Archive for February, 2004

When will the day come?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

It is not to be believed. It is nerve-wracking. I’ve put my diploma thesis online two years ago – since then the percentage of people visiting my site with the dreaded Netscape Navigator 4.x versions has not really declined. (Navigator 4.x dreaded? Why? Check these links if you want to know more: for people who know html, for Germans who are interested.)
In the beginning the percentage of Navigator 4.x users was hovering about four to eight percent. These days it may still reach 3 percent. This is just so utterly frustrating since I don’t want to introduce the more interesting features offered by CSS if they break the browsing experience for a significant amount of visitors; especially if those visitors are marginalized because of their hardware/software combination anyway. Not everybody has access even to a Pentium II 300 Mhz upward machine on which Windows 98 SE and Internet Explorer 5.x is installed. However, seeing the technological conservatism of many academic internet users, it seems to be likely that many people are browsing with Navigator 4.x versions because that is the browser which introduced them to the internet, and they don’t want to change the way they access the net. *sighs* Please spread modern browser evangelism and help people install browser that are more modern that Netscape Navigator/Communicator 4.x or Internet Explorer 4.x! Of course, I do recommend the browser developed by the open source community such as the Mozilla family.

We were not the only ones.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

This sunday Florian, Kerstin, and yours truly watched Cold Mountain. Why? Because it is nominated for several Oscars. Does that guarantee a good movie. No. I might not have gone to see it were it not for the cool evil albino bounty hunter type you can see in the trailer. Not going would have been the better decision. Bad script. Very bad script. With the exception of the battle in the first quarter of the movie, everything else was not at all intriguing. Formally nothing interesting and content-wise sometimes horrifying. People started to laugh during the closing scenes and when the main protagonists had their first (and only) erotic scene.

It’s shocking. So what?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

I wrote that I would write a review of Baise Moi which I saw a while ago. Well, my judgement hasn’t changed much since I saw the movie; I still don’t see much worthwile in this movie. The big thing about this movie supposedly lies in the fact that the sex/rape scenes are ‘real,’ i.e. the sex scenes are performed by actors and you can see them fuck and rape as you would in a porn movie. So what differentiates this movie from a violence oriented porn movie? My experiences with that genre are somewhat slim (which I don’t mind), but I wonder if the differences are that big. Otherwise, several scenes in this movie are ugly and cause physical discomfort for me (and the uglyness and causing of physical discomfort does not depend on the fact that the violent sex has really been performed. I also feel discomfort when watching the ‘fake’ shooting and non-sexual violence in this movie.) At the same time, I don’t feel very enlightended or shocked in a productive way – I just feel bad after watching this movie. The only positive effect that I can discern is that watching these kinds of movies makes me want things like this not to happen. Perhaps this is good enough. And perhaps you want to see the trailer.

Avoiding the easy.

Saturday, February 21st, 2004

Mystic River is another movie directed by Clint Eastwood which features un-heroic heroes (Unforgiven, my favorite movie directed by Eastwood is another fine example). These movie are good because they work in a way that is – sometimes disconcertingly so – different from other movies. They are more ambiguous in their morals. Usually I can understand why the characters act the way they do, but it is hard to judge for me if what they did is actually right or not. That is why I left the movie theater after watching Mystic River, and now find myself returning to the movie more often than I do with other movies, even other movies that I found otherwise better – this is a big compliment, I think, and it is true for all the movies directed by Clint Eastwood that I have seen so far.

A new generation?

Friday, February 20th, 2004

Two weeks ago Kerstin and I went to the movies to watch Lost in Translation. Of course, we have seen the Golden Globe Awards before, and we met a ton of people who recommended the film. The honors are justified. I will only focus on two things: face the one real challenge I have encountered regarding the quality of this movie and tell you why I think and hope that Lost in Translation might mark the beginning of a new generation in Hollywood film making.

