Mar 30, 2011

The state of revolution - rising civil societies and how the concurrent system of power is unfit to deal with them

Conventional politics (World Economic Forum) is unfit to deal with the current regime changes in the middle East, because it is inherently interested in stability and cementing the status quo so as to maximise economic profits, and thereby has no capacity for understanding or even supporting political changes brought about by local civil societies; whereas many of today's revolutions in South America and the Middle East have built connections at the alternative World Social Forum (WSF). A fiasco for established neoliberal policies and an articulate hint that we need a reformation, if not a revolution, of that current "world" system. If we did not change anything, would it be exaggeration to fear a confrontation of democratic initiatives and capitalist interests on double fronts: both within Western society (where the civil society's wish for more participation and accountability and ecological concerns contrast with long-term security, stability, and exploitability needed for maximum economic profit), and between Western corporations (not democratically accounted for) and rising local civil societies (whose fight against economicolonial ["ecolonial"?] activities is supported by Western civil society organisations)??? And what about the inherent contradiction, as actors on both sides are of Western provenance, may easily be confused, and thus conveniently made target for holistic, fundamentalist ideologies? -> Can we really go on as before? Will a more morally upright politics suffice long-term? - As the "changeability" of the likes of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy is showing quite clearly, conventional party politics is NO option fit for the upcoming challenges, because too overtly entangled with big business.

Start gathering knowledge (begin with Wikipedia, for Chrissake), update your frame of mind, change the world! There are lots and lots of interesting and like-minded people... The "end of history" reached by Capitalism's global spread is a myth! The impossibility or the not permitting of thinking alternatives is unhealthy for any ideology whatsoever, as it causes them to become dogmatic and fundamentalist.

Feb 23, 2011

The "Internet Revolutions" and the Possibility of a Different Kind of "Revolution" in China?

These thoughts originate in an interesting blog post by Alex Pasternack on the Twitter-generated "Jasmine Revolution" (or not?) in China on February 20.
The form of organised protest may well change in a virtual reality-influenced environment, especially as regards the possibilities of organising protest in an authoritarian, monitored society.

Maybe the combination of social media and pseudoevents points a surreal way forward for public dissent in China in the web era: organizers needn’t actually gather people, as Falun Gong supporters quietly but visibly did in the late 1990s around the capital, at the movement’s eventual peril, and as occasionally happens today, in gatherings of petitioners and others that are often promptly shut down by scores of police.
Instead, they can simply spread word about a protest via one of China’s networking sites, then wait for the police – along with the journalists, and perhaps a few sympathizers with cameras – to show up and shut down something that isn’t even there. You don’t just get a “protest”; you get a display of fear by the government. Do it again, and the number of “protests” grows, along with the number of police. Repeat. [...]

Interesting to see in what direction "social networks" on the Internet will influence "social gatherings" or "protest", or indeed "social relations" in a wider sense.
Meanwhile, yesterday's regimes continue using force on their own people whose support they have long lost...

Feb 20, 2011

Journal Article on Taiwan Identity

(a shorter version of this article was published in Powision 9 "Identitäten" ("identities"), 2010, political science magazine at the University of Leipzig,


Orphan of Asia - Taiwan and the impossibility of the Taiwanese

Jacob Tischer, Student at Departments of Sinology and on Religious Studies,  Leipzig University, Visiting Research Associate at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan


The debate on Taiwan's identity is especially within Taiwan extremely tense and conflictual. This is due to the problematic situation in the conflict with China, which precludes Taiwan as the largest country not represented in the UN from international participation. Such precarious existence has grave economic, political and psychological ramifications, impacting Taiwan and its people in sports, science, international treaties and health issues like SARS. Chinese propaganda suggests that Taiwan is culturally uniformly Chinese, but I maintain that the matter is certainly more complex than that. The issue of Taiwanese identity will be tracked here in its historical, ethnic, cultural, political, and legal dimensions. In the resulting existential tension of their everyday experience as citizens of an internationally marginalised, yet functioning independent political entity, and Western swing towards an economically opening, but still authoritarian China, Taiwanese elites are virtually forced to form a distinct identity in opposition to Chinese nationalism. This identity turns out to have emerged through shared historical experience and continues to evolve around the consensual identification of Taiwan’s residents with their democratic state - both key features to distinguish them from Chinese sovereignty claims.

