Wednesday, October 24

Considering "Carmen"

It was not my original intention to see George Bizet's "Carmen" last Saturday. At first, my plan had been for an evening of Argentine Tango, my first opportunity since arriving in Germany. However, a lack of healthy women that would be around and the tendency of Tango Milongas to attract surprisingly high numbers of men and my own shyness, forced me to alter my plans. It was by good fortune then that coming back on the U-Bahn from an attempt to convince a friend to come, I met another who was attending "Carmen" at one of Munich's several state theaters. Ultimately unable to find a dancing companion, I tagged along, dressed in my only pair of jeans and a pullover my sister gave me two years back. Yeah, I had better clothes, but considering the full suits the other men in the audience were packing, I would have just come off as a poser. As it was, my wardrobe for the evening could instead be considered 'alternative.'

Perhaps I should point out that this was my first opera. The closest I ever came to seeing one, in any medium, was "Ballad of Fallen Angels," fifth episode of Shinichiro Watanabe's brilliant Cowboy Bebop, when Faye finds a dead body in one of the box seats and "Ave Maria" plays in the background. And I am in a surprisingly perky mood to be getting so tangential so quickly this evening. Huh. You do not even yet know whether I liked it or not.

Well, I certainly did. Not the mind-blowing excitement that Fight Club or, more recently, Children of Men inspired in me, mind you, but keep in mind this is a new genre for me. It certainly could have done worse, say by pushing me away from all operas forever rather than making me excited for the next one.

In all honesty, it took me a while to get into it. Though all but the most iconic songs were translated into German from the original French and despite my limited skill in both, I was forced to rely on body language to get the least idea of what was happening. And as emotionally cutting as the singers complemented by the pit orchestra could be, much of that intensity is lost when you do not know why they feel that way. Fortunately, "Carmen" lasted over two and a half hours, and there was an intermission, during which I finally read the synopsis and learned what was happening. By the fourth and final act, I was engrossed in the way that once you come out of it, you realize that for the past half hour not a single thought has passed through your mind. It has been nothing but an extended visceral response to those on stage. Caught between "Les voici! Voici la quadrille! and C'est toi! C'est moi! that is something else. And since I discovered these recordings, allow me to link to L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) as well. I know it is iconic and perhaps just a bit cliché, but I like it just the same.

It caught me off guard, the description of "Carmen" as a comic opera. I was fully prepared to laugh along with the audience at those high culture jokes that went right past me. I was not prepared for the murder that finished the play. And that made applauding for the principals and director (and applaud we did! I think they took at least three bows.) seem wrong. Richard Gere's character in Pretty Woman was right. The music is very powerful. For all this jealousy and terror and rage to just come out, and the audience applauding only minutes later did not feel right. At that point, it would have been more appropriate to just quietly shuffle out. Do Carmen and José even want to come out at that point?

There are two elements of this production, which, while integral to the performance, do not enjoy the same recognition as the singing and orchestral performance: the physical stage itself and the costuming. I fully admit I am provincial. Stupid things like traffic lights still possess the ability to both amuse and terrify me (depending on whether I am walking or driving), and this stage was far superior to any traffic light, unless the Japanese turned out something exceptional when I was not paying attention. Several of the acts required a second set, like the bedroom in Act II. While the live theater productions I have previously attended would have been content to divide the stage, this stage literally became an entirely new set. The floor could rise, a partition from the ceiling fall and two walls from the sides move in to literally create another, smaller stage without an interruption. Most impressively, the stands which the crowds stood upon for the final act, literally reversed direction. The highest parts of the stands in the back sank, while the lowest ones in front sank to create the impression that we were now sitting behind them rather in front. Cool seems like an inappropriate word to use in describing an opera, but that was.

Then there was the costuming, more precisely, the color. The picture that leads this post gives you an idea. Every act had a dominant color, blue for the first, red for the second, green for the third, and black for the final act, with Carmen's dress always anticipating the next, resorting to white in the end. The cast was no less than 40, and by all respects, this apparently gimmicky decision should have turned them into a blurry mass. Yet the rich array of shades and tones made it work and was a joy to look upon.

