Category Archives: Pictures

This Could Be Anywhere in Europe

But it’s Berlin, so she’s on her way home from a sex club to cash her welfare check.

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Let’s face it:

People in my generation only attend art fairs

So we can harvest ideas

for T-shirts, interior design and Facebook cover images.

As a career philistine, I find it difficult to assess art

as anything other than a consumer.

Would I want this in my house?

Could I photoshop this into something I could post online?

Could this be an investment?

This doesn’t mean I’ve never had a visceral, intellectual or emotional reaction to a piece of art.

It just tells me where my reaction is coming from.

I don’t think this is new, necessarily.

Humans have always regarded beauty only through possession.

That’s why when someone says ‘nice coffee table’ or ‘neat hat’, we say ‘thank you’,

As if we have participated in an act of creation rather than an act of commerce.

Sometimes it bothers me that this doesn’t bother me.

Everybody sees the world as something that exists only around themselves.

Some of us just have cooler T-shirts.

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Fast Nude Nation

This weekend I went to Warnemunde, on the Baltic coast.

It’s a typical German beach town:

Rent a towel, buy an ice cream, repeat until melanoma appears.

The only thing that surprised me was how many nude beaches there were.

Naked, restful Germans from one horizon to the other.

My friend who grew up around this area says nakedness was a big deal in East Germany. Given the frustration and unfulfillment of daily life, nudity was a way for people to feel free.

My other friend, who grew up in West Germany, was more succinct: ‘There was nothing else to do, so everyone just practiced fucking each other all the time. They got really good at it.’

Regardless of whether it’s a means or an end, ubiquitous nakedness is mostly fascinating.

It’s rare to see naked people who aren’t Hollywood toned, porn-star trimmed or reality-show tanned.

The human body, as it turns out, does all kinds of interesting things when left to its own devices. Somewhere between their clothes and their character, people are amazing just to look at. 

If they look back, it’s because that’s the only thing to do on a German beach for free.


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Does Organic Food Taste Better?

The other day I decided to try an experiment. I bought identical chicken breasts. Two organic, two normal. I wanted to see if I could tell the difference between them after they were cooked.

The normal ones didn’t list ingredients, so I don’t know if they add saltwater or preservatives or whatever. This is socialist Germany, so I’m assuming this package would have to have a little red siren on it if they did.

Given the generally high meat quality on this continent, I feel like the organic breasts sort of need to ‘splain why they’re almost three times more expensive.

Maybe it’s just the lighting, but I must admit, the organic breasts looked nicer raw. They have clearly been bred to conform to the golden ratio, whereas the non-organics are shaped like Bolivia.

I kept the cooking method simple: Dried on paper towels, salted and peppered, fried in butter.

Verdict: The organic breasts tasted noticeably better. More juice, more chickeney flavor, less athletic little sinew to get stuck in your teeth.

But the real question is whether the slightly superior taste is worth the significantly higher price. And the answer, obviously, is fuck no. On the basis of this experiment, I’m definitely gonna keep eating non-organic chicken. Sorry planet, I tried.


Filed under Food, Germany, Personal, Pictures

Norway Timelapse

10 pm


4 am

6 am


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Norway Wants You To Know That You Are Not Welcome

Everything about Norway, from its location to its weather to the good-lookingness of its people,

has been engineered to discourage you from going there.

Tromso, for example, was placed above the Arctic Circle specifically to dissuade tourists.

And can only be reached by a secret passageway in selected IKEA wardrobes.

The weather is blatantly some sort of performance art.

From May til August, it’s daytime.

Your shadow spins around, but it doesn’t get any longer.

In winter, it’s nighttime from December to February.

All of this has clearly been done to discombobulate guests.

‘What do people do here in the winter?’ I asked a Tromsoian.

‘Suffer,’ he said.

I’m not sure if that was a description or a command.

No one that far north has ever seen anyone below 5’8” before.

‘Do you grant wishes?’ they asked, taking pictures.

My second day in Tromso, I rented a bike and set out to see the sea.

