Modify from Thomas Hauert/Zoo at Tanzquartier Wien

December 12th, 2004 § 0

Entering the hall one faces a bare enormous stagespace covered in a large square white cloth.

Above it all hangs a photograph of an apartment. A long view from the backwall through three rooms to a window in the front. The ceilings are high the windows reveal a European city – it could be Vienna, Paris or Prague. Throughout the rooms there is stuff strewn. A mess. Personal belongings. Music, sweaters, a space heater, shoes, socks, covers, books. Everything. Home of students.

The lights dim. A Handel symphony rises.

The eight dancers enter. They are all dressed as if in elaborate pyjamas with long sleeves and full trousers. The back of all the costumes is white, the front various grey and red silks. A continuum.

They begin to wander past one another around one another. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Some of them leave the stage, some of them return.

It goes on. The movement is smooth and rhythmic, if not precise. Somewhat entrancing, if not compelling. Modify03

Something like watching a clutch fly together and apart, in circles.

The music changes. We have Music for the Royal Fireworks. Now some kind of strange court dance.

Very little emotional contact between the dancers. Very little emotional contact with the audience.

Now the dancers are hot. They’ve been moving fast for nearly an hour. They come together and dance as a single great body with eight arms, a cross between a caterpillar and a butteryfly. Interesting. Now they roll as a group into one another a melange of limbs and torsos, half partouze, half students stuffing themselves into a Volkswagen for a place in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Impossibly many in such a tiny space.

The dancers break apart and run and dance again. Now a duet or two. More emotional. How did they find contact? Why? A mystery, if a happy one.

The show as if begins anew. Three strong bands of light, red, yellow and blue traverse all the dancers.

But it is the end. An hour and a half of incredible music and hypnotic movement.

The concept was interesting – an updated Baroque court entertainment – but it is let down by the quality of the performers. None can be singled out as especially bad, but there was not enough presence or physical energy in any of the performers to hold us spellbound. The same show performed by the NDT, for example, would have been almost mesmerizing.

Only one dancer stood out. He looked very much like Joseph Fiennes and shared a cool intensity and concentration with his actor counterpart. His name I cannot tell you unfortunately.

Recommended. Beautiful music and a relief from the weight of the world. Pattern and grace.

Photo © P. Meuwissen

women from german speaking lands: ordnung und sauber nicht fellatio

December 7th, 2004 § 0

for the longest time, i would have nothing to do with german speaking women even conceptually. my single experience in this domain was the daughter of a consul who lived with my first girlfriend and shared the bed with us when i stayed over with the two of them.

brigitta corresponded to the clichéd foreign portrait of a german woman. she was exceptionally pneumatic with an enormous heaving bosom and massive rubenesque thighs. in this surfeit of flesh, she managed to have quite a small waist. she had curly blonde hair and prodigious appetites and a very sharp german accent employed vigorously to express her demanding personality.

considering that this teutonic maiden was probably the final hatchet into that first relationship, i forswore her kind for what i thought was a lifetime.

large pneumatic blondes and harsh accents have never been at all to my taste. a reason to avoid california and australia for that matter. soft speech, rounded consonants, long vowels, dark hair and light eyes are my synonyms for bliss.

and so a lifetime of mainly russia and france and wondering occasionally what it was i was missing in italy or spain. never a thought for german-speaking lands except how to exclude them from my travel plans.

well the image above – nothing could be further from the truth. particularly in austria. the austrian accent in english is completely different from the german one. it is soft and sultry. much clearer than the french accent in english and i would argue far more sexy. of course, nothing is more beautiful to the ear than a well spoken french woman speaking her native tongue but in english, nothing exceeds the grace of an austrian mädchen. almost all of them have it. particularly outstanding is a carinthian speaking english but at this point we are splitting hairs. the austrian accent is great. if you want to check up on it, just call austrian airlines from anywhere in the world.

but not all is well. particularly in germany there are a large number of excessively large girls and women. like canada, germany is a beer-drinking country. and as a group german girls drink beer, like the men. nothing spoils a woman’s figure like beer (or a man’s for that matter but men are not on the agenda today).