Ethnic and cultural identity in historical perspective

The island in the South China Sea, which was known previously under the name Formosa, has been inhabited for about 8,000 years by Austronesian settlers. Because of its tremendous genealogical diversity, it is the probable starting point of the Austronesian colonization of the Pacific islands.
[1] In Chinese and Western narratives, however, Taiwan's history does not begin until its consecutive occupation by the Dutch (1624-62) and Spanish (1626-42) regimes, the Zheng kingdom of the historically illustrious Ming loyalist Koxinga’s descendants (1662-83), the Manchu-Chinese Qing Dynasty (1683-1895) - each of which controlled only parts of the plains of the mostly mountainous island - and as the Japanese Empire’s first colony (1895-1945). After Japan's surrender Taiwan was occupied by troops of the Republic of China (ROC) and since the retreat of Chiang Kai-shek in 1949 forms the ROC’s remaining, albeit internally and externally contested, territory. Chiang's Chinese-nationalist party (KMT) ruled in dictatorial fashion through the coercion of martial law until 1987. Since the 1980s, however, lack of international legitimacy, a growing opposition movement, and external pressure on the part of journalists, NGOs, and the USA forced the regime to adopt democratising policies. In 1996, the first democratic presidential elections were held despite Chinese military threats; in 2000 a former dissident was elected president, and 2008 saw the KMT return to power.[2] The question of Taiwan's political and cultural affiliation could be suppressed no longer in a free political system and – in light of the sensitive political situation in East Asia today – firms more urgent than ever. In recent survey polls more than 50% of the population identify themselves as “Taiwanese” only and less than 4% as “Chinese”, revealing a rapid transformation of identity and a call for subjectivity of the formerly subaltern.[3] Although made possible by political liberalisation since 1987, this full-scale Taiwanisation has its socio-political forebears in the literary indigenisation (Xiangtu wenxue, literally “home-soil literature”) and democratic movements of the 1970s, its roots reaching as far back as the collective experience of Japanese colonisation.

However, even the concepts of an ethnically Chinese Taiwan are highly ambiguous and interpretative. Immigration from the southern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong did not begin to an appreciable degree until the 17th century first through labour migration for the Dutch colony and small-time merchants. These pioneers’ descendants now form the population of the “Taiwanese” (Chin. Benshengren, “people of this province”, about 85% of the population of 23 million). The immigrants formed close-knit settlements and organisations by common language, provenance from the mainland, and patrilineal descent (Chen 1994). Sociolinguistically, Hakka (15%) and Hoklo (70%) can be distinguished among them,[4] but only the Hakka identity firms historically constant (Wang 2007). Hoklo spokesmen further divided into subethnical groups based on origin, kinship, or surname and did not conceive of themselves as part of a larger, “national” community until the beginning 20th century. With Hakka and Aborigines they engaged in numerous armed conflicts, but also within rivaling subethnic groups in feud strife (Lamley 1981). Taiwan in Qing-Chinese understanding was a frontier territory outside the confines of Chinese civilisation, hence government control was weak. A popular saying has it that every three years a major uprising was due, something that statistics can confirm. Local religious cults provided an important communal identity marker and organisational anchor in these conflicts. However, religion was also crucial in establishing supraethnic cooperation and in the construction of a common, Taiwan-based identity on the expense of impoverishing links to mainland origin (Shih 2006).

The Austronesians (today 2%) were subdued and until recently categorized by different civilising projects of Confucian, Christian, and Nationalist provenance according to their degree of Sinicisation as "cooked" (domesticated, shufan) or "raw savages” (shengfan), but never on their own terms (Harrell 1995).[5] Scientifically neglected until of late has been the degree of Plains Aborigines’ assimilation into the Benshengren group. Since in Qing times migration was restricted, it was almost exclusively male pioneers who went to Taiwan and because of denied access of females and families to a considerable part took Austronesian wives. Their offspring were recorded following paternal descent and so over the course of generations "han-ised". Due to growing Chinese “civilisational” pressure, up to the 20th century whole Aborigine settlements adopted Chinese surnames and constructed patrilineal descent lines from the Chinese mainland (Brown 2004). This fact has long been overlooked in the discourse on "Chinese" Taiwan but is becoming increasingly prominent in Taiwan's modern search for identity. Scientific evidence demonstrating genetic differences between Hoklo in Taiwan and South China is a powerful means to assert Taiwan’s uniqueness. However, the distinction of Hakka and Hoklo as well as Benshengren identities from Waishengren (literally "people from outside the province”, about 12% of today's population who came to Taiwan in 1949 with Chiang Kai-shek) reflects at least as much socio-cultural as ethnic or genetic factors. A new approach distinct from Taiwan as a geographically and economically peripheral “frontier zone” is the sea-centered interpretation of its’ “island history”, which aims to include the Aboriginals and their histories but also puts Taiwan in relation to the larger Pacific island region (Tsao 2000).

