Tuesday, 31 August 2010

celtic tiger

These lapses in vacation time and the end of summer give H and I good opportunities to plan the next round of holiday-making.  We have decided to return the beautiful Ireland in the Autumn, and we are finding ourselves with a virtual embarassment of choices.  We are thinking about taking one of the ubiquitous vacation cottages in the countryside.  These locations are fantastic and authentic, seemingly the result of the properties boom that hit Ireland ahead of the housing market collapse.  In this case, however, these investments may have been a bit dubious, too, since people in rural areas could quickly take on the financial burden of a second, less rustic and more ameniable home and rent the original to tourists.  It is difficult to say if that was a good plan, though it is a little unfair to compare Ireland to Greece, since the Greeks never showed promise as an economic wonder and it is unfair, I think, to say Ireland disappointed. 
One unintended result of economic rescue-breathing, however, may be becoming apparent there, besides our overwhelming selection of venues.  There is an over-abdundance, as well, in the bigger towns of hotels--zombie establishments, as Bloomberg reports.  Despite decreased demand for room, many resort hotels and guesthouses remain open but as vertible ghost towns, since hotelliers would be more indebted should they give up the business, shutter it because they would have to remit those stimulus funds that put them in business in the first place, taxing a lost enterprise.  Empty hotels compete with lower and lower rates and make it impossible for businesses that would be otherwise healthy to turn a profit.  This is all interesting--how one's tourist buck affects this macro-miasma--but we are more focused on exploring more of the country, whose charm will surely be able to withstand this sort of contrived catastrophy.

pax romana

Depending on who one asks, and there is still a lot of latitude for pessimism, Germany and the rest of the EU have successfully staved off the worst of the financial cataclysm and are on their way to recovery. This is in stark contrast to the situation in the US, and it is in part at least owing to the extant social-safety-net, which keeps people from being evicted and turned out on the streets and did not need to debate some slap-dash welfare program, financial regulations that curtail the excessive accumulation of power for companies and temper share-holder decision, keeping executive salaries from escaping to unreal levels, a more patient and sounder fiscal policy.
The EU has its share of imperfections and there are still incidents of voracious greed and abject poverty, but the biggest and most stable difference between the two and economic prosperity is that the EU has a manufacturing base and produces tangible things. Measured just by its spun-up services industry, the USA is about like nouveau riche Dubai. Even little Liechtenstein, in addition to banking, has a healthy business in making dentures and artificial teeth. Stock market fluctuations are driven for the most part by knee-jerk computer programming that buys or sells by fiat once a certain threshold is met, and the stock markets as well as the varied basket of other economic health indicators do not really tell much of a story, if businesses cannot be coaxed into hiring or unfreezing excess funding they are holding on tightly to as insurance against deflation.
Only generation of revenue, both personal and commercial, marks real change and backs up currency's value. Like the oil barons of the Mid-East, Russian oligarchs and American robber-barons are dismissive of the EU as antiquated, but as H pointed out, Europe may not be as flashy or dynamic but has been doing what it has been doing for centuries and without oil, bubbles and busts.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

tarnhelm or with my sword and magic helmet

Because I do not have a regular Hausartz, after I was discharged from the hospital, they released to me the photographs and a CD of the magnetic resonance images of my head.  The software on the CD would animate the whole sequence, and it was fascinating to watch, although it was a bit gruesome to see my head slowly materialize with the squiggle of an ear, then build up layer by layer to the wrinkles of my brain and naked eyeballs.  It made me think of that ghastly vintage pulp science-fiction paperback cover art, where just the suggestion of a shadow is frightening enough for the whole book.  My next resolution is to get a regular physician, not only to keep my records straight, but also so I don't hesitate and procrastinate until I have to hopping mad enough to go to the emergency room.