No matter its ostensible shape, Norwegian scenery is actually giant finger pointing at you, shouting ‘You are insignificant!’

That boat is full or Norwegians, waiting offshore until the foreigner leaves.

My bikesploration somehow ended up spanning 80 miles and nearly 10 hours.

I arrived back in Tromso red and windscraped as the flag.

‘Did you do that on purpose?’ someone asked.

In the evenings I took long walks

and watched the moose cash their welfare checks.

Even the statues look like they’re waiting for you to leave.

So I did, and Norway celebrated.

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Bad English Translations Always Come Out As Metaphors

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Bought and Seoul

Last week I was in Seoul.

It’s too big and complicated to understand in just seven days. I am very blind, and it is very an elephant.

My friend remarked ‘I think I actually know more about North Korea than South Korea’, which is a little weird but a little true.

But this is the internet, so I’d like to share my uninformed observations and premature conclusions.

First: Korea is hella developed-er than you expected. Per capita GDP is higher than Spain and Italy, and just a tad below Japan.

Trains, buses and boats run often and on time, augmented by ubiquitous bilingual touchscreenery.

There’s no graffiti anywhere, and by all accounts South Korea has petty crime like Greenland has chopsticks.

You get the feeling people from Seoul come to European cities and go ‘how do they live like this?’

The most amazing thing about the living standards here is how quickly they happened.

Before the Korean war, the north was the peninsula’s industrial powerhouse, and the south was the backwards, agricultural Redneck Belt.

South Korea doesn’t have any natural resources, and only 40 percent of the land is even arable.

After the war, with all the country’s industrial output locked up above the 38th parallel, South Korea shoved all its resources into infrastructure and industry.

And basically stole the ‘we work hard for cheap!’ market from Japan, which had done the same thing 10 years before.

In the same way you walk around Berlin and marvel that everyone your parents’ age lived through three decades of political division, in Seoul you’re staggered by how different life must have been here just a generation ago.

Anyone born before 1945 experienced Korea as an exploited Japanese colony, then a Cold War bargaining chip, then a military dictatorship and now an enviable diorama of shopping malls, tech companies, earbuds and functioning democracy.

As a tourist in 2012, meanwhile, I experienced South Korea primarily as an inaccessible culture beset with a baffling variety of pickles.

My presence there was equal parts serendipity and curiosity

so it was difficult to decide how to spend the few days I had.

Between meals, there aren’t many ways to participate in a culture where you don’t speak the language or know any locals.

No matter where you’re looking from, you’re at a distance.

In the end I mostly just walked around zigzaggically.

Humans are incapable of true randomness, so eventually a pattern set in: Church, shrine, mall, church, shrine, mall.

One day I rented a bike and explored the Han River and the riverlets that lead into Seoul’s rolling, infinite suburbs.

If it wasn’t for the canals, I would have had to drop bread crumbs to get back to the city center.

Like visible poverty and non-animated signage, bike lanes are a thing of the past.

According to Wikipedia, Seoul is the world’s 2nd biggest metropolitan area, and the 9th densest.

Or maybe it just feels that way because of the traffic, and the smells.

I happened to be reading a book on chaos theory the week I was there

and by day five, I started thinking that the only way to understand something as big and complicated as Seoul is as a fractal diagram.

No matter how much you zoom in, there’s just as much detail as last place you looked from.

So you lean forward, or you lean back. And reach for another pickle.


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Cologne Promotes Health and Wellness, One Cigarette Machine at a Time


Did these used to be everywhere in Germany?


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Germany’s Boringest City

Before I went to Cologne, everyone was all, 'There's nothing to do there!' 'Go to a real place instead!' ''It's super lame!'

And they were absolutely fucking correct.

Grapeseed?! Even their fucking crops are uncool.

You said it, street sign.

All of my photos are overly zoomed-in, to crop out as much of the surroundings as possible.

Once you get downtown, it's even worse.

Vertical strip malls punctuated by obsolete technology like horse-cops and cobblestones.

