Bush in Germany: Could George W. Bush Be Right?

Here's a politically surprisingly incorrect article from influential German weekly Der Spiegel, drawing parallels between Bush's recent European tour & Reagan's 1987 "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" trip. Much of it, I agree with.


Dorian Gray

The one really great thing with The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen is that it finally got me to read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, who is one of the gentlemen in question, although his qualification to that designation is not beyond doubt. Otherwise, the film is good entertainment.

So, I just finished the book on my way to Warsaw and had a nice debate about it with the flight attendant on Swiss. She saw me reading it and since it was her A-levels literature, she asked what I thought about it. Well, it is an artfully crafted, entertaining horror story. The entertainment lies in seductive, diabolical Lord Henry, who is not only a dyed-in-the-wool aesthete, but also a walking collection of all too true aphorisms. He is entirely debauched and amoral, yet he is all talk, no action (big hat and no cattle might be a rather rustic term for that). Dorian Gray however is an ambivalent character: refined, yet completely self-centered and immoral in every practical aspect possible, but eventually, he is looking for redemption. The horror plays itself out in his mind, where he projects his debaucherie on a portrait of him done by a painter friend of his, whom he murders because he thinks that the picture grows old (and ugly) instead of him. An altogether fantastic read, but not for the weak minded.

And now I am off to see a bit of Warsaw.


Du - das Magazin der Kultur

There's a new auction out - I am actually selling my entire collection of Du, das Magazin der Kultur with 133 issues dating from February 1990 (the Warsaw issue!) to December 2001. Please put in your bid here if you like!

I wonder how this works out - it's my first eBay auction as a seller!


My beloved NZZ (the online edition of which may soon join the WSJ in its online insignificance because articles are available just for the day) has two articles on blogs, one of them is a survey of thematic blogs available in German.

The other is a strange, somewhat reactionary comment on bloggers and other ambivalent electro-phenomena (sic!). Predictably, it deals with the recent media impact that blogs have had: "In the impenetrable universe of atomised internet subjects, feather-light e-communication may become a massive bomb that can shake giants. Lightening fast IT remain ambivalent in their effect - they are conducive to destabilise authoritarian regimes, but in liberal states, they may destabilise reliable fixed points. Information giants give birth to knowledge dwarfs. Enlightenment and obscurantism are siblings of modernity." Hmm, that's all very well, but to me it seems that some vested interest in staying a reliable fixed point could be at stake here. At any rate, bemoaning contemporary phenomena of the electric kind won't do much good unless accompanied by convincing action.

Phenomenologically yours ...



Apple has slightly reconfigured its iPod family - you may or may not have heard it already. Being the proud owner of my second (or is it the third?) regular iPod and - only recently - of an iPod shuffle, I will admit of some concern, and that is as an Apple shareholder.
The shuffle is the only iPod I ever use nowadays - random rules! It's tiny, light, practical, and the 12+ hours of music & power the 1GB contains is more than enough to get me halfway around the globe - and then I never travel without the Powerbook anyways, so if I get bored, off goes the pod into the USB port to get its dual filling (fresh music & power). I don't really care about the regular's display or additional capacity because both aspects are better taken care of in the PB. And crucially, there's one less cable. You know my gut dislike towards cables.

So, where's the concern you may wonder? Well - the shuffle is considerably cheaper, even compared to the mini. So, unless it sells in disproportionately higher numbers, it will eat into the revenue from its heavier siblings. But then, maybe there's enough non-Mac owner buyers out there to make up for the relative loss?

Monopolies on monopolies

Very interesting! Triggered by the current massive deployment of salt to clear streets of ice, our beloved, publicly financed TV station is featuring an informative programme about the salt monopoly in Switzerland. Apparently, salt being used across the Rhine in Germany costs about CHF 130 per ton, while here, our homegrown stuff costs us three times (!) as much - 500! And the argument of the Secretary of the Conference of cantonal directors of finance (wow, some job title) is just ridiculous: Supply guarantee ... cantons apparently own the sole Swiss salt producer and get about a quarter of the salt price.

Yet another old hat to get rid off!



Prague is a great place - period. I won't let the less than friendly weather, the strangely dry air or the lack of really great cuisine (yet good & cheap) detract anything from that statement. You can sense the city's imperial history and intellectual as well as artistic past in every single step you make. Which is almost the best thing: Everything is practically within easy walking distance. So while the place is geographically tiny, it is a cultural giant.

Unfortunately, I only really had two days to discover, so I did a lot of walking during the day and hit a bit of the famous nightlife as well. The music scene is positively vibrant - there's classical concerts (note the plural) every single day, even now. But I was more after some jazz at the time, so we went to highly commendable U Staré Pani and felt right at home.

For the historically minded (recent history, that is), there is a fascinating little photo exhibition with Lubos Kotek's pictures of Prague in the 1980ies up until the velvet revolution of 1989 - how different (and sad!) the mood must have been then! It seems that the city was largely under scaffolding then - without any actual work being done, though! I was wondering whether this might have been an unconscious mechanism to shield the city's inhabitants from being confronted with their great past?

