Tag: Munich

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


The faithful departed

Wednesday, 2 November, 2016 1 Comment

There is a Mexican saying that we die three times: the first at the moment of death, the second when we are lowered into the earth and the third when our loved ones forget us. Día de los Muertos, which corresponds with today’s All Souls’ Day, is dedicated to ensuring that those who loved us will not be forgotten.

This morning, at 7 am in the Theatinerkirche in Munich, a special memorial mass was celebrated for the souls of Kit Fitzgerald ( 6 September 2015) and Mick Fitzgerald ( 2 April 2011) of Ballylanders, County Limerick; and Mary Walsh ( 27 December 2004) and Tom Walsh ( 12 June 2012) of Mullingar, County Westmeath. May they rest in peace.

Mammy praying on the road to Knock

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” — Marcel Proust


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


From Nice to Munich, humanity will prevail

Saturday, 23 July, 2016 0 Comments

The French filmmaker and photographer Fabien Ecochard made this “Hommage à tous les Niçois. Parce que Nice est et restera toujours Nissa la Bella.” Despite the Bastille Day terror on the Promenade des Anglais, “Nice is and will remain Nissa la Bella,” he says.

In the third attack on civilians in Europe in eight days, an 18-year-old German-Iranian killed nine people and wounded a further 21 at a shopping center in Munich last night before shooting himself. As in Nice, the victims were killed randomly, cruelly.

But like Nice, Munich will recover from this horror. Humanity will prevail.


English: Going nowhere and everywhere

Wednesday, 13 July, 2016 0 Comments

Andrew Linn is Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Westminster. He studied English and Modern Languages at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and he was Professor of the History of Linguistics and successively Head of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield. So, he should know what he’s talking about, then, when it comes to the future of the English.

Britain may be leaving the EU, but English is going nowhere” was the title of his article that appeared in The Conversation (motto: “Academic rigour, journalistic flair”) on 4 July. A week later, it was given a wider platform when it was published by Quartz, the global business news website of the Atlantic Media Company. This time, it had a different title: “English is and will be the lingua franca of Europe in spite of Brexit.”

Was the headline change prompted by the, er, Atlantic divide? Or because of literal and figurative incomprehension? Let’s look at the language and the meaning of go nowhere.

Confusion arises because the phrases “going nowhere” and “not going anywhere” have literal and figurative meanings. In the figurative sense, both can mean “not changing” or “not making progress.” Example: “His career in Brussels is going nowhere.” Meaning: He’s not climbing the greasy ladder at Eurocrat HQ. But here’s where it gets tricky: “not going anywhere” can have the same meaning as “going nowhere”. Example: “His career in Brussels is not going anywhere now, thanks to those chavs in Sunderland.”

But “not going anywhere” can also mean “constantly in existence.” Example: “Theresa, you know you can count on me here in Brussels. I’m not going anywhere.” Meaning: I’m in the Berlaymont building and I’m staying here to support you during this nasty Article 50 business, no matter how long it takes.

Keep Calm As regards the content of the dual-headlined piece, that will be the subject of another post, but one thing requires addressing right away. Andrew Linn writes: “The preponderance of English has nothing to do with the influence of Britain…” This is daft as it suggests modern British culture, from The Beatles to Monty Python to J.K. Rowling to Idris Elba, plays no role when English is being taught in Munich, Dakar or Lima. English is everywhere now and the the influence of Britain is key to understanding why this is so and why so many of its teachers draw upon certain models that affect how learners acquire the language and absorb the prestige that makes it so attractive. The influence of Britain, like the soft power of Miss Marple or James Bond, is global, linguistically, whatever about politically, diplomatically or militarily.


Christian Schreiber: 1965 – 2016

Thursday, 7 July, 2016 0 Comments

The death on Monday morning of Dr Christian Schreiber was a tragedy with many facets. Tania lost a loving husband, Ella and Alma a caring father and his colleagues at the German Heart Centre in Munich a brilliant cardiac surgeon who was doing ground-breaking work in the fields of paediatric and congenital heart surgery.

But that’s not the end of this list of tragedies. Christian was the victim of a truly terrifying disease: ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This progressive neurodegenerative illness affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and those who are afflicted suffer unbearable physical and psychological pain. The suffering extends to family and friends, who are forced to witness its degradation of a person they love. All of this was amplified in Christian’s case because he was so young, so gifted, so multilingually charming and had so much to offer to those who needed his life-saving skills.

