read1 of 10
discover

Die syrische Tragödie

by
Carsten Stormer
24.03.14
60 min
Longread
_loading
Nikolaus Knebel
People

We played football together. In Munich. In the same team, however, not in the same half of the pitch. I was a classic striker, waiting for passes from my mates at the front, Niko was always at the back, a hard-hitting Vorstopper. Both positions do not exist in modern soccer any longer. The new order is that you make yourself available, create a situation where you outnumber your opponent, act fast, think fast, strike from behind. It works for Bayern Munich; it is the new way of doing things, fluid, indirect, a process rather than mere pressure. Everybody is a striker, and a defender. Be flexible. Move.
Now: Some people live it beyond the pitch. They are like a pin on a map. These little red signs that have come to symbolize where you are. Who you are. Places have become people. You track them, you watch them move, you gather information about their success, their happiness, their state of mind from the way the pin moves across the globe. Niko for example. Berlin, Singapore, Delft, he worked for Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam and for Toyo Ito in Tokyo, for the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation and for German Technical Cooperation in Ethiopia. Today he lives in Oman, works as an architecture professor. When we meet, it is mostly by chance – and always in Munich. Does that make Niko glocal? Or is this just another word unable to describe the state that we are in: Wandering spirits, hängende Spitzen, always in motion, tiki taka?

Hospitality wars

Emily Dische-Becker about hospitality wars
11.03.14
1 min
Post

Syrian nuns apparently now rival Israeli soldiers as the most valuable hostages in the Middle East. Yesterday, in exchange for 13 nuns who had been kidnapped by a local Al-Qaeda franchise, the Syrian regime released 25 to 152 prisoners (according to state- and opposition sources, respectively).

Jabhat al Nusra reportedly treated the nuns really well during their three months of captivity, going so far as to describe them as “guests.” Upon their release, the nuns praised their captors as “sweet and kind” and insisted that “no one forced us to remove our crosses,” leading Syrian state TV to denounce the sisters as traitors and spies.

Jabhat al Nusra must have really pulled out all the stops for them:  Lowering the treble and bass on the morning call to prayer. Christmas caroling (no stringed instruments.) Happy hour cocktails. Watching re-runs of Sister Act II.

The instrumentalization of minorities has reached new and obscene heights in Syria.

On that note, I overheard the following exchange between two young men at an airport bar yesterday: “Dude, who the fuck kidnaps a nun?”“Dunno. Porn director, maybe?”

Spiracles In My Head

06.03.14
2 min
Post

I don’t know the numbers & statistics too well, but it started on january 6 & it ends today on march 6. If one sums up those days in between, you get more or less 60pages filled with spiracles out of my membrain. Pretty much straight from the heart, only filtered through the lens of how you say a thing or two. I end this journey where it all started: In motherland africa, land of fruit & honey, where the stars shine over desert skies like it was your father, the bustling thief, who stole them & put them up there.

But before I go to sit down & plug myself and virtual insanity off for the time being to look up & contemplate like a straying dog on a lonely beach close to the cosmic shores, I want to show one more thing, one more drop of water before I elapse again into the endless ocean of void & substance.

What he explains is in german language but I guess a water drop is pretty much universally understood. What I try to tell you, is, that I’m this drop of water, always vibrating, always in motion & inspired by the impulses that get to me in every day life. No-thing more and no-thing less. I literally dig every thing around me – especially you my reader, yourself a water drop in this vast ocean of possible vibrations. It’s simple, yes, but most of the time these are the most difficult things to understand for me. It’s so close-by that I often miss it or under-stand it when it’s already too late. But then again, there is no such thing as time if you think about it in a cosmic way. There are only different ways of under-standing one or an-other thing until you become one again with every thing there ever was, is or will be. I’m much obliged that you tooke the time to go through some of those spiracles and I’m looking more than forward to see you again in what some may call reality. god speed, tobias

Kühltransport

by
Maxim Biller
05.03.14
60 min
Longread
_loading

Das Prinzip Seoul

by
David Iselin
03.03.14
35 min
Longread
_loading

Alexanderplatz

by
Georg Diez
02.03.14
60 min
Longread
_loading

Assimilation

Emily Dische-Becker about assimilation
27.02.14
1 min
Post

Bassem*, the youngest of six, has an older brother who has been living in Bavaria for some 30 years. He refers to him as “German Brother,” and while I’ve met this brother many times, I can never retain his real name. German Brother, like many Lebanese expatriates in France who voted overwhelmingly for Sarkozy, has developed strong opinions about the undesirability of immigrants. Especially Turks. When German Brother returned to Lebanon last summer, as he does every year, he regaled the neighbors with stories from Germany over coffee in the garden. “This Turkish delivery guy – what an idiot,” he said. “We live in building 22B. The dude couldn’t find it. He kept calling and calling me, stumbling around the premise. He didn’t know that building B is always in the back! Can you believe that?”

