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2014 – the year in books

I didn’t read much in 2014, partly due to my excessive biking, but here is the annual summary.

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Fiction

Alberto Moravia: Agostino (1942)

The Number One of the last years! The ultimate novella (only 150 pages) about not being a child anymore while still not having become a man – in other words: about being a boy. A 13-year-old boy. Moravia hereby receives a place in my All Time Top Ten Pantheon, along with novelists such as Gombrowicz, Mann, Mishima. I recommend it to you, Niclas.

Thomas Engström: Väster om friheten (2013)

Brilliant and well written thriller set in Berlin, in fact, right in my kiez. Cold war relics meet current events such as a barely camouflaged leaks organization, “Hydraleaks”, and its barely camouflaged front man “Lucien”. Every Swede who wants some quality crime should read. This is the first part of a trilogy. It is apparently being translated to other languages right now.

Haruki Murakami: The Elephant Vanishes (1993)

A collection of short stories. Entertaining, sort of. Not much more.

A.M. Homes: The End of Alice (1996)

A classic biographical fiction about a murderer who is in prison since 23 years, and starts corresponding with a girl who reminds him of his victim (and himself) and thus makes him remember things. Took five years for the author to write, I think she met the narrator. A very dark book, at times convincing and fascinating, but it failed to convince me all the way.

Ronald Firbank: Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli (1926)

Terrible from beginning to end. How come you liked it, Erik? Of course, reading the synopsis afterwards, I realize I didn’t get either the beginning or the end.

Non-fiction

Petter Wallenberg: Historien om Leila K (2013)

My friend Petter’s biography about Swedish 1990s pop star Leila K. Extremely fascinating and very touching. I’ve been a part of Petter’s work with this book since 2007, so it’s great to finally see it in print. Who should read? Every Swedish person born in the 1970s.

Hans Blüher: Die deutsche Wandervogelbewegung als erotisches Phänomen (1912)

In the beginning of the 20th century, the new German boy scout movement (“Wandervögel”) was criticized of inhabiting homosexuals (or pederasts), who could prey on the boys. In his classic pamphlet from 1912 (I read the sixth edition from 1922), Blüher shows that it was homosexuals (or pederasts) who founded the scout movement and that they are the best scout leaders. He also shows that those scout leaders who condemned the homosexuals among them the most, and harder than the public did, were themselves homosexual. Touché! The book is relevant for our current society and is a must read for people who want to understand the mechanisms of overcompensation.

Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (2012)

Very needed selfhelp, part 1. Extremely interesting about how our brains work and can be easily fooled by that thing called habit. I lost my annotations when my reading device was stolen – a good reason to reread it.

Jocelyn K. Gley (ed.): Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (2013)

Very needed selfhelp, part 2. Short texts, almost all of them relevant. Freelancers struggling with self-discipline should read.

Michael Holzwarth: Logik und Ideologie des Smartphones (2014)

A wonderfully fresh and academic look at our “Übertritt in den digitalen Funkraum”. Self-published social criticism at its best!

James J. O’Meara: The Homo and the Negro. Masculinist Meditations on Politics and Popular Culture (2012)

The result of a book swap between authors. Unfortunately I didn’t like it at all.

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Manga

Akira Yomoyama: 自転車男子に恋をした③ (2014)

The fourth installment of my favorite road bike doujinshi (self-published manga).

Akira Yomoyama: 自転車男子に恋をした④ (2014)

And the fifth, always a pleasure to read when I get them delivered from Japan!

Katsuhiro Otomo: Akira, Volume 1 (1982)

The most classic of all manga. I read it in English.

Maki Usami: ココロボタン (2009)

A mainstream romance manga for girls. Quite entertaining.

Shigenobu Matsumoto: デュエルマスターズ・FIGHTING EDGE, vol 5 (2006)

A mainstream action manga for boys. Quite entertaining.

Makoto Yoshimoto: ウソツキゴクオー 1 (2011)

Another mainstream manga for elementary school boys, where the main character Gokuoh-kun solves petty crimes that his classmates commit. Also quite entertaining.

Web design

David Sawyer McFarland: CSS3 – The Missing Manual, 3rd edition (2013)

So I finally decided to learn CSS3 from the ground. Wonderfully pedagogical. Love this book.

Matthew MacDonald: HTML5 – The Missing Manual, 2nd edition (2014)

This one started with a good overview of HTML5, but quickly diverged into murky Javascript territory.

I’ve listed all books I’ve read since 1997 on this page – it does not include study books such as the programming titles above though.

German Christmas market at Alexanderplatz

Berlin is very dark and boring in December, but the Christmas markets are here to compensate for that. It’s fascinating to see Alexanderplatz turning into a bustling club for this month. Yes, that’s the feeling when they put up a huge bar in the middle of the square and a DJ is playing hits. We had three big glasses of Glühwein each.

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Then we took a walk (with our glühweins) to the other side of Alexa, where a moving tivoli settles each Christmas. Lots of people, but no long lines to the attractions.

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This is going to sound quite a bit prejudiced, but ever since I was a child I’ve learned that the people who run this kind of traveling tivoli fairs are drunks, usually from some Eastern European country. If they didn’t travel with the fair, they would probably be beggars. Like I said, it’s probably just prejudices, but I always keep in mind that security isn’t their biggest priority. When we saw one of these people passing by, and looking just like a beggar, I told my friend this theory. He said that this was common knowledge, he had had the same view since he was a child. But he meant that this uncertainty regarding the security added to the thrill when going in the otherwise somewhat bleak attractions.