Friday, 27 August 2010

bacchanalia


My mother found an excellent wine-service, a pitcher, for us, decorated with the face of Bacchus and grape leaves.  I agree with H that it seems rather technical with the thumb-screw but the frame holds a bottle of wine perfectly secure and one could pour from this comfortably and neatly. 
Given the general flimsiness and shoddy construction of most modern accessories, like plastic containers whose lids are ill-fitting, shirts that loose buttons, paperclips malleable enough to make an argument against recycling, or bag clips that develop a severe under-bite, one becomes unaccustomed to working with something that is perfectly designed, solid and ergonomically correct, like a fine writing instrument and not a pair of scissors embossed "LEFTY" treated as if they could be the perfect synthesis of form and function. I was equally impressed and someone struggling not to compliment dexterity when I found a nice old silver pair of sugar tongs, which grasped a sugar cube with a minimum of extra pressure and no effort.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

coyote savvy or chicken little

There has been a regular spree of concessions and confessions lately coming from the US government and I don't know quite what to make of this surprising bit of frankness.  Via a few bloggers either invited, planted, or embedded as part of a US Treasury Department deep background self-assessment, senior officials basically allow that the subsidies and programs styled mortage relief are in effect only benefiting the banks and prolonging the suffering of homeowners.  Under the terms of the program, for which only a narrow percentage of struggling households in America have managed to qualify and navigate the paperwork, total debt is not reduced, just the terms of the repayment schedule: families already underwater on their mortage--owing more on their home loans than their house is worth, can now pay less per month, letting banksters project more revenue due to interest on principle and thereby lend out more money with their risk of default mitigated by the government program.  Even without the assistance of unextraordinary cynicism, if Treasury officials did admit to this, knowing the information would go public and be left to skewed to fairly sober judgment, that is pretty flooring in itself.

 It is like the latest Wikileaks dispatch that poses the equally unextraordinary question what if America is garnering the reputation as an exporter of terror and general ill-will.  Is the US government more willing to entertain the hypothetical, even unapologetically so?  There is another blatant beast, as reported by Time Magazine, in the headlines concerning a California circuit court ruling that upholds the right of government agents to pop a tracking device on any one's vehicle.  The Constitutional augurers, very non-chalantly, decided that a citizen has no reasonable expectation--or freedom from intrusion, in his driveway.  I am sure that gated-communities within this court's jurisdiction are exempted.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

leechcraft

I gave everbody a bit of a scare when I needed to be rushed to the emergency room, with all the signs, I had decided in the car, of a stroke or something else catastrophic.  I was admitted to the hospital and with friends and family, sort of puzzled through what else may have set off this frightening episode.  Going stepwise, it made sense what the less traumatic causes might have been and did wonders to relieve my worries, which I am sure just exaserbated and magnified every misplaced sensation.  At first, to me, nothing seemed particularly out of place, but it seemed I had succumbed to a terrible coalition of too much coffee, barometric pressure, aspirin, an empty stomach, laissez-faire tensions at work that conspired with a sinus headache and a panic attack.
 They seem like sensible and common enough experiences--shared to the extent I am sure I was not the first to make that mistake, but I suppose not intelligibly communicable until one experiences it for ones self.  A battery of tests, including an MRI that was a strange and artistic experience, isolated among the sounds of laser blasts and techno whale music, and an ultrasound scan on the veins in my neck eliminated the most dire causes.  The physcian admitted to me that 90% of the time, they never know what causes these things before discharging me the next day.  I just never though a series of mundane irritants could mimic--at least what I imagine it to be--the feeling of something scarier and much worse.  A panic attack, and I hope I am using the proper terminology, is by no means something innocent, and neither are the underlying anxieties and vulnerabilities that invite it in.

