Montag, Dezember 14, 2009

Work in Progress

Where did the year go?

It's been a curious one, this 2009. For me, it meant moving, enjoying the new space (especially the roof terrace), and many weekends spent gardening. There were a few short but very enjoyable trips and travels, too - the most recent one to Vienna. Beautiful place, highly recommended, especially to art, architecture and history geeks like me - but there's something to say for the coffee houses, too.

For a couple of weeks now, I have finally been at work again, and I don't just mean digging the potato patch. Getting paid for what I do, once in a while, is quite a relief. Being a freelancer has never been so tough as in the last 20 months or so. Now I hope this work will keep me busy for some time, and help my bank account to recover and enable me to do some more traveling in 2010.

Maybe then I will have more to write about in here, too. 

Samstag, Oktober 17, 2009

Happy Diwali!

I am about to add a new holiday to my calendar - I guess you can never have enough of them. I am going to celebrate Diwali with my Indian friends here in Germany. It is a big festival for them, and a first time for me.

But maybe not all of it will feel alien to me. Some of its elements seem strangely familiar - the symbolism of the end of the year (or summer and harvest time), the connection to the souls of our ancestors, and the idea of lights, candles, sweets, gifts and firework... I haven't even seen it yet, but after reading about Diwali, it seems to me as if there are elements of Thanksgiving, All Souls Day (or Celtic Samhain), Christmas/midwinter/Hanukkah and New Year/Rosh Hashanah to be found in this ancient Indian holiday - or vice versa: Maybe there is a bit of Diwali in our Western winter festivals.

I guess, these holidays and ideas date back to at least the Bronze Age, and no one remembers their original name(s) and date(s). It just seems so likely that the end of harvest and beginning of Winter was a very important time for people of all eras. To light candles and lamps at this season, when days get short and the sun less powerful; to think of death and those who passed away; to celebrate the end of summer's hard work and give thanks for one's own life - and the full larders to keep alive until the next spring; to make gifts (sacrifices) to one's gods, protectors, ancestors and important ones; to celebrate with all the sweet and rich food one can afford, and to fight the demons of night, cold, winter and silence with joy, light, fire, music and noise...
...I suppose all that was always important to all people and all cultures, however long ago.

So much for theory. Now, I am looking forward to Diwali in practice - tonight!

Freitag, August 07, 2009

Safety First

A week ago, I came home from a very enjoyable and interesting journey to England and South Wales. I learned a lot, met wonderful people and had a great time - and once again resolved to travel more often. It always gives me a new perspective on so many issues.

But one thing made me want to laugh and cry lots of times. When I used to travel regularly in Britain, back in the 1990s, I always thought of the British as rather calm, composed and sane people, not prone to hysteria at all. This time, I started to have doubts about that, since warnings and really odd bits of safety advice have become omnipresent there. And I don't just mean the fact that every single door in every public building seems to be a "fire door" that has to be kept closed (do they expect e.g. hotel guests to keep the door to their room open all night otherwise?), or the usual suffocation warning on plastic bags.

No, I mean the lots and lots of no-brainers. Like the "Caution: Hot Liquid" print on a takeaway coffee cup, the "Danger: Pool" note at the edge of a pool, or this sign in the middle of a lake:

The tragicomical highlight was a warning on the map of a National Trust monument I visited, indicating the parking area and saying "Beware of vehicles in the car park".

So, can someone please explain to me: What happened to the homeland of Common Sense?

Mittwoch, Juni 03, 2009

On Obsession

I did a lot of internet research during the last couple of days, and some fan websites I found there simply creep me out.

I can sympathize with a certain amount of obsession, since I have been pretty obsessive myself, many times. I can get lost in parallel universes of books, film, music and TV - everything from classic literature and arthouse films to Sci-Fi series and Bollywood kitsch.
I dearly love some fictional characters and admire their creators - the writers, directors and actors who make the fantasy so beautiful and 'real'. I have phases when I buy DVD after DVD, book after book, and scour the internet for downloads and news.

But there's a firm line between reality and fiction. As a writer myself, having worked for TV, I know how films are made, been part of the process, met wonderful people there, and I also know that, like in any job, a brilliant actor, musician, director or writer isn't necessarily a brilliant person, or even a nice one (no - don't worry: most of them are).

