Thursday, 19 April 2007

Deutsches Kino

Films I would recommend:

Das Boot Intense, claustraphobic war film. Ending that makes you throw up your arms and shout FFS NO!

Der Untergang (Downfall) Mostly Traudl Junge (Hitler's secretary) and other's recreation of the last day's in Adolph's Berlin bunker. Excellent and daring performance by Bruno Ganz as Hitler.

Goodbye Lenin Nice slice of Ostalgia and touching performance by Daniel Brühl and Katrin Saß as his mother who he tries to reassure that East Germany still exists.

Die Fetten Jahre sind vorbei (released here as The Edukators) also with Daniel Brühl as a trio of anarchists who inadvertedly kidnap a businessman who it turns out used to be a radical 68er himself. Much introspection and political discussion that goes nowhere but otherwise is a thoughtful and uplifting film. (great ending!)

Das weiße Rauschen Oh yes, with Daniel Brühl again. Is a pattern emerging? If you ever want to get an understanding of what schizophrenia is really like then this as as good an insight as anything I've seen (I imagine).

Lola rennt (Run Lola Run) Fast moving thriller which questions the consequences of causality.

Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) Psychological nightmare during the inter-war years and the build-up to Nazism. Actually, no, not recommended for the easily disturbed as I still wake up having nightmares about this one.

Sophie Scholl Focuses on a leading woman from the anti-Nazi White Rose movement. I wanted to see this after reading about the movement on the display boards at Dachau and wasn't dissapointed.

Der Himmel über Berlin Directed by Wim Wenders in black and white and colour this is the most beautiful cinematography ever. Not the fastest or most engaging of plots though!

Europa, Europa A young Jewish lad flees from Poland and first finds himself educated at a Soviet Youth boot-camp, then at a Hitler Youth academy where he tries to conceal his Jewishness (his attempts at disguising his circumscision are excrutiating). Apparently a true story but hard to believe at times.

Herr Lehmann A gentle comedy, mostly good for its character definition than rib-breaking laughter or dynamic tension, chronicalling life in Kreuzberg at the downfall of the Wall. Memorable for the opening scene where Herr Lehman gets a dog drunk. No, really, must be seen!

Das Experiment Recreates a real-life experiment of dividing volunteers into prisoners and warders. Violent and disturbing.

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht directed by Werner Herzog and with Klaus Kinski as Dracula. The best cinematography of any film about Dracula, EVER.

Stalingrad I've only ever managed to get this with terribly terribly dubbed English. Good gruesome goresome (anti-)war movie in the spirit of Full Metal Jacket. I imagine it is very true to life about the Nazi siege of Stalingrad and the lives of the soldiers caught up in it.

Amundsen der Pinguin A kids film without English subtitles, but I'm including it because it has Till Lindemann (lead singer from Rammstein) in it as a villain.

Was Tun, Wenn's Brennt? (What to Do In Case of Fire). A bomb planted by a group of youthful anarchist squatters in the 80's eventually goes off in the year 2000 when they have (mostly) left their dissident past behind and (mostly) got respectible jobs. The bomb blast is investigated by the Polezei and the group collaborate in removing film evidence of their bomb-making plot. Very enjoyable, a kind of Edukators-lite, but has a different slant after recent real-life terrorist bombings.

Oh, and if you can ever get to see the Heimat series (it was shown in its entirety on TV here (the UK) last year) then that's a most worthwhile experience. Nothing much actually happens to be honest, but it's breadth of time period and the interaction of characters is fascinating.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Ein Dinosaurier im Hauptbahnhof

Why do I want to live in Berlin? Because it is total wahnsinn! Where else would you get a diplodocus (shouldn't that be a Bahnsteigosaurus?) in the main train station? Apparently it belongs to the Naturkundemuseum (Museum of Natural History), which is being renovated, and will be at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof until 28th may.

For the full story, and the originator of the photo, please visit The Penguin's most excellent guide to Berlin.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Tanz Mit Laibach

(This photo is not mine, and is probably copyright.
contact me if you have objections to its use.)

