Archive for 2004

Tom is here.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2004

Very good. This morning I picked up Tom Gieryn at Darmstadt central station, showed him his hotel, and introduced him to the Important Places on TU Campus. Which means to the mensa, where we had breakfast and lunch, and to the 603qm where we consumed hot beverages – all the time in the company of colleagues of mine. All of them so far have been supplied with names of authors and books to read. Most excellent. My personal favorite so far is John Stilgoe. I am really looking forward to his talk on Truth Spots tomorrow evening. There will be quite a few visitors from abroad, I think (mostly Mannheim and Bielefeld).

Conservatism and critique.

Saturday, December 11th, 2004

This week we talked about Richard Sennett‘s Corrosion of Character in our seminar on the diagnosis of capitalism in the 21st century. It has been a while since I last read Corrosion of Character, and over the course of the last years I seem to have forgotten some of the central arguments he made and some of the terms into which he molds his critique. Here, I want to focus on two terms in particular:

drift. I think this term describes the feeling many people experience living their lives without a firm anchor very well. Some kind of unknown but forceful current takes you into a direction, carrying you to a place that is not known, and, although appearing on the horizon, might never be reached because the currents have changed again, taking you to through murky waters to some other place. Will I be working in Berlin or in Darmstadt in 2006? Or maybe in some other city or even some other country? How long will I be there, what will I have to do there, whom will I (still) know and work with? What will my perspective be then? Will it actually be connected to what I am doing today, or will I have to work in a different sector? I will surely try to row and set sail to get to particular places, and I may know how to hold a certain course. But I am not sure if the drift will bring me to where I will go, or if it is me, and I know that the drift will have a much stronger influence on other people than it has on me.

corrosion. I realized how well this term works today, especially if one imagines the corrosion of character as the corrosion of a car’s body: it will begin slowly, eating away the metal structure under the finish. After a while the finish cracks, the fabric of the masks we want to wear and play with (comp. Sennett The Fall of Public Man) becomes threadbare, making it hard to maintain the images we want to create of ourselves. If the corrosion proceeds the structure itself becomes more and more fragile, and finally prone to collapse. Such an imperiled character might not have the strength to build up enough resistance to the forces of a capitalist economy that pushes and tears in several different directions.

In the discussion it also became very clear that Sennett is not formulating his critique from a postmodernist perspective. He wants to argue for a stabilization of characters, for anchoring them in some firm ground, for providing them with a coherent narrative that enables them to formulate their own desires, norms and positions; he does not argue for an urban guerilla that is always changing it’s shape, that is radically localized and fluent, appearing at unpredictable times and locations. I think that there are some convincing reasons for doing this, for taking this conservative position – a position that is probably based on his conception of the antique greek polis as he develops it in Stone and Flesh and some of his other works. The postmodern position probably also has its place. However, to me it also seems to be an elitist and group specific perspective: it relies on a group of actors who have to be highly qualified, highly mobile, independent, skilled with modern technologies and generally living a life-style that by its definition is restricted to a small minority of the population (a group, it might be added, that also relies on distinction from “the rest” of the population to a very high degree, even if it may sympathize with the poor, the homeless, and the disadvantaged.)

Who’s mad, who’s good, who’s bad.

Thursday, December 9th, 2004

Yes, the Universitet i Oslo also has it’s own film club – the Cinema Neuf (located in Chateau Neuf, of course). They have been showing a few Cassavetes films, and I was there when the presented A Woman Under the Influence. Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk are not the only actors that make this movie such a strong experience. However, they bear the burden of starring people living a life that is torn between conformity and the standards of normality as they are set by their neighbors and friends on the one hand, and living a life whose limits are defined by themselves, their desires, their bordering-on-the-pathological and bordering-on-brutal own standards and practices on the other hand. This never would be an easy task, it is even harder in a lower-class milieu in the US of A of the seventies. Watching this movie is a worthwhile thing to do – no mere passing of time in front of the screen…
IMDb entry

Praise university film clubs.

