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:

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!)


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