Last night we went down to the CC Club in London for a Laibach gig. Though Slovenian, a lot of their songs have German lyrics, so this was an excuse to expose myself to the language. And have a good stomp of course.

I admit a bit of trepidation. I didn't really get into their concept album Volk, and this tour was to promote it. Let me say that listening to Volk live and having it on in the background at home are worlds apart. It was total geil! The back-projected animations and film-clips were worth the entrance price alone, and should be a looped installation at Tate Modern. At times, the emotion almost moved me to tears. Especially memorable was a solo singer they brought on (forgive me, I don't know his name nor could tell you the track) whose voice was pure opera, soaring into almost mezzo-soprano.

For the second half they brought on two snare drums either side of the stage, and we knew they were going to revisit some of their old favorites. They did not dissapoint! The drums were played immaculately by two buxom Rheinmaidens in jackboots and short leather skirts. I made a point, purely out of musical inquiry you understand, of keeping my eyes on them to make sure they really were hitting those drums in time and not miming.

Frontman Milan Fras had a strange moment when a sampled 'urgh!' went out of sinc for 'Das Spiel Ist Aus', making it sound like he was throwing up after each line, but it was soon under control. Otherwise the sound was almost perfect for what was quite a small venue, save for a few feedback moments. Amazingly you could buy a double CD of this concert just ten minutes after it ended. They must have CD writers there much much faster than those on my PC. Otherwise, you can download the live concert by following this link.

No posting about Laibach is complete without a link to Laibach kittens by Joel Veitch. Enjoy!

Monday, 16 April 2007

Möchten Sie ein Haus in Tansley kaufen?

So, our house is now up for sale.

We've been living here for about eight years. It has been a gorgeous house and we've done a lot of work to make it perfect for us.

In the kitchen we ripped out the old MFI-type units (selling them on e-bay!), laid large slate flagstones, and built wooden work surfaces and installed a white enamel sink, dresser, and range stove.

In the lounge we sanded down the old floorboards and varnished them to perfection, and had a wonderfull Clearview multi-fuel stove installed. And my Beloved turned the smallest bedroom into a computer-room/office for her Landscape Photography business

The garden backs onto an enchanting wooded stream with bluebells in Spring and lakes with herons and ducklings (which Suki sometimes brought home for us).

The neighbours are lovely, intelligent, creative people with lively daughters now making their own way in the world.

All in all, rural bliss. And I can't pretend I won't miss the place, but exciting new horizons in Berlin beckon and wanderlust is burning in my blood and my feet are itching to press onto the grass of the Tiergarten.

If you are at all interested in buying our house, then the details are with the Halifax.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Simba Prepares for Life in Germany

Simba is really getting into German Beer. Prost!

And the verdict is: "Wunderbar!"

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

The First Outing With the Cat Carriers

Yesterday we assembled the cat carriers ready to take our four cats to the vets today for their blood tests.

We decided on Ferplast Atlas 30 carriers (38cm width, 60cm length, 40cm height), which is the biggest in the range before you get more expensive dog carriers.

The cats gave them a thorough checking out. Here Cassie is giving them the once over.

Simba decided they met his approval and thought that they would make a good bed.

Oh dear! Not so keen now! Left to right, Suki, Tosca, and Cassie.

Simba managed to make a run for it before we finally wrestled him in!

We drove the cats down to the vets accompanied by the most pitiful miaowing.
Getting four carriers onto the back seat and boot of a Vauxhall Corsa hatchback was quite a squeeze; larger transportation will be needed to get them to Berlin for sure.

The vet dealt with our brave pussies in pairs. He was taking blood samples to test if the anti-rabies vaccines had worked, and each pair took about ten minutes to do.
Our cats now have a shaved patch under their chins, which they are not too pleased with!

We will get the results back next week. The vet said it was very rare for the vaccine not to work, so hopefully we'll have four pet passports for them next week. If we keep the boosters up every two years, we shouldn't need to put them through the ordeal of another blood test.

Monday, 9 April 2007

A Rammstein Osterferien

And so to Didcot, near Oxford, for a traditional Easter holiday; chocolate, wine, friends, and Rammstein!

