My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth

 

the leaves are beckoning
 
The sky seems to have moved in closer, and the day slams shut so much earlier. Knowing that sundown is creeping towards us makes me want to pack as much into those depleting moments of sunlight. 

The leaves that are left are somehow racing to the ground now – they pile up and make their annual bed. I kick them relentlessly and swear to myself that I’ve never enjoyed autumn as much as I have this time around. If I allowed myself, I’d just hold my photo-taking devices out in front of me the entire time I was out there. As if it were my first digital camera. Or even more preposterous: as if I’d never before seen the these changes of seasons. 

On these days, I’m like one of my dogs when it comes to going outside. I imagine the keys rattle and remember I promised myself a walk. I accompany me down the stairs and out into the crisp air and say repeatedly, ‘No need to take a photo of every single thing. You’ve captured that exact shot again and again and again.

Most of the time I can keep walking and stay focused on the moment. Most of the time. 

In German this season is called Herbst, which is a fine word. It rhymes with ‘flair‘ or ‘stare‘, which seems entirely fitting from my vantage point. So often I hear people whinging about the passing of warmer weather. Remembering how rainy fall days can be, they simultaneously dread the long cold days of winter. 

While I can intellectually comprehend what they’re talking about, I feel increasingly foreign in their company. I see the words form on their lips, but my thoughts are meandering outside into the already decaying foliage. My tail is wagging as I bound through the undergrowth. 

I assume we’re going to keep doing this until we like it

 

Louis insists he’s here to be of assistance
 
I’ve been laid up this week, which is why I’ve included the photo of Louis prepared to administer first aid. It’s been quite an interesting time to observe current events, and because of a lot of time on my hands, I’ve read my fill of op-ed pieces about the refugee crisis here in Europe

There are plenty of well thought out arguments about how the refugees should be more evenly distributed among all the European countries, and because I attempt to read sources from all across the political spectrum, I’ve also considered the argument that these refugees shouldn’t be coming here at all. 

As an outsider who’s chosen on his own volition to come here, I’ve given a lot of thought to what it means to be a German and a European, even. The demographic reality is that this is an aging population, and if handled correctly these refugees could foreseeably contribute to a society that is projected to one day be dramatically lacking in manpower. I’ve heard for years that the low birthrate here in Germany is sure to cause headaches for future generations. 

The political situation on the ground isn’t easy, though. I’ve read multiple accounts of how expensive it is to house each refugee, which is bound to irritate the proverbial man on the street. Watching the trains filled with refugees being welcomed so warmly here, you could already predict the people muttering under their breath that there isn’t room for everyone. There has to be a limit, right?

The new compound noun you can read in the media the last several weeks is ‘Willkommenskultur‘, which simply describes the welcoming culture that has been on display hereabouts. Even that can’t last, though. 

However, both sides of the debate about whether or not these people should be welcomed here are missing an important part of the story. We’ve known that this crisis was coming for a long time now. There have been boats full of people crashing into Lampedusa for years. Conventional wisdom says that nothing happens on an issue like this until push comes to shove. Well, now we’re being shoved. 

My understanding is that when refugees arrive on your shore or at your border, you’ve actually got to take them in. There are clearly logistical considerations and I’m incredibly relieved that it’s not my responsibility to manage such an intake of people. Yet these are people fleeing war torn countries. Are there people rushing in for better economic conditions than in their home countries? Could there be people arriving here with nefarious intentions? Of course. It’d be ridiculous to pretend that those aren’t obvious eventualities. They need to be dealt with.  

I appreciate living in a country where such things are dealt with. I assume we’re going to keep doing this until we like it. 

Paid in Guinea Pigs

Meerschweinchen
Here’s a book about the little sea pigs

For a long time, Elaine said that she would only be paid in Guineas. Because someone insisted that Guineas are not legal tender, she’s now accepting Guinea Pigs instead.

So, while we were chatting about it, I remembered that I had a book about Guinea Pigs in German. However, they don’t use that word – they’ve got their own German word for these animals.

