Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Happy Samhain!"

Well, fair enough!

I am.
But that wont stop me from going to take a glimpse at the Halloween parade in the Village now. And in case I get caught by a witch or two and we decide to go for a ride - ah, I am sure you wont miss me much anyways. If you do, just take some white chalk, draw a pentagram inside a circle, step into the latter, grab your nose and your left ear, jump on one foot while turning around yourself and spell my name backwards seven times.

Didn't work? Well, at least you looked stupid for a couple of minutes ...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Rainy Day in the Village"



Monday, October 29, 2007

"Neue Galerie: The Two Gustavs"

Back in the village from an evening full of Austrian jokes - and some interesting new insights into fin de siècle Vienna. And in Freudian psychoanalysis. What was it (apart from being in Vienna and consulting Sigmund Freud with their troubles) that the two Gustavs - Klimt and Mahler - shared?

Any elaborate guesses?

Right! A woman. Alma Schindler was the chosen link between the two late 19th and early 20th century artists. She married Mahler though, not Klimt. Then an affair with the painter Oskar Kokoschka. Then marriage with the architect Walter Gropius. Finaly with the poet Franz Werfel. Changed her taste in men in the course of time? Well, I assume she didn't.

Alessandra Comini, distinguished professor of Art History Emerita, SMU, gave a cheerful speech in the Neue Galerie tonight and brought two great artists a little bit closer to the author of this ship's log - who considers going to the Klimt exhibition any time soon.

Eyes open! As usual.

Friday, October 26, 2007

"Brighton Beach: The Story of Lucky Me and the Last Summer's Day (3)"

Q: And you spent quite some time there, I guess?

LM: Sure I did, um, I mean I already had most of the photos I needed, so I took a short nap, napping is a necessity one of my friends always said, and had a cold and sparkling late afternoon drink in one of those dubious brown paper bags, and walked along the shore for quite a while. It's been pretty crowded for the end of season, still many people enjoyed their sunny day out there.

Q: I am sure they did. So after your break, where you up for shooting some more pictures?

LM (laughing out loud): Indeed, indeed, I was up for some more shooting, man, I was so up for more shooting ...

Q (baffled): Well, Lucky Me, thank you for providing some more insights into your working life in New York City.

LM: You're welcome.

Alright, folks, we are already at the end of the show again. It's been a pleasure and it's about time for dinner by now. Stay tuned, and I leave you with this.

"Brighton Beach: The Story of Lucky Me and the Last Summer's Day (2)"

Welcome to the second part of the show.

My guest is still Lucky Me, telling us about that last summer's day she spent in southern Brooklyn with her camera.

Q: Lucky Me, after you covered that market, what happened next?

LM: Well, um, I was in this, like, flow you know, um, so I decided to leave the beach idea for a while and keep shooting. And, actually I went to some shops to ask for permission and surprisingly they were all cool about it. Um, can I say thank you here? maybe they are listening.

Q: Sure, go ahead.

LM: Thank You.

Q: Right, back to business. So you went to that store that sells fur coats. How was it?

LM: Well, actually, I was wondering why people already start to buy fur coats, as it was really hot that day. But anyways, I took some pictures and then left again after like five minutes with a spasiba and a smile to head for my next goal.

Q: And what would that be?

LM: A food store. You know, um, like one of these shops in the center of Brighton Beach that sell Russian sausages and stuff like that. There are quite a lot of them, actually.

Q: I see. I bet it was pretty crowded in there.

LM: Definitely, there were queues everywhere and the paths were very narrow and also packed with pyramids of stuff and people kept bumping into my while I was trying to keep my camera still. Not an easy one, for sure. But I liked it. I spent like half an hour in there before I finally decided to leave them, too, with a spasiba and a smile and head for the beach.


"Brighton Beach: The Story of Lucky Me and the Last Summer's Day (1)"

Take a seat!

It's about time to listen to the story of Lucky Me and her last summer's day in southern Brooklyn.

Q: Lucky Me, can you just explain why you went to Brighton Beach that day?

LM: Yeah, um, sure. Well .. basically I wanted to, um, go there again to take some pictures that, um, show more of the neighborhood of Little Odessa, you know, um, like typical things that show like the different like roots of those folks, um, you know? Like their cultural stuff they brought with them when they came here, in a, um, rather basic way, like food and fur and stuff like that, you know?

Q: Okay, so you went there around noon that day, right. What happened?

