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Friday, January 27, 2012

Famous Austrians IX: Falco

Seriously, this man was a genius, and (after Mozart) probably the most famous Austrian musician. Here is a sample of his music:

Falco, born Johann Hölzel in Vienna in 1957, was a 1980's pop/rock icon, and is most noted in the USA for his 1985 hit "Rock Me Amadeus" (and its Simpsons parody "Dr. Zaius") though he had plenty of other fabulous songs. Unfortunately, his talent and popularity was not really extended beyond the German-speaking world, mostly because of language barriers.

Similar to Mozart, Falco was considered a child musical prodigy, after he tried out for the Vienna Music Academy at age five. He reportedly had perfect pitch. He began classical musical training in Vienna as a teenager, but the dropped out to pursue a rock career.

Falco died tragically young in a car crash in the Dominican Republic in 1998. And very unfortunately, unlike Tupac, Falco's posthumous CD releases are few and far between. However, his music is still immortalized in Austria - every time I go to Zielpunkt, I hear "Der Kommissar" over the store radio.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What's in a Dream?

I've been having some weird dreams lately. So much so that I (ironically) wanted to try to find some solace in psychoanalysis. Specifically the granddaddy of it all - Freud.

I figure, while I'm in Vienna, who better to turn to? Of course, many of Freud's theories have (rightly) fallen out of favor; but, many of his discoveries on sleep patterns and hypotheses of how dreams come to be are still the mainstay for psychiatrists and dream interpreters.

The interesting thing about Die Traumdeutung is that, with little more than a hunch, Freud's theories on dreaming ended up being proven in clinical trials - for example, dreaming in sequential order; the idea that a person cannot invent new faces, but uses faces that already exist for "dream people" be they familiars or strangers; colors and objects as symbols rather than literal. Though Freud did have a penchant toward interpreting things phallically.

Freud was also the first to point out that mere seconds elapse during a dream. The feeling we often have of a dream (especially a nightmare) going on forever is, simply put, an illusion. It only feels like hours - or days, or weeks - have passed. Most dreams do not last more than one minute, though they can be linked in our subconscious, which is why in your dreams you may be sitting on a bus in one instance and be "magically" transported to the beach in another. Although dreams do have a beginning and an end, the brain does not make the distinction.

Lucid dreams happen when the dreamer realizes, or remembers, that he or she is dreaming. I often have dreams of this type, and, according to this website (also where I got the lovely photo at the beginning), that means I am highly evolved. That's kind of neat!

Although the text of Die Traumdeutung is sort of a snore (pun intended), it is good to remember that Freud was writing for the 19th century science crowd - most anyone picking up his book during his lifetime would have been a fellow doctor. Thus, the language is a bit outdated, cumbersome and - ahem - Austrian. That is, more convoluted than it has to be. Still, I hope to find new insight into my subconscious self, now that I know the theory behind it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Heilige Drei Königen

Happy Epiphany!

Just wanted to share some photos of the "traditional" Austrian Christmas tree:

With real candles, though not lit in the photo: 

And the Nativity scene, which is all important on days like today, where the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem is celebrated (i.e., in Austria, just another excuse to have a party!)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sliding into the New Year

Um, sorta dropped the ball on this one...but Happy New Year nonetheless!

As may be imagined, I had a hangover New Year's Day (and beyond) but, well, you're only young once.

The typical Austrian name for New Year's Eve is Silvester, owing that December 31 is St. Silvester's feast day. Gotta get that Catholic jazz in there somehow.

Interesting to note is that in Austria, the new year is celebrated with pigs, ladders, four-leaf-clovers, and little lead pieces as good luck symbols. The lead pieces are melted and then thrown into water to divine a person's fortune for the coming year - sort of like reading tea leaves.

Fireworks are also used to celebrate, though I'm going to have to be a Grinch and say I dislike fireworks. The city of Vienna has a fireworks show near St. Stephen's Cathedral, which is always so crowded you're likely to have something stepped on or stolen. Locals also buy their own and light them in their backyards. Or, failing sufficient backyardage, in the street. This New Year's Eve, a friend of mine got hit in the forehead by a rogue bottle rocket, which has dampened my enjoyment of such spectacles.

The part of the evening I LOVED was dancing the "Blue Danube" waltz at midnight - which is typically Viennese, sort of like how we sing "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight in the USA - and I suppose probably also the UK.