Sunday, December 12, 2010

A delightful parley of power relations played to Curb your Enthusiasm or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Run the Gauntlet

For all who missed the demonstration yesterday in Freiburg, here is the gist of it though much didn't make it on tape.

Up Next:

Wikipedia and Wikileaks in relations to trust, authority, and funding...

Happy Birthday Kale

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chocolate Calendars and Tram Rides

Well, I now have two incredible places to study, one with my own personal window in-between two book shelves where nobody seems to go, American intellectual history, and where I currently am, in the Klasische Philology Raum comfortably lived with ancient books, small and cozy, with a great big window that covers the entire wall on the 3rd floor that in fact overlooks the very building from where I spend the other half of my time while not in class. On finally finishing Derrida’s essay on ‘Differance’ I needed a change of space so I left to purchase a 2 euro sandwich that I immediately regretted choosing at the moment of touching it. Then on my way to this delightful library I thought some chocolate to be in order and on route lo and behold I was handed a chocolate Christmas calendar which I am currently eating, and not in order. It’s a chocolate calendar advertising a certain nativity and pizza, where every door which opens to a little world of chocolate shaped festive figures also reminds one of the zippy yet delicious delivery of another savior, i.e. hot

I am already halfway through my first calendar while sitting here writing and only now have I stopped to pay attention to their chocolaty forms. Number 5 was in the shape of a rustic cottage; now number 11 the chocolate shape of Santa’s boot stuffed with little toys spilling out from the brim, I am procrastinating heavily as I don’t have the ability to return to what has already taken me 5 hours to read through and underline.

A funny thing happened yesterday night while coming home. I had bought two rolls and while sitting in the tram ride home I began building a sandwich from the meat and cheese that I tote with me in my bag. While during eating, a recorded message plays through the entire tram saying something more than the usual next destination, though I wasn’t paying it any attention I realized the recorded message might have been directed at me since a disproportionately large amount of people began smiling at me. (Number 17 is just a boring chocolate shaped star) So I smiled back and continued to finish my sandwich (belegtes Brot). A fat man sitting across from me with a jolly glimmer in his eyes points above him at a perfectly obvious black globe which houses a camera and asked me if was indeed as hungry as I appeared to be. I responded incorrectly causing him to probe further by asking where I was from. I told him Czechoslovakia for some reason thought fully aware of that country having been disbanded since I was still in elementary school and the mans face became congested, his eyes belying at that moment some hidden indigestion. My stop came immediately afterward and he wished me a pleasant evening and I him and that moment moved into memory.

This morning another telling incident occurred again with the tram, although this time (number 10 is a French horn wrapped in a bow) it was the tram itself and not some fictive Czechoslovakian causing a seen. I arrived for the tram at 7:50 AM joining probably the largest group of other people waiting including a classroom of elementary kids and adults waiting together for the ride of their daily lives. The tram arrived already packed with people yet some how everyone managed to wedge themselves into the tram, the doors making a metallic vacuum clamping sound as they shut. I had decided to forgo this round and wait another four minutes till the next tram would arrives. From within I received smiles again from middle aged woman with elegantly wrapped neck scarves and other dollies all pressed together wrapped and prepared for shipping, but the tram wouldn’t move. It just continued to stay where it had arrived and soon the next tram came, practically empty, where I warmed up and spread out inside. Something was wrong with the other tram though, it hadn’t moved for nearly 10 minutes, but surprisingly (for me) though everyone inside must have been uncomfortably pinched between one another and hard plastic seats nobody seemed to stir about, or cause a seen, or even think to relocate to a profoundly more spacious tram directly behind them even when the doors could be opened and for most of the time were. One might think that a spell had struck them docile upon entrance, passively accepting this moment in over stocked packaging with a regrettable delay in shipping. I nearly drank my entire mug of coffee alone waiting for the tram to move. Eventually the tram jerked to a start causing a collage of pinched faces to appear from the back window as the tram scooted off. I extended my legs as I awaited my own shipping toward the university. (Hey on the night before Christmas there is a chocolate Santa with a plump sack filled with pizza, how perfectly expressed)…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The devil -- that is, the art -- is in the details.

