Monday, December 31, 2007

To Each and Everyone

A happy, healthy, peaceful, love-filled, sane, exciting, crazy, thoughtful, educated, prejudice-free, painless ... New Year!

Stay in motion!

Love, PP

Image by IgorLaptev

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post-Holiday Worries, Here and There

While we might be worrying about how to lose those extra pounds we gained during the holidays from indulging in too much yummie food.

Or if auntie Clara will be forever cross with us if we exchange that horrendous statue she somehow thought would fit in nicely with our living-room decor (or, more likely, she gave us because she didn´t really know what else to get us - but some Christmas present had to be bought, right?).

Or how to redeem that tie rack gift card ("Good grief, not another tie!").

In other words, while we are dealing with the basic problems of a typical consumption society, there are plenty of people around the world who would desperately wish to have that kind of post-holiday worries.

Not that they have to worry much about holidays in the first place, since day-to-day survival is their primary concern.

The following is an excerpt from the press release of the upcoming UNICEF report on the situation children in Iraq are faced with.

If there is no future for the children, how is there supposed to be a future for the country?

Little respite for Iraq’s children in 2007

But window to reach more vulnerable families opening for 2008

ERBIL/AMMAN/GENEVA, 21 December 2007: An estimated two million children in Iraq continue to face threats including poor nutrition, disease and interrupted education.

Iraqi children were frequently caught in the crossfire of conflict throughout 2007. Insecurity and displacement continues to cause hardship for many in the most insecure parts of the country and further eroded access to quality essential services country-wide. Iraq remains volatile; however conditions begin to allow for more a concerted effort to deliver assistance.

“Iraqi children are paying far too high a price,” said Roger Wright, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Iraq. “While we have been providing as much assistance as possible, a new window of opportunity is opening, which should enable us to reach the most vulnerable with expanded, consistent support. We must act now.”

Available information from different sources shows that:

  • Only 28 per cent of Iraq’s 17 year olds sat their final exams in summer, and only 40 per cent of those sitting exams achieved a passing grade (in south and central Iraq).
  • Many of 220,000 displaced children of primary school age had their education interrupted, adding to the estimated 760,000 children (17 per cent) already out of primary school in 2006.
  • Children in remote and hard-to-reach areas were frequently cut off from health outreach services.
  • Only 20 per cent outside Baghdad had working sewerage in their community, and access to safe water remains a serious issue.
  • An average 25,000 children per month were displaced by violence or intimidation, their families seeking shelter in other parts of Iraq.
  • By the end of the year, approximately 75,000 children had resorted to living in camps or temporary shelters (25 per cent of those newly-displaced since the Samarra shrine bombing in February 2006).
  • Hundreds of children lost their lives or were injured by violence and many more had their main family wage-earner kidnapped or killed.
  • Approximately 1,350 children were detained by military and police authorities, many for alleged security violations.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Out of Reach ;)

Image by DavedeHaan

Feel the storm of desire
rattling your soul

Feed the burning fire
to break away from it all.

Escape these boundaries
limiting your mind.

Smell the adventure
you´re certain to find.

Taste the promise
of freedom to roam

Freed from all chains
escape on your own!

Jump! You sense you´re finally unleashed!
How good it feels
to be out of reach!

The wind in your hair
the sun on your skin.

The peace of your mind
the freedom within.

The sweet sensation
makes you feel high

To be free like an eagle
commanding the sky

Discover and explore
limitless lands

Imprinting your footsteps
into ever new sands

Escape! You are breaking free from the leash!
How good it feels
to be out of reach!

Boundless, unbridled,
you venture, you dare

To uncover new sides
of which you´d been unaware.

Your mind, at peace,
and totally free

You open your eyes
and you finally see

The magic, the wonder,
the beauty around

And for the first time in a long while
you feel no longer bound.

No holding back! There never has been a leash!
How good it feels
to be out of reach!


Dreamcatcher by Ashalind

He roams the arcane lands of secret shadows
knowing no fears

With fierce power he seeks those ghoulish ghosts
who are out to haunt you

Unflinchingly he hunts them down and breaks their shady spell
before they can cast it on you

With fervour he protects you against the petrifying pall
which they seek to wrap around your mind

Unbeknownst to you he accepts the crucial challenge,
time and again, never tiring

Mindful of the perils, he devotes his preternatural powers
to battle the cataclysmic mares of night

Strong-willed, he searches for the hounds of horror,
catching them with his web

With resolve he fends off the ghastly gnomes
so you may walk the path of your dreams.

May the Dreamcatcher protect you against all nightmares, so you may pursue your dreams!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Whatever You Do, Have a Good One!

No matter whether you love or loathe the holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukka, Eid, Kwanza or simply life:

All the best to you and your families! May your holidays and the coming year be filled with joy and laughter, peace, bliss, health, success. And love. Lots of it.

Hopefully, you´ll find a couple of quiet days ahead where you can just sit back, relax and ponder. Remember to cherish those that you love and who are dear to you. Make them feel they´re special. Not only this time of the year, but all year round. Because they are.

And don´t give your sweetheart hell because his socks are laying around, or because (s)he always seems to take ages to get ready, and you´ll be late for your holiday lunch/dinner with your family. Or because you´re stressed out. Or for any other seeming reason which, when looked upon with some distance and through the eyes of reason, turns out to have been naught but fiddlesticks.

Take it easy, ok?

Cuddly cougar hugs!

P.S.: The graphic, as so often, is from Deviantart, by platinum420.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Nonsense Narrations

Image by justaloser

Safely shell shocked,
searching shadowy spoofs
she supplies them soft subtleties

Laying low
lest luddites lurk
lamenting their lacrimonious lullabies.

Creatures of chaos
carry conventional carnations,
chasing controversies

While withered weather witches
wickedly wail,
wallowing in wild willows.

Dapper dames drinking daiquiries
dance dreamily,
dressed in diaphanous dungarees.

Aspiring adequate alacrity,
alabaster aardvarks
argue adversities from above.

Linguistic licorice
lingers lasciviously
over longing lovers.

But quintessential quagmires
quickly query
quaint questions in quadrophenia.

Tormented through trite trivia
thriving torrents of talk
tacidly tackle her.

She smells sedation
searching shadowy shelters
of sweet silence.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Feel ...

the touch
of my thoughts

the caress
of my mind

the embrace
of my love

the tickle
of my laughter

the hug
of my eyes

the warmth
of my smile

holding you
as close as you want

giving you
what you want and need

no matter
where you are

whenever you want me to
I am here, with and for you.

Not only to tickle and pinch

Hey sweetness,
I love you!

Fear of Flying ... Literally

It is my deep and profound belief that we humans are ground animals. To quote Emil Zatopek (once again, I know I have quoted him before ...): "Bird flies, fish swims, man runs." Therefore, whenever I have the disputable pleasure of boarding an airplane, I develop a strange feeling within my guts, and this has nothing to do with love-butterflies.

My sweetheart dreads it when the plane hits turbulences. Not because he worries much about turbulences and air-pockets, but because he knows that I worry, which usually leads to me digging my paws, er, claws into his thighs, leaving wet spots on his knee from my sweating hands.

Usually, there really is no reason to worry. However, we were on one flight where, judging from the reaction of the flight attendant, everything clearly was not ok. But one after the other.

