Monday, November 29, 2010

MusicMonday: Lykke Li is back (!!!) with "Get Some"

The incredibly charismatic and energetic* Swedish singer Lykke Li is finally coming out with her sophomore album Wounded Rhymes. Unfortunately it won't be released until March 2010 (on her own label LL Recordings and produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter, Bjorn and John).

But as a very gratifying first taste, here is the awesome video (directed by Johann Söderberg) for the first single "Get Some", which I already adore - and which you can download for free (in exchange for your email address).

* do not miss the opportunity to see her live!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Back In Brooklyn - In A Berlin Minute (Week 30)

Back in Brooklyn - In A Berlin Minute (Week 30) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

Just in time for my 30th week of life in Berlin... I'm back in Brooklyn.

But just for a little over a week - to spend time with Scott and the cats and our friends, to deliver the final version of the 52-minute long documentary I made for Project STAY ("Status: Thriving - Five Young People Discuss Living with HIV in NYC"), have meetings about new projects and just to soak in a little of my beloved New York City.

This week's video features impressions from around Brooklyn - with quite a few references to previous "In A Berlin Minute" videos. Can you guess which ones?

Brooklyn Neighborhood Map
Brooklyn Nachbarschaftskarte

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ian McEwan - "The Innocent"

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"The Innocent" is the joyful, light, amusing, a bit suspenseful and quite insightful, if a little unrealistic and farcical, story of a British telephone worker who gets called to the post-world war 2, but pre-wall Berlin to work in a secret tunnel, meant to spy on the Russians.

The perspective of the up-tight Brit seeing the boisterous Americans, the criminal and/or victimized Germans and the bombed-out city on the verge of the cold war is definitely fascinating.

The unstoppable journey of the innocent to become the guilty (or at least guiltily acting), is almost Kafkaesque - just with a smirk and a chuckle.

However the book didn't blow me away like some of McEwan's other books, which seemed to be more profound, albeit not as amusing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

TV Tower (Fernsehturm) - In A Berlin Minute (Week 29)

TV Tower / Fernsehturm - In A Berlin Minute (Week 29) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

Usually I try to shoot fresh footage during the week leading up to the publishing date of the weekly video. Every week I actually mark how many weeks I've been in Berlin and something that I've done or seen.

This week however is dedicated to the one Berlin sight that is visible from all over the city: the TV Tower (German: Fernsehturm). It deserved a little longer range of collecting footage, which I've done ever since I got here.

The TV Tower was built during the 1960s in the former GDR (that's East Germany) and is still the tallest building in Berlin with 368 meters (1,207 feet). The next tallest building (that actually has floors all the way through, not just an elevator to the top) is the Park Inn Hotel right next to it (across Alexanderplatz).

Supposedly the tower is nicknamed "Pope's Revenge" because light reflecting off it creates a crucifix. But I've never heard anyone call it that nor have I noticed that reflection.

The music in this piece called "Fill The Spill" is again from my talented friend Jason Matherne. Thank you, Jason!

TV Tower - Fernsehturm - Berlin

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Patti Smith - "Just Kids"

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Just Kids" is such an amazing and truly inspiring insight into the lives of young, free-spirited, driven, inventive and creative artists Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe - written in beautiful and easily-flowing language by the poet and musician Patti Smith herself, based on what must have been quite detailed journals.

Besides the main focus, the art and relationship of Smith and Mapplethorpe, she also gives a glimpse into what the art scene around Brooklyn, Chelsea and the village was like during the 1960s and 70s. She casually drops famous names as they come in and out her life - thus she weaves together a tapestry of visual artists, writers, musicians, who were naturally part of that world, inspiring one another then and who all have become legends in their own right for us.

The fact that this book was written now as a promise to the dying Robert Mapplethorpe decades ago when he requested that she write down their story, is incredibly moving - as is their entire love, friendship and bond of creativity and inspiration.

The book not only evoked my interest in the extensive works of these two artists (I've seen Patti Smith a few times play music in the past and knew some of Mapplethorpe's photographs), it also made me sentimental for my own days of being a care-free youngster, dabbling in photography, collage, drawing, poetry, prose, acting and filmmaking (which eventually was what stuck). But it also reminded me that one doesn't have to be young and without care, to be adventurous and daring in one's creations. Maybe one doesn't even have to be poor.

It's been a while since I've wished for a sequel so strongly as I did when I finished this book. How did live and art progress after Patti Smith left New York City and Robert Mapplethorpe became famous for his photographs... She surely has many more stories to tell. I hope she will.

Monday, November 15, 2010

MusicMonday: Live Music, No: Live *Performance* (Der Familie Popolski, Bonaparte, Peaches)

Someone may have noticed that there hadn't been a MusicMonday post in a while. In the last two weeks I've been quite busy with moving (another place in Berlin - Mitte), traveling (Barcelona and Hamburg), working and also going to quite a few concerts or should I say "live music shows".

Something that three of the shows I saw this month had in common was that the emphasis seemed to be possibly less on the actual music and instead more on the performance: on the acting, the dancing, the art direction and the costumes - or the lack of costumes.

 Janusz Popolski at Knust (Hamburg)

This past weekend in Hamburg, my old school friends Frauke, Cordula H. and I happened to get three last-minute tickets to the sold-out show of the absolutely non-pc Der Familie Popolski, a supposedly Polish family band that claims that they are responsible for the majority of pop songs - songs which allegedly had been stolen from them and re-arranged. In other words: you could imagine this as a farcical version of a band like Nouvelle Vague (Bossa Nova versions of 80s wave songs sung by female French singers) - except for the Polish accents, the Polka beats, the overdrawn costumes and all the "vood-ka" drinking.