LM: What happened? Well. It was still like really hot that day, you know, so I decided to go to the beach first and come up with, um, with like a plan for the rest of the day, you know, um, like where and when to take pictures and stuff. But then I saw this market thing going on, you know, like lots of people drifting through that street, so I changed my mind, you know, and started shooting some pics of people and their stuff, um, like what they were buying, like electronic devices and so on.

Q: Sounds good to me. I mean, it's part of covering their culture too, isn't it? Alright, so - did you enjoy shooting at that market?

LM: Yeah, man, it was great fun, actually. At first I was kinda anxious about those folks, like, assuming they all don't want their pictures taken, you know what it's like walking around with a camera and stuff. But after a while nobody actually cared about me anymore, so I could keep shooting. And man, they actually bought and sold some really interesting items there ...


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Impacts of Technology (4): Who is Better Than Well?"

Just another American antagonism managed to sneak in and occupy my thoughts the whole day. The overall and undeniable stress on both conformity and non-conformity. Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, let's get rrrrready to rrrrrumble! Dingdingdingdingding!

Innnn the right corner: CONFORMITY! A blend of charming and beautiful fat-reduced Barbie and diet Ken, aspiring and succeeding, healthy and strong, shiny and happy and of course regularly doing pedicure and getting their nails done. And if it takes a little Ritalin or two to stay tuned, no worries - it doesn't harm anyone, does it? Watch me, I am the embodiment of the American Dream!

Innnn the left corner: NON-CONFORMITY! It is all about being different for this fellow, setting oneself apart from the masses is all that counts, dude. You want it white? I take it black, mate! You think about earrings? I think about tongue-splitting! Blond or brown this year? I go for the rainbow with a couple of grey and golden wisps, and that's for sure, Miss! My career? Different! My lifestyle? Alternative! Watch me, I am the embodiment of the American Dream!

That's gonna be a tough one, folks - so better get down on your seats and watch the show! Who's gonna win it? I don't know!

--> Modern body enhancement technologies are in favor of both of them, and of a lot more extreme ways of changing our bodies in order to get our inner and outer self into a state of coherence. There's more to discuss than Ritalin and piercings and the common "big-boobs, small-boobs" debates that if at all make people yawn once or twice these days. Where do we draw the line? Do we draw the line? Do we want to draw a line anywhere at all these days?

Food for thought.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"On the Road ..."

You hit the road.
And sometimes
The road hits you.

This particular road hit me in Patchogue some time ago. It's a road through ideal American Suburbia.

Mommies driving four-by-fours to the groceries, daddies being dropped off at the station to go by the L.I.R.R. train to whatever day job they have, kids on bikes or even skating the asphalt, sometimes a gran with a dog crossing, sometimes a footie ball rolling around - that's pretty much what this road gets to see during the long and rather greyish life of hers.

Sometimes she dreams away, dreams of the unfamiliar Other, of a bunch of yellow taxis from The City someone has just recently told her about, of rickshaws pulled through the streets of Japan another one told her about a couple of months ago, of the donkey-carts a little girl had drawn onto her with crayons, of motorbikes with a bunch of teds riding them like in the old days, of one of those classic pairs of roller skates the folks still use on Sundays in the Central Park, or of some kind of knight on a white horse that is cantering towards the castle of his princess, at least that was the story the kids told each other whilst they were playing hide-and-seek. She also heard of a tank this year, and of this young lad who will never cross her again, somehow related to that tank - she didn't quite get why.

Some of those dreams leave colourful spots. Others leave cracks for the rain to flow in. A flower will grow there eventually. Or the crack will expand. She never knows ...

"Manhattan Comprehensive - Statue of Liberty"

"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Impacts of Technology (3): MIT - One Laptop per Child?!?"

The MIT has recently developed a program called "One Laptop per Child" ( Its main goal is to provide every kid of the so-called "developing world" with a portable computer to learn and work on and gain certain knowledge from. What kind of knowledge? Wiki-knowledge.
Initially most people wouldn't object to that idea. It cannot hurt, can it? And hey, maybe it finally helps them to improve their situation, right? Let's be generous, we can afford it. We need more clever kids all over the world for a good future of this planet, don't we?

No offense, guys, really, BUT:
Did it ever occur to you that (ab-)using a whole continents population as lab-rats is not necessarily the best thing to do? Don't get me wrong, I am all for good intentions and helping people to help themselves, but isn't it a bit presumptuous to assume that what is eventually good for us (and even that is still debatable ...) has to be good for the rest of the world, too?

