn't matter to me.

Pedro, if that academic career doesn't pan out the way you'd like, I see a future for you in radio . . .

In any case, the set can be downloaded here. Enjoy!


The National: "All the Wine"
Why?: "Good Friday"
Sufjan Stevens: "Decatur"... Read More
Sleater-Kinney: "You're No Rock 'N Roll Fun"
The Chameleons: "Swamp Thing"
Triffids: "Blinded By The Hour"
João Coração: "Muda Que Muda"
Gilberto Gil: "Domingo No Parque"
Animal Collective: "Summertime Clothes"
XTC: "Greenman"
cLOUDDEAD: "Dead Dogs Two"
Guided By Voices: "Tractor Rape Chain"
Thin White Rope: "Ahr Skidar"
Yo La Tengo: "Pablo And Andrea"
Sérgio Godinho: "Horas Extraordinárias"

11 August 2009

Operation Optimism!

Well the day began nicely enough. I read an article on the BBC website that claims women who are optimistic live longer. According to the article,

The research on nearly 100,000 women, published in the journal Circulation, found pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol.

Even taking these risk factors into account, attitude alone altered risks.

Optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up.

I already have high blood pressure, but the last time I had my cholesterol checked it was fine. Okay, that was two years ago, so who knows what state it's currently in. Details aside, however, after reading this article, I thought seriously about my Weltanschauung and what I could do to improve it and increase my chances of living past my next birthday.

Then I went to the Huffington Post.

While there, I came to the conclusion that the only thing that can improve both my outlook on life and increase my longevity is to stop using the Internet. I guess it had something to do with that piece on health care reform and the sign I saw calling President Obama "The Anus of America."

But then I had a nice lunch with my dear friend Silke and all was well with me and the world . . . until I returned home, logged into Facebook, and read a message from my friend Marc about the assification of Germany's Green Party.

Image courtesy of www.gruene-kaarst.de


For my non-German-speaking readers, it says "The only reason to vote Black." Here black refers to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats . . . and the woman of course.



And then I went back to the Huffington Post and saw this, too.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

I guess he was working in the corn fields the week his history class covered World War II.


But then Susanna sent me this and I laughed out loud and felt instantly better. So all of this negative shit notwithstanding, I think I'll be okay. Unlike the women who harbor hostile thoughts and feelings, which eventually kill them, I release mine through the wonder of Web 2.0.*

So, to those of you who do not want to live in a country that provides basic health coverage to all of its citizens,

Fuck you.

To Green Party members who are either too naive or too stupid to understand why some people find this campaign poster offensive,

Fuck you, too.

And now I will get ready to meet my dear friend Lars for a drink and enjoy the end of what has been a wonderful day.

So don't worry Stefan, I'm fine!

*yeah, the same Web 2.0 that's making me crazy in the first place. Whatever.

04 August 2009

In which our heroine discovers
that life often imitates urban myth

When I was an undergraduate (early 1980s) there was a rumor* going around about some guy whose wife or girlfriend had superglued his penis to his thigh because he had been cheating on her. One of my roommates even swore that she knew somebody who knew the couple. When I challenged her on the story, she became quite angry, as folks do when you call them on being witnesses to bullshit stories.

In any case, there seemed to be an epidemic of penis gluing back then, but none of these stories was ever confirmed to my satisfaction. See, this is what we did before the internet. We just screamed back and forth at each other:

No it's not, I know them personally!!
Liar! You are so full of shit!!

Alas, now friends of Therese Ziemann, Michelle Belliveau, Wendy Sewell, Tracy Hood-Davis, and Donessa Davis will be able to scream, "I know some women who glued this guy's penis!!" or "I know a guy who got his penis glued!" and their silly stories will be instantly verifiable. I'll save you the trouble of the Google search, though. You can find the story and pics of the women in the Independent.

And now I'm left wondering if people just go to the Snopes.com in search of myths they can turn into fact. At this point, I'm willing to believe anything.


*The term urban myth had not yet been coined.

28 July 2009

You can have Mr. Darcy . . .

I'll take Captain Wentworth from Persuasion. I'm all set to read it again after finding the 1995 film version (the best in my opinion) on YouTube recently.

And yeah, this is the final scene, so here's your warning: spoiler alert. But seriously, if you've neither read or seen it, shame on you.

19 July 2009

Who knew . . .

. . . that Buzz Aldrin was so cool??

Update: Broken link to YouTube video replaced with the link to Funny or Die.

Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes

There are some things that are just wrong.

Pre-cooked, shrink-wrapped pancakes are an excellent example. If you don't have time to make some batter (10 minutes?) and drop it in the pan, eat something else. No, seriously, eat something else. In German, pancakes are called Pfannkuchen and when they're freshly prepared they're wonderful. The pre-cooked version that you heat in the skillet? An unlimited residency/work permit couldn't persuade me to eat them again.

Okay, that's probably a lie, but you get the point.

In any case, I spotted what appeared to be nice blueberries yesterday when I went shopping, and so I bought them along with some vanilla yogurt for Sunday breakfast.

. . . and so good for you, too!

As fate would have it, my flatmate also spotted blueberries when she went shopping and having heard me go on and on about how my pancakes were much better than those pre-cooked Pfannkuchen things--especially my blueberry pancakes--she bought a tub of blueberries, too. When I got home from the market, she suggested that I make blueberry pancakes for Sunday breakfast.

Now it's time for a small confession.

Previously, I had only ever used Bisquick to make my pancakes. I'm not referring to the shake and pour stuff I just saw on the Betty Crocker website, but the pancake and baking mix. Okay, not a huge difference, but still! In any case, I recently had another experience with forgoing stuff out of a box I had grown up with and learning to make that stuff from scratch, and now I can truly say goodbye forever to Jiffy's Cornbread mix, because my own cornbread is superb. With that experience behind me, I was definitely ready for the no-Bisquick pancake challenge.

