No Mail for Old Men – Or Why It’s Fun to Have Grandparents with Wifi

Grandfather's EyesWhen men worked all their life, it’s fair enough that they enjoy their late days on the terrace, in a sunny garden and with friends surrounding them. These days, it’s important that these terraces got WiFi and that the friends are on Skype and equipped with an email account at least…

“Did you know you get 87% less spam when your email address stats with a Q?”


My Dad asked me one day  years ago. It was the first step of him venturing out in to cyberspace, where he takes a break from cooking, baking, hiking, singing, laughing and gardening – which is what he usually spends his time with. Since this very day, I’m spoiled with forwarded mail he received. – Imagine 13-year-old boys at school. One is getting a really funny note, written on a dodgy paper, ripped out from an exercise book and crunched up more than folded. Wouldn’t you pass it on if it was funny, entertaining and leading your thoughts away from the dull day-to-day life around you?

Here’s the latest gem from my  collection “forwarded notes from my father’s friends to my father“. It’s about a girl, well: a Golden Girl. And about parties and boys. It’s almost Dadaism. Hugo BallKurt Schwitters by accident. Enjoy!

———- Forwarded Message ———-
From: Fritz Lachner <>
Date: 2013/6/20  11:32
Subject: dread
To: paul otto <>

Good Day, Paul,

in the case Dreadling.
The handling is indeed very time-consuming.
She sends me smile and smirk stories, I keep her entertained.
I’m not mailing you the jokes any more, because your PC capacities are too marginal.

For Uq I really enriched her celebration at the Lot’s place pleasantly. The Le was apparently also there, not the Pa. About his absence reportedly has been conjectured.

If O or not.???.

Overall it was supposedly good.
“Old” faces  seemingly are not involved any more.

The Pa is now also already 9y out of the office, and the Lot was surely not exactly his friend.
What would the Pa have done there. Sit next to enemies like Lot, Uq, Dr. Meyer, what else I happen to know…

The Hill is as talkative as a hill, Pa would have had nothing from that either.
Pa is not inside this business any more.
I (we) should not have to care.

Will we go again to BWh having a nice day?

All the best wishes to you

Oh, yes, this is real.
And of course I did change the personal information, but tried to keep the original unintended and intended pun. As well as the feel of names and places and sometimes weird punctuation.

Isn’t it strange which style a language adapts, when you work for 40+ years in an office only ever writing demand notes and administration fines? I hope this feel of office burnt into a brain has not been lost in translation. It left me very touched.

(Read more Dadaist poetry found in the real world here: After Hours in Mongolia – Authentic Dadaist Thermos Poetry)


A Place to Share and Explore Europe’s Cultural Heritage: Europeana

They could not resist to put “economic growth” in the end of this video. As if economic growth was the excuse we needed to create writing, images, sounds. As if painters, photographers, architects, poets, filmmakers, musicians and designers of all kind ever thought “Let’s do it! It will create economic growth!” As if we would not have started to guess already in the 70ies, that there must be something like  The Limits of Growth, as if we would not have realized and often felt in our very own lives, our very own families, that economic growth does not guarantee prosperity and personal progress. And: do we need progress at all?

Progress reminds me Tino Sehgal and his installation in the MoMa, where me and my beyond 80 and below 40 friend walked up the rotunda being engaged in an intense discourse about progress. The people guiding and debating with us were folks from age 6 to 90. Seghal had placed them carefully, so you did not know what was waiting for you. In the end, up at the top, we, as well as our senses and minds, were immersed in progress of all sorts, shapes, forms and philosophies. We looked back with wide open eyes at all the wanderers, walkers and chatters making their way up towards us. The talks formed a loud whisper and we lost track of who is part of the  installation and who is a visiting guest, just like us.

This is the amazing thing Europeana can do for all  of us:

Just like I did at the top of the MoMa, we can stand in a living, lively swirl of culture. History can rise, we can dive in to virtually anything that ever has been created in Europe. We can not only see, hear and access it, we can also tie knots between things and find links we did not even know existed. Most exciting about digitized cultural heritage is not the sheer facts however, most exciting are the stories behind each and everything it holds.

An endless picture book telling eventually the stories of the people behind the culture. People like you, like me, like all of us. A memory that can be explored like a gigantic attic, full of adventures and things to discover and learn. This is what makes Europeana strong, unique and a place to be.

It’s a logical step to reach out and collect things which did not make their way in to Europe’s museums and archives yet. People in the shadow of history, men and women on the street, long before street photography has been invented. Europeana 1914-1918 asked individuals and families to come and share their stories, show their memories and memorabilia from 1914-1918. A “World War One Family History Roadshow” to collect the voice and memory from the people on the street is travelling all across Europe.

