Archive for 2008


Thursday, May 1st, 2008

our balcony at breakfast time during full spring cherry blossom timeThis is how life in spring should be. (Luckily, pollen do not transfer via the internet.) With a breakfast on the balcony on a gently warm spring day, life is unfolding like it should. See the cherry blossom tree in full flower? I am so grateful that is exists at exactly this spot on the earth’s surface. I really am. I made some more pictures for my future research project on the perception of nature in the city, thinking it should definitely encompass a visit to Japan during the time of cherry blossom. Ah! The ephemerality of aesthetics… :)

Schöne Suche.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Heute hat jemand nach wer hat den Ozean erfunden gegoogelt und ist in diesem Blog gelandet. Sehr hübsch. Ich weiß nicht, ob ich es bedauern soll, die Antwort nicht zu wissen…

Le scaphandre et le papillon – Accessing the world through one eye.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

The description of this movie sounds scary: the main editor of the French women’s magazine Elle has an ischemic stroke that leaves him completely paralyzed. (Time for a nod to French comic culture:) Completely paralyzed? No, not completely paralyzed. A single place of resistance remains. A single organ high up in the head. He can still actively use a single eye. And the accompanying eyelids. Eye and eyelids. This is the way he relates to the world. Even though his hearing (and smell, I think) remains intact, he can only express himself by opening and closing the eyelids of one eye. Not a very optimistic point of departure for a movie. In particular, for a French movie. However, this time we may be educated about the problems of the bourgeoisie, but we are also told a heart-moving story. The way that the main protagonist regains the world is not only grand in itself. It is also shown in a very compassionate and intimate way that still keeps enough distance to respect the dignity of this particular human being – something that is particularly important because the movie is based on true events, as they say. Great setting, great camera, great script, and (remember, this is a French movie after all) some really beautiful women. One need not fear The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Even if the setting is dire indeed. Do not only watch it if you are interested in problems of perception and communication, as I am. Take a heart and watch it, if the opportunity to do that should arise, regardless of what you think about the actual content of this movie – it is not about content, it is about relating to the things and the people we have around us.
IMDb entry | Trailer

No Country for Old Men – don’t mess around with the bad guys.

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

The main character of this excellent movie was highly sympathetic – careful, decisive, humane. But all of these qualities do not help if you (a) are at the wrong place at the wrong time and (b) are meddling in affairs where evil people have pretty high stakes. This is the outset of a movie that takes its time to tell a story, to depict three main characters who are all thoughtful and experienced. They cirle each other, all coming from very differenct directions. This movie was better than I expected indeed. The casting is perfect, the camera lets Texan plains tell their story, and the Mexican border tells another, related story. This is a very American movie – American in the best sense.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Bye bye Oslo.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

tracks and a loipe in the snowMy two stays as a guest researcher in Oslo are coming to an end. The day after tomorrow I will fly back to Darmstadt, where I will move into a new apartment. It has been a good time. Not only have I been productive, I have also had the chance to get to know some very nice and stimulating people. As if that would not be enough, I have also been able to get rid of the problems with my lower back and my shoulders – over the course of the last months they have all but disappeared and I cannot say how relieved I am that life without pain is still possible. I will certainly pay attention to avoid getting into such a state again, even though I will miss the fine hikes through the Nordmarka, which certainly contributed to my recuperation.

Von wegen billig einkaufen.

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Eigentlich habe ich mich ja schon auf das Einkaufen im Tiefpreisparadis Berlin gefreut. Aber bei Meldungen wie dieser: Datenschutzverletzungen: Lidl fällt als Wiederholungstäter auf fällt mir eigentlich nichts anderes mehr ein, als das Einkaufen bei Lidl dauerhaft zu boykottieren. Ich habe das auch schon in der Vergangenheit versucht, aber die Tatsache, dass die Lidl Filiale einfach direkt um die Ecke ist und dass die Waren dort billiger sind, haben mich doch immer wieder dort hinein gebracht. Schluss damit! Es kann nicht sein, dass man versuchen muss, solche unglaublichen Praktiken durch Verbraucherverhalten zu sanktionieren. Soweit darf es nicht kommen – insbesondere wenn die Vielen, die nur sehr wenig Geld zum Leben haben, kaum eine Alternative zum so-billig-wie-möglich einkaufen haben.


