This week’s Genre of the Week celebrates two milestones: The first is the 60th birthday of one of the most famous jazz musicians of all time, Sade. Born in Nigeria, she moved to England as a child, having been raised in Essex. Her jazz career began in the late 1970s and she would later form a music group by 1980. Since then, she has released six albums over the course of 35 years, counting three hiatuses. She resides in Glochestershire living a life as an “hour of fame” flower, reclusive but coming into the limelight when the time is ripe. A website with all the facts about the jazz singer can be cound here.
The second is the 35th anniversary of one of the most popular songs in the jazz music scene. “Smooth Operator” was released in 1984 and made it to the top 10 in several countries; number one in the US under adult contemporary. While the song represents a classic example of contemporary jazz that can be found on radio stations today, the lyrics deal with a “Slick-Jimmy”, who uses women for money, breaking many hearts. According to the wiki source:
“Smooth Operator” is about a fashionable, devious man who lives a jet-set lifestyle. He is popular with women and breaks many hearts. The lyrics “Coast to Coast/LA to Chicago/Western Male/Across the North and South to Key Largo/Love for sale” imply that he uses women to obtain his income. It is also clear that he does not hold sincere affection for these women, as Adu sings near the end, “his heart is cold.” The video to this song reinforces the message and the operator appears to be a professional criminal. In one scene, he displays a gun to an interested customer and in others, he appears to be a pimp. He succeeds in evading law enforcement, who have him under surveillance.
To get a better idea of what the song is about, here is the music video:
Even if Jackie Treehorn manages to get away in the scene, presenting some imorals, the music behind the song creates for a scene in a restaurant or bar where couples come to entertain themselves over drinks and the like.
While Sadie’s song is considered one of the Top 100 of all-time by many and henceforth a Genre of the Week award winner, there have been some variants that were released, all of which have a jazz music setting. The most popular are these two examples:
Smooth Operator by Mario Biondi, released in 2018. This one keeps the lyrics but changes the musical setting to feature a different type of jazz music worth listening to.
Smooth by Rob Thomas and Santana, released in 1999. This one seems to be similar in setting and lyrics as the original by Sade, yet they are not, rather they present “Slick Jimmy Jackie Treehorn” is a different interpretive manner. The song is supported by world-renowned guitarist Santana, who has a solo in this, similar to the saxophone solo in Sade’s version. Rob Thomas is lead singer of Matchbox 20.
And to close the Genre of the Week article, the Files would like to wish Sade a happy 60th birthday and a great career with one helluva smooth song that is 35 years old. Happy Birthday and congrats at the same time to a contemporary jazz great.
Record-setting snowfall in southern and eastern Germany brings life to a standstill; features 2-meter high drifts
A friend of mine from Minnesota coined a term that many of us had not expected to witness for a long time, especially in light of the problems with global warming, a Snopocalypse! Since the beginning of this week, a storm front Benjamin roared through Germany, providing high winds and vast amount of precipitation- in the low-lying areas, rain and in the mountain regions, snow! With that, the northern and eastern parts of Germany, in particular the coastal areas, had to put up with coastal flooding because of high tides, high winds and rain. Places, like Wismar, Lübeck and Flensburg were flooded in many places, including the city center.
In the mountain areas, massive snowfall, combined with blowing and drifting and sometimes icy rain brought transportation services to a standstill in most places. Hardest hit areas were in the Alps region in southern Bavaria, but also in the mountain areas in northern Bavaria, as well as most of Saxony and Thuringia, where train services were shut down due to snow drifts. On the Harz-Brockenbahn Service route in Saxony-Anhalt, snow drifts buried a train causing rescue crews to work tirelessly around the clock to set it free. Parked cars became little mountains and hills due to the thick snow cover. Heavy, wet and sometimes sticky snow on trees caused many to fall under their own weight and their branches to break. Forests were blocked off in many parts of the Ore and Fichtel Mountains for safety reasons. Schools in Saxony and Bavaria were called off due to the snow, while other facilities were closed for safety reasons- some due to the heavy snow on Roofs; others because People living far away needed time to drive home. Yet with motorways and main roads blocked with cars and trucks due to accidents, the trip home was for many an Odessy. A collection of film clips with interviews of those affected will give you an idea how bad the Snowpocalypse is for much of the southern half of Germany.
