Saturday, 29 September 2012

word-association or antonymy

I am far from sure that the semantics of opposites are a universal conception, ubiquitous across most languages—maybe big and little or long and short are passable everywhere but dog and cat or cat and mouse or even good and evil are not acceptable answers elsewhere. Maybe there is not always a real and handy word to express the idea of an opposite, though the concept is understood.
Doubleplusungood, or Penelope weaving and unweaving as she waits for Odysseus to return. There are too very fancy kinds of operative opposites, like hyperbole and its countermand litotes, exaggeration and understatement—though the same terms are not employed in the study of conics. Recently, I came across another pairing that I liked, although I am not sure quite satisfies the definition: phobia and soteria (φοβός και σωτηρία, the root of salvation). This is taken not only in the sense of the duality between fear and calm, but rather with the difference between almost clinical morbidity and paralysis and relief and the saving-grace called deliverance, being not afraid in proportion with the disproportionate aversion that the phobia represents. Not everyone has an unsalvageable disliking of specifically spiders and snakes nor generally of crowds or the great outdoors, but I think there would be in a clinical definition, should psychology care for what’s right and not just what’s wrong, of soteria complementary gradations of relief and unfear.

encounter at farpoint

One of my favourite bloggers, Bob Canada, presents a very thoughtful and well- constructed anniversary tribute to Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered on 29 September 1987, exactly twenty-five years ago today. It is hard to believe it has been that long ago and does make it seem like something’s a-miss with the whole space-time continuum.

buddhist “iron man” found by nazis is from outer space

In the 1938, an archaeological expedition was sent from Nazi Germany to Tibet as part of Heinrich Himmler’s Ahnenerbe programme, a project that sought to validate Germany’s hegemony through cultural and historic research of what was considered Aryan and some very creative and convenient revisions.

Much of their work involved fascination for mysticism and the occult—real Indian Jones stuff, and on this mission, members of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and scientific community brought back a trove of artefacts, including portraits of supremacy (studies of silhouettes and cranial measurements), seed samples from native grains, the robe of a Dalai Lama, volumes of holy books yet to be translated, and one iron rendering of the god Namtösé, one of the four heavenly kings of Buddhist mythology, which was catalogued as the “Eisenmensch.” The actual headlines used could not be improved upon.  They probably brought back this one statuette because it had a swastika, a traditional symbol of good fortune, inscribed in his chest but were unaware of the most unusual material that it was formed out of. University researchers in Stuttgart (where the idol ended up warehoused and nearly forgotten, sort of like the closing scenes where the Ark of the Covenant ends up) have just matched the thousand year old composition of the extremely hard iron to extraterrestrial origins and the makeup of other scattered fragments of the Chinga meteorite impact event over China and Mongolia eons prior. This was certainly not the first example of ancient peoples using meteoritic metals or possibly revering them by is probably the only graven image worked from such a piece from space.

Friday, 28 September 2012

post-meridian or l’isola del tesoro

Here is a brilliant graphic for the Treasure Island music festival held in the bay of San Francisco, on the artificial island of the same name built to host the World's Fair and Golden Gate Exposition and was used later as a naval station and numerous times as a film-set. The over turned ship is of course a visual reference to the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. I find that series infinitely watchable, especially for its rather convoluted storylines, and that particular maneuver to escape the Doldrums and the prior marooning of the captain on a deserted isle where he was made to face splintering alter-egos reminds me a lot of the Umberto Eco of the long, complex reminisces woven for the shipwrecked and stranded nobleman from The Island of the Day Before (L'isola del giorno prima). The ill-fated expedition was seeking out the Prime Meridian and anchoring skies, in an astronomical sense, and the forsaken character, alone with his memories, believes the archipelago straddles the International Date Line, with neighbouring shores just out reach in yesterday and tomorrow.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


A few weeks ago, during the run up to municipal elections, I noticed this billboard—for what turned out to be a study proposing that Bavaria could manage for itself independent of the rest of Germany, posted on a concrete column at the intersection that tends to host political posters, though not exclusively.

My confusion subsided and I hear a bit about the arguments therein on a radio interview. There is no active separatist party or movement. There is, however, a more vocal coalition for the partition of Franconia, given its separate and historic cultural identity, from the Free State. Such sentiments are dismissed at the peril of the metropolitan entity, I think, but I did not think anymore about talk of secession until Scotland’s polite bid for autonomy started to figure more prominently in the news. Now, the Spanish region of Catalonia is pressing for self-rule as the rest of the country is under threat of laming policies of austerity and a surrender of its own sovereignty to a larger, umbrella confederation. The borders of Europe respected today are heirs of a long and complex history of wars, dynasty, union and omission, and I wonder how economic insecurities might contest anachronisms and relatively recent consent to rule and tribute. The parsing of this patchwork of nations may return with popular support, but is it truly a disburdening to distance oneself?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Usually I am an unabashed apologist for the Catholic Church, ready to make excuses for a very human institution—although some conduct by some members is inexcusable and past conduct certainly deserves reproach—however I am very saddened and disheartened to hear the outcome of their latest stance and statute, licensed by a court of law, which essentially ruled that members of the Church that choose not to pay the eight percent customary tax to support the Church cannot remain in good standing.

