Posts in english

28. Mai 2020

032020: Cat Person

Me and my cat as kids

There is this one incredibly strong memory in my head that, when triggered, makes be both very happy and very sad. It goes as follows: When I grew up, I had a big tomcat named Kasimir. He was a soft and gentle animal, and as we both knew each other from a very young age, we were very attached. He enjoyed being held like a baby; his arms wrapped around my neck, me gently swaying him—really, just like a baby. I remember his fur, his scent and flat face pushing against mine. His big paws. I remember everything. And the fact that I remember, even though he died about 8 years ago, gives me a lot of comfort. I might remember it forever. I hope I will.

Together with the comfort of this memory, I’ve spent the past weeks in my apartment, as probably most of you. Just occasionally I went went out to see friends with a distance. We walked along the canal, around Kreuzberg, looking at people and houses. I’ve enjoyed observing the slow progress of coffee shops and ice cream parlors re-opening, arranging themselves with the safety restrictions. Everyone has been extra-friendly, it seemed, and that made me happy. It should stay like that. I hope it does.

I also noticed that the activities I do with friends are a lot more active and thought-through. We go on bike tours, we explore unknown parts of the city, and we share more feelings. I tried making a list of what stays from this pandemic on an interpersonal level, and this should be one of the things. I hope so.

When I walk around my neighborhood now, everything seems to be back to normal. The bridges and parks are full of people, the smell of weed and take-away pizza is everywhere. I get invitations to gatherings; people are dating again; and when I hear loud house music from a party in the park, I want to believe that we can all relax and live summer as we were used to. But I don’t think I’m ready yet, to be honest. It doesn’t feel right. And so I stay here, with my memories and video calls and bike rides, watching cats on TikTok, remembering Kasimir, seeing one friend at a time. It will get better. I’m sure it will.

* * *

I read Rachel Cusks “Outline”. That’s what it is; an outline; observations loosely tied together in a story. I tend to enjoy books where nothing happens, and this is one of them, but some sentences Cusk writes are just very on point.

I wrote a brief love letter to the Flurry screensaver, which you probably know from your Mac or from computers in movies.

I also wrote a postcard from my living room. It was a writing prompt from The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. Highly recommended newsletter!

The weekly (German) YouTube series “Social Distancing” by Hazel Brugger and Thomas Spitzer is the most wholesome thing to watch on a Sunday (or any day).

* * *

What are your old memories that make you feel all the feels? Think about them for a minute or two. It’s a nice thing to hold on to. And in case you have a cat: Give him or her a big kiss and pat on the head from me. If you have a dog, please do the same. I hope you’re all safe and well and finding your way through these troubled times.

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3. Mai 2020

The Last Screensaver: An Ode to Flurry

You know it from the first MacBook you bought, or from your school library’s computers, or from the backdrop of a film you recently watched. The Flurry screensaver, shipped with every Mac since 2002, has become an acquainted digital surface in movies, offices and homes.

But screensavers are a thing from the past: We all remember the infamous flying toasters, the virtual fish tanks and mesmerizing labyrinths that covered our grey CRT monitors when our dads entered the room. Flurry was different: it moved away from trashy aesthetics and added a soothing, ambient quality to computer screens. And since its release, it hasn’t changed: A variety of light streams gently move around the black screen, spreading colored particles at different speeds and magnitudes.

Flurry was created by software developer Calum Robinson as a side project in 2002. Briefly after he published it online (you can still find it on Github!), Apple contacted him to include it in their new operating system, Mac OS X “Jaguar”. It complemented the eccentric Aqua interface with a dark and subtle appearance, still colorful enough to catch your eye.

Screensavers were made to protect CRT monitors from phosphor burn-in. If the phosphors glowed at a constant rate for too long, they left traces on the monitor’s glass surface. But we’ve moved away from that technology years ago. Today, it makes much more sense to simply switch off your display. No one would download and install a screensaver anymore, not even for fun. But Flurry is still there, moving its tentacles around empty offices, libraries, accidentally being activated through your Mac’s hot corners.