They’re called Meerschweinchen, which directly translated ‘Meer‘ means ‘sea‘ and ‘Schweinchen‘ means ‘little pig‘. Weirdly enough, when Germans talk about these little furry mammals, they’re referring to them as ‘little sea pigs‘.

If you want to reimburse Elaine for any work she does for you, you’ll need to pay her in that currency.

Shadows and light revisited

Poppet’s shadow and mine alongside hers…

I wrote a blogpost with this title back in early summer, but didn’t even mention the Joni Mitchell song I was referencing. That was an unfortunate omission, because it’s a song worth knowing. Here are the lyrics:

‘Every picture has its shadows
And it has some source of light
Blindness, blindness and sight
The perils of benefactors
The blessings of parasites
Blindness, blindness and sight
Threatened by all things
Devil of cruelty
Drawn to all things
Devil of delight
Mythical devil of the ever-present laws
Governing blindness, blindness and sight

Suntans in reservation dining rooms
Pale miners in their lantern rays
Night, night and day
Hostage smile on presidents
Freedom scribbled in the subway
It’s like night, night and day
Threatened by all things
God of cruelty
Drawn to all things
God of delight
Mythical god of the everlasting laws
Governing day, day and night

Critics of all expression
Judges in black and white
Saying it’s wrong, saying it’s right
Compelled by prescribed standards
Or some ideals we fight
For wrong, wrong and right
Threatened by all things
Man of cruelty-mark of Cain
Drawn to all things
Man of delight-born again, born again
Man of the laws, the ever-broken laws
Governing wrong, wrong and right
Governing wrong, wrong and right
Wrong and right’

Isn’t that nice? Please go to your local record store, order the album ‘Shadows and Light‘ and listen to the title track. It’s really worth it for the harmonies alone.

I’d like to be able to give more here on the ol’ Dachshund Blog, but the last few weeks have been hairy and it doesn’t look as if the stress will be letting up anytime soon. Although I don’t share many private things here on my blog, I will say that the next few months might be a time of rather massive change in my life.

For one thing, I’m moving out of the neighbourhood I’ve lived in the entire time I’ve been in Germany. Munich-Neuhausen has been so very good to me. It really is my favourite Stadtteil (district), and there are plenty of shops and people I’m going to miss.

However, I’m trying to remind myself that nothing lasts forever. Maybe sometime in the future I’ll move back to Neuhausen. Am trying to tell myself such things to make the parting less painful.

If you’d like to know more about it, and can read a bit of German, here’s what muenchen.de has to say about my old ‘hood:

Stadtteilbild: Neuhausen

Dig a Pony, eh?

Will keep you informed of where I land. It’ll certainly be an adventure. It always is with the likes of me.

One street in Neuhausen covered in snow…

 

free beer

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Georg-Brauchle-Ring U-Bahn Station

When I was still relatively new in Bavaria, well Munich to be precise, my U-Bahn line was extended and they were offering free beer. Well, there was also a party in celebration of the new underground station, but the only part I heard when someone told me about it was ‘free beer’. That was all I needed to know. I was already there.

So today, roughly a decade later, I was back at the same U-Bahn stop, and I thought back fondly of that day when I was new and my German was shaky and the people at the Fest were exceedingly friendly.

The station at Georg-Brauchle-Ring is attractive complete with photos and maps interspersed with colorful tiles…this place always makes me smile. It’s not bad, is it?

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this photo even smells like free beer, doesn’t it?

curse all you want

Don’t hold that rage in, son. Let it out. For goodness sake, let. It. Out.

Have you ever wanted to just yell at someone, but you couldn’t? Anti-social as it might be, sometimes the only thing that will satisfy that desire is to let loose. To open your pie-hole and just unload a torrent of abuse. If there were only a place that would let you get that aggression out.

Oh, wait. There is. There’s a hotline that offers this very service. You can call it and scream to your heart’s content. You can say all the words that you’ve never had the nerve to say aloud. You can say pretty much anything you want.