Excom- munication is such an ugly word and the suit, prosecuted at the behest of the Pope no less in response to many leaving the fold specifically in Germany, was careful to avoid such language but the new policy dictates basically that: one that shirks his monetary dues can be denied a proper burial unless he or she repents and other equally grave ministering, like the right to wed in the eyes of the Church or become god-parents. This decision with all its lawyerly vouchsafing is just a notch below, in my opinion, the selling of Indulgences (get out of jail free cards) that caused the Reformation. Charitable branches of the Church do a lot of good through their works, but parishioners have no say what percentage of their donations go to overhead and administrative costs and should have every right to opt out of giving for whatever reason without fear of being begrudged. For the sake of full-disclosure, I do own an Indulgence and I am exempt from the church-tax because I pay no German tax as an American but remain a voting-member in my parish—however, the ruling is disturbing and I worry for what the Church is in danger of becoming.


While real threats are clawing steadily at the food pyramid, with the potential spread of awful diseases in livestock and in crops, shortages and skyrocketing prices for grain, spillage of rogue, engineered organisms into the environment and general mismanagement of land and resources (plus treatment that is less than humane), the US Food and Drug Administration is poised to send inspection teams to audit several Swiss dairies and chocolate manufacturers to ensure compliance with American standards for sanitation and, I suppose, for patriotism. This particular episode of Security Theatre clears Swiss chocolates as platforms for launching a biological or radiological attack on US interests, declaring said truffles to be non-weaponized, and is brought to you by the sponsors of the concerned US confectionaries union, I’m sure. Switzerland, I think, is not being specifically targeted by the intent of the resolution, however, it does seem to add insult to injury just after friction between another US agency and another venerable Swiss institution, the Internal Revenue Service and the banks.
I imagine that precision clockworks will be next. Of course, with imported food, consumers need to know what they’re eating is safe, but it is American agribusiness and appetites that’s escalating many of the problems with food supply and actual food security, and submitting to indignities that defy common-sense is not much of an alternative to being blocked, cut-out or compromised. Chocolate-makers would face pyrrhic victory is they were allowed to stay in the export business, providing they toss aside traditional manufacturing methods or possibly feed their milk cows a recombineered diet.

run-off or terrestrial sunsets

Via The Colossal and Five-Infinity, photographer Andre Ermolaev shares some of his air-borne impressions of Iceland’s rugged and liquid landscape.
These incredible images are created by volcanic ash, vibrant and chthonic minerals that the Earth gives up on a fairly regular basis there, being scuttled away by rivers and streams.

The photographer’s eye and technical acumen, I think, are really able to capture in this series what photography was intended for and distinguished from the other visual arts by—being able to distill and communicate a sort of landslide never seen before nor will ever be seen again, like being able to capture the roiling shadows of a cloud or the play of colours in a sunset.
Be sure to check out some of the other photographs featured on these communities.  These smoky, spyrograph moments are outstandingly beautiful and makes me hopeful that I might be able to also frame such compositions as they flow downstream.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

memory alpha or library of last resort

Founded originally in 1800 as a collection of law books for the convenience of Congress and a depository of patents, the US Library of Congress has grown its stacks and archives immensely through acquisitiveness and inquisitiveness (all publishing houses are required, through what is known as mandatory deposit, to provide the Library with two copies of all published works) and has continued to move towards independence as a resource, styled the “library of last resort,” for academics, as well as the research arm of the legislative branch. Pioneering the public frontier since the mid 1990s, the Library is continuing to make its holdings freely accessible.
Though the digital collection has been steadily growing for years, with some fifteen million images available besides, it is always inspiring to return here amd search the collection and turn up something new. That’s only the surface, too, with the depths of history and discipline buffeting beneath—not to mention the chance for invention and scholarship. It is a great resource for browsing and discovery, with many special exhibits and programmes, however, no substitute for getting lost in the shelves of one’s neighbourhood archives and for the intensity of local and native knowledge. Librarians are a fiercely independent and impassioned breed and eager to ensure their caretaking is palpable and apparent.

Monday, 24 September 2012

wies’n or the price of eggs in china

Der Spiegel’s English language site has an excellent essay—somewhat of an apology, on the opening weekend of Oktoberfest, which goes on to extol the virtues of the world’s biggest celebration. Though many Muffels summarily dismiss Oktoberfest as dilute and overrun with tourists, profoundly Bavarian and like Pinocchio’s Island of the Donkey Boys, this ode urges people not to succumb to this attitude and enjoy the traditions and atmosphere, which are still buoyant. All in all, there is little negative press surrounding the event (that’s propagated by word of mouth and wavering on plans to go) other than the annual constructive cost analysis on that litre mug (Maß) of specially brewed beer. The increasing expense of refreshment is intensely discussed as a macroeconomic indicator. Everything from the relative worth of the euro, inflation, grain supply and climate and fuel costs—including how much of said grain supply is on hook for bio-fuels, and the sentiment of the competing brewers, is encapsulated in the price of a tall drink. These incremental increases do dampen the mood, a bit and at first I suppose, but attendance and consumption is on the rise as well and I think, despite the crowds and excess, such dull cares ought to be tossed away at a monumental and historic party.

