Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Culture: Chicago Open Air 2016 Redux

(Drivebycuriosity) - Last month my wife and I attended the Chicago Open Air (chicagoopenair). The 3-days festival happened @ Toyota Park, a soccer stadium in Bridgeview, a suburb about 13 miles from the Chicago center. The program focused on heavy metal. Most of the top bands, including Rammstein, Slipknot, Korn, Bullet for my Valentine & Marilyn Manson, were founded in the 1990s and are counted to the "nu metal" (wikipedia). We managed to watch 16 of the about 40 bands.

The big bands are all big entertainers. Rammstein performed a kind of circus show. Frontman Till Lindeman, who was more talking than singing, acted partly like a diabolic clown, apparently torturing his band companions, and partly like an actor in an surrealist play. The gig started with fireworks and during the show fire balls went up into the air (maybe fueled by propane gas). Show & sound blended into a very special experience.

Slipknot delivered a spectacular show as well. The band members wore masks which reminded of weird serial killers in modern horror flicks and the stage looked like a scene in a Mad Max movie - a perfect platform for their violent sound. The Japanese band Baby Metal entertained with cute girls who were singing & dancing wearing traditional Japanese stage costumes & masks.

But there was more. We chose this festival because of Deafheaven.  Chicago Open was our 7th gig by the Californian black metal band (driveby). Even that their show lasted just 30 minutes (on the second stage) frontman George Clark again fascinated with his high pitched hissing screams. The combination of Clark´s unique voice with the band`s tsunami waves of sound  was awesome. 

The surprise of Chicago Open Air - and our favorite - was Gojira. The French band delivered  a mélange of atmospheric, melodic & massive sounds as well.  I also liked Marilyn Manson even that his songs are more traditional rock than heavy metal. His Eurythmics cover "Sweet Dreams (Are made of this" belongs to the top pieces of the event.

The bands were just part of the fun. Rock festivals are big fairs. Thousands of people are gathering there, listening to the music, strolling between the shopping arcades, meeting friends and are having a good time. Food & drink was better than I had expected: The pizza slices were tasty and the  craft beers from local breweries were delicious.

                                             Crowd Surfing & Moshing

We also enjoyed watching the other visitors. You could see all kind of people and ages, no wonder heavy metal started already  in the 1960s. Some wore fantastic and funny costumes. The aggressive sound of many bands animated to crowd surfing and moshing (jumping up and down and deliberately colliding with other dancers).

The weather was cooperative and didn´t "rain on the parade". Even that the place stayed dry we spotted a beautiful double-rainbow on the first afternoon of the event..

Going there and back needed some time. The subway ride to Bridgeview lasted about one hour and then we had to wait for the shuttle bus to the stadium that run about every 30 minutes. But the rides were safe and relatively comfortable.

Chicago Open was a lot of fun. We plan to attend more such festivals in the coming years.

PS 1 Thanks a lot to organizers, security & paramedics who provided a great event.

PS 2 This post is a bit delayed. First my power chord broke and I got a new Mac Book Pro, then I deleted accidentally the original post and had to reconstruct it. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Economy: Has Craft Beer Peaked?

(Drivebycuriosity) - I like craft beer. There is so much variety. Therefore a headline got my attention: "Craft beer`s looming crisis" (thedailybeast). Lew Bryson, the author, claims that the rapid growth of craft beer has "peaked" and that the craft beer "bubble" will burst. I don`t think so.

I grew up in Germany where the breweries follow the purity rule (Reinheitsgebot wikipedia). German brewers use just barely, hop & yeat and sometimes wheat. I liked the German beers, especially "Kölsch" and "Hefeweizen", but there was not much variety.

Now I am living in the US and enjoy the craft beer revolution. Many pubs serve a large selection of specialties and I can discover unknown combinations and explore new tastes: Variations of Lagers, IPAs, Stouts & Ales. Beers with vanilla, chocolate, coffee, mango, grapefruit and more. I can chose between bitter, fresh, sweet, spicy and more aromas.

Bryson claims that "the fact that fruit beers are flooding the market,  is truly a sign of the apocalypse". What is his problem? What is wrong with having a lot of choices? I think beers with grapefruit or mango fit well to a hot summer day, in winter people might chose different seasonal specialties. And people have different tastes. Some people like it fruity, others prefer bitter or whatever.