So, after scouring the web for a Buttermilk Blueberry Pancake recipe that made sense and didn't involve beating egg whites, I ended up with this one from Elise at her Simply Recipes blog. The only tweak I had to make was to add a bit more milk. A good tip I got from Elise was to drop the blueberries in the skillet on top of the batter, rather than mixing them into the batter itself. This prevents the blueberries bleeding and turning the batter completely purple. No big deal, but I liked the way they turned out. It also certainly helps that one of the few things I always insist on bringing with me when I move back and forth from the US to Europe is a standard set of measuring equipment for US recipes. A half a teaspoon of baking powder? A cup of milk? No problem.*

Nick, my flatmate's nine-year-old son, was all the proof I needed that the pre-cooked Pfannkuchen debate had been positively decided in my favor. After the first bite, he gave me the look every cook wants to see after trying something new, and then exclaimed how delicious they were.


Before they were drenched in maple syrup

With all of that leftover buttermilk, perhaps it's time to try some homemade ranch dressing. Who needs you Hidden Valley?

*And yeah, I learned this the hard way.

11 July 2009

Supermarket Assclown

Okay, you know how it is:

You're waiting patiently in a long line in the grocery store. You're in the middle of the line just behind the barrier that separates one line from the next. You're chilling and thinking about how grocery stores are practically the same all over the place, since the line immediately to the right is empty and with that many people waiting why don't they open it up. Suddenly it does open up and the cashier beckons for people in your line to move over to her.


But before you can take a step, some assclown from the very back of the line runs up and starts putting his stuff down on the belt.

What to do, what to do?

Well, in the little story that just unfolded in my neighborhood supermarket, the guy in front of me calmly walked over and put his stuff down on the belt in front of the assclown's stuff . . . To which the assclown graciously replied, "Sure, go ahead."

I was already behind the guy in front of me (and way the hell in front of the guy from the back of the line), so I placed my things on the belt behind the guy who was in front of me and in front of the assclown . . . To which the assclown not-so graciously replied, "I didn't mean you, but go ahead."

Ah Berliners, famous throughout Germany for their politeness . . .

What to do, what to do?

Well, first I gave him "The Smile." Then I replied, "But since I was already ahead of you I don't actually need your permission, do I?"

Flawless delivery . . . Goethe Institute style, baby . . . yeah!

Stunned, he could only nod and utter a weak, "Ach so . . ."

"Ach so" my ass . . .

You clown.

For Julie!

03 July 2009

Midlife Crisis on a Budget

After jokingly using the term "midlife crisis" yesterday on Facebook (I was wondering if rearranging the furniture was the extent to mine) an interesting discussion ensued about hot convertibles and steaming twenty-three-year-old toy boys. And as I pondered the madness of middle-aged people losing themselves in conspicuous consumption and meaningless sex in order to escape the inevitable decline that comes with aging, I decided that I'm just not having it.

According to that fount of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, I am not alone.

There is a fair amount of skepticism associated with the idea of a midlife crisis. As typically defined, however, it is a period of transition, let's call it, for people who are between thirty and sixty and experiencing "self-doubt . . . as a result of sensing the passing of youth and the imminence of old age." Okay, the lower figure strikes me as a bit silly . . . as does the upper one, but I'm not going to judge anybody. Hey, if you're thirty and experiencing the imminence of old age, my condolences. And if you're sixty and just catching on that your youth is passing, my respect. More interesting though, is that according to Wikipedia, only 10 percent of middle-aged adults actually go through midlife crises.


As I considered how it's possible that only 10 percent go through it, but EVERYBODY accepts it as a normal passage, it occurred to me that its relative "fame" is related to the segment of the population that has overwhelmingly come to define the 10 percent. In other words, if the general association with midlife crisis is fancy cars and much younger sex partners then clearly a bunch of affluent men have convinced us that midlife crisis-ing is as much a part of our experience as human beings as puberty.


Interestingly, the Wikipedia piece also acknowledges the extent to which midlife crises are cultural constructs, offering that this phenomenon is not apparent all over the world:
Some studies indicate that some cultures may be more sensitive to this phenomenon than others. One study found that there is little evidence that people undergo midlife crises in Japanese and Indian cultures, raising the question of whether a midlife crises is mainly a cultural construct. The authors hypothesized that the "culture of youth" in Western societies accounts for the popularity of the midlife crisis concept there.

Now I don't mean to suggest that there aren't serious issues involved with aging. My own head is full of questions, doubts, and fears . . . mostly related to menopause and when the hell will it finally get here. So it's important to point out that midlife crises in women are generally different than those in men. Whether or not there are also differences based on race was not discussed, nor was the issue of social class, but I am inclined to think that a broke black woman is going to have a different midlife crisis than an affluent white male.

Is that even fair?

Yes and hallelujah!

It is probably a good thing that I don't have money or else I might be rolling through Berlin in something like this:

With something like this in the passenger seat:

So yeah, I'm like totally happy that my midlife crisis will consist primarily in reading up on hot flashes and screaming at people for no apparent reason.


And to the affluent guys out there, I just stopped judging you.

01 July 2009

Happy 20th Birthday DTRT!!

It's hard to believe that twenty have passed since Do the Right Thing slammed into movie theaters across the United States. Whether you loved it or hated it, you damn sure couldn't ignore it.

For the crazy-ass dialogue about race it forced on an unwilling public, I salute Spike Lee for his masterpiece.

The infamous race rant

And no, this post would not be complete without Public Enemy's contribution to the film. "Fight the Power" came to define both the film and the summer of 1989.


29 June 2009

I was 9, he was 11. It was love at first sight.

The selection of YouTube videos I've been watching since Thursday night when I learned that Michael Jackson had died, is indeed quite telling. With one exception, "They Don't Really Care About Us," the choices I made tended to be from either the Jackson 5/Jacksons era, or from MJ's solo career up to the Bad album. After Bad, MJ's physical transformation made it difficult for me to connect with his music. Or perhaps I had simply outgrown him. Or perhaps the music just wasn't as compelling for me as it had been.

