Midi Pile – An Enchanting Story In Scissor Cut

Occasionally, a work falls into your hands that you only want to touch with reverence and fingertips, and that tells a story that touches with great sensitivity. In the children’s book department of the Librairie Kléber bookstore in Strasbourg, Alsace, I came across the children’s book Midi Pile, which tells the adventures of the little rabbit Jacominus Gainsborough.

Rébecca Dautremer is the unique narrator and artist behind Jacominus’ experiences and has already introduced us to her in her first children’s book, The Rich Hours of Jacominus Gainsborough. With Midi Pile, she takes readers by the hand in a wonderful continuation of his adventures. The book is in coloured silhouette throughout and leads us through the story from the perspective of the little bunny.

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My Pile of Books 2019

In addition to writing, talking to people, listening to podcasts and giving lectures, one of the most important activities of an author and speaker is reading. And that is reading a lot.

Already as a child, I buried myself in comics from the 2nd hand comic store and in newspapers, even though I wasn’t officially allowed to read the latter. My father initially didn’t want me to read them, but my mother always secretly slipped them to me. Until the day when my father officially handed me the newspaper for the first time and I was no longer forced to read it in secret.

No wonder that in the family apartment we moved into in Vienna in the early 80s, the bookshelves and family books suddenly found their way into my room. Collecting books did not stop, and has even gained more momentum over time. Today I have a library that certainly contains around 3,000 books. There is not much order, but at least I have been maintaining an online list for a few years now, which probably contains about one third of my books.

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Mafalda in Buenos Aires

In my youth, I came a few times across a comic strip with a little heroine called Mafalda. At that time I didn’t really know the meaning of this precocious girl, she had been nothing more to me than the heroine of a comic strip like Charlie Brown from Peanuts. Later I learned from an Argentinean friend how well-known and popular Mafalda was there. But only a vacation in Buenos Aires and an analysis of Mafalda in the form of a political and socio-historical investigation brought me closer to the comic strip and its significance for Latin America.

If one strolls through the streets of Buenos Aires, one cannot overlook the amount of Mafalda drawings in the city. On a small square between the streets of Defensa and Chile there is a queue of people at any time of the day, patiently waiting to take a picture with Mafalda and her friends.

A line in front of the Mafalda statue in Buenos Aires

The statue is located opposite the house where the cartoonist and inventor of Mafalda and her friends Joaquín Salvador Lavado Tejón, better known by his stage name Quino, lived. Since the statue was erected, this area of the San Telma district has become a tourist spot. Every weekend an artists’ market is held along Defensa.

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Mata Hari

I have been reading and collecting comics for years. It began – as usual – in childhood, when we were allowed to go to a comic exchange store once a week and exchange ten old comics for ten other old comics for 10 Austrian Schillings (less than a dollar). I had devoured most of the comics on the same day.

What I didn’t understand at the time was that many of the comics exchanged were actually comic books, where only a few pages of a comic album were printed. So instead of a whole Smurf story, it was just four or eight pages from a typical 40-60 page album.

But reading comics stopped when I was a teenager. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I came across a comic book store in Orleans, France, which to my surprise was not frequented by children, but mainly by adults. I flipped through a series of albums until I stumbled across a page that I knew from my French class in high school. A double spread of Marcel Gotlieb, originally printed in the legendary comic magazine Pilote, was there in a complete edition of his work.

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Otto Waalkes vs Harry Potter Puppet Pals

Does anyone still remember the viral sensation from 2007, Harry Potter Puppet Pals? Yes, exactly that one with the rhythmical tic-toc and the names of the characters that are sung by the puppets.

Well, by enjoying some Otto-Compilations in the evening I stumble across an old sketch by Otto Waalkes in what must be from the 1970s, in which he is using the same rhythm and counting names of former dictators.: Dubček, Mao Zedong, King Kong, Idi Amin, Saddam, Honecker, …

It seems that Otto’s sketch is also based on older material, and the Harry Potter Puppet Pals had the same as inspiration. Does anyone know what the original song is?

Sitting Dry in the Sand

An impressive number of friends that I had gone out for dinner in the past months told me that they had stopped drinking. They did so two weeks ago, or have been off alcohol for several months. Their reasons for staying away from alcohol vary, like not feeling like it, feeling more health-conscious, or maybe having had one of their friends get a DUI and make them realize that this is not worth it.

Whatever their reasons are, I can relate to them. I stopped drinking two-and-a-half years ago. I just made it my New-Year’s-resolution. Not that I drank much before, but the occasional glass of wine every other day, or a beer with friends every other week. Going cold-turkey wasn’t really a problem. But still, for weeks you could feel a craving, and when you had made it a habit passing by the wine shelves in the supermarket, I had to stop it and look for an alternative route.

While some of my friends really went full non-alcohol, others may allow the occasional glass of champagne for celebrating a birthday. It’s more a spectrum of sobriety, in the sense of meat-eater <-> vegetarian <-> vegan.

Drinks Missing In Action

Drinking non-alcoholic beverages is easy, you think? Well,  here is the funny thing. While waiters hand you full booklets with dozens of pages of wines, cocktails, beers, and spirits, that restaurants give you at the dinner table, the non-alcoholic section is often not more than two or three lines. Sodas, juices, and water. And empathic waiters will give you the option to have a cocktail prepared without the alcohol.

It’s stunning. Almost no restaurant or bar has a selection of non-alcoholic drinks that you would call “a selection.” It’s like they are missing-in-action and nobody cares. While there are bar tenders specialized in cocktails of all sorts, and fancy restaurants having their own sommelier making wine recommendations, non-alcoholic drinks seem to be the step-children in the hospitality industry.

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