We had spent a decadent 10 days in Barbados and were on our flight back to NYC. We flew American. You could tell AA was in financial dire straits, simply because they didn´t seem to be hiring a lot of new (read: young) flight attendants, which meant that the attendants were all about 40 and upward. (Without wanting to be ageist, it´s just that on most other airlines I have ever flown the cabin crew tends to be somewhat younger.)

Anyway, we were in mid-air, when one of the flight attendants made an announcement that did not fail to significantly raise my heart rate, at least for a moment: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a prob- ... we´re experiencing difficulties with our ..." - here, my heart first nearly stopped before it picked up excess speed; my brain raced "Why is she correcting herself? Geez, just like in the "Airport"-movies: Your plane´s engine is on fire, and the cabin crew does their best to not cause panic among the passengers by telling them that all that happened is the cook burned the food ... AND WTF IS IT THAT ´WE´ ARE HAVING PROBLEMS WITH?" - "... inflight entertainment system!"

At this point, an entire mountain range fell off my heart. My goodness - all that it was was some minor difficulties with the frigging inflight entertainment system, not the engines, or the cabin pressure, or the fuelage, or anything else really worth worrying about!

As the flight went on, the weather went from bad to worse, and our plane was jumping like a kangoroo, from air pocket to air pocket (or so it seemed), and my sweetheart patiently put up with his left leg being poked by my fingernails (not that they are ever very long, fortunately) digging into his flesh.

(Near the end of the flight, the captain apologized for the bumpy ride, saying he´d been trying, evidently without too much success, to evade the turbulences by attempting different flight levels.)

When we finally started our approach to JFK, my sweetheart suddenly discovered that something was dripping on his shoulder. Whatever it was seemed to be coming from the cabin luggage compartment right above. The liquid went from clear to brown. When a flight attendant passed us by (on her way to make sure all the passengers were neatly strapped in and buckled up for the landing bounces), my sweetheart pointed out to her that he was being dripped on by - something.

"Could it be rum?" The flight attendant suggested helpfully (Barbados being one of those Caribbean rum paradises, and most passengers, excluding us, had bags stuffed with duty free Bajan rum in their hand luggage). We sniffed and smelled at it, but it didn´t smell like rum. In fact, it didn´t smell of anything, really. Nevertheless, the flight attendant opened the luggage compartment to check, but of course, to no avail: No puddles of rum overhead, and of course no broken bottles.

It was pitch dark outside, it was pissing down with rain, the plane jumped and bounced, and the cabin crew had actually had their call to take their landing positions several minutes ago. The dripping intensified, and the flight attendant was not really sure what to do about this. I didn´t like the more than slightly worried expression on her face one bit, when she asked me (I was seated next to the window) if we were already close to the airport and in the process of landing. I couldn´t see a thing, and I told her as much. She rushed off to get a Kleenex (which was, as she remarked apologetically, all she could offer my sweetheart at that point), and then hurried to her seat, maintaining this slightly worried look.

As you can tell by the fact that I survived to write about this, we landed safely, the airplane did not fall apart in the process, and hopefully they patched up the part of the airplane that had lost its leakproofness with some high-quality tape.

On my recent flight to NYC and back, I again had the pleasure of flying American. (No, I´m not starting to make this a habit!)

The plane on the flight back had been boarded and was ready to start early, when ... The flight attendant made the announcement that - "Ladies and Gentlemen" - someone from the cockpit had briefly stepped outside to make sure that "something" (which apparently needed checking) was as it should be. Yeah, right, the co-pilot wandering around the airplane and rattling at the engines to make sure they wouldn´t come off in mid-air? Well, not quite, as the announcement by the captain - after about an half-hour wait informed us: They were just "double-checking" that the tires were fully ok.

Mhmm. So, after the check had apparently resulted in the co-pilot´s satisfaction, which I did find somehow encouraging (I mean, hey, these guys want to live as much as I do, or don´t they?), we were ready for take-off. I still half expected one of the tires to blow (or come off) at take-off.

Well, that did not happen. The flight itself went smooth-ish-ly; yes, there were a lot of turbulences, and we were forced to stay strapped in our seats for most of the flight because of that, and one of the four economy-class toilets serving some 160 economy-class passengers was nevertheless occupied for most of the flight because one passenger seemed to be unable to stop driving the white bowl; but since I slept like a baby for pretty much of that late-night flight (the bouncing actually rocked me to sleep), I couldn´t have cared less.

Until we approached London Heathrow. For the landing process, of course, it was essential that the tires were, indeed, fully functional, or so I reckoned, and that they hadn´t worn too much during take off. Again, as you can see, I live to tell you about this. And although it was quite a kangoroo-landing, and the plane, upon hitting, er, touching ground, wobbled like a drunk after her third mega-strong Caipiroshka, yes, the tires seemed to have been sufficiently in order to get us safely off and back on the ground.

Of course, we had to wait for about 45 minutes until the plane could finally anchor in its landing slot, but I sort of expected that (it happened on the way in, too). And, since we were on the ground, that really did not touch me too much (apart from the urgent need to stretch and shake out my legs after spending a good 7 hours in the confinements of said economy class).

Did I mention that I nevertheless prefer to stick to the ground?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Apart From And On Top Of ...

... everything else, you´re just absolute ... ABSOLUT!
You make these butterflies ... WILD!


Thanks to Kayne Stock for the Blue Ulisses!

Oh ... and I absolutely love you, ;)

(Sorry, this corny song just fit in nicely!)

Monday, November 12, 2007


asked me what
you mean to me.

asked for it!
Are you ready?

You are
my buddy
my best friend
my love and lover.

You make
an entire swarm
of butterflies wake up
and flutter wildly.

You are
my inspiration.
You bring out sides
I never even knew I had.

You make
me grow beyond myself
and challenge me
to rise against all odds.

You are
the wind
that's sweeping through my life.
Because of you I dare.

You make
the stars move
and the earth rock for me
and make me join their dance.

You are
the powerful volcano
that erupts
to turn me inside out.

You make
me realize that everything's ok.
And if it's not,
we can and we will make it so.

And I love you
('scuse the corny sound of it!)
for all you are,
for all your strength,
for all your weakness.

I love you
for challenging each and everyone
and everything,
for not accepting boundaries
unless you define them.

I love you
for your curiosity
that constantly explores
never content with that
which is.

I love you
for your cheeky smile and wicked li'l grin
that make the sun rise
even on the darkest, bleakest day.
(Forget about November rains!)

I love you
for your touch
comforting and teasing
that sends a stream of tingles down my spine
and every other part of me.

I love you
for your kiss
tasty and passionate
that makes me long
for the infinity of every moment.

I love you
for your scent,
the sweet, warm fragrance of you,
that makes me want
to never stop inhaling.

I love you
for your sleepy morning look,
your growly grudginess,
until that first sip of coffee,
and your smile awakens.

You are
incredibly incredible!

tutte le pazzie chi posso
o non posso imaginare.

della vita.


are you
finally blushing? ;)

My buddy
my best friend
my love and lover.

Why do we run?

It´s fun. It´s healthy. It´s ... Hogwash!

I´ll start again.

Why do we run?

There are several theories.

