Archives for the month of: July, 2013
Agatha Christie Challenge:  Book Number 7


Agatha Christie’s The Big Four (1927) is an unbelievable story of espionage, murder, assumed identities, and international intrigue. To say it requires a suspension of disbelief is to put it mildly. The Big Four is pure entertainment. It’s full of thrills and plenty of red herrings. This time the indomitable Hercule Poirot matches his wits against a diabolical international organization known as the “Big Four.” The story includes a femme fatale, a mysterious Chinese leader, and a secretive lair where criminal activities are engineered. It sounds like a James Bond novel, but it’s Christie, 25 years before the first Bond book. 

Christie was never taken seriously, and The Big Four was not well-received by the critics. Yet, like most of Christie’s novels, The Big Four rises above the typical potboiler. Christie knows how to set-up a scene and build tension. For example, her use of inner dialogue that quickly jumps to narrative action adds a sense of foreboding. This juxtaposition of mood is a quintessential Christie device that never fails to surprise. So suspend disbelief and enjoy The Big Four. It’s the perfect summer read. 

Rating: B

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The Vegetable Orchestra (Das erste Wiener Gemüseorchester) is a musical group from Vienna who perform using instruments made entirely from fresh vegetables. The group consists of ten musicians, one cook, and one sound technician. Tonight, the group performed to an enthusiastic Berlin audience, which included some of Berlin’s most prominent vegans and vegetarians. 


Their instruments, which are all of their own invention, include carrot recorders, clappers made from eggplant, and trumpets made from zucchini. Their repertoire includes some experimental pieces and some standards from the likes of Stravinsky and Kraftwerk.

To ensure perfect sound quality, the instruments are made from scratch just one hour before each performance using only the freshest vegetables available. Then all ninety pounds of vegetables are cooked into a soup following the performance. Nothing goes to waste!
This Little Guy Knows
how to Stay Cool

The “dog days of summer” have officially begun (July 23-August 23). In Germany, these days roughly correspond to the warmest time of year. And true to form, on July 23th, the days became warmer and increasingly uncomfortable. The phrase dates back to the ancient Egyptians who discovered that the star Sirius from the constellation Canis Major (Latin for “big dog”) was at its brightest point during this time of year. The star can be seen rising alongside the sun, and the ancients believed that Sirius gave off extra heat and humidity causing the scorching summer temperatures.  

Packaged Dog Meat at S. Korean Supermarket

In South Korea, dog meat is traditionally consumed during the dog days of summer. It is erroneously believed that eating dog meat helps ease the heat by increasing stamina.


Gregory Peck
as Atticus Finch

During the 19th century, it was believed that dogs would most often contract rabies during this period of time. A scene in To Kill a Mockingbird suggests that this belief continued well into the 20th century, when a mad dog is shot by Atticus Finch. 

This Little Guy Knows
how to Stay Cool

The “dog days of summer” have officially begun (July 23-August 23). In Germany, these days roughly correspond to the warmest time of year. And true to form, on July 23th, the days became warmer and increasingly uncomfortable. The phrase dates back to the ancient Egyptians who discovered that the star Sirius from the constellation Canis Major (Latin for “big dog”) was at its brightest point during this time of year. The star can be seen rising alongside the sun, and the ancients believed that Sirius gave off extra heat and humidity causing the scorching summer temperatures.  

Packaged Dog Meat at S. Korean Supermarket

In South Korea, dog meat is traditionally consumed during the dog days of summer. It is erroneously believed that eating dog meat helps ease the heat by increasing stamina.


Gregory Peck
as Atticus Finch

During the 19th century, it was believed that dogs would most often contract rabies during this period of time. A scene in To Kill a Mockingbird suggests that this belief continued well into the 20th century, when a mad dog is shot by Atticus Finch. 

Bravo India! India has joined Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile in recognizing the Dolphin’s right to life and liberty. India stated, in part:

Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, . . .  [dolphins] should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes. (bold added)

Unfortunately, Norway, Japan, and Iceland still permit commercial whaling, a savagely cruel practice.

Bravo India! India has joined Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile in recognizing the Dolphin’s right to life and liberty. India stated, in part:

Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, . . .  [dolphins] should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purposes. (bold added)

Unfortunately, Norway, Japan, and Iceland still permit commercial whaling, a savagely cruel practice.

What better way to advertise your product than to have a replica of it decorating your storefront. Barber shop poles and wooden Indian’s were common in the early 1900’s. In the 1950’s, when the era of the replica reached its zenith, there were dinosaurs, reptiles, cows, pizzas, and every imaginable kind of thing dotting the roadside. My favorite was the iconic Bob’s Big Boy statue: a symbol for juicy hamburgers and fast service. 