Being German, I am tormented for good reasons with WWII history from kindergarten on. We know all about it, we’re all deeply sorry, we’re all at least vaguely interested. You’re German? – WWII history it is, you can not get out of it, you want a German passport? You got to learn about it in a course. So I’m sort fo a WWII expert by birth. – And I got still a profoundly different impression, when I travelled to find the owners of some old toy-set of china porcelain, which my family acquired in 1936 from a Jewish family leaving Mannheim. I spoke to a lot of women. Women mainly far beyond their 80th birthday. Many stories made me cry, some gave me hope, some made me belief in humanity. It was my very first own direct and personal encounter with the Holocaust, the pogrom night in Germany in 1938 and the people who used to live just down the road, 70 years back.

I admire Europeana’s will, effort and urge to digitize for Europeana 1914-1918 European family memory of World War One and shed light in to the shadows of history. Here, you can read some of the stories they collected so far.

My grandparents, the ones I knew, born in 1902 and 1916, both died of cancer when I was a teenager. The other two died when I was a toddler. I remember an image of my grandmother holding my father as a young baby. She must have been around 30-something. She looked very young and very much from today. This image felt very close to me and my life. I wish I could have a conversation with her over a cup of tea and listen to her stories.

As a cinematographer, I work often with people who are in need for original materials, archival footage or old images. Europeana is a search engine which makes it easy to access the cultural heritage of Europe. Europeana lists and links Europe’s archives, museums and collections. Europeana is available in all European languages, even Maltese and Catalan. A very powerful and efficient search form allows you to do a very specific research, for example search only materials under a creative commons licence. This is an incredible useful tool for documentary film makers as well as for researches for screen writing. You can find there

  • Images – paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects
  • Texts – books, newspapers, letters, diaries and archival papers
  • Sounds – music and spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts
  • Videos – films, newsreels and TV broadcasts
  • 3D models of architecture and historic sites

They are also running a lovely Blog, with stories from within all these collections. Hope you enjoy.

Done. Now: Sleep.

Sun has set and night is falling in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Some of us are still stuck in the endless traffic jams paralyzing the city from dawn till dusk. Some were lucky to find into a deep calm and soothing ease…

And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now. Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrogered sea. […]

Mongolia indeed is lacking a navy.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing. Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover, the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.

Listen. It is night moving in the streets. […] Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, suckling mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino. […] It is to-night in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.

Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding though the Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. – Come closer now.

Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see in the blinded bedrooms, the combs and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth, Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing, dickybird-watching pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.

From where you are, you can hear their dreams. […]

The queen bee is sleeping. And the French woman. Go and listen to their dreams:

Quoted text “Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices” by Dylan Thomas. US:  ISBN-10: 0811202097 / ISBN-13: 978-0811202091 by on amazon here. Europe:  ISBN-10: 3150092485 / ISBN-13: 978-3150092484 buy on amazon here.

Images by Hanna Mayser. For prints, lovely emails or job offers you can get in touch via hanna.mayser [ad] or simply give her a buzz: +49 179 108 6381.


China vs. Mongolia

In China… the land you build your house on falls after 70 years back to the government.
In Mongolia… the Mongolian Navy does not carry white sea bags.

In China… you got to dump your car after 8 years or 200.000km of driving it.
In Mongolia… you got to make sure to always carry 400 DIY sand-bags to fill up yourself when shooting a movie.

In China… you might encounter the cutest man of Asia. He’s 95 and looks like 102.
In Mongolia… you’ll definitely meet the cutest man of Central Asia. He’s got a smile like a Goliath Tiger Fish, but a heart as wide as the planet.

I like it here, I like it there. I wanna come back with my family.
But most of all, I wanna go home.

Read more about a DPs Chinese adventures here: Shanghai, the Pyjamas and the Curious ElderlyShanghai MorningsA Golden Holiday in Shanghai

Find out more about our Mongolian film adventures here: Mongolian MorningsAfter Hours in Mongolia (my favorite, as it features authentic Chinese/Mongolian Thermos Poetry), Come Back, JackFilmmaking in Mongolia



Are many posts of mine titled home? I found one…that’s ok…

My father is not hugely great in showing emotions. He cooks for me and makes large cakes and sends me cut out newspaper articles. It’s some form of love, I’m sure. He lives in a pink cave, my father. You can see it here. I love him a lot and I love the newspaper snippets he sends me. They are never crinkled. This one became a bit wavy – of course: in my house.

The article is about an old school friend who’s published a couple of books and was interviewed few times about plagiarism and Axolotl Roadkill. He lives with wife and toddler in Zürich, he runs an exquisite picture collection of his home town Haßloch – which translates hate hole – on Facebook and we spent some days and nights at a pool and in a cemetery. You do that when you are 13.

What I love about the article is the fact, that it features a live between books right next to the read-meat ads of SBK supermarket. “Selbst-Bedienungs-Kauf” their homepage informs us and we see there, that “Fleisch und Wurst aus eigener Metzgerei” – own butchered meat and sausage – is for SBK of main concern.

