Tonight I had to go into town for the monthly translators’ meet-up and wanted to pick up some books from an acquaintance from university beforehand. However, there was a big problem, because seven trucks crashed into each other on the highway A1, including one truck carrying dangerous chemicals and another carrying live turkeys. So the highway was closed and the entire traffic diverted through Bremen and surroundings, which made getting anywhere difficult.
Initially, I had planned to pick up the books in the Viertel area first and then take the tram into the city to the translators’ meet-up near the central station. However, because the entire city was gridlocked because of the accident on the highway, I eventually drove to one of the Park and Ride stations in the suburbs and took the tram into the city.
In the tram, another issue became apparent that was making the traffic gridlock even worse, because a whole lot of people were heading for an event at the Stadthalle events center or whatever they’re calling it these days. Turns out that comedian Mario Barth was in town. Now I’d rather get my teeth pulled out than watch Mario Barth, because I find his sexist jokes not even remotely funny and don’t even get me started on his jokes about kids on the lowest educational track Hauptschule. Indeed, one of the more bizarre and depressing experiences I had as a teacher was my Hauptschul students repeating Mario Barth’s jokes about Hauptschul students. When I pointed out that “Hey, you are Hauptschul students”, they said, “Well, but we’re not like those stupid Hauptschul students.” Whereupon I said, “Of course, you’re not like those stupid Hauptschul students and neither is the class ahead of you and that coming after you. And since none of the Hauptschule classes at our school are actually stupid, did it never occur to you that the stupid Hauptschul student might just be a stereotype perpetuated by people like Mario Barth and now by you?”
But even though I don’t like Mario Barth and his brand of humour, plenty of people do and Barth is enough of a pull to fill even the biggest of arenas. He once sold out all 70000 seats in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. And since Mario Barth is a huge draw, a lot of people were coming to see him, not just from Bremen but from all over North Germany. And they drove right into a monster traffic jam and eventually did what I had done, that is park somewhere and take the tram. However, since the tram tracks often run on the streets, the trams were also affected by the general traffic chaos.
I left an hour early, which should have been more than enough time to go to the Viertel, pick up the books and take the tram to the meet-up near the central station at seven PM. By the time, I made it to the city centre, it was quarter to seven. If I had gone right on to the meet-up, I would have made it. But unfortunately, I had to pick up the books first. So I took the tram out to the Viertel. In the heart of the Viertel, there are tram stops every fifty meters or so, so the trip took a lot longer than it would ordinarily have. And because I had to go further than I normally go, I missed my stop. Then I got lost looking for a house I have visited several times before, because all of the little side streets in the Viertel look the same, particularly in the dark. It was already past seven, i.e. ten minutes past the time I should have been at the restaurant, when I finally picked up the books. I made it back to the tram, had to change trams and finally arrived more than half an hour late at the restaurant. I got a lesbian proposal on the tram, too, which used to happen quite a bit at university, but hasn’t happened much lately. And unlike university, where I was sending out mixed signals, I was actually dressed quite girly tonight.
And now for some links:
The 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature goes to Chinese writer Mo Yan. Now my familiarity with Chinese literature is close to nil, so I have absolutely no opinion on whether Mo Yan is a worthy winner or not. He does seem to be one of the more controversial choices, since he is believed to be too close to the Chinese authorities (and this article actually is from a Chinese news site). But then the Nobel Prize for Literature should not be awarded for political views (though it often is), but for literary merit. And Mo Yan would hardly be the first winner with problematic political views (if he does indeed hold them, since western journalists are always quick to condemn those living in countries that are not western democracies for trying to get along with the system) – V.S. Naipaul (bad choice in every way) and Mario Vargas Llosas also have problematic politics.
The New York Times worries that the use of Britishisms is increasing in the US. We’ve all heard these complaints before – it’s basically a new take on the old “Why are all of those horrid foreign words contaminating our beautiful and pure language?” game. Germans and the French are permanently troubled by the influx of English (both British and American) words, Brits resent Americanisms and Americans resent Britishisms. What all of these people fail to see is that languages are constantly evolving and that the only “pure” language is a dead language. Meanwhile, John Scalzi, who is cited in the article, responds to the allegations of being a pretentious git here.
Theodora Goss talks about secret stories and how many people imagine a secret identity for themselves as children. And yes, I had one of those as a kid.
Lynn Viehl has a great post about bringing imagined objects from fantasy worlds into the real world at Paperback Writer. I do like having real world versions of objects that are important in my fiction. Jewelery is a very common one for me. I like jewelery and often try to find jewelery that matches that worn by my characters. Or sometimes a character just adopts one of my existing pieces of jewelery for their own. But it can also be other things. If a character drives a specific car and its important (I wrote a car freak character once. It was annoying sharing my head with him, because he would always look at and admire cars to the point that friends noticed that something was off), I like to have a toy model of that car. I have a collection of toy guns (strict gun laws in Germany – can’t have real ones and wouldn’t want to either), swords, etc… for action scenes. And I ended up with a Transformer toy (pre-movie, when they were difficult to come by), because a character had one that was important to him.
National Public Radio has a nice article celebrating the 50th anniversary of the infamous Mars Attacks trading card set, best remembered nowadays as the inspiration for the eponymous Tim Burton film. Found via Charles Tan.
Actor Turhan Bey died aged 90. His career spanned more than forty years from the exotic Technicolor adventures of Maria Montez in the 1940s (totally politically incorrect these days, but I loved those films as a teenager. And they’re nowhere near as creepy as that photo of Katherine Hepburn in really horrid yellowface make-up the Guardian used to illustrate the obituary) to Babylon 5, where he played the Emperor of the Centauri in the 1990s. His Empress was Majel Barrett of Star Trek fame, by the way.