For me, Flurry is also a steady component of the creative work space. When Macs were not ubiquitous, but mainly a tool for the creative industry, a creator’s desk was immediately recognized by the light-stream covered monitor. Of course, Apple computers also had their outstanding Y2K hardware design back then, but Flurry was that one recognizable software component that said: This desk is a creator’s desk. They might be on a break right now, but they’re still around. Just like Flurry is today.

3. Mai 2020

A Postcard From The Living Room


Dear Reader, I am sending you this from a newly discovered place within my flat: The dove-colored armchair close to the window. I usually never sit in it, because its actually facing away from the window, and it’s not as soft as the sofa. But it does have the perfect comfort level: It’s very good for reading, but not cozy enough to fall asleep in it. So I’ve just been sitting here for the past two days. The sun came out and I moved the chair closer to the window, with an ottoman for extra comfort, and I read through some magazines and sipped my coffee. The chair is too low to look properly out the window while sitting. But it’s ok, that way at least I don’t feel exposed to my neighbors. Anyway, I hope you’ve found some nice spots in your apartment, too. Sending lots of love – Christoph

Writing promt #3 from The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad.

26. März 2020

022020: Unfurl Like Smoke, We Twist And We Curl

image of an oil stain on the street

A four-year-old boy is sitting and sobbing on a hospital bed, refusing to have the mask put on his face. It’s 1995, that boy is me, and I’m supposed to go into surgery for my ear. But it’s not possible: I am too scared of a pictogram.

Even 25 years later, I can see it clearly in front of me: The brochure about inhalation anesthesia, with the drawing of a child with closed eyes, a huge mask covering its face. It honestly looked like the kid was dead, and even though I was only four years old, I knew one thing: I won’t inhale something that obviously would kill me!

In the end, I didn’t die, I just fell asleep. Everything went according to plan, and I lost my exorbitant fear of masks and anesthesia. I had to think about this pictogram the other day though, when I read Anne Quito’s design critique on the temperature guns used in public places like airports or on boarders. There are certainly more important things to worry about or focus on right now, but using the interaction design of pointing a gun to one’s head for a protective measure just somehow feels … a little off?

But I mean – a lot of things just feel a bit weird right now, right? It’s just a weird time; we’ve been placed in this odd science fiction setting and we all don’t really know how to act, or where to go. Well, the latter is simple: Nowhere. We’re all advised to just stay in, what I’ve been doing for about 10 days by now. And while I really enjoy being at home and by myself, I am surprised how exhausting it becomes after a while. The urge to facetime my whole address book is definitely there, and the magnetism of my sofa—preventing me from doing all the cozy quarantine stuff like baking and drawing and Telegym—is sending extra-strong vibes these days. I might need to find a solution for that. Or maybe not, and just nap. 8-hour-video-calls are exhausting enough; even though we’re all doing them in sweatpants.

* * *

— Speaking of naps: Here’s a brilliant video by the School of Life, on naps and slowness.

— Lisa captured the mood of the current situation just perfectly, as “I am putting my face on you again in order to perceive a very small thing inside your chest”, it’s beautiful.

— I just bought a bunch of vouchers for the stores, cafés and places I would usually visit on a Saturday, but which had to close due to the current situation. In Berlin, you can do that on Helfen.berlin, and an another inventory of shops that need support can be found via Pleasedontclose.

* * *

This probably won’t end anytime soon. It’s the new normal, and we’ll need to find ways to deal with it. Every other day, I have a little meltdown thinking about all of this, and I miss hugs and sitting on crowded trains and falling asleep on a friend’s sofa and celebrating birthdays. Three things that helped me: This song by Barner 16, this cartoon on love during the pandemic, this cat on TikTok.

I hope you’re alright and safe and healthy. Try to avoid spending too much time reading live blogs, don’t get scared by graphs and pictograms, just stay informed and, last but not least, at home (if you can). I’m sending you virtual hugs and awkward handshakes.

* * *

This title’s song has been stuck in my head for weeks now. Works well as a soundtrack for when the pains pf physical distancing kick in extra-hard. Dijon – Skin (SpotifyApple Music).

If you enjoy writing like this, you should subscribe to my (irregular) monthly newsletter: Christel’s Corner.

