Eating Well in Frankfurt

As my friend saw me off on the train back to Berlin, she wistfully said, ” I hope your train ride is like Before Sunrise.” To which I replied, “You haven’t seen the people who sit next to me on trains.” Instead, my Deutsche Bahn train got delayed almost until sunrise and so I got a 9 EUR refund.

I had spent part of the weekend in Frankfurt asking her to help me deconstruct a music video in which a wolf was following a lady in a blue dress. Then I threw in an extra variable of Phrygian mythology into the mix in which a man becomes like a woman or dresses like a woman. Listening to myself, I realized this is really hard to explain. I had the feeling I must be the wolf scared off by the sound of music and then left on the road as the car drives off. And if one wolf wasn’t enough, I saw another one looking straight into my eyes, telling me sweetie pie, you’re the wolf honey bun. The second she-wolf was this pseudo-cinematic poster for Ed Aktins’ Corpsing exhibition at MMK.

When we walked into the exhibition, my friend noticed the artist was born in 1982 and said, “He was born in 1982 and already in a museum. Johanna, we’re losers.” I replied, “He’s ‘one of the greatest artists of our generation.’ ” I told her it might be difficult in the beginning to understand but after about 20 minutes, it will start making sense. Every 5 minutes, I checked in to see how bored she was, “Are you okay?” She said, “This guy is the king of depression but I like the song.” Song went something like this,” I didn’t know… I didn’t know how deep I had gone…” The avatar sang this as he sank deeper and deeper into acts of depression while his body started to decompose until finally a sinkhole (that was unknowingly present the whole time) opens up during an earthquake and swallows him and his world whole. The next day while we were driving through the city, I heard my friend humming a tune and realized it was the depressed avatar song.

Her son was now 3-years-old, so after I bought him some coloring wall stickers and a coloring poster I asked her, “Does your son like to color?” “I’ve never seen him coloring.” “Oh, what does he like?” “He wants to be Darth Vader.” So when my wonderful coloring gifts were revealed, all three of us (Friend, Dad, and Me) made an effort to get him to start coloring. He made like three rough up and down motions with a green marker outside the coloring lines and then started yelling, “Badminton, badminton!” However, I didn’t want to stop coloring but felt I had too. Then, the dad got out the badminton rackets, but the boy kept missing the birdie. My friend then turned to me and said “See, can’t color or play badminton.” “So much energy…” “This is nothing.” Then, the son started yelling, “Darth Vader, Darth Vader!” So the dad got his black cape, mask and lightsaber, fastened the cape, handed him the mask and the lightsaber, and then he presented himself to me as Darth Vader.

The next day the whole family and I went to brunch at a Japanese/ French cafe. After a few bites of peaceful eating, the son’s head erupts. He starts coughing, then his nose starts running, then tears start streaming down his cheeks and then he vomits. His dad catches the vomit in his hands as I quickly pick up a plate for it to be disposed. The two of them immediately head home but my friend barely even freaks out. “Your son’s head just erupted!” “Happens all the time,” and she goes back to eating. Just the two of us now, I start telling her of this video I posted on Facebook and got a Durex condom advertisement in my newsfeed. But right as I start telling this, my friend calls which I ignore because I specifically told him I would be busy visiting a friend but accidentally took the call so he hears the first half of the story. Astonishing how much I was able to communicate in just under a minute.

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Say Hi To Your Bathroom

I said goodbye to a bathroom. Without my glasses, I had to pick up every single toiletry item to identify the brands that took care of your body. I took a whiff of your deodorant, opened a jar of gel and used your lip balm. I carefully placed every object back exactly where I had found them. The star of the bathroom was your perfume. Standing there with nothing to do, I suddenly became mischievous and inspired, I blame it on the Campari. I placed what was inside and put it outside, I took what was above and put it below, I made what was lying down upright, I turned your shampoos that were facing one way face the other way, I cleaned what was stained with toothpaste and made it look new again. I wondered if you would get the Warholian joke. The only thing I didn’t touch was your toothbrush.

The Remembrance of Crêpe Past

For someone my memory was encapsulated in a banana and chocolate crêpe made by a young Canadian girl in York who loved Europe.

