the student in the time vortex

December 23rd, 2013 by Johann Strube

2013 is about to close and it’s time to write something clever on my blog. Oh my, half a year has passed again since I wrote my last entry. Guess I’m not much of a blogging person. Or rather, I’m in a stage of my life, where I do make progress in certain areas, namely my studies and students’ association (ÖH) activism, but unlike in music, where you have concerts and releases, there are not so many stunning events that I feel eager to write about. Or when they happen, I’m too tired and torn to be bothered. It feels like in Doctor Who’s time vortex; I chase through time and space with tunnel vision and without contemplation.

When I look back at the first months in office, there are several things I should be proud of: We (my colleagues in the chair team and several other activists of ÖH) established two new units within the students’ association, organized a number of seminars and political/informative events, organized a huge demonstration against the union of the ministry of science and the ministry of economy and, most importantly, seemed to be able to create a general sense of motivation within the student body for ÖH affairs. Also, we created a lot of confusion. Something, I’m not entirely discontent about.

As with my studies, officially I’m still in Bachelor stage but practically halfway through my masters. Which is kind of cool, ’cause it give’s me the choice of being done soon or stretch the end a bit to get some time for my own, artistic, political and/or scientific (I don’t attempt to separate these areas to much) projects. Yeah, my head is still bursting with ideas that needs watering.

tldr: wibbly wobbly timey wimey happy new year

And suddenly they called me chairperson

July 30th, 2013 by Johann Strube

Looks like it took me 6 months to write another entry on my blog.  Not like I’ve been lazy, far from it. I’ve just been caught up with tons of stuff, I didn’t even remember I had a blog. Sort of…

The single most exciting event was the election for the Student Union parliament. The election itself was exciting, but so was the preparation and aftermath. Admittedly, our green student group (bagru*GRAS*boku) was pretty much in a state of coma since the last election in 2011. We didn’t die, the heart was still beating, we were just dozing. That is to say, me and a fellow student were members of that student’s parliament and did get involved there, but other than that, it was pretty much green radio silence. Anyway, something must have struck us, as we decided to run again this year and even do some campaigning. A small group as we are, I confess it was one of the most intense campaigns I took part in. But it was great to see our group become alive again and even better, we managed to maintain our two seats in the student’s parliament. Still better, we were suddenly a much asked for coalition partner for the two bigger student’s group. Therefore, no relaxation after the election but coalition talks! I tell you, that stuff is exciting. Everything went pretty smooth, though, and now, hooray, we’re part of the executive coalition with the so-called Unabhängige Fachschaftsliste, a rather odd collection of campus activists, that came together in deadly terror of joining any party-affiliated group. Nice bunch of people, though. Long story short, I’m now part of the chairteam of our Student Union, which is not far from a full-time occupation. It’s going to be extremely intense, busy and challenging plus awesome. So I assume. It was interesting to realize, how nice and polite suddenly everyone becomes, once you’re get into some sort of exposed office. Wonder how long that will last…
Another year, another challenge.

Apart from all those political activities, I also managed to make some progress on my studies. I’m like on the finishing line of my Bachelor graduation. The most interesting part was the field research for my Bachelors thesis (more on that, once it’s proof-read, handed in and graded), which took my to the Vinschgau in South Tyrol, Italy. It was quite a relief and change to get out of Vienna for 2 weeks.

Deine Meinung zählt (nicht) oder Vom Unterschied zwischen Stadtsbürger und Staatsbürger

February 20th, 2013 by Johann Strube

In Wien findet im März eine Volksbefragung statt, auf deren Inhalt ich jetzt gar nicht eingehen will. Ich darf eh nicht wählen. Gut, ich bin auch nur mit Nebenwohnsitz in Wien gemeldet, verständlich. Aber mehrere hunderttausend andere, die hier teilweise schon seit vielen Jahren leben, dürfen auch nicht wählen. Warum? Weil Sie keine Österreicher_innen sind. Die Plakatkampagne der Wiener Stadtsregierung – Deine Meinung zählt – kommt da wie Hohn daher. Wieso ist jemensch eher Wiener, wenn sie oder er vor einem Jahr aus beispielsweise Vorarlberg zugezogen ist, als jemensch aus Bratislava, schon 15 Jahre in Wien lebend? Das erscheint mir wenig einleuchtend, diskriminierend und undemokratisch. Würde es sich um ein rechtsverbindliches Referendum handeln, könnte ich es aus verfassungsrechtlichen Gründen VIELLEICHT noch nachvollziehen. Aber es geht hier nur um ein unverbindliches Meinungsbild, dass hätte die Wiener Stadtregierung auch individuell, jenseits der verfassungsrechtlich fixierten Instrumente lösen können.

studying in Vienna: in praise of a dying system

December 1st, 2012 by Johann Strube

It’s been almost two years since I moved to Vienna to study landscape planning and architecture at the University of life sciences and Natural Resources. Most likely, I’ll stay here for grad school and there’s a reason, why I think studying in Vienna is great (at least for people like me):First of all, as a EU-citizen, it’s free as long I stay in the regular period of study plus two semesters which shouldn’t be a problem. With my German Abitur, I could just walk up to almost any university (there are nine of them), enroll and start studying. Just like that. Even better, I can study more than just one program at several universities at the same time. So I enrolled for spatial planning at the Vienna University of Technology. I just jump on my bike and commute between classes at two different universities at which I don’t pay a single cent of tuition. I have a great amount of freedom to tailor my studies to my own interests, style and pace of learning. It’s education heaven, right? Well, close but not quite there…

Since until recently (after I enrolled, that is) Austrian universities had no tool to control the amount of their students. More often than not, this would lead to overrun programs with the universities being unable to provide sufficient facilities for all their enrolled students. It’s not too bad at my programs, even though it does get cramped in the lecture halls once in a while. The computer facilities are a joke. I had the opportunity to see some universities in the US and god, they had some shiny facilities, gorgous libraries and what not. But is that worth paying something like 20-30k a year? Not for me. I have my own computer, I don’t need a palace for studying and they have some great professors over here. You might not get invited to their homes, but you can still learn a lot from them if you’re commited. It’s actually not that difficult to get a decent education and set yourself apart from the mass of students as long you’re commited to your studies. So for me, it pans out nicely.