Friday, March 21st, 2008

Für meine leider erfolglose Bewerbung als Free Floater an der Göttinger Universität (bei der mir das ganze Exzellenzgerede mal wieder übel aufgestoßen ist) habe ich mir die Freiheit genommen, einen Forschungsplan ohne Literaturangaben einzureichen. Wenn schon frei treiben, denn auch wirklich und mal fort mit akademischen Konventionen!
Diesen Forschungsplan habe ich jetzt von Bewerbungsjargon (Selbstanpreisungen, Verortungen im Göttinger Forschungsumfeld, andere Lobhudeleien) befreit und online gestellt, denn eigentlich hat es mich vorangebracht, mir mögliche Zukunftsperspektiven bzw. eine Fortsetzung des Forschungsprojekts auszudenken. Aus dem Bewerbungsschreiben ist jetzt ein programmatisches Statement geworden, das vielleicht auch für Andere interessant sein könnte – entweder, weil das Projekt inhaltlich relevant ist, oder weil man mal schauen möchte, wie andere solche Projektpläne schreiben. Der Titel ist Materialität und soziale Ordnung – Inselgesellschaften im Klimawandel. Wie immer gilt auch für diesen Text: über Rückmeldung freue ich mich.

Reviewing science.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Maybe I have just found an explanation for the rise of sales: our book Encountering Urban Places got a very favorable review by Philip Lawson (Trinity College, Dublin) for the UGRG Book Review Series. Here is his conclusion – I’ll start the citation after his critique is over, of course… ;)

Overall, however, I find this a thoroughly interesting and thought provoking book. It really was not until I had finished reading it that I started to think about the various examples and how they are connected together. The variety of authors and topics illustrate how differing contexts shape urban social space in different ways. As is often the case with edited volumes, readers will find different essays interest them more than others. This is why it makes such a valuable contribution to the field of urban studies. I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the relationship between social and physical urban space and whether this be undergraduate, graduate, academic, for teaching, or even in terms of planning or architectural practice.

Thanks for the encouragement!

Selling science.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Yay! It seems that the book Lars and I edited last year sells well. This morning, Dr. Meier sent me the link to our book’s page at I opened it and marveled: we really seem to be doing well, at least much better than I expected. Then again, the amazon sales rank is always a moving target, so tomorrow we could be out of the charts again… Nonetheless, we want to take this as an opportunity to thank all of the contributors to Encountering Urban Places – and the unknown reviewer who thought that our book proposal sounds promising.

Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Dance the razor.

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

I am definitely enchanted by Tim Burton’s movies. They seem to be like children’s movies – colorful, funny, full of strange things that want to be discovered and explored. But this is only a fleeting suggestion, because his movies are more movies told from the perspective of a child than they are children’s movies. This in itself does not say much about his style, because it still misses out on the thing that Tim Burton does scaringly well: he embraces the cruelty that is part of children’s life and of their attitude towards the world. Long-term consequences, careful planning and intrigues – this is not what steers his characters. It is the delight of the moment, both in pleasure and in cruelty, that guides his characters, that makes his characters so fascinating and so horrible.
Sweeney Todd’s tale is a classic tale that has been told many times. One of the most successful versions was a Broadway musical. This movie is based on the musical, it is itself a musical. I did not know this about the movie before I went into the cinema and I liked this aspect very much. Those of you who know me better are aware that I am a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan – and one of my favorite episodes is episode 7, season 6: Once more with feelings. An excellent 45-minute musical that brings the season’s plot forward on many different levels while still being completely entertaining. Tim Burton offers a bow to the Buffy musical by guest starring one of the main actors of the Buffy series, Anthony Steward Head (a.k.a. Giles). This gesture alone would have me reconciled with any possible shortcomings of the movie, but even without it, it was a good movie. You should be warned though: it is the bloodiest Tim Burton movie that I have seen so far. That should be no surprise though: a barber uses a razor, and it is not difficult to guess what a demon barber will do with a razor. However, even if this is a good movie, for me, it is not one of the best Tim Burton movies – I was not as much involved emotionally as I usually am in his movies. (I think I almost cried during the first five minutes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, something which never happened to me before.)
IMDb entry | Trailer

Pan’s Labyrinth – Fantastic faun.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

I saw this movie much later than I wanted to – in fact I wanted to see it before watching last year’s Oscars. That obviously did not work out as planned. Therefore I took the opportunity when the filmclub of Darmstadt University of Technology showed the movie a few weeks ago. Seeing it at the film club had the added benefits of a low price, carry-in food to your liking, and evading the dubbed German version of the movie. Guerra has a certain ring to it. It is somehow different than war or Krieg. One thing, however, is almost always being evoked by this word: cruelty. The cruelty of war is not hushed in this movie, but the movie it achieves something much more important and much rarer: it shows how a child uses a world of fantasy to cope with the terrors that haunt herself, those who are dear to her, and those who are a threat. Is it only her fantasy? You should watch the movie and then decide. Latin american film and prose often has this magic twist. In any case, Guillermo del Toro has made a very good movie that is certainly worth watching. The movie got three oscars and a whole lot of praise. Because of that, I had very high expectations – they were not disappointed, but they were also not exceeded. Even though I am sure El Laberinto del fauno will loose a bit when watched on DVD it will still be a very good movie. Spanish language cinema has quite a bit to offer these years, don’t miss it!
IMDb entry | Trailer

Essays zu Dingen.

