“The Last Supper”? Right – that fresco painted in the late fifteenth century by Leonardo on a refectory wall in a convent in Milan. Researchers (and brothers) Brian and Craig Wansink were wondering how to compare food-portion sizes of today with those of centuries ago, and hit upon the idea of going to paintings from past periods to get that information, eventually settling on using Leonardo’s famous work.
They published their findings here, but unless you happen to be really into obesity studies, to the point of having a paid subscription to the Journal, that won’t tell you much. But the FR journalist has read the article, so you don’t have to. And as you probably would expect, the Wansink brothers’ careful measurements of plate and portion sizes in Leonardo’s work revealed that plate sizes have increased by 66 percent over the last five centures and portions by 69% (oh, and the size of bread-rolls by 23%).
The German paper Frankfurter Rundschau has an amusing article up now. It’s about something Dutch, but, strangely, I was not able to find coverage in any of the Dutch papers: Managers meditate with cows.
Sound strange to you, too? Reading the piece, one keeps searching for some sign that this is all satire, some big joke – but in vain. The firmest conclusion I can draw instead is that the author (unnamed; or maybe the entire FR editorial board) is under threat of blackmail to one Corné de Regt, who according to this article offers “the unique experience of the farm and cow-stall” as a means of reinvigorating burned-out business managers. At €900 a head, the rehabilitation sessions at his farm in the Dutch countryside can be individually-tailored to some degree, but are all based around a core of intense communal meditation sessions on the straw in the outbuildings. No laptops, no mobile telephones allowed – the only interruptions are contributed from the cows peacefully cohabiting the same space.
“In the final analysis,” De Regt claims, “all senses are stimulated in the cow-stall through meditation with the animals.” That includes most especially the sense of smell; as it turns out, De Regt often gets complaints from his city-slicker clients about the stink in there, but waves them off: that’s an integral part of the whole meditation process.
The doughty Dutch farmer also dismisses out of hand accusations he sometime hears that he is simply running a big swindle. On the contrary, his cow-seminars are “very popular,” and he spent years formulating the concept, inspired along the way by Goethe and by the Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang, of finding an opposite and reconciling with it to attain true inner harmony. And for those who can’t seem to locate that “inner me” even after several cow-sessions, De Regt’s has a Plan B: he sends them outside with an axe to chop some wood, and when finished with that to run to a near-by stream, strip, and plunge in to cool off. “Very refreshing!” enthuses the cow-guru.
“The Prez & I”? “Obamamia”? Actually, the musical about Barack Obama that opened on Sunday at the Jahrhunderthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, is called “Hope – The Obama Musical Story.”
The hat-tip for the one noticing this first must go to Jillian Rayfield, affiliated with Talking Points Memo, and then just yesterday David Kurtz from the same site posted a slide-show on the subject. But I soon found my way to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, the German- and English-language website belonging to the musical itself. Check it out: there’s some good information there, even if the English version is written by someone not in complete control of that language and with a fondness for the phrase inter alia (actually a Latin expression, for all you non-lawyers out there, meaning “among others”). The songs that make up the show will surely become hits, it says there, for “[e]xperts of the German music scene” are sure they have that “Earth Wind and Fire [sic] quality”! Even more intriguingly, we learn that “Hope” is the first “interactive musical,” during which most of the audience will sit on cubes (called “percussion chairs”) that double as instruments and so will be encouraged to drum (and even get up off those chairs to dance) along with the performers! Wow!
Right, so how have the reviews been so far? Of the two I can find, the one from the home-town paper the Frankfurter Rundschau (Border of Gaiety) cannot truly be regarded as independent, since the musical’s producers announce right on their site’s “News” page that the FR is a “mediapartner.” Yes, Barack Obama’s story (and a parallel plot-line about the troubles of a South Chicago community) does turn out to be a suitable subject for a musical, opines reviewer Judith von Sternburg, even though back in the real world, after a whole year in office, ugly Reality has already caught up with the President. Von Sternburg is independent-minded enough to label Hillary Clinton’s portrayal (performed by American actress and “Evita” veteran Tracy Plester, who needs only a quick wardrobe-and-wig-change to render Sarah Palin as well) as “a caricature.” Van Sternburg also manages to pick up on, and mention in her piece, the line spoken by the actor representing a son fighting in Iraq, who comes back home just as Obama is elected and declares that surely the war will soon be over now – something the stage-side English-to-German translator at the premier performance skips.