austria happily enough is more of a wine-drinking country. while the men do drink beer, the austrians are very keen on all kinds of things mixed with soda and lemonade (beer and lemonade is a radler), white wine and soda is a weissspritzer and red wine and mineral water is a rotspritzer and apple juice and soda is obspritzer. also popular is the italian prosecco (a sort of semi-sweet champagne), as well as white wines of all kinds. many women drink exclusively these beverages and consequently have very good figures and often retain fine boned grace into their thirties and beyond.

the women from german speaking lands are very different from their french counterparts. they are far less likely to talk an excessive amount of superficial nonsense. they would like to speak about what it is of interest to them. and to the point. they tend not to flirt very much aimlessly. you can trust that if a woman is paying attention to you for the moment at least she is interested in what you are saying. this may or may not be a good thing – some in france argue that the flirt is the lifeblood of gracious society. others consider it naught but a nuisance.

often the women retain good figures as a fair amount of outdoor activity is considered part of a good upbringing. any well brought-up austrian lass should be able to do a good few hours on steep hiking trails without trouble or complaint. the more adept among them even contrive to do hard-core climbing with the men. cycling and swimming are practiced through old age. not to participate in sports and outdoor activity almost marks a girl as lower caste or unwell in austrian society.

on the other hand, the women as a group do not try to rival the men. so in a group of mountain bikers one cannot expect the women to match the men for either strength or endurance. the physical condition of the women has polite limits, often made tighter but the unfortunate and widespread practice of smoking. but as a group they are stronger and more svelte and fitter than canadian, french or russians.

apart from their lovely accents (in the case of the austrians) and their good figures, the appeal of women from the german speaking lands is this: they are hard-working, clean and sober as a group.

the general level of habitation is so high – square corners, clean floors, sparkling bathrooms – that it is a national norm. women are highly social creatures, very sensitive to societal standards. when everybody’s house is clean and immaculate, the pressure to meet the general standard is very high.

moreover, cleaning and maintaining a house properly is a kind of craft, a sort of guildmanship, which is passed from generation to generation. women born and raised in these lands – depending on the household, of course – have that savoir-faire. just as in french households, women have the savoir-faire of making extremely good dinners and running a soirée end to end.

this is not to say that in france the women keep dirty households or that austrian women, for example, can’t cook. but as a rule one would find houses in german speaking lands significantly cleaner with better bathrooms, while one would find the general level of culinary expertise significantly higher in france.

in exchange for their ability to keep a household in fine order, women from the german speaking lands do expect the man to participate in the general cleaning, even if the woman is ultimately responsible for the overall standard. they also expect a man to be compliant (not necessarily obedient. his own belonging must also be kept in good order.

moreover, they cannot abide dirtiness in a man’s person. french women and russian women are far more tolerant of the body in a natural state. canadian women are don’t like dirt either but they are uptight about everything, including men’s bodies as well as their own. no doubt someone will mention that there is promiscuity in canada as well. yes, but it is a brutal promiscuity – a promiscuity which leaves the woman’s partner in debauch with more of a sensation of sleeping with a brazen prostitute than an act of tender intimacy (the women of quebec are a happy exception in all of this english speaking canadian ascetism.)

particularly unpleasant to many german speaking women is the act of fellatio. it is amazingly unpopular here. women from german-speaking lands would far rather have straight sex than oral sex.

in america, apparently it is the inverse. the young women – from presidential interns to walmart clerks – think nothing of a quick BJ. it a conceptual differnce. bill clinton maintained that he “didn’t have sex” even after the stains were found.

in seeking an explanation for this, the best i could come up with is that in austria the men’s loins often smell and are unclean. at least that is what my informal sampling revealed as the greatest complaint about fellatio among austrian women. at the root of austrian men’s hygiene problem is their generally uncircumcised state. austrian women are very negative about oral sex, at least the performing of it, as past experience has taught them to expect a very unpleasant experience in taste and odour; once convinced of the cleanliness of the man their enthusiasm climbs substantially, and many even acquire a taste for fellatio.


from my original position of staying as far away from the women of german-speaking lands as possible, at this point i have to recommend them very highly with only a single caveat. for all the delight and good in them, their native tongue remains german.

which is neither graceful or lovely. in my experience one is ill-advised to sustain a long-term relationship with a woman whose native language you do not at least understand, as a woman’s character is far more deeply embedded in her natural dialect than the characterless international english she is likely to speak.

to speak to her in english is to drink wine with one’s nose plugged. one has only the faintest idea of the nectar that one quaffs.

