Thursday, 30 August 2012

summative or headline roundup

Some cabinet officials in Germany’s ruling coalition want to levy a fee from those aggregator sites like Drudge Report or Yahoo! News and other services that supposedly profit unduly by leveraging the reporting of other agencies, baiting readers to their own mastheads then trickling off like Plinko bearings to the primary sources. This idea is only as of now a suggestion, but framers have been working on legislation since 2009 and similar plans have already been discussed in the States—with the Drudge tax, and has the support of some German publishing-houses (Verlag) and much hand-wringing and vocal protests on the opposing side. Lawmakers want these asymmetric earners (through front-page ads) to share profits with the makers of their content, the journalists. It seems like a fair proposition, at first, glance but the reasoning, I think, quickly folds. Aggregators don’t intercept potential advertising revenue (although I suppose, for example, if a reader first encountered some tempting resort ad in Pago Pago, the reader probably wouldn’t click on it a second time when mirrored on the newspaper’s web site) but feed and drive visitor traffic, and surely, in turn revenue.

If news- aggregators with high-visibility are targeted for skimming too much off the top, what’s to prevent this tariff from creeping to any link or the adjudging, rating, following or otherwise liking or disliking of social-networking sites? This proposal is like a shadowy, non-codified once-and-future ACTA or Son of SOPA, meant to de-vitalize the internet because the entertainment industry feels it’s turnover is being infringed upon. And there would of course be consequences, like the spectrum of what’s newsworthy shrinking and the feeder-services might be only willing to do business, find what’s fit to print, with its partners and affiliates.

prosopagnosia or lost-and-found

This strange news item from Iceland has already been circulating the internet, concerning a solitary foreign woman who visited the volcanic canyon of Eldgjá as part of a bus tour through the southern highlands, but I think the idea is pretty intriguing and bizarre. After a hike, she freshened up and changed her clothing and jacket. This act, which went unnoticed and made her unrecognisable to her fellow travellers, and a miscounting of the number of passengers on board by the driver and guide, caused a panic to ensue. The woman, draped now with the cloaks of something other than mistaken identity, did not recognise herself in the description of the missing passenger and certainly did not consider herself lost. Maybe, like in another historic case in Iceland mentioned in the article, she even participated in her own search-party.
I am glad everything turned out fine and it is starting to sound like an urban legend, but I think it begins to highlight some important questions.  Of course, this is a rare and frightening occurrence but I do wonder if there is not some mechanism responsible that’s a contemporary cog of inattentiveness and private, not shared perceptions. Like people saying, “without pictures, it didn’t happen,” and the ability to readily tag and label everything for processing and easily convey under most circumstances, documentary evidence, I wonder if our senses and personas are somewhat spoilt and skewed. I wonder if that means there will be more such incidents in the future.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

rote

One activity to try at home (preferably without witnesses) is to repeat one’s name until becomes meaningless. I can remember a schoolmate doing this as a little kid and I couldn’t identify the point for her perspective when the repetition became a transcendent thing, numb and unthinking like a trance, but for me it was when “Rosie” intoned turned into “Zero.”
It can be an interesting experience, to lose oneself—akin to trying to reconcile an optical illusion, and I think just as interesting are venues, formats and presentation that somehow always either require rehearsal or become invisible altogether.  There’s the traveling mat of one’s commute or household inventories that fade into the background, not looked at any longer (though one might notice their alteration or absence quicker than one would expect), but with the former, there are processes, no matter how dull or stale and imprinted to memory that don’t become obedient reflexes, something done in one’s sleep. Job searching, no matter how automated and centralized it is made, cherry-picking from a database rather than patrolling a beat or rustling the classifieds, seems to be one of those things.
Even something important and demanding is prone to distraction, and possibly because there is such a wide and raw focus with the unknown and expectations, makes the process, the search even more of a vehicle for the stickier burrs that refuse to stay in the background and are obnoxious cheerleaders that make it easier to miss other steps and details.One gets around the glitches and limitations soon enough, but still the slightest things refuse to flag.  There was one phrase that ran through every vacancy announcement that I took a second, considered look at, describing the city where the job was located, as the Nice of the North.  That repeating characterization drove me really to distraction.  I suppose because it was a constant amid a lot of variables.  While I think that is an apt and creative comparison and I do not consider myself a sophisticate, I do have to wonder at this effort to impart this bare fact to prospective employees.  I wondered if the targeted audience would think of the city in Southern France rather than struggling to understand the moniker, something like calling New Orleans the Big Easy.  I am glad that I have secured a position in the Nice of the North, though, so I will not need to face these daily diversions and am wishing everyone else the same luck, success and escape as well.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

