Almost midnight, warm; fountain splashing, crickets singing. They’re not entirely in sync; I almost expect an angry clacking sound of a baton rapped on a music stand, and a tiny voice saying “take it again, from the top.”

No more travelogues, but there are a few details I want to address. Advertising, for example. When we got to German I realized how little advertising I’d seen. Perhaps that’s a consequence of spending most of our time in the old historic districts, but even on the way into town there wasn’t the same amount of ads as you’ll see in the states. In Germany, we got off the tram, and I saw a happy chicken. An unnervingly happy chicken. Also an ad for a beer, featuring a woman wearing a WILD Tshirt and a strange expression.

These turned out to be the only two ads I saw, aside for a music show on TV. Everywhere I went, chicken and wild-woman.



That was a video ad display, something that would be swiftly disabled or defaced by feral citizens in most large American cities. Let’s take the chicken first.



What could this be for? Ads have two components: picture and text. The latter either reinforces the former or comments on it; “hip” and “edgy” ads usually prefer to undercut the image with a witty riposte. Today I ran it through the translator, and it comes out as “Gals, makes yourself," or something like that. There's a vernacular aspect I'm sure I'm not getting.

It points to a website, which is this. Warning: not safe for work if you have the sound up. Nothing naughty about the pictures, but there’s a button, and . . . well, a button is all there is, really, and the more you press it, the more ardent the sounds.

Put that together with a chicken that’s had a makeover, and I don’t know what you’re supposed to conclude. But when I googled the name, hello:



It’s a women’s TV channel. The chickens? Is that supposed to be the audience? Chicks? Wouldn’t work in the States. Lost in translation, as they say. Now, Wild-Woman:



The text translates as "Alster and what a grilled."

I think. I'm guessing the literal translation doesn't contain 10% of the nuance here. So I can only speculate. So:

A better copy of the picture is here at the Astra beer website. Note she appears to be something of an exaggeration, an archetype - maybe a bit too old for the look? A bit too tan, a bit too fit? Note she’s saying “Alster” - does that indicate an accent or a malapropism, which fits with the stereotype she represents?

About the campaign, the Astra site says:

Sex and wild revelry in advertising? Ugh! The new Astra campaign fights for custom, decency and morality. This is of course out of Astra shows its soft side, but does not always like mince. And maintained with rebellious swagger Astra - finally a decent beer!

Tongue-in-cheek, then: moral ads without blatant sex. Meaning, So, perhaps she’s responding to something someone said: would you like an Astra and a [word for a grilled sausage].

It makes you realize that for illiterate people, ads are utterly confusing.

Busy weekend, full house: mother-in-law and sister-in-law in town for niece-in-law’s baby shower. Just for fun I should have insisted on attending. Uh - that’s not necessary. I know, but I’m so happy for her! I want to see what she gets! You really don’t have to. Oh, come on, it’ll save you the time of telling me all the things she got and what her expression was like when she saw them. No, you can’t go. FINE! Storm out, slam doors. It would be odd because most men would rather drive a railroad spike through their foot than attend a baby shower, because it’s the total opposite of everything men are interested in. Other people’s babies are one thing; other people’s babies’ onesies are really quite another.

There was also a birthday dinner for my sister-in-law at a local French restaurant, where I sat next to a fellow from South Africa who’s led an interesting life. Assuming he didn’t make it all up, although I doubt it; fabulists usually don’t come up with stories about working a supply ship in the Navy, followed by a career in frozen fish. This makes three South Africans I’ve met this month, and two out of three were very serious people. Not given to levity. That’s enough for an overgeneralization! Two were on the ship; they ran the art gallery. I cannot imagine who buys art on ships. They have auctions. I watched them. People buy utter crap.

Which reminds me: one night at dinner I was seated next to a grey-haired twig-thin fellow in a white suit who introduced himself as Leonardo, in a lilting accent. I thought: this is going to be a hard supper. Sometimes the language barrier make for complications. I asked where he was from.

“Venice,” he said. Then he leaned over and said, in a Texas accent: “Venice, California. I’m an Amurcan.” Sly wink. Oh, Leo was a caution: one of those guys who’ll make a big bad joke with a straight face, let it sit there, shoot you a sidelong glance: you appreciated that, didn’t you? I knew I liked you for a reason. When I asked what he did, he said he’d operated a fine-arts gallery with his wife, mostly 19th century works, and now it was an easy supper: we were off on that subject for the next hour.


I watched “Drive,” because Netflix decided to work again, and because I’d heard it was worth seeing. It has an 8.2 rating on imdb, and most of the reviews consist of one star. Go figure. It’s one of those movies you either give one star or ten, and I think the reason I liked it so much was the self-conscious screaming references to the 80s - it’s almost like a Miami Vice episode directed by David Lynch, after he’d gotten notes from the studio that said “just none of that weird stuff. We love the weird stuff but not here.” The font gives it away - as does the music, which has that throbbing synth sound that underlaid all the quality neo-noir of the era. There’s a violent scene in a motel that has the same jarring abruptness of “Live and Die in LA,” which was one of the most unsettling films I’d ever seen.

I've seen this movie a dozen times before. The trick is to make it seem as if you've never seen it before, which it did. Only afterwards did I think hey, that's every silent stoic man-with-n0-name-and-mad-skillz movie, right down to the civilized bad guy (Albert Brooks, terrific) who bosses around the crazy bad guy (Ron Perlman, sculpted out of thick plastic ham, and also great) and the careworn love interest.

It was on a personal double bill with the 1934 version of “Babbitt,” the other Sinclair Lewis novel telling people how empty and banal Minnesotans were. “Main Street” was about Sauk Center; “Babbitt” is set in Zenith, but supposedly it’s Duluth. The city is located in the fictional state of Winnemac, which makes you wonder: how can you have a fictional state? Doesn’t your book abandon claims to realism when you set it in, say, West Dakotana?

Happy Monday; see you around. By which I mean the tumblr, the twitter, and the Strib blog - which doesn't seem to have a permanent link yet, but it'll always be on the front page of the paper around noon. Have a grand day!







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