Thursday, January 29, 2009


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Naked in Berlin

It must be one of the only capital in Europe where you can lay down naked in the grass of a park without disturbing anyone. Though the fall of the wall 20 years ago, Berlin stays a city aside. Its past of freedom and of an “island” has left heritage. Coming here is like going into town and in the countryside. I would recommend you to rent a bike. Unlike Paris where each move on your bicycle leads you almost to death, Berlin is made (most everywhere) for the people (like me, at any season) who rides one. The cycle paths are most of the time large, separated from the roads, crossing parks and because Berlin has only few highs, It’s not that difficult to ride. Just to give you an idea if you know Paris (It’s my city after all), Berlin is 9 times bigger and 30% of its space belongs to lakes and forests. Staying in Paris allows you to be in a big city without missing air to breathe. There is only few traffic noises, and the cars seem lost on the big streets (not always). No useless stress, the rhythm in Berlin is slowlier. Having a walk in Tiergarten is enjoying a forest in the centre of the city. When the weather allows it (not that often I must say), you can do picnics with family and friends, you can get a full body tan or play ball(s) (whichever you like …). Of course during winter time, which lasts longer than you think, you can go swimming in any of the pools of the city and this, with the same card. When summer’s here, take the train and after 30 minutes, you have reached one the lake which surrounds the city in the middle of the green. When you come back, have a drink in those popular beach bar, where your friends can join until early next morning, eating food from the barbecue, drinking and dancing at the music of a famous DJ. Or stay outside, watching people, on a terrace. I’m sure if you plan to come to Germany (and that is already a big step because It’s not very famous, I know), the tourist is afraid for its stomach. I know, the German food is even less famous than the land but trust me, as a French, I assure you, you can find good food … or you cook at home. You can eat outside, healthy and cheap, bio as well and you start to see soup, vegetables salad and chocolate cake. Like in San Francisco (which I looooove), you will get the memory of having lunch, your head against the window enjoying the first rays of the sun. Though It’s not easy to have a place at the sun next to Paris, Milan or New York, Berlin is very active with fashion. This week, for example is the fashion week and if you’re a bit interested, you can have a look at the new creations. A lot of designers move to the city those last years and a shop only sell the creations of the city.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


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I spent the week-end in Hamburg. First, It’s not very far from Berlin, only 3 hours by bus and you have 12 connections per day. Second, I have a good friend there and It’s been a while since I saw him and his lovely family. Third, because of my new home, I need to buy furniture and in order to confirm my taste, I need to see, touch, smell the materials, the design, the fabrics. My choice at the time, after months of research goes to Bolia. There is a shop in Hamburg, so all those reasons made me plan this week-end. It's not my first time in this city and everytime it reveals new sites for me. After a wonderful dinner at my friend's home (we had fish, It's so rare to get fresh fish in Berlin that It was a pleasure) we went to drink a few cocktails and wander a bit in the city. Hamburg is one of the richest in Europe. Because It's the second biggest harbour in Europe after Rotterdam, There is a mix of rich traders, tourists and next door's people. We started with a touristic place, for the view. The 20up Lounge Bar is one of the most stylish in Hamburg. Housed within the Empire Riverside Hotel, it is perched on the top floor (no prizes for guessing which storey) of this gleaming glass tower. Floor to ceiling windows provide superb views of the city and it’s an ideal place to perch – on one of the slender, elegant barstools – with a cocktail in the early evening, as the streets light up below you. There's a long bar with most tables set up to take advantage of this view. There's also separate sofa area if you feel like cozying up to someone. Though it has that familiar hotel bar vibe, the drinks are excellent and it’s a great place to hit if you’re new to the city or want to mark an occasion. But the view was covered by the fog since it snowed the entire day and after a first drink, we moved, walking to another bar. As a good entertainer, my friend brought me to a tour in the center and as a good tourist, I was OK to walk in Reeperbahn, the most crowdy street of the city, the night's highlight and well known red quartier and the Herbertstrasse (only for men), so called short cut of my friend to reach the bier bar where football players of the local team come to meet their supporters. It's a street where, like in Amsterdam, young ladies with a lot of advantages given by nature or by plastic surgery, want to help you having a good time and take your money for it. But it was not the purpose of the evening and we headed to East, which is also a hotel, member of the Design hotels group. Housed in a former iron foundry, in close proximity to the world-renowned Reeperbahn, the East aims to introduce the perfect match between gastronomy, hospitality and nightlife, all organized in a donut-like plan around a three storey high restaurant with 28-foot tall doors opening onto a courtyard. According to the architect, the design was inspired by the old foundry and the forms of the cast iron objects produced there, by the alloy of contemporary Eastern and Western cultures, by the memory fragments of surreal first-trips to Asia and by a deep appreciation for the Eastern recognition of a spiritual essence in nature. Four gigantic pillars tower from the ground to the top floor of the former factory hall, while parts of the original foundation in exposed brick have been dramatically lit, serving as unusual divisions in the restaurant area. We chose the Smirnoff lounge, first because there was space for two and second because I could smoke. Hamburg has non-smoking policy except if space allows it. Saturday, A. came to join in Hmaburg because he had some furniture shopping to do too at Habitat and we like to shop together, bringing to each other ideas and point of view. When we meet in a city we don't live in, we like to try nice deisgn hotels. In Hamburg, our choice went to the Side, also a member of Design hotels. Hamburg's most fashionable hotel may be tucked away down an unprepossessing side street in the city centre, but once you find it there's no mistaking you have arrived somewhere significant. An eight-storey, glass-fronted atrium designed by architect Jan Stoermer floods the minimalist reception area with natural light. Designer Matteo Thun continues the theme in the restrained bedrooms with dark-wood floors and crisp white linen sheets and fittings. Bathrooms are stocked with covetable REN products. The 'wellness' area (comprising a swimming pool, sauna, aromatherapy steam room, gym, solarium and massage/treatment room) is much more colourful. Side's Fusion bar has established itself as one of Hamburg's coolest hangouts and is usually packed at weekends. Models and media types are very much in evidence but, refreshingly, it's also popular with ordinary mortals. The adjoining Fusion restaurant serves sushi and is an excellent spot to watch hip Hamburgers at play. We unfortunatly didn't have the time to try everything (outside the room, of course, and the bar later at night for martini cocktails and negronis) because we went for dinner at DOC. It was suggested by my friend and reserved by the hotel. It's walking distance from it so It was perfect for us and though It's an italian, I knew I could have fish again. It's a cube on the bank and because the restaurant is on the first floor, you can enjoy the view on the lake if the correct table is booked (lucky us). The food was not the biggest culinary experience of my life but nevertheless tasty and fresh, together with the Toscane wine and good service. After a digestive walk in evening breeze, joining the bar at the hotel drinking cocktails with the cosmopolitan crowd of the place, we had this morning a gargantuan breakfast before traveling back to our home. Shame this time I couldn't have my walk on the frozen lake but I have to come back to visit this "being built" area which looks very interesting. A multi faces city.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


