Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ballada o soldate (1959)

During World War II, a 19 year old soldier  asks for a few days leave to visit his mother and on the train eastwards he meets a gril who is on her way to her aunt.

I finally got to see this Russian classic, and I'm quite convinced! Despite some reviews complaining about some sentimentality, I thought it was bitter sweet with a touching and shy love story.

A Scan a Day

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vignettes #9

This was shortly after I had finished school. I had started studying German literature and philosophy at the university, and my school pal Wolfgang joined me in my classes, but hadn't really decided yet what he really wanted to study. We both had a few days without any courses, so we decided to go to Erlangen and visit my sister Andrea. At the time she was working for Siemens. Since Nuremberg was close we also planned to visit his dad who worked for the state railroad administration which had its headquarters there.

In those days the German railroad was still completely state-owned, and all employees were civil servants ('Beamte') which in Germany is a quite privileged form of employment with certain tax exemptions, a greater freedom at work, a life-long right to your job, etc.

So one morning at 9am Wolfgang and I were at the Railroad headquarters. We quickly found his dad's office. Although there were 3 desks in the room, he was the only one present. In fact, we hardly had seen anyone in the offices we had passed. He was happy to see us, we had a short polite chat, then he invited the two of us to have something in the canteen.

We went down to the ground floor - it was a huge building, and Wolfgang's dad led the way. We finally arrived, and on opening the doors to the canteen we were greeted by an incredible noise of a mass of people having a good time. It was a tremendously huge hall, and there were at least 1000 people present and hardly room for us three to join in. All of these employees were having the traditional Bavarian 'Brotzeit', a pint of Weizen beer and sausages - at 9am in the morning.

Wolfgang and I were were quite astonished. But while I was thought it was amusing to see how Bavarian culture was ranked higher than work ethics, Wolfgang was considerably impressed. From that day on he decided to become a civil servant like his dad.

And so he did: shortly after he applied and since then he works for the state employment office.

Natalia Vodianova

New stuff

Josie Maran

Indeterminacy 25

An Eskimo lady who couldn’t speak or understand a
word of English was once offered free
transportation to the United States plus $500
providing she would accompany a corpse that was
being sent back to America for burial. She accepted.
On her arrival she looked about and noticed that
people who went into the railroad station left the
city and she never saw them again. Apparently they
traveled some place else. She also noticed that
before leaving they went to the ticket window, said
something to the salesman, and got a ticket. She
stood in line, listened carefully to what the person
in front of her said to the ticket salesman,
repeated what that person said, and then traveled
wherever he traveled. In this way she moved about
the country from one city to another. After some
time, her money was running out and she decided to
settle down in the next city she came to, to find
employment, and to live there the rest of her life.
But when she came to this decision she was in a small
town in Wisconsin from which no one that day was
traveling. However, in the course of moving about
she had picked up a bit of English. So finally she
went to the ticket window and said to the man there,
“Where would you go if you were going?” He named a
small town in Ohio where she lives to this day.

- John Cage

Christina Ricci

Penelope (2006)

A lovely romantic fairy tale, enjoyed it very much. Christina Ricci was still pretty, even with a pig's snout.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Isabelle Pasco

Indeterminacy 34

Before studying Zen,
men are men and
mountains are mountains.

While studying Zen,
things become confused.

After studying Zen,
men are men
and mountains are mountains.

After telling this,
Dr. Suzuki was
“What is the
difference between before and
“No difference,

only the feet are a
little bit off the ground.”

- John Cage

Natasha Richardson R.I.P.

New stuff

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carmen Kass

Vignettes #8

Working for a customer service we sometimes need to call a customer instead of informing him by email. A few years ago the company had a delivery problem with packages that were sent to Russian addresses. For some unknown reason they were stuck at the Russian customs office.

So somebody in our company thought it was a bright idea to personally call all the customers involved and inform them about the delay of their orders. I work for the international department of the customer service which corresponds with our international customers in English. We were to do the phone calls.

The first problem is that we ask foreign customers who don't speak or understand German to send their queries in English. This doesn't mean, though, that our customers all understand English. So it was obvious, once you got a Russian customer on the phone, you couldn't be certain if you were able to speak with him.

The second problem was calling to Russia: many phone numbers were wrong, others weren't home, etc. I actually reached only about 5 customers, and only 2 of them understood English well enough to grasp what I was telling them.

