Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Blooms and Flowers - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 100)

Brooklyn, and all of New York City, is blooming early this year. Just in time for my 100th (one-hundredth!!!) 1-minute video*. 

The cherry blossoms I already filmed two weeks ago; the tulips are the latest bloomers and are closing out the video to kick off the full spring flower season. A personal highlight are always the bright yellow forsythia bushes. My mom says they were just in bloom when I was born.

This season is usually a very special time to me; when the ground and trees are still brown and grey without grass or leaves - but the early bloomers are reminding us of hope, rebirth and a new beginning.
Again this year we can say: it wasn't depression, it was just the season. 

For me there has been much sadness in the last 10 days. So I'm looking forward to happier days and moments in the sun and hold dear the good times.

I would like to give you this bouquet of flowers and wish you all a perfect day or even just a perfect moment - with blue skies, sunshine and flowers. Enjoy what you have while you do.

Last but not least: thank you all of for watching 100 episodes or just one. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be making these videos.

The song in the video is called "OK" and was written and performed by The Mirrors - a great duo (Matt and Jason) that's part of Goonygoogoo Productions.

Die letzte Aufnahme im Video ist natuerlich fuer Dich, Papi.

* If you're really counting and you're a stickler and all that, this is actually the 101st 1-minute video because during Week 36 I made two different videos: Prague and New Year's Eve in Berlin

Monday, March 26, 2012

Jarmo and Lynch Kater

Lynch Kater and Jarmo two weeks ago

Our cat Lynch Kater (named after David Lynch and the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's - the dubbed German version) had been living with us ever since he strolled into our apartment in Gainesville, Florida in 1996, and jumped straight onto our couch where he remained for the next 16 years - no matter which city or apartment we moved to, no matter how often we changed couches. Just at night he would curl up in Scott's arm to sleep. I think of him as our rock. Big, reliable, calm, stoic, black, warm, soft and smooth. The German word Fels might be even more fitting.

Lynch Kater on March 14th
Our cat Jarmo (originally Jarmusch, then redubbed Slow-Mo Jarmo due to his seemingly slower personality)* was the runt of a wild cat litter behind our apartment in Tallahassee, where Kater had been eying him through the sliding glass door for weeks during the summer of 1997. During a rainstorm he got separated from his family - maybe they couldn't handle how much cuter he was with his Siamese pattern.

When we took Jarmo in, he fit in the palm of Scott's hand. Jarmo was the cat that our friends described as "the lover" or even their "boyfriend". We often thought of him as a puppy; he always had to be in the center of attention, jumping on vacated chairs during a party to join the circle of conversation or come running to the door when I came home - no matter if I had just gone to the grocery store or had lived in Germany for a year.

* Over time we figured out that Jarmo was just playing sweet and innocent, even though he never reached Kater's size, he was clearly in charge of the house and the food bowl - so he was clearly not "slow".

Jarmo before my trip to Thailand and Berlin in February

On Monday, after a long and still undefined illness (despite a lot of tests, medications and nurture) we had to make the very difficult decision to put Jarmo to sleep. Having Dr. McCollough from Pet Requiem come to the house made it a more comfortable experience - especially because Jarmo didn't even have to get out of his comfy bed.

Jarmo on March 14th

Lynch Kater seemed to ignore all the proceedings and just vaguely took a short sniff later. The vet had prepared us that he might want to do that - but that the theory that cats would be differently affected by seeing their mate die vs. the other cat just suddenly being gone was something that she believed people just projected onto cats. They don't think and feel like we do.

By the end of the same week however Kater suddenly became very lethargic and from one day to the other stopped walking around. When we took him to the vet we suddenly were faced with the news that his organs were shutting down and that the sensible thing would be to put him to sleep (or hospitalize him immediately for thousands of dollars and chase a possible cause or more likely euthanize him just a few days later). We were relieved to see Kater go seemingly even more peacefully than Jarmo - even in the vet office's environment and with our lack of preparation. 

That is how we lost both of our feline friends in the same week. Maybe it's a medical coincidence - but it's hard for me to think that this is just sheer chance.

It's hard to describe the void that has suddenly been created - especially when the second cat died so unexpectedly. I think only people who are as into their pets as we are, can truly understand the pain and the loss. I'm grateful to the friends who have reached out.

