Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Theater-Maker

Last Wednesday Red Baron saw Der Theatermacher by Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard at Freiburg’s City Theater. This comedy written in 1984 belongs to the category Theater of the Absurd.

Bruscon arguing with the innkeeper (©Theater Freiburg)
Staatsschauspieler* Bruscon has collated a comedy The Wheel of History comprising all other comedies according to him. The premiere shall take place at the depraved dance hall of “The Black Stag”, an inn at a small Austrian village called Utzbach. Bruscon's wife, son, and daughter are serving as co-actors.
*a title the government awards to deserved actors

The guy is a creep tyrannizing both the innkeeper and his family. The first one because he wants to eat Frittatensuppe, a bouillon with strips of pancake, in the early afternoon while the innkeeper and his family are busy making blutwurst (blood sausage). When Bruscon asks him, “Do you have your blutwurst day once a week?” the answer is, “ No, but always on Tuesdays.”

Frittatensuppe (©Wikipedia/RobertK)
Bruscon complains to the innkeeper about the sultriness of the room, fears that the floor will break through, and finds the village of Utzbach to be far too small for his "outstanding" work. He then is starting a fuss about the emergency lighting. He requires total darkness for the last scene of his concoction, a condition conflicting with fire protection regulations. Here he is categorical, “Without complete darkness, there will be no performance.” So Bruscon sends the busy innkeeper to fire chief Atwenger asking for a derogation.

During rehearsals of the play with his children, he is driving out their love of acting. In recurring phrases, he alternately cleans up their acting talent, whereas he always highlights himself as a great "state actor" and demands servant behavior of his children. He often gets entangled in contradictory statements without realizing it, saying to his son, "You are my greatest disappointment, you know that, but you never disappointed me, you are my most useful."

The eerie scene where Lady Churchill meets Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister at the time of Napoleon, takes half an hour to rehearse, “Naturally, her hat pin must get loose before the hat falls to the ground.”

Bruscon eating Frittatensuppe in the presence of his family (©Theater Freiburg)
Bruscon’s wife, an apparently cold woman ("your mother invests all her talent in her illnesses"), enters the scene for the first time while he is eating the previously ordered Frittatensuppe keeping him quiet for a moment. Later he continuous attacking his wife, but she never speaks a word.

In the end, with Atwenger’s derogation granting a maximum of ten minutes darkness, the theater group is in costumes peeping through the curtain daring covert glances as the spectators arrive. A heavy thunderstorm passes by and, following a great crash of thunder, the audience leaves the dance hall. A lightning has set the parish house on fire. Good for them for the roof above starts to drip leaving Bruscon disappointed on stage in the rain.

I wish you all a Happy* New Year
*my German friends will read “Healthy”

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Maryam and Īsā ibn Maryam

Mary and the son of Mary, key figures in the New Testament, are important personalities in the Quran too. The title page of Der Spiegel even goes so far to propose: Jesus, the Muslim, although the religious topic in the last edition of 2017 is not at all controversial contrary to articles in previous years. The title story rather is a narrative of common beliefs and differences between Christians and Muslims.

©Der Spiegel
In Islam too, Jesus, called Īsā, is born of a virgin as announced by Archangel Gabriel, but leaving out the cuckolded Joseph: And she who guarded her virginity. We breathed into her of Our spirit and made her and her son a sign to the world (Sura 21:91). Maryam is all alone in the desert giving birth to Īsā. When she presents her newborn boy at the Jewish temple, he starts his prophecies convincing old Zechariah and other attending scribes that he was conceived without a mortal man.

Maryam and her adult baby son (©Der Spiegel)
In contrast, according to the oldest known text of the New Testament written in old Greek* we read in Luke 2:46 how Joseph and Mary were searching for twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem: And it came to pass after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions. These differences between the Quran and the Bible stories are obvious but not decisive.
*Called Codex Sinaiticus. It dates back to the 4th century and was discovered at the St. Catherine monastery located on the Sinai peninsula only in 1859

At the end of his life, Īsā ascends to heaven from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. No mention in the Quran of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. For Muslims, Īsā is just a prophet precursor of Muhammad, the latter outshining all previous prophets. How to explain the crucifixion? God told one of Jesus’s disciples that he will make him look like Īsā, and have him crucified. Were both Romans and Jews fooled? The gospel, no glad tidings but fake news?

Der Spiegel article continues describing in length the bloody disputes between Christians and Muslims, the Crusades and the Jihads, the fall of Constantinople, the Reconquista of Granada, the transformation of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and of the Alhambra into a cathedral. How many lives were lost how many objects of art destroyed.

In the end, Andrew Thomson, pastor of the Anglican church in Abu Dhabi, formulates an allegory, “It is the same God, but there are different entrance doors”.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Body and Soul

It is a tradition that Germany’s weekly magazines write about religious topics around Christmas time. So Die Zeit titled, Where does the soul reside ?” We are searching for it.

©Die Zeit
Greek philosophers located the soul - only humans are supposed to possess - in the heart, the brain, or even in our blood. That is what Mephistopheles meant when he said in Goethe’s Faust, “Blut is ein ganz besonderer Saft” (Blood is a quite peculiar juice).

For the monotheistic religions, the human soul is God’s Odem (breath of life) that we receive when we are born and that will leave our bodies at the moment of our deaths. More poetically said, “the soul is a droplet of a divine nature”, a definition acceptable for those who have their problem with a personal, fatherly god. In nearly all cultures the individual soul is something that will stay beyond death.

The soul is the place where we experience love, perceive happiness, discover beauty, have hope, feel pity, and desire another person. We suffer together with other people, donate on Christmas or for victims of an earthquake, and love our pets. May robots be more intelligent in solving problems or perfect in producing goods; they do it mechanically and are only intelligent electronically; they are without a soul.