The other review is from the Financial Times Deutschland (Out of Office: Obama Mia!), by Willy Theobald, who it emerges did not attend the actual premier but rather a previous dress-rehearsal. At least that enabled him also to grab an interview with the show’s producer and director, Roberto Emmanuele, who declares to him “Musicals I generally find boring” – as indeed does Herr Theobald – but “I want to make a musical that is fresher [knackiger] and more innovative than all the others.” He goes on: “Our music has quite a lot of hit-potential,” and Theobald does admit that he finds many of the songs “rather infectious” (richtig mitreißend). In the end, the FTD reviewer gives those behind “Hope” a lot of credit, although he can’t resist wondering whether the work will soon need to add another act at the end – one about Yemen.
The verdicts so far out of Germany, then – as few as they are – seem largely positive. Is it perhaps time to go on-line to order your tickets as well as a round-trip flight to Frankfurt-am-Main? Here’s a final YouTube tidbit to help you make your decision:
It goes off once a month (here in the Netherlands at 12:00 noon on each first Monday), sounding from somewhere in the distance. If we even happen to notice it, we pause a moment to remind ourselves that “it’s just that time of month” – no need to go take cover against some air attack or to try to find the nearest gasmask. It’s the air raid (or public emergency) siren, and it still makes up one element of the home-town environment for many of us. And in truth, it should not be retired any time soon, since we all still need it: launchable nuclear arsenals deployed within long-range bombers and on intercontinental ballistic missiles remain in the armories of a number of the world’s military powers, and then in addition few places in this world can count themselves immune from the possibility of devastating floods and/or earthquakes.
In actuality, though, these siren-systems are under threat: they cost too much, supposedly hundreds of millions of euros to maintain nationally. That datum comes from a recent examination of this issue in the Frankfurter Rundschau by Roland Knauer. Public authorities are increasingly shutting them down, in favor of setting up alternate warning systems for fire and civil defense officials employing TV, radio, and SMS. (more…)
Word is from over there on the West side of the pond we call the Atlantic Ocean that your Great Recession is coming to an end, to the point that the Federal Reserve is starting to move “back toward normal policy.” Well, it seems the same is true for Europe’s largest economy, Germany, as we learn today in the Frankfurter Rundschau: new data out from the Statistical Office there show that there was growth of 0.3% in the second quarter, even though 35 analysts surveyed by Reuters had earlier collectively counted on further GDP-shrinkage by about minus 0.3%.
In fact, that Office reports that there were signs that growth actually re-commenced already in this year’s first quarter, although the cumulative total for 2009 does stand now at minus 3.5% (and is still expected by the government and some leading economic institutes to come out at minus 6% for the year). Even better is the year-on-year comparison with 2008’s second quarter, which itself was minus 7.1%. (I’m assuming all these growth/shrinkage percentage figures are normalized to an annual basis.) Increased private and governmental consumption, as well as construction, get the main credit for the upturn – plus the singular fact that German imports have lately contracted even more than their exports, thus sharpening further the world-beating performance of that champion German export-surplus machine.
Still, you don’t have to be too much of a skeptic to ask “So what? What does this new, surprising, but small growth number really mean?” So the (uncredited) FR reporter turned to a handfull of economic analysts from leading banks and think-tanks to get their opinions. Analysts from Commerzbank and Unicredit (an international bank, Italian in origin) are very optimistic, stating for example that “The recession is over, and has reached its end earlier than everyone thought. . . . According to our calculations we will see a V-shaped recovery in the second half of this year.” Call me congenitally gloomy, but I find the remark from Jens-Oliver Niklasch, of the Landesbank Baden-Württemburg, to be rather more enlightening:
The question is, how enduring [this “end-of-recession”] is. Many problems we have not solved, the banking sector just like before is especially reliant upon the State’s debt-shield. As long as it is not clear that the banks’ capital base is robust, we cannot assume that the Crisis is past. Japan is a cautionary example here.
