Archive for 2006

Goya’s Ghosts – good paintings do not make a good movie.

Friday, December 29th, 2006

This review has to start with a sigh. A sigh, because I find the paintings and sketches of Francisco Goya to be almost overwhelmingly expressive. A sigh too, because both the story and the performance of the actors did not convince me. The story should have been gripping and tear-evoking. However, I did not feel very moved. I cannot really point a finger at a single cause, but somehow this movie did not touch my heart. The paintings that were shown on the big screen did though. Go see it if you are really into Goya’s paintings and if you do not have the opportunity to visit a museum that displays his work.
IMDb entry

The Departed – doubled suspense.

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon: who can tell them apart? In this movie, they enter a very nicely scripted double play. They are enemies, counterparts, and mirror images of each other. Distorted images though. And this is what kept the movie interesting for me. Although I am not too big a fan of Scorsese movies (I always thought he would be written with a c: Scorcese – but he isn’t), I really enjoyed this one. I hope my feeling was caused by the movie and not by chilly temperature in Darmstadt’s Rex cinema… If you are into variations of the Mafia theme or if you are just looking for some – tough – entertainment, then this movie is for you. For me it was good enough to be recommended to people that are not too much into the genre – as a thriller and action movie it was not as good as The Fugitive, but it was at least playing in the same league. Hmm, that is quite the honor. I hope I do not place this movie too high on the scale…

IMDb entry | Trailer

Marie Antoinette – good style does not fill two hours.

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

I really enjoyed the first thirty minutes of Marie Antoinette. Kirsten Dunst is, of course, enchanting and does not need Spiderman kissing her to show how charming she is. I also enjoyed the camera, the intimate perspective on the way the soon-to-be Queen of France experiences her world. And it is a strange world, full of exquisite beauty but also full of protocol and, in particular, far, far away from the world of the bourgeois or – unthinkable – the poor and the workers. In this world, Marie Antoinette has a few friends and many, many things around her: jewelry, tapestries, clothes, more clothes, shoes, shoes, and then some more shoes and an excess of delicacies. Looking at this assembly of beautiful and delicous things through the eyes of La Dauphine and mixing this experience with a well-chosen rock music soundtrack (instead of resorting to classical music appropriate to the era) creates a particular movie that is definitely worthwile watching. If only the story would be more catching! The script did not offer much to stimulate my attention so that I had to resort to watching in aesthetic mode – doing this for two hours was a bit too much, to my regret. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to Sofia Coppola’s next movie. There is some really great potential – I love her intimate and respectful view on people’s lives and the ways in which they see, touch, and feel their world. I also vote for more rock music in medieval settings: A Knight’s Tale is one of my favorite entertainment movies, though cheesy it has a lot of heart. This story did not unfold in a way that really touched me, very much to my regret.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Dissertation is done & defended.

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

wine and pretzel leftoversI guess the last entries displayed the change in lifestyle that occurred in the last week: I am finally done with the dissertation! This has generated more than a few sighs of relaxation.
The defense (or disputatio) of my dissertation has been tougher than I expected. After talking about my thesis in a thirty minute presentation – in which I did not use any fancy multimedia things at all – I was probed and questioned for one looong hour. The fact that I knew all of the professors on the committee did not make their questions less inquisitive and difficult. Just to point out the degree of concentration that was necessary to work my way through this trial: I had a full glass of water standing next to me, two times during the 90 minutes I thought about taking a sip, but it doing so would have distracted me too much. I did not drink anything from this glass… However, now it is over. And it went very well enough: magna cum laude. Afterwards we had sparkling wine and pretzels; the leftovers are displayed on the photo.
Even though we celebrated the successful finishing of my dissertation it has only been during the last few days that I started to realize that I am actually done. My deeply felt thanks go to all those who supported me during the last three and a half years – both intellectually, personally, and financially: Ihr wißt, wenn Ihr gemeint seid: Dankeschön!

