Jesus, have I been a lazy blogger. Where to begin?
Having departed Berlin for the cozy U.S. college town of Chapel Hill, NC, in March 2006, it seems that yet another move - just over a year later - will take the gang and I to Brooklyn, NY later this summer.
We had originally planned on spending the month of August in Berlin, but with the move coming up, it's not likely to happen.
If you have no pressing plans on the table, I recommend spending the month of August in Berlin.
I decided that 80 fresh faces hitting this blog on a daily basis should be motivation enough to leave something decent up during my long stretches away.
I've been seriously considering transitioning this "Berlin Blog" from a blog about Berlin-related stuff (which no longer really applies, since I no longer live in Berlin) to a purely political thing, and I'm tempted to reserve either meagainstbill.com (as in Bill O'Reilly, Right-wing Fox News asshole) or meagainstann.com (as in Ann Coulter, Nazi Woman-hater club of America), but I'm not sure yet.
While I'm taking my time deciding, let me leave you with a few ideas that have been playing around in my head along these lines:
1. I'm tired of the fact that, while countless commentators, politicians, etc. are constantly praising the sacrifices "our troops" are making in Iraq, no one ever acknowledges that it's essentially people using the military as a means to escape poverty that are getting killed overseas (much less the civilians losing lives and limbs as a result of the unrest). Average, middle-class-and-above Americans are rarely affected directly by the loss of life as a result of this bogus, unnecessary "war." Maybe it's always the poor people who get it, and maybe that's why it's so easy for the Bush Administration to continue to get away with it.
2. I'm tired of hearing Bush and his administration lackeys using the term "We're at war" and "This is a war" as if their political lives depended on the U.S. population buying it. We're not in a war, we're in a let's-continue-to-have-poor-American-kids-get-their-limbs-torn-to-shreds-cause-it'll-make-the-democrats-look-soft-on-terror madhouse. War is not when you overthrow a foreign government (albeit a nasty foreign government) and then provoke anyone in the region to dare to attack your troops. War is something different.
3. I'm tired of all the dipshits out in dipshit land spending their time making myspace Websites, chatting to each other all day about Brad and Angelina, while the shit continues to hit the fan. That said, have you seen Angelina's post-baby thighs? Must be pilates.
4. Now that I'm (finally) and American taxpayer, I reserve the right to tell the administration to stick it where the sun don't shine any way I see fit. Maybe if we can find a way to knock out the television satellites, Americans will get pissed off enough to overthrow the government.
There are things that you think you know about America as a long-term American abroad, and there are things that you thought you knew about America as a long-term American abroad.
1. I don't think that I ever had a conversation with a total stranger in Germany that spiralled into a lengthy, 30-minute discussion about the merits of one topic or another and that I felt could simply keep going on forever, eventually turning into something more significant than a conversation between two strangers.
2. Everyone is so friendly you think they love you, and plan on spending a few hours after each interaction with you thinking about how they could help make you happier.
3. There is absolutley no sense of style. Style has been completely and utterly trumped by convenience. They think a restaurant in a strip mall can have an "atmosphere," but don't tell them I told you.
4. If I weren't returning to Europe for a 5-day visit in 6-7 weeks, with mulitple (longer) visits to follow, I would not have been able to go through with this.
5. I'm so happy to see the sun shining every day, I don't care if I have to spend the rest of my life in a Hardee's parking lot.
6. I have been on the road to the final four, and it has been so good I have not had time to think about style. Atmosphere can kiss my boot-ay. Go George Mason!
7. When Lennon wrote "Nowhere Man," (if it was Lennon - sorry Craig), he had no idea.
1. We are not the first people with kids to escape to Chapel Hill from the "big city" for its temperate climate, good schools, enlightened locals and friendly service-industry employees.
2. Americans are friendly, love basketball (even if they don't like basketball), like to eat mega-portions (no surprise there), and will tell you about the state of their significant relationships within 15 minutes of meeting you. "My husband Bill, God bless him, had his left testicle removed last spring, you know, after his sister passed away, and our sex life has improved like crazy!"
