Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boys and their Toys

Pascal got a pirate ship for Christmas. It was something he really, really wanted for a long time: "Ich habe so lange darauf gewartet" sagt Pascal. The pirate ship is pretty neat, and is lots of fun to play with, even for bigger boys like me. We went to the old Bibliotech Saturday, and there above us on the ceiling mural was a picture of a man with a model ship. It reminded me of Pascal's ship. Boys and their toys, right? Many things never change.

Weihnachts Bilder

Schnee Fun

After two days of snow we went to play in Stadtpark. We even tried out a sled, although the snow was pretty thin (about 4 inches), nonetheless we had some near accidents (Tessa and Pascal) and everyone had fun.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

SNOW richtig Schnee!! (for Tessa)

Tessa is here!!!! And it's been slowly, but steadily snowing for the past 2 days. This Sunday morning we have a nice 4 inch layer of snow covering the sidewalks, parked cars, trees and rooftops. Yesterday we took the sled out to Stadtpark, and played in the snow. In the morning Anika was narrating a cellphone video tour of the apartment, Pascal was taking pictures of everything and everyone, and Tessa was setting up a photo shoot by the window in her room. I was videotaping the videographers and photographers.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Krampus and St. Nikolaus

As part of our Bauernhof vacation we got to partake in a traditional visit from Krampus and St. Nikolaus. St. Nikolaus is not exactly Santa, but he is a good guy; whereas Krampus (spoken like 'Grampus') is almost devilish, and is the bad guy.

So the two come on the first Advent to visit the children. St. Nikolaus is dressed in white, wears a bishop's hat and a long white beard. He reads from a golden book all the good deeds, and bad deeds of the children. Krampus rattles a black bell, and threatens the children with a rough broom, when he hears about the bad deeds. Krampus is (and his minions) covered in black fur, draped with chains, and has a devilish face with horns. The head Grampus has four huge horns, two spiral curved horns, and two 'L' shaped horns. These masks are carved from wood and are very heavy.

So St. Nikolaus and Krampus knock on the farmhouse door and are led into the kitchen where the children and parents sit.

St. Nikolaus begins to read about each child from his book, and the three Krampus's crowd and shuffle around the kitchen while twitching their rough brooms and rattling their rough bells. Krampus makes quite an impression on the kids, and some are near tears when St. Nikolaus starts reading about their bad deeds.

Pascal, on the other hand, is smiling like crazy; he is absolutely loving the Krampus. He giggles when they threaten with their brooms.

After St. Nikolaus finishes reading from his book, he and the Krampus are offered snacks, beer and schnaps! The Krampus's take off their heavy masks, and show themselves to be 20 something year-old young men. It's probably pretty easy to find recruits for the job of Krampus, considering all you have to do is carry a heavy mask, grunt, shuffle,threaten and then drink a beer at every house you visit!

So while the one Krampus with the two big black bells around his waist is sipping his beer, Pascal sneaks up behind him trying to rattle the bells. He does it a couple of times before the other Krampus' playfully threaten to stuff him in their basket to take him away with them. Pascal certainly showed himself to be one of them in spirit!

After the snacks and drinks St. Nikolaus and the Krampus leave the house into the night. Outside is their ride: an open trailer with a roasting fire in a drum, all pulled by a rumbling tractor. The Krampus' climb in and begin to tend the fire. As the tractor pulls away into the pitch dark night, the Krampus shoot blazing red flares into the black sky.

Wow. All I can say is wow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Urlaub im Bauernhof

Vacation!! Spent three nights on a farm in the southern mountains (Steiermarkt) from Wien. Boy was it a relaxing change from the hustle and bustle of the city. We helped the farmers with the cows, kittens, goats, bunnies, chickens and dog. Anika loved chasing the kittens around the barn, petting the calves, feeding the cows, collecting eggs, and generally running around the barn, hopping in the hay, and getting really, really dirty. There was also an 8 year old girl (sarah, the farmers daughter) for Ani to play with. They had lots of fun. The farmers, themselves were really, really nice, down to earth, not complicated, and intelligent too. We learned a lot about what it takes to run a dairy farm. It's not such bad work taking care of the animals, except you have to do it everyday, once around 5:30am and again around 4:30pm. Everything else around the farms gets done in between. We even got to watch one of the cows get "artificially inseminated." Not a sight for the squeamish, but the cow didn't seem to be bothered at all by the whole procedure.