I mentioned it in passing earlier, but it bears repeating and does a fair job of summarizing my response to "Carmen." I want to see another opera.

Friday, October 19

Considering "Born to Samba"

Allow me to set the scene for you. I come from small cities. Baudette, my hometown, had a population around 1,400. The auditorium at my Kindergarten through 12th grade school, performed myriad duties as our theater and concert hall and, until the single-screen, second-run Grand Theater was completed in 2001, movie theater. Spokane fairs a bit better, with both community and professional theaters, a fairly decent movie theater that brings in some foreign movies and most everything in wide release, and the INB Performing Arts Center, formerly and always in my heart the Spokane Opera House. Sadly, I did not take as much opportunity of those as I should have for the past two years. Now I am in Munich, a city that has multiple operas, theaters, art museums, movie theaters, everything befitting a cultural center and former home of royalty. It goes without saying that these opportunities excite me very much, and my plan to attend at least two operas, ballets and orchestral performances and a new museum and church every Sunday before leaving in January has been proceeding well.

And so this plan was put in motion with my attendance of the Deutsches Theater's presentation of "Born to Samba" last Thursday. Coming in, my conception of a musical was something along the lines of Sound of Music or Moulin Rouge! where the song and dance numbers exist as a means of pushing a narrative along. "Born to Samba" was more of a World Fair exhibit, proudly displaying the vast range of Brazilian music and dance, from the titular Samba to the jazzier Bossa Nova to the secret martial art Capoeira to other pieces of a more somber tone that I cannot remember, and replete with appearances by former titans of the Brazilian music scene. What narrative there was was provided by an American expatriate, speaking up between songs to say how much he enjoyed a particular genre as a segue way into the next piece. Sometimes he mixed it up by asking the band leader what his favorite music was.

More than anything else, the performance must be called fun. There was such a constant sense of exuberance and celebration in their singing and dancing, that when the dancers were forced into extended choreographed pieces, it felt stifling. When they were allowed to just go with it, the Capoeira piece being the greatest example of this as the dancers pulled off some amazing one-handed, off-balance handstands and flips that traversed the stage, the energy and sheer joy of movement was most overwhelming. Which appears to have been a wasted effort for the crowd. As the friend I attended "Born to Samba" with said, Germans are dry. It took a monumental effort by the cast just to get the crowd clapping, much less moving, to the music for the final reprise. My excuse was that on was on the first floor balcony, and only a minor mishap would have led to some theater patrons having a much more interesting evening than originally anticipated.

There are some things I have always assumed would end with high school, and I would never have to deal with again because things would be more professional then. Things like trashy cafeteria lunches and technical production problems I counted among them. Munich has proven me wrong on these things, the suspect taste of the Mensa's pushing me over to pick up ciabatta at a bakery everyday and "Born to Samba" being hobbled by technical difficulties in its opening numbers. God decided to show his displeasure of the performance by allowing the cast members only a single working microphone for the first few songs, and none of the singers had it for the opening number as the narrator still had it. Of course this just threw the dancers off as they lost their cues and did not know whether they should hurry it up and get it over with. At one point a stage hand literally danced on stage to switch out and test the lead singer's new mircrophone (still malfunctioning), and the single working one was shared between the three singers for the third song. Ridiculous. At least it all was smoothed out before the end of the first act.

All that is left now is to bide my time until "Tanguera," das Tango Musikal direkt aus Buenos Aires, opens this December.

Tuesday, October 16

Preferring film over digital

When taking pictures, using film marks you. I never really thought of this before, but a day-trip into the Alps with my study-abroad group a few weeks back made this absolutely clear. Everyone else, barring the one guy with a higher-class digital Nikon, was packing one of those pocket digital cameras, the type that challenge a pack of cards for ease of portability. In contrast, the body of my film camera alone probably weighed four times as much as any of theirs, and I was packing three lenses and three rolls of film beyond that. With everything in it, my camera bag was probably between five and ten pounds. It kind of sticks out, and the whole developing-my-own-black-and-white-film thing only sets me further apart from most people taking pictures.