In any case, this post isn't about why I stopped listening to MJ, but rather about how I started listening to MJ. In order to create some sort of context for what follows, I offer:

Um . . . yeah, that's me in the middle

This photograph was taken either during the summer of 1970 or 1971 at Our Lady of the Hills Catholic Summer Camp in the mountains of North Carolina. My mother sent me to this camp two years in a row, so that I would have proper "exposure" to white people. To give my mother the credit she is due, it important to point out that at this time I was attending a segregated public school, but everyone knew that integration was on the way. My mom wanted to get a jump on things and make sure white folks had been demystified enough so that when I finally ended up in school with them, there would be no problems, in terms of an inferiority complex or something similar.

So yeah, this is how I grew up, with race a critical factor in trying to determine who I was and where I belonged. This isn't necessarily the best way to grow up, but whatever extra stress the issue of skin color meant for me during my childhood, was more than compensated for with the music of the time.

I was a very lucky little girl.

Not only did I grow up during the heyday of Motown and the emergence of rock music, but I grew up in a household where great music was simply a fact of everyday life. Being only twenty years older than I am, and a music lover her whole life, my mother always had good music in the house. In fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is riding with my mom in her blue Rambler station wagon with the windows down and both of us singing along with Mick Jagger at the top of our voices to "I Can't Get no Satisfaction." Like many little girls, the hairbrush was my microphone around the house, but unlike the rest I knew all the words to everything Aretha Franklin ever thought about singing. As we had no classical music, I would come home from ballet class and use the handle of the oven door as the barre and practice my plies to James Brown.


I remember my mom taking me to see Marvin Gaye at Brogden Hall at New Hanover High School when I was little, and traveling with her to the Fort Eustis jazz festival with her and my even littler brothers. I was allowed to go to the daytime shows, which included Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, but was banned from the really cool stuff like Sly and the Family Stone because my mother was sure that I would get high from all the pot smoke wafting through the air at the nighttime shows. Um . . . Mom??

So I had musical idols when I was a little girl, but they were all grownups. Cool, but grownups.

Until the night that I saw the Jackson 5 perform "I Want You Back" on television. Now the conventional wisdom says that the first performance of this song on American TV was on the Ed Sullivan Show, which we watched religiously, but my memory is from the Andy Williams Show. Whatever. The point is that I saw the show, saw them perform, and fell in love. Instantly, madly, crazily in love.

Finally, someone around my age, and my color. Hallelujah!

[Yeah, I know what you're thinking: what about that little black boy on Julia? And the answer is that he NEVER did if for me. I may have been little, but I had a notion of sex appeal and Corey had none.]

Then began the work of being a fan. There were 45s to be purchased, and when there was enough money, albums, too, with their covers drawn on with the standard "Inez and Michael FOREVER" enclosed in a heart drawn around his picture. There were also dance routines to be choreographed, mastered, and performed with my girlfriends for the family. I swear I still remember a couple moves from "The Love You Save" and "Lookin' Through the Windows."

No shit.

Prospective boyfriends were judged on their likeness to MJ or at least his hair, with "He likes you and he looks like Michael Jackson," being the ultimate compliment I could have received back then. Of course, I knew how to bring the drama as well. On April Fool's Day in the fifth grade, one of my classmates told me that MJ had died of a drug overdose. I walked home after school and helped myself to some Flintstone Vitamins with Iron so that I could follow him. Taking four Flintsone Vitamins with Iron won't kill you, but they will make you constipated, so yeah, I suffered for my love.

When I was 12 going on 13 and visiting my cousin for the summer in New Jersey, her husband took me to Madison Square Garden to see the Ohio Players open up for the Jackson 5. It was August 1973 and Stevie Wonder had just released Innervisions, which I had on repeat play. I didn't think it was possible for a musical experience to be cooler than that.

I was wrong.

That night in Madison Square Garden (where I was too prim to move a couple rows closer to some empty seats because I thought people might come back and be angry thereby thoroughly pissing off my cousin's husband) I gave myself completely over to the power of excellent music performed live. I was already a fan of The Ohio Players and the heart-drawing object of my affection here was the drummer, Diamond. The combination of Diamond and MJ in the same evening just about killed me. If I had known anything about sex then, I would have been able to make some sort of comparison. But I didn't, so all I could do was grin and laugh and cry and hang on to my Jackson 5 comemorative magazine like a crazy person when some kid on the subway ride home asked to see it.

As. fucking. if . . .

By then I was already in an integrated school where one of the big lunchtime arguments was based on who was in fact better: the Jackson 5 or the Osmond Brothers. And while I dug the hell out of Down by the Lazy River--a fact that I had to keep to myself--there was just no comparison. Even the Jackson 5's Saturday cartoon was better than the Osmonds' cartoon.


I was lucky enough to see The Jacksons again when I was an undergrad at Carolina. They played in Greensboro and a bunch of us drove over for a night of "sunshine, moonlight, and the boogie." Foxy opened up for them and the show was excellent. I was surrounded by close friends and good music, two factors that continue to define happiness for me. Then later after the show, we all got into a huge fight in some stupid bar over whether the US should boycott the Soviet Union for shooting down Korean Air Lines Flight 007. It was the fight that ended my friendship with Joanna and I still miss her.

In any case, these were the memories that came flooding back on Thursday night when I learned of MJ's death. The tears I shed were not only for a tragic figure whose life in later years seemed to be one continuous WTF, but for my own life, too; the good times, the music, the friends, but most of all the childhood that never seemed as cool to me then as it does right now.

For the role he played in my childhood, I thank Michael Jackson unreservedly. May he finally rest in peace.

The Jackson 5 perform "The Love you Save" on the Diana Ross Show

25 June 2009

USA vs Spain: 2-0 . . . WTF???

Congratulation to the USA football team for an amazingly fantastic win over Spain in the Confederation Cup semi-final match last night.

If only I had seen it . . .

In any case, here's a clip of the goals . . . in Portuguese, also known as the language of football. ;-)

24 June 2009

2006: The year that was . . .

Each time I take a peek at the archive list for this blog, I am always a bit perplexed when I see that there are no entries for 2006. Not one. Not a single one. There's not even a draft copy of some nonsense that might have been one.

What the hell is that about? What was I doing in 2006 that was so important that I couldn't be bothered to say anything at all?

