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Let Us All Meet Mid-Atlantic

26.09.13
2 min
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Now that Armen Avanessian brought it up, it might be time to talk about Mid-Atlantic. It was Anne Philippi who said the other day in the skype chat that we had between Los Angeles, Zurich, Delhi, Vienna and Berlin that she had heard people talk about this new form of English, crushed, broken, used, abused, cherished. This is us, we said. We use and abuse English like a language should be used and abused, not always, but why not by us at this moment in time? The world changes, languages change, and it is strange that the people who might critize our broken English are the people who live that change the most. But maybe that’s just the way it is. I really do think that it is good to strip language from this barrier of ownership, to set it free to be the lingua franca it is, to let people take its share, to move the language this way and that way across the Atlantic and further West and East as we please. Language is a tool, after all, a means, not an end – and the bastardisation of the language that we might further here is just a reaction to the way the words, the brains, the mores expand and contract, have a different meaning at different times without the necessary relativist draw-back, should offer the openess to redefine who you are, where you come from, who you want to be and where you want to go. Or, more easily said: Everybody understands when we meet Mid-Atlantic. (Obviously this story is only half-true, as Mid-Atlantic English originally refers to “a cultivated or acquired version of the English language once found in certain aristocratic elements of American society”, a blend of American and British, as Wikipedia, the home of mid-Atlanticism, points out. There is also a list of famous mid-Atlanticians: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Gore Vidal, George Plimpton, Norman Mailer, Maria Callas. Quite a list.) So is Broken English a song of freedom?

My elder brother, my father and me
Helmut Schmidt in the 1970s

What is the weight of a sentence?

26.09.13
3 min
Post

The first German politician my father showed me was a man with the same hairstyle, Helmut Schmidt. That was in the 1970s, and who could know he would become the nation’s wise old statesman, the ultimate authority of Germany, and the most popular chancellor of all times, turning 95 on December 23?

My father was born in 1928, turning 85 soon, and after slowly recuperating from a post-cancer operation in spring, the doctors diagnosed a calcification of his brain arteries, which leads to symptoms that resemble Parkinson, they call it Parkinsonism. Everything slows down: thoughts, short-term memory, his walk and talk. His physical shape has changed, except the shape of his hair, which reminds of his behavioural accuracy that takes now more and more of his time. When I was in Turkey this summer I found him old for the first time, and so I decided to stay longer than intended, working there, sharing every day life, talks and memories going back to our early years when television was ritual like the morning schedule before going to school.

The last few meters to catch the school bus leaving down the street of our house at 7:43 was tight. On some days the bus driver looked down from his seat and we had eye contact for a second before he pushed his button of power to open the door again, silently asking why this little boy is always late. Leaving bed was an agony, however, once up I was looking forward to the stand in the bathroom watching my father’s shaving procedure, and particularly his ritual of combing his slightly wet hair to create the perfect side partition on the left side of his head. With his eyes focussing the mirror, the ridge was oscillating until the first draft was shaped for first inspection, slightly bending his head left, right, up and down in front of the mirror. It took him then seven or eight attempts to finalize the procedure with a gentle tone, which I perceived as a self-acclamation, acknowledging his first skilful act of the day. Once he held my head and started dividing my hair to left and right. It didn’t work. My hair is curly.

It was on my father’s birthday, December 23, somewhen in the late 1970s, when he switched on the television: a man with bold hair, accurately done side partition, left hand side. My father said this is Helmut Schmidt, our chancellor, a Social Democrat and, with his particular humorous way, he mentioned casually, that he was born on the same day as him, but – with an ironic tone of relief in his voice – ten years earlier.

He really liked him. I think it was Schmidt’s aura of non-corruptible principles, the unbendable backbone and integrity that he liked most, and may be also his hairstyle. He was just a bit said when he heard Schmidt saying that it was a mistake to have so many Turks immigrating to Germany, but that’s another story.

Today, I wished Schmidt wouldn’t have said another thing: go see a doctor in case you have a vision.

