IMO: Teaching German with Songs and Pretzels

Guten Tag!

I have 90 German students this year. Like many World Language teachers, it’s a no-brainer to implement the song of the week. I picked Peter Fox’s “Haus um See”. Students get parallel texts and link favorite words or lines as a fun way to associate what they’ve learned in context. Educating aside, as a lover of music, I’m having a fun time finding new artists with catchy melodies and beautiful lyrics. Not only does Peter Fox’s song sound like a whimsical revisit to the 1960s, but the lyrics also describe his idea of the perfect life capturing like a snapshot with images in words.

Here I was born and I run through the streets
Know every house, every store, and every face
I need to leave; know every pigeon here by name
Thumb’s out, waitin’ for a snazzy lady with speedy wheels
The sun’s blinding, everything flies by
The world behind me gets slowly undersized
Still, the world in front of me is made for me
I know she’s waiting – I’ll go pick her up
Have the day on my side, got a tailwind too
A roadside women’s choir sings for me, they do
I’ll sit back and look into the deep blue
Close my eyes and simply walk straight ahead

And at the end of the lane, there’s a house by the lake
Orange tree leaves lay on the way
I have 20 children, my wife is beautiful
Everybody drops by, no need to go out

I’m looking for a country with unfamiliar lanes
Unfamiliar faces – where no one knows my name
Win everything I play with cards that are marked
Lose everything – God’s left hook is actually quite hard
I dig treasures from the snow and sand
And women rob me of any sense I have
Someday that luck will follow me home
And I’ll come back with both pockets full of gold
I’ll invite the old folks and relatives over
And they all begin to cry tears of joy
We’ll barbecue, the mamas cook, and we slam some schnapps
And party for a week every night

And the moon shines brightly on my house by the lake
Orange tree leaves lay on the way
I have 20 children, my wife is stout
Everybody drops by, no need to go out

Here I was born; here I’ll be buried
Have lost my hearing, have a white beard; I sit in the garden
My 100 grandkids play cricket on the lawn
If I think about it, I can actually hardly wait…

Haus Am See>House by the Lake

Hier bin ich gebor’n und laufe durch die Straßen!
Kenn die Gesichter, jedes Haus und jeden Laden!
Ich muss mal weg, kenn jede Taube hier beim Namen.
Daumen raus ich warte auf ‘ne schicke Frau mit schnellem Wagen.
Die Sonne blendet alles fliegt vorbei.
Und die Welt hinter mir wird langsam klein.
Doch die Welt vor mir ist für mich gemacht!
Ich weiß sie wartet und ich hol sie ab!
Ich hab den Tag auf meiner Seite ich hab Rückenwind!
Ein Frauenchor am Straßenrand der für mich singt!
Ich lehne mich zurück und guck ins tiefe Blau,
schließ die Augen und lauf einfach gradeaus.

Und am Ende der Strasse steht ein Haus am See.
Orangenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Im Traum gesehen, das Haus am See

Ich suche neues Land
Mit unbekannten Strassen, fremden Gesichtern und keiner kennt meinen Namen!
Alles gewinnen beim Spiel mit gezinkten Karten.
Alles verlieren, Gott zeigt seinen harten linken Haken.
Ich grabe Schätze aus im Schnee und Sand.
Und Frauen rauben mir jeden Verstand!
Doch irgendwann werd ich vom Glück verfolgt.
Und komm zurück mit beiden Taschen voll Gold.
Ich lad’ die alten Vögel und Verwandten ein.
Und alle fang’n vor Freude an zu weinen.
Wir grillen, die Mamas kochen und wir saufen Schnaps.
Und feiern eine Woche jede Nacht.

Und der Mond scheint hell auf mein Haus am See.
Organgenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Im Traum gesehen, das Haus am See

Und am Ende der Strasse steht ein Haus am See.
Organgenbaumblätter liegen auf dem Weg.
Ich hab 20 Kinder meine Frau ist schön.
Alle kommen vorbei ich brauch nie rauszugehen.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Hier bin ich gebor’n, hier werd ich begraben.
Hab taube Ohr’n, nen weißen Bart und sitz im Garten.
Meine 100 Enkel spielen Cricket auf’m Rasen.
Wenn ich so daran denke kann ich’s eigentlich kaum erwarten.

Image result for pretzels

I was raised with the notion that a way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. To catch a man, it helps if you make him something delectable from scratch. It’s a perk in his estimation. Much the same way a man who can fix anything makes him more valuable. For example, my cooking helped Jim decide I was a worthy catch much as Jim being able to fix anything helped me decide I wanted to share my life with him. What is a good pair, after all, but the ability to share talents so that life is better for both parties? Okay, I digress.

Using this principle with teenagers, students discovered that making food with friends, and then eating it, is as much fun as any event they can think of. Yesterday, they made pretzels. At lunch, twenty German students were curious and stopped by my room. I set up workstations with the ingredients in the center. We had previewed the day before what was going to happen. They had their recipe. Many had no idea how to measure or follow a recipe. They thought it was fun to knead. Ah, the magic of yeast, warm milk, and a little sugar!

Covered in the corner of my room, the dough “babies” rose all afternoon. At 3:30, we took our bowls to the cafeteria where the school kitchen staff generously allowed us to complete the final steps. I ran the oven while students rolled out their dough into ropes and twisted into pretzel shapes. Then they dunked them in hot baking soda water, placed them on cooking sheets and sprinkled their creations with sea salt. Presto! Ten minutes later they were buttering and devouring them. “Das Smeckt gut!”

