Friday, December 31, 2010


I'm currently corresponding with a friend in Brooklyn whether NYC authorities, i. e. Bloomberg, or Berlin City Hall is doing a worse job of coping with the snow. It is hard to judge such a quick race to the bottom, though. Both cities are covered in snow, and all the airports are operating in a rather shaky manner, if at all. And while NCY subway cars get stuck overnight in the Jamaica Bay, the Berlin S-Bahn, the commuter train, has more or less ceased to operate, at least in the outer boroughs.

But Berliners, used to bad service anyway, are outraged about something else: On New Years Eve, David Hasselhoff will sing at the Brandenburg Gate. The area between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victoria column in Tiergarten is supposedly the biggest party mile of the world, about a million people are expected to come on New Years Eve. So, naturally, there is bratwurst, glühwein, and music; Bonny Tyler was expected. Alas, she fell ill, and now Hasselhoff will replace her.

Despite all urban rumors Hasselhoff is not all that popular in Germany, evidently less popular than Bonnie Tyler. So Berliners are expressing outrage in newspaper comments, asking: "Are those "stars" bringing their own booze?", or even assuming that America has sent Hasselhoff out of revenge because the Berlin party is bigger than the Times Square party (that might be somewhat of a stretch). Or, as someone put it: Imagine, David Hasselhoff sings, and afterwards the S-Bahn doesn't get you home.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Northern Exposure

While I was stuck in Heathrow overnight (ok, in a hotel near Heathrow) I imagined I would be bragging about my suffering for weeks to come. Now it turns out that a lot of people were doing a lot worse. A lot lot. I know because I see them on TV every day.

Only days after I left, JFK closed, due to snow. And, even more scary, the subway broke down (partly). An A train got stuck at a station near JFK, and the MTA did not manage to get the passengers out for eight hours straight. They let them use the bathrooms at the manned train station, though. That begs the question: How did the MTA employees get there, and couldn't that have been a way to get the passengers out? After all, all they had to do is get them to the next subway stop.

Berlin is not that much better; here it's the S-Bahn that is breaking down. Some lines have been discontinued completely, other lines are running delayed or at half capacity. Everything is very full, and very cold, and ice is hanging everywhere. The fire departments warns of roofs that could collapse because they can't handle the weight of the snow. The stores have run out of chocolate Santa Clauses and gingerbread, so, on second thought, I am suffering indeed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fröhliche Weihnachten

A few years ago the "Season's Greetings"-wave hit Germany, but it never caught on. After all, Germany is the country that actually invented Christmas, first as a pagan feast celebrating the solstice, and then again, around the 14th century as a Christian festivity, namely the Christmas tree with candles and ornaments, Christmas cookies, nativity scenes, and Christmas songs like Silent Night and O Tannenbaum.

However, Germans are always trying to be politically correct, especially when dealing with American partners, so this is how Christmas wishes are sent out nowadays.

This year, of course, it is usually followed by: I hope your not stuck at a major airport.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Slow and the Furious

Only a few days ago I felt very brave for having suffered the Hell of Heathrow; now, however, it looks like I‘m one of the lucky few. After all, I got a hotel and was flown out twenty hours later. All in all not bad, given the fact that tens of thousands were stranded at Heathrow, Schiphol or Charles de Gaulle for days. In fact, some still are. And people who tried to travel before Christmas within Germany by train or car got stuck for hours in the snow. Some trains didn't make it at all.

The travel difficulties are also bad for the German tourism industry, especially Berlin, that has surpassed Rome in the annual number of tourists and is now at place 3 after London and Paris. That's because quite a few Americans are usually flying to Berlin, Nuremberg, and Munich to visit Christmas markets. I myself missed the wonderful Christmas market at the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg because I did not want to leave the house. Maybe I can make it tomorrow to Gendarmenmarkt.

