Sunday, February 28, 2010

Watch Your Language

"Words enter our vocabulary often acting like predators. They circle what we do with the capability of creating havoc. How often have I sat in meetings listening to someone use the word "transparency"? I've become suspicious of this term; as someone reminded me, transparency might be the beginning of totalitarianism. Words are luggage for our politics, and those of us who are writers have a special responsibility to prevent the erosion of their value and meaning. I want to compose poems with words that can wear pants and shirts without creases."
E. Ethelbert Miller

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Madonna Of Marpingen

On July 3, 1876, three 8-year-old girls, returning to the village of Marpingen in Germany from picking berries, saw a figure in white whom they identified as the virgin Mary. After some initial skepticism, the girls' families and neighbours became convinced that the Mother of God had, in fact, come to their village. She appeared several times thereafter, identified herself as "the Immaculately Conceived", and performed miraculous cures. The villagers piety and deep devotion to Mary, combined with their pride in being chosen for this holy visitation and their growing sense of its commercial possibilities led them to hope that Marpingen could be the German equivalent of Lourdes. The local innkeeper telegraphed his beer supplier with a request for 150 gallons: "Marian miracle in Marpingen. Enormous pilgrimage. Send several hectoliters immediately!". Isn't that the stuff playwrights (and theatres) used to dream of - at that long gone time when they were still allowed to tell stories that were tragic, comic and metaphoric at the same time?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Use The Tide!

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in the shallows and miseries…

And we must take the current when it serves us,

Our lose our ventures.

William Shakespeare

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Usual

"I think I was forty before I realized that every writer who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his God given talent. If you write or dance or paint or sing, I suppose, someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”
Steven King

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Aiming High

A man´s reach schould exceed his grasp - or what´s a heaven for?

Robert Browning

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life Isn't Fair

One of the mistakes many of us make is that we feel sorry for ourselves, or for others, thinking that life should be fair, or that someday it will be. It's not and it won't. What gives us the right to expect to be rewarded for hard work or the good things we do? We must do what's right for our own sake. The nice thing about surrendering to the fact that life isn't fair is that it keeps us from feeling sorry for ourselves. Anyway, it's not life's job to make everything perfect, it's our own challenge.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Riddle's Solution

The riddle of Beethoven's Immortal Beloved has haunted musicologists, biographers and admirers for a long time. Who was the adressee of the composer's passionate letter that begins with the words "my angel, my all, my very self"? It took a painstaking investigation by Maynard Solomon to answer the question. After reading his work on Beethoven (New York 1977/1998) I am convinced that the Immortal Beloved was Antonie Brentano. She was 32 and a married mother of four children when Beethoven fell in love with her. So, like all of Beethoven's affairs, it was a hopeless love. Antonie ("Toni") Brentano was the sister-in-law of Bettina ("Goethe's infant correspondent") and Clemens Brentano, the romantic poet. The famous German jurist, Friedrich Carl von Savigny, and the poet Achim von Arnim were brothers-in-law of Beethoven's love of his life. The German Geistesleben was closely connected.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Red As Blood

The Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra) was the Gestapo's name for a group of dissident artists and intellectuals living in Nazi Germany's Berlin. The members of the circle, half of them women, were appalled by Nazi anti-Semitism and took action to secretly support their Jewish friends and neighbors. Those of the band who worked inside the Nazi bureaucracy found out early what was going on in the concentration camps. Many group members, but not all of them, were Communists. All of them were willing to sacrifice everything to topple the Third Reich. For most, however, their audacious acts of courage resulted in their tragic and cruel deaths. Nevertheless their heroism is greatly unappreciated, because the label the Gestapo put on them still sticks: Red Orchestra. Propaganda turned this resistance group into an organisation of Moscow paid Communist spies and saboteurs. The Cold War prevented their rehabilitation. Only now, almost 70 years later, a young American author, Anne Nelson, has written a book that tries to redeem those unsung heroes who resisted Hitler and lost their lives.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What Makes Us Ill

"The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant duplicity. Your health ist bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike, and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune."
Boris Pasternak

Friday, February 19, 2010

Winning Self-Respect

"No man who is occupied in doing a very difficult thing, and doing it very well, ever loses his self-respect."
George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's the difference, after all?

