20 June 2006

the arts.

Blacklight ping pong may well be the greatest new sport (if curling made the Olympics, then this definitely deserves respect!). At basement bars until the wee hours of the morning, hip Berliners play a modified team version of ping pong. The nights are generally spontaneous and rarely advertised, so the news spreads via word of mouth. Essentially, everyone who wants to play grabs a paddle and circles around the table. Someone serves, rotates the circle, someone returns, rotate again, and so on. If you miss, you're out. When it gets down to two people, they play best of three for the honor of ringing the bicycle bell nailed to the counter to signal the start of a new game. The game moves fast, so no one fights about points, and while some people are very good, everyone is patient with challenged beginners slowing down the game. Even if you're awful at ping pong, like yours truly, light trails make for hours of entertaining photography experiments.

For those unaware, the FIFA World Cup is being held in Germany as I type, with the finals being played in Berlin in a few weeks. While soccer is underappreciated in the States, riots break out in other countries over soccer games. It's like the Olympics, only more cutthroat. Two years ago, the captain of the Semester at Sea made us think the ship was sinking when he announced Greece's underdog victory in the Eurocup. This Holland fan decorated one of Berlin's most recognizable symbols, the Brandenberg Gate, with his country's colors and snapped a picture before a Berliner chased him away. What I wouldn't give to be in Europe for the excitement right now, and I don't even particularly like the game!

Berlin's music scene deserves mention as well, so pictured here are Suburban Kids with Biblical Names, the greatest pop artists to come out of Sweden since ABBA. Their name caught our eye at a record store in Alexanderplatz, and as karma would have it, they played at White Trash Fast Food (perhaps the greatest name for a music venue in history) four days later. Thanks to Andrew (of Gainesville's own Inuit Jargon) and/or Tim for the picture. Between that and this past weekend's road trip to Bonnaroo, it's been a rather musically rewarding summer.

While my actual story for the "class" part of my trip focused on an American modern dancer I met in Berlin (story coming soon), here we have a young break dancer performing at Kurfurstendamm for a crowd of tourists and Berliners alike. While some claim they dance because they love it and would do it even if they made no money, these guys avoid any such noble facades. When they passed around the tip hat midway through the show, I was out of cash except for a few coins. Apparently, my empty wallet didn't convince him, and I was angrily cursed out in German for not "donating" enough money. He even refused to take what I could offer - it seems "beggars can't be choosers" isn't the popular proverb in Germany that it is in the States. Such is life.

My flight to Tel Aviv leaves on Friday - everyone's favorite atheist is off to the holy land of three of the world's major religions for a six week internship and class focusing on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Until then, I suggest you marvel at Cambridge in Colour and start planning your own international adventure. For those in Gainesville, everyone's favorite indie presidential candidate and all-around inspiration is off to Philadelphia with Teach for America to change the lives of those high school students lucky enough to be in his class. MacKenzie, you will be missed.

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