2019/12/26 Hiking in Japan

I'm painfully aware of the fact that I come from this country called Japan, that I

2019/12/14 Update: My personal movie ranking of 2019

CINEMA SaalThis year, just like every year, we had quite some movie sessions at my place. Some of the movies were particularly good, and some of them were particularly bad. My overall impression is we've chosen rather good ones this year. Here's my personal ranking. I enlisted only the ones that we watched together and of course I watched a lot more, but the ones that I watched alone will probably appear at the movie sessions, so I guess it's more appropriate not to put them here yet. Let me know what you think! (NB: the movies are given in the order of dates in each category)

5 stars

  • 1/19 Casablanca
  • 2/16 The song of sparrows
  • 10/4 Babam ve Oglum
  • 11/30 About Elly
  • 12/13 It's a wonderful world

Even though I am also a big fan of comedy movies (to watch at the movie sessions), all of the best ones turned out to be drama (maybe a little bit except for "The song of sparrows", which has a good mixture of comedy and drama, which was also the reason that I put it here). As it turned out, we got only 2 US American movies.. Or we can also put it other way around: I found it amazing that the only two Iranian movies and the only one Turkish movie that we watched turned out to be so good. I'm going to talk about it below as well, but Casablanca belongs to the era, in which the movies could still take rather fundamental plots, i.e. the best ones of that time were so rudimentary that it would be rather lame if they were produced today. But regardless of this, Casablanca still belongs to one of the masterpieces even for today's standards. The same applies to It's a wonderful world. I found it so weird that there were so many people who had never watched this movie (and I found it amazing that everyone loved this movie).

I guess these Iranian and Turkish movies turned out to be so good is because they vividly express what human compassion was all about. And the interplay of pride, ethics and the reality was demonstrated in a universal way (who didn't think human nature was culture-dependent?). I must say that the fact that we started discussing the movie after the movie session brought a huge contribution to the quality of the movie sessions, just by looking at what kind of movies I'm talking about here.

4 stars

  • 1/26 Rain man
  • 2/23 Ladri di biciclette
  • 3/2 Taare Zameen Par
  • 3/9 A star is born
  • 3/16 Roma
  • 11/9 Ikiru
  • 12/6 V for Vendetta

First of all, "A star is born" was almost in the 5-star category. The only one reason that I placed it here is because it's a remake - I'll probably never know what was the exact contribution of Bradley Cooper. Whether it's because of the filming technique or the story, you'll feel yourself being very close to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, which makes the drama even more dramatic as it goes towards the end.

There are two classical movies that are supposed to be the master pieces of all times: Ladri di biciclette and Ikiru. As I mentioned above, I guess the fact is rather, at that time they could take the best portions of cake as they were always the first ones to tell the story. So even though I still think that these movies were neat, I wouldn't say they belong to the best movies ever. This being said, I still think Kurosawa's first movie that we watched here was worthwhile.

I was a bit split about "Roma" - on the one hand, I'd say "yes, this is art" and on the other hand I might still say "well, it's easy to make an artistic black and white movie". Anyway, the entire movie has a subtle tone of black and white atmosphere, and stands out because it's sort of rare these days.

3 stars

  • 1/5 The 39 steps
  • 2/2 Gegen die Wand
  • 2/9 Minority report
  • 3/23 Gone girl
  • 8/2 Diamond hand
  • 10/19 Drive
  • 11/2 Hacksaw Ridge
  • 11/16 Le concert

If you talk about Soviet movies with Russians, probably they'll mention "diamond hand" at some point. After having been impressed by other Gaidai movies (e.g. "Kidnapping, Caucasian style", "Operation Y", "Ivan Vasilievitch" etc.), I watched "diamond hand" with full expectations. Well, this one was actually not as striking as other Gaidai movies. I can see the Soviet effort of putting other cultures in the foreground, as we can see in "Gypsies are found near heaven" and "Mimino", but this one was not the most successful one in this regard either.

Another movie that didn't really match my expectations was "Le concert", which had a great background plot, but then with Mélanie Laurent clearly not playing the violin and the uncalled for ending, they somehow missed the score that was right there for them.

Not to recommend:

  • 5/11 Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • 9/14 It

2019/11/27 I bought a new computer

Late 2016 MacBook ProFrankly, it is rather a wonder that there are people who don't have a computer at home in Germany nowadays, especially among the professional programmers. As a matter of fact, I didn't, for more than 3 years, since the day that my old Mac Book Pro was destroyed by my flatmate of that time and I thought it's enough to have a mobile phone at home. At least at that time, I was not particularly wrong. The problem is that things didn't evolve much for the mobile phones as much as I had imagined, while things around me evolved a lot. Still to this day, I think it makes much more sense to build mobile phones that work just like a real computer as soon as they are connected to a monitor, with a Bluetooth keyboard and the mobile phone itself becoming the touch pad, since the mobile phones are already so powerful. Well, as I already stated, this never happened. And now I surrendered, and bought a new computer.

The reason why I bought one in this moment is not only because Apple just released the newest Mac Book Pro, but also because I have pretty much nothing to declare for this year at the tax declaration. In addition to this, there's this book called Capital in the twenty first century written by Thomas Piketty, which I bought on kindle on Dec. 12, 2017 and took two years to finish, in which he explained how economy works. It was with absolute certainty not his intention to make me waste money, but it is true that there could be a world in the near future where those who don't invest money at all are punished. To the very least the inflation is real, so leaving money in the bank is certainly not the wisest thing to do.