Left to right, Carla, Tara the hostess inspects a pringle, John, and Louise

Actually, the music was mostly by Corvus Corax what you might classify as a German Industrial Mediaeval Metal band. Goodness knows what the neighbours thought. At one point they started to do their hoovering, which strangely melded quite nicely with Corvus' bagpipes. We had a most enjoyable afternoon spent in the sun being incredibly rude to one another in only the way that good friends can.

Left to right, Suzy, John again, Karl and Alasdair

Despite stuffing ourselves with sangria and pringles all afternoon, we somehow made it to an Italian restaurant in Didcot in the evening. The other patrons gave us some funny looks as a troupe of Rammsteiners, mostly dressed in black, occupied a quarter of the restaurant.

Dressed for dinner; Louise gets all My Chemical Romance on us.

Tesna is not so sure about Louise's Emo look.

The evening was spent until well gone eleven o'clock drinking mugs of tea. Are we ROCK and ROLL or what? Before we wended our way to our various beds, retribution time for John and Karl for being disrespectful to Rammstein frontman Till Lindemann. John chickened out, but Karl became the Bad Boy Easter Bunny in good sport.

Karl. Easter Bunny. Be Afraid. Be very Afraid.

Pity the poor taxi driver who drove Karl and his wife (and Alasdair and Carla) back to the Travel Inn.

James meanwhile didn't even have to dress up, but . . .

The next day (Easter Sunday) we hit Blenheim Palace. I'd never been before but I'd heard it was an architectural marvel in the neo-classicist / baroque style. Hmm. Well, it was o-k. Probably not really worth the price of admission (nearly £15 for house and garden), but then I didn't go on the train to the 'Pleasure Gardens'. Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is much more magnificent, the rooms more interesting, and the gardens larger and more splendiferous.

The main exhibition in the house was in a narrow corridor of a room and detailed the (yawn) life of Sir Winston Spencer Churchill. It's not surprising that the focus should be on the war-time Prime Minister (even though he never owned the house) rather than the ignominous history of the Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough for whom the house was built as a gift from a grateful nation.
Read more here on Wikipedia and make your own judgement.

Anyway, it was a very pleasent day out, and the Secret Garden (ironically well-signposted) was very peaceful and scented.

Julie and Karl relax in Blenheim Palace gardens. Note the body language - what a match :)

Sunday, 8 April 2007

A Case of Confusion - Let's Start With the Nominative

These next few posts are a revision of the four German cases.

The easiest one is the nominative, which applies to the subject of a sentence (i.e. the thing that is doing the verb). All you have to remember is which gender the subject takes. Oh, and to remember all German nouns start with a capital letter.

Dancing With Cats!So here goes:
  • Der Hund lacht. The dog (masculine) laughs or is laughing.
  • Die Katze tanzt. The cat (feminine)  is dancing.
  • Das Pferd singt. The horse (neuter) is singing.
  • Die Elefanten trinken. The elephants (masc. plural) are drinking.
Or if it's no particular animal doing the action it is even easier; you only have ein or eine to choose from:
  • Ein Hund springt.  A dog jumps.
  • Eine Katze schläft. A cat sleeps.
  • Ein Pferd ißt. A horse is eating.
Of course, the subject doesn't have to come before the verb:
  • Gestern kaufte meine Katze einen Hamster. Yesterday my cat bought a hamster.
Here, meine Katze is in the nominative case.
Note also that in German the verb always come second in the word order of a sentence (unless it is cast as a question).
But why isn't it ein Hamster (masculine)? 
Ah, that's because einen Hamster is in the next case to revise, the accusative.
That's the thing that is on the receiving end of a verb's action.

The nominative is always used after the verb sein to be, and with werden to become. You might be forgiven for thinking that in a sentence such as:
  • Bruno ist ein Hund. Bruno is a dog.
then the subject doing the verb is Bruno. He is being. What is he being? A dog. Therefore, like the hamster above which was being bought, it should be einen Hund. 
Sorry, no. Sein and Werden always take the nominative, end of story.