As I attempt to look back at 2006 to see what was going on behind the scenes, so to speak, I come up empty handed. It was no more or less stressful than 2005 or 2007. And bloody hell, I finished my PhD in 2006 and attended the graduation ceremony where I was capped by Diana Rigg, who was the Chancellor of my university at that time.

But maybe that's the problem. Perhaps I was suffering from some sort of post-PhD blues. Simon (my advisor) had told me that there would be a big letdown after the project was finished. I laughed and told him to lay off the crack pipe. I was going to be absolutely thrilled when my thesis was finished and I could finally get on with my life.

What the hell did I know?

My identity had been so tied up in my research project and just trying to get everything right, but above all get it written, that I never stopped to think about what the project had meant to me and how it had changed my life forever. For four years, I was a doctoral candidate in the Stirling Media Research Institute and that was fine with me. I traveled here and there giving papers at conferences in the US and Europe, fully funded by my generous department. I was lucky to have great friends and professors whose support and encouragement I could always rely on and who seemed genuinely interested in the work I was doing, and whose work I admired and respected.

Geez, of course I was miserable when it was over.

I had, and continue to have to be honest, the nagging feeling that I didn't enjoy it enough when it was happening; that I didn't take seriously enough what those four years really meant in terms of my personal growth and development. And while there was a lot of work and frustration and heartache and you name it associated with that time, in fact, it was incredibly special.

So I suppose that's getting close to explaining the absence of a single blog entry in 2006 . . . which was apparently one hell of a year.

20 June 2009

Okan Frei

The Institute for Cultural Dimplomacy (ICD) recently sponsored German-Turkish Week, which was observed with a series of events held in Amerika Haus. I was there last Friday and caught the end of what appeared to have been a very provocative panel discussion on integration. More about that in another post.

I was lucky enough, however, to catch the full performance of Okan Frei and his band. I have seen a lot of concerts in my life and aside from the music, I think the factor that distinguishes a great performance from a bland or shitty one is the extent to which I am convinced that the performer actually enjoys what he or she is doing. I was really curious about how this particular set would go down, since Amerika Haus isn't really a concert venue and just a few minutes before, that room had been used for a serious discussion on identity, place, and belonging with respect to Germans with Turkish heritage.

I would have waved a sage stick around first, if you know what I mean.

In any case, the performance and the reception by the extremely mixed crowd proves that, like football, music really can bring people together . . . at least for a little while. Okan was so incredibly charming, engaging, and talented, that it was impossible not to have felt a connection with him and his music, as well as with everyone else who was enjoying it. So yeah, people were on their feet singing along if they knew the words, or just dancing along if they didn't.

What a wonderful way to end the evening's event.

And no, the attached video doesn't come close to capturing the energy of a live show, but I was too busy dancing to be bothered with trying to record the performance myself.

Soul Man Okan Frei with rapper Essa

19 June 2009

I hope he got an "A"

So this was Bang-yao Liu's senior project and I'm guessing he aced it. Well done!

People have the power?

The power to dream, to rule,
To wrestle the earth from fools
When it's decreed the people rule
When it's decreed the people rule

Listen I believe everything we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth's revolution

We have the power . . .

I'm not sure if this is a universal truth, but it's a great song so here it is. Inspired by the protests in Iran, I dedicate it to people around the world who are struggling for justice and freedom.

18 June 2009

For the record

I am fond of letting people know that I've lived in fifteen different cities and four different countries . . . okay five countries if we observe Scottish independence. At least twice in the last two weeks, however, I have been challenged to name them. That I do so quite easily seems to settle it, but I do think it's interesting that both times the requests came from German men of a "certain" age.

In any case, this blog post certainly won't replace me rattling my life off, but here it is anyway:
  1. Rocky Mount, NC
  2. Wilmington, NC
  3. Chapel Hill, NC*
  4. Big Spring, TX
  5. Austin, TX*
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Sunnyvale, CA
  8. San Francisco, CA*
  9. Vienna, Austria
  10. Frankfurt, Germany
  11. Brooklyn, NY
  12. Birmingham, England
  13. Bridge of Allan, Scotland*
  14. Washington, DC
  15. Berlin, Germany*
I could have made this really complicated and done it in precise chronological order (e.g., I moved to Vienna from San Francisco, and after Frankfurt back to SF), but I'm not preparing my CV here, just naming the cities. And now I am embarrassed to admit that I have actually lived in SIXTEEN cities. Between Vienna and Frankfurt, there was Essen. I would erase Vienna and insert Essen, but I need to get proper credit for living there during the fall of 1994. This was when Jörg Haider first scored significantly at the polls, capturing about 25% of the vote in Vienna . . . all of them my neighbors I'm sure, as I recall the way I was treated.

Okay, so it's sixteen. The ones with asterisks represent the top five and they were/are truly amazing.

And yeah, that's a lot of moving and stress and good-byes and hellos and what in the hell am I doing here and why the hell didn't I just stay there and oh god why did I sell [something I now love more than life itself] and where the fuck do I buy [insert something I think I need desperately] and why don't people here just [insert something cool from the previous city].

But I believe it's been worth it. For whatever the tortured path my life seems to represent, it means that right now I am sitting at my desk in my lovely apartment listening to Roberta Flack in my favorite city on the planet and I'd hate to think that anything I could have done differently would mean that this wouldn't be so.

Home is where the heart is . . .

Don't ask if you don't want to know

I've been single for several years now and have probably reached that point where I'm too old and too independent to be a good relationship candidate. In fact, it's become so obvious that I'm kind of losing track of what I used to be like in relationships. That was clear last night as I watched Sophie, a Danish short film on Arte. In the film, Thomas and his pregnant wife Sophie are on their way to the movies and chatting about friends of theirs who have recently had a child and who are no longer apparently interested in sex. Okay, the husband is, but after ten months the wife still isn't. Suddenly, Sophie asks Thomas if he has ever been with a prostitute. His truthful answer to her question leads to a rather bizarre reaction.

