Friday, October 29, 2010

Autumn Colors - In A Berlin Minute (Week 26)

There is no more denying it: autumn (so much more poetic than "fall" isn't it?) is here.

The leaves have changed colors and are quickly falling, the warm coats are coming back out, the bikes stay locked up a little more often (and are collecting the falling leaves), of course the tourists keep coming - only the birds are heading South.

Stay warm, dear viewers!

Autumn Colors - Herbstfarben

Friday, October 22, 2010

Festival of Lights - In A Berlin Minute (Week 25)

It was a dark and stormy... and colorful night - and I went out on my Holland Fahrrad to capture these images for you from the Berlin Festival of Light 2010.

The 6th Annual Festival of Light shines colorful lights and projections onto some of the most beloved sights of Berlin every night from 7pm to midnight, October 13 - 24.

Because I'm trying to squeeze everything into just one minute of video, I only visited a few of the lit-up sights. In the order of appearance:

- Neon Sign at Potsdamer Platz
- Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)
- Fernsehturm (TV Tower) at Alexanderplatz
- Brandenburger Tor (Brandernburger Gate)
- Gendarmenmarkt with Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral), Konzerthaus (Concert House) and Französischer Dom (French Cathedral)

Instead of cutting this video to a piece of music, I thought you might enjoy hearing the voices of Berliners and out-of-towners as they discuss, photograph and try to find the best route to the next illuminated sight.

A very special thank you to Matt aka PictureReport (on Vimeo) for telling me about the Festival and for creating such inspiring photographs and videos. You will not want to miss the video he is making about this particular event.

Brandenburg Gate during Festival of Lights
Brandenburger Tor während des Festival of Lights

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Go, See Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings

Seriously, go see Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings play live. They're currently on tour. They'll be in Hamburg tonight and in NYC on New Year's Eve. There should be plenty of chances in-between. You can even win an exclusive photo pass here.

Scott and I saw the Brooklyn band perform at Huxley's Neue Welt in Berlin last night. Now, I've been playing their last two albums up and down all summer - and this means quite a lot for this former gothic/punk rock kid who's been mellowing out over the years with lots of indie rock and the occasional electronic dance music... But the sudden love for soul and funk music? Only the fabulous Sharon Jones could make that happen.

So I knew she had an incredible voice and that the band could play. But I was blown away by the whole live experience: a non-stop entertainment ride. The music, the singing, the story telling and the overwhelmingly energetic dancing.

To show you some of her moves, here's a quick video I recorded last night of Sharon Jones doing the Boogaloo.

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings leader impressed also by how they were able to build up and direct the audience, who gladly followed along; including literally begging for Sharon Jones to come back on stage - yelling "Sharon, we need you!" in unison.

And after the show? Sharon, The Dapettes and a few of the The Dap-Kings hung around the merch table and signed posters and records. You bet we were first in line. This was the first time I got an autograph since meeting Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld backstage in Hamburg 1990. 

Um, I even made Scott pose for a picture with Sharon...

So, what are you waiting for? Go! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

MusicMonday: Agnes Obel "Just So"

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I'm a big fan of the music by Danish singer Agnes Obel, who had a big hit with the song "Just So" in Germany when it was used for a Telekom commercial.

Since then I've had the chance to witness her stunning performances in Berlin, meet her personally, shoot an EPK (electronic press kit) and finally direct the new official music video for the re-release of "Just So", which now appears on her debut album Philharmonics.

"Just So" by Agnes Obel

It was such an amazing opportunity to create the visuals for such a beautiful song and to work with such a talented artist as Agnes.

The shoot was personally special for other reasons as well: first of all is always a pleasure to do a job with Scott Solary, who produced this video; it was my first sizable job since returning to Germany after 15 years abroad; the projection footage I filmed in the little village that was my childhood home (the taxidermy animals were even borrowed from my elementary school!) and last but not least I got to work with a group of wonderful, hard-working people, whom I'm lucky to now call my friends.

With that in mind I want to thank everyone who helped create this video: Agnes Obel, Sven Hasenjäger, Scott Solary, Hana Hermann, Alex Zielke, Uwe Stark, Marisa Baptista, Nuno Barreiras, Olivia Bernhard, Asterix Westphal, Alex Brüel Flagstad, Maria Westphal, Jutta Rietschel, Elke Holzapfel and everyone at [PIAS] Recordings.

