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Thursday, December 20, 2001

Communicating with other webloggers
Keith Berman had a simple (simple ideas are the best) and excellent idea how to connect webloggers. It's called the Blogger Insider. If you sign up you will be matched with another weblogger and you can ask 10-15 questions to him/her and in return your counterpart asks you 10-15 questions. The questions and answers are then published on both weblogs. The frequency of this q&a exercise is bi-weekly.
I was paired with Martin from southwestern Ontario who already has answered my questions frankly and quite detailed on his site. Here are his questions and my answers:

1. Has the focus of German music turned more toward techno? Bands like Kruder & Dorfmeister are all I hear about lately.
I must admit that I am neither a big fan of German music nor of techno music in general therefore my answer here can only be very fragmentary. Germany has always been a stronghold of electronic music. Bands like Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust and La Düsseldorf pioneered experimental electronic music in the 70s. Techno has started in Detroit as a further development of house I think. Nevertheless it has become very big in Germany in the early 90s. The yearly Berlin Love Parade in mid-July with almost a million participants and disc jockeys like Sven Väth have spread techno in Germany. Kruder & Dorfmeister are based in Vienna, Austria (though one of the two is from Bavaria I guess) and are therefore not really German in the strict sense. Their music is not techno but electronic remixing. I listen to them from time to time and like remixes like Depeche Mode's Useless from the K & D Sessions a lot. To listen to a whole album of theirs in one sitting nevertheless I find very difficult as the music is a little too monotonous and predictable for my taste. That really depends on my mood. I am just listening to the whole K&D Sessions and I enjoy it
I prefer other current non-techno German bands singing in German. Especially the Hamburg scene is noteworthy. I loved Blumfeld's second album L'Ètat est Moi which was a milestone in German indierock in the mid 90s. Great almost philosophical lyrics. Another great band from Hamburg is Tocotronic. Their early stuff was quite punk rock influenced but their latest album K.O.O.K. is more melodic and mainstream. The lyrics are funny with a laconic touch. This year I discovered Fink who are also from Hamburg but do not belong to the same scene. They make atmospheric folkrock influenced music not so far from Calexico and Giant Sand. Great instrumentalists who tell melancholic stories in bitter-sweet ballads.
Another very influential band from a totally different background is Rammstein from East Germany who are even successful in the US. Their teutonic goth-hardrock is not really my cup of tea but they have their moments. On the David Lynch soundtrack Lost Highway there is the song Rammstein which recreates the morbid atmosphere after the Rammstein (a place in the German low mountain range Eifel and an ex-US air base) airplane show disaster (many people died when a couple of airplanes crashed) hauntingly well.
Einstürzende Neubauten is another band we should not forget. They are Germany's Sonic Youth but more radical. Their heyday were the 80s. Making music with drilling machines was one of their strengths. They opened new horizons for rock music.
Up to date electronic German music I don't care about is released by the Cologne label Kompakt. It has been labelled minimal techno. I find that it is terrible and boring but maybe it will turn out to be a trendsetter like Kraftwerk's Autobahn in the mid 70s. I doubt it.

2. Do you think that machines make life easier, or in fact serve to cause more stress?
A question you could write a dissertation on. I feel that there is no definite answer to this. Man's use of advanced machines as computers and robots changes the focus of our life. It gives us much more time to think about ourselves and the machines. It alienates us from basic needs like food. There is the danger that we get too self-centered. But on the other hand now we have much more freedom. We can choose to use the machines or not to use them. Before we couldn't. We can afford to go into a Zen monastery and meditate for a month to come back to our roots. But there is a tendency that the fully automatised world takes over. For example cars without electronic aids are almost impossible to purchase today. If something goes wrong with the electronics you are totally helpless (btw I am so unpractical that I was quite helpless already before).

3. Do you play any games on your computer, and if so, what is/has been your favourite?
Not really. The only computer game I got into was Tetris. I used to spend hours of my student life playing Tetris on my Atari ST. Later on I played the Windows version. One day I got above the score of 32767 and the score went back to zero as apparently it was defined as a short integer. That was the end of my Tetris playing days. I also used to play chess with programs (especially Chessmaster 2000) and via the internet at the Internet Chess Club. The internet is a great way for playing chess but I would prefer to play real people in front of me in a pub.

4. Can you think of a song whose lyrics you find most meaningful?
Check my post on Nick Drake's Road. Another song with lyrics that touched me a lot is Neil Young's Cortez the Killer. The history of the conquest of America by the Europeans from the point of view of the Indians. So sadly true and moving. The lyrics of almost every second Joni Mitchell song speak to me. Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed have amazing lyrics too. As so many others...

5. What's your take on internet music? Do you still buy all your music, or do you download most of it now?
I download a lot to check beforehand if it is worthwhile purchasing it on cd.

