Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Being in Berlin, I missed this year's War on Christmas in America. I do remember, though, when some pundits tried to export it to Germany. That must have been a few years ago. So, a lot of stuff popular in America finds its way to Germany, for instance C.S.I., Star Trek, sneakers, Coca Cola, commercial advertising as we know it, and Jazz. Some things don't, especially things that imply tradition, culture, oldfashionedness, and food (except fast food), because it does not fit the cliché.

Christmas in Germany has a long tradition, much longer than America. Germany invented Christmas as we know it, with the Christmas tree (which goes back to the 16th century), songs like "Silent Night", homemade Christmas cookies, mulled wine, decorations, Christmas markets, and gifts. In America, Christmas was imported, basically from Germany. In the beginnings, when English, German, and Irish settlers were fighting for their place in society, there was even a movement against German Christmas as well (at some point, the Christmas tree was banned in Massachusetts).

But also the American Santa is a remote depiction of the Dutch/German/Austrian Nikolaus, about as remote than Jazz is from tribal music of the West Coast of Africa, even though that's where it originates. Santa's current design goes back to Coca Cola, and it is frowned upon in Germany among, well, normal people. I always used to believe that Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, was invented by Disney, turns out, not true. But when our family celebrated our first American Christmas in California, my mother, who was shocked by Santa and those artificial (and pink) Christmas trees, created a German Christmas island in our apartment, complete with hand-made cookies.

When the War on Christmas in America began, the point was that many other religions had a end-of-the-year festival as well, so they should be included. That turned out to be, well, not true. The only serious religion that has a holiday roughly in the temporal vicinity of Christmas is Judaism, and Hanukkah has nothing to with the birth of a new religion, or rebirth in general. It goes back to a battle between two ancient Middle Eastern tribes, the Israelites and the Maccabeans. For Americans, it would make more sense to celebrate some battle between the Apache and the Comanche.

This year, the War on Christmas is about whether Christians have hijacked the Pagan celebration of the winter solstice, when the days become longer (which is, by the way, December 21, not 25). This is a tradition that goes back to a time when our forefathers have worshiped the Gods of nature in, you guessed it, Germany. So, basically, the current War on Christmas in America is about what kind of Germanic tradition to follow.

For Germans, that does not make a lot of sense. First, that torch-yielding, Thor-adoring culture has been somewhat discredited due to the Nazis, when a fringe movement within the SS wanted to go back to the roots (and even then, normal people could not care less). Second, these are all our roots. Going back to a period where people were worshiping trees makes as much sense than trading a Mercedes for a horse-and-buggy; sure, some people do it, but it will not catch on as a general idea.

Having said that, there is a War on Christmas in Germany as well: It is about Santa Claus. German parents start to ditch the American, Coca-Cola-designed Santa Claus in favor of the German Christkind, which goes back to Baby Jesus (even though it's female; then again, in the original Nibelungenlied quite a few characters were female, yet JRR Tolkin turned them into men). It is called the war against commercialism, and, looking at my nieces and nephews, I‘m afraid it will be lost.

In that spirit: Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Scoops and Predictions

Like everybody else, I am following the Republican debate near-breathlessly, although I have still not found this mysterious channel on my remote that will carry the infamous Donald-Trump-led debate (if it is happening at all).

So, what is gonna happen the upcoming year? Who knows, however,  I will go out on a limb here and make three predictions:

1) If Jon Huntsman gets any traction at all, Glenn Beck will come out and endorse him big time.

2) Newt Gingrich will not be the nominee.

3) Rick Perry will bounce back.

Other than that, I believe Obama has a pretty good chance of getting re-elected.






Friday, December 2, 2011

German Traces

 Here is an interesting project: It is called "German Traces", and it is launched today in New York with a party at 6pm at the Goethe Institut at 72 Spring Street in Downtown Manhattan. The idea is to "reveal the German influence in New York City from 1840-1945" when many immigrants came from Germany.

The Goethe Institute has created a website that guides the reader through "locations in the city where, via podcasts and augmented reality, German traces are brought to life", such as churches, public buildings, restaurants, memorials like the one to the Slocum disaster at Tompkins Square Park or, of famous immigrants of German heritage like John Roebling or John Jacob Astor.

With that website, you can look up stories on your computer as well as on your smartphone, and there is also a link to contribute your own stories, or stories told to you by your parents or grandparents. The website is http://www.germantracesnyc.org/

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wowereit III and the Green Party 2.0

Berlin has a new city government; Klaus Wowereit, the re-elected mayor and a Social Democrat, has now officially a coalition with the CDU, the Christian Democrats, the conservative party, which is not so conservative after all in Berlin. This is the third party he is partnering up with — after the Greens and the Linke, left-wing party — so one could argue that he is hugging them to death.

Whether this will be a big difference remains to be seen. I'm under the impression, so far, that nobody really cares. The CDU had governed the city for some time a couple of years ago, but was busted after a huge banking scandal, so they needed some time to purge the evil-doers, and re-group.

Also, the representatives of the Pirate's Party want to have bicycles instead of official cars, so the seem to become the Green Party 2.0. As long as they don't use the sidewalk, that's fine with me. I guess in four years from now they will be ready to be the forth party to govern with Wowereit.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pirates and Palestine

The Pirates Party, just newly elected to the Berlin parliament, makes more headlines than the parties that actually govern Berlin. Gerwald Claus-Brunner, one of their representatives, wears a Keffiyeh, the traditional Palestinian headscarf. The scarf was made famous by the late Yasser Arafat and was commonly worn at political rallies since the 1960s in Germany (as was the Che-Guevara-bonnet). It boomed during the fight against nuclear power plants, but has fallen somewhat out of fashion lately.

Well, wadddayathink, that still did cause outrage, not so much the wearing-a-Keffiyeh per se, but keeping it on whilst sitting in Parliament. Not only was he chided for disrespecting the House; also Charlotte Knobloch, the former, now retired head of the Jewish Community has complained that he is showing an anti-Jewish attitude.

Brunner, however, says he got the scarf from an Israeli family in Haifa in 1995 where he worked as a contractor. He has pleaded to wear the Keffiyeh until the conflict in the Middle East is resolved. So, I‘m no expert, but my guess is this might take a while. In the meantime, Brunner has decided to wear the Star of David, as a necklace. In addition. Again, I‘m no expert, but that will probably not please Mrs. Knobloch. Anyway, according to Der Tagesspiegel, the President of the parliament has grudgingly accepted the headgear, so all we have to do now is wait for peace in the Middle East.