So now I'll just try to keep thinking of all the wonderful times we've had with Lynch Kater and Jarmo and what a wonderful life I believe they had because we always picked apartments for them with big fenced-in backyards, so they'd be safe but could play outside. Of course, for years Kater would still have to climb one more fence just to watch us from the other side and say: hah, you can't get me you'll have to wait for me to be ready to come home.

I really wish they'd come home.

Lynch Kater and Jarmo on Monday

Because I originally thought of posting this as a Music Monday post dedicated to our cats, I'm still including the song I had in mind: "I Lost You" by A Place To Bury Strangers.


And for those of you who would like to see these cats bring one more smile to you (and see how Jarmo does love attention and Kater is as always Mister Stoic), please check out the Christmas Cat Wishes video we made a few months ago. 

A Place To Bury Strangers - "Far Away" (Music Monday)

I was actually just looking for a Music Monday song that would fit the personal experiences of the week, as I sometimes like to do. I settled on a song by the Brooklyn band A Place To Bury Strangers. But in the process I also came across the awesome music video for "So Far Away" shot with the iPhone Hipstamatic app (I'm pretty sure it's not Instagram).

Since I was going to mention it in the context anyway but didn't want to muddle it, here it gets its own post. Both their songs have been in my favorite list for the first 1/4 of the year. Never get tired of that old Jesus and Mary Chain-inspired sound.

Download "So Far Away" from the label's website. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Manhattan Rooftop Bar View (5th Avenue) - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 99)

Views of 5th Avenue and surrounding buildings from Salon de Ning, the rooftop bar above The Peninsula Hotel (at 55th Street). 

When I first dreamed of moving to New York City (at age 14) I always had the vision of living in a Penthouse with amazing views of skyscrapers, water towers and rooftop gardens. Instead I've always been living in Brooklyn on the ground floor with gardens for my cats and friends to hang out.

So it's always a special treat to enjoy an evening on a roof with a view - especially with interesting company and a Vodka Collins.

This week was an especially crappy one; with the death of our cat Jarmo, which is more heart-breaking than I had expected, and other bad changes, which will hopefully turn around again real soon. The only exception was that escapist Tuesday when I joined two celebrations in Manhattan - one which I'm not allowed to disclose yet and then the birthday of Maxx Klaxon at Salon de Ning.

Throughout the week and today I've been collecting video for a bright and beautiful video. But in the end the dark, moody and foggy views of the nighttime city from an unusual perspective and distance seemed most fitting.

Next week for the 100th episode you can expect something more lively again. I think.

The featured song was again (in a surprisingly different genre) written and performed by Jason Matherne (aka

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jack White: Love Interruption + Sixteen Saltines (Music Monday)

Jack White is releasing a new album (and amazingly enough his first SOLO album) on April 23rd: Blunderbuss.

With the earlier single "Love Interruption" he proves again why everyone thinks he's such an extraordinary songwriter. I liked it the moment I heard it and can't get the catchy melody and rhythm of the words out of my head. The video is very chic.

This embed is from the YouTube Vevo Channel, which in the past couldn't be seen in Germany, it seems, because of GEMA. So if you can't see it, here's a link for the video on Vimeo, although I suspect it won't be there for long.

By now he's already released the second single: "Sixteen Saltines".

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gowanus (Neighborhood + Canal) - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 98)

Gowanus is the neighborhood around the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. A neighborhood that is sure to change drastically in the future. 

While it is still zoned for manufacturing and is mostly filled with businesses and there's that thing with the murky water of the canal (actually an official superfund) - it is also an "underdeveloped" neighborhood right in-between some of the nicest and most expensive neighborhoods of New York City.

I truly wish they won't destroy this charming and rough neighborhood full of character and characters through these ridiculous apartment buildings with parking garages on the ground floor (no stoop, no shop, no cafe = no community!), which have been popping up all over the border to Park Slope and I consider the "Uglification of Brooklyn".

A few buildings, fortunately, are protected - like the small red building you see sitting alone on a large lot. Whole Foods was not allowed to tear that one down. 

