Monday, May 31, 2010

MusicMonday: Nada Surf - "Blankest Year" (& Marina and The Diamonds)

Nada Surf released "The Blankest Year" already in 2005 on the album "The Weight Is The Gift", but for some reason I just can't get this song out of my mind these days. Feel free to fill in your own reasoning - but it's probably best to not take it too literally. Also the lyrics are NSFW <- you've been warned, Grandma.

In any case, the video is so awesome, simple and stylish, you shouldn't miss it (so if you've got issues with language, just turn the sound off and watch anyway). Apparently the text and silhoutte you see skating and jumping around various surfaces throughout a city was filmed using actual projection and no animation - and presumably no other CGI. That is very impressive.

Below the posting of the video it said that there would be a making-of video coming soon. But I could find neither that nor the name of the director or production company. Why is it that we don't celebrate the music video director and production? Why do these artists and producers go nameless? Even the big music video awards are a sham since they seem to award based on most populous song, not most magnificent music video.

On a somewhat random side note: Occasional Nada Surf band member, album engineer and producer (also of this album) Louie Lino is the brother of Tom Lino, who has done such an amazing job as sound designer and mixer on both All God's Children and All's Well and Fair.

On a completely random side note: I was alternatively thinking about posting a video for "Girls" by Marina and The Diamonds today. After a few near misses with other bands last week, I hope I'll actually make it to one of her shows this week. But there's no video for that song yet and I've pushed her other songs enough in older "mix tape" postings. For now you can hear "Girls" here. If there's a video later (I read a rumor), I'll post it then. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Karneval der Kulturen - In A Berlin Minute (Week 4)

On Sunday (the holiday Pfingstsonntag in Germany) was the 15th annual "Karneval der Kulturen" parade as part of an entire weekend of events celebrating world culture.

I proudly wore my Brooklyn T-Shirt that shows a map with all the different neighborhoods, several of which I've called home for the last 11 years. But as soon as I got swept up in the variety and beauty of the people, the costumes, the music, the dancing... I had to realize: we don't have anything celebrating diversity like this in New York. Granted there are a large number of huge parades in NYC, like St. Patrick's Day, West Indies, Puerto Rican Day, Thanksgiving Day, even a German Parade and the more out-there Village Halloween Parade and Coney Island Mermaid Parade - but nothing so embracing of everyone and everything - and not just foreign cultures either but everything, including the Berlin Techno scene.

The parade went on for hours and hours, with hundreds of thousands of people walking along watching and the neighborhood of Kreuzberg feeling like one huge block party. Even the weather was suddenly beautiful (and just for that day). Oh, and of course, since it's Germany you can purchase alcoholic beverages anywhere on the street. That probably doesn't hurt the atmosphere. 

Karneval der Kulturen in Kreuzberg
Check out the winners of the Karneval der Kulturen Umzug (a few made it into my video).

The music in the video I captured from Berlin Drum Kitchen as they marched by.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New "All's Well and Fair" Pictures

Rachel in 1996 and 2006

I've finally added a little bit more content to the Facebook and MySpace pages for my new documentary All's Well and Fair

Right now you can see a few photo stills from the film and the shoot. Soon I'll add more pictures, links to the dozen or so DIY bands featured on the soundtrack, and finally some video excerpts and a trailer (which I only still need to cut). 

So please "like" or "befriend" the page of your choice to be the first to hear and see more from the the women, kids and bands of All's Well and Fair.

Set in the college and music town Gainesville, Florida, All's Well and Fair juxtaposes the lives and ideals of three single punk rock mothers on welfare during the 1990s with their realities and opinions ten years later - giving a unique perspective on alternative culture, growth and identity.

Monday, May 24, 2010

MusicMonday: Agnes Obel

During my first few weeks in Berlin, I've already been to a few really outstanding concerts. The most beautiful must have been Danish singer and pianist Agnes Obél, who played together with cellist Anne Ostsee at Admiralspalast to a captivated sit-down audience.

I believe her new EP Riverside is officially coming out this week in Europe. The title song is especially pretty. You can listen to "Riverside" on her MySpace site.

In Germany Agnes Obél became first known in Germany through the use of her song "Just So" in a T-Mobile/T-Home commercial:

*For some reason I can't seem to find the official music video for it. It may have been pulled from German YouTube due to that GEMA issue. And my Internet connection is so slow that I just cannot search anymore. I actually found the media embedded/linked to above by searching on my phone, which currently has a better Internet connection than my computer. 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Help Dirty Excuse become the RXP House Band (& do it fast!)

Please help Dirty Excuse, three amazing, rocking Brooklyn ladies and one lad, to become the 101.9 RXP House Band by winning the radio station's  "your shot to rock" contest.