Maybe we should consult Goethe on the meaning of soul. He wrote the following poem in 1779 while contemplating the Staubbach Falls at Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland:

Gesang der Geister über den Wassern

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Zur Erde muß es, ewig wechselnd.

Und Goethe lässt sein Gedicht enden:

Seele des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wind!

Song of the Spirits Over the Waters

The soul of man
Is like to water;
From Heaven it cometh,
To Heaven it riseth,
And then returneth
To earth, forever alternating.

And Goethe is ending his poem:

Soul of man mortal,
How art thou like water!
The fate of man mortal,
How art thou like the wind!

Did our national poet belief in transmigration?

On the lighter side; here are some pictures of this year's Christmas Market. Due to the poor light conditions I employed the HDMI technique for the first time.

The Market seen from my dentist's practice on a late and somewhat foggy morning.
Veterans of the Parnerschaftsmarkt know the site well.
In the back from right to left: St. Martin's church, and the two town halls,
built in Renaissance and in Historicism style, respectively.
In the background: St. Martin's church

Mulled wine in a simple and in a fancier cup

Santa and I wish you a Merry Christmas 

See also this.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Atoms for Peace

Red Baron happened to be in Geneva when in 1958 the United Nations hosted the Atoms for Peace Conference and Exhibition. During semester breaks I used to serve my father as a driver on his business trips. So we visited the exhibition and we were both impressed.

When I was looking for an illustrating picture - the slides I took at that time have long since faded - I came across a citation by Frederick Reines. He was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics for his detection of the neutrino in experiments he had conducted together with Clyde Cowan in 1956. So he surely had given a paper in Geneva in 1958. In 1996, following his Nobel Prize award, he came to CERN and gave a lecture that Red Baron attended.

Atoms for Peace had started with President Eisenhower’s speech at the United Nations in New York on December 8, 1953, expressing the conviction that from then on atomic energy would solely be used peacefully under the auspices of an atomic energy agency.

He said, “The atomic energy agency could be made responsible for the impounding, storage and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists will provide special safe conditions under which such a bank of fissionable material can be made essentially immune to surprise seizure.

“The more important responsibility of this atomic energy agency would be to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.

How far did we get? With respect to the first paragraph, the checks and inspections of fissionable material by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)* in their member states are thorough and efficient.
*established in 1957

Red Baron still remembers the nuclear inspectors visiting CERN to check the quantity and quality of the tons of depleted uranium (DU) the organization kept on its premises. Due to its high density, the material was and is still used in particle detectors as absorber or shielding material. Proudly the inspectors demonstrated their ingenuity showing that the degree of depletion of 235U was smaller in DU acquired from Russia than in material coming from the States, proving that the extraction of fissionable 235U from natural uranium was more efficient in the US.

These inspections were peanuts and fun for the men from Vienna, but what about checks in countries operating nuclear power reactors breeding fissionable plutonium as a by-product? There are states that meticulously grant IAEA inspectors access to all their nuclear stock, but a few countries are less open. The situation does not look so bright with Iran although the government agreed to inspections but is absolutely somber with North Korea openly building the hydrogen bomb.

One may think that at least Eisenhower’s hopes expressed in the second paragraph were fulfilled, i.e., applying atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. Today the euphoria of 1958 has considerably faded. Yes, there are powerful diagnostic tools in medicine based on radioactive tracers, but the use of radioactive materials in the therapy of cancer is already being more and more replaced by effective and more specific chemotherapies.

Finally, the use of nuclear power has developed into a major problem for future generations. The energy is not clean, producing radioactive waste for which we cannot guarantee safe storage at present. Red Baron has reported on this.

Three weeks ago the University of Chicago celebrated the 75th anniversary of Enrico Fermi‘s first successful nuclear reactor experiment in a structure beneath the viewing stands of a football field on December 2, 1942.

Enrico Fermi's reactor set up
During my professional life visiting Fermilab I made a pilgrimage to the site that is honored by a Henry Moore sculpture symbolizing an atomic mushroom - and a skull.

It is this mushroom, the portent of the atomic age, that Cai Gu-Quian, a 59-year-old Chinese artist who lives in New York and stages ephemeral art based on fireworks and gunpowder, wanted to simulate. About the event we read in the press:

Cai Guo-Qiang said: “In the 1990s, I used black gunpowder to create mushroom clouds, humankind’s most iconic visual symbol for the 20th century. These mushroom clouds formed part of my Projects for Extraterrestrials. Today, the color mushroom cloud symbolizes the paradoxical nature of employing nuclear energy: Who is it for?”

“The work dramatizes the creative and destructive forces of nuclear fission,” said Steward*. “It takes the iconic shape of nuclear energy’s most destructive form and animates it with color as a profound symbol of creativity and peace.”
*Laura Steward, curator at the Smart Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Chicago

Wosh ... (©UChicago)
Ah ... (©UChicago)
The mushroom (©UChicago)
Sorry, this event was just macabre and not at all colorful!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Shielding Democracies?

A selfie of Red Baron in front of the Carl-Schurz-Haus
 perturbed by the poster announcing the lecture
On Monday, Red Baron went to the Carl-Schurz-Haus to listen to a luncheon talk by Laura Daniels, “Shielding Democracies From Hacking and Disinformation.”

The Director of the CSH, Friederike Schulte, introduced the speaker. Laura currently is the German Chancellor Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) in Berlin.

Here is the first paragraph of her abstract: States have long tried to influence one another, at times through subversive means. Today, reports of hacking and leaking, “fake news” propagated by bots and false accounts, rumors of foreign funding to extremist parties, and other similar tactics have caused alarm in Western democracies. These methods have elicited comparisons to Soviet “active measures”—or subversive operations—which appear to be back in business and benefitting from a technological upgrade.

While Laura was reminding us about Soviet subversive activities during the Cold War, giving many examples of Russian interference in recent years, and elaborating on her research on the present situation when Russia has possibly influenced US, German, and French elections, my thoughts strayed.