In other words: any pleasant anticipation of the future will condemn us by the punishment to be naïve. Looking around after the German general elections it seems that all politicians and the majority of our people adopted this as principle.

Isn’t that a fatal poison, a massive mental burden when thinking about the future?

Victoria Nelson
People

How can you speak (or write) about the unspeakable? I hate people who do that. People who tell me their dreams. More often than not ending with the line: “I can’t describe it.”
Right, don’t! It would be like showing the invisible.
The great Ivan Lendl once said: “I don’t talk about what’s inside me, because there is nothing inside me.”
“Only shit,” Slavoj Zizek would add. “The truth is out there.”
But what if the unspeakable is out there? What about Cthulhu? About Clulu, Clooloo, about Cthulu, Cthullu, about C’thulhu or Cighulu or C’thlu, Kathulu, Kutulu, Kthulhu, Q’thulu or K’tulu, Kthulhut, about Cuitiliú or Thu Thu?
Yes, what? I can’t even pronounce IT.
That is what we need Victoria for. For the supernatural and the mainstream. Netting together the uncanny, pop, the dawn of man, Dracula, Twilight, Buffy, all other vampires, Carl Jung, zombies, Bruno Schulz, the Elder Things, Cronenberg and “Vicki” Nelson.
Yes again: Victoria Nelson is a character in Tanya Huff ‘s Blood Books and on Blood Ties. After being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, Vicki left the police department to become a private investigator. As a result of leaving the force, her love life with her former partner, Detective Celluci, has become stressful. Meanwhile, her growing attraction to Henry, a vampire, putts her in the centre of a love triangle.
I know this thing with names by heart and I love it. Christopher Roths are drug addicts, racing cyclists, film editors, weathermen, killers; even a horror movie is called like me. The truth is out there. Victoria mentions the other Victoria in Gothica (p.127) in a chapter about Tanja Huff. First she just describes the character who falls for Henry, later she once calls her “Vicky”, that’s it. No Nelson. The uncanny is out there. The Secret Life of Puppets. What a nice title! What a great book.
For our 2081 congress she came all the way from San Francisco to Berlin and gave the first speech of the day in the Kunst-Werke. 40 minutes. She told this wonderful story. The next morning Victoria walked with us to the Olympic Stadium despite having the right shoes with her. That night we had pizza and red whine on Ackerstraße with Petit, Bob Last and Annabelle, we talked about JG Ballard and it was all there. Out there.

Aino Laberenz
People

I knew her long before I met her. Aino was everywhere; her name was in the air. Aino.

Everybody in Berlin knew her and really loved her. Everybody had this little Aino-story to tell. They said how strong she was and how beautiful. They told me how she would negotiate serious things with a bunch of difficult, stubborn men. Not only in Burkina Faso. How people would fight and shout at each other and the moment when Aino raises her voice–the only woman around–they would all shut up immediately and they would listen. Listen to her.

So I liked her before I met her. I had this tall and serious woman in mind. Around 45 years old, maybe glasses, no,… no glasses, boots, heavy boots.

Ok: I was afraid of Aino. I adored her and was afraid at the same time.

Then, much later, at a dinner party, I sat next to this girl. She was beautiful with long dark-blond hair. Gentle and small, even smaller than I am. And I am small. I stared at her––dazed by her appearance.

We talked a lot. At some point she told me her name was Aino. Aino? There must be more Ainos. Huge ones with boots. Aino would be a Finnish name she told me. It means “only”. It is the beautiful sister of Joukahainen in the Finnish national epic “Kalevala.” That all matches. After a while she said she would leave soon for Africa. Hm, Africa, where to? Burkina Faso. What? I shouted: but you’re much too small and too young, and too beautiful. You look like a little girl! No, I didn’t shout. I shut up like the men in Burkina Faso. I learned about her ideas about the village. And the operas. Everything made sense now.

