North-west Europeans love silver birch, and German painters love it like no other. There’s this park of them along the Berliner Mauerweg, Südpark, a bit east of Dörferblick, where they’re planted so thickly it’s like a German Impressionist riot. I’ve seen at least one painting somewhere this committed to vertical white lines, not going to get carried away and try to find it.
Doing self-preservation riding again, and avoiding Tempelhofer Feld on the weekend. First, finally did the Weserstr. cobbles, which are dead tasty. Then, did the same ride as last week but in the opposite direction, and when I got to a bit after this photo, turned off to Großziethen, ’cos I thought I might find a way up that massive old rubbish hill from last week. Didn’t. Good ride anyway.
It’s been about 2 years since I last got my arse into a studio and did a ballet class. Good reasons for finding other physicalities to entertain myself since then, going deep in cyclocross and riding, enjoying cold and wet and windy work outside. But I missed ballet. I missed the good things of being in a studio doing the work, I missed being there with good teachers and brilliant pianists.
And this week, I’m back working with Isabelle Schad (remotely, of course), and needed something to get me going, something quick and snappy with a variety of intensities and velocities, something to put me in where I needed to be for the work. And I found Het National Ballet are live-streaming a ballet barre. And first day of doing it was wow have I come far from all that, like a memory of being a dancer but watching myself in the mirror (of course I did, it’s ballet training) I was laughing at how I have all these muscles that are very not from dance, and how much and how my body has changed in the last two years. On the third day though, I started to see it all again, physicality waking up and unburying, and yeah, enjoying it so much.
Ernst Meisner is such a cheerful teacher and Rex Lobo is a joy of a pianist. And doing it live, knowing they’re both in the studio as I’m here in my apartment, and there’s hundreds or thousands of other dancers whereever and we’re all doing it together, it’s truly beautiful and reminds me of how dance saved me over and over (and how dance is also a hard bitch, but, yeah, let’s just enjoy the good stuff for one day, eh), and how special dance is, how fundamental moving together is for life.
I don’t want things to ‘return to normal.’ Normal is us living with your fear. Normal is us dying anyway. Normal is a weapon that belongs to you. Normal is what got us here.
There are no contrails in the spring sky.
I was going to do some laps of Tempelhofer Feld today, but remembered last weekend when it was fucking packed. Berlin and all of Germany is facing an Ausgangssperre, a proper curfew and lockdown like Italy, and I didn’t and don’t want to add to the problem by being another person at the old airport, irrespective of how much ‘social distancing’ I’m doing, and I don’t want to be counted among those wankers who’ve never learned responsibility and obligation to community.
So I buggered off south down Hermannstraße, hung a left at the border with Brandenburg and practiced self-preservation along the Berliner Mauerweg. People were out, but mostly in ones and twos, or families, plenty of solo cyclists also. Let’s be clear, quarantine at home is going to kill people and ruin the lives of a whole heap more, people who never come into contact with the virus. “Quarantine without testing is a project of social control that transfers responsibility for sickness from states to individuals” which the governments (city, state, federal, EU) have done such a fucking remarkable job of in their deliberate abnegation of responsibility. This is what happens when crisis necro-capitalism meets a real fucking crisis, one that can’t be bailed out or austerity-ed away or debated or ‘both sides’ or any other bullshit jizzed in our faces by the utterly, utterly ineffectual governments and political parties of all the countries hooked on ‘economic growth’ at the expense of actual, real, long-term caring for community. And by ‘community’ I mean everything, trees, land, birds, the sad canal running through Wedding that I love, and not just people, like we’re magically isolated and atomised from what we are inextricably a part of.
The ride curved north and into a dead tasty headwind, pushing me into one of those trances where I get all aero, breathing endlessly and hard and staying in and with that suffering, burdening myself, remembering Annemiek van Vleuten doing her 100 kilometre solo to win the road world championships, Kasia Niewiadoma, Marianne Vos. It’s good to have women whose level of finding joy in suffering is so far beyond mine. It’s so different from cyclocross, those short gut-churning efforts, the exhausting concentration of technical riding at speed and physically maxed out. This is just sticking at it, over and over, getting comfortable in it until it’s over. Riding until I abrade away some of the anger and fear and sadness.