There’s one catch, though. It’s in German. Not that I think it matters. If you really wanted to spend the money to make the call, I think you’re free to use whatever tongue you so please. So, what is this brilliant website? Where can you go to scream bloody murder. Here it is:

Schimpf los has been specially created for someone of your ilk. The hot-headed sort who needs to blow off some steam, but doesn’t want to lose your job. Or offend your partner.

Or maybe you’ve already yelled at everyone in your daily life, and you just need someone new. A new target for your ire. My thoughts immediately went to: ‘What sort of person would sign up to work for such a hotline? It’s enough to work at a mind-numbing, soul-crushing company, but do you really want to add being verbally assaulted to your list of daily concerns? Really? Do you?

I suppose if you knew it wasn’t personal, and that the person doesn’t know you…well, I suppose that might make the whole situation tolerable. I guess so.

However, one of the nice things about my life is that I have plenty of people I can holler at for free. Well, nearly for free. If you yell at a person in public in Germany, you can receive an Strafanzeige, which is an official police citation. You’re charged for having committed a Beleidigung, which is an insult. If you insult someone and there are witnesses, you’re going to pay a fine.

Or if you’re honest when the police come and ask you whether you said the thing you’ve been accused of, and it’s part of your civic responsibility to be as honest as you can, you’re obligated to be as truthful as you can. Do all Germans tell the truth at all times? I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.

But if you want to be safe…to scream and holler and hurl insults at a stranger on the other end of the telephone line? Well Schimpf los, my friend. There’s no time like the present.

Munich: the city of ‘We don’t need all of those newfangled things’

What an inviting message…yes, come to Munich

There was an intriguing article in the local paper last weekend, and I’m only just now getting round to talking about it. Sometimes I need a few days to decide if it’s even worth bothering you with.

Truly.

Not every idea is a gem. Aren’t there things you’ve done that, in retrospect, you probably would’ve reconsidered?

Well, I have an entire rucksack of those, but my suspicion is that you didn’t come here for my reject rucksack. That’ll have to wait for a slow day. These are anything but slow days. Quite the opposite, in fact.

For example, a week from Thursday the first print edition of The Munich Times is coming out. That means no matter how calm and collected I might appear here, I’m running ragged in my daily life. I have the same clients I normally do, and Ella and Louis, my sister and brother pair of Vizslas, need their daily trudge in the park. In addition to that, there’s the organising and cajoling I’m doing.

With whom am I doing all of that? With my colleagues at the paper.

That’s right: We’re starting a newspaper. In print. While everyone else is going digital, we’re betting that there’re still people that want to hold newsprint in their grubby little hands. I’ve heard all the arguments that we’re mad, and I’ve even strongly considered some of them. However, my heart is in this. Fully.

You want a taste of the sort of writing we offer? Well, here you go:

Chimpanzees: having a crack at culture (by Jane Marple)

Europe has to decide: cut or spend (by Michael Owens)

I personally have written on a variety of subjects, but I think the one I enjoyed the most was one of my first pieces for the newspaper:

St John Passion at the Matthäuskirche on Good Friday

And although England is now out of the European Championship, the writing about football is one of the best parts of The Munich Times, so here’s Chip off the old block (by Geoff Poulton)

You went and read every single one of those, right? You better have. You don’t want me to hand deliver the print edition to your doorstep, do you? I will, you know. Because, according to The Adventures of One Fancy World-Traveling Bon Vivant (with a jaunty hat), I’m the sort who just might do it. Show up and shove a copy into your waiting hands.

Can you even remember what I started this with? It was the article I read in the paper. For those of you who read German, here it is:

Hauptstadt der Selbstgefälligkeit: Warum München die Zukunft hinter sich hat

For the rest of you, the thrust of the article is that the citizens of Munich aren’t necessarily interested in progress for the mere sake of it. We’re a city that almost says, ‘We don’t need all of those newfangled things.‘ Not mindlessly, we don’t. Not  at all costs. No thank you.

