28 May, 2006

Long Long Weekend

Well, the children were off to southern Germany for five days, so Giuseppe and I had the rare opportunity to be together as a pair. What a delight, but also, boy, does time go slow when there are no teenagers or children around. Thursday was a national holiday and we had Friday off. By the time Saturday morning came around I couldn’t believe that there was another two days left to our long weekend. Time not only slowed down, I swear I could almost hear the seconds tick by languidly like an old grandfather clock.

Managed to create a collage or two, see a few movies (X-men 3, Mirror Mask, and an old spaghetti western), go out to one of our favourite restaurants, and visit a friend in Hamburg. I picked up the children in Hamburg main train station last night.

There were a lot of policemen, drug dogs, and anti-riot shields lining the way to and from the trains, which is quite scary to have to confront: for you have pass through a tunnel of green/black uniformed policemen and their barking dogs to get to the train platform. Though not as scary as being in the train with the drunken hooligans (the police just escort the soccer crowds to and from the trains).

A few years ago, the children and I were sitting in a train filled with a particularly awful crowd just as an unsuspecting teacher entered our department with a crowd of French school children (very multi-racial group). She told the group to spread out and find themselves a seat, but changed her mind when I told her the train was filled with drunken soccer fans. They ended up staying together in our small department. Wise choice.

24 May, 2006

Another Collage

So, it’s Wednesday night before a long long weekend (until Monday noon): tomorrow is a holiday and Friday I have off… amazing. Just spent the last few hours listening to two of the BBC radio program podcasts (The Daily Mayo and The Now Show).

This collage is a result of al that listening entertainment. Hope all of you who have to work this week have an easy time of it, and all those who live in countries abounding in (superfluous) bank and religious holidays, enjoy.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day here. Traditionally, all the guys (both married and unmarried, with our without children) go off together on hikes and picnics trailing wheeled carts containing copious amounts of alcohol. It is both hysterical as well as pathetic: the guys using Father’s Day as an excuse to go off on a rip roaring drunk.

If Mother’s Day was celebrated in the same manner, it might make a bit of sense. But on Mother’s Day, mothers are expected to bake various cakes and cook meals for those who come and visit − just one of various prevalent inequalities that exist in gender issues in Germany.

Event Manager’s Dreams are Destroyed

My colleagues and I are working our butts off trying to get things up and running for an event we’re holding at the beginning of July. We are going to present all of our school projects of the last two years.

Even though I like all of the projects, my personal favourites are here, here, here, and here. The reason I like these projects is because the school children get to go outside of their classrooms, beyond the restrictions of their curriculum, and the boredom of frontal instructional methods to discover the world around them. Sorry the English translations are not yet completed except this one.

I always thought that I would like to be an event manager. I was even under the illusion that it might be something that I would be good at. Let me tell, it really is a lot harder than it looks.

At the moment we are trying to get the web site up and working both in German (40 projects) and English (dito), do the layout for forty handouts and print up a total of 1600 copies, layout and printing 40 posters, print out quotes from the teachers and students, print out extra photos, work out the layout of 55 pin boards, make up a 200 photo slide show, make up eight large ceiling banners, set up a technical schematic for the event, write and send off invitations, make up a schedule, and get our graphic designer the information she needs to complete a hundred page brochure.

And, do you know what… nothing works! Printer drivers, Windows/Os operating systems, system administration rights, software programs, software versions, task coordination, document versions, and people’s temperaments… they are neverever compatible. I think I am going nuts.

Then, just to make myself feel really miserable, I browsed through Oprah Winfrey’s site on her Legends Weekend. I look at her party planner, Colin Cowie, and can totally understand why he is so neurotic. It’s not because he is gay, or British (though he is now an American), but just because he has so many fricking things to see to all day long and none of the square pieces fit into the round holes.

23 May, 2006

Flown the Nest

The Wee Ones (forget that Julien towers over me now) have flown the nest for a few days. They are visiting friends in southern Germany. Sara called to say they had arrived safely and it was possible to hear the birds singing, the wind through the trees, and the other children/teenagers/young adults chattering in the background.