6. You have an extensive and multi-faceted music collection. What got you started? Was there anything in particular that drew you in?
Don't really know. My first love in my teens was early Genesis from the Peter Gabriel days. They created their own world in music. I guess that has always been the biggest attraction of music for me. A parallel world I can dive into to forget the real world around me for a while.

7. What's the first song you remember hearing?
I have got such a bad memory. One of the first which left a mark on me was Mrs Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel. A melody I will never forget.

8. If you could spend a day with anyone, (current/historic/fictional) who would it be?
Nice question. I guess it would still be the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche whom I admired for his lucid vision of mankind in my youth. If I could choose two it would be Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady when they travelled the US in the late 40s and early 50s.

9. What's the song you least like to admit you think/thought is/was cool?
Neil Young's Every Man Needs a Maid. On the verge between kitsch and romance.

10. Can you play any musical instruments?

11. It's said among my friends that each person can do three things better than anyone else. What are your three?

A hard one. I can only answer it in an ironical way. In every period of my life I was always able to find a best friend. That is something quite rare I feel. I am quite good at giving up smoking and starting again but a good friend of mine is probably better at it. Maybe I am the best male partner in my personal four person chess version which is called touche-bouge (touch-move) where you play with someone of the opposite sex and one person touches the piece which has to be moved and the other moves it.

12. Considering you're attuned with the music scene, and live in Germany, I wonder if it ever bugs you that north americans tend to think German popular music ends with Nena, Falco and Trio.
You are not so wrong here. New wave was the last German style I liked. Don't forget thee German rap band Die Fantastischen Vier here. Not only their smash single Die da was great. Their lyrics are twisted German colloquial speak. See also answer to question 1.

13. Do you have any pets? If so, elaborate.
No. We had a cross-breed dog when I was 13-15. I will never forget the day she was run over by a car. I listened to Alan Parsons' Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Edgar Allan Poe short stories transformed to pop music) that day. The first and only time in my life I ever encountered death in a physical way. The end of my youth.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Am I an autist?
I took the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) test (currently #16 at daypop top 40) consisting of 50 mutiple choice questions. My score was 27. The control group had an average result of 16.4. 80% of adults diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 and higher. I knew that I have some autistic traits so the result is not so astonishing but a little frightening nevertheless. More info on autism and Asperger's Syndrome in December's Wired article The Geek Syndrome.
Btw I am not the only weblogger with a high score. Nothing, and lots of it has 28, Weblog Wannabe as well and got 32.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Stealing from others
- Long article by Simon Reynolds on the post-punk years 1979-81. He writes about The Pop Group, The Fall, Gang of Four, Scritti Politti, the Rough Trade label and John Peel's huge influence on the scene as a radio dj etc.
- The Breeders are going to release their first album after 1993's sparkling The Last Splash in February, it will be titled Title TK, is produced by Steve Albini and they will tour the US in January/February (via tiny mix tapes).
- Cactus World News both albums from the mid-eighties are going to be reissued. I don't know them but what DJ Martian writes about them makes me very curious:
"Cactus World News had a unique guitar sound, they pushed melodic rock based music to a new extremity, the guitars were loaded with effects as precision sharp as laser guided missiles and their songs and vocals were evocative and highly passionate. Sometimes I view Cactus World News as the uptempo Joy Division, if some how - instead of being bleak, sullen and miserable - they were injected with hope, optimism and buzzing with positive energy - Joy Division could have sounded like CWN in a parallel universe if they were uptempo and positive"
- Pitchfork's Jason Nickey writes on the new Howe Gelb's (mainly) solo piano album Lull. He rates it 5.5 (mediocre). I think Pitchfork reviewers should stick to their indie rock stuff and not write on music they don't understand. Howe shows again how versatile he is. His piano pieces (improvised I guess) are small pastiches reminding me remotely of Monk and Jarrett. Though they are more Howe than jazz. Nothing spectacular but relaxed and down to earth as usual. And his young baby son is contributing as well. I love how Howe integrates the music completely into his life.
- Whereas I have to agree mostly to Pitchfork's review of the latest Pinback called Blue Screen Life. It is a big disappointment after the beautiful and simple debut. More uptempo and more artificial less natural. The voices especially the higher one start to get on my nerves. Where have the enchanting melodies gone? Hopefully I will change my mind but I do not think so.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

I admire Leonard Cohen for his serenity
In a recent Rolling Stone interview he said:
"I don't care terribly much about my own opinions. I find my own opinions very tiresome and predictable. I've always tried to keep opinions out of my work. That's why I take so long to write the stuff - so that it goes beneath the opinion, the slogan, the stance. You know, in a conversation in a bar over a drink, I can dredge up an opinion. I can even dredge up a belief. But I don't have much conviction in these matters."