The singer Erica Stoltz is one of my dearest friends and one incredible singer and performer. Right before CBGBs closed, I had the opportunity to video tape their show at that legendary venue and cut together a live video for their song "Too Late":

Voting will close this weekend, so PLEASE go to the website now and cast your vote according to the instructions below.

Go to this link

Make sure you Sort By "Average Rating High To Low"

Click on Dirty Excuse and scroll to the bottom of the page and either log in or sign up if you are signing up you'll register (sorry it's a bitch, but we're worth it) and then go back to your email. RXP will send you an email with a link to log-in. Then you move your mouse over the stars and click when it's on 5. Leave a comment too.

On a random side note, I've got a special place in my heart for 101.9 RXP because I first heard and saw The Duke Spirit at one of their shows that I attended to see The Ting Tings and because they're the NPR-alternative during those weekend afternoons when I can take no more Frank Sinatra on the bathroom radio.

Why are you still reading? Go vote. Please.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pavement - In A Berlin Minute (Week 3)

So the night finally arrived: Pavement played in Berlin!

I had bought the tickets for the show long before I booked my flight to Berlin or even knew for sure if we'd make the move over here in time. But I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be in New York for the four dates in Central Park in September (or the newly added show in Brooklyn -> tickets go on sale today!).

This video doesn't represent my favorite song (of the night) - but during those songs I couldn't possibly hold the camera still. I barely could hold it still during this song. Such an amazing and energetic show.

The only mystery: how is it possible that, even though we arrived as some of the first people, we did not manage to stand right in front?

Pavement at Columbiahalle

Monday, May 17, 2010

MusicMonday: Retro cover art edition: Sharon Jones & MGMT

Awesome retro album covers!

I simply cannot get enough of the fantastic Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings album "I Learned The Hard Way" - especially the title track (follow this link to download the track for free).

The music video for "I Learned the Hard Way" directed by Philip Di Fiori fits the song perfectly - a real retro class act. I just can't figure out why it starts off with the title card "Part 2". Does anyone know if there is a video that makes up "Part 1"? Or did I miss something in the video?

I'm also enamored with the consistent 1960s retro look of the album art work - not only the cover art, but also the back and the listing of all the other Daptone Records albums.

Just as consistent in visual style, albeit in a more 70s psychedelic look, is the new MGMT album, "Congratulations".

I bought that album the same day, in the deluxe version with the scratch-off cover, the coin and the limited edition poster that I carried around my entire birthday. When I finally got the album home and listened... well, I'm hoping to like it more later (even if probably not as much as the "Oracular Spectacular"). Rumor has it that a critic has called it "the hit album without a single hit". Learning more about what motivated VanWyngarden and Goldwasser to write and record this kind of an album (basically without the radio hits - apparently because they didn't really appreciate the fame), makes it more intriguing. Music for the sake of enjoying to play music.

I can be a notoriously late adopter. I had to go down the Amy Winehouse road before I finally opened up to soul music.

Friday, May 14, 2010

St. Pauli - In A Berlin Minute (Week 2)

Another trip to Hamburg: FC St. Pauli, my soccer club, internationally known "Weltkulturgut" and cult favorite among the alternative crowd as well as the working class family, finally made it back into the Bundesliga (1st league or premiere league). Just 8 years ago they had slipped all the way down to 3rd league. But who even remembers that? The new motto: "Einfach mal glückllich sein" (literally: "to simply be happy once" - loosely: "to be in the moment and appreciate it").

Now Hamburg has two soccer clubs play in the Bundesliga again. Think: Yankees (HSV) vs. Mets (St. Pauli). Wait, scratch that. Think: Yankees vs. Dodgers... with the Dodgers about to celebrate their 100th anniversary and their stadium being in the red light district (which is what the song in the video is about).

Little St. Pauli Fans

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Paths To Zero" Premiere at the UN

Paths To Zero: Eliminating Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century, the video I edited for the Federation of American Scientists, is having its premiere today at the United Nations as part of the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

FAS is a non-partisan, policy institute providing decision-makers and the public with scientific analysis. This is how they describe the video:
One of the biggest challenges facing our world this century is the erosion of global security in a nuclear-armed world. The world’s combined stockpile of nuclear warheads remains at a high and frightening level – more than 24,000 -- despite being two decades removed from the end of the Cold War.

Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Vice President Dr. Ivan Oelrich explains the history of how the nuclear-armed world got to this point, and how we can begin to move down a path to zero.
The Paths To Zero video currently exists online only as the full 44-minute version. Soon it will also be available in shorter chapters (I'll post them here when they're live). 

Working on this video was a very meaningful experience. Having grown up in the shadow of the Stade nuclear power plant and in the middle of the Cold War (historically and geographically, since a large number of nuclear weapons were stationed in and pointed at Germany, East and West, respectively), I feel very strongly about against nuclear weapons (and also nuclear power sources).