It reminded me one of the images I took in the series of my filmschool application back in 1994: No teenager wants to be a butcher was the headline of the paper on the day I took that image. The entire series was about “Home” and inspired by a poem fragment of Pablo Neruda: The House, part of his Canto General. Since I could neither find the Spanish original nor the English Canto General Translation by J.Schmitt, below the German bits and English fragments of the fragment, that I found.

The House

“My house, the walls whose fresh,/recently cut wood still smells: dilapidated/homestead that creaked/with every step, and whistled with the warrior wind/of austral weather, becoming stormy/element, strange bird/beneath whose frozen feathers my song grew.” (translated by J.Schmitt and found here)

“My house, the walls whose fresh, recently cut wood still smells… sullen scars, men without money, the mineral claw of poverty.” (translator unknown, found here)

Das Haus * From Canto General by Pablo Neruda

Mein Haus, die Wände, deren frisch geschlagenes junges Holz noch duftet: ein unwohnliches Haus an der Grenze, das knarrte bei jedem Schritt, heulte mit dem Wind, dem kriegerischen, der australen Wetter, zum Element des Sturmes wurde, unbekannter Vogel, unter dessen Eisgefieder mein Gesang erwuchs.

Plötzlich schlagen die Türen: Es ist mein Vater. Ihn umringen die Streckenarbeiter: Eisenbahner in ihren durchnäßten Mänteln; Dunst und Regen überfallen mit ihnen das Haus, der Eßraum füllt sich mit heiseren Geschichten, man leert die Gläser, und bis zu mir gelangen von jenen Wesen, einer abgesonderten Schranke gleich, in der die Schmerzen leben, die Sorgen, die düster drohenden Narben, Menschen ohne Geld, die erzerne Klaue der Armut.

Growing up in Asbury Park with Dick and Jane.

The Asbury Park kitchen  of the house Jenifer Hixon kindly let us use as location for Tawnya Foskett’s Where there’s Smoke was – like the entire house itself – a treasure box full with the most wonderful finds.

Having read a while back with my kids Bill Bryson’s wonderfully hilarious but still loving The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, I was so pleased to finally see the paper-reincarnation of the real Dick and Jane – two fellows I missed out on growing up in West-Germany in the 70ies and 80ies.

“In the Dick and Jane books, Father is always called Father; never Dad or Daddy, and always wears a suit, even for Sunday lunch – even, indeed, to drive to Grandfather and Grandmother’s farm for a weekend visit. Mother is always Mother. She is always on top of things, always nicely groomed and always in a clean frilly apron. The family has no last name. They live in a pretty house with a picket white fence on a pleasant street, but they have no radio or TV and their bathroom has no toilet (so no problems deciding between Number 1 and Number 2 in their household). The children – Dick, Jane and little Sally – have only the simplest and most timeless of toys: a ball, a wagon, a kite, a wooden sailboat.
No one ever shouts or bleeds or weeps helplessly. No meals ever burn, no drinks ever spill (or intoxicate). No dust accumulates. The sun always shines. The dog never shits on the lawn. There are no atomic bombs, no butter boys, no cicada killers. Everyone is at all times clean, healthy, strong, reliable, hardworking, American, and white.”

…oh… Jenifer Hixon didn’t grow up in Asbury Park … had I mention that already??

Conquering the Useless

“Head executive suite of Twentieth Century Fox, L.A.
It turns out that there has been no contact between the Germans, the French and Fox. On top of that applies the undiscussed implicitness, to pull a  miniature ship across a studio hill, maybe even in a botanical garden, who must not be to far away. Why not San Diego? They have greenhouses there with good tropics. And I say: this are than the bad tropics, and I say the undiscussable  implicitness has to be a real steamship across a real mountain. But not because of the realism. Because of the stylization of a great opera-happening. From than on, the amenities, we exchanged, had a thin layer of cold hoar-frost.”

Werner Herzog, Los Angeles, 19./20.6.1979

I watched on a lovely blog snippets of all roles Mick Jagger ever played…it reminded me Fitzcarraldo, Werner Herzog and the diaries he wrote during making the movie: Eroberung des Nutzlosen – The Conquest of the Useless.

What a great title, I love the German title even better than the English one, and what an even greater book!

Stop reading, go get it and off to beach or hangmat or veranda, take a blanket, if you live in the southern hemisphere, coz once you start reading, you will not lay this book out of your hands.

Funny what a full frame camera can do with a APS size lens…

Here is an interview with Werner Herzog about his book and here the amazon link…but maybe ask your local library to get it, so others can enjoy as well (you see, I really like this book, he?).

The Mess we’re in


Mess is a nautical term, if it is not used referring to what’s in your room or in your head.

