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Showing posts from March, 2007

Elvis Thinks All Politicians are Vote Whores, Not Me

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"You know, maybe they're right," I said. "Maybe the German language is becoming to anglo-americanized."

Elvis, My Innerly Swine-Hound and I, were watching TV. In it, a literature critic named Karasek and a minor politician from the conservative party CDU were talking about how Germans are losing their language and will soon speak only English. Examples: Coffee to go, long-lasting lipstick, and more. There were a lot of examples. Plus, the CDU had just brought up some kind of proposal to re-Germanize the language. That was apparently the occasion of the talk show, though I hadn't heard about the proposal myself.

"After all," I said, "If a party as serious and important as the CDU gets interested in language, there must be something to it."

"Hansen, you're an idiot," said Elvis. "And you're as naïve as all the other idiots out there. You're so naïve, if a..."

"Okay okay already, I got the point," I …

Why Europe Must Fail

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My Beautiful German Frolein dragged me down to the Brandenburg Gate Sunday for the big celebration of the 50th anniversary of the beginning to the European Union. All along the Strasse der 17. Juni there were tents set up in which al the European countries – probably represented by their local embassies – showed enlarged photos of tourist attractions, handed out brochures praising their landscapes and scientific achievements and offered "specialties." Now, I don’t think I'm the only one who, when he hears "specialties," understands "wurst." I know for a fact that all these European countries know how to fry up a good wurst – if I'm not mistaken it's a prerequisite to joining the Union, in fact – and on top of that I was hungry.

So I politely shoved all the tourist brochures aside and went looking for wurst.

I could find it nowhere. Everyone had brochures, no on had wurst. What kind of a European party was this? Then I began to notice how very… E…

Artsy Fartsy Night

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There we were, standing around in this very cool new art gallery in the middle of Berlin admiring the photos by, among others, our friend Werner Huthmacher and going elbow to elbow with a packed roomful of his other admirers, when Andi the Graphic Genius turned to me and said: "I know what you're thinking"

"No you don’t, you presumptive, arrogant know-it-all."

"Artsy-fartsy," he smirked.

He was right, of course. As a card-carrying American Anti-Intellectual, I am almost obligated to think that in such a surrounding. But don't think I mean it in a bad way. Watching the people was almost more fascinating than the photos themselves. Each one of them was a little work of art in themselves. They were clearly artists, art students, art journalists, art scene hangers-on. Art was in the air, art was in their clothes, in their wine glasses (why it is always white wine at these things?) in their hair.

It was most obvious in the way they dressed. There was the…

Where Would You Like to Be Buried?

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How to identify heimat?

For people like me, who live between worlds, it is sometimes difficult. But just the other day I heard what has to be the most interesting way of identifying heimat ever. A typical way s to ask yourself the question: If you watch a soccer game between Germany and America, which side do you root for? Another way is: If America goes to war with Germany, which side would you fight on?

It was at the birthday Umtrunk of my friend Designer Boy (Germans have the charming tradition of "drinking into their birthday," which means you gather the night before and drink champagne together and sing Happy Birthday at midnight) where I spoke with a friend of his, a Chinese-German woman whose name I didn't catch.

We talked about Heimat. She was ton between tree worlds: Germany, were she grew up and where she is a citizen; China, where she has family and roots; and America or, more specifically, New York, where she lived for a time and fell in love with it *despit…

The Series Conundrum

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He's finally arrived: a new detective on the murder mystery firmament.

The hero: Bruno von Leuwen, a police detective in Amsterdam with a chronically ill wife.

The murder: A 12-year-old boy, under mysterious circumstance.

The mysterious circumstances… lead van Leuwen to an obsessed, Nobel Prize-nominated anthropologist who researches New Guinea cannibalism…

Another thing about Van Leuwen: his wife is dying from Alzheimer.

That's what I like most about Van Leuwen: his melancholic, tragic, dark touch: His wife is dying from Alzheimer. It suits not only a detective, but the detective's writer, whose name is Claus C. Fischer – a good friend of mine with a dark side of his own.

