Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooky Sights

This is some old video taken a little over a month ago. Towards the end of this summer a strange site was seen over the Dom. Why this never happened before, no one knows. For some reason, birds were attracted to the Dom this year for a massive feeding frenzy of moths never before seen at night. I would think the flood lights always attracted the bugs. Why the birds only just figured this out, I don't know. Anyway, I thought if I was ever going to post this, today would be a good day for that.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting to the bottom of it all

I saw this yesterday in Severinsstrasse and couldn't keep from laughing like the 10 year old boy I can sometimes be.  Then again, because the place sells jeans, I'd like to think they are in on the joke.

It also reminded me of another one I saw month's ago and forgot to post.  Consult your urban dictionary if you need help with this one.

If I am invited to celebrate a private party there, I guarantee you I will not be using the back entrance.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And now for something completely different...

Here's something you certainly don't see everyday.

Granted such policies are in place in the US to some degree, but it is hard to ever imagine people ASKING to be taxed more.

St. Gereon's Basilica and the end of my week long headache


That was the grade I received for my B1 level exam. Of course, at first I had no idea what that meant. After finishing the exam on Friday, I felt I did rather poorly. After hearing the grading scale was based on 1-4, I thought it must be similar to grade point averages in US universities. 2+? Well... okay, bad but not THAT bad.

Then I noticed I had received a 1- for the listening comprehension of the exam. I KNEW I did well on that portion of the exam. And indeed, I only missed one answer. So it was time to switch my thinking around. 2+? 2+ is pretty damn good, in my opinion. And especially after I spent the week confined to the apartment, reviewing and prepping for the test all while suffering from a terrible cold that probably didn't really go away until a few days ago. The speaking portion of the test was a lot of fun, especially when I must have sounded like Droopy. I'm glad I got the exam out of the way. You can now label me "intermediate."

By the way, if anyone is looking for a copy of an exam to practice with (or if you're just feeling sadistic), click here to download one. It was about as difficult as the actual one I took and made for good preparation.

After the exam, I had a few hours to spare before we went out to celebrate my results. The weather was cold but sunny and I could feel my head cold starting to go away. I grabbed a coffee and a brotchen and decided to talk a little walk in the fresh air.

Near the school is the large Romanesque basilica of St. Gereon's.

In front of the entrance (the opposite side of what is shown above) is a quiet little square. Its a nice place to take a little break if you're wandering around.

I sat here, drank my coffee and enjoyed the brotchen while recording the 12 o'clock chimes. Click below to listen.

Here's some photos from inside the Basilica, parts of which date back to 1067, although building on the site actually dates to around 380AD.

Apparently the ten sided dome above the main aisle is the largest dome built in the West between the construction of the Hagia Sophia in the sixth century and the Duomo of Florence in the fifteenth. So I got that going for me. But don't get too excited, I forgot to take a photo of it. You're gonna have to do your own search if you want to see the dome.

I believe this is what your textbooks meant when they said "Romanesque."

Below, in the crypt, you'll find the remains of St. Gereon and his soldiers who were massacred by order of the Roman Emperor. According to legend, they were beheaded for refusing to make sacrifices to pagan gods to obtain victory in a battle.

Here's my favorite part of the Wikipedia entry, "Along with other saints who were beheaded, he is invoked by those suffering from migraine headaches." The irony. Then again, might that be extended to colds as well? After all, the terrible head cold I had for the previous week disappeared shortly after my visit. Hmmmm....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Die Prüfung

It looks like I'm going to be away from the blog for a little bit.  Next week (Oct 15th and 16th) is my first exam (Prüfung) in my German language course.  I was able to slip past one when I was moved one level higher.  Unfortunately, that means I don't have much of an idea what to expect.  And all this time I've been kicking myself because there are a whole lot of basics I never really came to grasp. Guess I must have gotten by on my charm and good looks. 

I normally wouldn't be so worried about a test in school except that this one is actually rather official and (if I understand correctly) the results I get may be asked for when looking for work, etc.  That means I'm going AWOL for a bit while trying to get a grasp of everything.  Until now, I never bothered to look up what the language levels actually stood for.  Right now I'm finishing up B1.  Here's a little chart explaining them. (Click on it for a closer look.)

So that's it until next week.  I hope to be back with some information on the tests and quite possibly about work I've found.  (The job isn't guaranteed yet, so that's all you'll hear about it for now.  I don't want to jinx it.)  Hope you can get by without me.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Happy German 4th of July, everybody!