3. There is no such thing as a "news report" in America. Instead of what you would normally expect from a "news report," you get "The Missing White Woman" report . . . which involves a missing white woman (surprise!), a grisly/unsolved crime, and three "experts" pontificating, aimlessly, for hours on end. Whatever sells the toothpaste, eh?
4. They should make a chart of the best places for people to live at different phases in life, and everyone should be required to move, internationally, to places with widely varying economic/social conditions six or seven times. We should have a worldwide "swap your life" program. Does that make me a communist?
Here comes my Berlinale round-up: Dave Chappelle's "Block Party" was great, and it was especially nice to run into Sattva (still Berlin's best blogger).
Otherwise, I've been thinking long and hard about how best to respond to the cartoon riots, which don't seem to be going away with any urgency, but this image says more than enough:
I mean, I can fully understand George Bush as a "Hell Dog," but Kofi Annan?
Note that "Hell Dogs" have distinct ears, and only some are spotted. George Bush is kind of a remixed Hitler Hell Dog in this depiction.
But seriously, and I'm not sure that anyone is really saying this these days, isn't the larger problem the problem of religion/aka dogma itself?
Whether it's the Sunni's taking on the Shiites, or the Serbs/Croats or the "West" the "East," the fundamental "problem," from my perspective, seems to have more to do with the nature of religion (or nationalism as religion) than anything else. Maybe we could trade Ann Coulter for Ahmadinejad and call it even?
So he gets tickets for two Berlinale (which he always wants to pronounce Berlin-ale, as if it were a soda) films: Dave Chappelle's "Block Party" and "Walmart: The High cost of Low Price."
He is a cultured youth, far away from his native land.
He will not miss this weather.
Pros: Will be able to understand bills, no more German bureaucrats, freedom to visit any of the 4,326 churches with a 2-mile radius, sporting events, humans smiling
Cons: Will no longer feel himself to be as superior to all Americans as he does at a distance, People walking around in sweatsuits as if it were completely normal to do so, Having to hear about the neighbor's nasty break-up while standing in a line to purchase cereal
A great, spacious apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, near the Wasserturm (U-bahn Senefelderplatz) . . . here are the details:
The apartment is about 100m², 4 rooms (plus a kitchen and 1 & 1/2 bathrooms), and is available starting March 1st.
The Bruttowarmmiete is 904 Euros (rent alone is 677 Euros) with a provision/deposit of 2,3 X the monthly rent.
Here are a few images (more available on request):
We'd like to sell our swanky kitchen and a few equally swanky closets, in addition to our combo washer/dryer, to the lucky renter at a very reasonable price . . . making this the perfect apartment for someone relocating to Berlin from abroad without a huge amount of time to set things up.
Feel free to E-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, or if you'd like to schedule an appointment to see the apartment.
NY Times (reg. required) article from yesterday, discussing Berlin's parallel Western/Muslim cultures.
The main challenge this piece poses to non-Turkish/non-Muslim Berlin residents is as follows: You are living in a culture in which female slavery is happening before your very eyes. Are you willing to name it, to try and do something about it, or are you comfortable simply letting things go as they have gone up until this point, under the guise of tolerating "cultural differences"?
BLACK EYED PEAS "My Humps" What you gon’ do with all that junk? All that junk inside your trunk? I’ma get, get, get, get, you drunk, Get you love drunk off my hump. My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely lady lumps.
Our male narrator begin with a question: What is it that you intend on doing with all the flesh, muscle and fat - all the flesh, muscle and fat which comprises your buttocks?
The receipient of his query, a youngish woman, answers:
I am going to intoxicate you - intoxicate you with love using my buttocks. My buttocks, my buttocks, my buttocks, my buttocks, my buttocks, my buttocks, my buttocks, my buttocks, my pleasant female buttocks mounds.
50 CENT LYRICS "In Da Club" You can find me in the club, bottle full of Bub Mama, I got the X, if you into takin' drugs I'm into having sex, I ain't into making love So come give me a hug if you into getting rough
Translation: If you are looking for me, I'll be at the nightclub with a bottle full of champagne.