Anyway, things are much better now. I took full advantage of the incredibly well stocked second hand book- & print shops. The purchase I am proudest of is the beautifully framed description of Edinburgh from Sebastian Münster's 1560 Basle edition of Das Ander Buch for a very reasonable price. Here it is:
And here's one that is not on every postcard: The John Lennon wall, being added to.
Watch this space for more travel reports - next week from Warsaw.


Catching sticks

Hey! I am no dog bringing back sticks! But I'll respond to this musical trans-channel request anyway since it looks like fun.
  • 1. How many Gigabytes of music do you have on your computer? According to iTunes' last count, it's 26.07 Gigs, equivalent to 12.1 days of music or 4001 "songs" (which in my case is usually not quite correct - you'll see why later).
  • 2. What's the latest CD you bought? The last one to arrive from Amazon was Sax at the Opera, which is a very odd title for a collection of all time classical hits played by a sax ensemble. Good times!
  • 3. Which song did you listen to when catching the stick? They were playing Shostakovitch's Jazz Suite Nr. 2 on on my preferred station!
  • 4. List five songs which mean a lot to you or which you listen to frequently. Woah, tough one, that! The simplest answer would be to give you the top five of the play count in iTunes, but that wouldn't be right. Soooo ... but let me first tell you that I don't consciously listen to pop music, so that "genre" doesn't mean a lot to me. That out of the way, No 1 would have to be Beethoven's Kreutzer-Sonate for its incredibly passionate interaction between violin and piano. Representing Glenn Gould's universe of Bach recordings without having to pick any particular one, I would choose his witty chamber piece So you want to write a fugue? as #2. But it's getting worse! Arvo Pärt's Passio, performed by the Hilliard Ensemble at Durham Cathedral has left a lasting impression on me. So, that would be #3. #4 goes to He was despised from Händel's Messiah. And finally as well as becomingly, The End by The Doors as #5. So there! Gosh, I forgot Brad Mehldau, Sarah Vaughan, E.S.T., Dave Brubeck, Ella F., Miles D., Bill Evans, Björk, Jamiroquai ... sorry!
  • 5. Who's next to catch the stick, and why? That's not so difficult! Joel to give him someting to think about during those long flights, and because we haven't really discussed music before. Tomi Z. because I'm interested in his producer's point of view & influences, and last, but not least, Byron because he introduced me to Joni Mitchell. Damn - another important omission!!
  • So guys, have a go!



    Despite of generally being a polite person, I like questioning political correctness. Here is an article (German) doing that rather succinctly on the topic of ecologism. Mind you, I don't doubt that mankind will have to find a sustainable way of living with the limited resources of this planet. But this is an issue open to scientific, rational debate (as well as the odd vested interest) and not subject to moralism.

    Very refreshing also the Ten Commandments of Ecologism. Errors in translation are entirely mine.
  • Thou shalt be afraid! The most terrible scenario is the most likely. If things went well once, they are all the more likely to turn worse next time.
  • Thy conscience be guilty! Living is bad for the environment.
  • Thou shalt not doubt! The ecological movement never errs. Doubters serve the infidels.
  • Nature is our good Lord! It is composed of pandas, baby seals, sunsets and flowers. Earthquakes, hurricanes & killer viruses are consequences of human hubris.
  • Thou shalt scorn thy kind! Man is the cancer of the earth. Before him, the planet was an idyllic paradise.
  • Thou shalt abhor the freedom of markets! The planet can only be saved by central planning of international bureaucracies.
  • Thou shalt not consume! Whatever you buy, it is bad for the environment. Allocation of goods should be left to the wise priests of ecologism.
  • Thou shalt not believe in a better tomorrow! Prevent change & progress, for things were better yesteryear.
  • Thou shalt disrespect technology! Help can only arise from fundamental societal change, never from inventions of engineers.
  • Ye shall know: guilt is white, male, christian & western! Innocence is a jungle indigen.
  • 13/02/2005

    "Humor ist, ...

    wenn ich lache." Wie wahr! Eine witzige Musikkritik (Abo), die nicht mal davor zurückschreckt, Busch (Willhelm!) im Volltext zu zitieren. Und weil's so schön war, hier gleich nochmal:

    Es sitzt ein Vogel auf dem Leim,
    Er flattert sehr und kann nicht heim.
    Ein schwarzer Kater schleicht herzu,
    Die Krallen scharf, die Augen gluh.
    Am Baum hinauf und immer höher
    Kommt er dem armen Vogel näher.

    Der Vogel denkt: Weil das so ist
    Und weil mich doch der Kater frißt,
    So will ich keine Zeit verlieren,
    Will noch ein wenig quinquilieren
    Und lustig pfeifen wie zuvor.
    Der Vogel, scheint mir, hat Humor.