Religion has been an important factor in the establishment of identities. The Chinese immigrant communities organised locally around central temple cults. [6] With the adoption of Christianity, the Aborgine groups won a strong ally and identity marker. Without the support of internationally networked churches, even more tribes’ identities might have been merged into becoming Hoklo. In recent years, the languages and even long-lost identities of groups such as the Siraya in Tainan County are under reconstruction using early Dutch bibles.

Legal and political identity

Taiwan’s international position is ambivalent: De facto independent since 1949, it is not recognized by the UN de jure.
[7] Taiwan meets all requirements for inclusion in the UN and would, unlike some newly recognized states, not have to be created through intervention. However, the ruling regime in Taiwan is the state "Republic of China", founded in 1911 on the Chinese Mainland. Until 1971, the ROC held China’s permanent seat in the UN Security Council before it was transferred to the People’s Republic of China as tribute to changing political realities.

After  Japanese surrender in 1945, Taiwan was taken over by the Allies under U.S. military government authority and subsequently occupied by troops of the Republican China, but was not formally ceded to the latter at any point which in recent years has led to lawsuits by Taiwanese nationals to be granted American citizenship.[8] A decision on Taiwan's political affiliation is strategically postponed by the United States continuously to this day, even though more and more Taiwanese raise claim to exert their legally guaranteed right to self-determination and decision on their own future (Chow 2008). The U.S. government keeps the island as part of its protective umbrella in the Pacific in deliberate legal ambivalence. All the more surprising in this context appears recent Taiwanese history, in which the island’s inhabitants grew their state into a democratization theory model case of economic and political development.

Political identity concerning the idea of a national community in Taiwan remains controversial. Communal awareness surpassing ethnic boundaries first became manifest during the Japanese occupation period as anti-Japanese resistance. After its retreat to the island, a KMT feudal caste attempted to maintain mainland Chinese reality, trying to establish a hegemonic ethnicised Chinese high culture, which endeavored to make Taiwan a model Chinese province and suppressed alternative readings.  Exclusive access to resources by ethnic standards promoted the confinement of social groups and brought forth the collective idea of bipolar Benshengren vs Waishengren identities. Tension between both groups clashed most infamously in the island-wide 28 February 1947 uprising which was stroke down brutally and followed by a 40-year period of near-fascist rule known as “White Terror”. The ethnic groups’ hostility is still perceivable today, since Taiwanese nationalism is routinely accused of Hoklo-ethnic exclusivism - just as the KMT Chinese nationalism equaled pure Waishengren exclusivism. The narrative of Taiwanese nationalism as a history of resistance against oppression by foreign colonial powers in the eyes of some researchers prevented the emergence of an inclusive nationalism (Wu 2004). On the other hand, ethnic mobilization which increased since the 1970s led to the creation of an opposition party (DPP) and the democratization of the political system. Mainlander sensibilities, however, remain salient in public discourse, as the recent success of Lung Ying-tai’s book on the Chinese civil war (1949: Da jiang, da hai) suggests. A missed opportunity of reconciliation among the different groups may be the price Taiwan has paid for its peaceful change, as the KMT’s position of power proved impossible to be challenged effectively, leaving a critical reappraisal of its inglorious history in Taiwan out of the necessary to survive as one political party among others.

