James Turrell and the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof

Of course, given all the talk about my name in the past week, I had to visit the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof yesterday.

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The Dorotheenstadt cemetery, officially the “Cemetery of the Dorotheenstadt and Friedrichswerder Parishes,”  is a ‘landmarked Protestant burial ground located in the Berlin district of Mitte’ (Wikipedia) which dates to 1762 and in which many, many famous Germans are buried: Bertoldt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel, who also happened to live next door to the cemetery, Hegel, Fichte, Heinrich Mann, Arnold Zweig, Anna Seghers, Regisseur Heiner Müller and the Prussian architects Friedrich August Stüler and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, among others. It’s called the “Prominenten [basically VIP’s] cemetery” of Berlin and is located in Stadtmitte (a city district in the center of Berlin) near Oranienburger Tor, which used to be the north entry to a much smaller Berlin. It’s also near the Jewish Synagogue of Berlin and the Bertoldt Brecht Haus. A lot of the cemetery and the chapel were affected by WWII, but the chapel was reconstructed in the 1960s and a dedicated space for James Turrell’s (a US American artist and architect) concepts of space and light since then. It is this chapel my brother and I visited yesterday, having been to the cemetery in the past to appreciate the space and resting grounds of many important German thinkers.

Since being in Berlin 2017, I’ve tried to do something unique to Berlin at least twice a month. Lately, it’s been something at least once each weekend. The past two weekends were taken care of by the Berlinale- Berlin’s international film festival, which featured some really great movies (better, dare I say, than some of the movies up for Oscars tonight).

To just return to those viewings for a second: The really neat thing about the Berlinale was that the directors, producers, and/or actors as well as others involved would be available for Q & A after the movies. The awards ceremony for the Generation group (movies with kids as a main focus) was especially fun to watch.

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The Glass Bears

However, this weekend, I spent a leisurely Saturday morning while preparing for my long run, came back from my long run and felt like a zombie, and decided it was a good reason as any to get some blood pouring through my legs again. I had looked for things to do in the morning, but didn’t really find much except for a play and a few random destinations. So I went for my run.

After refueling with pancakes, I looked again and stumbled upon the “tips for the day” put out by the Berlin event planner thingie (don’t know who’s job it is to arrange these things, but I’m glad they’re there!) and found an event that met my expectations: interesting, I knew where it was located, and it was inepensive- cost 5 Euro reduced entry free.

The event started at 5 pm, which I later found out was so that one could see the chapel during the day and then experience sunset and the effect of the light changes from inside the chapel. Being there a bit early gave me the chance to catch a few shots from outside and surrounding gardens:

After getting seated in the chapel, which was arranged like any other chapel- benches, alter in the front, space in the back for the organ, but otherwise rather spartan, I tried to wrap my head around the unusual lighting. There was a bright blue light coming from the walls, and bright green coming from the alter that while pleasant enough, just seemed artificial. I didn’t feel like I was properly in God’s space. It didn’t help that people were chatting and laughing and on their phones.

But then a member of the parish came up and introduced the space before introducing the curator of the art installation. The young curator told us about James Turrell and his work, as well as his ideas for the chapel. It is an interesting coincidence that the one event I chose this weekend in Berlin had to do with a US American, but it’s also a refection of how globalized we are.

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At any rate, I was thrown back to my art studies and how complementary colors work and how lights affect ability to gauge dimensions, and so I was really into the design aspect of the space. Then, the parish member lit the candles of the alter, and I was surprised at how the natural light balanced the artificial light that no longer was unappealing to me anyway.

There were some great violets and oranges that I didn’t photograph. Once the prayer was said and the candles lit, the space was mostly quiet and it was a great chance to reflect and let the lights do their magic… and it really was magic.

Leaving the chapel, my brother remarked that what we did was low-keyed for a weekend outing, but it was really nice. It got us a chance to see something unique and participate in a little event that not many knew of or were there for. I know many people who come to Berlin are more interested in the big monuments and events of the city, but one shouldn’t forget the small ones. I guess getting to know them is part of the perks of living in that space, and not just visiting.

For those interested, the event happens every Wednesday and Saturday half an hour before sunset, and costs 10 Euro, 5 Euro reduced for students, veterans, seniors, and those on benefits.

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My name and the number 69

Of course I can’t mention that English speakers tend to mispronounce my name without actually saying how to pronounce it. Sorry about that!

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The two biggest issues are that English speakers like to pronounce their “th”s and don’t do well with hard “r”s. My name has both, plus four syllables, so I get why it’s an issue. Also, when you look it up on Youtube, you’ll get this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE2H-ldObAI. It’s not how to pronounce my name, though.

