Something weird happened when I went to my choir practice today – something very weird.

When I got to the building where we have our choir practice each week, I noticed that there were police vans lining the street – a lot of police vans. As I kept walking, I saw that there was a crowd of protestors and police officers in front of the building and that the building was blocked off. At first, I felt a bit nervous to try to go into the building. I saw a few other people with sport bags talk to the police and they were permitted to go in the building, but I waited for a while until I saw a few other people from my choir arrive. We asked if we could go into the building and they asked for our names. They had a clipboard with all of our first names on it. I gathered that no one else was allowed in the building.

I found the fact that there were so many police there really unnerving. There were dozens on the street, in front of the building, in the building, and in the courtyard. Someone else asked what was going on and one of the police officers said that they were clearing out an apartment squat but wouldn’t really explain further. A few other members of my choir were simply told it had nothing to do with our choir.

During our break, a woman in our choir spoke up and explained the situation a little bit more. She knew more about what was happening and had been following the situation for a while. In the floor below the coworking space where we practice, a social organization had been renting the space. They mainly work with immigrants, people from immigrant backgrounds. Their rent was increased a lot recently and they could no longer pay it. They were told they must leave by March 27, and they said they would not go without a protest, so the police were called over to counter the protest. The protest was planned for 9 a.m. Friday morning, but for some reason, the police were there tonight. I walked down the stairs to check my bike shortly after I arrived (I was nervous that I’d forgotten to lock it during the confusion) and There were also police in front of the space that was being evicted. I’m not sure if they were evicting them early, but it kind of seemed that way.

Anyway, we decided to go downstairs to see what was going on on the street at that point. We had looked out the windows and it seemed like there was no one in front of the building anymore and that the protestors were on the other side of the street. When we got to the street, we saw that the police had totally cleared the sidewalk in front of the building and weren’t letting anyone on that side of the street. We told them that we were just going out for a bit but that we were in the choir practicing there and would be back. We went to the other side of the street to see what was going on. The protestors seemed just as disturbed by the sheer police presence as we were, but were overall pretty peaceful and respectful. We went back to our practice and were stopped a couple of times and almost were not let through (it would have really sucked if we couldn’t get back in the building, because I’d left my wallet, keys, and phone in my bag in our practice space). When we went back in the building, two police officers escorted us back to our floor.

The whole thing disturbed me for a few reasons. First of all, the huge amount of police is really unnerving. It certainly didn’t feel like a free country where people could openly voice their disagreement about what was going on. Berliner Zeitung reports that there were somewhere between 100-200 police officers present for around 100 protestors. I noticed that a lot of them had riot gear and there were a lot of huge police vans there. To me, that really seems like overkill, and I think it made the situation a lot more tense than it had to be. Second of all, the lack of transparency bothered me. This wasn’t some sort of secret service initiative, but the police were not clear about what was going on. They also apparently would not let press in the building, which I find really fishy. Third, the police officers treated us with a lot of mistrust, even after we explained why we were there. That bothers me. How can people be expected to have trust in the police system when the police automatically treat the people with mistrust?

I feel a bit nervous writing this, as press were not allowed in the building and I gather that the police didn’t want people reporting about anything going on in there. Still, I don’t really know what was going on in there, even though I was in the building, and I feel that it is within my rights to share my experiences.

*Update: March 27, 2015*

Apparently the police were not clearing out the space last night. They were preparing for clearing it today and trying to prevent a sit-in taking place in support of the organization. The eviction is taking place this morning as planned.

Oh, how I love early video footage. There’s something about the way that film was shot in the early 20th century that you just don’t see very often today. I think it’s because film was new back then, so watching pretty much anything on a movie screen was a novelty. A lot of filmmakers simply let the cameras roll to capture whatever was going on in front of them. These early films feel like a little window to see what life was back in the day.

This gem shows us a little slice of life in Berlin circa 1900. It’s also a good example of early colourization techniques, which might be interesting to you film buffs out there. Keep your eyes peeled for Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstrasse. Oh, how they’ve changed!

New Years Eve is upon us, which means that Berlin is all “bangs” and “booms” from fireworks, making it sound a little too much like a war zone for a city that was a war zone not all that long ago. It will go on until sometime tomorrow, when everyone finally passes out after partying like it’s 2015, and I will then wake up and clean errant fireworks off of my balcony. Nearly a decade ago, Berlin on New Years Eve was one of the most fascinating things I’d ever seen. It’s one of the most popular NYE destinations in Europe; people pour in from everywhere, filling up the area around Brandenburg Gate and crowding just about every club in the city. A lot of locals go to the Oberbaumbrucke, which is total chaos around midnight. Think fireworks everywhere, with no rules, rhyme, or reason. New Year’s Eve 2006 was probably the wildest party I’d ever seen at that point in my life and I swore to myself that I would always do something special and glamorous on New Year’s Eve. This isn’t a post about breaking that promise; I’ve been consistently going to house parties for years now, because outside is cold and I don’t fancy paying 15+ Euros entry into an overcrowded club. I really am taking the cake this year though, because I’m staying home. And by “staying home”, I don’t mean inviting a few friends over to play board games, I mean making dinner and watching movies with my boyfriend. After a busy (wonderful, but busy) Christmas season and the workload leading up to it, I am really looking forward to it.