The whole so-called "Third World" can be compared to a human body that is constantly held on our medication, intoxicated via various kinds of different pills. And if one pill doesn't work the way we want it to work, let's try another one, the lab-rat will swallow it anyways - a process that is going on over the last decades, another never-ending story.
Did we ever consider that this body's natural ability to produce the right antibody against whatever illness it suffers from is weakened by the constant injection of our medicine? Did we ever consider that some improvements have to come from within a system itself in order to be truly stable?
It seems to be a neat solution for the American economy to make another continent further dependent on their technology, as it is neat for the pharmaceutical industry to have people depending on medication for a long period of time, but honestly, do we really still see the "white man's burden of good intentions" in this gesture? Do we?

Look into the mirror and think twice about that one, folks!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Follow the Blue Rabbit"

"One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all;
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall.

And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you are going to fall;
Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call;
To call Alice, when she was just small.

When the men on the chessboard get up and tell you where to go;
And you've just had some kind of mushroom,
and your mind is moving low;
Go ask Alice, I think she'll know.

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead;
And the white knight is talking backwards;
And the red queen's off with her head;
Remember what the dormouse said,
Feed your head, feed your head"

(Jefferson Airplane, 1967)

"Katholischer Güterbahnhof Sankt Galen, how can I help you to ease your temper?"
"Alice? It's me. How's it going over there?"
"You?! It's been ages ... I am good, actually, pretty good. Just having a nice cuppa coffee with the Cheshire Cat at the Rabbit's Inn next door, he didn't have time to join us of course, but that's just him anyways, I am sure you recall?"
"Sure, I do. So it's still out and about in good ol' Wonderland then, is it?"
"Can't help it, it's too nice over here, especially during the last days of summer, but whom am I to tell."
"Ah, the summer in Wonderland ... Any news from the royal gambling tables then?"
"Not particularly interesting ones. The Red Queen's still trying to ease Humpty Dumpty's pains from his constantly falling off the new fence of the courtyard. Mad Hatter had one of his end-of-season teaparties last weekend, and again he got pretty upset by the Dormouse falling asleep on his lap - you know him, he's been constantly trying to keep that little dude awake again, but no chance, as usual."
"That's what it's like with dormouses, I guess. Some things never change."
"I am sure you wouldn't expect anything else?"
"'Course not, it wouldn't be right, would it?"
"Nope. Hmm.. What else to report to our traveller? Let's see.. The Dutchess came up with some pretty good new caporal she developed with the Caterpillar. A little too dark for my nose though, but for the others it's like all the rage this year. Apart from that? Well.. Little Mock Turtle is still high on stories from his days in the school in the sea - I wonder whether he'll ever get over the fact that he didn't get straight As in tailwater ballet. All being upset about this old stuff. Lory drives me even more crazy though, big on repeating that turtle's torture these days."
"Must be quite a pain in the neck, I suppose."
"I guess I'll get used to it eventually."
"You will, and if not - just put that turtle into the fridge for the winter and little Lory will learn another tune soon."
"Haha, damn right you are on that one. Never undersestimate the powers of a neat fridge."
"Anyways, how's you? Any plans on coming over for another visit or two?"
"Yeah, just a couple of things to sort out over here, but I should be coming over in like a month or two."
"Sounds like a plan to me, mate. Right, gotta go now, this kitten of ours gets a little too fidgety. Let me know when you'll arrive and 'til then: Keep your chin up as high as you can, mate."
"Alright, Alice, see ya'."

Monday, October 15, 2007

"The King of Diamonds' Tour through Coney Island (3)"

The King of Diamonds made me walk the whole some two miles long boardwalk next to the beach.

In the end, a short part of private property makes all the pedestrians turn around or right towards the streets of Coney Island town. The people there play the game according to their own rules. A huge fence covers the area.

I spent some five minutes making up stories about the inhabitants, but then the King lured me away from that thought by suggesting to have a hot-dog and some fries at the nearby Nathan's Famous.

I figured that it was not only time for food, but also time for my FIRST American hot dog, so I took the invitation (thanks again for that one, sir!). Me and my stomach enjoyed it quite a lot - and I am still laughing about the story of this place being the only fast food restaurant of the whole New York area that offers fried frog legs. Black Mamba, you gotta go there one day!
Also, I am still trying to figure out how the fuck any human being with the common size entrails of that species can be able to down 66 Nathan's Famous hot dogs in twelve (12!) minutes. Joey from California, the recent winner of the Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest did it. Little me on the contrary was perfectly fine with finishing the not worth mentioning amount of two of them in a little more than twelve minutes.

