Catch An Interactive Sigur Ròs Concert Online This Afternoon

Icelandic post-rock legends Sigur Ròs released their latest album, kveikur, this week. It is, no joke, their best in years. Their fanbase agreed vociferously, taking to a revamped page of the band’s website to stream the new music early and react in real time, posting rapturous Instagrams, Vines, Tweets, and videos with the hashtag #kveikur as they enjoyed their first listen. Today, something even cooler is going down.

At 2:50 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, aim your web browser at, and prepare yourself for a genuine treat. Sigur Ròs will be playing “a selection of songs from the record live during a special 360-degree interactive webcast from Dresden, Germany.” What this means is that “fans will be able to take control of the 360-degree cameras that will be placed around the stage,” zooming around the event however they please.

Pretty nifty, no? I wouldn’t mind remotely taking control of a camera in Dresden, Germany, even if I were just filming a parking lot. But with Sigur Ròs yowling their epic dark fairytale ballads, it’ll be more like you’re filming your own overpriced concert DVD. Hey, if Martin Scorsese can do it … right? To tide you over, here’s “Ísjaki,” a definite album highlight.


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Some Mean Germans Took Justin Bieber’s Monkey

"Justin Bieber has a monkey?" you ask. "That doesn’t sound very… safe, or something." Yes, you’d be correct. It seems to me that someone who regularly takes to Instagram to bitch about the indignities of his life while making a million dollars a second probably isn’t mature enough to raise a cat, much less a damn monkey. Alas, Bieber lives in a bubble in which everything is handed to him, including exotic animals. Luckily, there’s Germany policing the world for us. Bieber arrived in Munich last Thursday and the sensible, yet stern, German customs officials took away that poor monkey. Turns out Bieber did not have the proper paperwork for his pet after all, which should come as a surprise to no one. So there you have it: one monkey is safer today that he was before. Of course, that monkey is also living with fewer diamonds than he was last week.

[Via TMZ]

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A Downhill Death Spiral During Germany’s Fasching Carnival

“Is this safe?” I asked myself from the top of the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. By having to ask, I knew the answer – for me, anyway – was probably no. It was early February, and snow had been hitting the Zugspitze for several days. Other than a 2002 drive through a light New Mexican winter wonderland, I had not touched the chilly substance since a weekend trip to Big Bear during Reagan’s first term. Yet for some reason, I was nearly 3,000 meters above sea level with only one way to get down.

Other than the two previous weeks traversing Germany, Italy, and Austria (and a day trip to Maastricht, in the Netherlands), I had never been to Europe and had no idea just how high 3,000 meters was (Americans don’t know such things). Add to that my fear of heights and a tiny buzz thanks to the altitude and strong Helles beer, and I had every reason to whine like a child asking to be removed from Santa’s lap. Fortunately, my travel companions Chip and Taylor were well versed in the art of snow. The former was raised in the mountain community of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and was on the snowboarding team in high school, while the latter, a Long Beach, California native, had resided in Germany’s snowy Garmisch-Partenkirchen region for four years. For them, the little known but much beloved tradition of Hut to Hut during Fasching (German for “Carnival”), was merely another item to add to their snowboarding resumes. All I could think of was, “Ryan, don’t die.” Many people picture Brazilian women in headdresses when they hear the word “Carnival,” but in the snow-capped mountains of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, locals celebrate the impending doom of Lent by climbing to the top of the Zugspitze for a nighttime event called Hut to Hut, an outrageously intense experience that combines drinking, costumes, and skiing. The party is so localized to Bavarians that most Koln residents – who live a six-hour drive away – have never heard of it. The event isn’t in any travel guide, cable television programs haven’t exploited it, and even a Google search elicits minimal results, but Hut to Hut is very real and very fun.