I have not really paid any more attention to the War on Christmas, but just before I left, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann told me (or rather, his whole audience) that St. Niklas, the saint Santa Claus is based on, is really an old Germanic God, Baldur. The theory is somewhat shaky. But it tells you that in any case Christmas was invented in Germany where Christmas trees go as far back as 1400-something.

Speaking of urban rumors, while Christmas does in fact go back to the Germanic Solstice, you often hear that Christians "stole" the feast from the Pagans. That is really not the case. Pagans became Christians and remodeled their holiday to their new liking. It's not like there are still droves of cave-dwelling, sheepskin-wearing Pagans around in Germany (or Scandinavia) who want to have their holiday back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Runway to Hell

It can be interesting to be caught in the middle of a major news story, or not. The big story of these days is the snow in Europe. And I'm in the middle of it because I choose, of all days, the last two to travel to Berlin for Christmas. Via Heathrow.  Heathrow is the biggest airport in Europe, if not in the world, and Terminal 5, where British Airways is located, is larger and nearly as secretive as the Pentagon. So, if you get stranded there with all your luggage because Europe is blanketed with snow that is quite a challenge.

I got stranded in the late morning of Friday, not all bad, because the people whose flights were canceled in the morning were made waiting in the plane for hours, while the ones that got stranded in the evening didn't even get a hotel room and had to sleep on the floor. I had only to wait in line for five hours. Queuing up is a sport in Great Britain, but I am not British. It is even less fun if you watch flights getting canceled from Brussels to Pisa while you queue does not move.

Anyhow, I got out the next day, in the early morning, not quite to Berlin, but to Hamburg, that's at least close. As soon as our flight had left, the airport collapsed under us like a major Hollywood movie at plot point two, and was eventually closed completely. To quote Newman, Tell the world my story!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry 40 Percent Off

Christmas comes closer, though, in New York, it does not really feel like it. Practically no snow has fallen, whereas the airport in Berlin had to close - not so much because of too much snow, but because they ran out of de-icing agent.

The good news is that retailers are scrambling to sell us stuff, so we are getting pre-Christmas discounts. Check the ads, and don't forget to look for "Berlinica" after you clicked on the link. I‘m sure there is a way to change that so my stuff pops up automatically, I just need to figure out how.

And if you want to take a little break from the war on Christmas, why don't you visit one of Berlin's Christmas markets? That is, if the airport has re-opened.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas and Soccer

I finally found out what annoys me about that "War on Christmas". It reminds me on the "War on Soccer". Last summer, South Africa was hosting the World Cup, and everybody in the whole world was celebrating and partying. Everybody? No, there was one single country where party poopers spent weeks to plaster newspapers and commentary sites with letting everybody know all the time that they don't like soccer, that soccer is inferior to football or baseball, and that soccer is sooooo boring.

So, I'm not a big sportsfan, I can understand that having to put up with soccer fans in droves on the streets is stressful, but in your own living room? Why go out of your way to spoil someone elses fun, if all you need to do is to switch to another TV channel? Is it, deep down, a inferiority complex? Honestly, I have no idea. But I know that these are the same people that don't get too many invitations to parties.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

War on Christmas

It is hard to see what the infamous "War on Christmas" is about: Nobody is forced to celebrate Christmas anyway, Hanukkah is culturally and timewise closer to Thanksgiving then to Christmas and there is still no desire to rename Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is, by the way, also a church holiday, as is Mardi Gras), Ramadan is not a seasonal holiday, and Pagans have their own high holiday. It's called Halloween. As for atheists, why would they even want to participate in a watered-down version of Christmas in the first place?

The War on Christmas seems to be, mostly, Pagan-driven, but I have yet to meet one single Pagan (or Kwanzaan), and I live in New York City. Also, I‘m not sure why American Pagans would even want to pray to fictional characters from German fairy-tales and Nordic sagas, which is, in effect, what they are doing. Shouldn't Pagans rather pray to the American God's of nature that used to protect Native Americans? Then again, they did not do such a great job when they had the chance.

