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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Friday, May 23, 2008

Being Bush

If it wasn't so sad, and horrible for the world, it would be kind of funny how delusional Bush still is (NYT):

“Success will be when Al Qaeda has no safe havens in Iraq and Iraqis can protect themselves,” he said. “Success will be when Iraq is a nation that can support itself economically. Success will be when Iraq is a democracy that governs itself effectively and responds to the will of its people. Success will be when Iraq is a strong and capable ally in the war on terror.”

How does one spell miserable failure again?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Albert Camus m'est été connu par nom depuis quelque temps mais je n'avais jamais réussi à lire quelque chose de lui, surtout parce que j'avais un peu de peur de le lire, grâce à ma conviction qu'il serait difficile à comprendre. Après ayant lu l'étranger, je dois avouer ayant eu tort. Il est en fait très facile à comprendre, ça, bien sûr, est vrai seulement sur un niveau de langue, son histoire est une chose differente.

L'étranger raconte l'histoire d'une pied-noir habitant à Algier pendant la colonisation qui s'est montré incapable de s'adapter à la société complètement. Il ne montre pas d'émotion précisément, ni pendant l'enterrement de sa mère ni envers la fille qui l'aime. Bien sûr, la société étant ce qu'elle est, quelqu'un qui essaie de défier ses regles dois payer et il le fait.

De nouveau, j'ai été très surpris comment facile j'ai trouvé Camus, et aussi dans un certain sens, comment ça a été que de la joie, sans être dur à me motiver comme pour ma lecture quotidienne du Monde parfois.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Der Schimmelreiter

Eines der Bücher die mehr oder weniger zufällig bei mir gelandet sind (in diesem Fall frage ich mich mehr wie die Person, die mir dieses Buch gab darauf gestoßen ist). In diesem Fall auch noch klassische deutsche Literatur (ein Bereich der fraglos zu meinen vielen Bildungslücken gehört). Theodor Storms Schimmelreiter hat mir sehr gut gefallen.

Die Geschichte handelt von einem Mann der sich durch Intelligenz und hartes Anpacken auf die höchste Stelle seiner Umgebung hochzuarbeiten, er beginnt aber wegen dieses hohen Zieles sein eigenes Glück (und das seiner Familie) aus den Augen zu verlieren (und das Ende kann sich bei dieser Art deutscher Literatur jeder selben denken). Eine schöne, kurze Novelle.

Ungewohnt war die Sprache des Buches in zweierlei Hinsicht. Erstens wurde zeitweise in Platt gesprochen, was ich dann doch nicht immer verstanden habe. Zweitens spielt das ganze in Friesland, direkt am Meer und die Deiche der Gegend besitzen eine entscheidende Rolle. Viele der Fachtermina sind insofern für mich als Landratte und Großstadtkind kaum nachvollziehbar.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Native Son

I had never read anything by Richard Wright before but knew him to be one of those Afro-American intellectual figures from the early 20th century. I had also read a reference to him somewhere right before I left the US, so when I found his book Native Son standing in my room back home (the shelfs (and the room really) having been occupied by my parents) I decided to pick it up and read it. Powerful stuff, that's for sure.

It is the story a small-time criminal who is faced with his lot in the racist American society (Chicago in the 1940s). At some point his instinct for survival leads him onto a path of violent crimes (which are disgustingly blunt in their descripton). To some extent he is far too self-reflective, intellectual and articulate for a man in his station of life, but while this might be an internal flaw of the story-telling it does the novel good as the United States' society's problems are exposed indirectly (through Bigger Thomas' deeds, thoughts and importantly the way he perceives actions of whites). Later on, Wright tries to blend his Marxist beliefs of a class struggle with some kind of a black nationalism, a black struggle against oppression, which I have to admit to find appealing at times. Apparently Wright was basically forced to leave the Party because of this personal mixture of his, but a communist lawyer's solliloquy on race, class and their impact on American society and the repression of blacks left me with few counterarguments.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Erich Honecker and the German population at large

So, I found this out completely randomly while reading the Stauffenberg book and I feel it is highly indicative of how much Hitler and his fellow cronies managed to control the German population (whether through violent repression, by instilling a deep and profound belief in the Nazi-ideology. How much the German population finally was broken whether morally (because of their belief system) or physically (through a combination of hunger, allied bombings and (most important in this regard) Nazi-terror).

Erich Honecker (yes, that Honecker) at the time just one of many imprisoned Communists (and thus in posession of sympathy on the part of the reader, as the common enemy of one's enemy, as one of the few good (and brave) guys in a Germany that was sorely lacking them) fled his prison in Brandenbuerg-Goerden in early March 1945. So far so good. The incredible thing is that he decided to return to his prison, to return to his work unit because he had to realize that attempting to organise resistance against the Nazis even at this point in time was doomed to failure and would only lead to his almost assured immediate death, which considering the imminent Soviet invasion would have been a futile course of action.