Tomorrow, 30 June, marks the formal end to the six-month term of the Czech Republic as European Union president, as Sweden takes over the next day for the second half of 2009. In reality, though, the Czech presidency effectively came to an end a bit earlier than that, namely on March 24, as Kilian Kirchgeßner points out in his analysis of that presidency for the Frankfurter Rundschau (Well, it wasn’t a complete flop). For that was the day that the Czech Civic Democratic (ODS) government, headed by premier Mirek Topolánek, was booted out of office in a vote of no-confidence by the lower house of the Czech parliament.
Check out that article title again (with whose translation I promise I took only very slight liberties), though: could someone kindly e-mail to me the German expression for “damn with faint praise”? Kirchgeßner’s purpose here is clearly to bend over backwards to cast the Czech presidency in the best-possible light. His piece’s very first sentence (i.e. after the lede) is “Probably no country has encountered such hostility during its EU presidency as the Czech Republic,” going on to cite all the EU and other national officials (especially the French) who cast doubt on the Czechs’ very competence to handle the assignment, and who continued to cruelly snipe at them thereafter – mostly behind-the-scenes, of course. What is more, it turned out to be a tough time to take up the job, what with the world financial crisis, Israel’s attack into Gaza, new disputes about ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, etc. – oh, and also the latest installment of the perennial Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute, which actually gave the Czechs the opportunity to mediate effectively and so chalk up an early success to their credit. (more…)
A bit of attention now, if you please, to the FIFA Confederations Cup, the tournament of national teams currently going on in South Africa. Of course, a rather bigger tournament, namely the World Cup itself, is scheduled to take place a year from now in that same country, in those very same stadiums as are being used now. As such, then, this Confederations Cup tournament is useful to the world governing football organization, FIFA, as a “trial run” for that much more important 2010 event; among the problems that have cropped up so far is that of the half-empty stadiums, suggesting either a lack of enthusiasm for football among South Africans (highly unlikely) or else inappropriate ticket-pricing.
And then there are the vuvuzelas. Perhaps, you may ask, that’s the nickname of the team and/or the supporters of one participating nation? No, those are the cheap plastic trumpet-like things that many fans are using to set up an ear-splitting racket to accompany the game they are watching live – devices which “remind one of the wind instruments heralds used at tournaments in the Middle Ages,” according to an article on this vuvuzela problem in the Frankfurther Rundschau.
Yes, when blown they apparently emit a dreadfully loud noise, which the FR article describes as “deafening” and an “elephant sound.” They have already prompted some public complaints among players and even from Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, FIFA president, who admitted to the press “They do make a lot of noise. FIFA is quite concerned about the noise, that also can constantly be heard in the TV [broadcasts].” On the other hand, the fundamental fact remains that FIFA explicitly approved the vuvuzelas for this Confederations Cup, so the players and everyone else will just have to endure them (perhaps with the aid of earplugs?) throughout. But for next year? Despite the ringing in his ears, Blatter seems not inclined to change the policy for 2010, either: “When you go to Africa,” he observed, “it’s simply loud. I have always said: football is drumming, rhythm, dancing.”
And whether elephantine or not, that sound is music to the ears of German businessmen Frank Urbas and Gerd Kehrberg. They’re still back in Düsseldorf, but they gained the license to manufacture and sell these vuvuzelas to European fans headed for the World Cup next summer.
