Mittwoch, 28. November 2007

On music changing lives and politics

Not so long ago, the media went wild on the question of whether Live Earth achieved anything (except for emissions - and offsets ...). I, too, am not sure. Unlike Live 8 two years ago, Live Earth at least tried to use the event to spread some political demands. These were very American - and mainly focused on personal action. But at least they were there. To me, the most significant moment of Live Earth was Police playing together again in New York - and sending a most beautiful SOS. That was historic. That was fun. That was my memorable moment (just as Pink Floyd coming together again for Live 8 made me - almost? - think that that event was worth it after all). But what I really wonder is what Live Earth sparked in people. Will any budding activist out there say in 20 years: "I am who I am now because of Live Earth." To me, that is the measure - as I would not be who I am today, if it had not been for bands such as BAP. It was them playing at anti-nuclear (power and weapons) demonstrations throughout the 1980s that politicized me. It was BAP and Herbert Groenemeyer lyrics, that first got me questioning the status quo. For that, I will always be grateful. I still like BAP and Groenemeyer - though sometimes more for their politics than their music. Groenemeyer at a press conference at the 2005 G8 summit, for example, was asked about people like Bono spending so much time with the likes of Bush. His reply (as my memory serves me): "I never understood the tendency by some rockers on these islands to start with punk and end as Sir". A wonderful way of distancing himself from the "I am important because I lunch with those in power" kind of "activists" that Bono typefies ... - The musician who is my daily companion in my (political) life is ani difranco, though. In fact, I find it surprising that she has not featured on this blog yet. Those who know me also know that I quote her regularly. Under my emails (from where one, at least, has gone straight into a PhD thesis ;-)); in a best man speech ... Anytime, really. Ani is my age, shares my politics - but has a skill I do not possess. Well, several. She can write music, she can sing - and she can put emotions - including political ones - into words much more poetically than me. Hence, I quote. Hence, scraps of wisdom such as: "we are made to bleed/ and scab and heal and bleed again/ and turn every scar into a joke" keep me going on a bad day. And "if you're not trying to make something better/ Then as far as I can tell, you are just in the way" remains my activist motto. Sometimes, Ani seems to put into words what I experience. Every time I am in the US, for example, I am truly appalled (outside Manhatten and a few other islands of urbanity, anyway) at the way in which rampant capitalism has destroyed any urban form. Appalled by the sprawl - by the looped streets to nowhere. But I could not express what has happened to urban America as well as Ani. So - listen to how America has been turned into a Subdivision. If Live Earth didn't change your life - this should!

Dienstag, 27. November 2007

Bye, bye McLeish (again)

I feared as much. Alex McLeish is once again choosing his career over working with young, promising players. He is leaving Scotland to join Birmingham in the Premier League. It's difficult to begrudge him the move on a personal level. But it is still sad for Scotland. After the great run in this year's qualification, those boys would have so deserved a vote of confidence from their manager. It was not to be.

Samstag, 24. November 2007

What a relief ...

Polls are often wrong. I still remember the shock when John Major won after all in 1992, for example. So I have learnt not to cheer until the results are in and I was a little nervous about the Australian election. What joy, therefore, that that bastard Howard now is truly gone! Australia will ratify Kyoto and leave Bush more isolated than ever at the international climate talks. Ha! - Labour won't be perfect, of course, and it will be a hard fight to, for example, get them to not back the dirtiest of energy chocies: coal. But today, it is time to celebrate; not least, because support for Kyoto was one of the reasons Labour won. Watch this space - Democrats!

Freitag, 23. November 2007

No cranberry, no bullshit ;-)

This site is not about advertising, least of all beer. But if I were to advertise beer it - obviously - would have to be organic. I would recommend some of my all time favourites, such as Neumarkter Lammsbraeu or Golden Promise. Nonetheless, I have to give credit where credit is due. And Pilsner's response to the yuppification of beer deserves a big cheer - not least because it made me laugh out loud (sorry to my fellow U-Bahn passengers). I am not against trying weird stuff with beer. Some North American micro-breweries, in particular, create some amazing tastes, that are a worthwhile challenge to human taste buds. But all that lager with sweet tastes added? The Beck's Lemon of this world? They are disgusting. They deserve derision. They deserve this add campaign: No lemon, no cranberry, no bullshit!

Dienstag, 20. November 2007

Lies exposed: Oil for climate protection?

Well done, Greenpeace Switzerland. The Swiss oil lobby had the cheek to claim in an advert that heating with oil is a contribution to climate protection. They now had their fingers slapped by the Swiss advertising board, which has prohibited the further use of these ads as they are - you guessed it - misleading. The oil lobby was proud that they had gotten a little more efficient in using the black stuff. That, they said, meant that modern oil heating systems are a contribution to climate protection. Sure. First, every use of energy has been getting more efficient - pretty much throughout history. Second, oil remains the most climate damaging way to heat your home. Oops. This Swiss example is a particularly crass one. But it is fascinating to watch how more and more dirty industries are claiming to be the solution to the climate problem that they, incidentally, caused in the first place. Emission free coal plants, anyone? Cars to save the planet? Climatewash is the new Greenwash. Everybody is a climate protector now. Strange, eh, that global emissions are rising ...