Sunday, 23 September 2012


My father snapped this very good close-up photograph of a brilliant metallic red dragonfly (Odonata Trithemis kirbyi) resting on the antenna of their (hopefully) parked car. He told me it flew away as he was reaching for his camera but then returned seconds later to patiently pose. My mother suggested that it was one of those experimental spy drones from DARPA (DE), miniaturized and disguised as birds and bugs. Though the engineering seems far too advanced, I wonder where the fearful sandbox of field-testing might be.

fungible or cap and share

It was a drastic enough move on the part of the American government to charter an airline and revitalize a military airport in order to bypass the European Union air transportation carbon emissions scheme, in effect since the first of the year. Most air-carriers grudgingly accepted the extra costs and simply passed it off to passengers, but apparently it did not behove the US legislature not to take a cheap shot against EU environmental regulators and showcase a rare moment of cooperation among a divided and paralytic Congress.
Rather than working to craft its own emissions standards (which would exempt any nationally flagged carrier from having to pay the tariff), the upper house instead risks a trade war by acquiescing to the airlines and passengers unformed rumblings and is moving to shield US companies from the tax. Flagrant disregard for the rules of others that America—or any other country—disagrees with or does not find serviceable at the moment seriously jeopardizes its relative standing and credibility. The United States has already attempted to steamroll the world’s playbook just in the past few months with its anti-piracy treaties re-programming the exchange of information over the internet, putting the onus on foreign financial institutions of reporting and taxation for citizens abroad and insistence for going along with its grander designs for its Tournament of Shadows, security-theatre, etc—not to mention the despoiled disappointment shown when the rest of the world is not in lock-step with US interests, like America withholding its UNESCO dues when the international body admitted Palestine. The world is a wonderful and frightening place, but it does not need the theatrics or tantrums of some wilful and gigantic baby wallowing through the business of others. Without recognizing the ecological merit of the EU airport scheme one bit, the champions of the Senate, merely said, without blushing at that, Europe had no right to tax American fliers in order to pay down their own debt problems. While I do not want to believe that the author of that rationale actually thought there was any veracity to that justification, trying to appease or play along with that mode of imperialism presents some unique challenges.

amber waves or marie, marie quite contrary

amber waves or field-studies France, the bread-basket of Europe, has elected to extend a moratorium on the single genetically-modified crop, a brand of corn (maize) patented by a US firm, to make it past the European agricultural gate-keepers and into limited markets and into the food supply, pending further studies.

To err on the side of caution, especially on a subject that could prove highly invasive and irreversible, is to be lauded—also considering that such a decision wrangles the engines of commerce that force such experimentation on the public. The studies, however well-intentioned, may be admitting a tragic and fatal flaw, which serves no one in the end if the GMO industry is allowed first refutation: though not the exclusive rationale (and the right of refusal and sovereignty should not be trumped by corporate pressure), France’s hesitation and demand for proof is based on research that showed laboratory rats fed a diet of only said genetically-modified corn had a very high incidence of cancer. The tests and trials were conducted with scientific rigour and no outside audit found fault with the methodologies. No lab rat would like to be the guinea pig in this case, but the particular breed, dynasty of rats used, for control purposes, were of a lineage specially husbanded for research. These poor things don’t develop cancer if one looks at them funny, but that’s just about how it is. One should not accuse French scientists of faulty investigations or grasping at straws to curtail something that is not publically digestible, but rather further acknowledged for wanting to exercise due care in the case of experimental evidence that can be spun to support either side. Transparency in research reveals faults in our baseline standards, and likewise calls into question the reassurance that the agribusiness industry tries to peddle on the public with studies that show no conclusive ill-effects from such crops. Perhaps under controlled laboratory conditions, it is easier to induce indications of danger or of safety, rather than field-testing. The honesty of admitting factors hard or impossible to regulate would be a more accurate reflection of the commitments we are undertaking in attempting to tweak Nature and acknowledgement that we are all in over our heads.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

percentile or just like a boss

After months of discussion and debate, the German upper houses of legislature have voted in favour of levying a mandate on all executive boards for a makeup of no less than forty percent female senior leadership. During the ensuing deliberation there was surely sufficient and competent advocates for the cause, raising and razing the so-called glass-ceiling, but the real gravity of the statement seemed to unfold quite delicately, ushered in forcefully but without necessarily the force of law.
Now that it has been decided, in other words, there is more leisure and license for musing. I wonder what such a statute is really accomplishing, since Germans in general do not seem to be adverse to a matriarchy and are respectful of powerful women—whereas, elsewhere in political circles, the achievements of a woman is regarded sort of skewed, without really saying so, like Caligula appointing his horse as senator. It’s not simply tokenism and was a very radical, though overlooked, departure from laissez-faire lip-service for greater equality in the workplace, but I am not sure what to think about this proposed legislation and I think possibly contrarian arguments were muted during the process for fear that one would appear sexist. Will this new standard in Germany be universally embraced by businesses? Could this be nursing a scenario where established patriarchies are at odds with Germany’s gender-diverse corporate leadership? There is always exclusivity at the top, but I think here, it is not necessarily an old boys’ network, but maybe heiresses and heirs-apparent. Perhaps there were hopes to infuse some maternal kindness into the industrial hierarchy with this equitable composition, but it is likely that no one is really elevated, except into the cut-throat company of borderline sociopaths and dare-devils.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


I was nearly late to work—although on time is, I suppose, what it’s called, not that anyone else is generally there to notice—because I spied this usual bumper-sticker on an out-of-town pick-up truck parked in a neighbourhood I passed through the day before and I went back to see if it was still parked in the same space.

