Monday, October 20, 2008

Breakbeats, Pops, and Locks

So I just woke up from a long and satisfying nights sleep after having stayed awake for 37 hours. Why was I up for so long? Breakdancing. Now I cannot dance to save my life but when you throw b-boys and b-girls from all over the world into an arena, you can make a sure bet that there are a lot of people around who can. On Saturday night, the Battle of the Year 2008 World Finals were held in Braunschweig. We took a train there and when we got off, finding our final destination was piece of cake. First we looked around to see which bus stop was surrounded by kids breakdancing, and that was our bus. Our BOTY passes doubled as bus tickets for the day. When these kids got off the bus, we hopped off and listened for music. This was the direction to walk. We got to Volkswagon Halle about two hours early, but no worries about being bored. There were two djs set up on either side with rather large crowds surrounding breakdance circles. [Oh yeah, in case you are not sure what breakdancing is or what b-boys and b-girls are, click on the respective terms to find out. I've had some people ask me to clarify.] We got to see a dance-off between these two awesome little kids, probably 5 or 6, who seemed to be having more fun dancing than focusing on the fact that they were trying to show each other up. Once past the security checkpoints and inside, the arena floor divided up into several dance circles dancing to the house music. One of the djs came out and scratched out some beats for them while the camera crews projected video feeds of them on some of the arena screens.

When the contest started, 19 different teams from countries around the world got to dance their way into the semi finals. Canada had a cool team. Props to Japan for having a chiptune set. Their whole routine was set to mixed up Nintendo music, including the music from Mario that alerts you that the time in your level is running for when the time in their routine was running out. Brazil had a cool set that included some capoeira. The US was awful. They took the opportunity to showcase their breakdancing skills to the world, and instead turned it into some silly vague political statement meaning of course that there was no way that they would place, and they didn't. The entire list of crews were as follows: [includes links and the BOTY2008 hosts, djs, and judges (who were also breakdancers).]

Qualified and confirmed crews:
Tsunami Allstars (Brasil) Now or Never (Canada)
Smokemon (France) TNT Crew (Germany)
Dead Prezz (Greece) Unstopabulls (Israel)
Kaiten Ninja (Japan) TIP (Korea)
Extreme Crew (Korea) La Halla King Zoo (Marocco)
Groove Kingz (Netherlands) Bad Taste Cru (Northern Ireland)
Crazy Twisting Tribal Team (Poland) Top 9 (Russia)

Fallen Angels (Spain) Octagon (Sweden)
Ghost Rockz (Switzerland) Formosa (Taiwan)
Furious Souldiers (USA)

Hosts: Spax ( D ), Trix ( GB )
DJs: Element (USA), Kid Cut (Germany)
Judges: Crazy (Switzerland), Born (Korea), Vartan (Germany), David Colas (France), Kid David (USA)
International Dance Showcases:
Flying Steps (Germany)
Salah (France)
Hilty & Bosch (Japan)
Also, watch this highlight video of the competition and in the crowd shot at the beginning you can see me for a split second up front before the camera pans away to the stage. I'm wearing blue on my head.

The contest was awesome! Russia ended up coming out on top winning best show and first place. I was personally pulling for Korea at the end. Oh well! After the show we took off and found a place to grab some falafel and ate in front of a closed bank before walking back to the train station.

The earliest train going out was at 6:17 in the morning so Braunscheig Hauptbahnhof was converted into a huge after party. Imagine a few hundred people in the photo of the station. A dj showed up and someone even brought a drumset. Breakdance circles popped up everywhere. People danced all night! I even saw an old lady hop into one of the circles and breakdance. Salah, the French pop&lock/break dancer (cool video link) came out to the train station. A bunch of girls made fun of his performance at BOTY and thus challenged him to a dance off in which he showed them up so hard. It was cool to see him hanging out and interacting with all the other dancers. (He reminded me of doseone freestyling with all the kids in the parking lot before the Subtle show.) After the dj took off, kids busted out their boomboxes and continued on dancing. We tried taking a quick nap in a corner, but with this much going on it didn't work so well. People were collecting bottles for money, the stores stayed open late in the station, kids were trying out all the moves that they learned that night, people were teaching each other moves, and all in all everyone was having fun. All you kids who went to the sleek corporate-sponsered after party at the club, missed out and are fake anyways. I looked at pictures of the official after party and it looked like a lame college night at a club with a bunch of dressed upclub kiddies running around with their cocktails talking about how cool hip-hop is, but whatever; I'm sure they had fun too.