Sonntag, 18. November 2007

Italy's Hampden shame ...

I predicted Italy to win last year's World Cup. Against much criticism, I defended them as rightful winners when I was proven right. They had the best defense of the tournament, without question, and scored the goals when they mattered (most painfully, from where I sit, at least, against Germany in the semi-final). As you can see on the left, I supported Italy in the final and was rather happy when they won here in Berlin.
That said, tonight I am truly bitter: Italy did not deserve that free kick in stoppage time against Scotland. And Scotland, after beating France twice, would have so deserved qualifying for EURO 2008. It's a tragedy. It's a travesty. It's truly painful to see my dear Scots have to settle for the all too familiar "beautiful loser" role. I was very upset when Alex McLeish, Scotland's coach, left Hibs for arch-rivals Rangers. But he has done very well for Scotland. May he continue his work with this young and promising team. May Scotland play in the World Cup in South Africa. May justice, at last, be done.

Montag, 12. November 2007

North Coast Brewing not much to Berlin taste, sorry

The Fort Bragg where the North Coast Brewing company is located is no doubt a far cry from the Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where the U.S. military used to run a counterinsurgency school, training people in all sorts of evils. Their beers make a much better export, for sure, than torture. That said, I am not so sure these beers were worth dragging around New York all day after buying them in the Village in September. I have to confess, that I remembered how my back hurt that night with every sip I took. To be fair: It is not that they are badly produced. My criticism is more to do with snobbery, I guess. The Cru D'Or, for example, is the kind of heavy, strong (8%) beer, that I only really like when it is an original Chimay (of which I drank far too much when I had passed my Logic exam at university. But that's a different story ...). With this Cru, I never got over the label "Belgian style". Well, indeed. Belgian-style but, er, not Belgian. Not special, just heavy. Not exquisite, just ok. - The same can be said of the Old Plowshare stout. Again, I freely confess that stout is not my favourite kind of beer in the first place. I also confess that I had not had a good day when I drank it. But I also know that a good beer can lift my mood. A special taste on my tongue can make my eyes glint with joy. This time, it wasn't to be. The stout made me think of Scotland. A vague memory of a similar taste in some wee pub on the east coast came to mind. That was all pleasant enough. But nothing special - again.

Demonstrieren ist die erste Bürgerpflicht! – Klimaschutz jetzt!

AktivistInnen ohne Humor sind, mit Verlaub, etwas schlimmes. Altbacken. Langweilig. Unangenehm. Humor muss sein - auch und gerade wenn berechtigte Zweifel bestehen, ob genau dieser Planet mit genau dieser Menschheit noch zu retten ist. Auch wenn Leute, die Blut an den Händen haben, sich durch unsere Talkshows quatschen und im Adlon tanzen. Auch wenn der Mainstream, der so lustig und cool tut, nichts als der programmierte ökologische Pogrom ist. Schlechte Neuigkeiten sind keine Entschuldigung für schlechte Witze. Basta. Drum möge man mir verzeihen, wenn ich heute ganz preussisch daher komme. Aber zu einer viel zu langen Busfahrt mit dem Ziel durch die Berliner Kälte zu stapfen und dann dumm rum zu stehen und Reden zu lauschen, die man im Zweifel nicht versteht oder schon dreimal gehört hat. Dazu fallen (auch) mir keine guten Witze ein. Und doch ist es wichtig. Sehr wichtig sogar, dass am 8.12.2007 viele, ganz viele genau dies tun. Bus fahren, durch Berlin (oder Neurath) laufen. In der Kälte stehen - um unseren Politikern einzuheizen. Demokratie funktioniert durch so absurde Akte. Nur in dem sich Massen am 8. 12. auf die Strasse trauen können wir klar machen, dass es uns ernst ist: Sonntagsreden sind nicht genug. Klimaschutz erfordert wirkliche Taten. Eine Kanzlerin, die weltweit vom Klima redet ist unglaubhaft, solange sie zu Hause ein Tempolimit blockiert und neue Kohlekraftwerke akzeptiert. Wenn Deutschland es mit dem Klimaschutz ernst meint, dann muss ein Ruck durch das gemeine Fussvolk gehen. Wir alle müssen am 8.12. am internationalen Klimaaktionstag teilnehmen. Die Klima-Allianz kann mit der Anreise helfen. Aber Niemand – NIEMAND - kann von mir einen Witz erwarten, der mir nicht Bilder zeigen kann, wie er am 8. 12. demonstriert. Das ist die erste Bürgerpflicht. Erst die Zweite ist Humor ;-). P.S. Und hier noch ein prima Video zum Thema:

Freitag, 9. November 2007

The wall fell 18 years ago!

