Sunday, October 24, 2010

New series: My books - First issue: May to September 2010

Inspired by the upcoming Munich Literature Festival I decided to launch a new monthly series, where I will introduce to you the books I read the past month. I will mostly (sometimes I might not be able to keep my mouth shut ;) not give full reviews, but quick Facebook style "I like" / "I don't like" statements with short description of the reasons for my thumb up or down. 

As for the potential interactive part of this I would LOVE to hear your opinion if you maybe already read one ore more of the books mentioned in my postings or / and get recommendations from you what should be next on my reading list.

This kick off will be massive because I'll cover all summer, but don't be shocked: Once I am on my planned monthly schedule it won't be that much stuff anymore - especially in the next couple of months when Christmas business will force me to a sleep-work-work-work-sleep rhythm of life.

All right - so let's get started with the books of the summer 2010:

John Updike "The Maples Stories"


but I had a rough time learning to like it. This book is a collection of short stories, which follow all a couple - The Maples - from being newlywed to family with kids to divorce and finally the birth of a grandchild.

John Updike is famous for his sharp and (self-)critical view on the American middle class people and their relationships. So the content of this book is no suprise, but I am from another generation, from Europe and I grew up as the kid of a happily married, not cheating couple. So it was not easy for me to enter the world of "The Maples", but the longer I tried the better it worked and in the end I really enjoyed reading.

And it is not really necessary to mention that Updike was a fantastic storyteller and a must read for everybody interested in the (American) English language, isn't it? And that is why more of his books are on my "will read" mountain of paper stored in my apartment.

Elif Batuman - "The Possessed - adventures with russian books and the people who read them"


so much. I really thought that I read enough Russian books and had enough insight in Eastern European culture and history (including a degree in Eastern European History as minor subject in my master program) to enjoy this book, which got mostly good reviews, but in the end it seems I was not enough of a specialist to have really fun reading it.
I really enjoyed the parts of the book when Elif Batuman described with a nice dry sense of humor her travels, but the literature related part was mostly too deep into topics I am not familiar enough with.

I am sorry to say, but the best part for me was at the very end her short love story with a Croatian student who ended up being a priest on a tiny Dalmatian island. She definitely struggled to understand the Croatian mentality. Maybe she can teach me more about Russian books one day and I'll explain her some certain things about Croatian men ;) - deal?

Steven Galloway - The Cellist of Sarajevo


although this is for sure not 100% fair. The writing is really not bad and the (Canadian) author put a LOT of effort into research to tell things right, describe places and events right and to create believable characters. This is not a bad piece of work, but sorry - it is not feeling right.

This book practically fell down to my feet in a San Francisco book shop and I bought it because I knew the story of the real
Vedran Smajlović and also loved the small tribute given to him at the end of one of my favorite movies - "Welcome to Sarajevo". And that movie is also leading me to the reason of the "I don't like":

The movie by Michael Winterbottom is telling the story from a foreigner's point of view. A very involved foreigner indeed, but he never pretends to tell from the perspective of the besieged Bosnian people. Other than that Galloway tries to tell his story from even this perspective and - in my opinion - fails. Non-Bosnians should not tell Bosnian stories, sorry - but that is how I see it. For the same reason I do not believe in Angelina Jolie's recent movie work, but we'll see.

Aleksandar Hemon - "The Question of Bruno"
Aleksandar Hemon -  "Love and Obstacles"

so so so so so much! I bless the day the wonderful Marica Bodrožić posted a short quote from Aleksandar Hemon's "The Lazarus Project" on her blog and recommended the whole book to me, which I bought, inhaled and enjoyed like I've not enjoyed a book for a looong time. Since then I am SO IN LOVE with Aleksandar Hemon's writing. It is poetic, metaphoric, intense, sad, funny, heart breaking, heart healing and much more. All carried by the very special and wonderful use of the English language by the Sarajevo born and Chicago based author.