Do not our own governments blur information we are entitled to? For me, Afghanistan is one of the continuing bad examples. As an ancillary of the US forces, German troops are sent to the Hindu Kush and meant to educate local forces in their fight against the Taliban. Have we seen any progress? Let's face it. Over the years the military situation in Afghanistan has not improved; it has remained stable at best.

The Obama administration slowly started withdrawing troops from the region in 2011, but this was not sufficient for Donald Trump who tweeted in January 2013: Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.

In December 2014 he became more aggressive: Now Obama is keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year. He is losing two wars simultaneously.

One year later he tweeted: A suicide bomber has just killed U.S. troops in Afghanistan. When will our leaders get tough and smart? We are being led to slaughter!

Wikipedia reports: In the middle of June 2017 newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military decision making authority over troop numbers for U.S. military operations in Syria, Iraq. and Afghanistan. The new authority includes increasing the current troop level cap beyond the 8,400 U.S. troops authorized as of July 2017.

POTUS confirmed his about-turn in August 2017, tweeting: Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.

Germany wholeheartedly followed in the wake of the U.S. with respect to a reduction of its troops; it will now be difficult to increase the German quota again, in particular when we still have no government.

Why does nobody officially tell us that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won? Remember the British moved out a first time in 1842, came back later, and definitely left in 1919. The Soviet Union moved in in 1979 and gave up in 1989, leaving Afghanistan in turmoil. When eventually the Taliban had taken over the region the U.S., later reinforced by NATO troops, intervened in 2001 but they will not stay either. So why not regard the Education Mission "Democracy" as finished and bring our troops home?

Sorry, this was not the topic of Laura‘s talk. In the last part, she elaborated on the application of modern methods and techniques used to interfere with democratic elections (U.S.?) and political decisions (Brexit?). From experience, it seems that the „attacker“ is always one step ahead of the „defender“.

The ensuing discussion was lively, and the curry luncheon opened the way to many individual conversations.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lead Us Not into Temptation

Our Lord’s Prayer is something all Christians have in common. In Germany Catholics and Protestants pray the same text, „und führe uns nicht in Versuchung“ (and lead us not into temptation).

Already as a kid, I felt uneasy, "How is it possible that Our Father in Heaven leads us into temptation?" Year in, year out I am saying the same text in German, English, and French, in Catholic messes, Protestant services, at funerals, and baptisms almost mechanically but I am still hesitating when it comes to, „and lead us not into temptation.“

A better translation into modern Lower German?
"Let us not come off your law and make us free from all that hurts us."(©Wikipedia)
This is why I was electrified by Pope Francis‘s praise for the French bishops when they changed the text „Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation“ into „Et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation“ (And let us not fall into temptation).

Francis’s argumentation goes like this, „God does not tempt you. The Lord only tries you with good gifts to draw you to Himself. You misinterpret the words when you think that God is leading you to a temptation, to try you. No. The gracious Father in heaven admits evil, but he does not create it. He is the good, from which all goodness springs forth. But there is evil. It exists since the moment Lucifer rose up against God. It is up to you to make good out of evil by defeating it and asking the divine Father for the power to defeat it.

I am the one that falls, but it is not Him who leads me into temptation. A father does not do such a thing. A father helps you to get up again. The one who leads you in temptation is Satan.

What a Protestant view! Luther would have been delighted for he was obsessed by Satan. Whenever something went wrong in his reformatory drive it was the devil himself who was fighting him. The revolting farmers had Satan in them and the obstinate Jews were young devils and therefore condemned.

So finally from now on, we will pray the Lord, “make that we do not fall into temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen.“

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sein Kampf

You are reading correctly: His Struggle and not My Struggle. Why this is so will become clear below. Red Baron wrote about Hitler‘s Mein Kampf before. In Germany, it was forbidden to print this infamous book until 2015.

Following my retirement in 2000, I decided to read Hitler’s book because I wanted to understand why my people had been following such a rabble-rouser. What I found was an electronic copy in German on an American website and I read the downloaded text.

I was disgusted but part of Hitler‘s writing remained incomprehensible since I did not understand the historical context. I remember that I had been in the same situation as a student when I was reading an un-commentated copy of Bismarck‘s autobiography Gedanken und Erinnerungen. Even worse was my experience with Goethe‘s Dichtung und Wahrheit. In all these books much of the text remains cryptic without knowledgeable footnotes or comments by competent historians or literary scholars.

This was the reason that in 2010 the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich, financially supported by the Freistaat Bayern, decided to publish a commented and critical edition of Mein Kampf assuming that only libraries and history specialists would acquire this book. The result of the work were two volumes for the price of 135 euros that the institute published on January 8, 2016. Red Baron immediately ordered a copy but had to wait three months before the second edition had been printed. In the meantime, the institute has sold 85.000 copies of the 2000 page volumes. The revenues are for the benefit of victims of National Socialism.

Last Saturday the Badische Zeitung titled Affirmation of Antisemitism related to the contents of a book by Jeremy Adler, scholar and professor emeritus at London’s King’s College, “The Absolute Evil.” The author violently criticizes IfZ’s editing work of Mein Kampf, e.g., for not commenting on negative sentences regarding the Jews.

For me Hitler’s phrases, “Jews are belonging to a race and are not defined by their religion, they pillage their fellow human beings, and are driven by naked egoism”, are clear statements of hate and need not be commented even for today’s readers. They clearly prove Hitler’s brutal antisemitism. That these statements are not negatively commented does not at all compromise the careful work of the IfZ.

Adler continues his struggle (seinen Kampf), “In Mein Kampf Hitler mixes the theory of state with Darwinism, Enlightenment with political Romanticism, and the ideal of education with racism in an unbearable way.” This is exactly what makes Hitler’s book so indigestible and where the IfZ has focused on with its meticulous source study.

