Saturday, May 31, 2014

He will do it again

Today Red Baron discovered the following photo in the Badische Zeitung:

Four forerunners of a planned 400 Goethes
in front of Frankfurt's Johann Wolfgang Goethe University (©dpa)
On June 11, Ottmar Hörl will take the occasion of the centenary of Frankfurt's Johann Wolfgang Goethe University to decorate its entrance with 400 colored sculptures of our national poet. According to Hörl corn-yellow stands for Goethe's intellect, night-blue for his phantasy, purple-red for his reasoning, and turquoise-green for his sensuality.

Already in 2010 Hörl had 800 Martin Luther sculptures populate the Reformer's city Wittenberg and I blogged about the artist's projects of 2013: Wagner and Marx.

800 Martin Luthers in Wittenberg's market place (©dpa)
Usually Hörl's sculptures come in various colors but Marx only had several shades of red. Remember my blog about color coding of political parties in Germany? What about making plastic doubles of Social Democrats coming in various reds according to their conviction? I can imagine several shades of greens for green politicians as well: From dark green: Shut down all nuclear power immediately to light green: Switch to renewable energies according to our technical possibilities. I admit that I see difficulties with the black generally attributed to the Christian Democratic Party: Are not shades of black nothing else than shades of grey?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fritz Geiges

In 1835 he was christened Alois Sigmund Friedrich Geiges but he insisted that they call him Fritz. He has influenced Freiburg's cultural heritage dramatically. A well-known example is his impressive painting of St. Georges at the Schwabentor (Swabian Gate).

©miJoergens Wikipedia
 Another example are the stained-glassed windows of Sankt Johannes (St. Jean's Church) that Geiges created in the years 1898 to 1901.

Emperor Saint Heinrich II.
 He was canonized being
the donor of Basel's cathedral.
 Here he carries a model
of the Johanneskirche
In Mediaeval style: Professor Fritz Geiges
 as donor figure in a corner of one of his
stained-glass windows.
In the bottom left Geiges' coat of
arms, the Freiburg raven.
In his young years Geiges was one of the founders of the still existing Breisgau Geschichtsverein (historical society) "Schau-ins-Land". The first edition of the Geschichtsverein's annual book carries his handwriting. He made nearly all of the drawings.

Page 77 of the first year edition of the journal "Schau-ins-Land" written and drawn by Geiges
During his life Fritz was a workaholic and was known throughout the 2nd Reich for his "historicizing art". On invitation of Emperor Wilhelm II. he conceived the decoration of Berlin's Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (memorial church). Wilhelm was impressed and attributed to Fritz the title professor. This made him so proud that he signed all his future works with Professor Fritz Geiges.

Restored mosaic in the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche conceived by Fritz Geiges
showing some of the Prussian royals ©JoJan Wikipedia
In Freiburg Geiges restored the sculptures in the Münster church port in 1890. Before he had made watercolor paintings of all the objects. Based on these paintings a second restoration of the sculptures was started in 2001 and terminated in 2004, i.e., the Mediaeval  figures were cleaned and restored to the state Geiges had documented in the late 19th century. The Münsterbauverein took the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the second restoration to honor Fritz Geiges with an exhibition, a series of lectures, and guided tours: Gothic in the Workshop.

Honoring Professor Fritz Geiges:
Gotik im Atelier
Group in Freiburg's church porch: Visitation
of Our Lady. Both Mary and her cousin
Elisabeth are bearing child.
Wall painting by Fritz Geiges 1909 showing the end of Dr. Faustus in Staufen.
When M. Hickel restored the painting in 1994 he forgot to add Geiges' title.
Following his success with the restoration of the statues of the Münster porch the city council entrusted Geiges, the expert on stained glass, with the restoration of the Mediaeval windows in 1917. He worked according to his ideas rarely observing the maxim of monument preservation: Niemals restaurieren, möglichst nur konservieren (Never restore, if possible only conserve). In the 1920 Geiges was highly criticized for his "restoring vandalism".