Scoop – The Charming Side of Being.

Saturday, December 2nd, 2006

I feel very much indebted to Woody Allen. He has provided so many entertaining hours. I love to go to one of his movies, knowing beforehand that I will leave the cinema light-hearted and with a smile on my lips. Of course, not all of his movies are like this. Some of his dramas can be heart-breaking. Not Scoop though. Woody Allen and Scarlett Johannson make a great team: both clumsy in their own particular ways, they dabble their way through a murder mystery story. I do not often laugh in cinemas. This movie got me either chuckling or cackling, depending on the degree of entertainment delight caused in yours truly’s heart and belly. I have admit that I am easy prey for Allen’s humor, though. For me it was enough to see the font in the opening credits (it is Windsor for those that are interested in these things) to make a sigh escape my lips and pleasant relaxation to set in. From my (and Olli’s) perspective, he should receive the next lifetime achievement Oscar.
IMDb entry | Trailer

James Bond: Casino Royale – Rough Boy Bond.

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

As I wrote more than a year ago, I want gritty not super. From this perspective, the new Bond has a lot to offer. Although I first thought bah, he does not look like James Bond, I, as many others too, with time got interested in the new character. How can this man be James Bond? He is neither slick nor charming. He looks more like a battered warrior in a suit. And that is what he is. From the usual spectacular opening to the citations we all know: Bond has been reinvented. He now has a history and is thus becoming more than just a mask worn by a changing array of gentlemen that seduce pretty ladies. He seduces, but he also falls in love. He kills, but it is clear that killing is a messy business. For those who like the gritty and who have a certain liking to the genre, this movie is a must go. For all others, this movie might be a welcome change or not – at least it is not boring, as were the last two or three movies, all of them more marketing and special effects vehicles than anything else (not that we are safe from marketing in the new Bond, there are labels everywhere – quite annoying indeed).
IMDb entry | Trailer

Samaria – Death with a young girl’s smile.

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

Back in Darmstadt means back in the well-guided care of the Studentischer Filmkreis Darmstadt, which currently hosts a Kim Ki-Duk feature. Samaria is disturbing, like most of Kim Ki-Duk’s movies. For me, this movie had two key scenes, concerning either death or departure. One is strangely remote and quiet. A girl dies with a smile on her face that lingers on after her violent end. The other is noisy and full of exhaust fumes. Shame and honesty bring forth a departure that is long planned but still surprising in the care it expresses. These are only some of the poetic scenes of the movie. Although poetic, Kim Ki-Duk is always controversial – children selling their bodies to men who are seemingly not beasts but also tender lovers, a caring father who causes a blood-bath (in a very literal sense) – this movie is not for the faint-hearted. It throws a quiet and violent view on a world that is filled with silence and revenge both working against the dreams of a better life.
IMDb entry | Trailer

The Science of Sleep – A Sense of Wonder and Confusion.

Sunday, November 19th, 2006

Back to the cinema. It is good to be able to go to the movies again! This week I saw the new movie directed by Michel Gondry, the frenchman who directed one of the nicest movies of the year 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. However, the script for that movie was written by my favorite screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann. How well did Gondry fare without Kaufmann? Very well. He succeeded at giving his characters an aura that is both dreamlike and very real. They revel in strange fantasies, build wondrous worlds made of cardboard, paper, and plastic foil and the main character lives a life bordering on schizophrenia. They love and fear not to be loved, they woo and push each other away. The cast is great and the shooting works very well. The only aspect of this movie that did not enthrall me wholly was … the script. The conflicts between the potential lovers unfold in a way that is well known and, seen with a bit of distance, not really surprising or captivating. Nonetheless, if you have a sympathy for the weirdly creative and fantastic ways of fabricating worlds in your dreams, then you should definitely see this movie. I also think that the German dubbing did a very good job for a movie that certainly was not easy to translate.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Die letzte Prüfung.

