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Tag: Munich

Dracula: pre-Halloween reading

Sunday, 28 October, 2018

In May 1897, Dracula, a novel by the Irish author Bram Stoker, was published in London at a price of six shillings. It had a print run of 3,000 copies and the book was bound in plain yellow cloth with the one-word title in simple red lettering. Dracula In time, Dracula would become the supreme example of horror fiction. The critic Maurice Richardson described it as “a kind of incestuous, necrophilious, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. What’s not to like?

It begins thus:

“3 May. Bistritz. Left Munich at 8:35 p.M., on first May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible. The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called ‘paprika hendl,’ and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians. I found my smattering of German very useful here; indeed, I don’t know how I should be able to get on without it.”

“The blood is the life!” — Bram Stoker, Dracula


Marx, Marxism and its cardinal horror

Tuesday, 27 March, 2018 0 Comments

On Saturday, 5 May, the world will observe the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. In some places, as in Trier, his birthplace, the event will be celebrated; in many other places, the date will resonate with the screams of all the millions of people, from Albania to Zimbabwe, who have died at the hands of the ideologue’s evil disciples as they attempted to create Socialist hell on earth.

Because timing is so important in comedy and history, it’s hilariously appropriate that the current Archbishop of Munich is called Marx, and, true to form (nomen est omen), Cardinal Reinhard Marx never misses an opportunity to mention his namesake. Recently, he authored a rambling homily for the leftist Süddeutsche Zeitung titled “Where Marx is right” that was speckled with the usual buzz words: digitization, capitalism, markets, Communism.

The real Marx As an antidote, one should read “I Am Not a Marxist” by Ana Stankovic. She gives the old monster both barrels at the get go: “CALL ME A KILLJOY but I am sick to death of hearing about Karl Marx,” she says. “I am sick of his name, his -isms, his undoubted genius, and his ‘philosophy.’ I am sick of him ‘having reason,’ as the French say, or ‘being right.’ But most of all I am sick of his ‘relevance.'” That “relevance” has blinded “the multitude of professors and graduate students who have wasted their time and talent deluding themselves and indoctrinating the youth to an irrational hatred of Capitalism to be followed by personal failure.” That’s good and so is this:

“But! his devoted fans insist, Marx cannot be blamed for the crimes carried out by the inheritors of his political legacy! Which is like saying that the makers of gunpowder cannot be blamed for its misuse. That is perfectly true — assuming we can agree on what might constitute ‘misuse.’ Gunpowder isn’t intended for washing the dishes. It’s made for the express purpose of blowing things up.”

Let’s leave the final word to Irving Berlin: “The world would not be in such a snarl, had Marx been Groucho instead of Karl.”


Dolores O’Riordan (1971 – 2018)

Tuesday, 16 January, 2018 0 Comments

The last time I saw the late Dolores O’Riordan was on Friday, 6 June 2003 in the Olympiastadion in Munich. Her group, The Cranberries, were the support band for The Rolling Stones during their LICKS tour.

Can there be a more thankless music job than supporting the Stones? The masses flock to their concerts for the thrill of escaping the present for the past and it was the task of The Cranberries that warm June evening to “warm up” the crowd with a 45-minute set of songs, some of which were intended for a 2004 follow-up to the band’s fifth album, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, issued in 2001. Little did we know that the material would never be released. In September 2003, The Cranberries went into hiatus and they didn’t enter a recording studio again until 2011. Now, some seven years later, aged 46, Dolores O’Riordan is dead. RIP.

Dolores O'Riordan


Haiku for a drowned oBike

Tuesday, 5 December, 2017 0 Comments

The oBike company from Singapore is not feeling the spirit of Christmas in Europe this Advent. Is it playing fast and loose with users’ data? Some allege that it is. Is it creating an urban blight of cheap bicycles? The evidence is mounting. In some cities, citizens are taking matters into their own hands by damaging or discarding the bikes. The semi-submerged example in our photo was seen in Munich’s Olympiapark.

oBike rage rising
Olympian grave beckons
Splash! Stillness surrounds.

oBike

Note: The haiku follows a strict form: three lines, with a 5-7-5 syllable structure. That means the first line must have five syllables, the second line seven syllables and the last line must have five syllables. A haiku does not have to rhyme or follow a certain rhythm as long as it adheres to the 17-syllable count.


Wind & Rain

Saturday, 16 September, 2017 0 Comments

The 184th Oktoberfest begins in Munich today and it will run until 3 October. Normally, it’s an occasion for Kaiserwetter (glorious, sunny weather) but it’s kicking off this year with wind and rain. That’s ideal weather, though, for rugby and, for the first time ever, Oktoberfest will feature a world-class “sevens” rugby tournament, with teams from Fiji, South Africa, England, France, Ireland, Australia and Germany.

Wind and rain are central motifs in the ballad performed here by the superbly talented Hanz Araki, who combines his Japanese and Irish heritages in an American mix that makes for a refreshing interpretation of traditional music.


Dieselgate

Monday, 31 July, 2017 0 Comments

Naturally, there’s a Wikipedia page listing scandals with the “-gate” suffix. Heard of Porngate? “Three members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in India resign from their offices after accusations that they watched porn during government proceedings.” And what about Valijagate? “Venezuelan-American entrepreneur Guido Antonini Wilson arrived in Argentina on a private flight hired by Argentine and Venezuelan state officials carrying US$800,000 in cash, which he failed to declare.”

