Books and Films

04RUPI1-superJumborupi kaur – poetry and feminism

With her second book of poems the sun and her flowers (2017), Toronto-based poet rupi kaur has once again managed to put into poetic words the depth and complexity of the female experience. Just as her first book of poems, milk and honey (2015), the new book is already an international best-seller. She touched many nerves with her poems, putting very complex feelings into simple words and poignant drawings.
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Hillary signing booksHillary Rodham Clinton – What Happened

I first encountered Hillary Rodham Clinton in Berlin on November 9, 2009, as she gave an official speech as Secretary of State at the Brandenburg Gate during the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In her speech, she talked about “people following their dreams and living out their potential as a result of the fall of the Wall.” I am one of those people. I wrote about the meaning of that day in one of my first blog posts. In fact, this event prompted the beginning of my blogging endeavors.
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la-la-land-reviewsFeminism 2016 – Film, TV and Media

This is my second annual compilation of films and tv-shows that made a conscious effort to recognize gender and race issues in an intersectional, inclusive, and original way. This year, I decided to add other major media events that stood out, such as Beyoncé’s launch of her video album Lemonade, and Barack Obama awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ellen Degeneres. I felt particularly good about this project, when the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced that beginning in 2019, works that do not demonstrate inclusivity in their production practices will no longer be eligible for the awards at the annual BAFTAs.
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Laurie Penny, Unspeakable ThingsLaurie Penny – Unspeakable Things

In her book, Laurie Penny has established connections between gender, race, social (in)justice, lies, and revolutions quite eloquently. Written when she was 27 years old, this book sums up pretty much all that is currently at stake in the world of gender inequality. And she does it without the apologetic self-deprecation that women, even feminist women, have been known for throughout history.

I compiled the most insightful quotes from her book.
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Theatre in PassingTheatre in Passing – Interview with Elena Siemens 

Elena Siemens‘ two volumes Theatre in Passing: A Moscow Photo-Diary (2011) and Theatre in Passing 2: Searching for New Amsterdam (2015, both published by Intellect) combine a personal narrative of cities, the author’s experiences and memories, stories of the different theatres, performance and urban spaces, with quotes from authors, scholars, playwrights, and theories of photography. The books are a great blend of scholarly, poetic, and personal narrative tone with street photography, and particularly the snapshot aesthetic.
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Inside-outFeminism 2015 – Film and TV 

Before the year’s end, I asked friends and followers for suggestions and recommendations for best feminist films and TV shows of 2015. I received many responses and suggestions and watched most of them, and put together a list of my favourites. Of course, this list could be much longer and more inclusive, but I wanted to limit it based on the following selection criteria. After I watched and categorized the year’s crop of films and TV shows, I noticed several patterns emerging. A number of actors (female and male) gravitated towards films and shows that had diverse casts, feminist themes, and a radical-honesty-approach to story-telling. There is an emerging new cohort in Hollywood of artists doing cool, important work, and they deserve special acknowledgement.
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Aufschrei bookAnne Wizorek’s Campaigns Against Sexism (#aufschrei) and Racism (#ausnahmslos)

In January 2013, Anne Wizorek, a media consultant in Berlin, started a consciousness-raising campaign against sexism on Twitter, entitled #aufschrei (#outcry), which went viral over-night, receiving over 60,000 tweets in the first two weeks, and then was instantly picked up by the mainstream media (still largely run by men) in Germany, as it coincided with a highly-publicized sexism scandal at the time. The emerging online community (or “talking circle” in Gloria Steinem’s words) of people speaking out publicly and raising awareness and understanding of the extent to which sexism still permeates all social and personal spheres reignited a new wave of discourse on feminism and gender in Germany and beyond.
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parks-and-recreationParks and Recreation – Best Quotes

Leslie: It is my dream to build a park… that I one day visit with my White House staff on my birthday. And they say President Knope, this park is awesome. Now we understand why you’re the first female president of the United States.
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GirlsGirls

Hannah (to her parents after they cut her off financially, handing them her manuscript and asking for more money): I don’t wanna freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice, of a generation.
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Berlin Wonderland coverBerlin Wonderland 1990-1996

Anke Fesel and Chris Keller’s (eds.) publication of  Berlin Wonderland: Wild Years Revisited 1990-1996 (Berlin: Gestalten, 2014) documents through photographs and eye-witness accounts the now-legendary years of Berlin’s post-Wall existence.