Wednesday, November 9, 2011

After Emmett Till

I'm following the Herman Cain sex-scandal (or non-scandal) fairly closely, but I still have not made up my mind. Did he or did he not? It is not entirely a he-said-she-said-situation since there are settlements and money has been paid. We don't know, however, what for. It might well be that a small incident was blown out of proportions. But then again, I was not there. It's pretty much like the DSK scandal, and frankly, I would not be very keen on spending a lot of alone time with both men.

Here is the interesting part: Cain is black, and I mean, actual black, not Tiger-Woods-black. He is OJ Simpson black. And at least two of the women are white. So, this is a country were laws forbade interracial marriage in Cain's lifetime, where black men who raped a white woman got the death penalty while white men would walk free for raping a black girl, where black men have been lynched, and black boys have been clubbed to death by Klan member for whistling after a white woman.

Of course it is different today, but nobody can tell me it does not matter any more. Cain is often compared with Clarence Thomas, but Anita Hill was a black woman, so the white establishment did not care. In today's scandal, everybody is walking on eggshells. Mostly, Conservatives and Liberals are closely watching each other whether somebody makes a slip that can be interpreted as racist. Maybe this is the only acceptable way to talk about it nowadays.

So, the whole thing is handled in a "don't mention the war"-fashion, but I yet have to see a white woman coming out for Cain's defense (Ann Coulter does not count; she criticized Timothy McVeigh for not killing enough Jews, so she would say just about anything). Actually, Cain himself knows, otherwise he would not be talking about a "high-tech lynching". In any case, it is interesting to watch.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hasta La Victoria

Back in New York, I'm still thinking about some of those movies. The last one I saw was If Not Us, Who, by Andreas Veiel, about the early beginnings of the Baader-Meinhoff-group, or, much rather, about Gudrun Ensslin, her husband Bernward Vesper, and Andreas Baader.

The movie was a feature, but interspersed with documentary bits, mostly about the Vietnam War. So, I remember how important the fight against the war was for the 1960s movement in Germany (and many other countries), but I would imagine that this is news for Americans. Then again, many Germans don't know that Americans protested the Vietnam War.

It was also a flashback to a time when I was younger (although the era when it was frowned upon to have sex was when I was, like, four). When the protests against the Vietnam War began, I was twelve (I remember this because I read about those atrocities in newspapers and I recall thinking; I am only twelve, I should not be reading this), but it it still part of my past. And everybody's. And one more thing, all those young protesters in the movie looked so alive, and the old guys trying to suppress them so ... square. The young ones are the people occupying Wall Street today.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Monsters and Critics

So, about the movies at the German Currents; I saw two, so far, and I found them both pretty impressive.

The first one was Almanya — Welcome to Germany, a comedy, and one of the highest grossing in Germany. It is written and directed by two women, Nesrin Samdereli and Yasemin Samdereli. The movie is about a Turkish migrant family, their family, and how they became Germans — mostly. The story starts out with the family patriarch claiming that he has bought a house in Turkey, and that he wants everybody to go there for the summer. Nobody is thrilled, but Cenk, his six-year-old grandson, now hears the story of his family for the first time. The movie is very heart-warming and it has hilarious moments; for instance, when the children first see a dachshound, or Jesus on a cross. It should speak to Americans, too, because many issues with the Hispanic community here are the same.

The second movie was The Poll Diaries,  an gripping story that takes place in the Baltics on the eve of World War I. At the center of the movie is 14-year-old Oda, an extraordinary girl who later becomes a famous poet; she was related to Chris Kraus, who wrote and directed the movie. Oda, who moves from Berlin to her excentric, strict, and religious father and his second wife after her mother dies (whom she is carrying with her in a coffin, together with a two-headed fetus), encounters a wounded anarchist who has fled from the Tzarist army. It is a very touching movie; and I won't give any details away.

Sadly, none of these movies has found an American distributor yet, but I hope this will happen eventually. It is wonderful to see human stories on screen.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where Is My Porsche?

So, this is all very exciting. Yesterday, I introduced Berlinica at the German Currents Film Festival in Hollywood; on Hollywood Boulevard. I talked to a lot of people, one of which nabbed a book, but I‘m taking this as a good sign. I also made serious plans to produce and/or write a movie or two; I will keep you posted. The movie we saw was Almanya, a very successful German comedy, for the first time in the United States. I had the impression everybody liked it.

I will be in Santa Monica at the Aero Theatre tonight again with my books.

The weather is marvelously wonderful; in the morning, I wake up in my little hotel, steps from the beach, in Venice, while the sun is already shining, birds are singing, and aging Hippies are skateboarding. It's like being in Californication, the series, just without the sex, the Porsche, the money, the drugs, and David Duchovny hanging out in the bar right next to me.

Only parking space is scarce. Also, my cell doesn't work, I was told due to the proximity of the ocean.


Monday, October 24, 2011

German Currents

Whoever wants to see a publisher in person (i. e. me): I will be at the German Currents Film Festival in Los Angeles; presenting my books, among them, but not limited to The Berlin Wall Today, our newest book about, yes, the Berlin Wall and what's left of it (in color), starting Wednesday.

The German Currents will take place at the Egyptian Theatre at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, 1328 Montana Avenue. I hope to see y'all there (I‘ve just been in Texas).


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

California, Here I Come

Or, much rather, I am already here. I will be introducing Berlinica, especially our newest book, The Berlin Wall Today, in Los Angeles, within the German Currents, a German Film Festival presented by the Goethe Institute, at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, and the Areo Theatre in Santa Monica. That'll start on October 26.

So far, I did a tour up the coast to Oxnard (where I used to live as a child) with my little brother. Oxnard is somewhat remote from L.A., and not really that prosperous. It has a tremendous amount of pawn shops, never a good sign, and really not much else except Chinese and Mexican restaurants, albeit a huge Marina. I‘m not sure whether all those boats are belonging to locals, though. When I used to live there, there was not a single Hispanic kid in elementary school, now it's like 50 percent. On the way back there were numerous lots for sale in Malibu, so far out of my reach, I reckon.

In Downtown L. A. they also are occupying something, right in front of City Hall. The neighborhood is a bit scary, but it's a couple of hundred people in tents, so they should be safe. In New York, Occupy Wall Street seemed a lot more fun and outgoing, I must say. They were also occupying Venice Beach, at least two people were, with a banner. No a lot of bankers down there either.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Berlin's Mary-Jane

Berlin has one new inhabitant: Kirsten Dunst. The actress, mostly known as Mary-Jane from Spider-Man, has acquired German citizenship. That was reported by a number of German papers today after she had made an annoucment at a London press conference with Lars von Trier.

