edit: After having spent another 3 months in the US (summer 2014) and having re-read this entry, I feel a little different about the things I wrote 3 years ago. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it is just overly generalizing. For everything I wrote their are counter-examples. There’s more to say…
Despite all of that, I won’t go about editing it. Just see it as an account of an European traveller being in the US for the first time.
I moved out my flat in Vienna in June to spend the summer with my girlfriend in Pennsylvania and to see a couple of places and friends on the way. With two days left in this country, I’m surprised to realize I’m sad to leave. In fact, I got quite attached to this country. This is why:
The boundlessness of the USA is legendary. That is what I assumed it to be, a legend. An illusion. I was proofed wrong. Once you’re in – which turned out to be much easier then expected – an area just slightly smaller than and as geographically diverse as Europe is waiting for you to be explored. Even though border controls are history in the European Schengen area, you can clearly feel the national borders. Language and cultural differences are fine, but separate train and bus networks aren’t. I don’t even mention different tax system, health insurance and phone networks. In the states, all that doesn’t bother you the slightest. Off you go. It is an incredible feeling of freedom, that you could travel/move to a tropical island, an isolate glacier, a Mediterranean climate or whatever else may cross your mind and all you had to do is to pack your things and get going.
The USA is an incredibly culturally diverse country. You would say, Europe has all the different languages and cultures in its different countries. Well, every major American city has all that in their neighborhoods. And it doesn’t stop at Littly Italy or the Irish community. Chinatown is ’round the corner…
Yes, there is inequality between the different origins and there is xenophobia. The general attitude, however, is that you are welcome in this country to achieve what you want. Most people are at least 3rd generation immigrants and in fact, the stories of people that came to this country to start a new life, are at the heart of the American myth.
So are stories of personal achievement. Even though only a small fraction of the people that arrived on this continent actually made it from a dishwasher to a millionaire, many started small businesses or farms. Unlike in many other places, success isn’t necessarily confronted with envy or at least suspicion, but admiration. I wouldn’t be surprised, if this attitude may occasionally turn into terror, if one decides not to do anything. But that’s not really an issue for me.
Very obviously, the USA are a gorgeous place. I dedicated most of my writing and photography on my travel journal to the countless natural beauties and spectacular cities.
The biggest surprise to me was the high quality and deliciousness of American cooking. Yes, there is a lot of awful junk food, but you’ve got a choice. Be it a Chinese restaurant in NYC, seafood at Jersey shore, soul food in the south, an Italian restaurant in Boulder, CO or any of the countless, tiny diners down the road. Never in my life I had such a good food for affordable prices than here.
Obviously I am sad to leave my girlfriend for a couple of months, but I don’t intend to discuss my personal dilemma on this blog.
It is not all good.
The strong individualism often comes with recklessness. A lot of people will drive SUVs or other overdimensioned vehicles, just because “they can,” not caring about climate change and global responsibility. Many hate paying taxes and social insurance contributions, ignoring the situation of people with less luck.
The religious right of the US is frightening to say the least. The way how certain politicians and media people agitate against homosexuals, Muslims or the social state is revolting.
A lot have been said and written about the double standards in American politics, which question the grandness of the US rather a lot. I try not to judge a country by its politics alone, even though I’m aware, that they represent the general zeitgeist of their voters at least to some extend.
All in all, my 3-month stay in the USA gave me a much deeper insight in this country and I’m highly impressed, even though there are a lot of nasty things, that bug me. But the same is true to many countries.
Due to my frequent moving through Europe, I’m often confronted with the question why I, why people in general, keep stuff. Travelling is soooo much easier with 1-2 bag and as long I don’t live forever in a place with a massive warehouse attached, most things are a pain in the butt, really. So why don’t I chuck them away, getting rid of the forever? I try to examining this question by sorting all my possessions in categories and than, trying to find the reasons why I keep these things. All that with the aim, to question these reasons and give these things away, at last. Or in other words, distinguish the really useful possessions from the less useful ones.
