More Ranting and Raving

It’s right about now that people start to lose it in Berlin. Between the long nights, the cold, and the utter shabbiness of this place, it gets to you. I’ve always had a safety-valve: I go to SXSW in Austin each year, and get out of a couple of weeks of cold, rain, and depression.

I was just thinking about this as I took a walk to see if I could find a book to read at Dussmann, which has the largest selection of English-language books in town (which isn’t saying much), and the tabloids were screaming about a guy who apparently went nuts with a knife on the subway last night. The extreme rarity of such a situation both makes it headline fodder and points out how extremely safe this city is, by and large. There are some places further east where I wouldn’t like to be a Vietnamese at 3 am, but in terms of street crime or things like this, it’s easy.

One of the tabs had a line across the top saying “How many crazy people do we have in Berlin?” I’d say take the latest population figures, subtract maybe 10-20%, and you’ve got your number. Although instead of “crazy” I’d say “mentally ill.”

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Thanks to Karen for pointing me towards a rich vein of sauerkraut, one which is even intellectually and socially redeeming. These guys are critiquing the German media, and doing it well. It’s a shame that their politics are so gung-ho American and, thus, right-wing, but if you can read around that, you’ll get a good picture of what the German media’s saying and how it’s saying it. Especially good are the magazine covers, in case you’re wondering how America’s currently perceived by Germany’s media elite, which is not to say the average person in the street, I don’t think. Written German is quite different from spoken German, so I don’t read the local newspapers or watch TV (well, my TV blew up a couple of years ago anyway) where the news is read in the same indecipherable formal language. This site is a good place to stop each day if you want to widen your perspective.

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Yes, it’s Berlinale time, which means that the Potsdamer Platz subway stations are either closed or undergoing repair. The festival, of course is held in Potz Platz, so this annual ritual is just another part of Berlin’s anti-tourist offensive, along with not signposting anything in any language other than German and, of course, the ritual hostility from service personnel.

I’ve never figured out, either, why Berlin stages a film festival in February. Faced with the choice of opening your film to the European markets in Berlin in Feburary or the French Riviera in May, honestly, which would you choose to do? I rarely go to Berlinale events (in fact, I’ve only been to two, and one was for a film I’d helped work on, although my name was left off the credits), but I remember standing in line for one screening back before everything got consolidated in one place and having a huge roof full of slush rain down on the whole lot of us. I got a bunch down my back, thanks to lucky clothing placement.

But I do have to admit, I’m simply not that interested in films. I think the last one I saw in a theater was Ray, and that’s got to be over a year ago. Part of my indifference is due to having been exposed to far too many amateur cin

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