Archive for the ‘Shout Outs’ Category


Cubist Perspectives: Vicky, Kevin, and Sina as Art Objects.

Shout Outs to Vicky and Kevin for their wonderful hospitality. Shout Outs to Elizabeth for kindly connecting us with each other!

I really enjoyed my stay in El Paso!

Be Your Own Artwork: El Paso Art Afternoon.

on May 28, 2012 by SN

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Concrete and a Creek: Houston’s Urban Landscape

In Shout Outs,Sina's Posts,Trips on May 12, 2012 by SN

Besides its great art museums, Houston also has an interesting urban landscape. On Sunday, I took a huge 7-hour walking tour all around town in order to get a sense of the city. I decided to meander along the Buffalo Bayou creek and park towards downtown. To my surprise, the river was not one of those straightened waterways with concrete to both sides, but it flowed naturally as if this was a river in the wilderness 200 years ago.

Creek and Concrete: Buffalo Bayou Park and Downtown Skyscrapers.

Set against the rectangular skyscrapers in the background, the landscape was suddenly composed of opposites: Concrete meets creek, gray meets green, civilization meets wilderness.

This clash between 19th century Western wilderness and 20th century urbanization is also reinforced by the many highways which run partly above the Buffalo Bayou, sometimes even several stories high. What a sight!

Creek Meets Concrete: Higway Lanes Several Stories High.

Creek Meets Concrete: Underneath the Higway System.

Although I haven’t seen oil wells in or around Houston, this exorbitant highway architecture is a clear sign that there was lots of oil available in the region. I see a clear connection between the many highways and Houston as a hub of oil production as the availability of oil and gas lead to car madness and sprawl.

Accellerator of Sprawl: Houston Highway System.

Yet, while the car is the dominant mode of transportation because of the historic availability of oil, Houstonians increasingly challenge this dominance. A couple of years ago, a METRO light rail system was installed that runs on a north-south axis from downtown to the outskirts. Someone sarcastically mentioned that the tram connects the football and the baseball stadium showing the interest groups behind its construction. The light rail is currently expanded by an East-West line. Besides taking the new tram, more and more Houstonians ride their bike in the city, sometimes they can even use new bike lanes!

My walking tour led me pretty much all aroun downtown along Tranquility Park, which commemorates the space flight, Market Square in the ‘historic’ district, and the Discovery Green park.

Finally, let me briefly mention my accommodation in Houston, the HI Hostel Houston. It is one of the best hostels I have stayed at so far in North America! Located in the hip and alternative neighborhood Montrose, it was built in 1918 as the residence for the Houston Mayor at this time. Opened only in September 2011, the freshly renovated gem is a classic Southern mansion with hardwood floors, French doors, a hammock, BBQ pavillion, and a great swimming pool.

HI Hostel Houston: A Gem in the Montrose Neighborhood.

The interior gives way to modern furniture while the dominating colors are white and gray.

HI Houston: Modern Interior Design.

HI Houston: Modern, Not Cold.

Yet, despite the modern look, it always felt comfortable, warm, and very inviting to me. Grace, the General Manager of HI Houston, did an extremely good job in decorating and making this hostel feeling like home. She was very nice and talked to us often. Her cool style and the laid-back atmosphere was felt by each one of the 12 guests from Austria, Australia, Japan, Canada, etc.: We shared the pool, had dinner together, and many inspiring conversations. Among the most intriguing guests was Don, a 63-year old military retiree from Michigan who has been travelling since November 2005. The guests had one thing in common: being open to new adventures, to searching for the unknown, and to learning about different cultures while simultaneously learning about ourselves. I really, really enjoyed staying there.

Shout outs to Grace for her wonderful hospitality!


A Weeked at Wesleyan: Organizing the First Ruhr Film Festival in the United States

In Shout Outs,Sina's Posts,Trips on May 4, 2012 by SN

When my friend Kate and I met at Dortmund University last year, we both discovered our fascination with the Ruhr Area’s past and culture. While sipping a delicious coffee underneath the sunny Rheinoldikirche, we had the idea to organize a film festival that acknowledged the rich heritage of the metropolitan region.

This idea became reality on the weekend of the 13 and 14 April at Kate’s alma mater and current workplace, Wesleyan University. Wesleyan is a well-known liberal arts university located in Middletown, a small town in the heart of Connecticut. It has about 3,000 students and is a bit bigger than Oglethorpe. I have known the university through its publisher, Wesleyan University Press, which has books on all kinds of innovative topics.

Wesleyan’s Home: The City of Middletown in Spring.

Wesleyan University: Historic Buildings on Campus.

A Liberal Arts University: Protest Against Fracking.

