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Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

On Censorship

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2010 at 4:14 am

Story by: Marisa Deale

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

John Humphry’s interview with Julian Assange on BBC Radio 4 was a travesty. Yet again, the BBC have demonstrated their hard-hitting journalistic integrity through a succinct and logical line of questioning:

Q: How many women have you slept with?

JA: That’s a private business. Not only does a gentleman not tell, not only does a gentleman like to talk about his private life, a gentleman certainly doesn’t count.

Q: Many, without being specific?

JA: I’ve never had a problem before with women. Women have been extremely helpful and generous.

Q: Not quite the question I asked you.

JA: No, women have been extremely helpful and generous and put up with me. But…

Q: Does put up with you mean having you in their beds?

JA: Of course on occasion, I mean I’m an adult man, but women have been generous to me over many years.

Anybody listening to this cringe-inducing exchange could not fail to sympatise with Assange,  his subsequent refusal to conduct further interviews with the press is hardly surprising. The BBC were the first and only media outlet allowed exclusive access to the Norfolk mansion in which Assange is currently residing, and for some reason Humpfry’s persisted in a vain attempt to present Assange as a “sexual predator” preying on groupies attracted to him due to his “celebrity” status. What a shocking revelation that Assange likes to have sex with women! Arrest that man!

Admittedly, I’m a little biased when it comes to Julian Assange – I’m a sucker for a pretty face, but also I’m divided on the issue of censorship in the media.

“Sometimes to be silent is to lie”

(Miguel Unamuno, and later Philip Supina)

Throughout history, whistleblowers and political leaks HAVE improved transparency and I believe they HAVE changed the world for the better – Deepthroat,  Watergate  and the Pentagon Papers are good examples.  And yet, a nagging feeling in the back of my mind (possibly planted by the Clinton’s reaction to Cablegate) tells me that somewhere someone is going to take the fall for this.

Der Spiegel recently ran an article entitled,  ‘Can free speech be protected on a private internet?’ suggesting that rather than being a “public space”, the internet is in fact a “private sphere” controlled by companies who exercise their rights of ownership as they wish. This throws up some interesting question about the possibility of policing online material. Who has the right to determine which material should be censored and which material people should be allowed to view?

Freedom of Speech

Many Westerners have been critical of China’s policies on internet censorship; however, in  Germany there are also restrictions placed on the information available to us online. One recently publicised ban in Germany relates to the website Youporn – access to Youporn was banned in Germany amid fears that child pornography was being displayed on the site. So, a restriction was placed on the site in the interest of public protection. Effectively “pick your battles”.

A post WW2 Germany has made any public display of the swastika illlegal, presumably in an attempt to discourage the formation of right-wing fascist groups, or to avoid the potential glorification of Nazism. This law seems to hold true regardless of the context of the situation: In one street in Berlin,  swastikas displayed on flags  for Tom Cruise’s movie Valkyrie were duly blacked out. Contrast this with Britain’s attitude towards the Swastika  where we have, relatively recently,  seen our young royals parading around in an SS officer replica uniform for fancy dress. This mark of disrespect was certainly not one of Harry’s finer moments.

Modernity and its discontent

In a modern, democratic society individuals are often sceptical of politicians and government. I strongly believe that a free and independent media, and an increase in transparency is a good thing. Increased information from reliable sources can aid in the formation of a more honest and just society. The final part of the BBC interview inspired me a little – it made me feel motivated to become a more socially useful person. Hopefully that’s one New Year’s Resolution I can keep. Roll on 2011!

Q: You want to change the world?

JA: Absolutely. The world has a lot of problems and they need to be reformed. And we only live once. Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they’re in.

That is a value, that, yes, comes partly from my temperament. There is also a value that comes from my father, which is that capable, generous men don’t create victims, they try and save people from becoming victims. That is what they are tasked to do. If they do not do that they are not worthy of respect or they are not capable.

