Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Posted 26. January 2014 by Giulia Pines in Art and Culture

As in, if you read this and learn how bad the third season of Sherlock truly is, it may spoil your appreciation of the show forever.

I finally watched the long awaited first episode of the third season of Sherlock. I know Benedict Cumberbatch is a superstar now, but seriously, when did he become a superstar? I mean, I remember watching this show two years ago because it was a whip smart, modern take on a character that I thought had been done to death, and I loved the intersection with modern technology, the one-liners and asides to true, long-time Holmes fans, and the fact that they finally, after a century of trying to make Sherlock a romantic and tragic hero on the screen, admitted that he was just an asshole…and most definitely a sociopath.

But suddenly it has gone from “Benedict…who?” to “Benedict Cumberbatch, the most British man ever whose name sounds like a cross between a pudding and a sex act!” And you know what? Now, suddenly, people are watching not because they are long-time fans of Sherlock Holmes, but because they think Benedict Cumberbatch is hot. And it shows. “The Empty Hearse” was the weakest episode of the series to date. I know they had to explain how Sherlock faked his own death, and I appreciate the clever nods to fan fiction and all the outrageous theories that have been going on since then, but really, there was too much explication and not enough storyline. And when they did get down to old-fashioned detective work, it was a dud. Come ON. A bomb under Parliament? An on-off switch? Sherlock didn’t even figure out the whole thing this time (for the first time). Instead, it was the guy with the smelly hat who worked for the London Underground. He was the one who told them about the “secret station that was built but never opened DIRECTLY UNDER Houses of Parliament.” And you have to be kidding me with “secret station that was built but never opened DIRECTLY UNDER Houses of Parliament”! Really? That’s the best you could do?

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Jewish in Germany: A Response to Yascha Mounk

Posted 20. January 2014 by Giulia Pines in Open Questions

Two weeks ago – the day I landed back in Germany after six weeks in New York – the New York Times published an article by Yascha Mounk, entitled German, Jewish and Neither, which quickly made the rounds. (Well at least from my perspective, it made the rounds, as I am a New Yorker by birth and a Jew, and therefore know many other Jews.) Around that time I promised to write a blog post about my personal experience as a Jew living in Germany. At first, it was easy enough to throw the link up on Facebook along with the comment, “my experience, in reverse,” but what exactly was my experience? What did I mean that it was the reverse of Mr. Mounk’s?

Well, as it turns out, I wrote something trite and linked to the article because I simply didn’t want to consider it any further than that. I’ve tried to start this post numerous times and been stymied by my own lack of passion on the matter. Even a general interest in it. The truth is, I’ve been trying to write about being a Jew in Germany, but I’ve been much too busy trying to be an American in Germany, and a writer in Germany, and a non-native German speaker in Germany, to find the time. Of course, being Jewish adds more spice to the pot—and, by all means, yet another level of awkwardness when your secret comes out in conversation with a German, another level of closeness when you run into another Jew like you—but it’s also something you have to get used to if you suddenly go from being one of more than a million to one of a handful.

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Hinter den Kulissen

Posted 2. March 2013 by Giulia Pines in Rants

It’s like clockwork. Here we are, all living out our lives in this little bubble we call Berlin—actually a bubble inside a bubble since we are not just Berliners but expat Berliners—and then, perhaps once or twice a month, someone publishes an article, a blog post, or a rant that shatters this illusion we all hold about our lives, silencing that little voice telling us, however faintly, that we are special. That our decision to move here was more than just following a trend. That we aren’t just living out a cliché that has been lived out before our parents were even born, as old as Paul Auster, Paul Theroux, or even Hemingway before them.

