Going Public

So, the Scotsman and I moved to a new town. For the job, of course. Well, for my job to be exact. My days as a freelance are over (for now) and I am in the trot of the normal working person. We moved from a city that we both knew quite well to a town that we don’t know at all. I never ever imagined I would say that one day but: I actually miss Darmstadt. It is still THE ugliest city I ever lived in but it was my city, in a way. I worked in so many different jobs during the twelve years I’ve been living there, I grew as a person, I made new friends, I was struggling to make a living, I argued, I moved in with people and out again, I found love a few times, I got my university degree there…*sigh sigh* – I think I lost track here.

What I actually wanted to write about was that in a few months, a years time max, we’ll have to move again. For the job, of course. Well, for the Scotsman’s job to be exact. Who would have thought? Certainly not us! We’ve just been through all this trouble and hassle, and now we have to do it AGAIN! What I noticed, though, when we moved here was that I have SO many books. I own about a tenth of the books I’ve ever read but it’s still an amount, which you realize especially when you have to carry the bloody boxes filled with those suckers. So, I decided to get a library card. Woooow, you may think now. All this prologue and fuss about a library card. But hear me out: Getting a card for the local public library is my very own way of saying: Yes, I can imagine this place being my home now. I remember having a card to the public library in my birth town (I think I still got it somewhere), strolling around between the overflowing shelves after school, at least once a week, discovering classics without knowing that they were classics. Picking up a book here and there, reading a few lines, putting it back again. Finding the one book I was going to take with me for two weeks and then read it in bed before going to sleep. I practically ate books, munching away the words and sentences. Sometimes up to ten, even fifteen books a month.

Bottom line is, I own this many books because for the first two to three years(!) after I’ve moved to Darmstadt, I couldn’t feel at home, no matter what I did. The only thing that always made me feel better about new and not yet familiar places was reading. But I couldn’t be bothered back then with dead lines for my reading experience (plus, in my humble opinion the library was quite ugly and not very well stocked for a city that size), so I bought all the books I wanted to read. I spent hours in thrift shops and on flea markets to find great books for little money. It always was a bit like bringing home new friends. But does it really make sense to get a library card now, when you already know that you have to move again? you may ask. Well, to me it does. First of all, it might be a whole year until we move, we don’t know yet. Secondly, it makes more sense than buying more books and then having to take them with us when we move. (Oh, all the weight! My back!…)

Couldn’t you get ebooks?

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What is your favourite choice? Buying books, going to the library or…ebooks? Or do you mix and match, depending on the book or the occasion?

Hello! Hallo! Dobrý den! Welcome to Prague!

Four Seasons by Afons Mucha, image taken from commons.wikimedia.org

Four Seasons by Alphonse Mucha, image taken from commons.wikimedia.org (Original link with complete source here)

You know how they say New York is the city that never sleeps? Well, New York has a twin: Prague! In our second night in the city, I woke up because there was some really loud shouting and car horns in front of our hotel room window. I looked at my watch – 4 am. My Scotsman was in the bathroom anyways, so I opened the window and saw flocks and flocks of people roaming the streets as if it was only 8 o’ clock at night, and they were just ready to get started. Cars and taxis going round, people walking up and down the curb – it was absolutely fantastic to watch. The asserted sisterhood (yes, Prague is female) with New York has found proof as well – in the famous watering hole called Bar & Books. There are three of them in New York City and two in Prague. If you ever get there, go to the one in Týnská and order a Salty Dog. You won’t regret it. It’s the perfect cocktail to get you tipsy without giving you a hangover, because your Margarita glass gets a salty ring that keeps you going. The hostess of the evening wears a uniform consisting of a red dress, a smile on her face and pearls around her neck, the bartenders wear suit and tie. Very stylish, very Bond-like. Or maybe I’m just thinking that because on the TV in the background James Bond movies are running in a nonstop loop.

When you had your Salty Dog (or two), go down the street until you get to Tyn Church, on the right hand side is a little Italian restaurant that makes a very good garlic bread and has some nice Jazz going. As a plus, you can watch all the tourists go by, making complete arses out of themselves. Sitting outside is mandatory! You get the best view at Tyn Church from this restaurant, including its many tiny little towers that get a creepy look at night, because they are lit up orange.

When you move back to the city centre, towards the astronomic clock (don’t even try to get a glimpse, the view is blocked 24/7 by hundreds of Chinese people taking photographs and making videos of it), let yourself be lured into U Dvou Velbloudú in Kozná Street by one of the students who earn money by standing on the main street, trying to get people into one of the many backstreet restaurants. You’ll get a traditional, handmade Czech meal (starter, main course and drinks) for about 20$ per person. How to spot the right lure? If there are two camels standing back to back printed on the menu she’s showing you, follow her! You will have the finest goulash soup and dumplings of your life.

