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.

Walking through Amsterdam the day after Queen’s Day, is a little like paying a visit to your friend’s magnificent loft apartment, the morning after their all-out 30th birthday party.

Damn that’s a lot of rubbish piles.

On the 17th of October 1961, 50 years ago to the day, France-residing Algerians gathered in Paris for a non-violent demonstration in support of Algeria’s independence.

Between 20,000 and 30,000 men, women and children, dressed in their best Sunday clothes, many coming from the outer suburban slums where France crammed its growth-fueling immigrant workforce in the 60s, were marching peacefully toward the centre of the city, when municipal police forces charged into crowds, raiding isolated groups, firing on people and making good use of their wooden clubs, murdering dozens of unarmed Algerians: shot, beaten to death or thrown into the Seine river… Weeks later, swollen corpses of Algerian protesters were still being fished out of the river or found hung to trees in nearby forests.

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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.

The end keeps nearing. Last weekend in Berlin. Feeling ever so slightly gloomy, for all sorts of reasons. Luckily I have the thought of warm Spring days ahead, plus many exciting plans for the months to come, to keep me from thinking about it too much. Also: it is about time that I resume working on that thing they call a PhD.

As usual, way behind in the note-keeping business, but a few random tidbits instead:

  • Gotta love a city where catching an afternoon performance of Mahler’s Third by the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim (brilliantly filling in for James Levine), is as simple as: picking Nino fresh off her plane at Alexanderplatz, walking over to Staatsoper and buying three (very cheap) last minute-tickets.
  • Used the excuse of miscellaneous out-of-town visitors to check a few of the more touristy items off my Berlin list.
  • For an artist squat long past its underground heydays and part of even the most casual touristic tours of Berlin, Tacheles was still surprisingly fresh and unassuming: with some cool art, a relaxed atmosphere and a funky bar to grab a drink at in the middle of the night. You can also buy “Kultur kann man nicht kaufen” postcards for 1.30€ there.
  • I apparently look very fetching in a tiara. A comforting thought, in case I finally quit research to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a pretty princess.
  • Only major piece left missing to our Berlin nightclub collection, Berghain was actually sort of a letdown: not bad, but definitely nowhere near what the legend gave it as. Perhaps just that particular night. Had fun anyway.
  • Also caught Jazzanova (or a two people subset thereof) at Icon. Rather unimpressive DJing skills (at least before the 5th Vodka mit Red Bull), but some damn awesome blend of everything Latin, Jazzy and Danceable (from Calypso to Cumbia, with your fair share of random house beats in the middle). Funnily enough, threw the same Led Zep nod as Theo Parrish at Yellow, a couple years back: except they played Whole Lotta Love, not Kashmir

Thanks to some exceptionally warm weather day this week (where temperatures nearly went over zero for one hour, around noon), a frozen hand sticking out of the snow holding what looked like a note, was sighted by a passer-by. Although the thawing did not last long enough to consider excavating the body before the end of Winter, the note was recovered and is faithfully transcribed below.

Liebes Diary,

It has now been 15 days that the great yellow star has vanished from the sky. Ancient ones have prophecised that it shall return one day if we make the proper sacrifices to the gods. Then again, ancient ones will say anything for a chance at skinning a dozen virgins high on mystical plants. According to German news, such a dark spell had not occured since 1964. I liked it much better back when meteorological records involved “longest dry spell ever recorded on a rainy season” or “warmest autumn since the invention of thermometers”. Now that we have successfully debunked the liberal global warming hoax, can we go back to abnormally mild winters, exquisitely hot summers and dangerously rising sea levels? That Siberian datcha I bought last year is not gonna become a waterfront on its own.

As predicted last month to easily amazed Japanese friends, our German flat comes with such marvels of 19th century technology as central heating and double-windows. Unfortunately it also features 10ft high ceilings, which sorta defeats the purpose. Something is not quite right when the longest dimension of your bedroom is height. I assume, however, that my no doubt imminent transformation into a blood-sucking creature of the night will solve this issue by making “upside down, hanging from the ceiling”, a perfectly natural sleeping position.

Although technically “in” Berlin, my laboratorium sits in the middle of the German tundra. Access requires usage of the entire bahn alphabet, followed by a vivifying walk through neighbouring parks and forests. I spotted a couple wolves in the distance, on my way home yesterday night. They fortunately seemed too busy fighting over the remains of some unlucky coworker to notice me. I did notify the lab secretary this morning that I did not think Hans was staying home with the flu, as was initially assumed.

My German is slowly crawling back to the satisfyingly mediocre level of my high school years. I still tend to answer all questions with “sou desu ne“.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification and ensuing economic and sociological challenges of the early 90s, are expectedly way less popular a conversation topic than may have been implied by 7 years of high school language classes relentlessly covering the subject. Had Frau Wagner spent just a little less time obsessing about Wiedervereinigung, Ossis, Wessis and balloons coming in easily roundable numbers, I might actually know how to say useful everyday things. As it is, I am now known in my social group as the guy with a surprisingly rich German vocabulary pertaining to the plight of disenfranchised and politically disillusioned East German workers confronted to consumerist and individualist values inherent to the capitalistic system of the West. Also known as: that guy with the tedious conversation who can barely order for himself at the restaurant. Fuck you Frau Wagner.

Linguistic limitations aside, and despite the equally unsurprising lack of opportunities for congratulating one’s interlocutor about the cuteness of their monkey in casual bar conversations (“Was fur ein süße Affe!” — year 1, lesson 1), people are friendly and fun to hang out with. Sadly, my considerable repertoire of Hitler jokes remains largely unappreciated, strangely enough.

I have an increasingly hard time repressing the urge to punch newly met acquaintances who mention how great and enjoyable Summer in Berlin is. Which they never fail to do. Preferably shortly after it has been announced that the negative double-digit temperature is likely to last until at least the end of February (“When did you say you were leaving again? Oh… I see… sorry”).

I must now step out to go replenish our survival chocolate supply at the store across the street. It looks like there’s yet another small snow storm outside. Where did I put the damn polar bear gun.