Every scientific treatise will be confronted with the fact that the ethnic, cultural, and political dimensions of identity in Taiwan itself usually get mixed up indiscriminately. Many adversaries understand the establishment of "Taiwanese identity" as a mere political project by independence supporters. The quest to create a common ethnic and cultural basis for the new political system sometimes gets dismissed as "ethnic racism" and DPP extremism harmful to relations with China and therefore to the economy. In fact, however, the construction of Taiwanese identity was closely connected with the demand for democracy, which today is recognized by all social strata and apparently also by the formerly dictatorial KMT. For the stability of the democratic state in the medium term, however, an established conjoint Taiwanese identity is necessary. Only a second, broader and more inclusivist definition of Taiwanese identity tied to state membership will work toward that end. Lee Teng-hui’s (President 1988-2000) concept of the "new Taiwanese" (Xin Taiwanren) to symbolically include the Waishengren was a step in that direction.[9] With further cultural development apart from direct Chinese control traditional ethnic differences will diminish in favour of new forms of expression. Taiwan's young are in the fast-paced, deliberate process of creating a specific culture blending local, oriental, and western influences. Although definitions of Taiwan's social, ethnic, or cultural identity are fragmented and contested, its political identity firms as a popular consensus to identify with Taiwan's democracy. Whether this modern and multicultural country will have to eke out its existence as "orphan of Asia" crucially depends on Western support for its vibrant democracy.

(Hi)story’s morale

This article intended to show that PR Chinese claims of a monoculturally Chinese Taiwan suffering from chronic separatism are a highly selective reading of the situation at best. It is linked to assumptions of Han Chinese identification which do not take any notice of inner Taiwanese discourses on identity whatsoever, yet are internationally accepted as valid. The people of Taiwan have gone through many identity crises and changes, from being officially Japanese to Chinese and now creating their own identity in a mere hundred years time. More appropriate to Taiwanese intrasocietal discourse would be a perspective on Taiwanese identity which centers on the reality of people’s lives and their identification with the liberal democratic system instead of relying on literature review, textual analysis, and abstract scientific theorizing. Political science would benefit from integrating the more sympathetic sentiment of such an anthropological approach of letting people speak for themselves.

A formal, internationally valid declaration of independence as Republic of Taiwan would – contrary to mantra-like repeated and in Western media oft uncritically accepted PRC propaganda – not pose a change of the much-quoted status quo, but merely its formalization. Changing the status quo, i.e. abandoning U.S. support for Taiwan's sovereignty as a "pawn" in the conflict with China, would not defuse the highly conflictual situation between the two antipodes. For the rising power will continue to invest in a reversal of power relations, or, in the Chinese perception, of a return to the "proper" world order with China at its civilizational center. Because of its democratic achievements and over many decades different development from the PRC the conclusion can only read – even in the context of legal ambiguity and political instability – international support for the self-determination of Taiwan's residents, regardless of whether one views them as Chinese or not!


Blundell, D. (2009), Austronesian Taiwan: Linguistics, History, Ethnology, Prehistory, Taipei.
Brown, M. (2004), Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities, Berkeley.
Chen, C. et al. (1994), Ethnicity in Taiwan: Social, Historical, and Cultural Perspectives, Taipei.
Chow, P. (2008), The "One China" Dilemma, New York.
Davison, G. (2003), A Short History of Taiwan: The Case for Independence, Westport.
Fleischauer, S. (2008), Der Traum von der eigenen Nation: Geschichte und Gegenwart der Unabhängigkeitsbewegung Taiwans, Wiesbaden.
Harrell, S. et al. (1994), Cultural Change in Postwar Taiwan, Boulder.
Harrell, S. (1995), Cultural Encounters on China's Ethnic Frontiers, Seattle.
Lamley, H. (1981), “Subethnic Rivalry in the Ch’ing Period”, in: E. Ahern et al., The Anthropology of Taiwanese Society, 282-318, Palo Alto.
Lung, Y. (2009), 1949: Da jiang da hai, Taipei.
Rubinstein, M. (2007²), Taiwan: A New History, New York.
Shih, F. (2006), “From Regulation and Rationalisation, to Production: Government Policy on Religion in Taiwan”, in: D. Fell et al., What Has Changed? Taiwan Before and After the Change in Ruling Parties, Wiesbaden, 265-283.
Shih, F. et al. (2008), Re-writing Culture in Taiwan, London.
Tsao, Y. (2000), Taiwan zaoqi lishi yanjiu xiju (The Sequel to Research on Taiwan’s Early History), Taipei.
Wachman, A. (1994), Taiwan: National Identity and Democratization, Armonk.
Wang, L. (2007), “Diaspora, Identity and Cultural Citizenship: The Hakkas in ‘Multicultural Taiwan’”, in: Ethnic and Racial Studies 30 (5), 875-895.
Wu, J. et al. (2004), Reimagining Taiwan: Nation, Ethnicity, and Narrative, Taipei.

