Okay, so I’m back again from Scotland. Actually, I’ve been back for a few days now, but so far I’ve been too exhausted and busy to blog.
Anyway, I had a really great time and took some lovely photos, which will appear on this blog in the next few days. Though the return flight was something of an ordeal. I flew – as I usually do whenever possible – via Amsterdam Schiphol, because Schiphol has a lot of UK connections as well as a direct connection to Bremen three times a day (actually, the Bremen – Amsterdam connection has been in service for ninety years now) and because I like it better than Frankfurt or Paris, which would be the logical alternatives.
However, this time around, the connection time between my flights was only forty minutes. Which would be doable, except that Schiphol is huge. And since Britain persistently refuses to join the Schengen Agreement (Forget about the Euro and keep your pounds, just please do us all a favour and join the Schengen Agreement already, Brits), UK flights always arrive and leave at the international terminal at Schiphol, while flights to destinations inside the Schengen zone arrive and leave at one of the domestic terminals. So not only do you always have to change terminals, you also have to go through the passport controls. Which can be very crowded, if a big overseas flight, i.e. a 747 or an A-380 from Asia or North America has just come in.
The flight from Aberdeen left somewhat late (ten minutes or so) due to another delayed flight and a military jet blocking the runway and thus arrived with a slight delay at Schiphol. Which wouldn’t have been a problem normally, but turned out to be deadly with a connection time this short. Though I did get lucky in other ways. The plane from Aberdeen touched down on one of the runways close to the terminal building and not on the so-called Polderbaan runway, which is located more than seven kilometres from the terminal building and has taxi times of approx. 15 minutes, crossing a highway, several roads and a canal, all in a taxiing plane (it’s really freaky, both if you’re inside the plane and in a car on the highway with a plane passing by overhead). The airport bus left quickly and did not dump us at the furthest end of the terminal at Gate Thirtysomething – if you get unlucky and have to go from D36 to B37 or something like that it’s easily a two kilometer walk – but at D10 or something like that. So when I got into the terminal I thought I’d still make my flight, even though it was already boarding.
What got me in the end was the bloody passport and security line. Because – wouldn’t you know it? – a big overseas flight had just come in. Probably a US flight, at any rate it certainly wasn’t an Asian flight judging by the passengers. As a result, the lines at all passport lanes were endless. I asked the lady who checks the boarding passes whether I could go through the priority lane since my flight was already boarding and she let me. However, the priority lane turned out to be crowded with business class travellers from whatever big overseas flight had just come in. The passport control was relatively quick, though at least one person decided to ask questions of the immigration officer (hint: If you have questions, go to the bloody information desk). The real hassle was the security line. Because those bloody business class passengers apparently were unable to comprehend that the priority lane is not just for people who have the money or the generous employers to shell out for business class, but also for those who might be actually be in a hurry. So they took their sweet time taking off their belts, removing their mobiles and small change from their pockets, taking their laptops out of their cases. And these people weren’t grandparents on their first flight or families with multiple small children or cruise passengers unskilled in the art of flying (my personal check-in counter horrors and I had examples of all three on the outbound flight in Bremen), but business travellers and presumably frequent flyers. You’d figure they’d know the deal by now. As for asking whether they would let me go ahead, because I was actually in a hurry and they were obviously not, maybe I should have done it, but I didn’t, because those people looked like the sorts who wouldn’t let me go ahead anyway, the sort that is always annoyed when a family with small children or a disabled traveller is allowed to board the plane before they do. And if you heard me mumbling “Bloody Americans” under my breath – though I had no idea if they actually were Americans – well, I just had a bad experience with an American aboard the plane (I squeezed ahead of him with a “Sorry, I’m not normally so pushy, but my flight leaves in thirty minutes and it’s a big airport” – he was not pleased). Plus, in my experience the people who can’t comprehend that the “EU Passports Only” signs mean just that are almost always Americans and never say Japanese (I had one of those ahead of me in the queue on the outbound flight).
Once I made it through security, the information board was already flashing “Gate closing” for my flight. Nonetheless I made a mad dash through the concourse, dodging people left and right, and onto Pier B. Now I was lucky that my gate number was in the low Bs, but unfortunately Pier B requires you to walk – or run – for several hundred meters until you finally get to the gates. Anyway, I made it to the gate, found it closed and dashed to the nearest KLM information desk. “Excuse me, but I’m booked on the Bremen flight, but my flight from Aberdeen was delayed and I only just got here. Can you still let get on the plane?”
Turned out that the plane had just left the gate. I wasn’t even the only passenger who missed the flight due to overly tight connection times, an EADS engineer who’d been on a flight from Bristol, arrived huffing and panting seconds after me. However, the ladies at the KLM information desk were very helpful, agreed that the connection time was too short and immediately rebooked me on the late evening flight free of charge. What is more, they also gave me a ten Euro food voucher, a voucher for the payphones in the terminal and a fifty EUR off voucher for my next flight, valid for two years. Now mind you, I did not ask for any of those things – I would have been perfectly happy to be rebooked on the later flight free of charge. So KLM really went above and beyond on customer service, but then I’ve never had a bad experience with KLM ever.