This is a wonderful movie. It's part of my library and will stay in it because everytime I feel like adventurous and want to see something with magic, heroes, love, fools and kings, I watch Merlin. The actors are all good in their part and, though It's a long movie (182 mn), It was made for TV screen, released in 1998 that retells the famous legend of King Arthur from the perspective of the wizard Merlin. Sam Neill stars in the title role in a story that covers not only the rise and fall of Camelot but also the phase, supposedly in the history of Britain, that had preceded it. The film deviated from more traditional versions of the myth, notably by including new characters such as Frik and by keeping Merlin through the whole reign of King Arthur over Logres (whereas in older versions Merlin left earlier on in the king's reign). As Christianity spreads over Britain, the power of the pagan goddess Queen Mab (Miranda Richardson) is waning, and her world of magic faces imminent extinction. In order to save it, Mab decides to create a half human, half magic being, a wizard, that she believes will bring people back to the "Old Ways" (the pagan religion is said to believe in the “Old Ways” in this story). Merlin is created by Queen Mab, and is born to a human mother, Elissa, though he possesses no mortal father.Elissa dies shortly after giving birth to Merlin, leaving the child to be raised by Ambrosia, an old woman who used to be a pagan, but has since rejected Mab and the "Old Ways".Ambrosia refuses to give the new born Merlin to Mab, arguing that love is needed to raise a child, and that Mab is incapable of providing it. Mab seems to agree on this, and leaves, but warns Ambrosia that one day she will return and take him away once he manifests his powers.Merlin grows up with no knowledge of his true heritage, until one day, he uses magic for the first time to save a young woman named Nimue (Isabella Rossellini), daughter of a nobleman. In return for her life, she grants him a kiss, they exchange names and Merlin vows never to forget the young Nimue. On returning home he finds a horse awaiting him, the messenger that Mab has sent him to follow. Unknowingly, Merlin is led to Mab's underground palace, where she plans to train him in magic until he becomes the greatest wizard of all time. Merlin spends some time learning magical skills from Frik (Martin Short), Mab's gnome servant. He masters being a hand-wizard, the second stage of his learning, but cannot master being a magician of ‘pure thought’like Queen Mab. He doesn't like magic and eventually leaves for his old home when he learns from Mab that his foster mother Ambrosia is dying. Unfortunately, he only arrives in time to see the end of an argument between Mab and Ambrosia. She is unable to survive, and in her last breath, makes Merlin swear to only follow his heart. On her grave he makes an oath that he will never use magic unless it is to defeat Mab.Some years later, Merlin is summoned to see King Vortigern (Rutger Hauer). Upon his arrival he learns that a pagan priest has promised the King that Merlin’s blood will be the cure to his ever-crumbling castle. This Soothsayer had earlier asked Queen Mab for help in solving the tyrant King’s request, and she suggested finding a man “with no mortal finding”, thus leading him to Merlin. However, Merlin informs the King that his castle is being built on water, and that he would be more useful alive as he has “dreams” that predict the future. The King locks him in a dungeon, and tells him to dream. Merlin, suffering in this dungeon sees Nimue through his cell bars, she remembers him and persuades King Vortigern to release Merlin. Merlin and Nimue grow close, but Mab plots against their union and Merlin cannot save Nimue from getting injured. She is sent to Avalon to recover, and Merlin leaves to defeat Vortigern and his new ally, Mab.Soon Merlin dreams of two dragons, a red defeating a white. The red dragon is that of Uther Pendragon. Merlin joins Uther Pendragon, the enemy of the tyrant king Vortigern. Merlin helps Uther win the war against Vortigern (whom Merlin kills with the aid of the magical sword Excalibur, given to him as a gift by the Lady of the Lake, Queen Mab's sister). He believes that Uther will be a just, decent king. However, Uther becomes infatuated with a nobleman's wife named Igraine. Uther tries to take Lady Igraine by force, but cannot defeat the nobleman’s castle defence. Merlin, wanting to stop civil war and to teach the child he knows will come, transforms Uther’s appearance into that of the nobleman's, and he enters the castle and sleeps with Igraine. Her real husband is then killed by Uther’s men. Igraine’s daughter, Morgan le Fay (Helena Bonham Carter), is the only one who seems to realize Uther’s true form. Merlin then takes Excalibur from King Uther and places it within “the Rock of Ages”, who promises to keep it until the true king returns, a man with a good heart.Igraine eventually gives birth