Thursday, December 9th, 2004

They give us the good movies for little money. Recently, Christian K. and I saw Identity presented by Darmstadt’s Studentischer Filmkreis. Very nice movie – good, winding plot, good cast and characters (John Cusak, Clea DuVall, Alfred Molina), classic american motel-mystery-thriller setting and many gallons of rain pouring down from the sky. I escpecially liked some of the small cinematic hints about what might actually be wrong with what is going on and who people really are (the blood stain on John McGinley’s (alias George York) shirt comes to mind).
IMDB entry | Trailer

Just in time.

Sunday, December 5th, 2004

When I arrived in Torp Airport thursday afternoon, the world was blanketed under snow and the twigs of the trees were collecting frost out of the air. On Friday the temperatures slowly began to rise, and Kerstin bought her new skis. Yesterday the temperatures were slightly above zero; Kerstin and I went out to actually do some skiing. Today it is even warmer, though it should still be possible to do some nordic skiing around Sognsvann, where Kerstin is living. The forecasts say that for the next few days the temperatures will stay above zero – I must say that I would have been disappointed if I would have arrived on a day when the snow was already melting, somehow that just takes the beauty away…

A sigh of relief and (hopefully) the end of comment spam floods.

Tuesday, November 30th, 2004

Finally, finally. After some e-mail exchange with Tony Shadwick I got the blacklist modification of the writeback plugin working. Now I am able to block the posting of comments that contain certain keywords. A few minor oddities regarding my blacklist remain to be resolved, but even as it stands right now I had several hours free of new comment spam. Yes, I am talking about hours. If I would have been able to spend all the time that I invested in removing spam over the course of the last weeks into writing new entries this blog would have been a much more interesting place. Let’s hope the best for the future – until then: Thanks Tony and Doug!

Without nostalgia.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

Last week Lars and I saw The Cooler (a movie from 2003) in Darmstadt’s Broadway movie theater – the acting (William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, and Maria Bello) was excellent. Acting, script and camera together produced a movie that showed us the decline of the old school Las Vegas casino. This kind of casino, with its gambling, its entertainers, its crime, and its sex appeal makes a wonderful setting for a movie, as has been demonstrated by many classics – what I liked most about this film is that it shows all of the attractiveness and seduction that emanates from this particular place, but it also shows that it’s an anachronistic place in a world where the real money, and real crimes are made by different people, and different businesses. A movie not only for casino aficionados.
IMDb entry | Trailer

The time before.

Thursday, November 18th, 2004

Last week I almost did not see Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries). Kerstin and I were quite tired and decided to walk around a bit and take a look at the movies currently on show in the Kulturbrauerei cinemas. Luckily, after turning around and starting to walk out of the cinema, we turned one more time and decided to watch this movie based on the journals of Che Guevara and Alberto Granado. Both pictures and story were good and captured a certain spirit of Latin America and of Guevara and Granado in this time, somehow manifesting itself in the many places they went through and the people they met on their journey through South America. This movie is not about revolution and politics per se. However, one feels how politics seep into the life of Guevara, and – what made this movie really worthwile for me – one can get a glimpse of what the world might have looked like through the eyes of the young Che. A beautiful and inspiring movie which you should see.
IMDb entry | Trailer

It is out!

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

Come and get it: Firefox 1.0 final release is ready to be downloaded! Two things make the user experience in Firefox stand out:

  1. Extensions: You can customize your Firefox to block ads, to use mouse gestures, to better code your website, and much more.
  2. Searching: You can easily extend the search field in Firefox’s toolbar. Just click at the Google G in the search field in the upper right corner and click the lowermost entry to add other search engines. I enjoy accessing, the wikipedia and the dictionary in that way.

Get Firefox!

If you are a mac user and do not heavily use extensions in Firefox, I recommend trying out a recent Camino nightly build, which is better suited to Mac OS X – it’s really sleek!

Measures against comment spam implemented.

Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Most of the time I spent on my blog during the last weeks has been spent removing comment spam. I thought that removing comment spam manually wouldn’t take up that much time but I was wrong. One argument against implementing an automatized solution to this problem was that they often block IP addresses or even ranges of IP addresses. This wouldn’t have been a good solution, since blocking these address ranges would keep other, legitimate users from accessing my blog. After being frustrated by another wave of comment spam I did some more research and found a modified comment plug-in for my blog software (blosxom). This plug-in is based on a keyword blacklist, which is regularly updated. It sounds good and I really hope that it helps keep the comments in this blog spam-free without requiring too much maintenance effort.