Fun times, although in this case to me the banter and the slide shows were definitely the most entertaining part of the show, which might explain why they've had a popular Internet show and quite some success on German TV - but may not be up very high in the music charts.

The first episode from Der Popolski Internetzshow:

"Sexy Bomba" by the Popolskis on Ina's Nacht:

And for good measure the song where shy Janusz takes off his shirt: "Cherry Cherry Lady"

The previous weekend, I had booked my flight from Barcelona in time so that I could be back in Berlin to witness Bonaparte do their "Circus Show". In Germany, Berlin-based band Bonaparte (headed by Swiss singer Tobias Jundt) has become quite the media darling. And if you ask me, rightfully so. Their music is very catchy and great for dancing and yelling along: "Do you want to party with the Bonaparte?"

Bonaparte at Astra (Berlin)

But they are probably just as well known for the non-musical performers on stage (who disappointingly to me didn't actually do anything resembling a circus performance - but instead acted and danced their way through songs), a very inventive mix of changing costumes (the famous fluffy cat-eared hat, the horse head, the plastic wrap, etc. - all of which reminded of a ragtag fleabag circus troupe, a high school theater group or, of course, a gang of somewhat burned-out Burning Man enthusiasts)... and eventually the full-nudity of a few of the performers.

The official video for "Boycott Everything" by Bonaparte:

Still my favorite in the mix was the fully staged, choreographed and art-directed show "Peaches Does Herself", which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the first album ("Teaches by Peaches") by Canadian-born, Berlin-based electronic music artist and DJ Peaches.

Peaches sings in the operating table
(the green lights functioned as musical instruments played by performers)

The show tells a comprehensive story of a woman going through a sex change and looking for love - all through the use of various songs by Peaches and very effectively staged with great attention to detail, well-designed costumes and sets and choreographed and performed by talented dancers and actors with humor and sass. It became obvious that this was a production by gifted and hard-working people. Of course, I can't ignore the fact that the themes of many songs and the show might be upsetting to some (although apparently not to Peaches' parents who came on stage in the end and even hollered lyrics into the mic, which was such an endearing moment) - and that there is quite extensive nudity. 

Here is a NSFW clip of a scene that features the nude and quite stunning Hermaphrodite (or transsexual) - who seemed to be both a perfect-looking man and a perfect-looking woman and a talented ballet dancer. The clip also features Peaches in her not-so perfect looking Hermaphrodite outfit and another gender-bending performer.

Official video for "Talk To Me" by Peaches (one of the more "general audience appropriate" songs):

I've enjoyed each of these quite varying and entertaining performances. But my heart also beats for the straight-up "we're going to give our best to just play the songs you've been waiting for" of Tocotronic, the fourth act I saw recently. (Although they didn't play one of my old time favorites "Wir sind hier nicht in Seattle, Dirk")

Tocotronic at Columbiahalle, Berlin

The chance to see South African Die Antwoord I skipped out on. It's not quite my thing. My friend Elke however confirmed that I missed (one of?) the best show ever.

This week I'm looking forward to a probably performance-heavy M.I.A. (if I still manage to get a ticket) and probably more music-heavy Interpol (I still have an extra ticket for sale...).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Barcelona - In A Berlin Minute (Week 28)

Barcelona - In A Berlin Minute (Week 28) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

Before I knew exactly when we would move to Berlin (or if it was really going to happen) I had already planned to do two things: see Pavement in May (In A Berlin Minute - Week 3) and visit my oldest friend Cordula on her birthday in November... in the city she was planning to move to: Barcelona.

It still seems so incredible that it all worked out. I moved back to Germany, she moved to Spain... and last week for her birthday I got to visit her in Barcelona - a city I instantly fell in love with.

Because I got the sense that Cordula (like several of my friends) wouldn't want to be featured in one of my videos, here are just a few of the incredible things we saw. Although for me spending so much time with such a dear friend that I've known since we were three years old was just as wonderful.

And yes, the weather was gorgeous - in November!

Some of the locations in order:
Barcelona seen from Tibidabo
Park Güell (Gaudi)
Sagrada Familia
Eixample courtyard
Casa Milá
Plaça de Catalunya
Casa Batlló
Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter)
La Rambla
Statue of Christopher Columbus
Mediterranean Sea 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Burning Memorial - In A Berlin Minute (Week 27)

In May 1933 students burnt the works of hundreds of authors on a square in Berlin (and throughout Germany). In 1994/95 a memorial called "Bibliothek" (library) conceived by Micha Ullman was built within what is today called Bebelplatz. The memorial is an underground room full of empty shelves that can be viewed through a see-through plate in the ground.

Commemorative plaques near-by state the following:

"Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort
wo man Bücher verbrennt,
verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen"
Heinrich Heine, 1820

English translation: "That was only a prelude, where they burn books, they ultimately burn people."

"In Der Mitte dieses Platzes verbrannten am 10. Mai 1933 Nationalsozialistische Studenten die Werke Hunderter freier Schriftsteller, Publizisten, Philosophen und Wissenschaftler."

English translation: "In the middle of this square Nazi students burnt the works of hundreds of free authors, journalists, philosophers and scientists."

Admittedly the memorial is most effective at night when the room is lit-up. And probably least visual on the bright sunny day I recorded it. But the contrast of how the tourists and students approach the memorial with the thought of the students during the Nazi dates being riled up and burning the books, was very intriguing to me. 

Book Burning Memorial
Denkmal an die Bücherverbrennung