A couple of months ago it was that article in the New York Times. Remember the one? If you don’t you must have been living in a cave—or maybe just not in Berlin. It detailed the legal, illegal, and definitely stupid exploits of an Australian who moved here to be a rock star, and got what he wanted—minus the music. It set off a cascade of responses, angry tweets and Facebook messages and blog posts that went unabated for a good week or two. How dare he suggest that expats are uncreative leaches? How dare he put into words that everything isn’t perfect here? Having seen it all, having gone through the highs and lows of being unemployed because I wanted it and then being unemployed even though I didn’t, of taking abuse and exploitation and low-paid jobs and the feeling that everyone was getting ahead except me, and finally, finally feeling like I’d reached the point where I could demand a certain amount of money for my time, certain expectations for myself, I remained silent. (No, this isn’t going to be like the classic quote about how they came for the Jews and the Communists and everybody, and I remained silent.) There have been articles about how gentrification is killing Berlin, and I agreed but remained silent. There have been online hate-filled screeds about hipsters and expats by hipsters and expats, in the end, the authors revealing only their own self-doubt and self-loathing. Perhaps I’ve even written something like that in the past and didn’t realize it. Never mind. I largely remained silent.

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Westward, Ho! (Part II)

Posted 12. February 2013 by Giulia Pines in Personal

Three and a half years ago, I wrote this:

“Every time I go into the west, I’m seized by the dual feelings of strangeness and familiarity. More strangeness, actually. The people here are still speaking German, and the same newspapers are on the newsstands, virtually the same ads on bus and subway kiosks, but there’s something that just feels a bit off. It’s like I can’t decide whether I’ve traveled back in time or merely to Paris.”

Looking back on it now, and reading the full entry it came from, I can’t help but marvel at how things have changed. Maybe I know the city better, or maybe I’m older and inclined to gravitate more towards stability, far less towards novelty, but taking a walk through the good old west last week, getting off the U9 at Spichernstrasse and wandering past the grand old UdK building to Ludwigkirchplatz, up past Ku’damm and over to Mommsenstrasse, gazing at the gorgeous Art Nouveau buildings, their facades bedecked with flowers, tendrils, smooth and flawless faces and figures, gold inlay and colored tile, wondering which one of them might have once belonged to my grandmother as a child, up Bleibtreu and over on Pestalozzi all the way to Suarez, finally getting on the U-bahn again at Sophie-Charlotte-Platz, I felt no trace of the alien and the new, none of the fear that gripped me before. I simply felt home.

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A Life Discovered

Posted 30. December 2012 by Giulia Pines in Personal

The other day, while I was on the treadmill at the gym, I had an epiphany. While I often get epiphanies at times like these (the two other most likely locations for the occurrence of a brilliant thought is in the shower or in bed when I first wake up and am too groggy to consider it a enough good idea to get up and actually write it down—yeah, I lose most of those) this one was special, if only for its simplicity. I may be paraphrasing here, but the thought was basically, “This is my life.” I know it doesn’t seem like much, and in fact it might be depressing for someone who is in that state of mind already. But for me, it was simply a surprise. It was a surprise because I realized, in an instant, how long it’s taken me to get here.

“I live here. This is my life.”

There’s a lot to be said about Berlin as an escapist fantasy (and a lot of people have been saying it lately), but actually, sometimes after a very long while, it ceases to be that long-hoped-for European paradise where you go until you figure out how to be an adult and just becomes real life. A couple of people have hinted at this over the years, the most memorable being my somewhat manic-depressive boss at the ad agency I first worked at, who once told me, “simply living in a place does not make you cool.” At that point, about six months into my time in Berlin and working twelve-hour days, very often including weekends, at an ill-paid and abusive internship, I had basically come to suspect as much. But he really made it clear: here was this guy, well-educated, ambitious, had founded his own company in his early thirties, and now owned a flat on the canal in Neukölln, a district where I had first started out and desperately wanted to return to. Wasn’t all that pretty damn cool? The New York Times article I link to above that caused such an uproar in the Berlin expat community the week we returned from New York at the end of November expresses a similar sentiment, only this time it’s “creativity: It’s not something you will find in a place.” Well, it turns out, neither is coolness.

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