Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creepy Movies for Halloween

Boo! I enjoy giving out candy on Halloween, but watching a creepy movie, with the lights turned off, is a Halloween tradition that I miss. Unfortunately, Halloween isn't really celebrated in Germany. Some people dress up, but there's no "trick or treat" or children going from house to house.

Here are some movie tips to enjoy your Halloween.

The Nameless (1999)

A mother receives a phone call from her daughter who has been missing for five years. The mother investigates and discovers a terrible secret. This horror film is relentlessly downbeat and certifiably creepy. 

Dead End (2003)

Dead End
What appears to be a formula movie about a family picking up a hitchhiker turns out to be very original and truly scary. 

The Vanishing/Spoorloos (1988)

Rex and Saskia are on vacation when Saskia disappears without a trace. Rex decides to find her, but to no avail, until something happens. The ending will haunt you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Watching "Singing in the Rain" Dubbed

On Saturday the weather was terrible, and I spent most of the day indoors doing chores and catching up on work. I rarely watch TV these days, but when it rains, I give myself permission to engage in some relaxing entertainment like TV. I was lucky and found Singing in the Rain, known in Germany as Du Sollst Mein Glücksstern Sein (You Should Be My Lucky Star).

I had never seen the movie, and it was weird watching it dubbed into German (fortunately, the songs remained in their original version). Interestingly, the transition between the dubbed German dialog and the American songs was done really well. I didn't notice a difference. It's how I would imagine Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly to sound like in German. In the movie, one of the character's, played by Jean Hagen, has a strong Brooklyn accent. Somehow, the German actress dubbing Ms. Hagen's voice managed to convey what a Brooklyn accent would sound like in German. She did a great job. Now, I can't wait to see the original American version.  

Laughing is Good

This video has been around awhile, but it still brings a smile to my face. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

End Factory Farming!

Hilary Evans sent me this powerful video about factory farming. The only way we can end this cruel industry is through our pocketbooks. Let's end industrial farming. Make it possible. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Berlin! / Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Berlin!

Berlin is celebrating its 775th birthday today. Twenty-five years ago when Berlin celebrated its 750th birthday, it was a divided city, a result of the cold war. And, in 1937, during its 700th celebration, the specter of the Nazis hung over the city.

Today, Berlin is undergoing a renaissance and thriving. It's becoming a music, art, and cultural center for Europe. Young people are flocking to the city, and its nascent technology sector is growing. The city has a bright future, as well as a colored past.

As part of the celebrations, there will be fireworks near the Nikolaiviertel and Neptunbrunnen, a craft market, theatrical presentations, and free admission to the Deutsches Museum. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Romney Has Backbone?

When I saw the headline: "Meat Loaf Backs Romney, citing the candidate's 'backbone'.I thought, this must be a joke. I can only wonder what Meat Loaf has been smoking. 

If ever a candidate lacked backbone, it's Mr. Romney. His position on the issues changes hourly (health care, abortion, gays, foreign policy, economy, etc.) depending on the audience. And his ability to pander to the lowest common denominator would be comical, if it weren't so effective at getting votes. 

For example, although I didn't vote for Mr. McCain during the last election, one of his shining moments came when he corrected a woman at a town hall meeting after she called Obama an "avowed Muslim." Mr. McCain took the microphone and told her that Mr. Obama was a decent family man that he disagreed with on the fundamental issues. The was the decent and right thing to do. 

By contrast, during a Question and Answer period, a woman told Mr. Romney that she believed Pres. Obama should be tried for treason (a capital offense). Mr. Romney ignored the comment and talked about the sanctity of the US Constitution. His silence says it all.

What are the Five Worst Sounds?

What are the five worst sounds? Nails on a chalkboard? Crying Baby? Loud Siren? Listen, if you're man enough.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Woman Auctions Her Virginity for $780,000

Catarina Migliorini
I'm not sure what I make of this story, but a Brazilian woman has auctioned her virginity to a Japanese man for $780,000. Catarina Migliorini, 20, was the prize in a month-long auction. Ms. Migliorini will give $722,000 of her money to a housing project for the poor. I had no idea what virginity was worth these days. It used to be free. Read more

I Want Apple Pie


It's as American as apple pie, but apple pie in Germany? No way! Sure there's Apfelstrudel (Viennese pastry), Apfeltasche (apple turnover), Apfelkuchen (apple tart), and all sorts of apple-based custards, but a traditional American apple pie is unobtainable. Like oatmeal and popcorn, apple pie is an American food item that hasn't hit it big overseas. It's sad. The Europeans don't know what they're missing. I sure miss it though.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Denkmal für die im Nationalsozialismus Ermordeten Sinti und Roma / Memorial for the Murdered Gypsies

Today, a memorial to murdered Sinti and Roma ("Gypsies") was unveiled in Berlin. Under Nazism, an estimated 250,000 - 500,000 gypsies perished. Located near the Reichstag, the memorial is a circular pool of black water with a triangular stone at its center. Every week or so, a rose will be laid on the stone and left to wither. 