Anyway. Lately, I searched the sites of several actors' fans, since I needed some information (and not all actors, or rather their agents, are forthcoming to insignificant foreign journalists), and those fansites often have amazingly complete archives of articles, interviews and trivia.

But they also contain loads of stuff that I find very odd. There are forums, blogs and guest-books full of speculations about His or Her private life; photos of (expensive) gifts the fans sent to their idols; fan-art and fan-fiction, ranging from the pseudo-religious to adolescent adoration and NC-17 stories. Uhm. Everyone is welcome to their own fantasies, but why make them public?

In know I am selfish: Though I have unashamedly used those sites for my research, I still criticize them.
But what may be devotion to those people looks like delusion to me. Why do they dedicate so much of their time and love to someone they don't know; why adore someone from afar whom they never even met (or just met briefly to have a photograph taken or a picture signed at some convention)?
I see little difference between this, and stalking. Both are versions of unrequited love, leading to loss of reality. I wonder what is missing in those people's lives that they give their live and energy to an unknown person.

Maybe it's the underlying desperation and loneliness that scares me most.

Dienstag, Juni 02, 2009

Missing Altitude

It's been some time since I posted any pictures. Here's one I made at the shooting of one of the last big documentaries I made. It was about high altitudes - a film on people living in some of highest and least habitable parts of the Swiss Alps, and the fascination of a life beyond the tree line, and often above the clouds. A harsh environment, a hard life, and a natural beauty that often left me at a loss for words. Another production I will never forget.

I hope I'll find time for a trip to the mountains, later this summer. I miss those highs, in every sense.

Montag, Juni 01, 2009

Brush Strokes

Something I read this week gave me an idea for a series of articles. And I think I already know exactly the right people (friends working for agencies and magazines) who might be interested in that kind of story. So, finally, I take off, high on a new idea. About time.

It's one of the most wonderful experiences I know - to have a head full of ideas and possibilities; a heart full of energy, and ten fingers on the keyboard just itching to write.

I already started my research, and I found many bits of information confirming a hypothesis of mine. It feels like a picture is forming in my mind, and there's already an easel and some brushes in front of me. Now, if I find a canvas and a palette of colours, I can paint that picture.

I missed being creative. I really did. Compared to this, my latest jobs (i.e. translating documentary commentaries, and ghostwriting non-fiction books) felt like a paint-by-numbers booklet: Pretty, but not original.

Donnerstag, Mai 21, 2009

Backwards Or Forwards In Time?

Although I have borrowed this post's title from my latest time-travelling obsession, it isn't going to be a post about Doctor Who. It is just another of those introspections of which my life seems to consist of, these days. So, if you find them boring, don't bother to read any further.

Ever since I moved - or rather ever since I knew I wanted to move - I feel at a crossroads, having to decide if I want to live my life backwards or forwards.

During the last decade or so, I was reluctant to change much, and as a result my life became increasingly stagnant. To get moving again, forwards in time, I now have to let go. Let go of things and possessions, but also of illusions, old habits, obsolete ideas. They all became dead weight, a ton of baggage that is slowing me down, binding me to my past, not belonging to my presence. And certainly not to my future, whatever that may bring.

Many are just jetsam and easy to get rid of, but others were dear to me, once precious assets and memories. To let those go is the most difficult and most liberating experience of all. Once I gather the strength to let them go, there's suddenly no more need to romanticise memories as of a love essentially based on emotional blackmail, or of past relationships mired in guilt.

So I am sorting through possessions, giving some things away, selling others. Furniture, bags full of clothes, boxes full of books, every one of them laden with memories. Although a lot is already gone, there's still too much left: Letters and diaries, photos and videotapes - countless parts of the person I was, no longer belonging to the person I am.

