Thursday, 30 May 2013

ab in den urlaub

PfRC will be on hiatus shortly for an over-due vacation through Switzerland on to the borderlands of Italy and Lake Como, plus where ever the road takes us. Please stay tuned for on-going adventures.

alchemie oder mayence

An international team of alchemists have proven their metal and have explained in a repeatable and applicable way how liquid cement (Beton) can be magicked into a liquid glass-like conductive material.

The substance, refined at laboratories in Japan, is being called mayenite, after the English exonym for the city of Mainz where the potential was accidentally first discovered. It's in the cooling and compression that determines how the cement congeals and compounds crystallize that makes a spot of pavement a hot-wire. This is pretty interesting news in material engineering, making ideas like electrifying roads to charge hybrid vehicles or harness kinetic energy or turning passive surfaces into dynamic ones seem not so far-fetched or ambitious.

cock-eyed optimist or oil can

Though I had given up hope, more or less dismissing stories of friends of friends' computers spontaneously reviving themselves after an accidental spill as the stuff of urban legend, I tried again earlier today, absently and without expectation. But lo and behold, after the sixth day, which seemed to be a common experience and I had tried repeatedly in the interim, it came on.

It was like the Tin Man muttering “oil can” from seized up jaws. I know that this probably a rather spacey thing to believe and not very subjective, but I think that these are the moments when inanimate objects earn their souls. I'm inclined to think that animate objects earn their keep too—by virtue that is, and at much excelerated rate. I am not posting this update on that laptop, of course, since the keyboard and mousepad was done for (and the cooling-fan which always seemed to run in overdrive never came on and I was afraid that it might overheat), reacting in weird ways, but that was nonetheless a relief as I was able to copy some files locally onto the new computer and mirror some tried and tested settings. As for the old laptop, maybe I can turn it into art or find some fitting honour—not that I haven't used a handicapped set-up before and wouldn't object to the right crutches again.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

seaquest 2013

More statutory notifications of intent to furlough (beurlaubt) US federal works are being distributed within hard and fast guidelines, though some agencies have chosen to be proactive instead of reactive in meeting this mandate.

I wonder if those exempt from this act are a bit stare-offishly curious about what those unpaid holidays might entail. In order to gird my personal budget in preparation, I had designated quite a few small luxuries as noble martyrs—like furlough cashews, etc. I wonder what those forced to stay away from work have planned for the meantime—be it numbing worry or an excuse for adventure. Especially for fence-sitters, the grass is always greener. Sequestration in itself, the codex that triggers all these savings-measures, sounds pretty enticing at first consideration, like that global-warming feel-good television series from the early 1990s. This option atrophied, however from years of crying wolf, has very real and immediate repercussions, markedly for those realizing less income in the face of something other than Snow Day high-jinx or those with waning patience to navigate the rivets of bureaucracy.

Monday, 27 May 2013

the pump don't work because vandals broke the handle

Despite unresolved tensions with the contentious deployment of the Euro Hawks, huge and marauding things, along with the whole idea turning sour for the programme's once strongest proponents over privacy and safety concerns, as the BBC reports, the German national railway system (die Deutschebahn) is floating the idea of having miniature drones patrolling the switch-yards for graffiti vandals. While without the range and appetite for snooping of their side-lined bigger brothers, allowing such surveillance does seem to be a slippery slope towards commercial interests pushing the decisions that make government policy wilt. What do you think? Is it any different from a company using curmudgeonly security guards to keep away meddling kids or over-stepping their beats?


When my mother and I were together for the first time in Germany, we were bemused by the profileration of what we called cheese-banks, Sparkasse—saving cheese (Kรคse, we thought). It turns out, via Oddity Central with a bonus report from the BBC, there are such institutions in the Parmesian producing region of Italian, at least, which will larger wheels of cheese as collateral for loans to local businesses at a nominal interest-rate, including a fee for storing their assets in conditions where they will mature properly.

picture-picture or long, lost weekend

Over the past several weeks, there have been a series of ninnying events though while far from spoiling our time together away from work, that grey immanence not having undue influence after hours, have presented challenges or bluffs that we not the choicest. First, I thought I had lost all my keys entirely—though I later found after a lot of bother that I had in fact had them with me the entire time, packed away in advance. Now, I've ruined a perfectly good computer (read: on its last legs, although functional and ironically lamented nearly on a delay basis that it was due for an upgrade) by sloshing a glass of wine over it and most of the entire dining table.

