Saturday, June 4, 2011

AWESOME: Living back in Tampa

For the past 4.5 years, I've been a resident of Gainesville, and reasonably happy about that fact. Gainesville is a small place, a place that one can happily exist with limited student resources and even, if you live in the right place, without a car. But, frankly, I reached a point (probably after a few months in a real city - Berlin I miss you) when the tiny burg of Gainesville suddenly felt empty.

My condo is near downtown - 10 blocks from the hideous Architecture building and 5 blocks south of Downtown proper. Easy, cheap and in a relatively quiet neighborhood. Well, its quiet now - it wasn't when I arrived. Took me a couple of years to quell the ongoing street party that was my 'hood. Boom cars are never welcome, but for some reason they were tolerated.... Gotta give GPD props for their quick response to my repeated calls. I think the dispatch people knew my voice as soon as they answered there for a while.

In any case, I have neglected this blog, and now, while I have the time to do so (I haz no jobz) I will get this up and running again, and fill it with the ideas and thoughts that rumble through my psyche. Well, ok, perhaps I'll just limit myself to commentary on cities and such, you probably don't want to suffer through the rest...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

AWFUL: Tagging

Definitions: Street Artists vs Taggers - what is vandalism, and what is art?

Over the years, I have considered what is street art and what is vandalism. On the one hand, some of my favorite artists come from the street art traditions. Keith Haring, Banksy, Shepherd Fairey, BASK, Os Gemeos, to name a few... have all come from a background of creating works of art that are illegal, but transcend vandalism.

The elusive Banksy, as example, is a guy whose work on a wall can mean a hefty windfall for the wall's owner if only they can figure out how to get it down and sell it. Keith Haring's subway chalk drawings sell for thousands. My sister owns one of those. I have a number of works from Florida artist BASK.

So why am I ruminating on this topic? Having spent the past 3 months in Europe, I've come to the cruel realization that very few of the wannabes running around with spray cans actually have anything to say, and what they do say, they say poorly. To me, a 'street artist' creates an image that makes me think, or laugh, or stop and take a picture. A Street Artist has talent - he or she is just choosing to display it in a manner that many find loathsome.... but its still art.

Here's the thing - I like good street art. I cannot tell you the shock I had when I was wandering in Sao Paulo and happened across a work by Os Gemeos. I was stunned. I almost lost my group while taking a picture. I soon discovered who they are and was glad for it.

But most spray can stuff on a wall is, well, pure crap. There is a seemingly endless supply of idiots out there who seem to think that simply applying paint to a flat surface makes them a 'street artist'. Sorry, slugger, not so. Your indecipherable scribbles, perfected over time in 10th grad science class, are just sad. Tagging is sad. Tagging is the teenage boy equivalent of a dog peeing on a bush, so all the other dogs know he peed on a a bush.

Every time I see this sort of thing, I shake my head and feel pity for the perp. Why? Why feel pity for these poor misguided talentless hacks? Because they think they are 'expressing themselves' and 'striking out at the man', when, in reality, all they are doing is ruining some little old lady's fence or making a shady area look a little more run down.

And here's the worst part: They are so dull that they would never understand how pointless and sad their vandalism actually is. In buying into the 'street artist' myth, one that has really passed its prime anyway, they are certain that one day, everyone will know who they are - and be impressed. All I am is sad for them that they are so talentless, that they cannot even see how talentless they actually are. All they accomplish is reminding us that they are non-entities.

So, yeah. Mutts peeing on a bush, so all the other mutts can know they were there, if only until the next time it rains.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

AWFUL: When an icon is closed..... Berlin Siegessäule

OK, so I'm more than partial to this particular landmark, but not for any reason related to the history of the actual Siegessäule itself. Let me explain: A couple of decades ago, filmmaker Wim Wenders released a film so moving, so atmospheric, so beautiful, it only added to my desire to one day visit Berlin and experience this storied place. That movie, the 1987 Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin en Deutsche) is one of those films that is truly 'of its moment'

Its hard to explain the feeling of the late Cold War to those who were not there – that pervasive sense of melancholy, knowing that at any moment the world might literally end. The 1980s were a time of reaction – rejection of the malaise of the 1970s, the cold heart of Brutalism architecture, the disarray of the post-hippie era of institutional destruction. There was a resurgence of industry, finance and culture… What the 1960s & 1970s had destroyed, the 1980s began to rebuild.

