New Penalty Catalog in Germany: Protecting Bikes and Scooters; No Pardons for Speeders and Fishtailers; No Mercy for the Novices

asphalt auto autobahn automobile
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

FLENSBURG- If there is one adjective to describe the new Penalty Catalog (Bußgeldkatalog), in force since April 28th, it would be this: environmentally friendly. This is because the catalog provides more protection for cyclists and those who currently use the newest form of transportation, the E-scooter.  For drivers wishing to get a photo with a gatsometer, it will be more costly, especially if it includes a one month timeout for going 75 km/h in a 50 Zone in the city.  For novice drivers on probation, who are caught drinking and driving, they get more than just a speeder from a cop on duty. And those who are high on a Mickey (Finn) as a driver and endangers other road-users can face time behind bars guarded by Mickeys and possibly, lose his driver’s license.

bikes in winter

The new Penalty Catalog is based on a growing trend that law enforcement officials have seen on German highways within the last two years. Some were considered positive with the introduction of E-scooters and the expanded use of the bicycle. In 2018 alone, as many as 9.3% of German residents bike to work on a daily basis. Another 18.2% of people bike several days a week, and the trend is growing. With that trend comes the pursuit of new paths and additional lanes on many highways and streets to accommodate them. At the same time though, many motorists are frustrated with the fact that more cyclists and scooters are sharing the road, resulting in an increase in the number of accidents with the bike. Last year alone, the number of bike fatalities was the highest ever since 2010 with 158 deaths reported during the first half of the year, alone. Two thirds came from the involvement with the car.  The new laws that are in place are more structured to show how the car and the bike can share the road. At the same time, they will protect both the biker and the scooterist from getting hit by a motorist.

autobahn freeway highway lights
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

On the flip side, the new Penalty Catalog will help law enforcers rein in on Boston Driving on German highways. This includes but is not limited to: excessive speeding on the German Autobahn (motorway), unlawfully driving in or blocking the rescue lane (Rettungsgasse)- especially when stopping to photograph or film an accident- hogging up two lanes, doing the California roll with a yield sign although cross traffic has the right of way, punching red lights, fishtailing another car and lastly, driving while being too high on drugs and not focusing on the road.  According to the Department of Vehicle Registration in Flensburg, speeding has the highest rate of all traffic offenses. Yet DUIs and accidents are a primary concern, especially among those who are either under 21 years of age or have gotten their licenses for the first time. Therefore the new catalog will crack down on the above-mentioned offenses and force drivers to behave themselves by respecting the rules, road signs and other road users.

StVO-Novelle: neue Verkehrszeichen und ihre Bedeutung - autobild.de
Two examples of new signs to promote the bike and scooter. Photo: Autobild.de

To sum up on what the rules will look like, we will look at what to expect from cyclists and scooterists.  First and foremost, motorists are expected to follow the distance guidelines where they are to be 1.5 meters away from the cyclist upon passing them. In the countryside it’s 2 meters. This also applies for pedestrians, the elderly and the disabled. Already the rule has been in place for fishtailing. Motorists are expected to maintain a distance with the car in front of them at a distance that is half the speed they are driving.  A new No-Passing-Zone sign designed for banning cars from passing scooters and bikes will be introduced. While the rules and regulations regarding fishtailing a car has remained the same as in the previous catalog, those endangering either of the groups by ignoring the distance rule while passing can face up to 100 Euros and 1 point for violation.

toddler using scooter on road
Photo by Bagus Pangestu on Pexels.com

Because E-scooters are considered qualified road vehicles, the rules that exist for bike users apply for scooterists, yet the requirement to have a scooter registered is the same as when registering for a car. Furthermore it is not allowed to latch onto the car or ride more than two riders abreast without risking an accident.  And lastly, both cyclists and scooterists will have their own bike zone and “Bike Autobahn” where only they can rule the road and not the car driver.

teddy 1
Teddy will watch you more than ever. 