Designed by the Israeli artist Dani Karavan, the memorial chronicles the genocide of the Sinti and Roma. Nearby is the inscribed poem "Auschwitz" by Santino Spinelli.

The poem reads:
Sunken Face/ Extinct Eyes/ Cold Lips/ Silence/ One Torn Heart/ Without Breath/ No Words/ No Tears.
Berlin already has memorials for persecuted Homosexuals (100,000) and Jews (6 million).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chay Village: Berlin Vegan At Its Best

For the longest time, I've been trying to find a good vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Berlin. Unfortunately, I haven't found one worth writing about. Until now!

Chay Village is a charming Vietnamese restaurant specializing in Tofu cuisine. Located in Schöneberg and conveniently located near the U-Bahn Station Eisenacherstr., Chay Village offers diverse dishes that contain no meat, dairy, eggs, or honey. And, if you have any doubts about a particular item, the friendly staff is more than happy to share the ingredients of any dish on the menu. My favorite dish is the Bứn Lá Lớt, grilled Tofu marinated with five spices and served over rice noodles, vegetables, and salad. Main courses are in the neighborhood of 5-7€, appetizers will run you 3-5€, and desserts are a modest 3€. 

Be aware that Chay Village does have a few drinks that contain milk such as the fruit and coconut milk shake; but don't be alarmed, they do offer a vegan version that is very very nice! The restaurant is tastefully appointed, and there is outside dining during the fall and summer months.   

Der "Goldene" Oktober ist Weg

Berliner Dom
The press have been calling the last few days Germany's "Goldene Oktober" (Golden October). With record setting temperatures and sunny skies across the country, it has felt more like summer than fall. Unfortunately, temperatures will return to normal this week, and with that, no more shorts and t-shirts until spring. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

East Berlin's Dorotheenstadt Friedhof/Cemetery

Dorotheenstadt Friedhof
East Germany aspired to be a classless society with no division or alienation, and where people were free from the oppression of capitalism. However, in death (and perhaps in life too), prominent East German citizens had a special place in the former communist state.

At the Dorotheenstadt Cemetery in Mitte Berlin, many of East Germany's distinguished citizens are buried. Here, amid the lush grounds, lie the remains of Bertolt Brecht (author and playwright, The Threepenny Opera), Heinrich Mann (author, Professor Unrat, adapted into the film, The Blue Angel), Karl Friedrich Schinkel (architect, the Altes Museum), Arnold Zweig (author), Helene Weigel (wife of Bertolt Brecht and actress), Paul Dessau (composer), and Dietrich and Klaus Bonhoeffer (resistance fighters killed by the Nazi regime). 

Christa Wolf
Grave of Christa Wolf
The cemetery is a relaxing place to escape from the hustle and bustle of midtown Berlin. It's beautifully maintained, and it's never crowded. The day I visited, the friendly groundskeeper gave me an unofficial tour. He also helped me locate the grave of one of my favorite writers, Christa Wolf (Der Geteilte Himmel [The Divided Heaven], Nachdenken Über Christa T. [The Quest for Christa T.], Kassandra).

Ms. Wolf died last December 1, and her grave is still without a headstone. Although devoted to the ideals of the East German state, Ms. Wolf's novels are primarily morality tales that skirted the issue of politics. Her most famous novel Kassandra was a retelling of the battle of Troy while Christa T. dealt with conformity in a modern society. Her books are insightful and moving. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Taxi Ride Bollywood Style: Monty and Lovely

The Bhangu brothers are full-time taxi drivers in Hamburg who include a song with the taxi ride. The brothers, Lovely and Monty Bhangu, mix bollywood songs with German lyrics. Lovely is the songwriter and Monty is the singer. They call their unique musical style, Dollywood (no connection to Dolly Parton). They've become a cult hit in Germany and have recently released their CD, Wenn Du (If You). Their music success has also been a boon for their taxi business. They are often booked solid on the weekends. 

Alexanderplatz Can Be Dangerous / Alexanderplatz Kann Ein Gefährlicher Ort Sein

Cowardly Murder May the Guilt
Eat at You Every Day
A popular destination for many people visiting Berlin is Alexanderplatz, a place to shop, eat, drink, and people watch. However, the recent murder of twenty-year old, Jonny K., by seven young men illustrates, that after dark, Alexanderplatz can be a dangerous place.

Overall, Germany is relatively safe, but mix alcohol and young men, and anything is likely to occur. This particularly brutal slaying has shocked even the most apathetic Berliner, and there has been an outpouring of commiseration. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Cardboard Bicycle for $20

I want one of these: a functional and sturdy bicycle made completely of cardboard. These bikes would be great for traveling. When you arrive in a new city, just buy a cardboard bicycle and discard it when you leave (or even resell it). Imagine how much money you would save on public transportation, not to mention the convenience of having your own wheels. It sounds almost too good to be true.  