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Xavier Naidoo – Alles kann besser werden

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2010 at 3:22 am

The ghost of Christmas Past: Exorcising the Ex

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2010 at 2:59 am

Every year it’s the same old story – some stupid comment, a film on the TV, a particular way of cooking a particular type of food, or maybe just too much booze – conjures up an image of Dickensian longing for times past and Christmases shared with loved ones who just aren’t around any more. Somehow, it’s worse than Valentine’s Day.  You’re sitting there just waiting for that inevitable Christmas email to arrive, reminding you or your current beau of those excrutiatingly painful memories of lost love; igniting passions; rekindling dialogue; potentiating romance…? Call me paranoid, but I’m sure stranger things have happened and the tension caused by this half-expected contact certainly doesn’t work to benefit a relationship.

So, I’ve come up with a set of guidelines for dealing with this annoying little Casper…

Read the rest of this entry »

Munich’s Best Bars

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 1:06 am

Tambosi


Located immediately adjacent to the Hofgarten, opposite Odeonsplatz U-Bahn station, Munich’s oldest coffee house (est. 1775) is a beautiful place to sip a cup of heisse schokolade and relax. The atmosphere of the coffee house is great, with outside seating overlooking the Residenz if the weather is fine, and magnificent, elaborate decor inside, should you need to shelter from the cold. Be prepared for a bit of a wait for service during High Season –  this place can get very busy!

Roosevelt


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stylish and sexy ‘smoking club’ which in practise means you pay a nominal fee for a membership card, and can come back to the bar whenever you like. The atmosphere is surprisingly unpretentious given the location of the venue, which offers reasonably priced drinks, and a fantastic array of  scotch.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.deutscheseiten.de/img/veranstaltungen/1266847882C521.JPG

Thierschplatz 5
80538 München, Deutschland
089 21578300

U-Bahn: Lehel#1


Where have all the language teachers gone?

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Photo: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

George was a portly fellow with a mouthful of yellow teeth, a teddy boy rocker’s quiff which he kept slicked neatly back with Brylcream, and a dangerous penchant for tight black leather trousers (somewhat unbecoming for a man of his girth). Although not exactly a looker, Gerorge took great pains to present himself as ‘an interesting man’ to anyone who would listen for more than five minutes. He could regularly be heard waxing lyrical on such diverse subjects as: the greatest achievements of Western philosophy, the virtues of Pagan rituals, and basic motorcycle maintenance. Between offers to show any female with a pulse around Berlin’s “incredible and inspiring”  S+M clubs, George dropped a bombshell – confiding that he wasn’t really an ESL teacher. Hell, no! His ambitions, he claimed, lay in the glamorous field of erotic photography, and he also planned to expand his burgeoning East London based fashion business – selling rubber catsuits and other “specialist costumes” by opening a shop in East Berlin – “latex is going to be HUGE in women’s fashion this year” he stated authoritatively.

George really was quite a character. As proud as he was of his intellectual acumen and his custom-made motorcycle, his greatest pride lay in his boastful ignorance of the German language. Although he had been teaching in Berlin for the past 10 years, his German was still only A1 (at a beginner level). But after all, George wasn’t going to spend his whole life in this business – he was really going places.

The sad fact is that George is ubiquitous in the TEFL industry. He’s present in every writer/artist/photographer/business artist I have ever worked alongside. More often than not, teachers delude themselves with grandiose dreams. It’s all very romantic. Here’s a newsflash: if you go to a language school to teach English for 8 hours a day, then you are just AN ENGLISH TEACHER.

The embarrassment implicit within the title “English language teacher” leads people to create all manner of alternate job titles such as “Intercultural language consultant”, or “Financial language trainer”. It sounds ridiculous but makes some sense in an industry where teachers are generally paid very little and treated extremely poorly.  A career in ESL is unlikely to be a lucrative one, even should you decide to embark upon a DELTA qualification, a DOS position often pays little more than a language teaching post, and is considerably more stressful.

Back in London, the Departmental Coordinator at my language school bemoaned the fact that the Latin American students have a tendency to praise the teaching staff , but treat the reception staff very badly: “the trouble is” she said “in their country, teaching is a very respectable profession, so they see the receptionists as inferior to the teachers”.

She hardly needed to add a follow-up comment (which was spoken as mere fact, not insult), “of course, over here it’s the other way around”.

On the run up to Christmas.