End of summer.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

This time of year also has a positive effect: the visitor/page view numbers for my site are increasing considerably. During the summer months both the total number of visits and the number of page views per visit are lower than they are in the rest of the year. For my site, the increase seems to begin in mid-september. I will keep you informed if the high-plateau has already been reached, or if the increase will continue into November. (Currently I have about 1.100 visitors per month with an average of about 1.6 page views per visit.)

Kvikk Lunsj – einfach; Nuts – total schwer.

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

Für die, die noch nix Süsses in Norwegen gekauft haben: Ich empfehle Kvikk Lunsj (ja, dieses Wort wird genauso ausgesprochen, wie man, leicht belustigt, denkt). Kvikk Lunsj ist dem hierzulande verkauften KitKat anverwandt jedoch selbigem überlegen und ausserdem Teil der Nationalkultur: kein anderer Schokoriegel hat solche Präsenz im öffentlichen Raum – ein längerer Blick aus dem Fenster der T-Bahn genügt, um mehrere Kvikk Lunsj Reklamen in unterschiedlicher Ausgebleichtheit zu sehen. Und das schon seit Jahren!
Hierzulande sollte man ja Nuts essen. Das Problem bei diesen beiden Schokoriegeln ist natürlich, das sie beim Verzehr möglichst frisch sein sollten. Aufgrund der hohen Verbreitung von Kvikk Lunsj in Norwegen fällt das dort leicht, der Umsatz ist hoch genug. Der Nuts Umsatz in Deutschland allerdings lässt sehr zu wünschen übrig, was dem Nuts Enthusiasten gar nicht behagt. Snickers-Menschen mögen da wohl kichern wollen, aber dieses Kreuz zu tragen nehmen wir Freunde des Nutskonsums gern in Kauf. Das ist Distinktion via Schokoriegel und deshalb hier auch der richtigen Kategorie zugeordnet.
Nur nebenbei: Habe gerade die erste Gliederung für meine Dissertation fertig gestellt.

Swiss Guard and the Red Army.

Sunday, October 17th, 2004

One of the most hilarious news since I started watching the news feed of BBC world showed up yesterday. Red Army choir performs for Pope. Check it out. I would have loved to witness that event. I am sure one could make at least three or four really interesting sociological articles based on this event. A chance I missed, to my utter regret…

From XHTML 1.1 to 1.0.

Sunday, October 17th, 2004

Yesterday the World Wide Web Consortium published a working draft called Specifying the Language of Content, after reading it I finally decided to change some of my pages from being coded according the the XHTML 1.1 standard to XHTML 1.0 Strict. I did this because of accesibility reasons: In XHTML 1.1 it is only allowed to specify the language of your content by using the xml:lang attribute.
The problem with this attribute is that most browsers (with the exception of Opera, I think) do only interpret the xml:lang attribute when the document is served as an XML document with a MIME type such as application/xhtml+xml (a way to accomplish this on my server is using the file suffix .xhtml instead of .html). The problem with serving pages as XHTML pages as XML is that in most cases the layout doesn’t work anymore.
However, most browsers, screenreaders, etc. can handle the lang attribute which is a valid attribute in XTHML 1.0. Therefore I switched. As recommended I am now using both the xml:lang and the lang attributes to declare the text’s language. This has the additional pleasant side effect that quotes are now automatically displayed according to the respective language’s standards. Not by Internet Explorer though, which doesn’t handle the quote element at all. Which is another reason to Browse Happy logo.

You can call me Confusious.

Friday, October 15th, 2004

No, this is not the first sentence of a novel that I am writing. Though it would actually be a good first sentence. Why would I like this sentence but still not use it in a novel? Well, the first person who guesses correctly will be invited to a free beverage of her or his choice!

