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 informationclearinghouse.info), 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.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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.

Red Pill Or Blue Pill?

Don´t care, as long as they´re sugarcoated ;)

No, only kidding, of course. I don´t take any pills, not very often, anyway. Not even Aspirine. Bad stuff which can really screw up (or rather: screw through) your stomach. Believe me, I know what I´m blogging about!

I guess life would sometimes be easier if I could bring myself to be a good girl and just swallow the blue pill, but somehow my mind revolts against complete surrender at this point.

Taking the red pill is less comfortable and more of a challenge. We have no idea how deep that rabbit hole is, how deep we are going to fall. And what we are about to discover.

What if we discovered that there really is no spoon? (For ragazzo: Which would, of course, mean, that there also is no dark side of the spoon. Sorry, couldn´t resist it ...!)

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Back to earnest. Worse than the spoon-thing, what if we found out that this subtle but persistent feeling, which is constantly nagging us, this sensation that there is something profoundly and absurdly wrong, only we can´t pinpoint it precisely - what if we found out what it actually was?


Do you want to know what it is? The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.


What truth?


That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for your self. This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonder land, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I´m offering is the truth, nothing more.

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Sounds familiar, but doesn´t sound enticing. Slaves. Born into bondage. A prison we cannot smell or taste or touch. And, just to make sure we are kept from pulling that blindfold off our eyes which would finally enable us to see, and perhaps feel and touch the boundaries of our cells, our medicine is handed to us with a spoonful of sugar, so we are more willing to swallow it. Ah, the blue pill ...Maybe we should stick with it after all. No side effects, just a comfortable easing of the mind´s pain. Numbing, constantly and comfortably.

The red pill, on the other hand, is way cooler. In a way. But it´s also more work. One of it´s uncomfy side effects is that it requires an almost constant work out of the brain. It comes with permanent distrust and questioning of what we are being served: by the media, by politicians, by authorities in general.

It makes us question whether the spoon we believe to see is actually what we´re taking it for. Or if it´s just a big hoax which is part of a bigger scheme (do I sound like a paranoid conspiration theorist here?).

It may even lead us to put entire systems of beliefs and values into question, so we are no longer easily fooled and will no longer accept without questioning our governments´ or authorities´ definitions of what is good and what is evil.

Ready to go for the red pill?

Be warned! Apart from permanently challenging your grey cells, and apart from not letting you believe in such nice things as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or Government´s Benevolence, the red pill might get you into serious trouble. And I mean serious. When speaking up publicly in the wrong places, you might end up on a no fly list. It might even get you busted, when you´re associated with the wrong email-lists and happen to have been Googling for the wrong terms. Mind you, this is not only about child protection, as authorities and the media would have us believe (protecting children against abuse is, of course, something I´d fully and unconditionally support). The same thing might happen, of course, when you are blogging about the "wrong" topics.

Yes, you can track down someone who has been looking for, say, a specific company or event. It happened recently in Germany, during the run up to the G8 summit, when the member of a group named "Fels " ("rock") got busted, apparently because his Internet activities (inquiries with search engines among them) had been under surveillance. He was later released without charges, but it is spooky enough that a search for something like a company name or a political event, or a country (done any searches for "Iran" and "uranium" recently?) would make you a "suspect" of sorts.

So what´s your choice?

Er, forgive me for double-posting ...

I have decided to back up my Y360 blog here. Just in case. For no apparent reason (other than perhaps containing a naked butt picture, even if that is completely non-erotic and in an asexual context), Yahoo seems to follow an at times not quite logical policy of deleting user´s pics, blogs or perhaps complete profiles.

Because a lot of work has gone into some of those posts, I don´t want them to simply disappear for some reason unknown to me.

Also, perhaps some new readers on blogger will come across this stuff and, you know, perhaps brighten my day with insightful comments (hint, hint ...).

Alora, andiamo!

UPDATE: Looks like I was too slow. One of my entries (of which, of course, I had no backup whatsoever) has already been deleted ... even though it had been marked "mature" ....

Monday, June 04, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different ...

Thought I´d leave something less depressing than politics for the weekend, and cheer you up for a change. ;)

Yes, I know we Germans tend to take everything and everyone, above all ourselves, too bloody seriously. Well, I don´t know about all of us, but I certainly do. Sometimes at least ;)

Ok, so now I´ll try to be funny, or just plain nonsensical. Don´t be too hard on me, I´m doing my best!

