Saturday, February 20, 2010

Vampire Weekend

Perhaps the most anticipated show in Berlin this month was last night's Vampire Weekend concert, and the roomies and I had tickets! It was a great, exhilarating gig. I waited and waited for them to play "Cape Cod"...finally they did, the last song of the encore, and I jumped up and down in joy the whole time.
When they played "Giving up the Gun," they announced that the video for it had just come out yesterday. So I had to seek it out, and man, is it awesome.
Starring RZA, L'il Jon, Jake Gyllenhaal and, randomly, Joe Jonas, it portrays a tennis competition with RZA as the line judge, L'il Jon as the magic encouraging coach and Jake Gyllenhaal and Joe Jonas as opponents. Jake drinks whiskey from a flask while he plays, haha.

Bis bald,


An overdue post on last weekend's visit to the Karneval festivities in Köln!
Karneval is the Rhineland's version of what is called Mardi Gras or Carneval elsewhere in the world--i.e. the big celebration/sinfest before Lent, where excess and indulgence is encouraged. In Köln, the party starts on a Thursday and goes until the next Tuesday, with the Monday (Rosenmontag) being the craziest day. I had to be in Berlin on Saturday night, so I took a rideshare on Sunday to be there for Sunday evening festivities.
Part of going crazy Kölle-style is everyone wears a costume everywhere, so I reprised my zebra costume from Halloween but with warmer zebra print pajamas (yes I own more than one pair...thanks Mom!). Dini and Mari were Piraten, and Jan was a Gärtner:

And we were ready to go out on the town!
On the way, Jan pulled out little bottles of fruit schnapps from his overalls (haha) and we drank them in a particular way: you have to hit the top of the bottle against something--either a surface or the top of another bottle--then put the cap on your nose and balance it there while downing the bottle's contents. I noticed at the parade the next day that some people had crimped the bottle tops to their noses and just left them there, haha.
Our destination was a huge tent in the town center where you had to have a ticket to get in. The costumes were varied and crazy--Elvises, convicts, schoolgirls, farmers, angels, frogs, and basically everything you could imagine as well as just random crazy outfits.
There were also other zebras:

And one guy dressed as Bert as in Bert and Ernie. Dini asked if I knew what Sesame Street was, and when I told her it was American, she was super surprised. Turns out Jan and Dini thought Sesame Street was a German show! Strange.
Karneval music is hilarious, and I learned quite a few of the songs. This was one of my favorites:

The lyrics are in the video, and the chorus translates roughly as:
And I fly, fly fly
Like a flyer
I'm so strong, strong, strong
Like a tiger
And so tall, tall, tall
Like a giraffe
So high
Whoa oh oh
And I jump, jump, jump
Again and again
And I swim, swim, swim
Over to you
And I take, take, take
You by the hand because I like you
And I say
Today is such a lovely day

When you say "flieg, flieg, flieg" you flap your arms like flying, "stark, stark, stark" flex your biceps, "groß, groß, groß" stretch your arm up as if measuring a tall thing, "spring, spring, spring" you jump, "schwim, schwim, schwim" you make a breast stroke motion, and "nehm, nehm, nehm" you grab the hands of the people around you and dance with them :) It was so fun! And my companions seemed proud that I caught on so quickly, haha.
Here's another fun one:

Translation of the chorus:
Unfortunately I don't know anymore what you look like
I don't know your name
Don't give a shit! DRUNK!
(repeat once, then...)
or this lovely little number, by the same guy:

Oh...Joana (you horny sow!)
Born to give love (you hussy!)
To experience forbidden dreams (you motherfucker!)
Without question until the morning, aha, aha, aha...
Classy, no? The famous German tallk show host Stefan Raab thought it would be funny to serenade Rihanna with that song on his show...when he translated, she was none too pleased.
There are also tamer Karneval staples such as Viva Colonia.
The next day we went into the city to see the Rosenmontag Karnevalzug (Karneval parade). Basically you stand for 3-4 hours by the side of the parade route while innumerable floats and marching people in costume come by and throw candy, flowers, and sometimes toys into the crowd. Instead of flashing to earn these gifts, people scream "CAMELLA!" (at least I think that's how you spell it), meaning candy. When it gets thrown people go nuts, scrambling on the ground and snatching at treats. They fill great big bags with them, or umbrellas if hanging from a window above:

I was given a bag to hold, not understanding that the intention was for me to keep everything that got put in it! Yikes! I also got wounded by flying chocolate bars more than once. Seriously, it's dangerous! They throw great big chocolate bars and whole boxes of chocolates. By the end, I thought I was developing a twitch from flinching so much, haha. It was fun though, and I got to show off my new-found knowledge of Karneval songs by singing along with the crowd. I will say though that I have never seen so much blackface. Um? Inappropriate. Since when is that ok?