Getting the opportunity to work on a project that is in line with my personal beliefs is a real blessing. This job, together with a video I'm currently working on for Project STAY, led me to the distinct realization that I'm most happy when working on "good cause videos".

More information about FAS and ways to support their cause: 

To make a contribution to FAS to support Paths to Zero and our continued efforts, please visit

Please support the FAS No Use of Nuclear Weapons cause on Facebook and sign the petition today.

Monday, May 10, 2010

MusicMonday: The National - "High Violet"

And I wasn't going to write about The National again (and again). I swear, I wasn't - especially not after already tweeting about their show so much the last two days. But as I'm working on other writing today and listening to their new album High Violet*, which was already released in Germany (ahead of the US release tomorrow), I just can't help myself. Because even though I wasn't blown away at first when I listened to it streaming on the NYT and NPR websites in April, after hearing it a few more times during train travel yesterday and then now, I've totally fallen for it. I love the intricate arrangements, the choice and clarity of instrumentation, Matt Berninger's voice, which ads emotion, and lyrics that let your mind drift.

By now I like so many songs on the album, I can't even pick a favorite.

For a quick glimpse, here is a live studio recording of "Runaway" from Canada's Q TV...

... and a live concert performance of "Afraid of Everyone" posted by The Milk Carton (with the typically underwhelming live sound and picture quality but giving a sense of the concert atmosphere and another great new song):

Also, I highly recommend going to see them play live (Although it's been obnoxiously difficult to get tickets - with Brooklyn shows selling out within minutes. Or where they ever really on sale?). No matter if in a fancy theater with strings and horns or a small rock club with just the basic instrumentation, it's always a powerful experience and much more lively than you might expect from the even recordings - that's partially (but not only) due to Matt Berninger's antics... at Huxley's Neue Welt he walked along the railing and sang "Mr. November" (I think) - holding on to stunned audience members and in danger of falling on us and breaking the important microphone hand.

Matt Berninger of The National at Huxley's Neue Welt on May 8th

By the way, I was disappointed that they didn't play "So Far Around The Bend" from the Dark Was the Night compilation. It's one of my very favorites. Especially now that I have left New York and I'll be seeing Pavement next week ;-)

Visit the website for High Violet, featuring a free download of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and pictures and short video clips from the recording studio.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Articles about abuse at Mamou Alliance Academy

Christianity Today, the premier American magazine for Evangelical Christians, features as its cover story the personal recollection of Wess Stafford (Compassion International) in regard to his time at the Mamou Alliance Academy, a missionary kids' boarding school, and how the abuse he suffered there affected his life and his call to help other children.

In a sidebar to the article Katelyn Beaty summarizes what happened at Mamou and how the denomination, Christian & Missionary Alliance, responded eventually. She also mentions our documentary All God's Children, which tells not only the story of the abuse the children suffered at Mamou, but also how they were re-traumatized by the forced silence in the decades following and how they struggled for over 10 years to get the denomination to begin an independent investigation into the reports of abuse. 

We are grateful for Christianity Today drawing attention to the abuse of missionary kids. But personally I will always wish there would be more focus on how common and widespread the abuse is and how so many survivors continue to suffer in silence. 

The thought that some people may read into the main article that suffering as a child may lead to becoming a better servant of God, is chilling to me. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Plane, Bus, Still, Train - In A Berlin Minute (Week 1)

I'm a German from outside of Hamburg. Since I was a kid I wanted to live in New York City. For the last 11 years I did. I've always felt slightly misplaced everywhere - except for in NYC, where everyone seems to fit.

I've been proud to tell everyone I live in Brooklyn. This past week I moved to Berlin.

I don't know Berlin - I'm not even sure how much I know Germany anymore. 

Because of my passion for seeing, exploring, capturing, creating and sharing - and inspired by some awesome personal journal-style documentary video series (and I just happened to shoot the landing in Berlin with my phone), I decided to attempt creating a weekly 1-minute video of what I see here. 

Of course, I need another non-paying project like I need a hole in my knee. Right: "... like I need a hole in my knee". Now that's just one of those perfect examples of experiencing a muddled culture. Is that really an English expression or did I just translate that from German or did I translate that from English into German and then back to English and the vocabulary somehow got mixed up and now it just sounds weird?

There must be tons of people from Brooklyn in Berlin (many of them German, too, I suppose) - they're probably younger, hipper, more creative, more radical and certainly more tuned into what's cutting edge. That's cool. These are just my personal random impressions of life as a German New Yorker in Berlin.