Its Reunification Day! And to be honest, here in Cologne you wouldn't even know it.  Then again, 4th of July lends itself much better to BBQs and outdoor parties than the 3rd of October. At least I have the socks to prove it! Photos to follow... eventually.

Now This Could Only Happen in a Town Like This

Not a good week for Chicago sports or Chicago in general.  (I promise after this one to get back to the task at hand.) But it is nearly 3:30 in the morning and I can't sleep.  So please pardon any rambling I am about to do.

I had been looking forward to October 2 for quite a while.  Yesterday the International Olympic Committee chose the city for the 2016 Olympics.  That Chicago even dared to enter this competition years ago surprised me.  That it made it to the final four (alongside Tokyo, Madrid and Rio) was a bigger shock. That it got knocked out in the first round of voting... well, that was a total Chicago kind of ending.  I've gone back and forth over the last few years wondering whether this was a good idea or not.  Regardless, it certainly would have been an adventure. 

It doesn't take much to realize that The Second City has always had a huge inferiority complex.  Do a little reading on the city's Colombian Exhibition and you'll see.  The Second City. And that was before Los Angeles was more than a spot on the map, when we just had New York to be jealous about!

Since living here in Germany and talking with the locals and the not-so-locals in my classes, I found myself wanting Chicago to win. Why? Because no matter what you think back home, no one knows anything about Chicago abroad.  And I am tired of drawing an imaginary map in the air, showing where Chicago is.

Me: (pointing, down to the left) So here's Los Angeles, here. 
Local: Ja... so it is near California?
Me: No, no wait... (pointing to the far upper right) and New York is over here, right?
Local: Ja... ahhh! So you are near New York!
Me: No, no. (pointing to the left) Then Chicago is here.
Local: Und it is cold there, ja?
Me: Yeah, in the winter it gets cold.
Local: But at least you are near New York.

Here are the other four things people abroad seem to know about Chicago: it is dangerous, the Chicago Bulls are good, Al Capone "bang bang!" and that Barack Obama was born there.  (That's what they tell me, anyway.)

Now, I've told countless people that all things being fair, the Olympics should go to Rio. (Hey, who doesn't want to see beach volleyball on Copacabana?) That the Olympics have never been in South America seems almost insulting.  In the end, that seems to have been the prevailing thought behind the vote.  Still, that doesn't mean I didn't want Chicago to win. 

It was cool to see Pele jumping around like a kid after Brazil won.  Where was our version of Pele? Michael Jordan apparently could only afford the time to record a few words for some videos earlier in the process.  Thanks for nothing in regards to the bid.  I guess I was hoping for some last minute appearance - him getting off Air Force One with the president or something like that.  Maybe that was planned but they had to cancel that idea after hearing Jordan's Hall of Fame speech.

I think the city itself is about to go through some heavy self-evaluation.  For far too long it has wanted to think of itself as something much, much bigger than it is today.  I don't like to write that but it is true.  It seems like no matter what happens, it can't keep pace with the rest of the world's big cities.  NY is, well, NY.  LA is Hollywood.  Chicago is... I'm not sure what defines the city anymore.  The Obamas? I think they are seen as much too international for that "in our backyard" tactic to work.  The Bulls? They haven't done a thing in over 10 years. Architecture? The only true attempt at something completely distinguishing (on a world class level) in the last 10 years, the Spire, was a complete fuck up.

Sure Chicago likes to tout all its green buildings but it also has a crumbling transportation system and a non-existent recycling program.  Hell, it is nearly a one newspaper city.  I'm curious what the next mayoral election will bring. I think far too many big problems have been pushed aside in pursuit of the Olympics.  Maybe Daley's time is finally running out, though I know that's been written a lot over the last 20 years.

That's all pretty harsh but I mean most of it as tough love. I hope that Chicago can use all that pride and effort and begin to fix some of the serious issues facing it.  Get up, shake it off and get back to work.  That's what Chicago's always been about anyway. This time, however, I'd like to see it done with some new leadership.

Obviously I was pretty disappointed after the result.  Had they come in second, I might have felt a little better.  But only a bit.  Still, that pretty much killed our Friday evening.  Even watching the original Star Wars in German didn't cheer me up.

For all that talk about "we did good things for the city, the world knows us better now...." I only have one thought.

The current Chicago ambassador to Germany: Jim Belushi.  Seriously.  That show is on twice a day here in re-runs.  And believe me, it is just as bad in German.  On the two occasions I've worn a Bears logo in public I've been asked by strangers if I like that show.  F'in Jim Belushi.  Maybe he should have been involved in the bid instead.

Maybe this one from Junior Wells and Buddy Guy will help a bit.
06 Blues For Mayor Daley.mp3