Monday, December 14, 2009

Warp!


I'm still on the job hunt. Last week I managed to land an interview for a position at the Berlin Philharmonic. When I got to the office though, it turned out to be a group interview. In other words, it was a room full of Germans making my language skills look really bad. I did not get the job. I am currently revamping my computer to focus on music performance and production. With the past year of no luck finding a job, I've decided that I should just pursue what I am good at and interested in. I believe that I could make enough to live off by playing gigs around the city. I think 2010 will be a good year.

On Friday, I went to the Finale of the six city concert/party series held by Warp Records celebrating their 20th anniversary. It was held in simultaneously in both the legendary Berghain and upstairs in Panorama Bar. The event started at 11 and ended at 10:30 the next day. The sets were staggered so that, for example, while one performer was playing in Berghain, a DJ would be playing upstairs in Panorama, and back and forth. I could go freely between up and downstairs during the sets so that if I wasn't feeling a track, I could go see what was being played in the other set. It was an exciting night! Warp records is an independent label in England that has brought to light many of the top electronic artist, including Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, Square Pusher, LFO, Prefuse 73, Nightmares on Wax, and Anti-pop Consortium to name a few.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pfeffermintzetee


I just got back from a quick bike ride by the lake. I enjoy watching the old people feeding all the ducks, swans, and gulls. There was a man today surrounded by swans, snapping like snakes, with a seagull on his head! I have been exploring the forest around the lake, by bike where possible and foot where it is not. Winter has increased the visibility through the trees. The other day I saw several deer, some with big antlers. I've also seen lots of red squirrels scurrying about. I found a ferry that will take you out to one of the islands! The sun set today at 3:56, so as I am writing this, despite it being still relatively early, it is dark.

Sarah was in Berlin for an interview on Monday and crashed at our place for the night. It is always great to see her! Before heading out the next day, she helped us out with some technical errands in a way that only a native German speaker can. We are very grateful!

I have been plucking my way through a book on the physics of sound. I am taking notes and absorbing all that I can. I'm still hunting for a job. It is almost embarrassing that it is taking me so long. I have been sending out my resume to lots of people and businesses, but mostly I do not hear back or get turned down. I am still hopeful and am digging deeper to find not so obvious options, for example, the other day I applied to work at several film studios. Who knows, maybe I'll end up working in the motion picture realm!

The Jehovah's Witnesses just paid me a visit. It is quite possible, they say, that the Star of Bethlehem was the work of Satan in order to bring harm to the baby Jesus. King Herod did want him dead. God showed his praise with Angels! Interesting. Mandie is super interested in the Jehovah's Witnesses for some reason, so I got their contact information that way we can schedule a discussion with them. I'll post more

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Books, Books, and More Books


I was just updating my wish list on Amazon and I realized that I can add comments to the list that allow people to have more insight to why I'm after certain books. Now it is not just an empty shopping list. This makes me much happier about it than before as now I feel there is a little more connection between me and the person who might potentially have a book sent my way. (If anyone is interested, you can go to Amazon, click on Wish List and type in my name [Phillip Tesner]. My list will pop up. If you decide to get me a book, all you have to do is purchass it, it will ship directly to me, and I will be forever grateful. I am, by most standards, not in a position to spend money on books, so I could use any help I can get to maintain a state of being well read.)

Today, I attempted entering a German course at a new school. All the courses were full so they could not accept me, but I am the first on the list for the next course sometime in January. This is an important step in my new plan which involves grad school in a foreign language.

I spent many hours in the library today. I organized all my notes, list, sketches, and other scraps of information on paper, a hefty pile I might add. I also explored the shelves and picked out a nice stack of books to read through. Today's selection:

-Introduction to the Physics of Music
-Clockwork Music (music machines throughout history)
-Summer Crossing (Truman Capote's first novel)
-John Cage, Writings '73-'78 (Empty Words)
-John Cage, Writings '79-82 (X)
-A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut
-Die Große Musikschule (a huge school book about music and music instruments in german so I can learn all the names and words I need)
-Western Stories, Mark Twain*
-Modern American Short Stories*, Anderson, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Porter
(*Fremdsprachentexte, which means foreign language text. They are for Germans learning English, but i'm going to use them in reverse. At the end of every page they translate all the slang, phrases, idioms, and etc. that we use in everyday speak.)


Speaking of books, Sarah and Rene, got me an excellent book on the Berlin Wall. With all the excitement with the 20th year celebration of it's fall, it is very relevant and informative. This book has a very comprehensive presentation of many different aspects of the wall, including where it stood, the political situation over the years it stood, and much more.

Update on the puzzle: I have the whole border together and have the entire skyline connecting from one side to the other. I am trying to knock out ths sky first, because I believe that it will be the most difficult part (it is all the same blue and makes up about one third of the puzzle).

I spent a large portion of the weekend reading about M-theory, String Theory, and related topics. I even watched a documentary! I really pushed my brain on this. It was funny, because some detail would click and I would run and try to explain it to Mandie. I would generally get mixed up and then retreat for more reading. I understand it much better now, even though the math and some of the concepts, naturally, are way over my head.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Skelett Renset


From the Halloween Party. This was my first time ever DJing in public. I had a blast!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mauerfall 09 mit Nudeln


Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Berlin held the Festival of Freedom to celebrate! The following, taken from the official site, is a list of what went down:

The 'Festival of Freedom' began at 7 pm with an open-air concert at Pariser Platz by the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim. After the concert, the fall of the Berlin Wall was symbolised by knocking over the designed dominos, which was broadcast live in ZDF from 7.25 until ca. 8.15 pm. About 250,000 thousand people attended this extraordinary event.