Instead of a famous novel I present you with a short anecdote from the daily affairs of yours truly. Currently I am in Oslo – in the train from the airport to Oslo, to be exact – and sitting in this train comes as a surprise to me. This morning I thought that I would instead be sitting in a train from the airport Berlin Schönefeld to my humble apartment in Prenzlauer Berg right now. Well, it seems that I got something about the today’s date wrong. As the check-in lady of Norwegian told me with a hearty laugh, my flight will be leaving tomorrow, not today. Seems I got something wrong about today’s date and the date written on my ticket. Fine, this is funny, and I like a good laugh. However, if the lady would have known how I came to Oslo she might have been even more amused, more amused by the exact same amount that I have been more frustrated…
The thing is, when I sat in the train to Berlin Schönefeld Thursday last week, I was a bit less relaxed than I am now, and would most certainly have refrained from writing down anecdotes. I was quite anxious instead. The Tram had been late before I entered the S-Bahn to the airport. The S-Bahn was delayed even more. Minutes were passing quite quickly, the train finally arrived, I was running to the airport with a big load on my back, arrived 30 minutes before take-off, and they did not let me check in anymore. No hearty laughs there. So, last week, I missed the flight that I was supposed to have taken. (I had to pay the full price for a new ticket the following day – Norwegian might be a cheap airline, but it certainly is not a very flexible airline.) This week I am a day to early. *sighs* What does this tell me? Traveling by train is better than traveling by plane. Another possible conclusion would be that it be more comfortable if I knew when to be where and what to do there instead of just drifting through life.

Two days, six plus two heads, just four Euros.

Sunday, October 3rd, 2004

It’s amazing how cheap a good meal can be. I spent 4 EUR and 10 cents for the ingredients (ok, the Federweißer not included), we were six people with appetites ranging from considerable to smallish, and there was enough leftover cheese cake to feed me and Olli on the following day too. What is best: it was quite delicious too! We successfully used a recipe which Olli found in the internet.

Today is Onion Cake day.

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004

Lots of Federweißer will be consumed. Olli and I are not yet sure which recipe to do – will tell you more about recipe and results after consumption of cake.

Adequate to Asimov.

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

Last week Olli and I went to the Cinemaxx Colosseum in Berlin to watch I, Robot. I find it harder and harder not to succumb to the urge to raise my nose up a few inches and express my dislike for the multiplex theater industry. Slowly the Cinemaxxes are losing the appeal that they had during their first appearances here in Germany: they have lost the pristine newness. Patina doesn’t work in the multiplex world, in this context it is shabbyness. Dolby surround sound systems aren’t rare anymore, you can find good sound even in smaller independant cinemas. What is left is not very convincing: neither do they serve my favorite ice cream brand (no Nogger, no Cujamara Split!) nor do they provide a pleasant or at least festive atmosphere. The xth version of the Shrek 2 Menu with action puppets is not very inspiring. Well, back to the movie. It was better than I expected. Less action oriented than I would have thought. In contrast to Minority Report which was disappointing because it was just to clean to represent the depth and power of Philip K. Dick’s novel, this movie is based on elements from the many robot centered novels by Isaac Asimov, to which it seems to do some justice (it’s been a while since I read Asimov though… ) – obviously, I think Dick’s work is more complex and intriguing than Asimov’s.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Wie angekündigt.

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

Nach Einlegen einer Nachtschicht und heute noch einer lebendigen Diskussion mit Kerstin Bornholdt von der Universität Oslo habe ich den ersten Teil meines lektürebegleitenden Essays zu Maurice Merleau-Pontys Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung ins WWW gestellt. Wie immer bin ich über jedwede Rückmeldung erfreut, dieses Mal vielleicht sogar noch mehr als gewöhnlich, da ich mich hier in das fremde Terrain der Philosophie wage…

Mit einiger Verzögerung.

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

Den Text habe ich zwar schon im Mai geschrieben, und die Seite auch schon im Juni fertig gecodet, aber erst heute mache ich meinen Text zu den Begriffen Dinge und Materialität, Praxis und Perfomativität online verfügbar. Ich habe den Text im Anschluß an meine Präsentation im Graduiertenkolleg am 21. Mai geschrieben, um in der Diskussion aufgekommene Fragen zu klären und dem provisorischen und offenen Charakter der Präsentation noch etwas solideres folgen zu lassen. Bevor ich den Text ins Netz befördere wollte ich unter anderem noch Rücksprache mit meinem Betreuer und anderen halten; dies ist nun geschehen und jetzt solls endlich neue Inhalte auf meiner Seite geben!
In den nächsten Tagen werde ich auch den ersten Teil meiner Merleau-Ponty Verwurstung fertig geschrieben haben und ihn ebenfalls auf den Webserver hochladen.