OK, let’s get started:
potential use (e.g. books you’ve already read , Australian cattle lead, special wrench)
You know, one day in your life, you’ll need them. Problem: That day, you won’t find them among all the other potential helpers respectively clutter. That is, these things don’t have any use for you, you can easily give them away. Solution: That special day, when you actually need them (if it comes, at all), borrow them from someone. (You can even try to remember, who you gave yours)
books to read (all the books you got last christmas, also newspaper articles you cut out and these free magazines you picked up somewhere)
They are all VERY EXCITING. You want to read the NOW. Problem: You don’t have time NOW. Later, you might not be that interested anymore and you’ll definitely got something new, hotter. Also, new, exciting texts are published every hour, they are abundant as solar power. Solution: Get rid of all of them. In case, you actually end up with nothing to read and the internet isn’t an option, go to the library. If you’re really desperate, you could even go to a book shop and sell the book again, after you read it.
representatives (e.g. pocket edition of the universal declaration of human rights, travel guide of a former journey)
The use of things from this category is hard to decipher, in fact, there’s none. No practical one, anyway. In my case, I carry around this amnesty international pocket edition of the universal declaration of human rights. They remind me, that I value human rights and think that ai is a cool organisation. Problem: Every time I need to look up an article for a paper or so, I’ll use the internet. It’s much faster. Solution: Again, give it away (do some propaganda!). I’m still a member of ai, even if I give away all there material.
Unused gift (e.g. your 4th bottle opener, an ugly piece of cloth)
Someone gave you something of which you know, you’ll never ever use it. With the unused gift we are entering the categories of psychological terror. Problem: You think you will insult your dear friend by chucking it away. Solution: Appreciate the kindness of your friend and pass that thing to someone, who actually is in need of it. You’re friend might not even remember that thing. If (s)he does, tell him or her the truth. True friends appreciate your decision, they wouldn’t want to hold any psychological power over you.
confession of a bad buy (something you bought but never used)
You bought something (it seemed to be a bargain at that point), but than, you never had an occasion to use it. Problem: By discarding that thing, you confess that you made a mistake. Solution: Live with it, everyone makes mistakes. By the time you give it away, it’ll stop bothering your soul. Forever.
witnesses of the past (class pictures, stamp collection from your childhood)
Things you kept for ages and which gather almost religious dust. Problem: These things represents stages from your live and you think you’ll denial parts of your personality by chucking this kind of clutter away. On the other hand, these things can be a heavy, psychological burden. You progressed since that particular stage and they just hold you back in your further development. Solution: Accept that you are the person that your are now and appreciate your life at the moment, be open for new things and don’t waste too much time (and space in your shelf/bag) with your past. Light all that shit. It’s liberating.
Identify your stuff makes it way easier to get rid of it. And never forget:
Out of sight, out of mind.
PS: Did I forget a category? Do you own something without knowing why, but it just won’t fit in the aforementioned system? Do you want to keep your love letters? Why? Let me know.
If one analysis my blog posts of the last months for a certain pattern, one will come to the conclusion, that I’m moving through Europe in even 3-month intervals and that this keeps me too busy to write about anything else. That’s about right. After spending some time composing and soul-searching in Reykjavík (the place, which comes closest to be called home. Emotionally, if not technically), I followed one of my over-abundant intuitions and started a course in landscape planning/architecture at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria. That’s where I am now.
While I was as surprised about my sudden decision as my friends and family were, I have good reasons. Facing a future with less to no oil, heavily increasing energy prices and rapid environmental changes, I felt I have to play a role in the transition from the petroleum age to the post-petroleum age. Oil will run out whatever we attempt, but how we (as a species or human civilisation) cope, is up to us. I’m convinced that a smart and artistic design of the future will not only limit the devastating impact of climate change and peak oil, but even create a more desirable world. Studying landscape planning seemed to be a good choice, to equip myself with some important transition knowledge and skills.
So far, I’m very excited about Vienna and the University. I’m not writing a review here, so come and visit this place (but please, don’t take the plane). This said, I miss the freedom and the light of the North. Wishing to be in another place than the one I’m in seems to be the one constant of my life in the last couple of years.