brica-braca or the long now

Photographer David Johnson, via the astounding Colossal, the blog of Art and Visual Ingenuity, had a chance to experiment with new techniques and captured some blooming, long-exposure images of fireworks, during the International Firework Show held in Ottawa in early August.

Lax and taut by turns with the focus, he managed to capture the stages of bursting unseen, like some colourful and exotic fruit gone explosively ripe.

tv tray or serialization

As a little kid, I can remember being very engrossed, as I think a lot of kids were, at the breakfast table with the ingredient lists and nutritional information on the back and sides of cereal boxes.
 Letting my coffee cool a bit this morning, I wondered if people, especially kids, indulge in this sort of distraction. I bet parents would regard this innocent distraction more welcome than the chamber music of texting or the private dinner-theatre of web-browsing. I’m guilty too, not always able to pull myself away from the screen (it’s funny how so much of our time is spent staring at quadrilaterals—cereal boxes too—but without even seeing the rectangular frame. I do continue to pour over food labels but the message has changed a little: the names of the additives don’t seem quite like a sea-monkey kingdom potion (although not everything need be a sinister let-down and there’s some magic yet to be found in preparation and the recipe but there are more hacks and fillers rather than kitchen-witchery) and thinking about the provenance, packaging and the poly-lingual labeling is more interesting. I suppose, in the end, there’s not too much difference in how one chooses to take one’s morning briefing.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

rheingold

Mostly just to see something that we had not had the chance to see before and take out the camper in fair weather but partly also to check out the environs further afield of my future workplace, H and I took a weekend trip through the Rheingau. The region was outstandingly beautiful, opening into a vast landscape of vineyards climbing trellising upwards from the manicured banks of the Rhein, gently sloping and peopled heavily with palaces and cloisters and villages reminiscent of the French countryside.
Not to disparage the fine cities that sprawl to form a megalopolis from Frankfurt to Wiesbaden to Köln and beyond, but we had not experienced anything else in the area. Surely, we are saving a lot to explore for later but did visit some of the defining destinations points that came in quick succession as soon as we left the city-limits.
One attraction that we found was the Niederwald Monument, personifying Germania and built to occasion the unification of imperial Germany after the Franco-Prussian wars, windswept at the summit of the Rheinish terroir, and among a collection of Empire colossal monuments commissioned and built all in a shared spirit, like the gallery of greatness at Walhalla, the Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Das Völkerschlachtdenkmal bei Leipzig), or the Barbarossa Monument (der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Denkmal) in Kyffhäuser meant to intimate that the then new emperors were the legal successors to the Holy and Roman Empire of the Germans. I suppose that I am taken with this chauvinism precisely because I’ve been raised with my own for a long time now. Since I came to Germany, I have lived in a few places but none outside of Bavaria—or even Franconia.
Not that I regard people in Hessian or anywhere else as more or less German or anything, there is a certain attitude and dialect that one becomes accustomed to and can learn not to see. There are some aspects and trappings of common heritage and identity that can make what’s familiar or excused or unapologetic rather heavy-handed when just a little less familiar when seen in others. I guess I have a little trepidation but I’m sure it’s my imagination magnifying things. In any case, I am glad that we were able to visit the countryside first as tourists.

a mass of incandescent gas

Via the ever excellent Boing Boing, National Geographic reports on the singular roundness of the Sun. It is in fact on average the most perfectly spherical object known to man. The globes of the planets and satellites of course strive to this same figure but due to the tugging of other objects and their own rotation and compositions have settled mostly for a slightly oolong shape.

