November 2009 Archives

The Market

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The Market, a prizewinning film by the Croatian filmmaker Ana Hušman, shows one day at the Dolac market of Zagreb, Croatia, with commentary by greengrocers and customers.

The film is currently shown as part of the exhibition "Aspects of Collecting" at Sammlung Essl.

Journey to Obscurity

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363315.jpgEven though almost everyone has probably heard him play at some point, Emil Richards is still one of the more obscure musicians in jazz history. In fact, Richards contributed to some of the best-known TV soundtracks. The xylophone in The Simpsons theme, the finger snaps in the Addams Family theme, the bongos on the original Mission Impossible theme -- all of them were played by Richards, who, incidentally, is also the person who played the bells on Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair". Despite his extensive involvement in over 2000 movie and TV soundtracks, Richards' career as a jazz musicians never really took off. After a stint in Don Ellis' Hindustani Jazz Sextet, Ed Michel, then both a record producer and A&R man at Impulse! Records signed Richards for a 2-record deal. Both albums flopped.

481832.jpgThe story goes that massive amounts of marijuana were consumed at Impulse! sessions at the time, both by the musicians and the staff, and that the surprisingly large number of psychedelic jazz records released by the label and signing of obscure artists in the late 1960s is largely due to everybody's drug intake. That would, however, be an unfair judgement.

Even though Richards was one of these obscure artists, his catalogue of recorded work qualified him well enough as a session leader, and even though side B of Journey to Bliss, his first Impulse! release, is full of weird sounds and esoteric chanting, side A is bona fide marimba madness in the best jazz tradition.

His second album for Impulse!, Spirit of 1976 (released in 1969) is a recording of a live performance consisting of original compositions as well as jazz standards, and there is nothing remotely psychedelic or esoteric about them. Quite on the contrary, it's a record full of infectious music with an incredible groove. A version of Miles Davis' "All Blues" also shows remarkable atmospheric density.

Emil Richards recorded with Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, The Beach Boys, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Marvin Gaye, George Harrison and many others and owns a collection of more than 770 percussion instruments.

Richards' two Impulse! albums were never reissued on CD.

Der Dativ ist nicht dem Genitiv sein Tod

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Summary for English readers:

A German author is writing about the misuse of the German language. The title of the book claims that the dative case is killing the genitive, but the historical situation is in fact that things happened the other way round. An example from the English language shows that this grammatical structure has still survived to some degree in English.

Da gibt es einen Autor, der über Unsitten des deutschen Sprach(fehl)gebrauchs schreibt und, weil seine Bücher sogar recht unterhaltsam sind, einigermaßen gut daran verdienen dürfte. All die sprachlichen Irrwitze in seinen Büchern sind in der Tat sehr witzig, nur eine Kleinigkeit hat der gute Mann übersehen:

Der Titel seines Buches, Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod, ist falsch herum. Es hat nämlich im Laufe der Zeit der Genitiv den Dativ ersetzt, und nicht umgekehrt, und das ist auch der Grund, warum sich der Dativ in vielen regionalen Umgangssprachen so hartnäckig hält.

In anderen germanischen Sprachen hält sich diese Syntax sogar sehr beständig. Der so genannte "Saxon Genitive" im Englischen ist historisch gesehen und sehr streng genommen nämlich gar keiner.

Nehme ich nämlich einen Ausdruck wie

the baker's wife

und bedenke, dass ein Apostroph ein Auslassungszeichen für zwei oder mehr Buchstaben ist, so stellt sich die Frage, welche Buchstaben da eigentlich ausgelassen wurden. Die Antwort: Das 's ist ein Überbleibsel des Possessivpronomens his, ursprünglich sagte man also:

the baker his wife

Also übersetzt nichts anderes als: "Dem Bäcker seine Frau".

A madman singing Indonesian versions of William Blake

| 3 Comments | 781.66

Arrington de Dionyso is an American multi-instrumentalist who plays the guitar and the bass clarinet, does Tuvan throat singing and generally sings with the intensity of a madman. On his latest album Malaikat dan singa his singing sounds particularly demented because for some obscure reason he chose to sing in Indonesian; the lyrics are adapted and translated lines from poems by William Blake. Not that you would understand a single one of them unless you are Indonesian.