Although not officially sanctioned by the city of Garmisch-Partenkirchen or the resort itself, the powers that be turn their heads when they see hundreds of willing twenty-somethings parading toward the gondola in Halloween-esque costumes on Fat Tuesday. This lackadaisical bureaucratic approach is quintessentially European and could never be found in lawsuit-happy America. Instead of doing it our litigious way, Germans shrug their collective shoulders and take the attitude that a person is responsible for his or her own actions. If a partygoer falls off a cliff or suffers an injury, then hey, that person shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen was two separate cities (Garmisch and Partenkirchen) until Hitler forced a unification before the 1936 Winter Olympics. The municipalities serve as one, but have retained distinctive personalities. Partenkirchen is where you’ll find a more traditional Germany with stone-lined intersections and old world architecture, while Garmisch is as modern as a German mountain town gets. The Edelweiss Lodge and Resort plays at least a minor role in this. image

Opened in 2004, the 330-room (with 44 junior suites, 12 lofts and American Disability Act rooms) hotel caters to active-duty military members and their families, retirees, reservists, guardsmen and more. To help accommodate such a large amount of Americans in a foreign country, Edelweiss employs United States citizens in accordance with the Status of Forces Agreement with Germany. The average age of lodge employees is 24, which means this quaint Bavarian city is literally crawling with Americans at all times – including Hut to Hut.

The gondola ride was an unsettling experience. Everywhere I looked, all I saw was white death. Locals wearing angelic wings and funny hats compared notes with Taylor and Chip, who had a curly blonde wig to pass between them, and hideous snowsuits we purchased at a thrift store on the American base a few days prior. Apparently, my beanie – the sort bank robbers wear – wasn’t much of a conversation starter, which was fine by me. My heart beat increased and all I could think of was how I had finally agreed to something I should have opted out of.

As if inexperience on a mountain wasn’t enough, I didn’t even have proper equipment. My snow-experienced comrades brought snowboards with them, but being a ski virgin, I was given a red plastic sled the size of my ass cheeks. The apparatus belonged to Taylor, who had the smarts to attach a leash to the cheapie toy that would soon sit between my legs. Without it, I was certain to lose the sled within a matter of minutes. I feigned positivity to not look like a pussy in front of my confident friends, but once we stepped off the gondola and looked at what was before us, even their positive attitudes changed regarding the prospect of my success.

“You got some balls, because I don’t know if I’d do this on a sled,” Chip said. Taylor tried to explain that he had survived the ride using my mode of transportation, but the damage had been done. Normally, there’s nothing like a couple of beers to calm my nerves. This, unfortunately, was not a normal situation. For the first time in my 28 years, beers just made matters worse. I had a few, but stopped once I realized that instead of a buzz, I needed practice. Adjacent to the mountain-top bar was a bank approximately 10 feet tall, so I placed the sled down and got into position. I let up my heels and the sled torpedoed out from under my cheeks. That was all the practice I needed before realizing that the only way to do Hut to Hut was to shut up and just do Hut to Hut. A handful of sled veterans must have seen the trepidation on my face, because they came over to where I was nervously pacing and offered tips on how to maneuver my piece of plastic. One of them, a guy whose name I wish I could remember, walked me to a dark part of the mountain and said, “Look down. If you go over this cliff, you’ll either die from impact or freeze to death.” The sun was setting when my friends decided it was time to stop drinking and time to start descending. They wished me well, took off on their boards, and were out of sight within a minute. Knowing no one else, I made friends with my fellow sledders and hoped for the best.

With my heels dug deep and one palm in the snow, my goggles turned white as I zig-zagged down the mountain. After a 20-second ride that consisted of the words “Don’t Die” racing through my mind, I came to a stop and realized I was still alive. I walked a few steps to another downhill, and did it again, this time with a little less oomph in my heels and my palm. Once more, I was not dead. The final downhill of this run was a few steps away, and with a heart now pounding from excitement and not the fear of death, I raised my feet and free hand in the air and went for it. More snow flew, and this time it was my lifeblood, not the thing that would eventually kill me. Similar to the first time behind the wheel of my dad’s 1978 blue GMC truck, I understood that a little more gas was going to cause a lot more fun. image “Cool, huh?” the guy who warned me about falling off the cliff asked. “Yeah!” I shouted, before high-fiving him. I walked inside the hut to find Taylor, Chip and a beer awaiting my arrival. “That was the best thing I’ve ever done!” I said to both of them. (In hindsight, losing my virginity to a girl who 14 years later is still way out of my league might be the best thing I’ve ever done, but tackling the first run of Hut to Hut is definitely second.) “Good,” Taylor replied, “because there’s three more of ‘em.”