Germans expats and German companies in the USA are always trying to be politically correct. So they mail out Christmas cards to American associates wishing them Season's Greetings and cards to Germans wishing them Fröhliche Weihnachten. I‘ve just read in The New York Times that Mexicans do the same thing, wishing Feliz Navidad to their own people and Happy Holidays to everybody else. I'm sure French and Italians do likewise.

While the War on Christmas has some funny features, it also has a dark side for Germans: The German Democratic Republic, the GDR, tried to get Christmas ignored, not easy in a country that actually invented Christmas the way it is celebrated today, with a tree, candles, gifts, and traditional songs like Silent Night. Urban rumor has it that the Communists renamed the Christmas angel on top of the Christmas tree Jahresendflügelfigur, a term that loosely translates into "end-of-year-winged-figurine". And there was a fringe movement during the Third Reich within the SS that wanted to replace Jesus with Thor and Odin. But the Nazis as well as the GDR utterly failed to take Christmas out of Germany.

Now let me make a pitch for Berlinica's Christmas gifts: We have an Angels of Berlin wall calendar, and quite a few books, the newest one The Berlin Cookbook. Amazon tells you that it ships within two weeks, but it really ships right away. And it also has recipes suitable for Pagans such as Love Bones. It refers to a Pagan ritual I will tell you about if you buy the book.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Traitor, Moles, and Wikileaks

Berlin is blanketed by snow; but it is also blanketed by infighting in the wake of Wikileaks: It turns out that the U.S. embassy had a mole within the FDP, the right-of-center Free Democratic Party that is part of the German government lead by Angela Merkel. That mole, Helmut Metzner was in charge of foreign policy. He has informed the U.S. Embassy about what was going on during the negotiations about the formation of the new government, down to the last detail.

That would have been frowned upon to begin with;  even worse, the Wikipedia files reveal that Guide Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, who is also the head of the FDP, is seen as  "vain", "incompetent", and "aggressive" by the Americans (an opinion shared by most Germans, by the way). He is also scolded for not sending more German troops to Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the American embassador, Philip Murphy, has apologized, not so much for what he said but for the fact that it was leaked.

It is very likely that Metzner will get fired. However, it is more interesting whether Westerwelle will survive, politically, and whether the German government will, in its current formation. Merkel was happier with the Social Democrats, so that is an interesting development.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Live Long and Prosper

So, here is your publisher in her free time (if she has any); at the
Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York. The guy behind me is, 
yes, Jean-Luc Picard alias Patrick Stewart, starring in
A Life in the Theatre, and on the right, behind me as well,
is Cindy Opitz, Berlinica's senior translator. Engage!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eisbein and Currywurst

Just a few things: The Berlin Cookbook is out, and available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (B&N doesn't have a cover picture yet but this is only a matter of time). This is very exiting; it is the first English-language Berlin Cookbook ever; also, it is full color and has, of course, many recipes. And, no worries, I did not write it, but an actual cook. You can see it popping up right left of that blog (and then order it directly).

Also, the first two Berlinica DVDs are out, and available on Amazon (I am trying to get them into B&N, but this is not so easy). The first is The Path to Nuclear Fission, produced by Rosemarie Reed, it is about Lise Meitner, a brilliant Jewish scientist in Berlin whose inventions, ultimately, lead to the Atomic bomb. The other one is The Red Orchestra, about the Anti-Nazi resistance group of the same name. This documentary was done by Stefan Roloff; again, Stefan will be in New York to introduce his upcoming movie about the Wall and the Stasi at the German Consulate on December 9 at 6pm.

