September 12, 2009
I might be still experiencing jet lag, but I’ll only be able to tell once my head stops spinning. Thanks to the recent S-Bahn Chaos, my train got about halfway to the Hauptbahnhof before I had to get off Friedrichstraße to a closed track. So I hoofed it over in the nice weather and took in some sights, seeing as Bertolt-Brecht-Platz, the Berliner Ensemble, the Bundestag, and the scenic Spree River lie between Friedrichstraße and the Hauptbahnhof. Of all these buildings, the one that impressed me the most was actually the Hauptbahnhof, which embodied a similar grandeur as Grand Central Station in New York. So much shiny glass at assorted angles (though the same could be said of much of Berlin)! From there, I couldn’t find a decent S-Bahn line that’d take me back to Yorckstrasse that didn’t cross a closed line, so my feet took me all the way back – through Tiergarten, Potsdamer Platz, and Schöneberg past Kleistpark. Loud speeches and cheers attracted me to Potsdamer Platz, which was surrounded by traffic cops and security guards with berets. It turns out it was this Freedom Not Fear 2009 Rally, an event jointly organized by Die Linke, die Grüne Partei and the international anti-copyright Piratenpartei. I saw union leader Frank Bsirske deliver this speech, and noticed that there were a lot of computer-geek-type people in the crowd demonstrating against corporate and state privacy-violations. My sympathies against the surveillance state, which is a giant problem in the States as well, earned me a free copy of the TAZ Junge Welt. The issue contained more Marx than I would think relevant to today’s young people, but maybe the texts of young Marx will galvanize another generation of Germans like they did in the 1960s.
Though visiting this rally was pretty cool, I generally felt an ennui settle in about my first weekend. I had intended to come here and finish up a few projects before heading to the Fulbright meeting in Göttingen on Monday, but I thought that as a new resident of Berlin, I should wander around and get to know it better. It turns out that – emotionally speaking – I probably should just stay in tomorrow and work on those projects. See, in Berlin, there are two types of people out and about: people who walk efficiently and seem to have important goals… and groups of friends/acquaintances walking inefficiently and hanging out. There is no middle ground, and woe to he who has neither goals nor friends like – to be frank – me at this point. This will all change once A) I begin to head down to Potsdam regularly for classes, B) Kat moves out here, and C) I become embedded in some social networks, so that I can join the inefficient groups of acquaintances. But as a cultured flaneur, I pretty much get a big “F” for now.
Ai no corrida (In the Realm of the Senses, Nagisa Oshima, 1976)
It’s 1936: Sada Abe falls madly in love with Kichi and, well, vice versa. Hopelessly addicted to each other, their relationship spirals into madness and into a historically documented violent act. This was my second time with Oshima’s ode to Eros’ destructive relationship with Thanatos, with the first being a bad VHS copy viewed during my phase of watching every controversial/banned art film I could lay my hands on. Even more sensuous on 35mm than it was on VHS, the film offers us a strange dilemma: we must choose between being more disturbed by the unblinkingly graphic sex scenes and the looks on the actors’ faces while they’re performing them. A movie that plays with your empathic instinct like putty in the director’s hand, In the Realm of the Senses remains an absolute masterpiece of modernist pornography, drawing a line of continuity between incongruous films such as Last Tango in Paris, Deep Throat, The Legend of Paul and Paula, The Night Porter, and Satan’s Brew.