In his closing comments, Nabokov says, "In this course I have tried to reveal the mechanism of those wonderful toys -- literary masterpieces. I have tried to make of you good readers who read books not for the infantile purpose of identifying oneself with the characters, and not for the adolescent purpose of learning to live, and not for the academic purpose of indulging in generalizations. I have tried to teach you to read books for the sake of their form, their visions, their art. I have tried to teach you to feel a shiver of artistic satisfaction, to share not the emotions of the people in the book but the emotions of its author -- the joys and difficulties of creation. We did not talk around books, about books; we went to the center of this or that masterpiece, to the live heart of the matter."

I saw my final chapter realized in this passage, I will be ready for you 28...And you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flush Your Mind With A Paradox!!!

Poem: Sculpture By The Window

Subtle wind rift shakes golden fingers round soft warm glow
Whose glowing globes has shades point opposed
Upon my window its radiance exposed
People and roads and abodes
My mind -
A metal man on windowsill
Topples what has been left behind
To ravage and forge some thought sublime
Whose tightrope walk works the sole of Fulcrums heel

Observations: That Snow-globe Of Mine

My snow globe has a figurine within it
A girl with a rose whose gown flows in the ether
Where as Maria has the very same globe but with a mushroom in place of the girl
The mushrooms flowing gown with no-body around.
I am the one who gently joggles in the seasons.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ways in which it is legitimate to be suspicious of communication. Theory is a counterforce to what is supposed to be true... spoken as true...

I ate terribly all day. '*' more than I care to remember… ate nothing, accept for a cheesy quesadilla in the afternoon and a snickers bar that was given to me after I finished a scientific study. That and 10 Euros wrapped around said snickers bar, like a ribbon. I bought me weeks’ groceries with said 10 Euros… spoke with some Germans who said that saying ‘me’ instead of ‘I’ is more meaningful in how one expresses ones ‘being’…in certain groups…England. Me think. I drink. I play. I phone. I sleep. Conversations always turn toward something that requires contemplation, something best addressed with a spirit for guidance, two or three maybe…Jack and Jim convinced me that the French have the tenacity and brazen conviction to muster a protest and yet monologue their reasonings…I will learn French next…I found myself in an ancient crater beside an old school yard after Jim and Jack did all that they could with me, it was 10.10.10, we decided to meet at 11.11.11, it’s funny how two wrongs make a night. If knowledge is power and power is might and might makes right then right gives me nothing but headaches and I have no more space for the bother. I bought four 500g bags of pasta for 1.20€ and four 1L boxes of milk for 2€ not to mention the kilogram of potatoes, rice, and onions to give a good footing for my next weeks upward scramble…eggs…I bought them too…all with the money that came from a University sociological survey. I do that too. But the ‘how’ of perpetual improvement concerns me very little. Some of my best friends are scientist I have found because we share a similar inspiration but are fated for a profoundly different odyssey. ‘Time’ and what comes with the cuffs of age has jostled my being, but not to the core because there isn’t one…I hate labels more and more these days and I recognize the sentiments my words evoke. A physicist stormed off from me just an hour ago because I wouldn’t be pigeon holed between two words, discovering or creating, for how one labels the human condition. We are all tools to the biggest tool of our own creation…Reason…Justification…as I sober up I know I shouldn’t even be on this damn blog bloging. Slavoj Zizek.

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Motivational Essay

Finished the second draft of my motivational essay, I would love some suggestions if you have any. Thanks a bundle!

Motivational Essay for Freiburg University

My interest in literature comes from my love of writing, art, and the history of ideas. Since college, I have been fascinated with how the thoughts from one historical moment have led up to my own and I found in literature a link to those great minds of the past, whose shoulders we stand on. For me, as a writer and philosophy buff, I couldn’t think of a better field of study.

I received my degree in history from Washington State University, focusing primarily on the Western tradition. I spent my last semester abroad in Florence, Italy at Leonardo di Medici, where I remained for an additional year teaching English and writing about my experiences. The social and political events, Italy’s world cup victory and the election of a centre-left coalition, I encountered during my time in Italy compelled me to re-evaluate how I thought of the interaction between outside cultural forces and local heritage in diverse contexts. Increasingly, I wanted to explore these complex issues from within; as a result, I applied for and received a post in the US Peace Corps in Romania. The following two years, spent in Romania working as an active member of my community in a high school, allowed me to observe the locals’ ancient traditions as well as their struggle to locate their identity in a post-communist consumer society. It was in trying to understand these competing ideologies as well as those of my own generation in a global context that led me to the study of intellectual history.