The German press has lately also taken to covering events in Iran in a big way. First a couple of informative articles from the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, both from reporter Wolfgang Günter Lerch: here you’ll find a handy diagram (title: “Who has authority in Iran”) showing the formal structure of governmental power in Iran; helpfully, the most important Machtzentren, or “power-centers,” are outlined in red. They are, from left-to-right, the Guardian Council (twelve persons total, made up of six religious personnel and six jurists/legal experts); the Supreme Spiritual Leader, which is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (in English spelling); and the State President, which is still our good friend Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad. Then you also have this interesting article, entitled “Fragile state of many peoples,” about Iran’s ethnic and religious make-up. (If you visit, do be sure to click to check out the fantastic color-map at the upper-left.) We tend to think of Iran as Shiite and Persian/Farsi, but only the Shiite part is really true (90% of the population); the Persians make up only about 50%, followed by ten other ethnic groups, of which the Azeris are the next-largest. They are to be found in the northwest (near neighboring Azerbaijan, naturally), speak a different language that is close to Turkish, and boast a capital city, Tabriz, that is the home-town of presidential challenger Mir Hussein Musavi. (more…)
I’ve had this editorial in the Frankfurter Rundschau by Mario Müller (title: “Every man for himself”) held off to the side for a couple days until I could find the chance to address it adequately, because it reminds us of a simple but bald fact that we would all do well to remember: state aid to help the auto industry survive, or even an individual auto company, is precisely protectionism, plain and simple. So many of the heads of government circulating around the world today piously declaring “Protectionism! No indeed, we can’t allow that,” if they nonetheless are willing to extend financial support to their countries’ auto interests, are simply the usual sort of political hypocrite that we have all come to know rather too well.
Given that such pronouncements were apparently the main output coming out of the otherwise disappointing special EU summit last Sunday over the economic crisis, we probably need to include under that “hypocrite” rubric President Sarkozy of France. Chancellor Merkel of Germany potentially belongs there, too, depending on what she decides to do about Opel in particular, and decision time is coming very soon now that GM has indicated that that division will run out of money in a month. It probably would also include the leaders of some other EU members who themselves have more recently built up a thriving auto sector – like the Czech Republic and Slovakia – except that those governments simply don’t have the money to spend on any such thing. And sad to say, it could also include Barack Obama – again, depending on what he decides to do about the new requests for mega-money from GM and Chrysler.
They don’t like being hypocrites, of course, but from Obama on down the political impulse to supply some assistance to your national auto manufacturers is usually pretty overwhelming. So let’s follow along with Müller why that’s really not the thing to do. As he points out, blatant and ham-handed instruments of protection, like tariffs assessed at the incoming port or airport, while still prevalent, are no longer so much in vogue. Instead, governments (yes, even those within the EU, where it is supposed to be a completely open market) pursue their protectionism in more subtle ways, such as giving native companies certain tax breaks, or awarding subsidies – which is precisely the aid that the auto-makers from the US to France to Germany are asking for. Quite simply, this provides native firms with an unnatural advantage, enabling them to sell their wares for less and/or to gain a greater profit by doing so even though they probably are not the most-efficient producer. Meanwhile, of course, it’s the taxpayer who is paying for this dubious privilege of shifting production to a less-efficient producer.
Again, all of this will likely butter no parsnips when it comes to the political decisions whether to accede to the auto firms’ calls for help, as economically-distorting as such subsidies can be shown to be. It’s at least refreshing to be able to get such a public reminder of the point in the (on-line) pages of a major newspaper in a country whose economy is dominated by the auto industry to an even greater extent than it is in the US.
We always like to go against the grain here at EuroSavant, so today – the historic day of Barack Obama’s inauguration as 44th president, note that coverage here of reactions to that event begins tomorrow – let’s take a look at an opinion piece from the German Frankfurter Rundschau, authored by Arno Widmanm, entitled Obama’s helplessness. Here’s the lede: “The historical event was the election. Once in office, the new president of the United States will be able to bring about less change [or Change, if you like] than many have dreamed about.”
Isn’t that what so many of us are worrying about even as we witness, each in our own way, the inauguration delirium now playing out in America’s capital city? That Obama: as Widmann is glad to put it, “The United States has in him one of the most intelligent, alert, and communication-gifted presidents in its history.” I mean, just go read his books, and compare them to other politicians’ tired, ghost-written literary output! (more…)
I thought there were some products whose sales were supposed to be “recession-proof” – like beer. Isn’t that supposed to be the poor man’s cheap solace for hard times?