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Donnerstag nächste Woche wird die letzte benotete Prüfung meines Lebens stattfinden. (Ich glaube jedenfalls, dass nach Abschluss der Doktorarbeit keine weitere Prüfung kommt, bei der man benotet wird.) Spannend ist es aber auch ganz unabhängig davon ob es die letzte Prüfung ist – wie man sich leicht vorstellen kann. Das Promotionsverfahren ist mit der Prüfung, der sogenannten Disputation, abgeschlossen und die Note steht fest. Bevor ich aber den Doktortitel führen darf, muss die Arbeit veröffentlicht werden. Da ich die Arbeit als Buch über einen guten Verlag veröffentlichen will, wird sich das noch etwas hinziehen – mit etwas Glück ist es in sechs bis zwölf Monaten so weit…
Doch vorher will noch am Vortrag gefeilt werden. Die Disputation findet am kommenden Donnerstag um 16 Uhr im Residenzschloß in Darmstadt statt und ist öffentlich. Nach dem zwanzig- bis dreißigminütigen Vortrag folgt eine Diskussion von ungefähr einer halben bis einer Stunde. Meine GutachterInnen sind Prof. Dr. Helmuth Berking und Prof. Dr. Martina Löw (beide Soziologie). Die PrüferInnen sind Prof. Dr. Petra Gehring (Philosophie) und Prof. Dr. Dieter Schott (Geschichte). Danach ist dann alles vorbei. Und das wird begossen!

Besuch vom JobCenter.