I am staying longer in my office this evening as a way of celebration. Boggles the mind.

21 May, 2006

Wishful Thinking

It’s been a very stormy, windy weekend. Summer just doesn’t seem to want to come as yet. So, I made up this collage which depicts me dreaming of journeys and far away places…

19 May, 2006

Two Rabbits with one Stone

Sara and I have been having numerous conversations recently about how silly puberty is. She just doesn’t want to be a teenager. Some of this has to do with the fact that her older brother is a teenager. Most of it has to do with the fact that German high school starts in grade five. So, ten year olds are faced (brutally in my opinion) with a whole range of challenges: learning to cope in the world of teenagers and young adults at an age where, in many cultures, they are still allowed to be children.

Sara has even noticed how already some of the classmates' attention, conversation, and competition, is all focused around boys. She thinks this is so stupid and is generally appalled that the girls would waste their time with that stuff. I have been trying to figure out what I can do except lend her a sympathetic ear, and came up with the idea of making her a collage poster. It is suppose to be a celebration of childhood.

At work we have just installed the most amazingly printer that can print mega marvellous posters! I am hoping that it isn't too terrible if I print one poster for a good cause.

So, killing two rabbits (birds) with one stone, I made Sara up this poster today.

The text is to be recited phonetically. It is a nonsense text Sara picked out of one of her children’s quotes and poem books.

I originally wanted to write something very sentimental and “meaningful”, but she rejected that notion right off. She said if it was sentimental then she wouldn’t look at it because that would make her cry. Gosh, where are those Irish and Italian genes?

18 May, 2006

Bad Taste

Just looked at a video of an Austrian advertisement for the association for the blind and seeing impaired. At the end of the advert, the pilot says to the co-pilot, “You know what, Bob, one day the passengers are going to scream too late, and then we will all die”. Then the slogan “We see things (the world) differently” comes up.

Then, I am ashamed to admit, there is this video that I almost peed my pants over. I am not sure out whether it was because I was so mortified at the talk show moderator’s predicament (obviously he was not properly prompted by the producers that one of the talk show guests had a funny voice) or horrified that the video found it’s way onto the Internet and is thus so public.

Crazy Caravanners

In the Daily Mayo radio program (podcast) they are talking about caravanning. Gosh, the program does show what a funny lot the British are, interesting in a very bazaar way. I wonder what people at the other side of the world would think having listening to such earnest, impassioned, biased talk about this national pastime.

16 May, 2006

Lilac Lovely

I know I am going on and on about the beauty of spring, but I promise this will be the last entry. It is just very hard to not talk about spring when the lilacs bushes have blossomed. Their fragrance accompanies me on my bicycle trip to and from work these days.
My colleagues and I are in the midst of preparing for an event at the beginning of July where we are presenting all of our school projects for the last two yeasrs. In some ways July seems very far away, but we just figured out that we have done over 40 projects so we are inundated with work. For each of the projects we must write descriptions for our website, translate into English (big delay here), a brochure, posters, and handouts. We are also a bit behind on the technical specification schematic including the mixed-reality installations, projectors, laptops, and pin boards.

Marie and I were tearing our hair out today with lists and files and different text versions…

Last year, two colleagues and I almost had nervous breakdowns by the time the event was over. It is really difficult when the distribution of power and the distribution of tasks are unevenly balanced or divided. There was also a lot of built up resentment in our hearts as well. Some of the guys just didn’t pull their share of the work.

My father used to judge a person’s worth on how far he would be willing to sail with that person. There were the rum-and-coke-at-sunset sailors: one hour, two tops. There was also those few elite, where he would be willing to go for long distance sails (i.e., as in ocean crossing): say over the Atlantic (from Europe to Grenada, to mean a long but relatively easy sail), or even all-the-way-to-Australia-and-back (difficult sail) type of person. The later was the best type of person in his estimate: sturdy, honest, reliable, talented, generous, man-of-small-ego, golden-heart type of a person.

There are a few fellows I work with that I wouldn’t jump over a puddle with. That’s the bald truth. I sure wish it was otherwise, but it just ain’t going to happen.