Under musical direction of Daniel Barenboim the Staatskapelle Berlin and the Staatsopernchor (choir study: Eberhard Friedrich) played the following programme:

  • Richard Wagner: Lohengrin, Prelude to Act III
  • Arnold Schönberg: A Survivor from Warsaw, op. 46 (Speaker: Klaus Maria Brandauer)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 A major, op. 92, IV: Allegro con brio
  • Friedrich Goldmann: Es ist, als habe einer die Fenster aufgestoßen (Fragment, 2009)

Ca. 7.25 pm Entrance of the guests of honour (heads of states and governments) through the Brandenburg Gate from East to West

Ca. 7.30 pm Greetings and speeches by Klaus Wowereit and Angela Merkel andrepresentatives of the former Allies Nicolas Sarkozy, Dmitry Medvedev, Gordon Brown and Hillary Clinton. Speech by Marianne Birthler in the company of Katrin Hattenhauer and Roland Jahn.

Ca. 8 pm Statements by Lech Walesa and Miklós Németh in discussion with moderator Guido Knopp and fall of the first dominos at the Reichstagsufer, followed by music from ADORO. Appearance of Mikhail Gorbachev and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, brief discussion with moderator Thomas Gottschalk. Followed by Bon Jovi presenting the song "We Weren't Born To Follow"

Ca. 8.25 pm Berlin pupils and Jerzy Buzek and José Manuel Barroso in discussion with moderator Klaas Heufer-Umlauf at the Potsdamer Platz. Fall of the longest row of dominos, almost all the way to the Brandenburg Gate, accompanied by the band Stamping Feet. Statements by Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus and young artist Ahn Kyu-Chul from the divided Korea in discussion with moderator Thomas Gottschalk.

Ca. 8.40 pm Finale: Paul van Dyk presents the hymn "We are One". Fall of the last domino in the presence of everyone involved and the guests of honour at the Brandenburg Gate.


It was cold and wet, but it was exciting to see the celebrations. It was neat to see so many country and state leaders gathered together right in front of me. I thought it was particularly striking to see Gorbachev and Genscher together. I was standing right behind the Brandenburg Gate. I had a decent view of the stage where the orchestra played. Most everything else I watched on a big screen. There were so many people! Crowds filled the whole stretch from Postdamer Platz, all the way past the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate. I also got to see Bon Jovi! (video) To symbolize the fall of the wall, a chain of giant dominoes, each decorated by schools and organizations worldwide, was knocked down. (video) To top off the evening, the Gate was set ablaze with pyrotechnics and fireworks lit up the sky!

Afterwards I went for a box of noodles for two reasons: they are a tasty snack, and they are served hot which is great if you have been standing in the cold for several hours. My hands were so cold that I had trouble using chopsticks!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

parentheses

It has been some time since an update here on my little keep-everyone-updated-on-what-I've-been-up-to blog (don't take it personal). No worries, I've been keeping myself busy (not that anyone would be worried about that). We have had several wonderful visitors recently, including Sarah and Rene (back from their exciting world travels) and Kyle (Mandie's former roommate and good friend). It has been lots of fun hanging out with friends and showing them around the city where we live.

Oh, before I forget, it snowed this week! It was the first snow of the year. Pretty, but it did not last very long.

So, most (but not all) of what I'm gong to mention from now on will be music related in some way or another. If this is not your thing, navigate away from this page immediately! You have been warned.

I have been to three noteworthy shows recently. The first was a band called Fuck Buttons. They blend lo-fi synth sounds with primal rhythms and distorted crescendoing lyrics. They played an exciting set which included their new single Surf Solar. The second show was an Icelandic composer and cellist named Hildur Guðnadóttir. She played beautiful experimental cello tracks that were complemented with loops and subtle effects. The third of the three was Themselves, consisting of Doseone and Jel, Hailing from the Anticon collective. The put on an energetic performance full of live sampling, super fast raps, and freestyles when the moments were right (and they were often right).

We threw a Halloween party! (click here to see the flyer/poster) It was held at a bar called Supersonic which we managed to pack with people. I was the DJ for the evening. I blew the house amp and had to play out of a shitty pair of speakers which left me with horrible sound for about thirty minutes. After the owner realized that the amp would not recover, he installed an old amp he had stashed away in the basement. Once the sound was back, everything went smooth. People were dancing, and buying lots of drinks. This pleased the owner enough to invite me back!

I have a shiny new silver bike! It was a Birthday gift from Fred, Regina, Sarah, Rene, Mandie and Olaf. Thanks everyone for thinking of me and searching high and low to find the perfect bike! I can't wait for a nice day to take it for a ride around town. As of now, it is just too cold and wet. I also have a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle which is spread out over the coffee table. I'm shooting for the end of the month as a finish date.

Speaking of birthdays, Mandie and I both had ours in October. For Mandie's, we met up in a park after she got off work. I got there early and collected a large pile of chestnuts for her. We went to a Japanese restaurant which has her favorite udon noodles. I made her a tiny robotic insect and a circuit bent noisemaker. For my birthday we had fettuccine alfredo and peach cobbler. Mandie made me two games, Owbat and Like Scattagories. On the weekend, we went to a bar with friends and had drinks and played electronic mensch ärgere dich nicht.

I have managed to fix my Korg Poly-800! I took it completely apart and after some inspection, discovered a bad capacitor. I replaced it and full power was restored to the synth; however, I found that after being dead for so long, the memory was blank. I thought I was going to have to program every setting (64 patches with 50 parameters each = 3200 settings to program), but with some internet hunting I found a wav file with the memory data. Upon finding this, I got to experience working with magnetic tape mermoy (not including recording and playing music on cassette tapes). I found this to be really cool in comparison to the flash based world we live in today. It obviously is not as convenient, but it has that substantial feel of using an old typewriter instead your laptop.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goodbye Thomas

A good friend of mine, Thomas Dedge, died recently. I got to know him over my several years working at Educational Media Services/ITC back in college. He was my manager and became a close friend as we got to know each other. We used to share stories or talk about music, gadgets, or whatever happened to have our interest that particular day. It came as a shocking suprise when I got word that he was no longer with us. I still find it hard to believe. I want to send out my condolences to his wife, family and friends.

Thomas,

I never got to tell you that since I moved to Germany, I have developed somewhat of a taste for beer. I think you would have been excited about this development. While I cannot have a drink with you, I will have a drink for you. I miss you!