Dienstag, Mai 12, 2009

Regressive Evolution

The scarceness of work in the last year makes me think about my life a lot. Maybe it is time to reinvent myself. To let go of the idea that I am a documentary filmmaker for TV, since the TV stations I used to work for in the last 15 years replaced their documentary slots with more and more quiz shows and 'Reality TV', and don't need someone like me any more. Nor do they need my skills as a scriptwriter (if you wonder about that, I normally write in German, of course - this blog is just a means to practise my English so it doesn't rust too badly). These days, every TV series is rerun time and again - probably until the audience knows all dialogues by heart.

So I have become a dinosaur, facing extinction.

Which kind of evolution could save me? Guess I will try to find some ordinary office job soon, and be creative as a hobby instead of for a living.

There could be worse fates, but I still don't like the idea. I might just be a Pterosaur, but I can still fly. And I never wanted to be a battery chicken.

Samstag, Mai 09, 2009

Jobs, anyone?

More than a month since my last post. Sorry, Jackie (guess you're still the only reader of this blog).
But there isn't much to write about. I've been writing proposals and exposés for TV documentaries, and pitching them to producers - without any success. So, if anyone out there has a job for a German writer/journalist/translator/documentary filmmaker, please let me know!
No, I am not desperate.
Umm. Not yet. That's still a matter of a few months.

Oh well. As antidepressants, I'm still decorating and furnishing my new flat - which is fun - and lately, I delved into the (new) Doctor Who universe.

All my life (at least since my teenage days) I liked watching and reading Science Fiction, but (since the series never made it onto German TV, probably because of the rather incompatible sense of humour) this whole concept was new for me, and I love it. Loved it enough to order and watch three seasons of the series in as many weeks.
Although it's meant to be a program for children, it captivated me with its fantasy and broad-mindedness. Wonderful stories. And great, great performances. In my opinion, Christopher Eccleston was even more convincing as enigmatic, arrogant, powerful, emotionally clueless and unwittingly charming alien than David Tennant, although both are equally irresistible.

Next week, I'll get a new satellite dish. Not for the incredibly repetitive, predictable, uninventive and plainly boring German TV, which by now I simply despair of; but for BBC and other British channels.
And if I'll have enough money left by the end of this month (when the last payments are due for my new flat), I really want to plan a trip to Britain. England, Wales, Scotland; wherever. English isn't my native language, and Britain isn't my country, but I still miss that language, humour and culture in my everyday life.
Oh, and since life is just nature's way of keeping meat fresh, as I learned lately, I really should make the most of my share of it - before this meat starts to rot...

Montag, März 30, 2009

Berlin and Brecht

This weekend I was in Berlin, to have fun, meet people, and get some informal cultural education. The latter part I mostly spent tracking Bertold Brecht's last years in East Berlin. After exile and a run-in with McCarthy's paranoid minions, Brecht returned to Europe and finally to East Berlin in 1949. But after the war, hardly a theater or hall was left there. Just the Admiralspalast stood as a sole survivor in the rubble around Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, and most was left of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm (later Berliner Ensemble) - others were ruins, hollow shells of buildings or mounds of burned rubble.

Brecht stayed anyway, produced as best he could, fought the authorities on many occasions, wrote and directed plays, re-arranged his life several times as he re-arranged his (many) women, and stressed himself to an early death in 1956.

Last night, I watched one of his plays. „Schweyk im zweiten Weltkrieg“, on Brecht's old stage, the Berliner Ensemble. The story is hard to explain to anyone who doesn't know the character of The Good Soldier Schweyk.

The one who pretends to be dumb but cleverly undermines the authority of tyrants by agreeing with them on the surface, and evading/fighting them with cunning and stealth. To me he’s a modern form of the archetypical character of the Trickster (Coyote, Brer Rabbit, Loki, Fox, Anansi, Nasreddin, Till Eulenspiegel... all cultures have their incarnation of the Trickster?).

Brecht wrote his play during WW II. The story and its characters - it's pure genius. Funny and sad, truthful and ironic, simple yet multi-layered, historically correct and visionary. The Berliner Ensemble production was congenial in casting and staging. Art at its best: Entertaining enough so I never felt lectured, yet I learned a lot about difficult times and the nature of people, and it made me think. Today, I am very glad to live now and here, and not in a time or place where I might have to choose between morals and survival.