to Arthur, but dies in childbirth. Frik persuades the infant Morgan le Fay to place a black stone beneath the baby Arthur’s sheets, thus cursing his life. Arthur is taken by Merlin as an apprentice, not in magic, but in ethics and everything he needs to become the perfect king Merlin wishes to create.In time, Uther turns mad and commits suicide, which leaves the kingdom in turmoil over who will be the new King. Merlin informs Arthur of his rightful place as the only son of Uther, and true heir to the throne. With the throne vacant, all the knights in the Kingdom try to take Excalibur from the Rock of Ages. With Mab and Merlin watching, Arthur arrives and tries to take the sword. The Rock releases its grip, but Mab heats the sword. Arthur persists to remove it, and with burning, blood-soaked hands, raises it for all the knights to see, and later is crowned King. Arthur then decides to build Camelot, after a suggestion from Merlin. Later, Mab manages to get Morgan le Fay (after transforming her disfigured face), Arthur's half-sister, to seduce the young Arthur. Morgan le Fey then gives birth to Arthur's son, Mordred, whom Mab raises to become Arthur's downfall and bring back the Old Ways. As Mordred is from a cursed union, he is exceptionally strong and grows and at an abnormally fast rate.Arthur marries Guinevere (Lena Headey) in the walls of a newly built Camelot. He then wishes to find the Holy Grail, so he holds a contest to find a champion who will defend and build Camelot in his absence. The Lady of the Lake guides Merlin to a “good man”, and finds Lancelot du Lac with his wife and his son, Galahad. Merlin brings Lancelot back to Camelot, who then wins the contest. Guinevere and Lancelot become infatuated with each other. Mab makes sure Lancelot’s wife can see his betrayal, and she is found dead at the shores of Camelot not long after. Lancelot leaves with his guilt. Arthur returns and has to uphold the law and burn Guinevere at the stake for treason. Arthur cannot see her die, so Merlin makes it rain. However, Lancelot fights his way into Camelot and takes Guinevere away.Frik and Morgan le Fay fall in love after Mab’s magic makes them both beautiful. However, when it comes time for Mab to take Mordred back to her homeland to defeat Merlin and Arthur, Mab kills Morgan with Frik watching. Frik holds the dying Morgan and their true ugly forms return, but they both call each other beautiful anyway and she dies in his arms. Frik vows revenge on Mab, so she takes his powers away.Mordred confronts and mocks Arthur, revealing that he is Arthur’s son, and thus can take the throne. Mordred manages to make a few of Arthur's men turn against him. Queen Mab then lures Nimue into a magical wilderness and removes the scars from her past injury. Nimue calls Merlin, and he sees her, however, Merlin has to help Arthur, so he leaves and the door to the magic world closes behind him, leaving Nimue and Merlin separated. He rides to Arthur's aid.In the film's final battle Arthur kills Mordred, but is mortally wounded. He gives Merlin Excalibur, and tells him no one should have it, for it is too powerful. Merlin leaves, and Arthur dies. Both Merlin and Mab lose their protegees along with their last hopes. Merlin throws Excalibur into the Lake, and tells the Lady to keep it. He asks her why it all went wrong, and why Lancelot cheated on Arthur. She informs him that it was his son, Galahad, that she had meant for Merlin. She tells him that “you judge too easily is your human part...the best part”. She says she is not afraid to die, but her sister Mab is.Furious, Merlin returns to Camelot, where he finds Mab sitting at the Round Table. Frik, the gnome, explains that Mab is weakened, so Merlin engages her in a magic duel that drains her strengths even more. Unable to vanquish Merlin, Mab mocks him and tells him that he and his human followers can't destroy her, but Merlin knows that there are few people that believe in the 'Old Ways'. He turns his back on her telling her that everyone will forget her, and in forgetting, she will no longer exist. Everyone leaves, ignoring Mab's furious calls, and soon, she fades away into nothing, just the way she had feared from the beginning. It is presumed that all remnants of the 'Old Ways' fade away too, including the Lady of the Lake.At the film's conclusion, Merlin is seen as pauper, telling his story for money. An aged Frik finds him, mentioning, "It's not exactly as I remember," to which Merlin replies, "They like it better this way," alluding to the changes from the traditional Arthurian Legend. A now ancient Merlin is reunited with his love Nimue with the help of the equally-aged Frik, who explains that when Queen Mab's magic faded away, Nimue was released from her magical prison. Merlin uses "one last trick" to restore their youth so that they can finally spend their lives together. The film's closing words are “That’s the end of magic”.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