The article does not directly rate other, distant stars but seems to suggest that an astral body of a different class and age would not maintain a circular form. Scientists believe being able to better measure the tiny, hair’s breadth imperfections could better anticipate solar-induced weather conditions on Earth, like eruptions that disrupt communication or even the cycle of ice-ages. I wonder if astronomers have the ability to see if a far away star’s silhouette is round or distorted. Could that be a better indicator of a brood of planets—or specifically those that could harbour familiar biology, than watching for other types of perturbations? Does the reciprocal tug of a constellation of planets produce this perfect shape? Were the outline of a star proved to be a positive indicator of earth-like worlds, it would be a bit like the progression of the ancient astronomers from Ptolemy to Copernicus to Kepler, which saw the centre of the universe move from the Earth, to the Sun, to a point somewhere in between, the heavens not orbiting around the centre of the Sun but rather some fulcrum that was the sum negotiation of everything pulling against everything else.

Friday, 24 August 2012

distinguishing signs of vehicles in international traffic

For the old Lady, the T-3 Transporter, we never made good on designs to decorate her with those luggage-label bumper-stickers of places we’ve traveled to with her. And with Silver Lady, the California T-5, we were wavering on the idea.

Touring around Norway and seeing the moose icon on campers and motor-homes (på norsk, Bobil), we tried to find a small, discrete version for ourselves, but we were unsuccessful. There isn’t so much real-estate along the roof on this one. Instead, we thought we could do something subtle to frame the rear window, maybe, with little symbols, where some families display their children’s names in Germany or advertise the fact that they graduated in 2009 (Abi— for Abitur or Schulabschluss), of the places we’ve been.

One often sees an image of the German North Frisian island of Sylt or Usedom in the Baltic (pictured), which look for all things like a peeled banana or graceful yoga pose and a marauding shark, respectively, until one is told what they are. How’s that for a Rorschach test? It would be relatively easy to print out transparencies and stickers be creative with how one represents his travel destinations.

In somewhat related news, the German Minister of Transportation announced his support to permit municipalities within a county (Gemeinde unter einer Landkreis) to break from tradition and issue their own license plates (Kraftfahrzeugkennzeichen), not with the prefix of the surrounding county but personalized for their locality with whatever letter combination, not already claimed, they see fit. For instance, the village of Markt Unteroberbergburgmühlebach-an-der-Strasse would be no longer under the tyranny of parent East Allgäu county with its non-specific OAL affix but could try UOB or NBG, etc. Police officials, on the other hand, warned of absolute chaos and if politicians want to appeal to local patriotism, they’d be better off with bumper stickers. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

blacklisted or clutter-free: a cautionary tale

I did not notice that the four year anniversary for PfRC came and went without ceremony on my part but it did not pass without acknowledgement and observation. I received a message from the advertising platform notifying me that my account had been suspended over suspect or fraudulent click-activity. This was an unfortunate condemnation and I was more than a bit taken aback. I agree with the characterisation of wanting to maintain integrity all around for the advertising environment, and understand their inability to provide more details, since disclosure about how clicks are policed would give real fraudsters a work-around.

