Sunday, April 19, 2015


Angst haunts Germany, the angst of TTIP. Yesterday there were demonstrations against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership all over Germany. Red Baron was on Freiburg's Rathausplatz and took a few photos.

Multinationals will profit; TTIP CETA TISA; people will lose
TTIP or Democracy, don't hand over Europe to multinational companies.
When I arrived they were just taking the banner off Freiburg's town hall full of German obedience.
The police had told them that is was not allowed to decorate official buildings with protest banners.
This morning Freiburg's Sunday paper Der Sonntag printed another picture taken in front of Freiburg's townhall with EU's Jean-Claude Juncker claiming that European jobs will not be effected, Germany's Angela Merkel raising her new leitmotif that TTIP is alternativlos (without alternative), while the young man in front proudly proclaims that TTIP will assure him profits.

©Der Sonntag/Rothermel
It seems to me that this time German angst is somehow justified for few people understand what TTIP is all about. We do not know what the American and European delegations deliberate so secretly. Angst always develops when things and situations are not well understood. A good example is the reappearance of a few extremely shy wolves in Germany where however the bad wolves making angst are so "well known" from our reading of the Brother Grimm's Kinder- und Hausmärchen (fairy tales).

Apparently the clever? idea of the two TTIP parties was to keep the negotiations secret in order not to excite the people concerned for any small detail the US and Europe may and certainly will quarrel about. This way of non-communicating backfired with the result of a general excitement among the people developing lots of conspiracy theories. Here the famous American Chlorhühnchen (a chicken bathed in chlorine solution to kill the germs) traded against the European chicken full of antibiotics and hormones only presents the very tip of the TTIP iceberg.

Even in Freiburg people develop conspiracy scenarios with the Freiburg streetcars coming under American control. Although one of the future tram stops is already named Madisonallee there may be more to come when the Kaiser-Josef-Straße, in the Middle Ages named Große Gass (Big Alley), will again become Broadway and the Hauptbahnhof be renamed Main Station.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The City that Never Sleeps

Red Baron likes to wake up in the city that never sleeps. Last Saturday, when I awoke in my son's apartment in Manhattan - too early - I looked out of the window and admired the new building of the World Trade Center and, in particular, Miss Liberty and Ellis Island in the distance. It was there where some of the Höferts had entered the States at the end of the 19th century.

Yes, I still remember my first trip to the States in 1957 when my father had made contact with a cousin living on Long Island. He came to Manhattan one evening, and we met in a restaurant. The cousin only spoke rudimentary German, whereas my father had never learned English. So I tried hard to get a conversation going stretching my school-English. But that is history.

I forget about blogging when I am with my son. I rather like to profit from his wisdom and knowledge. Our conversations are usually intense, both knowing that we cannot solve the problems of this world. Two dates are always fixed during my visits to New York: Dinner at the Redeye Grill and an evening of Jazz. On our way to the restaurant (it was already dark), my son took a photo of me manspreading "on" the Bad Men Monument.

At the Redeye Grill, I had my usual lobster that was exceptionally big this time*. Red Baron forgot about his cholesterol, and the green sauce served with the lobster in dipping the delicious bites in liquid butter while my son enjoyed his usual tuna. We had good memories of a bottle of Holy Cow from Washington State on a previous occasion, but the wine was no longer on the list. This time we downed our meals with a bottle of Sauvignon blanc from the Cakebread Cellars.
*I read that presently there is an overproduction of lobster on the Atlantic coast, but I did not notice a price slump on the bill.

While I know the "official" New York so well, my son always likes to show me rather "non-tourist" places in New York he has discovered.

On Saturday, we went to East Village, formerly known as Little Germany. On our way had a drink at one of the oldest pubs in Manhattan McSorley's Old Ale House:

There we were in good company:

Then we passed houses built at the end of the 19th century,

the Exhibition of the American Gangster,

paid tribute to the great Charlie Parker at his former residence,

commemorated in Tompkins Square Park the disaster of Passenger Steamboat General Slocum on the East River on June 15, 1904,  where more than 1000 passengers from Little Germany on their way to a Lutheran church picnic perished,

and eventually had lunch at a Bavarian-style restaurant, Zum Schneider, on Avenue C, E 7 Street.

The restaurant was overcrowded. We just found two seats at a table packed with Americans who already had a couple of beers. My son and I ordered Radi and Reibekuchen:

We were impressed when a lady on our table not only ordered a Schweinshaxn but dug into the fatty food with healthy (?) appetite:

At Zum Schneider, the selection of German beers on tap is impressive. I immediately sent an e-mail to my friend Kendall Schneider to make him aware of the place belonging to his clan?