The personal pronouns in the nominative are what you would expect. Here they are with the verb rennen to run.
  • ich renne. I run or I am running.
  • du rennst. You (familiar) are running.
  • er rennt. He runs.
  • sie rennt. She runs. (as in Lola Rennt - bloody good film!)
  • es rennt. It runs.
  • wir rennen. We are running.
  • ihr rennt. You (familiar) are running.
  • Sie rennen. You (polite) run.
  • sie rennen. You (plural) are running.
Anything else to say about the nominative case? Only to point out that you can substitute er, sie and es for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns to avoid repetition.

  • Ist Bruno dein Hund? Er ist sehr stattlich. Is Bruno your dog? He is very handsome.
  • Ist Cassie deine Katze? Sie ist sehr flaumig. Is Cassie your cat? She is very fluffy. (Note to Blackadder: the Germans DO have a word for fluffy!)
  • Ist Black Beauty dein pferd? Es ist sehr hoch. Is Black Beauty your horse? It is very tall.
Don't but DON'T make the mistake of using es when referring back to masculine and feminine nouns.

Cases - Accusative

The accusative case relates to the direct object of a sentence. That is, the thing that is on the receiving end of the verb that the subject is doing. e.g.
  • Gestern kaufte meine Katze einen Hamster. Yesterday my cat bought a hamster.
The cat is engaged in the action of buying. Buying what? A hamster. Don't wonder why I am letting my cat buy small furry animals, this is just an exercise, okay?

The accusative changes der to den, and ein to einen, i.e. it only effects masculine direct object nouns. So, as long as you only describe the actions against feminine, neuter and plural nouns then you don't need to learn the accusative. But given that the larger proportion of German nouns are masculine, this would be a bit restrictive.

  • Der Hund küßt die Katze. The dog is kissing the cat.
  • Die Katze küßt den Hund. The cat is kissing the dog.
Interestingly you can also say
  • Den Hund, küßt Die Katze

And it still means that the dog is being kissed by the cat. Why would you do that? Well, to give emphasis to the dog being kissed, rather than das Pferd say.
This looks like a useful and versatile bit of linguistics. However, it only applies to masculine nouns. If for instance you wanted to say Die Katze küßt die Schildkröte the cat is kissing the tortoise then you need to fall back on word order to indicate who is kissing whom. Why not go the whole hog like Latin to decline every part of a sentence to show its part, or give up altogether and let word order indicate the meaning, like English? Well, that's German for you. On the face of it well-ordered and logical, but not so when you get down to the detail.

There are five popular propositions that trigger off the accusative that you need to know about. They are:
  • durch through
  • für for
  • gegen against
  • ohne without
  • um (a)round
So should you want to write something like:
  • Wir wanderten durch den Wald we hiked through the wood
Then the durch part means der Wald becomes den, the accusative. Again, you can recast it to say den Wald, wanderten wir durch, to give emphasis to the wood, rather than the hills say.
There are other prepositions that can take the accusative or dative depending on whether you're expressing motion or position, but we'll get to them later.

When there is no preposition involved, and there is no reason to use any other case (e.g an einem schönen Tag on one fine day which uses the dative case) time expressions are useually put into the accusative.
For example:
  • Ich war einen Tag in Berlin. I was in Berlin for a day.
  • Ich las den ganzen Tag lang. I read all day long.
  • Sie geht jeden Abend aus. She goes out every evening.
Also measurements:
  • Das Auto ist erst einen Monat alt. The car is only one month old.
  • Diese Straße ist einen Kilometer lang. This road is a kilometre long.
The personal pronouns change with the accusative. 
This makes sense; we say I kissed her, not I kissed she. She kissed me, not she kissed I. I think that's about as far as we take it in English, but German takes it further. Here are the accusative forms of the personal pronouns:
  • mich me, myself in reflexive verbs
  • dich you familiar, yourself
  • ihn him, himself
  • sie her, herself
  • es it, itself
  • uns us, ourselves
  • euch you (plural familiar), yourselves
  • Sie you (polite), yourself 
  • sie them, themselves
  • ich liebe dich. I love you
  • Er liebt sie. He loves her.
  • Wir lieben sie. We love them, or we love her (I guess a little context is needed!)