Mother, I have 3,4-methylenedioxy-N- methylamphetamine,in the event that you are the type of person who enjoys ingesting illegal substances.
I am interested in sexual intercourse, but not as a symbol of romantic love.
Come and embrace me if you want to have aggressive sexual intercourse with me.
Via Berlin MetroBlog: Amazingly enough, the city of Berlin actually offers daily time-lapse video of the previous 24-hour period taken from atop the Rotes Rathaus, incorporating a few different camera positions.
I wonder if Americans living overseas are more or less likely to have a file of this sort.
On the one hand, we're somewhat under the radar (less likely to use credit cards exclusively, less detailed tax information available, etc.), but on the other it seems that anyone residing outside of the country without U.S. Gov't links would be suspect, to some degree.
Call me utterly shallow, but one of the things I'm most looking forward to about returning to the land of the free (apart from doing my part - finally! - to fight the War on Terror) is magazine subscriptions.
As many fellow Berlin-dwellers will verify, quality English-language magazines and newspapers will cost you a shitload in this (or any other European) town.
I actually saw a four-day-old mini-NyTimes for 11 Euros the other day. Bitches!
So, as I look forward to not having to tolerate six-week-old New Yorkers at Barcomi's (which is owned by an amazingly unpleasant woman, and to be totally avoided, I'm told), I contemplate the Top Five Titles to which I will, upon arriving (first week of March!), subscribe:
1. Readymade: The hipster's guide to DIY living improvements. 2. Wired: Perfect for getting one's geek on in the bathtub. 3. Tape Op: Music recording nerd heaven & it's free! 4. Photo District News: Not only because I have to, but mostly because I have to. 5. Punk Planet: Notes from underground.
is either in need of serious help, or simply really gets off on appearing to be a racist, conservative, asshole. Since he's collaboarted with so many reputable artists, I'm sometimes inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, but some of the stuff he spews is beyond benefit-of-the-doubt territory.
He posted this (quickly removed) eBay auction last week:
"Up for auction is Vincent Gallo's sperm. Price includes all costs related to one attempt at an in-vitro fertilization. (A $50,000 value) If the first attempt at in vitro fertilization is unsuccessful, purchaser of sperm must pay all medical costs related to additional attempts. Mr. Gallo will supply sperm for as many attempts as it takes to complete a successful fertilization and successful delivery. Sperm is 100% guaranteed to be donated by Mr. Gallo who is drug, alcohol and disease free. If the purchaser of the sperm chooses the option of natural insemination, there is an additional charge of $500,000. However, if after being presented detailed photographs of the purchaser, Mr. Gallo may be willing to waive the natural insemination fee and charge only for the sperm itself. Those of you who have found this merchandise page are very well aware of Mr. Gallo’s multiple talents, but to add further insight into the value of Mr. Gallo’s sperm, aside from being multi talented in all creative fields, he was also multi talented as an athlete, winning several awards for performing in the games of baseball, football and hockey and making it to the professional level of grand prix motorcycle racing. Mr. Gallo is 5’11” and has blue eyes. There are no known genetic deformities in his ancestry (no cripples) and no history of congenital diseases. If you have seen The Brown Bunny, you know the potential size of the genitals if it’s a boy. (8 inches if he’s like his father.) I don’t know exactly how a well hung father can enhance the physical makeup of a female baby, but it can’t hurt. Mr. Gallo also presently maintains a distinctively full head of hair and at the age of 43 has surprisingly few gray hairs. Though his features are sharp and extreme, they would probably blend well with a softer, more subtly featured female. Mr. Gallo maintains the right to refuse sale of his sperm to those of extremely dark complexions. Though a fan of Franco Harris, Derek Jeter, Lenny Kravitz and Lena Horne, Mr. Gallo does not want to be part of that type of integration. In fact, for the next 30 days, he is offering a $50,000 discount to any potential female purchaser who can prove she has naturally blonde hair and blue eyes. Anyone who can prove a direct family link to any of the German soldiers of the mid-century will also receive this discount. Under the laws of the Jewish faith, a Jewish mother would qualify a baby to be deemed a member of the Jewish religion. This would be added incentive for Mr. Gallo to sell his sperm to a Jew mother, his reasoning being with the slim chance that his child moved into the profession of motion picture acting or became a musical performer, this connection to the Jewish faith would guarantee his offspring a better chance at good reviews and maybe even a prize at the Sundance Film Festival or an Oscar. To be clear, the purchase of Mr. Gallo’s sperm does not include the use of the name Gallo. The purchaser must find another surname for the child. Good luck bidding."
