Sunday, August 31, 2008

First Day of School with a Soaring Start

So, Lea had her first day of school yesterday, a day which was mostly celebration, while the first day with real schoolwork is tomorrow.
We arrived for the celebration at 3pm, but now the order of events...

  • 11:00 Leas's class was received in the school auditorium for a two-hour spectacle (the other 1st grade class had already come and gone). For 25 kids, the auditorium was full, estimates of some 300 people (as many relatives as could), the third-graders put on a show and the teacher did give them their books and lesson plan.
  • 12:00 Our niece had lunch with parents and grandparents. Balloons were blown up and the present table prepared (full later!).
  • 3:00 We and others arrived for coffee and cake followed by general playtime and chatter.
  • 5:00 Lea released the helium-filled balloons to carry her wishes for a colorfully successful school career up to the sky.
  • 6:30 Dinner arrived, prepared and set up by caterers, and endless delicious buffet!
  • Art gallery of chalk drawings on the driveway pavement (unfortunately NO photos until we get Steffis!) with the kids and the uncles endeavours.
  • 8:30 Fire balloons sent up into the night sky to dazzle kids and adults alike.
  • 9:00 We left for home, and there were still people at the party when we phoned our thanks after arriving home.
That's how you start a kid off in school here in Germany, below selected photos in a slideshow.

[At least we spent about 15 minutes with Lea looking at the books etc. in her school bag, admiring her lesson plan, what she gets to do now, etc., something no one else had had time to do given all the festivities going on. The interlude was quickly over as the next guests arrived, but Steffi was glad we had told Lea we find the part interesting that she herself has yet to show any enthusiasm for.]

Saturday, August 30, 2008

School Begins Dramatically in Germany

Well, our niece Lea has her first school day today. Don't be surprised that first-graders start on a Saturday in Germany, because this first day of school isn't like anything Americans could dream of. It's a party. The kids go to the school with their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, dogs, cats, everybody in the entire family, dressed up to beat every band known to mankind and carry what look like dunce-caps but held the other way round and filled up with goodies (to bribe them, I suppose) and get to watch a performance about "our school" by older kids there.
It's a song-and-dance show.
Afterwards, everyone goes to the home of their individual school-starter for a big party with the family, including all those (like us) who didn't go along to the school. Then the kid gets presents from everyone and there's cake and ice cream, and in Lea's case a grill party afterwards for supper! And the Berlin mom is concerned that Lea can cope and her little brother deal with daycare alone as of Monday!
Not like the way the Countess (whose birthday is today; she would have become 82) just dropped me off at Fannie Gorham Elementary School for Miss Lewis, the teacher, to take charge of for the school day.
Speaking of which, ladies and such, now that McCanny has decide to opt for the inexperienced Alaskan multimother and most unknown vice presidential pick in modern political history to lose the election with, to the great disappointment of cunninglylingual rice banging on the floor of the playpen, he seems to be following the merkel-angie German path: She appointed the "fabulous" Ursula von der Leyne (note the noblility in those prepositions, as from a "fable") as Minister of Family Affairs, who for the beginning of the German school year came out with the fabulous quote that children need a Leitplanke, which translates as a guardrail, and is indeed what is alongside highways to keep the cars from crashing off into the trees. The two women share a silver spoon and a disregard for the plight of those worse off, even if Urusla finally modernized her original Heidi-style braided hair-do. To summarize her "guardrail" notion , she seems to think the kids are like cars, I suppose the teachers are the drivers, but where the steering wheel is may be something we find out today at Lea's festival.



Finally today, to make sure it remains as accessible to all as possible, Obama's acceptance speech, first some excerpts from that speech that I find particularly important, and then, the video of that speech in its entirety and a link to the full transcript:

"We are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this. [...]
Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? [...]
You know, Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. [...]
And -- and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most. [...]
And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities as your sons. [...]
If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.
For -- for while -- while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face.
When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.
You know, John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives. [...]
You don't defeat -- you don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. [...]
The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.
As commander-in-chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts, but I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.
I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation, poverty and genocide, climate change and disease.
And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future. [...]
I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. [...]
America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone.
At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess

Here, a link to the transcript of his speech as published in The New York Times.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just Have to Thank Former President Bill

After all, he was the one who promoted German-American friendship during his term in office. I have the poster from the exhibition I helped organize in Amerikahaus in Berlin to prove it. Since then, not only has the bushbaby playpen done enormous damage in the world at large and to the US at home, it has also closed down the cultural center the US had maintained here since the end of WWII and sealed off the embassy behind barricades and designed the new one on Pariser Platz to look as forbidding as possible. Therefore, I find it especially significant that Bill Clinton praises Barack Obama now and appeals for his election to restore American leadership. As he says here so well, "the power of our example" has always earned the USA more international respect than "the example of our power".

And here the link to the eloquent speech of Senator Biden, the next Vice President, making clear what this is all about.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What Are You In This For?

