Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Tag: Berlin

Barcelona for the AIR

Saturday, 7 October, 2017 0 Comments

Vincent Laforet is a French-American director and photographer and one of the most influential people working in contemporary photography and film today. His AIR project is a collection of high-altitude aerial photographs taken over 10 of the world’s most iconic cities: Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Sydney. This is Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, with its arrays of perfectly honeycomb-like blocks.

Barcelona


But, but, but… batteries

Tuesday, 1 August, 2017 0 Comments

Norway has put down a marker. It will phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2025. France is giving the industry a bit more leeway, but it will ban the sale of combustion engines from 2040. In the same year, Britain will forbid new petrol and diesel cars.

EV So, what sort of vehicles will people use when combustion engines are outlawed? EVs (electric vehicles), of course. Whoa! Not so fast, say the combustion-engine defenders. They claim that the ecological footprint of e-cars is calamitous. One can drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee or a Mercedes SUV-class for years before doing as much damage to the environment as a Tesla, they claim. How come? Four years ago, in an exhaustive 6,500-word article on the financial website Seeking Alpha, analyst Nathan Weiss made a case that the Tesla Model S has higher effective emissions than most large SUVs of both the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and smog-producing pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

And then there’s the super-heavy batteries used in electric vehicles.

If the environmental argument doesn’t do it for you, the car industry, of all industries, will try ethics. The ethics of batteries, that is. The battery business uses 42 percent of global cobalt production, after all. And where does cobalt come from? Why, the Democratic Republic of Congo, a nation torn by civil war and hobbled by corruption. And if that’s not an argument against cobalt, get this: the ore is often dug out by child labourers. Rounding out the debate are the poisons and dangerous particles released as a side effect of batteries, which have to be disposed of. Toxic waste, in other words.

The problem with the argument for the internal combustion engine is that it doesn’t allow for momentum and innovation. Today’s Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast:

“The EV revolution is going to hit the car market even harder and faster than BNEF predicted a year ago. EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. Tumbling battery prices mean that EVs will have lower lifetime costs, and will be cheaper to buy, than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in most countries by 2025-29.”

Thursday, here: The results of tomorrow’s Diesel Summit in Berlin.


Bad news for Lisboans: Your city is the next Berlin

Sunday, 30 July, 2017 0 Comments

“The city centre is now a busy, upmarket hub, and distinctive local shops are making way for international brands such as Cartier, Prada and Bulgari, interspersed by an H&M, a Zara, a McDonald’s or a Burger King. The magisterial Rua Augusto, that leads to the triumphal arch, sees barely a Lisboan or the iconic tram no. 28 that winds its way up the hill through the steep city hills is full of tourists and locals cannot get on.”

So wrote Charles Landry on 8 February in a blog entry titled Lisbon is the next Berlin… Landry is the author of The Civic City in a Nomadic World which will be published by the Rotterdam-based nai010 in October. Blurb:

“We are in the midst of redesigning the world and all its systems as we witness the biggest mass movement of people, goods, factories, frenzied finance and ideas in history. Vast flows make the new norm nomadic. Yet there is a yearning for belonging, distinctiveness and identity as the ‘anytime, anyplace, anywhere’ phenomenon enabled by digitization is changing how we interact with space, place and time.”

Out of this, Charles Landry, says will emerge a different kind of city: the civic city, which will be based on an urban commons, connection and shared lives.

The Civic City


Going to Dunkirk

Thursday, 27 July, 2017 0 Comments

Going to the new Christopher Nolan film, that is.

The British retreat to the coastal French town of Dunkirk in late May 1940 was a key moment of the Second World War. Several hundred thousand British and Allied troops were encircled by the Germans. Had Hitler attacked, he would have captured a quarter of a million men, stripping Britain of its army and putting enormous pressure on London to enter into peace talks with Berlin. But the Germans didn’t attack. Their nine Panzer divisions stopped outside Dunkirk. And the British were able to start their evacuation from the beaches with the result that most of the their troops got home. Some 300,000 men were rescued — two thirds British, the rest French.

As the exhausted troops were disembarking along the south-eastern coast of England, the five members of Winston Churchill’s War Cabinet met on 27 May to discuss entering into peace negotiations with Germany. Churchill was passionately against any such move, but the foreign minister, Lord Halifax, was for talks as he felt England’s negotiating position was stronger with France still in the war. He also believed that Britain’s goal should not be to fight Germany, but rather to preserve as much independence as possible in a peaceful coexistence.

During the following day’s Cabinet meeting, however, the tide turned in favour of Churchill when he declared absolutely that there would be no surrender, and that as long as he was in office, he would never negotiate with the Nazis. “If this long island story of ours is to end at last,” he declared, “let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood on the ground.”