[1] Maps pertaining to the dispersal of the Austronesian peoples can be found online at (Leibniz Institut für Länderkunde Leipzig; accessed 09/13/2010) and the ECAI Pacific Language Mapping Project, (accessed 09/13/2010).
[2] In the eyes of some observers, such as former President Chen Shui-bian and Vice President Annette Lu (2000-08), the 1991 National Assembly and 1996 Presidential elections implicitly mark the beginning of a new state through the exertion of popular sovereignty (by the Taiwanese).
[3] Survey Results June 2010: 52.4% "Taiwanese," 40.1% "Both," 3.8% "Chinese", compared to 1995: 25.0% "Taiwanese," 47.0% "Both", 20.7% "Chinese" (Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, Taiwan minzhong tongdu Lichang qushi fenbu,, accessed 07/15/2010). The adoption of Taiwanese identity is taking place faster than the desire for its political expression: Concerning the question of political affiliation in 2010 a total of 46.3% opted for "independence" or "keeping the status quo forever" (up from 20.9% in 1994), 11.1% preferred immediate or delayed unification with China (1994: 20.0%), while 36.6% chose keeping the status quo for the foreseeable future (1994: 38.5%) (Election Study Center, National Chengchi University, Taiwan minzhong Taiwanren / Zhongguoren rentong qushi fenbu,, accessed 07/15/2010). The PR China enhances its irredentist claim to ownership by threat of military action in the event of attempted "separation". The conflict with Taiwan is part of the founding myth of the People’s Republic to this day, forming the basis of its legitimacy as guardian of sacred territorial integrity and giving meaning to Chinese nationalism via delivering a concrete goal-at-hand.
[4]  Although extant also in China, the groups are not considered ethnically different but are subsumed among the "Han Chinese" despite significant cultural and linguistic differences, which is also the way they are generally accepted in Western scientific discourse. Questioning these assumptions would have far-reaching implications: Who or what are the Han? To what degree is China culturally coherent, how "Chinese" is it?
[5] Interchangeably used was the pseudo-geographic binary division into "Plains” and "Mountain" tribes. Following modern Western scientific interpretations, 14 different aboriginal groups are officially recognized in Taiwan today and some more waiting for State recognition. The earlier pejorative names are still part of common vocabulary and get used under certain circumstances.
[6] The case is similar, for example, in India where national identity is also fragmentary, and in imperial China. However, the Communist Party’s extremely anti-religious policies have led to the separation of local identities from religion and – with the exception of the geographical and ethnic borders (Tibet, Xinjiang) – to greater national cohesion.
[7] Application of the One-China Principle; worldwide 23 mostly smaller states recognize Taiwan (ROC) as China’s official representation. Taiwan does participate in the WTO as „Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu“.
[8] Well-known Roger Lin and Dick Hartzell filed a lawsuit for US sovereignty over Taiwan as recently as 2009, a court hearing transcript can be found at (31pp.), with insightful blogger Michael Turton discussing it at
[9] Lee’s inclusionist stance drew heavily on ideas developed by rival presidential candidate and long-term democracy activist and refugee, Peng Ming-min, who wanted to replace Chinese nationalism in Taiwan with an inclusive political atmosphere into which everybody loyal to Taiwan would be welcomed.

Feb 15, 2011

The moral implications of modern communication - Cell phones and the lives they cost

This is why I won't buy any mobile phone that is not second hand (and even those reluctantly - the only mobile I ever possessed was my friend's old one which he did not need any longer).

"Blood in the Mobile"
(movie's hompage)

Be fast watching! (It will stay online at arte another day.) You can still watch short clips from the movie.
Languages: German or French

The war for minerals such as Coltan and Casserite in Central Africa (mostly the DR Congo) has cost an estimated 5 million (that is FIVE!! MILLION!!) deaths and at least 300,000 women raped since the mid-1990s (not including the approx. one million victims of 1994's genocide in Rwanda). These people have paid (and the living are continuing to pay) the price for the mobile industry's huge profits!
If this is not a new kind of economic colonialism (with the consent and active assistance of corrupt local elites - see the government official in the video at ca 5 minutes in), I don't know what is.