Cracking down on speeding will be the centerpiece of the new policies. Fines for going up to 20 km/h over the speed limit have doubled. Instead of 30 Euros for going 66 km/h in a 50 Zone, it’s now 60.  Yet one can face at least a one month driving ban for going more than 20 km/h over the limit, in addition to higher fines and a point on the record. For more than 40 km/h, it’s 2 points and a 2-month ban. Similar guidelines are in place for trucks and vehicles with trailers.  For parking violations, those who disregard the regulations and even the biker will have to dig deeper into their wallets than ever before, for the fines are much higher. Drivers who park on bike lanes and sidewalks can face a fine of 70 Euros and a Flensburg point. For double-parking in a parking lot, it’s at least 80 Euros and a point. Brand new is a parking ban in areas reserved for E-cars, car-sharing, and handicapped parking. Violators there can face a fine of 55 Euros.

person driving and drinking
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

To put the icing on the cake, the catalog also includes tougher penalties for impaired drivers. Already in place is the 500-1000-1500 Euro model for the number of DUI violations, plus 2 points per offense. Those who are caught driving while intoxicated and have a blood alcohol content of more than 1.1 per mil face up to 3 points and one year in prison. If he endangers others, it’s up to five years. There’s also a chance that he could lose his driving license permanently.  For drivers on probation, there’s an absolute zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs while driving. Violators can face a 250 Euro fine, be given a point and have their 2-year probationary period be extended by up to two years. This extension applies for other traffic violations.

The QEII Bridge at Dartford, east of London. It has extremely long approach ramps to get the roadway high enough to cross the River Thames while still leaving sufficient clearance for ships to pass underneath. This is the problem that a transporter bridge aims to solve. Photo by Nico Hogg [CC BY 2.0] via this flickr page

The new Penalty Catalog in Germany builds off of the present guidelines but it serves two purposes: 1. To encourage safety and better behavior of drivers on the highways, protecting themselves and other road users and 2. To encourage alternatives to the car, allowing an opportunity to use environmentally friendlier forms of transportation while paying attention to the road and others. It’s a firm but friendly approach to traveling in Germany, where one will have to think critically before and while taking to the road, for while the car is still a prized German good for the family, we’re seeing more two-wheels that are ruling Germany’s roads. And these are the ones we’re encouraging to use the road as often as we’re commuting by car.

 

fast fact logo

Mickey has two different meanings.  The Mickey (Finn) is an alcoholic drink consisting of alcohol, snuff-soaked water, tobasco sauce and a drug to put a person to sleep. The origin came from a guy named Mickey Finn who was infamous for lacing other people’s drinks using similar ingredients. You can find his biography here.  The other meaning of Mickey is an American slang that means the same as a cop or the official term, police officer. This is used mainly in big cities. The origin comes from the Disney character, Mickey Mouse.

 

Author’s Note: 

To learn more about the new penalty code for behavior on the road, click onto this link below. This will take you to the new catalog which will have all the details of the do’s and don’ts of traveling in Germany:

Link: https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/  

A summary in English can be found here: https://www.bussgeldkatalog.org/german-driving-laws/

The Files will provide you with an update on the rules of biking in Germany as well as new rules for riding a scooter. Both of which will be in separate articles.

FlFi10

 

Corona Virus: The Response, The Solution. An Interview and Speech with Bill Gates

photo of person using magnifying glass while holding a glass slide
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

For each pandemic, there is also a silverlining. Be it the development of medicine. Be it the measures that are in place to protect people from being infected. Be it the people who are helping the infected- doctors, nurses, researchers and others in the field of medicine.  Be it the people who have done a lot of work in this field but have for the large part been ignored.

People like Bill and Melinda Gates.

Together with Paul Allen, Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975. Ten years later, Gates introduced a Windows program for personal computers. Both of which were in connection with Mr. Gates’ experience with developing software in the 1970s which would eventually define how we use personal computers today.  Gates is one of the richest people in the world.  Together with Melinda, they established the Gates Foundation, which focuses on public policy and public health. They have been known as one of the most generous philanthropists of all time.

Over the past decade, Gates has provided information and warnings about the potential of a new virus forming that will be equal to the Spanish Flu of over a century ago. From 1918 to 1921 the flu infected as many as 500 million globally and killed a tenth of that population.  The causes of the flu stemmed from World War I.  With the Corona Virus, that is being followed more closely as there are talks of the virus coming in waves, the second one being the deadlier form than the first. Yet the causes of the virus has been wide spread. Some have pointed to a mishap in one of the labs. Others (even the majority) have claimed that the environmental degradation caused by development of cities and agriculture, combined with climate change, may have triggered the first of several deadly virus that could kill off the global population en masse.  In either case, governments have not paid attention to the dangers……

until now.