Sunday, November 12th, 2006

Schon in der vergangenen Woche hat es bei uns an der Haustür geklingelt als ich nicht da war. Zwei Herren vom JobCenter haben sich über die Sprechanlage bei meinem Mitbewohner nach mir, der anderen Mieterin und ein, zwei Kleinigkeiten erkundigt, nachdem mein Mitbewohner ihnen gesagt hat, dass ich nicht da bin. Das wäre ja schon ärgerlich genug. Aber die Herren haben natürlich nicht so schnell locker gelassen und sind einen Tag später noch einmal gekommen. Wieder war ich nicht da. Erst dann haben sie sich zu einer Terminabsprache bemüht und mich unter der von mir beim JobCenter angegebenen Mobiltelefonnummer angerufen. Ich habe dann mitgeteilt, dass ich die nächsten Tage leider nicht zu Hause bin, weil ich gerade eine Wohnung für meinen neuen Job in einer anderen Stadt suche. Soweit so gut. Ich dachte damit wäre es dann abgefrühstückt, schließlich bin ich sowohl durch das baldige Ende meiner Erwerbslosigkeit als auch durch die anstehende Verlegung meines Hauptwohnsitzes in ein paar Wochen raus aus der Statistik des JobCenters Pankow.
Aber diese Woche Mittwoch flatterte dann ein Schreiben des JobCenters in meinen Briefkasten (die Herren waren anscheinend wieder da, jedenfalls war es unfrankiert). Darauf die Bitte mich am folgenden Tag zwischen 8 und 10 Uhr mit Ihnen in Verbindung zu setzen. Wortlaut: Der Besuch ist notwendig, um Anspruchsvoraussetzungen ihres Antrags vom bla.bla.2006 prüfen zu können.
Nun denn. Ich habe zurückgerufen und mir wurde gesagt, dass am nächsten Tag zwei Herren vom Außendienst meine Wohnverhältnisse prüfen möchten. Sie würden zwischen 12 und 15 Uhr kommen. Ich habe dem Termin zugestimmt. Warum? Eigentlich hat mich dieses Verfahren so geärgert, dass ich ausgesprochen wenig Lust hatte, irgendwelche Schnüffler in meinen Schubladen wühlen zu lassen und mir von ihnen, ohne irgendein konkretes Verdachtsmoment, Fragen stellen zu lassen, wie sie einem potentiellen Straftäter gestellt werden. Warum also die Leute auch noch gleichsam freiwillig in die eigenen vier Wände lassen. Natürlich weil ich blank bin. Ohne Moos nix los. Das JobCenter hat mir für diesen Monat noch nichts überwiesen und ich bin dringend auf das Geld angewiesen. Also ordne ich mich der Gewalt unter – und als nichts anderes habe ich das empfunden.
Vor dem Besuch habe ich mich erstmal auf den Seiten der Kampagne Vorsicht!Arbeitslosengeld II informiert. Als ob ich nicht anderes zu tun hätte, als mich mit Hartz IV rumzuschlagen. Aber Wissen hilft – mindestens denjenigen, die privilegiert genug sind, einen Internetanschluss zu haben und diesen auch nutzen zu können.
Die Herren kamen natürlich ca. 10 Minuten vor 12, aber was solls. Beim Eintreten habe ich beide Ausweise geprüft und ihnen jeweils noch mal ihre Namen vorgelesen. Die Herren haben vorm Eintreten noch gesagt, dass ich nicht verpflichtet sei sie hereinzulassen, Paragraph xy und so. Ich habe sie aber trotzdem hereingelassen und sie im Flur darauf hingewiesen, dass ich ihnen gerne mein Zimmer und die Gemeinschaftsräume zeige, ich aber nicht möchte, dass ohne mich zu fragen irgendwelche Schubladen oder Schränke geöffnet werden. Ich hätte wohl viele Geschichten gehört. Ja, habe ich. Um es abzukürzen, die beiden haben sich zivil verhalten, der eine hat das Gespräch geführt und dabei Notizen gemacht, der andere hat nur Notizen gemacht und meine Sachen bespäht. Wir waren in meinem Zimmer, dem mit meinem Mitbewohner geteilten Arbeitszimmer und der Küche (das Bad war während des gesamten Besuch von ca. 12 Minuten durch meinen Mitbewohner in Benutzung). Zu allen Zimmern wurden einige Fragen gestellt, in denen es darum ging, festzustellen ob es hier eine eheähnliche Gemeinschaft gibt. Die gibt es hier aber nicht, in der Wohnung wohnen nur mein Mitbewohner und ich, die Hauptmieterin wohnt seit über zwei Jahren in Oslo. Die Herren schienen mit dem Erscheinungsbild zufrieden, jedenfalls derjenige, der das Gespräch führte und der sich etwas als Good Cop dargestellt hat – wenn ich das mal richtig einschätze. Falls es noch ein Nachspiel geben sollte, werde ich das natürlich hier wiedergeben. Mich hat diese Prozedur und die Androhung derselben auf jeden Fall für über eine Woche direkt terrorisiert und so wirkt sie auch jetzt noch nach. Wie ein verdächtiger Straftäter behandelt zu werden ist nicht sehr angenehm – ich möchte nicht in der Haut von Leuten stecken, die psychisch weniger robust und im Auftreten gegenüber solchen Herren weniger resolut sind.

Digital Photography.

Friday, November 3rd, 2006

I am really content with my new camera, a Canon EOS 400D. The image quality is most excellent, the amount of noise even at the maximum ISO value (1600) is quite small, it reacts almost instantaneously, and it offers a whole lot of interesting, useful, and even easily accessible settings. Photography has become even more fun!
Before buying this camera, I used my old Canon EOS 300 to make slides. After four to eigth months I would take all my new slides and scan them in a several day session using a high-resolution slide scanner (a Nikon 4000). Even with all the time and work that I invested during these scanning marathons, the image quality of the pictures taken by the 400D is just plain better, especially regarding noise. And that is not even considering the numerous usability advantages of digital cameras. The best thing is that I can still use the lens that I bought for my 300: a pretty good Canon EF 28-105 II USM. Not losing this investment is what finally convinced me of buying the 400D. The only disadvantage is that the 400D crops images at a 1.6 ratio. That means that all my pictures are effectively taken at a longer focal range – 28-105mm becomes 44.8-168mm. Because of this, it has become difficult to shoot interiors… I guess that means I will need to get a wide angle lens eventually.
photo of Oslo at night taken from planeThe picture you see here is showing the limits even of this new camera: I wanted to shoot Oslo at night from the plane with which I arrived here the evening before yesterday. I particularly liked the scene because of the moonlight reflecting on the waters of the Oslofjord. However, planes are moving fast and even with ISO 1600 the camera needed a one second exposure time. Thus the result shown here.