Imagine if the Sixties and Seventies never ended: Soulsugar at the Moulin Rouge Vienna

December 6th, 2004 § 0

There is a house in Vienna, they call Soulsugar.

Every Sunday night in Vienna for the last couple of years, a time machine operates from about nine o’clock at night. Some space in the city (presently the Moulin Rouge) becomes part of the 1960’s and 1970’s. In these rooms, the music is James Brown and the soul pop of the epoch. No fear of ever hearing Michael Jackson or Tina Turner’s Private Dancer or any of the other dross of the eighties. Strictly prohibited, a rigorous selection that never breaks the spell. But very soul-oriented. You would be unlikely to hear The Byrds or Donovan here either.

In fact, a huge part of the music could be part of the French Nouvelle Vague cinema. On the walls, they show old super 8 movies of the epoch in endless loops. They used to loops from softcore of the period but lately they have been home movies.

In a crowd which is mainly from twenty to twenty-eight years old, most people come dressed as though they too were living in the Woodstock era, but without the same excess. One cannot grow an afro overnight and the afro is not a natural hairstyle to most Austrians. The other option for dress is a sort of natty French nouvelle vague look.

The Moulin Rouge is a particularly appropriate setting for Soulsugar with its red velvet and enormous old cocktail bar. It has balconies everywhere and deepset booths and heavy iron work as if from la Belle Epoque. Timeless enough and old enough to transport us far from the present.

The crowd at Soulsugar comes to dance. Which is good, as there are many places in Vienna where the people are there more to pose than anything else. Many of them actually know how to. There is an enthusiastic and giddy atmosphere. For better or worse, the people are without pretension.

Strange that these people seek every week to step back into the world their parents would have inhabited. An idealised version of that world of course without Viet Nam, drug overdoses or the Cold War. But a happy illusion, that one is happy to wrap oneself in for a few hours. Good music, friendly people, easy times.

The creators of Soulsugar add some lovely extras. The costumed girl selling candy, free massage, two-for-one cocktails before 11.

In a sense, the escapism of Soulsugar is a microcosm of the zeitgeist in Austria. Austrians would prefer to just not think about world problems just now. Their country is enough to them. They feel secure within their borders (what borders I would ask, considering their presence within the old EU and right at the edge of the expanded one). Austria is rich, secure and free. Long may it remain so.

An Austrian once compared his compatriots to Hobbits and Austria to the Shire. He was not far off, except that Austrians are somewhat taller and the women are very enticing.

MOULIN ROUGE – 1010 Vienna Walfischgasse 11. Admission is on a sliding scale depending on when you arrive. €3 before nine. Double or more afterwards.

Nightwalk in Vienna – first district | Nachtweg Wien ersten bezirk

October 27th, 2004 § 0


this is the view from the Urania hotel (Viennale film festival centrale). you are looking at stephansdom – the central cathedral in catholic austria – in the background. the wide road runs parallel to the danube (donau river). about midnight.

Nightwalk in Vienna - first district | Nachtweg Wien ersten bezirk Continues »

Hey Northern Europeans – You’re Irrelevant! Warm Congratulations from San Francisco for Elfriede Jelinek

October 14th, 2004 § 0

Big news in Austria over the last week has been the awarding of the Nobel Prize for literature to their citizen Elfriede

Jelinek. A controversial writer even in Austria, this is a brave and forward-looking decision from the Stockholm-based jury.

Jelinek is no New York Times bestselling author. But not content with their president’s failed commandeering of the United Nations, many Americans would like to put the Nobel prize jurors in their place and assure a more level playing field for American writers.

