Friday, September 30, 2011

Red Hook - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 74)

Red Hook is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, where I went twice this past week: for the wonderful wedding of Karen and Kyle at St. John's restaurant Fort Defiance and another day for shopping at Ikea (to get ready for all the upcoming Berlin visitors).

Scott and I also managed to squeeze in lunch with Caitlin (see "Caitlin Revisits Bremen" - In A Berlin Minute [Week 31]) and family and of course some filming.

Red Hook is a harbor neighborhood with cobble stone streets and views of Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Manhattan. It's also known for its housing projects, but is getting more and more gentrified - as seen by all the new establishments opening up.

What has been keeping this neighborhood slightly off the grid and safe from intense over development and extremely raising rents is the fact that it doesn't have a subway station. The only way to get there is by car, bus, the Ikea ferry (water taxi) from Wall Street or, as we've done many times, by bike.

The song is "Warships" by Jason Matherne

Fort Defiance, Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY

Monday, September 26, 2011

Music Monday: Little Dragon - "Ritual Union"

Little Dragon

Recently several people had recommended Swedish (Gothenburg) band Little Dragon fronted by Yukimi Nagano. And I was delighted to discover their album Ritual Union, which I've been playing more or less non-stop. Okay, let's be honest: I love the first few songs - and then actually avoid the last few, because of that Prince-like singing, which has never been my thing. But I may yet to warm up to it.

I've been told I must check out their previous two albums. And I'm sure I will. But so far it's been hard enough to choose which song from this album is my favorite. So here are three. 

While for other songs there are some fascinating animation videos, these three I could only find live performances and a fan-made video for (which actually was just lifted from something else, if I understand the description correctly).

Ritual Union (live) (recording)


Friday, September 23, 2011

Prospect Park - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 73)

Prospect Park, the 585-acre Brooklyn park designed by Central Park creators Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, is my sanctuary. It's one of my favorite places in New York.

"Prospect Park" - In A Bklyn Minute (Week 73) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

I've been living in a multitude of apartments near it and have many fond memories of times spent in the park alone and with friends. Over the last dozen years, as NYC has become safer and more desirable, there have a been many wonderful improvements in the park. A few years ago I started running in the park. It's become my regular place where I can take a deep breath, stretch my legs and let my thoughts wander.

While the park is a great place to visit year-round and is the place to be on weekends when it gets super crowded and whole families and big parties use it as their backyard (for big BBQs, sledding and ice skating, playing baseball, etc.), my favorite times are the more subdued off-season weekday late mornings - like when I was filming... when it's the park of only a few runners, dog walkers, cyclists, filmmakers, hustlers, parents and the birds, bees and squirrels. No matter when you go though, you get the sense that these are the lungs of "the borough of neighbors", a wonderfully diverse place where people from all cultural backgrounds live together.

Prospect Park Squirrel

It's been a very busy week - so it was a special treat to come to the park on Tuesday to shoot this video.

As so often there was so much more I'd like to show you that I filed but didn't make the cut (Quaker / Friends Cemetery, Bachelorette film crew, etc.) or that didn't get filmed this time (women strolercizing, chipmunks, hawks, Muslim women in full hijab playing Frisbee, Orthodox Jewish women jogging in long skirts, etc.).

Unfortunately on Tuesday the weather was weird - it was humid and hazy with the sky greyish but very bright, which led to less ideal shooting conditions and some strange colors and contrasts in the video.

The song featured is called "Swarm The Hill" by Jason Matherne aka lljamelle11

Monday, September 19, 2011

EXTENDED: Ground Zero - WTC 2001/2011 - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 72)

This is the extended version of my 1-minute video "Ground Zero - WTC 2001/2011" - In A Bklyn Minute (Week 72).

Photos (2001) and video (2011) from around Ground Zero (World Trade Center / WTC) taken on October 3rd, 2001 and at the same locations on September 14th, 2011 - 10 years later.

More information can be found on the blog post about the original video.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ground Zero - WTC 2001/2011 - In A Bklyn Minute (72)

World Trade Center Remains and World Financial Center, 2001
New World Trade Center, 2011
Corner of Broadway and Fulton Street

The first official "In a Bklyn Minute" Video features photos from around Ground Zero (World Trade Center / WTC) taken on October 3rd, 2001 and video footage from the same locations recorded on September 14th, 2011 - 10 years later.

