The Art of Making It Through a Semester

Making it through a semester is a far more complicated process than assumed up to now. It requires a staunchly capability to endure constant stress, a sufficient mental stability to deal with the question of whether you’re good enough for university or not and the willingness to sacrifice most of your pitiful personal life. There are similarities between every student’s academic experience. These similarities can be divided into five stages.


The five stages of trimestral progression are:

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Anxiety
4. Desperation
5. Relief


Every single student will go through these stages during the semester. While the duration of the particular stages may vary, the order will always remain the same. What makes this topic relevant to an art blog? Good question! A German scientist (me) has recently discovered a correlation between the stage of trimestral progression you are in and the art you consume.


Stage 1 – Enthusiasm

At the very beginning of the term you have this feeling that somehow this semester is going to be different, which, trust me, it won’t be. Yet, you get these wild fantasies about actually being able to power through the 3-months obstacle course throwing exams, papers, self-esteem issues and self-loathing at you. This naive “I can really do it”-attitude is characteristic for the enthusiasm-stage and, depending on how optimistic you are, is ousted by the second stage after missing about two to four lectures.

The corresponding art can range from Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ to the critically acclaimed 1988 comedy ‘The Naked Gun’, starring acting genius Leslie Nielsen (may he rest in peace). Anything that is energetic and upbeat, funny and cheerful can be considered Stage 1 art. Growing up with older twin sisters, I have come to appreciate Enrique Iglesias and the Backstreet Boys during this stage.


Stage 2 – Disillusionment

Stage 2 marks the entry of realistic thinking into your mind. You accept that this semester is probably going to end just like the ones before. You have to start weighing the importance of attending lecture with your body’s need for sleep. Deadlines are pushed back, readings are postponed and the work that still needs to be done piles up on your desk just like your self-hatred for not doing it timely.

During this time of the term you will probably work out while listening to an audiobook about how to sell real estate, because procrastination is your nemesis in Stage 2. Hogwash that seems much more important to your future success than university suddenly has top priority. Reading Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’, trying to teach myself how to write music and really getting into photography continuously top my list for unnecessary ventures for when I should actually be studying my soul out in the library.


Stage 3 – Anxiety

Could I drop out of school to become a personal trainer or a travelling bubble tea salesman? Would my parents find out? Would they be disappointed? Oh god, I cannot disappoint my parents. They paid so much for my education. And the rest of my family… What would my third-degree aunt Sally, who I met once at my half-cousin Barry’s wedding, think of me?

Anxiety is a dangerous stage. You start questioning your abilities, forget how far you’ve come and, instead, focus on your weaknesses. Psychosomatic issues like constant fatigue and a racing heartbeat after waking up in the morning are the result. Giving in to your mental instability you read Stephen King’s ‘IT’ or listen to Slipknot’s fast-paced musical depiction of anger and disappointment.


Stage 4 – Desperation

At this point you don’t even care anymore. The unwavering stress has taken its toll on you. You have surrendered and are now dragging yourself the last couple of yards towards the finishing line. Your hair is a mess, you haven’t showered in two weeks, the only person you’ve seen since last Monday is Jimmy John’s delivery guy and your parents are highly concerned because they haven’t heard from you in a while. You would give anything to have this semester end already, but the exams are just coming up…

The lack of spare time in Stage 4 limits the art you consume to pretty much just music. The kind of music you listen to, however, is rather variable. Country, Folk or Deep House… everything is possible. For me it’s usually the 10-hour version of “Sad Music, Cry Music Ultimate Mix 2014” on YouTube, which I can highly recommend; 2014 is, by far, the best and most mellow vintage.


Stage 5 – Relief

Usually the Relief-Stage doesn’t commence until a few days after your last exam. Your body has enjoyed a decent amount of sleep for the first time in months and is now ready for whatever adventure you may embark on during the summer. A woman’s brain releases hormones making her forget negative aspects of the pregnancy after having a child. The same thing happens to students after finishing a semester. They forget about the disillusionment, the anxiety and the desperation, smoothing the way into a new rendition of the same stages after summer break.

Considering the renaissance-like emotional state of students and the beginning of summer, the art consumed in the last stage is all about merriment and light-heartedness. Punk Rock, open-air cinema and street art are most prominent. For me, personally, there is nothing better than listening to a Zebrahead record while driving my car to all the places I couldn’t go to during the other stages. Stage 5 is freedom and happiness.


If you don’t know which stage you might currently be in, just have a look at your Spotify playlist or think about which movie you watched most recently. That should give you a clue. Just try to keep in mind, with exams approaching quicker than the Rohirrim on the fifth day of the battle of Helm’s Deep, that Stage 5 is just around the corner now… We all can get there together!



PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.

The Philosophical Truth In ‘Sophie’s World’.

Watch out! Spoilers under way!

Readers tend to relate to characters quite quickly when first reading a book. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Harry, a Frodo, a Katniss or a Bella. We just love to get to know protagonists and creepily following them around on their adventures. We relate to their thinking, their emotions, and want them to succeed in whatever they do. We rarely stop our bonding process to remind ourselves that they are not real. We never say to ourselves “Harry is just a product of somebody’s imagination, much like the value of money or god”. Had I done that while reading Sophie’s World, my heart might have not been broken.


She is a Norwegian teenager being taught about philosophy by a middle-age man with an Italian name. She is a lovely, smart girl who makes the audience fall in love with her right from the beginning. She asks quirky questions, she makes relatable remarks; all in all, she is just very likeable. She is the protagonist of Sophie’s World, a worldwide bestseller and certainly one of the best introductions to philosophy ever written. She is Sophie Amundsen.

Sophie Amundsen is a 14-year-old teenager living in Norway. One day, she receives a letter informing her about a mysterious philosophy course she would be given. She isn’t sure about whether she wants a philosophy course but once she learns about Socrates, Plato and Aristotle she falls madly in love with philosophy and indulges in its teachings. As you follow the story and join Sophie in learning about the history of philosophy from Alberto Nox, an enigmatic savant, you start building a relationship to Alberto, his dog Hermes and, most of all, Sophie.

A very puzzling aspect of the story, however, is a man called Albert Knag. He keeps sending Sophie postcards addressed to his daughter, Hilde Moller Knag, which are postmarked on dates in the future. Over the course of the novel, the frequency of these messages increases and they can’t just be found on postcards anymore. At one point, Sophie even finds a message from Albert to Hilde on the inside of an unpeeled banana. As the reader, you realize something’s going on but you can’t really put your finger on it. Before you can make out what might happen next, a plot twist makes sure to leave you suspended in the air with drool dripping out of your half-opened mouth you just can’t seem to shut anymore. How?

Turns out, Sophie is just a character. She isn’t real. We did know this all along, right? But even in the book, she is just a character. She is the protagonist of Albert Knag’s birthday gift to his daughter Hilde. While Albert and Hilde are probably fictitious, as well, the loss of Sophie as the protagonist hit me in the guts like no death of any character in any book had ever done before. This raises a very interesting question: If we know that our favourite protagonists are fictitious, then why does it open up a void of emptiness in our hearts to be told that they are not real?


A similar thing happened to me when I turned 12-years-old. Either Dumbledore had forgotten to send me a letter of acceptance or, much more likely, I wasn’t a wizard and Hogwarts didn’t exist. My friends told me “It’s not real, bro” (or whatever 12-year-olds talk like). This experience made me reconsider the close relationship I developed with my favourite protagonists. Sophie being part of a book inside a book was much more difficult for me to overcome but, admittedly, very philosophical.

I’m still not ready to forgive Jostein Gaarder, the author, for doing this to the world but he sure made everyone realize just how much they love to fall in love with fiction!


PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.

Check your fridge!


I have a lot of stuff in my fridge. Most of what I have in there I don’t recall buying and I certainly don’t plan on consuming it at any time soon. Yet I know I am incredibly lucky to have so much, that I can choose not to consume and still have a balanced diet. Often, I grab the coke instead of the water, the pudding instead of the fruit and the ice-cream instead of the vegetables. Why not, right? If this is what makes me happy then, dammit, I should be able to do it without feeling guilty. I am set in my ways. I know what I like and that’s what I’m sticking with.

I have my bread. I eat bread every day. It gives me what I need: A sufficient foundation for the day. It is reliable, cheap and always there. It gives me a sense of comfort. It seems to adapt to my moods and it definitely has a huge effect on my well-being. Or at least I think so…

My meat is very important to me. It is red, it is juicy and goes along great with the bread. I eat all kinds of meat. that is all the variety I need in my life.

And then, there’s the jelly. Oh yes, the jelly. I can just smear it on anything and it’ll fill in the gaps. It always fills in the gaps. That’s what makes it so convenient.

A pickle I don’t have every day… but on some days, I do, even though I have to eat them at school a lot.

Now, let’s think of the fridge not as a fridge but more as your life in general. The bread is the small arts you consume every day. From your funny Facebook-feed to your tantalizing Twitter tweets. From the childish chalk on the sidewalk to the annoying ads anywhere and everywhere. Think of the meat as the music you listen to… in the shower, on your way to class, during your runs and after hard days of studying. Think of the jelly as videos on YouTube, sitcoms and basically every sort of visual art you consume more attentively, but only in small chunks and between things. The pickle is the brilliant book you read from time to time.

And that is basically it. That is the art we usually consume between classes, studying, homework and maintaining a presentable body shape so your parents won’t be too concerned when you come back for spring break. This routine isn’t too bad, is it? It can even help me to keep my life together, right?

I sometimes think this way. I sometimes think that by consuming the same products, the same services and the same art, I can keep a balance in my life. But most of the time it’s the things that shake this balance, which make living fun and which, paradoxically, balance your life most effectively.

Just like mixing up your diet, mixing up your art consumption isn’t only fun but also healthy. We have so much going on on Campus. Go to the theater and have a laugh, go to a concert and be moved, visit exhibitions and galleries and let the art take you away. Away from the daily stress, away from the sorrows in your life. Maybe just try a new type of meat (that was my metaphor for music, remember?).

Discovering new art is like discovering new worlds, created within and through this, our very own world. It is a lot like having a thorough look into the depth of your fridge. You will find things that you didn’t know were in there and it will take just a little step out of the comfort zone to try them. Who knows… your favorite food might be in there somewhere… you just haven’t found it yet.

Stay up to date about art events:


PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.

Chinese Paper Cutting

“Don’t eat the glue, Marius”, “This looks horrible, Marius” and “Mrs. Lex, your son is utterly untalented… in an endearing way, of course” are quotes from my pre-school days I will never forget. Not because they described me very well, but because they shaped my stance on arts and crafts more than anything else in my life. My teachers concluded I was incurably untalented, after I had made a photo frame to give to my Mom for Christmas. While the other kids had garnished theirs with glitter and bedighted them with beads, I had glued uncooked noodles to my frame.

Even though I realized my teachers had clearly given up on me, I still tried to create something unique, every time we did arts and crafts. A feetless flamingo, a chiseled chestnut and many hours of whacky weaving later, however, I too accepted that I would probably never be good at this. Following this realization, I started, you know… eating glue and stuff.

After pre-school, I went on to elementary school, secondary school, high school and eventually to university and didn’t have to do arts and crafts for a very long time… Until today!

The art of paper cutting is China’s oldest and most popular art. Shortly after paper was invented in the Han Dynasty about 1900 years ago, and became more and more accessible to people, this beautiful folk art emerged. Over the course of hundreds and thousands of years, a variety of new techniques was applied and perfected by the Chinese. Nowadays, paper cutting is still very popular and not only in China. In many parts of the world it is a common type of arts and crafts.

In China, the paper cutouts or “剪纸 (jianzhi)”, are used as decorations, especially at weddings and childbirths. They are usually red and symbolize love and health.