So this movie, and this column, in a bleak black and white, centered upon people attempting to live normal lives in an unnatural state – caged by a wall, trapped in a city whose ruins from war still lingered 50 years on… whose scars were as yet unhealed… this movie is my touchstone for that era. The Siegessäule is the unwitting co-star to the ‘angels’ over the city of Berlin.

This landmark has had many lives: Symbol of Prussian military greatness, moved to be a part of Hitler’s proposed grandiose Germania rebuild of the city, then appropriated by Wenders to great effect for his love letter to Berlin. Nick Cave shows up and adds his plaintive voice to the mix, and for some inexplicable reason so does Peter Falk – acting the part of Columbo once again.

So, I got there yesterday… and this is what I found…

*sigh* The Victory Column is undergoing a massive restoration... and I am denied.
20+ years after the fall of the Wall, the column is being restored. There is an allegory here dealing with the resurgence of Berlin after the devastation and destruction that has been heaped upon it over the last few centuries... especially the last one. I'm almost sad that its taken me this long to get here - as if I missed the Berlin I thought I knew... the gritty, claustrophobic city is long gone, swept away in the almost overnight removal of the wall.

Potsdamer Platz, a wasteland in the era of the film, is now a sparkling new place trying to stitch the two halves of the city together again. And yet.... Potsdamer Platz is inauthentic. The 1960s church next to the bombed out Kaiser Wilhelm Cathedral is inauthentic.

Berlin is an ancient organic being with prosthetic attachments that simply do not quite fit.

Time will heal that of course - but between the melancholy sepia toned monochromatic world of Wenders and the shiny bright future to come is a moment when its not yet all working. For me, as a city planner, its a fascinating moment to witness, and yet my soul yearns for  the city on the screen... a city full of memories, scars and decay. The angst has seemingly gone with the zeitgeist....

Of course, I knew full well the changes hat have happened here since 1987 - and was prepared for them all... but this one place seemed timeless - it has survived so much ... I assumed I would be able to climb to the top and commune with that sculpture and privately relive those moments Wenders has immortalized in film. But no, I am to be denied that small moment. And when I return, the column will be all shiny and new - like the rest of Berlin, I feel as if I'm just a few moments too late.

Note: The first photo is not mine, I ganked it from the web using Image Search.

Monday, October 11, 2010

AWESOME: Viennese Cafe Society

AWESOME: So, during a few days here in Vienna, I have had the opportunity to try a few of the amazing cafes that Vienna is famous for. This missive comes from Cafe Central, a place that I have made my second home here in Vienna. Sure, it is a bit touristy as compared to some of the others... but the location and free wifi make it a winner.

This is what dinner looks like.

This is what dessert looks like:

I was also introduced to an awesome cafe called Phil by Jeremy, and also got to try out Cafe Diglas (est 1875)  - a place that actually takes over a chunk of street for outdoor seating. Brilliant really.

Screw you, Mr Traffic Engineer. The cars can just deal with the fact that we reclaimed a chunk of your street for more useful endeavours. Ha!

I'll leave this post with a pic of the dessert counter.... my sugar count went into shock just LOOKING at it.

PS: I did visit the home of the Sacher Torte - but the Viennese poo-poo the place as not so good. I had home made Sacher Torte at Ivanna's house last night.... OMFG yum.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

AWESOME: Euro Rides

Whilst wandering my 'hood here in Berlin, I've noticed a lot of cars you never see in the US - some good, some bad. For the most part, this is a good thing. My first day here I saw a 59 Eldorado with its top down, and a 66-ish Mustang in a similar state. That was a good omen for a guy who, if he had Jay Leno's cash, would be out doing the same thing with it... minus the muscle cars. I prefer the gigantic parade floats and european rarities - but the impulse is the same.