To better understand the missing warning signs and how we can respond now to Co-Vid 19 and even to other viruses that will succeed Corona, I’ve presented a pair of TED Talks on this topic, as addressed by Bill Gates.  The first one talks about the virus we were not even close of being prepared. It was a TED Talk done in March 2015:

 

The second one is a 50+ minute interview on the possible responses to the current virus, including how The Gates Foundation is responding to the virus.  One needs to keep in mind that Corona is the first of many viruses that will affect global society in many ways- one even more drammatic than the other.

A separate article that follows (you can click here to read) looks at the lessons we can learn from the Corona Virus from his point of view. Please takes all of these points by heart for we are now living in the new norm, where instead of nuclear weapons and guns, the health of our state- both involving the human body (physio and psycho) as well as the environment will become our top concern, and for generations to come.

 

FlFi10

It’s time for Americans to stop wasting time complaining and bashing and tackle the issues at hand- Unplugged Version

Flags

Author’s Note: If a person wants another example of how freedom of speech is being altered to the benefit of the select few, here’s one worth chewing- when you write a letter to the editor to a local newspaper, only for the editor to leave out certain (but also very important points) because of the concept of limiting the amount of words per article. Granted limitations are necessary to prevent guest writers from writing novels of work. However, such limitations can result in the meaning of the work being either destroyed or altered, thus putting the author in a position of humiliation, being asked what the point was or what garbage was he writing. An example of this came from a recent letter to the editor from a local newspaper in Minnesota, where the writer went into detail, only for the editor to not only gut it but also alter it, causing confusion, while at the same time, angering the author. The shortened version is here, whereas the uncut version is below. 

 

Having lived away from the US for almost 20 years and settled down in Germany, I usually try and stay out of politics as much as I can. I usually follow the events from my hometown newspaper in Minnesota and for some reason, I happen to reach the letters to the editor section of the newspaper, where people write and bash other people, especially when it comes to politics. Sometimes the letters to the editor I read in my hometown newspaper are absurd and mind-scratching. How we waste our time complaining about people and bashing political parties instead of being a united community is beyond me.
Yet after over a decade absence from writing a letter to the editor, I feel it is time to speak out, asking everyone if they have either looked at themselves in the mirror or have read their writing before having the editor of the Pilot post it online and in print. Because what I have seen in American media is nothing but World Championship Writing (I elect to use Writing instead of Wrestling) where instead of body-slamming, choke-slamming and suplex slamming people, we are seeing people slamming each other in the media. And while our illustrious „President“ indulges in this type of mayhem- after all, he does it everyday with Twitter- this type of turmoil is turning us off every day by the thousands, both in America as well as abroad.
As I write this, I’m reminded of the ice shelves in Greenland and Antarctica breaking up in large chunks, causing sea levels to rise and storms of biblical proportions to ravage even our own backyards. Not a single farmer will be able to plant their crops this year because the fields are either under water or too wet. We’ve set the record for the warmest temperatures for 18 out of the last 20 years, with tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths attributed to heat stroke, cancer and other dangerous ailments. Our oceans are covered in plastic, and marine life is fading faster than what scientists have even expected. Depression and drug use are on the exponential rise. I don’t think I’ll remind you about a friend, classmate or family member you know who died of opiod overdose. I‘ve lost two in five years. And yes, lest we not forget that the US has become a gun republic, where instead of constructive face-to-face conversations about issues we have, we have either social media, the gun or both. Sadly, most of us elect both.
And what do we have in response? The NRA? Hillary’s e-mail scandal? Trump’s collusion with Russia? Elizabeth Warren’s claim of being Pocahontas? Stormy Daniels? Facebook and Privacy? All of this in the newspapers or social media or even both. Again, we unfortunately elect to choose both weapons instead of seeing what’s going on outside our homes and jobs.
My intention is to bash neither the liberal nor the conservative, no matter how extreme we are. I have as many friends and family on the left as they are on the right, both in the States as well as abroad. And I’ve respected the opinions and stances of both, even though I have my own political views (which I will keep private- my choice). What I really ask of you is to just simply knock it off. Quit this garbage! What’s done is done! Water under the bridge! Finito! We should be more concerned with what’s going on around us and what we can do to right the ship and move forward.