The idea of undertaking an MA in literature and theory began two years ago while teaching English in Romania. I taught a class on English literature and had such a fun time analyzing my favorite authors and poets with my students that I soon found myself rushing home to prepare for the next lesson, oftentimes reading theorists like Lyotard and Foucault long into the night. I began to recognize a deeper relationship between literature and the fields of history and philosophy, with theorists from the worlds of post-modernism, new-historicism, and Western Marxism as part of my independent study regimen. In the search for the forces and power-relations that have shaped my generation, I found literature to be an invigorating reserve of intellectual narratives that I had been neglecting.

I began to pay more attention to narrative structures and literary devices in narrative theory and its appraisal of what authors ‘do’ in their texts, but I knew I needed a professor to help me develop a more sophisticated critical approach to literary works, and to focus my efforts on a single project. Furthermore, I knew I wanted an interdisciplinary approach to the field where I could incorporate my interests in philosophy and history, as well as continue my international experience. The discovery of the MA in English Literature and Literary theory offered at Freiburg University fit perfectly with my personal and academic goals.
In the long-term, my goal is to use the knowledge garnered in this program to help me become a more critical reader. I want to investigate how effective writers house their ideas in narrative structures in order to enhance my own creative expressions. I wish to understand my own historical moment within the lives and times of those who have come before me, and with the reinterpretations provided by different theories I can multiply the lenses that I use to perceive their world and the lessons that are hidden from within. I also want to improve my critical reading, writing and research skills to an academic journal level, which I expect to gain from graduate study in this program. I am excited to have the chance to study under Professor Fludernik as she is a recognized leading narrative scholar and I am fascinated by ways that narratology interprets the distinctions between story and discourse. I am also thrilled that special emphases is given to the 18th and 19th century novel and to modernist and postmodernist writers since I specifically want to analyze the transforming acts of communication between the two paradigms. The range of different modules that are offered, especially the Foundations of Literary Criticism and Theories as well as Research Techniques, with the experience of the professors and the location of the university makes this program a perfect fit with my own professional aspirations.

My continual evolution in thought after college has given me more reason to return to study in order to develop a higher command of the critical skills needed to tackle the challenges of my generation. I hope that I will be given the opportunity to reach these personal goals as a graduate student and I thank you for your consideration of my admission to the program.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bretts sunshine mid-week half-time report:

Hello, how’s the daily grind going? We all sometimes get sucked into our own predictable daily schedules: the 7:13 monkey suite parade, the 11:15 banana, and the 4:45 cage cleaning. I almost got lost in the circus, but now with even more acts to perform I feel that I have gained more control over my time; as its value just tripled over the past week. Wednesdays will now become my halftime breaks where I can relax in-between German verbs and French theorists and just appreciate the near kaleidoscopic hues of father time and the confusing smell of one hand clapping. Its funny how anything, after a while, can turn into the same type of passive registration akin to watching the box that you forget to think, or at least I forget to think. I mean the type of thinking that bridges two seemingly disconnected ideas together forming new concepts or the act of trying to recount a past event with some sense of arrangement. Yesterday my afternoon instructor, Hans Bauman, explained to our group of 17 students the difference between the American dream and the German dream, him being the only German and I the only American.

Hans with his deep booming voice and Gandolf like appearance seems to cast as many jokes and puns as he does grammar and history. The American dream is the rags to riches archetype, says he. The German dream is the life of a perpetual student who only approaches work when absolutely necessary. In one generation 60% of the German population will be retirement age, and since Germans are too smart for having noisy expensive children flopping around there book muffled abodes, very few actual ‘Germans’, in the since of both sides of the coins genealogy hailing from the mother land, will be around to make the rules or teach their interpretations of how things should be. And that is where I come in. I of course am not interested what anyone ‘should’ do with themselves, but only in the lenses through which people view their world and in the dismantling of what looks universal in order to revel its hidden controls of the consciousness. Plenty of opportunities in the future await with many exciting twists along the way.