This is Where I Live

Hello all you post craving cats! Here is a post to help ease that insatiable craving!

I have not really been up to a whole lot. I've been into music and art lately. I've attended openings around the city and have been working on some ideas of my own. I have recently gotten into equipment repairs, mostly for a musician friend of mine. I managed to fix his Vox wah pedal, an Ibanez Tube Screamer distortion pedal, and an Electro Harmonix Memory Man Deluxe (an old one, not one of the reissues) which was the trickiest of the three. I may end up modding his Micromoog. I'm also exploring making something similar to an ebow, but for heavier weight strings which essentially means stronger electromagnetic fields!

At a flea market in Treptower, I haggled with a Turkish man for an old accordion. He saw me looking at it and said, "I will give it to you for 40 euros." I paused for a minute and began to walk off. "Wait!" he cried out to me, "How about 20?" I crouched down and gave the instrument a look over and replied, "I'll give you 15." Oh I felt so cool walking out with an accordion slung over my back! I have it now in my floor with the bass mechanism exposed. It is an intense and complex contraption which allows all those buttons to make pre-programmed, if you will, bass chords. 120 buttons in all which means 120 different bass chords. It is a piano accordion and I cannot wait to have it in full working condition. I am very close.

Also taken apart and exposed is my Korg Poly-800, I have learned a lot about this synth. I think I have deduced that there is a bad capacitor which is preventing it from powering up. It should be an easy fix once I get the part I need. I also plan on doing some modifications to this synth. As of now however, the Poly-800 is sitting here looking like a skeleton all gutted for cleaning, inspection, and repairs.

Ping pong, or Tischtennis, has become an exciting interest to me over the past few weeks. I've been playing games in Tiergarten with my friend Elspeth. I love the click click noise the ball makes bouncing off the table and the paddles. It is such a perfect autumn game. Today I went and bought my own set of paddles and some ping pong balls to go along with them. There are about 5 tables withing walking distance of where I live, and so many around the city that there is actually a google maps mashup you can use to look up public ping pong tables in Berlin.

A good friend of mine named Susan came for a visit. We got into all sorts of fun here in the city. We started off relaxing due to jet lag. We walked around the lake and went to see the oldest tree in berlin along with the Schloss Tegel, which was a summer palace for the Humbolt family. Then we chilled at home where we pieced together a homemade cribbage board and played a few games. We went to Humbolthain park where we walked about the rose garden and climbed to the top of the old Flak Turm up top. Then we made or way to Tachles, an old squatter based art community, and had a look around the building. We took advantage of the museums being open on thursday evenings and went to the Altes Gallerie and perused through old masterpieces. We ended up staying out too late and in vain attempts to be at the right place at the right time for the night busses, ended up walking a rediculous amount across the city before finally catching a bus to finish the journy back to the apartment. In the process of running down a dark alley, Susan actually managed to step on a rat! It seemed to be unharmed, more confused than anything, as it scurried away.

Susan and i found a cool bar that had video game consoles you could hook up and play. We ordered some beers and started a game of Super Mario, then we played till the bar closed. The following day was the day of the múm concert. Mandie, Susan, and myself set out to get some dinner before hand at this cool egyptian place where you get to take off your shoes and relax on all these pillows and eat tasty foods! The concert was awesome! Múm is a beautifulsounding icelandic band that I've been into for many years, and I was so happy to get a chance to see them. If you don't know them, please check them out! After the show some crazy dude told us he was developing a phone that would allow people to call places and hear them as if they were actually talking to each other in the same room, that they would be able to hear everything in the room. He seemed to be a bit behind on modern technology. We went to a goth party that night with another friend of mine. It took forever to find it and we didn't really stay very long. On the way to the trainstation some crazy dude decided to pick a fight with me. He ended up headbutting me. I still have no idea what he was trying to tell us. My lack of understanding obviously did not make him happy. We got away fine.

Other things we did included checking out a really cool sound installation in an old water resevoir, going to the German tech museum, spent a day at the Botanical Gardens which was really cool (lots of neat things that you are not allowed to touch that were really fun to touch!), and visited the Berliner Dom where we got to hear a choir practicing (we also got to check out a cool view of the city while the sun was setting up top). We saw the gedachnes kirche, which was left unrestored after the war, and then found a beer garden where we had some drinks in a boat! There was a fox exploring around the tables in the bier garten which was really exciting to see. The three of us went to the Reichstag one night. We got to take the free audio guide and walk around the glass dome on top. We even got a free book about how the government works here in germany. Susan and I went to the music instrument museum, not once, but twice! We were so enthralled with the place on our first go that we didn't even make it to the next floor before they closed. Two music geeks, we went back a second time to finish what we started. There were so many cool instuments! I plan on going back! It was great for me to get to show a friend where I've been living. I don't get that opportunity very often. We had lots of fun hanging out! Good times!

The plumbers have knocked out our hot water this week, and this means cold showers which are incredably breathtaking! I cannot wait till this is fixed.

If anyone knows of any devices that will make a guitar make interesting sounds when held close to the pickups, please let me know. I've been playing with this lately, and though I've found some cool sounds, I know there are more and I'm always open to suggestions.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

We Did the Gooey!


The website for the Gooey project I was involved with is up and is complete with photos. Also I found this video on youtube. I am wearing the T-Rex avitar, and my roll was that of a user. This will give everyone who wasn't there a better idea of how the performance was set up. Very exciting, and I've heard tale that there may be a Doing the Gooey 2.0! More news on that in the future!

