There is an old saying to start off the forum: If you are born to an American parent, you automtically become an American. How about when you pass on: Should you automatically become an organ donor?
This is the question that is floating around aggressively in Berlin and is being talked about in hospitals and medical centers in Germany, thanks to German Health Minister Jens Spahn and his most recent proposal.
The “dual opt-out” donation system would automatically make everyone in Germany a registered organ donor.
People could still opt out at any time by putting themselves on a register that says they object to being a donor.
Family members could also revoke consent after a person dies.
Doctors would be required to consult with the family before removing any organs in the event a person is declared brain-dead.
People will be informed multiple times about the new system and the options to opt out.
The proposal comes in response to the sharp decrease in the number of organ donors between 2012 and 2017, combined with the increase in the number of patients who are on the waiting list for an organ donor. According to a recent study, the number of organ donations carried out in Germany decreased from 1097 in 2012 to only 797 in 2017. Last year alone, some 9,400 people were on the organ transplant waiting list. Less than 1,000 organ transplantations were carried out, while 2,000 on the waiting list died.
The current system allows for opting in to donations, where people who volunteer receive a donor card and their names are in the data bank. Critics feel that the opt-out clause is the same as forcing people to donate their organs when they die, even though they don’t want to. Already an alternative proposal is in the works which would require repetitive questioning about donating organs when at the doctor or renewing their personal ID. The belief is that organ donations should be a conscious option that remains voluntary and not obligatory by the state.
While the debate goes to the Bundestag, the German upper parliament, which will be debated and voted upon soon, the question is whether being an automatic donor after death with the clausal to opt-out would make the best sense in the interest of the German population. Or if it makes sense to leave it the option to donate to the person him/herself. Henceforth, a poll has been created for you to vote upon. Feel free to do so and if you want, comment on this issue.
While the author does see many advantages of being an organ donor (he is one himself, plus there’s a success story on that which you can click here to read.), there are some who don’t want to based on past experiences or even religious beliefs. There are two sides to the story on this topic, just as much as two sides to the story on becoming Americans automatically when a child born to American parents is born abroad. It’s a question of listing the facts on both sides of the aisle and deciding based personal feelings towards this subject. 🙂
There have been some talk about the Fridays for the Future Demonstrations and all of the advantages and disadvantages of students walking out of school to demonstrate for climate change. On one side of the spectrum, skipping classes to demonstrate has had a resounding effect on politics and policies of each country, forcing governments to reconsider their laws and heed to the demands of the demonstrators. There are enough examples, big and small, that support this argument, including the top three that I have:
The college demonstrations in the US against the Vietnam War- Starting in 1968, these demonstrations, albeit bloody, resulted in President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term in office. He was replaced by Richard Nixon, who wound down the war efforts by withdrawing troops and contributing to brokering a deal between North and South Vietnam. The war ended when the North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam in 1975, hours after the last US troops left.
The Monday Night Demonstrations in East Germany- Starting in September 1989, the demonstrations that started every Monday evening at St. Nicholas Church ended up becoming a nationwide demonstration demanding change to a communist system that was considered broken. The end result was the downfall of Erich Honecker on 19 October and the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November. In the end, the peaceful protest also marked the beginning of talks for a reunified Germany, which happened on 3 October, 1990, and the domino effect that led to the end of Communism in 1991.
The Parkland Massacre Demonstrations of 2019- After a shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 17 people at a high school in Florida, a group of high schoolers started a protest to address the use of guns in the US and the lobby group NRA. The end result is a shift in tide from the right to have guns to the right to protect our children, even if it means voting out every single NRA supporter who rejects stricter gun laws.
But by the same token, many teachers and parents, as well as some politicians feel that skipping school to protest climate change is just a waste of time and that time should be spent discussing this in the classroom.
But as you can see in the TED-Talk speech by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, there has been too much talk and too little action. Many turn a blind eye for the sake of popularity and money. Too much money has been wasted for conferences and speeches. And when the situation becomes unbearable where even the youngest generation walks out to protest the changes in our environment which are slowly becoming irreversible, then the time for talk is over and the time to act is now. The talk looks at the origins of the Friday for the Future demonstrations and how it has evolved since she started the walk-out process at her high school in Sweden.