As her anger mounts, it seems that it doesn't matter that Thomas' visit to a prostitute happened long before he met her or that it only happened once. It mattered a great deal, however that the prostitute was black. As they continue walking, they pass by a live sex show establishment and Sophie demands that they go in. Don't worry, I won't spoil this one for you!

Sophie describing the scene to Thomas

Watching the film, I was outraged by Sophie's behavior . . . as if I had never been that stupid. Last night and years ago from being vulnerable and in love, I was convinced that I would never have been dumb enough to ask a question whose answer might break my heart.

And then I went to bed . . . and woke up.

What a difference the light of day makes. Good grief, I think I was the champion of these silly-ass questions and skillfully used them to create the drama that would eventually help me ease out of relationships that weren't working. And no, I'm not talking about "Does this dress make me look fat?" No, these beauties were asinine creations like, "If you didn't know me, but somehow met my best friend would you want to go out with her?" Or, "Do you ever think about your ex girlfriend when I'm in the room or in the apartment somewhere?" The reluctance to answer these questions is of course a given. But finally, after much pleading and promising ("No, I won't get mad, I promise"), the poor fellow would give in, and I would slowly heat to boiling.

Oh the shame, the shame!

There's a lot to be said for growing up. In my case, though, I think there's a lot more to be said for being single.

15 June 2009

When films make me buy books

It has happened to me only once before that a film was so bad I had to buy the book to see if it was remotely related to what the author wrote. The film/book was The Human Stain by Philip Roth. I'm such a huge fan of Roth, I was steadfast in my belief that the horrible film starring Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman had nothing to do with his work.

Well it was complicated.

The Human Stain was not my favorite Roth novel, nevertheless it was good enough to give me the feeling of self-righteousness I had been seeking. In retrospect, the film itself wasn't really that bad; it suffered primarily from atrocious casting. There was no way in hell I was buying Sir Hopkins as a black man who had been passing himself off as Jewish his whole life; nor was I able to take Nicole Kidman seriously as a janitor in the local post office. There was a redeeming factor though, and his name is Wentworth Miller.


Okay, now it has happened again with Der Liebeswunsch, a 2006 film based on a novel by Dieter Wellershoff published in 2000. The English title, Impossibly Yours, represents one of those rare instances in which the new title works better than either a direct translation OR the original German title. Go figure.

In any case, be warned: this post is one big spoiler so if you're interested in seeing the film don't read anything beyond the trailer.

Okay, here's the story:

A married couple (Marlene and Jan) engages a young graduate student (Anja) to look after their house while they are away on vacation. While they are giving her a tour of the place, the couple's best friend (Leonhard) comes by for a brief visit and ends up giving Anja a ride home. He returns a few days later bearing flowers and a basket full of goodies. He finds the Anja dancing seductively to Jim Croce's Time in a Bottle . . . wearing a tiny bikini, of course. She changes clothes, they have dinner, and as he is leaving he asks her if she could imagine being his wife. Shortly afterward they get married, they have a son, and she gets bored. In the meantime, Anja has also become close to Marlene and Jan. She learns that Marlene was once married to Leonhard, and that Jan left his wife and that Marlene left Leonard in order to get married.

Only Europeans can do this kind of shit and still be best friends.

In any case, Anja's boredom increases and her son suffers a terrible accident because she wasn't paying attention to him. Leonhard blames her, she takes refuge with Marlene and Jan. Marlene leaves them alone together to go to work, and Anja and Jan hook up. Duh. Jan buys a flat where they can continue hooking up, Anja develops a drinking problem, Leonhard is fed up, and Marlene discovers the truth. Jan doesn't want to lose Marlene, so he breaks it off with Anja, who doesn't take rejection well. Leonhard, who is a judge, types up his own divorce papers and leaves them for her to sign. She tries to see Leonhard, but he's not having it. He ultimately seeks refuge with Marlene who has left Jan. Marlene, however, cares about Anja, who lives in a grimy little flat after being kicked out by Leonhard. Marlene breaks into the flat (with paramedics in tow) and saves Anja, who is on the verge of death from alcohol poisoning. Anja checks into a clinic to recover from her alcoholism, but then runs away to a hotel on an isolated beach where she continues to drink too much and listen to Jim Croce on repeat play. Finally, sitting on the balcony railing, she leans too far back and plummets to the parking lot below. The film opens with Jan staying in the hotel room where Anja threw herself off the balcony.

I have never read Dieter Wellershoff, but I'm willing to bet that's not really what he wrote. Did Marlene never really reflect on the fact that she was no better than Anja or Jan, or was taking care of Anja near the end her way of doing so? Is it really possible to ask someone to marry you if you've known them for a day and a half and don't know too much about them except the title of their thesis and how they look in a bikini? Did Leonhard really not ever take any responsibility? And do guys really buy flats in which to screw their "bits on the side"? When Anja ran away from the clinic she didn't even take a sweater. Where did all the LPs in that hotel room come from?

What in the world did Wellershoff write?

Perhaps this is precisely what he wrote, but somehow I doubt it. If I'm wrong, I'll buy the film and force myself to watch it every night for a week. That'll teach me!

13 June 2009

For Saeed and the demonstrators in Iran

With enormous respect for Saeed Valadbaygi who is blogging about the violent demonstrations in Tehran.

06 June 2009

Victoria Park

I live across the street from Victoria Park, which makes me a very lucky person. What makes me stupid is that I've been in this apartment since February 15 and only managed to take a stroll in the park for the first time on April 30 . . . and that was at the urging of friends from out of town. Somehow I had convinced myself that I was experiencing the best the park had to offer with the spectacular view my apartment offers.

Okay, like I said I'm stupid.

Fortunately, this has been remedied and the park has become my urban oasis.

The view from my bedroom.

Gorgeous, isn't it?

05 June 2009

. . . And now a word about Robert Mugabe


God looks after babies and fools,
I look after drunk people.

Call me crazy, but when I leave the house headed to an event for which I've paid my hard-earned money, I like to have an idea of where I'm going . . . unless of course I'm traveling by taxi, in which case I do still need an address to give to the driver. Even then I still need an idea of where I'm supposed to be going so I'll know if the driver is trying to rip me off.