In the city of York this past week, a long lost friend ordered a banana and chocolate crêpe and experienced a Proustian Madeleine journey down memory lane. At the end of it was me, my 22 year-old self making waffles at the Belgian Food Company on Oxford Street.

I wondered of all the experiences we had shared, how had I become associated with a crêpe. Both forgotten to each other for the past 6 years as he became a husband and then a father and I had unconsciously practiced the art of forgetting our real chats and gchats, I combed gmail manually in search of remembrance when I came upon the Madeleine memory in my gchat. The actual memory had been 14-years-old but the retelling had only been 7.

Friend: Tell me a story
Lol
in the movie
Where the wild things are
The mother has a bad evening and asks the boy to tell her a story
Me: Sorry my computer froze then I had to restart, etc
story what kind of story
Friend: I thought u signed out without saying bye again and I was sad
Me: the other times its because you hadn’t answered in like an hour
Friend: Yeah I guess
 Tell me any story
 A sweet story
 I’m having a Sunday evening panic attack lol
Me: Panic attack
Friend: I often have emotional tsunamis on Sunday evenings
 I’ve had them since I can remember
Me: Fictional or non-fictional story… now i can’t think of any
Friend: I feel like I didn’t accomplish enough this week and I have general feeling of fear and angst of starting a new week
Me: What were you suppose to accomplish, you mean at work
Well, remember how i used to work at the Belgian Food Company in London?  making waffles
Friend: Oh yeah!!!! What about it?
Me: Well, three years ago this guy emails me, tracks me down from online articles I had written because he was trying to find someone who had worked at the Belgian Food Company and it was close to Valentine’s Day. He emails and says that he wants to know how to make waffles like the ones sold at the Belgium Food Company because those were his girlfriend’s favorite.
Friend: Wow lol
Me: But wait… the story gets better… essentially, they didn’t have alot of money to travel and had worked and saved but still couldn’t really eat out and i guess do anything luxurious while they were traveling so it turned out that the Belgian waffle was one of her favorite meals in London and he wanted to recreate the waffle and put an engagement ring in it to propose but he couldn’t get the waffle right and so he had tracked me down. Unfortunately, I had to tell that I didn’t actually make the waffles but that they were pre-made. I was however able to tell him the dough had chunks of sugar in them and that the trick was to have the dough at the right temperature.
Friend: Boo
And?
A-ha
And did he get it?
Me: I don.t know if he was ever able to make the waffle just right…
Friend: Hehe
Me: Oh, he had been working on the recipe for like a few weeks before he contacted me.
Friend: Amazing that he actually hunted u down!

The Korean Drama Doormat to Dream girl Challenge

In Korean dramas, the falling in love happens over the course of dozens of episodes so that one or both of the characters have plenty of time to witness and experience internal qualities that inspire love such as bravery/integrity, kindness/generosity, strength of character or proof of love. Intelligence or wealth is typically not a mandate for a woman. What is more important is that she works hard (round the clock) and has good intentions. (The evil girls are always the lazy ones but good at strategy) Since most Korean dramas are contemporary fairy tales being spread throughout all of Asia and into Asian communities all throughout the world, many female protagonists are typically older than the men, lower in social status, underemployed, not stylish, not a bitch, low on prestige, socially awkward, too nice and depending on whether we go into the tragic genre (divorced with kid) or fantastical (sees ghosts), things could be even worse. Meaning in the real world, this girl would be a high potential doormat.

And that is how the story begins… these dramas take on the ultimate doormat challenge like Lena Dunham takes on body image. The lessons are twofold: girl needs to find herself but the guy needs to realize love may come in unexpected forms. Here are some case studies:

  1. Master’s Sun: The college-educated, chronically unemployed girl now moonlighting as a cleaning lady as she can’t hold down any other job because she sees ghosts and they’re always giving her errands to run. The ghosts end up making her look like a ghost by inducing insomnia as she walks around pale with the largest dark circles around her eyes. She becomes the dreamgirl for a CEO whose commercial properties are haunted by ghosts.
  2. Flower Boy Next Door: The freelance copyeditor who no longer leaves her apartment and lives draped in a sleeping bag surrounded by a mess of books and empty water bottles. She is voyeuristically in love with her neighbor Rear Window style binoculars and all when one day, the guy’s brother finally notices her spying. The extroverted self-proclaimed cupid is able to bring her life back into the outside world again.
  3. Marry Him if You Dare: A 32-year-old call center worker not confident enough to pursue her dreams of being a television writer has no clue what kind of future she is stumbling into. It’s so dire her future self finds a way to time travel back to the present to bitch slap her into another future.