One. We run because we are "running toward ourselves", i.e., to reflect upon and ponder life while we are on our own with our thoughts (and our pumping heart and rattling lungs). Former German Foreign Minister, Green politician and irregular hobby marathoner Joschka Fischer several years ago wrote a book titled "The Long Run To Myself", where he stated that at around the 10k mark, he usually reached the point of getting a clear head. (Too bad he didn´t maintain the habit of running when he was part of the German government!)

And indeed, sometimes I have the best ideas when running. Sometimes things that I just wouldn´t get straight are sorted out while I´m out on a run. But at other times, admittedly, I am just too preoccupied with split-times, bad shape, or distracted by everything around me (or just plain too lazy to use my gray cells in addition to my hamstrings and calves) to do a lot of thinking. And on some days I just enjoy to float.

Two. We run because we are running away from something. Not in a literal sense, but in the sense of resorting to sports as an escape, as an excuse for not having to deal with all sorts of nasty things in life (stress on the job, taxes, unpaid bills, relationship troubles ...). While there is certainly a piece of truth in this, perhaps it is closer to the heart of the matter that running (or sports in general) is a great way to reduce stress. While it doesn´t solve money or tax problems (unfortunately), it might still help indirectly because - as I said above - it may help to get things back into perspective.

Three. We run because we have to. Running is part of our evolutionary history, according to a recent study by Dennis Bramble and Daniel Lieberman. We are, so to speak, born to run. Hard to believe, eh? ;) They make the point that certain body traits that we humans possess which our closest non-human mammal relatives, the chimpanzees, are missing (no, this time I am not referring to the thumb, make us perfect long-distance runners who - in the very long run - can even outpace just about every other animal on this planet:

From our abundant sweat glands to our Achilles tendons, from our big knee joints to our muscular glutei maximi, human bodies are beautifully tuned running machines. "We're loaded top to bottom with all these features, many of which don't have any role in walking," Lieberman says. Our anatomy suggests that running down prey was once a way of life that ensured hominid survival millions of years ago on the African savanna. (You find the article here).

While when it comes to speed, we humans stand no chance of winning against most quadrupeds, we are perfectly equipped for endurance running. And, apparently, this was a useful trait when hunting for food (or trying to be near a carcass that some bigger beast had killed and left behind) way back when.

As Czechoslovakian running icone and marathon gold-medalist of the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, Emil Zatopek, put it: "Bird flies, fish swims, man runs." Not that he himself always looked as if he was really enjoying it. (Neither does Paula Radcliffe, but she runs and wins.) In fact, he wore an expression of torture on his face, his tongue sticking out, while running, and both his unelegant gait and his way of breathing earned him the nickname "Locomotive".

All of which, of course, does not explain entirely why some of us derive not only pain, but also pleasure from the act of running, whilst others can only look upon runners with a mixture of amazement and pity, shake their heads and take another deep puff. ("Crazy buggers! Ah! That´s better!")

But probably even among our forefathers, there were those who´d join in the hunt, whilst others would rather stay at home and do other useful things, such as protecting women and children against potential evil forces. Or just hang out by the fire.

Those of us who nowadays engage in the pleasurable, on occasion nevertheless painful actvity of running might at some earlier point in history have even made a profession of this passion (linguistic note: the origin of the word "passion" is - not entirely coincidental - the Latin verb "patere", which also means "to suffer"; similarly, the German equivalent "Leidenschaft" contains the verb "leiden", which also means "to suffer"), to become a messenger in areas where horses were not an option.

Like the famous ancient Greek messenger-runner Pheidippides, who is often credited with having run "the father of all marathons" between the ancient site of Marathon and Athens. However, some sources say that it is highly unlikely that Pheidippides was the runner in question (if the Marathon-Athens race took place at all, which is a matter of debate). Pheidippides had some days earlier been sent to cover the 240 km (150 mile) -distance to Sparta (which took him 2 days - pretty good, eh?) to get help from the Spartanians in an imminent battle against the Persians. As logic has it, for him as a professional runner, the 40-odd-km (26 miles) distance between Marathon and Athens would have been a cakewalk, not a challenge, so it is unlikely that he would have died after that race.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The original marathon from Marathon to Athens probably was run - if it was run at all (there are no contemporary sources) - by a soldier who had fought in the battle of Marathon agains the Persians prior to the race.

The Athenians had just against all odds successfully battled the Persians, despite the fact that the latter ones had the larger army. The Spartans, because they were in the midst of some religious ceremony, never showed up, so it was up to a comparatively small army of Athenians to look after themselves.

Immediately after the battle, a messenger, still in his battle gear, was sent to Athens to break the good news. Why he had to run on foot rather than taking a horse remains somehow of a mystery, but some theories have it that the area was too rocky and generally impassable for a horse in a decent time. So the poor guy, who had just been involved in an exhausting several hour fight, raced the distance, arrived in Athens exclaiming "Nike! Nike!" (no, not a request for a pair of more suitable running-shoes by the brand that carries this noble name, but the Greek word for "Victory!"), collapsed and died.

Nowadays, runners have it a lot easier. For starters, we don´t have to fight a battle before the race (not a literal one, anyway); more often than not - unless you are part of the Olympic team running the original distance in Greek mid-summer temperatures around mid-day, or you are running the Dead Sea Ultra-Marathon - marathons are run in temperatures that are more becoming for exhaustive endurance sports activities; we do not run in some entirely inadequate battle-gear (unless we chose to dress up in that way, but we don´t do so by force), but we do have extra-cushioned sneakers and functional sports-apparel; there´s ample supply with Gatorade and/or water along the way, not to mention PowerBars and bananas.

Plus, there are all these cheering spectators, and all sorts of bands - in New York, the range goes from heavy metal, to jazz, to bagpipers on the way into the Bronx - playing along the way, and they provide modern day runners with enough of an adrenaline and euphoria rush to keep going. (Aside: On my training runs, I try to go for one just over 30k several weeks before the actual marathon date; these runs in the middle of nowhere are invariably disheartening experiences, at which point I usually question if I can actually make it through a marathon, if the entire thing is such a great idea after all, and if it wouldn´t be indefinitely more snug to just roll up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a cigarette ...).

So, in the vast majority of cases, modern day marathoners reach the finish line, without exclaiming "Nike! Nike!" (though we might stil carry that feeling inside us for having just successfully battled the 42.195 km (that is 26.something miles).

It is a great experience. It is painful, yet addictive (the pain, I imagine similarly to that of giving birth, is erased from memory after a while). The atmosphere is filled with adrenaline. And starting out on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge on a beautiful, crisp, sunny morning with almost 40,000 fellow runners, with a great view of the Manhattan skyline, has got to be the ultimate runner´s high.

Before the start: Runners waiting at Fort Wodsworth. It´s a bit like Woodstock, only without the smoke and the music ;) In the background the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

The New York crowd is unlike any other I´ve ever come across (ok, aside from New York I´ve only run Munich and Berlin, so my experience is somewhat limited), and the cruise through large parts of Brooklyn and Queens lets you travel through an entire macrocosm of different neighbourhoods and cultures.

