A short moment of happiness

In two weeks time, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) will release its 3rd World Happiness Report (to avoid any confusion, it won’t deal with happiness in the “Third World” as the developing countries were name in the past). Using a standard set of questionaires and socio-economic parameters, it will rank 156 countries in terms of higher or lower “happiness”. This rank list takes three pages of the entire report.  On the remaining 150 pages it will try to make sense of the gains and loses of happiness over the last years, and why some countries are much happier than others.

With some certainty one can expect that Denmark is heading the rank list again, as it did in the 2o13 report (where it was tightly followed by Norway and Switzerland). Since I am more involved in medical rather than mental issues of life (which with no doubt can affect the anticipated level of happiness more), I am rather interested in analysing the life expectancy, and the duration of a disease-free life. And here something funny becomes obvious:  the leader in happiness, Denmark, is rather bad in terms of life expectancy (38th rank in the world with only 78.25 years as compared with the winning Japanese, who on average reach 86.2 years). Japan on the other hand was only on position 43 in terms of happiness, which places it in the lower half of all OECD countries.

It was not only me who got confused by this discrepancy. Last year the Danish minister for public health was interviewed about this issue. She should give an explanation why the Danish people have a lower life expectancy than many other (and according to the World Happiness Report 2013) and less happy European nations. She came to th conclusion that it must be a rather unhealthy life style in Denmark: high caloric and fat food, a lot of hard alcoholic drinks and widespread smoking. If she really has evidence that the Danish live such a unhealthy life-style, it would indeed explain a relative shorter life expectancy.

My concern is, however that their unhealthy life style somehow might be the reason for the anticipated happiness. Who knows, maybe they also do car races in urban areas or free style base jumping with an umbrella or other adrenalin boosting activities in their free time. They might all increase the degree of subjective happiness, and at the same time reduce the chance for a long life.

On the persistence of rudimentary habits

When we were kids, it was common habit to get a full body cleaning in the bathtub once a week. For a long time I could not understand why on earth this had to be done precisely on Saturday evening at around 6 p.m., just around the time when the most important TV program started: “The Flintstones“, brought to us cross the Berlin wall from a West-German TV chanel. It would be the wrong conclusion to assume that our parents tried to keep us away from this american cartoon serie, since at the same time they had no problems to permit us watching “Star Trek“, “Gunsmoke” or “Streets of San Francisco“.

So it was a perment husle to finish the Saturday evening bathing in time, before “The Flintstones” started, and I could never understand why bathing was not done on another evening, for instance at Friday or Sunday. I also found it more reasonable to have a decent bath on Friday, since this would clean us of the dirt we collected at school during the week, or have it on Sunday, to make us fresh and clean for the comming week.

Only recently I understood the real reason why kids were always given the weekly bath on Saturday evening. It obviously goes back to the times when the highlight of social life was the church service on Sunday morning. For this event, people wanted to appear clean, and since it was considered risky to go out in the cold with wet hair, right after having a bath, the whole body cleaning was done Saturday night.

It is funny, how resilent such a traditions can be, considering that we, children in the 70s in a socialist country, never went to any church service on Sunday (except when it was Christmas time to hear some music). We were also not afraid to go out in chilly weather with wet hair, since we had hair-dryers of course, but at the same time we liked to be outside with wet hair during swimming season.

But still, every kid had to get its weekly bath on Saturday evening.  I am wondering if later in life, our own son who is 16 years old now, will also wonder which strange habbits he had to follow in his youth.

A new year that started with an annoying text

Today I was ashamed to share my given name Michael with a french highly celebrated writer: Houellebecq. Since I was always distracted to read his books by the media-hype around him, I was curious today to learn something about him by reading an interview he recently gave to the french journalist Sylvain Bourmeau. After reading his stammering retraction rejection of enlightenment, his newly discovered defense of catholizism, his really stupid and uneducated opinion about Islam, I can only say that he is one of the greatest idiots who has managed to fool the literature world.

He would have done much better if he continued to work as a farmer. He would have been successful in growing cabbage, and nobody would have realized that his brain is a big cabbage as well.

Upside down waning moon

This is the waning moon on December 19th. Because the telescope optics invertes everything, and because I was too lazy to invert it back with photoshop, it looks here like a waxing moon.

Waning Moon dec2014

 

Leonides meteor shower 2014

In the night between Monday and Tuesday, in the early morning hours, this years peak in the Leonides meteor shower will cross the earth orbit. It is expected that with a naked eye one will spot around 12 meteors per hour. Look out in Eastern direction. As the name suggests, the meteors seem to originate from the constellation Lion. In reality, however, they don’t originate from any star, but from a former comet TEMPLE-TUTTLE, which a couple of million years ago exploded or was annihilated by spaceship Enterprise.
In case somebody has an urgent wish to address to the Leonides, I have to warn that in astronomy we are counting not days, but millions or years. So whatever wish you silently send to the meteors these nights, be a bit patient for its delivery. I, for example received something extraordinary this summer, for what I asked for already 4 years ago.

Kate Bush 2014

Creativity comes from the Freedom to Fail.  This is how Peter Gabriel explains the phenomenon of Kate Bush. She entered the musical stage in the late 70s and gave popular music some of its greatest pieces of immortal art. It is for me impossible to find a category for Kates songs. She simply invented a new one: Lyrical, philosophic sounds on a metaphysical, yet crisp-clear base. On the occasion of her 2014 reappearance on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo, BBC made the documentary “The Kate Bush Story”

Novelist Neil Gaiman was excellent on some of Bush’s intricately feminine imagery. Choreographer Lindsay Kemp spoke with undimmed reverence of her innate talent for movement, exemplified by the song “Moving”. Three men who knew her very well from the early days, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (who got her signed with EMI), and her sound engineer and ex-partner Del Palmer gave affectionate tributes to her determination and precocity.

I have to confess that while Kate Bush released her most important pieces of music, in the mid 80s, I did not took much attention of her. Shame on me. Maybe I was a bit immature these years. I don’t know what I was listening to – probably a lot of Jazz, typical for physics students. I knew that she was singing this very special tune, with this unreal vibrato in her voice. But I did not considered it special.  Now I do. Maybe it is the possibility to see and watch on Youtube this comprehensive piece of art-work by her.  Maybe in the 80s the radiostations which broadcasted from the West to East-Germany did not played her often enough.

When Kate released her 5th studio album “Hounds of Love”, she was 27. I would argue that this album with songs like “Running up that Hill” and “Cloudbusting” was the peak of her creativity. After this, her style changed a bit, her songs became more desperate.   But I am so happy, that the 27th birthday only marked a change in Kates style, and not a existential tragedy in her life as it happened to so many other great musicians.

Full Flower Moon

MOON--15MAI2014

The native Americans introduced special names to each full moon of the year. The May full moon was called “Flower Moon” by them.

Detour to learn Persian

After several attempts to find a web-site that could help me to learn speaking Persian, without the husle of the arab characters, I think I found a possible detour today. It is based on two more or less solid connections, which allow me to bypass the abyss of the written Persian.
I will use the Tadjik language, which is basically a form or Persian, but it has the “advantage” that it uses kyrillic characters, like Russian. Since I learned Russian already in school and later at university and at home, I can read Tadjik word without problem. Here are a few examples how well it works:

Tadjik

So I might soon learn some more phrases than just “Ma mirim be Madrasseh, ba Elephantenschuheh”.  The Tadjik version of Wikipedia contains today 29.633 articles and by this ranks on 89th place in terms of content size. But considering that only 4.5 million people in Tadjikistan speak the language, it is not too bad, as compared for instance with the Indian Gujarati, that has less Wikipedia article but is spoken by 50 million people.

So maybe, if there are more people who know Russian and want to learn Persian by going via Tadjik, then the Tadjik Wikipedia becomes even more popular. In addition to its being the official language in Tadjikistan, it is also common among the Tadjik minority in Afghanistan (“Dari”) and Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan, the centers of Tadjik language are Samarkand and Buchara, so it is likely that Ibn Sina and Ulugh Beg spoke the Persian form of nowadays Tadjik.