Here’s a sort of guide to how the name is pronounced, give or take a few stresses, nearly everywhere except by a mono-lingual English speaker:

doe (a deer, a female deer)-roe-tay-ah!

The exclamation mark afterwards is optional. So, it’s more like this: https://forvo.com/_ext/ext-prons.js?id=824150

Hope that satisfied some of your curiosity! Thanks for the interest.

In other news, this morning, I accidentally stumbled upon the stats for my wanderwolf blog and noticed I had a new “views” record for the blog. I had been staring at the previous record of 56 (or 57?/can’t remember) for about two years and wondered if it would ever be broken.

Turns out, it was broken by a number that I’m not too fond of: 69. It may seem immature, but I learned about what the number could reference late in my high school years and found it an awkward number ever since. I skip it on the treadmill in the gym (so no 6.69 paces for me) and I try not to include the use of the number in writing or speech. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to keep it away from me. It was part of my student ID for high school, studying abroad in Hamburg, and my pre-determined pin for several debit cards. Good thing I could change most of those (and the ones I couldn’t change I no longer have, so there).

So, while I think it’s really neat my site was viewed so often within a 24 hour period, I hope I don’t have to wait two years to change it again. Also, I’m aware of the irony that I decided to write about my disdain of the number 69, prompting the most I’ve ever used it in my life.

Thus concludes personal random facts day two for me. I hope to return to my regularly scheduled programming soon.

 

Random Q & A

Blair from “The Shameful Sheep” writes some pretty funny stories about her daily thoughts and life… and so it figures that a Q & A by her will be funny too. It helps that the questions are a bit unusual and not something you would expect to find out about someone.

Since I feel like sharing some unsolicited facts about myself, here you go:

1. Who are you named after? 

My mother named me after the second wife of a famous German poet. This means that not only was I kind of cursed to hear my name mispronounced by English-speakers my entire life, I was also destined to dedicate my life to poetry, or marry a poet… something like that. Also, “Dorothea” comes from the Ancient Greek for gift of god, which is how I think of myself in relation to the world. You’re welcome. 

2. Do you like your handwriting?

I used to have the kind of cursive handwriting that was so unique (and intricately cursive, yet too intricate to be called “awful”) that only a few select people in my classes were handed my papers for peer-checking, because they were the only ones who could decipher it. These people were also my best friends. Now, my handwriting, like my demeanor, have settled down a bit. I still like my cursive more than my print.

5. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yep. Isn’t that such a great fact to know about me?!

6. Would you bungee jump? 

Probably yes, but only after freaking out about it the hours before hand. I’m scared of heights, but also super-competitive and like to take on a challenge. I also like adrenaline rushes, hence running.

9. What is the first thing you notice about people?

Whether they are the kind of people who look you in the eye. I’m a huge “look you in the eye” kind of person, so it’s obvious when the other person isn’t. I try not to be creepy about it, though, and sometimes, if doing it for too long, get cross-eyed.

11. What color pants are you wearing? 

I got some mint green pj pants for Christmas with sledding cats and “meowy Christmas” on them. It’s near the end of  February. They make me happy. 

13. If you were a crayon what color would you be?

Blair’s answer to this was poop brown. I don’t think I’d want to be a bodily excrement color! My color would be “Maximum Blue Green.” Best of both worlds and top of its game.

19. Scary movies or happy endings? 

I can’t watch scary movies, because I then believe in things that I previously hadn’t heard of and can’t sleep alone. So happy endings. But I actually like the movies where the ending is not cliched happy the best. It’s okay to leave the viewer with a mellow ending that prompts thinking about life.

20. Last movie you watched? 

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. My brother and I are rewatching all the Peter Jackson Tolkien tributes. We’re currently 2/3s of the way through the extended edition of Battle of the Five Armies and it makes me so happy to have this to look forward to this evening!

23. Night owl or early bird? 

Early bird. One hundred pro. Even if I take about an hour to meander from bedroom to kitchen to my writing table, I love the feeling of waking up in the morning and starting a new day. I’m usually too tired by 2300 to notice it’s also a part of the day.

24. Favorite day of the week? 

I love Saturdays. It’s the weekend and buffered by one other day before the new week starts. I can do ANYTHING on a Saturday, planned or unplanned, and still have Sunday to recover.

25: Which three of your favorite bloggers do you want to know more about? 

