Tuesday, April 28, 2009

the doorbell saga, exhibit A

this was the cause of earlier trouble. The screw pictured below has since been replaced with one of proper size and color.

Unfortunately, of the wrong type. We have again received complaints. Stupidly, we used a screw with a slotted head when we should have used a Phillips. It does clash dreadfully.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

room 101 at the Goldenen Hirschen

some useful information posted in my hotel room:

"Hospitality and safety are omnipresent throughout our Establishment. Though you may take it for granted that the outbreak of a fire in our building is almost excluded, we are even prepared for such an emergency and request the favor of your kind assistance...Keep your presence of mind..."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

conventiently located right around the corner of cyberspace!


in which I read, then cut open my stomach with a sharp knife to spill my literary guts all over the internet.

Monday, April 13, 2009

hang the dj

Billy Bob Thorton is old! irascible! and he really wants to be treated like Tom Petty!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

quote of the day

"History proves that you can be the most empathetic, open-minded, and sensitive jurist in all the world—and still be a complete dolt about gender."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

all about the body

I know that all my news is old news, but I just saw The Wrestler. I think that unflinching is overused as an adjective at the moment, so I'll settle for calling it extraordinarily clear-eyed, or perhaps unblinking.

Yes, the acting is fantastic and the film is entertaining and suspenseful - that's all well and good and true and I don't want to belittle any of it for a moment - but I'd like to take that as read, and move on to what truly fascinated me about this film. I don't know much about professional WWE wrestling that I didn't learn from the film, but the portrayal of gender behaviors and expectations, of American youth-worship and celebrity culture was what I found surprising and insightful.

This isn't the only film about men fighting in rings that I've seen recently; a few weeks ago I saw Fat City, which I enjoyed for its gorgeous washed-out color, its spot-on acting, and rambling yet well-crafted dialogue. It was not particularly generous towards its female characters, however - while it exhibited a profound sympathy for the tragedy of masculinity, the impossibility of maintaining the standards of the hyper-masculine ideal with age, it seemed unwilling to extend an equal regard to the women of the film. The Wrestler, however testosterone-fueled it may be, is well aware that the conformity and inflexibility of strict gender roles ultimately benefits no one. Furthermore, it shows that the achievement of the gender ideal is like the line on a bell curve - some points may be closer than others, but it will stretch out to infinity without meeting zero. Perfection is tauntingly, terribly, eternally out of reach. The film illustrates the despair this creates, the impossibility of any outcome besides failure. It also critiques the frantic USAmerican chase after youth and youthfulness, our cultural rejection of aging. It portrays the desperation, the almost-groveling willingness to please that stems from a sense of the feminine that is based exclusively on sexual attractiveness to men. Finally, it depicts the transience of fame, and the almost helpless, heedless, and oddly heartbreaking pursuit of celebrity that seems to guide so much of contemporary life and culture.

Talk about your pleasant surprises.

Monday, April 6, 2009

big news in the UK

Nice nod, Gordon Brown!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

impossible, impossible

I won't say you have to see it, because I hate it when people say that to me.

I will say that I was amazed, astounded, and awestruck by Man on Wire. It is one of the only films I think I've ever seen that was literally breathtaking. I'm not only speaking for myself. I was in a small theatre, and I could hear the other audience members gasping. At one point, the woman sitting in front of me muttered Calm down only to draw in her own breath sharply moments later.

After being apprehended by the police, Philip Petit is asked over and over why he snuck into the Twin Towers, strung a highwire between them, and walked back and forth across it. He was 1,350 feet high in the air. Why? he responds, There is no why.

I thought it was extraordinary.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

on to bigger and better things

This just in:
Obama to quit the presidency, become Armani model

Said the soon-to-be-ex-President, "I'm tired of Michelle getting all of the fashion press. I've got a unique sense of style, and I really don't feel that I'm given enough opportunity to express myself, clothing-wise, in my current job."

ring my bell

It always surprises me when people live up (or down?) to their cultural stereotypes.

I live in a "WG" (pronounced "Vay-geh;" short for Wohngemeinshaft, or shared apartment) with two other people. Our WG is in a four-story apartment building. There are eight flats. In Germany, or at least in Bavaria, there are no apartment numbers. Instead, the building has a number and each person's mailbox in the hallway has their name on it and that's how we get our mail. Outside our apartment building we have a shiny brass plate sort of thing with everyone's name next to their respective doorbell. The names are not engraved; rather, your name is on a little piece of paper inside a sort of slipcase. In January, when I moved in, we updated our nameplate and mailbox accordingly. Unfortunately, in the process of doing so we lost one of the tiny brass screws that affixes our nameplate to the wall. We tightened the other screw, though, and the name plate sat quite correctly in its proper position, nicely parallel to the one below it. However, about three weeks ago, one of our neighbors stopped one of my roommates on the stairs and said we really should replace the screw. (Did I mention that we are by far the youngest people in the building? The next closest in age are in their late thirties, I suppose. The oldest is probably around seventy.) As of just over two weeks ago, the screw has been replaced.

We received a hand-written note today in our mailbox. Dear WG, it said, It would be nice if you would replace the screw on your name plate with one that matches...It would be so nice if it didn't look "messy." Kind regards, Your Neighbor.

I find the anonymity amusing. And it's true, the screw we used to replace the one that disappeared (despite much searching!) amid the tiny stones and dirt of the flowerbed doesn't match. It's silver and it's slightly too big (this was a tiny, tiny screw), so it sticks out from the frame by about one centimeter. Clearly, this is an eyesore.

So, my plans for Monday (every single store is closed in Bavaria on a Sunday) include going to the hardware store to search for a tiny, tiny brass screw.

I won't ask for a cup of sugar anytime soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Zusammengesetztes Hauptwort

I'm really enjoying learning German. I wish it was because I was some kind of language genius and would be fluent in a month or that I was planning on reading Goethe in the original or something else suitably impressive. But really, it's out of absurdity. German words are often extraordinarily long (by English standards), but they have an even more extraordinary – if in some ways relentlessly pragmatic – poetry that I find increasingly irresistible.

I am speaking, of course, about the Zusammengesetztes Hauptwort, or compound noun. This part of speech flourishes in the climate of the German language in a way that makes its languishing English cousin cry in the corner in despair, rubbing its tears into the wallpaper. The creation of new words in German seems to have been extremely economical; whenever possible, two existing nouns were stitched together to create a new and entirely logical noun. If you know what the pieces mean, you probably don't even need to look up the English equivalent in your words book – I mean, dictionary. Allow me to offer my favorite samples thus far; see how you do:

1. Haustier – house animal
2. Handschuhe – hand shoes
3. Kinderwagen – child car
4. Mittagsessen – midday eating
5. Tierpark – animal park
6. Vorband – before band
7. Staubsauger – dust sucker
8. Wasserkocher – water cooker
9. Fußboden – foot ground
10. Worträsel – word puzzle
11. Taschenlampe – pocket lamp
12. Sommersprossen – summer sprouts

Wasn't that fun?

Surely you're not still resisting the charms of German? What if I told you that they have a special verb for watching television (fernsehen – to TV see), and for eating breakfast (frühstücken – to breakfast)?

You can't hold out forever.

(1. pet, 2. gloves, 3. stroller, 4. lunch, 5. zoo, 6. opener, 7. vacuum cleaner, 8. electric kettle, 9. floor, 10. riddle, 11. flashlight, 12. freckles)

turning green

and not for environmental reasons. The BBC is, at its best, truly extraordinary - just look at the wonderful ways they've participated in April Fool's Day: in the 1950s and more recently. Now that's quality television.
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