Monday, 23 August 2010

mätzchen

Unfortuneately, I think, the German government is buying more and more into gimmickery.  Despite arguments against initiating the program, the counterpart to the US Health and Human Services Secretary, Ursula von der Leyen (Minister of Families, Seniors, Women and Children and interested in other things as well, thank you very much) seems rather hell-bent on launching Germany-wide programs that certain communities have pieced together that would issue a credit-card to children of welfare (Hartz IV) that they can use instead of entry fees for museums, cultural events and sports centers.  Opponents maintain, like H said when it was first introduced, that it will be an affront to many parents, sending the message that they can't be relied on to provide enriching things for their own kids, and there is the prohibitive expense of issuing cards and card-readers to all these venues, especially little museums and sites that only charge nominal fees in the first place.  I imagine that carrying around a poor family's credit card would be a little sygmatizing as well.  I hope von der Leyen has good intentions with this program, but I suspect rather one can just follow the money and find who stands to see a profit off of this rather unnecessary installation.  It reminds me of the full body airport scanners that the EU was pressured into buying or to be later mothballed. 
Further, it is just like with the fancy transaction authorization number (TAN) generator calculators, which are meant to phase out mailing bank customers lists when they ran out of secure numbers.  The calculator works out a supposedly unbreakable random number by reading the magnetic stripe on one's bank cards.  This sounds to me like the algorithm that solves every Sudoku puzzle and takes the fun out of it.  Some banks are forcing this on their clients, but these gadgets were a bit premature, since Germany is now moving, maybe as a result of more outside influences and in response to the wishes of the US to monitor transactions for terrorist activity, to adopt standardized SWIFT banking parameters for their accounts and banking identification numbers (Bankleitzahlen--BLZ).  If the numbers can that drastically, I am sure those calculators will be useless and the banks will be obligated to buy a whole new batch of them.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

unterhaltung

The movie industry is being very quick, escalating the technology, expense and application to diverse genres, to embrace three-dimensional technology.  A part of it I guess is supposed to be cutting-edge but 3-D movies already rose and fell out of favour, and I wonder if its not a belated and possibly unwelcome re-packaging and re-introduction, something nostalgic or forgotten and unknown.  I suppose also the entertainment industry leverages more control if its spectacle is relegated again to the theater.  A stage play or a live concert is a nice dose of engaging the audience.  Movies and the whole entertainment industry in general is struggling towards  hyperrealism, blurring the skirm and screen.  I wonder, however, where those fuzzy edges will be in a few years, re-mastering classic films like the colourization fad of the early 90s should the derth of originality continue.  Nonetheless, I can't fathom that 3D enhances the story-telling process, and no story ever told was not because of technical limitations from recited epic poetry to prose to big-budget films.  Entertainment, no matter what form it takes, still relies on the imagination of the spectator, otherwise it's not art or anything more creative than a carnival ride.  3D elements may have its place in reporting, and that may possibly one day help differentiate actual news from entertainment.

glass bottom boat

Over the weekend, I was visiting Bamberg.  We had a nice respite from the rainy, summer-smashing weather, bordering on too hot and unstirred, and decided to all take a leisurely drive through the Fränkische Schweiz in my parents fancy new convertible.  It was very nice to have have the breeze and the full panorama view of the tall old buildings of Bamberg and then the expanse of trees and mountains.  My parents had meet one another some thirty years before in Bamberg and really enjoyed the drive, showing me the spot where they had picnics and played frisbee and the rough cliff face at a place called Tiefenellern where they climbed up and found a little, secret cave.  Mostly, the landscape was unchanged and how they remembered it.  On the way back, we stopped at the manificent Seehof, the summer residence of the Prince-Bishop electors of Bamberg, in Memmelsdorf. 
This manor, when my parents first discovered it in the 70s, had been abandoned for 180 years and had fallen into disrepair.  My mother wanted to buy the neglected property, if she could, back then.  The gardens and grounds were impressive, and there was a water cascade, like the one at Linderhof, overlooking the artificial lake, that had a very ornate depiction of the exploits of Hercules.  I could make out the poor Nemean Lion and the foul birds and the golden apples, and Hercules being crowned by the Goddess of Fame.  I remember Hercules did not get credit for all these labours because he took short-cuts, like cleaning the dirty stables--he had help of two Rivers, here represented as the Main and Pegnitz, and as a result was assigned a harder task.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