Because of these choices, people may tend to think more of my skills and ambitions than I really have because, really, who is going to put that much effort into photography that they actually have to switch lenses rather than press the widen/tighten button. Still, photography, for me, remains purely a hobby. Were a single picture good enough for an exhibition or inquiries made as to a print's purchase, I would be pleased beyond imagination, but if neither happens, I will be fine. What then draws me to invest so much into film photography when digital is so much easier and more accessible?

There are a number of reasons for this. And here they are. Enjoy.

First, there is the developing process. I have alluded to this philosophy before in my rant on elliptical machines and fully plan to further develop it independently in a later post, but I believe that if you are going to do something, you ought to do it all out and take possession of it from beginning to end, not passing off the duties to someone else, because it is through that particular investment of time and energy that the ultimate result will have greater meaning to you. Performing the chemical washes, agitating the various liquids, moving the print from bath to bath, these take time and demand your attention. Of course one can accomplish much of the same through Photoshop or some similar program through a tweaking of the color saturation and levels and everything, but that brings me to the next point.

When the developing and printing is completed, you have something physical, something tangibly real. This too has become more meaningful to me as I grow used to it. Of course one can print their digital photos and make them physical in that way, but that really does not happen so often. Understandably, people are content to dump their pictures onto a CD or get a Flickr account or make an album on Facebook and load those up when someone wants to see their latest vacation to Mexico because the audience is not restrained by the normal physical limitations, but we do not look at these the same way we do even old snapshots. I have absolutely no data to back this coming assertion up, but I suspect that a great deal less time is spent perusing digital albums than shoe boxes full of 3x5's. Maybe this is a good thing when people can peruse 20 thumbnail images at once and only take a closer look at those which peak their interest, but I feel as though something is lost, some of the impact or the possibility for something to really surprise you. Besides, crowding a computer produces a much different interaction than sitting around the table and passing photos.

Then there are the economics of film. Film is expensive and, considering what I use, a pain to find at times. These costs of film acquisition, both financial and temporal, force me to be more considerate of my pictures. I do not simply take a shot and call it good, as I probably would when the cost of a digital picture is near nil. I try to find something original, something unique, and then capture it in the best possible way. Undoubtedly this has held me back from taking some risks and experimenting, but at this point, simple work on the basics is the best thing for me.

Finally, there is a simple structural fact of the camera. The viewscreen which immediately displays the picture just taken, a feature on every digital camera I have ever seen, simply does not exist on mine. As such, I cannot see the pictures I took and must sometimes wait weeks or, as the present case has been, months before seeing them. Though I have been making progress in loosening up on my perfectionism, I still fear that, given a digital camera, I would spend all of my time trying to make the picture just right and not just take it and move on.

What amuses me so much about this is that I have only reached these ideas recently. I certainly did not sit down and make out a list of pros and cons of each technology before choosing one. In fact, the camera and lenses were a gift from my dad last Christmas in anticipation of the fine art photography class I would have to take this summer for my Journalism major. If I had compared the two before making a camera purchase, I probably would have gone with the digital. Not needing to buy film appeals to my cheap side, and it is so much easier to share your pictures online with family and friends when they can be loaded directly on to the computer rather than needing to wait for the roll to be filled, the film developed, the pictures printed and a scanner found. Now I cannot imagine ever using a digital.

There is a moral in this and may be one clear to others and practiced by them for years now, but it is an important one for me. Sometimes the important thing is not so much making the right choice but simply making a choice. You cannot anticipate everything. All you can do is jump in and move out from there.

Sunday, October 14

A Young Krause at Madie's Graduation Party

And here we have the middle Krause child (Luke or Dominic, I shamefully cannot remember the name) sitting on the ground at my sister's graduation party this spring. I took a few pictures of him. The miserable boredom exuding off him offered some interest in comparison to the other people simply standing around talking. I can understand his feelings. After all, the main occupation of the people there was talking; besides his brothers, the closest people in age to him were probably a decade older; and the weather kind of sucked. Still, he is really cute when he smiles. Might actually have a shot of that, but as my contact sheets are not with me, that cannot be verified. No idea why I would not print a shot of that. Maybe I actually do not have that picture.

