Tuesday, February 26, 2008

inTouch Magazin Photo Death Match - Nr. 09 - 21 Februar 2008

There used to be this incredible Robotech-themed Hollywood gossip blog. Among other things, it featured a weekly column tallying the number of photo appearances by various celebrities in each issue of Us Weekly. Well, a long train ride found Kelly in possession of the latest issue of inTouch Deutschland. Perhaps as a tribute, she ran a tally. We couldn't be more pleased to announce that Paris Hilton (yes, yes, link SFW) holds the top position with an aggressive 14 featured pictures. And, welcome back sweet 2004, Nicole Richie comes in second with 10 shots, aided by the recent birth of her first child.

For the record, aside from the Beckhams and Amy Winehouse, the German-language inTouch is pretty much exclusively American. But, y'know, with that inimitable continental perspective. No, that doesn't mean a “Jim Jarmusch: He's Just Like Us!” But it does mean that Gwyneth Paltrow with a dangling cigarette is described, ohne Ironie, as “sportlich.” Also a full-blown feature on the perplexing conundrum of why Deutschland sucht den Superstar hasn't harvested the sort of “megastars” the U.S. found on American Idol. A Will Shortz puzzler, that one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oscars

We didn't get to watch the Oscars proper this year. Doing so would have meant being up at 2:30 a.m. for the start here, and that would have resulted in a very late night (even later than the viewing one year in NYC). Thankfully, we could catch up with all the news Monday morning, and experience the essence via Defamer's Live Blog (complete with video). But we missed watching the show on our stunning entertainment center (complete with rabbit ears) and the snide comments from our fellow viewers. In short, we missed you all! Now our next task is to actually see the movies nominated, as they finally start coming to Germany (auf englisch).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tony Silver

Just read that Tony Silver, director of probably the greatest hip-hop documentary ever made, passed away on February 1st, after a two-and-a-half year bout with brain cancer.

Jen Carlson of Gothamist describes the aforementioned film, Style Wars:
Shot in New York City in the early '80s and originally airing on PBS in 1983, his documentary is considered to be the first film about hip-hop culture. While the 70 minutes covers rap and breakdancing, its main focus is on graffiti, which at the time was viewed by some as a groundbreaking art form. Style Wars shows an altered urban landscape and serves as a snapshot of life here in the early '80s, with a "cast" ranging from Mayor Koch to renowned graffiti taggers to the Rock Steady Crew to subway maintenance workers.
There's an excellent DVD of the film I can heartily recommend, or you can watch it on the screen below.

Not at all unrelated is this much-revered (and deservedly so) track from Mos Def and Talib Kweli's Black Star:

Black Star - Respiration (1999)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Deutsche Bahn & KVB: The Simple Ride

As we've mentioned before. Deutsche Bahn's web of tracks will get you anywhere you need to go around here. There are handy online resources for trip planning, and you can get personal assistance at a train station or DB travel center (lucky for us, there's one on our corner). It's so easy, that DB and local transit service KVB call it “The Simple Ride” - auf englisch no less. Any perceived similarity in likeness to a certain US celebutante or her popular reality television series (which airs here dubbed into German), well, that's probably just your imagination.

Obligatory Sunshine Post

Of course not a day goes by when I fail to catch a few tablespoons of spittle (mostly from my Sprachkurs intructor) about melting icecaps and such. All the same, today's afternoon of timid sunshine has been all too welcome. This is kinda like the awkward adolescence of the warm season: the temperature's still a few degrees shy of comfortable outside, while the sunshine cooks the inside of our apartment to a sweaty stuffiness, and the solar glare is just plain too bright to see your own hand in front of your face. But hey, it's a no-jacket day, so there's no call for fussing. Plus, it gave Kelly an excuse to cover up her Karneval'd black eye with sunglasses. We did our Saturday usual, picking up some produce and garlic-eggplant-spread at the market in Nippes, then getting our coffee re-up at Kaffeebaum. But, y'know, without gloves and stocking caps. A nice afternoon. It's 4:30 now, so probably that's all we're gonna get, but the word is that we should have several more days of this kind of weather. And anyway, we still have a good dinner and an episode of The Wire to look forward to this evening.

What the heck, this calls for a song. Not one song from the new Clipse mixtape is climate-appropriate today, so here's a classic from Ghostface, Raekwon, the RZA, and Slick Rick instead.