Deliberately narrow streets so you don't have to see it all at the same time.

See? Zooming again just to kill time. It's a citywide solitary confinement sentence.

Cologne's one claim to fame is this fucking upward sprawl. Old, check. Dirty, check. One photo is enough, but I took four. Out of sympathy.

Someone in Cologne told me that if humans disappeared tomorrow, this church would be one of the only structures left standing on earth in 1,000 years.

Maybe in Cologne, it just feels that long.


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From The Bottom of My Art

Through a chain of serendipities, last week I ended up at Art Cologne, a trade fair for the art industry.

It's an opportunity for galleries to show off their artists, bag new clients and reach their yearly quota for the word ‘zeitgeist’.

I was wearing collared shirt and carrying a notebook, so people thought I was there to buy. As opposed to gawk and finagle, which was closer to the truth.

The art industry is the last true alchemy left in the modern economy.

Like most developed-world business models, it doesn’t really make anything.

It takes equal parts gossip, expectation and propaganda and turns them into revenue.

Collecting art is either an expression of self, the promotion of an idea or an investment in a commodity, depending on which two people are conversing.

Art galleries work like this: You rent a space, you give it a name, you find an artist. You put their stuff on the wall until someone buys it. You take a percentage and move on to the next wall.

It’s like running a mini-mart, except you don’t actually own anything you’re selling.

Creating art may be philosophy, but selling it is pure capitalism.

After the fair, I asked a gallery owner how he decides how much a particular piece will cost.

Why does this diorama, for example, cost $45,000?

Why not $10,000? Or $200,000?

‘Darling,’ he said.

‘It costs whatever they’ll pay.’

I asked him whether the artists attended.

‘You don’t see cows at a cattle rancher convention,’ he said.

After the show, I met a British performance artist

who had a job teaching English to factory workers in The Netherlands.

Instead of teaching them terms like ‘value chain’ and ‘synergy’, she replaced all the course materials with the works of Marx and explanations of labor rights.

‘If the school finds out, they’ll fire me,’ she said. ‘But it’s not a job, goddammit, it’s art.’

After last week I still agree with her sentiment.

But maybe not her italics.

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Corbusierhaus, West Berlin

This weekend I got a tour of Le Corbusier's famous apartment block. I'll tell you what I learned:

Four identical buildings were built, two in Germany and two in France. Each is slightly adapted to its setting.

The French apartments, for example, have slightly lower ceilings since French people are shorter than Germans. Corbusier wanted the ceilings low enough so that residents could paint them without standing on a ladder.

I know it sounds like I'm making that up, but it's true. Architects are weird little dictators sometimes.

The Berlin apartments were built in 1957, as ammunition in a war of aesthetics between East and West Berlin.

Corbusier is often blamed—fairly or unfairly, what the hell do I know?—for the trend of up-built project blocks surrounded by empty green space.

In spite of all the criticism that idea receives, our guide insisted that this particular model was successful. The apartments are all occupied, there's a long waiting list.

Almost all of the apartments span two floors. Most of them consist of a narrow kitchen and living room above (or below, depending on which floor they're on) a big-ass bedroom.

The trim pattern is standard across all four Corbusier buildings, but the colors are customized to the location. These are apparently meant to evoke Northern Germany.

Indeed, staring at these you can almost smell a currywurst rotating.

All of the railings are specifically designed to be at chest-height of the average German.

The building is designed to face precisely north-south, to maximize the amount of sunlight that comes in.

The font is Corbusier's; the doodle, not.

The hallways have special corrugated roofs to reduce the echo effect you find in every other apartment hallway ever.

The walls between the apartments are thicker on the lower floors, since they're supporting more weight.

The apartments were built to isolate noise, but apparently Corbusier forgot about smells, and residents routinely complain about experiencing each others' dinners.

The laundry room was deliberately built too large for its purpose, so residents have to mingle with one another.

So the main thing I learned? If architects ran the world, our lives would be different in a number of ways. But mostly our laundry, our ceilings and our smells.