Stefan Roloff at the German Consulate

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beyond The Berlin Wall

I'm popping up in other blogs. Publishing Perspectives, a blog devoted to publishing based in Texas and New York asked me to do a story on how I began; here is it:

and, a few days later,  that wandered to a Spanish-language blog (or is it Portugese?):

and, just the other day, John Mutter at shelf awareness wrote about me:

Also, I can announce that my first movie is available on DVD. Not my movie, of course, the movie was done by Stefan Roloff, an artist who lives in Berlin and Brooklyn. It is a documentary about the Red Orchestra, an anti-Nazi resistance group. Here is it:

Stefan's father Helmut Roloff was himself a member of that resistance group. Stefan will also give a talk about his next documentary about the Stasi, the secret Eastern German police, on December 9th at 6pm at the German Consulate:,archiveCtx=2172602.html

Monday, November 15, 2010


So, I launched! It was a great party at the German Consulate, with close to 150 people, and — at noon — a great reading at the Deutsches Haus at NYU. Sorry to everyone I did not talk to, but I was surrounded by people all the time. Holly gave a great performance, and so did Micaela. The cookbook was ready just hours before the launch, it will be available very soon. And the website was also ready only a few hours ahead, but just in time, thanks to Harry and Elaine, and to Anne, who let me stay at her place. And thanks to Zum Schneider, who provided the food (how can so much food be gone so quickly?)

I met Cindy, my translator, for the first time, she had come all the way from Iowa (with her husband), afterwards we went to a French place at the Upper East Sie, the Film Center Cafe, and Rudy's at Ninth Avenue. I got to bed at three am. The next day, I showed them Times Square, and we had a lot of cheesecake. There will be pictures. We also had a little adventure, I will tell you later.

I am still borderline exhausted, and there is so much more to do: Getting the books on Kindle and Nook, and on Baker&Taylor. Talking to schools, and people in Los Angeles. Maybe even sleep, who knows.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Midnight Cowboy

So, this is the last reminder: tomorrow is the launch of Berlinica. I have not slept or eaten for three days (except chocolate and bananas), but here it comes! We have a luncheon reading with Holly-Jane Rahlens at the Deutsches Haus of NYU at 42 Washington Mews. I‘m not sure whether this is sold out already; I do know, however, that Holly's famous aunt will attend, Sylvia Miles, a New York actress who was nominated for an Oscar for a role in Midnight Cowboy, a movie that takes place, by total coincidence, about 500 feet from where I live.

The launch party is from 6 to 8pm at the German Consulate with Holly, Micaela Leon, who will present songs from her upcoming album M—Songs of Weimar Berlin, and a reception with beer, wine and snacks from Zum Schneider, the famous Bavarian place at Avenue C and 7th street (Sylvester Schneider has lived in Berlin for seven years, so that's close enough). We will have books, and everybody who buys one can get it signed by Holly, and gets a little gift bag, courtesy of Berlin Partner. I hope to get the first copy of the Berlin Cookbook mailed just in time for the launch. The evening event is filling up, so if you want to attend and have not RSVP's yet, please do so.

So, see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

La Cage Aux Folles

The launch is coming closer. My author has arrived. She stays in my apartment. Sadly, she is allergic to my stuffed animal collection. Wallflower, our first novel, has been mysteriously pulled from distribution of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, here is why: I found out that Amazon Japan listed the husband of the author as the publisher, and instead of calling  (how difficult can it be to speak Japanese?), I turned to LightningSource, the printer, to correct the mistake in their database. The book will show up in Australia any time soon, so there is no time to waste. Evidently, this caused the book to vanish altogether for, like, two weeks, but it will be back.

Also, it turned out that the pianist who is playing at the Thursday launch party has to leave early. So now the musical program comes first, the reading later. I got napkins printed with a Berlin city map. I met someone at a party who explained to me how Google Analytics work (sort of). The catalog arrived today, not a moment too soon, as did the proof for our first movie, The Red Orchestra, and five T-shirts my interns are gonna wear. The proof for the cookbook will be sent out tomorrow. That's a little tight  because for UPS, overnight dies not mean the next day, but rather, a few nights out. There is still no trace of any CD, but at least Amazon promised me a free proof.

Also, here is the first news story, written by myself (of course). Every word is true.

I got 23 twitters already, whatever that might be.