Example, how will the language sound with a generation of foreigners taking over the pronunciation of the German ‘ich’, which involves a tricky back of the tongue maneuver to pull off, with their ‘ish’ like in ‘fish’. The large Turkish population here in Wiesbaden uses the ‘ish’ form. You can also spot a Turkish youth immediately by their mullet haircut, grey sweatpants, and black fanny pack. One of them told me that the ‘old’ German pronunciation of ‘ich’ is for farmers and the ‘ish’ form is the more modern form. I asked my morning instructor if this was the case, which produced a laugh and a sigh.

Example, Christian from my morning group comes from the Ivory Coast and like most of the ‘auslanders’ says ‘ish’ instead of ‘ich’. In order to get to know everyone in our groups we sing and dance in circles and play games, lots of fun. One such game is ‘ich bin die König’ or ‘I am the king’. We have cards with different adjectives and nouns, which need to be added into a sentence with what ever verb that the ‘king’ is holding. Christian was the king. ‘Ich heiße König’, he said, ‘Ich heiße....’ he couldn’t go any further since everyone’s chuckling spilt into laughter, but in a ‘laughing with not at’ type of laughter, as my mom would say. Since he pronounced his ‘ich’ with an ‘ish’ he was effectively saying ‘I am the shit king’.

In other news this Friday Maria and I leave for Köln to meet an old friend from Romania. The last time I was in Köln was in 2006 for Karnival with an old friend from WSU where we drank beer through horns and thought we would be 23 for ever. The massive rabbit cage is nearing completion and my moms package has now made two round trips to Germany and back, but that will have to wait until next weeks half-time report. Until next week. Viel Spaß!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, - a mere heart of stone. Charles Darwin

Good Morning!

For the last week Maria and I have been traveling through Germany to visit some friends in Leipzig and Freiburg, both incredible historical epicenters of culture and learning. Before our trip began we spent a lovely weekend with Maria’s grandfather for Easter where Maria and I spent most of the time in between banquet sized meals and church services constructing a rabbit cage for her rabbit ‘Robin’. I am starting a new blog-project that will confront topics of science, religion, history, and ideas in regards to modern and ‘post-modern’ thought and criticism so I wont go into the particulars of what I had the opportunity to witness on this site. Anyway I tried to give up eating chocolate for the two months before Easter along with Maria and her sister but we both gave up just a couple weeks before the big day, its those blasted Tobleroni’s.

Everyone who has been to Europe knows that they have wonderfully efficient and comparatively inexpensive forms of transportation. My round trip flights from Romania to Germany through wizzair cost less then the gas it would take to drive from my hometown of Gig Harbor to Pullman and back, and a quarter of the time. Anyway Germany has this site called, which has made my travels through Germany in conjunction with couchsurfer an affordable breeze. There you can find people who will be driving to where you want to go for a 10th of the cost of a train ticket but this time we couldn’t find anyone who wanted to leave to Leipzig the day after Easter. Instead we found people who wanted to share a 5-person day pass, which made our cross country train ride a mere 12 Euro kick in the pants. I love traveling through trains anyway. Trains put everything into perspective as you sit watching the rolling hills and quant villages glide by like fast-forwarding through a parade of landscapes as you sit drinking coffee and remembering the smell you would be experiencing had you been in a Romanian train. Romanian trains give you a real feeling of a cold war escape through barreling mountains and pastoral countryside’s. On the way to Leipzig, the absence of the chance that the train might breakdown sort of took the mystique away and left me with a doctored feeling of going in for a routine check-up. I had many plans for my time in Leipzig since I had been studying about this historical city in my language course, so I ripped out the two pages in my workbook to take with me as a guide, much to Marias dismay. She thought that since I ripped these pages out I could no longer resell my workbook, how silly of her.