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We had a very interesting conversation at work. So the subject of the conversation, of course, was about the end of 2008 and its assessment, the new beginning of 2009. We said that we will expect a lot from 2009 because, through History, you will notice that a lot happened a year ending with a 9.
A few examples :
1789 : French Revolution, 1929 : economical recession, 1939 : beginning of world war 2, 1989 : fall of Berlin’s wall, …
We will celebrate as well 200 candles for Darwin and Lincoln, born the same day, 2000 for Saint Paul. Here are a few events to celebrate through the year :

. 50 years ago took Fidel Castro control of Cuba. His regime is still active.
. In 1999, a new currency appeared in Europe : € for Euro, for 12 countries who decided to have the same parity, all regulated by the BCE, Central Bank of Europe.
. General de Gaulle was elected President of France in 1959
. Church will celebrate the 2000th birthday of Saint Paul. Though he never met the Christ, he played a major role in Christianism
. 80 years ago, Georges Rémi, better known as Hergé published the first story of Tintin
. 15th, 1759, British Museum opens its doors to the public : It´s the first big museum of the modern times. It’s a national symbol.
. 15th, 1919, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were assassinated in their prison cell. They were chief of the German communism and tried to import the Russian revolution within the working class.
. 16th, 1969, a 20 years old Czech student, Ian Pallach, sacrificed itself in Prag to protest against the invasion of his country by the troups of the Warsaw pact.

. 1st, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeyni, triomphaly back in Teheran (Iran) after an exile of many months in France and the escape of the Chah, proclaimed an Islamic Republic, based on the strict application of the Shari’a, the Prophet’s law. In the entire Muslim world, this will bring back a religious activism,
. 5th, 1969, Yasser Arafat was elected at the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It relaunched the fight of the Palestinians against Israël, without fear of terrorism.
. 6th, 1919, German Assembly was in Weimar to establish republican institutions, with a President.
. 200 years ago, February 12th, was born in Kentucky Abraham Lincoln, who will free The United States from slavery and safe the unity of the country after secession war.
. same date will be celebrated the 200 years anniversary of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of “the origin of the species”, published November 24th, 1859.
. 18th, 1859, the French army occupied the Saigon harbor (Hôchimonhville) in the heart of the Vietnamese empire. It was the start of the occupation that would last less than a century.

. 10th, 1959, Tibetans revolt themselves against China and communism, which occupied their country for 10 years. The Dalaï-Lama escaped to India, still is and fights for the national rights of his People or, at least, preservation of their cultural identity.
. pope Pie XII was elected on 12th, 1939.
. 23th, 1919, in Milan, Mussolini created the first fasci italiani di combattimento. Those paramilitary groups will later lead to the creation of the fascist party.
. 28th, 1939, Spanish nationalists entered in Madrid and marched in victory in front of Franco. It was the end of the civil war that cost to Spain 400 000 dead and as much exiled.

. 4th, 1949, occidental European democracies and north America signed the NATO treaty in order to face the soviet threat
. 6th, 1909, Peary and his friend Henson were the first men to reach the North Pole
. 27th, 1969, Charles de Gaulle resigned as President of the French Republic, assuming the failure of the referendum concerning regionalization. His first Minister, Georges Pompidou, will be elected June 15th, 1969 as his successor.

. 4th, 1989, students demonstrate on the Tien An Men place in Beijing against communist regime. This one, under the influence of the old Deng Xiaoping will severely repress the “Beijing Spring” and accelerate the economical reforms. The result is under our eyes.
. 7th, 1859, Netherlands abolished slavery in their Indian oriental colonies, from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago.

. 24th, 1859, French army met Austrian one in Solferino. This fight was so confused and bloody that, upset by the view of it, a 31 years old banker from Geneva, Henry Dunant, launches to the international opinion a call, which will lead to the creation of the red Cross 4 years later.

