Thursday, January 24, 2008

Birthday in Berlin

Me and Mozart, we share a birthday, I am tired of staring at the walls in Cologne so I am going up to Berlin this weekend to celebrate.
Anyone want to join me, I will be in the Prenzlauer Berg area.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some things explained

A friend sent me this, explaining that it demonstrated in simplified form, the workings of a woman's mind.


The version for males, he went on to say, does not need to be sketched because men only have 2 balls, which determine all his actions.

But on studying this carefully, I would say that the mechanisms are much too logical and predictable to describe female thought processes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Chinese Adventure

We have returned safely from China... I would have loved to have written daily blogs about the experience, but sadly blog sites are blocked by the Chinese authorities (as is the BBC and many other western news sites). YouTube is available, but will be blocked in the next month or so.
I loved the country and am desperate to go back. Am thinking of trying to learn Chinese.
China is a huge country (DUH!) and I had no previous knowledge about it. Just that it was big. Now of course I know a lot more, you can learn a lot in a week!
The tour was a success, but in ways we didn't quite expect. The halls were fairly full, and everyone was appreciative; on the other hand we could see that Western classical music is still a novelty and concert etiquette is not always observed there. Especially in Peking (Beijing) people were talking during the concert, mobile phones were ringing, every couple of minutes people were taking flash pictures. Applause was limited and slightly uncertain... until we got to our last encores, which were arrangements of Chinese folktunes. Especially our last encore, "Jasmine Flower": we only had to play the first four notes and the audience would roar with astonishment and pleasure.
The rest of the program though was evidently unfamiliar, although we stayed at the very center of the repertoire (Brahms 2nd symphony, Stravinsky Firebird, Strauss waltzes).
The hotels were excellent, especially in Shanghai and Canton.
The food was amazing. Even though I have no idea what we were eating most of the time. Strange thing about Chinese food: it usually tastes completely different than what you expect when you see it on your plate. I tried to be brave and ate at least some of everything we were offered (and they often tried to serve us "Western" dishes, with varying degrees of success). I liked the pigs' intestines and the Squid Slices. Didn't try the snake but was told it was excellent.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone from here in Shanghai, where it is clear and sunny but Arschkalt as the Germans say.
After the concert here last night, we went on a night cruise on the river and admired the amazing skyline and were treated to a beautiful banquet; a splendid way to usher in the New Year.
This morning I set out to find the house where a neighbor of mine grew up-- Peter is a writer from a Jewish community that spent the years of Japanese occupation in Shanghai in a "restricted area", that is, a ghetto.
I had only a street address, phonetically transcribed, so I wasn't too hopeful of finding the exact house, but we navigated the subway to the area and managed to find the old synagogue. We asked a few people about the street name, but our mangled pronounciation made it difficult. We got a lot of stares though; this is definitely not a tourist part of town, and I think many residents had never seen foreigners wandering the streets.
Finally, an old woman pointed us to a street (no one speaks English here, not even the most common words-- we had enormous difficulty finding someone who understood the word "toilet"!-- but on the other hand my Chinese is also rudimentary :) ) and we found ourselves in front of a gated courtyard, and the gate was locked.
We were nervously taking pictures through the gate of the huddle of tiny houses, sort of mini-apartment blocks, maybe ten of them, each with 4 entries, trying to work out which one it could have been, when someone came out and we mumbled something and scurried inside.
I knew it was house number 3, so I asked a woman standing outside, and she pointed to a house, and then rapped on the window.
After a moment, the door opened, and a man came out, and I began trying to explain why we were there: "My neighbor-- Germany-- war-- " I began, and he said, in surprisingly good English, "Oh yes, there were many Jewish people living here back then!" and he invited us in for tea.
Soon we had his whole family there, and he was telling me about his life and asking questtions about ours, as we sat in his tiny living/bedroom.
The apartment has 3 floors, each floor with about 50 square feet of living area. Two families live there. But they don't complain.
He said, "Shanghai is changing a lot, and they will probably tear these houses down soon because the property is very valuable." I said, Oh, then you will get a lot of money! and he said, "No, because the property belongs to the State" but he is assuming that they will offer them housing in one of the new flats that will be undoubtedly be built on the site.
But it is a pity in a way, because the old houses have a warm atmosphere and the highrise buildings are so impersonal. But the people have to live somewhere (there are 16 million living in this city).

I would write more, but we have to go to the concert hall now. I am trying to put some pictures on the web, but a lot of the sites I use seem to be blocked here. Will keep trying though.

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