This photo would have been slightly different but my iPhone battery decided to die. Anyway, it’s just south of Freizeitpark Am Vogelwäldchen, which itself is just south of Gropiusstadt, and looking west at the old Mülldeponie Großziethen. That’s not a hill, that’s a rubbish dump!
Michael! What am I looking at!?!?! 😂😍
Thank you, dear.
Wait for the final edits. So many other photos we are going through.
Expressing the shit of this time.
reminds me a bit of this photographer from the 80s / 90s who did black and white stagings
trying to remember his name
My friend in the photos took his inspiration from him but I cannot recall his name.
Such powerful works he did.
Crazy dark stuff with people with disabilities, corpses, etc.
Decapitated corpse heads kissing. This guy.
i wish you could see how stunned with the beauty of these i am.
I met Michael Garza in Guangzhou eighteen years ago. He’s still there, still principal bassoon with the orchestra, also with a woodwind quintet, Pan Pacific Ensemble, we see each other every couple of years when he blows (ha ha) through Europe, and he’s my strongest connection to a city I have a deep love for, as well as being one of my dearest friends.
He sent me these photos a few days ago and like I said, I was stunned. Chinese puppet theatre, butoh, Día de Muertos, deep queerness, heavy memories of AIDS in the ’80s, SARS (which we were both in Guangzhou for, the smell of burning vinegar in the damp winter air, and that train ride with Yunna back from Wuhan in the night, getting messages telling us to stay away from the city because there was a plague). Photos by Gustavo Thomas so ya know.
Michael’s orchestra closed a couple of months ago, long before the rest of the world got over their racist fuckery and thought about taking this shit seriously. (Very aside here, I think the disaster underway in Europe and America is substantially because of the nationalist and white supremacist ideology stretching back to the Renaissance – or late-19th century imperialism and colonialism if that’s too long a time for you to grasp.) Every single artist I know or know of woke up some time in the last weeks and found themselves unemployed, all their upcoming work cancelled, and no idea when they might return. The better-off ones have – for the moment – family and friends to rely on, but there’s a lot, a very large lot who were already doing it hard. Not all of them artists either. I already see this for myself, trans, immigrant, neurodiverse (fuck I hate that word), multiethnic, queer, not in a relationship, there’s a marked difference already. I fully expect, like every other time in European history when shit got bad, people like us are going to be the first to get fucked. Art like this, then, arriving across continents and hemispheres in a messaging app convo, feels good, feels necessary, feels like we’re forcing our way into being remembered, holding on to beauty and love when we’re being told, again, to give it up.
“But habibti, there is only enough here for one month. And why you buy rice in one kilo bag? Wallah! Such disappointment.”
For real, tho, this is what I’m always like. Definitely inherited the ‘casually well-stocked cupboards’ habit. A bit light on the beans though, ’cos people who never normally cook beans fucking panic-skived off with them all. Except chickpeas. Jokes on them, I’m making hummus.
There’s a scene early in Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven where one of the main characters is holded up in his brother’s apartment on the Toronto shoreline. An epidemic has just wiped out ninety percent of humanity; they’ve survived that through stocking up on essentials and making like mice for weeks on end. Now supplies are running out. His brother is disabled, so rather than be a burden as they travel the quiet post-apolyptic dystopia outside, does the honourable thing and offs himself.
Perhaps I’m needlessly grumpy today, but fuck the hell right off.
I read this a few weeks ago now, it was part of a small pile of necessary fiction to break up the very heavy non-fiction reading. I’m not sure where I heard about Station Eleven, but it seemed a lot of people were talking about it. Yeah, it was kinda disappointing and contrived. A great many ideas and narrative lines that went nowhere, an awful number of improbable relationships between characters spanning decades that didn’t add anything of significance. She could have written a whole book about the travelling theatre and orchestra group as decades passed and civilisation began to return, and that would have been well tasty. She didn’t. It’s not.
(I imagine an alternate reality where a different, better Emily St. John Mandel wrote Station Eleven. In this, the main character offs himself because he thinks he’ll have to do everything in order for his brother to survive. The brother, ex-military, pissed at his sibling’s typical selfishness goes off into the wilds of Ontario, joins the travelling theatre, falls in love with a hot bear, and lives ’til old age as head mechanist and general ‘fix anything with a length of number-8’ indispensable person.)