I still remember the moment. 18 years ago I came home to a very unusual sight. My dad was watching television! That never happened - and hence seemed odd. Being preoccupied with matters of the heart, I tried to head to my room anyway. Fat chance. I was - for the first and only time in my life, I believe - ordered to watch TV. Ordered to witness history. What I had ridiculed my dad for even dreaming of a year before - when we visited East Germany together - had in fact happened. The Wall was open. The Iron Curtain had fallen! - By now I know many stories of what people did or thought that day. From East and West (though many Eastern stories are laced with justified bitterness, that the day itself rather than the demonstrations that lead to it are the focus of our historic imaginations). From all walks fo life. Just like everybody who was conscious remembers where they were when they learned of JFK's assassination or 9/11 - everyone (in Germany at least) has a story to tell on how they experienced that 9th of November. In 2002, I was discussing the World Summit on Sustainable Development with business and government representatives at the German House in New York, for example. We could not agree on anything that night. But we all enjoyed sharing stories of that one historic moment. - Meanwhile, I admit that it made me feel old last year when I interviewed people who wanted to attend a United World College who had not been born when the wall came down. The vivid memories I have of that night make me feel that it surely can't be that long....

Dienstag, 6. November 2007

Stop tar sands!

Edmonton is the coldest place I have ever been to, I think. I remember getting off the Greyhound bus and my lips splitting instantly as the cold air hit. Not sure how the weather has been recently. But Edmonton is definetely a key place for the fight over global warming. For one of the absurdities of the currently high oil price - which should be a good thing, surely - is that ridiculous ways of producing oil have become profitable. Such as squeezing oil out of dirty sand - which is one of the most energy-consuming ways of getting at energy - and exactly what the development of the tar sands in Canada amounts to. It is stupid. It is criminal. It is pursuing disasterous climate change at all cost. It is a clear example of how "energy security", if (mis)understood as "getting fossil fuels any way we can from 'safe' countries rather than the Middle East" is a recipe for disaster. - I hence salute my Canadian colleagues who have decided to take on the tar sands fight. Yesterday, activists unfurled a banner over the North Saskatchewan River. I hope it wasn't as cold as when I was last in Edmonton. And I hope the Alberta legislature heard the message loud and clear. More info - and a chance to email the politicians responsible - here. - P.S. Picture from the Greenpeace Canada website. Thanks.

Samstag, 3. November 2007

Wir können alles – nur nix richtig

In Berlin muss man sich entscheiden. Entweder man liest Zitty – oder Tip. Seit 2000 bin ich in der zitty Fraktion. Auch wenn ich das dieses Jahr beinahe mal geändert hätte. Denn die zitty hat ein neues Design, das mir nicht gefällt – und hat sich auch einige plumpe und unqualifizierte Artikel geleistet. Wie z.B. den idiotischen Daueroptimisten “Ich schimpfe auf die Umweltschützer und behaupte ich war mal einer; das ist meine Marktlücke”-Maxeiner als Umweltexperten zu Wort kommen zu lassen. Banane! Aber als Fussballfan weiss ich, dass man auch Krisen mit seiner Mannschaft durchstehen muss. Und eine Kampagne der letzten Wochen hat mich wieder ein wenig versöhnt (genauso wie ein guter Artikel über meinen alten Kiez). Die zitty hat die Stadtmarketing-Kampagnen, die heute zunehmend den öffentlichen Raum einnehmen parodiert. Und der durch Sparmassnahmen und WM-Eile leider doch nicht symmetrisch geratene Hauptbahnhof mit einem “Wir können alles. Nur nix richtig”-Spruch. Nun, mein Humor ist nicht jedermanns Sache. Aber ich finds genial (und ja, ich komme aus Baden-Württemberg ;-))! Aber seht selbst - hier.

Freitag, 2. November 2007

Solar Waverley

There can be few more beautiful views. When you leave Waverley Station in Edinburgh the whole beauty of Edinburgh becomes visible at once. The Castle, the Mound, the gardens below. Often a gull will scream to remind you of the nearby sea. Even when it is raining, there is always a magic to the climb up from the Waverley dungeons - despite the traffic fumes. By 2014, Waverley may be magical in other ways, too. Yes, that is a little late. Yes, these plans have been around for years already. But still. By 2014 Waverley's decrepit roof is to be redone - and will become a solar factory (as well as a place where rain water will be collected). The solar energy will power the station. It will make Waverley truly green - and hopefully be an example that many public and private buildings will emulate. In fact, why not start a race now. Which buildings in Edinburgh will have solar roofs before Waverley? Just let me know!