On our first night in Potsdam it was still warm. We had the windows open, and actually had some glasses and a bottle of wine unpacked (thank you!), and I was swaying to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and then of course Van Morrison’s Moondance, in view of the amazing full Harvest Moon that brought us here, and that’s when we heard it: a big old horn blowing long and drawn out on a riverboat passing… right down the street from us. Magic. Mystic.

Van Morisson: Into the Mystic

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And magnificently we will flow into the mystic

When that fog horn blows you know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows I got to hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I want to rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will flow into the mystic

song of the week


Moving means looking at your own material culture. For me, the biggest change after ten years is the number and kind of books I brought with me, compared to the ones I’ll be taking to Potsdam. Almost all of my art books are making the move, big, heavy, beautiful tomes that let me travel through time and space, curled up on the sofa. Some of the novels that shaped my outlook are coming, too, especially those given to me by family and friends when I was younger. Those are my emotional books.

But most of the books I’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years are going to friends, hoping others will enjoy them as much as I did. My reference materials are going to whoever wants them, including all of my encyclopedias. I’m keeping some hard copy dictionaries, but mostly because they were so expensive. Who would want those big, fat books, in the age of free online resources for first reference and then digital formats for more authoritative content? As for those coursebooks I admired and collected to see how the masters teach English? My scrapbook collection.

Books in the internet age… Germans say “Papier ist geduldig,” paper is patient. It’s also slow. Yesterday came that moment of clarity, when I was looking at some of my history and cultural anthropology books. One in particular made me think, where an ageing academic published an anthology of articles he had researched and published long ago. Looking back in 1990 over his work of the previous 30-40 years he wrote how new research had made him edit in changes and footnotes, mostly incorporating references and adding postscripts changing his conclusions. Reading his reflections on his own intellectual growth was like looking at the cross-section of a tree. It reminded me how every bit of information is modulated every time we add new information and shift our evaluation and rephrase what we say. Instant information and prompt turnaround is such a poor substitute for a steady growth of knowledge. Will younger generations have our experience of slow intellectual growth?

Bob Dylan once sang “I forgot more than you’ll ever know about love.” I forgot more than you’ll every know about … oops, what did we learn at German colleges in the 80s? Looking through the academic tomes I collected during my studies I was simply amazed to be confronted with ways of thinking that worked for me at the time but seem completely alien to me now. When I was an academic working in museums, I was preoccupied with material culture, looking for ways we could learn from artifacts to create a better life for everyone. For example, in intercultural projects I’d be looking for signs and symbols that proved that the confluence of cultures is an anthropological norm, or would develop activities for vistors based on that concept. Funny, it seems like such a roundabout route to me now. I’ve left all of that behind. I’m really only interested in the people themselves now, in real day-to-day experience.

Will I still remember how I used to see the world now that I’ve left behind the material evidence of my own past mindset?

I’ll be reframing this blog soon, after my move-related sabbatical.

Lullaby of Birdland

The prolific and virtually unknown songwriter George David Weiss (April 9, 1921 – August 23, 2010) penned the lyrics to this jazz standard referring to the Birdland jazz club in New York named after Charlie “Bird” Parker. The melody is by blind pianist George Shearing. It was a hit for Ella Fitzgerald in 1954, but Sarah Vaughn defined it (for me). It seems so easy to sing, spanning only an octave and a third, and it makes singers happy, like chocolate. Unfortunately, the intervals mean it can be sung so wrong that the pleasure resides entirely in the singer. Here are the masters, and Bobby McFerrin sings it with a woman in the audience, from 1:05. I like his alternative lyrics. “Eat pie,” indeed. Don’t the lyrics just beg for a bit of creative editing? And finally, Amy Winehouse belts it out in great classic style.

Lullaby of Birdland

Oh, lullaby of birdland, that’s what I
Always hear when you sigh,
Never in my wordland could there be ways to reveal
in a phrase how I feel

Have you ever heard two turtle doves
Bill and coo, when they love?
That’s the kind of magic music we make with our lips
When we kiss

And there’s a weepy old willow
He really knows how to cry,
That’s how I’d cry in my pillow
If you should tell me farewell and goodbye

Lullaby of birdland whisper low
Kiss me sweet, and we’ll go
Flying high in birdland, high in the sky up above
All because we’re in love

song of the week 🙂 englisch lernen mit liedern

Will the real Anne Hodgson please stand up?

Ken Wilson challenged me to write something about the many Anne Hodgsons I’ve come across online. There are hundreds of us. It’s like being a Mary Smith or Hans Müller. When I first joined Facebook, an Anne Hodgson “friended” me and immediately wanted to play some social game. She had a longish list of Facebook-friends, all called Anne Hodgson, and to avoid the fate of getting lost in a virtual House of Mirrors, I’m afraid I unfriended her.

I’m clearly not the nicest Anne Hodgson online.

One of my nephews thought I was another Facebook Anne Hodgson. She looks that much like me.

Now, being confused with namesakes or similarly named people doesn’t worry me in the least. On the contrary, there is safety in numbers. Here are my favorites:

  • The similarly named Ann Hodgman has written children’s books with great titles like “The French Fry Aliens” and “My Babysitter Bites Again”. Please feel free to confuse me with her.
  • Ann Hodgson is a professor of Education at the University of London, with a special focus on 14-19 education and training and life-long learning. I’ve found her in connection with IATEFL. I’m afraid she’s got qualifications I’ll never have.
  • Anne Hodgson & Co, a group of lawyers headed by my namesake, lends a touch of class to our dogsbody name.

No, what really has me worried is what happens when I type my tag annehodg into the internet. I did so last night for a laugh,  and looking over all the links gave me a bit of a shock. I work hard to create a professional online presence, only, and to protect the privacy of people close to me, and I’ve been relatively successful. But using Twitter in particular means that the things I’ve written all over the place this past year do come together in a rather disconcerting way.

I’m turning over a new leaf for the sake of privacy. I’m off Twitter for anything but professional networking, for one, and it’s time to change my tag.