Too practical to be useful - the Phonecamera

Too practical to be useful - the Phonecamera

Engineering marvels - especially consumer products - have a long history of being so practical and convenient that they are completely useless. Add-on lenses to smart phones are fast approaching this category. It is common knowledge that the best camera is the one you have with you, and unless you go on a specific photo shoot, this will be more many the smart phone in their pocket

There's a Bell in My Head

There's a Bell in My Head that Makes ding-dong and keeps me from thinking. Watch the craziness in the finale of Act 1 of Rossini's opera "An Italian Woman in Algiers", first performed in 1813. Rossini, often discounted as too shallow as a composer has captured in detail and with humor a common challenge when things start to get overwhelming and confusing: all you hear is a bell in your head and the clarity to understand the situation and make a decision is gone. “La mia testa è un campanello che suonando fa din din. Nella testa ho un gran martello mi percuote e fa tac tà. Sono come una cornacchia che spennata fa crà crà Come scoppio di cannone La mia testa fa bum bum.” (translation) — L'Italiana in Algeri, Finale Act 1. Gioacchino Rossini, 1813.

Take a look - and listen:

Maybe you should meditate. Just sit. Quietly, without moving. Yet this seems to you like the story of the guy admiring impeccable British lawn: How do you get it so perfect? – Oh just water twice a day, cut twice a month and roll twice a year – that's easy – just do it for 300 years... Yet, even if you manage once to sit for 20 minutes without moving, just breathing normally and instead of desperately trying to ban all though just let them come and go, you will experience why you want to do it again. Not so sure? Than you need to try again. No time to sit and meditate for 20 minutes? Then you should sit for 40 minutes.

Actually it's not even meditation, just sitting. So even when you think meditation is for wimps, there is a path for you: just sit. You can of course sit on the floor in full lotus position or somehow cross your legs in a way that your knees touch the ground (that's important to get the stability (think stool with three legs) and you will need a cushion or something to elevate your body to accomplish this – or sit on a chair, as long as your spine is straight.

Yes meditation is a powerful way to regulate emotion and prevent depression as well as many other benefits, including but not limited to enlightenment. But most important, it allows you to stop the bell ringing, the hammer that knocks and the radio that constantly plays in your head.

Try it and you will succeed and the moment you succeed, you will fail again and try again and you cannot graduate or get a black belt and advance. That's it - nothing else. This alone is worth the effort. And it's so simple that it is really hard.

And if nothing else helps, listen to Rossini - how they try to escape from Algiers and get back to their home in Italy to be free from the slavery of this crazy guy who keeps everybody with best intention in a luxurious palace. (You get the idea). 

Translation from the Italian text:

In my head I have a little bell which rings ding, ding
In my head I have a big hammer which knocks me and goes tick tack.
I'm like a crow which when plucked goes craw, craw.
Like a cannon shot my head goes boom, boom
(translation by Mark Wolston)

The complete opera is here.

Rainer Maria Rilke.



As Austrian without formal US education I sometimes wonder how the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke appear at most unexpected moments – at event, in seminars, at readings. With so many amazing English and American poets, there must be a secret longing that draws to Rilkes work that is so hard to translate and mostly causes suffering when read - at least to me. I need to talk to the natives - preferable natives who understand German about their experience. Despite best intentions (and you know how dangerous these are), the language of Rilke does not lend itself to translation. And reading Rilkealoud  is again a special craft - one that I will only undertake alone.

Paul Celan is even harder to translate – only I rarely see references to his work in English. Maybe it is taught less in college.

For Rilke, (1875 – 1926) I let the great Oskar Werner speak – and I found German versions with English translations. Please forgive those who put together the videos for the sometimes atrocious image material. They tried hard - and unfortunately it shows. If you understand German, close your eyes, if you need the English text, try not to see the images.

