Confronted with a huge wave of political refugees from countries shattered with war and terror in the Middle East, many here in the West express their unease with immigration of people who have a different ethnic, cultural and especially religious background. It is in 90% of the European population a fixed idea, that terror by the so-called “Islamic State” or “Al-Kaida” or “Al-Shabab” is a direct result of islamic faith. Being a strict atheist person, I have to reject such ideas. It is a complete ahistoric view to associate islamic faith with a more inhuman attitude than any other religion. If you just go in the history text books back 400 years, you will find that witch-hunting guided by christian priests lead to > 20 000 innocent people burned to death in (the beautiful state of) Bavaria. Simply the longer historical distance should not blur our view, that burning innocent people (blamed as being witches or heretics) to death is not less disgusting and inhuman than decapturing opponents of the IS in Syria or Iraq.
The worst and most influential crime organization, Mafia/Cosa Nostra/NDrageta etc. are devote catholic believers. It might not have reached your attention, that last month the death of one of the Mafias godfathers received a glamorous funeral with catholic priests. Which conclusion you would draw from this ? That by abandoning catholizism you can minimize organized crime ?
Have you ever heard about the support of the Vatican to hide Nazi criminals after WW2, and helping them to escape to South America (so-called “rat path”), where they provided their expertise in torture and killing the opposition to the military dictators ? Does it mean that fighting catholizism is a useful way to prevent political dictatorships ?
Vatican (and its Banco Ambrosiano) was crucial in financing the Italian terror organisation P2, responsible for killing Aldo Moro and placing a bomb that killed >100 people in the Bologna train station. Would you go as far to propose abandoning catholizism in order to fight political terror ?
Religion has to faces: for poor people it is like a drug, like a pain-killer. It might ease their life and prevents them from fighting against the injustice they live in. But at the same time, all religions are prone to got misused by political leaders, criminals, wannabe dictators. Promising them a little share of the power or a little share of the financial gain, it is easy to be granted religious absolution not simply from sins, but from mayor crimes against humanity.
In physics and signaling theory there is a useful method to identify regular pattern in apparently chaotic measurements over time. It is called serial-correlation (or auto-correlation analysis) and it works by overlaying (or logically comparing) a time series of measurements with itself, after applying a continous time shift. If this is done for the last 2000 years of mankinds history, we find that always after +/- thousand years of the formation of a new faith, its representants start to develop a sort of paranoia and want to fight enemies. The christians did this first by starting crusades against muslims and jews in the holy land, and later by punishing and killing thousands of “heretics and witches” in Europe. The Islamic leaders developed the same time of paranoia 700 years later, and now don’t seem to be able to stop the misuse of their faith for extremist violence and religious war.
The video is of a friend of mine who enjoys a calm afternoon in the Iranian desert. I was not there at the same time, but I played the music later on.
For all of those who missed the geography lesson about South – Eastern Europe in school: Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria. Bulgaria has boarders to Serbia and Mazedonia (in the West), to Greece and Turkey (in the South), to Romania (in the North), and it has a nice long coast-line along the Black Sea (in the East).
The Balkan mountains (Stara Planina in Bulgarian) gave the entire peninsula with Romania, Greece, Turkey, Montenegro, Croatia, Serbia, Albania and Mazedonia its name. As a proof, here is the one and only railway-station in the world with the simple name “Balkan”. It is on the route from Sofia to Mezdra, but infact it is not a fully functional railway station, but a “Request Stop”, such as the one in Monty Pythons sketch with the old lady at the bus request stop.
Whereas the Balkan mountains are really a piece of great and unspoiled nature (the few Uranium mines are currently not operating), the Bulgarian capital Sofia is a cool, young, relaxed city. It is very European style, and in the center is remarkable triumphirat of the eldest orthodox church, a mosque with a bathing house and a synagogue. Traditionally, Bulgaria hosted a large sephardic community, which always gain protection from the Bulgarian Tzars.
I like the fresh colours in the city, and graffity street artists have contributed a lot to it.
these are the lyrics of Joni Mitchells 1974 song:
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swingin’ hot spot ….
They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them
Listen, late last night, I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi took my girl away.
Great song, indeed, combining fine poetry, great tunes and an intelligent message. It has spirit and it has humor.