Agnes Obel is currently playing dates throughout Europe - shows are selling out very fast! Make sure you get your ticket in time.

By the way, the album is not yet available in the US. Maybe that'll change...

Friday, October 15, 2010

U8 Subway - In A Berlin Minute (Week 24)

U8 Subway - In A Berlin Minute (Week 24) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

This week brought a few bigger decisions - some still need to be made. One of the easier ones was to change the name of my weekly one-minute videos from "German New Yorker in Berlin" to "In A Berlin Minute". It seemed helpful to make it apparent immediately that this is just a one-minute video - and that there's a reason why I don't go into all the details of a location or event that I filmed. 

The aspect that the observations come from a German New Yorker in Berlin probably don't come into play in the videos so much anyway - that's more part of the writing that goes along with it.

The title "In A Berlin Minute" derives from the expression "In A New York Minute", which actually, according to the Urban dictionary, refers to "an instant. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it's the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn. It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967. It is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers' lives. A New Yorker does in an instant what a Texan would take a minute to do." 

Of course, Germans are considered to be very accurate, which would mean a Berlin minute by contrast to the New York minute is exactly 60 seconds... like my weekly videos.

This week's video gives you a quick glimpse into the U8 subway line and its rollercoaster-style twists and turns. In the 24 weeks I've been in Berlin, I've lived in 3 apartments - in three different districts - but all of them were on the U8 line. It was time I honored my favorite train. Now I just need to figure out if the next apartment is on the same train line or if I'm actually returning to New York before then. That's the biggest decision left... 

U8 Subway - U-Bahn

Monday, October 11, 2010

MusicMonday: Favorite Songs of 3rd 1/4 of 2010

My favorite songs (or at least the ones I could fit onto one CD) for the third quarter of 2010. In this order for playability, not by ranking.

Links are to videos of the songs (or free legal downloads when available) - unless otherwise noted. 

Ready To Start / Arcade Fire

Coquet Coquette / Of Montreal
(free download)

Rill Rill / Sleigh Bells
(just streaming song, no video)

In Ruins / Fol Chen

Yesterday’s News / Alex Gardner

You Should Learn / We Are Scientists
(seriously couldn't find any clip of it online - if someone else can, please let me know)

(free download)

At The Indie Disco / The Divine Comedy

My Heart Is A Drummer / Allo, Darlin’
(free download)

Sink/Let It Sway / Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
(free download)

Rope And Summit / Junip
(free download)

Heavy In Your Arms / Florence + The Machine
(free download)

Zebra / Beach House
(just streaming song)
Conversation 16 / The National
(just streaming song)

You Wanted A Hit / LCD Soundsystem
(just streaming song)

Say No To Love / The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

(audio excerpt only)
White Night / The Postelles

The photo is of the sky above the Bode-Museum and the Spree river in Berlin - just a walk from where I live right now and best enjoyed (as it was that evening) with Scott, Marisa, Nuno and a beer.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Museumsinsel - In A Berlin Minute (Week 23)

The Museumsinsel Berlin is an island on the Spree river, which hosts currently five museums and also the Berliner Dom. Because the latter does not show up on the official map for the museum island and of course, is not a museum, I left it mostly out of this quick 1-minute montage of the five museums. I had enough material is it is - and all that without stepping foot into a single museum.

The museums in order of appearance are:

By the way there was a bit of construction going on, which I did film - but decided to leave out since there was just so much footage. The new and improved (museums connected by tunnels) Museumsinsel is supposed to be open by 2015.

The music featured is Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, Movement I (Allegro), BWV 1049 by J.S. Bach. It is produced and performed (I suppose through electronic means) by Kevin MacLeod, who is making tracks available for free through Creative Commons License, which is totally awesome! Thanks, Kevin! 

Bode Museum - Museumsinsel (Museum Island) - Berlin

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sebastian Faulks - "Birdsong"

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such an incredible book!

Set during the 1910s (mostly during World War I) and 1970s in France and England the book impresses with a large amount of characters and fascinating story lines, which became so real that they are sure to stick with me for a long time.

What was most striking are the finite (maybe blatant) details with which Faulks describes sex, birth, death and shrapnel wounds among others. And I've never felt so claustrophobic reading a book as when he takes us underground into the mines below the trenches of France. Furthermore I was allowed a glimpse into male bonding as I had never seen it before. At the beginning the language seemed a little stilted and forced to me and, because you don't know the significance of all the characters as they first get introduced or subtlety get reintroduced, you sometimes feel the need to go back and read a previous part to be able to keep track of all the men.