Space is Potent

Hello everyone! It has been a while I know. So, lets go on with the show:


We had a rather extended visit from Mandie's mother and sister. A summer tour-de-force if you will. We saw so much of the city, and still so little. We saw the city from various viewpoints, including from the iconic Fernsehturm in Alexander Platz. All sorts of museums, castles, gardens, shops, and other exciting settings were enjoyed. Picnics were had by lakes, an unimaginable amount of stairs were climbed, and in the downtime there were some intense Scrabble matches. Mandie's mother took an interest in the history of the GDR and the Berlin Wall. She also found all of Berlin's graffitti to be fascinating, and I was able to put together a makeshift graffitti tour for her. All in all, there are almost too many exciting things to even begin listing here. I believe that there are photos of many of them on Mandie's Picasa page (Mandie's mom took well over 1000 pictures making her stay a very well documented two weeks). The four of us hopped on a train and went to Solingen for a weekend with the Brückner Family (sans Sarah since she was still out in a worldly adventure). We had delicious food, delightful conversations, and took wonderful day trips. We went to Schlossberg and spent a day exploring the castle, and another day was spent in Cologne where we went to the Chocolate Museum and the Kölner Dom.

This past weekend, Mandie and I went with some German friends of ours, Anna, Betinna, Corinna, and Reinhard, to Neuzelle. This small town is in the Brandenburg region of Germany right on the border of Poland. We toured the Monastary, making sure to see the paintings and Baroque decor of both the large and small cathedrals. Very fancy and elaborate with spiraling marble columns and great alabaster statues with gold triming all sorts of very literal dipictions of scenes from the Bible. We went into the innermost courtyard where the monks once went to seek complete solitude from the outside world. They never suspected that oneday their precious courtyard would be open to the public. We walked about the gardens and had a splended picnic lunch in the most wonderful place. It was at the edge of a field where some trees provided us with shade from the midday sun. Then it opened out into vast fields and medows under an azure sky. In the distance you could see a line of trees where the river was. This was Poland. Before heading home that day, we stopped by the Neuzelle Brewery and bought some cold beers which we took to the lakeside and enjoyed. I had a Neuzelle Porter which I have to say I liked.

The following evening I met up with Reinhard for a Deerhunter and Black Lips show. I must say that I enjoyed Deerhunter much more than the Black Lips. I found the ambient postpunk sounds much more to my liking. The Black Lips I found to be almost annoying, but hey, that is just me. We had a great time and had a drink together while on our late weeknight bus adventure. I ended up meeting my friend Laura after the show at a place in Mitte where she was DJing. I got to hear a more electronic side of her eclectic music selections. It was a good evening.

I finally managed to find a store called Audio Palace that helped me to obtain a new adapter for my mixer. I was very excited that they were willing to make an order from a spare parts list. I had already been turned away by other shops who said they could not help me. Now I can get back into music making more so than before! I already have an electronic spread on my corner desk. Still routing and working on all my levels and whatnot, but that is just a fun beginning to more fun. This is just one of my many projects I've got layed out. Looking around the room right now I see, a yamaha keyboard layed out with its guts exposed waiting on a repair, 60 swanfeathers waiting to be cured, a new drawing block I got so I can sketch out some other ideas I have, some watercolors which I thought I would try my hand at, and a mixer I built that is still lying there with all of its exposed parts (a lot of naked electronics around here). Who knows where any of this will go or what direction it will take me.

I am still looking for some employment. I have recently managed to work up a German resume (vielen dank Fred!) which I hope will bring me more luck than my English one has. I've mostly gotten "you are qualified for this position, but we regretfully cannot hire you at this time" responses. So I've set out this week with new and improved bait in hopes to lure an employer. If anyone has any ideas, let me know! In the meantime I'm housesitting while it is vacation season.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

KNM's House Musik


Last night, we spent the evening at the Siemens factory at Kammerensemble für Neue Musik's annual House Musik event. The event was spread out over a few buildings. One building had a lo-fi dodecahedral sound system consisting of piezos and metal shelves. There was a conveyor elevator like the kind you see in old movies that carried different musicians with various homemade electronic instruments in a circle. Different sounds could be heard as each lift passed. In the courtyard were different installations. There was a speaker on a swing that would make sound when pushed. An air-conditioning unit was converted into a sound piece with an old rusty zither modified with a guitar pickup, ping pong balls, and feathers. The fan would create random sounds and drones that were fed to an amp inside the unit. Then we went over to a high-security factory floor where they manufacture large scale dynamos for wind turbines. In this industrial setting we heard four compositions in various sections of the factory. They were as follows:

Workers Union, by Louis Andriessen:
  • This piece set the industrial groundwork for the other pieces and introduced the factory setting. Quick paced, melodic, and slightly aggressive, it was performed with flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, percussion, violin, cello, and contrabass.
d-balancing - Composition/Installation for 6 Channel Subsonic System, by Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag:
  • With microphones directing the sound of a spinning dynamo (elsewhere in the factory for safety and for better audio control, seen via a camera and large lcd screen), the frequencies and sounds generated were projected through a 6 channel system. As the industrial setting rumbled with bassy tones, contrabass, tuba, bass clarinet, and piccolo gradually and spaciously added to the rich and consuming layer of sound.
Scrape, by Juliana Hodkinson:
  • This was composed for cello, amplified metal plate, and audio playback. KNM Cellist, Ringela Riemke, positioned on a pile of wooden pallets, played a thrashing, yet oddly ambient piece. Her cello and feet were positioned on a rusty metal plate. The cello's vibrations carried through to this plate creating distorted effects. As she rubbed her foot over the metal surface, harsh scraping sounds were generated. All of this was accompanied by a digital ambient track. Juliana is actually friends with my friend Nina who is an electro-acoustic improv musician currently teaching at UCLA. (Check out her band soNu.) Nina is the one who tipped me off to this music event. I got to meet Juliana and talk with her after the show.
Unreasonable Strains, by Christopher Fox:
  • This last piece involved musicians playing their instruments from various places around the space instead of a centralized location in front of an audience. We were surrounded by a bass clarinet, alto saxophone, french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, and electric guitar played with a laser pick. Various distant layers came from various directions creating a near a pensive or lost and searching feeling, perhaps through a fog, all with an electric drone from the guitar. A friend of mine, who also came with me to the performance, had actually worked with this composer a few years back and she got a chance to speak with him a bit about composing in Berlin.
The overall experience was wonderful! The setting of a high-security industrial factory and the musical compositions complemented each other extremely well! It was a very impressive event. Afterwards, Mandie went home, inspired, to work on some of her art projects, and I went out with some friends for some Vietnamese food and then to a bar after a short stint in a very crowded club. I have lots of new electronic components that I picked up yesterday and hope to have some interesting projects coming out soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

See Phil run. Run Phil, run!