In the coming weeks, many personal and professional tributes will be paid to this wonderful man, but on the day when Germany play France in the semi-final of the Euro2016 tournament, it should be mentioned that football for Christian Schreiber was more than a game — each match was a morality play and the fans were his tribe. After completing an intricate operation in Kiev, or delivering a paper in London or attending a conference in Beijing, he would dash back to Munich to make the best use of his season ticket at the Allianz Arena, the stadium of his beloved FC Bayern. It was my good fortune to be his companion on some of these occasions and each one featured a non-stop assortment of scandalous stories, informed commentary, hilarious observations and a never-ending stream of questions that sprang from a curious mind insatiable for knowledge. One of the most memorable of these get-togethers was on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 when Bayern played a hard-fought 1-1 Champions League draw with Inter Milan. It was a bitterly cold night, but we were well insulated and had excellent seats near the half-way line. While the TV cameras followed the ball, we spent the evening watching the mighty defender Lúcio and the great striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic “get it on” in a terrific mixed martial arts battle. And all was well with our world.

For those who believe in such things, Christian will be looking down on tonight’s Germany-France game, enjoying every moment. For those who are broken-hearted by the loss, the memories of the moments are what we are left with now. The old Gaelic expression, Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (“There shall not be his like again.”), sums up this unique, loving, loved, very much missed man. RIP

Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich

Dr Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich


Open web digital counterinsurgency against ISIS

Friday, 12 February, 2016 0 Comments

“Trolls, Hackers and Extremists — The Fight for a Safe and Open Web” was the title of a discussion yesterday evening at the Munich Security Conference. So far this week, we’ve looked at the trolls and the hackers, and now it’s the turn of the open web. On 18 January, during a discussion at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House in London, Jared Cohen, Director, Google Ideas, said the key to stopping ISIS from prospering online is to drive them out of the traditional web, the open, web, which can be indexed by search engines. It will be impossible to stop terrorists from using Tor and the dark web, however, he said.

According to Cohen, ISIS is “not a tech savvy organisation” and it stoops to tactics associated with fraud or spam. Still, there have been reports that it’s started using encrypted chat apps, such as Telegram, and that it has developed its own messaging app that “features news and videos showing executions and battlefield victories.”

Some will argue that there are enough laws on the books already about hate speech, and others would say that Google, which owns YouTube, the preferred platform of ISIS, could do a lot more to withdraw the oxygen of publicity, so there’s no shortage of views. 


Werner Herzog’s Reveries Of The Connected World

Thursday, 21 January, 2016 0 Comments

Born in Munich in 1942, amid falling Allied bombs, Werner Stipetić was taken for safety by his mother to the remote Bavarian village of Sachrang in the Alps. They moved back to Munich in 1954 and Werner adopted his absconded father’s surname Herzog (German for “duke”), which he felt sounded more impressive for a would-be filmmaker.

Today, Werner Herzog is considered one of the great figures of the New German Cinema, along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta. In 1996, he moved to Los Angeles, where he lives with the photographer Elena Pisetski, now Lena Herzog.

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off today beneath the snow-capped mountains of Park City in Utah, Herzog’s latest work, Lo And Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, will be premeiered.

Blurb: “Society depends on the Internet for nearly everything but rarely do we step back and recognize its endless intricacies and unsettling omnipotence. From the brilliant mind of Werner Herzog comes his newest vehicle for exploration, a playful yet chilling examination of our rapidly interconnecting online lives.

Herzog documents a treasure trove of interviews of strange and beguiling individuals — ranging from Internet pioneers to victims of wireless radiation, whose anecdotes and reflections weave together a complex portrait of our brave new world. Herzog describes the Internet as ‘one of the biggest revolutions we as humans are experiencing,’ and yet he tempers this enthusiasm with horror stories from victims of online harassment and Internet addiction.

For all of its detailed analysis, this documentary also wrestles with profound and intangible questions regarding the Internet’s future. Will it dream, as humans do, of its own existence? Can it discover the fundamentals of morality, or perhaps one day understand the meaning of love? Or will it soon cause us — if it hasn’t already — more harm than good?”


The snow did not show

Sunday, 10 January, 2016 0 Comments

The snow that’s been missing all winter might arrive on Thursday. Then again, it might not. So far, it has not showed, the snow, and that’s upset lots of people and plans.

Red Bull