Watch or listen to this speech and ask yourself what can be done to stop the destructive changes that are taking place to our planet. There are enough things to be done without talking about it.
The next comparison we have is the difference between Present Simple and Past Simple. Here one needs not much for explanation for the difference is sometimes too easy to see. Present Simple deals with three key aspects: statement, routine and fixed scheduling. An example for each one can be seen below:
There are many people at the rock concert.
The Wacken Rock Festival takes place every summer in July.
Thousands of rock fans travel there every year to cheer their favorite band on.
Werner the motorcyclist goes there with his friends.
To help with the difference, one should keep in mind of the time markers that are used, which is below:
Time Marker Present Simple
always, mostly, mainly, often, never, sometime, occasionally, (un-)usually, normally, traditionally, frequently, seldom, rarely, hardly (ever), certain days, weeks, months and years, each/every (day, week, month, year,….), daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, annually, bi-annually, regularly, and the numerical frequency (once, twice, three times, etc.)
For past simple the purpose of that is describing the event that is finished. One however needs to pay attention to the fact that present perfect can be used as well. The difference between the two, as described in this post (here) is that past simple is used solely for confirmed and/or exact time; present perfect is only for an undescribed time.
Difference between past simple and present perfect:
20,000 fans have attended the rock concert. – present perfect
20,000 fans attended the rock concert last night. – past simple
Tickets for the 2019 Wacken Festival have been sold out– Present Perfect
Tickets for the 2019 Wacken Festival were sold out three months ago.- Past Simple
Past simple verbs can be divided up into regular and irregular verbs, which also applies for the present perfect verb tenses. A link to the list of irregular verb tenses can be found here. A guide on pronouncing regular verb tenses, known as Ted is Ded, can be found here. It is very important when learning the English language is to know the difference and to conjugate the irregular verb tenses for they have no clear rule in terms of endings in English.
Time Marker Past Simple
ago, last (night, week, month, year, decade, century & millenium), yesterday, at, in, on, for, during, suddenly, (un-)expectedly, from (a) to (b), in the course of (…), when (used as a subordinate clause), sequential order (first, second, lastly, finally, etc.- also after), other adverbial phrases (surprisingly, quickly, slowly, etc.)
Sadly though, many students mix up the verb tenses for many reasons. One of the main reasons is the inability to make the distinction between regular and irregular verb tenses and as a result, the inability to conjugate the verbs in English. Another is not paying attention to the verb form, especially with regards to the third person singular, which requires the “S”, if and only if the verb is present. But there are other reasons as well and therefore, some exercises are here to help you.
So let’s start and we’ll focus on rock music in Germany! 🙂
The following statements, dealing with the Wacken Open-Air Rock Festival, has a verb tense in brackets. Look at each one (and the time markers) and put in the correct verb tense (present or past).
The first Wacken Rock Festival __________ in 1990. (start) 800 people __________ the event. (attend)
The festival _________ the largest ever in the world. (to be) Tens of thousands __________ the 4-day event every year, which _____________ at the end of July. (attend; take place)
86,000 people ___________the Wacken Open-Air Festival in 2011. (visit)
The festival traditionally _________ on the first Sunday in August. (end) Tickets _______ on sale for next year’s event the next day and _________ booked out within 24 hours (go; to be)
197 bands _________ at Wacken in 2018. (play)
People usually _________ black clothing as their first choice at the Wacken Rock Festival. (wear)
It _________ matter who is on stage. (do not) People just __________ fun every time a rock band is on stage. (have)
A home for the elderly of Itzehoe frequently _______ field trips to the festival, to celebrate their over-70 parties. (take) Hosts _________them free passes. (grant)
People _________ watch the rock concert with virtual reality for the first time in 2016. (can) In 2017, the public channels __________ the the concerts available for the first time in the mediathek. (make)
After Lenny Kilmister of the rock music band Motorhead ________in December 2015, the Wacken Open Air Festival _________ a tribute to him during their 2016 concert. (die; pay) The tribute _________ 24 minutes. (last)
Determine whether these statements, all dealing with the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park Festivals are true or false, in terms of verb use. If false, please correct them.