The other crazy thing about a farm is the smell. Just walking around the barn your clothes and hair get impregnated with the cow/chicken/hay smell. You need a separate set of clothes for the barn, and thankfully the farmers had extra jackets and boots for Anika and Pascal.

We had so much fun, we're pretty sure we'll go there again in the summer or fall, then we can take the cows out to the pasture, and maybe even ride some horses or ponies.

More Still Life Paintings

Austermann im Winterkleidung

1. Beanie with feather 2. Scarf (mandatory) 3. Quilted jacket over a soccer jersey 4. Shiny leather gloves 5. Walking stick/skipole 6. Lederhosen 7. Soccer training pants 8. Animal fur covered wooden stool 9. Hiking boots --- He's AustroKool!!!


The austrians say, "Passt" for a lot of things. It means, good enough, alright, o.k. My cousin in Germany gave me the idea for the drawing. He sent me a bavarian saying, about a carpenter who makes a custom chair for a client: "Passt, sitzt, hat Luft, wackelt und faellt knapp rein" which if I get this right means: Passt - it's a seat, with lots of air, wobbles and practically falls apart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Schon = beautiful. Schon is a word. The umlaut 'O' looks like a face. It can be read like an image. The umlaut 'O' face is saying, via the speech bubble (a symbol) another image or picture which can be understood as beautiful. The drawing refers to itself in a kind of circular way by using symbols and images interchangeably.

It's not really that complicated: the drawing is a word that means beautiful, and a face that says beautiful, and a picture that refers to beautiful.

Pascal and Lena

Pascal was invited to a birthday party (Lena's) last week. We found out from Lena's parents that Lena likes Pascal a lot. Very much. He's special.

This week a bunch of Pascal's drawings from Kindergarten were stuffed into his backpack to take home. Pascal actually is not so much into drawing - but there were maybe 8 drawings not from Pascal. They were full of hearts, houses, flowers and butterflies, and they were all from Lena. I asked the Kindergarten teachers if they mixed up the kids drawings, but I'm pretty sure they didn't, and Lena gave Pascal all those drawings. How sweet.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Should be: "Heute scheint die Sonne"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We, the Good People

All good people agree
And all good people say
All nice people, like Us, are We
And every one else is They

-- Rudyard Kipling

So true mate! Living as a foreigner has made me acutely aware of being 'They' and not 'We'. But we're all subject to this faulty division between 'Us' and 'Them'. I have met a Russian during my gymnastics work-outs (he's trained as a physicist, but working for a bank calculating risk assessments) and we got to talking about the old soviet union, east germany, etc, and I complained about how hopeless communism seemed, how corrupt it all ended up, and how capitalism seems to be a much better system, no? But he defended, partially, communism and pointed out how corruption in america is channeled through semi-legal systems like Lobbying. I don't think he was completely defending the communist system, but he rightly pointed out some inconsistencies in my thinking, and made me realize that my thinking about these matters is certainly influenced by the culture I live in. America promotes a certain ideology about capitalism and it's virtues, and even though I try to be objective I am influenced by this point of view, if for no other reason than I don't hear the other side's arguments.

It's the 'Us' and 'They' problem, and you can't be vigilant enough in questioning your own judgements. Cheers to Rudyard Kipling for summing it all up in such a simple and tidy way.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Broke out the clay, navajo red to be exact. Maybe making something from the Navajo soil will ward off the evil spirits of winter. Actually I wanted to do a sculpture of Anika before I start working and lose all my spare time. I made one of Pascal a long time ago, so it was Anika's turn finally. When Tessa gets here it'll be her turn.

Anika really liked her 'head', and she asked to make a sculpture herself. We decided to make a head of Cinnamon our Alameda cat. It came out pretty good. Gotta find a place in Wien to fire these babies up!!

In the Kunst Historische Museum they have a sculpture room full of, I think, mostly Roman heads. Some of them are so realistic, and specific, or individualistic it's remarkable. Walking around the room, between all the different heads is quite an experience - the verisimilitude of the many heads all in one room and mounted at eye level, make you feel like you're walking through an ancient cocktail party where all the guests, besides yourself, are mysteriously frozen still. Will they suddenly break their frozen state and begin chattering away?

I prefer the heads that are less idealized, i.e. not the perfect women's head which unfortunately start to all appear the same. The children, and adolescent heads are remarkable for their liveliness, and individuality. One of the woman's head's haircut reminds me of a famous Matisse sculpture, all curvy and massive. There were also a couple of men's heads which looked like the models were former boxers, one in particular with its nose accidently broken off, was even more expressive of the beaten worn boxers visage because of the accidental nose damage.