Mittwoch, März 25, 2009

Between the Rains

Spring is late in coming this year, in spite of the birds that flew north a month ago. After a few nice and sunny days, we're again sandwiched between low pressure systems and their various cold fronts, with showers of sleet, rain and slushy snow.

Between two showers, I took this picture from my kitchen window. I love that window. Many years ago, when I visited friends in Scotland, I was very impressed by the huge window just above their kitchen sink, overlooking a beautiful wide valley. I always had sinks and stoves where I had to face a boring wall when I was cooking. Now in my new kitchen, the sink has a window, too, so I can watch people and birds and clouds from there, enjoy the view of those century-old houses in the foreground, and the hills in the background.

I'm looking forward to a time when the trees and hills are green. Tenacious as this winter is, that might still take some weeks.

Donnerstag, März 19, 2009

New View

The view from my new study window. My desk is in front of it, so I see those houses while I'm writing this.
The big one on the left (in the background) is an elementary school. I can watch the children play during breaks. Happy and peaceful scenes, mostly.

Mittwoch, März 18, 2009

Blogging and Twittering

Two weeks ago, I signed up on Twitter. It's rather addictive to log in and stalk people there, especially since some of the guys I found here are on Twitter, and I don't give up hope to connect somehow (as unlikely as it is, across vast divides of oceans and insignificance).

It also has that appeal of accepting only 140 characters per message. It allows no rambling, no digression, no circumscription. A great training to be succinct and precise in a foreign language.

Still, I like to ramble and digress from time to time. So, this blog will continue.

Regarding my new home, there's little news. One by one, I tackle the many boxes and furniture parts; I drill, plug and bolt, fix lamps, mirrors and shelves, find new places for all those books and DVDs, but there's still an almost endless list of things to do.

Freitag, März 13, 2009

Settling in

All week I spent unpacking boxes, drilling holes into walls, building shelves and wardrobes, cleaning drawers, putting away stuff, moving furniture around (and back again) because it still doesn't have the 'right' place, and cursing my squirrel nature that lets me keep too many things I don't really need. If anything, the chaos seemed to get worse.

And I caught a cold.

And another of my documentary film ideas just was rejected by the TV channel I offered it to.
All in all, this week was not very nice.

Enough whining. It will get better soon. My new home is going to be habitable in a few days, and beautiful in a few weeks. Spring is coming. Soon I will sit on my new terrace, sip latte (or white wine), chat with friends, or use my laptop to stalk people on twitter, and feel thoroughly decadent.

Can't wait.

Montag, März 09, 2009

New Shell

After three days of moving stuff around and down and up all those stairs (giving me the worst backache I ever had), and two nights spent in my mother's house (because neither kitchen nor bedroom were usable in my new home), this is the first night I spend here.
At home, in my new 'hermit crab shell'.

It still feels strange, as if I broke into someone else's house, or as if I am a visitor while the real owners are on holiday. It's not yet mine.

But it will be. Soon.

Mittwoch, März 04, 2009

Hermit Crab

Three more nights in my old home, then I will be gone.

It is strange to leave a house after more than 12 years. It has grown on me like a second skin. I look out of the windows and know the neighbours and their habits. There is a Lutheran pastor living opposite of me, who often works at his computer till midnight. His son learns to play the trumpet since three years (without much success, as my tortured ears can testify to). In the next house, two women share a flat on the top floor. One of them always stays up until at least 3 o'clock every night, watching TV in a room that is painted a bright turquoise and stuffed with brightly coloured furniture, so that it looks like a fishbowl from the outside. In yet another house, an Italian woman lives on the ground floor. She always dyes her short, bristly hair in a curious coppery purple shade, and she likes to sit by the window and watch people in the street.

The inside of my old house is so familiar to me, I can (and do) navigate it blindly. Some nights I get up from my sofa or desk, switch the upstairs lights off, and walk down the stairs and into the bathroom or the bedroom in darkness.
I am like a hermit crab, comfortable in its old shell, even if it is slightly too small by now.

It will take years to get as comfortable in the new place. It will be a challenge, but like the hermit crab that has to find a bigger shell every couple of years, I now need the space to grow.