Searching for solutions afterwards and having made a triage of staunching the stains from setting in on the placemats first and foremost with a lot of salt, which turned out to be an ingenious investment, made of a spot-resistant material and already sort of the shade of wine-stain and came out perfectly clean, I learned that I did not react perhaps with the requisite urgency of doom and gloom. The laptop was powered down and I sopped up what I could see—although reading more, and with a paucity of domestic animals or clumsy children to blame for my own bad table-manners, I see I ought to have panicked over this most unpredictable of accidents, and I should have immediately disassembled the entire computer, buried it in a bag of rice and still hope for the best but prepare for the worst. The computer did thankfully, under the auspices of those guardian gremlins that manage such things, come on once and gave me a chance to back-up all the photos that I had neglected for months but then never again. At least, not for now: apparently there are a lot of testimonials too about computers eventually recovering after days of drying—propping them open in the shape of a lambda in a warm and dry spot is recommended rather than a hair-dryer. The separation anxiety is much more than I expected.  This accident gave the excuse to get a new computer but possibly not with the research I wanting to ply to it. I know it will take sometime to get used to the new environment and I think I got something also good and functional, logically, but it now feels like a boombox, huge and unwieldy compared to the Walkman that I had before, and though I am confronted with newish innovations and navigation at work, it has been a few years and I was not expecting to be keep so safe or have my intuitive sense called to the carpet. One has to purposefully run applications as an administrator in order for them to work and the hacks I was used to have been replaced with apps, all touchy-feely and visual. Since unboxing the new laptop, I have spent this whole time trying to put a sepia-tone on the entire platform in order to restore some degree of familiarity.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

carrot and stick: world war one centennial coverage

Mental Floss guest blogger Erik Sass is continuing his excellent and engrossing day-by-day accounts of events one hundred years ago, leading up to the outbreak of the Great War. Sass’ 70th installment recounts the shocking and consequential spy scandal that shook confidence in Austro-Hungary’s intelligence service and may have compromised the Empire’s defensive strategies and offensive contingencies to the Russians and their allies—potentially provocative triggers to know how one’s enemy might react to a given set of circumstances.
The espionage affair centred around Colonel Alfred Redl, chief of the military spy programme, and though one may never know his exact motives or to what extent fretful extortion and blackmail was pressured upon him, and his private life, which would have destroyed his career on its own if he were outed. Industrious and innovative, Redl quickly ingratiated himself up in the ranks of the army, through a series of post usually reserved for aristocrats and titled-elite and plied tools of quite progressive techniques in intelligence-gathering, like wire-tapping, covert photography and hand-writing analysis. Whether simply motivated to kept rather open-secrets subdued or sell real secrets to promote an increasingly extravagant and bold lifestyle, we may never know for certain—and probably nothing at all about this intrigue were it not for the confessions of the woman engaged as Redl’s beard, his alibi, who expressed concerns about his involvement with the Russia military. In apparently a carrot-and-stick approach, Redl was encouraged to sell Austrian and German plans to the Russians, in exchange for large sums money, delivered anonymously by post. Hoisted by his own petard while stationed in Prague, it was one of Redl’s early suggestions of data-mining and triangulation that lead to suspicions of his loyalty and his eventual capture. A search of his apartment and interviews with liaisons uncovered (implicating many others in the army) the lifestyle that he struggled to keep hidden.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

kunstkammer, wunderkammer

This rainy and gloomy afternoon, another one in a series that’s really inverted the calendar all over again, turned into a perfect opportunity to spend some time in the local museum, quite a celebrated institution, and sheltering from the nasty weather in the endless maze of galleries, I really enjoyed myself.
The Wiesbaden collection consists to a large extent of the encyclopedic anthologies of the family of Johann Isaak von Gerning donated to the state, but due to the constraints of time and space, rotates its exhibitions with a hauntingly perfect thematic unity. A little leitmotif, follow the bouncing ball, subtlety tied everything together as I advanced from hall to hall.
One great interest of von Gerning was rejoicing in his native Rhine and the museum composed a very nice display of landscapes, and it was interesting to see a romanticized and sometimes fantastically impossible portrayal of some of the places we’ve seen in the area and places yet to visit—but that’s what art is and for an accurate image, one should settle with a photograph. Numerous guest painters who had also visited the Rhine’s castles and mountains also shared their impressions.
 The landscapes were punctuated with examples of baroque-era taxidermy and entomological collections, which were repeated later in the complimentary exhibits that featured the aesthetics of Nature in several acts, the whole spectrum of colour, range of motion and variations on any given theme. The permanent stores on show were also interspersed with some pretty unique installations of post-modern art that amazingly contributed to the natural progression.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