So, on my recent hiatus from school, I have decided that I needed to do something productive. I have begun running in the mornings. There is a nice track circling a soccer field down the street that opens at seven in the morning. Being a track, it will be very easy to keep up with any progress that I make.

The Jewish Museum in Berlin recently had a special exhibit titled, "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race", which dealt with eugenics and medical experimentation. It was very interesting. Eugenics was very popular at the turn of the century and research was conducted in many places, including Japan, England, United States, and various other countries around the globe. There was generally not an emphasis on a superior race in the field of eugenics, but it is obvious how these types of studies could lead to such beliefs. Typically there was more of a desire to remove disease and genetic abnormalities from a society. German research into eugenics had been going on for over thirty years before it was adopted as a policy by the Nazi regime. Of course, the Nazis considered the Nordic race superior, and people involved in German eugenics tended to follow along with this idea as it became more and more accepted. The exhibit started out with an introduction to the concepts and history of eugenics. Lots of studies were conducted to find out which illnesses and mental/physical handicaps were genetically inherited. Identical twins were often the subject of research, because the fact that they are genetically identical led to the hypothesis that if one twin was handicapped in some form, then the other should be as well. From there, the exhibit led into the the era when the Nazis began to adopt aspects of this research. The idea was that the impure and unable were hindering society, and that they would wipe out the foundations of a strong nation. The Nazis even blamed them for Germany's defeat during the first world war. People were in a position where these ideas seemed to make sense. Hitler knew that his ideas wouldn't be as accepted during peace time, so it wasn't until the second war that he enacted so many annihilation policies. The infamous Aktion T4, where buses took children and other patients of mental and handicapped hospitals to "special treatment" centers, was just one such program resulting from these policies. In these centers patients were gassed, injected, experimented on, and the bodies were either dismembered so parts could be shipped to researchers, or simply burnt. False letters of failed treatment and consolation were sent to the families. Strong opposition from the Catholic church ultimately brought the T4 program to an end. The exhibit showed photos and documented several patient cases. At the end of the exhibit, there was a justice section that showed what happened to many of the prominent leaders of the wartime eugenics programs, as well as doctors, anthropologists, psychologists, professors, and military figures that were involved with these atrocities during the second world war.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Title: "3 in 1", or "I Quit School Today"

Brückners in Berlin!

Two weeks back, the Brückners spent a weekend here in Berlin. They treated us to several outings including the Schloss Charlottenburg, Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, the Lieberman Villa, and a ship tour of the canals through Berlin. Our ship tour unfortunately got cut a bit short as everyone dashed below deck as it began to rain. Despite the rain, it was still fun to ride around Berlin in a boat and see various buildings and places from the water.

The day spent in Wannsee was wonderful. The area is very beautiful and there are splendid lakeside views. We had coffee and cake in the gardens of the Villa where Max Lieberman spent hours drawing and painting. Inside is an exhibit of many of his paintings, and even some sketches thrown into the mix. I was particularly taken aback by a profound juxtaposition. Right down the street from the home of such a prominent Jewish artist, is the very place where members of the Nazi regime met to determine the final solution to the Jewish question, in other words, how they would go about exterminating the European Jews. The Wannsee Villa today is a memorial and educational site which also houses one of the most extensive libraries pertaining to Nazism, Jewish genocide, and antisemitism.

Schloss Charlottenburg, an old Prussian palace, is a grand example of baroque and rococo style. It has many French paintings throughout including one very famous painting of Napolean. We took an audio tour of the new wing. It was very informative and I learned quite a bit. After touring the Schloss, we walked about in the gardens and took a look at the Belvedere and the lake. From a footbridge in the gardens, we had a great view of the palace. Despite being very badly damaged and looted during WWII, the palace has been restored and stands today as a window into the lives of the Prussian royalty.


We had the Brückners in our home as the first dinner guests in our Berlin apartment. It was very exciting for us! We cooked up a delicious dinner. The menu consisted of a chocolate salad, fettuccine alfredo with fresh steamed green beans, and baked zucchini topped with herbs and cheese, and a home-made apple pie topped with bourbon vanilla ice cream. And wine of course!



Doing the Gooey!

The end result of several weekend long workshops and lots of hard work by a group of artist/performers led by Catriona Shaw (aka Miss le Bomb) and Malve Lippmann was the experimental performance of a giant human-electric gooey. We, for one night turned Festsaal Kreuzberg into a large computer monitor on which we made pop up ads, screen savers, flash games, search engines, and carried out all sorts of functions such as emails, text messaging, friend invites, chatting in chatrooms, scrolling, freezing, and etc, all of which ultimately overloaded our system and resulted in a great blue screen of death, and a great applause from the audience! The idea of the project was to explore how we interact with graphical user interfaces (GUIs or in our case a fleshy gooey) and based on the ideas and observations we came up with, determine how to represent this with humans. The project was so much fun to work on, and the performance was a blast! I have met many artist, performers, and musicians over the time of my involvement with the project, and hope to be involved in more projects in the future.

http://gooey.de/

I will post some pics of the gooey event as soon as they get to me. It was filmed by a crew for Finnish TV, a documentary group, and someone from our group set up a camera so there should be some video popping up somewhere. I'll let everyone know as soon as i find out!


Cocorosie!

Last night Mandie and I went to see the magnificant Cocorosie who spent the evening presenting bits and pieces of everything beautiful. Bianca started came on before the show mixing together a very, despite containing elctro and hiphop beats and samples, organic set. Then everyone took the stage: piano harp, makshift percussion, a table full of noisemakers and toys, bass, synth, keys, (distributed amongst 5 members) and two beautiful and complementing voices, and proceded to weave together a fabrik hopeful and joyful reminders of the important things in life. It was Sierra's birthday. Everyone sang happy birthday and then an electronic birthday mix followed till they came out for an encore.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Electrogadgets!