A few errant but curious clicks on my part to billboards on my own site (generally for products and services that I found interesting or ironic, and I would naturally be presented with ads tailored to my taste) or family and friends throwing some support and a known case of one irresistibly mocking political campaign that choose to establish residence on my site that was tagged daily—out of righteous vengeance, begrudging the party a few pennies—or even legitimate case of illegitimate redirecting of traffic—studying statistics and the internet chains of causality (which is another interesting aspect our blogging, aside from the fun of sharing and learning something in the process—knowing what drives traffic and who visits, as well as what ads are posted and how well they can match up to ones content)—since quite a few shady detour-services do stop by, I see, could be the source of this non-compliance with stated policy but of course I can’t know for sure. Maybe I had racked up just one too many penalties or tabs were kept from the beginning, however, I don’t think it was all ballot-stuffing. Like I said, I understand the importance of integrity and legitimacy, and I think that it is a losing proposition all around, should a publisher’s account go dark—not over the revenue, but over the opportunities lost to marketers and perhaps lost chances to enrich the place called the internet. It’s not like a struggling and bankrupt postal service loving junk-mail since it gives them something to deliver. The search engine achieved and maintains dominance and real utility for its complex search algorithms and I’m sure works the publicity programme with the same expertise. The service does offer an appeals process, which I completed—trying to be contrite and honest, but ultimately they notified me that my request for reinstatement was disapproved. It’s not so nice to be permanently punished, but as I said, the important factor for me is the sharing and discovery (while surely that’s cold comfort for those who earn a significant income from it) and of course will continue to blog, though it does feel at the moment a little diminished without that little extra element. I’ve been more preachy than usual and no one asked for an essay on why I am being punished but if I am to be made an example of, I wanted to stress to others the importance of keeping things wholly above-board and in as far as possibly policing one’s blog for violations.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

frost giants or manheimr steamroller

Here’s a clever and cute depiction of the nine worlds of Norse mythology, linked together by the cosmic tree of life, Yggdrasill. The legend of the map is accepted by most, the populations of each planet, like Manheimr home world to the humans or Jötunheimr for the Giants and with the same cast of characters, like the Squirrel, Ratatoskr, a mercurial figure that spreads gossips and carries insult from world to world, the different creatures assaulting the tree and the Eagle perched high above and stirring the winds on Earth with its wings. There is quite a bit of disagreement, apparently, on how these realms are arranged and relate to one another.
Were there supposed to be three levels, triads grouped together and clinging to the tree, like the chthonic, mundane and Olympian hierarchies of Greek mythology—or something completely different?
It is interesting, I think, how there are nine distinct regions and the Earth is acknowledged as just one among these—like the ninish planets of the Solar System, and that the Sun and Moon are not figured into the cosmology. Here is also an illustration from Carl Gustav Jung’s Red Book (Liber Novus) representing a similar archetype but perhaps as a tree of self-actualization. Having devoted sixteen years of work and reflection to this tome in order to better understand and explore his own theories on the collective unconsciousness and myth-making, I am sure that Jung also wondered about the ways we could map the universe and firmly believed in the importance of imagery and imagination.


voracious or conqueror worm

Something with a voracious appetite has unfortunately been snacking on our geraniums, which is a little surprising since they’re supposedly odious things to eat and even release chemicals that create a fire-wall for mosquitoes that the pests will avoid. That’s why they’re grown in window boxes, to keep intruders out. Examining the holes, we first wanted to blame a snail but then wondered how a snail would manage to reach the balcony. After some more investigation, we found the culprit feasting away, a poisonously green Hawk Moth caterpillar (Pappelschwärmer).
Gently, humanely, it was displaced to another buffet to complete its metamorphisis into that strange humming bird-like insect.  The flowers are surviving as well. This would also account for those mysterious microscopic pellets—caterpoo.






Tuesday, 21 August 2012

frühstücken oder morgen post

I really liked this tableau by Danish artist Laurits Andersen Ring, recently featured on the English Wikipedia home-page as a featured image.
Productive from the fin d’siècle until the 1930s, Ring’s style and subject matter helped define the Socio-Realism movement, which embraces such iconographic works as Grant Wood’s American Gothic, the anonymous and evocative profiles of the Great Depression in America (like the photograph of Migrant Mother [DE]) and the cavalcades of propaganda art from different confessions and persuasions yet all with common ways of portraying, lensing society. Focusing on the craftsmanship of the furnishings and small details really complete the scene, which is also pregnant with symbolism that slowly emerges. The allegorical is a subtle thing and can tell stories that are inexhaustible, noting the way the way shadows dapple, the copy of the page, the halo of greenery at the woman’s head, the intention of the palette and so on. Taking a moment to appreciate the unfolding reminds one that links do not allegory make.

