in brief: This article is gold

Anti-Capitalist Tour Guide Offers Riot Sightseeing in Der Spiegel online.

I love an article where an author is trying to retain journalistic integrity while giggling at the subject matter.

“It’s all about the fact that capitalism is bullshit, and we’re against the system.”

Everyone looks at him, but no-one says anything. It’s Marxism against capitalism, the people against the police. NATO and the Warsaw Pact may no longer be at loggerheads, but in every other way Germany seems to once again be a country in which the world can be reduced to the same simplistic dichotomy of a quarter-century ago: the battle between good and evil.

Posted in In Brief, Life

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Mayday Approaches

This Saturday is May Day. Apparently this is a big deal in Berlin, though I’ve never celebrated it in Canada. The way to celebrate this holiday seems to be “whatever you feel like doing” with huge variations depending on your temperament. Here’s a list of things people have said to me about May Day celebrations, from best to worst.

  • “It’s cool. People hang out in the park with their families.”
  • “They have live music and bands in all the bars and in the parks.”
  • “Actually, the main activity of this holiday is people drinking and partying in the streets.”
  • “It’s a day to celebrate worker’s rights. By not working.”
  • “a day of political demonstrations for communists and celebrations organised by the left wing unions, anarchist, and socialist/communist groups and dictatorships” –Wikipedia
  • “Have you noticed that the stores board up their windows and nobody parks their cars on the street?”
  • “People throw rocks.”
  • “The anarchists and leftists start riots, but that’s usually only in the evening. Go home early.”
  • “Kottbusser Tor U-Bahn was the epicentre of chaos. I saw punks and cops fighting on the platform. The trains weren’t stopping, of course.”
  • “STAY OUT OF KREUZBERG; YOU WILL DIE.” (Note: Kreuzberg is where I live)

I’m expecting an exciting weekend coming up.

Killasan!

I’d heard via many people that the monthly Wax Treatment club night at the Horst Krzbg nightclub was definitely worth checking out even though it’s only held on Sundays. Last night I met up with my friend Ross and we went.

The theme is dub, that Jamaican dance style which has now permeated global club culture and spawned many subgenres like minimal-dub, dub-tech, dubstep, grimestep, minimal dubstep, minimal grime-dub-tech-step, etc. etc. You can tell you’re listening to a dub-related genre when you hear a lot of bass and long, trailing echoes in the high notes. (This podcast episode has some great examples of the genre. Please ensure you have adequate bass response or you just won’t get it).

The attraction of this club night, along with a very good selection of DJs, association with a well-respected record store, and the fact that they sell cheap and tasty Caribbean food in the backyard, is the Killasan Sound System. This custom PA setup is assembled only for this club night only.

Imagine a loudspeaker as big as a refrigerator. About five and a half feet high, two feet wide, and two feet deep. Now imagine sixteen of them stacked in two levels, all cranking out bass in a darkened room only slightly bigger than a three-car garage.

The dancers faced the wall of bass. The sound was perfectly mixed with nice sharp treble and good stereo separation (important for those trippy washes of echo), modest in the mids such that you could still comfortably talk to your neighbour, and heavy in the sub-bass which throbbed so loud you could feel it in your chest. There was no decoration in the room and only the dimmest lighting. The DJ was relegated to the very back of the room. There was just faceless, unyielding bass. It was very good.

Those who come to visit me in Berlin might want to arrange to arrive on a Wax Treatment weekend if they fancy an encounter with the Killasan Sound System. It’s remarkable.

For those who don’t like dance music the Killasan Sound System will convert you. And I know a good indie rock club if it doesn’t.

In other news I bought the 1.29 Euro Bulgarian red wine and it is great.

Real True Facts about Germany

Photo: I bought sausages in a jar. Now what?

Fact: There are no bottle openers in Berlin.

I think they confiscate them at the border, actually. And yet there are no screw-top beer bottles either. All Germans learn, sometime just before their teenage years I think, how to open beer bottles using any object within reach.

Traditionally a Bic cigarette lighter is used (everyone has a lighter because everyone smokes. Everyone). A delicate technique allows one to use one’s knuckle as a fulcrum for the lighter to lever off the cap of the beer bottle. If done incorrectly the results may be shattered beer bottles, cut or sprained hands, exploded lighters, or worst of all tragically unopened beer.

This technique is taught in Canada but usually only whilst camping. Here it’s a crucial urban survival technique. I don’t smoke (and you’d best praise my willpower for that) but I’ve considered buying a lighter for beer opening. Also for when the girls ask me “hast du feuer?

Fact: Wine costs 2 Euro a bottle.

I’m drinking a 5 Euro (7.00$CDN) bottle of French Bordeaux table wine because I’m a snobby git, but I could have got a bottle of Bulgarian something-er-other red for 1.29 Euro.

Of course there’s much more expensive wine to be had but I’d have to find a wine shop or trendy Bio (organic) grocer for that instead of the shelf at my local discount supermarket. As table wine this Bordeaux is pretty amazing.

Fact: The plastic wrap sucks.

There must be more stringent laws that prevent the plastic wrap here from containing the carcinogenic compounds that make it so versatile in North America. My plastic wrap is too thick, never unrolls properly, and doesn’t cut right against the teeth on the box. It’s like they heard about plastic wrap and made a product with similar physical properties but didn’t realize that it ultimately fails for its intended purpose. It’s probably because nobody buys it since they don’t keep food for more than 36 hours (lest it become inadequately fresh).

Fact: The only thing they talk about on TV is Israel and Palestine.

That is, the only English TV I get is BBC World and CNN International, and the only French TV is something news-like. Between these channels the only thing on is talk shows where fat white guys in suits bicker about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Occasionally they talk about football (*soccer) scores but otherwise it’s all religious warfare all the time.

The other channels are okay, though German. There are a lot of low-budget reality shows, which is to be expected. One channel seems to be a German dub of the Discovery Channel. The voice actor who plays Adam on Mythbusters is too sedate.

I do enjoy a good episode of Zerplatzen in Sekunden (the German dub of Destroyed in Seconds). Narration is unnecessary when watching things explode.

Fact: Zer is an awesome prefix

Zer is a German prefix that means something like “fall apart into pieces”. You put it in front of other words to describe ingenious ways things fall apart. Zer + to fly = zerflußen meaning to fly apart into pieces. Zer + to push = zerdrucken meaning to crush or crumple. Zer+to cook = zerkochen meaning to boil into pieces (like overboiling a roast). Zer + to read = zerlesen describing the state of a book that’s been read so much that it’s become damaged from constant handling.

If you know any German verbs you can add zer in front of them to invent new ways of breaking stuff. Fun!

Music: The French Connection

The problem with minimal techno is you add more and more to it and then it turns into French house. Well, why fight it?

The French Connection by sixohsix

(Download the song)

I put a fair amount of work into the mixing and mastering of this one despite the fact that it isn’t really that great a song. I kind of wanted it done. Out the door. So I don’t have to think about it again. I’m making some other stuff that’s actually more minimal and IDM-like. If I’m careful and don’t mess up the mastering I’ll finish those and release as a complete EP.

Oh, things are good. I live in Kreuzberg now. More later.