In general, everybody – whether KLM or security staff (and I did have a bad security experience at Schiphol a few years ago – the infamous groping lesbian pat down incident) – was incredibly helpful. It was only some other travellers who were rude and unhelpful. Not just the people ahead of me in the priority lane either, but also the guy in the airport bookshop who looked at me as if I had just suggested a drug-fueled orgy in the restroom, when I politely asked him whether he wanted to share the “2 for 20 Euros” offer (since each of us only wanted one book) and save some money. I’ve done this before in the Schiphol bookshop – shared the “2 for 20″ offer in the airport bookshop with another traveller and never had any problems. Well, the guy bought a Tom Clancy book (I was going to buy Philip K. Dick), so his taste was clearly awful.
Anyway, I used my ten Euro food voucher to buy a sandwich and a salad in the Zeppelin Bar (not the official name, but the design is kind of steampunky and looks like an airship skeleton, so I call it Zeppelin Bar) in the Schengen terminal, because I’d already gone through security, so the Ramen noodle bar in the international terminal, usually my preferred eating place at Schiphol, was out of the question. I also used the phone voucher to call my parents and rearrange my pick-up at the airport.
Still, I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll never book a flight with a connection time of under one hour at Schiphol again. Better make that one and a half hours, because even one hour connection time usually ends up as a mad dash from one end of the airport to the other.
And now some links:
Alexandra Sokoloff has a good article about theme and how to convey it over at Screenwriting Tricks.
The New York Times has an interesting article about the challenges of translating humour (found via Jay Lake).
German composer Hans Werner Henze died on Sunday aged 86. Henze was one of the greats of modern classical music and composed several operas and symphonies as well as the occasional film score.
Legendary German TV writer Wolfgang Menge also died last week at age 88. Nowadays, Wolfgang Menge is mainly remembered for writing the TV sitcom Ein Herz und eine Seele, the German version of the BBC sitcom Till Death Do Us Part, which has to be one of the most adapted TV show ideas of all time (the US version was All in the Family – there also was a separate Austrian version in Viennese dialect). However, I have never found Till Death Do Us Part/Ein Herz und eine Seele/All in the Family even remotely funny in either form – cause I don’t find racists and sexists funny. Hence I want to remember Wolfgang Menge for the films he wrote that I do love.
First of all, Wolfgang Menge scripted two Edgar Wallace adaptions in the 1960s (for more on the German Wallace adaptions, see my article on the subject), The Red Circle, which has the distinction of executing Klaus Jürgen Wussow, known mainly as the kindly doctor in the saccharine 1980s hospital soap Die Schwarzwaldklinik, not once but twice, and The Green Archer, which is one of my favourites in the series and boasts not just Gerd Fröbe as the main villain but also Heinz Weiß, another familiar face to German TV audiences, as the vigilante archer. Also in the 1960s, Menge wrote the script for Polizeirevier Davidswache, a quasi-documentary film about the daily life at a police station in the heart of Hamburg’s redlight district St. Pauli that became the template for many other St. Pauli set tales in a similar vein. I should probably also give a shout-out to the 1973 eco-thriller Smog, which was directed by a pre-famous Wolfgang Petersen and stars a young Marie Louise Marjan, who would later become famous as Mother Beimer in the long-running soap Lindenstraße. Apparently, Wolfgang Menge also introduced the talkshow to German television, but we don’t want to hold that against him.
However, my all-time favourite Wolfgang Menge film is also his most notorious work, the SF-thriller Das Millionenspiel (The Million Game) from 1970. Das Millionenspiel is based on the Robert Skeckley short story The Prize of Peril and is basically The Most Dangerous Game as a TV show. Three killers (their leader is played by Dieter Hallervorden, who is mainly known as a comedian these days and really shows off his acting chops here) hunt a single contestant, if he survives he wins a million. Unsurprisingly, the game is rigged. What makes the TV-movie so amazing is that it is filmed to look like a real TV show from the 1970s. There is a pretty female announcer, the fictional TV show looks just like variety shows in the 1970s did complete with bizarre ballet interludes. The host is played by Dieter Thomas Heck who was a real host of many popular musical and variety shows at the time, the reporters covering the flight of the contestant are played by real TV reporters. There even are fake ads in typical 1970s style – at a time when there were no ad breaks on German television. It’s like watching TV from a parallel universe, cause it looks just like the TV variety shows I grew up watching and yet is subtly, creepily different. Indeed, Das Millionenspiel caused a scandal upon first broadcast, because in true War of the Worlds style many viewers mistook the fictional TV show for real and wrote outraged letters. Others applied as contestants (at least one woman applied in her husband’s name – most likely the marriage was unhappy) or even as members of the killer team. The letters were archived at the University of Cologne BTW.
Due to the scandal and a copyright issue (turned out that the German publisher of Robert Sheckley did not actually own the film rights) Das Millionenspiel was banned from broadcast for more than thirty years and only reappeared on TV once or twice in the 2000s. However, the whole thing is available on YouTube, so enjoy one of the best things ever on German TV and one of the very few highlights of German made filmic SF. No wonder that The Hunger Games wasn’t that big a success in Germany – after all, we’d already had this.