The United States has been a leader in advanced science and technology, international
relations and even environmental policies that have been in place since Obama and are still working even as Trump tries to dismantle it and deny what is going on in our world. And while Trump continues to play golf at Mara Lago, twittering and slamming other people regardless of color, gender, religion and even sexual preferences, let’s just simply do our part and show the rest of the country and the world that we are better than this.

It all starts with two of the most important dates that will dictate our future: November 3, 2020 but more importantly, right now. What will you do to make a difference? I hope it’s the right thing that everyone will be happy with.

Thank you.

 

 

As agreed beforehand, the name of the newspaper was left out and some parts altered to protect its identity and prevent any problems on the part of the writer. However, the difference shows really well. 

 

Fl Fi USA

 

TED Talk: The Disarming Case to Act Now on Climate Change by Greta Thunberg

IMGP9348

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

 

FLFIApplelogo

When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou

flfi trees

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.”

 

ff-new-logo1

Genre of the Week: Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

21199489_1615769091787067_2287244526147575239_o (1)

Sometimes when we see something we don’t like we bash the person doing it. Sometimes we counter with our own actions that can be put down by external factors. Sometimes we look in the mirror and ask ourselves who we are, what we are capable of doing for the good of onesself and others as well. Each of us has a gift to make others happy, no matter what it is- hobbies, jobs and spending time with family and friends, maybe even meeting or reacquainting with people. Sometimes when the situation gets extremely difficult to handle, we need to look back and think carefully what has worked in the past, can we use our experiences in the past for our present situation to help others in the future or do we just simply blow it up and start with a clean slate.

Sometimes we just need to look at ourselves and the environment around us and find creative ways of bettering both.  Michael Jackson produced this song Man in the Mirror in 1988, looking at the situation we were facing and the changes we need to make to help others. The problems seen at that time are still the same and getting worst in the present. This is compounded by the fact that we have leaders who encourage the public to indulge in perverted acts of hatred, trolling and attacking others for even mentioning the problems facing our countries today. The act of dividing our countries, destroying families, friendships and relationships is also killing us on the inside, alienating ourselves from our own real identities. Almost all of us (even I myself) have been guilty of this, no matter how often and to what extent. Yet when we all take a look at ourselves and the situation affecting us all, each of us should see the inner potentials we have to turn the situation around, unite to put an end to the destruction we’re witnessing before our eyes, and reforge relationships with the people we hurt the most, relatives, friends, partners and even strangers. I learned this recently as I had to confront myself with an unwanted past but profited more than what I expected. Except the person affected gave me the gift of what I’m capable of doing for the good.

And I think when we listen and watch this video, it will give ourselves an incentive to stop what we are doing, ask ourselves who we are and what we can do better; even if it means looking into our inner-selves to see what gifts we have to help others. Sometimes it goes beyond looking into one’s mirror but talking to and forgiving someone from the past.

So as an incentive:

fast fact logo Although he was named singer of the decade in 1990 for his hits in the 70s and 80s, the King of Pop devoted most of his time in the last two decades of his life exposing the problems affecting our society, which included racism, war and poverty and environmental destruction, be it through his songs or his work in the Michael Jackson foundation. Unfortunately, his life was cut short tragically, as he died of a drug overdose on June 25, 2009 at the age of 51. A detailed biography of one of the members of the original Jackson Five can be found here. This song wins the title of Genre of the Week for it focuses on the issues we are facing today but on a larger scale. We need to know what gifts we have and what we can do to tackle the issues at hand, before they grow out of control.

 

flefi-deutschland-logo

Genre of the Week: The History of the Teddy Bear by Jon Mooallem

IMG_20150807_065722

To start off the Genre of the Week, here’s a question for you: How many of you have a teddy bear? What names did you give them, and how did you characterize them when playing with them? Almost every child at one time had a teddy bear in his/her lifetime and one in three adults still have that teddy bear from their childhood. More than half the children have more than three teddys in their rooms at home. And if you are like other kids, you probably have names for each of the Teddy bears you have. 🙂  In the case of my daughter, she and I had names for a dozen teddy bears she had when she was growing up; among them include Rocky (Senior and Junior) for a pair of panda bears, plus two bears who always find ways of travelling with this writer: Bam Bam and Coco, a white and brown bear duo. Their parents were included as well, including Coco’s mom, Anna Bear, as seen in the pic above.  But what do we know of the origin of the teddy bear?