But that's me.

Apparently leaving the house with tickets in hand but only some vague idea of a venue's location, suffices for people who have already had way too much to drink. But then again, why do they need to know where they're going, when I'm around to help them sort things out?

Thursday evening, for instance, I was buying a ticket in the U6 Mehringdamm station, when the guy in the ticket machine next to me said in German, "You look like you know what you're doing, can you tell me how to get to Pariserstraße?" Pariser Platz I knew, but I had no idea where Pariserstraße was. To which he replied, "Okay then how do I get to Pariser Platz?"

It was then that I noticed the half full/empty bottle of champagne in his hand and caught a whiff of everything that had been consumed before he went upscale with his liquor choice.

"Well I could tell you how to get to Pariser Platz, but is that really where you want to go?" I asked.

"I need to get to a cabaret," came the slurred reply.

Yeah you and Sally Bowles, I thought to myself, but answered, "Do you have an address?"

"Here," he said, giving me his tickets, which unfortunately had no address printed on them.

Then his date appeared from somewhere behind him. Unfortunately she was in no better condition than he was. "I think it's the street you said before," was her contribution to the discussion.

"Okay, Pariser Platz then."


"Okay, then take the U6 to Friedrichstraße, then transfer to the SBahn and go one stop to Unter den Linden. When you exit the station, just head for the Brandenburg Gate."

"Thanks a lot," they said walking away. Two seconds later they turned around and came back to me asking, "Which U6? Alt-Tegel or Alt-Mariendorf?"

"Alt-Tegel." For which I was thanked again. Watching them walk away, however, I became concerned that I was sending them to the wrong place. So I called after them and asked if I should show them on the large station map where they were going.

"You're really nice," said the young woman.

I'm really stupid, I thought to myself.

As it turns out, in addition to Pariser Platz, there are two Pariserstraßen. So without the actual address of the venue, I couldn't really be sure. I was just about to offer to call information to get a telephone number for the place, when I snapped out of whatever reverie I had been in that had allowed me to spend so much time worrying about their evening.

Convinced that I had been right in the first place, they stumbled off to wait for the train. I stood there watching them go down the steps to the platform wondering who in the hell doesn't use online maps or get addresses or whatever to figure out where they're going before they leave the house?? But I suppose the more important question is this: what the hell does it mean to look like you know what you're doing when all you're doing is dropping coins in a machine??

He might have been drunk, but he was still smart enough to know how to hook me. Respect.

No worries drunk people, I got your backs.

03 June 2009

Where you goin city boy?

Directed by John Boorman and released in 1972, Deliverance is an American classic and one of the scariest films ever made. It boasts no vampires, aliens, monsters, or any other such supernatural beings. No, Deliverance uses one of the most effective horror techniques available: scaring the shit out of people with the mundane. What is more mundane, for instance, than heading off for the weekend to go camping? Not many things, surely. As it typically goes, a group of friends looks for someplace secluded to hang out, tell stories, play music, cook, hike, and sleep rough. In this case, it was a group of business men from Atlanta who wanted to go canoeing and experience the glory of the river before it was to be dammed up. They just wanted to have fun and hang out. If they had been smart, however, they would have stayed in Atlanta and gone to the club to play golf instead. Because what those city boys never imagined, was being terrorized by hillbillies.

I don't mean terrorized in some highly stylized Wes Craven fashion, because this was 1972; budgets were low and naturalism was in. I mean terrorized by people who had really bad teeth and even worse dispositions. People who really didn't care whether you were a woman, man, or pig as long as there was a suitable orifice.

Original theatrical trailer

My refusal to go camping since 1972 is based solely on this film. In response to camping invitations, my argument has always been, "Look, if four white guys can go into the woods and get fucked with like that, what on earth would happen to me??" That argument has worked on everyone who has seen the film, and for those who haven't seen it, I describe it in detail, lingering over the "Squeal like a pig" bit to drive my point home . . . so to speak.

Still, a trip to the back woods might have been worth it had I been guaranteed a musical performance like this one:

Dueling Banjos, Grammy winner in 1974
for Best Country Instrumental Performance

Right, who am I kidding? That's one of the best scenes in film history, and if I were promised something like that if I would just agree to go on a camping trip, I'd still have to decline. That's what movies are for . . . oh, and YouTube.

For the record, my refusal to go camping is not restricted to the United States. I recently turned down an offer to go camping somewhere near the Swiss border. In my mind, camping sites spontaneously generate hillbillies. I'm also convinced that hillbillies dwell in those spaces where no cell phone signals are possible (hence no emergency calls to police). Using this logic, it would be safe to bet that the Alps would have an even scarier version (mountainbillies?) since those are proper mountains and not hills.

No thanks.

I suppose I should qualify all of this by saying that I'm sure some hillbillies are lovely people. In fact, most of them probably are. I just think that it would be better not to test this assumption. They gave those Deliverance city boys hell, and I'm even willing to concede that with their condescending city-folk ways, they might have deserved some of what they got. But certainly not all of it. So I'll just keep my black ass in the city and leave camping to my amazingly brave friends.


02 June 2009

They call this a beach??

Full disclosure: I haven't been to the beach since April 2002. This is a problem. In fact, I can honestly say that this is a HUGE problem. I grew up on the coast of North Carolina, and if I had known then that access to the beach would become such an issue later in my life, I would have spent much less time in that 7th period Chemistry class my senior year in high school, and lot more time frolicking in the waves than I did.

It doesn't help matters that the last beach I visited was in Barbados, where I had a three-bedroom house all to myself situated on a rise above one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The house was located in the southern part of the island where the the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea met. The colors were spectacular and I would sit on my veranda in the evenings just watching the turquoise-blue of the Caribbean merge with the blue-gray of the Atlantic. To get to the beach I only had to walk the short path that began at the front garden and in five minutes I was relaxing on a fairly empty and gorgeous sandy beach. In short, it was the polar opposite of this:

A beach somewhere in Spain (Photo courtesy of DPA)

Seriously, what is the point of this? How on earth could this be fun? Do people who work hard all year in stressful jobs really have some sort of inner dialogue like this?
Well of course I could go somewhere peaceful and quiet, but I am European and I have a bajillion vacation days anyway, so I might as well waste some of them on an overcrowded beach so that I can go back to work as exhausted as I was when I left . . .