Books on music on my wishlist
- "Our band could be your life" by Michael Azerrad.
On the influential bands of the 80s independent rock scene.
- „Made In Germany“ (Hannibal-Verlag 2001, 280 Seiten, 38 Mark)
The Musikexpress (German monthly comparable to the NME) asked 65 German critics, producers and musicians for their favourite German records. Result: 100 albums with covers and short reviews from the debut of the Rainbirds (#100) to Kraftwerk's Autobahn (#1).
- „Verschwende Deine Jugend“ by Jürgen Teipel (Suhrkamp Verlag)
German punk and new wave from 1976 to 1982.
- „Jazz-Standards“ by Hans-Jürgen Schaal (Bärenreiter Verlag)
The first German encyclopedia of Jazz standards.

Btw: I do not buy at Amazon anymore because they charged me for shipping though I had placed a shipping-free order. And they never answered my complaint.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Net news
- 20 year usenet archive now available at Google (via Robotwisdom)
- Opening a file type previously considered safe, e.g. plain text or HTML file isn't safe with IE (via Metafilter)

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Erleuchtung oder weniger hochtrabend: eine fixe Idee
Bis kurz vor meinem Konfirmandenunterricht war ich sehr gottesgläubig. Am meisten beeindruckt hat mich der Satz: "Gott sieht alles". Die Tatsache, dass Gott nichts entgehen sollte von dem, was ich machte, war sehr furchteinflössend für mich. Auch wenn ich allein war, sollte Gott alles sehen können, was ich tat.
Später dann konnte ich es nicht fassen, dass Gott soviel Schreckliches zulässt. Hungersnöte, Krieg, Mord und Folterei. Gott musste ein Monster sein. Die Lösung der Christen, die sagen, dass Gott unsere Freiheit als ein höheres Gut ansieht als unser Glück, konnte mich nie so richtig überzeugen.
Dann las ich Nietzsche und sah Gott plötzlich nur noch als eine Kreation des Menschen. Nicht als etwas Originäres, sondern als eine Projektion des Menschen. Als etwas, das genauso überwunden werden muss wie das unvollkommene Wesen Mensch. Der emanzipierte Mensch (bei Nietzsche der Übermensch) braucht nicht die Krücke Gott. Er ist autark. Ich wurde zum Atheisten und später dann zum Agnostiker.

Gestern abend habe ich den Satz begriffen. Oder besser ich habe ihn von einer anderen Perspektive aus verstanden. Gott sieht alles nur deswegen weil wir alle Gott sind. Gott als eigenständige Persönlichkeit existiert nicht. Alles Leben auf dieser Erde ist Gott. Ich also auch. Und ich sehe natürlich, was ich mache. Also sieht Gott es auch. Weil ich ein Teil von Gott bin. Einige Leute sagen Gott wäre die Schöpfung. Das ist mir zu eng und anthropomorph gedacht. Ich weiss nicht, ob die Welt geschaffen wurde. Ich kann nur sagen, dass ich den Eindruck habe, dass die Welt existiert. Oder anders, dass es mich und etwas um mich herum gibt und ich nenne beides zusammen die Welt.
Ich würde jedoch sagen, dass ein wichtiger Teil Gottes das Bewusstsein ist. Und zwar das Bewusstsein aller Lebewesen. Ich meine hier nicht nur das Bewusstsein unserer eigenen Existenz, sondern auch das der Existenz der anderen. Ob wir anderen Leid antun oder nett zu ihnen sind, wissen wir selbst oft am Besten. Und wenn wir uns dessen nicht bewusst sind, dann weiß es natürlich derjenige, dem wir wehtun oder Liebes tun. Somit weiß Gott es. Wir selbst sind unsere strengsten Richter. Wenn wir vor uns selbst bestehen können (vorausgesetzt wir wissen um die Auswirkungen unserer Handlungen auf andere), dann tun wir es auch vor Gott. Im Jüngsten Gericht urteilen wir selbst über unser Leben. Und es gibt keinen gnadenloseren Richter als uns selbst, da keiner unser Leben so gut kennt wie wir selbst.

Ich weiß nicht, ob das viel Sinn macht, was ich gerade geschrieben habe. Just an idea. Just a feeling. Just my two cents...