Like a Virgin, I am a little worried if it´s going to hurt. But then I suppose Everybody Hurts sometime. But now ... let´s get it over with!

I wake up with my head throbbing like some Samba drummer is giving his best to get into the rhythm. Only he is using my head instead of a drum. Slowly, vague memories of the night before are taking shape in my head.

Hung. Over.

Seems like that irresponsibly self-inflicted Braindamage, which is nothing but the consquence of last night´s major abuse of totally legal liquid drugs, is slowly receding. Now that the Mists of Avalon are slowly lifting, it begins to feel like The Day After.

Not Another Tequila Sunrise! I´ll be staying off them, I swear to myself. In fact, I won´t touch alcohol ever again. Never! (I know, you should Never say Never, but this second, I really mean it!)

Not Another One!

Now I remember. I had dinner at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, before taking a Roadtrip to the City of Angels. And - OMG! - I am actually at the Hotel California. Well, I guess I can call myself lucky for not having ended up in the House of the Rising Sun!

Hotel California

Actually, I had been looking for the Catcher in the Rye who was going to take me down to the Paradise City (not for the girls, but for the other stuff ;) ). From there, we were going to travel a bit further on our Magical Mystery Tour, to catch a glimpse of the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

But when I checked out the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I read that It never rains in Southern California, so I changed my mind. That´s how I ended up here, drinking, smoking and talking from Dusk till Dawn. I remember we were having this discussion.

Best Guide EVER ;)

The Neuromancer was asking me, "Would you listen to The Handmaid´s Tale? Or to what the Godfather has to say?"

"The Godfather?" I replied with a laugh, "Never! The Liar once promised he would Buy me a Pony. But he never did. Since that day", I continued, taking another sip from yet another Tequila Sunrise, "My Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which feels like it´s been touched by The Left Hand of Darkness."

My companion looked at me with sympathy. "Poor thing," he said softly, almost as if talking to himself, "so you´ve seen the Dark Side of the Moon. If you feel like it, you can Lean on Me. Perhaps I can help you overcome that crisis."

"Crisis? What Crisis?" I almost snapped at him. "You´re just Another Brick in the Wall! And anyway, I Wanna Go My Own Way!"

Crisis? What Crisis?

With that, I got up and left the poor guy sitting there.

So, instead of making Love in an Elevator at least Once in a Lifetime, I screwed up. Oh bother! I Fought the Law and the Law Won!

No wonder I´m feeling like I´m Right Next Door to Hell. If that´s what it´s like to Sleep Now in the Fire, I´m feeling true Sympathy for the Devil. The poor geezer probably keeps Knocking on Heaven´s Door, but they won´t let him in. He´ll probably have to buy a Stairway do Heaven first.

I am delirious. Must be the first signs of withdrawal symptoms. Cold Turkey, so to speak. Speaking of which, I´m feeling Belly Full hungry!

Time for my first Breakfast in America. Hmmm ... as I´m reviving myself with the ample use of cold water, I am imagining what I´m going to treat my mistreated stomach to. Lickin´ Cream sounds like an enticing idea. Or should I be going for Charlie Big Potato? Then again, maybe I should stick with Coffee and Cigarettes.

Coffee and YUK!

No, not good, my stomach revolts at the mere thought of nicotine. I´ll have to come up with a better idea. Use Your Illusion! Or was it "your imagination"? Imagine ... How about some toast and eggs, and maybe some fruit to compensate for some of the Damage Done last night? Bananas, fresh from the Banana Boat. "Here, is that Good Enough For You?" Yes, that seems to appeal to my stomach.

After a last look in the mirror to make sure I don´t quite look like Beetlejuice anymore, I take a deep breath and step outside my room. I am greeted by music - some Guerilla Radio playing a song that´s almost a tad Too Funky for me. But You Can´t Always Get What You Want, and getting a bite now is really my main priority right now. Above the entrance to the dining-room, there´s a sign which reads "Welcome to the Jungle".

The breakfast buffet looks delicious. There are not only skippers for breakfast, but Peaches, bananas, and what looks like almost entire Strawberry Fields. And, best of all, Banana Pancakes.

But even better, I see the man of my dreams sitting there, smiling at me, Behind Blue Eyes. I am experiencing a Total Eclipse of the Heart as he kisses me. He just smiles, and says "You Could be Mine!"

"Only if you Take me to the River," I reply with a grin.

"Anything you want, I Promise," he says solemnly, "because I Don´t Wanna Miss a Thing!"

Bliss! And I say to myself, "What a Wonderful World!"