. 8th, 1709, Tsar Pierre le Grand was beating Charles XII, King of Sweden in Poltava in the far end of Ukraine, He’s inaugurated a new tactic that will keep Alexander 1st and Staline against Napoleon and Hitler, meaning bringing the enemy in the immensity of the Russian continent and defeat by exhaustion.
. 10th, 1509, was born the future protestant clergyman Jean Calvin. Geneva and Calvinists of all countries prepare themselves to celebrate this 500th anniversary
. In the night of 20th to 21st, 1969, the lunar module Eagle and the mission Apollo XI landed on the moon, in the “tranquility Sea”. The astronaut Neil Armstrong will walk on the soil, followed by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. The American empire was at its best.
. 25th, 1909, 6 years after the flee jump of the Wright brothers, happened the first successful attempt to cross the Channel. Louis Blériot has spent his fortune to create planes prototypes. After 32 failures, and in 27 minutes, he crossed the sea on board of his Blériot XI. Strong of his success, he will then only build planes in big series.

. 23rd, 1939, the world learned with great surprise, the signature at the Kremlin, in Moscow, of the German-Soviet pact of non-aggression between the 2 representative of Hitler and Staline. The war between democracies and Germany appeared from this date, inevitable.
. 27th, 1859, oil came from the first time out of the soil of Pennsylvania, in Titusville. With a production of 8 to 10 barils from the first day, the author of this miracle, Colonel Drake, multiplied the world production by two.

. 1st, 1939, German Wehrmacht rushed in the attack of Poland. Two days later, Paris and London declared war to Berlin. It was the start of the Second World War.
. 2nd, 1969, during the week-end of the labor day, was installed in Stanford (Ca.) at the UCLA the first web of the net ARPAnet, ancestor of the internet.
. 14th, 1759, marquis of Montcalm died fighting for Québec. He was wounded the day before by the English troups of the General James Wolfe. This one, as mortal wounded as Montcalm during the fight, will bring the “New France” to England.
. 22nd, 1609, Morisques were expelled from Spain. Half a million of those previous Muslims people, converted by force to Catholicism, had to withdraw to North Africa and their departure had disastrous consequences for Spain.
. 25th, 1609, in the Abbaye of Port Royal, Mother Angélique refused to see her father, creating a scandal. It was the beginning of a century of mystical and jansenist turbulences, until their destruction by Louis XIV on 29th, October 1709.
. 26th, 1859 was published the poetic monument of Victor Hugo, La Légende des Siècles. The poet, who exiled himself in Guernsey to protest against the coup of Napoleon III, will get with this work a status of prophet.

. 1st, 1949, in Beijing (Pékin at the time) from the balcony of the Forbidden City, Mao Zedong proclaimed the Popular Republic of China.
. 1st, 1969, in Toulouse, was the first non-commercial flight of the Concorde, first supersonic with a commercial and non-military vocation.
. 7th, 1949, the soviet occupied zone in Germany became a state with the name of the GDR (DDR in German).
. 16th, 1949 was the end of a civil war in Greece, because there was no fighters anymore, after 5 years, even within the smallest villages. It’s still darken the national memory.
. 24th, 1929, the stock exchange in New York has known its “black Thursday”, prelude of a worldwide economical crisis. It will lead the American government to introduce itself in the business world (New Deal) and, worse, will bring Hitler to power.
. 29th, 1959, was published a new magazine in France “Pilote” where a new hero appeared : Asterix.

. 7th, 1659 was signed the treaty of the Pyrénées, which ended two centuries of hostilities with the Spain of the Habsbourg. A marriage between the young Louis XIV and his cousin, Marie-Thérèse, would close the deal.
. In the night of 9 to 10th, 1989, anonymous demonstrators will make the first moves to bring down the wall in Berlin. The world assisted, surprised, at the reunification of both Germanies separated at the capitulation of 1945 and the defeat of the soviet system. Some observers saw a bit too quick in this triumph of the democracy, "the end of the story".

. 2nd, 1859 was killed in Virginia John Brown, a white American, guilty of having killed many pro-slavery and attempted to organize the black fight. One year later was the beginning of secession’s war.
. 4th, 1259 between Henri III Plantagenêt and Louis IX, future Saint Louis, was signed the treaty of Paris to end the first “war of hundred years”. This war began the century before with the wedding between Aliénor d’Aquitaine and the future King of England, Henri II Plantagenêt.
. 8th, 1949, Chinese Tchang KaÏ-Chek refuges himself in old Formose, today called Taïwan, and installed on this island a rival state of the communist China.
. 24th, 1979 was the first flight of the rocket Ariane in Kourou, Guyane. The Europeans show with this launch that they could participate at the space run, equal with the Americans and the Soviets.
. 24th, 1999 in Côte d'Ivoire, was the first coup since the death of Félix Houphouët-Boigny six years before. It started the abyss of the most advanced country in occidental Africa.
. 27th, 1979 saw the entry of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It was a trap which was fatal for the regime of Moscow.

