Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Life’ Category

HAPPY 2017!

Time flies. Make the most of it! I wish you all the best for 2017! Love – KC

PS Haven’t forgotten you – just busy working on the next book and Ph.D, living life and chasing dreams. Will try to post once a month in 2017! Thanks for following!

Lucky Pigs

Lucky Pigs

Share

SHAKESPEARE & CO AND KC BLAU

KC Blau public reading

KC Blau reads from her novel “Women and Wild Savages” at Vienna’s Shakespeare & Co

Many thanks to everyone who ventured out on the full moon this past Friday evening to hear me read from my novel, “Women and Wild Savages.” It was wonderful to read to a full house and get to meet so many of you!

Share

KEITH JARRETT: A MUSICAL GENIUS IN DESPERATE NEED OF A SNICKERS BAR

He walked onto stage and the applause swelled. I had never seen the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein so jam-packed full of people. Every single one of the 1744 seats and 300 standing places was filled with the face of an adoring fan anxiously awaiting the warm greetings of a Musical Meister.

What we got was the ranting, reprimanding threat of a diva: “I will not play a single note until the two people who just took a photo leave this concert hall. If you’re sitting beside them, urge them to leave or I won’t play.” Like a toddler mid-tantrum, he stomped off the stage and the lights went back up.

A disturbed chatter arose from the crowd. The Viennese consensus? He’s nuts. And they weren’t referring to the photo-taker caper(s). Just enough time ticked by for us to begin to wonder what the Musikverein’s refund policy is on our not-too-cheap tickets when the artist throws a fit and refuses to perform. In the nick of time, a gentleman (hero?) in a dark t-shirt rose from the center of the audience, about 25 rows deep, from a section where tickets no doubt cost upwards of 120 € each, stood up, bumped his way past the stunned fellow concert-goers in his row and exited the auditorium with a shake of his head. Many of us harbored serious doubts whether the departed was the culprit but the ritual sacrifice being made, the self-chosen martyr offered up, the show could go on.

A man in a suit who we recognized from before Cellphone Gate as the gentleman who informed us that there’d be a live recording and we must refrain from extraneous noises reappeared on stage. In a more apologetic than admonishing tone, he reminded us of the “Künstler’s” need to concentrate. Finally Mr. Jarrett re-entered and I no longer know if anyone clapped at this point. Here and there I believe but the unbridled enthusiasm of his initial entrance was history. Why? Three reasons. First, stunned people can’t clap, they’re too shocked to move their hands (see photo of my stunned face included herein). Second, who could tell what might set him off again – perhaps clapping out of rhythm, for example. Third, we all just wanted to put the embarrassing moment behind us as quickly as possible and move on with things.

Mr. Jarrett sat before his grand piano and pounded the keys as if they too were personally involved in the photo-taking infraction. Disjointed chords of choppy scales torpedoed into the loges left and right. Irritated notes wrestled in an angry sea of quick, successive sounds.

Keith Jarrett Tickets to Vienna Musikverein, July 2016

Keith Jarrett Tickets to Vienna Musikverein, July 2016

He was angry. The music was angry. And I was angry.

But by the third piece, then there was light. Staccatos grew more and more interspersed with light, playful notes. By the fourth piece, I could bring myself to join the others and clap, now convinced that it would have been a grave mistake to march out of the hall with Mr. T-Shirt Man in a show of solidarity and a refusal to accept such treatment of us non-genius, musical-lover mortals (as a firm believer in the age-old advice: you are responsible for how you let others treat you). But the lesson was obvious: Keith Jarrett could clearly get away with mistreating his audience members because he truly is a musical genius. The epiphany made me sad for artists specifically and humankind in general.

For years Keith Jarrett’s Cologne Concert, Paris Concert and Vienna Concert from his 1991 appearance in the Vienna Opera House have been some of my most beloved, trusted accompaniments while writing. Sit down, crank it up and within 5 minutes you are in the “mood” and the words stream across the page like currents in a waterfall.

He isn’t hitting pre-prescribed notes. This is improvisation. He is sitting at his bench and coaxing the keys to come together in just the right manner to take his listeners on a magical journey of his making. His music elevates all present to a higher, better, otherworldly place.

By the end of his concert I enthusiastically joined the standing ovation. Not just one but three – or was it four? — encores. His final piece, a playful, soulful version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” seemed like the artist’s version of an apology of sorts. It was that moving. Then he said, “Thank you,” but couldn’t leave us for the night with happy, fuzzy feelings to accompany us home. No. He just had to add, “Now aren’t you glad you were strong? Aren’t you glad you were smart?”

To quote Homer Simpson: “D’Oh!” [slaps hand to forehead].

The concert was recorded live. Mr. Jarrett’s hyper-sensitive (compulsive?) tendencies made me wonder why he does live recordings. Wouldn’t a studio recording be easier to control all variables possible when you pack 2000 people in a room? It’s a contradiction, I suppose. The man who demands such utmost control and obedience of an audience of thousands chooses live recordings and improvisation.

