Category Archives: Culture

And They Just Kept Letting Him Speak…


Yet another image stolen from ‘schwienfurt und so.’ Hopefully Leinie’s won’t take us to court over this.

Did you miss out on the live interview I did with Alex and Flo yesterday?  Do not despair faithful fans (i.e. the friends and family who read this because they feel sorry for me)!  The whole thing has been posted up over at Schweinfurt Und So!  Over 1 hour and 14 glorious minutes of pure awesome (and that doesn’t include the cunning hat).  Be sure not to miss the part where I say ‘hi’ to my mom, or the part where I stumble along in heavily accented German and fail horribly to get my point across (basically the whole thing).

In all seriousness I had a fun time.  Alex and Flo are excellent hosts (and serious beer drinkers) and there was great feedback from the listeners.  So click the link, check it out and, if you are linguistically so inclined, I recommend becoming a regular listener.

P.S.  So as not to allow it to appear as if this blog has become nothing more than a forum for shameless self-promotion (as if there is any other kind) I will return next week with some original content.  Until then, try to behave yourselves.


A Monumental Tragedy

So I am finally back after a short hiatus in which I spent the holiday season and a couple of weeks thereafter eating, drinking and hibernating in a futile attempt to stave off the inevitable: returning to work.  Anyway, I have returned to the office and to the blog, and I have decided to break my blogging fast with a piece of news that diverges somewhat from the usual topics discussed here, but which has hit very close to home for me.

When I am not working, studying or blogging I find time to serve as Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10658 in Schweinfurt.  About six years ago this organization, an amazing collective of American combat veterans spanning a wide range of ages and conflicts, was forced to begin to come to grips with the fact that the US Army units and installations that have been here in Schweinfurt since the end of World War II would be closing in the foreseeable future.  It was then that the idea to erect a monument to the service and sacrifice of every Soldier who had been stationed or served in the city from 1946 onward began to take shape.  Four years later we learned that the base closure was coming sooner rather than later and the project to create the monument began in earnest.

Two local artists, Steff Bauer and Sören Ernst, were commissioned to design and create the monument.  The Schweinfurt VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary conducted a huge fundraising effort, raising the vast majority of the funds through private donations from individual donors, the city of Schweinfurt donated a plot of land, and a local construction firm donated time and resources to the monument’s installation.

Finally, on Veterans Day 2012, the American Soldiers Monument was dedicated in a small but proud ceremony.  In attendance was Sissy Borel, National Senior Vice-President of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary; Sebastian Remelé, Lord Mayor of Schweinfurt; LTC Michael Runey, Commander of US Army Garrison Schweinfurt; as well as a host of Veterans, past and present unit and garrison commanders, city officials, members of the media and, perhaps most importantly, the widows of several fallen American heroes.  It was as solemn occasion and every speech delivered that afternoon resonated with the themes of service, sacrifice, and the partnership and friendship of two great nations.

Sadly, just two months later, the pride that was felt on that day has been damaged.  Sometime between the evening of January 15th and the afternoon of January 16th vandals removed the head of the eagle, the national symbol of America and Germany, and made off with it.  The local police were notified; the investigation is ongoing.

I found it difficult to put into words how I felt after I found out about the vandalism.  Shock.  Anger.  Sadness.  I couldn’t sit still; I couldn’t focus on just one emotion.  Questions kept bouncing around in my skull.  Who would do this?  Why would someone do this?  What has it accomplished?  I spent most of the night somewhere between agitation and depression.

I awoke this morning to find that news of the event had begun to make its way around the regional media websites.  The local paper ran a story on the afternoon of the 16th.  The state police reported the attack on their website and provided a hotline for witnesses or individuals with information about the attack to report it; the state news agency reported on it as well.  Several smaller websites that feature local news and events also ran the report from the police website, including one which ran it under the headline, “Who would do something like this?”

This media brush fire, combined with the outpouring of shock, outrage and grief that we have received via email and commentary, has helped tremendously.  It has been heartening to read the messages of support from Veterans, Soldiers, family members, and everyone back in the United States who supported the project.  Additionally, the words that I have received and seen online from German friends and family and the citizens of Schweinfurt have been a welcome boost to morale.  It has been made clear that the desecration of a monument, a piece of art, a piece of this city, will not be tolerated.