Dunst's fathers Klaus was born in Germany,  he has still relatives in Hamburg, and her mother is Swedisch. Kirsten Dunst herself. however, does not want to move to Hamburg, but much rather to Berlin, because the city is "so much younger and so much more is happening there". The 29-year old actress, who speakes some "children's German" would also like to play in a German movie, preferably as Marlene Dietrich. She did keep her American citizenship as well, though.

http://www.bz-berlin.de/leute/zieht-kirsten-dunst-nach-berlin-article1285079.html

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Berlin Wall Today

So, we had one great event at the Deutsches Haus presenting The Berlin Wall Today as well as Kurfürstendamm and other books, the latter by Stefan Maria Rother, published by Berlin Story Verlag. Kurfürstendamm is part of a series depicting streets in Berlin, and The Berlin Wall Today is, of course, a book about what is left of the Wall.

The place was sold out (except that it was free, but it was filled to capacity); we showed slides from all of the books, and then had a Q&A about Berlin. It was led by Rachel Libeskind, the daughter of World-Trade-Center architect Daniel Libeskind who attended as well. She grew up in Berlin while her father was designing the Jewish Museum.

Afterwards, we had white wine and Berliner Weiße, which is white beer with syrup. I didn't have any, though, since I was busy signing (and selling books). One got nabbed, so, where ever you are, I will find you!

Now I am looking forward to the next event, which will take place in Los Angeles. Also, new books  are to be expected, starting next spring. I will keep you posted! Plus, The Berlin Wall Today will be available in French; I hope before Christmas. And finally, before Christmas, I hope to get Berlin For Free as an e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and everywhere else. I will keep you posted as well.






Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Berlin Today

This is the final reminder, the event is today:

Paging Through Berlin

At 42 Washington Mews, Deutsches Haus, 6.30pm

So, hope to see you all!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pirates in Berlin

Wow - that was one hell of an election! Berlin has voted for the State Assembly, and we have a new party: The Pirate's Party got 8.5 percent of the vote, pretty much out of nowhere. In Berlin, there is a 5-percent-treshhold to enter the parliament, and they made it. Their victory had been predicted, but not on that scale.

The Pirate's are an anti-establishment party devoted to Internet freedom and personal liberty. It is made up of, lets face it, computer nerds, basically. The party goes back to the Swedish Pirate's Party, is close to Wikileaks. They want the government to hold no secrets, are against cameras in public squares, and want to have votes on about everything on the Internet. They also demand free public transportation and want to legalize marijuana (fairly boilerplate in Germany). Well, that'll be fun.

Other than that, the Berlin mayor, Klaus Wowereit, Europe's first openly gay mayor, by the way, got reelected with 28.5 percent (slight loss). He will not continue to govern with the post-communists, though, because they did not get enough votes; 11.6 percent only. He can choose to work with the Green Party—17.5 percent—or the Christian Democratic Union —23.5 percent—, and he will probably do it with the former.

The Wall Street Journal sold the story as a loss for Angela Merkel, which is not really true. The CDU did, in fact, gain votes, although to not that much, only about 2 percentage points. Also, this election was about local politics. For The Green Party it was a gain as well, but not as much as they had hoped for. Their candidate, Renate Künast will now not become mayor, but that was to be expected as well.

In any case, don't forget the event at Deutsches Haus at NYU in Manhattan about our new book, The Berlin Wall Today, September 20, at 6.30 pm. It is free!

http://deutscheshaus.as.nyu.edu/page/cultural.program.calendar#20905




Saturday, September 10, 2011

Paging Through Berlin

Berlin-lovers, here is the event for you: Our new book, The Berlin Wall Today, will be presented at Deutsches Haus of NYU, in New York City (by me). The book is about what is left of the Wall, admittedly not much, but still enough to walk the trail for one or two days. The remnants include original slabs of the Wall, graffiti-covered parts of the Hinterland Wall, which is a few hundred feet into the East, quite a few memorials, information steles, and five actual watchtowers. You can have a look into the book here. It will be available in English and German.

The event is free, it is on Tuesday, September 20, it starts at 6.30 pm and lasts for about one and a half hour (or so I believe). The location is Deutsches Haus, 42 Washington Mews, just north of Washington Square, near either the A/C/E and the B/D/F/M train at West 4 Street or the N/R at Eight Street.

Also presented is Kurfürstendamm, a new photo book by Stefan-Maria Rother, a Berlin-based photographer. This book was published by Berlin Story Verlag. Since both books are basically filled with pictures, we will be showing slides, and then have a debate about Berlin, led by Rachel Libeskind, the daughter of World-Trade-Center architect Daniel Libeskind. She grew up in Berlin.

So, I hope to see you all, and here is the link: Paging Through Berlin


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wall and Ostalgia

Today was the anniversary of the Berlin Wall. The Wall had been built fifty years ago, basically overnight, and the anniversary was a huge event — actually, it still is, there is stuff going on all over town, and I will leave for a movie in Mauerpark any time soon. In the morning, Angela Merkel and Christian Wulff, the President of Germany showed up, together with Klaus Wowereit, the Mayor of Berlin, to dedicate the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Street. I missed all the speeches, but the memorial is very touching. It includes a window with transparent, black-and-white pictures of some of the victims. If you want to know more, as always, check out The Berlin Wall Today

In the meantime, everybody is quibbling about whose fault the Wall was; actually, a moot point. The Wall was build because the Allies had a fallout after 1945, and both sides wanted to protect their loot. But even among Berliners there seems to be some nostalgia, or, as it is called, Ostalgia for the Wall; albeit not the real Wall. From what I‘m gathering, people want the job protection and rent regulations of the East, and the currency, the flat-screen TVs, and the vacation opportunities of the West.

Also, the left-wing party Die Linke, the successors of the SED, misses the Wall; they boycotted a minute of silence today for the victims. On second thought, the Wall kept those people out, so maybe Wall-nostalgia has a point. Some Berliners even compare the Berlin Wall with the wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but I am fairly sure you could not climb the Berlin Wall with a 51-foot-ladder.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who Built The Wall?

The anniversary of the Berlin Wall comes closer, and the city is buzzing. On Saturday, there'll be a ceremony at Bernauer Street in Mitte; the Wall Memorial has been enlarged. The Wall used to cut the street in an eastern and a western part; people died trying to cross Bernauer Street. Now a row of steel rods are depicting where the Wall has been, as well as a "window for the victims".

Due to the anniversary people are also debating who put up the Wall in the first place. An American author, Hope Harrison, has a new book out claiming that Germans built the Wall, i.e. Walter Ulbricht, who was running Eastern Germany at that time, and not the Russians, who were occupying the Eastern part of Germany (and Europa)  since World War II. Historians usually blame Nikita Chruschtschow, the Soviet General Secretary, who also sealed the border between Western and Eastern Europe.

