Monday, April 30, 2007

Working Bikers

I have carried a lot of stuff on my bike (computers, Christmas trees, etc) but these guys earn my utmost respect.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Working Boy

L is teaching a workshop this weekend, there is no money in it but he loves it


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Germans Learn What America is Really Like

I was given this book "Die Amerikanerin", published around 1958. The ecstatic picture it paints of life for the American Woman is wonderful. Makes me want to be one myself.
This picture is labelled:"Family Life-Evening: Daily TV watching has become a beloved habit for many Americans, and daily life without it has become unthinkable".

The Kingdom of the American Housewife. Technically and architecturally perfect, the American kitchens foster exquisite joy in cooking.

American College Girl: In America there are almost as many girl as boy students; not because they want a degree, but in order to find a suitable mate.

Lionel, searching for love

He came home the other night, said, "I met a girl last night with the most beautiful face... I really liked her and I could tell she liked me... but I know her boyfriend and he is a cool guy. So I said, 'I gotta go' and she said, 'Oh no, don't go!' but I did. I deprived that poor girl of sex."

Yesterday he had a second date with another girl, made her noodles and banana cake (this is a very unusual occurance, that he cooks for someone). Interesting and cute girl, her father owns a cement factory and her mother drives ICE trains. He reported that she said, "You will fall in love with me and I will break your heart." He said, "We will see who breaks first!".

Stay tuned to this space.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Thousand Year Old Oak Tree

This tree is marked on our map, it is one of the oldest oaks in Germany. There are no signs pointing to it, and to get to it you have to drive about 30 miles from here and walk through the fields and past the sewage plant, and when you get there are are no markings or souvenir stands, just a grassy clearing and some stones to sit on.
But it has an unbelievably strong aura, a majesty and calm. We found ourselves just sitting in silence, thinking about history and life. I was there with the Ossie and our Berlin friends... I didn't do any tree-hugging, but believe me the urge-- against all my better judgement and principles-- was very strong. (The others couldn't resist)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Beginnings of a Big Change?

From the BBC website this morning:
"Barack Obama raised $25.8m, all but $1m in primary donations, which analysts say is a tremendous achievement for a political novice.

He spent $6.6m in the first quarter."

Interesting stats. this shows that Obama has tremendous pulling power even without the usual establishment backers.
"Figures showed Democrat candidates as a group raised $8 for every $5 by Republicans."
this is an indication of how the Republicans (normally easily the biggest fundraisers) are slipping. Bush may in the end be remembered as the President who destroyed the Republican Party.
The Republicans could go down because they supported the President actively when he began his questionable activities in the Middle East— they supported him actively when they suspected he was wrong— and (most importantly) they continued to support him when there was no longer any doubt that he was off his head.
I would make a parallel with Nazi Germany: it is one thing to support a leader when you think he is right, but quite another to continue proclaiming his messianic character when all the evidence is unanimous, and you know in your heart he is dead wrong.
Without being political, I think most Americans do not realise the extent to which GW Bush has damaged American integrity in the world. And do not see how this could in the long run result in serious economic consequences for the US. Without painting some kind of doomsday scenario, I wonder what would happen if the OPEC organisation (dominated as they are by Islamic and anti-American countries) were to make a simple change in their accounting and take payment for oil only in Euros?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I Love Old Pictures

John is living many miles away now (4318, according to Google Earth), and is sure to resent my posting this picture of him, taken when he was about 10.

Splendid Weather, But Trapped Indoors

You have to realize that days like this, although probably very frequent in other places, are vanishingly rare in Cologne. It was therefore horribly unfair that we had to play a symphony concert this morning and thereby ruin the first half of what was obviously going to be a stunning day. And that doing a Bruckner symphony (the 8th) which I long ago nicknamed "the Interminable". How inconsiderate can a composer be to write a piece in which the slow movement alone lasts over a half an hour???!!

Some consolation: when I returned home, I found that these people had cooked lunch for me. Franziska and Resi had bought 8 pounds (!) of fresh asparagus... spent an hour and a half peeling it, and had it ready (along with potatoes, cucumber salad, and various sauces) by the time I got back. All the more maddening that we only had an hour or so to enjoy the meal, because I had stupidly filled up the rest of the afternoon with teaching. And this on a sunny Sunday. Should be forbidden, actually. Was secretly hoping the neighbors would call and officially complain that I was working on Sunday.
Curious fact: it is illegal in Germany to wash your car on Sunday?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My Easter Vacation

Spring is running rampant here, especially in my nose (hay fever). On my roof garden, the apple trees are blooming.