Accompanied by the brute drumming of Karl Blau, de Dionyso churns out 11 songs that may be among the rawest and meatiest music released this year. The combination of distorted guitar, bass clarinet and throat singing does have an impact that goes well beyond the obvious novel factor; not only is it direct, intense and full of urgency, some of the songs have surprisingly addictive grooves. Even if you don't know what he's singing (or perhaps precisely because you don't know), you get the impression of a possessed man spewing out the fundamentals of human existence. The last track, 13 minutes in a more meditative mood, comes as something of a relief. This album is quite something.

40 years of metro construction

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karlsplatz.jpgVienna Transport is currently celebrating 40 years of construction work for the new metro system. Construction work started on November 3rd, 1969 with the excavations for the station at Karlsplatz (pictured left).

It's something of an ambivalent anniversary. First of all, before the new metro, the old metro had been in service since 1898; in fact two of the "new" metro lines are in fact nothing but converted old metro lines. Second, while there is no doubt that the first two stages of the new metro system brought significant improvements in public transport, the new metro is also responsible for the drastic degradation of the tramway network on the surface.

Mr Singh reviewed! Favourably!

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New Europe has published a review of Mr Singh Has Disappeared on their "Brussels Agenda" site and calls it "a little gem, unique, full of its own atmosphere and [...] very funny indeed." Wow.

Urban typography

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The graphic artist Martin Ulrich Kehrer spent three years taking pictures of letters and lettering on Viennese shop fronts, thereby creating a documentation of well over 2500 examples of urban typography from all 23 districts of Vienna. A small selection of these is currently shown in an exhibition at the Wienmuseum Karlsplatz, along with 26 concrete blocks showing individual letters from selected typefaces.

Kehrer describes the purpose of his project as twofold: on the one hand, to document obsolete typefaces, some of which have survived only in traces or fragments, and on the other, to point out changes in formal and material aspects of original typography (i.e. not the cheap, uniform, globalized kind used by multinational chain stores) over several decades.

kehrer.jpgAbout 200 of Kehrer's photographs were recently published in a book entitled Stadtalphabet Wien, which largely focuses on examples from the 1950s through the 1970s. The book is available from

Martin Ulrich Kehrer: Stadtalphabet Wien. Wien: Sonderzahl-Verlag, 2009. ISBN 978-3-85449-300-6. € 18.

Darf nicht ins Abwasser gelangen

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Summary for English readers: I recently found a warning on a toilet block which not only says that it must be handled with protective goggles, but also that it is dangerous for water organisms and can cause long-term harm to bodies of water. Rather odd for a substance that is flushed down the toilet on a daily basis. Just how much totally unnecessary poison do we have to release into the environment on a daily basis?
Gelegentlich wundert man sich schon ein wenig, was alles verkauft wird bzw. verkauft werden darf. Zum Beispiel fand ich vor kurzem folgendes auf einer Packung:


Klingt noch nicht besonders ausgefallen, aber spannend wird es, wenn man in Betracht zieht, dass es sich bei dem Produkt um einen "flüssigen WC-Stein" handelt. Sprich, ein chemisches Produkt, das laut Definition des Herstellers "schädlich für Wasserorganismen" ist und "in Gewässern längerfristig schädliche Wirkungen" haben kann, darf täglich hunderttausendfach einfach so hinuntergespült werden.

Fehlt eigentlich nur noch der Hinweis "darf nicht ins Abwasser gelangen".

Es stellt sich die Frage, was "längerfristig" genau bedeutet. Stimmt der Gesetzgeber diesem Produkt zu, weil die Vergiftungseffekte eh erst die nächste Generation betreffen? Stimmt schon, dass täglich viel härtere Gifte in die Umwelt gelangen. Aber viel unnötiger als hier gehts wohl kaum noch.