Dialoge 09

What a great night. There are events that reaffirm my love for Berlin, and the joy I feel living here again.

Sasha Waltz has built up one of the world’s leading modern dance troupes. The movements live from contact between the dancers, and the way the bodies move into one another and then break apart again. It is hard to tell how much of the work is choreographed, or whether it is improvised from of a certain physical language. Over the last 15 years she has had the opportunity to fill new spaces with original dance work, such as the opening of the Liebeskind structure for the Jüdische Museum in Berlin (in 1999) or the opening of her husband’s Radialsystem V (in 2006).

Last week was the opening of Berlin’s most impressive museum building yet. David Chipperfield has restored the Neue Museum, and it is a masterpiece. His resurrection of a 150 year old ruin into a modern building is perfect, and clearly visible in every room, on every surface. It is a flawless combination of Stüler’s original intent, evidence of room-by-room combat in the final days of World War II, and a flawless modern gallery space.

neue-musem-stairs

Tonight I got see Sasha Waltz and her dancers fill this awesome space with movement and music!

The picture of the staircase is not the best example of Chipperfield’s “complementary restoration“, but imagine modern expressive dance in such a space. Sasha Waltz’s dancers performed different repeating pieces in every room, accompanied by odd sirens, glass-bottle percussionists, thick tribal drumming, or string quartets performing music by a dozen different contemporary composers.

The dance was heavy and physical, and being amongst the dancers meant hearing their grunts, sensing their heat, and getting jostled occasionally. There were choirs reciting vocal cantatas that sounded like Gregorian monk chants, but rhythmic and modern, filling a space acoustically while dancers climbed up walled enclaves or hung from door frames.

Sometimes the dancers would come together in the larger rooms, the central atria, or the big staircase, and perform dances as a large group of 30 or 40 dancers, and then spread across the building again in smaller ensembles or as individuals.

This kind of evening – a new museum, cutting-edge dance, contemporary music – would not have the same quality in any other city. It felt natural and un-self-conscious. There were no VIP sections or sponsored bars, no roped-off areas, but also no artsy aloofness or pretense.

It’s going to be a good Spring in Berlin! And tonight was a great start into the season.

All – New Math

Craig Damrauer is posting these on the All-New Math site. Think of it as philosophy plus graphic design minus big words. There’s a lot more at his site.

Enjoy:

modern-art

compassion

first-impressions

nepotism

uniqueness

brunch

silence

Points given for remembering the episode which explained that brunch comes with a slice of cantaloupe.

Delirious and overwhelmed

I am incredibly tired of the cold, the gloom, the grey. The weather should be irrelevant, but it is impossible to ignore. It seems to sap the energy out of everything. We’re three days into spring, but it doesn’t feel that way.

Today is almost feverish. There is bright sunlight followed by flurries of snow, gelatinous wet hail, and finally ecstatic forest winds that smells like pine trees. Rinse, wash, repeat every twelve minutes.

Yesterday I stood in the book store on Savigny Platz looking for a gift for my friend Jessica. I was also hoping to find a book to inspire me… I’m taking a fun and new direction in my photography, but everything I looked at was either contrived and boring, or intimidatingly good and wonderfully original. The amount of work being published is overwhelming, and it makes me wonder what is left that hasn’t been done before… and whether the very question is proof of my limited creativity.

But I’m having fun. That means I can enjoy the process, and not worry solely about the final result.

Where The Wild Things Are

So… they’re turning “my” book into a movie.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak was my favorite book as a child. My generation had a lot of interesting books and shows, but not the overwhelming deluge that vies for our children’s attention nowadays. It was easier for us to fall in love with a character, to stay with the story and weave it into our lives.

Well, this one was mine.

I have been reading this book to the boys for several years now, but it’s just another title in their library. They know I like it a lot, but that doesn’t dictate their personal taste and choices. There are other books they’re attracted to. I’m pleased that they prefer books which aren’t simple ancillary revenue opportunities for a movie or TV show. They really like Die Drei Räuber by Tomi Ungerer, or Walter The Farting Dog. Really, who can blame them? I know flatulence is funny, but the book is actually pretty sensitive.

Nonetheless I’m a little sad. Turning “my” book into a movie will make it just another media product. It will become simply another DVD to watch on long distance flights or a cereal at the supermarket. The ray of hope is director Spike Jonze, who’s work is as cool as his contrived name suggests. Let’s hope he doesn’t screw it up.

where-the-wild-things-are-poster

…and if they do screw it up, there’s a good chance it will sink into oblivion. Die Drei Räuber are a good example… I just found out they made a movie out of that too, which was apparently so bad it disappeared without damaging the book’s appeal.

Let the rumpus begin!

The Desktop Wallpaper Project

Fiddling with the computer’s Desktop background image must be one of the least productive endeavors in the world… but then again, there are people in this world who would argue that any attention spent on design is superfluous. I’m not one of them.