Here are those pics I promised last week:



Shot of my workbench. A store at the mall by our
place got rid of it and I am putting it to good use.



Fully functioning Stutterbox!



Shot of an APC in the works.
Common yes, but I'm learning.

Red Lights!

Yesterday I went to a biergarten with some friends after school. Everything was fine till some bug decided to get to work inside me and make me rather ill. I puked 7 times yesterday! So naturally I am taking a sick day today to regain my strength.

Of course, news of being sick is boring, so here is the real story: Mandie and I took a trip to Amsterdam, the capital and largest city in the Netherlands. It was lots of fun, and a nice little vacation from work and school for the both of us. Amsterdam is city full of canals and crooked buildings. All of the buildings in the city are built on wooden piles on reclaimed land and over time they have shifted about. There are also bikes everywhere. Bicycles are one of the top forms of transportation in Amsterdam, and there are bike roads and bike lanes complete with their own signals. There are many bridges in the city to allow easy crossing of all the canals. Some of the main canals have drawbridges so that larger boats can pass. The one in the picture is historically significant, because during the second world war when the Germans occupied the city, this bridge was opened so that the Jews could not leave this particular area. Around 103-105 thousand Jews were taken from Amsterdam during the war.

We went early one morning (so as to beat all the other tourists) to the Anne Frank house. Mandie, being a teacher and having assigned Anne Frank's diary as reading to her classes, was particularly interested in going to see where Anne and her family went into hiding from the Nazis occupying the city. It was very moving being in the secret annex and imagining how difficult it must have been to always be as quiet as possible as a matter of life and death. Of course the family was betrayed and they were sent to various labor and concentration camps. Otto Frank was the only person to survive the ordeal and seeing pictures of him standing in the secret annex reflecting on all that had happened, including the death of his entire family, was paticularly emotional.

Being a former dominant power in the world and being heavily involved in the colonization of the East Indies, Holland has excellent Indonesian food. We had an Indonesian lunch and it was delicious! Also one morning we went to a chocolate bar to have breakfast. This mostly consisted of gourmet chocolate milkshakes, truffles, and chocolate cake which is a wonderful way to start off a day! We ate at other places including an Italian place for pizza, a vegetarian sandwich shop, an Asian noodle/wok place, and a Dutch pancake house. Of course, there were a few coffee shops, cafés, and bakeries mixed into our Amsterdam dining experiences as well. Once, while having some tea and coffee, we saw an old-style horse-drawn carriage hauling barrels of Heineken. It turned out that we were right around the corner from the Heineken stables. I did have a Heineken just for the novelty of it all. I also drank a beer from Brouwerij‘t IJ, a local brewery in Amsterdam, which was actually quite tasty!


The Rijksmuseum had many paintings and decorative art from the Dutch golden age. Rembrandt was a famous dutch painter, and many of his works along with works of his contemporaries are displayed in the Rijksmuseum. Here there were also historical examples of delftware on display, which was a Dutch attempt of reproducing Chinese works of porcelain. the dutch soon became famous for their delftware and there are still shops that sell expensive delftware around Amsterdam. In the Rijksmuseum there were also large doll houses from the 17th century, model ships, and works of silver and gold.

One evening, while we were standing next to a statue of Spinoza, a lady came up to us and exclaimed, "The heavens are dark!" She told us that she had never noticed the statue of Spinoza and that it might be new. This actually was the case with the monument to Spinoza being erected last November. The heavens were dark and it began to rain, so we went with our new friend, Elsa, to get some tea in a nearby café. Elsa told us all sorts of stories in German and her experiences living in Amsterdam for the past 15 years. She had been in an accident that had left her using crutches to walk since her hips were no longer able to function properly. She mentioned that she enjoyed window shopping for jewelery. After exchanging addresses so that we could write to each other, we parted and went on our separate ways.

Mandie's good friend Stephanie was on a cruise with her mom and some family friends. They met us in Amsterdam and we walked about the city sharing stories about things we had seen and learned. Later on in the day her mom and friends went back to their hotel and the three of us went out exploring the city. We ate some chocolaty space cakes and wandered about Rembrandt Square and the red light district. All the girls were in their tiny apartments dancing in the illuminated windows hoping to allure customers. We stopped and got some juice at a store and some fries at a shop. After quite a bit of exploring we took Steph back to her hotel. Mandie and I wandered about and discovered that the metro was closed. We got on a bus which luckily landed us not too far from our hotel. We of course by this point were soaking wet from walking around in the rain all night. We draped all of our clothes over chairs in our room and went to sleep.

We noticed that everyone we ran into spoke immaculate English. It even got to the point where we stopped asking people if they spoke English and just went on with our questions. This is not the case here in Germany and I think one major factor in this may be that Germany dubs their movies and television and in Holland, they do not.

Before heading out we stopped by a giant book fair in Dam Square. Along the way we came across an outdoor service/fair at a Protestant church with lots of singing. There was a brief rain shower that we escaped from via some drinks in a pub. The flight back to Berlin was fun, because after the attendants passed out the standard in-flight snack and drink, they started passing out extra drinks! Bottles of wine and beer were passed out freely as they exclaimed that it was Sunday and that we should have a party.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Glitch Rock

So I'm headed out to Amsterdam this evening. I figured I would write a quick post to cover a few things before i come back with new stories.

I have been fiendishly working away with small electronics projects. I am awful at soldering, but I think with time I will improve. I worked up the nerve to break apart a CRT Monitor to salvage some components. It was a good source of caps, resistors, small push button switches, transistors, and even a few trimmers and relays. CRTs, in case you do not know, are very dangerous to work with and can maintain charges of hundreds of volts withing some of the capacitors for a very long time even after they have been disconnected. I DO NOT recommend working with them unless you know what you are doing. I certainly am not going to make a habit out of taking them apart.