getting to bayes

There’s an instrument of disabuse for everyday assumptions and likelihoods that I had not heard of before called Bayesian Probability, after its proponent 18th century English poly-math and minister, Thomas Bayes. Intent on rescuing providence, rationally, from chance, Bayes championed a sort of inverted inspection of odds, imploring people to look to prior arrangements and question how the deck may be stacked and weighted in favour of certain outcomes. Although modern interpretations of Bayes’ thinking maybe over-reach his original context, the notion that probability—writ large and scientish, is based in part on belief is not something merely synonymous with gullibility and naivety and magical-thinking.

Rather, how we measure the likelihood of outcomes can hinge on personal experience, and maybe to a fault, since successes and failures (surprises and dis- appointments, too) are counted by past usefulness and go unnoticed and with indifference otherwise. Sometimes it’s an over-simplification to believe that the chance is 50-50 since we are better acquainted with either something working-out or not and not something in between. Something about the way we pose the question or prime the conditions may obscure our judgment. We are also, sadly, more accustomed to failure than success. This is a bit revelatory and makes me wonder what misguided influences might be tarnishing my choices—not that perfect and logical decisions seem all that savoury either as an alternative. I am remembered to something along these lines whenever I play the lottery but also know that though a long-shot, one only needs to be right once.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

put the needle on the record or ong, plong, kerplinky, plong

The imminent BLDGBLOG reports on a project that illustrates the amazing precision and focus that can be attained with laser-cutting techniques, with audio records scribed in a low-fi manner over disks of wood, and then departs into the author’s signature expansion—a flight of fanciful speculation that carries the idea to a certain and inchoate conclusion, with landscapes imprinted and the soundtracks of everyday objects amplified though an ultra-fine stylus.
I think this is pretty keen—I’ve always held a secret though unscientific conviction that every sound, from whispers and footfalls to bangs and other knalls, is preserved somewhere in an atomic memory—sort of like the growth rings of trees or the back-formations of the valleys and mountains where one can, with some causal algebra, solve for the factors that led to the present state.  

Monday, 20 May 2013

to market, to market

Though the superlatives of commerce are always a bit subjective and demands on definition, I was surprised to learn of a fully-qualified contender based in a tiny Swedish village, not far from Malmo, and with a massive caravan-park, a destination in its own right. In any case, the supermarket that offers everything under the sun is significantly larger than the traveling-mats of Star Destroyers that linger, sweeping across the screen for a few moments, is located in a place called Ullared (the Swedish term for a populated place is tรคtort, like the German Tatort that usual is translated as “crime-scene,” surely a false-friend) and is called Gekรฅs, a continuity of the trend of Swedish discounters, attracting consumers from Scandinavia and beyond. Shoppers queue up in lines a hundred metres long before opening time and orchestrate holidays around this draw.

engadine-ga-doo and further

Though there’s a lot going on besides and notwithstanding my laissez-faire approach to crafting plans—although there’s barely a shade’s difference between preparation and spontaneity since both approaches aim for the same happy outcome, I always feel guilty about been thrown into a much-deserved vacation-mode—especially one long deferred.

Nonetheless, I am very excited about our up-coming adventures, south through Switzerland, transiting through the valley of Engadine—Rhaetorian, Romansch for the Garden of the River Inn, and beyond to Lake Como across the Italian border. Right now, I’m gathering facts and trivia, which has always proved a good gateway for further learning. It might put ambition and expectations off the mark a little, studying historical context and celebrity, and create toy kingdoms all stacked together, but I tend to think that our vacations deliver just that, living up even to prospects that cast away realities and contingencies of time and distance.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