So until noon the following day it was nothing but train stations as buses until we finally made our way back to Solingen. I chose not to sleep right away so that I could stay up not mess up my sleep schedule. Success! I went for a walk to keep myself awake and found these cool tunnels and the botanical garden here in town. I also walked downtown and wondered about for a bit. Ok, this is getting boring. Hope everyone is doing well stateside!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I held hands with Alice Glass.

So last night we took off on a train to Frankfurt for a night of electronic music. We got to Frankfurt and made out way to Batschapp, the venue of the evening, via S Bahn. As soon as I stepped off the train this German scene girl hands me a beer and we joined a group of others to the show. We ended up making some friends at the show which was pretty cool. The event of the evening; Jagermeister Rock:Liga hosting Shitdisco, Metronomy, and a personal favorite, Crystal Castles. The first, Shitdisco, as their name may suggest, I thought were fairly shitty. Basically a bunch of guys who did not know how to play instruments and let the effects do the work for them. Metronomy, I was pleased to find out, was actually composed of three musicians, which is somewhat rare in the realm of scene electro tunes. They delightfully put on an act consisting of clever instrument combinations and stage theatrics amidst thoughfully programmed beats. Fairly British, girl related lyrics, and 80s sounding and I have a feeling it is probably better live than on recordings. -ok, I just watched some videos and they were fairly lame. Anyways, the highlight of the evening was Crystal Castles. Pretty much chaos in the dark. Ethan had a fairly hefty synth rig and there was a live drummer. Alice, whether jumping about or writhing on the floor, dished out sharp distorted vocals. Despite the deliberate strobe burst and led flashes, I have to say I did not get a clear look at any one of them. Alice did reach out and hold my hand for a little bit during one of the songs, and I was the only one! This made me happy considering my pseudo-crush for the electrothrash Canadian.

After the show we wondered around Frankfurt to pass time till our train departed. We found a park that was infested with rabbits. They were everywhere. This was ironically situated right outside of Frankfurt's sex district which was conveniently nestled in the heart of the financial district. We were looking for food and some Turkish guys ushered us into their restaurant. They were awesome, everyone in the whole place was talking to us and making sure we had anything and everything we needed. Turkish Tea on the house! Our train got delayed about two hours last night and we did not get back to solingen until eight in the morning. The buses were full of kids going to school.

Last week we took a two day trip to Berlin. Mostly the trip was dedicated to Mandie's job interviews but we did manage to do some fun stuff. We found an old post-soviet building, very unkept, that was full of working art studio/galleries. There were lots of painters and collage artist in the building. In one of the rooms I found a recording studio jam packed with synthesizers, drum machines, and all sorts of other equipment. I felt at home and talking to the guy running the place for a while till wondering off to explore further. In the bottom was a bar and a cafe. There was a band from Ireland setting up in the bar. We wondered out back where there is a large outdoor lounge area with all sorts of artist made benches and tables. In the same lot there was a working sculpture studio complete with a labyrinth of bizarre sculptures and people in modified shipping containers welding away. The whole block is pretty much an artist haven with a political/punk overtone, a fascinating place to hang out. It was weird sitting in the back lot, sipping a drink, and thinking, “This used to be Russia.”

We walked through the old US Army International checkpoint. Very touristy spot, but there were fascinating things all around including a section of the original Berlin Wall. It is rather aged and starting to crumble from years of exposure, but at one point in history was a strong symbol of the iron curtain. Wondering around at night we came across a cemetery that contained mass graves from the holocaust. The history is sometimes unsettling, especially when you randomly come across it. In this place there were memorials to a Jewish nursing home which was destroyed and a courtyard with plaques describing how well over a thousand Jews were gathered in the spot to be shipped out to concentration camps. We continued walking around and ended up in what seemed like a middle of nowhere place by the river with lots of trees and randomly came across this little bar/cafe. We stopped for a drink and then continued past the zoo to the Kaiser-Wilhelm- Gedächtniskirche. This is an old church which was heavily damaged as a result from the bombing and warfare during WWII. Instead of rebuilding it like the rest of the city, Berlin decided to leave it standing as a symbol and reminder of the effects of war. Kaiser-Wilhelm- Gedächtniskirche has a ghostly appearance in the city, and up close you can see all the scars from bullets and bombs. It is an emotionally moving sight to take in to say the least. Berlin is full of things like this. All over the city you will find gold bricks in the sidewalk with names of individuals or families that died or went missing in the war. There are also many peace monuments all around the city.

Everyone is back in Solingen now. Fred and Regina are back from Sardinia and we are hanging out here piecing together what should be our future in Berlin. There are some really cool plans in the making. Also, good luck to Anna who is studying for exams!