If there's a single artist I had to point to as having had the singlemost profound effect on my life as a musician and human being over the last, say, 15 years, that person would be Mark Kozelek.
Mark's first band, Red House Painters, released 3 of my top 10 records of all time, and I don't actually even keep a top 10 list so that has to say something.
Mark is going to release a collection of cover versions of Modest Mouse songs in a few weeks.
One of these songs, "Ocean Breathes Salty" has officially become the only song I care to listen to at the moment (aside, perhaps, from Kanye Wests' "Roses"). You can download it as an mp3 here.
In fact, I'm starting to think that if no one else ever writes or releases another song, it won't matter much.
The lyrics to "Ocean Breathes Salty" are as follows:
Your body may be gone, but I'm gonna carry you in In my head, and in my heart, in my soul. And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both live again Well I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Don't think so
Well that is that and this is this You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get You get away from me. You get away from me.
Collected my belongings and I left the jail Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile
The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in? In your head, and in your mouth, in your soul And maybe we'll get lucky and we'll both grow old Well I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I hope so
Well that is that and this is this You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get You get away from me. You get away from me Collected my belongings and I left the jail Well thanks for the time, I needed to think a spell I had to think awhile. I had to think awhile
Well that is that and this is this Will you tell me what you saw and I'll tell you what you missed, when the ocean met the sky You missed when time and life shook hands and said goodbye
When the earth folded in on itself And said "Good luck, for your sake I hope heaven and hell are really there, but I wouldn't hold my breath"
You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death? You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste death?
The ocean breathes salty, won't you carry it in? In your head, and in your mouth, in your soul The more we move ahead the more we're stuck in rewind Well I don't mind. I don't mind. How the heck could I mind?
Well that is that and this is this You tell me what you want and I'll tell you what you get You get away from me. You get away from me Well that is that and this is this
Will you tell me what you saw and I'll tell you what you missed, when the ocean met the sky
You can see the video for the original version of the song here.
Otherwise, Mark's latest project "Sun Kil Moon," along with some information about his previous projects, is Online here.
Finally, since this song has more or less become my personal soundtrack for making preparations to depart Berlin, I thought I'd list my top 5 reasons for the impending departure (March 2006), even though I don't really keep a top 5 list:
1. American highways 2. The feeling that the horizon is far off in the distance 3. Because if everyone like me stays away from America forever, it will never have a chance to get better 4. The foreboding sense that the longer I stay here, the more my approach to life will become increasingly pragmatic, to the point that I will eventually lose what it is that I'm most afraid of losing (in addition to my sense of humor, which was previously everpresent). 5. I want what was foreign to feel foreign again, so that I can enjoy it as a foreigner again someday
How are you doing, one of the 75.6 people who stops by here on a daily basis? Did you like the song?
Perhaps it's more a sign of my ignorance that anything else, since Avian Influenza has been around for nearly a decade without becomming a human-to-human deal, but apparently there's been a run on Berlin-area drugstores in the last two days and Tamiflu is out of stock everywhere (well, everywhere except for eBay, that is), and I'm getting antsy.
In the (hopefully) unlikely event that Berlin (or anywhere) gets hit, do you:
1. Conceal yourself in your apartment with 6 months of canned produce.
2. Catch the next available flight to far, far away.
3. Pretend like nothing's happening, even if you're well aware that the German government (or any other government, for that matter) hasn't stockpiled enough of the good stuff to keep the Leute alive.
Whatever happens (which I hope will be not much), I'm pretty sure the price of chicken is about to drop.