The film festival that Kate and I organized examined the various ruptures of the Ruhrgebiet and the birth pains of a post-industrial society through the medium of film. We investigated how exemplar films represent the area, and how they engage in the complex issues of deindustrialization, demographic change, and cultural transformation. We were very, very grateful to have the genuine support the Wesleyan German Studies Department, especially Professor Leo Lensing and Dr. Iris Bork-Goldfield, for this unique two-day event. Shout outs to them!

(Re-)Imagining Post-Industrial Urbanity: Poster.

We started off on Friday night with a short introductory session on the imaginations of the Ruhr Area presented by me and on the ongoing transformation process from industry to culture by Kate. The three films we showed over the two days represent the Ruhr Area in very different ways.

The first film on Friday night, Bang Boom Bang appropriated popular films of the late 1990s like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and transferred those gangster stories to suburban Unna near Dortmund. Our audience liked the film very much because of its irony and crime caper comedy. One audience member remarked after the screening that it “was a very American film” because of the above-mentioned influences.

The award-winning documentary Losers and Winners, the second film shown on Saturday afternoon, follows the destruction of the Dortmund cockery Kokerei Kaiserstuhl and juxtaposes the decline taking place in Dortmund with the hope of Chinese workers shipping the entire factory to China. It left the audience startled about the seemingly senseless dismantling of infrastructure and abandonment of local knowledge about the production of coke.

The third film on Saturday evening, the 2002 feature Solino, interrogates how immigrants create a sense of belonging to the Ruhr Area. The award-winning film portrays an Italian family who left their hometown Solino in the 1960s in order start a new life in the city of Duisburg. After the screening we talked about how both of the cities are manifested through its surface of stone and plaster. Yet, Solino is represented in a much more nostalgic and yellow-filtered manner than the gray and claustrophobic facades of Duisburg. Does that tell us something about the director’s nostalgia for his Turkish roots?

We concluded with the insight that the films establish the Ruhr Area as an model of transformation from the industrial past into a post-industrial future. Those films constitute not only a response to structural change in Germany or Europe, but they could also serve as an inspiration for urban change still ongoing in many cities of the North East.

We were very proud that our festival caught the attention of the Wesleyan blogger community. It was announced at many web platforms, such as the Wesleyan Writing Blog, the WesLive Blog, Wesleying, another Wesleyan Blog, and the German Studies blog. The 1st International Ruhr Film Festival was a great success and put the Ruhr Area on the Wesleyan map. Besides hosting this event, it was wonderful to see Kate again and catch up on our own personal memories of the Ruhrpott.


I’ve Been to the Mountaintop! III

In Shout Outs,Sina's Posts,Trips on May 1, 2012 by SN

On Sunday morning, 1 April, I went downtown to see the latest developments at Ground Zero. The last time I visited Lower Manhattan was in 2009 with Tamás. Walking to the former WTC site I was stunned by the ongoing construction:

The New Skyscraper in Lower Manhattan: One WTC.

New 'Skraper in Town: One WTC.

Artist's Gaze: One WTC.

As of today, May 1, 2012, One WTC is again the tallest building in New York City. The New York Times praises “A tower has again become an inescapable presence at the southern end of Manhattan.”

After a stroll around Ground Zero, I went for lunch with Tony, one of my long-time friends whom I met in 2005 during my DAAD internship. We had sushi in the Village, lots of surreal and absurd stories to catch up, and many hearty and loud laughs.

Holler at Ya! Tony and Sina in Greenwich Village.

Meeting Tony and his wife Emmie makes me realize how much I miss living in the citay! Shout Outs to my most favorite Tony and Emmie!


I’ve Been to the Mountaintop! II

In Shout Outs,Sina's Posts,Trips on April 28, 2012 by SN

On Friday noon, 30 March 2012, I flew to New York City to attend the conference Show and Prove. It was organized Dr. Imani Kai Johnson, Assistant Professor at the NYU Performance Studies Department, and Dr. Marcella Runell Hall, Associate Director of the Center for Multicultural Education & Training. It was nice to see Marcella again as I met her a few years ago at another conference. This year’s topic “The Tensions, Contradictions, and Possibilities of Hip-Hop Studies in Practice” has the objective to provide “an opportunity for a community of scholars, practitioners, and Hip Hop lovers to come together and address the challenges and possibilities of the field” (Show and Prove 2012).  Like many hip-hop conferences, this one is also very interdisciplinary ranging from MA students to renowned scholars, from East Coast to West Coast guests, guests from Europe to America, all the way from scholars to artists and activists. This interdisciplinarity is what I admire and enjoy most about studying hip-hop.

Attending this conference at NYU was really a dream come true. Not only it is taking place in the city that influenced my personal and academic development, it is also taking place at one of my all-time most favorite American universities. No disrespect for Oglethorpe though!