He was thinking of the 68,111 killed, wounded or captured British troops at Dunkirk.


Trump in Poland: The Three Seas vs. Nord Stream 2

Thursday, 6 July, 2017 0 Comments

The election of President Donald Trump was an existential shock for Poland’s liberal elites. And, like their pals the world over, they remain in grief and denial, unwilling and unable to comprehend what has happened to their certainties. That said, Poland’s conservative government didn’t appear thrilled by the change in Washington, either. Trump’s reputed admiration for Putin suggested that an emboldened Moscow would have a free hand to increase its intimidation of Warsaw, but the increasingly frosty climate between America and Russia has put that nightmare to rest. And that’s why President’s Trump speech today in Warsaw is so important, and it explains why Poland is greeting the US President as a hero. When the speech ends and Air Force One flies off to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, however, the success or failure of the visit will depend on President Trump’s position regarding the competing visions represented by the Three Seas initiative and the Nord Stream 2 project.

Poland

The Three Seas Initiative: This aims to unite twelve countries in Central and Eastern Europe by creating a North-South infrastructure, between the Baltic, Adriatic and Black Seas, in the telecommunications, transportation and energy sectors. The main goal is challenge Russian influence in the European energy sector, and prevent Moscow from using energy as a weapon against neighbouring states.

Nord Stream 2: This is a second pipeline being built by Russian energy giant Gazprom and Germany’s BASF and E.ON energy companies. It will run in parallel to the first Nord Stream pipeline, which was completed in 2011, and it will carry gas under the Baltic Sea directly from Russia to Germany. Adjoining states regard this as a move by Russia to bypass traditional transit countries (Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belarus and Poland) and see it as part of a long-term plan by the Kremlin to exert political influence over them by threatening their gas supply without affecting supplies to Western Europe.

As one can see, some of Europe’s oldest fault lines are exposed here. By calling their project the Tree Seas Initiative, the founders have revived memories of the Intermarium — a Polish-led bloc in Central and Eastern Europe as a bulwark between Germany and Russia. Some also regard it as a challenge to the EU and an act of potential separatism. Anything the US says and does, therefore, will be seen as hostile by some in Berlin and Brussels but all those who have been crying “Isolationism” since last November might admit that keeping this US administration interested in the affairs of Central and Eastern Europe is of value.

But, but, but… Last month’s vote by the US Senate to expand sanctions on Russia has rocked the boat. Part of that expansion will target European countries that cooperate with Moscow’s efforts to build out its energy infrastructure in Europe and the most prominent target is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The proposed sanctions would affect those who “…invest or support the construction of Russian energy export pipelines.” The Wall Street Journal has the details.

Europe and America. Russia and Poland. Oil and gas. It’s complicated.


Song of the Year: And Dream of Sheep

Tuesday, 20 December, 2016 0 Comments

“Little light will guide them to me.” The line has a special relevance at Christmas, and the terror killings of innocent Christmas revellers in Berlin lend it extra poignancy. And Dream of Sheep by Kate Bush is thus deemed our Song of the Year.

Prior to her 22-date run of sold-out London concerts in 2014, Kate Bush spent three days submerged in a tank filled with water. The goal was to create a sense of authenticity while making a video for And Dream of Sheep, a song about a woman lost at sea. The clip — which features the singer strapped in a lifejacket, hoping to be rescued — was created for her return to the stage, during which she performed The Ninth Wave, her 1985 song cycle.

Although originally released on Hounds of Love, the song has been reworked and the new version appears on Kate Bush and the K Fellowship: Before the Dawn, a live album that captures her 2014 show on three CDs and four vinyl albums.

“Little light shining
Little light will guide them to me
My face is all lit up
If they find me racing white horses
They’ll not take me for a buoy
Let me be weak, let me sleep and dream of sheep.”

Kate Bush


The triumph of Usain Bolt foreseen

Friday, 19 August, 2016 0 Comments

American artist Jacob Lawrence was one of a number of illustrators invited to design posters for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He created this image to celebrate the involvement of black athletes in the Olympics, as track and field is an area in which they have excelled. This had a particular historical significance for Lawrence because Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where Hitler had planned to demonstrate the superiority of German “Aryan” athletes.

Munich Olympics poster


#Brexit: History is in the making

Thursday, 23 June, 2016 0 Comments

History will be made today in Great Britain. Regardless of result of the referendum, we will witness the slow-motion crumbling of two Unions: the UK and the EU. If the British vote to leave, the EU will begin to crumble because the audacious act of departure will mortally wound the “project” and will encourage others to hold similar referendums. If the British vote to remain and England’s desire for independence is defeated by an alliance of multicultural Londoners and Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalists, the Union will be gravely damaged.