Monday, 20 August 2012

energie wende


There are curious trees and reefs being cultivated across the plains of Germany, planted in response to the country’s plans to wean an energy hungry public and industrial sector off nuclear power.
Tilting at these gigantic windmills that form well-landscaped corridors that line the Autobahnen or at the expansive arrays of solar panels that are spreading across hill and field, I find the scale of substitution, replacing the smoke-stacks and cooling towers with alternative and passive means, quite impressive works of engineering—chasing and harnessing forces of nature that wouldn’t otherwise go unused and unappreciated but still without robbing its intended, but seeing this infrastructure grow still does excite some seeds of doubt and skepticism.
I believe that we are moving in the right direction, of course, but I do wonder what sort of green-washing might be undue distractions and skewed motivators: bio-fuels, depending on the source, do not ultimately affect less environmental impact, taking into account resources diverted for raising crops, destined for the tank and not the plate plus the extra kilometers potentially driven due to the cheaper price or false-comfort of being more ecologically friendly at the pump or residential insulation and energy-efficiency modernization programmes that are a boon to the construction and home appliance sectors but may yield diminishing returns for the environment and consumers.
Some very clever people, I am sure, have mulled and processed these returns but the effectiveness rings somehow less than expert. I suppose that the sleek and clean housing and the installation of windmills are quickly off-set and solar arrays are on fallow fields and are rotated, rather than taking up agricultural land and produce enough power to negate the impact, but one does have to wonder about the notion of risk-free, renewable power. Being human is a dirty-business that’s very taxing on space and resources and consumers and providers ought to work always towards innovation and break-through, but yet mindful that making do with less is ultimately the most efficient use of resources.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

abstract-concrete


Via the always splendiferous Neatorama, artist Fuchsia Macaree (the link is no longer) shares a brilliant visual logographic alphabet of a treasury of poetic foreign words that have no equivalents in English, like T for the Scottish term Tartle, the act of hesitation upon forgetting someone’s name, or P for the Russian Pashlost, which is a self-satisfied vulgarity masquerading as high morality—plus more to learn with everything else from Age-Tori to Zhaghzhagh.



There a lot of novel, neat words that are pretty lyrical and that I had not heard before, but this is not an exhaustive presentation of things that defy translation. What would you include in an alphabetical format?



Idiosyncratic and family pet-names names for things and concepts or a how about list of the weird jingo and abbreviations of concepts hard to visualize thrown around freely at the office, those words that would be completely foreign sounding and unassailable to a non-native speaker?

Saturday, 18 August 2012

verkehrsverhältnis

On roadways throughout Europe and beyond, vacation season cues traffic congestion and traffic jams (Staus). The phenomena of herding over multiple lanes, however, is an interesting one, though the study and wonder while one is in the middle of things unfolding and taking interminably long to reconcile itself does not make the occurrence merely academic. Still trying to understand the causes of such viscosity is part of the journey.
 I was not expecting such stop-and-go traffic conditions in Denmark, but these signs that indicate lanes merging that look like an awareness-ribbon along their highways seemed to signal without fail a bottleneck. It is understandable, I suppose considering this country of just five million is being descended upon by travelers coming and going could spur some relative over-cautiousness, which is probably just an extension of being polite and courteous. The display was more acute and regular there, but most Staus pass without explanation or incident with the hesitation and the snowballing reactions of being put in and taken out of formation. Often times, the only delay visible is from people rubbernecking at a scene in the opposite lane. Everyone should be safe and patient, and of course that goes a long way to minimize a true accident, since the occasion for rushing is almost always before one leave home. Sometimes I think the whole mess could be sorted out in no time with a holographic traffic warden directing cars to stay on course and discouraging second-guessing and hesitation. Driving, however, is a taxing and unnatural activity and one ought to acknowledge the compensation and tactics needed to keep traffic flowing may not always be instinctual.

