Archives for the month of: April, 2011

In front of my house last summer
Berlin Street Scene

I was reading Der Tagesspiegel, one of Berlin’s daily newspapers, and came across an article about urban gardening in Berlin. Germans love flowers. There are florist shops everywhere, and many apartment balconies are filled with plants and window boxes. When spring arrives, it’s time for gardening. Like many cities, open space is limited, so gardeners plant where they can.


Nice use of ferns
Sign reads: Compliments free but the flowers stay here!
Here are some pictures from Der Tagesspiegel. I’ve also included a picture of a small garden plot in front of my house in Portland. I planted the plot last year to minimize the telephone pole and the graffiti. 


Unfortunately, I discovered that some people have little respect for these wonderful urban oases of flowers. People pick the flowers, walk in the beds, and even use the space as a dog toilet. It only takes a few people to mess a thing up. Fortunately, most people are respectful, and I can report that the garden plot was a success. 


In Berlin, people posts signs to discourage this kind of inconsiderate behavior.
I particularly like the sign that reads:  Compliments free but the flowers stay here! There are small tags on the sign that can be removed. The tags have various compliments written on them. The tags say things such as “that is a pretty dress,” “a really cool shirt,” etc.  A few of the tags have even been removed.
 
Even kids get into the act

What a great idea. I think I will post a similar sign this year in Portland. 









This is very German: everything in its place






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In front of my house last summer
Berlin Street Scene

I was reading Der Tagesspiegel, one of Berlin’s daily newspapers, and came across an article about urban gardening in Berlin. Germans love flowers. There are florist shops everywhere, and many apartment balconies are filled with plants and window boxes. When spring arrives, it’s time for gardening. Like many cities, open space is limited, so gardeners plant where they can.


Nice use of ferns
Sign reads: Compliments free but the flowers stay here!
Here are some pictures from Der Tagesspiegel. I’ve also included a picture of a small garden plot in front of my house in Portland. I planted the plot last year to minimize the telephone pole and the graffiti. 


Unfortunately, I discovered that some people have little respect for these wonderful urban oases of flowers. People pick the flowers, walk in the beds, and even use the space as a dog toilet. It only takes a few people to mess a thing up. Fortunately, most people are respectful, and I can report that the garden plot was a success. 


In Berlin, people posts signs to discourage this kind of inconsiderate behavior.
I particularly like the sign that reads:  Compliments free but the flowers stay here! There are small tags on the sign that can be removed. The tags have various compliments written on them. The tags say things such as “that is a pretty dress,” “a really cool shirt,” etc.  A few of the tags have even been removed.
 
Even kids get into the act

What a great idea. I think I will post a similar sign this year in Portland. 









This is very German: everything in its place






News items that make me cringe. 

  • President Obama has released his long-form birth certificate. Yes, he was born in the United States. Talk about silly things. It’s hard to believe that some people made this an issue. Can we move on to more important things. 
  • The House Republicans in the State of Tennessee passed a bill that would ban schools from using the word “gay” in any health classes before the 9th grade. (Presumably, it would be okay to use the word in History or English class.)  The legislators believe that any discussion of gay relationships, gay marriage or the fact that gay people exist, would be harmful to our children. The bill concludes that “no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”
I guess if the schools talk about being gay then the kids will become gay.  Of course, there isn’t a middle school kid in the country who hasn’t heard the word “gay” in some reference. It looks like Tennessee wants those kids to gain their knowledge of homosexuality from playground gossip and innuendos. I always thought schools were supposed to be places education not ignorance. If the legislators had their way, they would probably propose a bill to keep evolution out of the schools as well. Oh I forgot, some states have already tried that. 

Easter Island Man

Why do people steal? The idea of taking another person’s property seems inconceivable to me; yet, it happens. I’ve had more things stolen in Portland, Maine than in any other city that I’ve lived in. Recently, I had a piece of lawn sculpture taken from my side yard. It wasn’t very expensive, but it’s next to impossible to replace. It’s what I called my “Easter Island Man.” I bought it years ago from a small nursery in Folsom, California. The other day, I noticed it was gone. (I found it somewhat ironic that it was stolen shortly before Easter.) 
Last year, during the Fall, I placed some pumpkins on the porch to celebrate the changing of the season. A few days later, they were gone. The year before that, someone broke into the car and took the GPS device. I’ve even had people take flowers from the garden. While hardly earth scattering, it does cause to me to wonder the kind of person who can rationalize stealing.
In Berlin, I frequently leave my bicycle unlocked. In fact, it’s common in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia to leave bicycles unlocked. And guess what? No one take them! 