IMGP9755

The teddy bear was developed in two different locations, almost simultaneously. In Germany, a seemstress company, founded by Margarete Steiff in 1880, a teddy bear was created by her nephew Richard in 1902, based on a real depiction of the bear. It debuted in 1903 and became so popular, that a buyer for an American toy company bought large numbers for the market. The Steiff bears eventually became teddy bears. At the same time of the first teddy bear in Germany, a very popular Amercian figure, while on a hunt, saved a life of a small bear, thus becoming a focus of a cartoon shown below:

theodorerooseveltteddybear
Drawing a Line in Mississippi by Clifford K. Barryman

Eventually, Morris and Rose Michtom took this depiction and created their first toy company that produced these adorable creatures, honoring that man, which became known as Teddy’s Bear. 🙂

But inspite of the two separate events that helped create the still most lovable toy for people of all ages, there was a motive behind making teddy bears. In a TED-Talk lecture, Jon Mooallem provides a detailed look behind the history of the teddy bear and its relationship with not only us humans, but also the environment we are living in. And as the bears become popular, the concern for protecting flora and fauna has become greater than it was in 1902.

Watch the video and have a look at the questions. Think about what he says and discuss about the role of teddy bears and the relationship between humans and the environment, something that is fragile and needs attention more than ever. The video is at the end of the article.

Questions:

  1. Who was the person that saved a bear’s life? What happened and when did it happen?
  2. Why did he save the bear’s life? What was the result of his action?
  3. What was the relationship between bears (and other wild animals) and settlers like during that time?
  4. What measures were taken to protect the settlers during that time? How were the animals affected- name one example.
  5. What does the teddy bear symbolize according to the speaker?
  6. Why did we go from portraying animals as terrifying beasts to ones that are lovable? There are two factors that are interconnected and are still a key issue in society…..
  7. The speaker mentions that nature has become so dependent on humans that it cannot survive on its own, going from almost destroying the species to saving and educating them- aka conservation reliance.
    1. What factors have led to the natural balance being off course
    2. What examples are mentioned where humans “train” animals?
    3. In your opinion, do you agree with the speaker’s statements? If so, why and what examples support your argument? If not, what examples of uncontrolled natural areas can you think of?
  8. In your opinion, does controlling nature produce a better balance with humans or does it make sense to let “the deer and the antelope play and vegetation produce flower power?” (In other words, let flora and fauna be)? What reasons support your arguments?
  9. Do you have a teddy bear? If so, what is his/her name and how would you describe your bear in terms of appearance and character?

 

Enjoy the clip below! 🙂

 

 

FF new logo1

Genre of the Week: Allentown by Billy Joel

sea of white

We all have been paying attention to the recent developments in the United States, especially when it comes to Donald Trump. Already he has destroyed generations-long ties with traditional neighbors, like Germany, France and the rest of Europe, plus countries in the Middle East minus Israel and Saudi Arabia and with China. He has declared to pull America out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which his predecessor Barack Obama had signed prior to leaving office in January. And to the dismay of even his fellow Americans both at home as well as abroad, he has stressed the importance of jobs over wasting money to help other poor countries fight a phenomenon, which he claims does not exist.

 

All of this for one sole purpose: clean coal!

 

While several actors, even within his own country, have declared that they will buck the trend of the president and follow the Paris protocol- with Hawaii having become the first state to sign the agreement, other states like Minnesota, New York, California and Washington set to follow even as an alliance, and even oil companies are going green with their approach to sustainable development, all directions are pointing towards an isolationist politician whose title is the President of the United States, but he is acting in the best interest of just the coal miners and those of the oil companies who are against Paris.

 

But why resort to coal, when so many arguments point towards phasing the energy source out in favor of renewable energies, such as fuel cells, wind, solar and hydroelectric? The energy is cheap, but residents and coal workers have to pay the price in terms of health. Generations of coal miners have been in the business and would like to remain there for the long term. However, the numbers are dwindling as mines close, miners get older and the job is not attractive at all.  Mining claims to be safe, but there are enough accidents to question that statement.

