I never realized I was a Cher fan. Sure, I begged my parents to let me stay up past my bedtime to watch the Sonny and Cher show but, hello, I was, like, 6. That was more than 30 years ago. A long, long time later, the X-Files did a kind of tribute show to her, I totally got off on it. I realized I adore her.
A friend went to Cher's show in Evansville, Indiana earlier this year, and said Cher put on a beyond fabulous show. I check pollstar.com every month to see who is playing in the area, and when I saw Cher was, indeed, coming to Deutschland, I knew I had to go. Joining me was Carrie, from Canada, and her husband, Hilmar (from here), along with Chad (from Kentucky -- therefore, we are cousins), and my friend Louise (visiting here from Britain).
And how was she? Cher was fabulous. She looked and sounded terrific, and looked like she was enjoying herself very much. What a show! In between songs (and costume changes) they would show clips from her various TV shows and movies. When they showed scenes from Sonny and Cher (particularly the cartoon videos they used to show for songs, or her coming in some ever-memorable outfit), Carrie and I would squeal, "I REMEMBER THAT!!" The words "icon" and "diva" get thrown around alot, but Cher is the real deal.
Our section was boring -- we were one of the few in our part of the cheap seats being totallly crazy. HELLO, IT'S CHER. The people behind us thought we were hilarious -- we never stopped moving or singing or screaming through the whole thing, except when Cher sang, "Love Hurts", in a beyond fabulous lavender gown. When she sang "Walking in Memphis", I had to stand up and dance. It is absolutely my favorite song by Cher. I want it sung at my funeral. By Cher.
But I think Evansville got a better show than I did -- she said only one thing to the audience all night at our show. I guess someone told her we wouldn't understand English. Therefore, the show was just an hour and 40 minutes -- with banter, I'm sure the Evansville show was longer.
There was no publicity for this show -- no ads in the paper, only a few posters around town. And the thing was still almost sold out.
In addition to the lack of witty banter from her US shows, we also had a dreadful opening act -- Björn Again, an ABBA cover band. I hated them. And I love ABBA. ABBA is, like, the official band of all of Europe. I never realized how much I liked ABBA until I saw "Muriel's Wedding" and "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert", which are packed with ABBA songs For me, ABBA has a high cheese/kitsch factor, and sometimes, I'm in the mood for that. But Björn Again -- no.
It was 6 a.m. Sunday morning, and I was walking towards the park next door for Buster and Albi's morning romp. As I was crossing the street, I noticed a small white box slowly and methodically making circles in the field several yards from me. In just a few seconds, I realized it was a creature with its head stuck in a cup. And when I got closer, I realized it was a hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are nocternal (sp?) creatures, and head for home as soon as it starts to get light. Therefore, I knew that, most likely, this poor little fellow had been walking around like this for at least a few hours, scared out of his little wits. I almost started to cry.
I frantically got Albi and Buster tied up to a park bench, took off my house keys (I wear them around my neck) and slowly walked through the grass to the hedgehog, so he couldn't feel the rhythm of my feet. I could see it was a McDonald's ice cream cup, with the plastic top still on. The top fit perfectly around the hedgehog's head, meaning he could get in just fine, but couldn't pull its head back out, because it its arms are too short and because of the way it's fur lays (like a porcupine's).
I got right up to him (her?), bent down, and just gripped the cup. The hedgehog stopped. A second passed and I pulled as gently as I could. That made him pull back in the other direction (natural instinct). And then just a second later, out his head popped. I knew he was dazed, and scared, so I immediately turned around and walked back to the dogs. When I looked back, he had gotten his bearings and was slowly plodding away. I had to keep Albi on her leash, as it turned out he was walking the entire link of the park to the abandoned military offices, land which is now overrun with wild rabbits. And at least one very stressed out hedgehog.
Would you like to see the alternative to Bible-thumping fundamentalists who treat women as second-class citizens and want to take science out of schools and want to force everyone to follow their version of Christianity? Then check out the United Church of Christ online newsletter
So, there I was, on a bus, driving down the autobahn with a group of German volunteer firefighters and their wives...
How many people get to say that?!
No, really, there I was. We went to Dresden on a big tour bus. It was a lovely drive, and a good opportunity to get to know more of East Germany. The change from West to East Germany is no longer obvious, archetecturally-speaking, for the most part. Along the way were a few charming villages, small hamlets sitting beside gorgeous little rivers. There were also signs of rather profound environmental degradation -- there's a lot to clean up in the East.