... as she so correctly put it, not just for her, but for the difference driving the Republicans out of the White House can make for the country.
"No way. No how. No McCain. Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president."
Thanks, Hillary, for reminding Americans what it's all about. President Obama is vitally necessary.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preserving the Words... is only a minute attempt to help me remember and give others a chance to see what the addresses of Ms. Obama and Mr. Kennedy to the Democratic National Convention in Denver yesterday were all about.
They are two impassioned speeches, impassioned with hope.
The world deserves this new chance and this thoughtfulness.
America deserves this possibility to move forward,
to return to decency and humanity,
again to respect freedom and thoughtfulness.
YOU deserve this man as president.
We all deserve this hope,
this change in government to promote American ideals!
Just listen to these two people speak about this chance:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Maßnahmen zur Vermeidung der Feststellung der Persönlichkeit

... or, How to ensure you stymie any measures to determine your personality:
1. often speak in opposites
2. give opinions in languages different from the subject
3. read what everyone else claims not to want to
4. answer surveys with mythical information
5. smile when you answer questions

Angst: keine. Freude: endlos. Denken: immer. Danken: der Welt. Lust: Garten. Träume: teilen.
Joie de jouer en jouissant pour réjouir. Lire écrire rire sourire délire courir. Temps de temps sans temps. Heureux d'être mortel!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Playpen Redux!

For all those who prefer the sassy quip to the thoughtful answer, this revelation may help you prepare to out sass those who can think better than you can.

Despite Assurances, McCain Wasn’t in a ‘Cone of Silence’
John McCain’s performance at a church forum raised speculation that he was not isolated as Barack Obama was being interviewed using questions that would later come Mr. McCain’s way.
Mr. Warren started by asking Mr. McCain, “Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?”
Mr. McCain deadpanned, “I was trying to hear through the wall

More need not be added.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

NO NO NO non nein nyet

Russia is not a good guy, nor is Georgia: one overreacted to the other's bite, and civilians of whatever nationality, citizenship, folk, people, ethnicity are caught in the middle and dying or suffering.
The splinter provinces in Georgia are merely attempting what the world has condoned in Kosovo, for example, and it is difficult to speak of territorial integrity of a state when the same has been "overlooked" elsewhere.
The bushbaby should stop baiting Russia and egging on Georgia; Medwedjev should stop taking the bait and grow up. His country is not under threat. The world better wake up and call all parties to a meeting of reason, result-open, and demand that disputes be settled without weapons or other military or invasive actions, even if the playpen has not provide a good role model for that. It, too, is called on to place disputes before the UN and international assemblies for peaceful settlement respecting the interest of all and upholding the rights of the humans at risk.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Wall Can Stop This Birthday Girl

On one of her birthdays, they began building the Berlin Wall; on this one, our Berlin Mom was celebrating in an Italian restaurant after a successful bout with cancer and returning relaxed the day before from a three-week rehab, laughing with her age old friends, smiling over her two grandchildren and accepting birthday greetings from us all, guests from West Germany, her own neighborhood, and even yours truly from the far side of the ocean, the Atlantic one. All this may have once been unthinkable, but just check out the few photos, and you'll see THIS possibility IS what IS !

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Proof of Existence

She's come, she's gone, we saw her, talked with her, ate ice cream with her, Vietnamese cuisine for lunch where Terri had preceded her. She's fine, looks good, and is now winging her way back across the Atlantic to get home again. Photo documentation below.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

審查 in China


[the Chinese characters for censorship]

Censorship (according to The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-07):

official prohibition or restriction of any type of expression believed to threaten the political, social, or moral order. It may be imposed by governmental authority, local or national, by a religious body, or occasionally by a powerful private group. It may be applied to the mails, speech, the press, the theater, dance, art, literature, photography, the cinema, radio, television, or computer networks. Censorship may be either preventive or punitive, according to whether it is exercised before or after the expression has been made public. In use since antiquity, the practice has been particularly thoroughgoing under autocratic and heavily centralized governments, from the Roman Empire to the totalitarian states of the 20th cent.

This results, for example, in China not allowing you to view this website from within their borders as it is critical of their limitation on thinking and speaking and reading and expressing opinions.

A few apt quotes regarding censorship:

  • "Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever."
    -Nadine Gordimer, “Censorship and its Aftermath”, June 1990, Address to the international Writer’s Day conference, London.
  • "... censorship often boils down to some male judges getting to read a lot of dirty books—with one hand."
    -Robin Morgan, The Word of a Woman, part 1 (1992).
  • "Assassination is the extreme form of censorship."
    -George Bernard Shaw, The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet, preface.
  • "I can imagine no greater disservice to the country than to establish a system of censorship that would deny to the people of a free republic like our own their indisputable right to criticise their own public officials."
    -President Woodrow Wilson, letter to Arthur Brisbane, April 25, 1917.
  • "C'est le propre de la censure violente d'accréditer les opinions qu'elle attaque."
    -Voltare, Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne.
  • "Ecrire c'est lever toutes les censures."
    -Jean Genet.
These are thoughts for the entire world to keep in mind during the next days as the Olympics transpire under a cloud of censorship of the press and access to information and a denial of rights to the citizens of that country hosting it. Perhaps we can all do more to ensure that ALL speak freely everywhere.

