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berlin slogans

Berlin - Liebe

Berlin - Verweile doch

More to follow. First, off to Mexico...

Update: The above neon cry, in front of Berlin's Deutsches Theater, is of course a quote from Goethe's 'Faust' (as was kindly pointed out to me - tnx Mart). Here's the context and translation:

Werd ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! du bist so schön!
Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
Dann will ich gern zugrunde gehn!

If to the fleeting hour I say
'Remain, so fair thou art, remain!'
Then bind me with your fatal chain,
For I will perish in that day.

steamboat bill, jr

What's a blog without some YouTube these days, right? So here's an awesome, old-fashioned spectacle Buster Keaton clip. It's a compilation (re-edit) of the famous storm sequence from 'Steamboat Bill, Jr.', including what probably ranks as his most famous stunt ever -- yes, the one where the house crashes over his head. Bear in mind this was done with a real building front and no trickery (or so legend has it).

For a less mashed-up experience, you may want to watch this with the music (Orbital) turned down.

Lots of Buster Keaton films, including this one, are available for download at Archive.org.


Check out 'Home' by London-based "mysterious directors collective" Big Red Button. A tragicomic short film with some subtle twists, solid acting and economical storytelling, it has a kind of painful, endearing honesty you don't see much.

Other assorted Big Red Button virals here.

one must

Couldn't find a translation for this one, so it'll be in Dutch today...

Men moet

Men moet zijn zomers nog tellen, zijn vonnis
nog vellen, men moet zijn winter nog sneeuwen

men moet nog boodschappen doen voor het donker
de weg vraagt, zwarte kaarsen voor in de kelder

men moet de zonen nog moed inspreken, de dochters
een harnas aanmeten, ijswater koken leren

men moet de fotograaf nog de bloedplas wijzen
zijn huis ontwennen, zijn inktlint vernieuwen

met moet nog een kuil graven voor een vlinder
het ogenblik ruilen voor zijn vaders horloge -

-- Gerrit Kouwenaar

Poetry International Web has an English profile of Kouwenaar ("Kouwenaar's poetry is usually described as a kind of murder") and a number of translated poems.

See also 'Gerrit Komrij over Gerrit Kouwenaar', discussing this poem (in Dutch). Among other things he calls attention to the concluding dash (instead of a period), which he calls "the loudest punctuation mark I know."

minz un/mute ep

Finally out, Minz' debut 'Un/mute EP' (Perspectiv Records) is self-described "deep electronic dance music with attention to detail, influenced by techno, house, acid and dub."

Its four tracks share deep, groovy basslines and hypnotic, very danceable beats, while also showing great versatility. At turns one is reminded of Plastikman, Basic Channel and Autechre (to name a few far-flung comparisons that come to mind).

But it's the sound design's richness of detail and meticulous production that makes these tracks work equally well as listening music. The two longer tracks especially will probably not make it to the dance floor uncut. Hopefully they'll serve as 'trailers' for people to listen to the full stories...

Highly recommended!

Check Myspace.com/minzmusic for samples and minzmusic.net for an unreleased track and live dates in Amsterdam.

a fairy-tale from the north

An old man set out to go into the woods, although he didn't know what for. Then he came back and said:
-- Hey, old woman, you!
The old woman fell straight down. Since then, the hares are white in winter.

By Russian absurdist writer Daniil Kharms, this may just be the shortest fairy-tale ever.

Kharms, best remembered as a children's writer, was a prominent member of the Russian avant-garde in the 1920s, 'subverting' literature with his illogical and fantastic stories until the Soviet censors intervened and he was exiled.

Around the same time, also in St. Petersburg, Vladimir Propp in his 'Morphology of the Folktale' reduced the fairy-tale to a set of 31 structural elements. I don't know if Kharms knew Propp, but it's tempting to read his fairy-tale as a parody of Propp's rigid analysis...

The Absurdist Collective has a collection of Kharms stories in English.

chinese art and greek art

Following up on my earlier post on Pamuk's 'The Black Book', it appears the story about the competition between the two painters was inspired by a poem by Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Not entirely surprising, as his work plays such a large role in 'The Black Book'. In Rumi's version (13th century) the competition is between Chinese and Greek artists, and it is used as a parable to illustrate the Sufi way.

Here's the poem, called 'Chinese Art and Greek Art', quoted in full:

The Prophet said, "There are some who see me
By the same light in which I am seeing them.
Our natures are one.
Without reference to any strands
Of lineage, without reference to texts or traditions,
We drink the life-water together."

Here's a story
About that hidden mystery:
The Chinese and the Greeks
Were arguing as to who were the better artists.
The king said,
"We'll settle this matter with a debate."
The Chinese began talking,
But the Greeks wouldn't say anything.
They left.
The Chinese suggested then
That they each be given a room to work on
With their artistry, two rooms facing each other
And divided by a curtain.
The Chinese asked the king
For a few hundred colors, all the variations,
And each morning they came to where
The dyes were kept and took them all.
The Greeks took no colors.
"They're not part of our work."
They went to their room
And began cleaning and polishing the walls. All day
Every day they made those walls as pure and clear
As an open sky.

There is a way that leads from all-colors
To colorlessness. Know that the magnificent variety
Of clouds and the weather comes from
The total simplicity of the sun and the moon.

The Chinese finished, and were so happy.
They beat the drums in the joy of completion.
The king entered their room,
Astonished by the gorgeous color and detail.

The Greeks then pulled the curtain dividing the rooms.
The Chinese figures and images shimmeringly reflected
On the clear Greek walls. They lived there,
Even more beautifully, and always
Changing in the light.

The Greek Art is the sufi way.
They don't study books of philosophical thought.

They make their loving clearer and clearer.
No wantings, no anger. In that purity
They receive and reflect the images of every moment,
From here, from the stars, from the void.

They take them in
As though they were seeing
With the lighted clarity
That sees them.

From: 'The Essential Rumi', translated by Coleman Barks.