German oompah music played in the background at the hut while nearly everyone but me (I’m vegan) ate bratwurst. By the time we finished a few beers, the sun had vanished for the evening, which meant turning on the light that sat in the middle of my forehead. The darkness caused a bit of anxiety that would not have been there had the sun still shined, but similar to a junkie, I needed more. Nearly horizontal on my sled, I flipped on the light and was able to see approximately 30 feet in front of me. The first downhill was short – 10 seconds tops – and helped me get comfortable with the idea of sledding underneath the moonshine. Now that I was an old pro, I decided to go for style points, so I twisted down straight runs, rode icy banks and tore through snowy mounds. All without my heels or palms in the ground. Once again, Chip and Taylor were waiting for me at the bottom of the second run. “How was it?” Chip asked. But he didn’t need me to respond. He knew it was awesome. German techno and more beer greeted me at the second hut, which is where the party really got started. Just as many people danced outside as they did inside and makeshift bars were set up for people to get drinks nearly every 20 feet. This was also the point where the booze seemed to kick in for most everyone as the volume increased, a few clothes came off, costumes began dismantling themselves and anywhere that was at least five feet from the hut became ample ground for peeing.

Remember that scene in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, when Napoleon goes to Waterloo and is afraid to ride the slides, only to start moving children out of the way when he discovers how amazing it is? Well, before the third run, that was me. I got right next to skiers and snowboarders and owned that mountain like it’s last name was “Ritchie.” I got so wild in my free-form sledding, that I rode an icy bank, lost control, and slid across the run, coming dangerously close to a cliff that would have meant not the end of my night, but the end of my life. I’ll never know exactly how close I came to falling off, but I do know that the me of two hours previously would have headed back up the mountain. The present me, on the other hand, laughed it off and continued going down. Instead of meeting inside the hut, my snowboarding friends were waiting at the bottom of the run. “Dude, we saw you from the top of the mountain!” Chip said. “You were killing it!” And I knew he was right. I was, in fact, killing it.

The third hut was similar to the type of resort lodge my parents would hang at if my parents were skiers. Fireplaces, exposed wooden beams, employees in sweaters – that sort of thing. Still, there was beer and music, but most everyone stayed inside and all clothes remained on. I would soon learn that this relaxed atmosphere was everyone’s way of preparing for the final run.

The last gasp was literally straight down the mountain. No stops. No turns. No ledges. Just a freefall in snow. I sped so rapidly that I lost my sled almost immediately, which meant once again digging in my palms and heels in hopes of gaining control over my body. Without trying, I became a human luge and moved so fast I zipped past skiers. But within a minute, my ass began to freeze and holes had been burned into my gloves, which exposed my palms to the frigid snow. Whenever I had the chance, I would position my body to hit any clump of snow to decrease my speed. It helped, but also caused an explosion of white goodness to go up my nose and cover my goggles. Then, like the Germans do, we went to the lodge and got drunk.

Reminder: Nazi Ringtones Are Really Not Cool, Totally Illegal in Germany

A 54-year-old German man is facing jail time for having an Adolf Hitler speech as his cellphone ringtone. Yeah, aside from being offensive and morally reprehensible, the ringtone was also a poor choice in a country intent on getting beyond its bleak past with a constitution that forbids public display of Nazis and their works.

The man’s ringtone was noticed by several passengers on a Hamburg train who then alerted the authorities. The cellphone played a Hitler speech where the Nazi leader pledged the “destruction of the world Jewry.” Once the man was taken into custody, police also found swastika stickers and photos of Hitler on the cell phone labeled “the greatest commander of all time.” Creepily enough, a google search for “nazi ringtone” yields a site called AudioSparx that has about a dozen on offer, at prices ranging from $34 to $210. AudioSparx is a division of Navarr Enterprises music company and based in Florida, a known Nazi hotbed.

German Guy Really Focusing on Beer Coasters

A German dude has broken the world record for the largest structure ever built with beer mat coasters — 300,000 of them. In the western German town of Schleiden yesterday, Sven Goebel, 21, completed construction on a five-room apartment made entirely of beer mats. It even featured a table and chairs and and a fireplace. But then, it all came crashing down.

After spending six to eight hours a day, seven days a week, since January to build the thing, Goebel had to knock it down to prove it was only held together with static and magic, not adhesive. Goebel had to use over a quarter of a million of the beer mats to make it in the Guinness Book of World Records, where, apparently, he already owns several other records involving beer mats.