Ghostface Killah, etc. - The Sun

Monday, February 4, 2008


We fell a little behind with the posting during Karneval, but here are the highlights... Scroll down to start at the beginning.Monday is the climax of Karneval, with the Rosenmontag Parade. We braved the crowds in the cold and the rain to see the grand spectacle. Probably because of the weather, it wasn't so packed in Neumarkt, where we were. The parade was crazy though with lots of candy (mostly chocolate) and sausages (with curry and mayo) being thrown to the crowds. It was particularly entertaining to see the men on floats attempt to get candy into the second and third story windows of apartments lining the street.
We were collecting quite a bag of such treats when we started making friends with the large group of Germans congregating next to us, who know how to spend the day with a kitchen cart full of food and drinks (and they certainly were not kidding around - they had 3 kegs of beer and enough sausages and cheese to last at least 4 days). Chris got to flex his German muscles and such, while trying to get in touch with a friend from German class. We finally saw Max and his girlfriend as the parade was ending. We said goodbye to our new German friends (who invited us back next year) and headed to the subway stop.

As we headed down the wet elevator, I somehow managed to slip, and before I knew it Chris and a stranger were helping me up. Long story short, all our goodies were thrown over the station and Chris and I were headed to the emergency room, where we waited for less than 15 minutes to have about 8 stitches put into my right brow. I guess now I can say that I have fully experienced Karneval (though I really wish I was injured by a flying sausage).


After spending most of Saturday in the confines of our apartment (and watching it snow in the morning), we decided to brave yet another Karneval event. This time it was the Geisterzug, or Ghost-Parade, one of the "alternative" Karneval events. Each year, the organizers choose a different part of the city for the parade and encourage everyone to march along, instead of being spectators. Other rules include no throwing things into the crowds and no traditional Karneval songs, so it sounded like fun to us. This year the parade was across the river in Kalk and Mülheim, a part of Köln we really haven't explored. Kalk and Mülheim have been part of Köln for less than one hundred years, and what used to be a booming industrial part of the city, now has a large international population. The Geisterzug, as we know it today, started in 1991, as a protest to the USA invading Iraq. It was telling that before we attended the parade, we watched the documentary No End In Sight.
At 7 pm we were in a large mass of people ready to march. There were fire dancers and papier-mâché dragons. We saw the most creative costume yet - a man as the new Gerhard Richter window in the Dom - it was fantastic. Many different percussion groups were in the parade, so there was some dancing through the streets in an attempt to stay warm.


Thursday morning I woke up as a ladybug, ready to embrace the first crazy day of Karneval. I then realized that it was freezing cold out, so the outfit had to slightly change into quite a few more layers. At 11 am, we headed to the opening of Karneval in our neighborhood. It was a fairly relaxed celebration, with a big band on stage. We certainly were about 20 years younger than the average age of the group. Not a bad way to start at all.
After warming up at home, we started our journey to Neumarkt to meet up with some of Chris's classmates. Well, the tram only went so far, and so we had to walk through the first large party. Züplicher Straße, a street lined with bars, was closed to cars and it was just one big party. Broken glass lined the streets, and it was only 1:30 in the afternoon. We finally made our way to Neumarkt, and with Chris's friends we braved Schildergasse and headed to the Altstadt, certainly the center of the mayhem. Again, lots of people, lots of beer and lots of crazyness. Spontaneous bands break out in sound and everyone starts singing the Karneval songs (think Irish drinking songs).
By the time we made it into the Altstadt, we realized that it was pretty much impossible to get into any bar or café, with lines streaming out into the street. I suddenly realized that my fingers, although in gloves, were blue. So we parted ways and headed to Ebertplatz, where the comfortable Metropolis was still showing English movies and we could catch a showing of My Blueberry Nights. Before the movie started we did manage to get one kölsh in (and a Malzmühl no less), so all was not lost. We attempted again to get into a bar by in our neighborhood after the movie, but no such luck. And to think this was only the beginning...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Westvleteren Tasting - Part 1

As a pre-Karneval treat, we tasted the first of our Westvleterens on Wednesday evening. And yes, it lived up to all the expectations. It also finally made me start writing reviews for beers and posting them on beeradvocate. I think you might have to actually have a log-on to read the reviews, so for those interested, here it is:

Picked up a bottle at the Cracked Kettle in Amsterdam, along with the 12. They were serving them both across the street at Cafe Gollem, but with such a sought after beer, we couldn't have our first taste of the Westvlertens after knocking back a few other belgian treats.
Poured into a snifter glass. It has a dark color and very nice lacing. Noticed a dark yeast sediment as I poured it into the glass.
Definitely could smell the yeast, almost bread like; very gentle spices.
The taste definitely evolves in your mouth. It begins a tad spiced and with the warming effect it changes to slightly peppery. The carbonation was light, but leaves a long impression in your mouth.
This certainly lived up to expectations. I'm trying to wait a bit before enjoying the 12, but we'll see how long I can hold out.