Loitering in my favorite loitering spot again.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Ah well, this is what I like so much. Arriving in Darmstadt, I can get rid of my luggage and then walk over to the 603qm. Outside, it is almost stormy. Inside, there are people that I recognize and appreciate. Even people you do not know offer some of their chocolate to not-too-famished strangers like yours truly. Perfect. It’s good to be back for another two years. And now it’s time to get another beverage. And perhaps some pastry goodness.

Später Lavendel.

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

photo of lavender growing on my balconyGoldener Oktober. Heute noch mal auf dem Balkon gefrühstückt. Die Wespen sind immer noch unterwegs, aber schon etwas träge, so dass Olli und ich sowohl Brötchen geniessen als auch ausblühenden Lavendel anblinzeln konnten.
So erholt man sich doch gerne von einer Magen-Darm Infektion.
Hm. Irgendwie passen goldener Oktober, blühender Lavendel und Magen-Darm Infektion nicht so richtig zusammen. Aber wir wollen mal nicht weiter in diese jeweiligen Bilder und ihre Assoziationen einsteigen. Hö.
Kerstin sagt, in Oslo regnet es schon seit zwei Wochen und es sind sechs Grad. Die Arme. *hämisches Grinsen*

Die schöne Brache.

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Foto Baustelle Choriner Straße 32a 21. Oktober 2006Mit einem Seufzer im Herzen habe ich heute noch mal ein Bild von der früheren Brache auf dem Gelände Choriner Straße 32a gegenüber von unserem Balkon gemacht. Vor kurzem hat Olli da noch in der Sonne gesessen und meine Dissertation Korrektur gelesen. Aber nun wird die verführend verfallende Fläche von der Härte des Immobiliengeschäfts ereilt. Ich habe bisher noch keine Tafel erspäht, die ankündigen würde was auf dem ehemaligen Gelände der KiTa eigentlich gebaut wird. Eine große Erleichterung ist nur, dass der wundervolle Kirschbaum (im Bild unten rechts) anscheinend erhalten bleibt. Es wäre wirklich grausam gewesen, wenn der hätte fallen müssen…

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

So, who’s who? First, there are the people from Darmstadt. They sent me a letter today. If you were listening to the sounds of the rumor mill you might have already guessed what is inside… Yes! It did work out as I hoped. 11 a.m. September 22nd I handed in my Dissertation. Two hours later I had my job interview for a postdoc position in the new post-graduate college Topology of Technology. Today I received the written approval of the college. Yay! Beginning sometime in November or December, I will not be dependent on the totally incompetent and not-so-subtly cruel social workfare system. That, I can tell you, is a relief in itself. However, it is of course much better than that because I really wanted to work exactly in that position: a post-doc in a Graduiertenkolleg, and even better, a post-doc in a Graduiertenkolleg that consists of people that are intellectually brilliant, socially competent and personally likeable. More about all of this in later posts.
But – as the title of this post hints – this is not all the news that I got. The above was, quite easily guessed, the good part. Now comes the bad. Last week, construction work has begun right across on the other side of the street. Yes, that is also right in front of our beloved balcony. Meow. We’ll see how the construction site develops but it appears as if the greatest and most marvellous part of the whole Choriner Straße will be left standing: the huge Cherry tree that astounds everyone when it becomes a world of blossoms in the spring. It would have been a grievous loss indeed. This was the bad.
Now comes the ugly. As usual, it has something to do with our Landlord. The property management firm Kirchner & Freund, which manages the building we live in, is not exactly shining in the bright light of competence. This in itself could be bearable. However, their letters also hint at a certain vice that is fostered by what one may quite righteously call capitalism. Thus they raised the rent by about ten percent a few years ago. We complied grudgingly. This year, they again wanted to raise the rent by roughly nine percent. We did not agree and sent them the necessary objections. They did not accept. (No surprise there.) We agreed to a partial raise by a bit more than one percent and paid the respective sum. To this partial agreement they never replied. Instead, I found a letter in our letterbox yesterday. It was utterly official and sent from the local court. They actually sued us! Sadly this is a joke but the ugly truth. We’ll see how things go. Since all the prior steps had been made in accordance with the Berliner Mieterverein, we will be financially supported by the renter’s association. I already contacted a lawyer and sent all the documents to his office. Ugly business. But better have the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly than ride with the trio of the apocalypse…
*starts playing the harmonica*