All together an outstanding book full of romance, suspense, heartbreak and horror that, through its interconnecting and cross-generational story of love, war, friendship, family and death, manages to feel as big as life.

Monday, October 4, 2010

MusicMonday: M.I.A. and MIA.

One of my recent album purchases was Maya, the new album by M.I.A. - not to be mixed up with MIA. .

The devil is in the detail - or in this case, in the dots (and the pronunciation). 

I don't know how many times I've had to point out to a friend digging through my music collection that what they had just pulled up was not an album by the British singer-songwriter/ rapper/music producer M.I.A (who is known for her Sri Lankan influences) but by the Berlin pop/rock band MIA. (who actually sing in German).

M.I.A.s real name is Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam. 
MIA. were once upon a time called Me in Affairs
(Apparently there's also another punk band M.I.A. from the US and a Lithuanian singer Mia, but they're not the ones whose music I know and like so much.)

Also I thought they each had three records out. But I just realized that MIA. has a 2008 album Willkommen im Club that I don't have yet.

Here are a few favorite songs:

"Bucky Done Gun" by M.I.A. from Arular (2005)

"Paper Planes" by M.I.A. from Kala (2007)

"Born Free" by M.I.A. from Maya (2010)
Achtung! This video is not for the faint of heart.

"Machtspiele (Ich Tanz Drauf)" by MIA. from Hieb und Stechfest (2002)
Unfortunately there's not a video for that (or my other favorite "Ekelhaftes Benehmen"); so here's a live video from 2009.

"Ökostrom" by MIA. from Stille Post (2004)

Oh, right. This appears to be a Sony property. So apparently they don't want anyone to share this video with their friends because they, um, I don't know, don't want anyone to watch it? Anyway, no embed for this clip on any websites except the ones that you then can't watch in Germany. Someone's loss.

"Uhlala" by MIA. from Zirkus (2006)

Of course, the same goes for this video. Sorry, can't show you.

But what I can show you is another video by M.I.A. - so I'll just do that. So there.

Oh, by the way, the reason why I'm using embeds for all the M.I.A. songs not from Vevo or official M.I.A. sources is because those, of course, are blocked in Germany.

Please add "to be able to watch any music video" to the list of reasons why to live in the US. I know it's not a really important reason - I'm just saying...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Holocaust Memorial - In A Berlin Minute (Week 22)

The official name of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is "Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas" (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). It was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold and officially inaugurated on May 10, 2005 - sixty years after the end of World War II. There are as many concrete slabs on the field as there are pages in the Talmud. In the underground museum there is a list of all known Jewish Holocaust victims.

When talking to my German friends about the memorial, I realized there really isn't a German word for Holocaust besides the word itself, which I've never heard anyone say here. But that doesn't mean people aren't aware of the murder of the Jews, Romani, homosexuals and dissidents. The shame and guilt are still felt in the generations born long after the war and have a lasting effect on the national identity of Germans. I won't deny that I've seen signs of Neo-Nazis and racism in Germany today - but then I don't know which country doesn't have those kinds of people.

The memorial is supposedly controversial but I personally have found every visit to be a very moving and fitting experience. Admittedly it was even more intense to experience this together with my Brooklyn friend Erica, whose mother (and therefor her) is Jewish.

There are so many associations as you see the large field of grey stones. Then you walk in and you get lost, dioriented - the sky and the outside world seem to move further away - you don't know what is around the next corner, who may run into you - you hear voices, children laughing, their innocence today and back then, when the parents were terrified - the thought of all the voices lost...

When putting together the video, I tried to capture some of the atmosphere through mixing music with other sounds.

It was a little disappointing not to use footage I filmed last year of the memorial when there was a light rain making it look like tears were running down the gray concrete. But the footage was of such different quality and in the end I can't include everything anyway - I don't have any impressive aerial footage or shots at night when the memorial is lit up either. And I'm really trying to stick with just using current footage.

For anyone paying attention to such details though: yes, Erica was visiting three weeks ago, which means the footage is from a few weeks ago and not from this week. But I thought it was such an important place I wanted to share it as a weekly video.

Holocaust Memorial Berlin
Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas