Not so long ago I visited the Franz Kafka Museum in Prague. The exhibition follows a transparent concept, it provides the geographical context of both Kafka’s life and his novels through audio-visual installations, historic pictures and reproductions of original documents i.e. Kafka’s letters, guide-lines he wrote for the insurance company that employed him, first editions of his novels. Two elements stand out: the scale model of the torture instrument in “The Penal Colony” and a video-installation about the novel “The Castle”. This short and scary black-and-white movie, accompanied by equally scary piano music send a couple of shivers down my spine. A castle with high walls, hostile looking people, a menacing isolated figure in a tavern… fear. I felt the inspiration for a post coming, focused on the subject of fear.
Is this a piano? It’s hard to believe, but it actually is a piano. No electricity involved, no laser beams, just a piano and an incredible pianist: Vikingur Olafsson from Iceland. And a piece that sounds more like a piece of electro-pop from the 1980s than Philip Glass’ “Etudes”. Glass published a first set of Etudes in 1994, a second followed in 2012. Olafsson has focused on Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 20 to honour the composer’s 80th birthday.
Have you heard of SETI? SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and no, it’s not some esoteric self-finding trip I signed up to. It is a scientific project actually, run by volunteers at the University of California in Berkeley. It was funded for some time by NASA. Basically it analyses radio-waves from deep space, looking for pattern that would betray some form of intelligence. A huge volume of data, captured by radio telescopes, needs to be analysed, and the project relies on decentralized computing. All over the world, me and other volunteers like me download data sets. They are being analysed by my Mac’s computing power in the background while I write this post for instance.
Harmony. Christmas is about harmony. Harmony can only exist when there is hope. Christmas is about hope. Christmas is about light and guidance. Christmas is about a promise of a better life, a life in harmony. A life, where evil has been vanquished, where love triumphs over hate. When I look back at my life, I remember no time when I was as dispirited about humanity as now. The will to solve the urgent global problems in a spirit of benevolence and cooperation just seems to be a phrase, while real life is moving into the opposite direction.