The expression is the same in German and English, signifying the imagined luxury of a life devoted to ideas removed from the daily struggle for survival. An ambitious sprayer accurately identified the ivory tower below (top of building) that belongs to the University of Frankfurt. It is now vacant and ready to be torn down. Yes, even ivory towers have to make way for progress. The university has a new campus, and this is an ugly building that will not be missed.
Psst. Don't tell anyone, but I found a chestnut tree not far from here, i.e. in the city, that produces decent chestnuts. It was already a bit late in the season, and not many chestnuts were lying around. Next year, I will show up bright and early after windy fall nights to collect as many of these chestnuts as possible. Most of the so-called chestnut trees here in Frankfurt are horse chestnuts [Rosskastanien], but this one is the real McCoy.
Beware of people who collect mushrooms in the German forests! Many times it is forbidden (verboten) to do so. Lately, organized gangs of criminals -- barbarians and vandals, literally -- have been discovered "pillaging" the forests of basketloads of prized mushrooms. Rangers who have confronted the pillagers have been threatened. Poor Germans, they still haven't recovered from the Grimm Brothers, and now they have one more reason to stay out of the forests. If you read the linked article, however, you will note that the German woods already are crammed with hunters, forestry workers, and non-criminal mushroom hunters. This is a heavily-populated country.
boletus edulis (Porciono or Steinpilz, also available in
grocery stores here. (Wikipedia)
To date, I am not aware of any Canadians among the pillagers.
Whew, that was a pretty productive month. I goofed a bit and did a few minor chores today. This evening, I'm dining with friends. I'm coming up for air, but the deep breath today has to last for six weeks or more. After that, rest. One of these days, he says for the thousandth time, I'm going to be on top of things, caught up. The Procrastinator's Prayer:
grant me the strength to perform a half-year's work
in two months before the Final Deadline.
Lead me not into distractions or panic, but deliver me from failure.
I was lucky to stumble on the series Breaking Bad this past year on AXN. I'm used to getting US series a year or two after they run in the US, but Breaking Bad was shown currently, one day after running in the US. The series has gained a huge following in the US, and over 10 million viewers watched the series finale on Monday. I wonder when German scriptwriters are going to switch over to team writing efforts. It sure makes a difference in show quality. I miss the series already. Oh yes, the series BB ended with the song, BB, a veiled reference to the main character's famous blue drug.
I wanted to thank my friend Candy for recommending this book to me. It has now been several months since I read the book, but it has left a lasting impression. My family had a subscription to National Geographic when I was growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, and I can remember skimming through the pictures of stone-age tribes from exotic places in South America, Africa and Asia. I never really gave those pictures much thought, but now I know that I was growing up in a time when these cultures were disappearing and the wilderness, receding.
One River is a magnificent history of the Amazon Rain Forest and a biography about the father of modern ethnobotany, Ricard Evans Schultes, who devoted his career to exploring it. I am not going to engage in a lengthy review or go into much detail about the book. It is the kind of book that could fall into the hands of a teenager and change his or her life. What lingers with this older reader is the overwhelming grandeur of the Amazon, its rain forests and indigenous cultures. Set aside a couple of days to read this book and disappear into the jungle.
"When Rösler took over the [Fee Democratic Party] reins in May 2011, he insisted the FDP should never again exist to serve another party. But ultimately, this is what it did, seeing the CDU steal some 2.2 million of its voters..."
Angela Merkel (aka "Mutti" [Mom]), also came out strongly against CDU voters casting their second of two votes* for the FDP to insure representation in the Bundestag. She did her best to avoid any spending or tax cuts these past four years, measures that would have bolstered her coalition partner, while at the same time moving the CDU sharply to the left. (I still have not recovered from the shock of a 3% VAT increase in 2006 that Mutti agreed to after an election campaign during which she opposed such an increase -- the largest tax increase in the history of the Bundesrepublik!)
People are wont to describe Mutti as a political genius. Unless she prefers a coalition with the SPD or the Greens, she certainly doesn't look that brilliant to me right now. The FDP has been in every Bundestag since the founding of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. It is the only classically liberal party in Germany. This year for the first time it fell below the 5% threshold needed for seats in parliament. I find this a bit unsettling, especially if you consider that over 8% of the voters voted for the former East German Communist Party. No wonder that Merkel sometimes is referred to as Erich Honecker's revenge. Jeez, Germany is in pretty good shape right now. Go figure.