sunday drive: hofheim in the taunus

Once again driving to my workweek apartment, and hardly needing to use my car during the week and so intent on combining errands and excursions but I hope not unreasonably so, I tried to explore a bit of the environs along the way and especially the lesser known attractions that we might not have the chance to see together. Not far removed from my destination, I came upon the town of Hofheim am Taunus, a bedroom community bridging the metropolises of Frankfurt and Wiesbaden and the immediate neighbour of Eppstein, but since it was late in the day and the weather threatened storms, I saved touring the ensemble of the Altstadt for another time and sought out the remote Bahรก’รฏ House of Worship (Haus der Andacht, after its Arabic name for the dawning-place of the remembrance of God).
This edifice is one of only eight “continental” houses and the only one for the faith in Europe. Though the setting was completely inviting, I learned (and would like to learn more—I don’t feel competent to say anything about the denomination but, and surely this is a gross over-simplification, in some ways they are like a Persian version of Unitarian-Universalists) that the parishioners held their services on Sundays, just about the time I arrived and did not want to be intrusive.

Maybe I ought not to be so shy. The location proved to be peaceful in itself and persuasive of meditation, with a notable, receding view of the busy skyline of Frankfurt and dozens of meandering trails. I thought it might be easy to keep my bearings, rambling downwards, but the major landmark was quick to disappear over the top of the hills.

zum grillen or flame on

In preparation for our next trip, H got this very clever portable barbeque called Son of Hibachi, which we had a chance to test out over the weekend on the balcony. Watching a demonstration on an outdoorsy magazine show the other day, rating the same model—with stellar reviews though one peripheral character, a taster but not an actual preparer, kept referring to it as sonofabitch—I was really impressed how well-designed the whole system was. Once filled with coal, the dual grills fold together and create a sort of convection oven to speed up the process.
After about ten minutes or so, the grill was ready and transforms back to form of BBQ. Afterwards, one can lock the unit back in standing mode and put it, hot coals and all into a fire proof pouch, where it cleans itself (I wish everything were so easy and was made to be put away dirty) and one does not need to wait for them to cool or toss out some infernal garbage before getting underway. It's very compact and all the components fit together securely. Partially expended coals can even be saved and reused for later.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

brototyp or bakers’ dozen

In Germany, there are over six-hundred distinct varieties of bread and some additional twelve-hundred permutations of baking besides. Not including beer-brews, which Germany might be more renowned for and enjoy actually a legal status that classifies and protects them as a liquid bread, these hundreds of different recipes and preparations are governed, unsurprisingly and meticulously, by a system of standards that codify traditional variations on a theme.

This process is illustrated in development of Brรถtchen—buns, rolls, which go by many regional names, including Weckeln, Weggla, Stollen, Kipfle, Bรถmmeln, Semmeln, and Schrippen with further distinctions for topping, what kind of seeds or grains they are encrusted with, and how the dough is rolled out and baked, -laibchen (round, like a little loaf), -stangl (like a staff that can also be twisted in a pretzel) or -hรถrnchen, with a shape like a croissant. Each type has specific percentages of what kind of grains comprise the dough, usually a given ratio of two or more different wheats and barleys. Small bakeries keep the lesser known and uncommon varieties on offer and local interpretation and nomenclature alive. I wonder if anyone has managed to catalogue ever type of Brรถtchen in circulation and unraveled the etymology. We don’t visit the baker’s like we ought to but I am resolving to do so more often and see what sort of heritage breads—and their unusual names (I am not sure if it’s just marketing or what, but one bakery offers what’s called “Sรผndlicher Weck”—sinful rolls, as near as I can guess), that I can discover.

Friday, 17 May 2013

oil rush or fun size

I heard that the European Union parliament issued a rather embarrassing, and I think, patronising decision that effective at the beginning of next year will make those condiment trays, vials, carafes of salad oil and vinegar and similar containers go the way of ashtrays on restaurant tables.

Not citing hygienic concerns, food-safety or any other reason that might sound plausible, the consumer commission ruled that such toppings can only be offered to guests in sealed bottles, because diners have the right to know exactly what their putting on their salads. I am sure these new measures will only result in greater expenses passed along to the customers and the end of anything complimentary in as far as the service and setting, not to mention more trash with the disposable, single-serving containers (not for individual sale but maybe with adverts or fun facts like sugar packets, I’m sure) only a quarter used. I really hope there is no sinister motive behind this, like pressure from the cartel of miniature bottle-makers, but rather just a parliamentarian over-excited by his brilliant idea for keeping us safe and honest or better yet a cryptic way towards economic recovery for some of the EU’s problem-children—Spain, Greece and Italy—all producers of olive oil