I found the truck again after realized that I recognized that flag and knew what it stood for: the banner of the Sámi peoples who live in the northern reaches of the Scandinavian countries above the Arctic Circle. They are not limited to Ultima Thule, however, and have a very vibrant culture—Renée Zellweger, for instance, has Sámi ancestry on her mother’s side, and possibly the individual with the truck here. Sometimes one hears the term Lappland but that’s highly antiquated and probably means patches from their traditional clothing style. We did not venture that far north in Norway to reach Sápmi but I had researched a little bit about the land and the indigenous tribe. The flag is not one of a separatist movement but rather a symbol for tribal unity, a shared heritage and a call for self-determination. I was happy that such a souvenir made its way back to far away Bavaria and Lower Franconia.

slide rule

The idea of pairing wines with certain dishes was only elevated to an art practiced by sommeliers in very recent times. The institution of wine at meal times was a given, traditionally, and naturally complimented whatever regional fare was eaten, since generally only locally produced wine was available. The matching grew out of traditional cuisine as choices expanded with trade.
And while not an exact science and one’s own palette trumps any guide, it is interesting to think on the pairings and contrasting notes of introducing new food and drink to the table, not to mention classic varieties grown in new environments. That particular old world wine above is called forgotten hill, I think, but probably in the sense of reserved for a special harvest and not a mysterious and foreboding vineyard. I liked a simple guide that was put near the wine rack in our company store and made an adapted reference from a few sources and our own experiences (mine being a limited not eating meat, but it is funny to notice how in the field and in the mud, the animal is an old Germanic-sounding cow or swine but on the dinner plate, it is a fancy francophone beef or pork), though nothing ever comes out terribly, like toothpaste and orange juice, and it’s an unpursued challenge to find a taste that really clashes.  This periodic table of wines is tee-tiny and compact but you can click to enlarge.  Additionally, it is by no means complete, but maybe some clever viniculturists can fill in the gaps.


Only overshadowed by the awful graces of the conflagration over a smear video, stoked by other arsonists and fire-bugs, the uncensored and complete disdain that the appointed charismatic leader of the American duality holds for not only a full half of his fellow citizens but also for most of the rest of creation should come as no surprise—regardless how careless and candid one’s words can be among like-minds. It is tragic that such gaffes are usually cycled away, forgiven or forgotten, and press and public have stopped considering or stopped caring that this candidate’s (and generations of avatars) have already staked out his position, hectoring, divisive, and with hubris that never had a place on the world-stage. Ostracizing and dismissive words, like relegating struggling peoples to the domain of free-loaders, social-parasites or irreconcilable adversaries, is more a judgment on those who would declare hopelessness on the basis of otherness but does severely prejudice the chance for dialogue and cooperation. This outreach is necessary, despite what one faction may believe.
Sadly, it is probably true that no opinions were suaded any differently and most people’s minds are already set in this debate—even that small but deciding percentage of uncommitted voters that all these promises and money hope to court, but despite any amount of expatriation, bellicose rumblings and gentrification, the leader of the United States does not get to preside only over his half of the populace, plus that pandered middle.  Surely there are some people that are accomplished at working this system or generations that have been inculcated into the programmes of state-support but it is a grossly unfair and alienating characterization to say alleged, assumed support for the status quo can’t be bothered with and future generations are doomed to the same cycles of bleak prospects and disenfranchisement. Besides, the whole premise is more than a bit disingenuous since the serfdom of the US taxpayer tends towards just enough and no more than what’s necessary to support business-welfare, so corporate-persons also do not have to pay income-tax, and the half taken for granted as sure to vote in his favour also comprise the majority of recipients of that maligned government assistance. The hate and uproar is not a distraction but can be capitalized upon as such by skilled crafters for competing notice and attention, held just at arm’s length until defused.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

music week: plainsong or bimmeln

The nearly viral nature of communications—especially found in the musical jingles, incidental, errant and intentional peeps and beeps and tones that seem to occupy that real estate between recognition and interpretation, has always been a fascinating subject for me that I think becomes more of a study once one reflects on the auditory cues that one chooses and those refrains that become entrenched and inseparable. What’s memorable and well-marketed went viral long before the term even came about, and it is really a remarkable thing how an idea, offensive, campaign can recreate itself in thought in just about any medium, humming, the catch of a tune, from some flawless orchestral arrangement to something misremembered, tapped and tinny, and even the most abstract of associations.
It’s funny to observe the reactions of people, who of course have an ear for their own personal alerts, and yet when there is some discordant clang, they’re sent digging in their pockets and handbags to eliminate heralding fanfare. Sometimes the beckoning, when positively identified, becomes impossible to ignore and I wonder, unpackaged, what responses people really do have. Does it matter if the alarm is over a ring, pulse or fully-formed melody, and is a song easier to ignore for some since it is not cued for resolution, but rather just stopping? Distraction and abstraction is nothing new—perhaps just in terms of proximity and portability (we can announce the coming of any mood and disposition but our internal soundtracks are rarely made public accessories to communication beyond the signals that we’re about to turn inward and away from our immediate audience). Those associations established over the long-term, commercial jingles, are the same species of transitional siren that can take up residence anywhere, just a bit receded into the background and have the stubbornness of seniority. I remember an misunderstanding that elevated into a tiff over being told to use i-ask to clean the bathroom—properly. What the hell is i-ask, I thought, since there was none in the janitor’s closet, before realizing the that was the European way to pronounce Ajax—which there was not any either but rather a bottle of Meister Proper, the German name for Mister Clean. Fine—but I think the whole matter could have been settled much easier by whistling the Mister Clean song. I wonder about people who grow up with a different (but parallel set) of commercial culture and those without the benefit of bells and whistles and advertizing executives. Likewise, it’s not facial tissue, a handkerchief or a Taschentuch but Tempo or Kleenex, which in fact, does say bless you.

music week: ohrwurm oder before I put on my make-up

Designing to write a bit on the theme of music—pop music, really but we shall see, becomes a bit challenging in a muted landscape. Of course, the internet has propagated and shaped the language of music significantly, until or unless one runs up against a copyright patrol and the recordings are available at one’s home of record or there’s no reciprocal agreement between clearing-houses. That’s a bit frustrating and I wouldn’t what to try to base a composition on a leitmotif that would be eventually scavenged altogether by the copyholders.