At the same time, after intermission, it wasn’t an apology, don’t get me wrong, but perhaps a justification. Kind of. Mr. Jarrett said that all the picture-taking makes him feel like a caged animal. He also added: “People who think they can interfere with processes is what’s f—ed up the world today.” I get that. But what’s really f—ed up the world is a general lack of empathy. And when thousands of people from all over the world, all walks of life who could be mid-living all the tragedies and challenges life can throw at you, re-arrange their day-to-day existence, coordinate and pretty themselves up to join together at a certain time and place to spend precious, never-to-be-re-gained hours of their life, just to hear you play your music, to join you on a journey to a higher place blindly following nothing more than the next musical note – that is something rather extraordinary and the opposite of f—ed up. And if you give that a bitter after-taste (or before- and after-taste), then shame on you.

There is a synergy between an audience and artist that no studio can give. A synergy in a Golden Hall that has been home to such beauty and artistry of some of history’s and the world’s best talents for over 140 years. A synergy that lingers beyond the 2 seconds the notes are held suspended, a synergy that transcends space and time and I think you must know that, Mr. Jarrett, which is why you record live. So chill. You’re playing jazz, the chillest tunes of them all. Appreciate the joining together to experience a precious parenthesis in time.

I’d like to end with a bit of advice for future concerts:

* to potential Keith Jarrett concert-goers: go, the music will be amazing, but for God’s (Keith Jarrett’s and the concert’s) sakes, keep that trigger finger off the camera icon.

* to Mr. Jarrett: get a grip, chill and have some empathy. If the audience peeves you off, do like Bob Dylan did when he gave a concert in Burg Clam – don’t acknowledge the audience at all. Not one word. Not “Hello” “How are you” or “Thanks.” If they’re like me, sure, they’ll feel snubbed but better snubbed than down-right insulted.

* to concert organizers, you saints, you:

  1.  if tales from a Berlin concert are to be believed, be sure to have the piano tuned before the concert;
  2.  hang up plenty of signs politely advising that the diva “artist” requires utmost concentration and concert-goers who cannot refrain from taking photos kindly will be asked to leave
  3.  give that musical genius a Snickers bar. Or two. Or three. (supposedly they’re good at humanizing divas). And who knows? Maybe there’s a commercial spot in his future and you can turn lemons into lemonade.

Anger advice: It’s better to distract than vent because getting it out can intensify the emotion. Go figure.

I love the podcast the Hidden Brain and this is a fascinating take on what makes Keith Jarrett’s Cologne Concert so phenomenal (though I doubt Keith would agree):
NPR Podcast, Hidden Brain: In Praise of Mess: Why Disorder May Be Good For Us

 

 

Share

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE TEA AND CRUMPETS JEAN-CLAUDE, OR A MORE PERFECT UNION

When the final count was announced for the Brexit vote, perhaps none was more surprised than Britain itself. Except maybe Brussels.

But I was surprised too. Surprised by so much surprise. Especially after this weekend’s headline buried deep inside the paper. I guess if the news isn’t conducive to the current political agenda, it’s good to bury it. Who needs high blood pressure? Nevertheless the audacity of Jean-Claude (or is it Jean-Icarus?) Juncker so soon after Brexit is astounding. It truly is.

In case you missed it, basically the lost-touch-with-reality EU president stated that the EU would decide on Ceta, the very controversial trade agreement with Canada, without including the 27 remaining EU nations. The deal with Canada is largely considered to be the precursor to the TTIP deal with the US and Juncker’s true colors are suddenly showing. The man is threatening to simply barrel through a trade deal that will have major consequences for the environment, consumer safety and judicial processes for Europeans (and Canadians, and then Americans) without a democratic process that would allow the concerned citizens who will be most affected to weigh in. Seriously? Is there a large metal rock somewhere up in Brussels that thou hath been hiding under the past two weeks, Honorable Mr. Juncker?

But I’m not the only one indignant. Even the level-headed Germans were “riled up”. Though they aren’t worried about a very unpopular deal being made over the heads of their citizens, they are worried, according to Germany’s Economic Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, that such an “incredibly foolish” act could kill the even more unpopular agreement, TTIP with the US.

Holy smokes, Batman! Looks like we need a super hero to fly to Belgium and give these bureaucrats a good serious fire-poker pinch. They’re all living in a cave.