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Dank der aufgeschlossenen Mitarbeit von den Studierenden, die im letzten Sommersemester in meinem Seminar Materialität & Dinge, Wahrnehmung & Handeln einen Schein gemacht haben, kann ich jetzt fünf Essays zu verschiedenen Dingen ins Netz stellen:

Es gibt auch eine Übersicht zum Seminar. Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Back from the island.

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

sunset on the beach, North Sea island JuistAfter a long absence, I used the first opportunity that I could find for a visit to the island which is the focus of my new research project (which is still in development and funding-acquisition stage). It does not get any more off-season as it was during the last two weeks… which gave me plenty of time to catch up with work, reading, and the ever-changing geography of the island – and it made it much easier to repeatedly encounter and have some small interactions with those who live on the island the whole year through.

The Mist – that’s what I call an ending.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

We are in the wintry movie season, extending from the beginning of October to something Aprilesque. This is the time of year when horror movies galore enter the movie theaters. The Mist belongs to the genre, offering a setting not dissimilar to the setting of Dawn of the Dead: people get trapped inside a shopping mall, while Evil is lurking outside. That is how people feel today, one might guess – the shopping mall as a safe haven. However, this is the Horror genre, and the script is based on a Stephen King novel, so we are also taught some contempt for those fools who dwell in the shopping malls of this planet, too.
The effects and main storyline of this genre flick is not a big hit, but good enough for those who are into it. Especially for those who are into the Cthulu myth that has been created by H.P. Lovecraft in his early 20th century – there are some scary, overwhelming things out there in the mist… However, this is not much more than a neat bonus for those who know their literature, but it wouldn’t make this movie particularly interesting. The thing which makes writing this entry a worthwhile endeavor is its ending. In the last two scenes, we get a glimpse of the inventiveness that made The Shawshank Redemption (done by the same writer and director, Frank Darabont) such a great movie: interesting twists in the plot. I really loved how evil the ending is, and dearly recommend sitting through until the end to those with a twisted sense of humor.
IMDb entry | Trailer

Space, materiality, perception. The process of envelopment.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

I am quite happy to tell you that I will be presenting a paper at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) in Boston this April. Actually, I wanted to go to last year’s meeting in San Francisco too, but the deadlines were right in the middle of my dissertation, defense, and getting new job as a postdoc phase of turmoil, so that I was not able to apply. Things were not as stressful this season, therefore I found the time to craft an abstract. This is what I am going to talk about during the session Thinking Geography:

Entering a building or any other spatial setting, people encounter a new spatial-material and social constellation. This constellation envelops those who enter the setting. All kinds of impressions intrude upon those who enter, thus changing the things they perceive and the way they act. Noises, light and darkness, smells, the texture of surfaces, and many other aspects of the surroundings present themselves to the perception of those who enter. However, those entering a setting bring certain intentions with them. They are involved in certain activities and they follow bodily and mental routines. Thus they also produce an envelope of their own, which regulates the distance to their surroundings, their perceptions, and their actions. In consequence, the envelope is created both by people themselves and by their surroundings. In this presentation, I will use a phenomenologically informed approach to investigate spatialized activities. Thus I will show how the process of envelopment produces social control in ways that are hard to recognize and trace. Presenting video recordings taken in railway terminals in Germany and Scandinavia, I will demonstrate the subtle ways in which people relate to their spatial-material-social environments, thus opening a new perspective on how to understand issues of social control: a perspective that takes perception, bodies and materiality into view.

I am really looking forward to meeting many people who I haven’t met for two or three years – the AAG meeting usually is a very good occasion to get back into touch.

Der Himmel über Oslo.

Monday, January 21st, 2008

regenbogenfarben im abendhimmel über osloIch habe zwar noch kein Nordlicht gesehen, aber das war auch schon mal nicht von schlechten Eltern…
leuchtende Farben einer Wolke(Beide Bilder sind bis auf den Ausschnitt und etwas Kontrast nicht bearbeitet.)

The Darjeeling Limited – colorful trains.

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Back in Darmstadt, one of the first things I did was to go to the movies. There wasn’t much interesting on show, but the newest movie of director Wes Anderson caught my interest. Not necessarily because it was done by him (although I quite enjoyed The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), but more so because I really liked the main cast. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman – I like all three of them, and I was curious how three egos like theirs would interact on the big screen. (They are cast as unlike brothers who just lost their father and are searching for their mother in the Indian hinterland.) I am still unsure how to rate this movie. I think the idea, the casting, and the camera work are all well done. However, I was not entirely satisfied by the script and/or the directing. The story and the characters did not catch me emotionally, they remained somewhat on the surface, not touching deeper emotions. Perhaps this is the case because they were on the search for authentic emotions themselves? I do not know. Nonetheless, this movie was quite entertaining. And it was very colorful indeed. The design of trains and clothes ranges from beautiful via charming to hilarious.
IMDb entry | Trailer