Montag, März 02, 2009


After some weeks spent in lazy limbo, suddenly everything seems to be happening at once. My new home awaits me, all dressed up in a new coat of paint, the kitchen will be installed on Thursday, and on Saturday morning a lorry plus some strong men will arrive to move my furniture and stuff.

Last time I moved, 12 years ago, all the moving and carrying was done by friends. But this time I decided to get professional help. During the last decade, I have accumulated so many things (especially books), I will move from 3rd floor to 3rd floor (and both houses are old, so they don't have a lift) - and I would really like to keep my friends!

And now, I'll have to stop blogging for a week or two, and start packing all those boxes. Dozens of them. Why would anyone buy so many books?

Donnerstag, Februar 26, 2009


I took this picture half an hour ago from my window. It is a flock of common cranes flying north, just above my house. What I could not capture on a photo was their typical call, the bugle you can hear over a great distance - in fact, I heard them long before I saw them.

So the cranes are flying back north. This is pure joy! It is the first sign of spring. Winter is finally over. Yeah!

Mittwoch, Februar 25, 2009

The Coolest Thing I Ever Did

I promised an adventure story for today, and here it is.

Almost five years ago, I had the opportunity to travel as far north as you can get in Europe: To Svalbard aka Spitsbergen, about 80° north, a group of arctic islands, as different from mainland Europe as another planet would be. We were filming some scenes and interviews for a documentary on climate change there, with a focus on the effects of global warming on arctic wildlife. Sounds boring? No, it wasn't!

The trip involved several days of speeding over frozen fjords with snowscooters, looking for the animals we were supposed to capture on video. Seals, walruses, reindeer, an amazing number and variety of seabirds, and - most importantly - polar bears. Since it can be really dangerous to encounter polar bears in the wild, we had a guard with us, a Norwegian ex-soldier who always carried a gun and never left us out of sight. He was tall, fair-haired and macho - the perfect cast for a Viking chieftain in any feature film. And it was good to have him there. One night, the bears came scouting right up to our camp. The tracks we found in the morning were proof of their presence.

Every day, we had to drive for hours to find the right spots and animals, and then had to wait patiently for even more hours to get good shots. So we used all the available daylight, worked almost around the clock, and only slept for three or four hours per night. Some of those nights we stayed on a ship that was frozen into the sea ice, to be used as basecamp for expeditions just like ours.

I will never forget that week. It was mad and frantic. We soon found out that we had to cover a vast area and didn't have nearly enough time for our film project, but there was no way to extend our stay. The trip had already cut a huge slice out of our production budget, so we had to make do. It was cold and uncomfortable at times, we were giddy from lack of sleep and the camera equipment didn't like the cold at all, so we had to be really careful not to use too much battery power - but in the end, none of that mattered. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and cooperative animals, and we managed to get breathtaking footage of arctic wildlife and landscape, plus the required interviews with resident scientists and environmentalists, of course.

Seeing those wild polar bears, seals and walruses was more amazing than I could ever describe with words. The landscape along the Svalbard coast is so beautiful that it almost physically hurt to leave the islands and fly back south. And driving that snowscooter over the snow of frozen valleys and vast stretches of sea ice, sometimes with over 100 kilometres per hour, was definitely the coolest thing I ever did.

Dienstag, Februar 24, 2009

First Aid

Okay, Jackie, here you go. A post today, just for you, my favourite (if probably only) reader!
Sorry it's short. Just wanted to tell you that every blog gives you the option to subscribe to its posts - scroll down to the very bottom of the page, and you'll find it. If you're using the German version, it's called "Abonnieren". Do that, and you don't have to click the page twice a day to see if I posted anything. That must have been hell during the weeks and months when I was AWOL.

I am sorry. To make up for it, I'll write another adventure story tomorrow.

And there is no reason for posting the following, it's just something I found in Berlin once. Love this notion.

Montag, Februar 23, 2009

Of Past Adventures

I mostly turn to this blog when I feel either very bored, or maudlin, or both. This is resulting in an assortment of "Life Sighs" which actually makes me feel sorry for anyone who reads it.
(Jackie, you are my heroine. Honestly!)