It seems not, at least when it comes to one of Europe’s prime beer-drinking lands, namely Britain. We get word on that from the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau (Britons lose their taste for beer; article sourced from the dpa press agency). Beer-revenues there have fallen 7.2% over the last three months compared to the previous year, down to the level of ten years ago. And it seems all beer-outlets are being affected more-or-less equally: pubs, restaurants, and supermarkets. In fact, the article quotes the head of the British Beer- and Pub-Association that five of those delightful traditional British pubs are now closing their doors permanently each day.
A quick troll through the on-line English papers found no word about this – could this merely be another diabolical German scheme to discredit their European rivals in beer-guzzling? If so, you’d think they would come up with some calumny against the Czechs instead, who year after year consume more of the stuff even than their Teutonic neighbors.
The leading Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad had an interesting item over the press conference given by Minister of Finance (and Cabinet chairmen in the absence of Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende, who is visiting China) Wouter Bos, which we can see in the article’s headline: Bos alludes to extension of French EU chairmanship.
From the very beginning of the European Union (i.e. from 1958; it was then known as the European Economic Community) the member-states have taken turns, at six-month intervals, at assuming the “EU presidency,” although the role is more-accurately described as the presidency/chairmanship of the Council of the European Union, which is the legislative forum for the member-states and usually the most-powerful of the EU’s component institutions. Naturally, the queue of countries waiting to serve their turn as president includes all EU member-states, and it was in the first half of this year that the first country from the great 10-country EU enlargement of May, 2004, had its turn as president, namely Slovenia.
The thing is, the second half of 2008 has proved to be far-from-normal times. First there was the diplomatic crisis over the conflict between Russia and Georgia, and now we have the international system of finance seriously in need of some restructuring. France is now EU President, and French president Nicolas Sarkozy has by all accounts done a credible job in responding to the worldwide financial panic. (His intervention in the Russian-Georgian conflict to secure the cease-fire was subject to rather more mixed reviews.) The comfort the EU has had with Sarkozy as point-man on that crisis may have much to do with the French president’s own personal qualities, but it also stems from France’s status as one of the EU’s major powers and its deep and capable governmental machinery. What if one or more of these grave problems had arisen during the Slovenian presidency: could President Danilo Turk and the Slovenian government have effectively handled the task of leading the EU response? (more…)
It was heartening to read, from this European vantage-point, the article about Suddenly, Europe Looks Pretty Smart in the New York Times last Saturday, mainly describing the European “bailout plan that has now set the pace for Washington, not the other way around, as had been customary for decades.” At the same time, so far the poster-child victim of the financial crisis has been poor Iceland, a country that is rapidly running out of foreign exchange with which to pay for any imports and so is in contact with the International Monetary Fund for a rescue. But Iceland has gotten some company in the IMF petitioners’ ante-room recently from (among others, but just to name a European country) Hungary. The three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are likely soon to join them there, although of course the European Union is also offering its own assistance.
So Europe may look “pretty smart,” but still European countries can suddenly find themselves in a deep financial hole in the present dire international conditions – yes, even EU member-states like Hungary and the Baltics. The one common denominator that seems to remove a European state from vulnerability, though, is membership of the Euro-zone, i.e. those 15 states out of the 27 member-states of the EU who use the euro as their common currency. Hannes Gamillscheg of the Frankfurter Rundschau recently picked up on this phenomenon (The guardians of the crown – alone) but from the point-of-view of a couple of those countries now outside the Euro-zone who in the past have explicitly rejected opportunities to come inside, namely Denmark and Sweden. (So the “crown” in the article’s title refers to the two different “crowns” that are those countries’ currencies.) (more…)
The big news today is the Bush administration’s proposed $750 billion+ plan to address current turmoil in the US financial markets by giving the Treasury Department authority to purchase bank assets. Even as this is being written, hearings are taking place before the US Senate’s Banking Committee featuring the two main agents of the American government’s rescue plan, namely Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke.