This is not the end of the story.  Even now we are working on plans to repair the monument, likely a long and expensive process, and we will see it restored and back where it belongs.  While the symbol may have been defiled, the service, sacrifice, and friendship which it represents continues unabated.  The partnership and sense of community that has been forged over more than 60 years of peacetime cooperation cannot be destroyed so easily.

Dan Drezner Tweets Glenn Beck, Hilarity Ensues

If you are not already doing so, you need to follow Dan Drezner on Twitter.  Actually, back up.  If you are not already, you need to be on Twitter.  Stop what you are doing and join the social media craze that has already become passe.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  You done?  Good.  Now, you need to follow Dan Drezner on Twitter.

For those of you not familiar, Dan Drezner is a blogger, teacher, foreign policy wonk, and zombie lover who keeps things pretty damn entertaining in 140 characters or less.  And while these are all good reasons to follow the man, his latest exercise in twitteration is reason enough.  Drezner recently announced that he would be reading Agenda 21, the latest novel “by” Glenn Beck (quotations due to the fact that Beck did not write the novel, but simply paid for the right to present it as his own, more on that later), and that he would be live-tweeting excerpts and commentary as he goes along.

The novel takes it’s name from a United Nation’s proposal that was adopted in 1993.  This non-binding plan of action was developed as a way to assist in planning and organizing development at the local, national and global levels in order to ensure a sustainable economic, social and environmentally sound future in the face of overpopulation and dwindling natural resources.

Of course, in the world of Glenn Beck, a man who hocks gold and end of days survival kits to those susceptible to his fear mongering, such a non-binding plan is really nothing more than a way for the UN to assume command of the global structure of power and leadership in order to bring on a dystopian society in which all people are subjugated before the authority of the global order.  Naturally.  Drezner’s first few tweets on the book have been quite humorous and, given the material he has to work with, I am really looking forward to keeping up with his progress.

I also recommend checking out what Sarah Cypher has to say about Agenda 21 over at Salon.  Cypher had the pleasure of editing the book as written by its original author, Harriet Parke.  This was before Beck bought the rights to the material and left his mark all over it.  Cypher’s article offers some great insight into the intent and impact of the eponymous UN plan, as well as how, by simply implementing his brand, Beck managed to alter the tone and implication of the book’s central theme to fit his agenda.

If the previous works that bore Beck’s name are any indicator, Agenda 21 will probably end up being a best seller.  Luckily, thanks to Dan Drezner, you’ll be able to enjoy the best parts for free, and probably be better for it.

An Emotive Review of Hitchens’ “Mortality”

Regular readers of this blog (yes, both of you) know that I am an admirer of Christopher Hitchens.  Much like a Jehovah’s Witness, I feel as though I have been let in on a great and redemptive cosmic secret, and as such I am required to share it with all (okay, both) of you.  Unlike a Jehovah’s Witness, I am far too lazy to come to your homes and tell you about it personally, hence the blog.

And so here I am, once again heeding the call to spread the gospel of Hitch (ironies abound!).  A good friend, great human being, and aficionado of fine malt-based beverages wrote a very personal  review of “Mortality” that I would be remiss not to share with you.  Please check it out here.

Hitch is dead. Long live Hitch!

Slate published on Wednesday a series of notes and scribblings; the last works of Christopher Hitchens that comprise the final chapter of his final book “Mortality“.  As an admirer of the late polemicist (I am currently reading his memoir, Hitch 22), this is a real treat for me.

This collection of thoughts and incomplete ideas are a testament to the fact that, even as his body was failing, Hitch’s mind – his wit, intelligence and, most important to him, his sense of irony – was as sharp as ever.  My favorite “piece” is the one found at the bottom of the page; a passage from the novel “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman (transcribed for use in a future essay, perhaps?).  Lightman’s passage aptly puts into words the sentiment that, while Hitch did not welcome death (particularly not in the manner in which it was foisted upon him), he did realize that the only proper form of immortality one should ever hope to achieve is through their heirs, their works and their legacy:

With infinite life comes an infinite list of relatives. Grandparents never die, nor do great-grandparents, great aunts…and so on, back through the generations, all alive and offering advice. Sons never escape from the shadows of their fathers. Nor do daughters of their mothers. No one ever comes into his own…Such is the cost of immortality. No person is whole. No person is free.

Read the whole chapter here.

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