Enough about food and drinks for now (we’ll come back to that later) – if you want to do some sightseeing, and who am I kidding here, of course you do – Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! – book the HopOn-HopOff tour ticket, and buy the 48 hours for 600 korunas per head. You can then decide and swap and switch between three different tours: red, green and yellow. Each will take you to different famous sights and spots, for example the suicide bridge, Charles Bridge, downtown, the Television Tower aka the second ugliest building in the world, Kafka’s statue, Prague Castle and many many more. On each location you can ‘hop off’ the little orange bus, walk around a bit on your own or take a guided tour, and then ‘hop on’ the next orange bus that comes by – hence the name of the tour. Plus, the ticket includes a one hour boat trip on the Vltava (Moldau) and free entrance to Railroad Kingdom, where you can see the whole of the Czech Republic on a 4:1 scale.

If you’re still interested in Pragues cultural treasures after that (I know we were), visit one of the dozens of museums and galleries. We went to the Gallery of Art because they have three exhibitions on*: Warhol, Dalí and Mucha. You can buy tickets for one, two or all three exhibitions. We skipped the Warhol one because the Scotsman and I are not big fans of his. The Scotsman wanted to see Dalí, I was dying to see Mucha, so we bought the two-in-one for those, and it was absolutely magnificent. I’ve never seen so many paintings, illustrations, sketches and sculptures in so little space! Mucha also has his own museum in Prague (as does Kafka) – I wonder what is in there at the moment, because all his works seem to be at the gallery!

What you definitely HAVE to do in Prague is walk. Exploring the city by foot is a must because it is the only way you can admire all the beautiful architecture and the detail that comes with it. All the figurines, the gargoyles, the arches, the hundreds of windows, the wooden doors with patterns and gold details…it is fantastic. When you’re tired of all the walking you just did, go to the Nostalgie Restaurant in Rybná (I’d rather call it a bistro, but it’s not my decision to make). Inside it is decorated with black and white photographs of female movie and stage stars of the early 20th century and an old film projector. Order the Club Sandwich (best sandwich sauce!) or something from the specials board. And if it is offered, take the cucumber lemonade. It sounds odd but it is very thirst quenching and refreshing on a hot day. Before you go back to your hotel for the night, visit the Como Bar&Restaurant a bit down from Wenceslas Square, next to Hotel Jalta, and get yourself a Pink Lady as a nightcap. Every time you order it, it will look different: Surprise! But here’s the fun part: It will always taste the same. I had about five or six of them (mind you, in four nights). The first two were really pink, I mean, like Flamingo pink. One was naked, so just the drink in a Martini glass. The second one had a slice of lemon stuck to the glass. The next day, it looked like an albino Flamingo – pink bottom, white top, and there was a blackberry in it. The next night, it was bright pink again, with a cocktail cherry at the bottom, and the last one was like the first one again – bright pink and naked.

The Scotsman and I are missing Prague, and we’re planning our next trip to there already, because there’s so much more we want to see of it. We came home yesterday – just saying…

*and because you cannot tell your friends: Oh yeah, the museums of Prague, well we’ve been to the Museum of Sex Machines and the Museum of Torture. I mean, you have to visit at least one ‘proper’ place!

We don’t need no Streetstyle Columns!

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image by Serge Bertasius Photography/freedigitalphotos.net

I never quite understood fashion, and I am quite far from considering myself well dressed. My outfit usually consists of jeans, a t-shirt or a collared shirt and a matching jersey or cardigan on top. If I want to go business, I wear black trousers, print shirts and blazers in various colours. (Black or beige for serious, teal or ruby for young & fresh.) If I want to ‘go crazy’, I choose colourful tights underneath short skirts. Yes, tights in bright colours is my definition of a fashion statement. So, there, you see what I mean when I say I am not a fashionista.