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Women in Clothes posterWomen in Clothes and The WORN Archive – New Ways of Writing About Fashion

When smart and creative feminist women take the business of writing about fashion into their own hands – unrestricted by magazine advertisers who, as Gloria Steinem revealed, dictate the contents of women’s fashion magazines to sell products; not influenced by mainstream fashion media that perpetuates impossible and unreal standards of beauty; and unaffected by the patriarchal gaze and objectification of women’s bodies – we get not only a very different kind of literary style and genre, but also a new cultural perspective on fashion.
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Zehn-Minuten-GeschichtenBerlin Short Fiction and Interview with Anja Tuckermann

Every few years, I roam through the recent publications about Berlin and select some highlights that are worth mentioning and interview a few Berlin-based authors. This time I focused on collections of short stories and short fiction. Here are my picks:
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Street Style Series (Intellect Press)Street Style Series by Intellect Press

Intellect Press has expanded its fashion division to include, among other fashion publications, the new Street Style Series. The first two volumes are on Shanghai, conceptualized by Toni Jonson-Woods and Vicki Karaminas, with photographs by Fung Chan, and on Honolulu, conceptualized by Malie Moran, Attila Pohlmann, and Andy Reilly, who while teaching a summer course in Berlin on the history of fashion kindly invited me to do a guest lecture on Berliner Chic in 2011. Other forthcoming volumes include Havana and Sydney Street Style, and future volumes will also include Moscow Street Style.

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Gloria todayGloria Steinem – Happy 80th Birthday and Thank you!

When Gloria Steinem turned 80, on March 25th, 2014, the organizers of the Ms. Foundation for Women, which Steinem founded, asked everyone to submit messages about how Gloria has influenced their lives and work. I’ve been wanting to write a post about Steinem and her work for a long time now, so this was a good incentive.

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Google and the World BrainFIFA – 32nd International Festival of Films on Art

The 32nd edition of FIFA – International Festival of Films on Art (March 20-30, 2014) has a great line-up of international films on music, art, fashion, photography, architecture and film. Founded in 1981 by René Rozon, the festival has expanded to feature 270 films from 34 countries, and includes an official Awards Ceremony that will be presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday, March 29, 2014.

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La Grande Bellezza -A Photo Collage

25La Grande Bellezza, dir. Paolo Sorrentino (2013) visually quotes various New Wave cinemas, particularly the Italian and French. I put together a collage of images that thematically traces the connections with the other canonical films, images, camera angles and cinematic landscapes of Fellini, Antonioni, and Godard.
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Rocky posterRocky

Stallone had not only written the script for the first film, but also had to fight hard to be able to star in it. Then he wrote and directed the three following films, and finally one more after Rocky V to close off the series. As it turns out, he performed these artistic achievements on top of transforming his body into that of an athlete and boxer, almost literally embodying the title character’s struggle from oblivion and poverty to athletic discipline and international stardom.
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The Brain That Changes ItselfThe Brain That Changes Itself

Norman Doidge’s best-selling book The Brain That Changes Itself (2007) provides a detailed account of the latest discoveries in neuroscience and brain plasticity. The Canadian-born and Toronto-based psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author describes the “behind the scenes” processes in our neurological networks, and the ways in which our brains constantly rewire themselves when we undergo various positive and negative experiences, growth, learning, damage, behavioural changes, relationships, addictions, fetishes, dysfunctions, traumas, or therapy.
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Everything We Want - BeaEverything We Want – by Beatrice Möller

Berlin documentary filmmaker, Beatrice Möller touched on several cultural nerves in her new film Everything We Want. Born in 1979 in Düsseldorf and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, she made her first documentary in 2003, entitled Omulaule heißt Schwarz (Omulaule means black), followed by Shalom Salam (2006) and Shosholoza Express (2010), which documents a train ride through South Africa and the experience of Apartheid.