WWII week: nacht und nebel

There is nothing more difficult to face than inhumanity become concrete. The dishonor, ostracizing, terror, torture, enslavement and disregard were unique in scale and system, but not without painful precedent and legacy, since it is the quality of dismissive otherness that empowers one group to do this to another. Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Romani, Freemasons, the Poles, the Russians, homosexuals, handicapped people, communists, anti-social types, political dissidents and other undesirables all could be stripped of their humanity in fact because it was decided with sanction that never shared it with the oppressors in the first place, on whatever grounds.

Why this was allowed to continue and to what extent the civilian population of Germany and the rest of the world were morally complicit is a question, I think, no one is equipped to fully articulate. What will people believe—not only that it is a dutiful thing to deprive another of his rights on such baseless grounds—the everyday struggle we have with our own petty judgments and prejudices are most certainly successors to all the strife and hate of history but the best any of us can do is strive to be better and positively influence others—but also the sanitized reports that enforced the euphemisms?
I wonder what it is that people want to believe or what is easier to reconcile quickly slips into truth and fact. Today, some former concentration camps are hallowed grounds, memorials to unthinkable loss and cruelty that are unflinching testimony. Like the words on the gate of Dachau, Arbeit Macht Frei, the inscription on the gate of Buchenwald is a double-entrende: Jedem Das Seine could mean “to each his own.”
> When the gate closes and the words are facing the inmates of this largest concentration camp near Weimar, that housed all kinds, the meaning could also be “you get what you deserve.” Nacht und Nebel is the moniker for the overarching Nazi war programme to eliminate all elements that threatened state security (“die deutsche Sicherheit gefährden”) through rendition (being disappeared—night and fog, the term is a spell summoning the powers of sword and magic helmet of Wagner’s Ring Cycle), and of course the existence of such detention facilities was an open secret, vexing with the constant disorientation of transporting internees all over occupied territories, separating families and neighbours, so no witnesses could give the same account for what was happening or the missing might be remembered. Let us hope that we begin to see through such cloaks of the lowest charisma and never forget that a share of humanity is necessarily a share of otherness.

Friday, 17 August 2012

ragnarok or five minutes til midnight

The archeological site and ancient royal estate of the coastal town of Avaldsnes in Rogaland County in western Norway offered many engrossing and diverse themes. There was the natural majesty of the narrow cove and shipping lane, the on-going excavations from the age of the Vikings, the uniting and venerable residence, the cultural museum, hidden underground to preserve the landscape, all dominated by the medieval church of Saint Olav, which served for a long time as a landmark for sailors passing through the strait. There’s a lot going on here. The church, though, I think is most storied: according to tradition, it was built by future king and saint Olaf Tryggvason, who converted to Christianity on the sage advice of a fortune-teller he met while pillaging in Cornwall. The chapel royal was an important symbol and hastened acceptance by the people.
Curiously, the tallest and one of the last remaining standing stones of an earlier era is planted very close by and over the centuries as the foundations settled, now leans precariously close to the gothic-style edifice. Locals regard this pillar as jomfru Marias synål, Mary’s Needle, and lore has it should the stone come in contact with or break the stained glass window, the Day of Judgment is nigh. I refused to touch this doomsday rock, though it looked pretty solid and there’s a story that a priest once climbed it and chiseled it down a bit already when it was looming too close. I don’t know if that’s true but one could see that the window had been reinforced. What an ominous yet little-known thing to have among one’s attractions and heritage.