And as far as I know, hundreds of women are the same. So, why on God’s earth does every single woman’s magazine have a streetstyle column by now? I mean, what does it do? A streetstyle column shows what average people wear every day on the street. When they go to work, to college, to the supermarket or for lunch – whatever. Some people working for these magazines, I suppose a photographer and a trainee, take pictures of people they consider well dressed, take notes about where the clothes are purchased from and hand their findings over to the magazine. And they print this crap. Why would I care what other people, who are the same as me and nothing like me, wear? When I buy a fashion magazine (twice a year, when I visit my mum and forgot to pack the book I’m currently reading), I want to see the impossible outfits that nobody wears to work or at the restaurant. I want to see Lady Gaga in a dress made out of tin foil and empty yoghurt cups. I want to see the 500 Dollar sweater with glued on Swarovski crystals that nobody I know would actually buy. I want the full program, photos where you can see that two hairdressers and three make up artists weren’t enough, so they still had to use Photoshop on the pictures. When I ‘read’ one of those magazines, I want to dream. I want to fantasize about wearing expensive dresses with killer heels and bright red lips, I don’t want to look at normal looking people wearing normal clothes that you can buy at H&M or in a second hand store. They don’t inspire me, and you want to know why? Because they all look the same! It doesn’t matter if the intern of the magazine walks around in Berlin or gets sponsored with a ticket to Sweden or Seoul or Paris. The people in those photographs all wear what has been published in the very same magazine last season. They took the advertised trends and made them wearable, which is basically what everybody does, instinctively.

The thing is: I already know about the huge gap between the clothes fashion magazines try to sell and the clothes the average person can afford to buy AND wear. I know about the gap between photoshopped faces that look like plastic and the average face, with eyes a little too narrow, ears a bit too floppy and a shiny nose. I don’t need the magazine to tell me that those gaps exist (and are mainly produced by the magazines themselves in the first place), I can think and look around for myself. I don’t need a photographer working for the streetstyle column to tell me, that I don’t have to feel bad about myself for not leaving the house dressed like a model every day: ‘Look, all the others wear normal clothes, too.’ Yes, I know that, thank you, person with the most insignificant of all the insignificant jobs in the world. I go outside as well from time to time, you know, and I tend to look at people when I do. So, please, please, would you do the proper shootings again? It doesn’t have to be – no, it shouldn’t be! –  with anorexic models, take healthy looking girls and boys by any means, but wrap them up in the most expensive, impossible-to-wear outfits you can find, for fuck’s sake!

Can I just say…?

Can I just say that this new wordpress editor is shit?

I have a confession to make: There is a reason why I don’t post anymore on my blog. I HATE the new editor in wordpress. (Yes, I hate it. I don’t usually use words like hate, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.) Every single time I am trying to set up a post, something goes wrong or something is missing. So I always have to switch to the old editor to set up my posts, and this is kind of nerve wrecking to me. This is no longer fun for me to do. The new editor gets advertised with “making posting easier than ever” – well, tell you what: No, it doesn’t! Not for me, at least. I cannot choose from my most used tags anymore, but I have to type in all the tags I want to use every time I want to publish something. Plus, when I want to plan a post without immediately publishing it, something goes wrong. Either the post doesn’t get published at all, or at the wrong time or it gets published immediately afterall, although it’s not done yet. This is ridiculous! Why, for heaven’s sake, did you have to change the editor anyways? Don’t fix something unless it’s broken! Rant end…

The Count of Monte Christo – Shelf of Abandoned Books

DIGITAL CAMERAI finished reading this one a few weeks ago but I couldn’t find the time to write my very own, invalid opinion about it. As you probably noticed, I didn’t find time to write anything here.

So, let’s do this sucker. I like the story, always have. I mean, a guy gets innocently incarcerated, changes almost completely during his imprisonment, but never forgets his great love, and then takes revenge on everybody who was involved with such an elaborate scheme that it’s working all too well. Who wouldn’t like that? Exactly! All this smells of a ‘but’, doesn’t it? And here it goes:

I’ve seen and read so many modern versions of the whole story that – despite my love for the classics – the original version of Dumas seemed a bit pale to me. It was all too obvious, the characters weren’t well developed, it was too clear who was ‘good’ and who was ‘evil’. There were no grey areas. I mean, even the ‘Count’ himself – he was purely good and his motives were completely understandable. I never questioned once, if what he was doing is maybe wrong, until he is questioning it himself. And I studied philosophy for crying out loud. Dumas, you genius of manipulation!

I like the modern versions better. The ones that also really deeply question the motives of the protagonist, with more twists and turns. Like The Star’s Tennis Balls by Stephen Fry (basically an exact replica of the novel in a modern setting) or the TV show Revenge (with a ‘Countess’ instead of a ‘Count’ – okay, the last plot twist was a bit ridiculous, and if they cannot explain it properly in the next season, I’m not going to watch it anymore…) But: Chapeau to Dumas, for making up such an original story at the time.