 

And the last claim that Trump has pointed out is that there are enough social and health benefits that will make the job an everlasting one. People can enter the field and stay there for life. And this song, entitled Allentown by Billy Joel, has several arguments debuking that claim.  Produced in 1982, the setting for the song is in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the heart of the coal and steel industry. There, the decline of the industry was taking shape after World War II, with mines and steel factories closing down, and workers suffering from the plight of unemployment and other social pathologies. By the early 1980s, over half of the factories and mines in Pennsylvania had been shut down and regions were forced to reinvent themselves. The trend would later be felt in Germany at the time of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, especially in the east, where the mining of brown coal, the dirtiest of coal devastated areas in Saxony including the Black Triangle region.

The lyrics behind this song has to do with the aftereffects of the closing down of the steel mills and mines. Listen to the song and ask yourself the following questions:

 

  1. Compare the war generation with the younger one. Which one had it better and why?

 

  1. Describe the life of a coal miner from the singer’s point of view. What is typical of them and the working conditions?

 

  1. When the people in Allentown are waiting for the Pennsylvania they never found, what was meant by that?

 

  1. Why is it hard for them to stay?

 

  1. In your opinion, despite Trump’s quest for reenergizing the coal industry, will it be successful in the end? Why or why not?

 

Supplemental question: Does your reason have to do with the decline in the industry and if so, why?

 

fast fact logo

William Martin Joel was born in 1949 and has had a singing career that has spanned over five decades. Billy Joel’s breakthrough came with Piano Man, produced in 1973. Since then, he has released 12 albums featuring both pop and classical music. Songs credited to his name include We didn’t start the fire, And so it goes, My life, Manhattan 2017, An innocent man, Leningrad, and Baby Grand (together with favorite idol, the late Ray Charles).  Allentown was one of several songs Billy Joel wrote which focuses on real themes affecting America, Russia and other parts of the world. That song received praise from the mayor of Allentown, and Joel therefore received royalities and other recognition.

freiburgs17

FF new logo1

 

Genre of the Week: Are You Lost in the World like Me by Steve Cutts and Moby

HH17

In the past four years, many artists have come up with creative ways to address the audience with issues that we seem to ignore. These include environmental problems, social pathologies- like metal illness and broken relationships, greed and even the development of a concrete form of dystopia, where humans are a cog of a corporation that keeps running day and night, at the expense of our own lives. We’ve seen many documentaries on fracking, the extinction of bees and the perverting of the education system to favor the elite and make the rest become cogs for the corporate machines, done by well known journalists and photographers. But we have seen a steep increase in films and animations from grassroot organizations and people, whose main purpose is to make the situation as gloomy as possible- as a way of sobering society.

Steve Cutts is one of those up-and-coming artists who has been painting the situation as realistic as possible, but through animation. Born in London, Cutts is an illustrator and animator, having produced satires that focus on the faults of modern society. His animations have a combination of very graphic details with a background resembling Mickey Mouse in the 1930s and 40s. The exception is that we are subtracting Disney’s favorite pet with characters who are either greedy, victims of the rapid changes of society or the has-beens- people who had their heyday in the 1970s and 80s but have found themselves washed-up in favor of progress.

The first animation was released in 2012 entitled MAN, which focuses on man’s behavior towards the environment. Using the themes of that plus animal rights, Cutts focuses on how humans abuse the environment for their own gain. Over 20 million views were recorded when the film was released and has been seen by 20-fold ever since. Other animations produced by Cutts can be found on his website by clicking here.

And this takes us to the genre of the week and this animation, Are You Lost. This one deals with our obsession with social networking and the Smartphone. While things are falling apart in our society today, the only comfort is with the device which has hundreds of functions, including selecting the right partner, rewinding to nostalgia, capturing tragedies and finding Pokemon in a sanitary landfill. The worst thing is how our society is decaying because of the need of a small plastic device that is replaceable over people that are not. This includes the child as the main character in the film, who is left out completely because of the people who once they have a device in their hand, there is no return…….