2007 came along Janet Jackson, with her strange smile that will always demonstrate how silly a plastic surgery is. Looking for a new song to place her in the rap music charts someone recommended “Big Yello Taxi” to her (Maybe a really cool NY taxi driver with a good taste told her how much he likes Joni Mitchells song). So JJ ordered some writers to add a few sentences and electronic loops to the original song …..
….. AND MESSED IT UP COMPLETELY. I avoid to put a link to the youtube song here, since it is just white noise. But look to the lyrics,
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
Have a feelin’, now believin’
That you were the one
I was meant to be with
Oh, how I’m wishin’
Thinkin’, dreamin’ ’bout you
And the love, how’d I let you get away?
Got ’til it’s gone
Got ’til it’s gone.
Does Mrs Jackson, who was already 41 years old when she recorded it wants to create the image that she suffers from teenage gril feelings? Remember that Joni Mitchell was only 25 when she presented the original song, with its subtle poetry). I think the current times really see an epidemic of infantilisation.
Some years ago I started a loose conversation with Lars Gustafsson, my secret favorite guess for the next Nobel price in literature since I read his first book some 25 years ago. It all began with some essays Mr. Gustafsson wrote on his blog about Berlin, my home town. Gustafsson himself lived there for several years in the 70s, hence he knows many places in the Western part of town much better than me, who went there only after the “wall came down” in 1989. He wrote all 8 parts of the essay in German, and me – in complete ignorance of any writers psychology had the “brilliant idea” to slightly “improve” the grammar and syntax for him. When I send back to him the 8 parts of essay, all with my “improvements” (meaning that the typical Gustafsson style has now been converted to a proper East-German persian-cat style) I received a rather cold reply from him. Anyhow, secretely Mr. Gustafsson revised the essay on his blog, and considered some of my changes as reasonable. Our mail conversation did not went any further, although I submitted several praising comments to other posts on his blog.
Suddenly, 2 years ago I received an emergency message from Lars, calling me “My friend” and explaining that he got stucked in London, lost his wallet and now needs some money to buy a ticket home. Obviously, somebody had hacked Lars’ address book (which obviously must have contained my e-mail contact) to send out Phishing mails to all his friends. From this moment I was careful with everything Mr. Gustafsson send me.
Earlier this year, however, I received a more trustable message from him, where he announced his comming visit to Munich to read from his latest books. I soon confirmed with the local Literature Club and even made some publicity for the event (again completely ignoring the fame of Lars Gustafsson, who has such a huge list of followers and readers that all tickets were sold out in a day).
After his reading Mr. Gustafsson stayed for an hour, nipping some excellent white wine and eating some delicious dark bread sandwiches and chatting with the audience. When I finally made my way through the flock of people who always surrounded him I had the chance to talk to him in person. During the reading on this evening Gustafsson only focussed on his poetry, so I told him that “… after reading his novel Bernard Foy’s Third Castling I realized that there are also decent crime writers in Skandinavia, considering the dreadful style of Adler-Olson, Harkan Nesser, Stieg Larsson and the like …”. Gustafsson reacted a bid with surprise, that somebody would consider Bernard Foy’s Third Castling a crime novel. He said that for him all crime literature is immoral, which I could not agree at all if I think about Raymond Chandler, E.A.Poe, Patricia Highsmith or Friedrich Duerrenmatt. In my view, all bad literature is immoral literature, be it a crime story or a naturalistic poem. And all good literature is highly moral literature, as is the case of Raymond Chandlers long list of Philip Marlowe detective stories and equally of Gustafssons “Bernard Foy”. I don’t know to which degree we found an agreement on this issue, since more people were pushing from behind to have their copies of “Everything one needs. A manual for life” (written jointly with his wife Agneta Blomqvist) decorated with his signature.
Yesterday, suddenly, 6 weeks after our last encounter, I received a funny invitation from Lars again, this time with a request to join him on his LinkedIn site. So maybe he remembered that I was once so helpful in polishing his German essays, that in the future I will really get a job from Lars. Or his ardent interest in mathematics and science made him think of starting a research job in my lab.
The 1968s students movement coined the wonderful phrase “Under the pavements lays the beach”, perhaps to further encourage picking out the paving stones for the next street fight.