While Harrison might be technically true, Ulbricht was a puppet dictator put in place by the occupying Soviets to begin with, so accusing Germans is a bit sneaky. Generally speaking, all four Allies didn't have a problem with the Wall—Margaret Thatcher wanted it to stay in place after 1989. And Kennedy's adviser William Fulbright came up with the idea to build a wall in 1961 to quell the unrest in Central Europe, although, at that point, it was already in the works

Speaking of new books, not only is "The Berlin Wall Today" out; it is now available at Barnes and Noble, and there is also a German version (a French one will follow). Check it out!

http://www.amazon.com/Berlin-Wall-Today-Remembrances-remainders/dp/1935902105/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1313067296&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/Berliner-Heute-Steine-Erinnerungen-Foto-Reisef%C3%BChrer/dp/1935902113/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1313067296&sr=8-14

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-berlin-wall-today-michael-cramer/1104146552?ean=9781935902102&itm=2&usri=berlinica

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/die-berliner-mauer-heute-eva-c-schweitzer/1104566559?ean=9781935902119&itm=1&usri=berlinica





Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Berlin Wall Today.

Finally, our new book on the Berlin Wall is out and on Amazon. It is The Berlin Wall Today, a full-color picture guide of what is left of the Berlin Wall (not that much, but more than you'd think).  I have walked that trail with my very feet, carrying a camera, so I can assure you, everything you see is actually there.

Amazon does not sell the book yet. So far, they have only put up the page. However, I sure hope that this is going to happen any time soon, say, next week. At that point, the book should also be available at BarnesandNoble.com. Also, a German edition is in preparation. I‘ll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Evil Umpire

Wow! That was the greatest game probably nobody in the USA cared about: women soccer! Right now, Germany is hosting the Soccer World Championship for women, and the U.S. just won! Against Brazil, one of the favorites; not the finals, though, but America will be in the semi-finals. So there is a good chance the USA will win the World Cup.

It was an amazing game, with penalty shots, penalty shots wrongfully given, fouls, extensions, in the end, the USA was leading 5 to3 after more than two hours. Thousands of fans had congregated to Dresden, and they are now, I assume, celebrating. I would not know, first I am in Berlin, second, I know next to nothing about soccer: However, I have an American family from Iowa hanging out in my living room who was watching that very nail-biting game. If you are interested in details, check ESPN.

http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-70259.html

Friday, July 8, 2011

Does Berlin Love You?

Tourists love Berlin, but does Berlin love them back? Especially those young tourists that stay in cheap hostels, and hang out in sidewalk bars until long after midnight, and, when the bar closes, still hang out on the street? Drinking straight from the bottle? And some of those bars never close, of course.

Some Berliners start to get a little grumpy, especially in these residential areas that have been singled out as the new in-places. One of those is Admiralbrücke in Kreuzberg, a small bridge, for pedestrians only, where people from Australia, Italy, Brazil and the good ole USA gather, and party, and play music, and drink until 4 am. The people who live there ain't that fond of this kind of international flair. So now, the police is organizing some sort of mediation, somewhat tricky if you are dealing with a new batch of tourists every day, if you ask me.

Likewise unhappy are the residents of Simon-Dach-Straße in Friedichshain, a quiet residential street that has turned into bar row. I don't even know why. It was boring twenty years ago. When I walked by an apparel store in Prenzlauer Berg yesterday, they had T-shirts saying "Welcome to Berlin. Now go home". In English.

I can somewhat relate; recently, I was woken up in the middle of the night by a crowd of drunken Canadians on the street. How do I know that? They were singing "Oh, Canada." Anyway, Friedrichhain is now debating to zone out new hostels. So, if you need a drink in Berlin, you better hurry up.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mamma Mia, John Wayne

Did Michele Bachman flub when she confused John Wayne, the Cowboy from Winterset, Iowa, with John Wayne Garcy, the Klownkilla from Waterloo, Iowa? Not really, She was probably not aware of Garcy. This, on the other hand, leads to the question whether she knows Waterloo, her assumed hometown, at all. And if not, why did she start her campaign there in the first place as opposed to, say, St. Cloud, the town she actually represents other than to score points for the Iowa Caucus? Then again, isn’t scoring points for the Iowa Caucus what this is all about?

Where was I? Right, John Wayne, née Marion Robert Morrison, the actor. So, John Cowboy Wayne was in fact born in Iowa, albeit about hundred and fifty miles away from Waterloo, whereas John Clownkiller Wayne was born in Chicago, Illinois. Not that much of a homeboy, either.

What bothers me more, however, is that Bachmann did not mean to refer to John Wayne at all. Wayne was a womanizing, twice divorced chain-smoking Hollywood actor who did not enlist in World War II, who had a severe drinking problem (after all, he was an Irishman) and an early love for Socialism albeit, later in life, he switched to White Supremacy. What Bachmann was referring to is the characters played by John Wayne; the quintessential Indian shooting, waggon-circling American cowboy. Quite a difference!

Actors do confuse themselves with their characters from time to time — Joey Trebbiani who believed that he was actually Doctor Drake Ramory comes to mind, or Ronald Reagan, who played a GI in WWII propaganda movies. Later, he told an Israeli Premier that he had personally helped liberate Auschwitz in, I assume, Burbank. CA.

Basically, confusing John Wayne with John Wayne is like confusing Tina Fey with Sarah Palin. Speaking of which, I met Sarah Palin as well, in Pella, Iowa, a dutch settlement and the blondest town I‘ve ever been, including Groningen. She attracted a lot of fans who all could see themselves voting for Michele Bachmann.

On a different, but really not so different note, Bachmann started her campaign in a town called Waterloo. That might be a bad omen. Or, maybe, she meant to evoke the Abba song about that girl getting married on a Greek Island.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Kingfishes

So now that I've recovered, at least somewhat, from New Orleans (it was hot, hot, hot!), here is my impression of the Republican candidates I've met. Well what can I say about Newt Gingrich? In person, he's exactly like he is on TV. In fact, he was exactly as he was on TV 20 years ago. In any case, I don’t think he'll stay in the race long anyway.

Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico: Came across as nice and sincere, sort of a younger and much more boring version of Ron Paul. His no-government-in-our-lives policy isn't my cup of tea - or it wouldn’t be if I were an American. Being German, though, I have healthcare, Social Security, and a bullet train on my doorstep to visit my brother in less than two hours. So I would appreciate it is the Americans got rid of its current big brother state and eliminated taxes. Also, knowing New Mexico, I understand where he's coming from. However, he has, as one lady put it, “the chance of a Chinaman.”

