The Land of Meat and Honey 32/40

March 30, 2007 at 1:50 pm | Posted in Art, Food, Japanese, Lent | 1 Comment
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Yesterday I violated my self-imposed rules of Lent. But we were quick at coming up with an excuse, so I am not too worried about me ending up in hell:-)

But let me start at the beginning. Yesterday was another tough day – one tough day seems to be followed by another these days, because there are so many things happening or requiring attention at the moment. I needed to find film material for my character analysis tasks for my course Creative Writing for Film and that took longer than I thought. I needed films which establish the landmarks of the story in less than 10 minutes, and that wasn’t easily found. We have an excellent collection of DVDs in our library, but for inexplicable reasons, we still have movies that either don’t come in the original version or not with English subtitles. I needed English/English – that’s the best way of making sure my students understand, say, the ghetto slang of the kids in 8 mile. If you’re ever doing a similar exercise, start with First Blood a.k.a. Rambo, it’s excellent for that purpose.

I somehow managed to get everything done by 5pm, then hurried down to the station to catch the train to Br. My boyfriend had been pointed to a vernissage at the Kunsthaus (a good exhibition space, and a good example of what money can do in a culturally deprived region like this one). The vernissage was crap though. It was the official opening of the new billboards near the esplanade, and they truly featured word play such as “Teleer”, showing an empty plate (Teller= plate, leer = empty). And some really bad typography, e.g. the one with the gradient below. I can hardly believe how the artist could be so demented to have this line VANITAS tattooed across her cleavage, but she was. Is a badly designed billboard really worth it? Or a rotten croissant, reading Gipfel (a word for both croissants and summits). The only one I cared for a bit was the photograph of a disintegrating billboard, put to use as a new billboard.

Billboard Billboard Billboard Billboard

And two other more annoying ones that I am not even going to discuss. See for yourself, if you’re really interested.

We left the vernissage at the point where the curator wanted to instigate a dialog with the artists (a married couple), because none of us was too interested in learning what their thoughts might have been. Instead, we managed to sneak into the current exhibition for free, using the name of one of my students as a key who works there as a warden (warden is the word the dictionary advises, umm). Nice! We got to see Jeff Koons’ balloon dog and flowers made from chrome steel (and the asshole of his ex Ilona Staller), Damien Hirst’s latest pickled animal (the shark you’ll also see on Wikipedia), dust, hair and hemp seed on canvas by Gerhard Merz and the miniature versions of Marcel Duchamp’s most famous art works (here is a link to the exhibition, I don’t want another DMCA notice, and Koons and Hirst might be a bit anal about this). I had always wanted to see these miniatures, ever since I read the brief History of Portable Literature by Enrique Vila-Matas, which is actually a history of dada (and doesn’t seem to be available in English, I read it in German). It is not about paper backs, but about a portable existence which appears to be one of the objectives of dadaism. Making miniatures of your artworks was one of the ways to achieve that, at least according to Vila-Matas.

After the Kunsthaus, we were fairly hungry and considered customing a Running Sushi place, being only semi-convinced by the idea becaus it was quite pricey. But we (my boyfriend, his digs mate Daniel and I) then figured that, if we had already saved the money for the Kunsthaus (which would have been € 8 per head), we would have the right to afford it. Oh, and it was divine. I was completely no more in control of my Lent resolutions, and before I knew it my teeth sank into a special type of chicken nugget, made of chicken breast and a thin batter, with a crust of honey and sesame. A double no-no! When I realized my ‘mistake’, my boyfriend pointed out that I had also been fasting the past sundays, which wasn’t really required in the regular Lent timetable. In that sense, I had deserved this piece:-)

And from that point on, there was no holding back. I ate probably a dozen of those pieces, and for dessert, I picked three small plates of pudding (two chocolate, one vanilla) from the belt and something very similar to a Germknödel, a sweet dumpling, but with an unknown filling. What a feast! In a way, I still stuck to my guns though, as I didn’t have any other meat than the one I had almost accidentally eaten. I cannot wait for Easter to come now.

Btw, tomorrow is open day at my ‘educational company’, and I am going to offer a digital storytelling workshop and participate in a reading in a library. I am going to read Alfred Döblin, precisely from the very text I posted some days ago. I probably should translate the whole three pages for Cabbage, because the text is really brilliant!

