Archives for the month of: March, 2011
Does the title of a movie or television show make a difference? Can it affect the way you feel about it?


Germany gets a lot of its entertainment from the United States, Great Britain and Scandinavia. When Germany imports foreign movies or TV shows, it frequently translates the title into German. Those translations often alter the meaning of the show. I was reminded of this as I was watching The Avengers, a 1960s TV show from the UK. The German title is Mit Schirm, Charme, und Melone. It literally means: With an Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat. It refers to the lead male character, John Steed. Mr. Steed carries an umbrella, has a certain degree of charm, and wears a bowler hat. The German title suggests that show is primarily about Mr. Steed.

I don’t know about you, but I watched the show because of the female lead, Emma Peel, played by the brilliant Diana Rigg. Mrs. Peel was clever, resourceful, beautiful, athletic and witty. She was emancipated long before Women’s Liberation, Police Woman, Cagney and Lacey, or Oprah. She could hold her own against any man while still being feminine. It wasn’t as if Mr. Steed was the key to the show’s success. In fact, the show never retained its level of popularity once Ms. Rigg left. So why have a title that emphasizes the male character while neglecting the female? Perhaps, a bit of German male chauvinism?

Not all title translations are this bad. For example, Laurel and Hardy are known as “Dick und Doof,“ (Fat and Dumb). This is certainly a more descriptive, if not funnier name for the two comedians. Moreover, the German title for the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blonds is simply Blondinen Bevorzugt (Blonds Prefer). In this case, I find the German title more appropriate since the film deals with Marilyn Monroe, a blond, trying to snag a rich husband. The movie doesn’t care an iota what the gentleman prefer.

American television shows do a bit better than films when it come to retaining their original titles. For example, Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Die Simpsons are known by their English titles. However, Little House on the Prairie is known as Unsere Kleine Farm, (Our Small Farm) and Home Improvement has the cumbersome title of Hör mal, Wer da hämmert (Listen to who’s hammering there).
Advertisements
Does the title of a movie or television show make a difference? Can it affect the way you feel about it?


Germany gets a lot of its entertainment from the United States, Great Britain and Scandinavia. When Germany imports foreign movies or TV shows, it frequently translates the title into German. Those translations often alter the meaning of the show. I was reminded of this as I was watching The Avengers, a 1960s TV show from the UK. The German title is Mit Schirm, Charme, und Melone. It literally means: With an Umbrella, Charm and a Bowler Hat. It refers to the lead male character, John Steed. Mr. Steed carries an umbrella, has a certain degree of charm, and wears a bowler hat. The German title suggests that show is primarily about Mr. Steed.

I don’t know about you, but I watched the show because of the female lead, Emma Peel, played by the brilliant Diana Rigg. Mrs. Peel was clever, resourceful, beautiful, athletic and witty. She was emancipated long before Women’s Liberation, Police Woman, Cagney and Lacey, or Oprah. She could hold her own against any man while still being feminine. It wasn’t as if Mr. Steed was the key to the show’s success. In fact, the show never retained its level of popularity once Ms. Rigg left. So why have a title that emphasizes the male character while neglecting the female? Perhaps, a bit of German male chauvinism?

Not all title translations are this bad. For example, Laurel and Hardy are known as “Dick und Doof,“ (Fat and Dumb). This is certainly a more descriptive, if not funnier name for the two comedians. Moreover, the German title for the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blonds is simply Blondinen Bevorzugt (Blonds Prefer). In this case, I find the German title more appropriate since the film deals with Marilyn Monroe, a blond, trying to snag a rich husband. The movie doesn’t care an iota what the gentleman prefer.

American television shows do a bit better than films when it come to retaining their original titles. For example, Desperate Housewives, Lost, and Die Simpsons are known by their English titles. However, Little House on the Prairie is known as Unsere Kleine Farm, (Our Small Farm) and Home Improvement has the cumbersome title of Hör mal, Wer da hämmert (Listen to who’s hammering there).