Gallery of film and photos:
To give you an idea of how bad, here’s an example of the snow that piled up in the town of Schneeberg in western Saxony. Nearly a half meter of snow fell and drifts were up to a meter in height. Yet Schneeberg normally receives half of what Oberwiesenthal near the Czech Border receives for snow. And as seen in the videos above, the city near the Fichtelberg got three times as much snow, plus drifts of up to 2-3 meters high.
The good news is that milder weather is coming, with temperatures ranging from the freezing point to 8°C in some places. However, it will be short-lived, for another front in the coming week will bring more snow and high winds to Germany, thus excacerbating the situation in the mountain regions. A cold front will then come and drop temperatures to well below freezing.
For those who are tired of the snow already, hang tight, we will be in for a rough ride. The Files will keep you posted on the latest on the Snowpocalypse in Germany. Yet a guide on how to survive a winter like this is in the making and will be posted here. Stay tuned.
Author’s Note: This is a guest column coming from another blog that deals with German language and culture, entitled German Culture, created by Rolf von Ohlsdorf. You can click here for more information. I found one of the pieces that combines foreign language and humor together. After receiving the green light, I’m presenting this as a guest column for you to enjoy. The link to the original can be found here.
Although the German language may seem harsh and hard at first, it is filled with humorous expressions (many of them food-related). However funny expressions and phrases are at first, it’s definitely worth learning a few. See for yourself!
Literal English Translation
Jetzt geht’s um die Wurst
Now it goes around the sausage
All or nothing
Du bist auf dem Holzweg
There you are on the woodway
You are completely wrong
Mir stehen die Haare zu Berge
My hair stands up to the mountain
I’ve got goosebumps
Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof
I understand only train station
I have no idea what you are saying
Tut mir leid, aber mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau
Since yesterday, the results of the 2018 Ammann Awards have been available. Many bridges in Germany brought home some hardware, including many from Saxony and one in Berlin. Click here to see the results!
There’s no place like home, both on Earth as in Heaven. When desparation strikes, hope comes when one least expects it, even during the holidays. And in the case of this Genre of the Week, when one falls, hope lies with the next kin, one who is closest to the fallen. Hans Christian Andersen wrote the Match Girl in 1845 while staying at the Gravenstein Castle near Sonderburg along the Flensburg Fjorde and the main theme of this short story was this symbol of hope in the face of desparation and in this case, death.
The story takes place during the holidays, towards New Year’s Eve. There, a young girl tries to sell matches to make money. She comes from a broken home and is afraid to return, fearing that her father would beat her. Shivering from cold and suffering from early onset of hypothermia, she seeks shelter in a pair of abandoned houses. There, she tries to warm up by using the matches, even though it was strictly forbidden. With each match, she sees a small light and a voice calling her name. When the flame goes out, she lights another match, and after a couple of them, the entire handful. She finds her grandmother, who had cared for her when she was little, her home, which was warm and filled with food, joy, laughter and love, and steps into that world as the flame goes out. The girl succumbs to hypothermia, but smiling because she is in a better place.
The story has been interpreted multiple times over the years by several countries. Even Walt Disney produced an animated film twice- in 1940 as part of the Fantasia series which was scrapped and as a standalone in 2006, which garnered several awards. In Germany, there were two different films based on the story by Andersen. This one was produced by Joé in 2012:
and this film in 2013 by public TV stations RBB and ARD as part of the series “Sechs in einem Streich” (Six in one Stroke), which started in 2011 and has continued ever since. In this version, a girl (Inga) and a boy (Emil) are living in an orphanage which is run by a ruthless headmaster, who abuses children and is greedy. After coming away with only a couple Thaler, Inga gives the money to Emil and sends him to the orphanage, while Inga keeps the remaining matches and tries desperately to sell them with no avail. She seeks shelter in a home that she had lived with her parents before they died, lights the matches only to see her parents again and she eventually joins them while she perishes peacefully from the cold. The small Emil befriends the police guard named Emil, who takes pity on the kids and in the end, arrests the headmaster of the orphanage. Years later, the younger Emil takes over the orphanage and makes it great again, thanks to help from the community. The making of this latest film, which has garnered a pair of accolades already since its release is below:
All of this happens at Christmas time, both as children as well as when Emil takes over the orphanage, years later.
There are many themes that can be taken away from the two film examples but it is best to allow the reader to watch them and get some impressions of his own. From the author’s point of view, the two stories follow closely to what Andersen wrote but with different situations, each one better than the other in terms of bringing hope home to those who need it.
If there is a list of stories and songs that relate to Christmas but not based on the Hallmark classics, then this one should be on the list of things to read (and filmwise, watch). It has all the elements in there that make the holiday seasons and even beyond a special one. And hence, the Files’ first Genre of the Week for 2019.