On the way to Dresden, we stopped in Weimer, which is cute... but kind of too kitschy for me. And the whole time, I wondered about the people of Weimer, knowing what was happening in Buchenwald, which is none too far away. I would very much have liked to stop and tour the site, but there was no time. Between 1937 and 1945, more than one fifth of the 250,000 incarcerated there died. In April 1945, as US troops approached and SS guards fled, the prisoners rebelled and overwhelmed the remaining guards, thus liberating themselves. After the war, the Soviet victors worked 7000 Germans to death in the camp (literally).
That Dresden was once a jewel of a city is still evident. Many of the most beautiful buildings have been restored, and are at their most beautiful at night, when they are specially-lit. We came upon a night-tour of Dresden, lead by performers in 18th century outfits, and it looked like so much fun... but I don't speak German, so...
We broke away from the main tour group at one point in the "Zwinger", and went into the Mathematics and Physics Salon. Yes, that's right, Mom, I willingly went into a museum with the word "Math" in its name. In fact, it was my idea. I adore antique nautical instruments, astronomical instruments, globes and clocks. They seem magical to me. I'm convinced that the people who could use these almost-ancient tools are smarter than people are now. This museum is full of particularly great items. The downstairs is the best.
I not only went to a museum with the word "math" in it, but also, went with about a dozen volunteer fireman to tour the Dresden fire department. Rather amazing -- there were a lot of training facilities, which I had never seen before. But my favorite item was the animal rescue van. The fire departments in Germany take on the calls that, in the U.S., would normally be handled by animal control, except for lost animals. That night, we walked around Dresden at night, and stopped at a pub on the waterfront that had a picture of Vladamir Puten stopping by on one occassion.
We stayed three nights at Baumwiese, which I loved. It's rare that we stay in such luxury on a vacation! Our crew from Hohr-Grenzhausen took almost every room at the hotel, and Stefan and I were lucky enough to get one of the apartments at the hotel (at which time Stefan learned the meaning of the phrase, "We hit the jackpot!"). The food was mostly outstanding (we had a set menu every evening, and the breakfast buffet was terrific), and the firemen drank the place out of Heiffe Weisen just over half way through our stay.
Sorry, but we did not attend the Karl May festival, occurring near our hotel, so I cannot report how it was.
We also went to Bastei, a breath-taking series of gorgeous stone craggy outcrops that gives amazing views of the surrounding forests and mountains, and the river far, far below. Aside from the large and very sturdy stone bridge, the other bridges are metal and, though very strong, have floors that are transparent -- which means I stared forward *alot*. We went to another very high fort about an hour away, but I can't find the name of it anywhere...
I'm still mad at myself for forgetting my Germany Lonely Planet. I would have loved to have seen Weesenstein, "of of the most under-visited and untouched extant medieval castles in Germany," but I didn't know about it until we got back and I could read about all the places we had been.
I'm glad I finally made it to Dresden, but I don't think it's quite worth a trip just to see Dresden. My advice: include other stops as well.
We also made it to Ehrfurt, which turned out to be a really charming city. I would love to have spent much more time there.
Buster is hanging in there really well. His personality is still completely intact. The other day, we walked by some teenage girls, and I immediately had my hackles up -- because, as we know, I HATE teenagers. And then they all went, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh" and made a complete fuss over Buster. He's still such a lady killer.I separate the dogs when I go to work, and when I come home, because Buster really needs to rest without Albi bothering him constantly, which she does when I'm not here for more than a couple of hours. Albi has totally stopped bullying him, as she has well learned that Mommy is the Queen. Buster still gives Albi baths occassionally, and she enjoys it for about 15 minutes. He has better days than others regarding moving around. He still decides every other day or so that he wants to run, and so we lope along. He can't really run anymore, but it's faster than I walk. But most of the time, he ambles along, sometimes far behind me. One of his back legs is quite weak. I use a retractable leash with him, because he's so easily distracted and won't always follow me (because there is something really interesting right HERE). Sometimes I feel guilty: he always loved other dogs so much, but had to be kept away from other dogs because Wiley had to be kept away, and now that he can be near them, he's a little afraid of some of them. He was never that way. I think part of it is that he can't see very well, and can't move very fast, so he feels vulnerable -- must be some kind of instinct thing.