To repeat this, he went back into imprisonement because the German population didn't even feel it worth trying to become active against the NSDP-dictatorship in 1945! Apparently he wasn't even the only one that did this either. What a fuckin' sad state of affairs.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Can I Keep My Jersey?

This definitely was a disappointment I had read Paul Shirley avidly during his time on ESPN and even afterwards on myspace for a while (where he dvelved too much into weird white rock bands for my personal taste though), so my expectations for his book were higher than for the regular, run-of-the-mill basketball one. Sadly, Can I Keep My Jersey? 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond did not keep its promise. Not only was I familiar with most of the later material already as he simply reused his blog entries from the season he played with the Phoenix Suns to some extent. His other material also wasn't as strong, or maybe his writing just doesn't work for anything longer than an amusing internet entry, which one reads through in a few minutes only.

Whatever the reason, I thought I would get a fast, enjoyable, fun read and in reality I only got a fast read. Sadly enough, even the gossiping material (who was fighting whom in the locker room) was censored in a John Doe fashion. Maybe I have gotten too used to his writing (which kind of happened with Bill Simmons as well), or maybe his writing doesn't work that well in a book format. Read it if you are a basketball nut only, but then you won't even pick up the book or know who Paul Shirley is in any other scenario.


Gerd R. Ueberschärs Stauffenberg und das Attentat vom 20. Juli 1944 ist erfolgreich darin dem Leser ein genaues (oder oberflächliches, je nach dem wie man will, das Buch hat nur knapp mehr als 200 Seiten) Bild des wichtigsten (weil am besten geplanten) Putschversuches, inklusive eines versuchten Mordes an Hitler zu, anzugedeihen. Ich war leicht überrascht durch Ueberschärs essayistische Form, jedes Kapitel kann letzten endes unabhängig vom Rest des Buches gelesen werdem, aber er ist sehr erfolgreich darin verschiedene Winkel der Ereignisse zu beleuchten, ob diese die Sippenhaft der Attentäter, eine minitiuöse Aufbereitung des Tathergangs, die Rekationen im Reich seien.

Vieles war mir nicht neu, wie in Bezug auf das gescheiterte Attentat oder den verzweifelten Versuch den Putsch dennoch durchzuführen, doch das Ausmaß des Verschwörungskreises, der Operation Walküre war mir nicht im Detail bewußt gewesen. Ich kann das Buch also auf jeden Fall empfehlen, das einzige leicht nervende sind die ellenlangen Namenslisten, welche Ueberschär ab und an einbaut. Ich weiß zwar zu schätzen, daß diese Leute ihr Leben (zum großen Teil zumindest) geopfert haben, aber sich ähnelnde Absätze voll von Namen, vons und zus und Offiziersgraden sind nicht unbedingt nach meinem Geschmack.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grundzüge des politischen Systems der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Ein wahrer Knüller und Seitenumblätterer (sad translation from the appropriate English word)? Naja, zumindest habe ich das Ding in zwei Tagen gelesen. Das aber auch nur weil ich es für mein Auswahlgespräch von heute morgen gemacht haben mußte. Um ganz ehrlich zu sein, bis gestern abend wäre diese Kritik furchtbar ausgefallen. Das Buch ist ganz klar an ein halbakademisches Publikum gerichtet, ich fande es zum Teil sehr langweilig und oberflächlich, viele Aspekte wiederholend welche, für Politikwissenschaftler, zum Allgemeinwissen zählen. Aber dann quälte ich mich durch ein Kapitel über das Bunderverfassungsgericht in der S-Bahn gestern abend und was wurde ich heute morgen prompt gefragt? Wie funktioniert das BVerfG!

Also, wenn Ihr eine kurze, schnelle, harmlose und nicht besonders tiefsinnige Einführung in die deutsche Politik und Geschichte haben wollte, fahrt zum Anhalter Bahnhof und holt Euch Kurt Sontheimer und Wilhelm Bleeks Werk von der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.

The Town

The second part of the Snopes Trilogy (read my review of the first part) allowed me to delve deeper into Faulkner's universe, into Yoknapatawpha County. Cross references in other books make more sense now, especially Chick Mallison and his uncle Gavin Stevens who both appear again in one of my favorite Faulkner novels Intruder in the Dust become more well-rounded characters. I enjoyed the book thus as a Faulkner enthusiast, I was happy to welcome back Ratliff and the indomitable Flem Snopes, yet I would refrain from recommending this work to anyone looking for an introduction to Faulkner.

Granted, his prose is once again of course magnificient, his sentences are wonderfully convoluted and the occasional re-reading is a necessity. The story also runs along smoothly, and offers enough suspense (not in outcome, Faulkner rarely provides that, but in how things arrive to be that way) to keep to reader attached to the book (except of course if he has as much work as me). Yet, for some reason that I cannot pinpoint quite well, The Town will not be one of my favorite Faulkner novels, easily being beat by The Sound and the Fury, the aforementioned Intruder in the Dust, Go Down Moses, and Absalom, Absalom.