Please let me know what you think and if you're even watching. Because I'm really supposed to be setting up paying projects and find an apartment...
German New Yorker in Berlin - Week 1
Arriving in Berlin (plane), sneaking off (bus) to my family's home in the country near Hamburg (still), arriving in Berlin yet again (train).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wiesenkerbel und Wasserlilie*

This coming Sunday, May 9th, Günter Westphal (who just happens to be my dad) is having an art opening featuring large photographs of plant life. The exhibit is hosted by the Kulturverein Haseldorfer Marsch and will take place in a beautiful setting at the Bandreisserkate, an ancient restored farm house in the Northern German countryside.

But don't just expect pictures of pretty flowers. My dad has been a photographer longer than I can remember (and it's quite possible that his slides from a 1977 roadtrip across the USA along Route 66 caused my desire to move to America one day) - but he's also been heavily involved in social art (think "social change with an aesthetic appeal" or "social work as art" - but not something like an art therapist). His photography tends to look at the unexpected, to draw your attention to the overlooked and to shift your focus to the seemingly negligible - through enlargement, repition, choice of focus and splash of color. At least that's what I see.

The photography exhibit will be shown:
at the Bandreisserkate
Kulturverein Haseldorfer Marsch
Achtern Dörp 3
25489 Haselau

May 13, 15, 16, 22 - 24, 29 and 30
3 - 5pm 

The opening is Sunday, May 9th at noon
opening words by Hajo Schiff

I'm super excited to be in Germany right now and able to attend this opening.

* Cow Parsley and Water Lily

Monday, May 3, 2010

MusicMonday: Hot Chip & Bonnie Prince Billy (& M.I.A.)

I'd like to kick myself in the shin that I didn't jump at the opportunity to download "One Life Stand", the latest album by the British band Hot Chip, from amazon when they briefly offered it for $1.99. I was like uh... yeah, I kinda liked that one song "Boy From School" and "Touch Too Much" but there are so many other great albums out right now...

Now that I've gotten a few of the new songs on mix tapes, I can't get enough of them and will surely buy the album for the full price soon. Wonder if all the songs will seem to fit what's on my mind these days. Btw, while the following might appear quite sappy, just keep in mind you can dance to these songs.

A few days ago I arrived in Germany (return date to Brooklyn currently unknown). I'm just getting settled in with stocking the kitchen, hooking up the Internet and hopefully very soon having a working iPhone again (oh, the withdrawal). I missed Scott from the moment we said "see you in a few weeks" (he's supposed to arrive here in June). This first song I'm posting for him.

"One Life Stand" by Hot Chip

The best part of returning to Germany is to finally have more time with my family and friends here again. Yet, one of the hardest parts is missing the people who remain in Brooklyn or have moved to Thailand or California or wherever adventure called them. This song makes me think of my actual brother, Asterix, and all my brothers and sisters here and all over the globe.

"Brothers" by Hot Chip

And then there's this amazing gem: "I Feel Bonnie" - a house mix of the single "I Feel Better" featuring Bonnie Prince Billy, who completely changes the song (available on the single or as download). Reminds me how much I also love the Grizzly Bear version of Hot Chip's "And I Was A Boy From School".

"I Feel Bonnie"
- by Hot Chip & Bonnie Prince Billy

A thought on the music video everyone's been talking about: "Born Free" by M.I.A. - directed by Romain Garvas. I love the gritty nature of the song and it's already proven a good one for dancing at our "farewell ball". When I saw the video a few days later I had very mixed feelings. It's very well done, that's for sure. And obviously it's getting both M.I.A. and the director a lot of attention.

I also think it sends a great and very clear message against brutality, war and racism and might make some people uncomfortable as they contemplate the terms terrorist vs. freedom fighter. But the brutality and explicit graphic nature is too much for me. Just like with war itself, I'm too much of a pacifist and too soft skinned to say, I can support this.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sonchai Jitpleecheep Series - Book 1: "Bangkok 8" by John Burdett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Insightful, entertaining and suspenseful - full of twists and turns and an array of fascinating and, at times, surprising characters. 

American-Thai police detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, son of a Bangkok prostitute and an unknown American, admirer of Western high-end fashion and French perfume, living in a windowless hovel because he's the last cop left not taking bribes, shows and explains to the farang (foreign Caucasian) reader the Thai culture (including Buddhism, prostitution, transsexuals, bribes, the need for workers to take meth, etc.) as well as giving us glimpses into Russian, American and Chinese cultures among others - all the while following the twisting clues that shall lead to solving the murder of the marine in the locked Mercedes by a load of snakes and avenge the death of his partner and soul brother, who was just slightly higher on his path to Buddhist enlightenment than Sonchai himself. The unusual element added are his Buddhist insights, his ability to sense people's previous lives and karma and figure out clues through meditation and avoiding the Western invention of logic. 

A fresh perspective, with supposedly true observations about South East Asian life (as I've been told), inspiring contemplations about Western culture and Eastern spirituality and a page-turner of a story... I can't wait to read Bangkok Tattoo, the second book in the trilogy.