We have it in German as well, the Mess… nautical as well as for measuring – leading in the last case to such funny Wortschöpfungen as Mess-Meister – which would refer to a master of measurement rather than a master of the chaos, would this term exist.

Today, I would refer to my head, when using the word discussed above.

The word mess. Not the word Mess-Meister. I would call the different ghosts and fairies mess causing, lurking lazy in the corners of my brain. My brain is a German one, so it is very square and has corners. Four at it’s minst.

Let me make a German order of this fluffy flirring flurryness mess and start, topic by topic, a neat list.

With A to begin with as you do in neat lists and C to come to a quick end, deal with the three the most nagging thoughts and spare you of the to many discourses, distractions and pranks those pranksters in my mind have come up with lately.


Leads us back to the headline and the song, you find playing the link above.

Katharina gave it to me yesterday. She is working as online publisher of the Filmschoolfest. And she was the one, who chose to put the picture from my “Find the Award” post online next to my cinematographers introduction, along with the line “The mess we are in”.

Lucky I am not a camera assistant. I thought, when I saw and read this first. But that was before I met her. After I met her, we had the loveliest conversation about life and living and she gave me this glorious song by P.J. Harvey with Thom Yorke, that made her initially put the note under my picture. I listened, I love it. – If you want it as a Chrissie present, buy it here, but no Thom Yorke in this version… I would have never got this recording without this lovely  note by Katharina.


I almost forgot, this is a list…so better be efficient

The other day I was in a lecture Claire Denis held about her latest film 35 Shots of Rum. I loved the film, an homage to Ozu, and its unpretentious way of how he shows people and their every day lives. And those lives rustle, rattle and clatter like a train trudging swooshing sometimes smoothly, sometimes loudly cracking, when changing tracks.

Beautiful pictures by Agnes Godard as usually, Claire Denis took as on a journey through her films and her thoughts and somehow we spoke a about physicality and intrusion and heart transplants and migrants and her film The Intruder and last  not least L’Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet.

I remembered the painting instantly, as well as the day, when I saw it for the first time. And I remembered the impact it had. I remembered it as this large lush greatness, maybe 6×3 meters staring down at me and I remembered me, standing underneath looking up to it in the Musée d’Orsay. You will see my memory tricked me.

The painting is sized 46×55 cm. 

The strangest thought standing there in the cinema with Claire Denis, was the memory of a very strong memory, I had, when I stood there in the d’Orsay for the first time. A strong visual memory of picture. A photograph with a young couple with a baby in a pusher, I had seen about a year before. Red and white stripes, the little pusher and happy, the couple.


Guided Tour (Siyur Mudrach) by Benjamin Freidenberg is a bit like a memory of an event, that was dominated by a memory and is remembered wrongly. And a bit like shifting reality, you are running after trying to catch it like a soap-bubble. And a bit like Vom Beobachten des Beobachters der Beobachter (On the Observing of the Observer of the Observers – A Novel in 24 Sentences) by Swiss writer Dürrenmatt or Max Frisch‘s Stiller starting with the words: “I am not Stiller.” And not only a little bit, but a large bit wonderful.

An empty Jerusalem we observe in this – as acclaimed German Newspaper “Die Welt” writes in their online editionDokumentation. Wondering after a while, why and how this film can be a Dokumentation, according to “Die Welt” and our own minds, if the couple, the film is documenting in front of their wardrobe, maybe even in their bedroom, if this couple is a couple the narrator sees only from time to time and from the far, peeking through his apartments door in to the hallway.

Is it the Uli Seidel style setup, that makes us want to believe this film and its reality so much? Or is it the fact, we always believe movies and believe in movies, when we love them, even though we know the blood is not real. We do want to believe in to people who let us look deep in to their souls. Or what they let us know might be their souls.

The fog faints.

We hear a story, and hear the honest narrator telling us,  it is not true. Only to follow this very same narrator in to the next Gespinnst of wonderfully woven silky storylines and fairy tales of real life.

A bit like in Bunuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, where people wake up from a dream, which is a dream of people having a dream in a dream.

Thank you for this dream.

A Campari Commercial not by Dylan Thomas and not Under Milk Woods


I am not sure, what makes me think of Dylan Thomas when posting this…

Maybe the alcohol? Maybe the fact, that I shot this one year ago and never got around to post this here or do anything with it? Or maybe the view out of the tiny roof window in the small closet, I am living in, that today offers a drab gloomy autumn sky looking as Welsh as I can imagine a sky to be?

The spot directed by Gil Levanon after an idea by producer Markus Brandmair can not be my Thomas-reminder, that’s  for sure. Even though I know, the Welsh man and his wonderful language have been used and abused by commercials quite a bit…

Well not by us.

Maybe it is just, that I must post soon something actually connected to Dylan Thomas