Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Catching Up

Hello. It has been almost two months since my last post. I plan on completely updating with this post, and then attempting to stay current from now on so as not to slack on posting, as well as keeping the post shorter and more interesting. A lot has happened in the past few months. This post will be an overview of some of the more significant events going in chronological order from then to now.

Starting out is an update about my show at Lichtblick Kino. It was my debut live act for Berlin, as well as a great learning experience. The show was put on by the Amsterdam Underkurrent XXX (AUXXX). I realized that my rig that I built was a bit too complex and resulted in too much time setting up and taking down, as well as difficulty troubleshooting. There were technical problems, mostly that something came ungrounded and the mains hum was present through my entire set, that and the modified tape player that I built decided not to function properly. Techwise, the night was a disaster. Even Mandie's photographs from the show turned out blurry and dim. The show was also on a holiday, so not very many people showed up. This was sort of a plus, because I was a bit nervous about performing. My set did not go anywhere near to how I had rehearsed it, but the people present did not know this and seemed to like what they heard. I was the opening act for three musicians who performed an improv set together. One of the musicians, Gustavo, I had met previously as a bandmate of a friend of mine. Their band, Sonu, performed at Appalachian a few years ago. This was completely random and did not have anything to do with my involvement of the show. Small world. I got great feedback from the other musicians about what I did and am modifying my set and hope to have more gigs in the near future.

Sarah came for a visit. She was in Berlin for a series of conferences and lectures at the Berliner Energietage. I went for one of the lectures and realized for certain that I am on a different path now, and working in the realm of renewable energy is something that just does not capture my interest anymore. As always it was wonderful to see Sarah. She stuck around till Mandie's brother Nick arrived in Berlin, then headed back to her home in the north.

Hanging out with Nick was a blast! We took him to all sorts of places that were along his interest. On his arrival day we took him around Tegel so as to stay close to home. We went to the Waldhutte, which is a very traditional German restaurant that is in the middle of the woods next to the Lake. We ordered some beers and sat outside where a man played German folk songs on an accordion and the guest sang along! We went to the Aquarium and saw all sorts of cool fish and ocean creatures. They even have a glass elevator that is surrounded by a fish tank! Legoland was also a cool place. We built Lego cars and raced them down a large track which had a ramp and the bottom, launching our cars into the air before they smashed into pieces on the floor! We got to be pirates with remote controlled Lego boats, and there was also a very cool miniature Lego version of Berlin. We took him to the art house Tacheles,

Nick, is a fan of heavy metal, and to satisfy this we took him bar hopping one night to some very cool spots. First off was the Viking Bar where we had viking beer and mead in horns! The Viking Bar played great progressive death metal. Next on the list, not so much Metal, but still in the realm of his favorites, Lebowski. This, as you can probably guess, is a bar completely based on the film, The Big Lebowski. No white russians for us though. Our reason for being there is that it just so happens to be an excellent place to get absinthe. It was Nick's first time drinking absinthe, so I got to teach him the proper method of preparation including the sugar, fire, and ice water. The last bar for our bar hopping evening was called Halford, and yes, it is a bar with an 80s metal theme, and in particular emphasis on Judas Priest. There is even a giant sculpture of Rob Halford out front by the door to greet you on your way in! Inside we watched some metal videos on the large projection screen and ordered a round of Jager shots. Rock!

I tried to make sure that he experienced things that were specific to Berlin. Among these things were, Berlin beers, döner, and curry wurst, all in the backdrop of the city itself. He got to tag his name on the Berlin Wall as we walked along the Eastside Gallery, and experienced the large market at Mauer Park where we saw a fully automated robot doing a comedy routine. He and Mandie toured some of the other city sites, museums such as the DDR museum, the Story of Berlin where they got to go into a nuclear bunker, the Natural History Museum which is full of dinosaurs, and the Jewish Museum for a special exhibit on Comics. One of the goals of the trip was to get lots of pictures of his orange octopus in front of landmarks. Check out the photo album of his visit to see these! We had a great time Nick, and hope you get to come back again!

The night following Nick's return to America, I went to see Merzbow in Berghain. Merzbow (Masami Akita) is the founder of noise as a music genre and has for the last 30+ years led the way in defining what he created with an impressive and almost ridiculous amount of releases. He performed with Balazs Pandi, who played metal rhythms and blast beats on drums, while Merzbow produced noise resembling the sound of amplified jet engines ran through distortion effects with an occasional rock tossed in to modulate the sound. It was a sonic creation that was as intense as it was captivating. I was very excited to finally get to see him perform, and to experience the overwhelming noise he creates firsthand.

I spent a good solid week sick, a cold which led to a sinus infection. It was not fun, but then when is a cold ever fun? I got sent home early from work one evening due to being sick. I went home and slept for 16 hours straight. It was nice.

To finish up this post, I'd like to mention our evening excursion into die Lange Nacht der Wissenshaften. This is a night where universities all over Berlin and Potsdam are open to the public and provide demonstrations, presentations, exhibitions, and activities till one in the morning. A night of science! The Berlin Institute of Technology (TU) is right down the street from where I work, so Mandie met me at the end of my shift with a box of noodles, and we walked to the university. I particularly wanted to go for the sound exhibits and presentations. TU has the largest sound system in the world, a wave field synthesis system with 2700 speakers with 832 channels. Wave field synthesis utilizes sound waves to create new sound waves, in effect sounds seemingly originate from locations other than the speakers themselves, thus, 3-D sound. We got to hear an organ performance from the Cologne Cathedral, a presentation on the history of sound projection technology from the phonograph to WFS, a reproduction of the Philip's Pavilion from the 1958 World's Fair with spatial audio of Varèse's Poème électronique, and various pieces of electronic music composed specifically for the system. At the end of the night, there was a sound installation, where everywhere in the room you heard bubbly wooshing water sounds except various marked points in the room. At these points you could hear various physicists speaking. Sadly, not too many people realized how the installation worked. They both sat in the seats of the lecture hall instead of roaming around, making it difficult to get to the points, and were very loud and talkative which resulted in large amounts of noise cancellation, meaning that often the physicists were not even audible. The second problem however was interesting to me, because it was an immediate and large-scale example of noise cancellation. I hope to have the chance to experience this sound system more in the future.

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