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Tina and AmyDe-constructing Patriarchy… in Hollywood

Towards the end of 2012 a few mainstream films were released that mark a new direction in gender dynamics on-screen. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012), Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock (2012), and the HBO production of Philip Kaufman’s Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012) are all untraditional bio-pics about famous men, whose wives are presented as braver, stronger, wiser human beings, who upstage their husbands behind the scenes.
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Cute feetKids Are Worth It – Barbara Coloroso

Barbara Coloroso is the author of Kids Are Worth It! Raising Resilient, Responsible, Compassionate Kids (2010). Her book is a great guide to understanding all kinds of family dynamics, not only essential for future and current parents, but for anyone who ever wondered why we are the way we are, and how we pass it on from generation to generation. Here are some of her insights.
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DETROPIA (photo by Tony Hardmon)Detropia – by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

After the decline of the auto-manufacturing industry in Detroit, the city has shrunk due to the massive exodus of the upper-middle class population and businesses, and has been transformed into an urban void, similar to that of Berlin in the early 1990s, shortly after the fall of the Wall. Similarly to Berlin, artists, musicians, and other creative young people began moving into the open spaces and (re)creating creative communities and subcultures in the midst of the urban ruins.
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Being Erica, Season 4, Episode 11, Final lessonBeing Erica

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” (Albert Einstein)

“We learn by doing. There is no other way.” (John Holt)

“Curiosity does no less than devotion pilgrims make.” (Abraham Kaley)

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The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – by Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender‘s last book is a fascinating study of our underlying emotional worlds, often unbeknown to ourselves and the people closest to us, which her female protagonist, Rose Edelstein, can taste in people’s cooking. This premise allows for interesting contemplations on relationships, especially with her mother, who, as in many traditional families, is the primary cook in the family.
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What most people don’t know about LOVE

Over the last decade, the feminist cultural critic, bell hooks, conducted very thorough research on love, covering all areas of the topic, starting from the need of a shared definition, to providing clarity on confusions about love in all our relationships, going back to our families of origin, and outlining the misconceptions and oppressions upheld by patriarchal structures and ideology. Her books change the way we view love as a society, and call for a more mindful love ethic.

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A Pace of Grace – by Linda Kavelin Popov

Linda Kavelin Popov is a psychotherapist based on Salt Spring Island, BC. Her second book, A Pace of Grace (2004), is part-autobiography, part guide-book to a physically, emotionally, and spiritually sustainable life. She challenges her readers to evaluate their lives.
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Solids and Liquids – A Cultural Assessment

Ever wonder why we seem to be living in an age with so little stability and security – whether it is job security, relationships, political or social security, or even a sense of solid identities? Or why we seem to be constantly running and racing and chasing and never really feel fully satisfied or sustained? Sociologist and cultural critic Zygmunt Bauman provides some theories in his books Liquid Modernity (2000), Liquid Love (2003), and Liquid Times (2007).

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This is Your Brain on Music

One of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a long time is Daniel J. Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music (2007). It covers a wide range of disciplines (neuroscience, psychology, musical theory) to explain the various processes that go on in our brain when we listen to music. Why do we really like certain types of music and completely dislike other types? Why does certain music touch us at an emotional level even more than language or poetry?
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The West Wing

President Bartlett (in staff meeting): Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. After, therefore because of it. What it means is one thing follows the other, therefore it was caused by the other. But it’s not always true, in fact, it’s hardly ever true. We did not lose Texas because of the hat joke. Do you know when we lost Texas?
CJ: When you learned to speak Latin?
President Bartlett: Go figure.
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Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen’s latest film is a lovely homage to, and summary of all the fascinating highlights of Paris in the 1920s. Te film is fill of literary, artistic and cinematic references. All the performances are great, but in his 10 minutes on screen, Adrien Brody, as Salvador Dali, almost steals the whole movie.
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How to Become a Berliner – New Berlin Fiction

The term used to express this anxiety in light of looming change is “gentrification” – how does one raise the wages, generate profits, and provide for the young and the old, without sacrificing freedoms and comforts? This is a question for future economists and sociologists. In the meantime, Berlin is caught somewhere between nostalgia and exhilarating progress. And it’s a fascinating journey.