Monday, January 19, 2009


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There is this new bar, just round my corner. Bariton, It's called. I already send some friends and meet some other there and they were all satisfied. It is the first time that I am welcomed with such a smile for the first time entering the place. They opened three weeks ago so that's why I never noticed it. It is a very nice decorated one. Simple but friendly. Nothing special, nothing design but a nice Berlin bar, with furniture picked up on flee markets or on the streets. The sofa is very comfortable. The owner told me they've worked by themselves 3 weeks to build it and he lost 10 kilos during the work. Actually, when you see the guy, you say "whaoo!" It was worth because he is very nice looking. I took some wine, he didn't really know what he had and needed some help. But the drink was good enough to start the evening. He can do cocktails as well, unfortunatly no gin he has, matches my taste but he asked me what I like, so maybe next time I can order my Martini cocktail. You can eat at the place too. Easy things, mostly mexican, small dishes but to complete the drinks, It's OK. The warmth of the fireplace helps you to stay, and in the main room, the two partners allows you to smoke. The good bar I like to go, alone or not, the one you know you'll have a quiet and peaceful time, just for you. And they serve nuts that I love with the wine. I could eat those for hours, only by greed. And when he opens the bottle of wine, he makes you taste it ! Some games are also available like chess, or read a magazine. Music is a mix of jazz and lounge, just to put you in the mood. If you want to go, It's Weserstrasse 23, where the taxi station is, if you ever need one to go home, whatever your state is. If you can't even take a taxi, next door is the hotel.


Schwarzfahrer (also known as Black Rider) is a 1993 German 12-minute short film directed by Pepe Danquart. It won an Academy Award in 1994 for Best Short Subject. The topic of the film is the daily racism a black man endures in a tram. The title is a word-play: literally, "Schwarzfahrer" means "fare-dodger" in German, but is also translatable to "black rider". This word-play forms the punch line of the short film. A motorbiker (Stefan Merki) boards a tram, and witnesses a black man (Paul Outlaw) sitting down next to an elderly white woman (Senta Moira). In the entire 12 minutes, the old woman racially abuses the black man, stating they stink, are unintelligent, criminal and the perfect carrier for AIDS. The biker feels uncomfortable, but does not dare to interrupt. The black man stays quiet for the entire film, until the tram controller arrives : when the old woman produces her ticket, he grabs and swallows it. When the old woman accuses the black man for eating her ticket, he coolly shows his valid ticket to the controller; the latter nods at him and arrests the old woman. The punch line is that both the black man and the old woman are "Schwarzfahrer" now: the black man who rides a train, is a non-offensive "black rider", while the old woman now is a real law-breaking Schwarzfahrer (i.e. fare dodger).