I use my Desktop quite actively, but I keep it neat. There are not a lot of files and shortcuts on my screen, except for the few folders and applications I access regularly. I end up returning to my home screen several times per hour, which has made it an important piece of visual real estate in my life. The default bluish-green screen that my system shipped with was quasi-futuristic and non-offensive, but I have always enjoyed changing the background image. For a long time I used photos from my own archives, but they now scroll past as part of my screen saver. There was also a number of Simpson images, notably Comicbook Guy proclaiming “Worst Desktop Image. Ever.” But I have found something new, and I’m in the mood to share…

Bobby Solomon at Kitsune Noir has developed an interesting treat called The Desktop Wallpaper Project. Every Wednesday he releases a new creation by different designers in various resolutions, perfectly sized for large photographer monitors all the way down to the iPhone screen. I really like Nik Daum’s work, but I’ve become quite busy with some research I’m doing. That means I need a Desktop that allows me to quickly find files, and avoid getting visually distracted. I’ve switched to Neil Doshi’s doodle. Solomon thinks it’s busy, but the low-contrast image makes it easy on the eyes. The only one I really avoided was Dash Shaw, because that’s exactly what I don’t want!

kitsune-noir-dwp

Go check it out, you’ll be happy you did!

Harry Potter and the Elders of Zion

My friend Josef Joffe published a piece on the Middle East Strategy at Harvard forum last week. MESH is a virtual think tank, an arena in which the smartest minds work together and publicly discuss various topics, giving policy makers access to information and ways of interpreting situations that might otherwise be unavailable to them. The good thing about a virtual think tank is that you no longer need to invest in fancy buildings or big libraries. Everything is available online nowadays, and most people prefer to write from home.

When Joe told me about the subject I had to laugh. It sounded so bat-shit crazy that it had to be true. In a nutshell, the Iranians have produced a film in which they explain that the Harry Potter series is a Ziono-Hollywoodist Conspiracy.

I didn’t make up that phrase, they did.

So, here’s the video, followed by Joe’s article.

It was high time that anti-Semitism would find something hipper than those dusty Protocols of the Elders of Zion, concocted sometime between 1895 and 1902 by Russian journalist Matvei Golovinski and then used by the pro-Tsarists to discredit reforms in Russia as a Jewish plot. Egyptian and Syrian state media have turned the Protocols into television series, trying to modernize the plot and bringing it forward into the 20th century.

Iranian TV has beaten them hands down with “Harry Potter and the Ziono-Hollywoodist Conspiracy.” (If you cannot view the clip embedded above, click here.) J.K. Rowling, that English (and no doubt, fully Aryan) rose, as avatar of the globe-encircling Jewish kraken? Yes, though the evidence is a bit disjointed as the clip unfolds on YouTube. The basic visual argument is hardly as compelling as the original Protocols which, after all, have real-life Jews who have real faces and names, working out complicated plans to conquer the world and pollute the race. You only get Harry and his buddies and professors flitting in and out of the picture while the voice-over proclaims a story line that actually has nothing to do with Messrs. Voldemort and Dumbledore.

It is “Witchcraft and Brainwashing” that spreads the “evil essence of Zionism.” This is how the logic apparently works: Since Harry Potter movies are all about W ‘n’ B, they are a Zionist tool. Along with “devil worship,” W ‘n’ B will corrupt “innocent children and youth” around the world. Why is this a Zionist tool? Because witchcraft was invented by the “rabbis of ancient Egypt.” Now we get a few seconds from the Order of the Phoenix even though it does not contain witchcraft-mongering rabbis. But wait. Aren’t those longbearded faculty at Hogwarts kind of Jewish-looking? Didn’t we see Jewish symbols in every Harry Potter movie? I swear, the kids were playing with dreidels in The Philosopher’s Stone. And when they assembled for a meal in The Order of the Phoenix, they were actually celebrating Passover. You thought the matzohs were crackers, eh? Whenever the kids joust and fight, they are actually preparing for the Last Battle that will do in or enslave all the Muslims.

As we hop along this warped path of Iranian TV logic, we also learn that the world faces a “cultural crusaders’ war” that is more powerful than any military assault the West has engineered in, say, Afghanistan and Iraq. How will the Jews attain world domination? By hastening Armageddon, the “End of Days,” which will deliver a kind of Jewish endsieg, the Nazi term for “final victory.”

What does this have to do with Harry Potter? Well, because in the next volume, Iranian TV intones, he finally wants to face down Voldemort. That will be the mother of all battles, to coin a phrase—a secret metaphor (and call to arms) for Armageddon.

Personally, I find this insulting to the Jews. Previously, the Iranian propaganda line painted the “Little Satan” as mighty regional superpower. Now, this TV clip puts down Israel/Jewry as a bunch of losers who no longer have the will and wherewithal to subjugate the Muslims directly and by force of arms. Now, they have to rely on a bunch of kids—on Harry and Hermione—to execute their evil designs.

What has the Jewish Conspiracy come to? This member in good standing feels so dissed that I will enroll in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the fall to learn how to turn Mr. Ahmadinejad into a toad.

Too funny. What Joe seems to have forgotten is America’s Christian Right assertion that Harry Potter was un-Christian because it promoted witchcraft. Maybe we can round up all the religious crackpots, and herd them into a movie theater – my grandfather used to own some… wait, he was probably part of the conspiracy!

OMG, I’m gonna grow up and be and Elder of Zion…

The Rollercoaster

Yes, this blog is still alive, and No, I did not fall down a well (unless you consider time spent on Facebook). I’ve just been insanely busy watching the decline of Western civilization unfold on my computer monitor…

I am out of pithy comments about the financial crisis, but I found this image in my archives, and I’m posting it as a metaphor.

More soon, I promise!

2006-01-sm-pier-coaster01