I have put together a stutter box. It is simply a box which allows you to switch between a bypass and stutter effect. The stutter effect is such so that when you press the button it allows sound (mono) to pass through until the button is released. It also has little indicator light. I have hooked it up to various things such as my synth and mp3 player, and it has proven to be lots of fun! I am currently working on my first IC project in hopes to come out with some sort of oscillator. The other night I was playing around and somehow wired up a circuit that made sound whenever you got within about three inches from the jumble of wires. I have no idea how I did it or how it worked, but it is a promising sign.

I have seen two bands recently. The first was a group called Holy Fuck. They are an electro rock outfit who use a lot of lofi electronic gadgets along with drums and bass. They used a 35mm film syncronizer to make some sounds, a very unorthodox and fascinating effect. Lots of fun! It looks like after they finish up in England they are headed to the states for a tour.

Last week I went to see 65 Days of Static, an instrumental post rock group with a heavy electronic element. I have been wanting to see them for a long time and finally got the chance. I would reccomend both Holy Fuck and 65 Days of Static to anyone. I used to listen to 65 a lot in my car, so whenever I hear their music it reminds me of late-night drives or aimless trips with the wind rushing in through the windows.

I ate a pizza the other day that had noodles on top! Whoever had the idea to use noodles as a topping was brilliant! The next time you make a pizza, give it a shot!

Ok, I was going to put up some pictures, but it appears that the camera is packed up. I'll post pics next week relating to this post and of Amsterdam. Until then!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mayday

I went to possibly the most interesting party last night that I have ever experienced. Myfest is a music festival in here in Berlin which involves stages strewn across Kreuzberg and over 160 bands. No matter where you go all day and night there is music of some sort playing. What makes it so different? It takes place on Mayday and is a gathering spot for leftist and anti-capitalism activist to protest. Naturally this gets violent and in an effort to keep it under control, Berlin deployed 5000 Police officers in full riot gear. So you can probably imagine where this led.

Tension rose as the police flexed their muscles, demonstrating their presence by marching about the area on foot in patrol groups of about 50 or so. Their presence was definitely noticed. There were three types of uniforms that the police wore and I'm not exactly clear on the differences that they may have indicated. There were officers in all drab olive green, in all black, and then green with white helmets. There were also fire fighters and medics throughout the area. Right before dusk, a massive crowd marched to the Kotbusser Tor bahn station. Riots broke out as people began attacking the police with bricks, bottles, fireworks, and other projectiles. It was a back and forth scenario of people charging the police and the police charging the people. At one moment as I was running from the charging riot officers a punked-out girl gave me a stick. I quickly got rid of it because I did not exactly want to have a weapon in the event that I was confronted by a unit of officers in full riot gear. It was not my goal to get doused with pepper spray or beaten with clubs. From this initial outbreak, the feeling of us vs. them sank into the crowds mindset and the riots continued this way until around three in the morning.

Despite the riots, the music never stopped. You could be in a street that was converted into an outdoor dance party all dancing, and then a riot squad would come through and either disperse the crowd, or find the crowd was not dispersable and retreat. You either stayed put or went on to the next point. People were digging up the cobblestones and hurling them at officers. Fires were breaking out everywhere. It was so bizarre to have, say, riot police running around in the midst of a crowd listening to a ska-punk band. Such an extreme juxtaposition of authoritarianism and fuck-the-police attitude. All the while despite the violence, people were having fun, kids were dancing, food and drinks were being enjoyed, and everyone seemed mostly unafraid. As long as you payed attention and did not get yourself into a situation where you were trapped, then everything was fine.

At one point a very large fire broke out in an intersection and a very large number of police forced their way in and barricaded the intersection. I stood on a window ledge for a better view until the line of police began pushing into the crowd. I could see a large trash bin that had been set ablaze. The police were organizing into lines to hold back the crowds at the mouth of each street going into the intersection, and then a large group of officers came in and filled the entire intersection moving into the area with the fire. Bottles and rocks were sailing from everywhere into the authority filled intersection. Smoke was rising up between the buildings over the streets and all the lights cut through adding to the chaotic look of the area.

Before Mayday, comes Walpurgis Nacht. On April 30th, there is celebration which involves having bonfires in order to ward off any evil spirits, and to celebrate the coming of May and Spring. I spent most of the evening with friends at a cocktail party. After many stark mojitos, a few of us set our for Mauer Park to catch some of the closing parties. There were signs of chaos: broken glass, melted piles of portable toilets that had been set ablaze, and random debris everywhere. We gathered around one of the last bonfires and listened to the people playing guitars and singing.

In Köpenick, neo-nazi demonstrations organized by the NPD took place. Needless to say I stayed away from Köpenick and stuck to Kreuzberg. Apparently there was lots of violence there as well. The police ended up shutting down the Köpenick bahn station sometime around midday.

Mayday is of course a national holiday here in Germany, as well as various other countries. Everyone has the day off from school and work to celebrate. Three-day weekend! When I go back to school, I will be starting a higher level of language courses. I'm a bit nervous, but I think with some extra practice, and If I can ever get myself to memorize a few certain things, it will be fine.

Check out some of the following links for some exciting photos videos and articles detailing some of events over the past two days. Enjoy!

Articles:
Arrest and parties mark start of May 1
Police battle Mayday protesters
Walpurgis Nacht on Wikipedia

Pictures:
Excellent Pics from Kreuzberg
Pics from the Kreuzberg riots
More Berlin riot pics

Video:
Action shots before and after dark, 3 short interviews
More scrambling groups of people

Update: I was on the train this evening and saw on the little bahn info screens that there were 289 arrests and 273 injured politzei yesterday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Quick Trip

So we have been to the states and back. It was a quick trip with not much time to do much of anything. The reason for the visit was to take part in the sentencing hearing. Mandie gave an excellent statement, and now the case and all that malarkey is now officially over! Mr. Smith was sentenced to 59 years of jail time, which means he will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Here is a news article and video that describes some details of the story.

We did not take many pictures, so I'm afraid all I have for you is a boring one of me in the hotel room. We did make it to a Mexican restaurant before we left. You will never realize how much you miss Mexican food till you move to a different continent.

