it was the fest of times…

weihenstephaner festbier

I haven’t been drawing much this week, but this is one from a couple of weeks back that I forgot to scan. My wife got me some Weihenstephaner beer, ‘Festbier’ (it is October after all), and to go with it she also got me one of the really big litre-sized beer glasses. I had to draw it! (My brown sketchbook as you may know is for beer and beer glasses now). Weihenstephaner is the oldest brewery in the world, and we visited it just outside Munich when we were in Bavaria in 2005. I really like their beer a lot. One of the reasons I went there is because at the time I was studying Germanic Philology, and had just written a paper about the competing influences of Old English and Old Gothic on the vocabulary of Old High German, specifically in the field of religion (they being the chief importers of Christianity in Germania), and one of the focuses was on the two words for ‘holy’, ‘heilig’ being the Anglo-Saxon inspired word (from ‘hálig‘), and ‘weihe’ being the Gothic preference (cf ‘weihs’). Ultimately the preferred English form gained most use, though some of the old Gothic-inspired words can still be seen in place names, such as ‘Pfaff’ and ‘Weihe’, as in ‘Weihenstephaner’. Interesting, I thought, so I went there and got a beer.

bayern some time

bavarian band at little prague, davis

I had to draw this Bavarian band that has been playing occasionally at Little Prague in Davis during this past month or so for Oktoberfest  – I finally went there to sketch them. They played interesting German-style music, sometimes donning a sombrero to add some Mexican into it. I sketched alongside fellow Davis sketcher Steve, and after the band finished our photos were taken by the singer’s wife with our sketches and the band.

The band wasn’t called ‘Bayern’ by the way, I just felt the need to write that up there. I like Bavaria – my wife and I spent a couple of weeks there back in 2005, partly in Munich, partly driving around the Alpenstrasse, to small towns and lakes, popping into Switzerland (where I spent an afternoon studying the Abrogans, a 1200-year-old manuscript and the oldest thing in German language), and then back into Bayern and up the Romantische Strasse. I loved that each town had its own beer, and we ate only local food (I had the most amazaing roast duck in Schliersee), and castles and timber-framed chalets and the odd hilarious name (there was a mountain called ‘Wank’). And it was truly ‘Bavaria’, not just another part of Germany, it felt like its own country, with that blue and white flag everywhere and the Bavarian dialect everywhere. I wouldn’t mind going back some day.

grusinia on my mind

grusinia on my mind

NATO went into Kosovo in 1999, bombing targets (such as bridges) not only in the region but all over Serbia. Serbia, Russia’s traditional ally. Russia could do only so much. They sent troops down, but not to oppose NATO. Why did the US led forces need to go in? The risk of imminent genocide, not wanting to stand by and watch a repeat of what had happened in Bosnia.

I couldn’t begin to understand what’s actually going on between Georgia and Russia, how strongly the Russians feel about the South Ossetians, how strongly Georgia feels about not wishing to disintegrate further, or be under the sway once more of the bear to the north. Caucasus troubles run deep, and are far less well understood in the West than the Balkan troubles. It was interesting however to read that one side is accusing the other of genocide, while the other is counter-accusing them of ethnic cleansing. The threat of which, as we all know, apparently justifies invasion.

The picture: funny enough, I had this book slotted down the pocket of my bag since I bought it in a second-hand bookshop in the Castro a couple of weeks back. Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle (der Kaukasische Kreidekreis). One of my favourite (if not, my favourite) plays, one I have performed in German at university, back in the spring of 1999, at the same time that Kosovo was being torn apart. I co-directed a chaotic, ramshackle and very Brechtian version, in which I got to play the fantastic role of Azdak the judge. In those days I had a Beard to defeat all others. We had almost no set, and so I drew backgrounds of Grusinian buildings with Georgian graffiti over them, backdrops of hanged men, and great mountains, all on transparent cels using only four colours of pen, projecting them onto a white screen behind the actors using a bog-standard (and noisy) classroom overhead projector. For those actors who were gotten rid of for not coming to rehearsal, I recreated their characters in cartoon form and had them projected next to the real actors, even getting involved in dialogue. It was largely shambolic, but I have good memories of the other cast members, and it was great fun. And I think Brecht would have approved.

the cast; that's me in the top middle, azdak the judge

the cast; that's me in the top middle, azdak the judge