So I was looking for stories to share without the proper instrumentation for accompaniment. One recurring episode that comes to mind—in fact, whenever I wake up—is the phenomenon of starting the day, like some sleep-grit in one’s eyes and dreamy residue, with the cobwebs of some highly-random and usually brash and grating song in my head. There’s a German term, Ohrwurm (ear-worm) for having a song stuck in one’s head that’s hard to shake. Usually I refrain from belting out into song but the lyrics trudge through my mind as I brew the coffee and brush my teeth and don’t fade for quite some time. It’s happened since adolescence and I used to be afraid that I was channeling a radio station, that I had some kind of receiver for this expansive repertoire, but it’s persisted almost every morning and on both sides of the Atlantic. I don’t understand, weird but no original nor exceedingly rare compositions and yet nothing I have heard recently neither, and I hesitate to commit the words to any of these tunes to paper for fear that they might be contagious and infect someone else’s waking up ritual.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


While the first through the fifth estates in Germany are wrangling with the question of what it means to curtail freedom of opinion and expression—surely too a sacrosanct right but not without limitations, over whether to allow a public-viewing of that repulsive trailer smearing Islam the discussion keeps returning to America’s founding axioms and the sanctity of the First Amendment. It is a difficult matter to essay and presents dangerous and weighty precedents on either side—mostly, I believe touching on the fact that the role of the state is not perfectly defined and such guarantees, in any pluralist society, are neither a perfect system nor perfectly enforceable.
Does the state give tacit licence by suffering such demonstrations or is a free public necessarily a responsible one?  To exacerbate the situation, the message and controversy is being championed by some right-wing elements that have urged (or submitted) to the idea of having one hate and hellfire preacher come from Florida to officiate. This preacher formerly tried to dictate the US president’s foreign policy and priority by holding holy books ransom. The actual video clip is of course marginalized by the vitriol it represents and the genie is already out of the bottle, so it does not matter so much anymore if the trailer itself is spread or censored further for the public-good. Unlike the clip, which is intent without content, the permission or restriction—more broadly, is intention that reaches far beyond any one disputable statement. While these American standards are being enshrined in the German media and government, and difficult questions are being ricocheted, it seems an even bitterer irony that the steadfastness of the internet hosts, that communication æther that fills the voids left by bureaucracy, &c., &c. may not be choosing to defy the wishes of the US government and majority of public and let the clip remain on-air and in circulation out of noble ideals—the speech should be free even if repulsive, but rather because such a policing (even at the behest of another) might make the hosts liable for policing all contributions and enforcing everyone’s rules and not just their own. If the guarantors of liberty are now the mechanisms for avoiding for lawsuits, then we are all in trouble and the United States certainly seems like not example to follow.

music week: turning to the horoscope and looking for the funnies

Digital audio pioneers at the University of Erlangen and the laboratories of the Frauenhofer Institute helped early on to make music (and later video files with standardized formats like AVC) more manageable by figuring out how to compress inherently huge files by diluting the depth of the data without sacrificing the sound. A raw music file, a bit of time and vibrations digitized, would still be a huge thing and impossible to work with on most platforms—even given how personal computing has advanced, and sadly not predicting this kind of progress in storage capacity and the ever increasing detail of photography, I ruined few good pictures from the beginning of the decade, convinced I needed to apply a lossy space-saving routine to them if I ever hoped to keep them all.

 Engineers had one favourite test track, familiar and catchy so programmers would instantly hear how a changed parameter affected the recording—which was the 1984 release of Tom’s Diner (which in reality is Tom’s Restaurant on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street in Manhattan and portrayed in fiction as the diner in the television series Seinfeld) by Suzanne Vega. The same talent that produced the mp3 file format is also currently overseeing piecing together a monumental puzzle, which will have ramifications on how any archive or collection of sibylline leaves are organized in the future. From the partition into the East and West until the reunification of Germany, the German Democratic Republic’s secret police, Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, also the Stasis) swelled to a network of over a quarter of a million operatives and informants keeping watch over all citizens and amassing some fifty million pages of dossiers. As the dissolution of the DDR became imminent, there was a rush to dispose of these files—which was more volume than any mechanical shredder could handle, so many people in the office resorted to rending them by hand. These torn pages were relatively easy to recover, but this low-hanging fruit only accounted for a fraction (about two-hundredths of the total documentations) that could be reassembled by hand by a team of specialists over the past twenty years. Frauenhofer Institution is now aiding the reconstruction efforts by cataloguing each scrap of paper and the text on it (even the ones that made it through the shredder), producing a virtual jigsaw, mosaic that may eventually fall into place... When I'm feeling someone watching me and so I raise my head. There's a woman on the outside, looking inside—does she see me?