    Alexis de Tocqueville

    Read this excellent review (German, subscription required) of de Tocqueville's classic De la démocratie en Amérique. It convinced me to finally start reading it, so I ordered both volumes at once here. Since I have a policy of reading all texts in their original language if I can, I ordered it in French.

    Which brings me to a complaint: Why is it that the French always have to be so reclusive?! Whenever I order something from amazon.de, I get 5% off and free delivery, and I get to create a partnernet link. None of that works with amazon.fr! Soyez donc un peu plus agréeables, mes amis français!


    Back home ...

    for now anyway! Lately, you may have noticed a distint lack of activity blogwise. That's because I was on a busy trip to London those last few days. As always, it was very nice & productive. Not only was I overjoyed to find out that my Club has free highspeed internet access in the rooms now, but I also discovered the Underground's Journey Planner. That's certainly old news for you Londoners out there, but it helped me!

    Also, I got an update on J's impending travel plans - watch that space! Furthermore, I've been told that this is actually a fake blog - so no wonder that it's not being continued. Expect lots more prodding soon, P ...

    Thanks to JJ for an excellent introduction to the LSE! Don't forget to check out Blackadder!

    A trip to London is incomplete henceforth without paying tribute to the humongous Regent Street Apple Store! Which I did. Repeatedly. iLife 05, iWork 05, a 1G Shuffle, some socks and a chaffy St. George's iPod holder.

    To the shuffle's shuffling through the soundtrack of my life, I discovered that I love strolling through drizzly St. James's at dusk, when I came across this little gem of an ivory bicycle carved in the 1940ies in India ...

    That's it for now. Expect more travel stories next week when I will be reporting from Prague.


    Churchill's roar

    Interesting, yet overly compact analysis of Winston Churchill's oratorical techniques in this BBC Radio 4 program commemorating the 40th anniversary of Churchill's death on January 24th. This program doesn't go so much into his use of rhetorical figures, but rather assesses his accent, intonation, rythm and speed. Absolutely worth listening to. I cannot quite make out however why the title reminds me of Blackadder's Prince George ... but I am definitely looking forward to flying to London tomorrow, if only for three days.


    Pull over ...

    ... you're being sentenced! According to this, that recently happened to a London man who was stuck in a traffic jam on the way to Court.

    And it's a good thing he pulled over - otherwise he might have gotten fined for using a mobile phone while driving! Hmm, from now on I dread calls from judges and other legal people ...


    Not a Bushism

    It's actually a sketch about Bush and his new Secretary (of State) ... enjoy! (Thanks, Maik!)

    "Interesting" Mac mini review

    This is an absolutely spectacular specimen of the reality distortion field that is MS. The report is so riddled with errors and misperceptions arising from the author's MS only competence that I almost sound like a DoD press statement! The perfect computer for autistic children, lacking antivirus software? Have a look, it's fun!


    Le Salon bleu

    Grand! I discovered today that Le Salon bleu has finally come up with its own website!

    Le Salon bleu is a private cultural initiative by Madame Bleu, a.k.a. pianist Claudia Sutter. About once a quarter, she is entertaining guests in her salon with a very unusual program, mostly from the romantic period or fin de siècle (the one before last, that is).

    Help climate prediction

    Global warming is a serious issue. You can support the research done in that field by donating some of your underused computing horsepower to climate prediction. That's an Oxford University research project using remote computing on distributed machines all over the world to compute climate models, much like SETI@home, which seems to be moving to the same platform now.

    A word of warning though: If you are uncomfortable using the command line (Terminal application), then this is nothing for you yet because the installation unfortunately requires some manual unpacking and changing of permissions, using UNIX commands. I'll make a note when they come up with a Mac user friendly package.

    Corporate Revolution

    Eine hervorragende, freche und ausgreifende Würdigung der orangen Revolution in der Ukraine. Völker, hört die Signale ...


    The sign of a true VIP is that he is featured on an official stamp, right? Now you have the chance to become that sort of a VIP yourself! The Swiss Post is running a competition for the best picture from a camera phone to put on a stamp. Have a go!



    Just back from watching a great movie - Ray. Since I know next to nothing about Ray Charles, whose biography is the object of the picture, there's no point in me commenting on the "story". Suffice it to say that the movie aims at giving us the full picture of his personality, not sparing his, let's call them pragmatic traits. Nor his drug habit, his philandering or his general shrewdness.

    I need not hold off on more general aspects, though: On phantastic acting (not only by Foxx, but also by Ray's wild women or his young incarnation - what a moving scene when he learns to "see" with his ears!) and an excellent camera. Note the discreet, yet fancy transitions in the style of contemporary design elements. Or the trip when he is going cold turkey. There's no need to talk about the soundtrack, I guess. Its energy reminded me some of a performance of ButtaFat I saw at The Bitter End almost two years ago (thanks, Jay!). I need to get my hands on some of his stuff - urgently!