Enough misery now. Even if my life is rather dull these days, I had a fair share of adventures to write about. Some thrilling ones, some funny ones, and even a few romantic encounters. They could feature in this blog, too, as a change from the usual gloomy posts.

What should I start with? The most exciting adventures were not always pleasant - like the one where I almost freaked out when a friend and I got lost in a maze of crevasses on a glacier, which we had tried to cross without proper gear (we both were very inexperienced and stupid, and lucky to survive the day!) - nor were all the funny ones, like when I embarassed myself in front of a camerateam and dozens of people by walking right into a grass-covered slough in Poland (the locals tried to warn me, but I didn't understand Polish and was already sunk waist-deep in the bog when one of the guys on my team grabbed me and pulled me back to solid ground).

No, I think I'll start with a story of cultural misunderstanding.

I travelled in Scotland once, by bus and train, going north along the east coast. For one night I stayed in a pretty little town called Keiss, which has a very scenic ruin of a medieval castle, right on the edge of a cliff.
I took a room at the local pub and spent the evening downstairs - having a meal at a table by myself, and then a few glasses of ale with the locals at the bar.
It was summer, and night fell late that far north. Looking out of the window, I saw a beautiful dusk. An almost full moon rose over the North Sea, and I decided to take a walk along the beach. That was when one of the men from the bar asked if he could join me.

The first strange thing was that the landlady didn't want to give a house key to me, although I had rented a room in the house. I practically had to fight her for it (and she refused to talk to me the next day until I departed). This should have made me suspicious of the situation's undercurrents - but I had already had a few glasses of ale and was glad for the company of that nice guy.
Until I understood that his idea of 'taking a walk' didn't involve much walking.

When he started kissing me, I was tempted for a moment, but really only a moment. The guy was married - he had told me stories of his wife and kids all evening - and I was soon torn between being amused, exasperated and frightened. It was not easy to get rid if him. I told him over and over again that he was a nice person, and I was very sorry about the misunderstanding, but I really only intended to take a walk and watch the waves by moonlight. I did not want to make him angry, because he had drunk a lot more than I had, and he started to hint at how strong he was and how he could force me. So in the end I let him come back to the pub with me (he was probably hoping for a bed instead of the beach) - where I had to tell him I would yell for help if he did not leave, until he finally gave up. From my room I watched him drive away, and wished I would have gone to the moonlit beach alone.

The next day I settled my bill with the landlord, whose wife didn't even look at me. I took the next bus north, and wondered how they would have laughed about the true story of that 'walk'. But I didn't tell anyone, of course - and I am sure that guy still enjoys his reputation as a seducer of naive foreign tourists.

Samstag, Februar 21, 2009

Out There (or: Fascinated Yet Frustrated)

These weeks are strange. I wait for my new home to be finished (so I can move), I try to sell my old one, and I am again/still looking for work. So this is a time when I am at home a lot, but I have very little to do except for sorting, packing, brooding, and avoiding unpleasant thoughts by the means of pure escapism.

I watched a lot of DVDs lately, and re-read several sci-fi and fantasy books. And I surfed the net, looking for writers, directors and actors whose work impresses me. There are so many to be found in the www; some with professionally built homepages, some with regularly updated blogs and truly terrific journals. To name only a few: I found (and read most of) Neil Gaiman's Journal, Sir Ian McKellen's official homepage and blog, or the blogs of David Nykl and Kate Hewlett, actors, and Joe Mallozzi, screenwriter and producer from the Stargate universe, one of my favourite resorts faraway from bleak reality.

At first, I was thrilled to have found all their websites. I am impressed by those gentlemen and ladies, their books, scripts, acting; whatever they do, and do so wonderfully.
I loved to learn more about their lives, travels, thoughts and projects. And of course I still do. But in some strange way, those websites and blogs are a curse as well as a blessing.

See, I write and work in the big world of TV myself, and I certainly am no 'fan' of anyone (honestly, I don't even understand the things fans do - like collecting autographs and photos, or travelling to conventions and dressing up as fictional characters).
Thus, I have no intention to obtrude or ingratiate myself with anyone. But the more I read, the more I am impressed by (and feel drawn to) some of those people - writers, actors, or directors from different parts of this world.
Their blogs give me the illusion of getting to know them. They make me want to communicate, as I do with real-life acquaintances or friends.