Monday, 17 September 2012

music week: soundtrack

As far as prequels go, especially those whose backstory involves time-travel that usually raises more paradoxes than can be explained and whose formula would probably rejected out-of-hand for division by zero and makes one wonder that studios don’t retain logicians since no movies would ever get made, the in the latest in the Men in Black (MiB III)  franchise was, I have to admit, pretty good. The theme music was pretty catchy as well, though it was the only title song in the series not performed by the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire, a rap that tries to reconcile nostalgia with said time-travel and samples the guitar riff from the 1956 Mickey and Sylvia hit Love is Strange. Although I guess the song was included on the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing—though only a snippet—I remember hearing it first played on the television show Designing Women, where Suzanne Sugarbaker was sidelined from the decorating firm’s talent show entry because she insisted on performing in black-face, so she and Anthony Bouvier had their own lip-syncing number.

Sunday, 16 September 2012


Though overshadowed by the protests triggered by the ignorant and ridiculing portrayal of Islam, the Pope went ahead with a planned trip to Lebanon, originally and without taking sides for the seated regime or the rebellion to urge peaceful resolution to the civil war in Syria. Neighbouring Lebanon has taken in tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the violence, and there are fears that the conflict may spread.

As Benedict XVI reaffirmed to his audience, however, Lebanon has struggled to become a model nation, recapturing the harmony and hospitality that was thrown into turmoil with independence and its own civil war, pulled in different directions by other regional players. Much of the crowds that thronged to see the Pope, I am sure was comprised to a large extent by the forty-percent Christian population that the country hosts, but the government declared a public holiday over the weekend for the Pope’s visit so more people might have the chance to see him. Lebanon also hosts the spectrum of Islamic sects and traditions, who by turns, have also been targets of intolerance. The message of peace, understanding and empathy, I think, was not restricted to any one demographic of the audience and takes on a more urgent meaning in light of other, reviled and impugned embassies.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


There has been a strange culminating coincidence of following Germany’s example in the media echo-chamber of three diverse episodes and I am not sure what to make of it. The first two decisions came from the States but came in such a fashion seemingly unaware that of Germany’s contemporary hardships and debate over the same issues: the decision to award an outrageous prize to a former Swiss banking executive who was willing to disclose the practices of his old employers regarding US accounts, and the decision on the part of the state of New York to regulate circumcision ceremonies.
Regarding the former, not only does what the US tax authority did by putting its faith in the char- acterization of a jilted banker, probably dismissed from his post for cause, sound dangerously like the trust that the war-mongers and architects of the invasion of Iraq placed in dissident and informant Curveball (who told the planners exactly what they wanted to hear—German intelligence recommended that one ought to consider the source, incidentally), America is moreover choosing to traffic in stolen goods and jeopardize any established agreements to share information. Germany was put in agonies by the same breed of thieves and illegal sales. The later matter is certainly not a trivial thing and means a lot to a lot of individuals, but the repetition of the controversy on Germany’s proposed ban on circumcision carried out on solely religious grounds was nearly nauseating to hear, considering the subject, and sparked protests and counter-rallies. Even though the government recanted, somewhat, later, the anger is still fresh and repercussions are still being felt and relations need to be mended. The last instance was of a surprising and somewhat uncharacteristic protest on the part of the people of Japan. As Germany done in the immediate aftermath of the disaster of Fukushima, the Japanese demanded a phased drawdown of nuclear power. Japan, however, was fully cognizant of the challenges that Germany is facing and scramble to maintain energy for a hungry industrial sector and affordability for the public. The decision, in this case, was made by the people and not the government and had some time to incubate.

plenipotentiary or chargé d'affaires

Doubtless, while the raw rage and violence is a dread and frightening thing inflamed at cultural crossroads the world over, it is in fact a completely understandable reaction. Measured or otherwise, an attack on the sensibilities of others, profaning the sacred, is not something I think the occidental press and public are accustomed to really framing or presenting in a way that’s not even more dismissive or divisive.

Our (Western) not so measured but pretend-sophisticated response rakes the matter over such pedestrian and alienating questions like why even dignify the insult with a response, worse—I think—that these people are riding the swell of revolt from toppling long-seated tyrannies and another, crueler order is managing the chaos. I believe, rather, that Americans, specifically and the their partners and aspirants by extension, are the ones so beaten down by oppressions, castes and the impossibility of mobility, a hundred affronts to personal dignity daily that propagate in subtle, lulling ways and placated by false and empty comforts and assurances, have no limits or standards of respect, not respecting themselves to ever say that that is one infringement too far or to hold anything as sacred or inviolate. Rather than understanding and reconciliation, the security apparatchiks will use this excuse to tighten their grips. Of course, this is not a true or fair characterization of all of Western culture and there are many individuals and group-causes that are passionate and care about justice and healing, just as the Muslim world is not monolithic. That fact, however, is too easily forgot, just as one tends to not remember that aversion is not the sole response to hatefulness but also rage.