Monday, January 5, 2009


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The creation

There is another tradition for classical music in Berlin, always fabulous, at the 1st of January, we can enjoy the “Neujahrskonzert” (New Year’s concert) of the Rias Kammerchor at the philarmonie. This year with no exception and they decided to play : The Creation, Haydn(German : Die Schöpfung) is an oratorio written between 1796 and 1798 by Joseph Haydn, and considered by many to be his masterpiece. The oratorio depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the biblical Book of Genesis. Haydn was inspired to write a large oratorio during his visits to England in 1791–1792 and 1794-1795, when he heard oratorios of Handel performed by large forces. Israel in Egypt is believed to have been one of these. It is likely that Haydn wanted to try to achieve results of comparable weight, using the musical language of the mature classical style.The work on the oratorio lasted from October 1796 to April 1798. It was also a profound act of faith for this deeply religious man, who appended the words "Praise to God" at the end of every completed composition. He later remarked, "I was never so devout as when I was at work on The Creation; I fell on my knees each day and begged God to give me the strength to finish the work." Haydn composed much of the work while at his residence in the Mariahilf suburb of Vienna, which is now the Haydnhaus. It was the longest time he had ever spent on a single composition. Explaining this, he wrote, "I spent much time over it because I expect it to last for a long time." In fact, he worked on the project to the point of exhaustion, and collapsed into a period of illness after conducting its premiere performance.Haydn's original autograph score has been lost since 1803. A Viennese published score dated 1800 forms the basis of most performances today. The 'most authentic' Tonkünstler-Societat score of 1799, with notes in the composer's hand, can be found at the Vienna State Library. There are various other copyist scores such as the Estate, as well as hybrid editions prepared by scholars during the last two centuries.The text of The Creation has a long history. The three sources are Genesis, the Biblical book of Psalms, and John Milton's Genesis epic Paradise Lost. In 1795, when Haydn was leaving England, the impresario Johann Peter Salomon (1745–1815) who had arranged his concerts there handed him a new poem entitled The Creation of the World. This original had been offered to Handel, but the old master had not worked on it, as its wordiness meant that it would have been 4 hours in length when set to music. The libretto was probably passed on to Salomon by Thomas Linley Sr. (1733–1795), a Drury Lane oratorio concert director. Linley (sometimes called Lidley or Liddel) himself could have written this original English libretto, but scholarship by Edward Olleson, A. Peter Brown (who prepared a particularly fine "authentic" score) and H. C. Robbins Landon, tells us that the original writer remains anonymous.When Haydn returned to Vienna, he turned this libretto over to Baron van Swieten. The Baron led a multifaceted career as a diplomat, librarian in charge of the imperial library, amateur musician, and generous patron of music and the arts. He is largely responsible for recasting the English libretto of The Creation in a German translation (Die Schöpfung) that Haydn could use to compose. He also made suggestions to Haydn regarding the setting of individual numbers. The work was published bilingually (1800) and is still performed in both languages today. Haydn himself preferred for the English translation to be used when the work was performed for English-speaking audiences.Van Swieten was evidently not a fully fluent speaker of English, and the metrically-matched English version of the libretto has given rise to criticism and various attempts at improvement. Indeed, the English version is sufficiently awkward that the work is sometimes performed in German even in English-speaking countries. One passage describing the freshly-minted Adam’s forehead ended up, “The large and arched front sublime/of wisdom deep declares the seat”. The discussion below quotes the German text as representing van Swieten's best efforts, with fairly literal renderings of the German into English; for the full versions of both texts see the links at the end of this article. The first performances in 1798 were sponsored by a group of noble citizens, who paid the composer handsomely for the right to stage the premiere (Salomon briefly threatened to sue, on grounds that the English libretto had been translated illegally). The performance was delayed until late April - the parts were not finished until Good Friday - but the completed work was rehearsed before a full audience on April 29. The first public performance the next day was a private affair, but hundreds of people crowded into the street around the Schwarzenberg Palace to hear this eagerly anticipated work. Admission was by invitation only. Those invited included wealthy patrons of the arts, high government officials, prominent composers and musicians, and a sprinkling of the nobility of several countries; the common folk, who would have to wait for later occasions to hear the new work, so crowded the streets near the palace that some 30 special police were needed to keep order. Many of those lucky enough to be inside wrote glowing accounts of the piece. In a letter to the Neue teutsche Merkur, one audience member wrote: "Already three days have passed since that happy evening, and it still sounds in my ears and heart, and my breast is constricted by many emotions even thinking of it." The first public performance at Vienna’s Burgtheater on 19 March 1799 was sold out far in advance, and Die Schöpfung was performed nearly forty more times in the city during Haydn’s lifetime. It had its London premiere the next year, in an English translation, at the Covent Garden Theatre. The last performance Haydn attended was on March 27 1808, just a year before he died: the aged and ill Haydn was carried in with great honour on an armchair. According to one account, the audience broke into spontaneous applause at the coming of "light" and "Papa" Haydn, in a typical gesture weakly pointed upwards and said: "Not from me - everything comes from up there!" Remarkably, The Creation was also performed more than forty times outside Vienna during his lifetime: elsewhere in Austria and Germany, throughout England, and in Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Russia and the United States. A typical performance lasts about one hour and 45 minutes.The Creation is set for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), four-part chorus (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), and a large Classical orchestra consisting of 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and the usual string sections of first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. For the recitatives a harpsichord or fortepiano is also used.There seems little doubt that Haydn wanted a big sound (by the standard of his day) for his work. Between the private premieres for nobles and the public premiere in 1799, Haydn added extra instrumental parts to the work. The forces for the public premiere numbered about 120 instrumentalists and 60 singers.The three soloists represent angels who narrate and comment on the successive six days of creation: Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor), and Raphael (bass). In Part III, the role of Adam is usually sung by the same soloist as sings Raphael, and the roles of Gabriel and Eve are also taken by the same singer (this was the practice Haydn followed); however, some conductors prefer to cast each of the five roles with a different soloist. The choral singers are employed in a series of monumental choruses, several of them celebrating the end of one particular day of creation. The orchestra often plays alone, notably in the episodes of "tone-painting": the appearance of the sun, the creation of various beasts, and above all in the overture, the famous depiction of the Chaos before the creation.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


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One more second

On the night of 31st of December, the hourglass went crazy because it had to stay 2 seconds on the same second. In his office, the astronomer takes care very carefully of the Earth’s rotation. And, when needed, puts the clock “on time” every 3 of 4 years about. He then confirmed that 2008, at 11:59:59 p.m., had one more second. It’s in Paris that is decided those jumps of seconds, then applied worldwide. But if you ever enter the office of this astronomer, you’ll be disappointed : no big clock, no time machine. Only an old alarm clock, lost at the corner of the desk, under paperwork. He will then explains you that there are many ways to calculate the time. But since 1970, we stopped to take the Earth as a reference, too much unpredictable with its rotations. Instead, we use the atomic clock (based on the vibrations of the atom). This system is more precise and stable and has no controversial today. But time to time, we need to adjust the atomic clock with the Earth to avoid a big gap between both of them. The tolerated gap is maximum 0,9 second. End 2008, the gap was 0,6 and the guy says that we could have waited one more year. But they prefer to take care of it now, in case the Earth decides abruptly to turn faster. Because we don’t mess with the time. It’s even a very serious subject which has its international seminars and other diplomatic meetings. In the 1950’s, 15 minutes were not that important. Nowadays, every nanosecond (one milliard of a second) is important. To position a satellite, for example, A mistake of a second and the machine makes 5 kilometers more. For the stock exchange transactions : can you imagine if every trader does not have the same time ? Numbers of deals you can make in less than a second ? But sometimes, those little jump in the time can create some technical troubles. That is to say, a few months ago, the car manufacturer Volvo, had to call, in order to make any mistake in the programming of the new GPS. Some countries, like United States, would like, instead of jumping one second every 3-4 years, to add one hour every millennium. This is political and no scientifical considerations. Everybody wants to rule the time.Anyway, more essential question : but where is the famous “talking clock” ? Actually, not very far, in the building opposite, at the office of the physicians, guardians of the atomic hour. The time to be lost in corridors, and you will find yourself in a room, where it is controled the time reference. It’s a very small room with a lot of noisy machines, nothing extraordinary. This little grey box with black buttons, is the “talking clock” but we needed only half a second to see it. A physician came to see us and confirmed we can’t get in “ reserved domain” . In the end, we don’t mess with the time.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


