Yeah, it may say March on your calendar, but I look out the window, and it's still February out there.
Thanks to Jakob for sending along news of a newly-created web publication dedicated to translating the best of Germany's newspapers' feuilleton pages into English. Signandsight is located literally around the corner from me, in what Wired magazine once predicted would be Germany's Silicon Valley until the local anti-innovation movement ("Why should we do that? It's never been done before") drove a lot of the innovators out of town. But this project seems to have some government support, three dedicated Germanophiles doing the translating, and a hefty, nearly impenetrable manifesto to impress the folks who deal out the money. A great place to check out the (as we say here) zeitgeist, and, perhaps just as importantly, to see if the German press lives up to its high reputation. As someone who was extremely disappointed with the English version of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung once it started appearing in the International Herald Tribune, I'm going to be following this with interest. At the least, I hope they have a sympathetic landlord.
Further thanks to David for sending me a review from Amazon of Machers and Rockers by none other than Bob Pruter. I once read Pruter's book Chicago Soul back when I had my blues/soul/gospel radio show here and the prose was so narcotic that I did a whole two-hour show on Chicago soul not only to please my listeners (who loved it) but to remind myself that the stuff was actually interesting. But one thing: Pruter is a researcher, there's no doubt of that. And besides all the stuff that I brought up in my perhaps overly angry review, Pruter pointed out that Cohen also got nearly all the addresses in the book wrong, too. Okay, maybe this isn't quite as serious as Jayson Blair, but maybe someone can explain to me why it's any different. David also alleges that he got a lot of stuff in Tough Jews wrong, too, and recommends a book called But He Was Good To His Mother: The Lives and Crimes of Jewish Gangsters, by Robert A. Rockaway, which is currently out of print. Me, I'm just happy to see that someone wrote a book on that subject and gave it that title!
I'll leave you with a true anecdote of cultural sophistication here in the World City. A few months ago, I discovered Centro Italia, the local wholesale Italian food market, which sells mostly to the restaurant trade, but, because of some strange law here, is also obligated to open for retail sales (albeit with higher prices) to the general public. It's sort of like I imagine Heaven to be, except in Heaven there's no cash register on the way out, the wine selection is better and the salsiccie have fennel and red pepper the way God intended. (Of course, you couldn't sell those to Germans, but I think they get a different Heaven).
Anyway, I was walking down the aisle, buying olive oil and Voiello pasta (the best in the world, made by Barillo for the trade, apparently) and other stuff and this very well-dressed middle-aged woman came up to me with a jar in her hand. "Excuse me," she said. "Are these capers?" I looked at the label -- piselli -- and said "No, those are green peas." "Oh." And she continued shopping. A minute later she was back. "What about these?" "Nope. Those are clams." Fortunately, I noticed I was standing right in front of the capers (which were labelled in German), and pointed them out to her. She was visibly relieved.
And lest you think capers are as foreign to Berlin tables as clams are, I should point out that they're an integral part of one of the few pieces of Berlin cuisine, Königsberger Klopse, which are meatballs in cream gravy with capers in it. Go figure.