Friday, 14 September 2012

franconian churches

Spanning from Schmalkalden in the northeast to Schwabisch Hall in the southwest with a lot of culture and history in between, the Bavarian region of Franconia comprises a distinct part of Germany that’s bound by a shared identity, though it would be an overly-ambitious undertaking to try to give a succint and deserving definition. It would be beyond the scope of this blog to trace the tracks of empire, kingdom and diocese that united and distinguished this broad area, but its churches do remain as landmarks, anchors of communities large and small, as testament of those allegiances and shifting divisions that flowed with the people—the tribe called the Franks.
The first image is of a covered well and modern sculpture depicting the tableau of Calvary hidden in a remote valley by Münnerstadt in the modern district of Bad Kissingen county. The town and its possessions were over the last millennium under control of the Abbot of Fulda, part of a principality of the Holy Roman Empire—afforded the rights and license of immediacy, under the administration of the Teutonic Knights (Deutschritterorden) who helped from their bases of operation, establish a banking network through letters of credit and standardization (developed after the crusading was done from the association of outposts that remained)—a point of contention for the archbishops of Würzburg, held by Swedes and Napoleon’s armies, and finally annexed by the Kingdom of Bavaria.
That’s quite a secret history for such a seemingly small and out-of-the-way place, and they all have similar stories to tell. Both steeples and towers abound, and while there’s no signature style across the region or the ages, there are some renowned architects whose design, like Balthasar Neumann who built the Basilica Minor and pilgrimage church of the Holy Trinity in Gößweinstein. Here are two other impressive treasures in places that also might be regarded as tiny and out of the way: the church of Saint Lampertus rising from the fallow fields near Bergtheim on the road to Würzburg and the gilt interior of the Saint Nicolas church in Strahlungen in the Rhön.
The prime-mover of a refined and fused Baroque style planned many structures throughout the region, still standing as his legacy and all could well be included in this article. The final image is of resplendent interior of the abbey church of the monastery at Ebrach, close to Bamberg. The Trappist monks have moved their order to the highlands above the vineyards, and the cloister is used as a juvenile justice centre today, but the church remains.
For hundreds of years, it was tradition among the archbishops of Würzburg to have their hearts interred here, while their bodies were placed in the crypt at the Cathedral of Saint Kilian—their home church, and the rest was buried in the Fortress of Marienberg that overlooked the city.   This triangle was not shared as broadly as the power and influence of the cities of Fulda, Bamberg and Würzburg in Lower Franconia but it does not seem that the connection was ever far out of reach.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

heldentum oder the last star fighter

Der Spiegel has an interesting, if rather critical, article on the State Chancellery of Bavaria’s newest on-line presence that comes in the form of a role-playing game, Aufbruch Bayern—which is difficult to translate without sounding too grandiose but basically means, Bavaria, the Awakening. Government officials are under fire for the costs that went into developing the game (as compared to past initiatives, like social networking avatars that spoke for the free-state) but it’s not such a terrible thing—H tried it—with trivia and geography questions and no overbearing patriotism, though there were some not so subtle marks of environmental (Energie Wende) indoctrination—having the goal to charge one’s electric car, conspicuous rooftop solar cells, or a bright idea represented by an energy efficient light bulb rather than a maligned heat-bulb.

All of these things are good and positive, if not a bit heavy-handed—not the questions, nothing about the hero being Siegfried or Parsifal or integration or multi-culti or anything too Deutsch (though the player is guided by Lady Bavaria throughout), but the game may not keep kids’ attention for too long. Watching H play made me think about that sci-fi movie, The Last Star Fighter (DE), where a besieged alien race tries to find new defenders by sending out arcade games to test the competency of players and potential pilots. An Earthling teenager who was the high-scorer on the test-game was picked up by armada’s recruiter and helped defeat the enemies and save the galaxy. I think every young video-gamer back then secretly hoped they were in training, too, and the US military has tried this same ploy. Maybe the Bavarian government’s investment in a game is also a secret head-hunting scheme to search for talent to rescue the euro-economy or to manage the energy-transition—or to hone the right skills for taking on the challenge. Maybe we should keep playing until we reach the end. If this were the case, then Aufbruch Bayern would certainly have been worth the effort.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

data-set or compendium

With the encouragement of the European Commission and the contribution and support of several dozen institutions to seed and sew the collection, the internet gateway, Europeana, has just gone live.

This open-source repository for research and incubation aims through collaboration and a commitment to academic integrity without inviting proprietary restrictions to concentrate the curatorial efforts of an array of museums and special exhibitions into one source, searchable and discoverable and also insatiable. It looks like a very promising platform, multilingual and infinitely accessible, yet nothing rivals being able to explore every well-worn and studied nook and cranny of one’s local institutions. Check out the site to learn not only of something new and undiscovered, presented beautifully, but also the apotheoses—what can be added as well to expand this resource.

munity on the bounty

For the US (and I wonder who were the competent authorities in this decision-making process) to reward a former Swiss banking executive with a king’s ransom (some one hundred million dollars) for disclosing the apparent practices of his employer and the handling American clientele is undoubtedly incendiary and no recompense (should any materialise) can justify the damage being done to dialogue and diplomacy.

The already strained relations regarding reciprocation and transparency are being trounced further, and no caution was heeded though this routine has been well-rehearsed by some desperate (despite intentions) elements of the Germany government, who offered similar bounties for equally ill-gotten intelligence. Swiss banking culture, being what it is, models the integrity, discretion and independence of the confederation and cannot expect to assimilate the heavy-handed and rogue tactics of failed regimes that provoke such flight in the first place. Had the US Internal Revenue Service or the tax-code that governs their work been crafted and enforced in an equitable manner at the onset, there would be no need to try to deputize informants to act as its agents.