I was at a birthday party last night and discovered that my school made a promotional video, and I show up in it twice with my scruffy winter-time beard. It was shot several months ago and they just finished their post production. You can find it here on youtube.

Today I picked up several books after making arrangements with a guy who decided he wanted to get rid of them. Among the assortment are airplane books, German mysteries, a stack of boring trash novels, the history of Prussia, German quiz questions, coffee table books: one of Europe, and one of volcanoes!, and a variety of language books. The volcano book has really awesome pictures, mostly of fire and destruction, but also maps of volcanoes around the world.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

7/8 Breakcore

On wednesday, despite being sick, I went to a Venetian Snares show. It was awesome! Funk played lots complex electronica in various time signitures, with lots of noise laced in and out of the arrangements.

Walking around in Kreuzberg yesterday, Mandie and I came across a large graveyard. Exploring it we came across the graves of Felix Mendelssohn, His sister Fanny, and E. T. A. Hoffman. The Mendelssohns were both signifigant German Composers during the Romantic Period. Hoffman was also a significant figure in the Romantic movement, in literature and music. You may be familiar with his book, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

Another thing that I have noticed is that the large black and white birds that hang out around our building are actually magpies! I have left shiny objects on our window ledge in hopes that they take them.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mono played in Berlin on Saturday. If anyone does not know this group, they are amazing and you should check them out. Mono is an instrumental post-rock quartet from Japan. Their music is beautiful, and live it is cathartic. They go from peaceful melodic ambience to piercing sonic winds, all the while holding onto their dreamlike finesse and style. The first time I saw them was in Asheville down by the river in a small warehouse. I have a story behind this, but it is one that most people doubt or just attribute to coincidence. It is not a story to tell here, but if anyone really wants to know, send me an email and I'll tell you.

Most of this past weekend was spent in Gorlitzer Park having picnics and hanging out with friends. I know, life is so hard. Now that the weather is getting warmer, all the people, art, and culture are coming outside and filling the city with life! It feels so much better now than it has over the course of this long dreary winter. While in the park, there was a large demonstration that marched through rallying support for a large party to be held in Tempelhof, the airport that is shutting down here in Berlin. They had signs inquiring, "Have you ever squatted an airport?" You can find info on their website. By occupying the airport, many hope that they can influence the city to designate this area as public space.

We went for a walk by the East Side Gallery, a stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still standing after its construction in 1961. Of course now it is in rather poor condition, chipped away with rebar exposed and sticking out. Weathered down with decades worth of graffiti, there are some plans to restore sections to how they looked in 1989 with some of the more famous paintings recreated. This particular section goes along the river and we showed up just as the sun was starting to set on the other side. As it was getting dark we started heading towards the show. Later on we explored some of the back lots and random alleys. We found cool spots by the river, and shortcuts. In one lot we even found a bunch of people having a bonfire! After exploring we grabbed some dinner at a sidewalk halloumi cafe, and then headed home.

I am slowly progressing in my piano lessons. With all the practice, I can finally recognize notes and play my scales with both hands at the same time. Hopefully with enough work I can become somewhat decent at reading music. This is of course my primary goal.

Right now, I am in the market for a mixer. I have gone to some music shops here in Berlin looking at different mixers and considering my options. If anyone has any advice, imput, or suggestions on this matter please let me know.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

We are ghost!

I missed the G-20 protest here in Berlin yesterday. Saturday was a day of recovery. The previous night we went to a party which featured a live electronic set. By the time we left the sun was up which meant it was time for sleeping. That is just how it works here in Berlin. Most parties and shows don't even start till after midnight. The live set didn't even go on till 4. The club was inside this old mansion tucked away in some hidden lot. Lots of fun! It looks like the G-20 protest had major turnouts in London, Berlin, and Frankfurt Thousands of people marched here in Berlin. Check out this Deutsch Welle link to read a story about the protest.

Mandie and I have been attending gallery openings lately around the city. We have met many artist and people involved in the art scene of Berlin. We are working to establish ourselves as an artist duo, working collaborativly with seperate yet collaborative pieces. We are currently working on a project that should have some promising results after a month or two. There will be more information as our Berlin debut nears. Oh yeah, that is a view of our street from our living room.
Check out some of these artist:

Charlie Isoe
MYMO
Katherine Jones
Just a few of course, there are many!

Our appartment is shaping up nicely. We have managed to get a few furniture pieces. Some desk and wardrobes make up the bulk of it. Now our stuff tends to be mostly out of the floor. We have been on an X-Files kick lately, watching episodes on the laptop. It is so much fun to revisit Scully and Mulder's investigations and search for the truth. Always remember, the truth is out there.

I am still in language school. I have since the beginning moved up to the advanced beginner level, and am almost up to the B1 level. The levels are starting at the basic and going to the advances, A1, A2, B1, B2, and C. At C you are essentially reading literature and holding discussions on art, philosophy, and culture. Right now, I am able to hold basic conversations. I tried to describe audio sampling to my class last week in German, and it was very difficult. The idea is to try to describe the more complex concepts or ideas with the words you already know. It is a tricky and fascinating process. I've been taking piano lessons in an attempt to learn how to read music. I've also been working on some blues guitar.

There is still so much to discover in this city. I have started seeing hints of springtime which means that the city will become more active. As soon as it gets warm enough to hang out outside I want to start exploring more than I have been lately. I have heard of a place called Teufelsberg (literally devil's mountain) which a massive pile of rubble from the old city before the war. I imagine that it would have a certain eerie vibe. There is a park here called Volkspark Humbolthain that I've been to a few times. In the center there is what is left of one of three flak towers that Hitler had built during the war. You can climb on top of it for a panoramic view of the city. Apparently there is a large bunker underneath it that can be explored in the warmer months. In the winter it is closed, because it is a vast cave doubling as a home to thousands of bats! There are other vantage points in the city, a few weeks ago I found myself at the top of Victoria Park in Kreuzberg. It too is one of the several places you can catch a view in the city. We spent a day at the zoo about a month back. The Eisbar in the picture is the famed Knut (pronounced kuh-noot). He was napping when we saw him, but his friends were dancing.