Documentaries are one very impressive way of showing in pictures what words can be insufficient to express.

Everything can be found online, so here is the German version on youtube (Part 1, the other parts are linked there):

Save your conscience trouble, buy consciously! Or, better even, do not buy cell phones at all!

Journeyman Pictures has broadcast on the working conditions in the East Congolesian mines before: Also look at a few other videos that are linked on the youtube post,
Casserite is sold for cheap prices on the international market and needed in the production of laptops and mobile phones. The working conditions and corrupted military make lives for local people unbearable, that is , besides the fact that it is completely hypocritical for us to look for the cheapest mobile phone deal possible while at the same time lamenting about how human rights are getting abused all over the place...

Concerning Africa, Journeyman Pictures has put out two recent documentaries of interest that have received praise. One is Africa - Kamenge: Northern Quarters - Where now for Burundi's troubled democracy? (59' min 05'' sec [9 February 2011]), the other Sudan - War Child: Emmanuel Jal (55/90 min [18 February 2010]). Emmanuel Jal has become kind of star since, so his story should be rather well-known. Trailer for the second movie:

Jan 18, 2011

My Playlist January 2011

Nach langer Zeit mal wieder der persönliche Senf zu guter (oder auch nicht so guter) Musik.

A Skylit Drive - Wires... and the Concept of Breathing (2008)

(What a say-nothing ordinary record cover...)

Ich habe mir die Mühe gemacht, mal zu untersuchen, was die heutige verlorene Generation von "Emos" so zum Schwarzfärben ihrer Haare und zum Kajallinienziehen inspiriert... Und ich bin auf diese Band (u.a.) gestoßen. Für alle, die Coheed und Cambria auf der zweiten Ebene der Turbine Blade vermisst haben. Hat Claudio Sanchez Geschwister? Oder machen seine Kinder schon Musik? - Zumindest vom Phänotyp her (glücklicherweise?) nicht auszumachen.
Ich zitiere mal die deutsche Wikipedia (dies ist kein wissenschaftlicher Artikel, also geht das): "Die Band ist bekannt für den einzigartigen, hohen Gesang von Michael Jagmin und den dazu im Kontrast stehenden harten Screams des Bassisten Brian White [...]" Das lassen wir mal unkommentiert stehen. Oder doch nicht. Unsere schnelllebige Gesellschaft erlaubt es jüngeren Generationen wohl nicht, die Wurzeln ihrer musikalischen Vorlieben nachzuvollziehen. Ach, und außerdem ist es "experimenteller Post-Hardcore", tut mir leid für die Fehleinschätzung oben (das Label "Emo" ist wohl negativ besetzt?).

Würden A Skylit Drive wissenschaftliche Texte verfassen, hätten sie in jedem Fall ein riesiges Plagiatsverfahren am Hals. Und wer weiß - vielleicht haben sie Glück, dass sie nicht noch eine Anklage dafür bekommen, dass sie einen Vorstimmbrüchigen hinters Mikro geklemmt haben.
Nichts daran ist neu, natürlich, aber irgendwie geht die Mischung doch ab, und ich mag dieses Falsettgefitsche und -gekritsche irgendwie. Für die nötigen Rasiermesser sorgen ein paar wohlgestreute Shout-Einsätze mit Doublebass-Gewitter und der okkasionelle Pathoseinsatz (Track 11 "Ex Machina"). Meine positive Einschätzung rührt sicherlich zur Hälfte aus Nostalgie, aber es gibt mit absoluter Sicherheit schlechtere Kapellen. Ich würde sogar sagen, A Skylit Drive gehören zu den besten 10% im populären Emo.

Anspieltipp:  Track 12 "All it takes to make my hair grow" - Oh, Verzeihung, es heißt natürlich: "... to make your dreams come true"
Schmucke Jungs auch, lange Haare sind wohl wieder in und zeigen, dass sie eigentlich mit Metalmilch aufgezogen wurden... Aber nein, Metal ist ja eigentlich doof, sexistisch und kennt keine wahren Gefühle. Nur die Haare, die fetzen. Wenn man sie durch die Luft schleudern kann... Werden eigentlich mittlerweile Emo-Castings für neue Boygroups durchgeführt?