Can you see where this is going?

What a perfect fit. A newspaper for a city that appreciates the traditional.

I’ve heard a statistic that a quarter of the Bavarian capital is foreign. That can’t be possible, can it? Not so traditional in that respect.

Yet in a way that plays to The Munich Times strengths even more so. It might not be the reader’s first language, but it’s very possible that English is more easily  understood than German. That’s certainly a part of who we’re aiming for.

We shall know soon enough. No need to fear: I’m taking you with me on this one. Something only a Bon Vivant would do. As is my wont.

Texas Shaped Stuff

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The entrance to the Walmart in Kerrville, Texas

Here it is – what you’ve all been waiting for. The Texas Shaped Stuff post. It’ll be a mix of products that are both in the shape of Texas, as well as those that use either the state flag or the shape of Texas in their advertising.

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When you’re buying sausage, don’t you feel more secure if you see the little shape of Texas? I’m still not sure about this one.

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When I posted this elsewhere, someone mentioned that this hot sauce isn’t even produced in Texas. I suppose Texas Pete would rather we not talk too much about that.

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The German here (Oma is German for ‘grandma‘ and Opa means ‘grandpa‘) mad me smile. And I like both Habañero peppers and garlic. Wait, I can get bother together? All the better.

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Hot sauce. The mild one’s for Wannabe Texans and the Medium for Naturalised Texans. What do you think about that?

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And more meat? There’s always more meat. In Texas, there’s rarely a lack of meat. And if the shape of the state of Texas is on the package, it’s more likely it’ll sell.

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And once you’ve got all that meat, you really need the grub rub. How long since you’ve had your grub rubbed? That very well may be too long.

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I’ve poked a bit of fun, but here’s a product I actually like. When I’m in Texas, I drink Texsun stuff happily.

Who doesn’t need a Texas thermometer?
Larry’s Bag-of-Smoke could’ve been NSFW, but it’s not.
and a Li’l Texan sippy cup

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Finally, a Texas shaped waffle. It looks somehow tastier than your typical waffle.

(update: my friend Cay sent me a photo of this, and I thought it really belonged here…enjoy)

Kathleen and a Texas-shaped jello salad

deciding in Portuguese

deciding in Portuguese

Often, I wonder if I’m at a severe disadvantage living in a country where the language being spoken is not my own. My German is quite good – well, passable. I love the culture, as well as the language, and I’m eager to learn and understand more.

Nevertheless, there’s still this niggling thing in the back of my mind that says, ‘You’re not a native speaker and you’re most likely losing your questionable English skills.‘ Oh, the horror.

Then I found this thing on Wired.com, and it somehow makes me weirdly optimistic. Most of us need a bit more optimism, so here it is:

Thinking in a Foreign Language Makes Decisions More Rational

This has nothing to do with other areas of life, but when it comes to decision making, navigating in a foreign tongue might be advantageous. Here’s how Boaz Keysar and his team at the University of Chicago put it:

‘It may be intuitive that people would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases…’

How do you like that? I wonder if the less you know a language, the more unbiased your decisions are. So, my Portuguese is nonexistent. I should only make decisions in Portuguese.

Am certain the majority of you are going to appreciate the complete and utter wonder of my resolve.

Eu fiz a minha decisão

swooping down from the hills and collapsing to the ground

Bavarian goats only distantly related to Tennessee Fainting Goats

After the ‘man who sawed off his own foot’ post, I could probably take the rest of the week off. Until now, I haven’t been one of those ‘blog everyday’ sorts.

Yet sometimes the goings on in the world just keep serving up things that need to be mentioned. What could possibly follow up the excellence that was shy of working?

Well, if there is anything worthy, it’s this. You know I have a soft spot for goats. You do remember that, right? If you do an internet search with ‘you can’t always expect goats‘, the very first search term takes you to this here blog. It’s one of my many claims to fame.