johnny appleseed or be you and I behind an arras then

It’s painful to contemplate—and is by no means exclusive or necessarily defining but as far as trends go, so goes America, so goes the world—how American influence and leadership is being hijacked and replaced by the pretenders of corporate hegemony.
Industry lobbyists have courted (bullied) the government to such an extent, that legislators and officials have little choice when it comes to drafting rules and regulations in support of business of gaffers and the artisans that produce all the props of security theatre and the clawing theatrics greed. In blocking most any scene, the portrayal of need is unconvincing and rather an unashamed taut for the wardrobe or lighting-and-sound department. How many new uniforms, calliopes, magic lanterns, gels and flats do we need, in the name of safety, security, integrity or unmotivated invention?
The framework that’s been crafted is not just to the benefit to the darlings of contracting world, but a legislative landscape has been staged that’s overly favourable to the establishment, both in government and in business, and is very much against competition and growth and has sanctions in store for anyone not willing to play by the rules. This type of performance has a lot of different venues and circuits but is probably most stellar in the politicking of ways basic and unalienable—food and footprints. So many stage-hands are helping to ensure that no one or nothing is ever forgot, exposed and articulated except when the truths are embarrassing or uncomfortable for the directors and producers, and nothing’s committed with an ounce of anonymity. As for food, it is acquiring similar markers but to a different end—invasive and not readily refused.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


I find it remarkable how much infrastructure has been dedicated a-pace with progress to the traffic in invisible forces. Of course, not everything out of the past has become obsolete and ought to be gutted or cannibalized for spare parts—even if it has been outmoded.

One can still find veritable jungles of aerial antennae on rooftops and maybe they’re not deemed worth salvaging, but I’d rather would-be metal thieves engage in this enterprise before turning elsewhere. Though there is no more broadcast television to tune on to, maybe these remnants might be re-purposed for some new technology—like signal repeaters or something else that we cannot yet predict. Maybe they shouldn’t be scrapped just yet—and not just for aesthetic reasons.
 I bet all those dormant telegraph wires could be revitalized and deputized for a good use too. Though television has taken the high road and almost exclusively is beamed down from beyond the atmosphere, the signal towers have been retrofitted as cellular towers. The principles behind telephony are not terribly advanced, considering that one is just glomming onto an established network. A Funkloch is a German term for the increasingly rare places out in the countryside where there is no cellular coverage—a signal-hole. Though decidedly unaesthetic but I suppose practical since most castles were built in strategic locations, on the high-ground with a commanding vantage, some historic turrets (mostly in private hands, like the tower of Burg Gößweinstein near Forchheim) now also host an array of communications equipment. The network of fortifications used to communicate via bonfires and smoke-signals, across the valleys and over considerable distances, and no one could foresee the same ancient brigade bearing our new-fangled wirelessness.

volumetric or spelunk

Despite the economic crisis and scaling back in the programmes and ambitions of pure research projects, like SETI and NASA, I think we are still experiencing a golden age of exploration—both in terms of new-found resourcefulness and legacy. At the same time as researchers prepare to penetrate the icy depths of Antarctic lakes isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds of thousands of years, an advanced robotic embassy is probing the secrets of Mars and one veteran experiment, Voyager, is on the cusps of interstellar space, another relatively forgotten but enduring project is getting ready to observe the milestone of a quarter of a century.
Though not the longest-lived experiment under laboratory conditions (like those eternal incandescent light-bulbs or the slow drip of pitch) by any means, but hole bored near Windisch- esenbach in eastern Bavaria, among the deepest in the world at close to ten kilometers in depth and the only such feat of engineering undertaken for purely scientific purposes, was drilled in earnest from September of 1987 to 1995, at the convergence of two tectonic plates, and is still the subject of study and research. The site in the Oberpfalz was chosen for geologic reasons, the project called auf Deutsch das Kontinentales Tiefbohrprogramm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, this area marking the sublimation of the ancient continental landmasses of Pangaea and Gondwanaland, and if not for a billion years of weathering and erosion, would boast the highest mountain range in the world. Scarcity of funding and more importantly underestimating how quickly temperature would rise—265 ° C already and short of the 10, 000 meter mark, put an end to the drilling operations. Teams of geologists have continued to conduct research in the twelve years since the boring was halted, but initially many of the villagers were opposed to have such an operation in their backyard—fearful of noxious gasses or infernal visitors. Considering that even barely penetrated this frontier just underfoot—even at this great depth, still only a fraction through the earth’s crust—and the volume of the world is much greater than its surface, there is a lot of potential for the imagination and to unearth all the treasures and bizarre secrets of Jules Verne’s journey to the centre of the Earth.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Der Spiegel’s English language site has an interesting brief (that I could relate to) on the challenge faced by media outlets in finding fresh visual metaphors to illustrate the economic crisis in the eurozone. The standard seems to be subjecting the banners and mascots of statehood and national identity to various forms of torture and peril and most definitely showing euro coins in all denominations defaced and distressed.
Some subjects and themes, as determined by mood, rumour and the forecast, are highly popular. There are certainly a lot of creative and emboldened dioramas out there that demonstrate photographic ingenuity and that sometimes verge on silliness and hyperbole and sometimes a bit mean-spirited. I especially feel sorry for the poor stunt-money that’s afforded no respect.

Friday, 7 September 2012


Laurels to the heuristically outstanding Super Punch for discovering the series of funny and honest—transparent, book titles from author, comedian and critic Dan Wilbur. There are dozens more examples on Mr. Wilbur’s blog. 
By lampooning the classics of literature, I think, the talents behind this collection might hope to cause readers to think about what they aren’t reading right now but how sustaining and indulgent—effective and lasting, old reading is, with these covers especially.
What other titles can you think of that would make good candidates for this same treatment?  I don’t know, however, if I would put Holden Caulfield’s story in the same category as the Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but I guess that is part of the joke.