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I can’t believe another year has passed, and once again Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas in Munich has to be one of my favourite things, and this year I’m going to miss the beautiful Christmas lights and the magnificent tree at Marienplatz, sipping a cup of hot glühwein which warms my numb gloved hands in the frosty evening. Singing, and dancing and ice skating with friends in the city, eating a Bratwurst, or a bag of warm roasted chestnuts (which never taste anywhere as good as they smell).  This year’s Christmas may be minus a Glühwein Kater, but it certainly won’t be the same…

Christmas Advent Calendar!

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Just received this in my inbox, and I lOVE it! A surprise behind every door with Deutche Welle’s scrumptious

Adventskalender für Deutschlerner!

1st December

open

2nd December  ↑ open

3rd December

open

4th December

open

Lebkuchen

In Uncategorized on December 4, 2010 at 2:05 am

One of the things I miss most when I’m away from Germany is this delicious, traditional spiced gingerbread biscuit.  If you go to any of the German Christmas markets,you’ll witness stalls offering a rainbow of Lebkuchenherzen  iced with messages like “Ich liebe Dich” or “Meiner Kuschelmaus”.  Lebkuchenherzen or ‘ Gingerbread Hearts’ are perfect Christmas gifts for friends and family as they look beautiful, can be iced with a personal message , taste delicious if you give into the temptation of eating them, and will keep for a seemingly indefinite length of time if you can resist.

The history of Lebkuchen is detailed and fascinating. The modern version of Lebkuchen (today also known as honey cake) is said to have originated with the Eygyptians and the Greeks who believed that honey was a gift from the gods, possessing magical powers. The Greeks and Romans are said to have worn honey cakes  for protection from the Gods when going into battle.

CKEFFER‘s  interesting blog on German Cookies provides more info on the origins of Lebkuchen:

The modern iteration of the cake/bread/cookie has its roots in a monestary in the German town of Franconia in the early 13th century, but it’s origin can be traced back to the honeycakes of Egypt.

The Egyptians baked honey-sweetened and heavily spiced cakes similar to today’s lebkuchen and buried them in the graves of their Pharaohs as gifts to the gods. The Romans adopted the recipe and called it Panus Mellitus, or Sweet Bread. It traveled with them westwards and as the more exotic spices of the Orient and Middle East became more available in Europe, so did this sweet bread.

In Germany, Lebkuchen were created by Franconian monks in the 13th century, with Lebkuchen bakers originating in 1296 in Ulm, and 1395 in Nuremburg. The Nürnberger Lebkuchen is my favourite incarnation of this soft gingerbread, and since 1996 any Lebkuchen bearing the Nürnberger name must have been produced within the city. I particularlylike  the sugar-topped Lebkuchen studded with almonds  – Elisenlebkuchen. The name “Elise” is associated with the finest quality Lebkuchen, and there is some charm in the confusion over whether Elise refers  to the wife of a margrave, or to the baker’s daughter!

There are several subtle variations on the Lebkuchen recipe which result in either a soft gingerbread, or a harder, more brittle and biscuity texture. For the Lebkuchenherzen, I would recommend the About.com recipe; an excellent recipe for the crunchier gingerbread version, which can be shaped into little iced rounds (perfect for moments of seasonal indulgence) can be found on the BBC Good Food website; I am posting my favourite recipe for Lebkuchen which is versatile enough to use either for biscuits, or for a German gingerbread house a la Hansel and Gretel!

This makes 12 biscuits, the original recipe can be found here.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups honey
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup candied mixed fruit
  • 1 tablespoon light sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Spray bottom and sides of a 10 x15 inch glass pan with a non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).
  2. In a 2 cup glass measuring cup, heat the honey and 1/3 cup sugar in a microwave for 1 minute. Pour this mixture into a medium mixing bowl.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to the honey mixture. Stir well.
  4. Add and mix in by hand the candied fruit, oil, and spices.
  5. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups more flour. Knead dough to mix (dough will be stiff). Spread into pan. Bake for 20 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cut into squares. May be frosted with sugar glaze or eaten plain. Best if stored for 2 weeks.


Photo: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/