Lucky I was in London for the long weekend, and so enjoying the longest break from my laptop and the internet I’ve had in years. All the better considering it was in a shop, where I hoped it was being repaired.
By the time my last laptop, a beautiful 15″ PowerBook, had reached the end of its life, it was a decorticated zombie, battery, hard drive, DVD drive all dead, and case bearing the crumbling patina along the front edge, held together with an external portable FireWire drive that when I accidentally knocked the cable would bring everything to a graceful and irreversible crash.
As with my new MacBook Pro, it suffered from some distinct hardware issues. First, the peeling of the light case border, then the death of hard drive and the problematic Matshita Combo Drive. All variously and uncomplainingly replaced by MyMac in Melbourne for free, thanks to the joy of AppleCare.
My new laptop, after several months of far less harrowing use than that PowerBook began to exhibit odd behaviour, the trackpad and keyboard freezing, which after some messing around I realised was caused by the battery. Or rather, the topcase somehow didn’t get on well with the battery. For much of the last – more than a – year, I’ve been using it sans battery, and poking with my finger at the underside of the trackpad to bring it back to life on the occasions I did include non-mains power.
Not much of a laptop then, and despite being all over the Apple discussion boards, this finger-poking fix wasn’t ideal. I took it into one shop in Kreuzberg, and they said it would be difficult to prove I hadn’t damaged the case myself, so for a long time endured an expensive, hobbled device. Finally, as also documented numerously on the Apple boards, even the finger didn’t work.
Gravis is rather shiny and large, in Ernst-Reuter Platz, and I acquired a beautiful 500gb 2.5″ FireWire 800 drive from there for the unthinkably low price of €120 not so long ago. I’m still awestruck by the capacity and cheapness of drives now compared to eight years ago when 20gb was just beginning to pass from acceptable for a laptop. With my now completely paralysed laptop, and me feeling as though I’d had a significant portion of my identity eviscerated, I ventured there shortly before going to London, thinking at worst I could buy an external mouse and keyboard and get another couple of years out of another zombie laptop.
Not so attractive as a friend pointed out, when I keep people’s Macs running as a job, and should really be able to speak highly of them, instead of turning up with a Frankenstein.
At Gravis, they listened to my explanations, notes on the Apple boards, took my baby away for a few minutes, then came back and said I could pick it up this week. Today I did.
On why I hate/love Apple…
Yes, there is the exceptional software and hardware design, but there always seems to be issues that affect a lot of users, and having had two laptops with serious issues it is very easy for me to feel deeply frustrated with the only computer and OS I’d consider using. Really, if I had to use a PC running Windows or more likely Linux, I’d dispense with the hassle altogether and find something else to do.
As with my previous laptop, I bought AppleCare for three years, and as with that previous laptop, it paid for itself the first time I had to use it. My revitalised – and working with battery – baby has an entire new topcase, the price of which, including labour is greater than the cost of this insurance. The simplicity with which my problem was dealt with, fast, no arguing, pleasant, and most importantly, free are the reasons that even though there are problems with hardware and software (and had this one not been dealt with in such a good way, I would be far more pessimistic), I remain in love with Apple.
(Yes, there is a moral to this story, or rather a couple: Buy AppleCare, use the Apple discussion boards to diagnose your problems, and backup early and often.)
(I’ll stop now and caress my beautiful laptop for a while.)
Not much blogging the last months and I feel shame. Though I have excuses.
Firstly, the intermittent trackpad/keyboard freezing problem that has gone on with my MacBook Pro since around 9 months after I bought it became irreversible. The normal fix of not triggering it by putting my battery in, and poking with my finger at the underside of the trackpad to unfreeze it after I had – all endlessly discussed and documented on Apple’s own user forums – finally failed altogether.
So my Mac, data safely backed up thanks to an emergency intervention,is in a shop hopefully getting fixed under AppleCare. I on the other hand, am writing this on a venerable 13″ PowerBook G4, running 10.5, with my home folder on my external drive. Of course this does cause myriad problems and is buggy and crashy as all fuck. Somehow it is (marginally) workable, but I feel I’ve lost half my brain and bodily functions to a stroke.
In the meantime, I’ve just got back from London Festival of the Art of Japanese Bondage, which I shall write about soon.