Thursday, 16 May 2013


The American political landscape is really being whipped up into a frothy mess and through the spray and roil, it’s becoming impossible to distinguish among what’s generally and authentically chilling, what’s motivated but isolated, and what’s coloured by two-speed spin. Not that the volume and authorship of past transgressions excuse or assign non-cultural blame to any of current and lingering scandals, but the tempo of the demands are absolutely wilting: the US tax authority targeting conservative groups—be they called patriots or traitors, aggressive wire-tapping of journalists in apparent retribution—be they called patriots or traitors, the laming or disburdening of the functionaries of government—be they worker-bees or drones. This tug-of-war is being waged over the delicate and deliberative field of social reforms, statecraft and choices confounded by economic straits and must surely have a shrill and dulling effect. I think it shows how polarised America is becoming and reaching across the aisle is a quickly receding possibility.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

word-association or i'm feeling lucky

German courts have made a ruling against a major driver of the internet, essentially establishing that anticipating a seeker’s search query is badgering and putting potentially libelous words into one’s mouth. Now, individuals can petition, administratively embargo the internet and have false or unflattering suggested results disassociated and stricken. What do you think? Is auto-complete a useful and non-sensational tool—like spell-check, our friend, unbiased and regulated by the hive of users or is it prejudicial and a potential source for infamy? This decision will certainly carry precedence and cause repercussions. Will the over-class and industry later gain license to prune and preen their public perceptions as rumours and unfounded or will reputations of by-standers be protected?

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

worshipful company of fishmongers

Indubitably superior to any cookbook or restaurant guide, the cataloguers at Mental Floss present a superb and saintly calendar of various patrons of food and drink. Though often times the association is lost, it’s really interesting to learn about the better angles of our cuisine and maybe to whom to turn for intercession for both cooking and greater crises.

the phantom toll-booth or intersecting rings

In response to horrible traffic snarls that converged on the town of Swindon between Bristol and Reading, civil engineers installed this intimidating-looking but ingeniously effective array of roundabouts in the early 1970s.

Probably without the aerial view of this anti-clockwise clockwork, called the Magic Roundabout, I’m sure the layout directs drivers quite naturally and would result in no hesitation or panic. It was a challenge for me at first and I’m still content to circle a few extra times until I get my bearings, but I have learned to embrace the Continent’s shared fondness for the traffic circle to regulate cross-roads. I won’t forget, however, our shock and uncertainty upon the first time we came to Ireland together and leaving the airport in a rental car were confronted with a roundabout a few lanes deep. Maybe that first hurdle was intentional to remind visitors of the rules of the road.


Designed by Gerald Herbert Holtom a few months prior, the first public appearance of the Peace Sign occurred fifty-five years ago today, at a rally against the proliferation of atomic weapons in the UK. The simple sign was quickly adopted as a banner by activist groups around the world. Although some point to much old and mixed origins of the symbol, including signs of Christian persecution and intolerance, anarchy, the Petrine office, and even as a unit badge by a Panzer division during World War II that led the advance into Russia and Hungary—which surely experienced distress to see the sign paraded and celebrated. The artist may or may have not known and been influences by these past associations but the popular legend has it that the Peace Sign is a overlapping of the semaphore signals for N and D—for Nuclear Disarmament. Whatever the true history, the icon is now universally recognised as a sign of outreach, engagement and reconciliation.

Monday, 13 May 2013


Tom Stafford, psychological writer for the BBC and expanded gorgeously on his own blog Mindhacks, reflects on the newly named state of mind called Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) which is a sort of euphoria brought about by indulging mundane, boring things registered with a measurable galvanic response. I don’t think this phenomena, not fully limned nor described and entered into the annals of common experience, is merely an expression of the over-stimulation of the internet but perhaps rather identified and shared through it. There are blind-spots, naturally, in any trade but we like to think that psychology has been fairly thorough and that remaining discoveries are either ornamental or intolerably idiosyncratic. What do you think? Synestheia, the melding of perceptions, used to be dismissed as nothing communicable but now if Thursdays have an assigned colour or certain scent, that’s valid though not universal as well. Is it possible for a new sense to arise by motley consensus or is the new confessional attitude contagious?