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Haunted Sites: Forgotten Places in Berlin and Surroundings

Arno Specht’s book Geisterstätten: Vergessene Orte in Berlin und Umgebung (Haunted Sites: Forgotten Places in Berlin and SurroundingsJaron Verlag, 2010) is a “search for traces and ruins of Berlin’s youngest history … a history and a past that has not been worked over in museums, where the history of the buildings and their inhabitants is narrated, but rather it is a history of coincidental traces, un-arranged and un-curated.” (p.5)
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Street Art in Berlin – Kai Jakob

Street Art in Berlin (Version 4.0) is the fourth edition of the collection of Berlin street art photographs by the freelance photographer Kai Jakob. Capturing a temporal artistic medium, the book presents the work of Berlin street artists such as: XOOOOX (working with stencils in Berlin since 2001), El Bocho (the creator of “Little Lucy”), Just (since 1999), Emess, Dolk, Linda’s Ex, Alias, Tower, SP 38.

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New Berlin Fiction

As the first floor of Dussmann Kultur-Kaufhaus dedicated to literature on Berlin expands with more and more Berlin novels and non-fiction books (now it also has a whole new, two-level store-addition of English books), and as more and more people feel the desire and necessity to write about Berlin, I try to follow their creations and publications in order to trace what they have to say about this city. Here are some of the new trends and works I’ve found:
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Wilfried Nelles – Men, Women, and Love

Wilfried Nelles‘ talk, entitled “Men, women, and love. From childish entitlements to mature needs” addressed some pertinent problematics in today’s relationships: what are the implications when love is the sole element for relationships? What is a mature relationship?Why are there so many problems with relationships?
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East/West narratives – It’s raining Generations 

Jana Hensel‘s generational memoir, After the Wall: Confessions from an East German Childhood and the Life That Came Next. Transl. by Jefferson Chase. New York: Public Affairs, 2004 (Zonenkinder, 2002) describes the experiences of the “last generation of GRD kids” growing up in reunified Berlin. Full of insightful observations about a whole generation whose childhood took place in a country that no longer exists, and adult years were spent listening, learning, and adapting to West-German (pop-)culture, styles, and vernacular.
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Susan Sontag – Inspiration

The Berlin premiere of a new documentary about Susan Sontag: Thinker and Diva (dir. Birgitta Ashoff, ARTE, 2010, 52min) took place at the Literaturhaus Berlin with the film maker in attendance. The director met with Susan Sontag before her death in New York in 2003, and then went back again after her death in 2010 to interview people who were close to her.

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Annett Gröschner – Living and Writing Berlin

In her 2008 book Parzelle Paradis: Berliner Geschichten (Lot Paradise: Berlin Stories) Annett Gröschner‘s protagonist moves through the different neighbourhoods of Berlin and watches the people, the buildings, and spaces, and the words that make up the many stories of the city.
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Mauerpark – by Dennis Karsten

Mauerpark, a documentary film by Dennis Karsten about Berlin’s most-visited Sunday hang-out, premiered last week at the Achtung Berlin Film Festival of new films about, and produced in Berlin. Filmed in the summer of 2009, with a Panasonic Gh1 camera that allows to selectively leave certain parts of the frame out of focus, Karsten’s film is a beautiful homage to Berlin’s subculture and its eccentric, creative, and talented outsiders.

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Larry D. Rosen – Rewired

Does technology affect the way we think? The way we see and speak, the way we read and write, the way we make sense of the world and communicate? Many recent publications deal with these and similar questions, most notably, perhaps, the question we all want to have answered: how does the internet affect our brainLarry D. Rosen examines the generational differences of technology consumption and new patterns of learning, multitasking, and communicating in a world redefined by Web 2.0.