wordmark

Apparently the typeface Baskerville is one of the more comforting and believable in the font kingdom, even if just barely so. Maybe all job and university applications, résumés, curricula vitæ will be appearing in classic, transition font from now on for claiming that slight edge. Heretofore, I can’t think of any corporate logos or brand identity that uses Baskerville either—for that matter. Perhaps the trust element is in its quiet novelty, something just a toe over the familiar and instantly recognizable.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

water closet

Heaven forbid that one should have to pee while one is out and about. Quite a lot of places are ill-equipped for a potty-emergency, having to ask for a key or produce change or simply be met with refusal. Norway, for being sparsely populated faithful provided, however, immaculate, public conveniences at every turn and in some unlikely and remote spots—like some TARDIS for the beleaguered, but that’s not the case everywhere. The local, the English language daily, reported in both its Swiss and German (the stories are no longer available but please visit the German and Swiss dailies) editions stories on advances in lavatory etiquette, albeit on opposite ends of the spectrum. First, researchers in Switzerland were lauded for their reinvention of the toilet, a prototype designed for the developing world but suitable anywhere—sanitary and clean without plumbing or electricity, inexpensive and environmentally friendly with some very clever and promising engineering elements.
 Meanwhile, in Köln marketers are promoting an item similarly off the grid, called the pocket urinal for gentlemen and ladies. This sort of tetra-pak receptacle was originally developed for construction workers and gliding enthusiastic who cannot easily leave their posts, but has been endorsed by the city for Carnival time and other festivals when too many revelers are less willing to hold it or wait for one of the too few bathrooms. This too is a clever idea but not nearly as ecologically kind nor inexpensive—relatively.

extra-territoriality or diplomatic cul-de-sac

Despite the fact that they risk contravening the Vienna Conventions, and duly arbitrated international treaties always trump the local laws and policies of their signatories, authorities in the UK stand poised to forcibly take Wikileaks founder Julian Assange into custody and won’t allow him to simply leave the Ecuadorian mission, despite the country’s decision to extend him sanctuary and safe passage.

Ostensibly, the police want to enforce an international warrant calling for Assange’s extradition on behalf of the Swedish court to answer for charges—though the case is seemingly becoming not such a foregone conclusion, the plaintiffs having changed their stories several times. Rather than motivated to uphold relations (especially since Britain is threatening to infringe on Ecuador’s diplomatic license), it seems that the Foreign Office is either acting out of revenge or in thrall to American designs on the gad-fly. The US is not beyond courting an ambassadorial incident, especially if it can be affected by proxy. Assange fled because he feared that there was the very real possibility that he would be delivered up to the Americans, and apparently the Ecuadorian government agreed with that assessment.
This situation is tense and makes for a complicated Venn diagram of exclaves and enclaves, whose respect is dabbled with at everyone’s peril, and a complex triangulation, wherein all the factors are not known: Assange merited the wrath of the State Department by releasing caches (with the help of others) of dirty-laundry indiscriminately but specifically the gossip committed to paper of the embassy-set, having since disclosed that there would be more damning revelations to come, distributed freely but under the lock and key of his life-lines, insurance policy and the UK has already, I believe, shown its hand and revealed outside pressures by threatening and overstepping what is accorded to Ecuador and the aim is extraordinary rendition to the US. The exposure of Wikileaks purposed to help put an end to such opaque and secret negotiations, and Quito’s stand with transparency ought to be defended and praised.

WWII week: overlord

To say more on the subject of fascination, though probably no original observations and nothing not said before, the intrigue of this era—harking back to times of empire and conquest and projected forward to dystopian and speculative futures, can be distilled in that hypothetical unease and the human capacity to imagine things, outcomes as otherwise.
A torrent of strategizing and contingencies, death and destruction mechanized by infernal machines and armies and whole populations won and marshaled, and yet the best-laid stratagems and technical organization, like these emplacements along the beaches of Normandy (plus the formidable challenge that the line of defense conjured) hard-fought and great costs but overcome by brute force and sheer determination.
The pillboxes wedged into the cliffs and dunes have expansive footprints that form a strange undulating terrain where the beach grasses are reclaiming parts of the foundations. To experience these old shells of war really does make one wonder how things might have turned out differently—only for the want of chance and accident.