As befits this blog’s name, though, we like to take a Euro or at least international perspective on things whenever we can, and there are certainly such angles to this story. In fact, the two I can detect are attractively symmetrical. On the one hand, Treasury Secretary Paulson announced that foreign-owned banks active in the US capital markets will also be eligible to exchange faltering financial assets for American cash via the proposed “bail-out” facility. On the other, administration officials are starting to look to foreign treasuries to contribute funds towards this bail-out.
John McCain has made his choice – and a surprising one it was, too, namely Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice-presidential nominee. As observers and interested parties made their way to Dayton, OH yesterday to witness her official presentation as Republican running-mate, even the most-experienced journalists were scrambling to find background material on someone who previously had been a peripheral candidate, at best, to join McCain on the ticket.
If those American journalists had that problem catching up with information on Palin, you can guess the problem was even more acute for the foreign press. Still, European coverage has risen to the challenge with an assortment of treatments of the Alaska governor’s naming – even if I nowhere saw any mention of the budding Alaska state trooper firing scandal that could bring some heavy rain on her parade later on. Anyway, let’s go check that coverage out – starting this time in Poland. (more…)
Today’s Washington Post passes along word from US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, Daniel Fried, characterizing Russia’s recent intervention into Georgia as reflecting Russia “being angry and seeking revanchist victory” – “the sign of a weak [nation].” Putin, Medvedev & Co. seem to have gotten about all they wanted there, so is this just happy talk? Whistling past the graveyard? Maybe not; it’s a view also supported – and expanded upon – by Prof. Herfried Münkler of Berlin’s renowned Humboldt University writing in today’s Frankfurter Rundschau (The Russian Power). (more…)
It looks like the Obama presidential campaign finally sent out its promised and long-awaited SMS message announcing its choice of Joe Biden for vice-presidential nominee at that storied hour of 3:00 AM on Saturday. While that meant that all but the most obsessive American politics-junkies would have to wake up to learn of the news, over here in most of Europe (on Central European Time) it was already 9:00 in the morning and we were getting impatient over our coffee and breakfast for the Word. (Admittedly, a couple of hours previously outlets like the BBC World Service were already passing along the likelihood that it would be Biden, based upon key clues – such as the departure of an Obama campaign jet from Chicago’s Midway Airport headed for Delaware – tracked down by the American press.)
Now that Word has come, together with a presentation to the public of the combined ticket at a gala event in Obama’s political hometown, Springfield, Illinois. And while the McCain has already come forward with its response, so have commentators in the European press. (more…)
In the meantime, the countries of the NATO alliance struggle to come to terms with the new ruthless military face Russia has shown in this crisis. Germany now stands central in that military alliance, in the same way it has stood central for some time now within the European Union, again because of its sheer weight of population and economic power (and, who knows, maybe also its reputation for military ability in the past), which makes German commentary on these recent developments particularly interesting.
A very good contribution comes from Jochen Bittner, who writes a weblog, called Planet in Progress, that is carried off the Die Zeit webserver. (more…)
The Western World reaches something of a cultural milestone this weekend when Madonna Louise Ciccone – better known, of course, simply by her first name – reaches the age of 50. This is naturally an appropriate occasion for pundits to produce philosophical reflections upon aging, pop culture, feminism, and what-have-you. Elke Buhr of the Frankfurtehr Rundschau offers one of the better treatments in a piece whose content reflects the cheekiness of its title: Hedonism for all: Why Madonna cannot age in dignity. (more…)
The Monster is dead, indisputably dead: General Motors, maker of the infamous Hummer, has made this clear, and anyone with a set of paired braincells can realize how jarring its big-box image and horrendous gas mileage comes across in this new era of high gas prices and global environmental concern. (Only in the military, one can assume, is its place not under threat.)
Of course, that is not welcome news to many. This includes many Germans, who come from a culture that does appreciate well-engineered motor vehicles, together with their unfettered use. Think of those renowned no-speed-limit Autobahnen. And since when were Germans ever known for their mass use of bicycles, as the Dutch and the Danish – and Chinese, etc. – are known for to this day?