Let me go on a bit about The Count of Monte Christo as a philosopher: The thing is, Dumas was born in 1802, two years before Kant – one of the big names connected to moral philosophy – died. That means, Dumas was born and grew up in a time, when the thoughts of the era of enlightenment were already published and had settled down in society, but revolutions were still going on. It was an era where church and society were still fighting over morals and money, and people were still trying to figure out right and wrong. And when we think about the storyline of The Count of Monte Christo now, it is actually quite brilliantly done. Dumas gave us an example of a ‘purely good’ person who starts off knowing the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. (Probably because he was brought up this way, by his family, the church, whatever.) Then, something bad happens to this good person, initiated by ‘purely bad’ people. The good person gets angry, and starts doing things which are at first considered right, because even The Bible says ‘An eye for an eye’. But then, all of a sudden, the new found moral system kicks in, and the main character as well as the reader asks himself, if initially bad actions become good and right because they are done by good people; or if a good person becomes bad because of her bad actions. What comes first – the bad character or the bad action? Or does it all happen at once, good and bad? And how do we live with ourselves when we discover evil in us? New questions to be publicly asked at the time, because for hundreds of years The Bible and The Church taught people, that they were bad by birth, because the first humans sinned against God by gaining the ability to distinguish between right and wrong in the first place; and they had to become good to go to heaven (or at least pay a considerable amount of money to secure their place in paradise). Old questions for us, that will never stop being asked, as long as there are humans wandering and wondering.

Manic Monday – Two in One

We haven’t had a Manic Monday in a long time, so today there are two crazy-sad things I want to share with you:

#1: There is a children’s book that explains why some people in the US carry guns in the open. No, let me rephrase that: It is a children’s book that is pro open gun carrying and explains to the kids that it is the constitutional right of every US citizen to carry a gun. I don’t live in the US of A, so I don’t know, if it is actually necessary to carry a gun with you at all times for self-defence reasons. But if this is the case, something tells me your moral system is not working out very well. Just sayin’.

image found on amazon.com

image found on amazon.com

#2: 10% of the North American population is in prison. That is 2.2 million people! For comparison: My country, Germany, has 80.000 people incarcerated. That is a little under 0.1% of the population. The United States of America have more prisoners than China. In fact, the high number of prisoners has become such a big issue that the muppets on Sesame Street have to explain to children watching the programme what it means, when Mommy or Daddy go to prison. This is sad.

EJIEH – Don’t touch the coffee filter with your hands.

Technically, this wasn’t a real job but rather an internship at the art college I went to for about nine months. I still wanted to write about this because I got some kind of compensation for my work – I didn’t have to pay the student fees anymore; plus, the lady who ran the art school was so odd that I am obliged to tell you about her.

She was this lady who couldn’t stand getting older and therefor loved being surrounded by young individuals. She was wearing long dresses with flower prints and always had a scarf around her shoulders to “cover up the wobbely bits, dear”.

“So, now that you’re my intern you have to make coffee in the morning. Can you make coffee?”

“Sure I can make coffee.”

“We’ll see. But don’t touch the coffee filter with your hands. I don’t want to drink skin-coffee. Clear?”

“But what am I supposed to use then to put the filter into the machine?”

“Well, I cannot answer all the questions in the universe, can I? I paint and I teach. You make the coffee, that’s how the world is right now.”

When I asked another intern, how they made the coffee without touching the filter, he laughed his butt off and made the coffee like every other normal human being, by taking the filter with his hands and stuffing it into the machine. Ms. S. drank the coffee every morning without complaint, although she claimed to taste the difference right away, when somebody didn’t obey her order. Total rubbish, of course.

The most fun episode took place, when all her interns – four at the time – accompanied her to a vernissage at a local gallery. She was driving an Audi A3 back then, very black and very classy. At the vernissage, Ms. S. got so pissed on the free red wine, that my boyfriend at the time ended up driving us all home. He wanted to take her keys off her. “I can drive”, she replied. We all looked at each other. “Follow me”, she yelled, walking straight to the wrong car. She pointed the automatic key, pushed the button and the car next to the one she was pointing at bleeped and flashed. She pulled the driver’s door but it wouldn’t open. She shook the key and pushed the button again: “Maybe the battery’s empty.” One of the other interns gently turned her around and pushed her toward her car. “This is yours”, he said. She gave in: “I don’t think I can drive.” – “You are driving like a God”, she babbled all the way. Me and the other interns in the backseat giggled. “I have an idea”, she said, “we should go to McDonald’s. My treat!” All the interns cheered. “Do they take credit cards there?” Our driver laughed. “No, Miss S., they don’t.” – “What a shame. I never carry cash”, she said. “Ladies never carry cash. Write that down, girls.” – “Yes, Miss S.”, we all said. “You are driving like a God”, she babbled again. “We should go to Burger King”, she said. “Does Burger King take credit cards?” We almost died.