The challenge: this movie is presenting an overly stereotypical and one-dimensional perspective on contemporary Japan. There are quite a lot of scenes in this movie on which this critique can be built, for example the karaoke scene, the cartoonish talk show episode, and perhaps even the meeting in the decadent table dance location. However, I would argue that this movie focuses on the particular experience of two US-Americans in Japan; what is displayed is their view on this culture. It is their perspective which is, of course, not free from stereotypes. Furthermore, the heroine (most beautifully imperfect: Scarlett Johansson) gets into two quiet encounters with Japanese culture. One is the visit two the Shinto temple during the beginning of the movie, the other is her trip (by train – yeah!) to Kyoto where she wanders through a park.
The hope: Sofia Coppola evades two traps into which many Hollywood movies have fallen. She neither goes for the boring (though still sometimes nice and somewhat charming) romantic comedy scheme with which the average movie theater customer is bombarded during the period from September until March – happy ends might make you smile, but they also tend to leave a somewhat bland taste: you don’t really believe (in) them… Nor does she dance the postmodern cinema dance, only offering episodes and clips of people’s paths crossing each for some unknown reason and fading away, probably with some sex and bloodshed happening at the crossroads to prep up the story and generate spectacular movie trailers. Instead, Sofia Coppola offers a toned down, plausible and still extraordinarily attractive, humorous and intriguing story about two people who meet each other under circumstances not under their control. Both trying to make something of the time they have, not really succeeding, but trying very hard; falling in love, being torn, but still not doing things I would not believe someone in their position would at least try to do. I do really hope that the better US cinema of the coming years takes this as an example, trying to create beautiful, intimate, and believable stories which still seem to have something to do with everyday experiences of (ok, in this case it is certainly not lower class) people in the western or northern hemisphere.
Check out the trailer.

Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg.

Wednesday, February 18th, 2004

This is where I am these days. Leaving Darmstadt last Friday I went northwards with my brother and his fiancee to celebrate my mum’s birthday this weekend. Since the semester is over now, I took the chance to stay in the vicinity of Hamburg for a few days and visit some dear friends whom I have not seen in a while. Internet connection time is scarce therefore, time for writing blog entries even more so, which is why you haven’t read any news for a while. Not that I don’t have anything to tell! I’ve seen Lost in Translation, Mystic River, and (on DVD) Baise Moi, and I want to write at least short reviews for them all, so keep a look-out.

Tsk. Forgot my ticket.

Saturday, February 7th, 2004

Just a moment ago the train attendant came by to check the tickets. It seems I left mine on the table in our office in Darmstadt. Bad Luck. We’ll see what happens… And we’ll see if the DB staff will handle it’s bahn.comfort customers in a different way.

I’ll probably update this entry in a while ;-)

Well so far we already had a change of staff, but the second team of attendants somehow seems to have overlooked my lacking of a ticket. Hehe.

Now back in Berlin. No further ticket hassles. Good Luck!

Finish in sight.

Saturday, February 7th, 2004

Another week’s work is done. This week I had quite a workload, as I had to prepare three different theory sessions for the History of Sociology class that I am teaching. The strike earlier this semester and my illness in the first week of this year made it necessary that we pack more stuff into the last sessions and even come up with an additional evening session. In addition, Lars and I had to do some conference-proposal related research which tightened the schedule even further.

However, it was a nice week. After wednesday’s History of Sociology evening session we went out to a pub with a significant percentage of people who participate in my seminar. It was my first teacher-drinks-cold-beverages-with-his-students experience ‘from the other side.’ It was very nice. I enjoyed the seminar itself, the students (most of them first semesters/freshmen) were better than I expected them to be, and going to the pub was nice too. If circumstances bring up the possibility of teaching this seminar again, I would be happy to do so.

Next week will be the last week of this semester. Only one more session remains to be prepared (Ulrich Beck on Globalization), and a final friday meeting of the college’s members lies ahead. Yeah!

Gilbert, malt and classic hits.

Monday, February 2nd, 2004

A short report of Saturday Night: The Sumpf is definitely a very pub-ish pub; with aged rockers working behind the bar, a nice selection of beers and whiskies (including a “malt of the week” for € 2.70 – which was a Bushmills in our case) and a relaxed clientele between 23 and 50, most of which were probably between 27 and 35. The music was excellent and quite diverse, as Saturday was an event featuring the Nathalie Bar. Steffen and I stayed until about two o’clock, then we checked out the 603qm which was already closed. We decided to go home and get some sleep. Alas, on my way home I rode past the Schloßkeller, another location which is related to the AStA of the TU Darmstadt. Well, there I stayed late and enjoyed the usual serving of “classic hits”. Sunday was a day of sleeping, relaxation and web site actualization for the post-graduate college’s homepage.