And there's the catch.

There is no way to connect; no way to get to know any of them. Yes, I left some friendly comments, which (understandably!) remain unnoticed amidst all that cheerful bulk, between dozens of unanswered questions and tons of fanmail.

So, after fascination came frustration. Those guys have genuinely impressed me and make me want to get in touch with them, but it is simply not possible to initiate any kind of dialogue or correspondence. Despite all the so-called interactivity of the world wide web, there just is no way to really get a message across. Too bad.

Donnerstag, Februar 12, 2009


Since I don't think it would be wise to try and write anything remotely intelligent today (since I am still suffering from sleep deprivation, and can't even think straight in my own language, let alone in English), I'll continue my mini-series of animal pictures.
(In this layout, they are small, but by clicking on them you'll see them better.)

This is Lisa, one of my mother's new cats (there are two of them who arrived last summer), in the filing cabinet, trying to get filed between the folders for bills and credit card receipts.

She's not always that shy. Here's a more flattering picture of hers:

And while I still feel sheepish, here's a couple of Welsh sheep, posing in front of their residence. I took the photo in September 2008 when hiking up Snowdon (Yr Widdfa) in North Wales.

Mittwoch, Februar 11, 2009


Last night, I tried counting sheep - but they just walked away from me.

(This is a photo I made in Iceland in 2006, to illustrate the traffic jam on a typical Icelandic country road.)


Every now and then, I get a bad case of Existenzangst. That's a German term which means existential fear; angst; the sinking feeling that something - no, everything - is about to go awry. When I was younger, it was a lot worse, but even now I have these times once or twice a year. Times when I don't trust myself to earn a living, to do things right, to be there for my friends, to ever make films again, to ever find new friends; times when I generally expect myself to make a total mess of my life.

It is strange, because the fear is so irrational, not at all based on facts. I am doing reasonably well since almost 20 years now, I am independent, I have a circle of wonderful friends, I am free to live my life and travel the world as I like, and still earn enough money to pay for my flat, my car and all kinds of conveniences. It is a carefree and rather selfish life, and I am aware of the privileges I have.

So I sometimes suspect that I chose a freelancer's job (with no secure income whatsoever) just to cure myself of those bouts of angst. Maybe my whole lifestyle is like one of those therapeutic flights for people who are afraid of flying. It makes me face the fear and see that there is nothing to worry about.

Most of the time, it works. Only now, the fact that I am going to be broke once I move to my new place, stirs it all up again. I have a relapse, and a bad one. Can't sleep, can't eat, can't even think straight. Every night for the last ten days I sat up in bed till 04:00 am, browsing the internet on my laptop or reading boring books (hoping they'll make me sleepy).

But it has its good sides, too. I lost some of my surplus weight, and I have discovered many interesting websites and blogs lately. About Iceland and India, about music, films and people.

Once I am able to use my brain again, I'll list the links and tell you more...

Dienstag, Februar 03, 2009


It is done. The contract is signed, the flat is going to be mine in a few weeks - in exchange for practically all my savings. Suddenly, I was no longer sure if this was a wise thing to do. It made me feel strangely vulnerable, no longer having a financial buffer to fall back on. Especially now, at a time when it becomes more difficult to find jobs.

But then I went there. I started planning the kitchen, decided on some changes that will need to be done before I move in, and then I visited my soon-to-be next door neighbours. They made me feel truly welcome and spontaneously opened a bottle of champagne to toast our new neighbourship.

A perfect start for the move to my new home. I don't feel poor and vulnerable anymore, but rich and vital, and full of energy.
I only hope that this is not just the effect of the champagne.

Freitag, Januar 30, 2009

Jackie's Question

This is an answer to the question my faithful friend Jackie asked in her comment to Backstage:

"Are you able to write ANYTHING?! I mean, as long as you get the documents and details, would you be able to write about any topic/issue/subject even if it's about - let's say - cell biology, automation engineering or computer science? Is it only that those people just need someone who writes the TEXT itself without really having knowledge of the stuff they have to write or do you need to actually understand that stuff? (Well at least in my imagination I think that I would need to understand it....)"

