Fifth anniversary of 9-11

I do not normally do linkdumps here on AFOE, but German Television Channel ZDF has a magnificent interactive online anniversary exhibition on 9-11 that is a must see even for those of you who do not speak German: click here

PS: I cannot tell if the site works for people who are not on DSL or ISDN. Hat tip for the link goes to Dutch weblog Sargasso.

Wir sind doch amusiert

Living in Germany as I do, I often find that I have hard things to say about the Germans. (Germans should see this not as evidence of their special faultiness but of my misanthropy. Were I living in Tahiti, I would doubtless have a lot of hard things to say about the Tahitians, who I understand from the paintings of M. Gauguin to be a happy, friendly and good-looking lot.) So why don’t I preface this by pointing out some of the nice things about Germans. They have contributed immensely to the world’s wealth of science, literature and philosophy. Everybody concedes that they make good cars and beer. The food is better than you might think it is.

But with the best will in the wortld, Germans are not funny, are they? We’ve all heard the German attempt at The World’s Funniest Joke — ‘der ver zwei peanuts valking down der Strasse, and von vas assaulted … peanut‘ — and even that needed Englishmen to be thought up.

Not a barrel of laughs, then, the Germans. Most of you have probably never seen German comedy, and you are the lucky ones. Those of you familiar with teutonic jesting will have had to suffer through Otto Waalkes, Dieter Hallervorden, Gottschalk & Kr?ger and similar highlights.

But wait. There is a narrow but rich seam of gold running through the dross. Germans might not often be funny, but when they are on song they can hold their own with the best. Here then, in the interest of fostering cross-cultural understanding, are some suggestions for those of you who can read and understand German.

Continue reading

Eta Massacre in Madrid

It is still too early to be able to count the toll with any accuracy. The link I post below speaks of 50 dead, others speak of more, and others less. Let us only hope the lower estimates are the accurate ones!

(Update 15 minutes after first post: the official death toll has now risen to 72 according to Ministry of the Interior figures just released on TV. Of course this is still far from definitive. I have been watching the live images on TV and they are among the most horrendous I have seen. I don’t know if the statistics will bear me out, but I have the feeling that this is the worst ever incident of its kind in the history of Spanish terrorism. The previous ‘low’ in this context was the Hypercor hypermarket bombing here in Barcelona – 1987, with 21 fatal victims. The wounded are being attended lying on blankets in the Atocha station in Madrid. Blood is everywhere, and the victims are a total cross-section of Spanish society: from executives to recently arrived illegal immigrants).

(Second Update: 11:44 CET: Spanish TV have just quoted Interior Ministry sources giving a figure of 131 dead. Words ecsapeme, and I fear it may get worse. The number of seriously injured also appears to be high).

I have no hesitation in attributing this heinous act to Eta. Official sources are, naturally, more circumspect. If time should prove me wrong I will, of course, on this as on so many other topics, gladly and willingly accept the fact. But for the time being: I have no doubt.

I have decided to post this immediately since I feel after my recent post on Spain and dialogue that it is behoven on me to say something. In fact I was preparing yet another of those euro related posts (this time on Volkswagen) when I went out to buy the family vegetables for the week. It was listening to the women with me in the shop (Spain is still a pretty traditional and ‘macho’ country in this sense unfortunately) that made me realise I had to make this post: to at least say something. I am aware that after so many years of this interminable killing the pure law of survival means that you tend to put a certain distance between yourself and the insanity of what surrounds you.

But what has happened today passes the bounds of even what one has become accustomed to. It reminds me so much of those dreadful Birmingham pub bombings in the UK in the mid 70’s. So whilst much could be said on the background to, and future implications of, this outrage: I will refrain. This is not the time or the place.

It is purely and simply the time and the place to condemn all such acts of terrorism as barbaric, and of lacking any kind of possible justification within the known frontiers of human reason. It is also the place to say that, inconsequential as this is, my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, family or friends (or simply fellow citizens) as a result of this appauling crime against humanity.
Continue reading