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


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.