Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Gogol Bordello

In Uncategorized on January 26, 2011 at 9:07 pm

It’s a balmy Summer’s night and I’m sitting on a swinging chair in the Englischer Garten, in the aftermath of a writer’s gardenhouse grill party. We’re rocking the chair back and forth when I recognise a familiar strain penetrating through my slightly ineubriated haze – it’s Eugene Hutz, or rather, Gogol Bordello.

I first heard Gogol Bordello in a tattoo parlour about 7 years ago, and was immediately gripped by Eugene’s husky, punky Ukrainian accent, and infectious gypsy/punk tunes. After watching Eugene in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated, I knew that this guy was really onto something special. His documentary The Pied Piper of Hutzovina traces Eugene’s travels back to the Ukraine and highlights  the Romani gypsy cause. Meeting Eugene, it’s easy to see why he has rocketed to popularity and can be seen anywhere from the cover of Dazed and Confused to a Calvin Klein ad campaign  – he emanates an unconventional sexiness. Oh yes, he’s skinny, pale, mustachioed and deeply, deeply charming and charismatic: Im living in Bristol, and I’m at the afterparty for his documentary when he motions for me to step into the DJ booth with him. He grabs my hand and I’m there-   DJing with Eugene Hutz! It’s pretty exciting, he asks what I want him to play and we start chating and singing,  the whole club pulsates with a cacophony of voices. It’s amazing. Later on that night, my coat gets stolen and I’m thinking “great, I’ll freeze to death walking home in a dresss without my sheepskin”. Then Eugene sees me looking worried and he asks what’s wrong. He puts my hands together and holds them up to his mouth and blows on them to keep my fingers warm. It’s a little flirtatious. It’s a little magical. It’s more than I could have expected. But so was the whole evening. That’s Eugene Hutz. And suddenly I’m not feeling cold any more.


Wikileaks and the Chaos Computer Club

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

A fund in the name of Vau Holland, organised in memory of the founder of one of the world’s oldest hacking clubs – the  Berlin based  Chaos Computer Club (est. 1981 ) –  has raised over 750 thousand euros for Wikileaks. According to the newspaper Welt, the Vau Holland fund is the “basic source of financing Wikileaks”.

During his lifetime, ‘ Wau Holland’  (born Herwart Holland-Moritz),  frequently spoke out against copy protection and government censorship, and set up the CCC to foster a community of like-minded hackers advocating freedom of information and increased transparency.

See also:

Boris Floricic, Andy Müller-Maguhnn, Chaos Computer Club,

Karl Koch

Bringing Dark Matter to Light

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 11:11 am

In search of dark matter

The visible matter in the Universe is like a water-lily in a dark lake, says Professor Andreas Burkert. By observing its behavior, one can deduce the nature of the “dark matter”. This is the mystery that Andreas Burkert, Chair of Computational Astrophysics at LMU’s Astronomical Observatory, wants to solve.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apotheken the Mick

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm

In the NYTimes Freakonomics blog, Daniel Hamermesh bemoans the extortionate cost of Aspirin in Germany. His comments on the monopoly status of Germany’s Apotheken highlight the inherent corruption behind policies such as  sales restrictions on medications, and the designation of “prescribed area(s) in which no other Apotheke can locate”. Both of these factors force consumers to shop at the Apotheken, and to pay ridiculously high prices for over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, thereby feeding into the “classic local monopoly”.

The problem is a nasty consequence  of the laboratory deregulation and of the economic power currently wielded by the pharmaceutical industry.

(See article below)

Where big pharma is king

“Why is aspirin so expensive in our country?” wonders Die Zeit. The weekly blames the lobbying and economic clout of the pharmaceuticals industry for the high prices charged for medicines on the German market, which are significantly more expensive than they are elsewhere in Europe.

An aspirin, which costs 2 cents in the UK and 14 cents in the Czech Republic, costs 20 cents in Germany. Oral contraceptives like the Yasmin birth control pill, which is produced by the German drug company Bayer and exported to more than 100 countries worldwide, are so expensive that black marketeers who re-import them from Portugal are making a killing.

According to the OECD, on average Germans spend 20% more than the citizens of other developed countries on medicines. A lobbyist interviewed by the weekly explains that there are two reasons for this. One is the size of the country: Germany functions as a reference market for other countries where prices are often lower. It follows that the cost of drugs in Germany is a critical issue for the pharmaceutical companies.

The second is deregulation: the laboratories are “free to set prices and charge what they want to insurance companies,” explains Die Zeit. Procedures for the autorisation and distribution of new pharmaceuticals are also much faster and easier to implement in Germany. Elsewhere in Europe, “only Malta and Denmark offer such preferential conditions to producers.”

Photo courtesy of:

The archeologists of identity

In Uncategorized on January 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm

To what extent is individual identity a by-product of cultural inheritance? Adhering to this doctrine could prove dangerous –  providing fodder for apologists, and setting a precedent for the negation of personal responsibility. Dismissing this notion wholesale cuts us off at the root, leaving a spliced cutting to grow and nurture and a dead stump at the base of the mighty oak tree.We may be told that we are the architects of our destiny,  what we are not often told is that we are equipped with the skills to be  archeologists of  identity. Though our skeletal structure may be formed according to our native culture, and we may not necessarily like everything we find, we can build upon the bare bones by keeping our body healthy and nourished with a diet of knowledge and receptivity.