Friday, October 3, 2008


A week ago, we went down to Switzerland for a visit. Zürich was an exciting city with lots of things gong on. We got to meet René, and also successfully deliver him a new bike wheel (he is an avid cyclist). Sarah took us on a tour of her school, ETH (Zürich Polytech), which is a high end engineering/science school. Einstein went to this school (which now offers classes on relativity). Among some of the things we did were, visits to Peterskirche, Fraumünster, and Großmünster (three famous churches, Fraumünster has pretty windows by Chagall), the Swiss national museum, Palentological museum, Zoological museum, Medicinal museum, Art Museum of Zürich, ETH, and Zürich University. There was a device called the Polybahn that was similar to San Fran's cable cars that allowed quick travel up this hill to the university area. We also got to ride a boat (sort of like a lake tram) all around lake Zürich while simultaneously enjoying ice cream despite it being rather cold on the lake. The boat passed by a freestyle snowboarding competition complete with rock bands and a large snowboarding track. On one of the evenings we went out to a science night event where many booths were set up along the riverside to demonstrate projects and scientific concepts to the public. Among some of the things I learned about are the preservation of over 400 different varieties of corn in order to keep track of the biodiversity of corn in Switzerland that resulted after its introduction from America, a device that tracks and records where the human eye is looking, and the properties and physics of superconductors (I got to play with magnets and liquid nitrogen to create floating superconductors). Apparently the Swiss government pumps lots of money into scientific research and development. The Zürich train station one evening had a large market setup inside where we got to try free samples of olives and cheeses.

Prior to our week trip to Switzerland we took a trip to the castle Schlossburg, here in town. This was an adventurous medieval place with lots of sword fighting, black smithing, and food. There were all sorts of rooms, towers, and dungeons to explore.

Back to proper chronological order, after Switzerland we took off on a train to a rad city called Berlin. After checking into our hostel/hotel room, we wondered around the city for the evening before crashing relatively early so that Mandy could get to her job interviews the next day. She managed to book three for the same day! We found a place to grab some falafel to eat and then a bar to try out Berlin's white beer. I just don't seem to like beer all that much. The following day, I tried talking to lots of people along the way to my school. There was this soldier character selling visas to enter into West Berlin. Touristy, but fascinating nonetheless. All these political nuts stopped me and exclaimed that I should heed the warnings of some economic crisis prophet character. I met this girl and went into this place since we were both trying to find the same office, but the people inside were on strike so she could not register as a new citizen. I asked this Asian florist girl directions and she could not speak English or German so it did not work very well. I found my way however in this cool bookstore/coffee shop where this guy spoke perfect English. The School that I am going to attend rocks! I stopped in and said hello and got a copy of my acceptance letter and then made my way to the German foreign Office. Of course they were on strike too so no luck on applying for that visa yet. We ate at this Thai place that had cheap cocktails and really cool swings to sit and eat in on the sidewalk, but I have to say, it was not as good as the Thai place in Boone. I miss it so very much! Berlin was so much fun to walk around. I met lots of cool people, found cool hangout places, figured out the transit system, and to top it off, it is a rather inexpensive city. Everything tends to be relatively cheap. The city is old and there is random evidence everywhere of the war and the socio/political division that once existed. I walked by one old building and noticed machine gun marks etched out on its walls. I'm sure that lots more photos will pop up from Berlin after we move there. For now we are still in Solingen until we get visas.

On a side note, Sarah told us a funny story. In German, the word korn means wheat and the word maize means corn. After WWII, America asked Germany what they needed more than anything and they said korn. Unknowingly, America sent Germany large shipments of corn. The German people were a bit confused wondering what they would do with so much maize, and why it was that After having made clear what they needed they received something else entirely. I suppose that the humor lies in the fact that even simple words can lead to huge misunderstandings. Sarah calls these words, false cognates, false friends. The picture here is of a corn plant I found growing out of the sidewalk next to Großmünster.

New Addition! It should be noted that Mandie has created an online photo album that has various collections of all the snapshots from along the way that are not posted on either of our blogs. Anyone who is interested can check them out. More will be posted as time goes on. Keep in mind that both of us tend to get so caught up in things that we usually forget that we even have a camera with us. This is why sometimes there are not as many photos as one would expect (for example the first Berlin album)

I'm not sure if this link will take you to the German version or redirect to the English version. If anyone has problems, try replacing the .de with .com and see what happens. Otherwise just post a comment or shoot me an email. Also if anyone has questions along the way regarding our trip or anything else, feel free to post a comment or send an email and get an answer to your inquiry. I know we don't always explain everything and sometimes skip over important details. It's all just so exciting!