Here is the link for the party - we are slightly over capacity, but who cares?,archiveCtx=1981346.html

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All the Publisher's Men

I‘m entering the phase where I‘m becoming irritable and testy, and start to yell at people, not yet in person, but per email. Also, these are the days, so close to the launch of Berlinica when I‘m realizing what I forgot to do. I should have bought labels for Micaela's CD, I should have sent the cookbook to the printer earlier to have the proof ready in time, my interns are still working on a Berlin-skyline-logo that is becoming more sophisticated by the week, and I still don't have a complete press list.

This is yet another endeavor that takes more time than I though; today, I spent half an hour to figure out whom to contact at AP, so far, to no avail. At least I've found a place to stay for my author, Holly-Jane Rahlens, who will be here for the launch, not one day to soon, because she will arrive on Tuesday. The launch is on Thursday. Did I mention that the launch is on Thursday? Here is the link. Don't forget to RSVP or I will yell at you at the door. If somebody from AP reads this, please call me.,archiveCtx=1981346.html

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lost in Translation

While I‘m still battling the challenges of everyday life in New York, my books are seeing the world: They are on sale, as I just found out, in Japan!

Of course, still in English. Sometime down the road, we will probably see Amazon automatically translating books. But that might take a while (or not).

I have asked my roommate in Berlin — who soon will be married to a Japanese girl — to provide some context, I am still waiting. However, if anybody out there has friends in Japan, please send them a book. I would really like to see how they reflect on my account statements.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Bronx Tale

On my day off, I went to the Bronx - to Little Italy in the Bronx, at Arthur Avenue just off Fordham Road. This is a tiny Italian enclave in the middle of a huge town that is practically entirely black and Hispanic. Or it was, because it has been taken over by Kosovo-Albanians, more or less. I bought a box of ravioli, four quails (the bird) and two pounds of Bratwurst, kind of like my grandmother used to make them, but Italian. On my way back, the subway was pretty crowded. Two gangs of teenagers passed through, also, a guy was listening to his MP3 player without headphones, and a woman was running up and down aimlessly and clearly disturbed. She had needed a bathroom one hour ago. That was the Bronx. In Manhattan, witches were gathering in the subway due to Halloween, but that was less scary.

Then my day off was over. It was around 9pm. At home, I ate some Bratwurst with ravioli, I tinkered a bit with the blog, settling for the third template, and I signed up for a workshop to turn books into e-books, especially the Kindle. I remember vividly from the last BEA that Amazon had promised to do that for free, but that is obviously not happening, or at least not for small publishers. Anyway, how hard can that be for someone who has survived the Bronx?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Come to the Cabaret....

So, the company is incorporated, all the books are at the printer ... nearly all the books; the Berlin Cookbook is still in the making, Berlin in the Cold War still has some typos, but that should be taken care of on Monday. Or Tuesday. All the CDs and DVDs are at some place with Amazon manufacturing that has just moved, hence Amazon does not really know how long it will takes to produce them ... where did they move, anyway? The catalog is being printed, the website will be full-fledged 10 pages on .... Friday? I hope.  The calendars are up and running at Cafepress, so are the T-shirts at Zazzle, and, of course, the party!

The launch party for Berlinica will be on November 11, at 6pm, at the German Consulate in New York, at First Avenue and East 48th. You are all invited! (You'd have to RSVP, though). Holly-Jane Rahlens, our first and foremost author will read from Wallflower, a love story set when the wall came down, and Micaele Leon will sing. Here is the link!,archiveCtx=1981346.html

There is beer, and the famous Sylvester Schneider will serve snacks. And I got a Berlin music CD, including Annette Humpe and Die Wilmersdorfer Witwen.

I‘d like to talk more, but I am so tired I need to sleep on my new elevated bed; elevated, because I put the book boxes beneath it. Tomorrow, I‘ll take a day off, the first since May.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Welcome to Berlinica

Welcome to Berlinica, the new multimedia publishing company from Berlin in New York.

Keep tuned.


Make a personalized gift at Zazzle.