First up - Smart and Mini Cooper (original). The Mini seems like a normal car until you put it next to a Smart. Now, Smarts somehow work in Berlin, unlike the US. There, they just look odd, out of scale, fragile. Here, they fit nicely amongst a set of vehicles that includes NO SUVs. Lovely. The Minis are everywhere. Probably seen a dozen of the older ones so far. Only a couple of the new models oddly enough.

Minis Rule.

And then theres this 1955 Porsche 550, James Dean edition (but without the custom crinkly bodywork) that was sitting on Munchner Strasse the other day. Yeah. Just parked like any other car. *sigh*

How about a late 70s MGB in orange parked in Mitte? I'm surprised to see one of these is still running. Ha~!  Q: Why do the British drink warm beer? A: Lucas makes their refrigerators! (Some of you will get that joke)

And whats this? A Peugeot 204 Cabriolet? Late 1960s according to the intertubes. Not a bad car, considering its French.

Say WHAT? A Porsche 968 in PURPLE? Lordy - terrible color.

Dear Audi: This thing is a laugh riot. The A2 was never brought to the US, and with good reason. Its silly. I guess every car marque gets a mulligan now an again... Please lets not talk of this again.

And, last but not least.... Ok. Least. The MIRTHMOBILE was spotted near my apartment. Seriously, there are none of these on the road in the US, how did one survive here?

I'll keep a lookout for more whacky and rare cars - I'm certain I've only see the tip of the old iceberg.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

AWESOME: The Ubahn & SBahn

So, for 52€ a month I can go anywhere in Berlin from my home station (above) that I want. How awesome is that? I have noticed that the air smells just like the air in other subway systems I have traveled on. I find it oddly comforting. Kudos to the tagger who was able to stay within the lines.

The trains here really do run on time.

Reading the history of these systems, I learned the Ubahn was originally run by West Berlin, and the Sbahn by the East. When the communists built the wall, that changed of course, and the East also installed a big system of street trams that I have yet to use - but I'm sure that they will rock as much as the ones in Prague.

In the Alexanderplatz station I ran across these images in a connecting hallway. We met Robin van Arsdale back in the 90s - he was selling (through a gallerist friend) some of his collection of Keith Haring subway chalk drawings and my sister bought one. My parents purchased a piece of Robin's at that event. So it was interesting to randomly come across these two murals from 2003. Notice that many others decided to add to the murals.

I guess it is only fitting that taggers should deface the mural of a guy that started as a graffiti artist....

Lots of cyclists in the subway, and lots of crazy tile colors. I couldn't figure out if these were giant concrete block size tiles, or concrete blocks with glazed sides. Assuming that tile is cheaper and easier to make, I'm going to go with tile - but they are suspiciously the exact size of a block - and those curved corners are suspiciously block like. 

Does Bono get a royalty for this line?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

AWESOME: Berlin Street Food - Been a while since I posted here...

So, I've been here about a week now and finally over the jet lag. Continental seems to have sucked the life out of the better experience of overseas travel. The seats were no larger than domestic, the food was awful and the drinks are no longer free. *sigh* I miss the old ways.

Oh, and the jackasses charged me an extra 50 bucks for my over weight bag (by 6 lbs). Hrumph. Needless to say, I will check two lighter bags on the way home and they can suck it.

First up on the yummy parade... pomme frites with mayonaise. I cannot explain it - but mayo here is a delight. At home, I cannot fathom the idea of placing our mayo on fries... but these fries are better and this mayo is made with amazing eggs... so there you have it. Damn these are good.

Second stop on the German street food course was the doner kebab. MMmmmmm. Similar to a gyro, but different enough to say I like it better. Heresy, I know. The meat is gamier - probably from being actual lamb, where in the US its mostly beef - the veggies (salat complex) is different (I will eschew the cabbage in the future) and the yogurt sauce too sparing.  (mehr joghurt-sauce next time).

Last up was the currywurst. A fried schweinfleish wurst with tomato sauce and curry powder. I have no explanation for this combination of food products on my plate, but I can report that it was delish. The fries were excellent too. Coca-Cola LIGHT baby. Oh, and every plastic bottle and can has a deposit included and you take them back to big automated machines to get a credit slip at the local markets. Pretty cool system I think. Americans would hate it.