Sunday, 7 February 2016

How not to send postcards from Venice

In some European countries it is possible to buy stamps at tobacconists. Over Christmas in Venice, we bought stamps for 8 postcards. They seemed more expensive than they should have been and the vendor explained that it was a special service that is more reliable than the Italian postal service. He then gave us a pamphlet and explained that the cards should not be put in the normal red boxes but in special postcard boxes, listed in the pamphlet.

It took us half an hour to find the nearest “special” box. It was hidden inside a small shop in the market:

Anyone who – at a time of email, messenger, whatsapp and other means of communication – still sends postcards – be warned – the cards have still not arrived. “Friend Post” is not so friendly, it turns out.

Americans – look at yourselves in the mirror

Every four years the US goes through an election campaign to whittle down the list of presidential candidates and then to elect a president. Such election years, in which the various candidates offer their worldview and make their promises, could serve as a powerful mirror, or more than that, as an X-ray of American society.

Are they looking in their own mirror? Are Americans seeing what we see?   

Take just this week’s crop: Ted Cruze – who won the Republican Iowa caucus – explains that waterboarding is not torture. Question to Mr. Cruz: why – if not to torture and elicit cooperation from the prisoners -  did the CIA use waterboarding? Not to be outdone, Trump – who lost Iowa to Cruze – informed the voters that he would bring waterboarding and even go further than that.

He who promises to be nastiest gets to be president?

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Duchess and the Rabbi

Beatrix Amelie Ehrengard Eilika Duchess of Oldenburg, going by her married name as Mrs. von Storch, a leading member of the German rightwing party AfD, Alternative für Deutschland, has joined her party leader Frauke Petry, and opined that German border guards should be able to shoot refugees trying to enter Germany. Petry, who was born in the German Democratic Republic, a country whose border guards shot its own citizens trying to flee, apparently sees nothing unusual in shoot to kill by border guards.

Blue-blooded Frau von Storch has no qualms in joining GDR born Petry in the effort to keep Germany German. German unification has evidently worked.

Some three thousand kilometres to the east, Shmuel Eliyahu, the municipal Rabbi of Safed, and as such an Israeli civil servant, recently explained that as terrorists were out to kill Jews it was necessary to kill them even after they had been caught. Policemen shooting them should be sent flowers, chocolates and money and medical teams treating them should let them die.

Shit is to be found everywhere. Fortunately, neither all Germans, nor all rabbis share Eliyahu’s and von Storch’s views. Sadly neither German, nor Israeli society, push those who propagate such views out of the public domain, perhaps across the border of the land that they try to establish for those of their own kind. 

Should Moroccans take up space in a refugee camp?

Last week, in a tram in Cologne, I was offered a seat by a very friendly young chap. His German was nonexistent, as was his English, he came from Morocco, he told me in broken French. He has been in Germany for a month and is hoping to find work. No, he has no profession and he may move to Spain in a few months time, he said and if that does not work out, he will go back home. For the time being, he is staying at the local refugee camp.  

Friends had told him that Europe was so beautiful, but it’s so cold in Germany and Morocco is very beautiful too, he proudly said. His parents, he told me in answer to my question, want him to come back home.

I later remembered how when I was his age, I also travelled in Europe, I stayed in large dormitories, perhaps like the camp the young Moroccan was put up in, they were called youth hostels but I had to buy my own food and was not given any pocket money by the countries I visited.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Back from Venice

 2 photos I brought back from my recent trip to Venice:

Venice 1:

A sensible idea: 
rucksacks are a real menace in public transport

                                                    Venice 2:

The modern family 
having a meal in a restaurant.

Israelis should read their Bible

Israel's population is becoming more religious. Perhaps they should also start reading their bible. Yet, they will not like what they find in it. Micha, the prophet, for example, who warned his people:

Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity.

They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.

The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us.

Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.
(Micha, III, 9-12).

The Romans fulfilled Micha’s prophecy, occupied Jerusalem and destroyed Jewish national life.

Israel has not learned.  