Okay, yeah because that makes loads of sense.

01 June 2009

Responses to the Mixed Tape Post from Marty and Wei

Okay, so I wasn't the only one who thought that the cassette/USB stick combo was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I was flattered that Wei used this post as a point of departure for his own experience with mixed tapes. His post can be found here.

Marty, who is a sound engineer, gave me an education into why vinyl just sounds better, and NO it's not just because I'm old and nostalgic. His comments are quoted here in full:

Love the photos.

Yes mix tapes were a difficult music to assemble. For me it was always getting the spacing between songs uniform through out the Cassette tape. I actually think that it was more difficult than pro tape in having to cut and splice tape to assemble a bumper reel for a show. Watching a pro cut and splice tape in the studio on the fly was an art.

Doing all that work was something special when you gave it away. Its that gap between handy craft of “see what I baked or built for you.” It was the first real technology you could make yourself. And give away. It also represented a lot about you in your taste in music. Like the generation before us old people. You would go to someone’s library to look at what books they liked and collected to understand the type person you were encountering. Upon completion you generally knew if you would be interested, and what type activity from the book titles alone, i.e., do not discuss politics or religion, but this could be good sex.

So it was with my generation with Albums. First encounter with someone and you really couldn't wait to see what albums they had. You could sit and share your music with someone and in the sharing know the type of relationship you could expect from the conversation and selection. There were always surprises. Like, “Oh Broadway show tunes how uh unique.” Yes, I had both versions of Jesus Christ Superstar—Movie and Musical. Still today one of my favorite music scores. Of course Tommy and Hair. Listing to an album today you can hear the warmth of the music we could listen for hours. You would never get tired of music. This brings me to my point finally.

Digital Music. Without getting too technical. Humans can hear in the frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Khz count from 20 all the way up to 20,000 and you cover the bass up threw mid and to the high treble Freq. Digital music is sampled at 48 or 44 Khz on DVD and CD. Your speakers are reproducing these sampling Freq, Digital Hash, and you are being bombarded by them as you listen. Famous English sound console designer Rupert Neve said these sampling Freq were bad and dangerous to listen to music with. If you remember Punk Rock started about the same time. He related the sampling Freq to a whole generation of angry youth. I noticed it one day in how quickly i was fatigued when listening to a CD and how quickly I tired and stopped listing. I attributed it to age but I remember listing to albums all night and then again the next day.

I now put music on the computer and record it and listen back at 96Khz high enough I do not think my speakers can reproduce Sampling Freq. I can listen longer and enjoy the experience more. Listen to an album, yes pop and clicks but I never tire of the warmth and smooth sound of vinyl.

Isn't that what you share with a friend? George Massenburg said again recently we may in the future, look back at this period in music and wonder. No wonder music was lost in this 44K /48K MP-3 period. Its just terrible to listen to. He is a big advocate of bringing quality back to recording sampling in the 192K 24 bit and above range. Its expensive but it’s what I remember about why I enjoyed recorded music.

Thanks Wei and Marty!

28 May 2009

The Mixed Tape Grows Up

I was at a party last week and had a hilarious discussion with a bunch of music lovers who were all old enough to have fond memories of mixed tapes. And yes, I know that CD compilations and iTunes playlists serve the same function. Symbolically, however, when it comes to the blood, sweat, and tears involved in using music to pour out your soul to the object of your affections, the digital versions pale in comparison. It used to take hours, if not days, to put a proper tape together. Stacks of LPs and 45s at the ready, along with a notebook to jot down possibilities in terms of tracks and to note tape counters so that "The Song" could be found easily when that special someone wanted to play it over and over and over again . . . Of course, I do not mean to suggest that selecting songs for a CD compilation or an iTunes playlist is a straightforward matter,* but the act of putting the mixed tape together--beyond the selection of the songs--was quite a bit of work.

I have received quite a few excellent compilation CDs and digital playlists over the past few years, but they were gifts from friends who were keen on introducing me to new music, for which I am always very grateful. It's been a long time, however, since anyone made me a mixed tape. And even if they did, what would I do with it? I haven't had a tape deck in ages. And to be honest, most of the guys I've dated recently are happy to just buy CDs for me, for which I am also grateful. So it's been a long time since I've experienced that giddy feeling I used to get when a guy reached into his pocket and pulled out 90 minutes of affection that took him forever to get just right . . .

. . . until Monday:

Now seriously, how fucking cool is that?

So yeah, it's still digital, but what it lacks in the effort involved in actually putting the music onto the USB stick is more than made up for in the design. Oh, and the music selection is fantastic, too. Okay, it's slightly stalkerish, but fantastic nevertheless.

Naja, falls Du irgendwann hier landest, nochmals vielen Dank.

*I'll give everyone the benefit of the doubt and just ignore iTune's Genius ;-)

21 May 2009

September 26, 1983

Aside from the fact that this was three days before my 23rd birthday, more importantly, it was the day that an all-out nuclear war was narrowly avoided.

We are all familiar with the images--from comic books and films--of the superhero calmly diffusing a situation that threatens to destroy life on planet Earth. This is the stuff science fiction thrillers are made of, with "fiction" being the operative word here.

Well meet Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov.

Faced with satellite warnings that the Soviet Union was under nuclear attack from the United States, Petrov--with precious little time to react--decided that the warnings were some sort of malfunction and did not escalate the situation, which would have resulted in the Soviets counterattacking. The story of this frighteningly unbelievable day can be heard here until May 27.

Obviously, this story isn't new, but I had never heard Petrov discuss it in his own words. Warning: this 30-minute piece is not for the faint-hearted. While listening, I realized that there were a lot of things being discussed that I really didn't want to know. This includes the speculation, for instance, that one of the reasons that Ronald Reagan moved to towards more open discussions about existing nuclear arsenals, was due to another close call (perhaps initiated by the US), which remains classified. He was also concerned that the more technologically sophisticated the weapons delivery systems become, the more room there is for error.