And when you finally arrive in Central Park ("Oh sh ... Two more miles! How am I ever going to survive them?"), you have no choice really but to keep running. The last half mile ("Hey! That´s only 800 m!") ... And then - after a last small ascent - the finish line is finally in sight. Try and smile into the cameras (I didn´t; honestly, I couldn´t be bothered, because I simply didn´t have the power to force my grimaced face into anything at least resembling a smile). And - phew!!!!

After having then walked the approximate equivalent of 20 blocks (from the entrance to the final stretch in Central Park at Columbus Circle/ 59th street, to where the truck with your clothes is parked, which is probably around 82nd street), you´ll finally be able to breathe.

And it´s bound to feel a little unreal, partly because your body is still readjusting, partly because you´ve probably spent the last 7km in some sort of exhausted dizziness, and partly because you are bound to feel exhilarated and still high on adrenaline. Unless, of course, you happen to be Paula Radcliffe, and you have just won the New York Marathon - again! - in one of those amazing races where a co-runner is glued to your heels, up until the final stretch, which is like your home run and you shake her off, though not without visible effort.

And every other runner around you, this entire army of exhausted, but happy looking bipeds who, wrapped in their tin-foil finisher blankets, have somewhat of an alien look around them, feels the same. Well, come to think of it, although it might be more of a routine for her, Paula probably feels that way, too. Although there´ll be a far smaller group of tin-foiled co-runners around her.

Special thanks to my sweetheart for making me go for it and for supporting me, and ultimately propelled me across the finish line (even if I took one hour and 10 minutes longer than Paula ... we´re still discussing what went wrong, and how to improve this), and for being simply incredibly ... incredible.

And to my lovely friends Steven and Michael who gave me shelter in their "house filled with love and laughter" ;), and who fed and generally pampered me before and after the race.

And to all of you who were there, one way or the other.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


It only worked
as long as it was a lie.
I used to think
that we were different.

How flattering
and how naive!

Now the dream is over.
Welcome to the real world!

Wish someone would release me from this nightmare.
But then I realise
that´s not possible.

Because the nightmare
is what´s real.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Four Seasons: Autumn

Autumn Leaves, Jean Michel Folon (1975)

Here´s to the season in between: Harvest is over (well, at least for local farmers, planters and growers of all kind), and the time to savour the fruits of the fields (and pots) has arrived.

Colourful leaves in yellow, red and orange, seem to reflect memories of summer sun, while longer shadows are casting a first premonition of cold, somber winter days to come. But initially, autumn lets us savour the last sensations of warmth.

Clear, crisp air and intensive sunlight to refuel, so indulge in it, while it lasts!

Slowly, everything seems to be winding down, in preparation for hibernation.

In theory, anyway.

In practice, the most horrendously hectical time of the year is about to start: Christmas shopping season! That time of the year used to be a time for reflection and calm, way back when and once upon a time, before it all spun out of hand into a that forceful, mindless craze x-mas has become.

But I am getting carried away and ahead of myself.

Autumn. Yes, I guess what I was going to say before getting cheesy, was: I like it. I like the crisp days, filled with more clear air than my smoke-accustomed lungs are able to take in, the light, the incredible depth of the sky.

Even the foggy days have their charm. Initially, at least. After four weeks of not catching a single idea of a glimpse of the sun (remember what it looked like?) the continuous state of near-darkness tends to evoke a state of near-depression, coupled with a lack of motivation that no amount of chocolate (or gingerbread, which has been on the shelves since early September) can defeat.

But so far, autumn here has been showing itself (himself? herself?) from its pleasant side.


Animation by Ferenc Cakó, music by Antonio Vivaldi.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Don´t Panic!

Panic. It is one of these archaic instincts which used to be useful survival tools, but which have - to modern man - become entirely useless, not to say counterproductive, or even outright life-threatening.

Take the adrenaline rush (a close relative to panic), for example. It raises the heart rate and enables us to grow beyond our normal capacities, for instance enabling us to run faster. That feature, without doubt, used to be an essential survival tool for ancient man when running for from a stronger adversary (mammoths, tigers, other men).

Nowadays, aside from competitive sports (or actual run-for-your-life situations), stress-induced adrenaline rushes only serve to raise our blood pressure (a life-shortening feature), without us being able to actually take advantage from the strength or speed-enhancing effect, because, although that might be our primal instinct and ultimative urge at that point, usually we don´t simply run in adrenaline raising situations (job interviews, exams, stress with customers/spouses/bosses, turbulences in aircrafts, etc.).

Run for your life!

And now, panic. It switches off our rational thinking capacities and causes us to freeze. Which, again, might have been useful when being confronted with said stronger adversaries in a situation where running was not an option ... and with a bit of luck, the stronger adversary would not notice, or ignore the frozen victim. (Even if chances for the latter were probably rather slim, but the brain-numbing effects of panicking perhaps made whatever was to follow a little easier to suffer.)

All in all, however, panic causes an inability to go about with the required ratio and disables us from seeing clearly, so chances are we behave in an way (if we behave at all) which, in all likelihood, makes things even worse.

Here´s an example. Many years ago, we were hiking in a cirque full of boulders, when all of a sudden, we heard a thundering noise. It didn´t take us long to discover that the noise was caused by boulders falling. Because we were surrounded by mountain walls, due to the echoe effects we couldn´t quite locate where the rocks were coming down. In any case, it sounded like they were coming down all around us. And it sounded as if they were coming down increasingly closer to us.

So my instincts told me to do the unsensible thing, and my body followed suite. My brain totally blacked out, and I started running. Not a very good idea in the middle of a field of boulders in the first place. My sweetheart was behind me, and in the middle of my panic-stricken race across the rocks, I turned round to check if he was still there and alive (and to see if the falling rocks were catching up with us). Without stopping. Not a good idea either.

Of course, I stumbled and fell full length on the rocky underground, scratching the wrist of my left hand. The scratch was not deep, but it bled like hell, causing my sweetheart to panic in turn, because to him it looked like I´t slit my wrists. It looked a lot more dramatic than it was, and the actual problem was that - which I didn´t know at the time - I had broken the metacarpal bone of the little finger on my right hand.

Suddenly, panic had been replaced by pain. I forgot about the thundering mountain, completely distracted by the throbbing pain in my hand. Amazingly (and luckily), my legs had suffered minor scratches at the most, so we were able to make it down to the valley safely.

Oh, the falling boulders? I´m not sure when the rock slide actually stopped. But it did before we left the cirque, and it never got really close to where we were.

The moral of this story is, of course, to try and remain cool-blooded, particularly when a situation seems awry. Because chances are that panic will make everything more precarious.

No wonder authorities happily exploit this primal instinct, an emotionalized, panic-stricken citizen being a willing believer in and blind follower of whatever governments are telling them.

Government panic scale

So, by all means, don´t panic.

Unless, of course, authorities are trying to tell you that everything´s fine, and there is no problem whatsoever, for instance after an accident in a chemical installation. Or an accident in a nuclear powerplant (Harrisburg, Sellafield, Chernobyl).

Or (nuclear) warheads are accidentally being flown across the USA; or warheads have mysteriously going missing in the process (hmmm ... was it five or six warheads? C´mon guys, can´t be that hard to count up to six ... or is it?).