Anyway, this post is supposed to be a “German Video of the Week” post, so I’ll get to it. In Germany, New Year’s Eve (“Silvester”, if we want to use the correct term) mostly involves drinking a lot of sparkling wine (“Sekt”) and taking full advantage of legal fireworks, blowing up the stereotype that they are orderly people (see what I did there?) They also melt bits of lead and drop them into water to tell their fortune for the next year (the shape the lead cools into is supposed to tell your future). But one of the most enduring traditions is also one of the strangest to me, and that’s watching “Dinner for One.”

“Dinner for One” was originally aired on NDR in 1963. It’s a televised version of a British theatre sketch from the 1920s, and it was inexplicably produced in English in a country that dubs everything. It originally aired on July 8 and the plot has absolutely nothing to do with Silvester. It is pretty funny though in a slapstick kind of way, but I still don’t really understand exactly why it endures as a NYE favourite. It didn’t even have anything to do with the holiday until it aired on New Year’s Eve in 1972, but somehow, it became a Silvester tradition. I won’t give you a plot summary, so you’ll just have to watch the video to see what I mean. So, sticking to “the same procedure as every year”, kick back with a glass of Sekt and partake in a German tradition!

Sandwich
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Pffffttt, feminism. Back in the golden era of the 1950s, women went to university to get their M.R.S. degrees, leaving them fully qualified to make intelligent (but not too political) conversation at dinner parties and plunking them into a rich “learning” environment full of eligible men that they could spend the rest of their lives serving. These days, women care more about their own hopes and dreams than those of the men in their lives. Imagine! It’s one thing to have your own career, but it should play second fiddle to your husband’s work ambitions. Ladies, your born and bred task is to take care of your husband and pad his ego. You can have your own hopes and dreams, but those better not overshadow those of your man. Back in the good old days, women rose to the challenge of the tasks that they were born and bred to do – tasks that have fallen out of favour in our feminist society.

Cooking

Thanks to feminism, women think that cooking is something they don’t have to do anymore. Back in the day, women used to consult all kinds of cookbooks to make creative concoctions out of spam and Jell-O to serve at fancy dinner parties, but not anymore! Women these days don’t have to learn how to cook in school, so most never even learn how. Now, some people might say that cooking is a life skill and that both men and women should learn how to do it, but let’s be real here; the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so you’d better get in that kitchen right now!

Cleaning

Now, husbands and boyfriends should be perfectly capable of picking their own socks off of the floor, but the rest of the housework is your responsibility. If you can’t polish your mantle until a white glove comes out clean, you aren’t doing it right! A man’s home is his castle, so you should scrub and rinse until that castle is squeaky clean. Men do not know how to use mops and they’re usually far too tired after their long hours at their important jobs, so you’d best tackle that kind of work yourself. If you are also tired after your day at your full time job, just remember that you are woman and you are born and bred to balance housekeeping duties with everything else in your life. If you can’t manage that on your own, clearly no one made you do chores when you were growing up.

Playing Waitress

Men love it when women feed them, so don’t even think about asking your husband to get his own dinner. It is rude and disrespectful to do so in front of other people, because it clearly undermines his role as the head of the household. Sure, he can get up and go get his own food, but let’s be real – that’s asking a lot. If you really love him, you will put food on his plate and serve it to him as if he were 8 years old again. If you really love him, you’ll arrange it in a smiley face.

Talking Like a Lady

Women folk these days swear like sailors. Everyone knows that real ladies don’t curse, but 21st century girls have forgotten that somehow. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. If you stub your toe really hard, accidentally burn that roast you were preparing for your husband, or lock your keys in the car, just grind your teeth. Eventually, they’ll crack, but at least you’ll be a lady!

Flattering His Ego

Menfolk are sensitive, delicate souls. They’ll never admit it, but they need constant flattery just to get by in life. Make no mistake, ladies. Unless you butter up his ego, he’ll never get that promotion, and it will all be YOUR FAULT. He needs to tell you how great he is all the time. If you’re thinking that this is a two-way street, think again. You’re a woman ad tough as nails, so if he ignores that extra effort you spent dressing up for your date or making him his favourite dinner, that’s just part of being a woman. Deal with it.

Looking good all the time

Remember those days when women used to dress to the nines just to see and be seen at the local grocery store? What happened to those days? Women these days are so lazy, they think that yoga pants are outside clothing. Going out for a few minutes to pick up the mail? Doesn’t matter. You should get yourself dolled up anyway. God forbid you be seen in public with your man looking anything other than perfect. You are his accessory, so look like it! Also, whatever you do, don’t get fat.

Dressing to the Nines

Ahhh date night. If you aren’t doing it, you really should be. Once you do, make sure you dress up. Back in the day, women always looked perfect for their men, but most of you think it’s ok to let a man see you looking like a human being. Shame on you.