In short, the fewer opportunities there are for men like Petrov to say, "No. Do not launch."

17 May 2009

Congratulations Luke!!

Remember this guy?

Well yesterday he graduated from Colgate University. So here's a shout out to one of the coolest and smartest guys I know:


Luke, since I'm not there to buy you a dozen drinks or sing obscure funk tunes from 1973, I'm sending 22 seconds of our 7th floor past instead, as a little reminder of some of the silliness we used to get up to.

Luke hard at work . . . checking out YouTube

Looking forward to more silliness in Berlin ;-)

Enjoy your celebration!!

15 May 2009


You know how it is . . . you're up late working on a project. You're home alone for the weekend because your flatmate is in France and her son is with his dad. Determined to finish your work before going to bed, you head into the kitchen for a cup of tea, glance up at the clock, and see THIS:

Now, I don't know about you, but I've never seen a clock do that . . . except in a horror flick. And that goes extra double for a German clock, which must be second only to a Swiss clock in precision and all that shit. Soooo, that leaves me with two choices:
  1. The Mercury Retrograde is a lot stranger than I have ever imagined.
  2. There are some crazy-ass German poltergeists loose in my flat.
I'm going to assume the answer is #1. However, just to be on the safe side, I have come up with a strategy for dealing with number #2. Being the brave lass that I am, I made a deal with the spirit of the clock: I'll stay out of the kitchen tonight, if it stays out of my bedroom. I put on some Ella Fitzgerald, followed by some Feist for good measure, just in case it found that Thom Yorke tune (Black Swan) offensive . . . well, you never know, spirits have feelings, too. At least, I can imagine they do. Okay, screw it, all I know about ghosts came from that Patrick Swayze film.

Okay, I did finish my work and I am going to bed. I am even going to turn the lights off (aren't I brave!) and pretend like this is just another normal night, which means that Jeff Buckley will now sing me to sleep. I think a ghost would enjoy that as well.

See you in the morning!!

12 May 2009

A room with a view

Victoria Park

I finally made it into the park a couple weeks ago, which is absurd I grant you. Still, there's something to be said for experiencing it like this . . .

16 April 2009

Mercedes-Benz Telling the Future

Having moved more times than I care to remember, I am always amazed by the curious things I've managed to hang on to. Random postcards, clippings, rocks, candle holders . . . you get the idea. Some of the clippings are collected in a small file folder that travels with me from place to place, giving me a sense of permanence and a tangible past in whatever new surroundings I may find myself.

So it was this sense of stamping my new place with some sort of "This space belongs to Inez" that led me to go to the folder once again.* It was there that I found an ad I had torn out of a magazine in the early 1990s:

Der zukünftige Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten?

It was a pull-out ad that unfolds into a poster. The images were a series of of children and questions about what they might grow up to be. The image above was the centerfold and the question is, "Future President of the United States?"

I remember laughing when I saw it, with a kind of "as if" attitude, but then on closer inspection being deeply moved on many levels. That this child is so precious and tugged at my heartstrings is probably clear. Beyond that, however, lies the fact that as recently as last year, I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that I would live to see a black president of the United States, much less as far back as the early 1990s. So this ad became a symbol of America's failure to live up to its potential; and for black children whose dreams were restricted by the world in which they live.

Happily, it has now has become a symbol for something else entirely and I think it's about time I put it in a frame.

If all their subsequent ads have been crap I haven't noticed and don't care. Mercedes-Benz gets a life-pass from me for this one. Well done!

*I had skipped this ritual on Bürknerstraße, as if I knew when I moved in that I wouldn't be staying.

24 March 2009

La Nouvelle Smooth

A few weeks ago I posted a Stella ad (the one with the ice skating priests) on Facebook and then spent hours on YouTube checking out some of their other ads. I've always found their commercials extremely witty and clever, which makes me very happy because I love their beer. Now, however, they have exceeded all of my expectations with their new campaign, La Nouvelle Smooth, which reimagines La Nouvelle Vague directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francoise Truffaut shooting 24, 8 Mile, and Die Hard. More information can be found in this article on the Guardian website.

The video featured in the Guardian article is a hilarious "what if" Godard directed 24. It uses characters based on those from Pierrot le Fou and gives our hero, Jaques Bauder, the task of saving St. Tropez in 24 hours or else . . .

Saving the world is so . . . Bourgeois.

I thought that was hilarious, but then I went to the campaign's website to check out the other two.

Truly hysterical is a reworking of 8 Mile, here called 8 Kilometre, in which a pair of poets battle it out in a jazz club.

Monte Carlo in the house??!

Finally, in Dial Hard, a mysterious woman sends our hero (Inspector Jean Meqlaine) to a telephone booth across the street to answer riddles.

I have holes in my top and bottom, and in the middle, but I still hold water. What am I? Call me in four minutes with the answer or die.

The campaign was created by the agency Mother London and is worth every pound of their undoubtedly ridiculous fee.

And now excuse me while I go off to buy some beer.

11 March 2009

Shame on you Mr. Helg Sgarbi!

The extenuating circumstances of Mr. Sgarbi's attempt to extort millions of euros from BMW heiress Susanne Klatten make for fascinating reading. Was he really trying to exact revenge for the fact that his father, a Polish Jew, languished as a slave laborer in a BMW factory as this article in the The Independent suggests? If so, being paid €49 million is still a hell of a lot of money to collect for the suffering of someone who has long since died.

The point here, however, is not to examine the ins and outs of what type of revenge (if any) is appropriate in these circumstances--I'll leave that to the ethicists. No, the point here is to publicly chastise Mr. Sgarbi for screwing up the perfectly formed image of the gigolo I have carried with me since 1980, which would be this:

and definitely not this:

Image courtesy of ITN

No offense intended, but this guy looks my banker and not a gigolo. But then again, perhaps looking ridiculously hot is only important for an American Gigolo.