Adler culminates in the statement, “Absolute evil cannot be edited.” This remark only shows that Adler has not understood the work of the IfZ. Its task was not to evaluate Mein Kampf that hundreds of historians have done before but to comment the book in such a way that future generations will still find access to its contents.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Here comes the promised post about pumpernickel, the black bread from Westphalia that has a unique baking process and a funny name so popular with anglophone people. Chris Howland, sporting his English accent on German radio, was a well-known disk jockey in the 1960s. He nicknamed himself, Heinrich Pumpernickel.

Some people still claim that Napoleon - being blamed for everything* - coined the word when he - on his way to Hamburg, capital of the then French Département de bouche de l'Elbe - stayed for lunch at a small Westphalian village. The local peasants offered him the local black bread. The emperor took it in his hands, took a smell, and is claimed to have said, "Bon pour Nickel," pointing to his horse named Nickel.
*According to the German playwright and filmmaker Curt Goetz: Napoleon ist an allem Schuld (Napoleon Is to Blame for Everything)

The peasants did not quite understand what Napoleon meant and would have been annoyed by his statement that their bread was only good for horses. The imperial words, however, pleased them, so from now on, they called their dark bread pumpernickel.

The story is a hoax. It was the papal nuncio Fabio Chigi who first mentioned pumpernickel. When in 1644 - on his way to Münster where he attended the Westphalian Peace negotiations - he lunched at the Wittlerbaum Inn at Bocholt. Chigi summarized his experience as follows, "The people of Westphalia call their dark bread pompernickel, an almost inhumane food even for peasants and beggars."

And Goethe, describing his Campaign in France, tells the following story. His boss, the Duke of Weimar, had ordered his prime minister to accompany him as an embedded reporter during the campaign of the Princes' Alliance against the French Revolutionary Army. In France, Goethe felt captured in a bad dream zwischen Koth und Noth, Mangel und Sorge, Gefahr und Qual, zwischen Trümmern, Leichen, Äsern und Scheishaufen (between shit and misery, lack and sorrow, danger and anguish, between rubble, corpses, graves, and turds). Eventually, Goethe became depressed when the Alliance suffered a defeat against the French Republic at Valmy, and the troops had to retire.

On his way back home from his campaign, Goethe was passing through Westphalia, where the streets were full of aristocratic French refugees. The local population did not like the foreigners who, despite their humiliation and threatening poverty, had kept their arrogance and immodesty.

While taking a rest at a rural inn, Goethe noticed a modest young Frenchman obviously underway on foot eating his frugal meal and that, when he paid, the landlord cut his bill in half. When Goethe inquired why, the landlord explained, "He is the first one of these blasted people who has eaten pumpernickel. He had to benefit from it."

In southern Germany, pumpernickel is sold in supermarkets thinly sliced and packaged.

Does he prefer the dark pumpernickel to the blond girl?
Below is a typical pumpernickel dish. It is best sandwiched with half of a crusty roll, and in this case, the fillings are Serrano ham* on the right and pork lard refined with roasted onions and apples (f*ck cholesterol) on the left. Although Red Baron prefers flavorful craft beer, here, a mildly hopped Landbier (country-style beer) is the ideal accompanying beverage.
*Westphalian and Black Forest hams are too salty

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NS Documentation Center

Red Baron is dedicating this blog to a friend who indefatigably digs into Freiburg's Nazi past. The city owes him a number of commemorative plaques - he partly financed himself - located at sites of shame. As an example, here is a photo of the plaque that was put up on his persisting demand inside the Basler Hof, a historical building on Freiburg's Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.

Built in 1496 by Emperor Maximilian‘s treasurer Konrad Stürtzel, the building housed Basel's cathedral chapter from 1587 to 1678 when they had fled their city as a result of the turmoils caused by the Reformation. Later the Habsburg governors of the Vorlande (forelands, i.e., far away from Vienna) resided in the Basler Hof until in 1806 the administration of the Grand Duchy of Baden took over and moved into the premises. As its last resort, Baden’s revolutionary government worked in the building from June 24, to July 7, 1849.

Stürtzel‘s city palace continued to accommodate governmental institutions. From 1933 to 1941 the Gestapo (Nazi Secret State Police) carried out its inhumane acts of mistreatment and torture in the basement. While Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) remind passing people outside the building the commemorative plaque informs the visitor inside about the Nazi past.

Basler Hof in the 1930s (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof following the disastrous air raid on November 27, 1944 (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof rebuilt
Since long my friend has been struggling with the creation of a Nazi documentation center in Freiburg. I will never forget when a couple of years ago at a New Year's reception for our part of town my friend approached Mayor Salomon asking him for support of such a center. The Mayor’s answer was abrupt, "I have no money."

My friend never gives up. Constant dripping wears the stone and the exhibition Nationalsozialismus (NS) in Freiburg not only turned out to be a great popular success (Red Baron reported) but also turned the tide. Following a lecture by my friend explaining his ideas of a NS documentation center, all parties presented at the municipal council eventually sent a letter to Mayor Salomon writing, "We know about the great challenge for a documentation center to be up to its mission, i.e., acquainting future generations with Freiburg's NS past." The mayor said, "The municipal council gave us a mandate and we will start working on some ideas we had already developed before.“

Note: The other "we", the citizens of Freiburg, shall elect a new mayor or re-elect the old one on April 22, 2018. Let's face it, Dr. Salomon is starting his election campaign early.

Money shall be earmarked for the center in the municipal budget of 2018/19. As for the future site, some people proposed the basement of the Basler Hof, others regard the former Gestapo basement used for torturing people as inappropriate for the future NS documentation center.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kieser Training

Say yes to a strong body (©Kieser Training)
Red Baron has blogged about Kieser Training before. This time I would like to present a photo showing me among others listening to a lecture about better sleep.