Instances of love at first sight are rare in Korean dramas as they suggest superficiality which is all too prevalent in the real world. However, it is also an avenue of love formation that needs representation and examination and this scene from Marry Him if You Dare is possibly the best example I have seen in a Korean drama.

The scene represents a turning point for both characters. One is on the brink of suicide, and the other on the brink of falling in love. The movement from one end to the other is brilliant. She solemnly sleepwalks toward the ocean in her PJs looking like someone who has lost her mind. He sees her and immediately picks up the phone to dial for security to report a potential suicide attempt. However, she stops in her tracks, and then he retracts from his call. The scene now becomes inspirational. Both are unsure of what he or she will do, and the viewers are also unsure of what is going to happen. She now becomes a muse causing him to pick up his art medium, the video camera. She, in turn, does what she is best at (until now), getting distracted into silliness as she notices the cutest illuminated goldfishes and starts to play with them. He now picks up has his video camera and zooms in on her scar… a signal that he finds it beautiful. She somehow gets inspired to become fearless and takes off her shirt to dive into the ocean and really play. At this point, he stops recording as he doesn’t want to be perverted but remain a gentleman. She has chosen life, and he has fallen in love.

 

What Difference Does It Make: The Two Literatures

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Leaving Antje Öklesund one January evening during the most beautiful snowfall

On the dance floor of “What difference does it make!” I met someone whose take on common interests were so different from mine, it made all the difference.

How two people from the humanities can amazingly miss the connect:

Concerning Hegel:

Me: I took a class on his Phenomenology. 

Literature: I took a class on his Logic. 

(the phenomenology / logic divide)

Me: Did you know Hegel’s writing desk is in the main Humboldt university building?

Literature: You mean the building next to a sculpture of his bust?

Me: What sculpture?

(the desk / sculpture divide)

Concerning French Philosophy/ Literature

Literature: I started a Lacan reading group.

Me: I only vaguely remember Foucault. I’m into French literature.

(his literature was German and philosophy French, my literature was French and philosophy German)

Concerning Art

Literature: What do you like doing?

Me: I like going to galleries for contemporary art.

Literature: Did you see the Mondrian exhibit at the Martin-Gropius-Bau?

Me (thinking): shit I missed a Mondrian exhibition… there is a gap is my information flow

Literature: I guess Mondrian is modern and not contemporary

Me (still thinking): I can’t believe I missed that

(the modern/ contemporary art divide)

Concerning German Romanticism

Me: I like German Romanticism.

Literature: Brentano?

Me: Brentano is the one Romantic I haven’t read.

Literature: His style is similar to Tristram Shandy…

Me (thinking): I tried to read that once and couldn’t stand the writing…

(the Brentano/ all the other Romantics divide)

Concerning the Application of Trust

Literature: I translated an academic paper on “trust” today.

Me: I used to sell “trust” to e-commerce retailers.

Literature: How do you sell trust?

Me: with a feedback management system… customer and product reviews

(the translation/ selling of trust divide)

Concerning Quentin Tarantino

Literature: The only Tarantino film I thought was good was Reservoir Dogs.

Me (thinking): That is the one film I am not interested in seeing I haven’t seen that one.

(the Reservoir Dogs/ all other Tarantino films divide)

Concerning Politics

Me: Do you know Nate Silver?

Literature: Never heard of him.

Me: All my information on politics comes from Nate Silver.

(the political information divide)

 

Modern Romance: The Importance of Being Text

Modern Romance

“I think Tinder is a great thing,” says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist who studies dating. “All Tinder is doing is giving you someone to look at that’s in the neighborhood. Then you let the human brain with his brilliant little algorithm tick, tick, tick off what you’re looking for.”

Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance” investigates many things but foremost and also the most entertaining is his study of pre-romantic texts. He finds sadly many, even though both parties were initially interested, fell into the graveyard of unrealized dates. The main reasons for their demise are the following:

1. The busy game: while you have to play the busy game, sometimes the game spins out of control and one member or both can no longer tell if the unavailability is due to interest or lack of interest or both parties just give up due to exhaustion… (if our schedules were not meant to be how could we be)

2. Word choice: to an almost frightening degree, word choice plays a crucial role in continuing the conversation… a badly chosen word giving off the wrong subtext can take you out of the game

3. Unable to ask the girl out: many texts just circle around nothingness… like Aziz’s example of how one guy just couldn’t ask the girl out so they kept texting about the best laundry detergent

 

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Meet my New Years Berliners: Eggnog and Champagne

 

The Remains of a Professional Heartbreaker

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Early Andy Warhol MoMA

Professional heartbreakers pirouette gracefully around you as self-sufficient entities needing no additional qualities- they already have the best. They leave behind a psychological trail of trigger words, a philosophy, a specific color, a Hapsburg Empire of references to reel your interests into a sublimated loop. Their victims are the inculcated until they are not. Your understanding of truth and beauty becomes “Beauty is shoe, shoe beauty…” You always thought Warhol was an asshole and now you’re reading his entire oeuvre to understand his genius, how he cracked the code and gained the qualities he always wanted.

“Zwischen kante, slowdive und der sinatra-tochter…” becomes a riddle of wisdom representing the ribbed dimensions of a key opening the mysteries of a soul. The loosely chosen and uncapitalized words written in lackadaisical haste gets pondered upon until finally you realize… fuck, its just a list of bands. “Zwischen kante” will always be more interesting than the actual Kante.

Kante begins to seem like the most beautiful German word, something you need more of having had too much of Kant in your past. You start asking Germans if they’ve heard of the band Kante, separating people into the great Kante divide.

Eventually, Warhol’s philosophy gets understood and the repetition of the words “zwischen kante” makes it less and less meaningful until its archived. Heartbreaker goes on breaking hearts, and you can finally leave the Hapsburg Empire behind. Beauty is no longer shoe.

In the Waiting Room of the Black Lodge…

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In Twin Peaks, the Black Lodge exists like a fortune teller on Sunset Blvd., representing an ancient backwater mysticism of a town Agent Cooper comes to love while his urbane FBI colleagues scuff at the simplistic turn of the folk town. Faux classy and bleeding sleaze, the red waiting room is filled with circus freaks and gibberish, where the darkest truths are revealed in non-speak. The knowledge that awaits can horrify you, as the spirits, both good and evil, moving through its red cloth walls morph into monsters. It appears in dreams and exists in an unseen dimension through a portal in the woods and leaves behind the bad smell of petrol.

Somewhere on Sanderstrasse, Berlin has its own replica and for reasons unknown to me that was the first place I wanted to go in the New Year. I found myself typing the words Black Lodge into Tinder chats and hearing the words tripping off my tongue since the first day of January as either a date idea or friendly neighborhood bar visit with a girlfriend.

Every time I walked out of u-bahn Schönleinstrasse and tried to go, I’d reach into my purse to find my phone dead, requiring me to depend on someone else’s navigational skills. Each time we ended up circling away from Sanderstrasse. My friend kept walking us straight ahead till we reached a gas station on Sonnenallee (at the gas station I knew this couldn’t be it) and another time, a date escorted me to the canal then around the block and back again.

It was only after I finally made it there that I began to suspect that Berlin’s Black Lodge may not be such an innocuous replica of the imaginary existence of the real thing but by building it an energy had come, a force field of dark intentions and mischief. And that I, led by aesthetics and lack of depth of its true meaning, took myself and another innocent to unravel and reveal ourselves in its darkness.

Berlin’s red room was small and the seating lined its walls creating an enlarged BVG s-bahn bike area sitting arrangement in which you sat not facing your date but strangers sitting on the opposite side. Awkward.

Because of the strange events during and after my visit to the Black Lodge, I googled it and found through Wikia Twin Peaks that one’s actions in the red waiting room determined whether you would go to the White Lodge (love in a leafy environment) or to the Black Lodge (where pain and sorrow are the currency). In the red room one meets one’s shadow self, just as the Black Lodge is the shadow self of the White Lodge. Now I wonder had my heart been more pure and courageous at heart would I found entrance to the White Lodge.

