Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sommerloch, Part 1

Oh, no, can't be Sommerloch already! The "summer hole" where nothing happens, or which people use as an excuse for not doing anything, which, this being Germany, is more likely. My excuse is quite the opposite: I've had so much work recently that I'm too pooped to post. In fact, I wrote a rather difficult piece today -- the last in the next series of Fresh Air broadcasts -- and edited the four in this batch with my producer, but I realized as I was walking to the store that if I don't catch up on some of this stuff, I'm going to forget it and then kick myself later.


A couple of weeks ago, my old haircutter Texas Terri was in town, between legs of a seemingly never-ending tour of punk clubs and festivals. She's thinking of moving to Berlin, and, in fact, she's one of the few people I'd actually urge to move here, since her, shall we say, esthetic is more in tune with Berlin's than most people I know, including myself.

Anyway, she surprised me by insisting I take her on my famous walking tour, which was really nice of her because I was just sitting around the house, and getting out and walking for a number of hours (the tour can take up to four or five hours, depending on how the other person(s) react, how many pictures they take, and so on) seemed like a great idea. Thing is, she was exhausted from the tour and the incessant hospitality her friends here had shown her, and when we got to Friedrichstr. and Unter den Linden, she announced we had to come back here so she could sit down. So we walked up Friedrichstr. and then up Linienstr. and to my surprise, someone had moved out of an apartment, and, as they do here, left a bunch of stuff on the sidewalk with a sign saying "Take it away." And one of the things, there to be taken, was a huge Ikea CD shelf. So I hoisted it onto my shoulder and we walked back to my place.

The main body of the thing was in one piece, but the individual shelves had been tightly wrapped with packing tape, and not just any packing tape. For some reason, this packing tape was printed with the words "LIEBE WILL RISKIERT WERDEN" over and over: "Love wants to be risked." There was also a URL, so I punched it in, and came up with this extremely weird and Flash-heavy site, which is very entertaining if you speak German. If you keep clicking, you'll eventually get to the page where you can buy a roll of this tape. Which, since the shop itself isn't far from the house, I may. After all, I'm going to be moving soon.


Not, alas, before the election in September. I'll admit it: since I can't read German newspapers, I haven't kept up with the politics here in a mighty long time. (And yes, I know, I could always read Spiegel Online, especially because friends of mine work there, but I hate reading newspapers and magazines online). The dancer seems to feel that Schröder losing isn't a foregone conclusion, although there's no doubt the makeup of the next Parliament is going to be way different, no matter who is Chancellor.

So it was with great relief that I read this article in Slate, which, although far to the right of my own political leanings, is at least capable of explaining how things stand to someone who hasn't been following it.

At any rate I hope I don't have to stay very much longer if the country's going to be dominated by the CDU/CSU, a party that would, although it dare not come out and say it outright, rather that we nasty foreigners would just pack our bags and leave. When I moved here, the CDU's "youth wing," allowed to be more radical than the older folks so that it'd attract its younger constituency, had an explicit anti-foreigner statement in its platform, which I read. It may still be there: basically, unless you become German in all ways, they want you out.

Anyway, I think much of the so-called "support" for Angela Merkel, the presumed candidate, is reaction against Schröder and his failure to turn the economy, which had already been wrecked by Kohl's idiotic post-unification economic policies, around. A lot of the reactionary politics in the East masquerades as left while spouting anti-Brussels, anti-government rhetoric that, except for the decoration, is identical to what the far right says. I'm hoping the average German voter has some serious doubts about Merkel by the time the voting-booths open.

Nothing I can do about it, anyway: since I don't have German blood, I'm not allowed to vote. It's weird: even if I lived here for decades, married a German and had children with her, she could vote, the kids could vote, but I never, ever could. So in a way, I know how it feels to be a Turk here.


On a more positive note, last Thursday I went to the Neue Nationalgalerie for their spectacular Brücke exhibition, memorializing the birth of expressionism a hundred years ago in Germany, arguably the country's top contribution to the visual arts. As far as I could tell, they emptied out the Brücke Museum down in Dahlem and all the Brücke prints in the print museum and jammed it all in the big museum; I don't think I saw a single piece that wasn't from a Berlin collection.

The thing about this group was color. It's like they discovered it. Big bold slaps of bright colors on a canvas, still representational, but with an intensity that's German because it's intense, but otherworldly because of the colors themselves, which aren't ones I associate with Berlin, at least, nor, really with the surrounding countryside. But they also worked in woodcut a lot, so there's a whole lot of those, too. In fact, there's a whole lot of stuff, period, and if anything, that's what's wrong with the show: by the time I reached the end, I wanted to leave, not to run back to the front and sample a few of my favorites again. My eyeballs were overloaded.

According to my painter friend Blaise, who was along, going to the Brücke Museum is far less exhausting, because the venue is a lot more intimate. Too much of a good thing, but a very necessary ploy for the Berlin museums, hobbled by lack of funds and (this particular one, especially) in need of a public-grabbing Big Show after the triumph of the MOMA show.

It was a great way to spend a rainy Thursday afternoon, though, and I just hope Blaise hasn't cut off his hands or burned all his paintings, because he gets real doubtful about his own work after he sees what these guys did. He's got nothing to worry about, though: they're all dead!

Anyway, the show's up until August 28, major signage is in English if you need it, and it's worth coming from out of town to see.


I'll try to get back here before Sunday, when it's blast-off time for a week in France. And, as I've said, I'll try to post from there if I can find a decent connection.

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