Like Blair, I just “want to know more about a lot of people – so I’m not going to nominate. I’d love to read everyone’s response. So, if you want to fill out the questions and post them, make sure you let me know in the comments so I can go read them.”

Thanks for saving me some typing, Blair.

 

 

Update on Life in Berlin in Winter

A week ago I wrote on my running site that I was going to post to my “other” (this) blog soon. A week is still “soon,” right? So much for posting about life in general. I guess  I’m too busy living it to write about it much. But let it be said, things are mostly good and Berlin is cold and gray, but still a lot of fun.

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Things I did recently worth writing about:

  • I visited a national Turnkunst exhibition. Turnen is a sport similar to gymnastics, but while we associate gymnastics in the US with girls, it used to be a “bro” sport in Europe and involved the typical bro culture. In Germany especially, Turnen fraternities were largely responsible for the mobilization that lead the to the (failed) 1848 revolution to get Germany to unite from all its little kingdoms and townships. Going there introduced me to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • I also visited the International Grune Woche: basically a convention for world produce, agriculture, bee culture, farm culture, rock gardens, nutrition…, I think you get the idea. I was impressed by a device exhibited that’s supposed to determine the sex of the chicken in an egg while it’s still an eg. This device would help prevent waiting for the egg to hatch before killing the chicken if it’s a male. I was also excited about all kinds of free samples and thought it was neat to be in Berlin’s convention center for the first time. It was pretty cool!
  • Finally, I most recently  (as mentioned in my running log) traveled with my brother to Lower-Saxony and had a skiing vacation in mountains of the Harz national park. It’s so beautiful there… and has a reputation for its deli specialties and witch motif. Apparently, witches celebrate Walpurgis Night (featured in Goethe’s Faust as well as re-imagined in Joyce’s Ulysses) on the Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz, and the theme is carried out in all the shops, restaurants and hotels- partially for the sake of tourists, but also an homage to this history and it’s suitable for the region. Wandering around the quaint German town (I had forgotten about the German architectural stereotypes living in Berlin now) after dark was a bit exhilarating.

Looking forward, the Berlinale, Berlin’s International Film Fest is currently in its 67th rendtion, and I am actually willingly leaving my flat on weekends to participate. I’ve opted for only one day of the weekends, not both, and I’ve limited myself to watching 5 of the many, many options. I’ve never participated in a media event of this magnitude before. I guess living in Berlin does have it’s perks!

And it’s not all gray.

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p.s. I continue to follow the news in the US with great interest.

A new millennium?

After playing with the idea for about twenty minutes to explain my response to the 2017 Presidential Inauguration using Sherlock memes, I gave it up. There’s maybe one meme, but it’s a bit dramatic and doesn’t face the issues head-on. I’ll save it for the end.

I was lucky enough to follow the inauguration on the big screen at work Friday. You know you come from a powerful country when the German colleagues at work are more concerned about hearing the inauguration speech than you are. I guess I take being American for granted a lot of the time. And can you blame other people wanting to have that kind of freedom? Also, I had to be grateful again that I have that kind of access to events in the US real time through today’s technology and globalized value of covering the news of other countries.

A few  things that impressed upon me watching the Inauguration with Germans was their response to the prayers and use of God in the ceremony and speeches. The separation of religion and state is, I guess, much stronger in Germany, perhaps because their democracy is much younger. Also, our song “America the Beautiful” as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was related to a Disney performance. That actualy hurt my feelings a bit, and I’m not that sensitive a person when it comes to patriotism. Still, I love that song and the awe of US landscapes, brotherhood, and beauty it inspires.

Standing there, though, staring at the screen usually reserved for conferences, I was reminded of “The Situation Room,” Pete Souza’s famous photo of the national security team awaiting updates about the death of Bin Laden.

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Yesterday was a reenactment of the Situation Room all over the globe, I imagine. However, yesterday in the office where I work, there were a lot more women in the room.

I’m not comparing Trump in power to the death of a terrorist cell leader, but the image belies the tension  and concern I felt about what to expect based on Trump’s speech. I listened attentively for the most part, rolled my eyes at a few moments, and was surprised by a few others. It’s these moments that I want to respond to for a chance to think about what they mean. .

“[…]we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent.”

Yes. Yes they have. And gracious is a great word to describe the Obamas throughout this whole presidency. That and decent. And intelligent. And thoughtful. These adjectives are all ones I find difficult to ascribe to President Trump, but he was gracious in that moment near the beginning of his speech, and so there is a spark of decency in him. But I wonder if that’s just a trait reserved for practiced speeches. It also did not last very long.