Easter Island Man

Why do people steal? The idea of taking another person’s property seems inconceivable to me; yet, it happens. I’ve had more things stolen in Portland, Maine than in any other city that I’ve lived in. Recently, I had a piece of lawn sculpture taken from my side yard. It wasn’t very expensive, but it’s next to impossible to replace. It’s what I called my “Easter Island Man.” I bought it years ago from a small nursery in Folsom, California. The other day, I noticed it was gone. (I found it somewhat ironic that it was stolen shortly before Easter.) 
Last year, during the Fall, I placed some pumpkins on the porch to celebrate the changing of the season. A few days later, they were gone. The year before that, someone broke into the car and took the GPS device. I’ve even had people take flowers from the garden. While hardly earth scattering, it does cause to me to wonder the kind of person who can rationalize stealing.
In Berlin, I frequently leave my bicycle unlocked. In fact, it’s common in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia to leave bicycles unlocked. And guess what? No one take them! 
Berliners love to window shop (Schaufensterbummel), especially on Sunday when all the stores are closed. Unlike the USA, most German stores and retailers are closed on Sunday. 

A few Sundays ago, I strolled past Karstadt. Karstadt is a sort of German style Macy‘s. This month Karstadt is spotlighting New England in its window displays. This “New England” theme seems to be popular. You see it in fashion, furniture, and food. I wonder what Germans would really think, if they visited New England?


Unfortunately, fantasy is always better than reality. New England food is generally high in fat, low on nutrition, and definitely on the bland side. I guess a lot like Berlin food. As for fashion, people in New England don’t wear the nautical themed fashion so popular in magazines. It’s more a jean and sweater crowd. 



Berliners love to window shop (Schaufensterbummel), especially on Sunday when all the stores are closed. Unlike the USA, most German stores and retailers are closed on Sunday. 

A few Sundays ago, I strolled past Karstadt. Karstadt is a sort of German style Macy‘s. This month Karstadt is spotlighting New England in its window displays. This “New England” theme seems to be popular. You see it in fashion, furniture, and food. I wonder what Germans would really think, if they visited New England?


Unfortunately, fantasy is always better than reality. New England food is generally high in fat, low on nutrition, and definitely on the bland side. I guess a lot like Berlin food. As for fashion, people in New England don’t wear the nautical themed fashion so popular in magazines. It’s more a jean and sweater crowd. 



If you’re feeling a bit blue listen to this song from the Bollywood movie, Hum Tum.

A prescription for what ails you. 

It’s difficult for most Europeans to grasp the American concept of freedom of speech or expression. This freedom not only concerns verbal speech but the act of seeing, receiving, and imparting information and ideas.  It’s not an absolute right and is subject to some limitations.  For example, child pornography and speech that incites people to lawless is banned. In Europe, speech is more tightly controlled. 


Germany bans Nazi literature, symbols and even Nazi era films.  Any person found displaying, selling, or purchasing Nazi paraphernalia is subject to criminal prosecution. Even denying the Holocaust is a crime. Moreover, the Communist and Nazi political parties are outlawed.   

Last year, a production of the Broadway musical The Producers  made its Berlin debut. The story concerns two Jewish theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop, Springtime for Hitler. Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. Needless to say, the show is a comedy that depicts Hitler, Eva Braun, SS Soldiers and the swastika.


German law prevents the display of swastikas, so posters advertising The Producers used a pretzel symbol instead. Even with this change, the Berlin police received a number of complaints about the posters, which “provoked associations with the Nazis.” (Swastikas were permitted onstage as part of an artistic statement.)


Restrictions such as these are unthinkable in the USA.  So when Germans tell me the USA has lost its freedom, I point to their lack of freedom of speech and right to political association. 

On the other hand, Germans do have a point when they say American politics has become closely aligned with religion. They ask what as happened to the separation of church and state, and is America really a secular nation? Moreover, they correctly assert that over the past 30 years there has been a rise in religious fundamentalism across the USA.  Look at the various attempts in the USA to ban the teaching of evolution, to eliminate the right of women to have an abortion, and to obstruct the civil rights of gay people. 