al Kaboom

The last US military combat brigade left Iraqi territory for Kuwait, primed to hand over security to native forces.  It seems strange how this day was recorded and perhaps how it will be remembered.  There was mention but secondary and no plays made for symbolism, though I am sure that there were plenty of regrets and remorse for those, both Iraqis and soldiers that were not able to see this day and for whom some measure of reconciliation came too late.  There was no walking back of protests, neither relief, jubulation nor latent anger expressed.  I don't know what the mood and sentiment was really when America withdrew from Vietnam or Korea but do not suspect that the day, symbolic or otherwise, passed with no recognition.  Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, US bankster types helped redesign the dinar, which had been worth the equivalent of four US dollars prior to Iraq-Attacky I, and had been amazed since then that the Tower of Babel was portrayed on their money.  I am glad to have since learned that it is the Great Mosque of Samarra represented there, which was all but turned with skirmishes and US soldiers using the vantage point as an observation post.  Of course, I was convinced also that the elusive weapons of mass destruction absolutely had to be the Ark of the Covenant or the Leviathan.  I hope the people of Iraq can prosper because of or despite of the seven years of war and occupation.  Regardless of the spin and kangaroo court of the US, it was Iraqis that found Hussein and turned him over to authorities, wihout even broaching the question of whether it all was a legitimate aggression since even the claims later recanted could be attributed to everyone's want and need to appear tough and secure and collected to his neighbours and to his meddlers.  It wasn't the US involvement in Cambodia that affected change.  Rather, it was their surrender from Vietnam that allowed Vietnam to press for reform and offer assistance.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

rain dance or come Josephine in my weather machine

Not without at least some circumstantial evidence, Russian academics are speculating, as reported by Radio Free Europe, that more and more climatologists are attributing the record wildfires and heat wave to DARPA and secret US technology that can control the weather. Not to cheapen the unimaginable human tragedy in Pakistan, but I wonder if the same Doctor Strangelove weapon has sunk a fifth of the country, in a bid to regain the hearts and minds of the population, whose government and predilections have been recently shown to be not in line with US interests, and perhaps lull more radical elements into submission. This new lend-lease operation may, however, play out in several ways, depending on the US strategy. If Western nations can provide charity and assistance to rebuild and keep the people of Pakistan healthy, then the warlords loose influence, but if it is al Qaeda that saves the people and destabilizes the government, the US has good reason to ratchet up its interference. That sounds diabolically like a win-win situation for the strategists. Maybe all this could take place without the deus ex machine of weather control but it sounds much better, and a little kooky conspiracy theory is very easy to dismiss and diverts unwanted investigation.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Monday, 16 August 2010

sola fide

Schiller, Bach, Mozart and Luther, among others, are claimed by many, many towns and villages—to know Marx peered at that cliff from this observation platform or Brahms performed in that church—to the extent that it is always interesting and more than just trivia to have one’s biography filled in with disparate and renowned details, but sometimes too many places asserting their historical personage privileges can make one lose sight of the pinnacle moments. I have seen Luther in captivity in the Wartburg, his academic career in Eisenach and Erfurt, the nunnery where his future wife grew up in Brehna by Leipzig, the trials in Augsburg and Worms. All of these places are interesting and definitely not self-promoting tourists’ traps with specious connections to fame, but I often have forgotten it is in Wittenberg where Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door. While the antique Luther monuments are being cleaned for later anniversary celebrations, meanwhile the city of Wittenberg has set up this ersatz collection of garden gnomes on the market square, perhaps in a bid to regain exclusive Luther privileges. Some people are critical of this display, saying it is frivolous or unbecoming, but I think these colorful statues are more accessible to the people than some frightfully stern old bronze monolith and needs no justification.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