UK_EU A European Union without Great Britain would be forced to confront its founding fallacy of Germany pretending to be weak and France pretending to be strong. Neither Paris nor Berlin wants to face this embarrassing reality, but the absence of London as a diversion will lead to sobriety. Then, there’s the fragility of the eurozone. It may be possible to keep Greece on life support indefinitely, but not so Italy. Its debts are alarming, the unemployment rate is frightening and there’s no growth. As well, Italy straddles that other great EU fault line: immigration. Italy is the country of choice for African migrants and their numbers will keep on growing for the rest of this century.

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” So says a character in that great Anglo-Irish-European novel Ulysses, by James Joyce, and the nightmare of history will return with a vengeance if the “Leave” side wins. Ireland’s borders, internally and externally, will take on new significance and the country may have to rethink its political relationships. The same goes for the Scots, whose nationalists would demand another referendum that might take them out of a non-European Britain. And the Welsh? They play Northern Ireland in Parc des Princes in Paris on Saturday, with a quarter-final place in Euro 2016 at stake.

History is in the making.


Angela Merkel: idiot or fool?

Tuesday, 12 January, 2016 0 Comments

The “open borders” migration policy instigated by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s could create a Germany with half its under-40 population consisting of Middle Eastern and North African immigrants and their children. The impact of such a demographic disruption would be explosive writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat in “Germany on the Brink.” He calls on Merkel to close her borders to new arrivals, asks Berlin to give up “the fond illusion that Germany’s past sins can be absolved with a reckless humanitarianism in the present,” and declares:

“If you believe that an aging, secularized, heretofore-mostly-homogeneous society is likely to peacefully absorb a migration of that size and scale of cultural difference, then you have a bright future as a spokesman for the current German government.

You’re also a fool.”

Douthat’s fulmination has shocked Germany’s chattering classes, who regard the New York Times with a kind of childlike awe as if it were a composite of Das Kapital, the Koran and the Bible. The main prints have rushed to translate the column and reader reaction has been enthusiastic, in part because the politically-correct mainstream German media dare not utter or think such thoughts. In the case of the highbrow weekly Die Zeit, the comment sections is filled with endorsements of Douthat’s positon, but part of the discussion is given over to the issue of how to translate that key word “fool”. In the original, “Idiot” was used, but this was later erased and replaced with “Narr.”

Most commentators, by the way, agree with Douthat’s conclusion: “It means that Angela Merkel must go — so that her country, and the continent it bestrides, can avoid paying too high a price for her high-minded folly.” The Duden, the standard dictionary of the German language, translates “folly” as “Narrheit f, Torheit f Verrücktheit f“. The “f” there, by the way, stands for “feminine”. Interestingly, “folly” is preceded in that dictionary by “follow-the-leader”. For many Germans, that’s the dilemma now.


It’s not about the bike. It’s about the app.

Saturday, 2 January, 2016 0 Comments

There’s no web address to be seen on the brand being pedalled here. Instead, foodora, an “on-demand food boutique that offers meals from the most beloved restaurants that traditionally don’t deliver,” urges people to download the app from the Apple and Android stores. By the way, foodora is what you get when you mix Hurrier (Canada), Suppertime (Australia) and Heimschmecker (Austria) with Urban Taste (Germany). They’ve all been gobbled up by Delivery Hero in Berlin. It’s about the app; not the bike.

foodora


Mahabir Pun

Friday, 11 December, 2015 1 Comment

This just in: “Helping out in Barpak is Nepal’s internet maverick, Mahabir Pun, who is replicating his work in establishing wireless connectivity in Kaski and Myagdi in the earthquake affected districts of Gorkha and Lamjung. Eight schools and three health posts will be connected with up to six hotspots allowing classes to have e-learning and providing health posts access to tele-medicine.” The Nepali Times

Born in a remote village in the Myagdi District of western Nepal, Mahabir Pun spent his childhood herding yaks in the shadow of the Himalayas, and intermittently attending the local school, which had neither chalk, textbooks, pens or certified teachers. Today, Mahabir Pun is the team leader of the Nepal Wireless Networking Project, which uses a mix of solar power, tree-based relay systems and wireless technology to help families communicate, yak farmers sell their products, trekking businesses find customers and children get an education via distance learning.

It’s an inspiring story and Mahabir Pun has been deservedly inducted in to the Internet Hall of Fame and awarded the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award by the Internet Society. Hiking for Emails was made by Clemens Purner, an Austrian director based in Berlin.