According to Bryson the craft beer market climbed to about 12% of the whole US beer market. So, the big brewers controll still more than 80% of the market. There is still plenty of space to grow for the craft brewers.

Apparently the author has an aversion against small breweries and against competition. He writes "fortunately, the industry has always had a strong tradition of cooperative competition, sharing information and experience among brands". This smells like collusion and cartels. Do we really need a (near) beer monopoly? The beer market is already ruled by giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev, who owns about 200 brands including Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois & Beck's. Competition is good for the consumers.

The craft beer revolution will go on because the brewers are benefiting from the general technological progress. New technologies reduce the cost of beer brewing and make it profitable to produce small quantities of beer (microbrewing telegraph  wikipedia). And  small brewers are more flexible than the bigger ones and capable to experiment and to try new ways.

There is no reason that the whole market will crash. Some of the experimental beers may disappear, displaced by other more successful experiments.

A cheers to competition and to the craft brewers.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Movies: Florence Foster Jenkins

(Drivebycuriosity) - Florence Foster Jenkins was a remarkable woman. She had an awful voice and zero talent for singing, but she insisted to be an opera singer and gave a concert at New York´s famous Carnegie Hall, made possible by her insistence and a huge inherited fortune. The movie "Florence Foster Jenkins" (imdb) focuses on the peak of her "career".

The film, directed by Stephen Frears,  is a mixture of comedy & melodrama. I had a lot of fun watching Meryl Streep, who incarnated "Florence" - a real goofball. Hugh Grant & Simon Helberg, known from "Big Bang Theory", were a perfect match. I also enjoyed the green screen technology that immersed the audience into the Manhattan of the 1940s - a kind of time travel.

FFJ is a little gem.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Olympics: Mirror Of Globalization

(Drivebycuriosity) - If you want a picture of the globalization you might take a look on the medal table of the Rio Olympics that ended today (bbc).

78 countries managed to earn a medal in Rio, 54 national teams went home with one gold medal at least. The USA is on the top with a medal count of 121 (46 gold), as you can expect from such a big & rich country with a very competitive tradition. Great Britain (with the help of Northern Ireland) collected 26 gold (67 all together). Place 3 went to China (26/70). Russia, handicapped by the ban of their huge Track & Field team, got place 4. Germany ranked 5th (17/42).

The host Brazil earned 7 gold medals (place 13), including one for a very lucky win against Germany´s soccer youth. Kenya & Jamaica each collected 6 gold medals, the Iran earned 3 times gold, Thailand & North Korea (!) each gained 2 times gold, Indonesia, Bahrain & Fiji each got one gold medal.

The list reflects size & economic power (elite sports is extremely expensive) but also ambition. I expect that in the future Olympics the emerging markets will earn more medals and might even challenge mighty USA.

Congratulations to all.

Contemporary Art: Density, Saturation & Energy @ Galerie Richard, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York City is a global magnet for people, capital and art. No wonder that international galleries want to be present here. Galerie Richard, an ambitious French art dealer, is one of them. They chose New York`s trendy Lower East Side (121 Orchard Street galerierichard ).

I have seen already a row of interesting exhibitions there. Now they display abstracts by the New York based artist Jordan Broadworth. The exhibition is called "Terra Incognita" (through August 28, 2016).

Broadworth`s "paintings convey the density, saturation and energy that one can only experience when living and working in New York City", claims the press release.

The press release further explains: the artist  "constructs his paintings with a tight pixel-like grid. The grid accompanied by a screen-like smoothness and back-lit glow positions the work within a our time of digital distraction. These works are created working “wet into wet” within tight parameters of production that include working blind, opening the work to spontaneity and chance" (presse).

But let the pictures speak for themselves


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Economy: Brexit? What Brexit?

(Drivebycuriosity) -  There is a lot ado about Brexit. Pundits & media claim that Great Britain will dive into a deep recession because of her departure from the European Union. I doubt that.

This morning we learned that the British retail surged 1.4% in best July performance since 2002 ( bloomberg). This is the first real (fundamental) economic data since the Brexit vote. Before we got just polls (PMI indices) which reflected the sentiment of pundits & media. It seems that the British care don`t care about Brexit and all the noise around it. And they don´t allow the pundits to scare them.