The story didn’t resonate, Bassem reported. In Lebanon, they make do without street names and house numbers.

Lebensraum

Emily Dische-Becker about Lebensraum
24.02.14
6 min
Post

According to my mother, I had sworn off all forms of organized religion, and God’s very existence, by the age of four. Initially, the characteristic attributes of the Almighty were transferred to Mary Poppins, who I believed was all-knowing and vengeful. Our babysitter took advantage of this, sending us letters every day penned in the name of the indignant Disney nanny, detailing our misdeeds, compelling us to behave. Later, my fear of cosmic punishment grew amorphous, and so I tried to ward off misfortune by embracing standard commandments, such as Thou Shalt Be Generous Toward Strangers and Thou Shalt Not Be a Greedy Pig.

These, however, only apply on land. In the air, all social mores are naturally suspended; because flight is a matter of life or death. For this reason, and despite the extra legroom it affords, I always decline to sit in the emergency exit row on airplanes, where it is stipulated that one help others in case of accident. I have no intention of helping anyone get off a burning wreck before saving myself, but I’ve found that admitting this fact while the safety rites are being read will get you moved to an undesirable middle seat (my word processor tried to auto-correct this to undesirable Middle East).

On an airplane, I will shamelessly pursue any material gain to alleviate the discomfort of being sardined into a death trap with 230 wretched strangers.  And there are others like me: frequent fliers without the class benefits. Those of our ilk lie in waiting until everyone is seated, and then find a better seat or row, and occupy it. We recognize eachother’s darting eyes scanning the aisles before the airplane doors close, and salute each other after a brazen takeover.

Then there are the others not adept enough at flying who are left sandwiched in next to their sweaty seat partners. They are often embittered and  envious of our conquests.

And so it happened that one of these resentful passengers tried to intrude on the comfy lair I had arranged for myself on a recent flight from Berlin to Doha.

My original seat wasn’t all that bad  – a two-seat row  all to myself. But the adjacent center row boasted even better real estate: four empty seats. And so when the doors closed, I naturally moved there. An astute couple who had been seated behind me followed suit taking the row in back of mine. We bantered about our good fortune, and I soon got comfortable, stacking all the pillows on one side, wrapping myself in blankets galore, to try to sleep – and forget.

About 45 minutes into the six-hour flight, a young woman came and dropped her book down on the final seat in my row. Smack, it hit the upholstery. I raised my head and inquired as to what she was doing; she wanted to sit here (indicating with a sweeping gesture that she intended to seize the area that the bottom third of me was occupying) to “stretch her legs out a bit.” I  suggested she instead take the two-seater that I had vacated, where she could have the same amount of space all to herself.

She glared at me and her eyes narrowed: But I want to sit here. – But it’s really the same thing if you sit over there, I countered. She issued a host of excuses about a special meal she’d ordered and about not wanting to move her suitcase, which I volunteered to move for her, until she finally announced to the whole cabin in a shrill voice: I think you are SELFISH.

Fine, I said. Are you trying to teach me a lesson, or do you actually want a more comfortable place to sit? (willst du mich erziehen?)

I want to sit here! she whinged. – Um, is this your first time on a plane? I feigned curiosity. This isn’t a social democracy, you know.

A silent staring match ensued, until she leaned forward and rang the bell to summon the stewardess, and proceeded to whisper in her ear in front of me. The stewardess looked puzzled, indicating that she couldn’t get involved in our dispute. And so, I laid my head back down and stretched out along the three seats; believing that I had deterred her, I fell asleep.

On planes, minor aggravations can quickly erupt into major confrontations. It’s like going home to stay with your parents for a spell, knowing in advance that you will helplessly regress, lose any sense of adult agency, and fall prey to ancient provocations. You can convince yourself you’re all grown up now and can defuse, rather than escalate, a silly argument over whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher (compared with the other incorrigibly truculent members of your family), only to toss all good intentions to the wind.

And so it was on the plane. I would stay and fight for my seat(s) until the bitter end.

I was awakened when the armrest between the two center seats I was occupying slammed down on my leg. I waited a second, then pushed it back up again. She slammed it down again. This time I kicked it up. I felt her feet sliding along the seats and digging into my shins. A kick. I kicked back, and raised my head: “Have you lost your mind?” I hissed. “Listen, you little snitch: Stop kicking me. I have to work tomorrow and need to sleep.” I considered lying about my profession. I am a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, you monster! Children in field hospitals will perish if I don’t rest. She was seething with contempt, but replied in a saccharin little girl’s voice: “But why are you so bothered by me? I don’t mind sharing the space with you.”