As we look at the 40th anniversary of the Great Blizzard that crippled northern Europe and brought both Germanys to a complete standstill, one factor that should not be left out is the role of photography. Prior to the storm, the only way to get a clear picture of the storm was from the ground. There is an advantage and a disadvantage to that. The advantage is one can get a close-up of the places that are snowed in. Whether it is a house that is covered with meter-high drifts, as seen in many examples in villages in Schleswig-Holstein, or getting a sniper view of an iced-in bay as seen in the picture above, taken by Georg Gasch, one can get an at-level view to see the damages up close. The disadvantage of such an approach is the problems of obstruction of view by unwanted objects and in this case, the cold weather. But furthermore, it misses the big picture, meaning one needs a good bird’s eye view in order to see how bad it really was.
Enter Kai Greiser.
Working for the Spiegel magazine based in Hamburg, Greiser was appointed to take the camera and film the scenes from this wild storm, which was tauted as the worst of all time when it happened in 1978/79. Together with the TV crew from German public television ZDF, Greiser took off in a helicopter and took a trip north to Schleswig-Holstein. His mission was to get a bird’s eye view of the snow disaster in the region. What he got in the end was more than what he had bargained for. Because of him and his crew, he saved many lives of those who were stranded in cars drifted in meter deep snow. Because of him and his crew, he got the best picture for the front cover of Spiegel magazine (as seen in the first picture of the gallery), which later appeared in other books on the history of Schleswig-Holstein. Because of him and his crew, his photos, combined with the filming we got a round-look at what the great Blizzard left us from a bird’s eye view. We would have many more ariel photos, but Greiser pioneered it with a series on the great disaster.
There is a video with him narrating about his experience, which can be found here:
An article on his experience, albeit in German, can be found here. And the collection of the créme de la créme can be found here. The first picture in the gallery was the one that entered the cover page of Spiegel.
Our last stop on the 2018 Christmas market tour keeps us in the state of Saxony but takes us way out west, to the wildest of west, namely the Vogtland. The reason we say this is for three reasons: 1. The Vogtland region is laden with rich forests, a large number of reservoirs and lakes and hills. For some of the rivers in the region, such as the White Elster, Zwickau Mulde, Eger and other notable creeks, the region is their starting point. 2. The region is rustic with wooden houses along the countryside, buildings with wooden facades, etc. Despite it being a part of East Germany with its communist housing, the region has a lot of attractions, competing with the likes of the Fichtel Mountains in Franconia (Bavaria), Thuringian Forest and even the Ore Mountains (Czech and German sides). 3. As far as activities are concerned, the Vogtland is filled with outdoor activities year round, including skiing, horseback riding, biking and hiking, just to name a few. And lastly, the Vogtland is the archrival to the Ore Mountain regions in terms of woodcrafting. Especially with regards to Christmas arches (Schwibbogen), pyramids, and other figurines typical of Christmas, the Vogtlanders pride themselves on their work and there has been a debate as to which regions these products were made, let alone their origins.
But that is for another time.
The largest city in the Vogtland is our focus of the Christmas market and is one that has a tradition and a history. Plauen has a population of 65,400 inhabitants and is the second closest city in Saxony to the Czech border behind Oberwiesenthal. At one time, the population had been hovering over 120,000 inhabitants before the two World Wars decimated much of it. Since 1945, it has been under the mark and decreasing steadily as people have emigrated away for better jobs in neighboring Bavaria and in bigger cities. It is 30 kilometers northeast of the nearest city of Hof (also in Bavaria) but 45 kilometers southwest of Zwickau. The White Elster River as well as the Syra and Mühlgraben flow through the city, and the city is rich with historic bridges, big and small, spanning them in and around the city. They include (in the city) the Friendensbrücke, the second oldest known bridge in Saxony in the Alte Elsterbrücke (built in 1228) and the brick stone viaducts at Syratal and Elstertal. The Göltzschtalbrücke, which is located 10 kilometers to the north, is the largest viaduct of its kind ever built. Apart from three federal highways, Plauen is also served by the Motorway 72, as well as three different raillines, including the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate, the Elster route going to Gera and Leipzig as well as the Vogtland route going to Cheb (CZ).