Hermann Cain talked of himself as being like a bumblebee: he's not supposed to fly, yet he does. And he cares about his grandchildren, likes pizza, and would send the U.S. military into motion to defend Israel. Other than that, I don’t remember much. He talks in a black preacher kind of way and received a lot of applause, but few straw poll votes. I think his basic function is to convince Republicans that they aren't racist. He does that well.

Ron Paul received tremendous support from his supporters, many of who are fairly young (in fact, he was the only one with young fans), and he won the straw poll by far (and was booed for it). I kind of like his no-frills attitude, taking a stand against the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, the Pentagon, the military industrial complex, speaking out against the war on Iraq, Afghanistan, and drugs and so forth (he even wants to plant hemp). Sadly, his idea of freedom doesn't include my womb. In any case, if he gets elected he'll be assassinated the next day. By the way: His people were the only ones worth having the proverbial beer with, while the Bachmann folks were more like my late grandmother.

Bachmann will eat Sarah Palin’s lunch! She struck me as very energetic, talented, and smart. The older women just loved her. I know she has been quoted as saying lots of crazy stuff, but I got the impression that she doesn’t believe most of it herself - she's just pandering. For instance, she said she believes in Intelligent Design; I'm fairly sure, though, that her own children go to good universities that don’t teach ID.

She was introduced as a business women, although in fact she's made a living as an IRS attorney, a foster mother and a politician all her life. She wants to curb the deficit by cutting funding for NPR, Planned Parenthood, bullet trains, and some Cowboy Poetry Festival, but leave Medicare untouched. Again, this isn't going to happen - and she knows it. But she can present it with a smile and a straight face. She also didn't join in with the overall Hispanic-bashing; as president, she will create jobs for Latinos. I wasn't aware that governments create jobs - with the possible exception of bullet trains and those Bachmann has held, but people kept on cheering.

Rick Santorum I couldn’t hear, because I had to follow Bachmann working the room and then follow her to a press conference; as was everyone else. This lady ate Santorum's lunch. I listened to Louisiana’s Buddy Roemer, though. He sounded like an Anarcho-Syndicalist from 1968 Berlin - or Huey Long. You tell me. Also applause.

Perry got even more applause. He uttered mostly boilerplate catchphrases, like, freedom, liberty, strong military, Ronald Reagan, American exceptionalism, greatest country of all times (they should invent an acronym for that, like, Grecat), but said zilch, nada, niente - about curbing immigration. If he runs, he has a good shot at winning.

And Huntsman, while not even being in New Orleans, finished second in the straw poll. He would have a much harder time getting the nomination than Perry, but could cut into the non-crazy vote. So if I were a Democrat, I would push for Hermann Cain. I'm just sayin'!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hot in Louisiana

Obviously I was witness to a much talked about entertainment event without even noticing: Reggie Brown at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. This guy, obviously a black comedian I had never heard of before, has an Obama act he was invited for. That was kinda funny, but then he turned to mocking Republicans, like, Newt Gingrich is dropping delegates faster then Anthony Weiner his pants, or: Tim Pawlenty could not make it to the conference because he got his foot from his mouth surgically removed, and also a spinal transplant, both paid for by Obambneycare.

While I was still thinking, wow, someone had guts inviting this guy, he was already escorted off the stage in the middle of a Michele Bachmann joke. Now I‘m sitting here with barely half a joke. I don't think this is how Republicans make friends.

As for the much talked energy crisis the Republicans want to solve by drilling, I have a great idea. Turn off the effing air conditioning! New Orleans had about 100 degrees (in the sun), while the conference center had about ten. Well, maybe 20. Oddly enough, the airplane later had 100 degrees again, due to some malfunction (I was flying U.S. Airways). If America could find a way to simply store heat and cold and exchange them to where they are needed, that should take care of everything.




Monday, June 6, 2011

What's Left of the Wall

Our next book will come out any time soon: It is The Berlin Wall Today, a color picture guide that meticulously shows all the remainders of the Wall still visible in Berlin; in the inner city of Berlin, to be precise, a ten-mile-stretch from Bornholmer Brücke all the way down to Schlesischer Busch. You can walk that in a day (with good shoes and no small children in tow). The book has maps also.

It is really not that much left of the Iron Curtain, but if you walk all the way it is more than you would assume. For me, thinking that I know everything about Berlin, it was interesting to discover Wall remnants in back yards, next to train tracks, and in half-wild parks I have never heard about. Some of them are covered in graffiti, some overgrown with plants. There are also guard towers and memorial plaques that tell Berlin history.

The book will come out in July; I will keep everybody posted. It will also appear in other languages eventually, starting with German. It will be available on Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Conspiracy on Hudson

So, the DSK story gets more interesting every day. I have no idea what was actually going on, I‘ll just wait for the Hollywood movie,  but what I‘m gathering from German sites is that there is quite some Schadenfreude about a banker's downfall, no matter what for. Many hope that some Wall Street big shots will follow (yeah, right). More remarkable, none of the usual suspects in the German media has come out to defend him yet (quite different from Polanski). Angela Merkel, of course, is pushing one of her competitors to become his successor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who might otherwise run against her in the next elections.

As for France, DSK's next career step as the president of France is probably not happening. Of course, the conspiracy theorists are working overtime: Was he framed? And if, by whom? The CIA? The Fed  (he was responsible for the Euro)? Nicholas Sarkozy? The Freemansons? Gaddafi? The French secret service? Also—lets just keep spinning—if this results in Marine Le Pen becoming the first Front National president of France AND it would turn out that DSK is not guilty, albeit too late, that would make the L'Affaire Dreyfus look like small potatoes. Or, small Freedom Fries.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

DSK

The big news in Germany is, of course, that IMF-head Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been arrested in New York for alleged rape.  I‘m not sure what to think of it. On the one hand, it seems improbable that a man of his position and age would conduct himself like that, especially in a foreign country known for its no-nonsense approach to law enforcement; on the other hand, he has a track record in France for an, err, unorthodox sex live. In addition, those people often think they are untouchable. Eliot Spitzer comes to mind; then again, Spitzer also comes to mind as someone who might have been set up.

So, to sum it up, I have no idea. There are some interesting points made in the German media, though; first, not only was he a major opponent of Nicholas Sarkozy (who is a conservative, while DSK is a Socialist), also, he was on his way to Greece to, in effect, rescue the Euro. So, could there anybody be interested in an Euro collapse? But, of course, again, the IMF is not headless now, it is run by the former number two, John Lipsky, He is an American, and a former banker with JP Morgan, Chase Manhattan, and Salomon Bros (not Goldman, Sachs, to my astonishment).