Albi has been with me for a year. She is sooooo playful -- because of her attitude and size, everyone thinks she's seven MONTHS old, not seven YEARS old. She wants to play when I get up, when I get home, and about an hour before bed. I have been taking a ball with us on our walks after work, and she's so funny with it: she runs after the ball, runs past the ball, runs back to the ball, picks it up, shakes it like crazy to "kill" it, runs past me with the ball, and drops it several meters behind me and runs off. She loves to run, and loves all but three other dogs, and it's so nice to have a dog I can leave off leash when we are in a park. With other dogs, most of the time, she runs like crazy at the dog, scaring the dog to death, smells him or her, then runs like crazy back to me. The end. She's still so in love with Stefan. And with Mario, one of my dog sitters. Stefan and I took her walking up a small mountain/hill/whatever near my house, and she was an angel. I just cannot believe someone gave this dog up. She's so loving and sweet and well-behaved. I took her to the vet to get chipped, and when we were done, and his assistant was giving the dogs a treat, and Dr. Hermann stared at her for a moment, and said, while looking at her with such affection, "She is smiling, I think. Yes, and, sometimes, she is even laughing." You have to hear that in his wonderful warm voice and German accent to really appreciate it. She's come a long way since I first got her. Now I'm trying to be better about teaching her stuff -- I've been really lazy.
The recent 60th anniversary of D-Day brought to mind that the 60th anniversary of the Americans taking the bridge at Remagen would be coming soon as well. The battle end date, as far as I know, is March 7, so I'm going to start looking for some kind of commemeration ceremonies -- I would love to go. Remagen is just a 15 minute train ride away, although we could go by bike... if I can get myself into better shape... I can get there, but I'm not sure I could make it back... The Friedensmuseum (Peace Museum) in Remagen will, I hope, have more information on their web site later this year.
The latest Harry Potter movie? My thoughts? Well... first, realize that I am much more a fan of the books than the movies. I don't think the movies should have been attempted until all of the Potter books were complete, because only then could a worthwhile, stand-alone cinematic experience have been adapted/created. I am not one of those people that believes movies can never be as good as the book (look no further than "The Shawshank Redemption" or "Stand By Me" or "To Kill A Mockingbird".... and I could go on).
I think that this latest Harry Potter film is much better than the first two, and much closer to the spirit of the books -- something that is often achieved NOT by trying to be literal and overly-reverant to the material. The Harry Potter story is so much more than a fantastic, fun world of magical places and things, and this movie acknowledges, even embraces, the darker side and deeper themes of the books.
I think the success of this film can be tied to the direction, which was WAY better than the first two films. I don't know if it's because Alfonso Cuaron is just that much better or if Chris Columbus felt so restrained by Rowling and others during the first two films. I always felt sorry for Chris Columbus, who had a nearly impossible job. Maybe, as producer, he was able to create the atmosphere for Cuaron that he wishes he had had. Cuaron's touches make this the best of the three films so far and by far, IMO. Like the scene of the guys eating the animal candies: a priceless little moment that did nothing to forward the plot but did everything to show you what a contrast his life at Hogwart's is to his life on Privat Drive -- after all, it's not ONLY for the magic and wonder of it all. This scene is a perfect example of what was missing from the first films.
Another of my favorite little moments:
"Spiders want me to tapdance. I don't want to tapdance!"
"You tell those spiders, Ron!"
As usual, what I loved most were the sets. I just want to stare at the rooms endlessly, at all of the paintings and gadgets and furniture and colors. Feast for the eyes. Every second is lucious to look at.
I adored Emma Thompson. And while I had been really disappointed in the casting of Lupin based on the photos of the actor before I saw the movie, I changed my mind during the movie -- I thought the guy was awesome. He brought all of the humanity and care and passion and pathos to that character that were needed for this story to work. In fact, he was so good that, at the end, based only on the events of the movie, I thought it didn't quite make sense that Harry was so into being with Sirrius, because it was Lupin with whom he'd really made a connection in the film.
But even with all the pluses, the film still falls short for me. It still cannot stand alone without the book. There's still a book-in-motion feel instead of a story-come-to-life feel for me. And, in addition -- I mean, geesh, how in the world could they leave out *why* the Womping Willow was planted and why the Shrieking Shack was thought to be haunted? And most importantly -- how could they leave out the part about why Snape hates Black? I had to explain all this afterwards to my beau, as well as what "Prongs, Padfoot, Wormtail and Moony" meant.
Oh, and Parvati's clown was MUCH scarier than her snake Boggart! I'd rather face the snake!!