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World in Miniature

For some reason I've started taking long bike rides every Monday after work.

About 50 percent of the time I end up making it to Potsdam.

This is the bridge where West Germany met East for 46 years.

The thing I like about living in Europe is that all the cities look like model train sets from far away.

Up close, you see the effort in all the details.

and it makes you glad you took your time getting there.

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Desire Lines

When I first got here, I was irritated at how much the German countryside resembles Denmark.

All crewcut and radiant, mocking you with its productivity.

I've lived here almost a year now, and I'm starting to notice the differences.

It turns out I just had to wait, and look harder.

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So Far So Goethe

Last weekend I went to Leipzig.

It's big and historic and charming, and you get the feeling that if it was in another country, it would be a majorer tourist attraction.

But since Germany is already so sardined with cute cities, it's like 12th on everyone's list.

The list of former residents reads like Germany's greatest hits: Bach! Mendelssohn! Schumann! Kafka! Wagner! Leibniz! Goethe!

The rich history informs current lifestyles. In the malls, all the dollar stores are called Faustian Bargains.

The bike share scheme is called The Ride of the Valkyries.

And the gyms have signs outside that say 'Metamorphosis!' in the imperative form.

OK, those are lies, but people here probably get those references.

Leipzig has the same basic biography as most of Berlin's surrounding cities:

City founded in random location un-near river, lake or major trade route.

City gains reputation through robust university and cultural life.

City significantly bombed in World War II.

City restored to snowglobe status by East German government.

The particulars are where it gets interesting. This is the monument to when Leipzig beat Napoleon in 1813. It's shaped like a middle finger, and the Latin inscription reads 'How's the weather on Elba, punk?'

The statues inside depict sullen teenagers, as a tribute to Germany's youthful soldiers at the time.

Shortly after this was built, Leipzig became famous for cotton production, pastries and Nazi resistance.

And you can still find two of the three here today.

In the '80s, Leipzig was a site of major resistance to the East German regime. Nowadays it's an overstuffed college town, full of students and artists gliding around on bike paths.

Only here they call them Bach lanes.


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Last weekend I went back to Denmark for the first time since I left.

It's still flat

and perfect and cold.

As it spirals upward, the cracks start to appear.

All of a sudden it's not a map or a dollhouse

but an actual city where you lived and worked and grew up for six years.

From the ground, you can't see all the straight lines, only the one you're standing on.

So you just look ahead, until the country falls off the horizon.

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Berlin Street Art Walking Tour

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Aw Snap

Like I said, my pictures from Buenos Aires are a themeless jambalaya of shit I biked past.

The only official touristy thing I did was visit the big cemetery in the city center, and I only lasted about 15 minutes

Whenever I got off my bike to investigate anything, I found an excuse to keep going after 5 or 10 minutes. Even my meals were mostly standing.

I know you shouldn't judge a hotel by its signage, but I'm glad I didn't stay at this one.


I made it to the museum of modern art and checked out the exhibitions for almost 20 minutes, a personal best.

This is clearly Argentina's attempt to attract the filming of the next Men in Black movie.

Dismount, snap, mount.

This park smelled like chorizo and spray paint.

While this one smelled like expat and optimism. Diversity!

This is what most of the barrios look like. Little buildings with so much character they're in danger of falling over.

Try not to notice how small the leaf is. Go ahead, try.

For some reason Argentina's Poseidon is more bored and sickly than others I've seen.

No matter where you are, banks are architected to do the opposite of invite you in.

So are cemeteries, but by the time you're invited, you don't care I guess.

This pond flooded after the thunderstorm. The joggers looked bemused and terrified, trying to stay in the little stripe between the water and the mud.

An art museum in Tigre. It's probably amazing inside, but I glided past without stopping.

Everything looks like the 1970s if you shoot it through pink clingfilm. If I had figured this out before Instagram, I'd be a millionaire.

I thought this was the ocean when I first got there. 'Worst ocean ever, Argentina!' I thought.

But by the time I realized where I was, I had already left.


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Somebody Cold Me

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