tremolo heroism or darlings of oblivion

Here is a compact and gorgeously executed reflection on the ephemeral hardships, annoyances great and small with a significant license and latitude whose resolution and denouement does not rate, it seems, as the stuff of literary treatment. Film abounds with lucky breaks, some of which could be classified as what Vladimir Nabokov called his “darlings of oblivion,” but they are seldom acknowledged as something plot-forwarding. Minor annoyances make up the surplus of our days, unfortunately, and while those irritations overcome are not really the defining matters. Sometimes what rules the day is nothing savoury or bidden to repeat, despite the fading but all-consuming importance it once demanded. Is there more of a demand to merely relate or commiserate with a book? I don’t know—it seems like what’s ephemeral and overcome, a laundry-list with its associated dirty laundry is something never summarily done away with and still exists as nagging distractions for a faithfully limned character and a species of simplification for the reader. Are such trifles really eliminated and what does it mean if they are?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

sunday drive or nutbush city limit

On the way back to my workweek apartment, after some nice dwell-time at home, I stopped along the way to explore the Frankfurt am Main suburb of Eschborn. I was surprised by the corporate skyline, heavy with headquarters that I would have thought the immediate proximity of Germany’s financial capital would have simply absorbed.
It turns out this town, displaying quietly all past influences as an agricultural area with ample spacing of field and farm among the skyscrapers, as a military garrison town for different powers (Camp Phรถnix is a commercial park, which hosted no decent flea-market as advertised, converted from a former US Army base that existed in the area until 1992), and most recently as a business annex of sorts for multi-national concerns, who’ve taken up residence here in order to be close to Frankfurt but avoiding the city’s corporate and property tax rates.
 I’m as likely to find anything by chance but I did stop here to seek out the Sculpture Axis, an exhibition of public modern art, which I was looking to find in some sculpture garden but the display continues in sort of a scavenger-hunt, I saw later, along certain lines of latitude and longitude and I suppose that I’d need to do some geo-caching to find Travel-a-Head, giant chair and the rest of the collection—or maybe just keep on in a straight line but the weather was being a bit dramatic.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

flea-market finds or johnny apple-seed

People at flea-markets are universally keen on selling souvenirs—which is something I could never understand, unless maybe they inherited a collection of memories that they had no relationship with nor access to or bought them themselves at other sales and later decided that their accumulations ought to be culled. The cogent fact is, however, I suppose that people bringing plastic bins of old records, catalogues of old photos, travel mementos for display never have a guarantee that they be made to part with any of it and are probably caught off guard when someone does offer to buy some keepsake or another.

I have found a lot of cool stuff, sentimental to someone or otherwise, and though there are things I would not part with, having become some of the household artefacts, I’d be willing to entertain offers—especially in a situation where an uncaring relative cast off some keepsake and came into my collection. H was not very impressed by I enjoyed these couple of items found at a flea market just across the former border separating East from West Germany—die neue Bundeslรคnder, so called literally because the government of the GDR was not a federal authority and the traditional state structure (restored with the reunion) did not exist, but rather districts (Bezirke) but also used figuratively, I suppose, as parts and places still held with a certain otherness.
I found this pretty neat little brass plate with the enameled flag of the DDR flying in solidarity with the Soviet banner, the USSR, the UdSSR or the CCCP, and this hinged plastic box, which contained a bunch of unsent post-cards from the Soviet Union’s far eastern autonomous republic of Kazakhstan with several undated scenes from Almaty (ะะปะผะฐั‚ั‹ or Alma-Ata as the former capital was known back then, a construction of two Turkic terms for apple and father, owning to all the different apple cultivars found in the area and probably the origin of the first orchards). There are a lot of places yet to learn about and to see and to re-visit, and I am grateful that I found a bit of another destination for inspiration.

Friday, 10 May 2013

vetternwirtschaftsgaffe oder -gate

The last contemporary scandal of German politics to shake tigers into the streets was over plagiarism and ill-gotten academic accolades, be they vanity diplomas even so.
The behaviour was less than inspirational and invited in quite a witch-hunt among the rank and file. Politicians, by nature I think, are not ones to relinquish due-credit in any form and scholastic dishonestly is probably a gateway fib.