Leckerer Schlapf.

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Wenn man kaputt ist wie heute nach einer Wanderung zum Ullevålseteren und wirklich Hunger hat empfiehlt es sich, mehrere Teller Leckeren Schlapfs zu essen.
Was braucht man? 500 Gramm Nudeln (Spiralnudeln oder Penne), ein Packung Schmelzkäse (oder auch etwas mehr, je nach Gusto), ein bis zwei Zwiebeln, eine große Dose Erbsen oder das Äquivalent an Tiefkühlware, Kochschinken und eine Handvoll Schinkenspeck. Etwas Milch oder Sahne. Pfeffer und Salz.
Die Nudeln werden wie üblich gekocht. Während dessen Zwiebeln und Speck klein schneiden und in etwas Fett goldig braten. Wenn die Nudeln gar sind das Wasser abgießen und die angebratenen Zwiebeln samt Speck und allen anderen Zutaten dazugeben (den Schinken klein schneiden), etwas Milch darüber gießen, so dass der Boden des Topfs bedeckt ist. Das Ganze dann unter stetigem Rühren miteinander verquicken, bis der Schmelzkäse seine Bestimmung gefunden hat, also geschmolzen ist. Mit Salz und Pfeffer abschmecken. Die Chose ist fertig, wenn sich beim Rühren ein Appetit machendes Schlapfgeräusch einstellt.
Heiß servieren und bitte so portionieren, dass man sich mindestens ein weiteres mal auftun kann, denn das Nachfüllen ist ein zentraler Bestandteil des Leckeren Schlapfs.

University of Oslo’s Library.

Friday, October 6th, 2006

reading desks in empty library during the eveningThis is the place where I like to catch up with work. Bit by bit, in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
During the day there are people sitting at the desks, of course. But I did not want to shoot them with my brand new digital camera (more on that in one of the next posts), even though they tend to forget turning their mobile phones off.

The aftermath.

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Back to the screen. I definitely needed to take a break from the screen for a while. Strolling through the Odenwald, bathing in the North Sea, cycling through Schleswig-Holstein and now breathing the clear air of Oslo I recuperated from the stress of the last months.
Thus I am now up to the task of catching up with all the things that accumulated over the course of the last months. Luckily, there is no desperate need to hurry anymore. And going to the dentist is not exactly something I really missed while I was working on my dissertation…

Now printing: page 1369.

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

Exhaustion. Luckily, the laser printer is still doing solid work, jutting out one page after the other. 6 times 308 pages. I did not get a lot of sleep last night. And I have some difficulties focussing on things that are more than a few meters away. I guess everything will be fine. Tomorrow I will drop the dissertations on their table…

The last line.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Last night I finally reached it! Time to take a deep breath and then plunge into the text again… Moving, changing, editing, cutting, adding – this is what will keep me occupied for another week.