Or the mortgage crisis (aka credit crunch), and how it might ultimatively affect consumer spending, the health of the economy, the Fed deciding to keep lowering rates in the face of rising inflation and sky-rocketing oil prices, and a stock market that has just hit a new all time high. (Oh, and do we need another war to fend off the adverse economic effects of another bubble bursting?)

When that kind of shit hits the fan, perhaps it is time to hit that panic button, after all.

Panic button

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Über-Ghost

Alan Greenspan is back, looming over the markets, and, even more, over the current chairman of the Federal Reserve! Not that A.G. ever left the scene completely; his comments on an increased likelihood of a recession haunted the markets more than once this year.

But now he´s back for more. His memoirs "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World", due to hit the bookshelves on September 17, 2007 - which happens to be, incidentally, one day ahead of the Federal Reserve´s next, both eagerly and nervously awaited rate-decision - are bound to haunt the markets, the Bush administration, and his successor as Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke.

Poor Ben, it should be added, is not in an enviable position right now, stuck as he is between a rock and a hard place: On one side (the rock), the subprime crisis, recent market turmoil and market expectations have put an almost unbearable pressure on him and his Fed to lower interest rates for the first time in more than four years.

On the other hand (the hard place), the Greenback has been on a plunge, not only against the European currency, but against all major currencies, with the notable exception of the Japanese Yen.

Now, while a falling Dollar may be good for exporters, it leads to increased imported inflation, and to a flight of foreign capital from US assets (e.g., stocks: if you, coming from a Euro country, buy shares of an American company, e.g. Microsoft, as the dollar´s value dwindles, so does your Microsoft stocks´, even if the company´s shares remain unchanged).

And now, here is the honorable Mr. Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, with the luxury of no longer having to give a damn, and in a position of pissing against the legs of the government, while at the same time taking an obviously sadistic pleasure to expose to his successor the dilemmas and problems Ben Bernanke and the Fed are facing - dilemmas and problems, that are no longer his to deal with (so-called SEPs - Somebody Else´s Problems).

Al and Ben

First, Greenspan paints a dark scenario on what to expect in terms of inflation:

To keep inflation under 2 percent, ``the Fed, given my scenario, would have to constrain monetary expansion so drastically that it could temporarily drive up interest rates into the double-digit range not seen since the days of Paul Volcker,'' Greenspan wrote.


Consumer prices, which increased at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent during Greenspan's tenure, will likely climb by 4.5 percent or more a year in the future, he wrote.


Greenspan also forecast an end to the anti-inflation pressures from the inclusion of China and other emerging economies into the global trading system.


The third source of pressure on inflation will come from U.S. government budget deficits, according to Greenspan. Federal spending absorbs private savings and uses them for less productive purposes, imparting ``a bias toward inflation'' Greenspan wrote.

The federal deficit is something particularly loath to Alan Greenspan: "Deficits don't matter,' to my chagrin, became part of the Republicans' rhetoric,'' he complains about the current administrations budget discipline (or , more precisely, lack thereof).

Next, he outlines what to expect in terms of economic growth, which is no good news, either:

The economy will probably slow to a pace of under 2.5 percent on average from now until 2030, Greenspan forecast in the book.


Productivity gains averaged a 1.7 percent annual rate in the first six months of this year, down from a 3.6 percent rate during the high-technology boom of 1999. Greenspan forecast a long-term average of 2 percent for increases in output per hour.

He expects increased pressure on the Fed from politics, endangering the agency´s - ahem - independence (the outcome of the September 18 Fed meeting will be a first indicator on how independent the Fed actually is):

"Federal Reserve independence is not set in stone,'' wrote Greenspan, 81, who led the Fed for 18 years until January 2006. ``The dysfunctional state of American politics does not give me great confidence in the short run'' and there may be ``a return of populist, anti-Fed rhetoric,'' he wrote.

(All above quotations are from this Bloomberg article).

Finally, he has the chuzpe to reveal the real motives behind the war against Iraq. No, not the fight against terrorism, or against a rogue regime in the possession of WMDs (the latest rhethorical spin of the government has it that Saddam Hussein had to be removed to prevent him from producing weapons of mass destruction in the future), or to bring freedom, democracy and popcorn to the region.

The war against Iraq was guided by motives related to (surprise, surprise!) oil. Greenspan himself was a proponent of war against Iraq, fearing that control over the Strait of Hormuz - an important passage for oil transports - would enable Saddam Hussein to threaten the USA and its allies.

In essence, Greenspan admits that the whole WMD rhethoric used to justify the war against Iraq was and is nothing but a load of hogwash:

"Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's `weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in an area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy."

(Quoted here.)

And as if the turmoil his book is already creating wasn´t enough, Greenspan keeps talking to the press - THE PRESS, for crying out loud! - making sure his irreverent opinions aren´t overheard.

Just in case his earlier recession-warnings will not be forgotten or go unheeded, in his latest interview with the Financial Times, he glumly forecasts that the fall in US house prices triggered by the latest subprime crisis will likely be bigger than expected.

And, heresy of heresies, in another interview (to be published in the September 20 issue of German magazine "Der Stern"), he openly talks about the possibility of the Euro replacing the US Dollar as reserve currency of choice (quoted in the International Herald Tribune).

That will most likely not earn him a long friends list within the administration. But, quite likely, he won´t give a shit.

Mr. Universe

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beware Of The Pirates!

They steal. They lie. They blunder. And, ultimately, they kill.

I remember that day very vividly. The minute stock futures tanked - it was around three o´clock in the afternoon in Germany -, we figured something had happened. We turned on the TV and were glued to CNN Europe.

At first there was total confusion. Reports initially talked about a "small plane" that had crashed into one of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.

But why? It didn´t look like a weather related accident, since it was a clear and wonderful September morning in New York.

Then, gradually, as events evolved, we watched in shock and horror as the second plane smashed into the second tower, broadcast live by CNN, like a well-orchestrated, marcabre Hollywook movie. Only this was real.

When the headline "Pentagon on fire" scrolled across the screen, initially I didn´t grasp that it was a literal fire, not one figuratively spoken of.

What was going on?

Where was the government? Where was Dubya?

Complete chaos.

The horror kept unfolding.

I remember images of people desperately waving from the top floors - above where the planes had struck -, thinking to myself, "Someone will, someone must be able to save them", somehow believing that it was impossible to witness those men and women die.

I was naively thinking that because the world was able to watch all of this happening, somehow "someone" must be able to help, perhaps taking them aboard a helicopter. Yeah, right, like it was a Hollywood movie!

Then there were accounts on the Internet, equally contradictory and confusing as that what was being broadcast on TV. I remember talk about an intercom message in the towers, telling people to remain calm and at their desks, because everything was under control (NEVER ever believe officials and authorities telling you that one, NEVER!).

I will never forget the images of the people jumping, out of desperation, because the heat and air were becoming unbearable.

I will never forget Howard Lutnick, CEO of broker firm Cantor Fitzgerald, bursting out in tears. Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 of a total of 1000 employees. (Lutnick himself survived, because he had taken his son to his first day of kindergarten that day. His brother, Gary, was among those who died.)

I will also never forget Bush (after he finally materialized), and his blabber about "I saw the plane hit the first tower, and I was thinking to myself, what a terrible pilot."