Murat Suner
People

In a way it is summer wherever Murat is going. Is it that he is, in my memory, almost always wearing shorts, a rare thing to pull that off anyway in a dignified manner? Is it that he is, in my memory, rarely wearing socks in his shoes, a good thing for any man to try? Or is it that any man with a dog as big as his and on a bike as old-fashioned as his and with this gesture of total composure and calm in Berlin, this city of morons, seems so pleasantly out of place that you feel summer whatever the weather? The point is: There is something around Murat, a certain distance marked by politeness, a distinct civilness that comes with knowing how long it will be before you get home, a feeling of freedom that might be an illusion too nice not to believe in. We met him on the street, Christopher and I, I don*t remember how it started, Murat was always on his bike or walking, he was a flaneur in the classical sense, it seemed to me, and time was his companion. It was on Auguststraße and on Linienstraße and on Alte Schönhauser Straße that we met him, not so much on Münzstraße, where you don*t meet people, and not so much on Torstraße either, where you usually meet a lot of people. He was running a paper at the time called Traffic which was large and on real paper and beautiful, it had the feeling to it that there were people commited to the cause whatever it might be. He supported the 2081 endeavour. Later we passed each other in the street and greeted each other. Then 60pages happened, and now he is back, and we are glad to have him. He will travel to Istanbul, back and forth, like he did in the summer, like so many others who want to see and understand what is happening. Murat will tell us.

Paul Feigelfeld
People

I understand Paul Feigelfeld to be quite a sensitive man. By this I mean weirdly intimate. He’s apt to find your inner angst and discuss it at length with a true willingness to solve it. He has a rare empathy that sets him part from your average Facebook poster. He’s an expert on ideas that exist in far reaches of unnamed intellectual circles. He wants to dig deeper whether you like it or not.

It might be useful to know that Paul has the apartment of a seventy five year old man in an old building with uncomfortably high ceilings. The place is full of quite new things all slightly out of balance. Like the man himself, you can get yourself into unexpected situations in his company.

Bleeding Edge

23.09.13
2 min
Post

I woke up this morning and my vacuum was full. My mother asked me on Skype which party I would have voted for, had I the right to vote in Germany, which I don’t, being Austrian. I’m not sure if I’m going to vote in Austria next week, given that I have been gone for 13 years and have no idea what’s going on. Another vacuum, the political. I went out to buy vacuum bags, which seems to be a bigger and more corrupt industry than printer ink and toner. Dust must be the greatest conqueror of them all, it occupies everything and will always be there, will always return. I made a mental note: research the history of the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t find the right vacuum bag for my model, the Rowenta Power Space. That sucks, or doesn’t. Back home I found a package containing Thomas Pynchon’s new novel “Bleeding Edge”, as well as an email from Christopher, asking me to participate in the 60pages project, so naturally I decided that “Bleeding Edge” must be my first pick. It is set shortly before September 11th, 2001 and shortly after the collapse of the dotcom bubble, in another vacuum. There are covert FBI sting operations going on in the donut empires of the USA, a cruise ship carrying “AMBOPEDIA Frolix”, a yearly gathering of the American Borderline Personality Disorder Association, but also catering to people self-diagnosed with Generic Undiagnosed James Bond Syndrome (“Hasn’t made it into the DSM yet, but they’re lobbying, maybe the fifth edition…”), a video pirate whose strange method of zooming in and out of the cinema blockbusters he pirates is dubbed a “neo-Brechtian subversion of the diegesis” by an enthusiastic NYU professor, and all that before I reached page 15.