A Strange Isolated Place - Reflection on 2010

A very nice ambient mix from London. Here is their home page.

  ASIP - Reflection on 2010 by astrangelyisolatedplace

You can download it for free, this is the link to the post.

Marvin Gaye - What's Going on (DJ Friction Extended Disco Mix 2011)

Very cool mix of a great song.

  Garvin Maye - What's Going On (DJ Friction Extended Disco Mix 2011) by DJ Friction

More nice soulful Re-edits by DJ Friction (formerly collaborating with successful German Soul/Hip-Hop Act Freundeskreis) here.

Pianos Become the Teeth - Old Pride (2009)

What a monster of a record!!
I really think I've found a new favourite band in the genre of emo with screamed vocals. This band emits an incredible energy and features an astonishing drummer! The screams are perfect, very emotional and melodic (no Orchid- or Cease Upon the Capital-style screaming). The music is not as hardcore, but could be described as 'post-rock', meaning long songs with complex structures (think of Envy) - I've read them being described as 'ambient hardcore'. Is Pianos Become the Teeth a band which might be able to turn this into something that gets popular with the average listener of emotive music? -- Perhaps the next record (due soon in 2011) will tell. I for my part cannot wait. (Promising new song, New Normal, is on their myspace.)

On the moment together with Suis la Lune my favourite Screamo band. On tour in Europe with the aforementioned in March/April. Watch out for them! Best package deal in years!
Here's for an impression of the raw energy and superb drum play:

The Word Alive - Deceiver (2010)

A revolution in sound! Something you've never heard before! The definition of the shape of rock music to come!
Kidding, of course.
However unoriginal, this album is fun to listen to. It features a drummer like a machine, some nice metal guitar licks, and a good proportion of clean vocals and shouts. Definitely one of the better metal-core records, its greatest advantage being the pure pop appeal of the choruses. In one and the same song one can swing fists pretending to mosh-pit in one's bedroom, and shout pathetically one's emotions in stadium rock pose.
Broadly comparable with As I Lay Dying, but The Word Alive put more emphasis on pop melodies and clean vocals, without missing out on the metal aspects. Good and highly marketable mixture. And yeah, half the band looks like they were being casted into a metal boygroup.

Miss May I - Monument (2010)

Yeah, I confess to listening a lot of metal-core lately.
But The Word Alive and Miss May I simply put two very good records out in 2010. With that thick a production, great guitar riffs, double bass thunderstorms, and the occasional hymnic melody like the sun rising over a field of war, this is just what I need from time to time. It may not be the most sophisticated of music, but sometimes it seems there can be none greater. Further than that, there is not much to say that is much different from above (read 'The Word Alive'), except perhaps for my impression that Miss May I look less casted than The Word Alive. But I have not investigated either band's 'long-standing' rootedness in any 'local scene' or anything like that. For now I am simply enjoying the kick their music is offering.

Oh, and while we're at it, you have to have a look at these two great kids covering all sorts of metal stuff in their parents' (?) living room - if not, they must have a really weird taste in art. Just look at the fancy pictures on the wall. The furnishing is actually hilarious in relation to the kind of music that is being played within it. I love the pure irony of it. Metal is born in the safest of families.

Maybeshewill - Not for Want of Trying (2008)

The monthly (daily?) dose of instrumental postrock.
Maybeshewill are one of the better outfits in this growing niche. And they are not American (ought to like this for the simple reason of cherishing diversity) but from Leicester. Occasional use of samples and electronic music definitely fits in well with this kind of music. Also, they seem to have quite an ethical and critical political position, at least some of their songs feature very interesting and sometimes telling spoken word parts, best illustrated perhaps in the amazing video that somebody did for the song 'Not for Want of Trying'. (no embedding possible)

Although I've been listening to both their full-length records a lot recently, I will introduce 'Not For Want of Trying' here especially for its gorgeous song of the same name. A new album is announced for this year, and this is definitely something you should mark in the calendar. The band is touring Germany in February.
This nice song, 'Co-Conspirators', was featured on their second album, 'Sing the Word Hope in Four-Part Harmony'.