But at least beneath the pavements in Berlin, there is indeed yellow sand reminiscent of a seaside beach. That is because the Berlin and most Prussian underground are glacial melt-water valleys (the term “Urstrom-Tal” is even common in English). So if the pavement stones are removed in Berlin, or one is digging any deeper into the ground, this is what you find. A real part of the beach, for which one otherwise has to drive abou 120 miles north to the Baltic Sea.
Not far away from the beach, however, are signs that reminds one of the much younger, yet much more violent period of Berlin history. All over the city one can find tiny brass plates (“Stolpersteine“) fixed on the pavement in front of houses, which indicate the places where jewish people were deported from their homes and later killed by the Nazi regime.
The two plates below are at Münchener Strasse 18 in the borough of Schoeneberg, and they are there to commemorate Gertrud Kolmar (a well-known writer) and her father Ludwig Chodziesner).
Mrs. Kolmar was killed in Auschwitz, her father died in the Theresienstadt ghetto. A few blocks further down the road is the plate and former house of Bernhard Persicaner. He too was killed in the Auschwitz concentration-camp, but perhaps as he was not as famous as Mrs. Kolmar mankind would have soon forgotten about him. Thanks to the Stolpersteine initiative, however, the memory of hundreds of thousands of nazi victims are kept for ever now, whether they were famous persons of history or ordinary people like Bernhard Persicaner.
It is a shame that only one city in Germany, Munich in Bavaria, opposes to put the brass plates for the killed Jews on their streets. This does not surprises me a lot, since there is also no beach under the Munich pavements. There is only cobble.
Dearest Mrs F, my far and precious angel,sometimes when I have a moment of rest, without any of the daily duties and problems of our material life, I fall into a state of deep sadness. Recognizing some of the slow changes that affect the people or the nature around us suddenly makes me aware of the cruel and merciless passing of time. I see it every year in the middle of the summer, when the cereals on the farmlands around our village grow high, the wheat, barley and rye turns golden and produces a rich and delicious smell (I imagine that such must be the odor of the sun), and then suddenly on one afternoon, the farmers start their giant harvesting machines and cut all the golden fields down. And suddenly, the rich grains that were swollen over the last month like a womans belly during pregnant and that beard the promise of a whole year with sufficient bread and cakes and pasta (and beer from the barley and malt), all these magnificent signs of a wealthy future are gone. Instead of the golden, majestic grains that slowly move in the summer wind, only the short cut trunks are left on the fields, but they are the dead remnants of the majestic plants, and they will stay like this for the whole winter. Therefor, already now in the mid of July, I start to fear already the season of snow and frost and chilly wind, because from one day to the other, the golden grains turn from a symbol of rich and powerful life into the first prophecy of the end of all life.
Since we moved from the center of Munich to the rural area on the cities periphery, I fear this moment in the middle of summer every year again and again. You see, how cruel the living close to the nature can be.
I am currently on a bus ride back home, after having spend 4 days in Berlin with my parents. I feel more and more obliged to look after them, to give them the feeling that they are not alone, although I live 600 km away from them. The notion, that they had a happy and good life, without major tragedies but rather a slow and continuous prosperity, is at the end a very weak relief. I see them getting older and weaker every year, and it is hard to remember how strong and almighty my dad appears in my childhood memories. He was always in control of the world around him, and now he is not even of full control of all his physiological functions. I see how he suffers deep inside, when his hands can not hold the cup any more and he spills the coffee. I feel how this makes him angry inside, but he never says a word.
And my mom, who worked as a teacher and showed thousands of kids how to read and write, she herself has trouble to write now, and she can not read long books any more since her nerves can not concentrate any more. It makes me so sad to watch them, and to know there is nobody who can stop this natural health decay, since both of them are already more than 80 years old.
I know that at this age, the most precious that people have are their children. When they see that their children are living a happy and good life, this makes them happy despite their own physical and health problems.
I know that I could never tell my parents that my happy life is a skin-deep facade, and that deep inside I feel very unsatisfied with my life. With some more commitment and ambition at work, I might have become a better scientist. With some more rehearsal, I might have become a better guitar player.
From a superficial view, my life might look safe and as compared to all the trouble in the world, I have no reason to complain. But I cannot find much solace from this, my doubts and my feelings of never satisfying what I should gain in life will always torture me. Sometimes, however, I find some solace when I read your words and realize that you are there, with your great heart, your beautiful mind and your mysterious eyes.