Things you hear when you tell people you’re moving to Edinburgh

Not Scotland“Scotland? Cool! Have you seen that movie Waking Ned Devine?”
(Actually, that’s Irish.)

“But it’s so cold there!”
(Winters are a lot milder in Edinburgh than in Munich. We see that as a downside – we like snow.)

“Why would you want to do that?”
(This one comes mainly from Scottish people who live outside of Scotland.)

“Are you going to learn that kind of dancing where they only move their legs?”
(That’s Irish, too.)

“Do you like whisky?”
(Yes, very much. Can’t wait to visit Islay.)

“Have you found a place to live yet?” Continue reading

Looking for stuff to do in Munich during Oktoberfest?

Maß of beer, original oil painting

So, you’ll be in Munich for Oktoberfest, and you’re wondering what else there is to do in this very beery city. No problem! I invite you to come check out a little art show that will be going on not far from the wiesn from September 20th through October 12th, 2012. Little Munich will feature, as you might have guessed, small artwork depicting scenes from Munich and Octoberfest. There will be paintings, drawings, photography, and mixed-media pieces on display.

On Saturday, September 29th, we’ll be having an open house all afternoon, where you can come hang out, meet the artists, and listen to a couple local writers read (in English) some fun little stories about Munich. Full opening times and other details below:  Continue reading

Coming up: a little mixed media in Munich

It has been so eerily quiet around this blog for the last couple weeks; I blame the fact that I’ve been spending all my time getting ready for this, my next group art show in Munich. You (and everyone you know) are invited to join me Tuesday evening (13 March) at 7pm for the opening. Eight international artists will be displaying work, a couple writers will be reading fiction, and Yelp will be buying the first round of drinks for those who check in on their app.

I will be showing several brand new not-even-seen-on-the-internet-yet mixed media works on paper, ranging in size from postcard to two meters wide. You can find a sneak peek of one of the portraits on my art blog, and subscribers to my mailing list got a look at the big Oktoberfest scene in progress. A couple of the pieces will also have interactive elements via QR Codes, so smartphones will come in doubly handy (he he, get it, “handy”?) at this exhibit – so if you’ve got one, bring it.

I’ve been happy to get to work with Yelp on this event. I’m thrilled that they’re making a push to establish themselves in the Munich market, because Munich could use them. Whenever we travel to the US, we like to use Yelp to recommend tasty new restaurants in whatever city we happen to be, but until recently their data for German cities was too sparse to be useful.

Back to our regularly-scheduled expat and travel blogging soon!

Munich: my own private Tatort

If you find yourself sitting in awkward silence with a German, try breaking the ice by asking him about ‘Tatort.’  The mere mention of the show makes 9 out of 10 Germans’ eyes light up as their tongues trip over their lips in a rush to push out the words to describe how they have been watching it since before they were born and they never do anything else on a Sunday night ever.

From discussions such as these I had gleaned that ‘Tatort’ is a detective series kind of like ‘Law and Order.’ It has been on since the dawn of time (1970). Each episode takes place in one of a handful of cities, each city having its own recurring cast of local detectives. Germans will be happy to tell you which cities produce the best episodes, and some even schedule their TV viewing in advance based on the location of the episode on any particular Sunday evening. This show is loved.

So when we received a note in our mailbox explaining that they would be filming an episode of ‘Tatort’ Munich on the street in front of our building, we immediately understood the importance of the occasion. Continue reading

Fear your vegetables: E.coli outbreak in Germany

Spanish cucumbers are no longer the primary suspect

As if coming home to find David Hasselhof climbing the charts weren’t bad enough, Germany also welcomed us back with a bit of an E.coli pandemic. At first I didn’t pay it much mind; the outbreak was small and happening in Hamburg, which is about as far away from Munich as one can get in Germany. But instead of the cause being discovered quickly and us all living happily ever after, the outbreak is only becoming worse, and spreading all over the country.  Continue reading

Checking in on Munich’s art students

My there was a lot going on in Munich this weekend. Drag queens were racing through Marienplatz. Anime aficionados were living it up in the English Garden. I managed to sleep through the Kocherlball for the third year in a row.