Spent a lot of time cursing the people who installed the deck, it was supposed to last 20 years but after 8 it is completely rotten. I am slowly dismantling it, but am terrified the neighbors will report me (in Germany, any change to the facilities on or around your house can be subject to censure by neighbors). Also have to do it gradually because the whole house (6 families) share one smallish rubbish bin, and I have a lot of rotten planks to dispose of.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Living Dangerously

My wife and my vintage BMW, both sold now but memorable.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Working Instruments

One of the first pictures I took with my new lens was this one of one of the cellists in the orchestra, she is Rumanian and very graceful. She won't be playing here much longer though because she just won the audition for a position in Switzerland's best orchestra. I like the picture because it captures nicely her calm and intelligence. It can be difficult to take a picture of someone that is characteristic and not unflattering... quite often I get asked to do publicity shots for musicians because I have a fair collection of decent portrait shots by now-- I find it much easier if I know the person well-- the important things are light and timing. This is why it is so hard to get a really good portrait shot with the little portable cameras: because of their size they will have only a limited zoom, and the timing is quite impossible because the lag between pushing the shutter release button and actual exposure is usually nearly a second, by which time the desired moment can have passed. OK, you can be lucky and the pose gets better in this gap, but it is generally not the case.

This picture shows my favored working implements. The big Canon with my new 70-300 lens (I have the feeling I will be using this a lot) is a couple of years old, and I love it, it has a real metal body and the batteries get me hundreds of pictures before I have to recharge them, and it has withstood my constant neglect and mistreatment. The little Canon fits in my pocket, and, given a reasonable amount of light and subjects that don't move too quickly, produces remarkable results.
The violin is a completely different thing indeed, it has been following me around since I was a student, no lover ever got the number of caresses (or neglect or mistreatment) this thing has had. I spend up to 8 hours a day with it on my shoulder, trying to coax sweet music out of it. It has followed me all over the world-- Denmark to Damascus, Vancouver to Buenos Aires, Korea to Mallorca, Venice to Zagreb. San Diego to Budapest. Seattle to Athens. Tokyo to Fargo. And I am not the only one who has used it... I can trace its owners back nearly a hundred years, and it was very old even then-- made in 1721 and in constant daily use ever since.
I somehow doubt this will apply to the cameras.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Why I Hate Spring

Hay Fever. It is so hard to appreciate all the advantages that spring brings (more daylight hours, squeaking birds in the morning, and --as here-- the emerging leaves on the apple trees trying so hard to thrive in miniature pots on my roof terrace) when all my faculties are crippled by pesky pollens. Riding a bike is agony (the pollen is forced with special vehemence up my nose) and besides, the bike lanes are overcrowded with all those fair-weather Fahrrad fans, who ride much too slowly and have the nerve to stop at every red light.
The church across the street-- a large Catholic establishment with space for 400 supplicants, fairly handsome except for the fact that the top of the steeple was lopped off during the last war-- has a local congregation of about 15 elderly residents. Still, the German system ensures that the church remains perfectly maintained and Masses take place at all the prescribed times. But a new life has been found here: starting about a year ago, they started doing a service in Polish, and it seems now to have become the biggest Polish church in town and it is often quite full. Yesterday some sort of ceremony was held in the courtyard-- the priest said a few things and then they marched off down the street, proceeded by someone carrying some sort of staff. All very mysterious.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It has been a long week

What do these 2 pictures have in common? Both taken from the same vantage point--my kitchen window-- within minutes of each other, but with different lenses. The bikes are hardly visible in the first picture, but in the second one you can read the brand name on the saddles.
I have been working this week with an orchestra whose studio is across the street from a camera store. BAD THING. Now I have a new lens for my camera, and it is terrific.
The first picture is with a fairly wide-angle lens, and the second with my new lens, a 70-300 zoom (you have to click on the pictures to get the full Aha! effect). It has image stabilisation, which I need for concert pictures because you cannot always get very close to the stage.

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