Freitag, 28. März 2008

Three different worlds

Last night, I went to see the film Juno - and, yes, I felt a little old. I haven't seen as many teenagers in one spot in Berlin ever as in that cinema. I enjoyed seeing them enjoy themselves. But I was also a little disconcerted, that I still had the loudest laugh ... - One of the great things about city live, to my mind, is how you can be part of very different communities within days. It was teenies last night. But last weekend it was the much older and university-educated crowd, that is into Baroque music (as am I). The 'Italian Night' at the Konzerthaus was a real, real treat. It was also the first time I heard Philippe Jaroussky - a truly amazing countertenor (though I am no fan of his body language myself). - A few weeks back it was Turkish, not Italian night. And decidedly 21st century, not 17th. A cool (or, in some cases, pretending to be cool) crowd, joined me in watching Ceza rap Kreuzberg. Ceza - and his sister Ayben - impressed me in "Crossing the Bridge", Fatih Akin's tribute to Istanbul's music scene. But Ceza live was even more amazing. His concert also (finally) meant that I actually got to spend an evening with the Turkish-German youth that have been my Kreuzberg neighbours for years.
It's not the same, of course, but youtube makes it possible for me to at least share a taste of these different worlds with you. So, here is a very unlikely trio, a web testimony to my eclectic tastes: Juno, Philippe Jaroussky and Ceza. Enjoy.

Dienstag, 25. März 2008

Lustiges Plakat ...

... aber gewonnen hat Schalke (Sponsor: der freundliche Gaskonzern Gazprom!). Auch andere Vereine suchen derweil nach russischen Milliardaeren um weiter ganz oben mitzuspielen. Das hier muesst ihr lesen! ;-). Es lebe Hansa O7!

Freitag, 21. März 2008

5 years on: I am fine, Iraq isn't

5 years ago, I was a sad man. The reasons were mainly of the heart. But that the big global outcry against - yet another - Iraq war had delivered nothing but heightened cynicism and crass soundbites from Bush/Blair also left me shattered. The demonstration against the war in London on the 15th February 2003 was one of the most exhilirating experiences I have had as a political activist. It was, for once, not just the usual suspects out on the streets. It was nuns, the Muslim Association, disillusioned Labour stalwarts, unions and environmentalists, musicians, mothers, doctors - et al. All united against the lies of Tony 'Poodle' Blair ... And it wasn't just London - demonstrations took place everywhere! And yet, and yet, the "second superpower" of global politics that was much talked about at the time did not help the people of Iraq. As the chattering classes revelled in the rise of a global civil society, Iraq was bombed into the stone age .... - 5 years on, and a new Oil Change report reveals that if the money that has been squandered on the Iraq war had been spent on green energy investments instead, the energy revolution we need, could already be a reality. - 5 years on, I am doing fine. I sit writing this in a beautiful and peaceful flat. Somehow, I have regained my belief in humanity and love (and those to thank for this know who they are!). Despite everything, I am still fighting the 'good fight', even if the "second superpower" all too often seems to be just a few of us. - But, 5 years on, the stories from Iraq are still harrowing. The insecurity continues, the water and electricity supply is in tatters. Iraqi's are still left fighting the proposed Iraqi oil law - which amounts to nothing less than being robbed while they are down. 5 years on, I count myself lucky. I only wish Iraqis could say the same!

Montag, 17. März 2008

Watching roses in a storm and learning lessons from Dahanu

There was a nasty storm over Berlin last week. For a change, I was at home to watch it. I must say I felt pretty inane, sitting in my living room and watching the roses on the terrace swaying back and forth, looking, to my untrained eye, constantly like they would break. There is no denying it. The world was coming to an end and I was worried about my roses! - Watching the storm, once again made me realize how I do not know the first thing, practically, about gardening and agriculture. That's probably why I am always impressed with people who do. Like my parents. Or my friend Shai. I have only ever discussed rums, beers or campaign strategies with him. But I knew abstractly that he knows his farming, too. Now, he has proven it by writing eloquently on the impacts of Dahanu, India's 'most modern' coal plant, on the ‘food bowl’ of Maharashtra. Here is a taster: "The true indicator of a potential crop is the flush of colour when the buds blossom into flowers. The coming of age of tiny buds—when the mango trees are profuse with yellow, the chikoos with white, the lilies awash with pink, and the veggies in mostly yellow, tiny-tiny flowers—is the first sign of hope for a farmer and the beginning of the first desperate rush to guard against pests, bad weather, lack of water and other tangible and intangible (including God’s will) threats that do not stop the flower blossoming into a healthy fruit ... " Yes, he not only knows more about plants than me - he also writes better.... Still, read the rest of the story here.

Mittwoch, 12. März 2008

New York, New York

As the Governor of New York State resigns, I have been thinking about NYC and how I can't fully explain why I like that place so much. And what better to do than listen to a good New York song while your mind strolls down 5th Avenue, through Harlem, or to the Met. Want to join me? Watch this amateur production. Not a great video. But a great song (by Suzanne Vega). And city (even though it voted for Hillary).

No comment!

I thank Marc Berthold for this picture. It was taken in Bavaria (Lauf an der Pegnitz) - where, curiously enough, a Green Party candidate, Benedikt Bisping, has a real chance of binning the conservative candidate and becoming Mayor .... You couldn't make it up, could you.

Dienstag, 11. März 2008

Bye, bye Tempelhof Airport?