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Michael Nast – The Better Berliner

Berlin’s My Space blogging celebrity, Michael Nast made his name writing about life in Berlin, first in blog-form, then as audio book Berliner Schule (2008), and then a collection of amusing dating adventures and stories in the life of a thirty-something Berliner and the people he encounters in Der bessere Berliner (2009). Nast is currently writing his next Berlin novel.

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Happiness Research

Sooner or later we all stumble over questions of happiness. What exactly is it? What makes us happy? Why is it so elusive? Usually, when things are going well, we tend to take it for granted; when things are not going so well, we begin our research and analysis, and design our own happiness projects.

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Sex and the City

Miranda: Do you have a rolling pin?
Carrie: On me?
Miranda: In your kitchen.
Carrie: Are you kidding me, I use my oven for storage!

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Drifting along the orbits without contact

L’Eclisse, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni (1962). “It is the things, objects, and materials that have weight today.” (Michelangelo Antonioni) The Eclipse is a study of relationships. Just as the occasional and temporary overlapping of the moon and the sun along the earth’s orbit, the characters drift in and out of each other’s lives with the same randomness and recklessness they enter and exit the frame of Antonioni’s camera. Seemingly chaotic, but actually tied to specific patterns of behavior, the characters interact with each other in what appears to be a sporadic manner.

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Alice does!

What is it about a girl named Alice, who goes on an adventure, that inspires our collective imagination? Alice! A childish story take, /And, with a gentle hand, /Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined / In Memory’s mystic band, / Like pilgrim’s wither’d wreath of flowers / Pluck’d in a far-off land. (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, p.8)

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Never Let Me Go

Michiko Kakutani, the reviewer for The New York Times, claims that Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go (2005) is “a meditation on mortality” (quoted on the book cover).  Originally published in 2005, it was recently released as a feature starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield (who gives another stunning performance after his powerful portrayal of Eduardo Saverin, Mark Zuckerberg’s only real friend in The Social Network), and Keira Knightley.

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Berlin Ghosts and Other Inhabitants: New Berlin Fiction

Many foreigners populating the streets of Berlin, and particularly Prenzlauer Berg, have begun writing about their adopted city, thereby adding to the already-existing, rich, local Berlin cultural discourse, and creating a relatively new trend of expat-fiction set in Berlin. Some of them manage to find something interesting to say about Berlin, others not so much.

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Mademoiselle Coco

One is not born a woman, one becomes one. Simone de Beauvoir was right. And Coco Chanel showed us how it’s done. With style. Simone de Beauvoir was the first feminist to offer a sustained critique of fashion and femininity, commenting on the “woman of elegance” that “What she treasures is herself adorned, and not the objects that adorn her” (Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex,  1949, p.545).

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California Dreamin’ – Cinephilia and Cinephobia in L.A.

L.A. is one of those cities uncannily recognizable from many films and TV shows. Walking down Broad Walk on Venice Beach or turning a corner downtown, you walk onto a set you have seen before. “How can you visit NY City without that experience being informed by all the New York Cities you know from movies, TV shows and news reports? We experience the world through a kind of filter of preconceptions and expectations fabricated in advance by a culture swamped by images.” (Jean Baudrillard)

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East-West Discourse in Transition

In May 2006, just a few months before the World Cup in Berlin, I asked Ingo Schulze a question after his book reading (from his Neue Leben, 2005) in Kreutzberg: “What do you think of the “new” Germany?” not even suspecting that we were speaking different discourses.

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City of Cinephilia

Berlin is the city of cinephilia. One constantly encounters what Christian Keathley describes as the “cinephiliac moments” throughout Berlin’s topography. Walking around the ruin of Anhalter Bahnhof (now a ruin of a former train station), one catches a glimpse of the old bunker (today used as Das Gruselkabinet – haunted house) and immediately sees the inscription: „Wer Bunker baut, wirft Bomben“ (those who build bunkers, throw bombs), and thinks of Peter Falk, walking across the vast void (now filled with a soccer field) in Wim Wenders’ Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire, 1987).

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