…..or is there? While the music, provided by Moby and the Void Pacific Choir has a gothic taste combined with techno-music, this film looks at the addiction of the Smartphone and how we have become too dependent on it instead of other people. And while other addictions, like drinking, smoking and even being inactive are easy to overcome if we are committed to the task, this one is rather difficult to near-impossible to overcome because of the need to stay connected to people and news, even though they don’t matter to us at home. It is like we care more about the device than the problems that we have to address at home; many of them Cutts addresses here and in all his other films produced up til now. It leads us to the question of whether we can get by without the device for a full day and look at what really matters to us. And if this film is not enough to wake a person up, here’s a situation worth considering:

You see a person in despair, wanting to kill him/herself- like in this film, whose animation is based on the work of Max Fleischer. You have a Smartphone in your hand and are in a deep conversation with someone a half a world away. You see the situation. Do you drop the phone and rush to the person’s aid, or do you watch from the sides and hope someone will do it for you?

It’s easy to be lost in a crowd and let the events unfold as they happen. But sometimes, just switching the phone off and doing something about it will save not just the life of that person, but in the end, your own, as well. Think about it when you watch this…..

 

fast fact logo

Moby (a.k.a. Richard Melville Hall) is an American musician whose specialty is producing electronic music and remixing songs produced by other artists, like Michael Jackson and the B-52s. He gained national fame in the 1990s with the release of the albums Everything is Wrong and Animal Rights, the first of a total of 13 albums that have been released since then. “The Systems Are Failing”  is the latest album to have been released in 2016 and includes the song “Are You Lost in the World, Like Me?” which includes Steve Cutts’ animation. Moby had asked Cutts to produce the film, while the Void Pacific Choir provided the vocals. Moby is a vegan, advocate of animal rights and an environmentalist and has also written essays on these topics as well. He resides in Los Angeles.

 

 

Don’t Plan for 2020; Plan for the Now and the Future

 

Dear fellow students, former students, friends and those loving a chat with an American expatriate,

 

Over the years, many of you have taken a keen interest in knowing about my country and its culture, including those who either have been in Minnesota, where I was born and raised, or are planning to go there. I had many who have spent time in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as in New Ulm, Fargo, Worthington, Winona, Duluth  and Rochester (and the Bluffs Region). I even had a former student who was an exchange student at a high school in Waseca, located between Albert Lea and Minneapolis and is where I came into the world almost 40 years ago. Many people have been asking me what my stance is on this year’s elections and despite my voting for my candidate of choice whether I would be happy with the result.

 

I’ve decided to put this to rest before I utter a word about it to my next class- and waste a couple valuable sessions in the process, because it is a library’s worth of explaining how messed up the United States of America has become, especially since the Elections of 2001 and the infamous hanging chads.

 

Last year while preparing a presentation for a lecture with a couple colleagues, one of them had a cheek to predict the end of the world and that anything we do is fruitless at this point. At that time, we didn’t have the debates but had prominent people vying for candidacy as the next President of the US by visiting regions and communities. We didn’t have a below-the-belt style of locker talk as we had in these Elections. Despite her being a devout Christian- a Lutheran- I played down her comment as absurd and totally unrealistic.

 

I can no longer say that when I read the results and after watching the debates, while draining the keg at the same time. In fact, if the opportunity arises, I would still like to ask her whether she holds this opinion and if so, why.  In response to what I saw in the Elections, as well as everyone else, it is as follows:

The role of the President of the United States is the most unwanted, underappreciated job of any jobs in the country. To get to where you are, you have to undergo the same procedures as Homer Simpson did when he joined the Stonecutter’s Society- getting spanked with a stick and getting humiliated in the process. This is what we saw with Clinton’s e-mail scandals together with the Benghazi affair on one end, and Trump’s Aryan rhetoric during his campaign speeches, sexual harassment lawsuits and ruined businesses. Once the ass is swollen, the media exploits you like a soap opera show and turn every debate into a wrestling match regardless of gender and who is refereeing- er moderating the debate.

With every debate I’ve watched, even over a few rounds of Flensburger Flotilla and wine, the first impression I had was that any tag-team match between Velvet McIntryre and Princess Victoria vs. the Fabulous Moulah and Wendi Richter would trump the verbal spats the two candidates had. And these matches of the 1980s were real and not scripted; genuine and not choreographed, tough knuckled and not pussy-like.  And you wonder why professional wrestling of the Eighties was one of the best products broadcasted on TV.