The temptations of my shadow self came out when I recognized someone going to the bathroom. The male version of the girl I wanted to be, someone I saw everywhere from gallery openings to the art library (Kunstbibliothek), in the underground, walking to the HU library, and then in a bar on Sanderstrasse, as I was on a date with someone else.

His style of tweed suits and perfect grooming, carrying his large obscure art books while working on a paper at the Kunstbibliothek had attracted my notice in addition to being my spiritual Berlin art doppelgänger.

In my utter amazement at his sight, I blurted out, “that guy that just walked to the bathroom, I saw him everyday at the Kunstbibliothek for a month.”

“Did he see you?” ouch, thanks.

I made no reply but thought, he saw me now. At that moment, my shadow self came to the realization that my fairly good-looking date lacked my aesthetic taste in style. I imagined endless days of his musician uniform, jeans and a t-shirt, just as he was wearing that evening.

As I second-guessed my desires, I later realized he was plotting how to make me stop liking him. One telling moment of body language was the clue. He turned his body toward me for the first time that evening and strangely became overly interested when I related a story of how one of my most considerate and nicest friends, slowly got rid of me from her life. The distress in which I told the story showed how much I was still hurt, angry, still stunned, and surprised from the drawn-out death of the friendship. Unknown to me, I had just given him the blueprint to “how to make this girl never want to see me again.” Suddenly after that date, the “great human being” I thought I had met was working hard to get rid of me using the template my had friend chosen in real-time. The knowledge was shocking. What was at first a good first impression changed to face the other direction.

However, it could also just be my shadow self working overtime in thinking these thoughts.

Kinfolk vs. Rocket

Father Carpenters cappuccino this fall at a table in the inner courtyard
Father Carpenters cappuccino this fall at a table in the inner courtyard

“Thus much of this [gold] will make black white, foul fair/Wrong right, base noble, old young, coward valiant.” Shakespeare

“What happens in a society and culture where money becomes the measure of all things and technological innovation becomes just a way to make more money faster? Viewers can only imagine the fully ripened fruits of such feckless sowing.” Ken Johnson

by way of Ken Johnson “Review: Simon Denny Sees the Dark Side of Technology at MoMA PS1

Like concurrently liking a Hegelian scholar and the writings of Kierkegaard, Kinfolk and Rocket Internet entered my life like two opposing forces of nature and without my realizing I was living a contradiction.

I had spent the previous year, lovingly gawking at the Alice Gao/ Kinfolk aesthetic of quiet corners and cups of coffee, donuts and ice cream; an aesthetic that was minimal and championed slow living. But then I found a job at a place whose main philosophical and commercial tenet was speed. Not average Joe speed, but give me the blood of your first born child speed, analogous to Amazon Am-holes, as documented in this nytimes article (during the research of this link I discovered that the Senior VP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney was the young political pundit/ journalist I had a crush on in the mid 90s). This amalgam would result in what I will call the picture wars, workplace bullying and twitter mobbing.

I got hired by someone who craved power like no other office worker I had seen in the PR department of one of Rocket Internet’s spawn start-ups. After 4 interview sessions with 5 people and a copy test plus a social media business proposal for a country market that was like the US but not the US, a couple weeks of phone chasing through sickness and cross Atlantic trips, I finally got the job after flame hoops, quicksand, CEO refusal and reluctant final approval and written confirmations and all that LA DI DA what a party.

I found the office politics had such varied forces as the Syrian Civil War. On such a battlefield, my reading of social situations and loaded PR innuendo was so slow, it would take me a few hours to realize how low the jugular had been. Due to my new status and absolute zero power, I would liken myself to the innocent Syrian civilians. Ultimately because my ideas were initially favored by my boss, I became the persecuted and took my martyrdom in silence.

However, although I had good ideas, I started to become a liability because I not only made my own mistakes which enemy forces ran wild with (you could cut through the hate) but also I fell into every trap laid out for me. I spent the last month at war reading the 48 Laws of Power, researching Ramadan and imagining my direct colleagues as salivating dogs.

When the only person that ever wanted me there finally yawned in my face, and I knew it was over but not before I declared “I don’t want power, I want freedom” sealing shut my own fate.

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I flew to NYC and look what greeted me a Simon Denny art piece