My special relationship with the City was already apparent when the plane approached New York City. I was greeted by Brooklyn’s Coney Island:

Last Exit Brooklyn: Coney Island.

Show and Prove started off on Friday evening with a presentation on the inspiring book Hip Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education by Sam Seidel which addresses the question how educators and pedagogics can use the potential of hip-hop culture:

Saturday morning (31 March) kicked off with my presentation on “Hip Hop as a Transnational Phenomenon” in the panel Hip Hop and Europe. I felt very honored to be introduced by NYU graduate student Joel McIlven as a “pioneer of European Hip Hop Studies”. That gave me just the last push to hold one of the best presentations in my academic career so far! In my paper I argued for a closer examination of the various transnational flows back and forth across borders, thus taking a new angle on the study of hip-hop which is mostly though of in terms of an appropriation of American hip-hop to the various cultural contexts in Europe. In discussing the famous Kraftwerk sample by Afrika Bambaataa and American hip-hop heads’ encounter of the Wuppertal-based crew Walkin’ Large, I showed how German music and hip-hop has traveled to America and created a contact zones of exchange, interaction, and (sometimes also) confusion. The panel also featured an American sociologist who researches how Tyrolean teenagers appropriate hip hop language into their lives in the Alps. The third presentation dealt with hip-hop from a French jazz musicologist’s perspective. Our session went very well and our talks converged just wonderfully with each other. We were all awarded with great feedback on our presentation afterwards. A couple of days later I even received an follow-up email with the subject “brilliant paper”. Word!

The conference was inspiring in terms of the presentations and the people. I listened to very interesting presentations on all kinds of hip-hop topics, such as suicide in American rap lyrics, or how an Atlanta dentist uses hip-hop to educate the inmates at the Warren detention center, etc. I also met wonderful people, such as a political science professor from our, that is, Dortmund’s, Israeli partner university Ben-Gurion who is currently a visiting scholar at NYU. I was introduced to Farbeon, director of The Hip Hop Re:Education project, who enthusiastically told me about the transnational music projects that emerge from the exchange between Bronx and Berlin hip-hop artists. I talked with Brooklyn MC Eprhyme about the need for theorizing hip hop as a transnational practice (see his latest music video below). And finally, I chatted with Johan, who wrote the first PhD thesis on hip-hop in Sweden.

The most amazing moments were when I talked to the artists who helped to establish the Bronx as a creative place in the 1970s – one of the three main parts of my dissertation. A session featured an interview of Carlos MARE 139 Rodriguez, a famous graffiti writer back in the day.

Graffiti Writer MARE 139 (left), Interviewer iona rozeal brown (center), and Show and Prove Organizer Imani Kai Johnson (right).

It was intriguing to hear him talk eloquently about how he started graffiti writing and where graffiti and hip-hop stands today. While he was talking, pictures from Martha Cooper’s Street Play were shown in the back which I knew by heart because I analyzed them in the course of my dissertation.

MARE 139 and Photographs of the South Bronx.

I felt that I had never been closer to the subject of my dissertation in all those years than on this day. Here was one of the pioneers of the graffiti movement in the Bronx sitting in front of me and telling his story. Incredible!

After the interview I had to go downstairs out on the street to digest of what I had just been part of. Standing outside I bumped into another “founding father” of hip-hop: Jorge “Popmaster Fabel” Pabón, Vice President of the Rock Steady Crew, the famous break dance crew of the 1970s! I told him about my research and he was very delighted to hear that a young German researcher is so dedicated to studying the Bronx. After he finished his cigarette he said goodbye and vanished in the afternoon crowd on Broadway. What an amazing experience!

Living Legends: Graffiti Writer MARE 139 (left) and Rock Steady Vice President Popmaster Fabel (right) at Show and Prove 2012.

Thank you NYU <3 and especially Imani and Marcella for putting together such a wonderful event!


German Culture in ATL 9: Hello Goethe!

In German Culture in ATL,Shout Outs,Sina's Posts on February 28, 2012 by SN

Goethe Meets Ogle: The Goethe Zentrum Atlanta at Oglethorpe University.

Today, Miriam Bruns, the Program Director of the Goethe Zentrum Atlanta, her current intern, and volunteer came to my GER 290 seminar German Culture in the U.S. We talked about the specific character of German cultural policy, learned how the Goethe Zentrum differs from the Goethe Institut parent organization, and discussed the challenges and perspectives of cultural work here in Atlanta. The students really enjoyed the highly insightful workshop “From Faust to Madsen: German Cultural Policy in Atlanta”.

Thank you, Goethe Zentrum Atlanta for stopping by!


Sina's Birthday Cake by Tommy G.

Shout Outs and Thank You to Ian, Jake, Makiha, Nicole, and Thomas!

Shout Outs 5: To All Ya Birthday Bashers!

on February 3, 2012 by SN

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