Showing posts from October, 2007



Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh No!

Want to know why Europe has such a hard time getting up off its ass and doing something? I call Angst Non-Fiction. Europeans and especially Germans love to face the future shaking in their boots about all the horrible things that could happen, and they spend a lot of money and time on experts who specialize in thinking up new ways to confirm their fears. Angst Non-Fiction writers are like doomsayers, with the difference that while doomsayers in America traditionally stand on the street corner and bother you though you never asked them too, Angst Non-Fiction writers are well-paid, privileged, respected and sought out. More like soothsayers, they set up their shop with a crystal ball and people pay to come in and be told how horrible life is going to work out.

One of Germany's most successful writers of Angst Non-Fiction is Frank Schirrmacher, an editor for the leading German newsdaily FAZ. A couple of years ago, Schirrmacher landed two bestsellers, one after the other, predicting t…

My Father Has a Nursery in Salem, Oregon


Way to Go, Holiday Inn

The Holiday Inn in Dresden sent this letter to two members of the NPD, the neo-Nazi party that holds seats in the regional government of Saxony (of which Dresden is the capitol):

NPD Fraktion in Saxony Diet
H. Apfel and A. Delle
Bernhard-von-Lindenau-Platz 1
01067 Dresden Dresden, 18th October 2007
Re: Your room reservation in Holiday Inn Dresden

Dear Herr Apfel,
dear Herr Delle,

today we received your reservation for the 7th of November 2007 made via and were surprised that you should have chosen to stay in an American hotel enterprise with a foreign-sounding name.

As you are not welcome in our house and because I cannot ask my employees to greet and serve you, we have asked to cancel your reservation.

In the case that this not be possible for contractual reasons, I would like to point out to you that all proceeds taken in by our house through your custom will be donated immediately to the…

Brilliant New Book by Erica Fischer

Himmelstrasse - "Heaven Street", a street in Vienna - by Erica Fischer, who wrote "Aimee and Jaguar". I love this book for more than one reason, including that it is a perfect example of non-fiction using methods of narrative fiction - sharp, precise, honest, convincing,and it doesn't dip into the kind of self-justification or self-heroisation that books like James Frey's Thousand Little Pieces does. It's about two generations of family living under the shadow of the Holocaust - and how they fell apart for no reason that anyone can explain, but which, with the Holocaust in the background, almost makes sense. It has only appeared in German so far, so here are my comments in German:

Ich liebe dieses Buch - Erica Fischers "Himmelstrasse" (Fischer hat auch Aimee und Jaguar geschrieben). Es ist ein perfektes Beispiel fuer ein Sachbuch mit den Mitteln eines Romans.

Die deutsche Literatur erlebt derzeit ein kleines Hoch, angetrieben von Werken, die gl…

Dear Titta!

A reader named Titta left a long comment in my German blog and on my guest book about American attitudes toward socialism, socialized medicine and, more interestingly, about the protestant-American belief that "Life is and must always be a struggle." Comments like that always bring out the worst in me: wordiness.

So here is Titta's original comment plus my response - in German.

Lieber Eric,

Die Regierung sorgt doch nicht dafür, daß ich überlebe, sondern die Gemeinschaft der steuerzahlenden Versicherten. Was mir auffällt: den Staat setzt du (als Amerikaner) vor allem gleich mit einer Institution, die dich in deinen Freiheiten beschränkt und behindert. Für mich (als Deutsche) ist der Staat daneben vor allem eine Solidargemeinschaft. 80 Mill. Deutsche zahlen (und wer sich davor drückt, ist unsozial) in einen Pott, der mich im Zweifelsfalle eben auch absichert. Das beruhigt doch ungemein und mildert die sozialdarwinistischen Tendenzen in einer Gesellschaft.

Du schreibst, daß d…

The Art of the (German) Gang bang

There's an old saying: Nothing draws a community closer together than a good gang bang.

That is certainly true in Germany, where an idea – sometimes smart, often stupid, almost always in some way threatening to Germans – can become a kind of national hysteria overnight. The media concentrate all their efforts on it – the subject pops up endlessly in the news, in the talk shows, in the headlines. You can hear the idea in every party, in every bar, in every family, often repeated with a rush of anger and indignation:

The French are destroying our beloved culture (19th century)! The Jews are taking over (20th century)! The Americans are taking over (20th/21st centuries)! Bush is the devil (21st century)!

When that happens, it's amazing how little dissent there is. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon, making the idea seem so clearly correct that no one bothers to question it anymore, and it becomes a national obsession. It's amazing how universal the consensus becomes. In America,…