Open Your Eye,  Girl - graffiti
Gowanus, Brooklyn

The best parts about my walk through Gowanus on Wednesday (besides the summer-like temperatures): Despite how empty the streets of the neighborhood seem with all the warehouses and only few shops and residential homes, a significant number of people started conversations with me:
the guys with facial tattoos admiring the old Mercury Cougar (car) I was photographing and telling me about a 1970s Lamborghini down the block;
the gentleman photographing the cherry blossom trees, who told me about the cosplay event during the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Botanic Garden and who is about to publish a book about Tattoo Conventions;
the man (Richard) who gave me his book about the alignment of the Grand Army Plaza Arch with the Empire State Building and told me that currently the alley to the old IRT was open, then the guy who had opened that gate who told me I had to leave;
the young guy (Justin) who asked me if I had just taken a picture of him wondering if he could use it for an art project he's been wanting to start featuring photos other people had taken of him - and then the three guys playing handball, whom I asked if I could feature them in my video...

Oh how wonderful it is to live in Brooklyn where people from all walks of life just talk to each other on the street and smile when the sun is out and the cherry blossoms are blooming early.

The music featured is "Always Making Me Blue" by Jason Matherne.

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thailand Screening of All God's Children

Chiang Mai International School Auditorium

This post is well overdue - since it's been a month since our documentary All God's Children screened at Chiang Mai International School in Thailand - but now I'm finally settled back in New York and I can reflect back on this special event.

First of all I would like to thank again the people who made this screening possible: Jessica Gould (CMIS), who organized the screening, Lance Potter (CMIS), who hosted the screening and Esther Wakeman (Payap University), who MC'd the event and organized the other speakers.

Esther Wakeman of Payap University

There were many reasons why screening the film in Thailand was special - not only because it's such an exotic location but also because I had personal connections to Chiang Mai (as did others who appeared in the documentary) and because this area is part of the mission field and is frequented by expats and TCKs (third culture kids).

What I didn't realize until shortly before the screening, and what ultimately makes this event stand out the most, is that a few decades ago the school was itself a Christian boarding school with a hostel for children of missionaries, which was overseen by Presbyterian missionaries, and according to an independent investigation, had its own cases of child abuse.

Introducing the film as I often do with something like "thank you for being here today and hearing the voices of these abuse survivors who didn't have a voice as children and whose voices were ignored as adults" was never as powerful as on that evening in Chiang Mai when I could say: "today these voices will be heard at a place where children just like themselves were silenced and abused".

On this day, it really felt like the film had come full-circle. Of course, it saddened me that none of the children from the film could be present for this special moment. But I believe that through the film they spoke for all of the children of the Chiang Mai, Mamou and other boarding schools.

I want to make it very clear that the Chiang Mai International School today shares the same location but is not the same school as the one where abuse took place - today it isn't even a boarding school.

Esther Wakeman and Lance Potter

It was a different experience to share the film with and speak to an audience which included so many missionary kids and missionaries, some of whom shared that they or their kids had attended boarding school and that some of them had been abused. 

But of course, that also meant that there were people in the room that weren't going to take the film at face-value and instead questioned some of the statements made in the film. There is the issue of forgiveness, for example, that many people believe to be the appropriate step of healing - while the survivors in our film tend to express that forgiveness is not the solution to the problem.

This also leads to another point of discussion, the question of faith and religion. It doesn't happen often that I have to verbalize after a screening that the film is not anti-God and emphasize that several people in the film remain Christians. But I believe it makes a difference who the audience is and therefore how they conceive a United Methodist pastor speaking about his "fight against bad religion". 

It was neat to find out that some of the people attending knew Beverly Shellrude Thompson, who appears in the film. Again, I wish she could have been there. 

For the first time we had someone at an event who spoke officially (and graciously) for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the denomination and mission-sending organization that ran the Mamou Alliance Academy and hesitated to embrace the survivors when they first came forward. 

Mike Wood is on staff at Grace International School, a missionary kids school in Chiang Mai, and had as a child attended Dalat International School, a missionary kids boarding school in Malaysia, which allegedly has had cases of mistreatment as well... He shared with us some of the changes that the CMA has implemented to improve the situation for missionary kids and showed his personal understanding and compassion.

Jessica Gould pre-screening

The other person who spoke was Alastair Muir, a missionary from Scotland. He had made my day a few weeks earlier when he wrote that he and others in his group of missionary men had watched All God's Children and discussed some of its difficult subjects for weeks. A definite highlight in our journey with this film is to find out that people, whom we don't know and who live in far away places have watched and utilized the film. 