In Berlin, it’s the plastic ice cream cone. These kitschy mass-produced sculptures are easy to overlook, but they are everywhere.  


What better way to advertise your product than to have a replica of it decorating your storefront. Barber shop poles and wooden Indian’s were common in the early 1900’s. In the 1950’s, when the era of the replica reached its zenith, there were dinosaurs, reptiles, cows, pizzas, and every imaginable kind of thing dotting the roadside. My favorite was the iconic Bob’s Big Boy statue: a symbol for juicy hamburgers and fast service. 

In Berlin, it’s the plastic ice cream cone. These kitschy mass-produced sculptures are easy to overlook, but they are everywhere.  


Anna Lehnkering

Anna Lehnkering’s story is not unusual. It’s just one among many that documents the Nazi’s so called “euthanasia” program of the 1930/40s. Anna was a normal young girl who had difficulty with reading and writing in school. Today, she would likely be diagnosed as dyslexic, but to the Nazis, she was considered “unworthy of life,” a “useless eater.”

At the end of 1935, the Hereditary Health Court ordered that Anna be taken from her home, sterilized, and transferred to a mental institution. At the institution, Anna suffered from neglect and malnutrition. She was described in medical documents as “longing to go home” and “sad.” Ultimately, she was sent to Berlin’s “T4” euthanasia facility where she was murdered  She was 24 years old.


According to the law, anyone who suffered from a mental or physical disability, or labeled as “anti-social,” was not allowed to procreate and deemed “eligible” for institutionalization. It was all part of a systematic eugenics program that was administered with stereotypical German precision and efficiency. 

As many as 300,000 people fell victim to one of history’s first planned mass exterminations. There were six euthanasia facilities in Germany and Austria. The best known was “Tiergartenstraße 4” or “T4” in Berlin, which extinguished the lives of 70,000 people. In nearly all the cases, the inmates were killed with drugs or starved to death. 

Located where the Berlin Philharmonic stands today, the T4 facility was demolished after the war and its past nearly forgotten. Last week, construction began on a monument to commemorate those who perished at Tiergartenstraße 4. The monument is scheduled to be completed in 2014, and will join existing Berlin monuments commemorating Jewish, Homosexual, and Gypsy victims who died at the hands of the Nazis.


For more information about Anna’s fate and the fate of other T4 inmates, visit the Tiergatenstraße 4 Open Air Exhibition. It’s located behind the Philharmonic and across the street from the Tiergarten Park. The Exhibition runs until November 17, 2013.

Anna Lehnkering

Anna Lehnkering’s story is not unusual. It’s just one among many that documents the Nazi’s so called “euthanasia” program of the 1930/40s. Anna was a normal young girl who had difficulty with reading and writing in school. Today, she would likely be diagnosed as dyslexic, but to the Nazis, she was considered “unworthy of life,” a “useless eater.”

At the end of 1935, the Hereditary Health Court ordered that Anna be taken from her home, sterilized, and transferred to a mental institution. At the institution, Anna suffered from neglect and malnutrition. She was described in medical documents as “longing to go home” and “sad.” Ultimately, she was sent to Berlin’s “T4” euthanasia facility where she was murdered  She was 24 years old.


According to the law, anyone who suffered from a mental or physical disability, or labeled as “anti-social,” was not allowed to procreate and deemed “eligible” for institutionalization. It was all part of a systematic eugenics program that was administered with stereotypical German precision and efficiency. 

As many as 300,000 people fell victim to one of history’s first planned mass exterminations. There were six euthanasia facilities in Germany and Austria. The best known was “Tiergartenstraße 4” or “T4” in Berlin, which extinguished the lives of 70,000 people. In nearly all the cases, the inmates were killed with drugs or starved to death. 

Located where the Berlin Philharmonic stands today, the T4 facility was demolished after the war and its past nearly forgotten. Last week, construction began on a monument to commemorate those who perished at Tiergartenstraße 4. The monument is scheduled to be completed in 2014, and will join existing Berlin monuments commemorating Jewish, Homosexual, and Gypsy victims who died at the hands of the Nazis.


For more information about Anna’s fate and the fate of other T4 inmates, visit the Tiergatenstraße 4 Open Air Exhibition. It’s located behind the Philharmonic and across the street from the Tiergarten Park. The Exhibition runs until November 17, 2013.