Flying is evil, I know. But I freely confess that I have a soft spot for Tempelhof airport. There is the history, of course. It was the first airport with an underground station, for example, and, of course, the site of the 1948 airlift, which, put simply, saved Berliners from starving. I have lived near Tempelhof for almost 8 years now. Sometimes you can hear aircraft propeller engines as background noise in my flat. I have to confess, I find that comforting. Sitting on my terrace I can see planes land both at Tempelhof and Tegel. Despite all I know about the evils of aviation, the little boy in me still finds watching planes land exciting. Looking at planes taking off makes me think of friends far and wide. Until last year, I lived so close to Tempelhof that I could even easily walk to it. The one time I did actually take a flight from (and to) there, I simply loved that. To be able to land and stroll home on foot in 20 minutes - it's perverse, of course. But anyone who has travelled will also appreciate that it is special. - Still, Tempelhof Airport must go! When Berliners vote on its future on April 27th, I will most certainly be voting NO. Tempelhof was meant to close this autumn as part of the deal that allowed for the construction of the completely oversized Berlin Brandenburg International airport (due to open in 2011). But a big tabloid paper driven campaign has resulted in enough people signing up to force a referendum (which will, however, not be binding on the Berlin government). I like direct democracy; I just wish that other, more pressing matters - such as fighting climate change - could also get more than 200,000 people motivated to head to their local registry! - The reasons why Tempelhof Airport must go are many, climate change and local air pollution being two. But what is most exciting about the prospect of Tempelhof closing is what might happen with all that inner city land. Tempelhof can now become and area for all Berliners - not just the few who fly on business. I personally hope that the park where I jog will be extended, as it is right next to the airport land. Apparently, the park could become as big as Central Park! - There is also talk of a car-free housing development, which could certainly cater for a property niche central Berlin does not yet have. May be the Babelsberg film studios will rent some of the beautiful old airport building. I will miss Tempelhof Airport. But I am looking forward to Tempelhof becoming a cultural centre and park all Berliners can be proud of. Let's work on Berlin politicians and developers not mucking up the chance that redeveloping Tempelhof provides. Let's stop them from making Tempelhof into yet another bland, corporate landscape - like they are doing all over the rest of the city!

Mittwoch, 5. März 2008

Catholics against coal!

One of the most obnoxious things business lobbyists say when they try to dismiss justified protest is something like: "I only ever hear this complaint in London and New York, never in Manila or Delhi." Well, bollocks to that. The movement against coal, for example, is not just a past time for rich boys in the West with nothing better to do. It's a truly global - and it is especially powerful in Asia. That it is not a fringe movement, but deeply rooted in society, was proven by my South East Asian colleagues again today. Together with the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines, they have said NO to coal in Iliolo. Read the full story here. And, if you are Catholic, write to the Pope and the Polish church. In the run up to the next global climate conference in Poznan this December, they should come out against coal too! Coal kills. Quit now. It's easier than turning water into wine, I promise.

I feared as much ...

Texas, where Obama was 20 percent behind a few weeks back, is too close to call. Ohio, as I expected, went to Hillary. Obama is still ahead in the delegates count. But, if you look at the media, he is down and Hillary up. You get the impression that somehow, Hillary has scored a great surprise, a real break through. Just like all the hype about how Obama was likely to win everything last night, this is rubbish. The reality is, that this race is damn close - and Democrats have two candidates they like. Things could be worse. But it is still not good, that Hillary and Obama will now keep concentrating on each other rather than on beating McCain. Who, incidentally, is pretty good on climate change. Unlike on Iraq (and a million other issues), McCain has not been a Bushite on climate. To the contrary. All through the Bush years, he has stood up to the sceptics and argued forcefully for action on climate change. That he, not an active climate-trasher, is the Repbublican candidates, is at least a small mercy.

Dienstag, 4. März 2008

Nervously awaiting Texas and Ohio ...

I am always nervous when the media declares contests over before the votes are counted. That may work in Russia or Zimbabwe. But in slightly less overtly authoritarian regimes, voters are - thank god - always ready to surprise. - I am therefore nail-bitingly nervous about Texas and Ohio today. While the media pretends that it's all a shoe-in for Obama, I worry that this will backfire. It may, for example, result in Hillary narrowly winning Ohio being interpreted as a big win. But, to be clear: Hillary should win Ohio. The demographics and the support of the popular Governor should make Ohio a shoe in for her. But now, with all that talk of "Obama's momentum", even a 'natural' event such as Hillary winning in Ohio could turn into real poison for Obama's campaign. It could weaken him against McCain (should he nonetheless clinch the nomination.) - I therefore also do not want to engage in speculation about what Obama might do when he is President, as many already do. Let's get the man elected first! But, still, I do find it remarkable, that 'even' an old saint of the Left, like Immanuel Wallerstein, believes in Obama's power of "Yes, we can." Read his interesting commentary on 'President Obama to be' here and become involved in the change America needs. A change, that Obama may make possible - if the progressive pressure builds!

Montag, 3. März 2008

Exciting green computers in boring Hannover?

Some of my favourite Greenpeace colleagues will be in boring Hannover this week. I pity them. But I am proud of their campaign. Next to flying, using mobiles and computers is the other inevitable hypocrisy professional greenies like myself engage in. The least we can do, therefore, is to work hard to make computers and mobiles as undamaging as possible. Which is what my colleagues are doing - right at CeBIT, one of the IT industry's leading fairs. They will be busy pushing the industry to go green - and exposing corporations that just pretend to be green. Follow the exciting stuff they get up to at CeBIT here und auf Deutsch hier.


Ach, die Titanic. Hier gibts mehr zu den Steueroasen. Schluss damit!