tagesblatt

H and I made a short trip to Leipzig and there were a few fun and out of the ordinary items on the agenda.  We attended an organ concert performed at the Nikolaikirche, played incidentally on the largest instrument in Saxony.  The ancient church itself is famous for hosting more recently popular demonstrations against the East German regime and helped spur on the reunification.  It was relaxing and meditative to listen there sitting in the pews, focused on the music but with one's back to the performer, up in the rafters.  These two singular cherubs were the only figural decoration on the ceiling, and reminded me of that pop-culture, meme of the two angels that was remixed as those two grumpy old men, Statler and Waldorf, who heckled the Muppet Show from the theater box. 
Later, we went to a restaurant hewn out of a functioning brewry hewn out of the cavernous arrivals' hall of the old Bavarian Train Station.  The kettles and plumbing were expert equipment from Bamberg brewers, and apparently one could a take a workshop to learn about beer-making and make a few liters of one's own.
While we did not try that, we did take a souvenir bottle, packaged the traditional way, similar to a Bocksbeutel for wine from Franconia that my parents gave us. 
Later in the evening, we looked at the imposing Völkerschlachtdenkmal by twilight.  This monument is the tallest in Europe, out-doing Big Ben or the Eifel Tower, and is an absolutely massive remembrance of the defeat of Napoleon's armies in Leipzig, and honoring those who fought on both sides to bring a decisive, if temporary, peace to the warring nations.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

dact and re-dact

As part of its continuing charm offensive to plug potential leaks and dampen whistle-blowers, a communique was issued en masse with current guidance to staff "to NOT/NOT download any documents" recently made public as they are still considered classified.  Further, having this information on one's office or even on one's private home computer would constitute spillage of secure data.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

letterboxing

Mike Shaughnessy, of BoingBoing fame, shared his latest find, a collection of vintage colour photographs from Berlin/Verlagsanstalt für Farbenfotographie of a European tour from 1906, as a Google Maps geocaching.   This is a more pleasant alternative to the debate over the invasive nature of Street View.
These pictures are amazing and it's quite remarkable to see what has weathered conflicts and upheavals, even considering how the last century represents in most cases only a small fraction of the lifetime of the sites.  Particularly interesting was this image of Kaysersberg in the Alsace region that H and I visited in the Spring.  The geocaching grafiti tag really was eye-catching, since we had just recently watched the Kevin Costner film Dragonfly, and the symbol.  There's a similar mysterious map-related cruciform symbol that played a significant part in the plot.

naukograd

The unquelled wildfires are still raging in Russia and neighboring lands and it is a terrible and unprecedented tragedy, deadly smog settling over cities and villages wiped away.  Now the greatest urgency seems focused on minimizing potentially catastrophic and lingering damage if the fires reach nuclear research and processing facilities at Mayak--Russian for "lighthouse."  In the midst of all these tragedies that are pinned to failures of something called crisis management, which I guess is a new discipline like managed health care, it is amazing to me how what was buried and forgotten is unearthed and strewn about.  A nearby closed-town, a restricted area for plant workers that is not accessible to the public and probably did not appear on any map, suffered major environmental damage in the past and emblazoned it on its city coat-of-arms as a radio-active, glowing salamander.  The fires are out-of-control all over, but authorities especially want to ensure that latent radiation is not reawakened and spread, like that godzilla salamander or Springfield's three-eyed fish.  I wonder how often these unnamed towns are on the public radar without the spotlight of imminent disaster.  Buried in the distant past, I wonder how much awareness there is even for enviromentalists, residents and the people who keep tabs on the nuclear posturing.  I hope Russia can cope and recover, and maybe take a leading role with such crisis management in the future.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

tarpaulin

Given the almost jubilant anticipation that the US financial sector held yesterday for yet another turn of the screw that opens up the flood gates for more stimulus, I feel doubly vexed that the economic assessment was winnowed away into a non-story. Of course, it was too much of a tell that banks and associates rejoiced and rallied over the TARP package. That should have made everyone a bit queasy. More dismal news would cue world governments to inject some fresh money into the economy, and like I once heard a reporter fumble the idiom, paying Peter to rob Paul, instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul.  The mixed up message is about the same but there's a subtle difference I cannot quite unravel.  Business kept its poker face, held its composure, so they can escape some measure of the scrutiny that goes with the duplicity of companies who complain venomously over government interference and call economic policies defeatist and yet gladly accept a piece of bail-out pie or unbuild to order to fulfill a government contract or niche.  A cleverly executed hybrid automobile, I am sure, would do well on the market on its own merit, but instead of innovation, cost-overruns and short-comings are buffed down with tax credits and funding earmarks for pet-projects.  I wonder what was decided behind closed doors that yanked this story from the next day’s news cycle.