Politically speaking, the big winner might not be Sarkozy, but Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right wing Front National who is running against both. She already came out to denounce DSK, no big surprise here. In any case, that will be interesting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trump At The Gates

Usually, I‘m not easily embarrassed. I have showed up at black tie events in jeans, eaten watermelon in public, and called the husband of my best friend's mistress in the middle of the night to find out where he was, so I am pretty tough. But, at some point, I budge. This point is now. It's seeing The Donald on TV.

 So, The Donald is ethnic German, so am I. He is a New Yorker, so am I. He has a mouth so big that Chris Christie's ass could fit in, so, here is where we begin to differ. But watching The Donald talk on TV about birtherism ... it actually hurts. It makes Charlie Sheen look like Florence Nightingale.


So, will he be running for (or winning) the Presidency for the GOP? Not likely. Because The Donald ist a Democrat. Huh? Yes, New York 1 covered it:

http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/137902/donald-trump-s-primary-voting-record-spotty--records-show

So, if I were a Democrat, I would probably, at that point, blind myself. This is probably how the Roman Empire ended. With the German barbarians let into the gates.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Welcome to Berlin

So, how do you move to Berlin? Well, first, you'll have to make sure that you can stay there long-term, legally. No problem if you are English or Irish; as an American, you'd need a visa if you are staying longer than three months, probably best would be a student visa (I have no idea, really — ask the German consulate). They used to see that relaxed, after 9-11, not so much.

Housing, not such a problem, there are plenty of people who rent out rooms, also, you can get a two-bedroom from 400 Euro on. Check the local papers, mainly Tip and Zitty, but also daily papers (Morgenpost, Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung). All classifieds are online. There is also a thing called "Mitwohnzentrale" (actually, rather a half-dozen), they broker short-term rooms or apartments, maybe not a bad idea to check out a neighborhood before you make a long-term commitment or schlepp a lot of stuff up to a five-floor walk-up. Speaking of stuff, if you need cheap furniture, try Ikea, Ebay or "Zweite Hand". As a rule of thumb, second-hand Ikea furniture should not be more than 50 percent of the original price.

As neighborhoods go, I‘m assuming you want to live in a turn-of-the century borough. Charlottenburg is posh and a bit boring, but old grandeur, Moabit and Wedding are Turkish/working class with a more fancier part near the Landwehrkanal (not that much nightlife, though), Schöneberg and Kreuzberg are more leftwingish and have a better nightlife/restaurant scene; Friedrichshain even more, as has Prenzlauer Berg, which combines a West-Berlin nightlife and public schools without Turkish kids, so it has become pretty pricey, and is overrun by Birkenstock mothers buying organic food and pushing expensive strollers. Friedrichshain is more for students, but in Prenzlauer Berg public transportation is better. Mitte is not really residential, expect some boring new buildings. Then again, you could try to get a place at Stalinallee.

Job: That is a tough one in today's economy, also, you would probably need some sort of visa to be able to work as well. If you have someone in the US you can get commissions from by doing work on your computer, that is a fine loophole. Best, check out the Expat scene, solidly situated in Prenzlauer Berg. Try the Cafe First Gaudy at Gaudystraße 1, it's run by an Irish guy, and that's where English speakers meet. There are also University blackboards, and if you are an enrolled student, Universities (at least they used to when I was young) would get you a short-term, same-day job.

Also, don't try to cheat on subway fares, they always get you. And beware of bicyclists! And, most importantly, if bus drivers, or store clerks, or cocktail waitresses or just about anybody pushes you around or barks at you, don't take it personally. That's just how they are.






Friday, April 22, 2011

Where's the Bunny?

While I was gone, a minor scandal in Germany happened: A German soap opera star of Turkish heritage, Sila Sahin, posed naked for Playboy magazine. Near-naked. It is a huge issue, because Muslims usually don't like to see their daughters naked in public, so conservative Turkish men are not that thrilled. Sila has already apologized to her mother. Most Germans, however, see that as a step towards integration.

Anyway, it is the right answer to the Burka ban in France. About the soap she's playing in, that pretty much sucks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mad and Cheese

I‘m back from Madison, Wisconsin; back from a six-day trip actually, that brought me to Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee, the latter city only in passing, since it was heavily snowing. Snowing! Wisconsin, so I learned from the local history museum in Madison right across the Capitol, is basically a German state, so much German that it was considered a traitor state in World War I, and German-language schoolbooks were burned. That's where the museum's history stopped, so I have no idea what happened in World War II. I hope nothing too bad.

I met some progressive people, no coincidence, since Madison has a fairly progressive tradition. Wisconsin once had a progressive Governor named Robert La Follette, not German, evidently, but French; still Old Europe.

Also, I participated in a small rally asking banks, mostly JP Morgan Chase, to pay taxes (or I would have, had it not been snowing), bought a T-shirt that called for solidarity with Madison workers, a piece of  cheese in the shape of the state, read the main local paper, The Onion, had lunch in the Union building (crab bisque), and frequented a coffee shop that served alcoholic beverages, namely Peppermint Schnapps. German indeed! This is how I usually spend my vacation.



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Knut Forever

Knut does not go away. For many Berliners, especially older ones, Knut is more than just an bear, he is part of the myth Berlin always has been. Not only does he symbolize the city's heraldic animal, but also its spirit, its rebirth. Knut lived at the historic Berlin Zoo, founded in 1844 as the oldest zoo in Germany. The zoo survived  World War I, was fortified against the Red Army in World War II, and eventually bombed. Older Berliners remember the night when screaming, wounded animals, some in flames, were  roaming the streets. Only ninety-one of more than three thousand critters survived the war. And later, when the Wall was built and the zoo ended up in the West part of Berlin, it symbolized the stronghold Berlin had become within a sea of Communism.

So, Knut was a soft reminder of those times, and people felt emotional about him. Hence the resistance against Bernhard Blaszkiewitz. the Zoo director who wants to stuff Knut. Blaszkiewitz, in addition, is really not a good zoo director, he is exploiting the animals, keeping many of them, especially the big cats, in cages way too small. Once, a chimpanzee bit off one of Blaszkiewitz' fingers, and all of Berlin was in glee. So, if Knut gets Blaszkiewitz fired, even after his dead, that would be a sign from heaven.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Times are A'Changing

Those are interesting times: Westerwelle, the leader of the Free Democratic Party in Germany, is as good as gone (he is still Foreign Minister, but that might change, too). The FDP will elect a new party leader, Philipp Rösler, now Minister for Health and a physician himself. Not only is Rösler with thirty-eight the youngest FDP-boss ever, he is also, technically speaking, an immigrant. He was born in Vietnam and was adopted as a baby. So,  now two of the German parties are presided by immigrants (the Green party leader is Cem Özdmir), while the CDU as well as the SPD are run by women.

