Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Classic 80's Song that Most of America Missed

R and I were driving through Germany last year when a song came on the radio. I had never heard the song before so I quickly ignored it. But R got all excited, turned up the radio and started signing along. She remembered it from her days growing up in Frankfurt, Germany in the early 80s.

I remembered laughing at the song - which was half in German and half in English - but didn't think much of it. I assumed it was just a random German song that R remembered because she happened to live int he right place at the right time.

But then I heard the song again in Italy. Then in Prague. I kept hearing it on the radio many times over. I heard it again today while I was in the coffee shop. And this is a 20 year old song. Why had I never heard this song before I moved to Europe? There had to be a reason.

OK - I'll stop the suspense. The song in question is named Jeanny and was recorded in 1985 by the Austrian pop star Falco - best known (in the US) for the hit song Rock Me Amadeus.

And it turns this song was effectively banned in the USA. I found this out while reading a Chuck Klosterman book a few weeks ago. According to critics, the song glorifies rape and stalking. I don't know about that. It must be the German part of the song, because the English lyrics are harmless enough. The chorus goes soemthing like this...

Jeanny, quit livin' on dreams
Jeanny, life is not what it seems
Such a lonely little girl in a cold, cold world
There's someone who needs you
Jeanny, quit livin' on dreams
Jeanny, life is not what it seems
You're lost in the night
Don't wanna struggle and fight
There's someone who needs you

If you have lived in the US your whole life, there is a good chance that you have never heard this song. I certainly didn't. And that's a real shame. This is one of the most awesomely bad song ever created. You can't get it out of your head. It's so so very bad. But in an awesome 80's kind of way.

I feel bad that us Americans were deprived the chance of having this song as part of our childhood memories. Everyone should hear this song on the radio and laugh at how horrible it is. And then scream the lyrics at the top of your lungs as you remember how much you loved it when you were 12. We missed our chance... there are very few 80's song that are more cheesy than this. R.I.P. Falco

You can see the video of Jeanny below. And, just so you know, I wrote the majority of this blog before I watched the video. Now that I have seen the video, I love this song ten times more. Oh my God it's great!!!!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Prague

R, Bauer and I spent the 2008 Christmas Vacation by ourselves in Prague. We were just in the States a few months ago and didn't feel like going back again. And, we're heading to Barcelona next week for New Year's, so the last thing we needed was another vacation.

Despite the fact that we were by ourselves for this Holiday, we decided to make the best of it. We hosted a dinner party with some of our friends on the night of the 24th. R wanted to make a "traditional" Christmas meal for the event and bought a turkey to prepare.

Turkey is not commonly served in the Czech Republic. In fact, the one Czech friend we had over for dinner had never eaten a real turkey before. Just processed lunch meat. Also, you can't just walk into the local super market and pick up the turkey of your choice. R had to order the bird a week in advance from a special butcher.

Another difference came apparent when we went to pick up the Turkey. We were expecting the turkey to be vacuum sealed in "normal" poultry packaging. Not too much to ask for, right? Nope. We got a bird in a plastic bag. Literally. They opened up a normal plastic bag, picked up the bird, and dropped it in there. That was it. Here are some of the pictures for proof.

Despite the questionable packaging, the dinner came out great. We had a fun time with our friends and the food was fantastic - as always.

Christmas Day itself was very lazy/relaxing. We took the dog on an extra long hike to one of the better parks in the neighborhood. Then we came home, napped, and I downloaded Weeds - Season 1 from iTunes. We watched an embarrassing amount of TV and didn't do much else.

We were supposed to go cross-country skiing today - but the weather didn't cooperate. So we're spending the rest of the weekend hanging around Prague. I'm downloading Weeds - Season 2 as we speak and trying to get the theme song out of my head....

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there's doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Merry Chrismas Everyone!!!!!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Paris (This time for Work)

This week I had the opportunity to attend LeWeb Conference '08. This is one of Europe's best - if not the best - conference that focuses on the Internet industry. And, the conference is also held in one of Europe's best - if not the best- city: Paris.

R has never been one to turn down a free hotel room for 3 days in Paris - so she bought a cheap plane ticket and joined me on the trip. While I toiled away at the conference, she got to enjoy Paris by day. And, since she speaks near fluent French, she had no problem getting around the city. She even took a cooking class one day - all in French*.

This is our 4th time in Paris and the cooking class mentioned above is one of the great things about visiting a city multiple times. Let me explain - because I've become a bit of a self-proclaimed expert at this over the last 2 years. The first time you go to a city, you feel obliged to hit all of the tourist attractions. It is just something you have to do. You go to the Louvre, you go to the top of the Eiffel tower, you take a walk around Sacre Coeur, and you eat at some of the typical French restaurants. It's a great, fun vacation and you have all of the pictures from all of the sites and you have a common interest when someone talks about the city.