Today visitors of Freiburg's Münster enjoy the old and the new parts of the stained glass windows and sometimes look with astonishment at the following example in the so-called baker's window:

©miJoergens Wikipedia
The pretzel on the left looks so bright, it must be one of Geiges' new additions. You are mistaken! Geiges had added missing glass pieces and varnished them to make them fit in color to the dirty original windows. When in 1980 the Münster windows were cleaned not only the restoring scientists were fascinated seeing the blaze of color of the Medieval originals as shown on the left hand side.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Election

Today Red Baron voted for the European parliament and for Freiburg's city council. Strasbourg is far away but our Rathaus (city hall) is in walking distance.

Freiburg's city council has 48 members meaning that I had an equal number of votes to cast. This has historical reasons. Up to 1248 the city council only had 24 members all of noble families who were city councilors by birth and for lifetime. In view of their mismanagement of public property a small revolution took place in May 1248. All citizens assembled in the Münster church square and demanded that an additional 24 and mostly younger members of the nobility, merchants, and craftsmen were added to the city council helping the established 24 with the administration. These new members were elected on a yearly basis. This timid "democratization" continued up to 1386.

The document of May 1248 enlarging Freiburg's city council
When in the Battle of Sempach in the same year the Swiss slaughtered 656 earls, noblemen, and patricians mostly from Freiburg these people suddenly lost their majority in the city council. It was the Austrian Duke Leopold IV., Freiburg's new ruler, who decided in 1392 that all 48 council members be elected yearly and be composed of 12 patricians, 12 merchants, 18 masters of the guilds plus 6 additional guild members.

Nowadays our 48 city councilors are elected for a 5 year mandate. There are 13 parties who would like to sit in Freiburg's town hall. The lists of candidates of the various parties are contained in a somewhat longish booklet where the voter has the agony of choice. Is this the reason that less than half of Freiburg's citizens cast their votes?
Title of the booklet containing 13 ballot sheets. Only half the length is shown.
On the bottom it reads:You therefore have 48 votes
In fact, the voting system for city councils in Baden-Württemberg is rather complicated. The easiest way to vote is that you tear one page for a particular party out of the booklet, place this ballot sheet in an prepared envelope, and then into the voting box. If you like to calculate, for one seat in the city council a party list must draw a minimum of 2.08% of the votes.

Red Baron likes to have it complicated. First, I never like my party's order of its 48 candidates on the ballot sheet. Here I have the possibility to häufeln (cumulate) up to three votes on particular candidates thus moving them up the list. A party getting 14% of the votes will have 7 seats in the city council. So the first 7 persons from their list are elected. In cumulating your votes you can (slightly) influence the order on the ballot sheet.

Second, I know a number of candidates from other parties personally and want to give them some of my votes. In this case I panaschiere (mix) my choice in adding the names of the persons of other parties on my party list by hand. Then I attribute to them up to three votes. In these games there is only one condition to fulfill: Your ballot sheet must not count more than 48 votes in total.

P.S.: The results of the voting for Freiburg's city council were known only today (May 27) as the poll workers first had to count the votes for the European parliament. Whereas in Europe the Eurosceptics increased their number of deputies by 50% the results for Freiburg's city council show no surprises. Here are the seats for the various parties in the new assembly (in brackets the distribution of seats in the previous council elected in 2009):

Green Party (Grüne)           11 (11)
Christian Democrats (CDU)    9 (10)
Social Democrats (SPD)        8  (9)
Leftist List (LiSSt)                4  (4)
Free Voters (FW)                 3  (3)
Livable Freiburg (FL)             3  (0)
Free Democrats (FDP)           2  (4)
Culture List (KULT)               2  (2)
Young Freiburg (JF)              2  (1)
Alternative Greens (GAF)       1  (2)
Independent Women (UFF)     1  (0)
The Party (DIEPARTEI)          1  (0)
Christians for Freiburg (CFF)   1  (0)

