Ushering them out the door: don’t tell a Scot what to do

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Have been chatting with the Scots in my circle of friends, and it looks like they’re going to go with Independence. This has been building for a while…apparently the whole ‘We’d rather govern ourselves’ thing isn’t a new concept up north.

The curious thing is that not so long ago I agreed with the pundits who seemed to believe that at the last minute those more inclined to tradition would scurry back over to the side of staying in the UK. It seemed only practical.

What happened exactly? Between then and now?

Well, it seems the folk responsible for convincing the Scottish to vote to stay in the UK have chosen a rather curious tactic. The Better Together campaign are employing a mix of scare tactics and condescending rhetoric that’s supposed to freak out Scottish voters.

Just in the last few days, the news has been a mix of:

Well, if you vote for Independence, you can’t continue using the Pound Sterling as your currency.

Oh, and joining the EU isn’t going to be as easy as you think.

And anyway, hasn’t it always been better when we’ve all stayed together.

Behave now and vote for the security that we’ve been providing you all along.

With just the right amount of fear mongering and condescension, it seems the people who wanted to keep Scotland in the fold have instead ushered them out the door.

Another coffee, please…oh, and why are you so worried about people looking through your stuff?

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Mostly I write at home, but sometimes between appointments I find myself scratching something out in a café. Like this one.

There’s a column in one of the local papers where readers ask questions and one of the journalists answers in depth. Well, as in depth as is possible in a few paragraphs.

The question today was something like:

Why are Germans so obsessed with data protection?

If could probably do a better job of paraphrasing the answer, but it seemed to come down to a few major things. One was the populace encountering two data-collecting dictatorships in relatively recent memory. There’s no question that this is part of the story.

The other main point was that we are constantly reminded in the media, as well as by word of mouth, that our data is being collected and potentially used.

One factoid that I was a bit surprised at was that half of German Internet users are not just on Facebook, but regularly active on the platform.

If I’d had to guess based on a non scientific sampling of my friends and acquaintances, I’d assume that most Germans weren’t even using social media.

Truth be told, most of my friends here who are active online are using false names and constantly feeding false data to the monsters in the machine.

So, I’m curious. If you’re German and reading this, do you have an opinion on data protection/online anonymity? Obviously, you can contact me privately if you’re uncomfortable leaving a trace of your existence here.

Alternatively, if you’ve worked with Germans and/or lived among them, what do you think of this phenomenon? Are your German friends more cautious online?

I should warn you ahead of time that your answers could be used in an article I’m writing on the subject.

Club of the Polish losers

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I’ve seen this place before, but it’s not been open when I happened by. At some point I want to go in and see if they’re being hipster ironic or if this place is what they say they are.

And what’s a Polish loser like anyway? How might he be different from any other run of the mill loser?

If you ask nicely, I might go do a bit of sleuthing and find out.

Don’t call me right now

‘Can you just go without your phone for a few minutes?’

He asked me this and I thought, ‘Yes, of course. It’s the weekend. No-one’s trying to reach me right now. I’ve got plenty to be doing, anyway…’

That was several hours ago. I wish I could say this was easy. To be truthful, this is the culmination of a story that began a few years ago. It’s useless to tell the story without going back and explaining my bizarre relationships with smart phones.

Not that this is going to be pretty.

It all starts with the ridiculous envy that’s built into the eyePhone. I’m a convert to nearly everything iOS, but simply can’t get over the sticker shock of buying one of those damned devices. I can almost hear some of you saying, ‘Just bite the bullet and get one of them already. Mine is so amazing. I can’t imagine my life without it anymore.’

Well, that’s part of the problem – that ubiquitous need for this one product. I find myself resisting to lengths I’d rather not admit.

It was somehow easier and quite practical when I originally went an alternative direction. There’s this behemoth of a formerly-nationalised telephone company here in Germany, and I wanted nothing to do with them. At that time, the only way to legally use an eyePhone was to use this company.

Someone explained the intricacies of jail breaking a phone so I could bypass this legality and use the phone, which I wasn’t even willing to purchase to begin with, with my mobile phone provider. It was somehow the lesser of two evils to simply buy another phone.