I very much read the stuff in the wrong order. I started with the novel "The Lazarus Project", continued with the latest short story collection "Love and Obstacles", went back to the very beginning to the short story collection "The Question of Bruno" and now have only the Bruno-follow-up-novel "Nowhere Man" left, which I will read soon with tears in my eyes, because I read so much faster than Aleksandar Hemon can write.
But although I mixed up with the order of the books it doesn't hurt. You can do that and I found it amazing to see clearly how he developed his story telling and how he more and more made the English language his own without loosing his special style. A style you can probably only create when you write in a language which is not your first one.

And by the way: All that "right" feeling in the gut I was missing reading "The Cellist of Sarajevo" is right there in "The Question of Bruno" reflecting in some cases very similiars scenarios in the besieged city of Sarajevo.

Tom Stoppard - Rock 'N' Roll


But before I recommend this to you, you need work on the following check list:

- You like reading plays.

- You like reading Stoppard plays (this is not the perfect choice for your first Stoppard read so you better already know some of his work).

- You have basic knowledge and interest in the history of the Czech Republic.

- You have a basic idea who Václav Havel and Milan Kundera are.

- You read at least one novel of Milan Kundera ("The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is of course the "must read" and I would also strongly recommend the wonderful "Immortality").

- Names like Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, U2 mean something to you and you understand that music is so much more than just entertainment.

- You like the ancient Greek (love) poetry of Sappho.

- You can handle it when a book with only 118 pages (already including a lot of additional material and comments) tells a story which has more layers than a giant onion.

If you can agree to at least 4 to 5 points there is a good chance that you'll like "Rock 'N' Roll". If it is less than 4 it could be critical, I guess.

Since I could answer almost all questions above with yes, I enjoyed "Rock'N'Roll" a lot although it will never win over my all time Stoppard favorite "Arcadia" (LOVE IT!).

Asking myself why it did not touch me as much as "Arcadia" I would say it is mostly because it has - just my humble opinion though - a couple of layers too much. I think a little less would have been more and would have made it a bit easier to go emotionally after the big hits like for example the betrayal of the main character on his father like friend. But that is just a small complaint about a great book and play.


Nick Hornby - Juliet, Naked


it soooo much that I already wrote a huge blog post about the book and my "stolen diaries", which you can check out

That's it for summer 2010 - more to come in the first week of November with the books of October.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Croatian inventions you never would guess to be Croatian like ... Doodle Jump

Are you an iPhone user? If yes you for sure know or heard about this cute little character you can see on the left who is called Doodle.

The iPhone game Doodle Jump is one of if not THE ONE most popular and often downloaded iPhone app.

Just in case you never seen that before:
Your job is to make Doodle go up and Up and UP - of course by handling some difficulties. There are several special editions of Doodle Jump available featuring different backgrounds and adventures like under water, outer space or soccer edition and many more. It's highly addictive - in the fun Tetris style kind of addiction ;).

Igor Pusenjak / Lima Sky
Image and Interview @
And what does cutie Doodle has to do with Croatia?

I'll tell you: His two daddies are the Croatian brothers Igor and Marko Pusenjak from Zagreb.

Igor was the one who first sketched Doodle on a pad in his living room - already living in the USA, where he studied.

His brother Marko - the engineer - was then the one, who brought Doodle to life.

Together - now both living in New York, but still having family and friends in Croatia - they started their company Lima Sky and keep working on updates and new Doodle Jump scenarios all the time. The latest big deal was of course the successful launch of Doodle Jump for the new iPad and and lots more will come for sure - as always focussed on the goal to create a non-violent, easy to afford (Doddle Jump for iPhone costs $ 0.99) and totally fun to play game.

If you want to read more you can do that for example here:

A look at the developers of Doodle Jump, Igor and Marko Pusenjak

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Concert Klapa Cambi, Munich - October 2nd 2010

Klapa Croatia, Munich
Ugh – I am late with my update, guys. I know. Not that I sound like an alcoholic, but blame it to intensive Croatian beer tasting on Friday and delicious Croatian wine tasting on Saturday at the wonderful wine fair KROATINA in Munich.