I think what bothered me immediately about the speech was its simplistic language and its caustic tone. I can deal with simplicity, but not in a speech that is meant to inspire, promise, and prophesize.

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

Some of the words struck the right note, and I won’t fail to acknowledge the poetic potential in the simile of US factories to tombstones, but “carnage”? And “beautiful students”? A lot of words come to mind when I think of students, but beautiful is not congruous with the promise Trump intends to make here. Also, there seems to be a lack of logical clarity. It’s not knowledge the students are missing; they are missing an effective teaching system based on getting students to think, not just know.

And I don’t know, but the whole “carnage” and “America first” is something I had a problem with. It verbally imagines the US as a country that has been bullied, abused, and had its lands and people laid to waste by other countries. If there’s carnage in the US, it comes from within. If there are bullying countries in the world, I think many would agree that the US tops the list.

I understand and support US business holders and workers being able to provide and take jobs, but I don’t see what a nation can (or should) do to make items that can be made abroad for less money economically feasible in the US. Why not move forward in finding solutions for the globalized economic streams, rather than reverting to an old isolationist mentality that certainly did not help in the late 1800s and definitely does not even seem possible now?

We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Um, did he just ignore the past few years of violence by and against police? Where a large portion of US society spoke out about how they don’t feel protected?  And why does he assume that God cares about what happens to the US more than the people of other nations? That aside, let’s get to the ringing phrase of his Address.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and, through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

At first, I was struck by the line “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” It actually sounds like a great line. It sounds like something that could unite all US Americans. After all, yes, we do all pledge allegiance to the same ideas that the US flag represents.  However, what about prejudice against “non-Americans?” And those not seen as “US Americans”? What happens when a person of foreign heritage is in question? And  one can interpret the line to mean that patriotism means we don’t have the grounds to prejudice other people, other nations. But we do, and according to Trump, we will. “America first,” after all.

“From this day forward,” Trump said at one point, “it’s going to be only America first. America first.”

I understand the point he makes about the US staking its claim to put its interests first. What surprises me, though, is that this line implies that it hasn’t been this way for the past 8 years or for most of the US’s history. The US has always puts its interests first. All the notes about investing in other militaries and other economies, it was never to the detriment of the US. And I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t mean it like this, but “America first” sounds an awful lot like “only America.” Unfortunately, that’s a stance that’s hard to take for me.

We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a lewl [sic] millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space…” (Speech as transcribed on The Gaurdian 

What did he actually try to say? I thought the new millennium started in 2000? And if he meant little millennium, that surprises me. I would not think it’s part of his vocabulary. Everything must be “yuge.” In general, this rounds up a general announcement of a lot of promises, often repeated from his campaigning speeches, that are “all talk.” Now is the time for action, and I guess the executive orders are a start: the first steps to dismantle the ACA and make mortgages more difficult to attain.

In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving.

This is actually one great line that I will give him, but only for the sake of the line. It was like a pearl thrown before swine. I also worry about what is striven towards. While I hold faith that democrats and republicans do strive towards the same things: security for ourselves, our families, our jobs, or livelihoods, our values, we will disagree on the practices.

In stark contrast to Trump’s Address stands Barack Obama’s Address in 2009. It’s not just the language used (thought the diction is clearly more sophisticated). It’s also how words from the bible are used, how no particular entity (congress, capitol hill, etc.) is antagonized, but weaknesses are acknowledged. It’s also, perhaps, a promise that all people can hold onto, not just US Americans (those who are recognized as such, since I know of many people who usually consider themselves American who were excluded from Trump’s private party), but especially US Americans, given the context.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.  On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.  We remain a young nation.  But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.  The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation:  the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. – from Barack Obama’s 2009 Inaugural Address

Oh well. It’s time to face the future, though with a little more critical thinking than Trump showed. Here are a few images to move on with.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPf65CqBk24/?taken-by=petesouza&hl=en

Another Souza photo, his caption: “Another view of President Obama leaving the Oval Office for the last time this morning.” Have a good vacation, Mr. Obama! God knows, you deserve some real time off.

Meet the new boss, not quite the same as the old boss.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/gallery/donald-trump-inauguration/index.html

I’m going to miss the president signing with his left hand. Image as found on the CNN politics page Jan. 21st

It is a new millennium, but I am not sure if I want to be privy to seeing how it continues to play out.

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Via GIPHY

I’m sorry. I had to get these thoughts out there. I’ll try to write more about other things again, soon… but just know that those other things won’t be “America first.” Given the title of my blog, I assume that’s a given. Given the fact that you follow this blog, I assume you’re okay with that.

