Friday, July 14, 2006

Books - July 2006

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Required reading for international transplants trying to learn the language that surrounds them.

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
The first time I read this, I thought Holden just needed to get over himself. Now, I get it. I hope that's not how John Hinckley, Jr. felt too.

What to Expect When You're Expecting by by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, Sandee Hathaway
Yes, that's some kind of announcement. And you thought the World Cup results were a surprise. Stay tuned for January delivery.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hasta la vista, Baby

For the past few weeks, I've been the Cranky Expatriate.

I've whined about everything from the language (who really cares about grammar anyway? oh wait, I do) to the weather (the heat, my god, the heat) to the food (don't even get me started). In the middle of a country full of Germans celebrating their native land, I've been wallowing in homesickness. I'm tired of everything from paprika-flavored potato chips to the low customer service standard at my local grocery store. I'm tired of being barked at when someone doesn't understand my German (really, man, I'm trying hard) and sick of being expected to keep a separate garbage can full of rotting food (don't tell the Hausmeister, but I think we may start a boycott).

I realized yesterday that it's been seven months since my last decent taco. Enough is enough. So I'm headed back to the USA for a few weeks. During my official Bratwurst Hiatus, this blog will take a hiatus too. I might post every now and then, but I might not. Since most of you, dear readers, will actually see me in person soon, you'll just have to prepare yourselves for the real me. And the rest of you will, I hope, bear with me. You'll be rewarded with a refreshed and salsa-filled virtual Blythe.

Monday, July 10, 2006

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog

The World Cup is over. The Italians are still driving around honking their horns and waving Camoranesi's sheared-off ponytail. The world is trying to read Zidane's mind and Materazzi's lips (except in my home country where people think Zizou is one of the Gabor sisters). Juergen Klinsmann, the German coach, is sleeping late before he considers the irony that the German citizenry is ready to erect a Rocky-type statue in his honor.

I was pulling for France, so I was disappointed, though fascinated, by the final result. For me, the story of the weekend was Germany's classy display of passion in the third-place match. They played their best in a tribute to the new spirit of Deutsch pride. Oliver Kahn kind of scares me, but I guess that's how you can tell I'm not German.

Update: For more about Zizou, Materazzi, and who said what, Kottke is keeping tabs on the latest developments.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

She knows how to use them

I'm sharing this link not only because it contains some real classics (including the original Frankie Say Relax video that we weren't allowed to watch in the USA), but especially because the list culminates with the ZZ Top "Legs" video. I distinctly remember thinking that the girl's pink and purple outfit at the end was super cute, especially her frilly socks with the high-heeled pumps. Man, I love the '80's.

100 Awesome Music Videos

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Patriotic

Today is the day when all Americans wear red, white, and blue, sing the national anthem, parade down Main Street in a marching band, eat hot dogs, and sit around thinking about how nice it is to be able to shop on Sundays and enjoy air conditioning. Or, if I were in the States right now, that's what I would be doing (well, maybe except the marching band part). Patriotism is a sentiment we take for granted; one that swelled strong after 9/11/01, and which, though sometimes controversial, is part of American culture. Those crazies we saw at the World Cup match who dressed up like Uncle Sam didn't think twice about donning their proud-to-be-an-American attitudes and displaying them far and wide.

To Germans, patriotism is a much more nuanced and complicated concept. They've seen just how patriotism can seep into nationalism, which can lead to destructive group think and terrible consequences. Many of the Germans I've met feel conflicted about displaying national pride. Some feel that their country still has too much to answer for. Others believe that waving the flag too enthusiastically might remind the world of a difficult past. There are those who refuse to sing the national anthem, because of how its first verses (they sing only the third verse now) were once used to rally the crowds. Some of them just think that screaming and shouting about how great life is in your home country is kind of tacky.

The World Cup seems to have inspired a groundswell of German enthusiasm that, according to friends who have lived here much longer than I have, hasn't been seen here in years. Tonight, the German football team will play in the World Cup semifinal match, and I would be surprised to hear that less than 80% of this country's citizens will be watching. Today, there are German flags hanging from every apartment building, flying from car windows and out sun roofs, and painted on children's faces. The flagmakers are running out of inventory, and the sense of excitement is palpable.

I've never been a big sports enthusiast, as a player or a spectator, but I have to admit that football has had a healing effect around here. Win or lose, Ballack and company have helped to lighten the burden of history just a little. Now, if we could just tone down those Uncle Sams a hair, maybe everyone will have learned something.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Vegas of Europe

Tulips
We celebrated our wedding anniversary in Amsterdam over the weekend, with perfect weather, cool museums, exciting World Cup action, a canal boat ride and a huge Indonesian dinner. We couldn't have asked for a better way to mark 8 magnificent years. Here's to you, JJB.

I dubbed the city the Las Vegas of Europe after witnessing the number of bachelor/bachelorette parties roaming the streets, and watching the street sweeper clean up the aftermath on Sunday morning. There's much more to this beautiful city than sin, but try telling the young British tourists. Maybe they were just drowning their sorrows after Saturday's match?