Butchery Galore! 6/40

February 26, 2007 at 8:51 am | Posted in Culture, Food, Lent, Religion | 13 Comments
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This flickr photoset might meanwhile have become a meme on the web: A sacrifice of 2000 pigs, neatly dressed and decorated, to invoke the complacency of the deity General Chao of Wudeh temple at a temple festival in Jendeh, southern Taiwan, 19 Jan 2007. This is my favourite picture from the set – it makes you wonder whether they do something with the carcasses to make the pigs smile.

Smiling dead pigs

LentA Lenten comment (Day 6): Well, good that I am not eating meat at the moment anyway. This is probably hearsay, but when people begin a conversation about vegetarianism, they tend to discuss the different types of meat at one point. Pork is the one that is dissed most in these conversations (although probably eaten the most in Europe). At that point someone might say: “Biologically, man and pig are very close. They even have the same meat and the same insuline. That’s why diabetics shouldn’t eat pork.” This is ususally greeted with nodding by the rest. It might be utter rubbish, but I believe I have heard this argument at least half a dozen of times.

A quick guide to Borat

February 5, 2007 at 8:28 am | Posted in Comedy, Entertainment, Film, Globalization, Television | 1 Comment
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BoratSince people searching for ‘Borat naked’ on the web keep ending up on this site*, I’ve decided to put together a quick itinerary for these folks. First off, here is a youtube video featuring the naked chase:

Here are the essential sites dedicated to the screen character Borat Sagdiyev – allegedly Kazakhstan’s sixth most famous man.

  • Borat [Wikipedia on Borat] is a screen character played by Sacha Baron Cohen [Wikipedia on Cohen]
  • Other popular characters created and impersonated by Cohen are ghetto boy Ali G [Wikipedia on Ali G] and gay Austrian fashion reporter Bruno [Wikipedia on Bruno].
  • You can become Borat’s friend on myspace.com/borat.
  • Before the movie, there’s was a two-part television show introducing Borat [Wikipedia on this programme]. It was broadcast in 2004 on Channel 4 and E4 in the UK as a spinoff to the Ali G show.
  • Borat has an official homepage: borat.tv.
  • There are several inofficial Borat fanpages: Boratonline (uk), Boratfans.com (trying to be as trashy as the original), Boratmovie online (but you won’t find the movie there), and Boratwear.com (the last one comes with a shop).
  • boratgallery.com, boratlingo.com boratimages.com are now defunct (copyright violation? but that’s just a private guess)
  • If you are looking for production information to reference the film, Borat’s page on the Internet Movie Data Base would be a good start.
  • Your best bet to get an overview of the reception by critics is Borat’s page on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • If you don’ know what the Borat fuss is all about, you could start with this video interview with Borat on movies.com

I’ve put a “globalisation” tag on this post because I think that the controversy about Borat has to do with the different reception it got in different parts of the world – it’s probably easier to enjoy the film in Europe than it is in the USA, Kazakhstan or Romania.

*) I wonder why! I’ve never written a single word about him. I haven’t even seen the movie – and I suppose it is better that way, as it would only wind me up.

“Glad I am no Asian!”

January 30, 2007 at 8:29 am | Posted in Food, Globalization | Leave a comment
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Camembert CheesePlease excuse my brief reiteration of cultural stereotypes… I just wondered whether Asians, far East Asians that is, are really not able to digest cheese or whether this was just a global legend (notice the pun? global legend as a neologism combining urban legend and globalization? ha ha!). Because I would never want to be an Asian in my next life if that meant that I would not be able to eat cheese!

There is no image of the cheese that caused my wondering, but it looked a bit like the cheese that I’ve added to this article: a mature specimen of camembert! I love camembert, but if my glands and enzymes were unable to process cheese, then that would probably be the slab that would make me puke! But as things were, it was one of the most delicious bites that I’ve had in a while. It was so moist that it nearly became liquid when I sliced it, due to its 50% of fat in milk solids, and it had the most refined, savoury-sour smell a cheese could have. There are some Europeans, too, who would rather eat the dirt under their toemails than a smelly, mouldy cheese – so how would a Japanese react? Would he feel like I would feel if someone forced me to eat a century egg (argh – see image below)?

Century egg

But I figure this equation is lopsided: The reason why this egg looks so disgusting to me is that its shape and proportions _remind_ me of an egg, and I really like eggs – but this one looks just like an egg that’s off! It looks like a f___ing, rotten, hardboiled zombie egg.

So: If Asians cannot digest milk, then plain Gouda or Edamer cheese, i.e. something not as mouldy looking, would be just as disgusting to them as my camembert. No? Anyone who knows (or who knows an Asian who did NOT grow up in the US or UK and was not exposed to cheese until an age of, say, 18) would you care letting me know? Thx a lot.

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