Oskar Werner reads Rilke: Der Schauende – The Man Watching

Der Schauende

Ich sehe den Bäumen die Stürme an, die aus laugewordenen Tagen an meine ängstlichen Fenster schlagen, und höre die Fernen Dinge sagen, die ich nicht ohne Freund ertragen, nicht ohne Schwester lieben kann.

Da geht der Sturm, ein Umgestalter, geht durch den Wald und durch die Zeit, und alles ist wie ohne Alter: die Landschaft, wie ein Vers im Psalter, ist Ernst und Wucht und Ewigkeit.

Wie ist das klein, womit wir ringen, was mit uns ringt, wie ist das groß; ließen wir, ähnlicher den Dingen, uns so vom großen Sturm bezwingen, - wir würden weit und namenlos.

Was wir besiegen, ist das Kleine, und der Erfolg selbst macht uns klein. Das Ewige und Ungemeine will nicht von uns gebogen sein. Das ist der Engel, der den Ringern des Alten Testaments erschien: wenn seiner Widersacher Sehnen im Kampfe sich metallen dehnen, fühlt er sie unter seinen Fingern wie Saiten tiefer Melodien.

Wen dieser Engel überwand, welcher so oft auf Kampf verzichtet, der geht gerecht und aufgerichtet und groß aus jener harten Hand, die sich, wie formend, an ihn schmiegte. Die Siege laden ihn nicht ein. Sein Wachstum ist: der Tiefbesiegte von immer Größerem zu sein.

Aus: Das Buch der Bilder

The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat,
after so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes that a storm is coming, and I hear the far-off fields say things I can’t bear without a friend, I can’t love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on across the woods and across time, and the world looks as if it had no age: the landscape like a line in the psalm book, is seriousness and weight and eternity. What we choose to fight is so tiny! What fights us is so great! If only we would let ourselves be dominated as things do by some immense storm, we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things, and the triumph itself makes us small. What is extraordinary and eternal does not want to be bent by us. I mean the Angel who appeared to the wrestlers of the Old Testament: when the wrestler’s sinews grew long like metal strings, he felt them under his fingers like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel (who often simply declined the fight) went away proud and strengthened and great from that harsh hand, that kneaded him as if to change his shape. Winning does not tempt that man. This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.

English version by Robert Bly

Thank you J.F. for reading the poem today.

Oskar Werner reads Rilke: Herbsttag


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß. Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren, und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein; gieb ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage, dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr. Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben, wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben und wird in den Alleen hin und her unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Aus: Das Buch der Bilder

October Day

Oh Lord, it's time, it's time. It was a great summer. Lay your shadow now on the sundials, and on the open fields let the winds go!

Give the tardy fruits the command to fill; give them two more Mediterranian days, drive them on into their greatness, and press the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house by now will not build. Whoever is alone now, will remain alone,. will wait up, read, write long letters, and walk along sidewalks under large trees, not going home, as the leaves fall and blow away.

English: (C) Robert Bly 1981

This Website offers nine (9) translations - none of which "get's" it: great summer - overwhelmed - magnificent - very big ... Listen and you will hear why only "sehr gross" will work here.

Das Internet als moralische Anstalt

THink Cross Change MediaMein Vortrag "Das Internet als Moralische Anstalt; Digitale Medien – Ein historischer Ansatz" ist nun in Buchform in  Think CROSS - Change MEDIA. Crossmedia im Jahr 2014 - Eine Standortbestimmung von Christine Goutrié, Sabine Falk-Bartz , Ilona Wuschig (Herausgeber) erschienen. Paperback 348 Seiten ISBN 978-3-7357-3780-9  Verlag BOD –  bei Amazon als Taschenbuch sowie eBook. Informationen zur Konferenz sowie meinem Beitrag.