14 May, 2006


A while ago I wrote a blog entry about how my children will in the future have to work out what aspects of their life, history, and memories define their identities.

This weekend I was browsing through the wonderful web program called Imagining Ourselves a Global Generation of Women, and you can imagine how thrilled I was to read that this month’s sub-theme is Identity. I spent an hour reading the articles/stories and looking at some of the film/artwork of women. I found the following stories or articles particularly inspiring:

Mira Veda from India, whose encounter with Immaculee Ilibagiza, a holocaust survivor of the Rwandan genocide, made her realise that her sense of identity was strongly connected to events or persons she identified with (paraphrasing here).

Rebecca Walker from the United States poses some poignant quesions (e.g., What do we become when we put down the scripts written by history and memory, when each person before us can be seen free of the cultural or personal narrative we’ve inherited or devised?)
and attempts to find her answers to them.

12 May, 2006

Audio Addict Collage

Just spent the last few evenings writing an new entry for the Red Tent Blog about my new love of audio entertainment:

"With the occurrence of broadband Internet I have discovered a new addiction. One far less expensive than buying books or renting DVDs… Audio! Podcasts, radio programs, playlists, online radio, lectures, debates, panel discussions, etc.: they are all there at my fingertips and nearly always for free (shame on you Ricky Gervais and New York Times Select). Oh the bliss, an unlimited amount of wonderful things to listen to at any time of day, from any corner of the earth. It is just unbelievable. The reason I am mentioning this is because in the last days I have listened to some very interesting audio programs, which I would like to share with you."

While listening to the Reith Lectures I made this collage. Don't ask. It just sort of hit me.

10 May, 2006

Spring, spring, oh what a beautiful thing is spring!

I brought along my camera on my bicycle ride to work this morning to photograph the explosion of spring we are presently experiencing in Luebeck.

Usually we have what I define as a, Slow Spring. Somewhere, towards the beginning of March, some perennials stick up their heads about the ground. During the following weeks, until mid May, there is a gradual scintillating dance of spring. It is truly lovely to witness.

This year, for whatever reason, we’ve experienced what I call a Canadian Spring. Monday snow, Friday summer. OK, ok, a slight exaggeration, but we really were caught by surprise.

09 May, 2006

Frightening Experience

While driving home on my bicycle this afternoon, a young woman punk (referring to her choice of clothing) shoved me off my bicycle and gave me a few belts around my head (thank heavens I was wearing my bicycle helmet). You might well ask what I did to deserve such treatment; I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

A young man riding his bicycle in front me, shoved this woman off the bicycle path as he was riding by; for this woman had refused to leave the path. There’s strict division of pedestrian sidewalks and bicycle paths in our city. The woman shouted a profanity at this fellow, turned around and shoved me as I was riding by on the bicycle.

When I got off the bicycle, she started to prance around me like a boxer and proceeded to box my head. Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared and just stared into her eyes, grabbed her hitting arm and asked her what the heck she thought she was doing. Two old ladies, who witnessed this scene, came running to my assistant. The one lady took out her cell phone to call the police.

I told her that I just wanted to leave and so they left as well, but not before telling the punk that they were not at all pleased with her behaviour.

About one hundred meters down the way a police car approached me in the opposite direction. I asked the policemen to pull over and told them about the incident. I drove back on my bicycle, they followed in their car, to see whether we could find the woman, only to discover that there was a large police van already on the scene.

Apparently, this woman's and a group of fellow punks' behaviour had already been reported to the police. I asked “my” policeman whether I should report myself to the other policemen in case they needed witnesses. The policeman asked whether this woman had caused me “serious injury or humiliation”. I said no, but she had scared me shitless (not the word I used in German). He smiled at this and said I could go home.

Now, about an hour later, my legs have stopped shaking, and I look back and I like three things about the incident:

1. I wasn’t scared. I defended myself by holding her arm still.
2. I just love the two elderly ladies charging up to rescue me.
3. The fact that sometimes there are police when you need them.