I was thinking to myself, "What a weird reaction. I mean, a plane crashes into one of the WTC towers, and all this guy has to say is `What a terrible pilot?´ And - you saw the plane hit the first tower? How could you? At that point, there was no film material of that ...".

I also remember how surprised I was that amongst all this total confusion and chaos, all of a sudden authorities were able to declare who was behind these atrocities: Osama Bin Laden´s Al-Quaeda.

I remember witnessing in horror as the towers collapsed.

Many questions remain unanswered.

And then ...

It was the hour of the Pirates of the Constitution.

Remember the recount of the Florida votes? Nobody, in these times of national crisis, could have possibly doubted the government, much less the President. This would have been terribly unpatriotic. Or would it?

9/11 serves as an excuse to brainwash and blindfold citizens by telling us that wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Iran have been, are and will be waged in the name of defending our freedom, and the freedom of those living there.

(Digression: Not that I ever cared for the oppressive Taliban regime and its system contemptous of human rights. But ousting a regime because it trampled the rights of its citizens, particularly of women, was not the reason for attacking Afghanistan. At least human rights in Afghanistan had not been an issue from 1997 to as late as July 2001, when larger issues were at stake, namely oil:

"When George W. Bush took office in 2001, his administration made new overtures to the Taliban, and the pipeline deal gained renewed support, as an incentive to get the Taliban to make political concessions and form a broader government.


In March 2001, several Taliban officials, including Sayed Rahmattulah Hashimi, Mullah Omar's personal advisor, were invited to Washington by their U.S. lobbyist, Leila Helms, the niece of former CIA Director Richard Helms. The agenda included discussions of extraditing bin Laden as well as facilitating American companies' access to oil reserves in central Asia." Quoted here.

And not that I cared much for Saddam Hussein either. But, contrary to what one of three Americans to this day have successfully been brought to believe, he had nothing to do with 9/11. Or Al-Queda for that matter.)

The horrible events of 9/11 served and continue to serve as a perfect excuse to wreak havoc on our constitutions. Not only in the US of A, but also in Germany, in the UK, in France, in Spain, in Australia ...

They serve as an excuse to happily chop away on civil rights and liberties.

Prisoners kept at will without trial. Prisoners subjected to torture. Citizens (who turned out to be have done nothing wrong, apart from being Muslims, like Khaled Masri) abducted to CIA prison camps, with the knowledge of our government, all covered up in a web of lies.

The very freedom that our governments are purportedly intent on defending, they seem to have very little problem sacrificing by silently doing away with constitutional rights.

Shame on you, Pirates of the Constitution!

We shall and we will never forget.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ship of Fools

Ship of Bush

Side acknowlegements: This wonderful parody of "Ship of Fools" is from As usual, I found it by picture googling .

Crazy times in a crazy world. Not that it´s ever been much different, but currently it feels to me as if the speed is accelerating.

The bursting bubble of borrowed material wealth has, or so it turns out, been but an illusion that everyone pretended was a reality, until the foundation started to crumble in a manner that could no longer be ignored. And I am not only referring to collapsing bridges, nor, this time, to the fact the we, the wealthy nations, have been living at the expense of other, less fortunate ones.

No, this time it´s damage we have been inflicting onto ourselves and to one another, by repackaging, hiding, and shifting parcels of worthless paper, neatly wrapped into fancy looking packages that are now popping up seemingly everywhere, and much to everyone´s surprise.

Wipes your account clean real fast!

Negative savings rate, anyone? "Credit crunch", by the way, is not the latest ceral. If anything, it could turn out to be serial, as in "serial killer".

The dripping exodus not only in corporations, but also within administrations (Rummy, Rove, Gonzales, Snow - who´s next? Condi, perhaps?) gives me an unhealthy feeling in my guts. Especially when taking this into account (don´t believe SFGate? Then check out the ultimative authoritative source itself). Or that.

Are the more knowledgeable fools jumping ship? Do they know something that we don´t? (I most certainly assume they do, I´d just like to know what the hell it is!)

Blimey, I sound like the apocalyptic rider. Or like one of these "The end is near!" prophets.

The End.

I´ve been spending too much time on various message boards, no doubt. There should be a surgeon general´s warning before letting anyone enter. Not that that would stop anyone, at least no more than the blunt warnings printed on cigarette and tobacco packages stop anyone from smoking.

The human race was dying out

No one left to scream and shout.

People walking on the moon

Smog will get you pretty soon.

Everyone was hanging out

Hanging up and hanging down

Hanging in and holding fast

Hope our little world will last.

Along came Mr. Goodtrips

Looking for a new ship.

Come on people better climb on board

Come on babe we're going home.

Ship of fools, Ship of fools.

The human race was dying out

No one left to scream and shout.

People walking on the moon

Smog gonna get you pretty soon.

Ship of fools, ship of fools

Ship of fools, ship of fools

Ship of fools, ship of fools

Climb on board

Ship's gonna leave you all, far behind.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(The original "Ship of Fools" painting, by Hieronymous Bosch, drawsn c. 1490-1500)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Quotes, Lies, and Wars

August 9 2007, marks the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, following last Monday´s (August 6) anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. As before and afterwards during the course of history, we, the people, were made to believe that there was a "noble" motive behind this killing.

However, contrary to common myth and belief, neither bombing, was of any military value. Truman and his team simply wanted to punish the Japanese, impress the Soviets, and see if the thing worked.

About 40,000 Japanese people, almost all civilians, died immediately, and many more died from radiation poisoning in the ensuing years. The bomb was a plutonium "implosion" bomb. Hiroshima had been made with highly enriched uranium, a simple design now available to nearly everyone.

The tragic anniversary has prompted me to take a look at a variety of quotations by our political leaders, some more recent, some from decades back, but all of them telling, outrageous and/ or tasteless.

The following collection is, I have to admit, slightly lopsided. I meant to include far more equally infamous quotations by politicians from my fellow countrymen. But for the most part, they don´t seem to be having to say anything worth noting (one way or the other).

Which may have to do with the fact that the role of German politics on a global scale has shrunk to near insignificance since we last attempted to spread our alleged virtues all over this world (thankfully, we didn´t get very far, although it was enough to bring death and misery to millions of innocent lives).

Which of course doesn´t mean we´re not involved in the various pieces of military mess, ranging from the war on Yugoslavia to our involvement in Afghanistan. Only Germany´s role now is that of a willing accomplice, rather than that of leader of the pack. Which isn´t much better, it´s just a little less exposed (and hence tends to go a little more unnoticed).

Talking about the war on Yugoslavia, the claims for "Operation Horseshoe", which played a major role to justify the bombings of Serbia in 1999, were ... ummmm ..., yes, I think we can call it "made up" by the German government, in cooperation by former German minister of foreign affairs, Joschka Fischer (a member of what had once been the pacifist Green party), and former German minister of defence, Rudolf Scharping (a member of the Social Democratic Party).

I well remember Scharping speaking to the German public, resembling a rabied dog, froth forming on his mouth as he was spreading (what later turned out to be entirely made up) that the Yugoslav government was about to carry out ethnic cleansing on a massive scale in Kosovo. (You can read up the details here.)

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any transcript of this. In essence, it amounts to about the same as Colin Powell´s presentation before the UN in February 2003: It was a lie to justify the bombing of a country.