The Rock am Ring (“Rock at the Ring”) and Rock im Park (“Rock in the Park”) festivals were two simultaneous rock music festivals held annually.
Rock am Ring started in 1985 and it later became an annual event.
The festival go on hiatus for two years after fewer people show up in 1988.
In 1993, Rock im Park take place for the first time in Vienna.
Munich hosted the festival for three years until 1996.
Between 145,000 and 155,000 fans attend the two festivals every year.
Each year, the Nürburgring and the Zeppelinfeld in Nuremberg held the duo-concert.
Over 200 bands stepped on stage for one of the two concerts between 1985 and 2018.
Use the following time markers and construct a sentence, using the correct verb tense.
three months ago:
During the holiday season:
a week ago:
once a week:
Any questions? If not, we will look at the progressive forms of the two and compare them to simple tenses. In the meantime, rock on! 🙂
It is hard to believe that 28 years ago, the rock music group Queen, released one of the best songs of the 1990s. Entitled Bohemian Rhapsody, the song was produced in 1975 but was introduced for the first time in the film Wayne’s World. It was one of the last songs for lead singer Freddy Mercury, who succumbed to bronchial pneumonia in connection with AIDS, in November 1991.
No one ever thought that a parody of the song would be created and released. Yet in this Genre of the Week, the group Bry Logic did just that. The song Opinion Rhapsody was produced towards the end of 2018. It has been making its rounds in the social media and it combines politics, social media and another classic into one. That classic aspect you will see in the video below.
Opinion Rhapsody shows how these three elements are affecting not only American society today, but in other countries as well. And while the scenes do look rather ridiculous on screen, it does present the underlying problems we have today and will continue to have before the “big bang” happens. Two of them are very obvious: can you identify them? And if you can, think about what you can do to help, especially if you have a grudge against a person or group because of differences caused by these two elements?
After all, after watching this clip, it will give many an incentive to congregate to church for the next service or have a picnic, where eye-to-eye, personal contact has become a luxury than a necessity. 😉
There are several literary pieces and documentaries that focus on aspects of the Great Storm of 1978/79, and the catastrophic winter that followed, which brought the northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany to a complete standstill. The majority of the pieces have focused on the hardest hit areas of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein- in particular, the areas of Kiel and Flensburg.
Der Große Schnee (in English: The Big Snow), written by Helmuth Sethe of the Husumer Nachrichten (Husum News, part of shz, Inc.) focuses on both the Great Storm that started right before the New Year, plus the winter that followed, which included the winter storm on 13 February- a month and a half later. All of them affecting Schleswig-Holstein, but with a focus on the North Sea coastal area (Dithmarschen and greater Husum), as well as the cities of Flensburg and Kiel and the surrounding areas. It was originally written after the winter storm in February that same year, but has been edited and republished multiple times, with the last edition having been released in 2011.
There are several photos and stories that were in connection with the great winter disaster and were graphic in detail- with reports of people and animals both freezing to death while being snowed in, collapsed roofs because of the thickness of the snow, capsized boats and people treading through icy waters along flooded streets of coastal cities. Yet there were some glaring facts that are worth mentioning about this storm according to the writer. Here are the top five worth mentioning:
Power outages- Many towns and villages were without power because of downed power lines due to ice. But no area was as bad as the districts of Schleswig-Flensburg and Nordfriesland. There, as many as 111 villages were without electricity for days, many of them were cut off from the rest of the world. Many had to make due with cutting up wood and creating fireplaces to keep warm.
Stranded vacationers- Many vacationers were returning from Scandanavia when they were greeted by barricades at the German/Danish borders in Krusau and Ellund. Reason: The storm forced an executive order by the West German and state governments to shut down all traffic (rail and vehicular) on the German side. Traffic jams of more than 10 kilometers on the Danish side, plus stranded drivers seeking shelter were the result.