No, through recent history the pride of Germany has been their excellent armored fighting vehicles, and then – once the sheer catastrophe of the Second World War turned them away from things military – their exquisite autos: Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, even Volkswagen. The last few decades, though, they have also taken up the cause of environmentalism in a big way – Germany is the country where you’re asked to sort your street-side trash by Glass/Paper/Packaging/Other, for example – and this has of course at times worked at cross-purposes with their automobile love-affair. (more…)
You’ve got to know that this article went straight to that privileged position close to my heart, even though the personage under discussion in Christian Y. Schmidt’s piece in the Frankfurter Rundschau (Mao: The Giant of My Generation) is not the “Mao” you might think (or hope). No, it’s the original Mao, that founder of the Chinese People’s Republic whose name these days is spelled “Mao Zedong.” Still, what better way to gain a bit of insight into the Chinese in the run-up to the Peking Olympics, eh? (more…)
It’s all a bit bizarre: Here at EuroSavant we consider the Economist’s on-site blog Certain Ideas of Europe to be something of a watered-down competitor, in that its (anonymous) writers evidently command a few European languages themselves and take advantage of that often to remark upon noteworthy articles in the European press (really only the French and the German). Yet in its own day-after Obama-Berlin coverage, what else does Certain Ideas of Europe choose to highlight out of reaction to Obama’s Berlin speech from the German Fourth Estate than a breathless piece from the Bild Zeitung (Britons: think The Sun; Americans: maybe The New York Post but – as we’ll see – with a bit greater tolerance for female nudity.) The blog entry is entitled Obama and the ‘BILD girl’. Wow – 27-year-old Bild reporter Judith Bonesky (stifle the puns!) finds herself together in the gym of the Ritz Carlton hotel with HIM! Oh, he’s much taller than she had expected! They exchange some “How are you?”s! Then he goes and starts hefting some impressively-big weights, in such a manly fashion, without breaking a sweat! Naturally, when it’s time for him to go (he’s got a speech to deliver), she grabs her chance for a smugshot with the candidate. (more…)
Here’s an alert to all cinema-goers in the UK, starting in May: that mineral water ad you think you are seeing prior to the theater’s main attraction might turn out to be something quite different. The on-line Frankfurter Rundschau has the details (Amnesty International Shows Torture in the Cinema): from 9 May Amnesty International UK will be paying to have a 90-second block played in British cinemas that provides a good up-close look at what waterboarding is all about. As FR reports, for a brief while the images there on screen are quite disturbing. But that is on purpose: as Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen states, “The film shows what the American intelligence services would gladly keep secret – the gruesome sight of an almost-drowned human being.” (more…)
John Kerry delivered his acceptance speech last Thursday night to bring the Democratic National Convention to its culmination, and the German press was certainly paying attention. But this should have been no surprise to readers of the Economist (subscription required), which this week reminds us how Germans massively dislike George W. Bush, and so are presumably very interested in the personality and prospects of the alternative candidate who can send him packing to Crawford, Texas. (That Economist article, unfortunately, also dwells on Germans’ current dislike for the US generally – but, like the country or not, they surely cannot be under the delusion that the result of November’s presidential election has no impact on them.)
Unfortunately, most of the articles I surveyed in the German press covering Kerry’s acceptance speech were happy to limit themselves to a mere “translation function,” i.e. explaining to their readers what Kerry said. Most disappointing was such a “translator” article in Die Zeit (Kerry Wants to Restore the USA’s Prestige), from which we ordinarily can expect better – and that article itself was borrowed from the German business newspaper Handelsblatt. EuroSavant readers presumably had plenty of opportunity to read in English what Kerry said, if they didn’t already see the speech on TV live, so such articles are not so useful.
Handelsblatt wisely chose to keep its higher value-added materials for itself, though, as we can see from its editorial on Kerry’s speech (Bridge-Builder Kerry) from correspondent Michael Backfisch. (more…)