Monday, 9 August 2010

vini, vidi

Having resided in the European Union for quite some time, on official business, though without accompanying citizenship, I have gotten use to borderless pacts and relative freedom of movement. I have run up against a few logistical riddles lately, however, when it comes to travel. Though I had every assurance in addition to my own research on entry requirements for Turkey, I was still nervous and nearly flipped out when the guy behind the ticket counter informed me that my vegetarian meal, as requested, would be available on the flight. I misheard it. A visa is the short-form of the Latin phrase “charta visa,” the paper that has been seen. It think, however, a more apt expression might be quid pro quo, as everything escalated or otherwise sustained behind bureaucratic and diplomatic reciprocity and blow-back to the US for making travel in general such an unpleasant experience. H and I, projecting longingly to the next vacation, are hoping to spend New Year’s in Russia and I am already a bit overwhelmed by the process and who I belong to under these circumstances and travel arrangements. In an unrelated move, the airport at Hamburg is poised to start a pilot program to test full-body scanners, the city-state’s foreign minister announced. After the revelations, which should not have come as a big surprise, the US Department of Homeland Security is actively warehousing these images for more than just training purposes, I wonder why Hamburg would have committed to this exercise—which is apparently on a voluntary-basis, and risk being entangled in the same mistrust and suspicions that the US is courting. That makes about as much sense as a city-state having a full-fledged ministry of foreign affairs.

Friday, 6 August 2010

hen party or turkey in the straw

In response to the fires that have ravaged the country side and to record droughts, which in part some claim were perpetuated by laxer fire services than in Soviet times, Russia has stopped all exporting of grain. This I imagine will send shudders through the markets, raising the price of beef, beer, and sundry. Such gossip, like the price of tea in China, makes me always wonder what the common currency that it is financial people barter with. Meanwhile, criticism may have been fairly leveled over the response, but temperature extremes are unprecedented, even in Soviet times, though neither record-keeping nor the Soviet Union are not so long-lived as the weather. The preternatural may become the mundane controlling factor for money, as if previously disasters like flooding and famine were only marginally counted in terms of relief and rebuilding and charity portfolios.
Environmental soundness, above and beyond keeping the alive and sustainable for future spending, will be the biggest thing going and will soon outpace the military-industrial complex and defence spending.  Big Green, however, I hope would be incorporated on more sound and friendlier principles and not exploited as a means to influence and orchestrate sovereignty and choice. It took businesses eons to froth up the clout to dicate policy to people and governments, and I hope that genuine ecological stewardship won't be abused in the same way. Some augeries that world economies are verging towards a period of deflation.  The scholarly embellishments that go with a seemingly simple direction are very ornate, like a wind-rose.  Among other things, like making money worth more, deflation also, because it dampens the collective risks and rumours of risks that dissuade people from saving and expend their nervous energies on chancy schemes, could put an end to the gossip and back-biting.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

mass-transit

Almost as refreshing as honest-to-goodness flying cars and loads better than a superfluous monorail, a couple of months back at the Beijing High-Technology Expo, a new concept for public transportation, a sort of straddle bus, had its premiere.  As China Hush reports, this high clearance chassis speeds passengers over the top of regular traffic without the need for a dedicated lane, displacing property alread curb-side, and at a fraction of the cost of digging subway lines.  This alternative means of getting around, besides being generally non-intrusive, passive unlike underground tunnels or ever-expanding ride share lane schemes, the busses further could realistically be made to run off solar-power.  Still, I think it is an impressive feat of civil engineering for German trolleys to share the road with cars.  I think that this is pretty keen and may help cut down on urban congestion, especially in the suburbs that have become launching pads, flyaway zones into the snarl.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