(And we can also demand TRUE justice for those denied it everywhere: If someone is guilty of a crime, he/she can be tried under rules of jurisprudence applicable to all and his guilt can be proven or his innocence proclaimed. Only the guilty should be punished. This also applies to the inmates of Guantánamo.)

And here is Chinese freedom:

Shitao (1642-1707) "Tous les sens sont convoqués dans un survol et une précision jaillissante de liberté," is what Philippe Sollers says about this great painter, thinker, and poet in Éloge de l'infini.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hilton Just Became a Class Act

Never cared one way or the other about this poor little rich girl, but after she was subjected to mccainy dumpings, she proved, with the video I simply have to share via the link below, that she's by far more intelligent than that aspirant to succeed the bushbaby as chief-wielder of the playpen rattle! Mccainy only proved how boorish he really is. Let's close the playpen forever!
Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad
An ad for The Paris Hilton Presidential Campaign. Paid for by Funny Or Die.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Berlin Mom Rehabilitating...

This is how it looks when they try to get the Berlin mom to relax and rehabilitate for three weeks after cancer treatment. She's here with a fellow inmate, Gisela, as they were shocked by some guy who organizes hikes through Saxony and Southern Brandenburg who wanted to snap them for documentation of his Lubben-Spreewald hike.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Memory Assistance

Remember canny McCain's remarks to David Letterman on the latter's show on October 18, 2001? A little refresher: He opened with a truly funny joke saying, "What is bin Laden gonna be for Halloween? Dead!" Then he went on to say the anthrax sent through the mail that autumn could well have come from Iraq and that they've got to take out that terrorist there. And if you don't believe how playpenally stupid this mcCainy mind can be, below is the little interview preserved by youtube.

More on the still unsolved anthrax attacks can be found summarized by Glenn Greenwald on in an entry (link in the title) excerpted below with subsequent updates from August 1 entitled:

Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News

The FBI's lead suspect in the September, 2001 anthrax attacks -- Bruce E. Ivins -- died Tuesday night, apparently by suicide, just as the Justice Department was about to charge him with responsibility for the attacks. [...]
The 2001 anthrax attacks remain one of the great mysteries of the post-9/11 era. After 9/11 itself, the anthrax attacks were probably the most consequential event of the Bush presidency. One could make a persuasive case that they were actually more consequential. The 9/11 attacks were obviously traumatic for the country, but in the absence of the anthrax attacks, 9/11 could easily have been perceived as a single, isolated event. It was really the anthrax letters -- with the first one sent on September 18, just one week after 9/11 -- that severely ratcheted up the fear levels and created the climate that would dominate in this country for the next several years after. It was anthrax -- sent directly into the heart of the country's elite political and media institutions, to then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt), NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, and other leading media outlets -- that created the impression that social order itself was genuinely threatened by Islamic radicalism. [...]
Critically, ABC News never retracted its story (they merely noted, as they had done from the start, that the White House denied the reports). And thus, the linkage between Saddam and the anthrax attacks -- every bit as false as the linkage between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks -- persisted.
We now know -- we knew even before news of Ivins' suicide last night, and know especially in light of it -- that the anthrax attacks didn't come from Iraq or any foreign government at all. It came from our own Government's scientist, from the top Army bioweapons research laboratory. More significantly, the false reports linking anthrax to Iraq also came from the U.S. Government -- from people with some type of significant links to the same facility responsible for the attacks themselves.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dealing With Disruption

You can even get protesters at at speech to calm down and wait for the question and answer session following, give them a chance to speak, and address their concerns.

Or you can follow the recent German political model of trying to silence any and all who don't agree with you (even inside your own party), as the SPD is trying to do by seeking the expulsion of the former Minister of Economics, a 40-year member of the SPD, for his, admittedly unhappy, criticism of the Hessian SPD candidate in that state's election early this year. The problem is his new position as lobbyist for nuclear energy concerns. But try to discuss intelligently, and you'll only get snide remarks from the partner party in the coalition, the CDU. Whining Pohfalla will claim success as his party now has more members than the SPD, but not resulting from NEW members, but from fewer people quitting his party than the other. Proud pride!

And Angie just keeps right on doing and saying as little as possible, claiming to be the environmental Chancellor while coming up with CO2 emission formulas for the EU that provide heavier German auto models with a better environmental rating than lighter more fuel-efficient models from elsewhere. See the report from Frontal21 last Tuesday! And even better, this concluding satire TOLL! in which the chancellorette says, "Something might happen!"