 

 

Cloudbuster for a Tehran Nightingale

Day after day
I press my ear down to the earth,

trying to hear the sound of your blue slippers,
while you walk alonge the pavements of Tehran.

And I realized how endless can be four days,
when you stay barefoot in your own little room.

Cloudbusting (by Kate Bush)

I still dream of Orgonon
I wake up crying
You’re making rain
And you’re just in reach
When you and sleep escape me

You’re like my yo-yo
That glowed in the dark
What made it special
Made it dangerous
So I bury it
And forget

But every time it rains
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out
Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen
And I don’t know when
But just saying it could even make it happen

On top of the world
Looking over the edge
You could see them coming
You looked too small
In their big, black car
To be a threat to the men in power

I hid my yo-yo
In the garden
I can’t hide you
From the government
Oh, God, Daddy
I won’t forget

‘Cause every time it rains
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out
Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen
And I don’t know when
But just saying it could even make it happen

The sun’s coming out.
Your son’s coming out

One of the most fascinating songs by Kate Bush, but probably also one with the most cryptic lyrics. “Orgonon” refers to the hypothetical energy field proposed by the psychoanalysist Wilhelm Reich. Reich, after fleeing Germany and settling in the US, also constructed a so-called cloudbuster machine, which in this video is operated by the scientist, played here by Donald Southerland. Whereas most people interpret the lyrics of this song by Kate Bush very much along the biographie of Wilhelm Reich, I have a different interpretation.

Kate Bush was not unfamiliar with unpredictable changes of mood, or emotional ups and downs and periods of depression. These are frequently described by patients as “Dark Clouds”, since they arise suddenly and scarry like the clouds of a thunderstorm. “Cloudbuster” might therefore refer to a person (a friend or a therapist) who helps to chase away these clouds of depressions. Many viewers of the video further think that Kate Bush here simply “plays” the part of Peter, i.e. Wilhelm Reichs son. Strange for me to believe that Kate Bush should play a male part here. I think she represents a girl who is regularily plagued by depressive episodes, and who looks for help from an elder friend (i.e. Donald Southerland).

W H Reich ‘discovered’ Orgone energy, and made a machine which he claimed he could collect this energy, an orgone accumulator. It was – I believe – to do with the sale and marketing claims of this machine that he came to grief with the law. Orgonon was also the name given to a body of Aristotle’s works by his followers. So dreams of Orgonon can be understood as an alluision to this new form of energy which Reich claimed to have discovered. It could also be viewed as a reference to Reich’s banned opus.

Reich also he tried to measure the male orgasm and believed this was a type of energy present in all life forms which he called “orgone.”. He built cloudbusters which he belived could manipulate streams of orgone energy to produce rain. His 280 acre estate in Maine was called Orgonon. He was banned from orgone-therapy equipment across a state line and was jailed for 2 years when he failed to do so. He died in prison.

Is there anything in Reich’s work? As a student of physics I have to say I am highly dubious of orgon energy. There are plenty of forms of electromagnetic energy, many of which are used in medicine (from X rays, to radiotherapy, even to those wrist bands people wear to stop car sickness) there are sure to be many ways in which known forms of energy can have as yet unknown effetcs on the body. There seems to me to be no independent evidence of organon energy. It seems to have little explanatory power except in some accounts of the positive effect of Reich’s machine, which are perhaps better explained by the placebo effect.

But it is a great song and does not need to be seen as an appraisal of Reich’s work by Bush, but rather a study in daughter’s love for a father.

BMW Urban Safari edition

If a Persian Cat could choose a car, no doubt it would opt for the one with the blue-white chess-board logo. The Bemweh (Persian for BMW, as I recently learned here) is for some reason highly estimated in present Iran.

And this new, yet unreleased special edition of the Munich luxus car maker would most likely attract the persian cats attention.  We show here the wildlife approved Urban Safari edition of BMW.

BMW-UrbanSafari2 BMW-UrbanSafari1

It comes in camouflage design, has a tow-bar to mount a rhinoceros trailer to, but inside one can enjoy the usual high-end in-car entertainment system, so the driver can listen to Wagners Rheingold while driving to the Opera.