On Saturday evening we listened (no photos allowed) to a jazz performance of the Heath Brothers at the Village Vanguard with 88-year-old Jimmy Heath (tenor and soprano saxophone), his brother Albert "Tootie" Heath, about my age, (drums), Michael Weiss (piano), and David Wong (bass). Jimmy also is a former professor for Jazz at the City University of New York and is a composer. He started the session saying that he was eight years older than the Village Vanguard. Red Baron admired those old hands still having fun with their instruments and the public.

Another highlight of my stay was the visit of the Black Forest Brooklyn on Sunday. I had blogged about the start-up of the restaurant in January and went there to try the Black Forest cake where Ayana and Tobias Holler had so many problems finding the right cherries in the States.

The cake smelled so good that I forgot to take a photo until I had eaten half of it. But the necessary cherry is still there.

At the Black Forest Brooklyn they serve the famous Monkey 47 Dry Gin from the Black Forest and the 77 Whiskey from Breuckelen (the former Dutch name for Brooklyn):

What a difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Here those canyons of steel, there you have broad streets lined with trees and three to four-story buildings. Here in Manhattan, a hectic life, even on Sundays with all those tourists, there in downtown Brooklyn a stress-free, friendly, and spacious neighborhood. Enjoy the picture gallery:

Downtown on Fulton Street 
The Brooklyn opera

Exotic, bold reliefs

Our afternoon ended on Coney Island:

Famous Nathan's:

On our way back home, we strolled along the 6th avenue street market with impressive smoked turkey drums.

and humble German Bratwurst

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Johann Andreas Silbermann

One of the great moments in German cultural history recently was the acquisition of Johann Andreas Silbermann's travel diary by the University of Dresden at Sothesby's London.

©Uni Dresden

The Silbermanns of the 18th century are known as organ builders. While many of the clan were busy in Thuringia and Saxony Johann Andreas Silbermann worked in Strasbourg. He built 57 organs in Alsace during his life.

On February 24, 1741, Johann headed out to visit his relatives on the other side of the Rhine. During his trip he kept a diary that the University of Dresden has made accessible as a facsimile on the Internet. Red Baron likes to read old travel diaries like the one by Peter Hagendorf written during the Thirty Years' War, Johann Wolfgang Goethe's description of his trip to Italy, or Johann Gottfried Seume's book about his long walk to Syracuse.

Frequently Silbermann decorated his handwritten diary with sketches and marginal notes. The following map shows his itinerary.

©Uni Dresden
Red Baron tried hard to read some of Silbermann's handwritten text. Here I present a menu card the author copied in Berlin. He marked the paragraphs placing astronomical symbols in front of them. A good friend of mine made me aware of the fact that Silbermann had actually copied the weekly lunch of the "restaurant". The astronomical symbols stand for the days of the week. In English most days are named according to Nordic mythology. It goes like this: 

Sun > Sunday

Moon > Monday, 

Mars > mardi in French > Tuesday > day of Tyr or Tew (Nordic god of combat), 

Mercury > mercredi in French > Wednesday > day of Woden or Odin (Nordic main god), 

Jupiter > jeudi in French > Thursday > day of Thor or Donar (Nordic god of thunder) > Donnerstag in German, 

Venus > vendredi in French > Friday > day of Freya (Nordic god of beauty) > Freitag in German, 

Saturn > Saturday. 

With difficulty I figured out that Magsamen is Mohnsamen (poppy seeds), Schmalbraten is Schmorbraten (pot roast), and Blätzer means tripe but only in Koblenz although according to Silberman's footnote the word is known in Strasbourg too. There are five words in the text below that I could not make out. Therefore Red Baron is impatiently waiting for the transcription of the handwriting the University of  Dresden has promised to provide.

©Uni Dresden

Allgemeiner bürgerlicher Mittags Kosten in Berlin 1744 

Public bourgeois lunch table in Berlin 1744

Sonne: Linssuppe mit Milch, Eyer und Butter
Kleine Rosinen mit Zucker und Zimmet
Schaaf Kaldaunen* mit Kohl
Braten mit Pflaumen
*sind bay uns Blätzer
Sun: Lentil soup with milk, eggs, and butter
Small raisins with sugar and cinnamon
Tripe* of sheep with cabbage
Roast with plums
*are called Blätzer in my place
Mond: Sauerkraut und Bratwürst
oder eingebächelte (eingemachte) Schink[en]bohnen
oder Reiß
Moon: Sauerkraut and brats
or preserved beans with ham
or rice
Mars: Fisch in gelber Brühe
Rosinen, Zestiablau? und Citronen
Mars: Fish in a yellow broth
Raisins, ??, lemons
Merkur: Schög-sauflaisch mit klainen Rüblan
Mercury: ??pork meat with small turnips
Jupiter: Kälberbraten, Schmalbraten (Schmorbraten)
oder Sauerbraten
Jupiter: Roast of veal, pot roast,
or marinated pot roast
Venus: Erbsen und Häring, oder ander Fisch
auch Butter
Venus: Peas and herring, or other fish
also butter
Saturn: Kaldaunen klaingehackt mit Rüben
Weißkraut klaingehackt mit Milchgetapt (mit Milch abgeschmeckt?)
Saturn: Tripe finely chopped with turnips
White cabbage finely chopped seasoned with milk
Sonsten wird auch viel Magsamen (Mohnsamen) gegeßen. Vorher in agasten (aus Ahornholz gefertigt) hölzren Schüsseln gerieben daß er öligt wird. Semmel in Milch gescharigt? in dem Magsamen herum gedulgret?, und kalt gegeßen. Apart from that lots of poppy seeds are eaten. First they are crushed in bowls made from sycamore until they become oily. A roll macerated in milk is rolled in the crushed poppy seeds and eaten cold