Anyway, the other day, I happened to catch a radio broadcast concerning censorship around the world. (BTW: radio programming in Germany isn’t just pop songs. It includes radio serials, news, cultural programming, and a lot more.) Here are a few items that caught my interest:

  • A new version of the novel, From Here to Eternity, will be published later this month. An uncensored text of the James Jones’s 1951 novel has revealed that the author originally intended to include frank references to homosexuality considered too scandalous to be published in the USA at the time. In the original text, there were two scenes that never made it to the published edition, let alone the film. In one scene, private Angelo Maggio – the soldier played by Frank Sinatra in the film version – confesses to having sex with a wealthy man for some extra money. In the second scene, a military investigation into gay activity is mooted.
  • The American Library Association has just released its list of the 10 books Americans tried hardest to ban in 2010. On top of the list was Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three, a picture-book telling the true story of a chick adopted by two male Emperor penguins at the New York Central Park zoo. Many complained that the book promoted homosexuality.  

  • Finally, although this isn’t censorship in the USA (although it could be), a state in India has banned Pulitzer-prize-winning Joseph Lelyveld’s new book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India. Why? Because it frankly discusses Gandhi’s relationship with Hermann Kallenbach, a German citizen. This has outraged certain segments of the Indian population, who can’t imagine the father of Indian independence having a gay relationship. Would a book about Lincoln’s homosexuality cause a similar controversy? Or do people even know Lincoln was gay?




It’s difficult for most Europeans to grasp the American concept of freedom of speech or expression. This freedom not only concerns verbal speech but the act of seeing, receiving, and imparting information and ideas.  It’s not an absolute right and is subject to some limitations.  For example, child pornography and speech that incites people to lawless is banned. In Europe, speech is more tightly controlled. 


Germany bans Nazi literature, symbols and even Nazi era films.  Any person found displaying, selling, or purchasing Nazi paraphernalia is subject to criminal prosecution. Even denying the Holocaust is a crime. Moreover, the Communist and Nazi political parties are outlawed.   

Last year, a production of the Broadway musical The Producers  made its Berlin debut. The story concerns two Jewish theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop, Springtime for Hitler. Complications arise when the show unexpectedly turns out to be successful. Needless to say, the show is a comedy that depicts Hitler, Eva Braun, SS Soldiers and the swastika.


German law prevents the display of swastikas, so posters advertising The Producers used a pretzel symbol instead. Even with this change, the Berlin police received a number of complaints about the posters, which “provoked associations with the Nazis.” (Swastikas were permitted onstage as part of an artistic statement.)


Restrictions such as these are unthinkable in the USA.  So when Germans tell me the USA has lost its freedom, I point to their lack of freedom of speech and right to political association. 

On the other hand, Germans do have a point when they say American politics has become closely aligned with religion. They ask what as happened to the separation of church and state, and is America really a secular nation? Moreover, they correctly assert that over the past 30 years there has been a rise in religious fundamentalism across the USA.  Look at the various attempts in the USA to ban the teaching of evolution, to eliminate the right of women to have an abortion, and to obstruct the civil rights of gay people. 


Anyway, the other day, I happened to catch a radio broadcast concerning censorship around the world. (BTW: radio programming in Germany isn’t just pop songs. It includes radio serials, news, cultural programming, and a lot more.) Here are a few items that caught my interest:

  • A new version of the novel, From Here to Eternity, will be published later this month. An uncensored text of the James Jones’s 1951 novel has revealed that the author originally intended to include frank references to homosexuality considered too scandalous to be published in the USA at the time. In the original text, there were two scenes that never made it to the published edition, let alone the film. In one scene, private Angelo Maggio – the soldier played by Frank Sinatra in the film version – confesses to having sex with a wealthy man for some extra money. In the second scene, a military investigation into gay activity is mooted.
  • The American Library Association has just released its list of the 10 books Americans tried hardest to ban in 2010. On top of the list was Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s And Tango Makes Three, a picture-book telling the true story of a chick adopted by two male Emperor penguins at the New York Central Park zoo. Many complained that the book promoted homosexuality.  

  • Finally, although this isn’t censorship in the USA (although it could be), a state in India has banned Pulitzer-prize-winning Joseph Lelyveld’s new book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle With India. Why? Because it frankly discusses Gandhi’s relationship with Hermann Kallenbach, a German citizen. This has outraged certain segments of the Indian population, who can’t imagine the father of Indian independence having a gay relationship. Would a book about Lincoln’s homosexuality cause a similar controversy? Or do people even know Lincoln was gay?