Jeet Thayil
People

When I recently met Jeet in Delhi, he could have gone as a mafia don of Bombay´s underworld in the 1970s. But then I do not know a single gangster who would be such a blessed multi-talent and such a colourful character. As a neo-novelist, performance poet, songwriter and guitarist, Jeet masters the art to combine his interdisciplinary affinity. Why should he always read from his sensational novel Narcopolis which earned him the 2013 South Asian Literature Prize and certainly a top celebrity status? He can easily lull audiences presenting excerpts from the book through soft, melodious, half-sung, lullaby-like whispers even when the sinister context should freeze the blood (or optionally heroin) in your veins. Jeet has travelled to many sleepless metropoles around the world since his childhood, but he also confesses that a nap is always a good idea. Innocently born in Kerala, a state in South India globally branded as God´s Own Country, he went to live in Hong Kong, New York and Bombay where he experienced quite some adventures until he landed up in Delhi. The Indian capital encouraged him to observe, by his standards, a relatively bourgeois lifestyle. I do not think that I will ever be able to hold a candle to him regarding narcotic expertise. Still I am not too depressed since Narcopolis had such a hallucinatory effect on my senses that I just had to inhale some pages to get temporarily stoned.

The Tills
People

When I saw them in Munich they looked gorgeous and at ease because they were at home in this city that they had charmed into loving them and sometimes worshipping them with a vengeance for their nightly ceremonies, a court following in their dynastically inclined city which seemed to have turned this dormant town into a moveable feast. When I saw them in Berlin they looked wild and slightly lost in the best possible way, wearing moustaches and the pride of people who know better than to feel lost, a gift of fate only bestowed upon the happy few. When I saw them in Paris they looked like they had just stepped out of a French movie that had never been made, neither in the 60s nor the 80s nor the naughts and surely not because of a lack of sex or pop or the sheer and beautiful provocation that youth is over and over again, for each time anew – but because they were the movie, it was already there, no point in trying to put that explosion of glamour and truth into a film. The Tills, Milen and Amedée, are, in other words, a cultural phenomenon of their own making. They do come from a thouroughly cosmopolitain background, the mother French-Bulgarian and publisher, the father a Munich institution as a museums man – but what is more, they are able to direct the vagabund longings of their period towards them, they are a magnet and their medium is music as much as the mirrow they provide for the rest of us, less blessed, devils only in our own minds.

Gregor Jansen
People

Die aktuelle Ausstellung in der Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, deren Leiter Gregor Jansen seit drei Jahren und für weitere fünf Jahre ist, die aktuelle Ausstellung heißt “Leben mit Pop. Eine Reproduktion des Kapitalistischen Realismus”. Das ist erstmal ein sehr schöner Titel voller Gegenwart und Ironie. Nicht nur, weil das, was da gezeigt wird, tatsächlich Reproduktionen sind. In den frühen 1960ern gab es mal den Kapitalistischen Realismus. Wirklich westdeutsche Kunst, aus der jungen Bundesrepublik, west-westdeutsch. Bonn war Hauptstadt, die Mauer stand, Beuys war in Hochform und dann kamen Manfred Kuttner, Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke und Gerhard Richter und machten Aktionen in Möbelhäusern und malten Gegenwart ab, Zeitungen, Fernsehen, Werbung. Fake. Wirtschaftswunder und Wehrmachtsuniformen. Pop eben. Sehr Düsseldorf. Florian Schneider und Ralf Hütter gründeten gerade ihre erste Band “Organisation”, Fluxus war überall, in Köln machte Rolf Dieter Brinkmann Pop Radio und ganz in der Nähe wurde Gregor Jansen geboren. Und jetzt leitet er dieses schöne Haus (auch ein tolles Stück Bundesrepublik, das mal abgerissen werden sollte) und erinnert uns an die Gegenwart. Kritiker haben geschrieben, dass das nur Reproduktionen seien, weil der Versicherungswert der Polkes und Richters für das kleine Haus viel zu hoch sei. Da wird sich Gregor schlapp gelacht haben. Die Taktik ist voll aufgegangen. Vom Spekulativen zum kapitalistischen Realismus. Das ist rheinischer Humor. Gemischt mit asiatischem. Westwärts. Endlich.

Let Us All Meet Mid-Atlantic

26.09.13
2 min

What is the weight of a sentence?

26.09.13
3 min

Bleeding Edge

23.09.13
2 min