Maxence Cyrin - Novö Piano (2010)

Something very different to the above. I heard his cover of the Pixies' 'Where is my mind' very often on French Radio fip, and it is just a wonderful interpretation of a wonderful song. There is no instrument as wholesome and pleasant as a piano, no effects needed, no strings attached (sic).
Besides this song, on the record you will also find interesting fresh interpretations of 'Around the World' (Daft Punk) and the more recent hit 'Kids' (MGMT), mong others.

Jan 9, 2011

Movies to watch in 2011

Here is my take on movies I am looking forward to seeing in 2011, in no particular order. You are welcome to comment and make suggestions!


Looks like a great indie movie with one of my favourite and one of the most underrated of actors in it, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick, 500 Days...) who plays a pot-smoking metal-head.
There is no trailer to the movie, it's only got a clip on the homepage, but it sure sounds great. Oh, and Natalie Portman is in it, and it was directed by Spencer Susser (short film I Love Sarah Jane).

Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides

Yeah, I know, from indie to...
But the first three movies have been great fun, and you just gotta love Cap'n Jack Sparrow. Trailer looks awesome (might it be for the "addition-by-subtraction" of the-other-two-main-characters-whose-names-I-forget? - Anyway, Penelope Cruz is a surefire upgrade over Keira K.),


Same combination (Gore Verbinski + Jonny Depp) in anime, fun, and the West. Looks really fun,

especially considering that this is Jonny Depp acting for real, not smart-ass animation technology,


127 Hours

I didn't like Danny Boyle's last film, this bestselling pseudo-Indian fairy-tale with the bonbon-sweet ending (despite featuring Freida Pinto aka the most beautiful face in recent film history). But this one here looks like an engaging story coupled with an academy-ripe performance by James Franco. The trailer features one of the very best rock songs recently written, Band of Horses' The Funeral, and perhaps that was the last tiny detail that got me totally enamoured with this movie. Gotta watch it!

True Grit

The annual dose of Wild Wild West. The real reason to look forward to this one, however, is its being directed by the Coen brothers. With Jeff Bridges and Määäätt Dääääimon. Trailer does not show that much yet, but it's supported by Jonny Cash, raising coolness levels by 200%.


Simon Clegg and Nick Frost, need I say more? This is going to be hilarious British humour by the Superbad-director. About an alien and lots of geek-stuff. Trailer.

The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick, Brad Pitt, and Sean Penn. Looks highly artistic, symbolic, and meaningful, might be heavy... Trailer

Battle: Los Angeles

Alien: Invasion. Unoriginal story, but looks like it is finally possible to combine explosive action with decent scripting, something like Transformers without Tourette and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Twilight - Breaking Dawn

Just kidding. Although it is good we have those kinds of movies, so we can read entertaining reviews.


Two major reasons: Javier Bardem and Barcelona, Trailer. I'll just quote imdb: This is the story of Uxbal (Javier Bardem). Devoted father. Tormented lover. Mystified son. Underground businessman. Friend of the disposed. Ghost seeker. Spiritual sensitive. A survivor at the invisible margins in today's Barcelona ... Uxbal's story is simple: just one of the complex realities that we all live in today.

Red State

Something for the scientist of religion in me. "A group of misfits encounter fundamentalism gone to the extreme in Middle America."

The Way Back

imdb again: "A young military officer (Sturgess) leads an escape from a hellish gulag in Soviet-occupied Poland during WWII. Making a pact with six companions, the group embarks on a daring mission across Asia to hopeful safety in India." With Colin Farrell (whom I consider an actor since Bruges).

Essential Killing

Vincent Gallo as an escaped prisoner in hostile environment, his usual enigmatic self. I don't especially like the movie's name, though.

Jan 2, 2011

Sounds of Stockholm - Doc

Beautifully shot doc on some of Stockholm's musicians. Darn, these Swedes are just awfully talented!

Sounds Of Stockholm from valerie toumayan on Vimeo.

Jan 1, 2011

Piece of Poetry - You still roam these floors

You still roam the floors

Of my past and memories

And I feel like a haunted house


But if an exorcist were to make you go away

I’d beg you to stay

I'd lock myself up

And not let you leave

I’ll become a prisoner of the past

In my own head

I do miss you that bad

(November 2010)