Needless to say, the media never made as big a deal of bringing the fact, that these claims were simply not true, to the attention of the public, as they had been before when it came to spreading the war-propaganda. Which is why many Germans probably still believe that "Operation Horseshoe" had in fact existed. And many US citizens still believe that there were, indeed, weapons of mass destruction.

So, just because there are very few quotations of German politicians included here, that doesn´t mean that my fellow countrymen and -women are not capable of the same verbal and actual atrocities. Only their words have been less well documented in the recent past.


The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.

Harry S. Truman, excerpts from a radio address to the American public on August 9, 1945

(The target is always military, never civilian. So how come most deaths in any war are civilians?)


The youth of Germany has no problem with Jewry. Sometimes my two sons and I go to the Jewish cementary in Oggersheim.

Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl in Tel Aviv speaking to 900 Israeli politicians (January 1983)

(May you choke on your sauerkraut and saumagen!)

I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace.

G. W. Bush, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C., June 18, 2002

(Sounds a bit like: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. -George Orwell, 1984)

"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," Rumsfeld said. "They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

Looting, he added, was not uncommon for countries that experience significant social upheaval. "Stuff happens," Rumsfeld said. (Quoted here).

(An interesting notion of freedom. Luckily, in real life in a real free country, it doesn´t extend to doing such obnoxious things like having a bottle of beer in the middle of Central Park. Looting and committing crimes, as long as that happens in far away places, may be fine. But drinking in public - tututut!)

Freedom´s untidy ...

We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.

George W. Bush, May 29, 2003

So what's the difference?

G.W. Bush, Dec 16, 2003, to Diane Sawyer, as she presses about the administration's verbiage about Iraqi WMD vs. the fact none were used or found

(Yes, what difference does it make what kind of justification has been brought up to destroy and uproot an entire country, to plunge it into a complete mess, have an - as of this day, August 9, 2007 - estimated one million of its citizens killed, not to forget some 3,681 US casualties? Truth, lies, phhhhht! Who can tell the difference, anyway?)

Where´s the difference ...?

See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction.

Midwest Airlines Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 3, 2003

(Hmmm ... let me see ... we have just been attacking a country. We own weapons of mass destruction which we have developed. So, what does that make us?)

This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. (Short pause) And having said that, all options are on the table. (Laughter)

G. W. Bush, February 25, 2005

(Yes, the notion to bomb a country, to kill thousands of civilians, to destroy their existence, their infrastruture, is very funny, indeed. Cheers to the press corps!)

Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.

G. W. Bush, State of the Union, January 31, 2006

(Oh no, it´s never been about oil!)

CHENEY: The treatment they're getting -- they got a brand new facility down at Guantanamo. We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well treated down there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possible want. There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people.

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview with CNN´s Wolf Blitzer on conditions in Guantanamo, quoted on on February 24, 2005 (Quoted here).

(So who´s complaining? I mean, other people have to pay a lot of money for vacationing in the tropics! Hmm, does the "Vice" in "Vice President" have anything to do with the noun "vice" - as opposed to "virtue"?)

They live in the tropics ...

The above quotation nicely matches a similar one by former Bavarian head of government, Franz Josef Strauss, when giving his two pence about Chile´s infamous stadium, when he was there to visit his buddy, dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1977:

"When the weather is nice, life in the stadium is reasonably pleasant."

Chile Stadium

There is nothing to add.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Natural Aphrodisiac

Now for the main (inter)course - this particular recipe serves two ;)


Two extra large teaspoons
of tenderness
several servings
of your honey dewed lips
the sweet scent of hot skin
a tasting
of your sweet breath
a bite
of your neck
twenty fingers
intertwined playfully
countless ounces
of touching skin
oh so delicate
two hands gliding
down your back to touch
two firm peaches
knead gently
fingers teasing
gliding, leaving no part untouched
two bodies
for one another
four legs
two bodies
our crotches
push towards each other
hot and spicey
mix thoroughly
keep stirring
and bring slowly to the boil.
Serve wet and hot ;)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kicking The Habit

When I go running, some days just seem to be perfect running days. I can tell from the start that it´s going to be an enjoyable run. Every movement is easy, my heart is pounding along at a rate which is halfway befitting my age (ahem!), I breathe easily and zoom along feeling great.

Today was not one of those days. My legs felt like I was wearing leaden shoes (I wasn´t). After a couple of minutes, I felt like I needed an oxygen mask (I didn´t have one with me). And my pulse sped along at a breathtaking rate (hence the need for oxygen), while I didn´t as much race, but rather toil onward.

My tortured look probably resembled that of Emil Zatopek, though he still managed to display some sort of elegance (which I didn´t), and he was a lot faster than I´ll ever be.

Emil Zatopek, The Locomotive

(Digression: Czech runner Emil Zatopek won gold in the 5 km and 10 km runs at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, but his final medal came when he decided at the last minute to compete in the marathon for the first time in his life, and won. He never looked as if he was particularly enjoying it, and because of the elegance he completely lacked to display when running, he was nicknamed "The Locomotive". End of digression.)

In short, it was a pretty horrid run.

While I was dragging myself along wishing it was over, the thought of kicking my smoking habit crossed my mind. In fact, it didn´t only cross my mind. It crept right into it and sat and lingered there, and it kept nagging me.

Ok, I thought, I´ll give it a try. For starters, I´ll skip the morning cigarette with my coffee. In fact, I´m going to have a nice cup of tea. Lady Grey, hmmm! (I was also feeling very thirsty after having lost about a gallon of liquid because I was sweating so hard, despite the near freezing temperature.)

When I got back, I made a large pot of coffee for my sweetheart and poured a large mug of tea for myself. Hmmm ... the coffee smelled tempting. So I ended up having a little cup of coffee before drinking my large mug of tea.

After the coffee, I felt much better. Needless to say, I then lit my morning cigarette, too. And it went very well with the tea!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Summit, Or: Crisis? What Crisis?

So. The mighty of the world have convened, and most representatives of the media landscape seem to be equally content as the German government (yes, Angie presented herself well on the stage of world politics!).

The problem of climate change has been tackled. Well, sort of, anyway. The major novelty: Bush this time didn´t refuse any hint of a suggestion, that measures might have to be taken to cut down on emissions. This, I guess, can be called progress, even if the leaders of the world couldn´t agree upon more than the vague and distant goal of seriously considering to cut global emissions in half by the year 2050.

Luckily, by the year 2050, none of those then former heads of state will be around anymore, so they won´t have to worry about however vague statements. Plus, by that time, we probably needn´t bother with reducing emissions.

Who Needs Glaciers Anyway

Oh, and you can always cover glaciers with blankets to prevent them from melting. Don´t laugh, this is being done in the Swiss Alps, as well as on the Zugspitze:

Protective Blanket on Zugspitze

But who needs glaciers, or snow for that matter, apart, perhaps, from the odd native Inuit, and perhaps a couple of insignificant ski-resorts in the Alpes. By 2050, we have probably invented a substance which is far better and longer lasting than snow, possibly with a permanent powder consistence ... hmmm! (As an enthusiastic skier, I´m actually looking forward to this perpetually perfect powder). That won´t help the Inuit, but - geez! - don´t you think they´d much prefer, too, it when the weather is a tad warmer?