Good question.

Yes, of course I have to understand what I write about, otherwise the result would surely become an utter disgrace for me and, worse, my client. And of course there are many topics I could not write about, without putting in a lot of time and effort for reading, learning and understanding in the first place. Automation engineering and computer science are among them; cell biology isn't, because I actually studied biology at university.

Whatever subject I tackle, I need to feel comfortable with it first. So I usually spend some time with research and reading before I start on a project. Maybe there are subjects (like computer science) where I would have to invest so much time and effort in learning about them, that I could not make a profit from them anymore, so I would have to refuse them for practical reasons. But theoretically (although this sounds terribly arrogant), yes, I could write anything - given enough time for research and preparation.

You see, I love to learn and to be challenged. I love my job because of the diversity of subjects I read, research and work about. In my 16 years of experience I have already written or made documentaries about quite a variety of topics. Documentaries usually include some travelling and many of them gave me access to unusual places. I have been to arctic islands, primeval forests and archeological digs, inside steel works and power houses, government departments, psychiatric wards and university labs, at factories, farms and feature film shoots, on glaciers and mountaintops and on fishing trawlers.

I have written about a lot of subjects including energy policy, quantum physics, bollywood films, waste disposal, earthquakes, allergies, migratory birds, climate change, compulsive gambling, immigrants, genetic engineering, pedagogics and education, and many kinds of environmental and natural history subjects, often with a focus on fascinating animals like whales and polar bears.
That is why I think there is no limit to possible subjects.

On the downside: My friends refuse to play quiz games or scrabble with me anymore. I have won too often.

Mittwoch, Januar 28, 2009

On Top

Earlier today I wrote a lot about writing, but nothing about moving. This is a picture of the view (well, part of the view) from the place that will soon be mine. Yay!

(Please click on it if you want to see the real thing.)


The book is finished; the book that I have just written. It is a nonfiction book about children's disorders - you know, all that attention deficit and hyperactivity stuff which is worrying more and more parents around the globe (and increases the production of pills that keep kids calm and parents happy). The book will be published in a few months, under the name of a professor of educational science. I was only her ghostwriter. I have done this kind of job before, mostly with articles and once with another nonfiction book.

In this case it is okay, because I didn't do much research for the book; I got some (very) detailed and scientific thesis and dissertation papers to work with, so my job was more like a translation from scientific lingo to everyday language, plus quite a lot of editing. And of course translators and editors don't appear on the cover of a book.

It is a simple deal: The professor gets the credits, I get the money. It is only fair, but still, that kind of arrangement is not always easy for my ego to digest. I was a lot more ambitious when I started being a writer, journalist and filmmaker all those years ago. I wanted to make a name for myself. I had dreamed of being a writer since I was a child. The first time when I sold my writing skills to someone else, it felt like a betrayal of everything I had hoped for. I wanted to be recognized, not to be some part of the service industry.

Maybe it is a lesson in humility I really need to learn. Without giving up hope that I will be the one on stage again, some day.

Freitag, Januar 23, 2009

Time flies...

God, it's been months since I felt like writing anything here.

It's not exactly an exciting life I am leading these days, and I long for a chance - any chance - to make films again. But even documentaries cost money, and finding someone willing to pay for a docu seems to get more difficult all the time.
So I am mostly earning my money by writing now. Ghostwriting even. Some people have to write books or articles without having enough time (or skill *g*) for that task, so they pay someone else to write their stuff for them.

That's what I do (in my own language of course, not in English), and it's slowly driving me nuts. Not the writing as such - I love writing - but the fact that it's such a lonely profession. I really, really miss the travelling and the teamwork, the thrill and the stress of making films.

But I found a new apartment, to which I will move in a month or so. It is bigger than my current one, with more space for guests, and with a rooftop terrace overlooking most of the city I live in. A whole landscape of roofs, spires and faraway hills will be surrounding me there.

Now I dread the packing and moving, but I am already looking forward to spring, sunshine and dinners with friends on my new roof. It will be perfect (I hope).

Lets see what else this year will bring...