Today's ILM thread: Old (on how you feel now about music you once loved turning into history or vanishing completely)

Monday, December 10, 2001

Busy new ILM (I Love Music) threads:
- Alternative tunings (changing guitar string tunings)
- NME's Top 50 Albums Of The Year - Here's My Considered Response
- Three albums that Changed Your Musical Life
- New Order Substance album R rubbish

Thursday, December 06, 2001

What are we going to do with our leisure time?
I don't know about you but I have spent a significant time of my life in the garden, mowing the lawn. I do not miss this time at all and I still like to leave the house to cut the grass. But I feel that those times are over. Lawn mowing is going to be taken over by the robots. An Israelian enterprise has invented an amazing machine (no bullshit like this "ginger" crap). It is a fully automatic lawn mower. You tell it where the borders of your garden are and it cuts the gras. It takes some hours, speed is not the ultimate goal. But still this machine will give you some more spare time. An amazing device.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

5 places
- Chinesischer Turm, München on a summer evening. After three Maß (liter glasses) of beer the tower becomes blurred in the distance and the focus is on the strangers around you (businessmen, actors, students, tourists, drug dealers, other criminals and ex-cons) to whom you talk as if you had known them for all your life.
- Forest in South Bavaria, walking from Starnberg to Füssen and crossing a deep forest in November. Suddenly the sunlight pierces through the trees. You can see the rays. You feel like in a fairy world.
- Hierro, a Canary Island, arriving by sailing boat at the small harbour of Restinga. Desertlike volcanic landscape around. You take a taxi which takes you up the mountains. Descending from the cab you see cows grazing deep green meadows. The temperature has dropped by ten degrees. You see mist clouds. You are in Scotland for the first time of your life.
- Big Sur, near the coast road there is a place where they sell thousands of wind chimes. Many chimes are suspended outside. On a windy day the metal tubes hit each other and create a natural high-pitch bell symphony.
- Cape Cod, walking along the sand beach for three hours without meeting any other people (before Labor Day it is possible). The noise of the wind and the sea so loud that you can't talk without shouting. It is just you two, the sand, the sea, the wind and the sun.

This post was inspired by the already mentioned excellent French blog JR Files ("Notes, anecdotes, mélanges, et idées").

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

My favourite cartoon character

Bobby Fischer, genius and madman
The last thing I had heard of Bobby Fischer, America's best chess player of all times (though Paul Morphy's chess was admittedly more fun) was the rumour that he was playing anonymously on the Internet Chess Club. According to BBC news of September 9th Nigel Short claimed (!) to have lost several blitz (speed chess) matches (the first one with a whopping score of 0-8) against an unknown. Nigel Short is one of the best speed chess players in the world. The strength and style of play of his adversary let Short conclude that his opponent had been Bobby Fischer who retired from active tournament chess almost 30 years ago.

According to the Telegraph (UK) Fischer gave an interview to Radio Bombo in Baguio City, Philippines just after the attacks on September 11th. He commented on them by saying:
"This is all wonderful news. It is time to finish off the US once and for all. I was happy and could not believe what was happening. All the crimes the US has committed in the world. This just shows, what goes around comes around, even to the US. I applaud the act. The US and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians for years. Now it is coming back at the US."

We all knew before that Mr Fischer is a psychically very instable person but this statement shows that his judgements outside the chess board are those of an insane. Why can't he just condense all his hatred and use it to do the only thing he seems to be capable of, to play excellent (tournament) chess again? Metafliter discusssion here.

New busy ILM (I Love Music) threads:
- Best Singer/Songwriter Today?
- Pixies: Classic or Dud

Monday, December 03, 2001

The Art Test (via Absintheur)
Usually I am not very fond of online tests but this one is different. I like the idea. What intrigues me now: if I were a piece of music would I like to listen to me? The result of the art test:

"If I was a work of art, I would be Claude Monet's Waterlilies.

I am soft and gentle, but very colourful. Although based in reality, I look at the world through a filter of impressions which shape how I see things. Splashes of light help to define my presence and bring an endearing quality.

Which work of art would you be? The Art Test"

I like to look at me as a painting. That is nice. Blue has always been my favourite colour. And we have a Monet poster in our sleeping room. The painting captures my dreamy side quite well. Dreamy and clear-sighted at the same time. That's how I dream of myself at least.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Lou Reed: Magic & Loss
So I found my personal favourite album about AIDS. It is not really about AIDS but it is about seeing your friends die from it. Magic & Loss is one of the few successful concept albums I know. It is quite fatalistic and cynic in places but what I like the most is the humour which is appropriate to the subject as it is very dark. It is gallows humour. In Goodbye Mass Lou sits on the hard chair in the church and feels very uncomfortable. He does not like death masses and thinks that his deceased friend would not have liked his own death mass either: You would have made it easier you'd say 'tomorrow I'm smoke'"
(to be extended)

Why does suddenly everybody (#1, #2) love the new New Order album? I don't get it. I've said before that it is my favourite of theirs. It is the most varied and consistent record in their career. In a way it is the most "Joy Division" like. What really annoys me is when people say they love the music but find the lyrics dull. New Order's music has never been about lyrics. That was always the big difference between them and Joy Division. Joy Division had a songwriter, New Order is Joy Division without the songwriter, so what do you expect? Shallow lyrics which go with the melodies have been one of their trademarks.

P.S. I have to agree 100% to what Barney sings in Crystal: "I don't know what to say, you don't care anyway"


Copyright 2001, 2002 Alexander Fritz
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