07 May, 2006

Unbelievably Divine

I was invited to an acquaintance’s home this evening for a literary and operatic evening. The invitation said that the evening was to be the first in a series of private performances they were planning, where both classical music and classical literature would be presented. It sounded like a nice idea, so I went along, just out of curiosity.

What I experienced was an unbelievably wonderful private concert (we were probably about fifteen or twenty people in total) given by an accomplished voice student from the Luebecker conservatorium. The singer was Ella Aradovskaja. (She comes from one of those Russian States that I stupidly don’t know where it is located, let alone how to spell its name.)

She sang various lieder, opera and operetta arias, accompanied by a wonderful pianist. She sang in German, Italian, Russian, and, I believe, Hungarian (though I might be wrong on that one). She sang with passion and with such warmth in her voice that it brought tears to my eyes. What a gift to have sat in the living room and be able to hear her in such close proximity.

No wonder this was the most common form of performing music hundreds of years ago. Yes, of course, this happened only in aristocratic circles, and the audience tonight was anything but aristocratic. Yet, there was one moment, when Ella was singing a song called, The Lark (in Russian), when I closed my eyes and was transported back in time and place. How divine!

06 May, 2006

New Collage

This is a collage I made recently for and put in the Book Corner page of the Red Tent Blog.

05 May, 2006

My Favourite Place

My favourite place to sit outdoors at the moment, now that spring has arrived, is in the Vai Restaurant. It is just around the corner from where we live and everything (ambience, food, drink, music, people) is as Goldilocks said, Just Right. The header for this blog originated from a collage I made using photos there about a year and a half ago.

It was my first experiment with podcasting (diary of a notorious café goer). Since, at that time, the whole idea of podcast-free music was in its early stages, most of the music I used in the podcast was not copyright free and therefore, I cannot publish it.

Creating a podcast is a delightful pastime/occupation, but far more time-consuming then most laypersons would assume. I developed an enormous respect for the various hosts of podcasts, either professional or amateurs.

At the moment I am trying to put together some sort of opinion or preference list concerning podcasting. The BBC podcast, Digital Planet, mentioned in their April 24th show that it is believed that most podcast listeners are, young tech savvy males. I don't comply with any of these things, which means that most preference lists (e.g., here) are not quite along my lines. And yours? Can anyone suggest good music, film, art, book podcasts?

When I finally write something, I will publish on the Media Safe 101 page in the Red Tent Blog.

04 May, 2006

Not a Plug

If you want to see a moving impressionistic painting, then take a look at the Sony commercial (60 sec) for their new BRAVIA television. It is worth spending the time downloading the extended version (180sec), just to hear José González's song, Heartbeats, from debut album Veneer, playing in the background.

03 May, 2006

Cocktail Mix

In the last while, I have had a few conversations with friends about immigration and identity. These talks ran along the line of questioning how much does a person’s nationality/citizenship (either adopted or natural) attribute to that person’s identity. And to take this a step further, what other attributes, besides nationality, are major contributors: sex, language, race, religion, family roots, schooling, choice of profession, financial status, Heimat (adopted or natural), political conviction, sexual preference, etc. Can you name, let’s say, five major attributes which determine your identity? Can you name them also by their order of importance?

Admittedly, there is no fixed formula, but even given that we are talking about a cocktail mix, it must somehow be possible to figure out the ingredients and their proportions…

Julien showed us this video from the comedian Russell Peters. In it he talks about human hybrids offspring: Jamaican/Italian, Pastafarian, Indian/Jew, Hinjew, French/Greek, Freek, Iceland/Cuba, Ice-cube… Which not only was amusing to watch, but also led to more conversation at the dinner table this evening. We figured that our children are brica-germ and pasca-germ. Which doesn’t even begin to encompass all the permutations and combinations. If you list all of the possibilities on the part of the six grandparents (Canada, Italy, Sicilians (Sicilians don’t necessarily identify themselves as Italians), Austria, St. Vincent), three biological parents (Venezuela, Canada, Italy, Germany, Britain, St. Vincent), and the two children (Germany, Canada) it really is a rich cocktail of opportunity.