Mayor Dieter Salomon commented: Freiburg bleibt regierbar, aber der Gemeinderat wird bunter (Freiburg remains "governable" but the city council is more colored). It will nevertheless be difficult to attribute different and distinct colors to all thirteen parties presented in Freiburg's new city council some although only with one seat.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New York Food

Some people will argue that there is no particular New York food. They are right in so far as the melting pot of people has many restaurants serving international cuisine. Nevertheless, the various national specialties are always presented with an American touch.

One typical attribute of the food served in the States is that portions are huge. Another feature of American food is the many calories. I use to say: It is sufficient to look at US food, and you will gain weight.

Katz's where Harry and Sally had lunch.
While in the city that never sleeps, Red Baron revisited one of his favorite places: Katz's Delicatessen on Houston Street. There I had what "most of the others are having": Pastrami on rye bread with a glass of Pilsner Urquell beer. You simply say in Yiddish: Me ken lecken di finger (You want to lick your fingers).

For photographic clarity, only half the portion is shown.
However, after the meal, I was not so sure whether I had followed Katz's basic advice: Ess gesunt (Eat in good health).

Pizza is one of America's favorite food that is best in Brooklyn's district Dumbo, (Down under Manhattan Bridge) at Ignazio's. When my son and I entered the pizzeria around noon, we had to wait for the oven to heat up, but the wait was worth it. We had ordered The Pizza with tomato garlic basil & olive oil pie and the pizza White Pie with ricotta & mozzarella. Simply delicious.

The Pizza and the White Pie

The Heartland Brewery premises (©Heartland Brewery)
One evening just around the corner of my son's apartment, we were looking for a snack and a beer and landed at the Heartland Brewery on the lower floor of the Empire State Building. Here for the first time in my life, I had Pulled Pork made from house-smoked pork served on a sesame bun with coleslaw and fries that I downed with a glass of Farmer Jon's Oatmeal Stout.

Pulled pork

McDonald's MMMM on Time Square
Before I leave the Big Apple, I usually visit a place full of memories. A couple of years ago, Elisabeth and I stayed at a hotel near Times Square for a week doing lots of sightseeing. One day we saw people coming out of McDonald's eating French fries out of a cup that caused an irresistible desire for pommes frites. We entered, stood in line, and drew strange looks from the vendors when we ordered the biggest portions of fries available without a Big Mac, sat down, and enjoyed our potatoes. Since then, Elisabeth and I claim that McDonald's at Time Square serves the best French fries in New York.

My meal
This time I sat there all alone with my French Fries, and a McCafé Vanilla Shake that I better had not ordered for the drink was pure calories.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

World Without God

Recently the New Scientist's deputy editor Graham Lawton wrote an article about the World without God or people losing their religion.

People in various countries were asked in 2005 and seven years later in 2012: Are you religious?

The decrease in the number of "believers" over the seven years span is dramatic. In Germany their percentage fell from 60 to 51%, in France, la fille ainée de l'Eglise (the adult daughter of the Roman Church), from 57 to 37%. Most Europeans regard the people in the States as very religious, i.e., a "people of God", but even in the US although starting out at a high figure of 74% in 2005 the believers dropped to 57% in 2012.

Red Baron noticed with astonishment the numbers for Ireland. Irish monks brought Christianity to Central Europe and Eire has remained a Catholic stronghold for nearly 2000 years. Within seven years the percentage of religious people dropped from 69% to 46%. There are a few exceptions to the general downtrend. In the Netherlands, traditionally critical on religious issues, the number of Dutch believers increased between 2005 and 2012 from 42 to 43%.

Nearly empty basilica of St. Blasien.  Award winning photo ©Sebastian Morlock, Wikipedia
Being non-religious is not the same as being atheist. The fact is that people in particular in the "Western" countries simply do no longer care about religion so, as Lawton states, by now the "nones" are holding the majority in the world.