The second time you visit a city is a bit different. You don't want to do ALL of the tourist attractions, but you remember the best attractions and might visit them again. For example, the Louvre is the best museum in the world and you have to visit again. No way you saw everything the first time. But, instead of going to top of the Eiffel tower, you just stroll by it a snicker at the huge line of people waiting to get to the top. Instead, you go get a great dinner at a place a few blocks away from the Eiffel tower and spend more time relaxing and drinking wine than you do acting like a tourist. You may also try to hit the cool nightspot that only the locals know.

Now, the third time you visit a city, you try to expand your horizons a bit more. You go to the 2nd tier of tourist attractions. These are things that aren't as popular - but arguably much cooler. This includes things like having a picnic at Versailles or going to the extreme edge of the metro line to visit that Catacombs.

This leaves us with your 4th visit to the city. This time, you have absolutely nothing planned. Going to visit a tourist attraction couldn't bore you any more. You've already hit the most famous restaurants and nightspots. But, you know the city well and remember which parts you liked the best. So you take the Metro and just start walking the streets. You walk streets that have no tourists on them. You wander into random stores like Shakespeare and Co. (which was charming beyond belief but, I just found out, also famous as hell. I guess this nullifies the point I was trying to make.) You do things at your own pace and act somewhat like a local. You may even go to a cooking class.

OK, now that we have gone through all of that, let's cut to the chase and talk about the most important attraction in Paris. The one that never gets old no matter how many times you visit the city. Of course, I'm talking about the food! Every time I visit Paris there are three things that I have to get - and this trip was no exception:

  1. Oysters

  2. Steak Frites

  3. Crepe with nutella and banana

I'm not going to go on and on talking about how great the food was. I find it very difficult to write about food without coming across as overly cliche and dramatic. So let's just say that the food was as good as I remembered, as good as I could hope for and satisfying in every way.

Since the whole point of our Paris trip was the conference, I suppose I should spend a few minutes writing about that as well. The conference gets an "A" for content and an "D" for operations. The speakers and attendees of the conference were great. Many interesting people and topics. And, the best part was that it wasn't just a bunch of tech blowhards screaming back and forth at each other (although the last session certainly was that). They had interesting speakers from all walks of life, including author Paulo Cuehlo, scientists, anthropologists, and even the French Minister of Finance. The conversations that these people brought to the table allowed you to see a full 360 view of the state of the Internet industry today - and not just the tech side of it.

However, as I alluded to above, the logistics of the conference were pretty awful. There has been much discussion about this in the blogosphere and rightfully so. The conference organizers used a brand new building for this years event that wasn't quite ready for prime time. The heater broke the night before the conference and it was absolutely freezing inside the first day. I couldn't stop shivering and it made it hard to concentrate. The lunch was also a disaster. A bad combination of portions that were too small, not enough food to feed the crowd and no where to sit and eat. As a final kick in the balls to all of the bloggers covering the event, Internet connectivity was spotty at best. Many, many people complained about this but I didn't bring my laptop so it didn't effect me much at all. All of these points created a pretty negative picture of the conference for some, which is a shame because the content was great.

Finally, I'll leave you with one funny story from Paris. On our last day, R and I took the bus from the city center to get some lunch. We're on the bus for about 20 minutes and everything is going fine. At one stop, there is a taxi blocking the official bus stop so the bus has to stop about 20 meters short. The people waiting at the stop had to walk these 20 meters to get on the bus. Not the end of the world, right? Well, one surly old Frenchman didn't like this at all. So he got on the bus and complained to the driver about this. He wasn't yelling, but you could tell that he was not happy. After about one minute of this, the bus driver had enough and pulled over the bus. She told everyone to get off the bus because she was now upset and she could no longer continue to drive. The bus was pretty full without about 40-50 people on it. This includes students, mothers with kids, older folks, etc. We all looked around in disbelief. A few people tried to talk to the bus driver to calm her down but she had none of it. She rolled up her window so no one could come near her and wouldn't budge. Everyone literally had to get off the bus and wait for the next one. I can't imagine anything like this happening in New York. Especially on a cold day. As we got off the bus, I heard one man bitching that this was all Sarkozy's fault. funny.

* I mentioned R speaking great French in this blog. In my last blog about Portugal, I failed to mention what a great job R did speaking Portuguese. She spoke like a pro and many of the locals told her that her language was flawless. This is very impressive considering R hasn't lived in Brazil in nearly 20 years and NEVER speaks the language. It's been one of the greatest advantages to being in Europe - I constantly live and travel with a translator. Any city I go into I just let R do the talking and everything is taken care of. That's why I call her my pocket translator. Which is funny if you know that our last name literally translates to "pocket" in Italian. And she's also shockingly short. So the joke works on several levels.

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