Only the Bavarian CSU is still clinging to the old times. Of course, Germany still does not have a secret Muslim born in Kenya... (just kidding!)


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who Killed Knut?

Who killed Knut? The Zoo is by and by releasing information; so, here is what we know: He had too much fluid in his brain. That gave him fits, and bad headaches, and this is how he died — having some sort of epileptic attack, falling into the water... He did not drown, though, the Zoo thinks he would have died even if he had stayed on his rock.

Of course, people are still suspicious: How did he get that brain damage? Did they feed him BSE-infected food? And also, isn't the Zoo just claiming this to cover up that Knut was held in too small a cage?

The Zoo, unfazed, considers turning him into a stuffed animal. Well, that is sad!


Monday, March 28, 2011

Food and Communism

Berlin cuisine has strange ways: Last autumn, a  restaurant has opened, it serves food from the bygone Communist era. The strange thing is that nobody ever liked East Berlin restaurants because they were either out of food or you had to wait for a table for hours except you had Western money.

Well, now everybody has Western money, so the Domklause has opened, near the Berlin Dome, where the Palace of the Republic used to be. It serves Kettwurst and Grilletas, which is some sort of bratwurst and burgers, and also Soljanka, a Russian soup made from leftovers (but not bad). The interior is westernized, though. And if you don't like it, you can go to Ming Dynasty at Brückenstraße, Berlin's best Chinese restaurant, also somewhat of a reminder of the bygone Communist era, but different.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,6485798,00.html

Sunday, March 27, 2011

High and Green

So, here is news: Germany will have the first head of a State government who is a member of the Green Party. Sixty-two year old Winfried Kretschmann will be leading Baden-Württemberg, Germany's wealthiest and traditional conservative, which that has been governed by the Christian Democrats for 58 years straight.

The Green Party (which is, in American terms, about two miles left of the Democrats) has gotten about 24 percent of the vote on Sunday and will team up with the Social Democrats, who have gotten 23 percent. This is a historic moment. The election result was a reaction to the nuclear catastrophe in Japan that also drove hundreds of thousands of people on the streets.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Knut Forever

What happened to Knut? According to zoo officials, his brain was sort of damaged: they found some "significant changes" after an autopsy. However, nobody knows how and why that happened. The beloved polar bear had died on Saturday in the presence of 600 to 700 visitors. He started to turn around on his rock repeatedly, fell into the water, and drowned right away.

Now Berliners, but also people all over the world are mourning. Candles, flowers, and pictures are brought to the Berlin Zoo, to remember the bear that was hand-raised as a cub four years ago by Thomas Doerflein. But quite a few people are blaming the zoo, which has put Knut into a tiny cage with three other bears who mobbed him. And frankly, with all the money they made on Knut—couldn't they have built a better habitat? So it's no wonder people still think he died of stress, loneliness and a broker heart after his keeper Doerflein had died.

Here are some Knut videos:

http://www.clipfish.de/video/484996/knut-der-kleine-kuschelbaer-knut-gehts-gut/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSfVrHDForU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFR0xA60GGI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cldjBy8sZYM

http://www.mode.net/18652-eisbar-knut-video-zeigt-tod-im-berliner-zoo

http://de.news.yahoo.com/31/20110321/video/vde-die-ganze-welt-trauert-um-knut-e260255.html


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Knut, The Polar Bear, Has Died

Knut is dead! The famous polar bear who was born in the Berlin Zoo just four years ago, collapsed and died in the pool of his cage on Saturday shortly after 3pm. Knut, who had been abandoned by his polar bear mother at birth, has been raised by hand by Thomas Doerflein, his keeper, who had died in September 2008, also very sad, since he was only 44 years old (Knut's twin baby brother did not make it at all). Nobody knows yet of what causes Knut has passed away, but everybody in Berlin is sad and also shocked. More than 500 people witnessed when Knut's lifeless body was drifting in the water.

Knut became famous as a symbol of the fight against global warming and for the environment. He made it on the cover of Vanity Fair with Leonardo di Caprio and he attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Berlin Zoo. Lately, he had not been so lucky: His lady friend from the Munich Zoo was brought back to Munich, and the other three polar bears in Berlin had never warmed up to the abandoned cub. But they did not push him into the water — he fell. So far, the Zoo is still investigating.

http://cutecrazyknut.blog.de/

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Let The Good Times Roll

I had a little Mardi Gras celebration a few days early in, of all places, San Antonio, Texas. There was a parade of boats, circling the Riverwalk, there was modest throwing of beads, and I nearly fell into the San Antonio River while trying to catch some - not that I don't have a half-ton in my apartment already.

Today is also the Texas Independence Day, and some people want to leave the Union and go back to Mexico (though I‘m not sure about the latter).  Meanwhile, in Germany, times are interesting:  Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had to step back as Secretary of Defense, due to plagiarism of his dissertation. Now there is a new guy, Thomas de Maizière, who used to be Secretary of the Interior. They still have rallies pro and contra Guttenberg, mostly on the web, though. Well, that was fast!

So, what is Guttenberg doing now? Rumor has it, he will relocate to the USA. He is said to have an offer from a consulting agency already. And he might even end up on the board of a blue chip company. And if that doesn't work out, he can still go to Hollywood.





Friday, March 4, 2011

Houston - I Have a Problem

I made it to Texas - Texas is huge! It is so huge that I'm basically spending all my time in the car, driving up and down I-45. This time, they gave me a Dodge Caravan that qualifies as an economy car (in Texas). Yesterday, I visited a Rodeo in Houston; actually THE Rodeo in Houston. I nearly lost my car because the area is so huge that I forgot where I‘ve parked it.

Also, the food is huge. At the Rodeo, they sold "a mountain of fries" for ten bucks. Ten bucks! I‘m sure they'd feed a family (in Somalia), but this also drains your resources. The Rodeo itself, I had the feeling that the horses and cattle were in the act. The horses violently kicked the Cowboys from their backs, then calmed down all by themselves and trotted back to the stable, as if they'd punched a card.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Last of the Mohicans

I made it back to L.A. just in time for a very boring Academy Awards presentation — I hope next time they pick Stephen Colbert as a host. And, the King's Speech? Huh? A movie about a stuttering monarch? Why not a movie about Prince Charles getting his ears done?

About the Tea Party; there is one very interesting thing: Judging from talks, and looking at badges it seems to be a movement that is, at least, 75 percent German-American, if not 90 percent. And it sure feels like visiting my relatives when I was a kid, especially the part when my grandfather warned me about brown-skinned Gipsies coming into Germany to commit crimes. Other than that, those folks don't have a lot in common with the speakers who were mainly Washington insiders pretending to be farmboys.