This week marked 10 years since 9/11. I wanted to be back in New York (from Berlin) by this date, so I could more directly connect with what I consider to be part of me - even though I hadn't been in the towers, nor lost anyone.

"Ground Zero - WTC 2001/2011" - In A Bklyn Minute (Week 72) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

On my blog post from Monday 9/12/11 you can read a bit more about my thoughts regarding this subject.

On October 3, 2001 my friend Kyra tried to get as close as possible to Ground Zero for the first time. Before we could only get as close as Houston Street. We are both photographers and we looked at the still smoking mangled carcass of buildings and the free standing walls through our cameras. We looked at the police officers and Mitmenschen (is there an English word for the other humans around you? I don't just mean people, but with-people) through our cameras. We looked at was too large and devastating to grasp through our cameras.

There was the danger of looking like an a**hole tourist trying to get a snapshot. But I'll be frank with you, I think I really needed the distance of the camera to look at this at all. And I don't think I consciously even framed up or tried to get shots. It was just mechanical to walk around and witness.
This week I returned with my video camera in the middle of a busy and muggy afternoon and tried to find the same spots again to explore what it looks and feels like 10 years later. There were a lot of people with cameras, a lot of tourists, a lot of office workers, still a lot of police, a lot of high school students, a lot of double-decker tourist buses, a lot of cell phones, white headphones, a lot of construction and several times a warm look from a police officer after he looked at one of my photos and tried to help me figure out where that point-of-view might have been. For those moments it felt like: hey, remember, we were here together and it was horrible, but do you also remember that for a short little while we all felt connected and compassionate?

Looking at the photos for the first time in many years, I was actually shocked to see that there was still water being sprayed and the smoke still billowing. Three weeks later. It reminds me how long it all takes.

I almost used a lovely piece of music by Spleenveil for this - but opted to go with the natural street sounds. It probably would have been more effective to have silence or the subdued real sounds from October 2001 with the photos - but cutting back and forth between sounds would have been too much, I'm sure.

This video is cut together a little bit faster than I wanted to - but as usual it was hard to make choices. Later today I will upload a longer slower version with about 3 times as many images. Also please remember: this is not television, this is web video and you are in charge: you can always pause and look at something for longer. Last but not least, I'll post some of these pictures on my Flickr account.

Thank you for watching.


Completely random side notes:

- Michael Imperioli is in the very last shot across the street. And now you can't recognize him. I just noticed as I walked past him later.
- During this shoot I dropped my camera, which is now broken and I've got a problem.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Music Monday: Travis - "Side" + "Slide Show" (post 9/11)

Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11. After Scott and I had spent the anniversary away from NYC for the first time last year, we decided we wanted to be back in New York in time for it this year.

Having experienced 9/11 in New York (we were still at home in Brooklyn when it happened), it is a part of our history, it is part of who we are - so it is important to me to feel connected to it. It's quite emotional and personal. I was thinking of posting a song today that would somehow express some of the sadness, anxiety and confusion.

There have been countless interviews on the radio in the last few days and some great musical contribute shows. There are plenty of songs to pick from: Leonard Cohen ("Hallelujah"), Bruce Springsteen ("The Rising"), the powerful "Sounds of Silence" that Paul Simon played at the memorial yesterday... so much from Joy Division or White Lies... wasn't there that Arcade Fire song? Then there's the Beastie Boys song I posted two years ago: "An Open Letter To New York".

But because today is September 12th and because it's been 10 years and because last night brought a wonderful conversation with Scott and our friend Kyra, who had been at the WTC back then - a conversation that focused on that (short) time of love, compassion, connectedness and community we experienced then, I decided to share a different song.

Do you remember when people in Berlin (in a call-back to JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" said "we are New Yorkers), do you remember when Le Monde called Guiliani "The Mayor of the world", which made us in New York feel like somehow we were all part of the same city, the same country? Do you remember when people in the city didn't honk their horns, when we waved at firefighters and we looked at each other with open faces, without hate - but with the thought: we've all been through a hurt together? Of course, not everyone's pain was the same. I can't fathom what it would have been to lose a loved one. I was lucky. My people were lucky.