Sunday’s cool weather lured me out to see the student art show at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Munich’s art academy consists of two main buildings, one old and one new, and getting to wander around in them was half of the fun to me.

As expected for a student show, there was definitely a fair number of duds on display, but a lot of delightful pieces could be found amongst the various exhibition rooms. I was especially impressed with how many works really made me laugh (with them, not at them). Modern German art isn’t exactly known for displaying a sense of humor.

The lawn of the Old Building was spotted with boards for one to poke one’s head through and be photographed. (Do you know what I’m talking about? Why is there no actual word for these things?) Collectively titled “Extreme Situations of Human Existence,” these particular head-cutout-boardy-thingies allowed you to try on the role of combat soldier, 1000-pound man, or crucified Jesus, among other fun stuff. Continue reading

Going on in Munich: July 2010

As usual, my travel schedule will be calming down with the heat of summer, so I’m on the lookout for local fun here in Munich. After a very rainy June, the entire city is excited to sit outside under the chestnut trees and drink beer, but there are actually other fun ways to entertain oneself in the city of beer gardens, too.

Munich Filmfest (until July 3). The Filmfest started last week but you can still catch the end of it – movies are playing through Saturday. There are several international categories, and you can find plenty of films in English or subtitled in English. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a director’s talk, too.

Soccer Watching (until July 11). The World Cup is being viewed pretty much everywhere in Munich. Most biergartens and restaurants offer screens large and small. There’s a big screen set up for the German games at Bordeauxplatz, and at Wittelsbacherplatz you can find Siemens Soccer City.

Open Artist Studios (July 10-11). During Kunst im Karrèe dozens of artists open their Schwabing studios to the public. My feet ached after two days of pounding the pavement last year, but it was worth it. I recommend checking out the artists in advance (online or get a catalog) so you can target the ones who look most interesting to you.

Christopher Street Day (July 17-18). It’s almost time for the annual invasion of Marienplatz by racing drag queens. More gay pride fun than you can shake a big, throbbing stick at.

Tollwood (July 1-25). Hippie shopping, international food, and lots of concerts. This year’s highlights include the Pet Shop Boys, Norah Jones, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and, uh, Michael Bolton.

What will you be doing this July?

So there’s some kind of big soccer thingy going on?

Kidding, kidding. I am actually a big fan of the World Cup. It’s almost the only sporting event I can say that about. Professional league sports of all kinds bore me to tears, but the World Cup is different. And the fact that Glenn Beck is against it is kind of the icing on the cake.

Take this year’s event, and all its interesting angles. South Africa gets a chance to step onto the world stage. Desmond Tutu gets to wear adorable supporter gear. The world gets introduced to a new instrument. Sound nerds get to figure out how to cancel out the sound of said instrument. And then there are all the beautiful abs.

The North Korean team is another fascinating part of this years’ tournament. They have proven themselves to be worthy athletes, losing to number-one-in-the-world Brazil by a very respectable 2 to 1. They are, on average, a couple inches shorter than the South Koreans. Their fan section is small and uniform, and possibly consists of paid Chinese actors.

And then there’s the whole matter of whom to cheer for. After all, your country is only playing in a small number of the total games. Who else do you support, and why? We watched the US-England game in a beer garden, and I was surprised that the mostly-German crowd was so heavily cheering for the US. I watch games played by Germany or the US with great interest, but I find myself alternately wanting them to win or lose at any given moment. I used to be a loyal Italy fan, but I’ve found my allegiance to them flailing this year, too.

I love a good underdog, and found myself being happy for Slovenia in their tie with the US, the country with the highest population in the tournament. Slovenia, on the other hand, has a population smaller than that of Brooklyn. And going back to North Korea, I simultaneously want them to win and lose. I wish happiness and success for the individuals whom are being repressed by a crazy dictator, but I don’t want the crazy dictator to be able to derive any pleasure or glory from the success of his team. Maybe what I really want is for their team to do fairly well, and then for all of them to defect. Any chance of that?