Balcony Ready for Spring
This week spring officially began, and tomorrow Daylight Savings Time returns to Germany. It’s still cold, but the days are noticeably longer. People are anxious for winter to end, and the stores and shops are filled with blooming flowers, gardening equipment, and the latest in outdoor furnishings. Like many of my neighbors, I’ve brought out the balcony furniture, filled the planter boxes with flowers, and started having my morning coffee outside. All in anticipation of spring.
Even the neighborhood crow has reappeared and started to join me for breakfast. He usually sits on the chimney across the street. I started noticing him last year. He doesn’t do much, but he does make a lot of noise. He’s there from about 6:00 AM till 6:45 AM; then he leaves, presumably for work. During the winter months, he was noticeably absent. But with the improving weather, he has returned. It’s nice having company for breakfast.
In most countries, seasons begin on the twenty-first day of the month. However, Australian seasons are the exception. Australian seasons begin on the first day of the month. For example, the start of summer is the first day of December and the start of winter is the first day of June. I was told that since Australia doesn’t have distinct seasons, why not make it easy and start the season on the first day of the month. It makes sense, but does Australia really lack seasonal change? 
When I lived in California, I was constantly told by non-natives that California had only two seasons, wet and dry. To some extent that’s true. But having lived in California most of my life, I could easily recognize the subtle seasonal variations. Whether it was the smell of the air, the quality of the light as it reflected off the ocean, or the early morning dew, I always had a keen sense of the particular season. I can’t put it into words, but California, in its own unique way, had four distinct seasons. Perhaps, it’s not unlike Australia. 
Knut was Berlin’s version of Princess Diana.  Both were attractive, both were extremely photogenic, both achieved fame suddenly, and both had tragic ends.  The outpouring of sympathy was evident today, as most of Berlin’s newspapers had headlines concerning Knut’s untimely death.  Knut’s passing also continued to be the lead story on the evening news.  Flowers, letters, and tributes began to accumulate at the entrance to the Berlin Zoo and at Knut’s enclosure. 


News Flash: Berlin Mourns the Death of Knut


Berlin Zoo officials announced today that celebrity polar bear Knut has died. Knut, arguably the world’s most famous polar bear, was found dead in his zoo enclosure late this afternoon. His death came as shock to zoo officials and Berliners alike. Knut was 4 years old.

News of his death spread rapidly. Television programing was interrupted, and news of his death became the number one item on the evening news, replacing the Japanese nuclear accident and the Libyan crisis.

Knut became world famous when his mother rejected him shortly after his birth in December 2006. He instantly became a symbol for Berlin and the perils of global warming. His fame made millions for the Berlin Zoo. There were Knut dolls, toys, and games. I even have a credit card with Knut’s picture on it. But fame also had a price. Over the years, Knut was the subject of death threats from animal rights activists who argued that polar bears should not be held in captivity. Knut’s death is under investigation.

I’m currently recovering from a cold. I usually get one about every two years; so I was due. I have the usual congestion, sneezing, and of course, the sore throat. It’s at these moments that I recall my mother’s remedy for a cold: a bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, some Nabisco Saltine Crackers, and a coloring book. The combination of these three items always worked wonders and made the discomfort of the cold less irritating. These days, the chicken noodle soup and saltines still work like a charm. (I can do without the coloring book.)
Unfortunately, trying to find a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup or even saltine crackers in Berlin is difficult. But why? We live in a world where there’s a McDonald’s in every city and town, and where the Internet connects people all over the planet. This is the age of globalization! Yet, despite all these advancements, there are still things only obtainable in the USA. 

When I first came to Europe in the late 1970s, you were advised to bring your own toilet paper since the European stuff was like wax paper. Things have improved a lot since then. The toilet paper is now softer, and almost every German supermarket carries its share of American junk food items such as peanut butter, diet soft drinks, chocolate chips cookies, decaffeinated coffee, and even popcorn.
BTW:  I did eventually get some quasi-chicken noodle soup and cardboard like Swedish whole wheat crackers (yuck). Lesson to be learned: Don’t get a cold in Germany. 

Rumer is a British singer, and her debut album, “Seasons Of My Soul,” has

been called absolutely stunning by the German press. Thanks, in part, to Rumer’s clear and resonant voice, her album has a distinct 1960s sound with a fresh and contemporary twist. She reminds me of Karen Carpenter and Dusty Springfield. “Das Debütalbum der Sängerin Rumer ist wirklich verblüffend, retro, und altmodish.” Have a listen.