©Kieser Training
Generally, people at Kieser Training are not listening to lectures. They instead come to Kiesers Therapieräume für Medizinische Kräftigungstherapie (Therapy rooms for medical strengthening therapy) working out their muscles. Mind you, we, mostly elderly women and men, are no longer building our aging and aching bodies but are struggling hard trying to maintain our muscular leftovers.

When I moved into a new apartment in fall 2007, I met a neighbor who was looking at my sorrowful countenance and said: Sie müssen zu Kieser (You must train at Kieser‘s).

I followed his advice while he - already straining his muscles at Kieser‘s - got a bounty for his successful proselytizing that we spent together with our wives on a lunch. Since then, we have become friends and celebrated our four birthdays during a year with joint lunches. I am grateful to my friend for his advice. Sadly he passed away lately. In his memory, we, the remaining, are keeping up the lunches.

And I continue to do my 90 minutes twice a week at Kieser Training.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Try Again in 136 Years

This is a rounded figure for the original message was “Send quota exceeded, try again in 4294967295 seconds”. It was popping up on my screen when I tried to send you the usual e-mail, announcing two new blogs.
©Deutsche Telekom
In the past Red Baron has already had many struggles with his Internet provider Deutsche Telekom. The present problem seemed to be a recurrent one. Already three years ago a similar message appeared although the time lapse then given was only 46800 seconds so the following morning I was able to send e-mails again. The reason was that the Magenta Giant had allowed me to send only 200 e-mails per months. When I complained that being a member of various associations I frequently had to send group e-mails Telekom technicians flipped a switch on their server and solved the problem.

What had happened this time?

On November 14, Telekom had changed my telephone from ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network ) to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) so I was suspicious that the troublemaker was the switch on their server again.

When I called the Telekom hotline on November 19, the guy on the other end told me that the strange message was not their problem but a problem with Microsoft's Outlook mail program. I should rather call their specialists.

When I insisted, he gave me another special Telekom number. On the other end of the line, a girl took note writing down the above error message promising that a specialist would soon look into the matter and call me back.

In vain was I waiting for the telephone call during the evening so I called back Telekom the following morning. Same scenario: they will study the problem and call me back.

During the morning I looked as silly as those few other people carrying their mobile phone from machine to machine while working their muscles at Kieser Training*.
*A blog about Kieser Training is in the pipeline

Luckily nobody had called me during my training session but the telephone rang when I was at home having lunch. I was not at all prepared and had to switch on my PC first, but the friendly lady on the other end told me not to hurry and worry. Thanks to SSD the booting of my PC only required 25 seconds and soon the lady and Red Baron were in business. She really opened my eyes guiding me to a magenta-colored bar and showed me (Honi soit qui mal y pense) that my e-mail storage on the Telekom server had reached 1 GByte so rien ne va plus.

There were amazement and disbelief on my side but in a certain sense, the first guy was right although he did not tell me how to cure an obvious MS Outlook bug. I use to delete very old e-mails on my PC on a regular basis but they still remained on the Telekom server in spite of an IMAP (Interactive Mail Access Protocol) account!

The Telekom lady on-line showed me how to squeeze their server so that deleted e-mails are gone forever. One actually can set time limits ranging from 3 to 90 days for keeping mail elements on the server before they are automatically deleted.

However, it was not over yet, for the next attempt to send a group mail failed with the known error message. Since most of the Telekom service technicians kept harping on MS Outlook I eventually transported the blog address list to the Telekom mail program sending my group e-mail to you from there last night.

Sending the group e-mail again failed but now a different message popped up informing me that I had exceeded the allowed quota of 100 e-mail addresses in a month within my present contract. At the same time, Telekom offered me an upgrade of space and number of e-mails on their server that I will never need. I grudgingly accepted their proposal although being sure that during the recent month I did not send e-mails to more than 100 addresses.

This morning my group e-mail passed using MS Outlook ... hurrah, I am back in business again.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Red Baron has always been an admirer and supporter of the Freiburg Minster church and of its steeple, the most beautiful in the world (der schönste Turm der Welt) according to Jacob Burckhardt.

When I moved to Freiburg in 2001, I noticed that the Münsterbauverein (MBV, Minster Building Association) was not presented on the Internet. So I built their first homepage that was eventually replaced in 2012 by a more professional presentation, sic, made by professionals.

As remuneration, the MBV presented me with a slice of an original medieval pinnacle that I proudly present on my balcony.

Note the stonemason's mark.

Last year the MBV invited their members to become more financially active by reviving the position of the medieval Münsterpfleger (Caretaker of the Minster).

Eventually, I received a photo of my investiture as Münsterpfleger. Red Baron is wearing too small a cape that was only available for the photo shooting. The picture was taken on the fringe of the opening of an exhibition of gargoyles from the Minster church.

©Daniel Schoenen/MBV

Here are some highlights of the gargoyle exhibition. Gargoyles on medieval cathedrals like the woman with only one tooth are supposed to deter evil spirits. During the early Reformation, nuns left their convents and frequently married runaway monks, so the gargoyle got a particular interpretation. The rumor spread that only nuns with teeth were allowed to marry. In this sense, the water-spouting nun presents her single remaining tooth: Look, I am still available for marriage.

One tooth only
Aufhocker (crouchers) are a popular motif for gargoyles on medieval churches depicting people having nightmares. Humans or wild animals are crouching on people giving them bad dreams.

The oldest gargoyle at the Minster church dates from 1240
A billy goat crouching on a man as the symbol of lust (wet dreams?)
The sow as a symbol of gluttony
Blecken, i.e., showing the butt
was a well-known motif in the Middle Ages to deter evil spirits.
Nowadays the word blecken is used only in the combination of Zähne blecken:
A dog bares its teeth.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Luther and the German Language

Luther und die deutsche Sprache. In yesterday‘s lecture, Professor Lobenstein-Reichmann defended her three theses instead of Martin Luther’s 95:

I. Although frequently claimed: Luther did not invent the German language

II. Luther did not foster a unification of the German language

III. Luther hat dem Volk nicht aufs Maul geschaut (did not look at the peoples‘ mouths). Therefore he was neither a linguistic genius nor a ruffian.

1. In spite of the many dialects, people in German territories understood each other in Frühneuhochdeutsch (Early New High German) well before Luther. The famous Heidelberg Disputation of 1518 saw Luther from Saxony discussing with Alsatian theologians speaking their Alemannic dialect because Philip, Duke of Palatinate-Neuburg, their host, did not understand Latin, the lingua franca of the Middle Ages.

The Luther Triangle. The thick horizontal line represents the border between Low and High German dialects
2. Germany‘s linguistic atlas shows that Luther was working in the middle of the German-speaking territory. His German was certainly influenced by the many scholars from all regions sitting with Luther and his wife Käthe (Katharina) at the table for lunch and dinner where the reformer held his famous Tischgespräche (table talks). So he certainly did not write, as one often reads, in Meißen‘s Kanzleistil (office style), although in Hamburg somebody trying to „upgrade“ his Low German elocution with High German words is said to talk missingsch, i. e., meißnerisch.

Luther‘s choice of words was not guided by the most extended distribution pattern. So he proposed the less frequent Lippe (lip) instead of the widespread Lefze (chaps), although the latter word is still known today as the lip of wild animals and jokingly used in the case of humans.

In the case of Geißel (scourge) used by Luther in his German Bible, the Slavic Peitsche (whip) became the winner. In modern language, Geißel is only religiously known or used in a figurative sense.

In his translation of the Bible into German, Luther‘s driving force was instead: How do I best convey the verity of the Gospel? In his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (Epistle about Translation), he clearly states that translation means the transmission of evangelical truth.

3. In his concern for spreading the Gospel, Luther used the German language that he thought was appropriate to the occasion. He always wrote with an eye toward his potential readers. For him language and theology were interlaced.

Here is a nice example: Lieber Bapst, man soll dich bescheissen und an die Sonne setzen und lassen wider trocken werden, dass ich mit gutem gewissen jnen für einen Fartzesel und Gottes feind halten mag. Mich kan er nicht für einen esel halten, denn er weiß, das ich von Gottes sonder gnaden gelerter bin in der Schrifft (Dear pope, one should shit on you, place you in the sun, and let you dry so that with a good conscience I may take you for a farting donkey and God‘s foe. He cannot take me for a donkey for he knows that I am knowledgeable in the Gospel thanks to God‘s special grace).

In olden days Luther’s Bible often was the only book in a Protestant home. The fact that during long winter evenings somebody knowledgeable read some text to all others in the household established a common High German vocabulary during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformation Jubilee

It is finished.

Yesterday, on Reformation Day, Germany lived through the climax of the Year of Luther that had started on October 31, 2016. The 500th anniversary of Luther posting 95 theses at Wittenberg against the abuse of indulgence by the Catholic Church gave the nation an extra holiday. Elisabeth and I used the sunny day to fill our pantry in neighboring France.

We did so not out of disrespect but knowing that the Reformation will continue beyond October 31, 2017, both spiritually and by a series of talks to be given at Freiburg’s university examining various consequences of Luther’s feats.

Luther's personality is dazzling; he, who announced the Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (On the freedom of a Christian), i.e., the freedom of a person to find his individual way to God, was at the same time intolerant and brutal against the established Roman Church, Calvinists, Jews, and others who refused to follow his ideas. He admits in his own words: Ich bin dazu geboren, das ich mit den rotten und teuffeln mus kriegen und zu felde ligen, darumb meiner bücher viel stürmisch und kriegerisch sind. Ich mus die klötze und stemme ausrotten, dornen und hecken weg hawen, die pfützen ausfullen und bin der grobe waldrechter, der die ban brechen und zurichten muss (I am born to wage war and I am at war with with hordes and devils, therefore my books are pretty stormy and warlike. I have to destroy stumps and trunks, chop away thornbushes and hedges, fill in puddles. I am the coarse lumberman clearing and tilling fresh ground).

Red Baron, educated as a Catholic in his youth, shared Lutheran ideas as an adolescent, arriving at the conclusion that the Church can only give guidance. Everybody has to find his/her individual way to God. I thoroughly studied the Bible starting in my first school year with a book full of stories and wood carvings. Later I read the Luther Bible in its original version and loved Luther's powerful language. I am still proud that when discussing religion with a Mormon colleague, I was the guy with the more profound biblical knowledge. Was he fixated instead on the Book of Mormon?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fight Fake News

Fake news has become a German word. Our Zeitungsente (newspaper hoax) is just wrong news, sometimes with a funny touch, while fake news has the connotation of being made up deliberately. Fake news is what in German would be called quite clumsily a vorsätzliche Falschmeldung. The shorter word Lügenpresse (lying press) is burdened with a Nazi past, so the American term fake news came in handy and has been adopted.

Local newspapers in Germany’s southwest have started a campaign with the strange slogan “Jedes Wort wert” meaning and translated “My newspaper is worth every word”. Strange indeed, for German readers generally have confidence in black-on-white print media along the lines of the statement of Faust’s famulus in Goethe’s theater play:

Denn was man schwarz auf weiß besitzt,
kann man getrost nach Hause tragen.
What we possess in black on white,
We can take home in confidence.

Fake news pollutes the political climate, and so many a man accuses the media as the source of all evil. Long-gone civilizations killed the messenger bearing bad news. Would a silencing of the sources be a remedy against fake news? Was there not a statement regarding the revoking of TV licenses?

Visiting the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) as a student, Red Baron experienced the making up of “facts” by communist trade union officials during a political discussion. Suddenly I found myself in a situation producing fake news. too. There is no excuse, but as a young man helpless as a kitten on the roof, I tried to beat my adversaries with their own weapons.

It is honorable that my local newspaper claims it is worth every word. Although I spend some time after breakfast reading the Badische Zeitung, the significance of its printed information* is quite variable for me. Browsing the NYT and Der Spiegel on-line makes printed national and international news in the BZ generally outdated. So I start with the arts and culture section followed by local news, although reports on traffic accidents do not interest me since they are interchangeable.
*My subscription includes the electronic version too. So when away from home I am informed about what is going on at home.

While fake news in the German press has rarely been no issue up to now, our media are instead accused of manipulating the news. Well, this is not news; haven’t media always done this? Their biased reporting is said in particular to have strengthened the new right-wing AfD* in the run-up to our recent general election. By spreading the story that members of the party were treated badly, the media were pushing them into the role of victims. Fact is that by their provocative right-wing statements and actions, members of the AfD deliberately place themselves into the role of martyrs seeking the pity bonus. Dealing with the AfD is a no-win situation, for ignoring them will make them pitiably, attacking them politically will lead to endless debates and to situations similar to what I experienced in the GDR.
*Alternative for Germany

The first showdown with the AfD at our newly elected Bundestag ended in a stalemate. Each parliamentary group, i.e., party represented in the federal parliament, has the right to propose a speaker of the house who will be deputy to the speaker proposed by the party with most seats. The "main" speaker, second in line to our federal president, is generally endorsed by most of the other members of parliament.

At the opening session of the new Bundestag, most deputies of the other parties refused the accreditation of the AfD’s candidate for deputy speaker in three consecutive ballots, pushing the guy into the role of martyr. His stigma? He had violated the Article 4 of our constitution (Grundgesetz) about religious freedom by denying people the right to practice their Muslim faith in Germany. Sadly, this is not fake news.

Frederick the Great living in the 18th century was more tolerant, writing in his rudimentary German: Alle Religionen sind gleich und guth, wan nuhr die leüte, so sie professieren, ehrliche leüte seindt, und wenn Türken und Heiden kähmen und Wolten das Landt pöplieren, so wollen Wir sie Mosqeen und Kirchen baun, Fr. (All religions are equal and good as long as the people adhering to them are honest people. And if Turks and heathens came to populate the land, we will build them mosques and churches, Frederick)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Socialism for Pedestrians

and communism ad nauseam. Here comes the blog announced earlier containing what I learned on the bus ride to Zürich about socialism and communism.

Karl Marx did not invent socialism, a word that most Americans abhor. Socialist ideas were articulated much earlier by the 1848/49 revolutionaries among others. Here is the translation of the decisive paragraph of an article published in Der Festungs-Bote No 10. It was the last newspaper printed in besieged Fort Rastatt towards the end of the Baden Revolution crushed by Prussian troops on July 18, 1849:

What is a social democracy and what is its aim?

Democracy alone will give us neither jobs nor bread, it will not pay the interest on our debts, it will not liberate us from sorrows and sufferings, for when trying to bring the people to power it always stumbles against the disproportion of property, of possession. Socialism tries to solve this disproportion by creating equality ... According to the socialists, the distribution of goods shall depend on work. Thereby the best possible equality among people shall be achieved. Each hardworking, decent, industrious man shall have the opportunity to acquire sufficient property to assure him a reasonable enjoyment of life...

This is the gist of modern socialism, whereas Karl Marx in his main work Das Kapital instead tried to give a scientific basis to communism. While in socialism people should have the opportunity to acquire sufficient property to assure them a reasonable enjoyment of life, in communism private property is limited to a few personal belongings.

Marx among his books (©Andreas Höfert)
According to Marx’s theory man* is a working social being. Man should find his personal fulfillment in his work, but he becomes alienated because the product of his labor does not belong to him. So he regards work as a burden. Although man is the brother of his fellow men, he becomes estranged from them mostly because of the private property he owns.
* For the sake of political correctness replace man by woman, he by she, himself by herself etc.

In communism, private property does not exist and all people are supposed to be equal. So man will eventually recognize himself as a human being. While in capitalism a minority dominates a majority, in communism a dictatorship of the proletariat will rule, a situation that Lenin called full democracy*. Communism will give peace, work, freedom, equality, and happiness to the world.
*In countries of the communist block after 1945 the term Volksdemokratie (people’s democracy) was coined.

During the revolutionary uprisings in Europe in March 1848, Marx lived in Vienna as a correspondent of the Cologne-based radical newspaper Rheinische Zeitung (Rhineland News). The working class living in the suburbs of the Austrian capital was the driving force of the uprising, in contrast to the revolution led by the bourgeoisie in other German regions and cities. Marx, who together with his sponsor Friedrich Engels had published the Communist Manifesto in February 1848, was all excited, imagining that the predicted proletarian revolution had come. However, it turned out that in Vienna the national guard and militia were fighting side by side against the enraged workers, protecting the private property of the bourgeoisie.

Marx was disappointed. Living in exile in London near the end of his life, he nevertheless had high hopes that Britain’s industrial workers would try the proletarian uprising. Marx, however, had not reckoned with reforming governments and clever factory owners. They appeased social tensions, agreeing with trade unions on increases in wages and reductions in working hours that in Marx's opinion were only peanuts. A good example is Bismarck's social legislation in the 1880s.

Lenin, in exile in Zürich, was well aware of this and concluded that the proletariat will not start a revolution. Is the working class just sluggish, lulled by their trade unions, or are workers even dumb?

When Lenin arrived in Petrograd in April 1917, he used his Bolshevik party to point the way for the working class, i.e., forced them to their happiness. Note that the Russian population at that time counted only 5% industrial workers but 80% peasants, so the proletariat was the serfs, not the workers. Without hesitation Lenin used the oppressed peasantry as auxiliaries of the revolution, pushing his April Theses:

All power to the Soviets,
Immediate peace with Austria and Germany
All land belongs to the peasants
All factories are controlled by the workers
Banks are nationalized
Creation of a Soviet Republic
Foundation of a revolutionary Internationale
Agitation and enlightenment of the masses and winning of a Bolshevik majority

From now on the slogan was peace, freedom, land, and bread.

Lenin usurped the bourgeois revolution of February 1917 and organized the October putsch against the provisional Russian government, a putsch that later became glorified as the October Revolution. The resulting war between the Bolshevik Red Army and the opposing White Army lasted until October 1922, when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was eventually formed.

During the Russian civil war, no side took any prisoners. At the end more than eight million people were dead. Lenin did not live out his dream, for he died already in 1924 when Stalin took over.

So far all attempts at communist rule have suffered from the discrepancy between promises and “really existing socialism”. Human nature will always result in a nomenklatura, where some people are more equal than others.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Atdorf at Rest

Solar and wind energy require storage facilities to bridge periods when the non-fossil energy sources are not available. A most elegant solution is to use existing water reservoirs already producing electricity and upgrade them with water pumps. The latter will be turned on when there is surplus electrical energy from renewable sources, pumping water uphill back into the reservoir.

With the need for electricity in Germany’s south that is produced by off-shore wind parks in Germany’s north, local storage facilities are welcome. To this end, an artificial water reservoir near Atdorf in the south of the Black Forest is in the planning stage. Red Baron has reported about the compromised Atdorf project that has now been put to rest definitively. One Green deputy in Baden Württemberg's state parliament called the Atdorf's exitus "extremely regrettable. The decision is economically comprehensible but unwise in terms of energy policy".

Artist's view of the upper and lower water reservoir near Atdorf (©Der Sonntag)
In fact, the decisive arguments for stopping the project were economic. With the cost of electricity way down in Europe, the 1.6 billion euros for the construction of the Atdorf facility are just too high. Its capacity, on the other hand, is too small. A fully filled Atdorf reservoir would produce electricity at full power for a mere nine hours. In the meantime, Germany's continuous electricity supply is assured by many small gas-fired power plants. A final argument is that surplus renewable energy is more and more stored economically either in second-generation batteries or by producing hydrogen or methane electrochemically.

R.I.P. Atdorf, and the Black Forest stays green.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Peeing Like in the Wild West

was the title of an article in Freiburg‘s Official Journal. As an illustration, the Amtsblatt printed the following photo:

©Amtsblatt/ A.J. Schmidt
I blogged about the prairie project at the Mundenhof animal park before. Here are some more details. Next year Freiburg's partnership with Madison, Wisconsin celebrates its 30 years of existence. On this behalf, the two sister city committees intend to import some prairie feeling to the Mundenhof.

At present, there are only 270 square meters (0.07 acres) of European prairie land growing on water-permeable gravel soil. European grasses and shrubs generally bloom in summer while American prairie species are proud of the Indian summer. Short- and high-grass indigenous American plants will be seeded on an adjacent surface of an additional 700 square meters (0.17 acres).

In some sort of funny remark, the article in the Amtsblatt referred to the bisons at the Mundenhof as country-specific fertilizers. Well, first of all, the calf does not seem to appreciate his/her mother peeing in front of him/her. Secondly with the small surface of land involved overfertilization may already be a problem at present.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017


When Red Baron read the above announcements he was all excited. Marillenknödel are not simply apricot dumplings. I had them once made in Geneva 25 years ago by an Austrian lady as the main course and still remember the taste of this juicy delight (Marcel Proust sends his regards). Already the name Marillenknödel sounds the k. and k. Monarchy (Austro-Hungarian Empire) for Marillen harvested in Austria are quite different from Aprikosen picked in Germany.

Afraid of being late with my inscription to the event I immediately choose October 1, as my date, but soon felt frustrated being informed that due to the lack of participants my date had to be advanced. When I went to the Augustinermuseum to buy my voucher I was told that in order to achieve a quorum of six participants they had finally moved me back to square one, i.e., October 1.

When at 5 p.m. the museum closed our group of only five started the scheduled guided tour of the exhibition Greiffenegg und Ramberg. Having already seen the exhibition twice I was the only person not having regrets when exactly at 5.15 p.m. all the lights went off in the exhibition hall. Following a long wait, the lighting could only be partly reestablished. While you can admire the graphic highlights in my earlier blog our guide had to use the light of his smartphone illuminating for us the most interesting drawings.

Later we walked up to the Greiffenegg-Schlössle and read on a sign that the restaurant was closed. However, when we opened the door we were well received being the only guests of the evening.

Improvised Greiffenegg drink instead of Ramberg aperitif
As an aperitif, the house offered the, on the occasion of the exhibition newly created, Ramberg drink with gin, tonic water, and peppermint leaves. However, our charming service lady soon came back and announced that tonic water was off.  Instead of Ramberg, the chef had prepared a drink baptized Greiffenegg based on Gewürztraminer wine on the rocks plus peppermint leaves. Here again, I had no regrets having tasted the Ramberg drink on another occasion. Both drinks need getting used to.

For the k. and k. three-course dinner I wanted to order an Austrian wine but in its absence, I finally opted for a white Burgundy from the vineyards on Freiburg's Schlossberg we were looking at while dining.

Salad of chanterelles, walnuts, and pears
The first course was so excellent that we asked ourselves whether there would be any further escalation.

Fillet of beef Esterhàzy-style and potato galettes
And there was. Red Baron had the best fillet of beef since years and could have used the double quantity of an incredible sauce.

I was overwhelmed and thinking: Why are only so few of my countrymen/women embracing the idea of a combined cultural-gastronomical event? The Greiffenegg-Ramberg exhibition comes to a close today but will be followed by one devoted to Rembrandt's graphics. Will the Augustinermuseum give the idea of a combined event another try?

Came in the Marillenknödel. I was in such a high mood that I forgot to take a photo of the dish. It was a nice dessert but did regrettably not revive my souvenir. At the end, chef and service united at our table and we were all praise. What a memorable afternoon and evening!

Applause, applause