20 March 2005

What's in a name

BerlinBear avatar Of course, I am not the Berlin Bear. I am just a Berlin Bear. But then, I am not the bearer of my real name either, just a bearer of it. In fact, I share my real name with an international rugby player, a professional snooker player, an American College Football star, and a distant cousin of mine. And those are just the ones I know about.

The real Berlin Bear's actual name is Tilo, and in contrast to me, he has two "wives", whose names are Schnute and Maxi. If you're interested, you can check them out here. I'm afraid much of the site is in German, but you'll find a summary in English in the sidebar under Die Berliner Stadtbären. The bear is the official heraldic symbol of Berlin, and has been since the 13th century. So, I'm tapping into a long, long line here. I'm sure they won't mind sharing though.

Since long before we moved to Berlin, my girlfriend's nickname for me has been Bear. I like to believe that this is because I am strong, powerfully built, have brown hair, like salmon, and am unique and worth protecting. But she would probably tell you that it's really because I'm a bit clumsy, bumbling and ponderous, and growl a bit too often, even if I do give good hugs. Either way, now that I'm living here in Berlin, I have no hesitation in adopting BerlinBear as my nom-de-web for this blog.

That's the way I see it, and that's the way I'm gonna call it.

[This post was originally published on my old blog, here]

19 March 2005

Taking the plunge

BerlinBear avatarBefore starting this, I have looked around at a lot of blogs, and in particular how other people got their blogs started and what their first entries were like. I've come to the conclusion that there are no hard and fast rules for, or even a uniform way of, getting things going. So I figured it is best just to bite the bullet and take the plunge...

Let me start with a bit of background information. Apart from the odd snippet which trickles through when relevant in later posts, this is likely to be the only personal information you get about me, so enjoy it while it lasts.

I am from Auckland, New Zealand, but am now living in Berlin. So I guess that makes me an ex-pat Kiwi. I don't really like the finality inherent in the expression "ex-pat", but there you go. I moved to Berlin in the latter half of last year, partly to carry out research, but principally to be with my girlfriend. We'll call her Ms. Bear. I am working on a doctorate in German linguistics, looking at the recent influence of English on German vocabulary. It has been, and remains, tough going and it has taken much longer than originally intended (don't they all?). I'm doing my doctorate at Oxford University, which is where I lived for five years before moving here. So, all told, it's been the better part of six years since I last lived or spent any considerable amount of time in New Zealand. Nevertheless, I still feel closely attached to New Zealand and very much a New Zealander, and I assume I always will. As a result of where I've lived, I guess my principal spheres of interest and understanding lie in New Zealand, Germany and the UK, though not necessarily in that order at all times. This will, no doubt, be reflected in this blog.

My interests are broad and eclectic. They include, but are absolutely not limited to: current affairs, politics - especially foreign policy, sport (of all kinds, but in particular European football, rugby, Australian Rules, cycling, rowing and horse racing), cinema, theatre, language in general as well as particular languages, literature, international travel, eating out, history, biography etc, etc.

That brings me on to the nature of this blog. Perhaps it's easiest to start with what this blog will not be. It will not be an online diary, or certainly of not one of the "Dear blog, today I ..." type. It will also not be a vehicle to showcase my writing, as I don't consider myself a writer. (I suppose that could change, but for now I certainly don't). It will also not be an out-and-out political blog, though I read plenty of those and am interested in politics here, in New Zealand and in the wider world. In fact, this probably won't be an out-and-out anything blog. Rather, it's likely to be a reflection of my interest in all sorts of things. Basically, it is intended on the one hand to be a collection of musings on topics which grab my attention either online or in the real world, and on the other hand a collection of reflections on life in Berlin and Germany, in my relatively new role as a "Wahl-Berliner", or "Berliner by choice." In that sense it is perhaps intended as a sort of dispatch from Berlin to New Zealand or wherever else potential readers might be. I am bound also to comment from time to time on things that are going on in New Zealand and the UK too. If I could give this blog a subtitle (perhaps I will figure out how to do that when I'm a bit more savvy!) it would probably be something like: "Musings of a dis-located New Zealander in Berlin". The inspiration for the title, by the way, comes from a regular Guardian column entitled Capital Letters, (for example here) in which correspondents write a dispatch about any topic from a capital city around the world. And since I'm in a capital city of my very own, but only one, I thought I'd plump for The Capital Letter.

I've opened comments up to all and sundry in the first instance to see how that goes. Depending on the response, I might have to review that in future. For now though, I have faith. Of course, I reserve the right to remove any comments I consider inappropriate without warning.

That's the way I see it, and that's the way I'm gonna call it.

[This post was originally posted on my old blog, here]