Das Internet als Moralische Anstalt

Digitale Medien – Ein historischer Ansatz

It was a large room. Full of people. All kinds. And they had all arrived at the same building at more or less the same time. And they were all free. And they were all asking themselves the same question: What is behind that curtain? (Laurie Anderson 1981)

Das Internet in der Form in der es allgemein rezipiert wird existiert nicht. Wir haben gemeinhin eine gewisse Vorstellung, wie das Netzwerk, das gewissermassen “hinter dem Vorhang” stattfindet auszusehen vermag. Unser Bild des WorldWideWeb das als Synonym und abwechselnd mit dem Begriff “Internet” verwendet wird (obwohl es nur eines von vielen technischen Kommunikationsprotokollen ist) ist genauso verzerrt wie das der Kanalisation, die unsere Körper in noch weitreichenderer Form verbindet als das Internet unseren Geist.

Nicht quantitativ sondern vor allem qualitativ hat sich die Nutzung des Internets in den letzten 20 Jahren soweit verschoben, dass es notwendig wird, ein neues persönliches und gesellschaftliches Nutzungsmodell aufzubauen dass nicht mehr frühere Medienmodelle imitiert sondern neue Formen der Informationsintegration ermöglicht. [...]

The Expanded Books Project

Michael Cohen's partially autobiographical review of the "The Birth of the Ebookappeared on TidBITS  in slightly different form from the original article published in The Magazine in December 2013. Voyager-frameI had the chance to work with Michael during my tenure at The Voyager Company 1989–1992 and his expertise in literature combined with an uncanny ability to catch inaccuracies and errors in books was an amazing complement to the truly eclectic group of team members at Voyager. The way Michael describes my initial contribution to the Expanded Books Project sheds a light:

"Florian Brody, a loquacious Austrian with a background in computer science, film, and linguistics, had put a couple of pages of “The Sheltering Sky” on the PowerBook, turned it on its side, and asserted, “This looks like a book!” You could almost see cartoon lightbulbs flaring over people’s heads."

 The time at Voyager not only shaped my future work, it also allowed me to contribute to the creation of the first electronic books at a time when a laptop was a curiosity. We showed it to one of the many authors we talked to and after reviewing he asked for the price of such a device - it was over $2000, a lot of money for the time. He commentedEB_interface that this may be a lot of money but probably justifiable for such a book, not being aware that he would also get a fully functional computer "for free".

Sometimes late 1988 I got my hands on an Apple Scanner, a wonderful device good for almost nothing with its 4-bit deep images but great to generate input for early OCR software. HyperCard was just becoming the development platform of choice for the multimedia on the Mac. I still recall the day I sheltering Skyscanned the pages of Paul Bowles' Sheltering Sky and looked at them on the 13 inch screen of the most expensive computer I had ever bought (some $12,000 - over $23,000 in 2013 money), flipped through the pages, excited about the ability to go back to a page rather than randomly scrolling around. Page consistency – the ability to find something at the same place you saw it the last time – is one of the essential elements of eBooks compared to word processor (old terminology) files. There is a reason why we gave up scrolls for codices for the most part some 1000 years ago. (The Torah Scrolls: exceptio probat regular.) The issue of the loss of location in digital document merits a separate blog entry (forthcoming).

It was late in the evening and I had this HyperCard stack with some 60 pages of The Sheltering Sky. I needed to share my newest finding. I had met Bob Stein briefly at the 3rd Microsoft CD-ROM Conference in Seattle in March of 1988 when the Apple CD-ROM drive was introduced. As I supported Apple Austria, driving their multimedia efforts, I had a highly valued – and extremely expensive – AppleLink account with the coveted handle of A.MM (for Austria Multimedia). There was nobody I could call and share my excitement so I sent the whole stack to Mr. Stein in California and went to bed. Next morning I found a response in my inbox if I would be interested to come to California and build this book.

