Wild pigs in Berlin

Just ran across this National Wildlife Federation article from last year. Apparently there are thousands of wild boars living in the Berlin suburbs. Who knew? (Aside from the householders who have to argue with a 400-pound beast to get to their garbage can).

Today some 7,000 to 8,000 boars live in Berlin year-round, compared to an estimated 3,000 full-time city swine in 1989. An additional 3,000 to 4,000 of the animals move in during spring to search for food and places to bear their young—up to 12 per litter, which has prompted some scientists to start experimenting with boar contraception. They hope a “pig pill,” delivered through pellets left in food troughs in the forest, will help curb the species’ exploding populations.

The land of bleeding

I’ve forgotten, living in Germany, what advertising is for. In Berlin it is language practice, and I study every ad I pass, translating and puzzling out the words I don’t know. Last week reaching London, and particularly Oxford Street, I found myself overwhelmed by people, commerce, traffic. I’ve become provincial; the sheer density of shrill commercial messages alone was shocking, the pressure to spendbuybe enough to raise my hackles as against a threat. This in a place where everything, given today’s exchange rate, is twice as expensive or more than in the United States.

I’ve never found myself comfortable in London.Maybe this is part of it, or because I’ve always been passing through on the way to somewhere else, and so never slowed down and given it time. I’m not sure that slow or time are relevant concepts there. I feel far more comfortable in New York, as far as dense metros go. But this is because I understand the rhythms of people there, while in London I understand only the flow of currency and commerce. I know there is more.
I can understand why Anders (whose play was hilarious, despite the unapproved editings of the director) reacts so strongly there against the economic system. London is a place to quicken the mind, and test ideas, and if it is an apotheosis of a system, that system is flawed.
Better is Brighton, a seaside town that is part Berkeley, part Santa Cruz, part flamboyantly and gloriously gay. People go there to slow down a bit, and while it is nothing like the country, it at least is on a human scale, with the sea to remind everyone that they should stop and pay attention to the horizon once in a while.

Oxfordian collectors, on the bus

On the top story of a traditional English double-decker bus, heading from Oxford to London, surfing via a wi-fi connection onboard. It’s the first time I’ve personally seen on-board wireless on a bus, but Cyrus, a friend and colleague who was recently in Estonia tells of a similar service there on a bus to Latvia. The Baltics are naturally ahead

We’ve spent the last few days in Oxford, come to see Anders, who has adapted an old Polish absurdist play about totalitarian police so successful that they’ve had to start arresting each other to stay in business. We’ll see the play tonight. He’s on his way to being a brilliant playright, bitterly funny, intellectually far more honest than most writers of left or right, struggling to find a way to critique, expose, eviscerate capitalist and consumer assumptions. His next is a torture comedy. Stay tuned.

We visited here the Pitt Rivers museum, essentially an unorganized closet of all the curiosities collected by generations of culture-deaf imperialists: shrunken heads, arrows, musical instruments, mummies, swords and model boats, sleds, all packed into a small dark room that’s barely organized by rough theme. An exemplary note, over a skull with a spearhead through it, reads something like: “Found by the collector on a wooden window-shelf.” And presumably stolen while the owner of the house wasn’t looking. With little or no context for the articles, it’s less of a true anthropology museum than a snapshot of the collector’s mind: cluttered, obsessive, as uncaring of propriety or property as a magpie. Everyone should see it.

International language of film is English.

The Berlinale is ongoing, one of the largest film festivals in the world, 500 flicks to be seen in a few weeks time, stars in town seeing the glamorous sights like the mall at Potzdamer Platz, and a whole host of genuinely great movies. We saw our first tonight, the Chinese “Getting Home,” or literally translated “Fallen Leaves Return to Roots” — a sweetly bitter comedy about a laborer who, thanks to a drunken promise, is bringing his friend’s dead body across the country to return it to his home. Much difficulty ensues. Dead men rise and walk, sometimes just roll down mountains in giant wheels. The director, who was there, described it as a “Chinese road movie.”

It’s strange that virtually all the festival movies are translated into English. The announcers speak in English. Barely any actual German around. No wonder the French hate Hollywood.

Interrupting this broadcast

I rarely write about TV, because a) I don’t watch much and b) I can barely make ours work. But for the last few days we’ve been re-obsessing with the unparalleled Battlestar Galactica, getting into the third season via iTunes. It’s incredible, a sci-fi show that’s dark, with deep characters, and has managed to make one of the most intense anti-war, or at least provocative pro-thinking statements I’ve seen from popular art about Iraq to date.

For those who haven’t followed: Humans are on the run from the Cylons. There aren’t many humans left. They settle on a planet, but the Cylons catch up with them, and decide that they’re going to make amends for the whole genocide episode by occupying the colony and bringing stability, the hope of peaceful co-existence, and their superior religion. The humans here take the role of Iraqis; there’s an Abu Ghraib, there are prisoners with bags over their heads, there are despised police working with the occupiers, there are occupiers trying to figure out why they’re not being welcomed, and how to win over the locals’ hearts and minds by improving the quality of toilet paper. There is an insurgency. Even suicide bombings.

It’s utterly intense, heartbreaking, great drama. It doesn’t totally make sense (what war scenario really does, come on). But as a way to provoke role-reversal analysis, it’s beautiful, unsubtle, and necessary today.

From a Pittsburgh article a bit ago:

Instead of trying to out-do “Star Trek,” producers went back to the origins of science-fiction, taking their cues from the novels of Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. “Those were all about the allegorical and socio-political commentary, which we felt had been lost in contemporary science fiction. It wasn’t so much about us coming up with a new idea as going back to an old one, using science-fiction as a smokescreen to discuss and invest in issues of the day.” (sez executive producer David Eick)

More power to them. This is popular art done *well,* with a tradition that goes all the way back to Aristophanes’ bitterly anti-war comedies.