Thursday, April 14, 2005

April Crumbs

Boy, I feel like an idiot. Did I really think that Harald Juhnke's dropping dead would mean the end of the tabloids' long affair with him? I woke up the day after I wrote that post and walked to the bakery on the corner, and there were the ad boards for the newspapers, all competing to offer more coverage of the funeral than the next one. I saw one offering six pages of color photos of the funeral. Bet that was fun...


Much, including an essay by Mark Twain I've yet to read, has been made of the German language and its unbelievable complexity, but there are times when it just says something you can't say any other way. The best example I've run into recently was over the weekend, when my friend the dancer was over for dinner and, in the post-dinner conversation, she got curious about Arnold Schwarzenegger. "How," she asked, "could he have been elected governor of California after making all of those...those...Volksverdummerungfilme?" I was stopped dead in my tracks by the elegance of the word. Like all German compound nouns, it's just a bunch of words stuck together: Volk=people, Verdummerung=making stupid, and Filme=films. But the idea of filmsthatmakepeoplestupid is a great one, and although I don't know if my friend invented it or not, I sure hope she did. It's a great concept, anyway.

Another great German word, one which has made its way into English, since we never had a word for the thing, is Schadenfreude, literally "shameful happiness," but really just the nice feeling you get -- however briefly -- when something bad happens to someone you don't like. Thus, I should mention the demise -- or "hiatus," as they'd like us to believe -- of Tracks magazine, who I had a little run-in with a few months ago. As a friend, another veteran of the rock press for many decades, commented upon hearing the news, they were "run by rank in-crowders without a sense of adventure or taste," which pretty much sums it up. They were going to be the American version of Mojo, but I'm convinced that that's not the magazine to clone for the U.S., not any more. Nope, if you know someone with a whole lotta money (Tracks apparently burned through something like $5 million in no time), tell them to get and study Word, which is everything Mojo used to be, and more. Refinancing Tracks would just be throwing good money after bad, as they say.


The Pope came over yesterday to talk. No, not that Pope -- I don't let dead guys in the house. No, this was the Pope of Mope, a New Yorker and rock critic who moved here three years ago and has, I think, lived to regret it, although I also think he derives a certain energy out of being miserable. But he confirmed something I'd suspected, which is that the last great Berlin club of the golden era of techno, Tresor, is closing down this weekend. Once upon a time, caught there in the sort of no-man's-land between east and west, two clubs, Tresor and E-Werk, defined the Berlin sound and style. E-Werk was just what its name said, an old electrical generating station, mostly emptied out, with huge ceilings and a forbidding industrial vibe. Tresor, too, was what it advertised: the basement of an old department store, which had contained its vault. The building above Tresor had been pretty much bombed (although one story stood aboveground), and the basement (as you can see vaguely from the picture on their website) had a real mystery to it, stripped of anything which spoke of its previous tenants. The scenesters divided between E-Werk and Tresor partisans, but only Tresor was smart enough to really assemble a decent business infrastructure (the E-Werkers were the crowd that put on the Love Parade), starting a label, a clubwear line, and all of that.

Still, a lot of the folks who jammed the place back in '90 are 15 years older now, and the last time I was around Tresor, it looked like it had been invaded by what New Yorkers call Bridge and Tunnel People, the local variety being hicks who drive in from Brandenburg villages for a scary night out and plenty to drink. Yes, it appears Tresor will live on "in exile" somewhere over by Ostbahnhof, and sure, the label will continue, through Mute, to put out some of the harder-edged techno that's out there, but another institution from my early days here will fold on Sunday night, and I, of course, can't help but take that as yet another sign that it's time to move on and get out of here.

I'm working on it.

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