I will not bore you with all the happenings and whatnot that have taken place in this city for the past 1000 years, there is too much anyway. So I decided to make a quick movie of places that have no historical merit but looked interesting. Yes the oldest church dates back to 1017 when the Crusades and Feudalism were all the rage. Yes Bach turned 325 years old here last March. And yes Napoleons army was defeated here in 1812 but I won’t talk about these things for Leipzig is still a living city and the ‘now’ is what’s happening. We came to visit a friend who is studying psychology and Leipzig University, the very place that produced Wilhelm Wundt who is the ‘father of experimental psychology’, along with Nietzsche and Goethe and Wagner and blah blah blah. Leipzig is only an hour’s train ride from Berlin and shares the same fragmented identity and feelings of youthful unconventionality and boundless possibilities. But Leipzig is more a students city, it’s were you go to live as an artist who doesn’t want to constantly be swimming in between in the currents of ultra-reality and neo-punk Bohemianism. We visited the Spinerei, an 18th century cotton factory the biggest in Europe, turned modern art museum. In Leipzig after the reunification of Germany, many people moved out of the city, leaving more then 30,000 buildings that still remain empty, which one can now live in for free. This factory turned museum felt like an artists commune, strange entrances and doors led to even more remarkable artistic expressions, everything and everyone seemed a piece of the whole art project. Artists sleep in one of the free buildings and paint or draw and meet with others from around the globe who are in the ‘know’. I met an artist from Chicago who is having some of his work shown and we got straight to talking about post-modern impressions and about the ‘ultra-modern’ and the fragmentation of knowledge and the ways art is trying to express or critique it, I love artists!

Our time in Leipzig seemed surreal and soon a mere memory as we found ourselves crammed in a car heading for Freiburg, our next destination. Unfortunately when car-pooling you can’t chose the people who swim along for a ride, even when one lady takes the space of two but pays for only one. We arrived in Freiburg late from a 5-hour ride and walked along the ancient roads toward an old friend of Marias who was once a professor at my future university.

Freiburg was founded as a free market town on the Dreisam River, right on the western edge of the Black Forest. Again too much to say about this incredible city, according to statistics the city is the sunniest and warmest in Germany. I like this place because the people seemed to have always been forward thinking, respected education, and wouldn’t stand for anyone who tried to limit their freedom. In the 13th century, the local Count tried to raise taxes and limit certain freedoms, which resulted in the Freiburgers using catapults to destroy the count’s castle. The count complained to his brother-in-law the Bishop of Strasbourg, who was according to legend stabbed to death by a butcher named Hauri on July 29, 1299 for his subsequent interfering in local affairs. Freiburg was fed up with their lords and purchased their independence from them, but not from the Black Plague which ravaged the city centuries later. They now have the only Mayor who is a member of the green party and is known as an ‘eco-city’. It also has one of the oldest Universities in Germany, Albert-Ludwigs University, where I plan on attending in a couple of months. My meeting with the faculty went well and now I just have to receive my letters of recommendation and official transcripts, and that’s that.

I like Freiburg because in the historical center every nook and cranny is decorated with ornamentation from the cobble stone streets through the falkworkhouses and steel light stands up to the pointed peaked rims and fluted edges of every building. For the past few days this experience was added to music as every corner held some artist breathing fresh life into its ancient past. It’s from growing up in the absence of craftsmanship and ornamentation that marks ‘modern’ architecture that makes living in Freiburg so refreshing.

Well now we are off for one last trip around the center before our return to Mainz and Wiesbaden, a new semester awaits and sooooo much is in store for the coming months it will be hard just to keep it on paper. Have a wonderful week and enjoy the spring!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Did someone say regGay party?

Saturday, March 27 2010

What a strange past couple of days it has become and the forecast shows no signs of regularity approaching. Yesterday Maria left on a bus for Dijon France, where she will get to enjoy a 5-day sabbatical from nearly a month of constant research and footnotes. My yesterday was spent in my room getting reacquainted with Marx and Blake, until I left for Mainz to release myself from my own thoughts and then it happened. I believe it was when the idea of making beer came into being that got the ball rolling, this Monday I have an appointment with the ‘icehaus’ to get some experience in Brewing. I left around 2 in the morning to go for a walk around campus and spotted a flier for a reggae party on the 27th. I like reggae. Was it the 27th? I asked two guys nearby if they knew what day it was and if they heard of a Reggae party. They said they did and asked if I wanted to come with them. Well why not?