People experiencing security and wealth, as for example the Scandinavian countries, do no longer pray: Aus tieffer not schrey ich zu dir, Herr Gott (Out of the depth I cry to you, o Lord) a text taken from Psalm 130 and set into a cantata by Bach. We, the 21st century bourgeois, no longer feel the need to follow Christ's invitation: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Modern over-consuming societies are no longer searching God but rather adore golden calves and dance around as described in Exodus Chapter 32: And the people said to Aaron: Make us a god, which shall go before us ... And he received all their gold, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it a molten calf; and the people said: "This is thy god, O Israel" ... And the LORD said unto Moses: "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people" ... And it came to pass, as soon as Moses came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing ...

I remember a classmate who said that in times of examination stress he tended to become religious, a fact that Lawton describes as the Christchurch phenomenon where the natural disaster of the New Zealand earthquake in 2011 caused a resurgence of religion.

There remains the argument that religions holds societies together, a statement that most people will buy. However, a survey has shown that on just about every measure of societal health, the more secular a country or a state, the better it does including the States in the US. Lawton quotes Professor Zuckerman: I now believe there are aspects of the secular world view that contribute to healthy societies. First, if you believe that this is the only world and there is no afterlife, that's going to motivate you to make it as good a place as possible. Number two is the emphasis on science, education, and rational problem-solving that seems to come with the secular orientation - for example, are we going to pray to end crime in our city or are we going to look at the root causes?

However, it seems that for people in a secular society dancing around golden calves is not sufficient. The longing for some sort of belief even drives enlightened people into all sorts of spiritualism, astrology, karma, voodoo, you name it, proving that there is a human need for religion or some sort of ersatz religion.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

NY Taxi Drivers

Red Baron likes to walk for miles, particularly in foreign cities, but given the distances, I took a cab a couple of times during my recent visit to New York. The drivers I had were undoubtedly international.

New New York taxicabs: higher, shorter, and made by Ford
The first one was a Russian Jew or rather a Jewish Russian. He told me that his father is a Jew and his mother, a Russian. So when he - freshly married to a Byelorussian girl - emigrated to Israel, he, with his non-Jewish mother, was considered just being a Russian. The discriminated and frustrated couple went to the States when his wife, being a programmer, got a job offer from a New York firm. Now she is satisfied, but the guy still feels discriminated and is frustrated for his wife earns all the money, whereas he being an architect by education drives a New York taxi.

The second guy driving me came from Yemen. He told me that he has three uncles in Germany living in Cologne, Hamburg, and Berlin, and he is going to visit this summer. By then, his Berlin uncle will have moved to Munich. I informed him that his uncles had chosen the four most significant cities in Germany to live in.

After having stepped off the cab, I thought, why are those Yemenis in Germany, and what are they doing there? Had his uncles got political asylum, but was Yemen not one of those Schurkenstaaten (pariah countries)? Following some research on the Internet, I found out that the US regards Yemen to be a Tier 3 country, i.e., the people there are trafficking persons with the Yemeni government not caring at all. In fact, the sea around the Horn of Africa is infested with pirates capturing ships and whole crews demanding their liberation ransom from shipping companies and governments.

The third guy did not speak to me at all, but driving with only one hand was talking nonstop into his mobile phone. I recognized many French words and thought his language might be Creole. When leaving the cab, I asked him, but he said that he was from Ghana.

The language he spoke made me curious. In the German Wikipedia, I read: English is Ghana's official language, but in Ghana, more than eighty different languages are used such that most Ghanaians speak several of them. The government pushes French as an additional language such that since 2006 Ghana is an associated member of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Do they need a second lingua franca, or don't they like English? It was a pity that I could not ask my taxi driver those questions and above all, test his personal language skills.

New York taxi drivers surely are cosmopolitan.