I spent a long summer in 1989 and then two years 1990–1992 at Voyager on Pacific Coast Highway in  Santa Monica in a building that was neither earthquake safe (= low rent) nor had it decent power or heating (save your files every 2 minutes as the next power failure due to circuit breaker overload from under-table heaters) but we had daily lunch cooked by a South African professional dancer, sunset calls over the Intercom (don't miss the green flash) and boogie boards for the rare lunch breaks.


We initially published Jurassic Park, Alice in Wonderland and the Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy for the launch at MacWorld with the dinosaur sounds in Jurassic Park being the most loved feature. "Multimedia" was surely the way to go. It was up to Voyager to turn the "nice add-ons" into media elements that truly expanded the book and the work Michael did on Macbeth. With hardware as well as software no longer available, it will be a museum project to see Macbeth again: "When shall we three meet again? — In thunder, lightning, or in rain? — When the hurlyburly's done, — When the battle's lost and won. (Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 1).

Thanks to Michael Cohen, The Magazine and TidBITS for republishing this article and make it available to be found online.

Michael - if you're interested in presenting Macbeth again - I may be able to find a venue.


Cities in Media

Back in 2011 I set two vastly different movie projects about the visual representation of cities against each other: Vienna and San Francisco. Here comes another very interesting project: In 1927 the cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene created a film about life in London and 85 years later filmmaker Simon Smith recreated the footage in today's London. Little has changed in the surrounding architecture yet the feeling is vastly different. via Photoblographer


Philosophy Throws the Stones in the Way

die-PhilosophenMy contribution to the new reader on everyday philosophy by Marion Fuglewicz: Die Philosophen kommen (in German) is ready to go to publisher. I titled my contribution which is built in the form of an interview: Philosophy throws the stones in the path actually make the path interesting to go. („Philosophie legt die Steine in den Weg, die es interessant machen, den Weg zu gehen“ - in German) Noch nie haben wir so viele Daten gespeichert wie heute. Werden Historiker, die sich in Zukunft mit unserer Epoche bescha?ftigen, verwertbare Informationen u?ber uns finden können? Kritiker sind skeptisch. In unserem Zeitalter werden nicht nur immense Datenmengen produziert, es gehen auch Informationen gigantischen Ausmaßes verloren.

The book should be ready by April 2013. More information at Die Philosophen kommen.

Update: A German comment from the publisher - the book is on its way. The book is available. Get it now.


The Body Exposed, The Golden Wind

  A monk asked Yun Men, “How is it when the tree withers and the leaves fall?” Master Yun Men said, “Body exposed in the golden wind.” — Case 27, Blue Cliff Record

One day in August you realize it will be autumn soon; Fall is such a harsh word for the golden days that in a way carry more hope than spring. Not that it suddenly got colder, on the contrary, a certain warmth in the air pushes you forward towards adventures you would not even have thought of in spring.

To paraphrase Genjo Koan, we don't call autumn the end of summer, we don't call summer the beginning of autumn. Yet every moment has the seed of the next moment in it together with the unknown what happens next.

When Marc mentioned the line that had followed him the whole day – body exposed in the golden wind – I immediately had a warm feeling, I could feel the wind and it is consoling; and while the first announcement of autumn in the middle of a warm day has a certain forlorn quality, the last rays of sun early November bring the golden light onto the last leaves slowly sailing down to a wet ground.  Every year, every life, every single moment not only has its autumn, it has its golden light.


Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;                Command the last fruits to be full; gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,                   give them just two more southern days, dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage                urge them on to completion and chase die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.                 the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Rainer Maria Rilke: Herbsttag.                              English: (C) Edward Snow 1991 21.9.1902, Paris


Impermanence - Steve Jobs RIP

With the death of Steve Jobs - someone who shaped the technology of everyday life over the last 20 years with his obsession of design and usability - we become aware of the impermanence of life much more than through some philosophical or religious text. Apple Homepage

The WSJ is much more competent at writing an obituary - alas I don't even know how long the link to the WSJ story will hold.

Apple changed their homepage to honor their founder and leader. Steve Jobs leaves the way he came and started - focused on the essentials: Ars longa vita brevis.