What goat-related goodness do I have for your knowledge seeking pleasure? Well, this has has had my laughing all day, so I hope you find as much pleasure in it as I have. First of all, I have to tell you where I found it.

My local paper is the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and it’s regularly filled with not only excellent news, but curious things going on around Germany and the world. It’s an excellent paper, and the day I look forward to every week is Friday. It’s the day the Magazin comes out in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. They’ve come up with a very inventive name for this weekly magazine. They call it the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin.

I wish linking to it would help, but it’s behind a paywall. If you want to read the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, you either need the print edition or you need to pony up some cold, hard Geld (money). It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that nearly every week I want to talk about something I’ve found in this periodical.

It’s normally such a hassle to recreate whatever it is that I found there that I just give up at the mere thought of it. But this week, try as I might’ve, I just couldn’t keep all this mirth to myself.

The way our unique and curious goats are introduced in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin is entertaining, so I’ll do my best to translate the better parts. The title of the article?

Doofe Ziege! (Stupid Goats!)

And it gets better (how could it not?). The subheading?

Würden Sie am liebsten manchmal umfallen, weil Ihnen alles zu viel ist? Es gibt ein Tier, das tut es einfach – nicht nur zu seinem Vorteil (‘Would you rather sometimes fall down because it’s all too much for you? There’s an animal that simply does so, and not always to his advantage‘)

Are you nearly as excited as I was when I read the above early this morning? What animal could they possibly be talking about? Well, it’s the Fainting Goat, of course. Sometimes called the Tennessee Fainting Goat. Here’s a YouTube video of a National Geographic story (that’s a reputable source…you can trust that Mike Daisey didn’t make this one up):

Here’s how Wikipedia describes this little marvel of creation:

‘A fainting goat is a breed of domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat is startled. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.

‘…Fainting goats have many other names, including Myotonic Goats, Tennessee (Meat) Goats, Nervous Goats, Stiff-leg Goats, Wooden-leg Goats, and Tennessee Fainting Goats’

As the original article states, the goat (any goat, not only the Fainting Goat) is one of the finest animals you can possibly have. Without exception. Goats are above-average animals by almost any standards. They eat a hell of a lot of grass or hay or whatever…actually, goats eats everything.

They eat all the grass then they move on and eat whatever else is in there path. It’s a good thing they’re such wonderful animals, because otherwise goat herders would simply loathe these little guys. The opposite is true. There’s no loathing…goat herders love their goats.

Goats can climb, there are less fires when goats are around (they love eating dry, flammable grass) and best of all? One goat provides even more milk than your average cow (once again: my source is the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin…I’m not making any of this stuff up).

But the best part about the goat? His character. Despite the fact that You Can’t Always Expect Goats, when you do have goats, you have personable and sturdy companions. An animal you can rely on.

With one glaring exception. Yes, you guessed it. The infamous Fainting Goat. These guys just don’t handle stress all that well. To be candid, they don’t handle stress at all. At the first sign of it, their little legs freeze up and they fall to the ground. Not the most advantageous response when being hunted by prey, is it?

The very best part of the original article I read was the way they described where this breed of goat came from. As is often the case, it probably wasn’t meant to be quite as comical in the original German, but it had me in stitches. Here’s how it was in the original:

‘Wo die verrückten Ziegen herkommen, das weiß man bis heute nicht so genau. Angeblich tauchten sie im 19. Jahrhundert in Tennessee auf, seitdem werden sie in den USA gezüchtet…’ (Where the mad goats come from is anyone’s guess. Allegedly, they appeared in Tennessee sometime in the Nineteenth Century and have been bred there ever since…)

The way it’s written evokes this scene of a herd of Fainting Goats coming over the horizon, swooping down into the as-yet-not-entirely-settled lowlands of Tennessee.

They cut a striking pose, don’t they?

Until something startles them, and the whole herd collapses to the ground. For a few tense moments, the swooping will have to wait.