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Trump Bursts

One regularly hears demands that “moderate” Muslim leaders speak out against extremist Islamists.

Donald Trump, never one to mince words, has now come out with a demand that Muslims should be barred from entering the USA. This is the time for the “moderate” non-Muslim leaders and elites in the US to speak out. Church leaders, intellectuals, politicians must come out in droves and clearly distance themselves and American society from this hate mongering man and his message.  Point the finger at Trump! Boycott the man!

PS: I have given up on the hope that Israeli politicians will speak out against extremist Israeli words and deeds, as most of today’s Israeli politicians are extremists themselves.

Israel vs. Sweden

A few days ago, the Swedish foreign secretary, Margot Wallström referred to the recent spate of stabbings of Israelis by Palestinians – which she called “terrible”, adding that “they must not happen” and that “Israel had the right to defend itself.” However, Wallström also said that the response can not be “extrajudicial executions.”

Israel reacted to the Swedish foreign secretary with fury: The Israeli press was soon filled by statements about anti-Semitism in Sweden and Netanyahu suggested that the Swedish foreign secretary in her “scandalous remarks…expects Israelis to bare their throats to those trying to stab them.” 

Despite Sweden’s attempt to explain that it had not accused Israel of extrajudicial executions, it is clear that Wallström referred to the fact that since the stabbings had started, Israeli soldiers, policemen and civilians have shot to kill the attackers. Israeli politicians, who called on every Israeli with a gun license to carry a gun, have also called for a shoot to kill approach.

So, why is it ok for Israeli politicians to support shoot to kill and wrong for a foreign politician, to refer to it as “extrajudicial execution” - which shooting to kill rather than shooting to disable, in fact is -?

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Jonas Kaufmann Lottery

This is the fifth time, that Jonas Kaufmann has cancelled his participation at a performance that I have had tickets for. He is the greatest tenor in the world these days and when he does appear, it is a wonderful experience. But, buying a ticket for an opera, in which he is meant to sing, is like buying a lottery ticket. And, as lotteries go, there is no transparency. 

What’s wrong with that man and his “viral throat infections”?

The only reason, I’ve booked tickets for Carmen was because Kaufmann was to sing Don José. And then the bas**** cancels yet again. Covent Garden does not refund the expensive ticket price, one does not even get the surcharge – that they levy when they have superstars in one of their productions – back.

All they offer – if one does not want to hear the second rate replacement they had arranged – is an exchange within the same season. That is up to mid-March with very little choice.

Neither Kaufmann, nor Covent Garden should be allowed to get away with this shoddy way of treating the public of opera lovers. Sadly, we are a captive audience and are being treated as such.

Shame on Covent Garden Opera Director Kasper Holten.Mr. Holten - the least you can do is give customers a 12 months period to exchange the tickets. 

Barenboim - Go Home

Daniel Barenboim has been Music Director of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the Berlin State Opera since 1992. In addition to this job, and to performing as a concert pianist and to various appearances as guest conductor around the world, Barenboim is also music director of Milan’s La Scala. Barenboim also runs the West Eastern Divan, the orchestra that brings together young Arab and Israeli musicians. This year, he opened his very own music academy in Berlin, the Barenboim-Said Academy. It seems that this, a third musical university in Berlin, was established at great cost to the taxpayer mainly to flatter Barenboim’s ego. 

Barenboim had really done much to develop, maintain and nurture the Staatskapelle orchestra, but now he has either grown tired or simply lost interest. He should let go and let someone else take over. The decline in the quality musically, (The new production of Figaro conducted without inspiration by Gustavo Dudamel, is a case in point.), is not aided by the bad productions of Jürgen Flimm, the Staatsoper’s Intendant.

Fortunately, Flimm will be leaving next year; unfortunately, he is stocking up the opera company with his own productions that are likely to stay as the house productions for years to come. Not to be unmentioned is the fact, that Barenboim should not have invited Flimm - with his terrible track record at the Salzburg Festival - to become Intendant of the Berlin State Opera.