I am a fan of this picture. Though it certainly is not genius, I do believe this particular photo does a fine job in both technically and thematically. In a consideration of the technical aspects, there is a full tonal range (albeit, an overwhelming presence of the same shade of gray, my only specific complaint), there is a strong central element in the sitting child and it is in focus. Thematically, the sense of loneliness is greatly enhanced by the positioning of everyone around him. We have one pair of legs in the upper-left walking away from him and those nearest are directly away. What is more, I think the height difference, with his head only reaching their knees, emphasizes this further still. Then, of course, there is the expression on his face, looking for someone who will pay to him attention, but a sense too that he is not going to find that person.

Like I said, I like this picture, but it is no masterpiece. It lacks that spark to capture and hold my interest, to make me say, "Wow." Someday.

Saturday, October 13

Provoked experiences

Three nights back, when I was going through my little rant on Höfbräuhaus, I hit a wall that very nearly caused me to give up on the post. I was all prepared to rip into the famed Biergarten for creating an illusion and specifically provoking our reactions, but it occurred to me that many pieces of art very much attempt to do the same thing. A piece representing the loss of the creator's true love is not, after all, likely meant to put you into a good mood.

The difficulty in this realization? I like art but not Höfbräuhaus so much but was still seeing a parallel between the two on the very thing that led to my distaste of the latter. Obviously, I shouldered through, promising myself that I would revisit the issue. I knew the two were different, but that clarification would need more time. Now I think I know the difference.

The experiences created and maintained by places like Höfbräuhaus are all-consuming. When they are encountered, they assault every sense. Costumes and colors excite sight while music works over the ears. Even a carefully regulated temperature and smells appeal to two of our less popular senses. Literally, we are within the experience and allowed no room to step back from it. The creators seek total control, no room for the participants to deviate from the planned experience. All there can be is the expected response.

Now, the artist may want the same thing (I certainly do not want people breaking into tears and start reaching for the deluxe-size bottle of sleeping pills when I relate a story of hope), but their means are much more limited. In contrast to the omnipresence of the Höfbräuhaus experience, art, no matter its medium, is limited and the audience has control over its reception. A painter can paint his picture, the musician write her song, the director combine the visual and audio into a film, but their ultimate products do not consume in the same way. Even more, we can change the circumstances of our experience of the art. I can move the painting and those that surround it to create new points of contrast and comparison. I can listen to the song by myself in a dark room during a thunderstorm or with others during a tea party. Even if I watch the film in a theater, which attempts to absorb us into the experience as completely possible, the edges of the screen are still visible and the other audience members intrude on our experience. And, in the ultimate show of control, we can always turn it off or look away. Go to Höfbräuhaus, and you are within the experience until you leave.

Again, in the hopes of avoiding comparisons with a certain recently deceased philosopher whom I despise, I offer the disclaimer that I have strayed into hyperbole in my description of the control exhibited in these consuming experiences. Of course human agency still exists within them. It is more the intention of the consuming experience creators that I am raging against here than any practical matter.

Thursday, October 11


Should you be one of those extraordinary people who come to my blog neither through direct familial connections or read it through the importation of posts to Facebook, you will have not heard the most exciting news I have had in a while (Though, if you did know it, that would be pretty mind-blowing. And weird.). My application to volunteer in Indonesia through the International Humanity Foundation was accepted earlier this week. Immediately after classes end at Gonzaga, I will be helping out at an orphanage in Jakarta and teaching a class, probably on English, arithmetic or computers, for a month. It will mark my first foray across the Pacific Ocean and ought to yield one of the most displacing experiences of my twenty years upon this Earth. Yeah, I am in Munich now and will be in this foreign nation for a few months more, but it is still a developed city and Western Europe, nothing like I expect Jakarta will be, especially the part I assume I will end up in. Allow me to reiterate. Last weekend the possibility of going skiing in Austria for three days in December, all costs taken care of by this most generous family, was made available to me. I am still more excited about Indonesia.

This is kind of a big deal, leaving the States for a month this summer, and it may very well ruin my chances for an internship with a newspaper and other interesting jobs. I bloody well better have a good reason for doing it. And I think I do. I have written previously on the topics of volunteering and charity, through my anticipation of Mission: Possible in San Antonio and general experiences with student social justice clubs, and you will find within them my personal motivation for volunteering in the abstract and its expression in the practical.