Not all people where white; though, I met a Native American who joined the Tea Party because he is against too much immigration. Well, better late than never.








Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tea for the Tillerman

I made it to Phoenix, to a Tea Party Convention - very interesting. It's basically older white people telling each other over and over again that America is the greatest country in the world — or it would be, if it would return to the original Constitution.

I personally would be fine with that: no taxes, no immigration laws for white people, and Manhattan would still be affordable. They also want to abolish Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, no problem for me as well, I have health care in Germany. I just hope they keep cars. I love my little red beetle. It could make 180 miles per hour, which is, of course illegal, although I don't recall anything in the original Constitution limiting my freedom to speed. Maybe I should volunteer for a speech. Or maybe not.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Black Sheep

Welcome to Hollywood! I arrived in Los Angeles, Berlin's partner city in the USA, just in time for the Oscars, and I spent all day climbing up to to the Hollywood sign; not by foot, of course, I am over thirty-four. No, I was part of a guided tour for journalists, given by City Councilman Tom LaBonge who might, as I also learned today, run for mayor of Los Angeles (in two years). The Hollywood sign is astonishingly high, inaccessible and flat, you can by no means sit in it and watch L.A. You can see L.A. through the letters if you climb high enough, though.

This time I decided to rent a car; turns out you are not that faster after all as opposed to taking a bus. First, I managed to get lost while trying to enter a freeway, then I got stuck in an area with very worrisome street names — Slauson! Florence! - then I got lost again upon leaving said freeway, all whilst trying to use my Blackberry as a GPS. Also, they have a lot of traffic in L.A. I rented a red beetle. I got upgraded since I only paid economy, then again, Alamo charged me fifty bucks for a full tank.

Meanwhile, at home in Berlin, everybody is mad at the former shooting start Klaus-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German defense minister who, as it was just found out, has plagiarized his Ph. D. He had to give back his doctor title and might well loose his job. My hunch is, this it not all that uncommon in politics. American papers are not covering it yet. Maybe their reporters are stuck in traffic.

More tomorrow, I am really tired.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Devil's Spy Post

Berlin has a new tourist attraction: The former Cold War spy post at Teufelsberg (Devil's Mountain) in the Grunewald district. The facility looks like moon station from a Sci-Fi-set from the 1950s, a futuristic ensemble of white domes and towers. It has been used by the U.S. Army to listen to Soviet radio traffic until the Wall came down. But since the Americans left, it became pretty decrepit. Now a historian, Andreas Jüttemann, gives guided tours on the weekends (call 01149-30-804 033 90).

According to Berlin newspapers, the area has been sold to developers quite some time ago; to an architect from Cologne. The architect is squabbling with city authorities about what should be happening there for years. The city wants the area to be declared as a forest, the architect, however, is filing for landmark protection for the buildings. He is planning apartments, a café, and a spy museum within the towers.

The last few weeks, Teufelsberg has been run over by curious people, so they have added new tours. Obviously, Berliners have sneaked into the area previously even without those tours, judging from the graffiti. The last time Teufelsberg was used, by the way, they did a vampire movie there.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tear Down This Street Sign

Berlin is divided again, this time it's about Ronald Reagan. Should the Gipper, who would have turned hundred a few days ago, get his own street in Berlin, named after him?

This is what the CDU wants, the governing party in Germany. Secretary of Defense Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has already criticized the city government for not pursuing it. Berlin's City Hall, however, is not that thrilled, and neither are quite a few Berliners. Berlin is governed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Post-Communists who resent Reagan for his policies — Nicaragua, El Salvador, Iran-Contra, Bitburg, Lebanon, and Afghanistan where Reagan allied himself with the Mujahedin. When Reagan visited Berlin in the 1980s, a million people took the street against him.

More importantly, most Berliners don't even believe that Reagan took down the Wall by giving that famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate, no more than David Hasselhoff did. They credit either the Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev, or of course, themselves. After all, Berliners in the East stood up against the Stasi and the GDR, risking their lives, Berliners in the West took down the Wall with their very hands and hammer to sell the pieces. So a SPD politician already suggested honoring the citizens of East Berlin instead.

In addition, naming a street after Reagan is legally difficult; the city has a guideline to basically honor women in street names because, right now, they are underrepresented. So the daily Die Welt came up with a compromise: How about naming a street after Nancy Reagan? Another one could be named after Raisa Gorbachev, that should leave everybody satisfied.






Monday, January 24, 2011

From New York to Berlin

Berlin could become the victim of its own success. Robert Mapplethorpe, the late New York gay activist and photographer has an exhibit at Gallery C/O Berlin at Oranienburger Strasse, at the former Postfuhramt near Tucholskystrasse. C/O Berlin is showing all of his pictures, including the ones that have been censored by various galleries for being ... well, to gay, and too shocking. The exhibit will tun until March 31.

Oranienburger Strasse, an avenue that stretches from Hackescher Markt to Friedrichstrasse has, however,  turned into a tourist mile after 1990. Now an investors group has bought the Postfuhramt. They want to turn it into a hotel. At first, they had promised to C/O Berlin that they can stay, now it looks like they're out on the street. But why would tourists visit if the cultural places they are coming for are gone?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Streetcar Named Time Machine

Berlin has a new attraction: A city tour for only 2.30 Euro. Well, not really, but you can actually ride one of those old-fashioned tour buses where you can sit on the upper deck for the price of a regular metro ticket. Which is 2,30 Euro. This is because the BVG - the city's transportation agency - has run out of buses. Really, they have run out of buses because some subway lines are being repaired, the S-Bahn is more or less defunct, so they need more buses to replace subway and S-bahn cars. This is why they are sending everything back on the street they can get their hands on, including museum cars usually used to chauffeur tourists up and down Unter den Linden.

On the plus side, the S-bahn is not late any more, because the average speed was reduced from 80 to 60 kilometers an hour (about 40 miles an hour). In 1933, when the S-bahn from Wannsee to Downtown switched to electricity, it ran with 140 kilometers an hour. Berlin is the only city in the world where you can actually time-travel while riding public transportation, but sadly, just in one direction.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Airport and Airlift

Here is some interesting news from Berlin: The Allied Museum at Clayallee is thinking of moving to a bigger space. The museum is devoted to the Airlift and other historic events of the Cold War; it houses quite a few airplanes and other objects from that period. However, most of the planes are being kept in an outdoor area, so they are suffering from rain and snow, especially now. The museum is considering to move into the famous, but now defunct airport Tempelhof, the world's biggest building (in terms of bulk). In any case, that might take a while.

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