Poem 3: Charlottenburg 1986

Do you remember the days when we were friends…

 

when that fertile field felt funny under my feet

with stones that ricocheted razor-sharp

against the pillars of Reichstag and grazed

against my swollen back.

 

New napalmed Nazi signs blazed

and branded onto the timid tender

arms of you, a Catholic girl that shaded and shifted your

arms with pulsing childlike blended skin.

 

Chilling and chastising accounts of open canopies

marred the city’s blooming clouds that were

floating over the crafty graffiti on the wall and

floating by a breeze that blazed over the rumbling S-Bahn.

 

Your hasty heaving screams pierced near my body

blocking my bloodshot bursting eyes

shifted once by the steel-glazed guns and

shifted by broken daisies left dangling and deserted.

 

For now, you and I will still remain under close watch

under their piercing, tranquil stares

praying that the gloom of the city will swallow us

praying that the memories of our mind will vanish

forever.

 

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What We Do: Eat a Currywurst

For my newest Tuesday weekly feature, I thought I’d dip into the past giving ideas and recommendations on anything from food to pop culture to games from here to around the world.  And so for the first post, I take you to Berlin, Germany where a popular little dish is eating a Currywurst.

If there is something that Germany has a lot of, it’s a lot of “wursts” – different types of sausages, including Knockwurst, Bratwurst, Kasewurst, Bockwurst and my personal favorite, the Currywurst.

currywurst

The Currywurst is something I tried for the first time in the early 80s and I became obsessed with it.  I would walk down to a nearby “imbiss”, which is a small type of bar that sold snacks and drinks of all varieties.  They would hand me a small paper tray, in which I would have a sausage cut up in a curried sauce.  It had a zest to it, but it wasn’t really spicy.  It would be my daily snack.  (And usually I would also have French fries coated with mayonnaise on the side).

fries

Since then, I’ve tried to recreate it in my own home and while it’s definitely not the same outcome, the taste is fairly similar.  Honestly, it’s really easy to make.  And cheap.  I use smoked sausage, although I’ve also done it with Bratwurst and Kielbasa, too.  In some stores (such as a Meijer or Kroger), they actually sell a specialized Curry sauce.  Some sell it with other condiments (“Curry Ketchup”), while other stores have an international aisle where they may sell it as an imported “Curry Sauce”.  Either one has worked for me.  I’ve also simply used a regular ketchup bottle, mixed it with some tomato paste and put some curry powder, salt, pepper and some creole seasoning in there as well.

The food is really popular in Berlin.  In fact, they’ve even opened up a Currywurst museum dedicated to the sausage itself.

museum

So in summary, if you don’t make it out to Berlin any time soon, try a flavorful Currywurst yourself.  And if you do make it out there, stop by, have a Currywurst and then don’t forget to visit the museum…to have some more!  It’s what Berliners do!

berlin

10 Great Foreign Films

When I began working on my Film Studies degree in 2002, I had no idea exactly what I wanted to do with it when I finished.  I was hoping the program would allow me to answer that by the end of it.  By the time, I finished in 2004, I still had no idea.  Did I want to become a critic and review films, becoming the next Roger Ebert?  Did I want to become a film historian a la Robert Osborne?  My strength was in writing and I thought to myself that I could use the degree to write a screenplay.  (NEWS FLASH:  You actually don’t need a film degree to become a screenwriter…in fact, you don’t really need a degree.)

I reached out to different critics, but by the time I had graduated, most of them were being laid off.  And so I decided to stay in the career of….hospitality.

Now the reason why I’m telling you this is not to discourage anyone from obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies or to lose hope as a screenwriter, film historian, critic, producer, or any other career associated with films.  There was something that I did get out of the degree and that was a vast knowledge of films from outside the Hollywood system and today, I use many of those films as an example in my writing.  They allow me not to follow a formula that is common in many Hollywood films and strengthen my plots and characters in various ways.

And so here are 10 great films outside of Hollywood that you would enjoy.  My only rule was to not have more than one film representing a country.

  1. Burnt by the Sun (1994) (RUSSIA)

Nikita Mikhalkov’s film “Burnt By The Sun” is about a Russian Commander and his family when they’re caught in the middle of an anti-Stalinist agenda by a returning family friend.  The film begins with a happy outlook that is helped by the performance of Mikhalkov’s real-life daughter as Nadia, but when Dimitri enters the picture, the family’s past comes back to haunt them.

 

  1. The 400 Blows (1959) (FRANCE)

This film, part of the French New Wave, was directed by Francois Truffaut (who, along with Jean-Luc Goddard) is considered the defining filmmaker during the movement.  The film is about a youth, Antoine Doinel, who finds himself trying to navigate the world of adolescence.  (If you enjoy this film, you can follow Doinel’s further adventures in subsequent films in the series with the same actor.)