And yes, some people wanted revenge - wanted blood. But I remember a time when the shock of how hateful this attack had been and the despair of trying to imagine how horrible that hour (or just minutes) must have been to all trapped in those buildings and on those airplanes and the realization that tomorrow is no longer predictable, that the worst things can happen when you wake up in the morning... when all that made us say: no more violence, no more hate, no more killing - let's be kind and embrace each other with all our differences as long as we're here. In the end we are all people who deserve to live and be loved.

The song that symbolizes some of those sentiments to me is "Side" by Travis - especially because we went to see them on October 3, 2001 play at Radio City Music Hall. It's the German National Holiday, it's the day I found out 102 Germans had died during the attack, it was the day Kyra and I went down to the site for the first time. We took pictures. I haven't looked at them yet. There was still smoke, wasn't there?

It was the first show Scott and I attended, the first show many people probably attended (most shows were cancelled during those days). The first time we were in a room with thousands of people, which was quite unnerving during the days of Anthrax scares and the general claustrophobia that had spread since people died being trapped.   

Travis singer Fran Healy was so gracious, aware and compassionate as he addressed the audience and gave each song a meaningful dedication. I will never forget what a gift that evening was. April Long wrote a perfect description of that show for NME

It is another song Travis played that night that captures the sadness of the time and the images and feelings that are forever burnt in our minds: "Slide Show"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Transition - In A B... Minute (Week 71)

Transition - In A B... Minute (Week 71) from Luci Westphal on Vimeo.

For 70 weeks I've been bringing you In A Berlin Minute, 1-minute videos from Berlin (and a few other places). This week I moved back to Brooklyn, NY. Time to reflect and make a decision: do I keep making these super short documentaries? 

Thank you all for your support during my time in Berlin - especially those of you who expressed they'd want to see more videos from me, no matter where they come from.

This is my first attempt at stop-animation... I'm sure they'll get better... if I dare again.

And in the words of Art Brut: "Yes, this is my (singing) voice. This is not irony."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Music Monday: "I'm A Goner" - Matt + Kim, Soulja Boy and Andrew W.K.

The Matt + Kim, Soulja Boy and Andrew W.K. collaboration "I'm A Goner" is the latest song from Converse Shoes. It was recorded in the new community-based Converse Rubber Tracks Studio in Brooklyn. 

The song perfectly fits my current mood - since I am now a goner from Berlin, do feel like I live two lives, am not dead though... and was just about ready for a great new dance song.

The video was directed by Rodney Asher. More behind-the-scenes info can be found on Creativity Online

You can download the mp3 of "I'm A Goner" HERE.

Friday, September 2, 2011

360º Panorama Berlin From Above - In A Berlin Minute (Week 70)

From the TV Tower (Fernsehturm) at Alexanderplatz you get a 360 degree birds-eye-view of the entire city of Berlin! I have saved this trip and video for the grande finale of my 70 week long series of weekly 1-minute In A Berlin Minute videos from Berlin (and a few other side excursions).

Scott and I took the elevator up 200 meters to the viewing floor of the 4th tallest free-standing structure in Europe on Monday - less than 48 hours before leaving Berlin.

The TV Tower originally opened in 1969 in what was then still East Berlin (and therefore part of the GDR aka East Germany). To see what the tower looks like from the ground, please check out my video "TV Tower - Fernsehturm" - In A Berlin Minute (Week 29).

To give you the full effect of the 360 degree view, I filmed at every third window.

The song is "The Fairest Wheel" by Jason Matherne of Goonygoogoo Productions.

Alright then, as I've mentioned, this is a bit of a finale to my "In A Berlin Minute" weekly series, which I spontaneously started during my first week in Berlin, where I had moved to from New York in April 2010. I never expected to be making these videos for so long - and I wouldn't have done it without all of the amazing support from you viewers on YouTube, Vimeo,, Facebook, Google Plus and iTunes.

Now the big question: do I continue to bring you weekly one-minute videos while I live in Brooklyn - or wherever I go next? And if I do, what should the series be called? I plan to return to Berlin next year, but I don't really think I should stick with the same (In A Berlin Minute) title...

Or do you think I should just quit with this grande finale?

Museumsinsel, Brandenburger Gate and Tiergarten seen from TV Tower