pen-pals

After reading about how the US Federal Bureau of Investigations issued a take-down notice to Wikipedia--possibly confusing the web site with Wikileaks--to stop using its departmental logo in its article on the FBI, to which Wikipedia politely but firmly refuted by disabusing the FBI of its wrong interpretation of copyright law and public domain, I thought again about how stretched thin resources and bloated ambitions must be in the intelligence services.  Now the EU has been pressured to adopt a less-fortified version of the treaty to exchange banking data with the US, and analysts may be monitoring and archiving the length and breadth of all transactions soon, all in the name of fighting terror.  This dragnet will maybe nab some tax-dodgers, saving Germany from paying for another ill-gotten CD-ROM from a Swiss bank.  In conjunction with repeated volleys at the slouching towards Bethesda administration and reduplication of the US intelligence services overall, I wonder how useful this new mission could possibly be or is it just buring more shortcomings under other heaps of raw data.  Curious, I examined, through Wikipedia's article, the FBI's charges as compared to its successes:

Currently, the FBI's top investigative priorities are:

1.Protect the United States from terrorist attack
2.Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage
3.Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes
4.Combat public corruption at all levels
5.Protect civil rights
6.Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises
7.Combat major white-collar crime
8.Combat significant violent crime
9.Support federal, state, local and international partners
10.Upgrade technology for successful performance of the FBI's mission.

In August 2007, the top categories of lead criminal charges resulting from FBI investigations were:

1.Bank robbery and incidental crimes (107 charges)
2.Drugs (104 charges)
3.Attempt and conspiracy (81 charges)
4.Material involving sexual exploitation of minors (53 charges)
5.Mail fraud – frauds and swindles (51 charges)
6.Bank fraud (31 charges)
7.Prohibition of illegal gambling businesses (22 charges)
8.Fraud by wire, radio, or television (20 charges)
9.Hobbs Act (Robbery and extortion affecting interstate commerce) (17 charges)
10.Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)-prohibited activities (17 charges)

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect, and I doubt that deputizing every second US citizen as a spy and informant and being able to comprehensively and seemlessly babysit every hobgoblin could result in a decisive victory over terrorism.  How was public corruption fought or civil rights protected?  After all, it was not the work of a glamourous, glancing of Hollywood agent that foiled the Shoe Bomber or the Underpants Bomber but the slight viligance, attentiveness of the passenger sitting next to them.

double-rainbow

Though the heat en route was oppressive, I am glad that H and I were able to enjoy the sun and the sand and the summer weather last month, since it seems that Sommer ist vorbei—or at least delayed on account of rain. It has been a real shock to the system, this mercurial heat replaced by sultry dampness stock-still, and people are struggling with summer colds. The weather needs to be redirected to Russia where fire-fighters are battling encroaching flames on the periphery of Moscow and countless villages have been grazed by uncontrolled fires. I hope they can curry some relief. Meanwhile, undetered, we are planning a few get-aways nearer to home, planning maybe to visit the ancient city at the confluence of rivers, and aptly-named, Regensburg, and seeing the monument at Valhalla or perhaps some tamer river-rafting on the Danube.

Monday, 2 August 2010

location scout

Hollywood is in the pre-production phases of a period adventure, a new version of the Three Musketeers starring Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz and Milla Jovovich, which will be at least in part filmed in the nearby cities of Würzburg and Bamberg, both beautiful and rich in history. Later this week, there will be a casting-call for extras. I am pretty excited about the exposure and augmented appreciation this will bring for this part of Franconia, but at the same time, I have a protective instinct for these places. I have remarked that both Würzburg and Bamberg have some excellent and authentic shoots to offer, and these places are not exactly undiscovered but neither are they over-run with tourism and too-common parlance.
I had wanted these streets as back-drops for independent movies or at least to tell the stories that Würzburg or Bamberg have to tell, and not some transplanted, ersatz swashbuckling in three-dimensions: the Peasants' Revolt, political intrigues with the Electoral College of the Prince-Bishops, the castle and the keep, Celtic monastics, the discovery of the x-ray, the invention of radar, the fire-bombing post Dresden, the US occupation, the art and architecture. I ought to work up a treatment myself, though H and I can be the perfect wall-flowers in the meantime.