Angela Merkel Election Poster
An Alternative View from Tumblr
*For the distribution of seats in the German Bundestag, the second vote is more important than the first vote. This second vote allows the elector to vote for a party whose candidates are put together on the regional electoral list. (Wikipedia)
UPDATE: Hardly has the last vote been counted, and the CDU is now signaling a willingness to talk about tax increases with potential coalition partners. During the election campaign, the CDU vehemently opposed the idea of tax increases. I really am beginning to think that the CDU would rather form a leftist coalition instead of having to deal with its own complicity in a giant state apparatus that saps the economy and soaks taxpayers. One can hardly interpret the election as a vote for higher taxes. If anything, the Greens were punished for their talk of raising taxes during the campaign. Rumor has it that the top marginal rates, that kick in at an amazingly low income compared to the US, are supposed to go up to between 47% and 49%, plus the solidarity tax to pay for reunification. Plus 19% VAT. Plus gasoline tax. Plus mandatory TV and Internet taxes. Plus ... Oh, I give up. Let's face it: the state is a junkie and appears to want another fix.
Reason number two why working at home is beneficial: my dogs are free most of the time.
From Wikipedia: The Hush Puppies name and mascot were coined by the brand's first sales manager, James Gaylord Muir. Initially, the company's advertising agency recommended naming the product "Lasers". Then, on a selling trip to the southeastern United States, Muir dined with one of his regional salesmen and the meal included hush puppies, traditional fried southern cornballs. When Muir asked about the origin of the name, he was told that farmers threw hush puppies at the hounds to "quiet their barking dogs." Muir saw a connection to his new product. "Barking dogs" in the vernacular of the day was an idiom for sore feet. Muir surmised his new shoes were so comfortable that they could "quiet barking dogs."
As a former southerner, I don't like the term "fried southern cornballs" to describe what certainly is one of the great southern delicacies: the hush puppy. Hush puppies go well as an appetizer to just about any fried fish (served with cole slaw, of course) and also with shredded pork barbeque. In the old days, in certain establishments, the hush puppies were all-you-can-eat, just like bread in other places.
I digress. In the warmer months, I rarely have socks on at home, preferring to walk around in a pair of comfortable shower sandles. I cannot sit for any length of time at home with socks on. Once your dogs have tasted freedom, it's hard to keep them in the dark.
I had a fit of poetry the other day as I swooped into
San Francisco at a thousand kilometers
an hour. A driverless train sped me to
my car pickup, where I ground to a halt, waiting in line for over an hour at the
Speed of Hertz. Maybe sleep deprivation
triggered it: my culture shock, my
poetry fit. I was a foreigner in my own
country, standing in a long line. I
seemed to be the only one worked up by the wait. Trying to get oriented. Trying to feel at home. At the hotel, the desk clerks were German, the
waitress, Moroccan. We compared notes of
our expatriate lives.
I took a zigzag route after breakfast out to the Golden
Gate. Sacred Space. German design that instills awe (and a desire
to jump?). Yeah, maybe there I will feel
at home. I got lost. Up hills, down streets that lead nowhere. Back up and around. At first, the sun was shining, but over the
last hill I was surrounded by fog. The
bridge was covered in fog all the way across.
But the parking lot was sunny. I
sat on a rock wall listening to the fog horns warning strangers to stay away: nothing to see here. The morning tourists tried to snap pictures
but gave up after a few minutes and went back to their cars and buses. The city, though, across the bay, basked in a
bright cool light. I wondered whether
the city folks were even interested in what lay beyond the fog. Insular, I’d say. I read beat poems on the wall until my back
got howling cold. Then, I sat in my car
listening to coffee shop music and reading with a warm back. Some tourists took pictures of me in my car
with my book. The fog kept getting
thicker. Time to beat it.
I drove back over the bridge in geometrical lines and paid
my respects to the city lights, right on the border between Chinatown and North
Beach, an Italian enclave. I bought a
book of poems to feed my poetry fit. I
read them at lunch across the street. My
pizza cost twenty dollars, and the waitress slapped the check on my table
before my food had started to cool off, telling me to take my time. Time to beat it.
Three days later, sitting at my hotel bar, shooting
the breeze with the barkeeper and other guests, I finally felt at home. Just in time to fly back out. My poetry fit has outlasted my jet lag. Funny, how the brain works sometimes.
Roger Ebert (6/18/42 - 4/4/13), certainly America's most prolific film critic, had a big influence on me over the years. Several of his books line my shelves. I guess I'm going to have to figure out what I think about new films on my own. The world is a colder place without him.