To avoid redundancy, allow me to skip to my impressions of IHF and their operation thus far. There are months of planning and work to go and I have just barely entered the fringes of the entire operation, but my excitement has only found the most fertile ground in them. When I was searching for an opportunity like this earlier this year, what first attracted me to IHF was their prices. You buy the plane ticket, pay $20 a week for food and promise a month. Kind of stands out against those organizations that are asking for thousands of dollars for a week, all the while promising cultural activities and a chance to get to really know the country and do some good while you are at it which ring false with me, more of a mild upper to make you feel better about spending so much money on yourself than a genuine opportunity to help. But as more e-mails come in from IHF, reminding me of my responsibilities and duties since being accepted, I learn just how much more there is to it. This is not going to be an isolated month-long experience. Before I get on the plane, they request at least eight hours of work from me (I am currently assigned to the Photography and Online Media teams though I have no idea what all that will entail) besides all of the planning and contacting I need to do myself. When I get back to the States, my work will hardly be over. There will be experiences to record and people to share them with, and I suspect that my team membership will continue on and still keep me involved with IHF. They expect me to truly invest myself in this and not just be done after a month. I hold that ideal in the highest regard. If you are going to do something, do it all out and make it matter to yourself.

But there is still more. My memory fails me at the moment, and I cannot remember whether I have mentioned on this blog that I am a Journalism major, though, considering my imagined readership, you probably know that already. Not surprisingly, the industry right now is trash as no one has figured out a good way to make money with online journalism. Over the summer I lived in the same house as an intern for the local paper, and she went to a conference in Miami one weekend. She had just graduated and of course was looking for a job, so she checked out the recruiting area. Absolutely no one was hiring. Now this must have been a major conference as she came from one of the farthest possible points in the continental United States for it, so the likelihood of newspapers not being represented there is slim. Even though I consider myself a lucky person, I do not like those odds. I kind of need a job and may need to expand my outlook. Really, getting a job with an organization like IHF does have a certain appeal to me. This could be a chance to look more consciously consider it.

Tuesday, October 9


This evening, the option of going on a Schnitzeljagd was made available to all the students in my study-abroad program. If you have more than a passing knowledge of German, you might, understandably, translate it as "meat cutlet hunt." A search for the best Schnitzel in all of Munich, perhaps? No, actually it means "scavenger hunt," which works out just fine for this vegetarian. Not surprisingly, not all of the students participated, and half of those who started dropped out shortly thereafter, disappointed by the lack of Schnitzel eating. Personally, I enjoyed it. Yeah, the scavenger hunt should have held a few hours earlier when certain museums and churches were still open, but I went down a few streets I didn't know about, a few I forgot about (including the street with the most expensive stores in all of Munich. I really need to get back and see if anyone will politely ask me to leave a store, as it is bleeding obvious from my clothes and hair that I lack the funds for any of it.) and learned a little more of Munich's history.

The ending, however, was a disappointment, the final item of the hunt was to record a saying on an inner wall of Höfbräuhaus. Höfbräuhaus is in the most touristy street in the city. Directly opposite Höfbräuhaus , where Oktoberfest continues on through November and all those other months, is a Hard Rock Café. Further down the street one can find the obligatory soccer store and a few souvenir stores of the despicable sort that sell Oktoberfest shirts playing off of more recognizable designs and ridiculously ornate and unusable beer steins. Mercifully, this street is buried a few blocks back from the far more interesting parts of the city.

What caught my attention the most about Höfbräuhaus house was, of all things, the band. All men, none younger than 50, carefully groomed facial hair was the norm, and each of them was completely decked out in lederhosen. A thought that occurred to me then. You would never see a woman in that band. It would break the image of Bavaria that the establishment is trying so hard to maintain.

Why is it then that this is such an attraction? The people who go there have to know that the Munich of Höfbräuhaus is an illusion. It takes work to find the place, and I find it incredibly difficult to believe, though certainly not impossible, that one would go only there and miss out on Odeonsplatz or Marienplatz, both less than half mile away and major traffic hubs. If nothing else, the dominance of English there has to tip one off that something is a little wrong about this place. Why are people so eager to jump into this illusion? Is it adult dress-up, an opportunity to play in a fantasy land that does not exist by normal rules?

