Johannes from Vienna's Monochrom sez, "Sierra Zulu is a dark political sci-fi comedy about the grotesque world we live in. Let's call it the bastard offspring of Catch-22 and Buckaroo Banzai, reborn with the soul of Harun Farocki. It's a feature film for activists and pessimists, historians and makers, diplomats and mercenaries, hot tub lovers and peasants, cell biologists and beer punks. And it has a bloody CREATURE!
The movie is doing great and we already have LOIs from great folks like Robert Picardo, Jello Biafra and Amber Benson, but one of the important movie grants here in Austria got declinded. So we have to get the rest of the money the usual way: by begging and ass-kissing our way through the private industry. And as we want to avoid that as much as possible, we created a Kickstarter campaign for July."
A Chinese property developer called Minmetals Land Inc secretly built a copy of a picturesque Austrian village called Hallstatt, building it in Guangdong province, the white-hot center of the Chinese manufacturing revolution, on a site 60km from Hong Kong. The Austrians are both proud and miffed, though the argument that ancient designs of buildings, or characteristic layout of ancient villages are somehow the property of their temporary residents is a bit odd -- sort of like claiming that because your town has a gothic cathedral, no one else should be able to reproduce its centuries-old design without your permission.
The original is a centuries-old village of 900 and a UNESCO heritage site that survives on tourism. The copycat is a housing estate that thrives on China's new rich. In a China famous for pirated products, the replica Hallstatt sets a new standard.
The Chinese Hallstatt features a church spire, a town square ringed by pastel-colored buildings and angel statues. They're among architectural flourishes inspired by the original, a centuries-old village of 900.
Chinese secretly copy Austrian town
(Image: a downsized, cropped thumbnail from a larger picture on Spiegel.de)
People sit in front of a house built upside-down by Polish architects Irek Glowacki and Marek Rozhanski, in the western Austrian village of Terfens May 5, 2012. The project is meant to serve as a new tourist attraction in the area, and is now open for public viewing.
Johannes sez, "Cory was so kind to post my TEDxVienna talk on monochrom's feature film project SIERRA ZULU. I wanted to give you guys an update.
Today we released a short film: EARTHMOVING. It's the prequel to SIERRA ZULU. We thought that's a good way to expand on the backstory and give the folks something to see while we are still working on getting the feature film financed and (hopefully) done.
We have a bunch of great actors (e.g. Jeff Ricketts, who was part of Firefly or Star Trek: Enterprise) and our crew at Golden Girls Filmproduktion (Vienna) was absolutely wonderful."
Earthmoving: A Sierra Zulu Prequel
Johannes sez, "monochrom's Johannes Grenzfurthner gave a short presentation about traditional narrative cinema, the problems of storytelling in the digital age -- and monochrom's feature film project 'Sierra Zulu.'"
Sierra Zulu at TEDxVienna: Video online
An Austrian student has kicked off a movement that pits EU privacy rules against Facebook's data collection practices. Max Schrems requested a copy of the data Facebook had collected on him (which Facebook is required to provide under EU law) and found himself with more than 1,000 pages of data that demonstrated several clear breaches of EU privacy laws. Kim Cameron has a good writeup on the ensuing complaints that Schrems filed:
Max is a 24 year old law student from Vienna with a flair for the interview and plenty of smarts about both technology and legal issues. In Europe there is a requirement that entities with data about individuals make it available to them if they request it. That’s how Max ended up with a personalized CD from Facebook that he printed out on a stack of paper more than a thousand pages thick (see image below). Analysing it, he came to the conclusion that Facebook is engineered to break many of the requirements of European data protection. He argues that the record Facebook provided him finds them to be in flagrante delicto.
The logical next step was a series of 22 lucid and well-reasoned complaints that he submitted to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (Facebook states that European users have a relationship with the Irish Facebook subsidiary). This was followed by another perfectly executed move: setting up a web site called Europe versus Facebook that does everything right in terms using web technology to mount a campaign against a commercial enterprise that depends on its public relations to succeed.
Europe versus Facebook, which seems eventually to have become an organization, then opened its own YouTube channel. As part of the documentation, they publicised the procedure Max used to get his personal CD. Somehow this recipe found its way to reddit where it ended up on a couple of top ten lists. So many people applied for their own CDs that Facebook had to send out an email indicating it was unable to comply with the requirement that it provide the information within a 40 day period.
is a European conference on stories and games, to be held in Vienna's adorably insane Natural History Museum (the world's maddest, overflowingest taxidermy displays, including a broke-necked giraffe with Frankenstein stitches, an infamous alcoholic chimp, and many other critters etoufees
). It's a one-day affair, on Sept 27: "You will meet game designers and writers who have worked on games in every imaginable form: from adventures to MMOs, from AAA console to the web, from social games to pen and paper RPGs." (Thanks, Alice!
German and Austrian archaeologists are taking notice of an extensive network of tunnels that riddle central Europe. These tunnels -- thought to date from the 10th to 13th century -- have fanciful names like "goblin hole" and their exact historical function is somewhat mysterious. A group of female healers, noting the exit looks "like a vagina," re-enacted their births using Austrian "Schlupf" tunnels. Others attribute them to the druids, or Christian rituals, or believe they were used to hide from bandits in the lawless "medieval clearing period."
The tour begins in the taproom and proceeds down a stone stairway into the cider cellar, where there is a trap door that opens into a gaping hole. "We don't let people with heart conditions do the tour," Wösner says in his thick Austrian accent. He keeps a large sling on hand for emergencies, so that if anyone faints he can pull them out of the narrow tunnel.
Experts Baffled by Mysterious Underground Chambers
The vaults could not have served a practical purpose, as dwellings or to store food, for example, if only because the tunnels are so inconveniently narrow in places. Besides, some fill up with water in the winter. Also, the lack of evidence of feces indicates that they were not used to house livestock.
There is not a single written record of the construction of an Erdstall dating from the medieval period. "The tunnels were completely hushed up," says Ahlborn.
Archeologists have also been surprised to find that the tunnels are almost completely empty and appear to be swept clean, as if they were abodes for the spirits. One gallery contained an iron plowshare, while heavy millstones were found in three others. Virtually nothing else has turned up in the vaults.
Until recently, the secret caves were explored only by amateur archeologists. The pioneer of Erdstall exploration, Lambert Karner (1841 to 1909), was a priest. According to his records, he crawled through 400 vaults, lit only by flickering candlelight, with "strange winding passages" through which "one can often only force oneself like a worm."
(Image: Ben Behnke / DER SPIEGEL)