More importantly on a larger scale though: it was great to have Alastair, with his expertise, speak about aspects of the film and about his efforts to protect children from abuse. He works as part of the Church of Christ in Thailand in building child protection capacity through churches, schools, border communities and wider Thai society. Striking were his involvement in writing and helping implement new child protection policy as well as his focus on protecting Thai children in a country where child prostitution and trafficking are major issues.

So it was an altogether special screening - and would be a worthy event to close our tour of screenings. Of course, I hope that the film will continue to screen publicly as well as privately and will continue to get people talking, help them on their journey of discovery, understanding and healing - and educate people to protect and support children, survivors, parents and educators. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Queen of Denmark - John Grant or Sinead O'Connor (Music Monday)

No big story here. I just like this song. First heard "Queen of Denmark" sung by Sinead O'Connor. Then realized that it is the title track for the new album of John Grant (formerly of The Czars).

No offense intended (by me) to the actual queen of Denmark or Agnes Obel, who is the only Danish lady I know.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Manhattan Bridge View - In A Brooklyn Minute (Week 97)

The view from the subway crossing the Manhattan bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline is one of my favorite views of the city.

From my earliest days of living in Gravesend/Midwood and commuting to my job at the W Hotel in Midtown to a day like today (not my best) this view always reminds me how much I love this city and how there's no place like it.

Because I have the flu and my cat is very ill and I need to take him to the vet today and, honestly, because I'm a little tired of people commenting that my videos are edited too fast and I should hold on shots longer, I've kept it very simple today. I hope you, who like the faster edited videos with more variety, still enjoy this special view of New York - and if you'd like I can show you the evening view another time.

The song in the video is called "Half Boy Half Girl" and was created by none other than Jason Matherne.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nada Surf: When I Was Young (Music Monday)

Ever since I first heard "When I Was Young" by New York band Nada Surf (who may actually be more popular in Germany), I can't stop listening to it. It's timeless and beautiful.

There's a charming New York City video to go along with it - directed by Phil Harder.

City Slang offers this first single from The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy as a free download.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Berlin Bridges (Brücken) - In A Berlin Minute (Week 96)

There are about 2100 bridges in Berlin - crossing streets, train tracks, and waterways. For this 1-minute video I wanted to show you just a few special bridges crossing the Spree River (and its side arm) and the Landwehrkanal.

The Oberbaumbrücke in the beginning is probably most people's favorite Berlin bridge and I'm thinking it deserves its own video one day. I filmed that one the previous week when my mom and I went to film the East Side Gallery.

Filming that bridge and an online conversation with Inge Preuschoff-Perrier (aka MUEHLENinEUROPA aka PreuschoffPerrier) spurred the idea to go out with Judith on last week's gorgeous Sunday to capture more of Berlin's bridges.

On Monday, under grey skies, I went back out to finally find Berlin's oldest remaining bridge: the Jungfernbruecke (Maiden's Bridge), which also led me to discover the Gertraudenbridge (or Rat Bridge as I like to refer to it).

Unfortunately some bridges filmed couldn't make it into the video. Of course, there are hundreds of beautiful bridges I didn't even film at all.

The bridges in order of appearance:
  • Oberbaumbrücke
  • Moltkebrücke
  • bridge at the Hauptbahnhof (central train station)
  • Schlossbrücke (castle bridge)
  • Jungfernbrücke (oldest bridge in Berlin, built 1798)
  • Gertraudenbrücke (rat bridge)
  • um... new bridge next to Gertraudenbridge
  • Grünstrassenbrücke (Green Street Bridge)
  • Eiserne Bruecke (Iron Bridge - I know it's now made out of sandstone)
  • „Sprung über die Spree“ (jump across the Spree) - bridge connecting Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus, government buildings on the east and west side of the river (yes, very symbolic)
  • Charlottenburger Brücke and Charlottenburger Tor (bridge and gate)

Along the way it became quite apparent that I could have made a whole minute just about love locks chained to bridges. Might be a sweet video. Might be boring. Definitely has me talking with some special people about attaching our own locks. Just have to find the perfect bridges...

The featured song is called "Swallowed by the Sea" and was written and performed by Jason Matherne of Goonygoogoo Productions.