10. Februar 2020

012020: Palindrome Days

image of the gallery space

We’re standing in an empty two-room apartment in Kreuzberg, with freshly painted white walls and floors covered in grey carpet. It smells like solvent or glue. A young woman presents us the artwork that is currently shown in this gallery (that’s what the apartment apparently is used as). A bunch of wooden panels and beams are stacked onto each other, occupying one of the rooms completely. It looks like someone’s about to move in, or out; it feels like we need to pass through these rooms to get to the actual gallery. But we don’t: “This artist’s installation is presented in three phases. Currently, we’re in phase two, where the installation—a room within the room—is being dismantled and stored right here in the exhibition space.”

I mean, honestly, my first thought was: This is stupid. This isn’t a gallery, even if the rooms are lit by neon lights and presented by a smart, well-dressed art history student; and the artwork clearly doesn’t function in these rooms. But then again: I liked the idea of showing this dismantled state. We all know it, right? Being in-between, just stacked and stored somewhere, waiting to be put together again. I liked that someone tried to find beauty in it, and I am trying, too.

* * *

A random January list:

I’m reading actual books again. After “My Year of Rest and Relaxation”, I read short stories by Doris Dörrie, and am now in the middle of Steven King’s “On Writing”. Follow me on GoodReads!

If you’re having a hard time getting the year started, my friend Hans has a bunch of arguments to overcome artificial limits. I know Hans, you can fully trust him on that one.

Don’t judge: I started watching YouTubers that recommend minimalist lifestyles and hand out tips for productivity and personal growth (I am already cringing whilst writing this). Matt D’Avella’s videos are nicely filmed, though! I’ve been taking cold showers since, and I love it! Changed my life! New year new me etc.

I’ve been listening to music, too: Hatchie, a singer/songwriter from Australia, got stuck in my head forever. Right now it’s Ngahere Wafer and his album You’re So Cool from 2017. I’m late to the game, as always.

* * *

I found the idea of being in a in-between state also in this beautiful twitter thread by @nichtschubsen. It’s German, and it asks: “If your life was a recipe, at which step would it be right now?” People replied things like “stir gently” or “whip thoroughly” or “throw away and order pizza”. It’s an option, too, and who doesn’t like Pizza?! However, let’s ask the follow-up question: What’s the next step of your recipe?

I hope you’re having a good February, whatever state you’re in. It’s a long one this time, and we had the first palindrome date (02.02.2020) for 909 years (11.11.1111). We won’t outlive the next one, on 12.12.2121. But that’s okay. Keep going/simmering/baking/etc.

If you enjoy writing like this, you should subscribe to my (irregular) monthly newsletter: Christel’s Corner.

31. Dezember 2019

122019: All I Need is One Night to See if it’s Right

Image of a cloudy sky at night

When I enter my cold Berlin apartment after spending the Christmas holidays at my parent’s house, I immediately throw my bag on the bed and start unpacking. After all those years (10, to be precise) and train rides between Berlin and Bavaria, I still suck at packing bags appropriately. So many redundancies! The water colors I bring every time, as well as the sketchbook, that is left unopened during the whole stay. The stack of unread New Yorker issues—who is actually able to read that much every week?! The shirts and jumpers I wanted to wear but didn’t, as I hardly left the house and spent the holidays in my comfortable sweatpants. And the ugly brooches I bought for everyone but forgot to hand out on Christmas eve. It all goes back into the drawers and shelves. And like those brooches, some things are meant to be left behind in 2019 entirely.

I just finished my yearly review lists, asking myself: What was good? What wasn’t so good? What was missing in 2019, and what do I need more of in 2020? It was easy to make these lists this year. I learned to identify and get rid of stuff that does no good for me (it just took a lot of therapy and a bunch of breakdowns to learn that). But I got it now. Or, let’s say: I got better at it! Cheers to that!