Since no one in our class was pregnant or wanted to get married, we just crafted for the heck of it. It was hard, it was precision work but most of all it was fun. I was still horrible at it, because… let’s face it, it was still me doing it, but our Chinese teacher lied about it being “beautiful” … yeah, right. For the first time in many, many years I had fun arts and crafting:

Depending on how you fold and cut, you can achieve lots of different forms, sizes, kinds, colors and even Chinese characters. When you get the hang of it, you can even cut out large, connected patterns, which do not only look great, but also give you a feeling of achievement. The cut outs make great presents and are very nice to look at, as well. In many regions of the world, they were taped to the exterior of a window, so the light from the inside would shine through the negative space of the cutouts.

These are a couple of our creations. They took me only thirty minutes:

Alright, everybody. St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, so get out your green paper and a pair of scissors and start cutting out dancing Leprechauns!


PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.

Groundhog Day… Not!

I feel like on February 2nd, I should write an article about Groundhog Day, one of my favorite movies and an all-time classic of typical 1990s cinema. Instead I am going to tell you about a recent disappointment in my life (I know for a fact that people like to read about other people’s misery). Don’t think for a second, however, that my misery won’t affect your life, as well. I’ve got you scared now, haven’t I? Alright, let’s cut to the chase:

Do you know the feeling when you’ve been listening to “Year 3000”  by the Jonas Brothers your entire life, thinking that they actually came up with one decent song until you find out that even this one good song is a cover? You might be exposed to the same feeling when, after years and years of falling asleep next to your beloved Harry Potter book signed by no other than J.K. Rowling herself, you find out that is was actually your Mum who signed it to bump up your birthday gift from a “Yay” to a “Oh my god, Mum, you’re the best!”. Well, that was the feeling I had watching Disney’s Mulan for the first time on Chinese New Year. Not that Mulan was a disappointment in any way – it REALLY wasn’t – but after this movie I was seriously upset with Peter Jackson. You might wonder: “What does Peter Jackson have to do with Mulan? Wasn’t he just a young guy with very messy hair back when Mulan hit the theaters?” Yes, probably he was. I can assure you that Peter watched Mulan. Because just a couple of years later he would do exactly what the Jonas Brothers did with “Year 3000”. Peter would come to be my Mum of the film industry!

Every Lord of the Rings fan already knows what I’m talking about but for those who haven’t seen the Lord of the Rings or Mulan, I am going to elaborate:

The best scene in movie history (arguably):

After being crowned as the King of Gondor on top of Minas Tirith, Aragorn, Arathorn’s son, slowly walks past the leaders of light and all the heroes who make the Lord of the Rings so unique and had come to congratulate him on being in his rightful place: The throne of Gondor. He walks past Eowyn and Faramir who are now a couple, he shares a bromantic look with Legolas and Gimli and meets up with the love of his life, Arwen, the Elven, before he finally arrives at the place the four Hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin are trying to catch a peak of what’s happening (because they’re small). Polite as they are they get ready to kneel down in front of the new king. Aragorn, however, with tears in his eyes, thinking back to how much the Hobbits had to suffer in order to eventually save mankind from the roaring fires of Mordor, says: “My friends, you bow to no one!” and, in return, bows to them, followed by his entire people, making the Hobbits feel just as special as they deserve to feel.

What a magical scene, right? Wrong! Because from now on it is tainted. To be quite accurate, it was tainted from the very beginning. Why? This beautiful scene that has brought me closer to tears than even my grandpa’s funeral (I love you pops) was basically stolen from Mulan.

This is  what it looks like in Mulan:

Just like in the Lord of the Rings, the king and his people with him, bow to someone who doesn’t expect to be bowed to. Exchange the Hobbits for a Chinese woman and Aragorn for a weird-looking old dude and you’ll see that the scenes are actually very much alike.