Berlin's Festival of Lights 2012

View of the Berliner Dom and Fernsehturm
Berlin's Festival of Lights 
The Berliner Dom:
A Series of Illuminations
Depicting the Winter Season
is currently underway. This annual event allows Berlin to artistically illuminate many of its historic buildings and landmarks. In the past, this has been one of my favorite events. 

Unfortunately, this year's spectacle has been marred by subway construction along Unter den Linden. The cordoned off streets and sidewalks have constricted auto, bicycle, and foot traffic making it uncomfortable to navigate from one site to another. This is especially problematic on the weekends when there are huge crowds. I went on Saturday, but wish I had waited. The Festival continues until October 21th. It's an event to see but only on the weekdays. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Most Popular Saxon Word 2012?

The radio station MDR 1 and the Sächsische Zeitung (Saxony Newspaper) recently conducted a poll to find out the most popular Saxon word for 2012. The word "Ditschen" (to dunk, as in, to dunk a cookie in milk) was number 1. In second place was the word "Plämpe" for a bad drink, and in third place "Hitsche" for footrest. You won't find these words in a standard German dictionary since these are considered slang and used exclusively in Saxony (Leipzig and Dresden).

Like many languages, German has a variety of dialects. Words used in one region may be completely unknown in another. For example, my favorite Berlin word is "mampfen," meaning to nosh or munch. Although this word can be found in a German Dictionary, it is primarily used in Berlin and Brandenburg.

I wonder what my favorite English word is.  Ummm. I need to think about that. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Berlin's Unexploded Bombs

This 250 kilo (551 pound) bomb
was uncovered in 2011 in Potsdam
They're still finding unexploded bombs in Berlin 67 years after World War II ended. Earlier this week, 10,500 Potsdam residents had to evacuate their homes after an American made bomb was discovered at a construction site. This is the second bomb in about a year to be found in Potsdam.

Last August, the inhabitants of Munich had a similar bomb scare. In that case, officials conducted a controlled detonation. It was only last year that a bomb was discovered in Kreuzberg/Friedrichshain causing havoc for residents, businesses, and public transportation. It was my first (and hopefully my last) experience having to evacuate my house. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ignorance From Our Elected Representatives

This is US Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) speaking recently at a Baptist Church. Rep. Broun sits on the House Science Committee. Among other things, Rep. Broun thinks that the world is only 9,000 years old, and calls evolution, "lies straight from the pit of hell." 

This is not a joke. This man is one of our elected representatives. It's thinking like this that prevents the United States from taking any serious action on climate change or any other pressing scientific matter that doesn't agree with a particular political or religious ideology. It's appalling that this man sits on the "Science" Committee. And one wonders why nothing gets done in Washington.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Images of Fall: Berlin 2012

Wild Fox
in Friedrichshain
Fall has arrived in Berlin. And although it's been raining the last few days, I'm hoping for a few more days of sun before the gray days of winter descend on Berlin. Winter in Berlin can be depressing with day after day of gray, drizzle, and cold.

There's a sort of respite from all the depression in October when Berlin hosts the Festival of Lights and in December when Berlin is alight with Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt). Unfortunately, it's a rare Berlin day when the sun shines during the long winter months. I guess it's time for me to buy a full-spectrum light to fight off the winter blues or as it's now called: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Here are a few pictures that capture Berlin during the fall. 

Early Morning
Unter den Linden

Golden Leaves in
Early Morning View
From My Balcony

How to Find Medieval Berlin

City of Berlin Kiosk:
Spuren des Mittelalters
(Traces of the Middle Ages)
This year Berlin is celebrating its 775th Birthday. As part of that celebration, Berlin has erected a number of temporary kiosks in areas of the city where medieval marketplaces, churches, cloisters, bridges, and city walls once stood. The kiosks provide interesting historical information about daily life in 13th century Berlin. In addition, these "mini-museums" provide self-guided tours of nearby medieval structures and archaeological excavation sites. 
This Kiosk is
located near Museum Island

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Debate is Just Hot Air: Blah, Blah, Blah!

There's a Presidential debate this evening in the USA. There was mention of it in today's Tagesspiegel. I glanced at the headline but didn't read the article. I have better things to do than read about the American election.

Living in Berlin, I'm being spared all the electioneering hot air. I don't need to be bombarded with paid political ads, talking heads on TV analyzing the latest polls, or junk mail flooding my mailbox. I've already made my choice. It was easy. It surprises me that there are "undecided" voters. The two candidates are so profoundly different on the issues and the way they view world. How can a person still be undecided?

And when I think of all the money being spent on the election, it makes me sick. Just think of what that money could do to fight disease and poverty.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Earth Without Art is Nothing but "EH"

Throughout Berlin, there are green containers called Kleiderbox (clothes boxes). These boxes are depositories for used clothes and shoes that are no longer needed. A person places an unwanted item of clothing in the box, and it will be collected by the city and distributed to various charities in Berlin. It's a wonderful alternative to filling our landfills with otherwise wearable clothing.  

The other day, I noticed a Kleiderbox with a quote written on the back. I've usually seen the quote written as, "The Earth Without Art is Just 'Eh'," but this version also gets the point across.