Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Responsibility. Or maybe not.

I was just reminded of a conversation I had a few days ago by this post by Miss Information (thanks to Speak Up Librarian for sending me there).
This guy gives back a number of books and since they are overdue more than two weeks, we have already send out a reminder, which adds a few Euros to the fee. Guy is angry that he has to pay and demands that the library sends him a text message the day the books are overdue. Of course. Anything else?
Grow up, please. You get a print-out with the date for every single book, you can access your library account online and we even answer the phone and are happy to tell you which book are due when. We don't check your account and go "muahaha, the books are overdue, let's see when he catches on". Really, we don't.

And then there was the guy who had forgotten his library card. That happens and we accept identification cards as a substitute, unless people make a habit of it. But he didn't have his identification card on him, neither (which as a rule people do in Germany, in case it's unusual where you come from). So he tried to get me to accept his police ID card (he was a police officer), saying that it had his picture and everything. To which I did not reply: "And next time I get stopped by the police, I'm sure they will accept my subway ticket for ID because it has my picture." But I had to bite my tongue.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book of Choice: Hitler's Vienna

I've been reading about the 3. Reich and Hitler in particular for a long time now, but for some reason I never came across Brigitte Hamann's book "Hitler's Vienna". The book concentrates on Hitler's years in Vienna as a young man and brought up many new findings when published.
It's a good read for anyone interested in Hitler, but it's also a fascinating source for people who want to learn more about Vienna at the beginning of the century (1908-1913). Hamann introduces the reader to many people who greatly influenced the public life of that time, like Karl Lueger and also paints a vivid picture of the living conditions of the working class (and those who tried in vain to find work - unemployment was frighteninly common). I love to learn about how "normal" people lived during history and I think I enjoyed that most about this book.

Hamann also wrote a biography of Winifred Wager which I found very interesting - the story of the Bayreuth Festival is fascinating and at times absolutely absurd. Winifred Wagner also was a great supporter of Hitler and until her death in 1980 never got tired of declaring her adoration for him as a person - she did not support the politics of the Nazis in general, but Hitler as a person was a whole different matter for her. If you have a chance to see the interview she gave Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, then do it, it's intriguing.
The Wagners, like the Manns, are a gift to any biographer and this is certainly a book you should read when you want to learn more about them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I just went to get some breakfast and met one of the teachers. She turned to the window looking over the courtyard and said with a grand gesture worth of a prima donna: "La primavera!"
Made me smile.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Musical Monday: Helium Vola

I wished for a real winter. I got it. I enjoyed all that snow. Now I'm really glad it's over and spring is here - I'm definitely not going to move anywhere with a winter longer than three months.
In lichter Farbe steht der Wald by Helium Vola is about spring/May and enjoying the life that has returned to nature. It's from the Carmina Burana a collection of texts and poems form the 11th-13th century. Here's the first part of the lyrics:

In liehter varwe stat der walt,
der vogele schal nu donet,
div wunne ist worden manichvalt;
des meien tugende chronet
senide liebe; wer were alt,
da sih div çit so schonet?
her meie, iv ist der bris geçalt!
der winder si gehonet!

If you speak German, but still don't understand a thing, don't worry. It's Middle High German and difficutl to understand even for Germans. It translates to something like this (a bit clumsy, sorry):
The forest stands in bright colours
The birds are singing loudly
So many delights
May's virtues are crowned by a longing for love
Who would be old now that the season has grown so beautiful?
Lord May, you shall have the glory!
Winter shall be scorned

What's moving you on Musical Monday?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bicycle Race

...or maybe not. So I haven't ridden a bike in about 15 years. Luedenscheid, where I grew up, is not a bike-friendly place, it's a town of hills and steep streets. Hamburg is ideal for cycling and after 10 years of living here, I finally decided to buy myself a bicycle, a friend was selling a used one. I had to wheel it home because the streets were still full of snow and slippery, but then the snow melted and I planned to take my first ride on the weekend. 12 inches of snow made me re-think. At least I now have plenty of time to shop for a good helmet - the way people drive in Hamburg, cycling without one is just not a good idea.
But I'm really looking forward to spring and summer, there's so much to see in and around Hamburg that's easy to reach with a bike, especially places for bird watching or hiking.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Musical Monday: Jean Michel Jarre

I've been introduced to Jean Michel Jarre's music by watching programs on science and astronomy on German TV - they all used his music and it does go well with images of supernovae and planetary nebulas.
I finally saw him in concert last week and it was mindblowing. This is not just someone who pushes buttons on a keyboard. His stuff is actually played live and he obviously had a blast doing it. The laser and video show is spectacular, but I enjoyed most the views from cameras mounted on the synthesizers and keyboards that allowed you to see him performing close up. It also was the first time I saw someone playing a laser harp and a Theremin. I once got the chance to play around with one and I've been fascinated with them ever since.

Here's a video of a live performance from 2006. I was astonished to find out that he's 61 years old - he has the looks and energy of a much younger man. Considering that Oxygene is from 1976, it should be so surprising, but just watch him and tell me you would have guessed his age right.

and just because I'm still so psyched about the concert, here's Equinoxe 4. He will probably be touring the US in the near future, so if you like his music and have a chance to see him, go. It will be amazing, I promise.

What's moving you on Musical Monday?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Money, money, money

It looks like I'm going to buy lots of books this year - all three of my schools have given me a fairly large budget. The teachers at my Tuesday school are also pretty good at making suggestions about what to buy and have agreed to review the books we already have with me, to see what can be thrown out (a lot I hope!). I'm really happy about this, finally I'm making some headway to turn these collections of ancient books into real libraries people can work with.

The door of the Wednesday library is pretty beaten up and the scratches and marks have been covered up with a really ugly poster that I would love to get rid of, but I don't have anything in the same size. So I'm going to ask the art teachers if anyone would be willing to make this a project for art class - design a poster or a collage or whatever for the library door.