I have to add one more thing -- the biggest plus with this movie was seeing it with Wisam, my very dear friend and co-worker, someone who is leaving for a job in Africa soon. She's 25, originally from Sudan, and her family came here to Germany in the 90s. She one of those modern Muslim women who is so loving and caring that it makes you want to learn more about Islam, rather than run screaming from it. She is so gorgeous -- and she has an even more gorgeous sweetness within her. I lent her the first Harry Potter book more than a year ago, and she turned into a HUGE fan She is so into Quidditch that she can tell you all about what a great seeker she would be if she could just get hold of a flying broom. She's just started book four (English isn't her first language, so it takes a while). She has never seen a Potter film, and went with us for the movie. She squealed and laughed and gasped and said, "OH MY GOD!!" about a million times -- that she enjoyed it so much made it all the more enjoyable for me. And she finally gets why I dig AR. She turned to me at one point and said, "Oh, that VOICE." Oh, indeed.
Oh, and for all you HARD CORE fans of the genre: apparently, the number of people reading particular online groups devoted to the genre are worldwide: near the end of the film, when Snape says that Sirius and and Lupin were acting like an old married couple, a group of girls about 10 rows down squealed as though they had just heard an inside joke. And I think they had, intentional or not.
So, my friend Louise was visiting from Britain. And she, Stefan, the dogs and I were walking by a very large mansion/castle thingy next to my apartment complex. It sets up on a hill, and is surrounded by an iron gate. We can see a bit onto the grounds, high above us peasents... and this time, this is what I saw: a group of at least a dozen children, running around and making lots of noise, and a very large, tall man with what I hope was a massive long-haired black wig and long black beard. At one of the parts of the grounds we could there were three large circles each set onto a long stick that was stuck in the ground. And suddenly a ball came flying through one of the goals and everyone started yelling "Yea!!!!!"
Now, you tell ME what it was...
NOTE: I am looking for a Non-Partisan Group Supporting Peace in the Middle East. Please help!
Don't forget! Stefan is planning for his motorbike trip in the USA for May 2005 and he is still in need of some key information! Please read about the info he is looking for, and any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Your thought for the day:
"Think about this for a minute: He left college, and he volunteered three different ways. First he volunteered for military service. Then he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. And then he volunteered for some of the most dangerous, hazardous duty you could possibly have in Vietnam. As a result, he was wounded multiple times. He won a whole series of medals while he was there. And now-this is an amazing thing-a vice president of the United States who avoided service four, five, six times-I've lost count-[and] a president of the United States who can't account for a year of his national guard service are attacking John Kerry for the medals he won in Vietnam? You have got to be kidding me."That's John Edwards, talking about John Kerry at a Florida Democratic Party fund-raiser in June 2004. Found it in an article on Slate. I think it says it all.
No tears for Ronald Reagan in my home
I am beyond tired of the tributes for a man who should have gone to prison. The only tears in my home are for the people whose lives Reagan destroyed through the crimes he committed. When I think of his deal with the Iranians to let the hostages go on his inaugration day so he would look good, and his continuing dealings with them to fund his illegal war in Latin America, his blind eye to HIV/AIDS at a time when his attention could have saved hundreds (and probably, ultimately, millions), that he branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist and supported apartheid, that the he supported the overthrow of the government in Mozambique, that he worked tireless and digilantly to take away women's control of their own bodies.... Reagon was an evil man who harmed the USA beyond measure. Good riddance. And if you think that's harsh, consider this -- I didn't feel this way at all when Tricky Dick died. And I pretty much hated him too.
You know what REALLY makes me mad -- Bill Clinton enjoyed Read all about it.
My favorite review of the Reagan years, much more accurate than what the wimpy corporate press will say (or has ever said).
Another good review of the Reagan years
And don't miss this humourous look from the White House.Org site
What's Been Interesting to Me Lately
A reminder: I don't re-check these links or update them. If a link doesn't work and Google doesn't lead you to the new web site, try using the old URL at archive.org
you must feed the elephants (and have a look at how they are doing every day, via the live web cam)More soon...
Speaking of webcams, don't miss this storks in the next now! Stork Cam!
Thank you, Judy Blume, for keeping me from going insane when I was a pre-teen. Anyone who wants to ban her books should be slapped repeatedly -- and then forced to read them all.
With political advertising such an issue in this year's race for President, check out factcheck.org, a site run by Annenberg Political Fact Check, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The group researches the truthfulness of campaigns ads.
Hope you will consider becoming an online volunteer and providing your time and expertise to help organizations working in and for the developing world. This terrific free service is brought to you and the world by the United Nations, about which I have many feelings.
If you have read this blog, PLEASE let me know. Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing.
Essays home page | My Germany home page | contact me
The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.