Catering to His Every Need

You are a woman, and therefore, you have secret psychic powers. These are dished out to women at birth, and you should have spent your lifetime honing them. If you haven’t, you’d better start now, because you can’t expect men to just tell you how they feel or what they need. You should just KNOW that. Communication isn’t manly, so it’s your job to just figure it out. After you have performed your Vulcan mind meld and figured out what your man wants and needs in his life, you should do everything in your power to fulfill those needs. So go get him a cold one and make him a sandwich.

Obviously, this is a parody. This blog post popped up on my Facebook news feed (for the record, it was there because a friend was slamming it) and I just couldn’t resist. I know it’s not an article in a serious publication, but it still bothers me that people write and spread this kind of stuff.

I think cooking and cleaning are important life skills – for everyone. Men and women alike need to learn how to keep a clean house and feed themselves and their families. Both men and women can support their partners, flatter them, and make them feel loved. Both men and women can occasionally put in some extra effort to dress up, cook up a special meal, and do something special together. The best part about living in a world with equal footing (hypothetically – we’re not quite there yet) is that we don’t have to let our genders define our relationship. We can just be together as equals.

For the record, I have nothing against making my boyfriend the occasional sandwich, but I also love it when he makes me sandwiches. Our relationship is a wonderful world where everyone always has delicious, homemade sandwiches.

Earlier in the week, Taylor Swift pulled her catalog from Spotify, stating that she doesn’t feel that the streaming service compensates artists fairly. Naturally, this caused an instant backlash, because it is totally reasonable to expect artists to offer their work everywhere on the Internet for free. Forget the fact that you can still listen to her music for free on YouTube and all sorts of places. She pulled her music from one of the biggest services on the Internet, and a lot of people are not ok with that for some reason.

I’m not going to tackle the issue of streaming rates and artist compensation at the moment, because that’s a whole other rant and as something I care about very deeply, I want to give it the full focus it deserves. There’s another issue that grabs my attention here, which is that a lot of people feel wholly entitled to Taylor Swift’s music. The logic seems to be that, as her fans, Taylor owes them access to her music on Spotify. After all, it’s the fans that got her to where she is, right? Wrong.

Taylor Swift and other musicians, artists, actors, and writers do not owe you anything. They create entertainment and whether or not you buy it is totally up to you. Yes, Taylor Swift got to where she is because people like and buy her music, but she owes her success as much to her ability to put out music that people enjoy and to a lot of killer marketing as she does the fans. If she wasn’t making catchy songs and getting them out there in the first place, there would be nothing to buy. It’s no different than any other product. Apple is successful because it has a lot of customers, but few people say that Apple “owes” them a cheaper iPad because they like the iPad. They buy the iPad because it has features they like and credit Apple’s success to its ability to keep turning out those features. If iPad stopped doing business with a particular retailer, I doubt many people would be screaming that Apple owes it to them to sell its products there. But somehow with music and other creative work, people feel a lot more entitlement.

Maybe it’s because artistic work feels more personal. A really good song can seem like it is speaking to you, and you can spend hours of your life getting lost in a novel. But just because artistic work has the power to rouse your emotions does not mean that you are entitled to it. Commercial artistic work is a product and it is not different from other commercial products. If you like it, want it, and can afford it, you buy it; if you don’t, you don’t. It’s pretty simple when it comes down to it. No one “owes” you that enjoyment.

Nosferatu (1922) with English captions

Halloween isn’t really widely celebrated in Germany, but it has been gaining some ground over the past few years. When I first moved here, it wasn’t really a thing outside of a few expat circles, but I’ve seen more and more decorations go up in shops and restaurants, costumes for sale, and even posters for costume parties. This year, my local Lidl even had Halloween candy for sale. I’m not sure if it’s a touch of Americanization or spillovers from the international community living here, but I kind of like it. Sadly, there will be no costume parties for me this year. I have a bad cold, so I’m spending my day watching scary movies and drinking ginger and garlic tea.

Anyway, because it’s Halloween, I thought I’d post one of the most famous German movies of all time, “Nosferatu.” F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent film is pretty much “Dracula,” but the studio couldn’t get the rights to “Dracula” at the time. See, in 1922, Bram Stoker’s novel was just 25 years old, so it was still under copyright. Stoker’s widow, who managed his estate, didn’t want to give Prana Film the rights to the original book, so the company just changed the names and a few plot details such as the setting and time period. Although that might sound like a recipe for a terrible, cheap rip off, “Nosferatu” is a fantastic German expressionist classic. Watch it for the amazing cinematography, creepy costumes, and dramatic silent movie acting.

*Note: this version uses the “Dracula” character names, but the original version of the films changed them. So, Dracula should technically be Orlok, Jonathan Harker should be Thomas Hutter, Mina should be Ellen, and so on. I prefer the original, but I also wanted to post a video from a credible channel. “Nosferatu” is public domain in most countries, but is still under copyright in Germany and most of Europe. Viewster is a legal video streaming service based in Europe, so I’d assume they had permission to upload this movie.

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