Despite having lost 75% of its buildings during the waning days of World War II through ariel bombings, much of Plauen’s architecture has been rebuilt to its former glory and still functions for its original purposes. This includes several churches, such as the Johanniskirche, Lutherkirche, and Pauluskirche, the Nonnenturm, the castle ruins of Schloss Plauen, the two city halls- one built in 1385; the other in 1922 which features a tower with clock- and several other historic buildings flanking the two market squares- Altmarkt and Klostermarkt.
Plauen has a lot to take pride in- its green hills and valleys, its beer, its theater and orchestra, but it is world famous for its Plauener Spitze, a type of pattern fabric that is carefully orchestrated by needles and other cutting tools. An example of such a Spitze can be found here:
Inspite of this, Plauen is also famous for its Christmas market, which is the largest in the region. It covers three-fourths of the city center, covering Altmarkt, extending along Obere Steinweg and Rathausstrasse, part of Klostermarkt and ending at the shopping center Stadtgallerie. Yet most of the shopping and eating possibilities can be found at Altmarkt and the shopping center. Because of parking issues, only the tree and some street performances were found during my visit at Klostermarkt.
Another area in the city center that was somewhat left out was the area around the church, Johanniskirche. While church services commenorating the birth of Christ, combined with concerts, were taking place there, the lot was empty with no cars around. Given its size, there could have been some potential to have some religious exhibits and/or booths in and around the church to encourage people to visit them before or after visiting the church. This was something that was found at some other Christmas markets, most notably in Glauchau and Zwickau as well as in some places in Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg.
To summarize in that aspect, the space availability for Christmas market booths and events is somewhat misaligned and the focus should be less on consumption and more on the holiday and religious traditions that Plauen offers and what is typical for the Vogtland region. That means aside from the church area, Klosterplatz should be filled in a bit with some booths and other holiday events and less glamour for the shopping area for Christmas markets are an outdoor event and not indoor. A note to some of the city planners for future reference.
Aside from this, the market itself features a combination of shopping possibilities in the Stadtgallerie and traditional products and foods in the Altmarkt. Both market appear to be well-decorated, with the Stadtgallerie having somewhat too much glamour with the Christmas decorations, thus creating more traffic for shoppers than what is needed at the market itself. Again, an imbalance that needs to be corrected. The Altmarkt itself is perhaps the nicest of the Christmas market in Plauen. The booths consist of small mahogany huts made with real wood from the Vogtland region, all decorated with spruce and pine tree branches as well as other forms of decorations. There are several picnic tables and benches, all made of cut-up wood; some of them have shelters in case of inclimate weather.
Much of what the Christmas market at Altmarkt offers is local specialties, such as the woodwork products made in the Vogtland, such as the pyramid, Christmas arch, incense products and figurines that are religious based. For eateries, the market offers not only local foods and drink, but also some international products. Most popular at the market include the Bemme- a bread with fat and pickles, in come cases with liver sausage. Then there is the Baumkuckenspitze, a layered, donut-shaped cake covered in chocolate; some of which with a thin-filling. Holzofenbrot that is cooked in a wood-burning oven is one that is most recommended, and one of the booths had a mixture of both local and international specialties. Especially in the cold weather, these bread products with are really good and filling.
As we’re talking about international specialties, the market offers products from the Middle East and parts in Europe. Included in the mix is from the Netherlands, where I had a chance to try different kinds of Gouda cheese- those that are sometimes 2 years old and more than ripe. Regardless of what kind, the cheese is highly recommended, and the salespeople selling them, we had a chance to talk about different cultures between Germany, the US and the Netherlands. Their booth features a good place to chat, where even Father Christmas and the angel can entertain themselves over cheese:
Apart from two different pyramids- one of which is over a century old, one can also spend time at the Spitzenmuseum at the older city hall, which by the way provides a great backdrop to the market together with the tower of the newer city hall, which one can tour the place and enjoy the view of the city and its landscape.
Plauen’s Christmas market features a combination of culture and history all in a historical setting. Culture is in reference to the local products that are offered, especially at the Altmarkt, and history is in reference to the historic setting the market has- to the south, the church and to the north, the two city halls. The market is well-visited and is not so crowded, although my visit was after the first Advent. Yet the magnet of the shopping center next door does raise some concern as to how to balance out the visitors and better utilize the space of Plauen’s city center. Having open but unused space makes a city center rather empty, especially at the time of the Christmas market. However, when planned better and through cooperation with retailers and property owners, Plauen can have a well-balanced Christmas market that is well-balanced in terms of visitors but also whose themes would make it attractive to visitors coming from Saxony, Germany, Czech Republic and beyond……
Photos of the Plauen Christmas Market can be viewed via facebook (click here) and Google (click here)