Field Landing-When the state prime minister Gerhard Stoltenberg was finally informed of the current weather situation in Schleswig-Holstein (he and his family were on vacation at that time), he did not realize how bad it was until his helicopter had to land in a nearby field and he had to go by truck and sleigh to visit the hard hit regions. Reason: The snow had drifted in at the airports and with drifts as high as 6 meters, it was impossible for any aircraft to land even.
The Sleigh as Transportation-With no possibilities with the car, many people had to make do with sleds, sleighs and even skis. It was not a rarity to watch people cross-country ski in the countryside during this time as the snow was thick enough to warrant it. Sleds were not only used for downhill fun, but also for shopping. It was a site to watch people pull their groceries home on an open sled.
Flensburg as Little Venice- The storms produced a series of high tides (up to four meters) which flooded much of the city center and Roter Strasse, as well as everything along the Fjorde. Many people had to use boats to get by. These tides left another mess though- erosion, especially along the areas near Wassersleben near the Bridge of Friendship at the border.
There are many more examples to mention in the book, yet these five came to mind when reading this book myself. There have been countless other winter storms afterwards that crippled the region and brought with it high snow drifts, ice and flooding, including the last big snow storm in Flensburg in early 2018. But none was as glaring and captivating as the one from 40 years ago, especially when reading the accounts written by the editor. The book did bring back some memories of snow storms that I dealt with as a child growing up in Minnesota and a snowstorm of similar proportions happened shortly after this one, which left a big drift of a meter to the door of our house on a lake. Yet for those who lived through this harsh winter in northern Germany of 40 years ago, this book will bring back some memories of how one survived one of the worst of all time. So read it, share your stories, ask others about it. You’ll be amazed at the stories they will share about this event.
You can also watch some of the documentaries that were from the last entry by clicking here.
Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. She had written seven autobiographies about her life, all of them having received accolades. She had written a great deal about society and the environment, her family and her hardships. But one of the poems somewhat stood out that deserves recognition post humus. This Genre special looks at life and death and how things change. It is somewhat tragic as it deals with the fall of the greats and the struggle to pick up where they have left off- to regenerate and regrow. This poem is dedicated to not only what has happened in California and the west coast with the forest fires, but also to all those whom we miss. Atfer all, we have a lot of growing up to do in order to understand how our environment works and how we should foster its growth in order to have any chance of life for future generations.
“When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety. When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us. Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”
With the holiday season around the corner, we have Father Christmas (Santa Claus) in action, as seen in the Christmas commercial presented by German supermarket chain Kaufland. This was released shortly before Thanksgiving and even though it is a tradition over here in Germany to have food chains to release commercials with special themes just in time for the holiday season, this one is special as Germany, like many countries in Europe, is latching onto the Black Friday tradition, where people line up in front of malls and major stores to get the best deals for Christmas. The difference here is that Kaufland, like many store chains, are introducing Black Week. Taking place at the same time as Thanksgiving, Black Week shoppers can find the best deals both in stores as well as online- mostly through Amazon, who may have started this tradition. Whether it is a good idea to order online or not remains to be open, but if Father Christmas keeps huffing and puffing to get everything last minute, he won’t have to worry about weight loss come Christmas time. It’s just a matter of persuading people perceiving him as fat and jolly that being slim and active is a wonderful thing. 😉
So let’s shop and celebrate smart, shall we?
The Flensburg Files is about to go on tour to the Christmas markets again, as the first one opens after Thanksgiving. To look at the previous places visited, click here.
There is also a collection of other Christmas stories, films and poems in the Literature and Genre section. Click here and scroll down, there are some funny ones worth seeing.
While the Christmas market tour will include some catching up from last year (the author was sick during much of the holiday season last year), it will include some cool activities for you to try out, not to mention a couple things to think about- the author sometimes has to get them off his chest and many can benefit from it.
This blog is the result of an idea that's in my head for already quite a time. I love languages, cultures, travel and lifestyle topics and would like to write articles about interesting topics related to these topics. This blog is more a project that I start for myself. Of course, I will be happy if my content is also a valuable source for others, so that we can share our ideas and experiences.