baby boom or luck dragon

In as far as such things can be arranged and planned, many couples of Chinese and Mongolian heritage try to time marriage, a year in advance, and child birth to coincide with the auspicious sign of the Dragon. The birth rate in China spikes by some ten percent at this point in the twelve year cycle, and because of the increased demand and scarcity and partially because of some shrewd retailers, prices sharply increase for all things pertaining to the baby industry. Dragon babies are consequently more expensive than babies born in other years but that’s nothing that can be deferred and I am sure that providence more than makes up for the extra investment.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

WWII week: autobahn nagelbett

The massive public works project that created the system of Autobahnen that crisscross Germany were realized shortly after Hitler seized power. Overseen by the administrator Fritz Todt, who would later supervise the defenses of the Atlantic Wall stretching from Spain to Norway, construction began in 1933.
The labour aspect of the infrastructure scheme was not directly appreciable since the jobs-market had essentially recovered before war broke out, and neither were the roads of military or strategic significance—rather the network did boast morale, allowing Germany to set the standard again in modern transportation. Several years ago, we found the ruins of a lost Autobahn hidden in the forests of the Rhön: Route (Strecke) 46 was one of the first stretches of roadway built and linked Fulda and Würzburg. Ultimately, the highway was replaced by A7, which runs parallel to old asphalt to an extent but incorporates, regionally, other important regional connections.

forever blowing bubbles

Shopping cart here has perhaps an overly simplistic view of the European financial landscape but does pose an interesting choice. I think matters are still relatively ratcheted down for a summer of tourists skimping on the souvenirs and a bit of muted enthusiasm for travel in general. I do think, however, there are some dangerous undercurrents that ripple and bellow in the belated season, like some strange mirage or fata morgana come too late. There are swirling simooms of dissonance that might prove to pull the eurozone asunder with their contradictory forces. Rather than structural weakness in underlying markets or an experiment disproven but rather because on the one hand, investors, seeking shelter, are inflating a bubble of Germany’s relatively robust economy, while simultaneously, supporting the isolation, quarantine of broader institutions by encouraging locally-funded initiatives.
Ripe for chaos, Germany as an anchor of the eurozone’s single currency fronts quite a bit of appeal, industry more sustainable than the husks of manu-facturing or market nervousness elsewhere, but that too could be oversold. Meanwhile, in order to contain potential losses should the euro be splintered into the Mark, franc, lira and peso again, activity is quietly being limited to sources in-country and involvement across borders, save berthing extra money for safe-keeping, which really benefits no one in the long term and damages the good-turn done for regional entrepreneurs and business at the same time. For example, an Italian multi-national corporation is shoring profits in Germany (perhaps buying up debt and real estate) and elsewhere while directing its affiliates in France to only solicit from French partners, as if the denomination was imminent I hope that this familiar tug-of-war does not escalate further.

WWII week: plongeur

Part of the fascination with World War II in the European theatre is the sheer inexhaustibility of the subject, the depth of material for reflection, portrayal and reissue plus the varied aspects of that horrendous and frightening time—replete with tangents, like into the occult, and technical achievements carried forward by the fight.

Other battles and campaigns, I am sure, are equally boundless and rich but living memory, fastidious documentation, and the indelible and recognizable footprint besides probably feed this interest. Places can be likewise infinite, celebrated throughout very different histories: La Rochelle’s harbour, where a fleet of German U-Boots was berthed and penned, was half a century earlier the selfsame site where the first experimental submarine, le plongeur (the diver), was tested. Before that, revolts in La Rochelle were instrumental in ending the slave trade and abolished the practice in French colonies. And before that, the city was chief among old world ports for trade with the new world. And before that, La Rochelle was witness to Cardinal Richelieu and the French Religious Wars and a stronghold of the Knights Templar. In part, because of the intensity of these submarine operations, La Rochelle was among the last cities liberated—Germany retaining pockets of control at major ports after the general surrender.