Here is another highlight. In Berlin Silbermann met the tall Englishman Kirkland serving in the Royal Guard of Frederick the Great. Frederick had inherited die langen Kerle (the tall guys) from his father, the Soldier King. Silbermann was so impressed that he bought an engraving and placed it in his diary.

Picture of the tall and handsome Englishman in Berlin
 called Kirchland, 7 feet tall, presently serving his Royal Majesty
 as a haiduk (bodyguard) (©Uni Dresden)

©Uni Dresden
On his way back home Silbermann visited Magdeburg. Here in a corner of the cathedral he noticed as a curiosity a Tetzelkasten (Tetzel box), made a sketch, and noted: An einer Seite ist Johann Tetzels eines Dominicaner Mönches von Pirna Ablas Kasten zu sehen, er ist sehr groß und wohl mit reichen Beschlagen verzier hier zu sehen (On one side you can see Johann Tetzel's box in which the Dominican Friar from Pirna collected the money for the indulgences he had sold. The box is big and nicely decorated with copious metal fittings).

Monday, April 6, 2015

Frack You, Germany

On April 1, the German government passed a draft bill concerning fracking. This was not an April fool hoax so Red Baron is stunned. With my country promoting renewable energies I had always assumed that fracking is a no-go in Germany. Fracking means fossil energy and energy from fossil sources, something we must reduce rather than increase.

I know that the majority of my compatriots is against this new way of exploiting Mother Earth too. However, there is only a small hope of parliamentary rejection as the proposed bill must only pass our Bundestag (House of Representatives) where the ruling grand coalition has a comfortable majority. Although the Länder (States) are directly concerned - strangely enough according to our constitution - the approval of our Bundesrat (Senate) where the Greens in coalition with the Reds have a majority is not required. This is why the Green ministers of environment of North-Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg immediately protested: They demand further restrictions on fracking or the bill must not come into force.

However, our federal government is not that quick on the trigger for the draft bill is nothing other than a legal framework. Being strictly against fracking our Federal Minister for the Environment Barbara Hendricks of the Social Democrats was visibly embarrassed when she presented the draft bill to the press. She said that the main reason for the government proposal is to provide legal certainty. In addition all exploratory drillings will require a license and are only allowed beyond a depth of 3000 meters. This should assure that no chemicals will seep into the groundwater table. With regard to the many other restrictions Hendricks went so far as to call the bill a fracking hindrance law.

The reactions of industry were commensurate. They called the constraints utterly excessive: In Germany the profitably exploitable reserves are at depths between one and two thousand meters.

©Die Grünen and their fracking monster
Red Baron is strictly against fracking not so much out of fear of a contamination of the groundwater but of the exploitation of our last fossil energy reserves. The world should finally accept that our future or rather the future of our grandchildren depends on renewable energies.

And the markets behave as they always have behaved: Since the US is exploiting fracking on a large scale with the aim of becoming independent of foreign fossil fuels the oil price has dropped to such a low level that extraction in the States has become uneconomical. This is showing that cheap energy no longer assures steady growth but instead will stop investment in renewable energies.

Stop fracking!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Schopenhauer versus Hegel

On March 27, Red Baron attended a talk by Kristof Rouvel about Schopenhauer versus Hegel. Rouvel is a professor of philosophy and theater arts at Freiburg's Pedagogical University.

Immanuel Kant's modern philosophy is a synthesis of Plato's theory of forms and Aristotle's scientific approach or rather is a further development or synthesis of French Rationalism and British Empiricism. Kant wrote in his fundamental work The Critique of Pure Reason that both rationalists and empiricists transgress their limits. Philosophy needs a recognizing subject but what can we recognize? Rationalists confidently claim to know the existence of God, free will, and the immortality of the human soul although they are far from knowing the "thing-in-itself" beyond all possible experience. With experience being fundamental to human knowledge empiricists frequently forget that only reason can process experience into coherent thought.