Turning mediocre photos into "art"

During my brief stint as a fashion photographer and assistant to a studio owner in Vienna, we had a drawer marked "ART" where the slides and prints ended up that were unusable for professional presentation. This included discolored slides when the film ruptured or at the end of the roll. And whenever we received an invitation to a competition or exhibition we went through the drawer and submitted with a success rate that was in no relation to the work put into the creation of these pieces of art. Today even a most boring photo can be "raised" to art inside of a smartphone (in this case Instagram) and distributed globally

Sperrstund is

I have been invited to submit a paper about the future for a forthcoming book on "Ideas for Tomorrow". The future, tomorrow, great new ideas that will change everything for the better are exciting prospects but I'm not so sure how helpful it is to look at the "future" as a point forward on an imaginary unidirectional time line. Looking at the present may be more inspiring and educational. Looking at the present is also more about social interactions and less about prospective technical achievements. Over the past 50 years a lot of "future" has turned into a past without ever becoming present reality. Robot maids are a perfect example. "Morgen ist heute schon gestern" (Tomorrow, today will already be yesterday) was part of an advertising campaign of the Austrian shoe manufacturer Humanic in the 1970s. (the other one was "In Wirklichkeit ist die Wirklichkeit nicht wirklich wirklich, aber wirklich ist so doch" - in reality, reality is not really real, but it is real nevertheless) - but I digress).

Looking at today - in their presence  - and looking at how things evolve, start, end may be a much more solid approach that I will try to explore.

It is getting late - here something about closing up: Irgendwann macht jedes Lokal a bissl zu:

Hans Moser - Sperrstund is -


Scriabin and Prostate Cancer: Etude Op.8 No.11 (Horowitz)

I don't remember how I ended up here, but here I was and I listened. When Horowitz plays you better listen. Music on the Web is rarely selectable - it comes more randomly on web radio or Pandora. Pandora is great but you may get "similar" and not exactly what you look for. Music with images is different. Somehow different rules apply and and while some pieces are blocked (not sure who benefits from this), many are open - so I looked - and there it was - Scriabin with Prostate Cancer. Highly targeted advertising. Only targeted to whom? To Horowitz, Scriabin or me? Neither of as is a candidate for prostate cancer treatment. Scriabin and Horowitz know - I hope. In my curiousity, I searched the Internet and got some highly convincing offers:

You look for it - we find it:

You can get Prostate Cancer without prescription - good to know

And if you cannot afford to get Prostate Cancer (who can?) - we cut you a deal

Time to listen to some music:

About the Medium and the Memory II

While thinking about this blog entry, I got completely side-tracked and as Leonard Cohen and Marcel Proust started to get intermingled, I got stuck with MP - especially as I found this audio piece of Albertine disparue. Revenons à nos moutons: (let's get back on track) The way in which we attach memories to music shows that the medium is the memory - serves as artificial memory in the way Raymundus Lullus understood it.

More about Leonard Cohen - who disappeared and reappeared years later bringing with him the music from times past. "Excuse me for not dying" he says, never even trying to hide that he sings about memory and memories. "You'll be hearing from me - long after I'm gone".  He did penetrate to the core of things and he has the answer - and he shares it...

Is it close to Synestesia, when one sensory modality evokes a stable percept in another modality? Like sound - color, Skriabin was famous for having it - or is it the memory of an early evening when the wind starts to pick up and it get's just a bit too cool to sit outside comfortably with a glass of red wine?

To be continued ...