I’m not opposed to trade agreements, open borders or closer ties amongst nations. I’m all for it. But I am opposed to trade agreements drafted by lawyers of multinational enterprises under the guise of benefiting Jane, Dietrich and Jorge while taking away their rights and protections. Besides, I had always somehow been under the impression that public servants were put into office to serve the people. But if their mission is to serve the people, and deals like Ceta and TTIP do not serve the people, then no deal should be made. It’s not difficult. It’s not like the Austrian Math Matura. It’s easy in fact. And when bureaucrats from Brussels opt to pass dirty deals done dirt cheap nevertheless, it tends to really peeve people off. It tends to get them upset. It tends to make them lose faith about who or what they are serving. In fact, it gives the impression that the interests being served are as secretive and far removed as politicians helping multinational companies cut billions of dollars from tax bills. Deals kept under wraps until Mr. Ordinaryman with nothing to gain except renewed confidence in the fairness of the universe has the guts to reveal all in a leak – a LuxLeak, for example — and have himself rather than those scheming the system put on trial. In fact it kind makes the majority of us mere mortals have an idea of what the starving folks outside royal gates must feel like when they hear the words: “Let them eat cake” before they… Well… History, like Shakespeare and Greek mythology, has plenty of examples of what happens when a privileged few let hubris and greed get the best of them while overhearing the cries of the disenchanted people.

Days before the Brexit vote, none of my friends (some even from the UK) could fathom a future without Britain in the EU let alone the kind of person who could seriously consider Brexiting. But I could.

I am not anti-EU. I rallied behind Austria’s membership decades ago. As a college major in international relations while the EU was still in the infant stages of a EEC, I was a flag-waving EU supporter. I liked the idea of a borderless continent. I liked the idea of an ever-lasting inter-dependency that promotes peace. I liked the idea of folks from different nations getting along and cooperating to make life better for everyone. But as much as I absolutely love the idea of the EU, I hate seeing signs of cronyism. A lot has happened since my initial dreams for Europe. And I can relate to those who have become disillusioned with the brave new world a united Europe once promised.

But am I so disgruntled (or “batshit crazy”) that I think Britain is right to throw in the towel and hit the road? Definitely not.Disgruntled EU Flag

Britain, have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Your hair is thinning, the royal luster is fading, and to be completely honest, as a good friend, I need to tell you that you’ve shrunk. Yep. Don’t take it wrong. You still got the odd sense of humor we all love, and Shakespeare will always be yours but you’re no longer the tough guy you used to be. So when Russia or China or – yes, even my homeland — come knocking and want to talk business, it can be quite an advantage to have 27 others by your side, showing a united front.

But you were so busy whining about all the Poles moving into the neighborhood, that you became deaf, and I’m sorry to say, blind. And dumb.

After reeling from the shock and the appeals, of “Dearest Britain, say it isn’t so,” and turning-lemons-into-the-lemonade hope that perhaps Northern Ireland and Scotland will finagle a way to stay, I, like the rest of Europe, sobered up to the reality that Britain has officially filed the divorce papers. While the passionate French demand that Britain pack its black pudding, get the hell on its way and don’t let the door smack it in the derrière on the way out, the cool-headed Germans keep urging everyone to, “Stay rational, bitte sehr!”

Long-term relationships are hard. They just are. They demand compromise and sacrifice. And somewhere along the line, you have to be convinced that the relationship is bringing more benefits than harms. Otherwise, it is indeed more healthy to probably call it quits.

But I see remnants of old border booths, hear students from all over a peaceful Europe congregate together in the metro, pay for my cappuccino in Italy with the same Euros I use to buy my Schnitzel in Vienna and I feel like the benefits of a European Union still outweigh the harms.

But statements like Juncker’s make hanging on to that belief hard at times. I have to wonder if his dream of a united Europe has any resemblance to mine.

In his book, The Prophet, Kahil Gibran describes the perfect union. He writes that a perfect union has spaces in the togetherness, and the winds of the heavens dance between the parts that are joined together not with a bond but rather a moving sea. The sides of the union fill each other’s cups without drinking from the same cup. Give each other bread without eating from the same loaf. Dance together but allow dances alone, stand together, yet not too near: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, he writes, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

What kind of union is the EU striving towards? Absolute oneness or something better? I think it is the lack of clarity and communication of this very basic goal that is causing so much trouble.

Brexit in the EU, Trump in the US, Hofer in Austria, these uprisings, upsets, overturns, and shock-waves are about a generation that believes its voice has been lost. I do not support these fear-mongering movements pouring kerosene on fiery frustrations. I read Juncker’s words and the frustration burns in my veins as well. But nothing in me is convinced that razing the current structures to build a wall, a fence or border-closed sign is the answer. No, I think we should call in the exterminator, chase out the vermin and take back the dream. Throw open windows, beckon in some fresh air and make it a home where the interests of the people, and not the cronies, are served.

Since life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday, dearest EU, learn from your mistakes and conscientiously determine what the Brexit legacy will be. Will the EU merely survive this crisis or turn it into an opportunity? And I don’t mean an opportunity for the cronies.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/685124/EU-Juncker-Germany-slashes-members-TTIP-Ceta

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxembourg_Leaks

John Oliver, Tobacco, Free Trade Agreements and the case of Australia and Uruguay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UsHHOCH4q8

John Oliver and Brexit (while there was still hope): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAgKHSNqxa8

John Oliver and Brexit (after): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh0ac5HUpDU

For your reading pleasure the 1598 pages of the “Consolidated” CETA text. http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2014/september/tradoc_152806.pdf

 

 

Share