And now what? As a new member and leader of The Stonecutter’s Society known as the President of the United States, with a swollen ass and a bruised ego, you have a country to lead, many angry people to calm down and countries to impress. My prediction is simple: you will never make it past one year. And even if you did, the United States of America will never be the same as it was before the elections took place. It was becoming a stranger during the days since 2000. With the results of the Elections and the writing on the wall, the country which I grew up, with its pride in history, culture, landscapes and even literature, with friends and family alike, has become a total stranger. It used to be an example to follow, it is now divided like Spain prior to the Civil War (1936-39), conquered by hate and segregation similar to Germany under Hitler, an anarchic state where ideas are not welcomed and selling one’s soul to Satan in order to get ahead is the norm. In four years, we could see the country as either an authoritarian state or one that is on the brink of a Nebuchadnezzar-style uprising and raid.

 

And what will become of the republic that we have followed for over 227 years?  A faded memory.

 

But it is not too late. Our votes were not fully wasted. We have a democracy but it is the one which we the people can run. While we may have voted for the lesser of two evils in the elections, it is only we who can make the changes. Why wait until the next elections in 2020 when we can make a difference now and for the future? After all, with all the hatred we expressed to our candidates and the people who supported them, it is time that we take action to handle the problems the US has on its home front, let alone with other countries. I really doubt the winner will hold to his promises, nor do I think Washington can afford to rollback policies of the Reagan era, let alone prepare for the 2020 elections. We have pressing issues to deal with. And the list is long: The environment, immigration, improving foreign relations, helping war-torn countries rebuild, rebooting health care, restructuring the education system, improving the infrastructure, and so on. No president can handle this alone in four years, if he survives it. I don’t think anybody in Washington can handle it, but bickering and bitching will be a waste of time. We’ve tried two different policies since 2000 and neither one worked. I doubt the next style of policies will be any better. Therefore it is up to us, we as an international community to handle these problems head-on.

 

Did I use the words international community?  You bet I did.

 

We are no longer the people of the United States of America. We have no association between the Republicans and Democrats. We come from different backgrounds, but have the same problems as everyone else in the world. Instead of relying on politics as a way to providing comfort, we should go out there, see how things work in other countries and regions and see if we can work them into our system and our lives. We should implement the ideas we ourselves have and ensure everyone can benefit from it. We should create agreements that will benefit everyone and not the select few. We should pray for and help those who are unloved, underappreciated, narrow-minded, helpless- strangers, friends and family alike- and open the doors for God to help and bless us whenever we and they need it. We should read the Bible, Quran and other religious works and understand why the power of work and prayer works. We should learn about the other person and include him/her in our society. If fire and war hits, we should go and help them rebuild. After all, we all have a purpose in life. It is how we handle our lives that is the hardest to do, especially if we make decisions that can alter our course for the good.

 

While the next president will make many promises and break them, it is up to us to make and carry out solutions to the problems that we are facing, for it is we who cannot afford to wait until 2020. It is we who cannot afford to watch events to unfold. It is we who cannot afford to hide behind people whose purposes are to hurt and destroy other lives for their own gain. I know that there are more than enough unloving people out there, but we need to take action to persuade these people that we the people are doing this for their good. Believe it or not, the person predicting the apocalypse at the beginning of this article, I found her such a quote some weeks later that said just that:

 

We need to love the unloving, take action to help others in need and let the world under one God decide our fate. The more good we do, the better place we’ll have for generations to come and the more pride we have in ourselves that we accomplished something our president had previously promised but never carried out.

 

The future is now, not in 2020. We have to shine now, because we are now in uncharted territory. How events will unfold will depend on our actions and not that of others. So don’t wait, act!

IMGP5251

 

I could say more but in case you want my personal opinion about the elections between Donald Trump and Hilliary Clinton, and the state the US is in, this is my honest to God truth. We can talk about how the political system works and other issues to be resolved. However, sometimes the truth can be hard to swallow and we need time to digest it before we can decide what to do next. In my opinion, I will keep teaching and talking about my culture in comparison to Germany, continue to write my column pieces, exploit the sides we don’t read and talk about, and help those who wish to have a better life. After all, that is my sole reason for being here on this planet.

FF new logo1