Afterwards I kept walking with the King of Diamonds across Coney Island center and some
rather rich residential area (as the rumors go, someone sharing Putin's name is said to have bought a place there, but who knows?) for another while before our ways parted again at the local train station - always remember to take the Q back to The City on a Sunday!

Thanks to the King of Diamonds for introducing me to his realm!


"The King of Diamonds' Tour through Coney Island (2)"

I met the King of Diamonds for the first time on the beach, he was resting quite a bit too close to the sea, and I was afraid of him getting wet or even washed away by the billows. So I helped him getting up and out of the sand.
A little later, The King of Diamonds caught up with me whilst I was strolling down the boardwalk, again twiddling around with my new favourite toy (the D-40 as some of you might have figured out by now). He was what I would call a pretty casually dressed king (track suit), carrying a scroll of the latest edition of his court news under his arm, in which he had written one of these violent youth crime stories involving (ab-)use of fire arms.

That is what The King of Diamonds usually spends his glory days doing, when he is not walking down there on a sunny Sunday: reporting.
Today he decided to be nice to the Stranger who just entered his realm for one day, and because of that a little rude to his friends he kept stalling on his mobile communication device. That way I got to know yet another story: The Diamond King's story.
A story of painting houses in San Francisco, of sharing rooms with three Others in Brighton Beach, of grandparents coming from Russia, of similarities between the teaching job and journalism, of royal voyages to Continental and Island Europe, of meeting Walther in Hamburg, of working in Dublin's Fair City, of the neat possibilities of chosing between Chinese or Japanese Food at three in the morning in NYC, of cultural misunderstandings of different variations of stadium ball games, of life in general and walking down Brighton Beach to Coney Island in particular.

Coney Island rings a bell, right? It's amusement park accommodates the famous 262 feet tall Parachute Jump - with its open-frame steel structure an iconic Brooklyn landmark.

It was built for the 1929 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens, and moved to its current site in 1941 to finally cease operation in 1968. Before you suspect me of being too big on dates now, let's move a little further down the boardwalk.

The King of Diamonds told me that this nice little fellow - a now empty landmark - used to be both a bath and a candy factory and I had much fun picturing the latter operating. The King of Diamond seemed to have sensed that, as he bought me a huge candy lollipop in the end of our little tour (yes mum, so much for not taking candy from strange old men ...).
Images of the recent chocolate factory movie came to my mind, I pictured little Charlie walking towards grumpy Johnny Depp, mouth and eyes wide open because of all the magic that happens around him (yes mister critical theory, so much for our own way of thinking being influenced by hegemonic media texts that support the dominant ideology ...). Anyways, keep walking!

You see this tall boy? The King of Diamonds told me another story passing him. Can you spot the seventh floor? From up there an ex-mafia guy was thrown out of the window by a corrupt police officer, as the legend goes.
He wanted to get out of the swamps and into a nice little life in the suburbs of Innocentia, thus he chose to be a witness, a canary singing loudly - I assume he sang a little too loud though. So much for bad luck in gambling with the wrong



"The King of Diamonds' Tour through Coney Island (1)"

First and most important of all: the B train is NOT going to Brighton Beach during the weekend. You have to take the D to Pacific Street and change there for the Q.
Ability to read is a clear advantage - it would have saved me approximately 45 minutes I spent sitting at West 4th Street station waiting for the never coming B yesterday. That's what I got for neglecting the option that there could indeed be different schedules on a Sunday - I mean, all the shops are open as well, right? So why should the trains do something different, everything else in this wonderland being 24/7?
Anyways, once I figured out that I was mistaken, I managed to get to the mirrorworld called "Little Odessa" safe and sound. Spasiba! Time for lunch in "Gina's Café". Gina - or the cook that is working for her - is doing a great "Salad Vesna"! If you like a tremendous amount of dill with your cucumber that is. I do. He is also doing a pretty strong cup of black gold that keeps not only travellers awake for the whole day.

And there she is:

The Beauty of Brooklyn, not yet asleep, but most certainly in the huddling up end-of-season mood that catches all of us strolling down her boardwalk, carrying the heavy sun upon our faces. People still enjoy the remnants of this years sunny summer days very much.

They play volleyball.

They go fishing.

Or they simply take their dogs
for a nice and long beach walk.

If they are not to occupied with
feeding the seagulls, that is.

No doubt, all of them enjoy their own little Soviet Shore in the outer rim of New York City - and so did I ...


Friday, October 12, 2007

"Food for Thought: 21st Century Nationalism and Toast"

Or: How to be one sandwich short of a picnic ...