Whether my productivity goes up, or whether I see a positive effect on my life, is to be seen. At least I wrote this text with my new computer. And it's true that I wouldn't have written this with my phone, not only because the subject wouldn't have been pertinent, but also this much text on the phone is still not quite as easy as it could potentially be (with the idea I stated above).

2019/11/03 I re-joined an orchestra

It's been some time since I posted something on this page. Of course there a lot of things happened in the meantime, one of which happened to be Olli's birthday party. Olli is as you might already know one of the regular participants of the hiking events that I've been organizing since I moved to Düsseldorf. The thing is, she organized it at her place, but nearly all the people who joined there were people I already knew from the hikes. Well, this is essentially what happens with the events around me: I see only people from the hikes. This itself is not particularly a problem, but as you might remember me talking about the my fear of belonging to a group (cf. this post). And also I'm really not a kind of person who sticks to the same people all the time. I slowly start suffocating when I have the same person(-s) right next to me, whether while hiking or elsewhere.

So, there's of course the possibility of extending the hiking group, like by making a new Facebook group or otherwise advertising it elsewhere. But then we'll simply have more of these like minded people. Rather than doing so, I started looking at other activities. I seriously started thinking about enrolling in a university or something, like years after I got my PhD in physics. Crazy, isn't it?

Fortunately, I got a better idea: joining an orchestra at the university. You might already know that I was part of this Japanese orchestra in Düsseldorf a few months ago. But I quit it because I couldn't stand their revisionist view. Since then, I didn't really do anything about music. But since the new semester started, I thought it might be a good idea to give it a try at the university this time. Then, at the beginning of October when they had the first rehearsal, I simply joined them. It was impressive to see a real orchestra with 15 celli or so.

Well, then I was away for two weeks and right after I came back, there was a small audition for new ones, which apparently I passed fairly okay. Actually quite as much okay as the conductor made me sit in the first row at the rehearsal, which allowed me to bring chaos to this peaceful orchestra.

Anyway, now officially I'm part of the orchestra. The next concert is going to be at the beginning of the year 2020. Please look forward to the future development.

2019/09/29 Sense of learning

There's this TV drama called 16 über Nacht (16 over night), which I was watching a few years ago in an airplane, for no particular reason. It tells a story about a 40 year old housewife, who is married to her former teacher. She visits her former school one day, where she by magic turns into 16 year old herself. She then starts living at her best friend's place and visiting her former school as an ordinary student, where she tries to help her daughter (who was also 16) and fend off all female students to prevent her husband from having affairs.

Well, you probably wouldn't be surprised to hear that I closed the session before it was over. I also don't really care where the story was going afterwards; I'm pretty sure that it would have made me face palm over and over again. Yet, I'm talking about this, because there was one striking scene, that couldn't have been possibly more German than anything else: The mother-turned-into-16-year-old then visits her old school, where she attends a biology class. And the teacher asks a question that could not be possibly answered by a 16-year old, and she quite eloquently gives an answer, to the astonishment of everyone else in the class. So the implication is that stuff learnt by 16-year-olds is easy as pie for a 40-year-old. But this way of thinking is by any standards typical in other countries.

There's this huge culture of private schools in Japan, called Juku, which has been a huge thing since the end of Japan's economic boom. The weird thing is though, Japanese women usually did not work at that time. So while kids went to private schools, mothers stayed at home (and did virtually nothing). This totally makes sense to Japanese parents, because for the Japanese standards school children learn things only school children should know. And their content has no meaning in real life.

This summer, my exchange students from Japan seemed surprised to see they and I could talk about things like history, economics (not to mention foreign languages, physics or math) etc., simply because it is so rare that adults can talk about this kind of stuff in Japan. But then, again, it's maybe also not only a Japanese thing. It seems to me that Germany is rather exceptional in this regard.

Düsseldorf unfortunately is not a particularly intellectual city, and what I'm telling here about Germany does not really apply to Düsseldorf. So what I'm telling here does not straightforwardly apply to my daily life here. Whatever the current situation is like, maybe it's a good idea to try it out, to show how interesting things can appear.

One thing I tried out was this T-Day, that I talked about in the last article. This is almost like an extension of school, which might appear crazy depending on your cultural background. It indeed didn't arrive very well at the beginning when I introduced it in France, but then after a few sessions, we indeed started enjoying it. Then, actually we didn't end up simply enjoying it; it was actually a session, where we indeed appreciated the difference of origin, like those who hadn't spoken much played an important role, as they all had a mother tongue, which made every one of them special.

What's more, it actually allowed some people to recognize that other languages are closely related to their languages. For example, I knew that in contrast to Russian, Ukrainian is fairly close to West Slavic languages, such as Polish or Slovak, which you might notice when you hear their accent in English, as the Ukrainian accent sounds much more like the Polish one. Anyway, a friend of mine from Slovakia didn't know it, and found out that she could directly understand Ukrainian. Well, by doing so, people might feel that other people are actually closer to them than they initially thought. Well, maybe I'm hoping too much. But the point is clear: learning isn't something you do just for school, but it's something that indeed makes sense in life. With this in mind, I'll continue looking forward to how I could contribute to its sense in the future.