This is new ground for Claus. Not because it's a thriller, or because it plays in Amsterdam, but because it's a series: He's already sold another three books with Van Leuwen.

Claus C. Fischer has been writing books for ages. He's an example for me – a working writer, a writer with a penc…

Saw Whodunit, Still Dunno Whodunit

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I know you've all been wondering who murdered Sir Lionel. I saw the play – "Die brillianten Ideen des Earl of B." (The Brilliant Ideas of the Earl of B.) by John Willenberg in Münster Saturday night and I figured out who the murderer is: It was Mr. French, the cook. No, wait a minute, he was ornery enough to do it, but he didn’t have a motive. It was Betsy, the maid. No, wait a minute, I don’t think that's right. She was nuts enough, but why would she do it?I know, it was Lord and Lady Aimswell (Aimswell!). They're the ones who were set to inherit the money. Wait a minute, so was Lord Kensington. But he didn’t have the guts. What about those little kids that kept running in and out of the scenery claiming they found the pistol I the attic, then under the stairs, then in the kitchen?

What about the body that kept disappearing? What about the murder we never actually saw? Why were there more shots fired than murders committed? What about the prostitutes and their m…

Are We All Humorless Germans At Heart?

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You'd be surprised how much of my work depends on people with a sense of humor. What I do as a journalist is basically call up experts – historians, scholars, anthropologists, writers of books and treatises, collectors of information, Melvillian sub-subs – and ask them to tell me a little bit about the knowledge they have gathered.

Especially books like "Planet Germany" and my next book depend on experts taking a moment to talk to me on the phone. I write down what they tell me, put it into a more dramatic or exciting order, phrase a question to make it a little more provocative or add a comment to make it funny, and that's that: My job is to repackage knowledge in order to make it more interesting than it seems when it comes directly out of the mouths of scholars.

You remember reading Bill Bryson's exciting, funny, fascinating and page-turning "A Short History of Nearly Everything?" There was probably nothing in that book that you hadn't heard in s…

Last Chance to See…

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…the Greatest Agatha Christie-Homage Ever!

It's in German, it's called "Die brillianten Ideen des Earl of B.," it's written by my good friend John Willenberg (I know this guy since I was on a mission for the Mormon church here – never was able to convert him), and it's been described as:

"In dem turbulenten Theaterspaß des blinden Autors Johannes Willenberg werden nicht nur die Nerven sondern auch die Lachmuskeln gehörig in Anspruch genommen. Am 22. Juni 1923 feiert Lady Augusta Aimswell in ihrem Sommerhaus im englischen Badeort Brighton ihren 60 Geburtstag. Ihr Gatte, Lord Bartholomew, schenkt ihr zum Geburtstag ein Diadem mit Brillanten und einem großen herzförmigen Rubin. Natürlich kommt es, wie es in einem Krimi kommen muss, das Diadem wird gestohlen und obendrein wird auch noch Lady Augustas Neffe erschossen. Aber wer war es? Das Dienstmädchen, das so gern ein Filmstar wäre? Oder der verarmte Schwager? Vielleicht Mrs. Blackwell, die Leiterin eines h…

Why Are the Great Love Poems By Men?

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I was having a pleasant nightcap with Elvis My Innerly Swinedog the other night. We were talking about poetry and authors and why men always seem to do more writing than women. Especially the great love poetry and love stories seem to come from men, though, at the same time, men seem to also be the most primitive of the sexes, especially when it comes to, well, sex.

So I asked Elvis My Innerly Swinedog, "Elvis, can you tell me why most great love poets are men?"

"That's easy enough," he replied. "Men see a woman and it immediately registers in their minds how much they want to take that woman, rip her clothes off, throw her into bed and pound her until they're both sore. So he takes that base, primitive, even immoral desire and translates it into a thing oF rare beauty, a thing consisting of flowers and poetry, candlelit dinners in quaint Italian restaurants and moonlit evenings watching the stars. What's more, they sit down and write about it, turn…