But now to my latest topic:

Today I would like to introduce you to another part of the Dalmatian culture I really love – the music in general and especially traditional KLAPA singing.

The Croatian readers and fellow Dalmatia fans can skip the next paragraph but for the rest of you, I add here the short description Wikipedia has to offer for basic information:

"The klapa music is a form of traditional Croatian a cappella singing. The word klapa translates as "a group of people" and traces its roots to littoral church singing. The motifs in general celebrate love, wine (grapes), country (homeland) and sea. Main elements of the music are harmony and melody, with rhythm very rarely being very important.

A klapa group consists of a first tenor, a second tenor, a baritone, and a bass. It is possible to double all the voices apart from the first tenor. Although klapa is a cappella music, on occasion it is possible to add a gentle guitar and a mandolin (instrument similar in appearance and sound to tamburitzas).

Klapa tradition is still very much alive, with new songs composed and festivals are held. Many young people from Dalmatia treasure klapa and sing it regularly when going out eating or drinking. It is not unusual to hear amateur klapa singing on the streets in the evenings over some food and wine.

It is usually composed of up to a dozen male singers singing very harmonic tunes. In recent times, female vocal groups have been quite popular, but in general male and female groups do not mix. Festival of the Dalmatian Klapas in Omis is the most well know festival and has a long tradition in klapa music."

This text is correct so far, but in some parts it sounds a bit too much like “just having fun” than considering it as the serious form of music / art it really is.
If it is well done it needs people with really good and well trained voices. It is much closer to high level classical or liturgical music than to fun folk song singing.

f course there is a reason, why I post this now although I love klapa music for years:

On October 2nd I had the chance to enjoy one of the best Klapa ensembles of Dalmatia right here in MunichKlapa Cambi from Split.

Klapa Cambi, Split

When I heard that our - very good - local group Klapa Croatia invited Klapa Cambi, I was really excited about it, because Klapa Cambi is one of my absolute favorites. They are famous for interpreting classic Dalmatian songs in a very fresh way and having lots of popular new songs in their repertoire including some of the best tunes of my favorite Croatian singer and songwriter Gibonni.

And what can I say? They did not disappoint!
The concert was absolutely wonderful. It was such a joy to listen to these amazing singers performing in a perfect balance of technical perfection and passion. LOVED IT!

My personal highlights were the Gibonni songs "Tempera", "Projdi Vilo" and "Cesarica" (performed mostly by Oliver but written by Gibonni) in the main section of the show and "Croatia iz duše te volim" and "Ruža Crvena" (one of our Trogir trip favorites) in the encore.

It was a wonderful and very Dalmatian night in the heart of Munichthank you Klapa Cambi and Klapa Croatia! 

Klapa Cambi and Klapa Croatia

And here is a video of Klapa Cambi for you to enjoy a bit of their art of singing:

And if you like that, I would like to present you as the final treat in this blog post the klapa performance I love MOST. Seriously - I need to cry almost every time I listen to this song and that's often!

Klapa Crikvenica live at Poljud, Split, with "Vilo Moja":

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oktoberfest 2010 Impressions Part II - The Historical Oktoberfest

This year - in 2010 - we celebrated the 200th birthday of the legendary Oktoberfest. Part of the celebration was the Historical Oktoberfest.

At the south side of the Theresien Wiesn (the festival ground) the organizers seperated an area, which they dedicated to a small Oktoberfest in the style of 1810 - including a special (and very tasty) beer brewed after a historical recipe, which was only available in that special area.

For 4 EUR extra (worth every Cent) you could experience the special beer, special food, very cute antique fairground attractions, enter the museum festival tent and much more.

I went there on the final Saturday of this year's Oktoberfest and fell in love. Can we have Historical Oktoberfest now every year, please??? It's just awesome!

On a side note: When it became too crowded (what happened while I was in) they stopped letting people in the special area. Although it was for sure annoying for the people who could not get in it was great inside, because they closed down before it became actually seriously overcrowded. You could still walk around without being punched in your tummy every 2 minutes, get a beer with queueing less than 10 minutes and - whohoooo - find a seat to really enjoy your beer. LOVELY!