I reckon that the Brexit hysteria is unjustified. The British economy will be better off. Brussels has been gaining more and more power over the years - developing the EU Union into something like the defunct Soviet Union, a bundle of states ruled by a central government. The European Parliament and the EU committee, especially Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, treat the EU increasingly like a kingdom. Even after the Brexit decision they want to expand the power of the EU and demand more integration, meaning more power for Brussels ( spiegel.de).

UK will benefit from the exit because the country will be less regulated. A liberal (less regulated) England could attract companies and investors from all over the world. The economy blogger Scott Grannis writes "one of the very good things that could come of a Brexit: shaking off the Eurosklerosis  that has held back growth in the Eurozone for many years" ( scottgrannis ).

There will be no British recession - the solid retail numbers are the first proof.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movies: Jason Bourne

(Drivebycuriosity) - Can you trust your government? Hollywood says: No way! For years the dream factory has been making movies about people who`s life is threatened by their own government.  Take for instance  "Three Days of the Condor " (wikipedia) from 1975. This famous movie tells the story of a CIA employee who has to fight against his murderous colleagues.

The "Bourne" movies follow this tradition. The newest incarnation of this franchise (number five), just named "Jason Bourne",  is now running in the US cinemas. Again the leading character, a former assassin for the CIA,  has to survive the pursuit of his former employers and their hired professional killers. Director Paul Greengrass, who also made "Bourne Supremacy" & "Bourne Ultimatum",  and his co-script writers created again a staccato of furious action scenes. It`s fascinating how they intermingled the fast speed action with local activities like social unrest in the Greek capital Athens.

I enjoyed watching Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones  & Vincent Cassel,  but the star of film was Alicia Vikander.  The  Swedish actress, who got an Oscar for "The Danish Girl" and impressed in "Ex Machina", convinced as a strong woman who is capable to join the power play of her colleagues and antagonists. 

"Bourne" is still cutting edge action cinema and fun to watch.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Movies: The Model

(Drivebycuriosity) - The life of a young fashion model is challenging. This is the message of the movie "The Model" (imdb). Danish director Mads Matthiesen and his co-script writers tell the story of a teenage girl from Denmark who wants to start a modelling career in Paris (this is a spoiler free blog).

The film furnishes the clichés about naive girls, predatory men and the fashion business in general, but there are also some original ideas & twists that make the movie interesting and entertaining. I cared about the fate of the protagonist, even that her story got challenging over the time. Maria Palm, who incarnated the model, has a remarkable face and is a convincing actor as well. And you can see beautiful girls in a beautiful city.

"The Model" is an easy & esthetic summer entertainment. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Contemporary Art: Elegant Compositions By Michael Lam @ Gallery Artifact, New York

(Drivebycuriosity) - New York´s Lower East Side has about 130 art dealers. Gallery Artifact on 84 Orchard Street (artifactnyc) belongs to my favorites. The art dealer has frequently interesting shows, often with 3 artists.

Yesterday I admired some abstracts by Michael Lam. I indulge into his elegant compositions. According to this website (agora-gallery) the artist was influenced by a hand-illustrated Chines herbal medicine book he saw as a child.

But let the pictures speak for themselves.


Street Art New York: A Documentary - Summer 2016 Edition

(Drivebycuriosity) - It`s summer in New York. The air is hot & humid. But street artists don`t take a break. Since my latest street art report (June 2016 driveby) I spotted a lot new murals, stickers & graffiti @ Lower East Side, East Village, Soho and other Manhattan neighborhoods. As usual I document the newest street art in this area.

Above you can see the newest mural on the wall of rag & bone at the corner of Elizabeth & Houston. This fashion shop impresses with frequently changing art work.

Above the newest murals on East Houston Street & Second Avenue at the subway exit for the M Train (across Whole Foods). They are parts of a frequently changing series as well.

The mural above,  on Crosby Street, also can be spotted from East Houston Street.

This mural is on Allen Street, near Stanton Street, at the now defunct Epstein`s.

Above a mural by the Irish illustrator Laura Callaghan found on Orchard Street.

These huge murals are in Soho & Tribeca.

Above a mural spotted on Broome Street.

Above some new shutter door murals found on the Lower East Side.

The building on Delancey & Orchard Street is waiting for the wrecking ball

The spreaders of stickers & stencils stayed active as well.

To be continued!