Diligence 

Can one still wish others a happy new year? I think one can, especially as long as I’m still writing 2016 for the date. 

So, happy new year. I notice that one usually wishes other things besides happiness for the new year, such as health (a biggie), peace, and strength to meet one’s goals. That’s what I wish for myself and you all as well.

The joke, though, is that while we all wish each other a happy year, there’s a parallel movement to say that January is the worst month of the year. Its winter weather gets a lot of people down (unless you’re in Florida) and unprepared resolutions make life as one knew it a bit miserable (i.e. a new diet, fitness plan, quitting smoking). Add to the list the impending apprehension of a new political leader in the US, and this year seems especially düster –a particularly useful adjective to describe a somber sort of darkness. 

On the other hand, one cannot deny the thrill of a new start. Sitting in a plane, miles above the Atlantic Ocean, I couldn’t deny that the new year marks a possible renewal. The date may be arbitrary (and I’m a fan of making changes at any point they seem necessary, not just the new year), but the period just after holidays filled with celebration, interaction, and lack of routine can bring one to reflect on things one normally does not notice. 

Under such conditions and awarded space and time to reflect on my way back to Berlin after a short stay home in Florida, I thought about what I had done in 2016 and was waiting for in 2017. 

Running was easy to reflect on, since that which was in my control I did pretty well, and I learned a lot. There is perhaps the least room for improvement in this area, but that actually means I need to work on not allowing it to be a priority. That is, I need to be more diligent about being flexible and recognizing that if I don’t do well in my running, it is not as bad as not doing well in other aspects of my life. I tend to procrastinate with the gym, and put more energy into running or weights because the stakes are lower. These are not the years for that. 

Academics for me in 2016 were hills and valleys of accomplishments and disappointments, and I am still waiting to hear about a few applications I submitted in the last year. More than I hope for anything else, I hope for a change in my financial situation that will allow me to focus my energy on PhD work. Furthermore, I have a lot of good habits and ideas for producing good work, but I need to be more diligent about enacting those habits. This includes making the effort again to write something at least everyday, and to do more reading that can be considered in light of my PhD project. This means, unfortunately, that I will likely do less blog reading. I have to; I appologize in advance. 

Health and character wise, diligence is the theme again. I have a lot of knowedge and good habits in regards to nutrition and taking care of my body, but I need to work on enforcing these habits. I have made a few changes in my attitude towards stress eating, which is the biggest road-block to my physical and mental health. I am also working on being a more generous person, and offering my time and resources a little more freely (within reason) without first having the anxious thoughts about how this will ruin my routine and plans. I need to be more flexible. At the same time, this work includes continuing to learn when and how to say “no.”

Finally, I want to be more diligent about taking advantage of the fact I am in Berlin. I can pursue academics in any ivory tower, but I came to Berlin convinced that I would be more inspired by the city’s history, social and literary life. I will make sure to visit at least two events every month. I think that’s a reasonable goal. I am visiting one today: a touring of world famous acrobats. It may not be intellectual, but visiting the MercedesBenz stadium is something I can only do in Berlin, so… 

This will also be the year that I finally make it to England. Date is tentatively set for sometime in the Spring. 

In writing these notes, I don’t share my (potentially boring) goals for the new year with you as much as I suggest that it is the recommitment to old goals that we celebrate in the new year. Time is marked by changes, and I think it’s neat how even small changes can lead to a shift that makes Dec. 2017 different than Dec. 2016. This effect can be dangerous, of course, but also motivating. 

Let me remind you that good things happened in 2016 as well by linking to this surprisingly useful Tumblr post. It wasn’t all bad, and we can still do the work to make 2017 better. 

When I see a lamppost in snow, I think of C.S. Lewis. When I think of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I wonder if Narnia as allegorical space can tell us something about a world doomed to perpetual winter. What needs to change? Can we change it?

Breidtscheidplatz 19. Dez 2016

I don’t have anything useful to add to the news reporting about what happened in Berlin last night, but I think two people said it well:

Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maizière:

There is a psychological effect in the whole country of the choice of words here, and we want to be very, very cautious and operate close to the actual investigation results, not with speculation.

and

The UK Labour party’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry:

Our thoughts are with all those killed and injured in the horrific incident in Berlin, and with their families. We stand united in sorrow and solidarity with all the people of Germany, as well as with all those affected by today’s attacks in Switzerland and Turkey.

These lights will shine differently tonight.