Munich, like many cities around the world, is in party mode this month. Beer gardens and restaurants fill up with eager fans. Wearing face paint and clown wigs in public is suddenly OK. Companies let their employees leave early to watch Germany play. The beer* is flowing. Life is good, especially when the German team is winning, but even near-goals are celebrated with vigor.

As I type this, somewhere outside my window a vuvuzela is being played in time with the ringing church bells. I am happy that it’s just one.

Is the World Cup catching your interest this summer?

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* And by beer, I mean the regular old Munich beer that always flows here. No one here seems to have heard of Hasseröder, the Official German World Cup Beer, except for me.

The terrorists started winning when lip gloss became a threat

So rarely does something I read cause me to yell “YES YES YES!” the way that this commentary did, I figured I’d share it here. The article addresses the ridiculous and ever-growing measures which the US (and consequently other countries) is taking in the name of preventing terrorism attacks on airplanes.

For years I’ve been drunkenly expounding on this subject at cocktail parties to anyone who will listen, but I’ve never managed to sum up my ideas as eloquently as Campos does. Here’s the crux:

It might be unrealistic to expect the average citizen to have a nuanced grasp of statistically based risk analysis, but there is nothing nuanced about two basic facts:

(1) America is a country of 310 million people, in which thousands of horrible things happen every single day; and

(2) The chances that one of those horrible things will be that you’re subjected to a terrorist attack can, for all practical purposes, be calculated as zero.

Zero sounds like a perfectly acceptable level of risk to me!  So why is it that I and millions of other travelers must be presented with ever-increasing numbers of hoops through which to jump every time we want to get on an airplane? Why is it considered a good use of time (and resources) for security personnel to hand-check whether my Sigg bottle is completely empty, but having higher speed limits is worth the additional deaths because motorists’ time is so damn precious? And why is it OK for the government to now take and store naked pictures of us in the name of reducing an already-infinitesimal risk? Would you be willing to let the government take naked photos of you if the stated reason was reducing your risk of death by flying tortoise?

In other news, there’s a lot of snow in Germany (via TQE).

Schwarm: flashmobbing in Munich

Back home in Munich, and the fun continues. Last night we participated in Moment of Starlings, a flash mob event that momentarily bewildered many a passerby downtown.

We received information on the meeting point by SMS about an hour before the event was to start. After crowding into a bookstore to listen to an introduction and receive some general instruction, we were off. Text messages with new instructions arrived sporadically over the next hour and a half, and the crowd of a hundred or so people was delighted to do the bidding of our unseen puppet master.

I loved the looks on bystanders’ faces as we slalomed through the Isartor Sbahn station in a long, single-file line and then ran up the down escalator. Well, about half of us did. That is one long-ass escalator. Pant pant.

After some general swarming and barking at a giant turbine, an SMS told us to go pick up a pillow and congregate in a dry fountain. You can imagine what happened next (actually you don’t have to, since I have these nifty photos of it).

At the end we were rewarded with some Glühwein. And we got to keep all of the feathers clinging to our clothes, hair, and faces. Lucky us.

I have been a big fan of Improv Everywhere for years, so I was super excited to get to participate in a flash mob myself. Although our performance was nowhere near the caliber of a Grand Central freeze, nor as meticulously coordinated as a Best Gig Ever, it wasn’t bad for a group of beginners. The organizers did a great job coordinating the various moving parts, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

This was the second of four planned flash mobs. The next one is on November 25th and will be part of the Spielart Theater Festival in Munich. See the website to find out how to sign up. You’ll need to understand at least a little German or go with someone who does; all of the instructions are sent out in German, but I’m sure you could find someone at the event who will help translate if you need it. Or you can just follow the swarm.

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