Höfbräuhaus is not selling food and drink. It is selling an experience with "real" Munich culture, no different than Disneyland's invitation into a land of imagination and magic.

Screw that. You want the real Munich culture? You walk the streets for a month and meet people and go to the bars where the Bayrisch is so thick a native Berliner could not understand the people. Experiences come about no matter what and get the most interesting when they exceed our sadly limited expectations and imagination. Businesses, do not railroad people into some sort of packaged experience, and people, do not buy into them. Give the kids their blocks to play with and discover the possibilities. Do not show the little guys how they go together and then make them do it like that every time.

And before I stray too far into hyperbole and come off like some T-Ball Baudrillard, I remain thankful that these places lack the ability to control every aspect of your experience. Things slip through, and people respond differently than expected.

Thursday, October 4

Considering "Sophie Scholl: Die Letzten Tage"

To keep in mind before anything further is written, my viewing of Sophie Scholl: Die Letzten Tage was not the most typical. As one might infer from the title, this is a German movie. My German, though improving dramatically since arriving in Munich, is not the strongest, especially in the oral. Thankfully, the movie was shown with German subtitles. Unfortunately, trying to keep with them turned most of my attention away from the action, and my understanding was not always top flight, though an earlier discussion of what to expect did help immensely. Like I wrote earlier, just keep this all in mind as I may not be the most trustworthy reviewer because of that.

Suffice to say, this movie is one of brave resistance, particularly that of Sophie Scholl, in the face of tyranny and evil unto death. Sophie, the titular character and her brother, Hans, along with other student friends and a professor published and anonymously distributed the White Rose, a series of fliers advocating resistance to the Nazi government. Upon distributing the final flier in their university, the Scholls were seen and arrested. They and their friend Christoph Probst underwent three days of interrogation before being found guilty of high treason and were executed by beheading. The film has a high claim to factual integrity as so many records in the form of the group's writings and documents concerning the interrogation and sham trial are available, though is does make clear in the beginning that creative license was taken.

Really, this movie did nothing to excite me. There is nothing to specifically criticize about the film. It is competently put together, but no special effort to make it stand out seemed to be taken. It appears as though the director was content to rely on conventions, a final meeting with the parents that cements our assurance that what Sophie has done is right and the possibility that her determination made a concrete difference in the beliefs of her interrogator, without reaching for greatness. University students were put to death simply for the things they wrote. Not only that but their executions were hastened. Typically, the condemned had 99 days. The Scholls and Probst were killed the day of their judgment. These are powerful things, and instead of drawing on them, the director has Sophie, the lone voice of reason and lover of freedom, calmly face her interrogator and, later, the judge, both tools of the system and prone to outbreaks of shouting. Except for the language and German courtroom style, this does nothing to distinguish itself from any number of hack courtroom dramas or dystopian science fiction.

But is it true? Is this really how it all came down? If that is the case, then my previously stated concerns are inconsequential and my response to the movie can then be marked up to an inadequate director, actors, etc. or my own coldness to others' emotions. But the film did come out and say that it took liberties. A consideration of the relationship between historical truth and entertainment seems like an appropriate topic for a future post because I bloody well do not intend on overwhelming a purported review with that.

Nothing illustrates my lack of excitement in the film itself more than what interested me the most in the film: the fact that I had been in entrance hall to Ludwig-Maximilian-Universität earlier that day, the site of Hans and Sophie Scholl's capture following their most daring release of White Rose fliers. Yes, it is utterly provincial of me to get some thrill for having a minor relationship to a movie, but it is there. And I thought that the possibility of a little filming for a little romantic comedy with Snoop Dogg and Joe Pantolian (not together, as I understand it) in the house I lived in this past summer was exciting.