Now, though with less fanfare since the guilt is most likely highly prevalent and the racketeers do not want to attract too much scrutiny (though surely not exclusive to Germany) , another scandal, equally hallmarked with the failure to learn a fundamental civics lesson, is ranging through the class of hopefuls for next year’s general elections: nepotism (Nepotismus oder Vetternwirtschaft, cousin-business) and cronyism is a widespread practice, and apparently many office-holders with the ability to bestow grace and favour do so without stint or caution on family members. This is about as shrewd and intriguing as tepid philandering or other sins of irony and omission.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

leute heute

This day, coinciding the late night capitulation of Nazi Germany of 1945 to the Soviet army, after midnight according to Moscow time (executed in Reims, France) but observed on the day prior by Western European countries, is universally recognised as Europe Day for the Schuman Declaration of 1950 that founded what would become the European Union.
The fatefulness of the coincidences are muted (but not mooted) by the spirit of the day, reserved for lessons in civics, integration and harmony, but it is a little off-putting to have such a significant collusion of anniversaries that the political overtones cannot (and should not) be fully ignored or forgotten. Much could hinge on any given date on the calendar and maybe there is a certain hopefully affinity to be found in infamy but the designation of does seem a bit of a bombast, considering the certain friggatriskaidekaphobia to be overcome. The day also falls on the eve of the invasion of France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg in 1940 in addition to Victory Day, and curiously is precisely offset by a half-year with the German declared Schicktsalstag (Day of Destiny). 9 November, from a German point of view and the perspective of Weltsanschuung, is marked by the execution of cooler-heads in 1848 in Vienna that led to later crises of state, the overthrow of the monarchy and formation of the Weimar Republic, Hitler’s coup (Putsch) in Munich, the horrors of Kristallnacht (Reichspogromnacht) a few years later, the founding of the SS, an unruly and disenfranchised bunch of malcontents despite the lent prestige, and the razing of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Maybe that date will never be fully reformed but did redeem itself, and it was originally celebrated as the German Day of Reunification, though later shifted to October of the following year when all formalities were complete in order to not dither on a day already associated with atrocity. The culling of time and dates is certainly not limited just to the past and perhaps Europe Day is really an avenue towards redemption and unhinging.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

pfandtastic oder the slaughterhouse five

I took a stroll by the old Schlachthof (abattoir) in the open lands behind the train station, which has been repurposed as a pretty vibrant Culture Centre. I noticed that the trash bins in the surrounding park and outdoor stage were fitted with these thoughtful cup holders—thinking that some Good Samaritan decided that people ought to have a stable place to rest their drinks, the Centre being a busy venue for a lot of performers, while at a concert.

Walking back, however, I realised that they only weren’t for the benefit of partygoers mulling about, but rather receptacles for putting glass and plastic bottles that have a deposit value (Pfand) for donation. People that supplement their livelihoods by scavenging for cast-away bottles (usually worth 25 euro cents apiece) do not need to dig through the rubbish.

right-bank or borderlands

Although the borough of Kastel (nรฉe Mainz) is the most contested concession of the Palatinate to the State of Hessen, there are other communities, which I discovered taking a long stroll along the banks of the Rhein and into the industrial areas. Collectively, the annexed townships are referred to as the A.K.K. Konflikt—for Amรถneburg, Kastel and Kostheim, and inter-bellum, the buffer between the People’s Republic of Hessen and the Prussian hold-out of Hessen-Nassau. The neighbourhood that I explored, Amรถneburg, fronts the river with an array of chemical and cement factories, whose founding has its own history that is parallel but also independent of the zoning and redistricting.
 I know that Germany’s waterways are carefully placed powerhouses but there’s always quite an abrupt contrast, just down river from more palatial scenes. There’s a factory in my neighbourhood too—for bottling champagne (Sekt) which is consistently stinkier than these industrial plants.
Of course there’s more to this community than just the factories, which I want to discover, but it does cast an impressive skyline. One cement concern with a large footprint, complete with green spaces and several foundations for the good of the community, made an exact copy of a Mithra stone, a Roman mystery cult with Persian roots from late antiquity found in the area—namely in Neuenheim-Heidelberg.
 I wonder if the spread of such iconography was not intentional with this relic. Business is yet vibrant but I still do ask whether there is not some lazy, economic compunction towards making this activity, for the uninitiated, an exercise in out-sourcing.
What do you think?
 There is certainly the prevailing not-in-my-backyard mentality, coupled and in contrast with the hopes for local engagement. Are such monuments to production, however carefully negotiated and managed with respect for aesthetics and the environment, something flagging and out-moded? Enterprise, being what it is, is hardly a clean matter but the rust-belts and relics created once production is out-sourced, shifted elsewhere by enterprising minds hoping to realise greater profit and more flexibility, do not bespeak good governance nor agility either.