Making people happy with food may be called emotional eating, but I am of the mind it is celebrating life.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

 

 

Are You Not Entertained? Elvis, Foo Fighters, and John Coltrane

Here are some recent music documentaries that enthralled me.

This year, HBO released Elvis Presley: The Searcher in two parts totaling three hours of exploration of the complicated man behind the music and his checkered history. To those of us who listened to his records as they were released and have seen his corny films and watched many tributes to him, this doc might not provide enough insights that you didn’t already know. To those who barely remember him or have only heard the name but not his story, this is a fine documentary showcasing his influences in Memphis, his devotion to his mother, his suffocating relationship with the Colonel, his love for Gospel, and his rise to iconic stature with the outrageous costumes and over-the-top shows in the 1970s. I preferred part one and how his stamp of individuality helped black music to air on white radio. It was not a conscious civil rights decision on Presley’s part, but his voice and songs sounded black; his popularity soared and endorsed subliminally the acceptance of blacks in a white world. From the eyes of a social historian, it was a refreshing revisit of King of Rock and Roll and his importance in time. 4.5/5.

Foo Fighters Back and Forth (2011) by James Moll. My son and I listened to them on road trips in the 1990s. He bought me their albums through the 2000s and the 2010s. I’m going to see them in October when they play in Phoenix. So, with so much emotional baggage attached to the group, can I be objective about the musicianship and lyrics by the leader of the band, Dave Grohl? Why, yes I can. Especially Dave Grohl’s songs of heartbreak. He’s my age, and as he gets older, his albums get softer, and I like that, too. If you were never a fan in the first place, I doubt you would care about Grohl and his band or the background behind their albums. If you like their songs, you’ll enjoy the documentary. It’s a subjective thing. 5/5.

Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary (2017) directed by John Scheinfeld is a remarkable documentary regarding the life and music of the legendary saxophonist. I didn’t know a lot about Coltrane other than listening to Giant Steps (1960) and A Love Supreme (1965). His childhood and troubles were foreign to me. His relationship with Miles Davis and how those in the industry who knew and played with Coltrane was fascinating. In particular, how do you explain the creative genius of the man? Color imagery to explain how he thought outside the box was a clever touch. Coltrane was magical. He takes one chord and maximizes the notes via improvisation. I’m not a musician, just a lover of it, so when those that know claim he invented a new language of music, I’m sitting forward to understand how. This documentary did that. 4.5/5. 

IMO: The Guitar

Dear Son,

I saw the movie Coco the other day, and a major theme of the movie was remembering your dead loved-ones so they wouldn’t be forgotten. While driving home alone, it was dark and the vivid stars flickered. I imagined the people I had loved and lost throughout my life were the brightest ones saying hello. I began with the first person I had lost, my best friend way back when I was seventeen, and I remembered the special days and the unremarkable ones. I recalled his goofiness, his serious expressions as his fingers tapped on the piano keys, and I thanked his star for introducing me to classical music. Then I recalled the next deceased person in my history and the next. I recalled their faces and told their stars what I had loved best about them until your Dad was next. Do I remember the bad or the good?

For years in my mind, it was too easy to recall the ugly times and feel righteous for my decision to divorce him. I see now, decades later, that it was an attempt to ease my guilt for the breakup of the family. In the beginning, when we loved each other, during our happiest times, it was so because of music. After a shift of work, we’d sit at the table playing a board game that simulated a baseball season while we listened to new artists.  He’d sing the lyrics he memorized with a clear pitch. We’d listen with speakers loud, and I remember dancing around the room to Genesis’s “Turn it on Again.” I always think of your Dad when that song comes on. We were stationed in Scotland at the time and visited the record store frequently. Every paycheck he’d pick out a new album to buy. We studied the groups he was obsessed with like The Beatles, Yes, and The Who. We both discovered new groups together and bought their albums as soon as they were released. Groups like: Tears for Fears, U2, the Police, Dire Straits, Depeche Mode, and a hundred others. His tastes were all over the place. I thought that was one of his best traits. That he shared his passion for music with me was the best gift of our marriage.

When you were a teenager and back from the military school, Lincoln’s Challenge, you sat up in your bedroom with your GED waiting for your friends to graduate high school. I’m so glad cell phones weren’t omnipresent then or the stimulation of social media that steals our time today. In the quiet, up in your room, you taught yourself how to play the guitar.  If there was a silver lining during the dark days of your teenage years, I’d say that was it. In college, you played your guitar and sang the songs you wrote and your album for your senior project reflected your ingenuity. How proud I was to listen to your songs. I still pull out the CD and listen to it from time to time. When you performed during your twenties and your guitar chords were precise and your voice conveyed feeling, and the audience clapped for you—did you feel that was the apex of your musical relationship with the guitar?

You are thirty-something now with responsibilities and different passions. A life to share with Laura. A new degree almost completed. Hopes and dreams for a better job. Children soon. I couldn’t be happier for you! I know making ends meet is difficult and the many moves and transitions precipitated your decision to part with your acoustic guitar a few years ago. This year, you did not want me to get you a birthday present because you have everything you need. However, I hope you will accept the guitar I sent you, even though I know it was a selfish move on my part. You see, when I think about your Dad’s love for music, I think of you, because you inherited that passion. As mother and son, we talk about music and share new groups and songs. I still have the many CDs you burned for me, and I listen to the bands you recommended. When you played the guitar at Thanksgiving because I insisted, it made me happier than I anticipated.

I am not suggesting you perform or record or do anything purposeful with the gift that is yours other than to play the guitar as a part of your life. It makes people happy. It is that unique, interesting side of your personality. Play to your family and friends and spread the love of music to the next generation, on behalf of your Dad, and on behalf of me, please, play. Happy Birthday.

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