The thing that sticks in my throat the most about Die Letzten Tage and possibly the historical event itself, is the treatment of the Holocaust, and this is undoubtedly related to my American perspective. Excepting a brief moment when Sophie and her interrogator consider the rightness of the Nazi government, no mention is made of the forced migration of Jews into concentration camps or their mass execution. Taking my understanding from the movie, the impetus for the White Rose was the time Hans spent on the Eastern Front as a doctor and his realization that Germany could not win the war. For the majority of Americans, the Eastern Front is a non-issue with respect to World War II, certainly nothing compared to the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, D-Day or the dropping of the atomic bombs. Sympathizing for the White Rose is more difficult when its resistance seems founded on the more pragmatic belief that Hitler was a moron for waging war on two fronts than for hating the Holocaust, the far greater tragedy. Is it reasonable to assume that the members of the White Rose might have known what was happening? I do not know. I realize that there is some debate as to just how aware the German populace was of what was happening to the Jews and am not sure on the timing of the founding of extermination camps, but this is a question better answered by a World War II scholar. The answer does nothing to tarnish their courage, but it certainly does affect our perceptions of them.

I had never heard of the siblings or their resistance before, so I have no idea just how big of heroes they are for Germany as a whole. LMU's celebration of them though certainly cannot be denied . The two fountains directly in front of the main building were renamed in both their and Probst's honor and reproductions of the White Rose are permanently embedded in the stone work around them. There is even a permanent exhibit just past the main entrance, and a projector constantly displays quotes and passages by the members of White Rose above it.

Wednesday, October 3

An argument in favor of Facebook

It is not terribly difficult to find diatribes against social networking sites, MySpace regularly taking criticism for being a haven for predators and Facebook picking up proportionally more heat, both in the practical and more theoretical realms, in accordance with its insane growth and popularity. Just check out Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism, A Dad's Encounter with The Vortex of Facebook and this video clip. And though there is no dearth of supporters, those who see social-networking sites as the herald of Web 2.o and great democratizer of the Internet, I would like to add my own voice here in consideration of another aspect of Facebook, the only social-networking site I have any experience in.

Outside these arguments on narcissism and privacy, Facebook simply remains a valuable communication medium, one whose additional means suggest different levels of intimacy in our correspondences. Consider this simplification, without Facebook one's primary means of personal communication are most likely face-to-face, phone and e-mail (with some generations, possibly an instant messenger as well but letter writing fell out of favor before I even knew enough people well enough that I wanted to keep in touch). Facebook adds Wall posts, comments and messages into the mix. In a fundamental essence, they all are simply ways of exchanging information. If I wanted to know what the homework assignment in literature was or how someone enjoyed a concert, I could glean the information through any of these means. The thing is, I do not use just any of them, and the responses I receive would not be the same either.

I specifically use certain means in certain situations. I would never ask someone why they broke into tears and ran from their wedding on their Wall just the same as telling a friend they need help would be inconceivable in any form that was not face-to-face. How we communicate suggests a lot. Face-to-face communication may be the most intrusive as telling someone they have no time to talk when they are looking into the other's eyes is highly impolite, but it is also the most honest when there is no time for self-editing and body language to consider on top of tone of voice and mere words. Telephone calls and instant messenger are also highly intrusive, though less so than face-to-face and it is easier to ignore them, claim that you were not around, but there is less intimacy and no problem with making them quick. E-mail, Facebook messages and letter writing, the least intrusive as they demand no immediate response, demonstrate great intimacy because of the time it takes for one to organize their thoughts and lay them down. Wall posts are interesting. Suitable only for brief messages, maybe a "Hey, I was reminded of you after watching Lost last night," or "Check out this link" (albeit with poorer grammar and many more exclamation points), Wall posts are also public to all who check the Facebook profile, changing their use entirely. You might arrange a concert outing over a Wall in the hopes that others might see it and ask to come along or keep its arrangement strictly over more private lines if it is to be a more intimate evening together. Strangely enough, Wall posts may be considered the most casual of the forms of communication I listed, perhaps because they are so unintrusive and often so short. I distinctly remember a friend trying to convince another that she should get an account because she did not know the other well enough to give a random call but did want to stay in touch through Wall posts.

Lines of communication are loaded with meaning outside of the words alone. They suggest the level of intimacy between the correspondents, the importance of the message and more still. This consideration must not be pushed to the side.