But wait, things have changed. They’re trying hard to reduce the number of students. Introduction of study fees for long-time students and non-EU students and limits of students for some programs (including landscape architecture). And while those restrictions are still very modest by international standarts, experiences from other countries such as the UK have shown, that it will become tougher and tougher to study in Austria if those attempts aren’t tackled now. Kill it before it grows. I want future generations of students to have the same degree of freedom while studying that I have now. As a start, you should join the demonstration for free education organised by the Austrian Student’s Union on the 5th of December.

Walden’s nightmare

May 14th, 2012 by admin

Recently, I’ve been asked to perform at the opening of the latest exhibition by the Viennese artist group annalian. Unfortunately, I had to do some field research in Styria so I couldn’t be around. So I set up a private and cozy performance at my home, recorded the result and gave it to annalian. The exhibition took place in some old bunker in Vienna. I would have loved to hear the pulsing bass down there.

Anyway, since it is recorded now, I might as well share it with you. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

How to put things off you can’t do anything about now

April 15th, 2012 by Johann Strube

As I am working myself  through my undergraduate programme in landscape architecture and planning, I am already thinking about which master to take. There are a couple of options I find intriguing:

Coming to a decision is only part of the problem. It’s still more than a year left until I actually have to make that decision, in fact, it won’t be before December I can apply to anything. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it right now and yet this pondering is nagging my mind to no end, taking up way to much brain power which I rather invested on other things. So today’s big question is, how to put off something that is bothering you, but which you can not do anything about at the moment. Basically, I want to put it into a mental hold-file, erase it from my mind and follow up on it in autumn. I know how to do it with a file on my hard-drive, but my brain doesn’t work like that. Any suggestions? I might continue this article whenever I came up with a solution, which I don’t at the moment, because…which master programme should I take again?

edit, half a year later: Over the course of the last 6 month that list expanded to about 20 extremely interesting master programs I’ve been considering. However, coming back to University in fall made me realize the advantages of my current program. All those other masters, tempting, but not better suited for my overall goal to plan sustainable communities than the course I’m already taking. It’s like walking down the aisles in a department store, when all the shiny products left and right of you are grabbing your attention while their’s only one product in the whole store you’re  actually need. Ehh, I forgot how much I hate department stores…

Beauty in abundance

March 3rd, 2012 by Johann Strube

As you see, I’ve been very lazy with my blogging and artistic work recently. Actually, “lazy” isn’t quite the right word, since I’ve been and still am insanely occupied with my landscape planning/architecture studies. It’s extremely interesting so I dived into it for real. Also my computer and musical gear got stolen while I travelled the states, leaving me in a somewhat unfortunate position. Anyway, enough of the whining. Chances are I’m going to play a set of something (yet to be revealed) in May in an old bunker in Vienna. It will definitely be electronica driven, so I figured I share a piece of music with you. It’s one of the first things I wrote in PD, so you’ll need to download that first in order to play it back. [PD aka pure data is an open source graphical programming language for multimedia. That is, you're invited to fiddle around with my patch to see what will happen. It's fun, I tell ya. You can get it for free on the pure data website.]

Beauty in abundance [download]

“Beauty in abundance” is an infinitive piece written for noise generator and four powerful bandpass filters.
The piece challenge the way we look at dirt, chaos or so called noise. Whereas society tend to label all these things as being bad or unwanted, they are nothing different than an exsessive supply of human products. Or in other words, wheares the single component might be positive, in abundance  it becomes negative. Examples? A single car carries the driver to its destination, too many of them cause traffic jams and pollution. Overproduction of food ends up on the landfill. A twitter feed might contain valuable information, but becomes useless if the user is confronted with a couple of hundred messages a day. On a planet with a human population of almost 7 billion, finding and reusing these components becomes a technique of survival.
In musical terms, a single sine tone at random frequency, duration and volume is rather innocent, MANY of them cause white noise, which only a few would describe as a welcoming sound. In “Beauty in abundance”, I attempt to move the listener’s focus away from the general noise to its core ingredients, which I present in simple yet beautiful 4-note chords.
Once started, the patch will play forever (untill someone comes to stop it), blurring the border between a classical composition and a sound installation. Personally, I used to play it in the beginning of concert, while the audience is entering the room to smoothen the transition between the non-concertante time and the performance itself.
The duration of one loop (noise – chord – noise) can be set by the operator of the patch, according to the circumstances. Whereas it can be set to quick cycles in order to present a couple of them in a short time, I generally prefer longer times. That way, you become aware of all the levels of grey between the noise and the pure chord, posing the question what defines the one and the other. Especially if played as a permanent installation outside of a concert, 2-3 min per circle don’t seem too long.

 

three months in the USA. a conclusion

September 26th, 2011 by Johann Strube

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.

 

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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. 

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Why we keep stuff

March 29th, 2011 by Johann Strube

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Next stop, Vienna

March 25th, 2011 by Johann Strube

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.