Following Kant's synthesis two German epigonic philosophers Friedrich Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer bitterly fought over Kant's legacy. The key issue was Hegel's progressive world spirit (Weltgeist) versus Schopenhauer's blind world will (Weltwille).

In the 19th century technical progress was so clearly visible that Hegel's philosophy was attractive. Hegel, the thinker of progress, sees a teleologically evolving world where a changeable Weltgeist develops in steps until it becomes the world spirit itself.

The New Yorker's Weltgeist of the 21st Century (©The New Yorker)

Schopenhauer and his poodle by Wilhelm Busch
(©Wikipedia). The philosopher's pessimistic view:
Seitdem ich die Menschen kenne, liebe ich die Tiere
(Since I have gotten to know people I love animals).
For Schopenhauer Hegel's ideas were garbage. Red Baron also thinks that replacing God with a Weltgeist that is alienated from humankind is pure speculation.

Schopenhauer personally suffered from Hegel for Hegel's lectures following the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times) drew crowds of students while only few people were interested in Schopenhauer's ideas. The fact that he had masochistically scheduled his courses at the same time as Hegel's sheds light on Schopenhauer's pessimistic approach to philosophy. He is claiming that the world will not become better. He sees a world governed by the struggle for survival, by the "will to live". Schopenhauer personally suffers from this blind Weltwille where reason is just an adjunct of will. From there it is only a small step to nihilism. Do we all end up in nirvana?

It was Karl Marx who took up Hegel's ideas not so much by writing about God or Weltgeist (any religion is just opium for the people) but in emphasizing a materialist interpretation of Hegel's historical development. This in particular in view of an alienation of humankind resulting in class struggles. In Wikipedia we read: Marxist methodology uses economic and sociopolitical inquiry and applies that to the critique and analysis of the development of capitalism and the role of class struggle in systemic economic change.

For Friedrich Nietzsche taking up Schopenhauer's ideas the world is not guided by reason but by will. He interprets the blind will as a personal will for power or as time goes by to sing it with Frank Sinatra: It's still the same old story the fight for love and glory. According to Nietzsche humankind must eventually overcome itself to create the Übermensch.

Where do we go from here? Red Baron does not see his world progressing in accordance with Hegel's Weltgeist. The defeat of Communism based on Marxism entailed an unchallenged accelerated development of capitalism based on growth with all its negative excesses of slave labor, exploitation of natural resources, and climate change. Nowadays big corporations acting globally govern the world. They are undisturbed by governments that are susceptible to blackmail: If you do not fulfil our demands we shall move our factories and in particular the jobs elsewhere.

So the seamstress in Bangladesh exploited for a starvation wage should be happy as long as the rising tides of the 21st century do not flood her factory. Refugees from Africa are knocking on Europe's door for survival but they are sent back if their demand for asylum is motivated economically, i.e., if they are looking for work.

The present economy is still based on unlimited growth and takes this for granted. However, Red Baron doubts that turbo-capitalism will survive when the fight for Mother Earth's resources, in particular for fresh water, shifts into high gear.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Bächle Bashing

Today is the birthday of this somewhat dreamily gazing young man. Red Baron had planned to write a blog about this guy who was no April fool and had such an influence on German history. However when I opened today's Badische Zeitung the following article knocked me off my socks:

Freiburg will probably have to fill up its brooklets

What happened? A lady from Swabia had an accident in Baden's capital by stepping in one of the many brooklets running through Freiburg rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament. Now her accident insurance is asking the city for indemnity. Although the sum is only a little bit more than 2 million euros the officials fear higher indemnities should American visitors step in (sic!). They decided in a hush-hush operation to fill the brooklets thus increasing street security for pedestrians and cyclists. But as in the case of the Berlin Wall where a mark on the ground shows the visitor the path of the long-gone object Freiburg's officials plan a "soft filling", i.e., they will have flowers planted in the former stone beds making the brooklets visible.

Original former? Bächle in Freiburg.
Already in the Middle Ages Freiburg had a system of brooklets running through the streets.
This one in Marktgasse runs in the middle of the street, i.e., the position of all original brooklets.
Nowadays all other Bächle run on the side of the streets.
You may imagine that the decision caused a storm of indignation although no shitstorm yet for in the 16th century Freiburg's city council had already forbidden the deposition of excrement in the brooklets: Und soll nymandt dhein mist, strow, stain ... in die bäch schütten … (And nobody shall drop dung, straw or stones into the brooklets). A citizens' initiative Rettet die Bächle jetzt spontaneously formed yesterday night asking for signatures to Save the brooklets now.

As was asked in the BZ-article Red Baron immediately went downtown to sign the petition at 11 a.m. Here I only met people in good humor around a table without a paper to sign:

Typical April weather.
On the left a BZ-newsperson collecting reactions of the people and taking notes.
On the right a friend I hadn't seen for a year who happened to pass by.