Just found these in my grocery store next door. In the end, I just bought the "German Dark" though, "Canadian" is quite a bit too white for my nutrition purposes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Impacts of Technology (2): Gendering ENIAC"

Major wars like WWII influence gender relations and work. Here is an example to prove this I was not aware of until a couple of days ago: ENIAC. Both male and female computers and programmers, engineers and scientists developed America's first electronic computer in a cooperation between the University of Pennsylvania and the US armed forces. Due to the war, there was a lack of male engineers, though women with technical and mathematical knowledge were needed for scientific development - to keep the system going, one could say.

With the feminization of the above professions came a loss of status. Women had practically no opportunity to display their knowledge in public, the praise for the achievements was always addressed to their male colleagues. Men's work was usually regarded as more "important", even though both were equally skilled. I general, the production of hardware was seen as a male profession while programming software was a womens' job. This contradicted reality, as women, in order to do their programming, needed sophisticated knowledeg of and familiarity with the hardware, too, they needed to understand it to work with it.

Women played a key role in major technological developments in that period of time. Nonetheless they were omitted by the big PR machinery, had no opportunities to participate in telling the true "ENIAC story". They were mostly ignored by the public discourse that was significantly shaped by the War Department and the media at that time.

After the war, the Department of Labor tried to get the majority of these women into teaching jobs, which were considered more suitable for them. Nonetheless some never left computer programming. The widely spread assumption that computer pioneers were all male is wrong. It seems as though we have to take a closer look at the stories of all the Wosniaks of this planet.

It is information like this that leads us to the conclusion that other parts of the history of science, in many cases a history of the lonely male genius, need to be revised as well. Eyes open!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Jarraf & Katz"

>> Aw, man, look at those ... I definitely need to get one of those ones! But which one is the best? What do you think, man?! >>
<< Dude, you gotta go back to the shop now. It's about time. You need to come up with a decision rather quickly. <<
>> I know, but awww, man, this is fuckin' hard for me, you know. I mean, they are all kinda cool, you know, like really cool, you know, like awesome stuff, man. >>
<< Sure, but still we need to go now. There'll be customers coming soon and they want to see you and have you hold their dogs and kids and take photos of you and stuff, you know. So come on now. <<
>> Hang on, just a second, man, just a second - I think I'll go for the greenish one, man, what do you think? >>
<< Perfect, get the green one, and then let's go - QUICKLY! <<
>> You sure? Maybe the blue one looks better.. like, you know, like old school, like pretty much more like this kinda stuff, like, man. >>
<< True, get the blue one. And then come on, dude! <<
>> The blue one, well. But - hang on, man, wait a second - maybe the yellow one fits better to like my shirt and stuff. I probably should go for that one. >>
<< The yellow one then. Fine. NOW! <<
>> Wait a second, wait a second. But, man, if I like get the yellow one, like, wouldn't that be like invisible, I mean, like more like the color of my spots and stuff? >>
<< True. Don't get it. But now, we REALLY have to GO! <<
>> Could get the red one though. What do you think, I mean, like with the shirt and the spots and stuff. Pretty awesome, man, and it like glitters and stuff, you know. Maybe that red one, that's like the best one. >>
<< Dude, I really don't have time for this. It is NOW or NEVER! You drive me fuckin' mental with that stuff! We NEED to go NOW! So leave it and come on! <<
>> Alright man, I go for the red one. I mean it's like so red you know, like really red, like old school red and like, like a little retro red, too. What do you think, man? >>
<< DUDE! <<

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Manhattan Comprehensive - 9/11 Vestiges"

I met Sergej the other day. More than thirty years ago, he came for three weeks from Croatia to New York City and decided to stay. Sergej is doing "Manhattan Comprehensive" now for quite some time: a one-day tour that gives tourists a first impression of what The City is like. It takes you from 48th street downtown via Times Square, across my Village, to the Battery Park to go on a ferry that stops at the Statue of Liberty, later uptown again via Central Park, across Harlem, past the site of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and down Fifth Avenue to a final visit of the Empire State Building.

The tour stops at the World Trade Center site as well; people have lunch close to where the Twin Towers have been. Sergej used to go up the towers with his groups almost every day, until 2001. On 9/11, he and his driver decided to take the tour the other way around, a timing that rescued his life. His memories he shares with the tourists now, always concluding like this:

"Almost everyone knew people working up there, and so did I. You see, it is personal for all of us."

The photo next to this post shows a statue that used to be on top of the WTC, it is part of the Battery Park now. The sanctuary lamp is still burning these days.