The snow we´re having nowadays is carbon stained, anyway, due to the effects of several centuries of industrialization, or so scientists have claimed recently (in addition to looking ugly and possibly slowing us skiers and snowboarders down, this carbon layer which makes the snow darker and hence more susceptible to collecting warmth, hence contributing to global warming - voilà!).

The deforestation of the rainforests? Bah! Minor issue! They are only a breeding ground for all sorts of nasty insects or snakes. Or political rebels.


Ugly Forest

So - good riddance, no?


Nice Forest

As for droughts and lack of drinking water becoming a problem in some parts of the world,

Drought Australia

(nope, this is not somewhere in Africa, this is Australia)

that´s going to be made up for by flooding in others.

Flood New Orleans

(this used to be New Orleans)

You see, all we have to do is build pipelines (or use the by then defunct ones, where oil used to run through) to draw the water from the flooded parts of the word and divert it to those parts where there is too little water (or none at all). I´m confident that by 2050 we´ll have worked this one out as well .

In terms of international relations, before the summit, Bush declared the cold war over, while Putin had threatend just the opposite: a revival of those bad old days. But in the end, at least the US and Russian chiefs of government didn´t go at each other´s throats, and Putin dropped his cold war rhetoric, even though he is likely still a little pissed at having an anti-missile system planted more or less in his foregarden. But having Mr. Bush acknowledge Mr. Putin´s suggestion of a joint anti-missile system in Azerbaijan "interesting" probably reconciled the Russian leader some.

Friendly Relations

But that´s not all the good news we got! Plenty of aid is going to be poured over Africa: G8 states want to cough up "at least" 60 billion dollars in order to fight AIDS and, more broadly, guarantee widespread access to basic medical needs. (60 billion dollars is, incidentally, the same amount as the annual budget of US secret services, according to a presentation published accidentally by the Defense Intelligence Agency; here´s the link. )

AIDS in Africa

Unfortunately, however, the G8 missed out on some minor details, such as when exactly that aid is due, who exactly will pay what amount, and what exactly that money is supposed to be for. And, as Oxfam recently criticized in its latest report "The World Is Still Waiting" published on June 9, G8 nations have failed to meet the promises given at the 2005 summit to stock up annual aid to 50 billion dollars by 2010: If the current trend continues, the rich nations will miss their self-defined goal by 30 billion dollars.

Generously Aiding Africa

The fact that stricter patent laws (something else agreed upon on the G8 summit) mean, among other things, that newly developed medicine will remain expensive in Africa can be generously overlooked under these circumstances.

So, all in all, the G8 summit was success as usual. More shoulder patting, more hot air. And, last but not least, not to mention a brand new 12km-fence in Heiligendamm, where the summit was held. Now, if that isn´t something!

Self De-Fence

As Prez Bush said in his speech in Prague prior to the G8 summit: "Young people who can disagree openly with their leaders are less likely to adopt violent ideologies. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists -- they will join in defeating them."

Upon which my sweetheart asked: "Then why do these leaders have to hide behind a fence?"

Very good question, indeed!

Talking Heads

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Does The Internet Turn Us Into Apolitical Morons?

I owe most of the following to a very stimulating discussion I had with my partner the other night (thanks, dear!). We were reflecting on the effects of the Internet in terms of globally streamlining culture and perception.

Even if the "US Americanization" of culture around the globe started way before the Internet became a medium for the masses (with US movies, TV shows, music, etc., being exported more or less globally), the Internet with its global reach uncompared to prior mass-media (which by nature used to be limited in their geographical scope) has an entirely new potential. We had two main points that came up.

First point/hypothesis: The Internet acts as a globalizing force which increasingly molds culture, politics, lifestyle, the kind of topics that are discussed and covered by the media, etc., around the world. It is thus contributing to a lack of variety by mainstreaming everything to the predominant paradigms, perceptions and values, which are essentially US American.

Case in point my partner came up with: Have a look around web sites, such as Yahoo 360, or MySpace, from people with different cultural and geographical backgrounds (Native American, Central American, South American, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, Eastern European, Western European). You will find that most of them (at least that applies to the below-30 crowd) listen to the same music, read the same books (books? You mean those things made from paper with something printed on?), like the same movies, wear the same fashion labels as do their North American counterparts.

This will of course not apply to the underprivileged, but they can be neglected because they don´t have a say anyway. Besides, they are not interesting to global corporations marketing their products, increasingly over the Internet. (The keyword here is "Digital Divide" - thanks sweetheart for bringing this up!)

There may be a few select outlets with unique or grassroots content, and content that is not generally found on the mass media (such as, but since they only reach a select audience, their influence is limited at best. So we are increasingly drifting towards a Max-Headroomian dystopia (thanks to my partner again for the "M.H." analogy!), the only difference being that the mass medium behind it is not TV but the Internet.

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Second point/hypothesis: The Internet has created a substitute environment for both real life social contacts and political action.

The time we spend online is time we no longer spend going out and meeting people. As a consequence, political groups, trade unions, and many other associations and clubs, are experiencing dwindling member numbers.

And the Net is also increasingly replacing political awareness and action. I feel the desire to do something? Fine, I write a blog entry, post a message in a discussion group, send a message of how concerned I am about this-and-that to my mailing list, and I can pat myself on the shoulder, lean back and let it be done with it. No need to get an indepth theoretical foundation, or to discuss political developments, or to develop a strategy/ a plan of action, or to go out and try to convince the masses (YUK!).

Again, grassroots organizations may find the Internet a useful tool for exchanging information and organizing political events, but the effects of their actions are also going to be limited.

We might have a major rally now and then, but since most of those participating don´t stay connected to politics beyond the punctual action of attending a rally, nothing will really come out of this. No sit-ins, no strikes, no major disruptions that might actually force governments, corporations or any other part of the establishment to actually change their course and react, since political implications and "how it all connects" are no longer understood because of the lack of a sound theoretical foundation (by that I don´t necessarily mean you have to read Marx/Engels ... ;) ).

As an aside, I really admire "the French" for being able to kick the Contrat Première Embauche ("Law of first time hiring" - this is probably a terrible translation, my apologies!) which aimed, among other things, to extend the period of probationary employment for all employees under the age of 26 to two years. During that time, an employer would have had the possibility of firing those young employees without providing a reason and without further notice.That law had already been ratified on February 10, 2006 by the National Assembly, put had to be withdrawn on April 7, 2006 due to countrywide protests (mass rallies, strikes, sit-ins at various universities), mainly - but not exclusively - carried by students.

That kind of political action has become rare these days. Now, was that possible because the French are trying to withstand anglization and have so far been less subject to Americanization as a whole?

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What´s your take: Do you have become less politically involved (in terms of actually going out like canvassing for a cause, or going on rallies) since the Internet age? Does the Internet serve as some sort of political outlet for you which you use instead of taking action?

For me, if I am totally honest, this may very well be the case: I can let off steam and pretend to be sharing my thoughts by blogging or leaving comments, thus I am sort of out of the woods in terms of being forced to act on an IRL level.

On the other hand, by leaving my comments and blog entries, I am perhaps able to reach people as well as I would by going out canvassing. I am really not sure.