Apparently there was a miss-communication somewhere, as I was understood to have said ‘Gay’ party, which has very little in common with ‘reggae party’. It was a bit awkward, but I did meet some interesting people. I inevitably filtered through to the crowed of straight people who were brought along by their lesbian friends and we got to talking. What strange twists, I met a guy who grows hops.

This morning was spent in the Library reading about the structures of discourses. It’s just so wonderful to be learning new tools for giving form to ideas. I had a coffee and bought a fairly dry and graceless slice of cake. Later I went outside to find two others eating another slice from the very cake that I had just finished eating! I realize that the placement of the exclamation mark gives an overblown sense of surprise, but that’s what I am going for. They turned out to be Americans going to school here for language and film studies.

Back on the computer I received a request to join the network of an old friend from Italy. He is now the manager of a Budweiser Brewery. I met him in a hostel without reservation and little money, only 10 Euros I believe, and he was in need of council. I suggested that he should by a fifth of whiskey with the 10 Euro’s and let Jack figure it out. Jack led us to the Coliseum where we met some nice ladies who agreed to provide him free accommodations. But why do I hear from him now? And why only after I had been affronted with constant 'make beer' references?

I leave with a quote from my book:

In order to become an agent in the first place, a character needs to have the ability, motivation and intent to act, and has to be in the position to act (ludweg 128)

All that I have been missing is the position to act, now its on!!

Wisdom comes from reinterpretation


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Le Reverdere Romania, Hallo Deutschland!

It has taken nearly two months for this day to come, its what I have been waiting for to give order to all the emotional furniture enclosed by my new physical space, its like the rug that ties the room together. For the longest time I felt like someone pissed on my rug. Everything had changed and I had such a lovely routine of things reordered into question marks and bowling balls. I went seeking recompense only to find that in the end I am better off having had the rug ‘miterated’ upon for all the exploits and opportunities that have come as a result.

Reading over my journal entry for this day March 24th, 2006 I found that I had recognized something years ago while in Italy, and it wasn’t just that most little Italian kids smell like apple juice, but that an artist must never avert his eyes and a writer must always stay curious. I am a writer, and whether I write for others or myself my life will continue to be powered by my spirit of inquiry and distaste for the ordinary. I have forgiven myself for being exactly where I need to be. My friends come from France, Greece, the Ivory Coast, and yes Germany who I play soccer with in between breaks. Last weekend I finished a course on movie lighting and directing, all in German, and was asked to act in a students film coming up. Today I just attended a lecture by Dr. Dr. Noam Chomsky who flew over here yesterday morning from M.I.T to talk about how language is horrible for communication but great for thinking. I got there late and the room was already overstacked with professors but I told them I came all the way from Washington to hear him, so they gave me a press pass. I am currently writing an essay on late Victorian era moral validations of art through Oscar Wilds ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’ for my entrance into Freiburg University. For the first time in a long time I am only doing what I want to do, and after 20 months of volunteer work this type of self-serving stimulation is just what I need at the moment.

Sometimes I forget that I am young. What is the rush? Learn something here, forget something there. Nothing happens until 28 anyway.

So here it is, my name is Brett Ortgiesen, I live in a little room on the fourth floor of a building owned by my girlfriends parents. We have lunch together as a family every day. I sweep and mop the stairs every two weeks and feed the rabbit when Robin needs feeding. Four weeks ago my computer was completely erased, two years of writing and notes gone, but I still have my journals. I decided to give my hair highlights but my hair turned neon orange. For a while I looked like a treasure troll, still sort of do. Once, when it was cold and I was at the height of my low spirits I slipped on dog poop and got punched in the face, though Marias mother was only trying to help. In the city retail windows with different portraits of Ben Affleck looking disappointed ring in the spring season. Purple is in, wonder woman boots are out. Just got health insurance for a year, the cost: 32€ a month. One semester at Johannes Gutenberg University: 201€. Three pretzels: 1€. Using a seven year old American Express tag line to finish the blog: Priceless.

I created this song from Reason about two weeks ago but I havent made the effort to find how to upload MP3's so I made a video to go with it. Getting Germans to hold some strangers camera is a greaet way of pissing most of them off. Hope all is well, enjoy.