I also didn't even know that yellowface existed, but apparently it does:

Plus there were these:

It kind of weirded me out/seriously offended me.
There were also lots of politically themed floats making fun of Obama...and only one making fun of Merkel. This particularly classy example shows Obama farting in the Statue of Liberty's face:

Also, despite the number of small children in attendance, there were some disturbing floats:

and some explicit ones:

Hm yeah so that aspect was...interesting.
It started snowing right as the parade ended and I had to hurry off to catch my ride back to Berlin.
All in all an awesome whirlwind trip and certainly a cultural experience not to be missed!
Bis bald,

PS. The haul:

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fotos aus Leverkusen: Dann und Wann

Compare/Contrast Leverkusen 2000 and Leverkusen 2010!
Then (click for bigger versions):
Bärbel, Nadine, and me:

Teddy, Nadine, and Jan:

Roland at the BBQ:

The Ellenberger/Bowers sibling soccer match, much remembered when I visited a couple weeks ago:

Me and Bärbel:

Me and Nadine:

Me and Jan:


England, England

Last Wednesday after work I headed to the airport and caught a flight for a whole WEEK in England!
When I stepped off the plane, something was different in the air...then I realized it was the smell of fresh, green grass! Amazing, being somewhere where not everything is completely iced over and grey. The weather was so much better than Berlin. It really lifted my spirits.
I spent the first few days in London and then continued on to Oxford.
On Thursday I had some business meetings (fancy!) in London in the morning, then spent the afternoon at the V&A. They have an awesome and much-publicized show on right now called "Decode: Digital Design Sensations." The show was small, but awesome. It "showcases the latest developments in digital and interactive design, from small, screen-based, graphics to large-scale interactive installations." The first piece fills a small dark hallway leading into the exhibition and consists of patches of long and thin flexible plastic sticks with LED lights on the end. The overall effect is a kind of futuristic marsh grass. The lights turn on and off based on movement and touch and make a cute little beeping noise as they do so. I took a video:

And several photos:

Pretty neat, eh?
My favorite pieces, predictably, were the interactive ones. There was one with a big screen which, if you stood in front of it, registered your body's movement as if it was a brush moving across the page. So every flick of the wrist or turn of the head turned into a burst of color on the screen. I also spent ages playing with a piece that consisted of a bunch of black sand over a screen. If you cleared a space in the sand, multiple images of moving microorganisms would appear on the clear patch of screen. They would multiply over time and you could lead them around by creating passages through the sand. Another piece was a screen broken up into small boxes, each of which held a very brief video recording of visitors. You could stand in front of it and press the button, do something wacky or meaningful or whatever, and it would add your image to the bigger one.
I was also very taken with a piece that showed a map of the US made up of flight patterns.
Pieces from the show were scattered around the museum, and as I went to check out the smaller partner show, "Digital Pioneers," I encountered one that delighted me: a field of small mirrors standing on legs that would find the face of a visitor and turn to "look" at it! So I could stand in front of all these mirrors and as soon as one of them "noticed" me, the rest would all turn to me too.
"Digital Pioneers" was fascinating, showcasing the first artists who used computers to make art. The very first artists who worked this way wrote their own algorithms to get the computer to make images. Later when imaging software was introduced, those who continued to write their own algorithms were known as "algorists." One man, Desmond Paul Henry, adapted a military bombsight computer with a swinging component to hold a paintbrush and produced beautiful, ethereal paintings with it. It was a really interesting show, and I found myself wondering why it wasn't more prominently advertised.
I also wandered into their jewelry room, which was amazing and inspiring, and managed to see most of a show on recent fashion grads at the RCA before the museum closed and kicked me out.
The next day I went to Tate Modern with my Dad and cousin. The permanent collection was inspiring as always. I also took a peek at the just-opened show "Van Doesburg and the Internationl Avant-Garde," which was a dizzingly extensive look at the many fingers Van Doesburg had in the early 20th century avant-garde pie.
The next day...SATURDAY'S A RUGBY DAY!
After lunch with relatives, Dad and I went to see the England/Wales rugby match at Twickenham! It was my first time seeing an international match there--the only other time I'd been was for the Oxford/Cambridge varsity match in 07. I saw Prince Harry not too far from our seats! The game was close enough to be exciting and the stadium was packed with yelling, singing fans.

Sunday we had a lovely roast lunch (mmm...Yorkshire pud) with friends including Dad's adorable godson, Merlin, and then I hopped on a bus to head to Oxford!
I hadn't been since Fall 07 but it felt as if I never left. Everything's the same.
Cole and I went to the Pitt Rivers on Monday and it was my first time there. Cole rightly describes it as "like a flea market." Very visually overwhelming! It's attached to a wonderful little natural history museum, too, and I enjoyed looking at all the weird and wonderful animals. And learning that the Latin name for a gorilla is Gorilla gorilla. Haha.
I also managed to make it to the recently renovated Ashmolean (it was under construction when I was last in Oxford) and it was really lovely--light and airy and open, which it certainly wasn't the last time I went!
I sighed inwardly as my return flight landed on a field of snow. As my brother said, you know it's bad when you envy English weather. All in all a great little trip with good company & good art.
Tomorrow I head back to Leverkusen for Karneval...that should be an experience.
Bis bald,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Happy Groundhog Day!

Yesterday was Groundhog Day, a holiday that I think only Americans & Canadians have ever heard of, but which actually (according to the wiki) has German roots. We watched the movie last night over at KMX and I made this recipe for mushroom and artichoke pasta. Yum!
I leave tonight for a week in England so I probably won't update til I'm back.
Bis bald,