The western sky alight and melodies rattle round in my head

Stumbling outside, this wondrousness greeted me

Playing with a new band, as well as  ramping up new projects with Old Braunfels, as Jarrod has made his way back to Munich after months of being a digital nomad. Welcome back home, you old goat. 

But what was I saying?

These new Germans I’m palling around with love playing covers of stuff you’d hear on a classic rock station, and until now they’re humoring my eclectic taste in songs. 

Now we’re doing a bit of Americana, some outlaw country, as well as some originals, and I’m enjoying warming up my rusty chops. 
Last weekend, we had one of those rehearsals that go on for hours, and when I got a message from the outside world that I shouldn’t miss the sunset that was happening at that very moment, we stumbled into the fresh air. To be greeted to the above photo. 

It’s certainly been edited, but I assure you the real life reds, yellows and blues were even more lush than the photo conveys. Some days it’s the smallest things that remind you what a gift this whole thing is. 

Take a deep breath, reconnect to source and get back to it. These melodies rattling round in my head aren’t going to write themselves. 

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.

German words and not talking opera

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She looks somehow optimistic, doesn’t she? What’s that she’s holding in her hand anyway?

You know, it can be a bit odd when you tell someone you like living in Germany. The person cocks his head, and either says it outright or visibly thinks, ‘But you could live in Spain or Italy…or anywhere. Why Germany?’

Then you admit that you actually enjoy speaking the German language…oh, and that you genuinely like the people.

The person you’re talking to cannot fathom that last bit. It is simply unfathomable.

Germans are boring. Everyone knows that (they’re not boring, but stereotypes are persistent). Actually, some Germans are painfully dull. However, I’ve met some Brits and dare I say even more Americans who’ve got the personality of drying paint. Every culture has its share of the socially inept. The comically uncurious.

Germans are humourless (aside from slapstick – many Germans adore Mr Bean, after all – the German sense of humour is  utterly language dependent…you’ve got to know the parlance to get the jokes). They’ve got a sense of humour. Do some individuals take themselves too seriously? Well, sure. Of course. I avoid those. I seek out the ones who see the lighter side of life here. The ones who can laugh at themselves.

And finally? Germans are orderly rule followers. Well, this one’s kind of true. It is true. There are exceptions, but on the whole there is a social order here. People do what they’re expected. They break rules and sometimes they lie, but for the most part rules are there to be adhered to.

Is that so horrible?

It’s rather good for someone of my ilk (a bit whimsical) to live in a society where things are reliable. If a German tells you he’s going to do something, generally that something gets done. It’s sort of refreshing.

What got me thinking about all of this? Well, I read this very funny page by Ed M Wood:

My Favorite German Words, My Barber and I

Go ahead. Click on the link above. It’s not going to hurt you.

There’s so much in here I can relate to. The words he chooses are some of my favourite. The way he winds the story of him and his barber through the list of words? Yes, I like that, as well.

My friend Amy has one of those calendars where you learn a little bit of German everyday, and she regularly regales me with the more ridiculous things that the damned thing is trying to teach her. If you think Ed M Wood‘s article is funny, you should hear Amy arguing with her German calendar.

Here’s the one from yesterday:

 

Quatsch keine Opern!
(Translation: Be brief!)
Literally? “Don’t talk operas!”
I like that a lot. Don’t talk operas for goodness sake. Not bad advice.

 

Getting the hang of hosting MunichLovesU

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This week I was asked to do the twitter account at @MunichLovesU, and I’ve already done four of the seven days. I’ve tried to write most of the tweets in German, although I was told a mix of English and German would be fine.

So far, it’s been a little odd. I’m so accustomed to my twitter feed, and here’s an entirely new crowd of twitterfolk. Sometimes I’m incapable of even getting in on the conversation because I’m transfixed by all the shiny new people.

Also…irony’s easy in your mother tongue. No matter how well you speak/understand a second language, nuance can be tricky. Some Germans are more droll than you might expect.If this were some sort of performance, I’d say this was a tough room. Like I say, I’ve still got a few days left. Maybe by the end of the weekend I’ll have gotten the hang of it.

The people I know via social media seem to get me. However, it’s taken a significant amount of time and interaction to develop that. I’m not throwing in the towel. Far from it. More importantly, I’m not using the language barrier as an excuse. I read/write German rather well. If anything, this is challenging me to up my game.

The people at the site asked me a few questions at the outset and included my answers on their blog. As long as they’ve gone to the effort, I don’t see why I can’t send you over there. Take a gander, won’t you:

MunichLovesU and their 52 week

Oh, should I have warned you that it was all in German? Well, you probably wouldn’t have clicked over there then, would you?

Hopefully back to your regularly scheduled blogging soon. There’s certainly plenty going on to talk about. Till then.

The Ranch

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The way the Germans see The United States in general and the Americans in particular is a much more nuanced story than I could ever fit in one measly blogpost. And to be upfront about it, I’m normally drawn to the more critical and even confrontational views. It’s too easy (and naive) to believe everybody loves the Red White and Blue.

Nevertheless, when I’m minding my own business and going about my typical day, I’m often a bit taken aback when I encounter people who have very positive impressions of my homeland. In my own strange and tortured way, I like where I came from and love some of my countrymen/women very deeply. Having said all that, I don’t advertise it.

Some Germans find out I have family in Texas, and suddenly they have a volley of questions that come barrelling out of their mouths. Did you grow up with horses? Uh, no. My grandmother had a farm, but it was truly agribusinessDid you wear a cowboy hat to school? I most certainly did not. What’s a real rodeo like? I assure you, a real rodeo is nearly as alien to me as it is to you.

Imagine my surprise when one of my clients asked me about the song I Like Beer. It won’t surprise you to know that I had no idea what she was talking about. None. Where on earth had she even located such a song of questionable quality/taste? Well, she was only too happy to inform me about the The Ranch. It’s a terrestrial radio station in the States, but you can also listen to it live-streamed anywhere in the world.

A few other titles that may or may not surprise you:

‘She’s Cold as the Beer She’s Drinking’

‘Barmaid, Pour Me a Vacation’

What do I think about this? I’m conflicted. It’s a little weird. Some Germans, as well as many Bavarians, have a rather idealised picture of life in Texas. I don’t want to dissuade them from thinking people are living a life of freedom-loving badass-ness. There are certainly plenty of people in Texas who believe that’s what they’re doing.

And I don’t want to give the impression that the perspective the Germans have isn’t nuanced. When it comes to geopolitical issues, postwar Germans are actually quite adept at such nuance. They see the American brand and know that some of it is bluster. Some of it is nostalgia. Many older Germans remember soldiers handing out chocolate bars as they liberated the war-ravaged cities. Those old-timers would likely say that that’s definitely something to be nostalgic about.

But what do I think about The Ranch providing the people of my adopted country with a slice of Americana? Still not too sure about this one. Luckily, I know some of the people who read this blog will have some clever answers for my dilemma.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to Kevin Fowler‘s ‘I Like Beer‘:

She was alone at a table for two
I said, Now's the time to make my move
So I got me a beer and I bought her  ... on the beach

She saw that umbrella stuck in the glass
That chunk of pineapple made her laugh
She took the beer from my hand and said thank you, man
I didn't take her for the longneck kind
She said boy have you lost your mind?

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin' from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Ooh, I love it

Yeah, it's good for your heart, it's good for your mind
It's good for gettin through a lonely all night
Everybody knows you shouldn't drink too much
So why does it always seem like it's enough

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, ooh, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Everybody now, come one!

Chorus

Yes I do
Hell yeah I like beer

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