Then there’s Dieselgate (or Emissionsgate):

“International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University caught Volkwagen cheating on emissions tests on about 11 million diesel cars by programming them to enable emissions controls during testing, but not control NOx pollution during real world driving.”

The suffix has spread so widely in two years that no one raised an eyebrow last week when Xinhua, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, headlined a story: “Strong Volkswagen Q2 profit despite ‘dieselgate’ cartel scandals.” Along with “dieselgate”, you will have noticed the word “cartel” there. Until recently, that term was more associated with Colombia than Germany. The Cali Cartel once controlled more than 90 percent of the world’s cocaine market. Its founders were the Rodríguez Orejuela brothers, Gilberto and Miguel, who broke away from Pablo Escobar and his partners, who ran the Medellín Cartel. When the car manufacturers in Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Munich are being seen as shady operators running a racket designed to harm society along Colombian lines one begins to grasp how low their stars have fallen.

Tomorrow: The real enemy is Tesla, says the cartel.

Narcos


Automation is different this time

Monday, 12 June, 2017 0 Comments

The automation of the past industrial revolutions will be different to the automation of the future industrial revolutions. That’s because our information age is fundamentally different to the preceding agrarian and industrial ages. Past automation led to higher productivity and created new and better jobs for an expanding, urbanizing population; future automation will happen much faster globally and outpace the creation of new jobs for migrating humans.

These arguments have been discussed by a range of futurists, especially Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, and by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, who together wrote The Second Machine Age. Adhering to this somewhat dystopian line, Nicholas Carr, author of The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, says: “There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress.” Recently, the Munich-based YouTube channel Kurzgesagt sampled their core ideas for a video titled “The Rise of the Machines – Why Automation is Different this Time.”


eBike Days

Saturday, 20 May, 2017 0 Comments

Ebike days
ebike days
eBikes


Munich by Robert Harris

Sunday, 12 March, 2017 0 Comments

Munich’s Oktoberfest, the world’s biggest beer festival, will run from 16 September to 3 October this year and some six million visitors are expected to take part in the annual swilling. It’s a global event and the organizers are constantly seeking ways to broaden the appeal. Their latest innovation is the Oktoberfest 7s, an international rugby tournament. Sevens is a variant of rugby union in which teams of seven players play seven-minute halves, instead of the usual 15 players playing 40-minute halves. The Oktoberfest 7s hopes to emulate the success of the Hong Kong Sevens tournament, which has evangelized the game in Asia and now features teams from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Munich While all the scrimmaging and drinking are taking place in the Bavarian capital, Robert Harris will debut his new novel, titled simply Munich. According to the blurb, “Munich is a spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, filled with real-life characters and actual events.”

The book is set over four days during the infamous Munich Conference of September 1938, which ended with the signing of an agreement by the major powers of Europe that permitted Nazi Germany’s annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia. Anticipating this act of appeasement, Winston Churchill remarked, “England has been offered a choice between war and shame. She has chosen shame, and will get war.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Between beer and betrayal, Munich shoulders an enormous weight of culture and history with impressive dignity. The past and the present intersect on most streets and one is commemorated as the other is celebrated. Robert Harris has chosen his subject and his timing well.


Unplugging the thinking toaster

Friday, 24 February, 2017 0 Comments

Given that robots and automation will likely lead to many people losing their jobs, how should we deal with this upheaval? For Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the answer is clear: tax the robots. In an interview with Quartz, Gates argues that taxing worker robots would offset job losses by funding training for work where humans are still needed, such as child and elderly care. Quote:

“And what the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today, and free up labor, let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class sizes, helping kids with special needs. You know, all of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique. And we still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there.”

But, no taxation without representation, right? So, should the tax-paying robots have rights? What if progress in AI enables them to achieve consciousness in the future? When the machines are programmed to feel suffering and loss, will they be entitled to “humanoid rights” protection? Or should we prevent machines being programmed to suffer and therefore deny them rights, for the benefit of their human overlords? Here’s what Kurzgesagt, the Munich-based YouTube channel, says:


BMW Vision: selling miles, not cars

Tuesday, 15 November, 2016 0 Comments

How will cars function in the future? What role will cars play in the future? These are the questions BMW is dealing with today because tomorrow is just around the bend and the Bavarian auto maker wants to know if it should brake or accelerate. The idea that an autonomous car would drop you off at work, come back to pick you up in the evening, with all the shopping you ordered neatly arranged on the back seat, still sounds too far-fetched to most, but not to BMW’s engineers.

In their Vision Next 100 scenario, they envisage a world where artificial intelligence powers autonomous vehicles, where traffic jams and are eliminated and the accident rate is reduced to zero. In this increasingly urbanized world, autonomous ride-sharing will be the norm and 90 percent of today’s vehicles will no longer be needed on city streets. Of the current two million cars in New York City, only 200,000 will be needed, for example.

On the face of it, then, the future does not look bright for automobile manufacturers. Why make cars if people won’t need them? Cars will still be produced, of course, because the Ubers of tomorrow will want fleets of them, but it’s the business model that’s going to change. BMW will make its money from selling miles to passengers instead of selling cars to individual customers. Well, that’s how they see tomorrow’s world from the top floors of the BMW Hochhaus in Munich.

BMW