Germans Re-Enact ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ on Budget Airline

Two German women have been arrested after trying to board an easyJet flight from Liverpoool to Berlin with a dead relative. Gitta Jarant, 66, and Anke Anusic, 44, attempted to bring 91-year-old Curt Willi Jarant, the women’s husband and step-father, respectively, aboard the flight claiming he was just “sleeping.” He was actually dead.

The family had arranged help for a “disabled relative” at the airport, and it was an an airport worker charged with transporting Curt from a taxi to the plane in a wheelchair that first noticed something was amiss. “I immediately felt unsure about the situation but I did my best to help by carefully lifting the man from his seat. To my horror his face fell sideways against mine — it was ice cold,” the airport worker, Andrew Millea said. The women told Millea he was simply old and frail and tired.

Millea notified authorities, who tried to find Curt’s pulse on the tarmac; the women continued to insist that he was sleeping. First-aid staff confirmed that he was dead. Coroners are awaiting the post-mortem results to tell how long he’d been down. The plane tickets had been purchased weeks prior, presumably when he was still alive. Curt suffered from Alzheimer’s and wanted to return to Germany to die. His wife, Gitta Jarant, still insists that he was breathing at the airport and is demanding an apology from the police and the airport. But, according to Millea, when first aid staff pronounced Curt dead, the women asked if they could fly without him, which is probably not the reaction you’d have if your husband had just died.

Germans Deem New York Nothing More Than a Land of Cupcakes

This is totally Sex and the City‘s fault. Sarah Jessica Parker, Magnolia Cupcakes, we blame you. McDonald’s in Germany are now offering a series of cupcakes named after New York City neighborhoods — Central Park, Soho, Chelsea, and East Village. Because, really now, what is New York now but a series of cutesy cupcake shops?

The East Village cupcake is cappuccino-flavored because, according to German McDonald’s, “Here come from the most famous artists in New York” and also something about Andy Warhol that doesn’t quite translate. A dude in a floppy hat and corduroy pants stands alongside the E.V. cupcake on the German website.

Chelsea is chocolate because it “was once terribly hip, sometimes not, and then again.” It’s paired with a dude in baggy jeans and a rumpled button-down. So un-Chelsea. McD’s, get that guy in some G-Stars.

Soho gets stuck with a vanilla cupcake and a chick who looks like a cute nurse because the only reason to go to Soho and throw some elbows on the sidewalks is Uniqlo.

Central Park gets a strawberry cupcake and a cool chick in jeggings and a vest whose style is more downtown than uptown. German McDonald’s explains that Central Park is where “all of New York hangs out.” Who knew?

German Hotel Lets Guests Pay with Art

A German hotel where you get to pay for your stay with art? Seems pretty natural for Berlin, but actually it’s in the south German city of Stuttgart. There, a once derelict house is now part of an art project: a hotel where guests pay for their stay by putting on a performance.

Byung Chul Kim, a Korean artist, is the director of the hotel. Prior to opening the crash pad last summer, he once did an art piece where he lived in the window of a Stuttgart pet store for a week and offered himself as a pet with a 1,200 euro price tag.

The hotel’s accommodations are simple, but the decor is special. The two bedrooms lack real beds; one has a couch, the other has mattresses on the ground, but there are bright colors and unique artwork throughout, including a television opposite the toilet playing video of a local sculptor sitting, pushing, and sweating — the better to push through toilet workouts.

Kim films each night’s performances for his archives. Performances can range from awkward readings to drum sets to broader interpretations of the idea of “performance.” One group of travelers paid their way with a barbecue as performance. An unemployed local woman once stayed at the hotel for a month in return for putting on a “chambermaid performance” and tidying the place. “It was always nice and clean,” Kim recalls. “And yes, it was art.”

Since the hotel opened some seven months ago, only about 100 guests have come through, and the project will close this summer . “Most people think that they can’t perform,” says Kim, but he says when you do anything thing with love and care, “it all become a performance.”

German Engineering Fails on the Slopes

File this one under travel hell, and/or reasons you can’t get your significant other to hit the slopes with you. On Tuesday, a technical failure at a Bavarian resort left 43 skiers hanging, literally, for hours, trapped in four-person gondolas hundreds of feet above the ground. Turns out, German engineering isn’t always so perfect.

It took a team of 100 firefighters and mountain rescue specialists to safely remove all 43 skiers from the gondolas. Some were simply lowered to safety while other had to rescued via helicopter. No one was injured, and no word yet if anyone resorted to gondola-sex while awaiting rescue.