As the tragedy in Japan has unfolded over the past few days, I’ve had to learn a whole new lexicon of German words. For example, the words for Nuclear Power Plant are “das Kernkraftwerk,” “das Atomkraftwerk,” or their abbreviations “AKW,” or “KKW.” The word for nuclear meltdown is “die Kernschmelze.”
Last year, the German government announced that it would extend the life of its oldest nuclear facilities despite opposition from the Green Party. However, in the wake of the Japanese tragedy, Germany has had to reconsider its nuclear policy. Chancellor Merkel announced yesterday that seven of its oldest nuclear plants would be closed down temporarily for three months to evaluate safety and one plant would be closed permanently. Mrs. Merkel also said that Germany would accelerate its renewable energy program.
As is often the case, it takes a tragedy to motivate governments to do something to improve the safety of its citizens. It seems governments never seem to be proactive but reactive. In the case of Japan, it did everything humanly possible to mitigate the dangers of a nuclear accident. Yet, a natural disaster can lay waste to the best made plans. I was reminded once more of just how ruthless Mother Nature can be. Some disasters are so far-reaching that it’s hard to prepare for them. I believe that no matter how prepared we are, when a calamity of massive proportions enters the picture, all bets are off. In the case of nuclear power, we need to answer the question: are the dangers worth risk?
As a child, I was often told that children should be seen and not heard. Today, children are indulged far too much. At least it seems that way to me. I was reminded of this permissive attitude as I was having lunch at a neighborhood restaurant.

At the table next to mine were two children between the ages of 7-10. They were completely out of control. They were jumping on their chairs, throwing utensils on the floor, screaming their lungs out, and generally making a playground out of the restaurant. Their parents did nothing.

Today the child’s happiness is all-important. But what about the parents’ happiness or the happiness of the causal observer? A good old-fashioned spanking is out of the question: no modern child-rearing manual would permit such barbarity. You’re not even allowed to shout at a child because he or she might never recover from the dreadful traumatic experience. Who knows what deep psychological wounds could be inflicted.

So modern parents bend over backwards to avoid giving their children complexes, which a hundred years ago hadn’t been heard of. Certainly, a child needs love, but the excessive permissiveness of modern parenting is surely doing more harm than good. Just look at today’s self-absorbed, egocentric, and selfish adults, many of whom have been reared on this modern approach.

Yet, excessive permissiveness isn’t a new phenomena. It has been around for a long time. Henry James (1843-1916) wrote about it in his 1878 novella, Daisy Miller. I recently re-read Daisy Miller and then watched the 1974 film version by Peter Bogdanovich. I enjoyed both the film and the novella. Daisy Miller is a fascinating work that says more about growing up in present day America or Europe than any contemporary novel or film. The book is still very relevant. I wish I had a given a copy of the book to the parents of those two out of control kids. Perhaps, they could have learned something. 

Whether it’s Berlin, Portland or Timbuktu, there are always people out to make a quick buck. The other day, I answered the doorbell to find what appeared to be a member of the German Red Cross asking for donations. Before the young man had an opportunity to open his mouth, I politely said I wasn’t interested and closed the door.


I didn’t give the matter much thought until 20 minutes later when I left the house to do some shopping. As I was walking down the street, I noticed the “Red Cross Man” being arrested. Apparently, he had been scamming the neighborhood and someone had called the police.

When I think about it, there was something odd about him. Perhaps, it was the over-the-top uniform festooned with Red Cross emblems or the strangeness of the Red Cross making door-to-door solicitations. In any case, I found the incident quintessentially German. First, somebody noticed the scam and immediately called the police. And more surprisingly, the police responded quickly to what I took as a minor offense. How would things have unfolded in the United States? Would someone have called the police? Would the police have responded? And if so, would the culprit have been arrested?

In Germany there is no offense that is too small to go unreported, let alone unpunished. Germans seem to have a law or regulation for almost everything. Big government isn’t something that needs to be reduced but nurtured.