About the Medium and the Memory

Memories come in all shapes and tastes. As small shell-shaped cakes, as music, as a smell in mid-air on a warm summer afternoon. Calling Madeleines “cookies” would be a disservice not only to these unique creations but also to the American public that mostly draws its memories from Oreos, which are not as good as their name "Poli Oreo" may imply, or those oversized, shapeless, and overly sweet affairs called “freshly made chocolate chip cookies” that better bear no memory value (but they do of course) - as they would be disappointed. The large coffe chain with the Mermaid has solved the problem by adding large amounts of sugar and even chocolate coverture to make the Madeleines desirable. Sweeten your memories. I recently discussed the topic with a friend and this resulted in an evening of ProustMarcel Proust - despite the fact that the first volume was nowhere to be found in the whole house.  Her house is a perfect place to read Proust – with very strong tea, the kind preferred by old cultures with a tradition, some Madeleines and the promise of home-made Madeleines – soon. The complete text of the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, par Jean-Yves Tadié is available online and in a new bilingual version with the C. K. Scott Moncrieff translation. There is even an audio version of Albertine disparue: "Le départ et la mort d'Albertine, racontés par une jeune fille qui pourrait avoir son âge. Idéal pour écouter l'été au soleil, dans le jardin, sur la plage, au lit..." listen or download.

PROUST, Marcel – À la recherche du temps perdu : Albertine disparue (Chapitre 1) - lu par Orangeno

Lift@Vienna | Enable! - a conference

The Lift@Austria conference invited me to give a keynote and enable a workshop about metamorphosis – a somewhat alchemistic topic. The conference focuses on "Profound innovation in Society, Economy & Knowledge Exploring the new paradigm for bringing forth game-changing innovation" and will be held in  Vienna, March 18-20, 2010. Conferences worth attending have become rare or unaffordable and inaccessible like TED or D - mostly easily replaceable by a Webcast. Lift promises to start a new trend in collaborative events. The topic is challenging and we'll see what we can make of it. It will be a joint effort of everybody attending.

Lift conferences are planned around the world and try to answer the questions " What can the future do for you? - maybe we should ask "What can you do for the future?" - but that's beside the point - there is only NOW. What can NOW do for you?

First event coverage is here and here (both in German). [added 2/4]

More soon.

Tempus fugit

I got a holiday present - a Moleskine desk calendar. Very nice and also very scary. Every day you rip off a page. You feel the impermanence of paper and your life within the ripping movement of your hand. A few moments - a few days - can be kept in a small pocket in the back of the calendar. This feeling of detachment of the pages translates into non-attachment to time and objects. A digital calendar cannot and will not offer this sensual experience.

The video gives a joyful experience how to rip through a year and keep a few memorable days. It is beautiful, yet I think I'm still a calendar book type of person. Still too attached. Still too interested in memory.

And what will I do with the days I rip off?

Baking Memories

Et bientôt, machinalement, accablé par la morne journée et la perspective d’un triste lendemain, je portai à mes lèvres une cuillerée du thé où j’avais laissé s’amollir un morceau de madeleine. Mais à l’instant même où la gorgée mêlée des miettes du gâteau toucha mon palais, je tressaillis, attentif à ce qui se passait d’extraordinaire en moi. Un plaisir délicieux m’avait envahi, isolé, sans la notion de sa cause. Il m’avait aussitôt rendu les vicissitudes de la vie indifférentes, ses désastres inoffensifs, sa brièveté illusoire, de la même façon qu’opère l’amour, en me remplissant d’une essence précieuse: ou plutôt cette essence n’était pas en moi, elle était moi. J’avais cessé de me sentire médiocre, contingent, mortel. D’où avait pu me venir cette puissante joie? Je sentais q’elle était liée au goût du thé et du gâteau, mais qu’elle le dépassait infiniment, ne devait pas être de même nature. [source] [Marcel Proust: Combray. p.44].

The smell, the taste because we have such a hard time to reproduce a memory before our inner nose, our inner tongue, much in the same way we recall an image that in turn allows us to memorize an element of a story, create much stronger memories when recalled.

There is no ars memorativa of smell, only the sudden flash when you open a drawer and find yourself back home.

Baking a cake or creating perfumes are possible ways to recreate the memory of smell.