Which I did.

However, I’ve hated the choice from day one. I’ve cursed my device. I’ve written murder ballads with this ridiculous little piece of machinery in the role of the vanquished lover.

The company who made this thing, once a proud and innovative market leader, is now a sinking ship. There’s no point in harking back to the glory days. I loathed this phone from the first time I set eyes on it.

Finally the thing has given up the ghost. It’s not dead, but it’s on its last legs. It’s provided some sort of easer vice despite my constant ridicule.

I’m trying out new phones – still in the hunt for something that is not an eyePhone. I don’t need the nicest thing on the market, and I’m at a distinct disadvantage, because I’m simply not technically inclined.

It’s why I’m so glad I’ve got a phone guy. Someone who’s helping me decipher the Byzantine realities of mobile technology. It’s not getting any easier, incidentally.

You might say I shouldn’t have such a personal reaction to my phone. Like one of those people who names his car. Or actually thinks the television works better when you talk to it.

You’re probably right. Oh and one more thing. Don’t call me right now.

Bar hopping in a sportive season

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(Where we watched the Engaland v Uruguay debacle)

First watched the World Cup in 1990, and because I’d lived in Bavaria as a boy, I pulled for the Schwarz Rot Gold of the newly reunited Western and Eastern Germany. They won, and I somehow expected they’d do it again in 1994.

It was hosted in the America that year, and because I was loitering round the Aspen Music Festival and had plenty of acquaintances from the countries playing, we watched a lot of the World Cup matches. Felt sorry for the Italians in the penalty shootout, and since the Brazilians won it that time around, I was pulling for France in the 1998 Final.

By 2002, I lived in the Fatherland, and my adopted homeland made a surprisingly strong showing. I was connected to the national side while watching Oliver Kahn hang his head in shame, even though they’d have never made it that far without him.

The Germans named the World Cup on their own soil a Sommermärchen (summer fairytale) and the mood within the friendly confines of the German heartland is still remarked upon to this day. The weather was somehow perfect, and the Germans took a break from whinging for a brief moment in time.

Four years ago was the Final in which the Dutch apparently decided they could never beat Spain by FairPlay…my curious story about that match was that we were stuck on a train from Vienna for the first half, and my mother and I watched the end of the game in a café in the main train station when we finally returned to Munich.

And now here we are again. I had family visiting as this World Cup got underway, and now even though I’m incredibly busy reviewing movies at the FilmFest München, I still stumble out of the cinema looking for the nearest television screen that’s showing the footie.

It’s what I do.

Tonight there was an event with a bunch of film industry people. I was asked if I’d like to come. Without missing a beat, my first question was, ‘Will they be showing the game?’

They were.

It was the best part of the party. By far.

Adopted home and oodles of food

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Above is a photo looking over the rooftops of Munich, which is a place I’ve been think quite a lot about lately. We lived here when I was a small child, and then I moved back here more than a decade ago.

Listening to my mother’s stories as we revisit our old stomping grounds, I’m reminded of how different this place looks as a tourist. Rarely, if ever, do I find myself asking the questions that seem to come up while escorting my brother and his daughters around the city.

I love having visitors, though. When people I know come through Munich, I gladly meet them in a beer garden or give them advice about the best Bavarian place I know.

We’re in the middle of a particularly exciting summer here – what with the World Cup in full swing and assorted family and friends visiting. People are swarming in and out of Munich; whirlwind tours and day trips in and around the city.

I suppose one of the things I find myself coming back to again and again is how I see the Germans and the particularly curious manner in which they go about their business. Over the years, I’ve seen some really humorous blogs from outsiders writing about their experiences living here.

Anytime you approach such a thing, you risk making rash generalisations and grossly inaccurate assessments about the culture that’s being observed. My only hope is that the more I talk about this stuff here, it continues to be clear how much I like the natives. Rest assured, I wouldn’t be living here if I didn’t enjoy some of the unsettling idiosyncrasies of the folk I encounter, as well as my own.