So we started with this one: Voodoo Jumper (5 euro) – the only attraction where we had to wait a bit:

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It was wonderful, especially with three big glühweins in your body.

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Passing Break Dance, which I saw in München on the Oktoberfest in 2008:

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Then we went in this thing (4 euro). It didn’t look as fun as Voodoo Jumper, but since the carriage turned around 360 degrees, your body got a bigger shock and thus it was actually more fun. Note that there is no fence separating the moving attraction from the onlooking people:

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And here’s the video of Voodoo Jumper and that other thing:

Mauerfall 2014, part 2: Ballonaktion!

Last night, the evening of the 9 November 2014, we walked along the light border from Bethaniendamm to Schillingbrücke, where we waited for the balloons to be released, one per second, starting at Brandenburger Tor.

Each balloon had a pater who would release it, we met Eric from Finland.

Excited atmosphere, lots of cheering when the balloon releasing chain finally reached us. Some balloons wouldn’t go off and the chain was temporarily stopped. I guess the actual wall also had parts that were harder to tear down, so the symbolical balloon event reflected the fall of the wall quite well, I think. Especially when the girl sitting on someone’s shoulders releases the last stuck balloon and everyone cheers.

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And here is the video from Mauerfall 2009 – the 20th anniversary – when we watched the dominoaktion at Brandenburger Tor:

Some design changes

As you can see, I’ve done some changes to my blog’s exterior. The biggest change is that the photos come out much bigger since I deleted the sidebar. As you might (not) remember, I have a beef with sidebars:

  • May 2012: “Remember how cool it used to be to have 3 columns?”
  • August 2013: “I remember in 2008 when it was fancy to have two sidebars”

Hopefully they’re gone for good this time!

The photos are now displayed almost 1000 pixels wide. It’s the same photos as before, because for the last two years I’ve saved them as 1000 px wide. All photos from my autumn in Japan were even saved as 2000 px wide. I’m happy I was so foresighted – old posts now look great.

Being able to display images big and wide makes the blog a perfect alternative to ad-based and content-restricting services such as Flickr. A friend who uses Flickr (you know who you are!) sometimes links to one of his photos, probably without knowing what I see on my screen when I click his link:

Flickr advertisement between photos

Yes, Flickr inserts ads between my friend’s photos. Every fifth photo in his gallery is an ad. This is of course totally okay, it’s how Flickr/Yahoo makes money. But personally I don’t want to be part of such a business model – imagine if one fifth of my hundreds of photos from Japan was an ad such as the one above! – and so I self-host my photos on this blog instead.

Graphics-wise I’ve abandoned the retro colors which were so hot in 2013 for a gaussian blurish, iossian feel, let be without the super-duper-thin Helvetica.

The blog remains a public recording of superficial events, a notebook for spontaneous thoughts and the occasional quote, and – at times – my studying and biking partner.

Oh, and if you noticed that the blog was gone for two days (3 and 4 November 2014), it was because my domain expired and was deactivated! I was even without email, a weird feeling, not entirely bad though. It took two days for Binero to reply to my support ticket and renew the domain (as they should have done in the first place, before it expired!).

Mauerfall 2014

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the city has created a “light border” where the wall used to go, at least for a small (but still pretty long) 15 km stretch of it. The light border is made up of 8,000 glowing balloons, which will be released on the evening of the 9th November, which was the date of the Mauerfall.

Today I took a walk with some friends along a short part of the light border, starting at the light installation’s start at Bornholmer Straße. It was a wonderful autumn day. I lost my friends somewhere in Mauerpark, but hadn’t planned to walk the whole 15 km anyway (which they had), so I went home at Brunnenstraße, where the outdoor wall museum starts.

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The famous Bösebrücke on Bornholmer Straße, where the border guards first started to let people cross the border from east to west on the evening of 9th November 1989. The billboard advertising a musical about these events couldn’t have got a better placement.

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On Bösebrücke just outside S-Bornholmer Straße. This is the first of the balloons.

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Every here and there: Big screens showing footage from the GDR times and from the fall of the wall.

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Schwedter Steg – a pedestrian bridge which was built where the wall used to go.

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Mauerpark, a park which was built on the “Todesstreife” – the death strip.

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A part of the wall in Mauerpark has been saved and is now a graffiti wall, free for everyone to paint on.

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Bernauer Straße between Mauerpark and Brunnenstraße.

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Bernauer Straße by Brunnenstraße – this is where the outdoor museum about the Berlin wall starts, and where I went home. (I’ve seen it many times and it’s very good, but this would do for me today!)

October

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Still only the first of October. A perfect opportunity to try to be productive!

Live from Berlin Marathon 2014

Berlin Marathon 2014 with world record breaking winner Dennis Kimetto

The leading group just passed by! As always, only black men. Maybe Wilson Kipsang from Kenya is among them. He won last year and broke the world record with a time of 2:03:23. I didn’t watch last year though, because I lived in Japan then.

Update: And we have a new world record! Dennis Kimetto from Kenya won at 2:02:57! I’ve circled him in the photo of the leading group above.

Update with some more photos from my bird’s-eye view:

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