What the average Oktoberfest visitor might not know is that it was initially a farmer's fair. Paying tribute to this fact, they had an exhibition of antique tractors (also used by the carnies for pulling their trailers).

Patience on 4 hooves. Being part of the historical farmer's fair there was a tent with lots of horses, some sheeps, some chicken and calves. And I tell you - I would trust every of these horses with my life. If they don't freak out being surrounded by thousands of people trying to touch them all day, they'll NEVER freak out ...

Of course there was also an antique carousel.

This is one of my favorites - a beautiful old organ.

Inside the museum tent they had old carny trailers and you could look inside to see how people lived "on the road".

Very cute - antique bumper cars.

Antique sweet stand packed with almonds, gingerbread and cotton candy.

Spectacular highlight in the center of the museum tent - the swing boats.

Oktoberfest 2010 Impressions Part I - The Classic Experience

When I visited the famous Oktoberfest for the very first times 10 years ago my main feeling was being SCARED.

We had with my company an evening reservation at the Schottenhammel tent - still my favorite place to go at the Wiesn by the way.

Evening reservation means that even on workdays you enter the place in the late afternoon hours while most of the other people in there are drinking since sunrise. And "others" means a LOT of people since the Schottenhammel (just like the other tents) has 6.000 seats. And then I tell you - as long as you are still sober 6.000 drunken people in one tent are S.C.A.R.Y.!  And there is only ONE single chance to survive: DRINKING!

As the years were passing by I learned to really love Oktoberfest. Especially on a weekday around lunch time when the sun is shining and the sky is blue and you are in company of your best friends it is really gorgeous and big fun.

This year I did not spend much time at the Wiesn. The Friday I was supposed to go with my girls I had to work too long and when we arrived most of the tents were already closed due to overcrowding. SHIT :( - very dissapointing!

We ended up fighting successfully for some seats in the Schottenhammel beergarden and managed to have a beer and a grilled chicken (the best on earth!) before the BIG RAIN came and sent summer home to make place for fall with temperature dropping 15 C in only one hour. NOT GOOD :(

But I managed to make some nice shots that Friday and on this Saturday when I went one more time just to inhale the very special atmosphere.
I hope you'll enjoy:

Perfect weather on a Friday afternoon (before the rain came) and if you think this is already crowded - it's NOT. It's practically empty ;)

For my lovely Twitter friends @HofbrauhausPITT - the Hofbräu festival tent from outside and inside with "Bavarian angel" Aloisius (this pic is from 2008, but he's of course still there ;):

The Ochsenbraterei festival tent. Although people are not yet dancing on the benches it was already too crowded to find seats for our group of 4.

FINALLY we managed to find a seat in the Schottenhammel beergarden and to get a BEER - PROST!

And some more impressions from last Saturday - the final Wiesn weekend.

The Oktoberfest (actually only a small part of it) and the city of Munich

Classic carousels and my favorite - the Ferris wheel

Lady Bavaria overlooking the Wiesn

You are suffering from claustrophobia? Then I recommend to avoid the Oktoberfest on a Saturday afternoon. This is the "beer street". Every festival tent has an avarage of 6.000 seats inside and several thousands of additional seats in the beergardens around the tents.
Without a reservation the chance to get into one of the tents on a Saturday is almost zero.

Good bye Wiesn 2010 - See you in 2011!

Friday, October 1, 2010

To your ears and eyes: Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down

The credits for this finding of the day go to my old friend and excellent music expert Guido van de Lageweg. I am a big fan of his almost daily music video postings on Facebook!

This one I like a LOT and it perfectly fits to the Joaquin Phoenix post I launched a few days ago. The video presents some music I love together with people (not all of them but a lot) I really adore.

Look carefully at the video for not missing anybody from Iggy Pop, to Dennis Hopper (R.I.P.) to Anthony Kiedis to Bono to Keith Richards to Johnny - the one and only - Depp to ... many more.


Johnny Cash - God's Gonna Cut You Down
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