 

  1. The Shop on Main Street (1965) (CZECHOSLOVAKIA)

“The Shop on Main Street” is about a man named Tono who has to seize control of a small store owned by a Jewish widow during the Nazi Occupation in World War II.  When he begins to care for the woman, she becomes a motherly figure to his disheveled world.  It is the final moments of the film that bring about a haunting ending and a tragic coda to their relationship.

 

  1. Y Tu Mamá También (2001) (MEXICO)

This film is about two immature best friends (played by real-life best friends Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna) who embark on a road trip with an older woman in the hopes of satisfying their own sexual appetite.  What they learn, however, is a lesson in the real meaning of friendship and adulthood.  Before directing “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Gravity”, Alfonso Cuaron wrote and directed this coming-of-age story.

 

  1. A Separation (2011) (IRAN)

This Iranian film is about a couple who decide to get a divorce and are blinded to the effects it has on their daughter.  Truly, there’s a theme here about how we make our own lives more complicated by our own desires rather than those of the people we care about.

 

  1. Bicycle Thieves (1948) (ITALY)

The film “Bicycle Thieves” was made during the Neo-realistic era of Italy and is directed by Vittorio De Sica.  It depicts a day in the life of an impoverished father who gets a bicycle stolen needed for work.  Along with his son, they go in search of the culprit.  Much like “A Separation”, this film shows the selfishness of a parent and how we can become blind to our children.

 

  1. Sholay (1975) (INDIA)

Loosely taking elements of “Seven Samurai” (See Below), the film is about two criminals who are hired by a retired police officer to catch another notorious criminal.  It has all the elements of a Bollywood film (Songs and action and melodrama, oh my!), but it also has the themes of sacrifice, friendship and love.

 

  1. The Lives of Others (2001) (GERMANY)

I can’t say enough for the performances in this film about an East German officer who is told to listen in on conversations between an actress and her love, a West German writer.  Soon, he realizes that he’s sympathizing with their emotions and feelings and has to decide whether he wants to turn them in or help them.  There are two final shots in movies that I find which wraps the film’s theme into its central character’s facial expression.  One is Chaplin’s “City Lights” and the other one is this film right here.

 

  1. The Seven Samurai (1954) (JAPAN)

This film is an epic in every way.  Directed by famous director Akira Kurosawa (a notable inspiration for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg), and great cinematography and editing aside, the film boasts a wonderful depiction of Japan’s homeland and characterization of seven different Samurai warriors with seven different personalities (highlighted, as in many of Kurosawa’s films, by the performance of Toshiro Mifune).

 

  1. The Last Emperor (1988) (CHINA)

Technically not considered a Chinese film (but since this is my list, I bent my own rules a little) “The Last Emperor” is based on a true story about Pu Yi, China’s last emperor.  The film literally takes you from his early childhood to his final moments and is highlighted by Bernardo Bertolucci’s direction, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s haunting score and the depiction of the history in 20th Century China.

 

 

Last MOment:  Do you agree with the list?  Are there other great foreign films you would add?  Share your comments.

THE DREAMER

About 2 years ago, I found myself rummaging through old school papers that included report cards, school pictures, essays I wrote, journals, diaries, newspaper clippings, etc and remember some of the comments my fourth grade teacher made.  Apparently, I looked out the window too much.  Apparently, I was a day dreamer.  Apparently, I had no affinity for any kind of education and if I didn’t improve my conduct I would be held back.

Now I take issue with one thing.  It’s not true that I didn’t care about schooling – I actually loved math and spelling.  I loved things that made me think.  I was usually the first one to turn in the timed multiplication tables and I had an abundance of spelling stickers (which were probably the inspiration for emojis – happy smiley faces!  Stars!  Fireworks!).  For some reason, my teacher thought there was no hope for me.  That wasn’t true at all.

The one thing that was true was that I did dream…a lot!  Even my mother would always laugh at how many different thoughts came into my head.  From wanting to host game shows to stage acting to becoming a police officer to even riding around in a garbage truck, I always seemed to want to have a different dream.

Today, I am no different.  I still dream.  I want to travel the world.  I want to write a book.  I want to write programs for a children’s hospital.  I want to solve a murder case.  I want my kids to look at me as some kind of fantastic superhero.  And that’s why I am here…to share not just my future, but so that others can go along with me as I ride my journey to one (or two…or better yet…multiple) dreams.  And maybe others can be inspired by this journey I am taking.

That’s why I am here…but I should probably introduce myself now, so people understand also who I am.  My name is Mo Anand and I was born in Berlin, Germany.  I lived in Germany for nine years before moving to Michigan.  Michigan has been my home for 30 years now.  I am married to my wife, Rachel and we have four wonderful children, Benjamin, Oliver, Charlie, and Annika.  I am a Christian and I currently work in several different fields:  transportation, health care and education.

As far as my future goes, I have several goals in mind.  Within the year, I want to earn more than the $55,000 I am making now.  I want to learn how to program in Java.  I want to write a TV script pilot.  I want to re-learn German and Spanish.  I want to read a whole slew of Dickens novels.  There’s a lot I want to accomplish.  But that’s me….the dreamer still lives in me.