Yet, I don’t want to be too hard on Peter, because Mulan just nailed that ending and it’s understandable that other movies want a piece of the pie. Knowing that the ending of the Lord of the Rings is a fraud, doesn’t make the movie any worse or less emotional. This way I have two movies which end the exact same way, giving me twice the emotional potential I knew of before.


PS: Remember to be the weirdest you can possibly be.

Why Our Lives Are More Perfect Than The Movies…

Last week I discussed why rain will never be as romantic in real life as it is portrayed in the movies. I discovered that movies romanticize a lot of things. This led me to the following question:

Do movies sell us standards no one will ever be able to live up to?

This question is very hard. I mean, it is not hard to answer: Yes. Yes, movies definitely sell us standards no one can live up to. A hilarious number of shattered first date expectations, “proposals gone wrong”-videos on YouTube and emergency room admissions for brides who were danced away by their back flipping dads can prove that.
The tricky part of this question, however, is to explain what these high standards mean for our real life. Do high standards have a large impact on our expectations? Does the lack of fulfillment of these expectations make us less happy with what we have?


Let’s answer the last question first. If we consult Buddha – you know the guy most of our parents have in their backyards – we will find that expectations are the  one thing that makes us unsatisfied and therefore unhappy. Buddhism basically says: ‘Have no pleasure and you will have no pain’ and ‘the expectation of pleasure most likely brings nothing but pain’. While this attitude is rather hefty and made Buddha want to spent most of his life in strict ascesis, he has a point. Expectations are what can ruin a perfectly good thing. We all know this phenomenon. Movies, to stay on topic, are a great example:

So, your friend is talking up a movie she recently watched in the theater. “Oh my gosh, it was like, the best movie like eveeeerr” –  yes, your friend is in a sorority. She keeps talking about how brilliant this movie is and convinces you to finally watch it with her. Pumped up by the expectations, you are totally let down by the movie. Sure, it’s ok, but not nearly as good as your friend promised it to be. Had you seen the same movie on a rainy night on your couch with no expectation towards it whatsoever, you probably would have liked it a lot more!


In order to answer the question whether movies have a large impact on our expectations, we have to go personal. Since a movie’s impact will vary from person to person, it is hard and  maybe not wise to generalize. If I consider myself, though, I can tell you that movies have a major impact on my expectations and my entire worldview. “Love actually…”, for example, had such a huge impact on me that I actually wrote my feelings for a girl in my class – I was in elementary school – on a piece of paper and delivered it to her doorstep. Unfortunately, I only wrote something weird like ‘Ich find dich irgendwie total super’ and ran away  awkwardly after handing the paper to her, instead of bravely awaiting her reaction like Andrew Lincoln did. This ended up in me never talking to that girl ever again and why? Because my expectations were too high and her expectations were too high and admittedly because I was an awkward, clumsy baboon. But also the expectations thing.


No matter how romantic a first date, how touching a eulogy and how empowering a motivational speech is, you will always be able to find a movie which does it better. Why? Because they can have as many takes as they want. Because they have 6 people thinking about what one person is going to say. Because they have adequate music in the background for any situation imaginable and because they are not real! What actually is real is a grandpa who cannot deliver the eulogy for his wife, because she touched his heart for a lifetime instead of just 90 minutes. What actually is real is a couple to be, who have sweaty hands and behave awkwardly because this shows that what is happening is really important to them and may be really important to the future and not only for 90 minutes. What actually is real is the motivational speech that never has to be held because your motivation is your social environment in which you invest so much effort, so much tears and so much more than 90 minutes.

Real life is longer than 90 minutes. And many emotions are delivered over a very long time. They don’t have to be discharged in a heart-breaking period of 20 minutes. What happens in the real world is much more meaningful, just less intense. And  it certainly is less perfect… less planned… less thought through. But isn’t this imperfection the thing that makes what happens in the real world unique? Isn’t this imperfection the one thing that sets us apart most from the movies and that the movies will never be as good at as we real people in the real word? Isn’t this imperfection the thing that makes our lives the most… perfect?



PS: Remember to be as weird as you can possibly be.