The year being just two days old, I moved back to my beloved city of Reykjavík, Iceland and it proofed to be a great decision so far. Like in 2009, while I was working at Greenhouse Studios, the city is bursting with creativity and its very unique beauty. Reykjavík is big enough to offer a surprising wide range of urban infrastructure such as art galleries, higher education, live music venues, pups/night clubs, swimming pools (which serves as Iceland’s main social hubs) and many more, while being so small that you don’t waste an awful lot of time on the underground and that you can skip town to Europe’s perhaps most outerworldly landscape in a few minutes.
I love it.
Personally, I cancelled my music production course in Bath, UK in favour of applying for the composition course at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. Let’s see how that goes. Anyway, being part of this city is great already, and possibilities to create music are unlimited one way or another.
Due to the on-going debate on Wikileak’s publication of the US diplomatic cables, it seemed overdue for me to make up my mind on hacking and the ethics behind.Calling for absolute freedom – that is accessibility – of information, hackers stand in the tradition of liberalism. To be more precise, an egalitarian liberalism as supposed to neo-liberalism, which is a liberalism for an elite – in our capitalistic society, the rich.
Agreeing that we live in an information society, asking for free access to information is the modern shape of the old Marxist claim for the collective ownership of the Means of Production. However, the hacker’s revolution is far less radical (in there means, not in there long-term utopia) than its 19th century counterpart, since no expropriation is involved. There’s a difference in taking a steam machine from a private factory owner and socialise it and sharing secret cables from the US Department of State. Whereas the factory owner lost his property, the US Department of State doesn’t.
As a result, leaking secret information, writing open source software and gathering open knowledge are different forms of direct action for a more social society. Unfortunately, this thinking is pretty much limited to the (relatively) small community, as the classical (in fact, I’d preferred the term “vintage” here) political left – trade unions, socialist and social-democratic parties – are still thinking and acting in the old patterns of the industrial age, which is (at least in most western countries) history. Not to talk about the near, post-peak (oil) age. Until this, “vintage” left and the hacker community teamed up to the new left movement of the 21st century, direct action remains a major tool for social change.
After spending the summer in Sweden, Norway, Germany, England and Wales, I’m now finally settled in Shepton Mallet, a small town in the outstanding county of Somerset, UK. It’s an 18th century house with recording studio, plenty of space to freak out. Bristol, the cradle of trip-hop (represented by groundbreaking bands/artists such as Tricky, Portishead and Massive Attack) and buzzing drum’n'bass/dubstep hub is around the corner, so is the majestic city of Bath – where I’m taking a course in Music Production – and Peter Gabriel’s world class Realword Studios. To sum up, a thriving area for all interested in music. Can’t wait to dive in.
A new, big kitchen, a veg box full of local, organic produce and general euphoria are the outer factors, the soft ingredients so the say, of a new dish I just created and certainly repeat at some point. It’s an elegant, gentle curry, fully vegan, which I christen as “Cauliflower tahini curry.”
Cube half of an onion and chop the cauliflower into small florets. Fry both simultaneously in olive oil and 2-3 pinches of cayenne pepper. Use a low temperature to make sure you don’t burn the cauliflower. Stir in the broth. Than add tahini, curry and creme. Serve with rice and a salad to your liking.
On Thursday, 27th May, I’ll give my debut as an solo artists, performing own songs and compositions as well as a live electronic performance. Besides a fantastic band (Maria Finkelmeier, Venla Hinnemo, Leyli Afsahi, Jonathan Börlin, Johan Petterson, Patrick Anderson, Davod Basri, Vanessa Martinez, Johan Bertilsson), the concert will feature Lindie Boström doing lights and visuals and a dance performance by Tore Alsegård.
spring-cleaning on www.johann-strube.org. So what’s new?
new design: new, clear design. I dumped some unnecessary information such as the tag cloud and everything is now laid out in two instead of three columns.
soundcloud player: I finally got rid of the ugly myspace player. Instead, you can listen to my portfolio on the smart soundcloud player. Looks much better and offers some features as sharing and commenting music.
tumblr and twitter feed: In the right column you will now find my latest posts on tumblr and flickr. So you find everything I’m posting aggregated at one place.
wordpress 2.9.: I also updated wordpress to it’s latest version.
improved commenting: The comments are now powered by DisqUs, enabling cross-platform discussions.
sharing: Under each post you’ll now find a button to share the post on your social media.