VIEW / What’s a Nobel in literature really worth?:
the literature prize, since it was first awarded in 1901, is irrelevant when it comes to ensuring a writer’s immortality, let alone in assuring that an author will be recognized as “great” — both qualities we are supposed to associate with the prize bestowment, but which it doesn’t deliver.

Take the first part. Even the most erudite among us will have a hard time naming a single book by a great chunk of past laureates. How about that Sigrid Undset (1928)? Who could ever forget her, right? Or how about Par Lagerkvist (1951)? Or Jaroslav Seifert (1984)? Got those names tattooed on the brain, don’t you? And if you do, it’s because you’ve boned up on all the past winners for trivia night at the pub.

So what is the point of the Nobel Prize in literature? Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe it’s just as it appears to be: the hefty $1.3 million cash award given out by a civilized, knowledgeable group of Northern Europeans to authors they really, really like for completely subjective, sometimes political, reasons.

Who do they have in mind? Philip Roth, for instance. A foul mouthed man obsessed with his own genitals and with a vile writing style to boot.

Oscar Villalon is the name of the dullwit whom I quoted above.

Amhof | Photo of the Day Vienna

September 27th, 2004 § 1


One of the more beautiful squares in Vienna. I ride or walk through Amhof almost everyday and it is always beautiful but on this afternoon a curious combination of setting sun and dark skies persuaded me to stop and shoot.


End of Summer | Donainsel | Photo of the Day Vienna

September 27th, 2004 § 0


End of summer on the Donauinsel in Vienna. Hélas.

For the record the day was the 20 September.

End of Summer | Donainsel | Photo of the Day Vienna Continues »

Austrian Fashion Week | Austrian Fashion Awards 2004

September 26th, 2004 § 2

Last year when I arrived in Vienna, the first time I saw Austrian society was at the Austrian Fashion Awards.

Last year’s awards were not very good. They had a DJ in from FM4 which is the hot radio station in Vienna. Their DJ’s have a shared way of speaking with deep voices and a very laid back attitude. A kind of time transporter to the FM of the 1970’s in North America.

In any case, this Hermes is much in love with this own voice and did not deprive us of it. He spoke for about two hours of a ceremony which was close to three hours in length. And there was less than a half an hour of runway in the whole ordeal. I was struck by the patience of Viennese crowds for public speaking. To my astonishment, there was a minimum of squirming.

The clothes were no great shakes – the grand prize going to Petar Petrov for some sort of white cloth spacesuits for men. Dreadful garments.

Happily, the DJ for the after party was Electric Indigo and there was a good crowd for the music.P1020259.jpg

At that after party, I met the person with whom I spent most of the year.

This year’s show was much better. The MC for the evening was a charming young woman – Mimi Grünwald – who spoke briefly and to the point. A pop starlet at one point, happily it didn’t show in her clear and succinct delivery. The awards were handed out with a minimum of fuss and whining. Andreas Bergbaur of unitf didn’t speak for too long this. His speeches out about sponsors didn’t seem like constant carping.

The runway shows were extensive with as many as 20 models from some of the winning designers. The models seemed to be better and their makeup often inventive.

Most of the clothes were excellent.

I particularly like the clothes of Art Point which showed two totally different lines. One was dark evening wear which seemed quite dull at first glance but played beautifully on a difference of look, whether you saw the model coming or going.

Here are two examples from Edith A’Gay’s designs.

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The second line was very colourful and playful clothes. Although far too bright and cheery for my own taste, Lena Kvadrats’s use of colour is very cunning and imaginative. Here are some images.

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All the award winners:


The after party was somewhat confusing as the good DJ was left in an empty hall upstairs with a very democratic VIP party downstairs in the Jugen Tueller photo exhibit (the semi pornographic ironic series with Charlotte Rampling).

A waste of Electic Indigo’s considerable talents.

But really a much better show than last year. The Austrian Fashion Awards are growing up fast. Perhaps next year, they will get both the show and the afterparty right.

All photographs original, copyright and Alec Kinnear