See Benjamin Stein on German-Jewish identity and memory

The expat: Wanderlust and Rootlessness

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Wanderlust and rootlessness make strange bedfellows.

Wanderlust traverses the world like Odysseus: facing challenges, fighting foes, engaging in dialogue, absorbing knowledge of new lands and cultures. Rootlessness ambles through life like the unburied warrior of ancient times – a lost soul staggering through purgatory, condemned to wander aimlessly until his body is finally given a proper burial. The  gap year student, travelling in an attempt to “find himself” would do well to keep these two figures in his mind, and should be wary of the spirit of Rootlessness who closely follws Wanderlust and tries to seduce him at every turn.

Integration in Germany

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2011 at 6:57 am

Jill Petzinger’s article in Der Spiegel (Dec 29th) draws attention to several arson attacks on “Muslim centres” in Berlin which have taken place over the past few months. Although she claims “the list isn’t long”, the article links the attacks to a wider social preoccupation in Germany with immigration and Petzinger claims that ” many suggest that the series of incidents has its roots in raw rhetoric surrounding Germany’s integration debate”.

The attacks comprised a series of petrol bombs. Targets were as follows: firstly, the Sheitlik Mosque in Berlin; secondly, the Al-Nur Mosque; most recently, the Iranian cultural centre.

Many feel that the 2010 debate in Germany on Muslim integration could have some connection with the attacks –  creating a climate which even Berlin’s interior minister of state Erhardt Korting feels “could have encouraged right-wing extremists or Islamophobes to perpetrate such crimes.”

In spite of his diatribes against Islamophobia, Petzinger points out that Germany’s high terror alert in late November led Kortinger to add his own contribution to the problem: ” If you suddenly see three somewhat strange-looking men who are new to your neighborhood, who hide their faces and who only speak Arabic, you should report them to the authorities.”

Following the publication of Thilo Sarrazin’s book in August, and Seehofer’s ill advised comments in an interview with Fokus in October, where he stated, “It’s clear that immigrants from other cultures such as Turkey and Arabic countries have more difficulties. From that I draw the conclusion that we don’t need additional immigration from other cultures.”, Angela Merkel’s remark that Germany’s attempts at multi-culturalism have “utterly failed” bespeaks a sad truth.

While the debate about Muslim integration in Germany continues, some argue that there is a danger of perpetrating Islamophobia and a culture of covert racism and discrimination within Germany – a situation which could have dangerous consequences.

Flathunting in Munich? Approach with Kaution!

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2011 at 1:34 am

Moving to Munich from another country is no easy task. For one thing, if you are not particularly adept at German, you will be at a significant disadvantage when it comes to negotiating a rental contract, and could be more likely to be subject to intimidation and exploitation at the hands of ruthless landlords. Munich, in contrast to Berlin, doesn’t have a surplus of housing, which can make finding a suitable flat a bit of a nightmare.

I would suggest that prospective tenants try to avoid going through a letting agent if possible (unless you have money to burn), as they may be convenient and can usually find accommodation relatively quickly; however, they frequently charge prospective tenants exorbitant finders fees. Some agencies will charge monthly fees to landlords registered with them, the cost of which will be added onto your rent.

Some comprehensive and useful househunting websites include:

Be prepared to pay!

The widespread practise of charging both a Provision (bond) and a Kaution (deposit)  can make the initial cost of moving quite a shock. It’s not unusual for landlords in Munich to ask for up to 3 month’s rent in advance for the Kaution – even for a short term let! Sometimes you can bargain your way around this, but be prepared for a struggle.

You should also be aware of NB or Nebenkosten which are additional costs that will be added on to your monthly rent.

Below is an extract from an excellent blog I found which further explains some of the costs tenants should look out for:

  1. Kaltmiete und Warmmiete–these translate to “cold rent” and “warm rent.” What’s the difference? Cold rent is the actual rent of the property without any utilities or other costs (building and grounds maintenance, trash service, etc.). Warm rent includes those costs. Naturally, it’s the cold rent that’s listed on any website and it sort of reminds me of the trick most airlines do where their ticket prices appear cheap but you have to pay for your luggage and meals separately…it’s a way to get their number to show up higher on a list when searching for the lowest fares. Why separate the two? Well, it makes a difference in two other calculations which are explained next.
  2. Kaution–Us Amerifolk know this as “security deposit” so, in a manner of speaking, this is nothing shocking…until you see how much they want. The typical deposit is 3 monthly rents! Not just first and last up front, but 3 months plus first month! Fortunately, the Kaution is calculated using the “cold rent” which makes it a little easier to digest, but such a large lump-sum like that can make moving a very expensive proposition. Of course, you’ll get (most of) that money back when you move out, so it’s not really an expense in the true meaning of the word.
  3. Provision–And then there’s the exact opposite of the Kaution: the agent commission. This money simply thrown away. It’s money paid to the agent for posting the apartment on a website, making a few phone calls, and maybe showing you the place. This amount varies, but I have seen it equivalent to 2.38x monthly rent plus 19% VAT. That’s basically another three-months worth of rent but, unlike the Kaution which puts your money on hold until you leave, youcan simply kiss the Provision goodbye.

So, bearing all this stuff in mind, I’ll wish you good luck! keep checking on the most square metres you can get for your Euro!