Sunday, February 28, 2010

Karneval im Rheinland

We were not in Cologne for the big Rosenmontag-Umzug this year. We did that once and learned that it is too crazy for us to try to do with small children. After all, we aren't all Rheinländer. But we went to two smaller parades, one in Overrath and one in Rösrath. It snowed on both days, but at least it didn't piss on our parade as it did last year! The only drawback was that the candy that was thrown from the floats ended up in the slush around our cold feet.

The other day a neighbor's child was trying to tell us about a piece of music by Saint-Saens that she heard in concert once. She called it "Fasching der Tiere", confusing the Rheinland word for Carnival (Karneval) with the southern German term Fasching (or Fastnacht/Fasnet).
In any case, Karneval (and Halloween for that matter) is the wrong time of year for kids to dress up so that others can see their costumes and yet still be warm. Here you see a couple of attempts. About all that remains are a hat and some face-painting. It takes a great amount of experience and cajoling to find a costume for a child that he likes and that he will be warm in during a two-hour parade. The parents of the child below did a good job, although I don't think the little Pippi had much to say about her costume. She was riding in a wagon that served to tote all the extra candy as well.

Aside from "Kamelle" (candy), you can also call for "Strüßje" (Strauß, a bunch of flowers). I felt a bit like a loud beggar every time I yelled "Kamelle", especially since I didn't really want the Turkish chocolate or bags of sweet popcorn. The kids and other real Rheinländer had no problem calling out to the people in the parade.


There is a type of light beer that is drunk a lot in the Cologne area, "Kölsch". As with most types of alcohol, the glass from which you drink it has a special shape. As fate would have it, the glasses are small and fit nicely in your hand - or in a little holder that you can attach to your saxophone!


This boy threw down at me six little pieces of hard candy, two packs of gummi bears, a Mars bar, a piece of unidentifiable Turkish chocolate and a pack of Kleenexes to clean up with. In southern Germany, this would have been an average haul from an hour-long parade!


These witches and warlocks threw calendars and handfuls of Nippon chocolate-covered rice cakes and other goodies. No wonder we came away with 18 bags of sweets from the two-day spectacle!


The "Dreigestirn" (three stars) of the parade ride in the last float, the virgin, the farmer and the prince. Traditionally, they are all three men because they have to have a lot of endurance during such long parades and during the intensive weeks leading up to Karneval. If you look closely at this picture, you will see some interesting details. First, the three stars throw lots of flowers. Bianca learned the hard way when we were in Cologne 10 years ago that if you dress like an evil witch, you don't receive many flowers; they are reserved for the princesses. Second, the three stars are surrounded by boxes of chocolate samplers which they throw down to people they know. They wouldn't be elected to their positions if they didn't know a lot of people in their towns; thus, they need lots of big boxes to share among their people. Last but not least, I saw several people this year use upturned umbrellas to catch the goodies. Great idea? When I did that in Villingen (southern Germany) 13 years ago, Bianca told me that wasn't done ("Man macht das nicht!" - the sentence most used in disciplining other people in Germany).

Of course, politics play a large role in the themes chosen for the floats. I saw one about Tiger Woods shooting a hole in one. And there were lots about communes not having enough money. The upcoming World Cup in South Africa was also a big theme, with a song "Africa here we come" being blasted from speakers all day long. This woman has a little goal with a pendulous soccer ball on her head.

This torero may not have heard about the ban on glass bottles at the parade. There is no ban, however, on drinking alcohol at the parade.

And when you've drunk a lot of beer, you have to get rid of it. We were standing at the edge of a building that many people ran behind to relieve themselves. Some costumes were not cut out for a quick drop o' drawers.

On a gray day it is nice to see such bright colors lining the streets.

This little Pippi Langstrumpf was standing next to us in Overrath. She didn't seem to be been affected by the jolly spirit that had infected the other onlookers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The snow has all but melted in Stuttgart. It was well above 10 degrees Celsius this afternoon. It was actually what you might call mild. Coffee drinkers were sitting outside the cafés. Others were sitting on the sun-warmed steps of the opera house.
Meanwhile, on the surface of the pool in front of the opera house, the ducks pecked away at the ice floe near their nests.

On this pond exactly one month ago, it also looked as if spring had sprung as the ice began to crack.

The gulls still pretended they were Jesus and walked across the pool as if they had been doing it all their lives.

Now that the lovers' season seems to be nearly upon us, we can look back with nostalgic fondness at the snow we swept, the salt we strew and the ice we slipped upon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Far removed from the medieval altar triptychs of M. Grünewald & Co., the digital age offers easy access to interesting photo sequences. In this case, I sensed that the increasing volume of the laughter I heard from across the schoolyard at this year-end party might lead to some good photo ops. This beautiful woman started dancing as the mood struck her.

Sometimes it is difficult to choose which picture you like better. The easy way out might be to offer both, as I have done here. I feel that the first picture shows more empathy for the girl in the foreground since her focus is probably also not on the singers. In the second picture, however, the singer on the left appears to be looking at the girl, bringing her into focus for the observer, too.

And then there are the more involved - yet perhaps less involving - triptychs which share too much information at once and challenge the viewer to pick a place to rest his or her eyes. Whither does your glance gravitate?

Children and sparklers go together like peanut butter and jelly but they make for much better pictures!

These pictures were taken on my birthday at the celebration of a friend's 40th. It was a great amount of fun for children and adults.

I enjoyed experimenting with a second curtain flash and long exposure zooming. You photographers out there know what I'm talking about! Try it out yourself!

Here are more pictures from the service in which Fynn's third-grade confirmation classes celebrated their parting. Five mothers took on a handful of eight year-olds once a week for three months and taught them something about the meaning behind the church's most important symbols.
At the final church service they took communion with bread and grape juice.

Fynn liked the grape juice. But he enjoyed even more the afternoon meetings with Yvonne and the five girls in his confirmation group.

This is the whole group of kids from the confirmation classes. Of course, they won't really be confirmed until eighth grade, but these afternoons with the mothers served to lay a foundation for their future religious instruction.
The blonde woman in the middle of the back row was in my first theater group at the PH in Freiburg. It was nice seeing her again here in Stuttgart!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tomorrow is 2/2/2010, a day that means the beginning of the end of Stuttgart as we know it. For the next X years (fill in a number you are comfortable with between 10 and 100), our city will be home to the largest construction project in Europe. If that and the €4bn price-tag aren't enough to brag about, we'll have a tunnel dug right under our house! I can't wait to step out of my basement office and hitch a ride with the Eurostar to Bucharest!
A collection of signatures wasn't enough to stop the project, nor were protests from citizens and even from the descendants of the train station's architect. No one knows what the city will look - and feel - like when it is done, but the plans show an underground train station with a thriving residential business park on the land where 16 tracks now enter the terminal.
Please stay tuned for more updates on this monumental project.

If Warhol were here, he might have had this to say about the project:
Or perhaps this: