Monday, April 23, 2018

A Bomb Has Exploded

The final result of yesterday’s election for the post of Freiburg's mayor came as a bombshell. Incumbent Dr. Dieter Salomon is only in second place beaten by young hopeful Martin Horn. Left-liberal Monika Stein came in a strong third and is within striking distance.

Martin Horn in front of that Conveted Object of Desire (©dpa)
Since none of the candidates reached the absolute majority of the votes a second ballot will be necessary. On May 6, a simple majority will be sufficient to become Freiburg’s new mayor.

Yesterday morning Elisabeth and Red Baron went to the Walter Eucken school building to cast our votes. The hand-painted poster* that we saw on the way was spelling trouble. Tenants and expensive rents are the Achilles’ heel of Freiburg’s administration. To a great extent, the authorities are helpless that the city’s high attractiveness goes along with scarce housing space and ever climbing rents.
*No tenant will vote for Salomon

At his rather muted election party, Salomon reacted, “There is a great deal of dissatisfaction with urban development. Many people know that Freiburg needs to grow, but they do not like it.” He continued his analysis, “For many citizens, the first vote was just a stance election. Now it will depend on how the political field is sorted,” and finished optimistically, “In the first ballot I got a shot in front of the bow, in the second ballot one will choose correctly.”

Correctly? From your lips to the voters’ ears.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bluetooth 6.0?

No, this blog refers to Harald Blåtand, aka Harald den Gode (910-987), King of Denmark who sported a discolored tooth and united the Danish territories by Christianizing his kingdom.

Harald Blåtand on a fresco in Roskilde cathedral, Denmark (©NDR)
Harald is regarded as a master of communication and therefore the well-known Bluetooth protocol for data transfer over short distances bears his name.

Logo med runerne (runes) for = H og (and) = B, Harald Blåtands initialer ©Wikipedia
I am not going to annoy you with my mixed Bluetooth experience starting with 1.0 that never worked for me. I rather like to inform you about a silver treasure that according to archeologists could have belonged to King Harald. More than 600 silver coins, necklaces, pearls, brooches, bracelets, and rings were recently dug out on the island of Rügen. The oldest coin, a Damascus dirham, dates to 714, and the newest is a penny from 983.

It was a 13-year old student who started it all in January finding a piece of metal that looked to him like a piece of aluminum. He showed his find to an accompanying hobby archeologist who cleaned the piece and was thunderstruck.

Digging on 400 square meters on the island of Rügen (©NDR)
Three months later it was clear that the piece of silver is part of a treasure, which could have come from King Harald. It was Harald Blåtand who in his thrive to unite the Danes asked for help from the Church, had his subjects baptized, places of worship built, and coins imprinted with Christian symbols. His son, Sweyn Forkbeard (965-1014), however, remained stuck in the Norse mythology of the Vikings. Soon the father-son conflict about faith and succession developed into a war. After Bluetooth had lost a battle in 986 against his son in the Baltic he fled to Pomerania where he died a year later. It is possible that he buried the treasure on his run.

A small part of the Rügen treasure (©NDR)
Hobby archeologist Schön said, “That was the find of my life".

Sunday, April 15, 2018


On April 11, the COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) 2017/2158 of 20 November 2017 establishing mitigation measures and benchmark levels for the reduction of the presence of acrylamide in food came into force in the European Union. It was shown that this chemical product causes cancer in rats.

Fact is that frying, grilling, roasting, and baking will produce cancer-causing acrylamide in coffee, fries, bread, but also in Christmas cookies like Honiglebkuchen (honey gingerbread), Mandelplätzchen (almond cookies), and Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars).

Acrylamide, as Wikipedia knows, is the result of “strong heating of starchy foods produced in a reaction between asparagine and reducing sugars (fructose, glucose, etc.) or reactive carbonyls at temperatures above 120 °C (248 °F).”

So far so bad. Remember how much potato chips, French fries and Bratkartoffeln, Brägele, or Rösti (home fried potatoes), as well as bread, toast, crispbread, and coffee we consume daily. In particular young people should avoid food containing acrylamide; but I still see toddlers in Freiburg’s streets munching their crisp, brown. tasty pretzels instead of bleached, healthy, sugarless baby biscuits. But there is hope.

At home, gild toast and bakery rolls, do not char. All bakery should not be dark brown, but golden yellow. Do not fry French fries at 180 °C, but at 175 °C. Even better would be much lower temperatures for as in any chemical reaction the rate of the “roasting and taste-giving” Maillard reaction increases exponentially with the absolute temperature °K (degree Kelvin). But who likes to eat food with no taste? A medical doctor once told me that it is nothing but the taste that counts for his obese clients. He, skinny as a rake and a chain smoker, eventually died of lung cancer.

Here are two examples of bad and not so bad food.

French fries and pulled pork for dinner in New York ...

... and french fries for breakfast in London. The chips in New York were tastier.

Potato fritters (Reibekuchen) in Cologne. Here with applesauce ...

... and here with pumpernickel and butter. The person frying the Reibekuchen below was apparently distracted by an interesting and long telephone conversation.

In the end, I have some good news for coffee lovers. Roasted Arabica coffee beans tend to contain lower acrylamide levels than roasted Robusta beans. Enjoy your espresso!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Film

On Monday evening Red Baron followed an invitation to the world premiere of Weltweite Freundschaften, a film describing Freiburg's worldwide friendship with its 12 sister cities.

Many dignitaries were present including Mayor Dr. Dieter Salomon seeking reelection in ten days from now and using the occasion for canvassing by introducing Bülent Gencdemir's film. Bülent traveled during 18 months visiting all 12 cities collecting more than 200 hours of material he eventually had to boil down to the normal 90 minutes sequence. A labor of Hercules well done.

In the end, the film got lots of applause and indeed using time-lapse and slow-motion effects carefully and dosed to the occasion the spectators had impressive colorful visual moments.

We, the assembled board members of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft had particularly been waiting for the sequence about Madison and were - as I collected the impressions afterward over a glass of sparkling wine generously offered by the city authorities - disappointed.

Performing a German stagecoach song: Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen.
My personal reaction was that there were too few spectacular pictures about the beauties of our sister city Madison and too much talking although we listened to some music in the form of a German folk song. Too sad.

Madison's mayor,
Madison Freiburg Sister City Committee's chairman,
and honor to this Mayor of Freiburg who started it all.
All pictures are ©Bülent Gencdemir/Südfilm

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Grapefruit

My friends know that I attend the Freiburg Writers' Group although not too regularly. There I meet young aspiring writing hopefuls, some of them keen to read their latest oeuvres during our meetings.

Yes, I am the oldest guy by some 30 plus years but I like the ambiance and to do those writing exercises our American master of ceremony, holder of a doctorate in literature and head of Carl-Schurz-Haus's library, imposes unto his disciples.

©Wikipedia (Evan-Amos)
When last year I mentioned to him that I am just a humble blogger and not a writer he looked at me and demanded, "You write a blog about the grapefruit", a snappy reaction that rightly punished my cheeky remark.

Here I am, sitting in front of my iPad racking my brain about the grapefruit not having any relation to the fruit whatsoever. I like its taste but still not too much to buy me a grapefruit.

When I opened my e-mail browser yesterday morning looking into the news I suddenly became all excited reading the word Grapefruit-Fahrt (grapefruit trip) in the context of Butterfahrt and Kaffeefahrt. Deus ex machina, I am saved!

In my young days before the common European market came into being butter trips to Denmark were extremely popular in northern Germany. Whole families from grandma to the newborn baby mounted a bus in Hamburg, crossed the Danish border at Flensburg, bought one kilogram of butter per person duty-free, and, counting the fare, still made a benefit of a couple of Deutsche marks.

Times have changed. Nowadays crooked guys organize coffee trips instead. With a cheap fare, they lure older people to spend a few hours in the company on a bus, offering either a “free” lunch or even better the sacrosanct German Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) in a godforsaken village somewhere out in the wilderness. In the end, these hawkers sell overprized vacation trips or trashy blankets and household goods at more than a fair value to their passengers. When sales are going bad it happens that suddenly all the restrooms are locked until due to urgent necessities (watery coffee is offered in big quantities to seniors) wallets open in despair. This lately happened in Nottuln, a village south of Münster, where Red Baron's grandparents once had a farm.

The author closes his article with an advice, "We should rather call those trips grapefruit trips for grapefruits are bitter, and you can squeeze them." I find his proposal rather funny peculiar than funny haha!

There goes my grapefruit anchor.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Der Kotleger

Minelayer, in German Minenleger, is a common word. Accordingly, the people of the town of Heuchelheim (Home of Hypocrisy) in Hessia call the man who since 2016 defecates on public sidewalks the feces layer. The guy is active in different parts of town with his poop falling between midnight and 6 a.m.

Rather late, in January 2017, a citizen informed Mayor Lars Burkhard Steinz about the eerie shit series, “There is someone out there who shits on the sidewalks”.  Subsequently, the town of Heuchelheim documented 30 cases of public human poop during the last year but found no tangible trace of the “defecator”.

Only in January 2018, Mayor Steinz, a former police officer, took on the shit professionally first by calling for help in the Heuchelheimer Gemeindenachrichten (Local News). In order not to upset his citizens too much he euphemistically wrote, “Unappetizing occurrences happen in our community,” asking them to provide information about human beings laying marks of feces.

The male form used here is politically correct because “We know the gender of the defecator from stool samples.” Mayor Steinz had not only taken the matter in hand but samples too using latex gloves and test tubes. “That's how we saved the DNA," he explained.

By February the mayor had received more than 50 relevant hints and had the offender’s profile published in the Heuchelheimer Gemeindenachrichten under the heading, “Hinweise zu menschlichen Kotspurlegern (Hints to humans laying marks of feces).” The text revealed, “A prime suspect is a man in his late fifties having a squat, stout body. He wears glasses, a kepi with a military pattern, and is usually on a bicycle.”

In the meantime the man was identified, “Since long he is a Heuchelheim citizen and has perfectly working restroom facilities at home.” And Steinz added, “This is not a court case. The guy will be invited by the regulatory authority to explain his case. As a compensation for his pollutions, he will possibly be asked to do some social work like cleaning rubbish from sidewalks.”

Monday, April 2, 2018

Love Life

The Badische Zeitung, Freiburg’s only local newspaper, frequently offers goodies to its subscribers (paper and electronic) in the form of excursions and theater shows. In November of last year, Red Baron was all excited when he read about a vaudeville at the city’s theater named Love Life with music by Kurt Weill and book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.

Who does not remember Weill’s The Threepenny Opera with the Moritat von Mackie Messer (Mack the Knife) and even more magnificent the Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, a critical look on modern civilization in a fictitious, prosperous town somewhere in the south of the States.

Kurt Weill, a Jew, who fled from Nazi Germany to the States in 1933 had to earn this living in New York. So he composed the music for a couple of early musicals. Among them is Love Life that Lerner and he called a vaudeville rather than a musical. In Wikipedia, I read, “Love Life opened at the 46th Street Theatre on Broadway on October 1948.”

The plot is about an American couple, David and Susan Cooper, living through more than 150 years of U. S. history with the usual ups and downs in their relationship.

They are just singing in the rain bed (©Theater Freiburg)
Critics regard Love Life for its music as a precursor of later more successful Broadway musicals, e.g., Chicago. Cabaret, or A Chorus Line. Indeed, Weill experimented with many musical styles although sometimes the music reminded me of Anni get your gun although Kurt’s genius shines through in the overtures. Lerner’s Text and lyrics sounded simple to me at least in their German translation. Love Life ran on Broadway for only seven months with just 252 performances.

Why was Love Life never revived? Why was it forgotten? Is the plot too socialist? The risk of unemployment during industrialization, the fight for female suffrage, capitalist abuse are some of the topics clad into music. The performance in Freiburg does not end here. It brings back memories of The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and My Fair Lady, sometimes difficult to grasp for a German audience. You meet Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Frankenstein, Charlie Chaplin, Doris Day, Marylin Monroe, and Groucho Marx. Suddenly I found myself in the musical Gigi listening to the famous "I Remember it Well", lyrics that Lerner later reused in a revised form in the movie Gigi of 1958.

©Theater Freiburg
The Freiburg performance in February 2018 got excellent reviews throughout Germany. Theater group and orchestra surpassed themselves. Suddenly classical opera singers had to play and dance aswell and the orchestra met Weill’s musical demands with a high degree of flexibility, virtuosity, concentration.

©Theater Freiburg
Somehow the German revival of Love Life in Freiburg pays tribute to Kurt Weill’s father Albert who originated from nearby Kippenheim. He became Kantor of the Dessau Jewish community before he returned to Baden serving at Eichstetten near the Kaiserstuhl. Surely Kurt inherited the musical talent from his father.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Zero-Euro Bills

Today is April Fools’ Day and time for a blog about zero-euro bills. Apparently, these bills are quite frequent. They are printed in France with the consent of the European Central Bank and are a collector's item.

The other day I read an article that Americans were greatly surprised about a zero-euro bill with Karl Marx’s portrait. So was I!

Marx's birthplace Trier.  Roman Porta Nigra in the background.
(©Alexander Schumitz/ Trier Tourismus und Marketing GmbH)

Red Baron is too old to start a collection but adds the zero-euro bill to his anthology of strange pictures on the occasion of Marx’s 200th birthday on May 5. I shall start with a portrait my late son took at the Marx-Engels Monument in Berlin in February 2016:

Remember I published a blog about “Rethinking Marx” in 2013 and showed the Marx men by Ottmar Hörl. Here is a recent photo:

Even the Ampelmännchen feiert fröhliche Urständ (rears his head again) in Mainz:

To close the zero-euro picture gallery. Here is a bill from the Miniatur-Wunderland that I visited this January.