A miser sold all that he had and bought a lump of gold, which he buried in a hole in the ground by the side of an old wall and went to look at daily. One of his workmen observed his frequent visits to the spot and decided to watch his movements. He soon discovered the secret of the hidden treasure, and digging down, came to the lump of gold, and stole it. The Miser, on his next visit, found the hole empty and began to tear his hair and to make loud lamentations. A neighbor, seeing him overcome with grief and learning the cause, said, "Pray do not grieve so; but go and take a stone, and place it in the hole, and fancy that the gold is still lying there. It will do you quite the same service; for when the gold was there, you had it not, as you did not make the slightest use of it."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


"The truth is that lack of fiscal discipline isn't the whole, or even the main, source of Europe's trouble - not even in Greece, whose government was indeed irresponsible. No, the real story behind the euromess lies not in the profligacy of politicians but in the arrogance of elites - specifically, the policy elites who pushed Europe into adopting a single currency well before the continent was ready for such an experiment."
Paul Krugman

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why and how we tell stories

In a monumental book Christopher Booker provides an answer to the old riddle of whether there are only a certain number of stories in the world. He contends that all storytelling is a variation of "The Basic Seven Plots". At first, this seems an absurd idea. But Booker's work - 700 pages of stunning literary research - is a truly remarkable achievement, penetrating the archetypal roots of human consciousness and imagination. A fascinating and important reading experience, not just for writers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate & Cherries?

Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac is highly exaggerated, food researchers say. True, it does contain some chemicals like phenylethylamine, which produce feelings of euphoria. Yet one widely cited study showed that a 70 kg person would have to eat 10 kg of chocolate in one sitting to significantly alter the mood. But who would be in the mood after eating 19.2 percent of her weight in chocolate? Nor is it a good idea to talk your date into trying the black forest tart for dessert. One study found that the scent of cherries significantly decreases sexual arousal in women.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Going Up!

"When you're down and out, something always turns up - and it's usually the noses of your friends."
Orson Welles

Friday, February 12, 2010


"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once one grows up."
Pablo Picasso

Thursday, February 11, 2010


"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."
William James

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Facing Reality

“It’s nice to get a knighthood but in the end it’s just the same old face in the mirror getting older and older — you have to shave every morning and you look at your face and think: this is it, this is the deal. And there’s a wonderful harsh reality about that. Time is going by. I better get on with it. I better live.”
Anthony Hopkins

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Spoonful Of Sugar

Taylor Swift, the American country star, is a phenomenon - her sugar-coated style a perfect antidote to her nation's ills. But it would not hurt if she could actually sing.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who' First?

Arguably the most famous line The Who's Pete Townshend ever wrote was "Hope I die before I get old" on the angry young anthem of 1965, "My Generation". The world seems to have forgotten just how great The Who once were. They have long had to settle for third place in the pantheon of Sixties rock giants behind The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Many, though, would argue that they were the greatest live band of all time, ahead not only of The Beatles and the Stones, but also of Led Zeppelin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Nirvana and all the other legends. When Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey – the other surviving original member of the group after the deaths of drummer Keith Moon and bass guitarist John Entwistle – played the post-9/11 Concert for New York City, their passionate performance had traumatised firemen on their feet with tears in their eyes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Wonder Vitamin

Imagine a treatment that could build bones, strengthen the immune system and lower the risks of illnesses like diabetes, heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Some research suggests that such a wonder treatment already exists. It’s vitamin D, a nutrient that the body makes from sunlight and that is also found in fish and fortified milk. Doctors are increasingly testing their patients’ vitamin D levels and prescribing daily supplements to raise them. But don’t start gobbling down vitamin D supplements just yet. The excitement about their health potential is still far ahead of the science. Although numerous studies have been promising, there are scant data from randomized clinical trials. Little is known about what the ideal level of vitamin D really is, whether raising it can improve health, and what potential side effects are caused by high doses. And since most of the data on vitamin D comes from observational research, it may be that high doses of the nutrient don’t really make people healthier, but that healthy people simply do the sorts of things that happen to raise vitamin D.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


"The Germans have an inhuman way of cutting up their verbs. Now a verb has a hard time enough of it in this world when it's all together. It's downright inhuman to split it up. But that's just what those Germans do. They take part of a verb and put it down here, like a stake, and they take the other part of it and put it away over yonder like another stake, and between these two limits they just shovel in German."
Mark Twain

Friday, February 5, 2010


It used to be that you’d get nervous seeing a cop in your rearview mirror. Now you worry if it’s a Toyota.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Justifying The Means

An unidentified informant is offering to sell the German authorities details of 1,500 individuals who allegedly have untaxed income stashed away in Swiss bank accounts. He gave German tax auditors five sample files to prove the validity of the information which shows that the government is willing to cut the deal. It would not be the first one of its kind. In 2008, Germany purchased data on tax evaders from a bank official based in Liechtenstein. This time the government is willing to pay 2,5 million Euro for the stolen data, hoping for revenues of 200 million from the disclosed evaders. What's next? Probably negotiations with drug dealers, kidnappers and terrorists.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle.

Alfred Hitchcock

Monday, February 1, 2010


Anyone who waits to be struck with a good idea has a long wait coming. If I have a deadline for a column or a television script, I sit down at the typewriter and damn well decide to have a good idea.

Andy Rooney