I know, I already did this title, but bear with me: I only have a limited number of topical literary references.

There might be other ways to get as violent a shock, for less than 100 euros and 90 minutes, than flying straight from the French Riviera to Berlin, but I suspect they would have to involve a taser and a few thousand volts.

Juan-les-Pins has the permanently warm weather, magnificent Van Goghian sunlight and a few breathtaking coastal sights to help temperate its insufferably posh botoxed denizens, whose main occupation involves sitting motionless (on a yacht, in a convertible, at an overpriced beachside café)…

Arm-aber-sexy Berlin just does not give a fuck what you think of its constantly gray weather or the fact that its entire public transportation infrastructure costs less than the cheapest boat in Port Vauban.

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Since the beginning of the month, I have been enjoying my hard-earned unemployment (technically: the long-programmed end of my two year post-doc fellowship) by travelling around Europe, visiting friends, family and new locales. I literally cannot remember the last time I had an entire month off (it would have to be at least 5 years ago, before that stint in indentured servitude commonly known as “PhD”) and the only downside is the incredible speed at which it has flown by so far. I must also work very hard at reminding myself that regular life, whether in Europe or Japan, does not usually entail spending days on end lounging by a pool overlooking the lush mountainous French countryside, evenings eating cheese and sausages bought fresh from the village market and a casual hop to the next region/city/country by plane, train or car, every couple days… But it’s nice to know that it’s there, were I to relocate westwards one day.

Featuring: sun, south, mediterranean sea, wine, more wine, wine&cheese, wine&sausage, dessert wine, mountain wine, Paris, Catalunya, Lozère, Côte d’Azur, Berlin, TGV, speed boat, airplane…

Not featuring: awesome clubs, DJing and miscellaneous moments of fleeting debauchery, because don’t we all have enough of that in our lives. Also because (good) Berlin clubs are still awesomely against any mobile-phone use indoors (anyway: if you really need to post a picture of your night out, you obviously aren’t having enough fun when it occurs).

Long due remaining travel notes (it’s been a busy few weeks)…

Antwerp Train Station April 30th: Apparently, many residents of Antwerp consider their city to be apart from the rest of Belgium (sort of a Kyoto situation there). They are not completely wrong: while Brussels might have the economic and politic pull (especially with the EU parliament and its attached contingent of bureaucrats), Antwerp manages to fit an incredibly cosmopolitan population in a human-sized harbour city: a small walk gets you from the Portuguese neighbourhood to the medieval centre through a mini-Chinatown. It also has one of the nicest looking train station I have ever seen: seamlessly blending the original stone building with a modern structure while managing to retain most of its character.

Swing Jazz Klezmer Band Thanks to Goldi’s impeccably tuned cool-dar, we spent our Monday evening at a small downtown bar, listening to a really cool Swing/Jazz/Klezmer band. Couldn’t always catch the finer nuances of the jokes in Dutch/Yiddish between songs, but still an excellent night.

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This morning, I absent-mindedly answered a tiny obāchan’s barely intelligible shitamachi-ben address with “wie bitte?”

Language module of the brain = Fucked.

As of today, I am officially offering my services as Human Rain Cloud for hire:

For a modest fee (and travel expenses), I will visit your city and bring unseasonably cold and wet weather for a duration of time equal or longer to my stay. No matter how naturally arid or sunny your local climate, my rain cloud-conjuring abilities have been tested on a variety of European towns, with a perfect 100% success rate to this day.

Hire me and ensure your crops do not go dry and your golf course lawns remain a healthy green, even in the middle of the draughtiest summers.

My service fees will go toward paying hospitalisation costs for the pneumonia I am developing.

PS: to all my friends in Paris, Bordeaux, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Berlin: I am sorry for fucking up your sunny Spring weather. I’ll be going soon and normal weather should resume immediately.

The upside of the strict ‘no-camera-no-keitai-no-nothin​g’ policy of some of Berlin’s clubs, is that I haven’t had to feel very guilty about practically not taking a single picture when going out… Here is whatever little I took anyway.

Ostkreuz Tower of Doom

Minutes from the Ostkreuz Tower design planning committee meeting (ca. 1912):

Head of City Planning: How are the plans going for my diabolical lair of doom and despair? [strokes evil overlord‘s pointy beard and burst out with maniacal laughter]

Chief Architect: About that. I got your specs and there are a few details we need to go over…

HoCP: [cocks eyebrow mid-maniacal-laughter] ?

CA: Page 6, paragraph 13. When you write “The Tower of Doom shall be standing at the top of a massive dark volcano spitting rivers of glowing lava amidst bursts of thunder and the howling of a thousand souls bound for eternal damnation”… I don’t think we have the budget for that.

HoCP: What? But that was a fundamental part of the design!

CA: Sorry.

HoCP: What about the flock of fire-breathing dragons, then?

CA: I doubt Animal Control will go for that.

HoCP: The moat? At least give me the moat and giant man-eating crocodiles!

CA: We looked into that and it just doesn’t sound practical.

HoCP: But how are people to guess this is a train-station water cistern, if it doesn’t carry an adequate sense of doom and heavy foreboding?

CA: Well, there are a few things we can do…

HoCP: listening…

CA: We could make the tower really ominous and lugubrious, like something out of a Tolkien novel. Make it entirely black. But not some sleek shiny black: we go for suffocating, light-absorbing, black-as-coal black. Something that would look great against our typical backdrop of sunless gray skies…

HoCP: Keep going, I like what I’m hearing…

CA: Shape-wise, I was thinking we’d go for a martial theme: dangerous and uninviting, military without the reassuring overtones… a pointy prussian helmet, maybe?

HoCP: That sounds awesome! And so appropriate for a building that will define the landscape of the neighbourhood. When can you start?

CA: The wheels are already in motion, sir…

HoCP: Beautiful, beautiful… [strokes mean-looking white Persian cat while adjusting glass eye] Everything is going according to the plan…

[both erupts in evil laughters]

I’m not saying this is how it happened.

But you’ll have to agree there’s a strong possibility.

If you ever happen by Germany…

While discussing the finer points of Berlin’s traumatic history and the intriguing question of how the wall partition may have been extended across the Spree river (and what would have prevented people from simply swimming their way West):

Calmly hypothesise:

… by restricting access to the river, through additional barricades and watch-towers…

Do not shout:

Sharks mit fucking Laserstrahlen!!!

When the workshop organiser congratulates you on receiving First Prize for “Best Workshop Poster” and casually suggests that you treat yourself to a nice evening out with the prize money:

Do say:

I could not possibly take sole credit for this recognition of what was a collective research effort. I shall be taking my colleagues out to the finest restaurant this town has to offer!

Do not say:

Actually… I had to promise 20 euros per vote. I am still largely out of pocket on that one.

Upon hearing that this year marks the anniversary of 150 years of Japanese-German friendship:

Do say:

Yes, indeed. Who could forget the fine contributions of German culture to Japan’s enlightened Meiji era and its constitutional reform. Not to mention Mori Ōgai’s influential translations of Germany’s greatest poets…

Do not say:

About fucking time we gave it another go. Nobody will see it coming!

Let’s just leave Italy out this time, though.

Germany’s similarity to Japan in its lack of appreciation for deadpan, combined with a much lower linguistic threshold, could prove quite lethal to my complete absence of self-censorship in a social setting…

points at torrential tropical downpour outside his window, complete with 3pm nightfall, criss-crossing lightning and thunder galore…

See, Berlin: this is how it’s done.

Of course the Germans have a sense of humour!

They are just a touch sensitive, so please don’t joke about it.