In 2019, I wrote a brief essay on the things I wanted to focus on: More excellence regarding my work; taking up more space regarding myself; and allowing more feelings regarding … my LIFE, I guess?! Well, essay comes from the french verb “essayer”; to try, and that I did. Most of the time. I didn’t become a master of any of these things, but at least I managed to remind myself about them throughout the year. I even allowed myself to be less excellent in certain situations, or take up more space than I would usually, or cry (!!!) while watching a movie; or presenting an honest indifference towards things that didn’t interest me. Or, simply, remembering to hug someone extra hard when it was necessary. (This, in particular, is something I want more of in 2020, that’s for sure.)

What I enjoyed watching, reading and thinking about during the past months:

  • I admittedly was surprised that the German Queer Eye spin-off by the Berlin public tv station RBB actually turned out really nice and, thanks to Fabian Hart, is really wholesome and not cringeworthy at all. You can find the three episodes on the ARD Mediathek (in German).
  • My Twitter feed has been full of hate and destructive arguments lately, so I decided to pause Twitter for a couple of days. I made a list of a small number of people I actually wanted to follow, and until now I don’t miss any of the rest.
  • Doris Dörrie wrote a book about Writing, and even though I haven’t read it yet, I started writing again, on paper, everyday, just for myself. It’s true what she says: 10 minutes of writing can be a cheap, easy and relieving journey back to yourself. Give it a try.
  • I also wrote about salad. I just had to get this off my chest, really.
  • I took the Dazed 2010’s Subculture Quiz and—surprise—my subculture is Normcore. What’s yours?

So, that was 2019 then. Unpacking bags, re-arranging shelves, deleting candids and duplicates in my Photos library, and making lists clearly clears the mind. I hope this brief note finds you well while switching decade. The upcoming year already has a bunch of exciting changes that I can foresee, and I am looking forward to sharing them with you. Stay safe and sound and let’s hug extremely hard when we see each other next time.

This issue’s title is borrowed from: WHY? – Stained Glass Slipper (Listen on Spotify or Apple Music). By the way: You can subscribe to these diary-like posts via e-mail! It’s my newsletter Christel’s Corner. Get it here!

3. November 2019

112019: If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going

November 2019

Partly stressed, partly depressed, with a tiny spark of excitement, I am sitting in front of an empty slide deck. It’s some rainy weekend in October, and I am supposed to give a talk about my work during the upcoming week. I am paralyzed.

I used to give presentations quite frequently; I would even say that it used to be one of my best-trained designer muscles. But during that weekend I noticed how rusty I’ve gotten; how tricky I found it to draw a line without an actual pencil; and how shaky my voice gets while it peeks on the speaker notes. On the other hand: I really, genuinely enjoy it. I love talking about design, about an idea or a craft or a process, drawing that story line and deciding what’s worth saying and what isn’t. I just haven’t done it in a very long time.

So, as I am sitting at my desk, blank page horror in full blossom, I text my friend Ralf about my sorrows. He reminds me of a very basic wisdom: “If it doesn’t work, keep doing it—it’ll come to you eventually.” If you’re going through hell, keep going. It sounds cheesy, plain and overly dramatic, but drama helps, ffs sake; emotions help!, and it has a whole lot of truth to it. In the end, that stroll through hell saved me yet again: After I finished the slides and after the presentation was given and when I allowed myself to be relieved, I noticed: Wow, It’s good to be reunited with something I really like. Winning that spark back wasn’t as hard after all, it just felt so for a little part of the way.

Speaking of speaking: In October, I was invited by StanHema to talk about my design work and its relation to writing and text. That was fun, because as as we all know: Design is writing is design, and sorting and sharing all these connections in my head was really motivating and eye-opening.

I also noticed that this September marked my 10-year-anniversary in Berlin. I’ve always imagined to write a huge thinkpiece on how this city changed me, my life, my believes etcetera yada yada, so that in the end, I just published a list of random thoughts.

Learned about myself: I’m really into poetry. Actually I’ve always been, I just didn’t want to admit it, and I only like the weird stuff. And Rilke.

Even more links: I enjoyed this documentary about elderly people who speed-date (German); I learned a lot about Susan Sontag in this article about writing her biography; and I always admire Robert Riegers photography and especially his instagram posts.

I hope you’re all on a safe stroll off of any hell-like trails, but if you’re in the thick of one: Keep going! Have a blissful start into November.