This prompted an Austrian man to get up and announce that he, too, thought I was selfish. He turned to the woman and declared, with a breathless appreciation for her commitment to the good fight: “In my opinion, you are right.” This alliance, at once new and time-tested, didn’t help my mood. “I don’t give a shit what you think,” I growled. “Mob moralists.”

I laid my head down again, but didn’t sleep a wink for the rest of the flight, expecting other passengers to enlist in their campaign against me.  United by ancient contempt, my two enemies struck up a conversation that lasted until we landed. In the meantime, every time I dozed off, I was awakened by the seatbelt buckle clunking on my ankle, which I endured with a smile, or by the weight of a stack of books she’d arranged on top of my feet. Turning every once in a while, I’d toss the books off. She was not the type to be discouraged: lovingly, she re-arranged them, while chipperly conversing with her new Austrian friend. Neither of us slept.

When the lights went on and I sat up and returned to my original seat, the newly-found couple were planning a backpacking holiday together in Sri Lanka.

Emily Dische-Becker about Confessions of a bi-illiterate
17.02.14
3 min
Post

A few nights ago, I read a story I wrote for the launch of Block Magazin at a gallery in Berlin. As is customary to disclose, I informed the audience that the story had been translated from English – the language in which I write – into German. Afterwards, and certainly not for the first time, a man approached me and said that while he liked the story, he was irritated (“in the German sense of irritiert,” he qualified) that I had written in English, when I was so perfectly capable of reading in German.

What an inexplicable deficiency. Like being able to ice- but not roller skate.

I am admittedly irritated – in the English sense – by the frequency with which I field such queries, as if it were evidence of some embarrassing affectation or identity denial. I detect aggressive presumption, not curiosity in these questions. But isn’t German your mother tongue?Well no, actually it isn’t (and if I were to indulge my own presumptions: For reasons loosely pertaining to your Nazi grandfather, my mother was born and raised in New York…)

Until the age of sixteen, I lived in Berlin with my German father and American mother, and was raised and schooled in both languages. While I could certainly read English and German with ease, the bilingual school I attended in Berlin decided that, in lieu of disciplined dual language instruction, students would be reared in a parochial hybrid tongue whose utility did not extend beyond the campus grounds.

The John F. Kennedy Schule was established in the early 1960s during the Allied occupation as a flagship of bi-cultural good will. By the 1990s, when I was a student there, it was a lousy Cold War relic with a bloated bureaucracy resulting from the maintenance of dual German and American school administrations, despite an ever dwindling number of native English-speaking students. At JFK, you were free to write an exam in English, and if a word didn’t come to mind, simply insert its German equivalent. You could even apply German conjugations to English verbs! Subjects were taught haphazardly in either language, with instruction often switching each year. Phonetic approximations of words moseyed into my speech and writing; the resulting functional bi-illiteracy only further exacerbated by the limited vocabulary often favored by teenagers. This did not afflict me alone, but thousands of survivors of this institution.

When I left Berlin to move to Dublin, with no intention of ever returning, I began to read furiously in English in order to overcome my handicap, and purposefully neglected to do the same in German. Over many years – all the way through high school and well into college in the US – I struggled to rid my writing of grammatical Germanisms.

Having  recently moved back to Berlin some fifteen years later, I live in terror of a relapse. In German, I have the vocabulary of a sixteen-year old pot head. I consider it an act of consideration that I abstain from writing anything but emails in it.

The responses elicited by my stubborn refusal to write in German however beget other questions:

Why do the non-proficient choose to write in English, often on these very 60pages? Is fluent mastery of language subjective? Is International English, with its uninhibited disregard for grammatical conventions, such as correct preposition usage, a language in its own right? Freed from the rigors of German, is the experience of writing in English emancipatory? Does English perhaps in fact deserve to be bastardized, because it is the language of Empire, of globalized capital and culture?

Die syrische Tragödie

by
Carsten Stormer
24.03.14
60 min

Hospitality wars

Emily Dische-Becker about hospitality wars
11.03.14
1 min

Spiracles In My Head

06.03.14
2 min

Kühltransport

by
Maxim Biller
05.03.14
60 min

Das Prinzip Seoul

by
David Iselin
03.03.14
35 min

Alexanderplatz

by
Georg Diez
02.03.14
60 min

Assimilation

Emily Dische-Becker about assimilation
27.02.14
1 min

Lebensraum

Emily Dische-Becker about Lebensraum
24.02.14
6 min

Emily Dische-Becker about Confessions of a bi-illiterate
17.02.14
3 min