And with one call the following happened: a child answered the phone! At first it was me asking in English for its parents, the child saying things in Russian. Then I heard a babble of voices in the background, the child giggling, then arguing in the background. Another child was on the phone, I spoke, this one giggled, too, then more arguing, and then a third child.

The whole phone call consisted of having each kid take a turn with me on the phone with lots of giggling and laughing on their side. They sure had a good time.

I never got through to an adult English-speaking person.

I can't wait till we get to call customers in Indonesia...

Magdalena Wrobel

Indeterminacy 51

About ten years ago down at Black Mountain College
during a summer session, I arranged an
amateur festival of the works of Erik Satie.
There were altogether twenty-five concerts,
most of them about thirty minutes long.
A few were longer. For each one I prepared
a talk about the music which was to be heard.
This was necessary because most of the people
there had a German point of view and the music I
was presenting was French. Satie had
little fondness for German music. He told
Debussy, for instance, that what was needed
was a music without any sauerkraut in it, and
he remarked that the reason Beethoven was so well
known was that he had a good publicity manager.
So after about ten of the concerts and
talks, I gave a good-sized talk about music
in which I denounced Beethoven. A few
days later, Patsy Lynch (now Patsy
Davenport) knocked on my door and said,
“I think I understand what you said about
Beethoven and I think I agree.
But I have a very serious question to ask
you: How do you feel about Bach?”

- John Cage

A Scan a Day

Saibogujiman kwenchana (2006)

aka I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK

Wonderfully oddball 'romantic comedy' (director's own words), certainly not everyone will agree, but I found the story quite lovable.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mariacarla Boscono

ph: Eric Nehr

Cars (2006)

Another wonderful Pixar movie, great for kids and people like me...

A Scan a Day

Indeterminacy 113

Music and mushrooms:
two words next to one
another in many dictionaries.
Where did he
write The Three-Penny Opera?
Now he’s
buried below the grass at the
foot of High Tor.
Once the season changes
from summer to fall,
given sufficient rain,
or just the
mysterious dampness that’s in the
earth, mushrooms
grow there,
carrying on, I
am sure, his
business of working with
That we
have no ears to hear the
music the spores shot off
from basidia make obliges us
to busy ourselves microphonically.

- John Cage

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kate Moss irrégulière

Geoul sokeuro (2003)

Stylish and well-made Korean horror flic with a new schtick: the killer ghost out of the mirror. Not particularly spectacular, though.

Katharine Hepburn

Vignettes #7

This was about 25 years ago, I had just recently moved into my new apartment. It was a bright sunny and hot summer day, I had my day off from work at the film club's cinema and from my studies at the university. I was enjoying the apartment as it was comfortably cooler than outside and as always I was listening to some music.

I just had a Karlheinz Stockhausen record running, probably his work Kontakte. The doorbell rang, I opened the door. It was an acquaintance, Ingo, with a new girlfriend I hadn't seen before, quite pretty. Ingo is a member of the local independent art scene making short films, creating art and organizing art exhibitions. He had recently attended a meeting of our film club which had been held in my apartment. He said he liked my little apartment so much he wanted to show it to his girlfriend. So I let them in.

We did a round through the 2 rooms and also onto my miniature balcony, quite idyllic on that day considering the weather. All the time Stockhausen was still playing on the record player. We sat down and I offered the two of them drinks, which they gladly accepted.

Then Ingo asked: "What kind of caterwauling ('Katzenmusik') are you listening to?" I told him. He replied: "How can you listen to that? This could drive anyone to try and kill himself!"

I must admit I was a bit unnerved by this attack on my musical taste, and I had no intentions to justify what I was listening to. So I answered a bit provocative: "What's wrong with suicide? If it's a rational decision, it's quite OK."

What I hadn't expected was how fast both of their faces went stone-cold, and within minutes they said their thank-you's and goodbyes and were gone.

For years Ingo would make a weird concerned face every time he bumped into me.

Joan Leslie

Sergeant York (1941)

This is the movie for which Gary Cooper got his first Oscar and truly deserved, too. As a film Sergeant York is certainly a great work, but unfortunately it's quite dated with its straightforward patriotism. Basically this is a propaganda film intentioned to prepare the American audience for the involvement in WWII.

Nina Brosh