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The gay peril

For his traditional Christmas’ speech, the pope presents the “sex’ confusion” as a threat for the survival of humanity as bad as the climatic changes. In the name of the “natural law”. On the 22nd of December, the pope announces that humans must be straight and only wear trousers when they are male (what is he wearing, by the way ? anyone ?..., I guess he wants to be the only to give himself the right to wear something else) and dresses when they are female. He says that “the order of creation” is questioned by what we commonly call “gender”. In other terms, the pope disagrees with the fact that people born with a dick can behave themselves like women, to transvestite themselves, even feminize themselves, physically or sexually. And women must dress and behave themselves following the rule of the “natural law”, it means that they have to get married (with a man, you understood) to give him children (you read correctly). You can perfectly understand that this speech brought a lot of negative reactions from the gay community, and even more after the decision of the Vatican, to refuse to associate itself together with 66 countries at the UNO for the call to decriminalize universally homosexuality, last 18th December. American bishops and commissions of the Vatican already spoke about the notion of gender but it is the first time that the pope talks openly about it. It means that the church allows itself to play now the role to remind to the people this “natural law” established by God to protect man against its own destruction (not less !) like it defends the earth, water and air of ecological threats. But, exactly, of which « natural law » do we speak here ? Let’s have a quick look at mother nature and we can see that this union male – female is not as natural as it shows because the nature, long ago, for about 95% known of animals and vegetation, decided that there is much more simple to do, meaning reproduction is made without sexuality. Species avoid creating 2 types of cellule (spermatozoon and all this story), and inventing this big strange machine of desire, wasted energy for seduction and copulation. And I will not talk here about the bacteria’s system, which is there since beginning of earth. And is this division between male and female strictly observed by nature ? apparently not. I’m sure you all saw cows in heat climbing on the back of the nearest one, rats when they are stressed take part to gay orgies and I don’t mention dogs with a strong libido climbing on other dogs, no care if it is male, female, cut or not, your leg, the hand rail. All this means that nature has no morality. Thanks to Darwin, we know that nature is a machine working by trials and mistakes.


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In winter, mostly in december when the weather is grey, Berlin dives in the night at 3 :00 p.m. . Then the balconies and windows are illuminated of decorations, all very tacky. With all its colours and dazzling stars, Berlin looks like a huge Luna Park. In my area, there is some kind of competition. The sky full of stars in golded paper of the third floor competes with the hilarious Christmas fathers, all in line (they are many of them, didn’t you know ?) in their nylon forest of Christmas trees (of course) of the groundfloor. Opposite on the balcony, you can see a little Jesus that ignites and goes out, without being tired, all day and all night. It can drive you mad. In the building, the marathon that leads to the 24th of December, begins a month before, you have to know. On the 20th of November, at 10:00 o’clock, precisely, a slight net with a cinnamon flavour climbs one by one the stairs. The day after, it’s a vanilla veil (of an endless sweetness) that caress the walls. Then comes the spined flavour of the orange. 4 days later, the almonds and nuts. The fifth day, the luxurious flavour of melt chocolate. The sixth, an exquisite steam of caramel is posing in the entire street. On the seventh day, my far-sighted neighbour of the first floor, fills endless of aluminium boxes of her Weihnachtsplätzchen, those little cakes for Christmas. She has good consciousness. At my place, at the same time of year, is still chaos before the world’s creation and a sad olfactive neutrality. The manufacturing of those little cakes for Christmas with the family, friends, at work, school, is a ritual that says a lot about the German mentality. In December, It’s as if all the living forces of the country that we say exhausted, in lethargy, depressed, crise’s minded, burst out in the warmth intimacy of the kitchen. As if all this creative energy, loaded during 11 months of the year, frees itself frenetically, furiously, between the pastry roller and the oven. Already in the end of summer, every magazine produces its special issue for its Weihnachtsplätzchen, and famous chefs gives its secret recipe. Because your little cakes can’t be only gritted cake’s commonplace. Everyone creates its own collection. And here is a nation of silversmith, lacemaker or mason that chisel, shape, stick licorice laces, spinkle like a painter , multicolored glitter on snail’s shell in almond paste, assemble very small chocolate and vanilla squares, only to build a domino. So you can see caramel towers, gingerbread pyramids, architectures in chocolate or fruits, fantastical constructions. The Weihnachtsplätzchen has nothing to do with the black English pudding. Nothing to do with the panetone or the French Christmas cake, suffocating under tons of cream. Gracious, those Weihnachtsplätzchen reveal the fantasy and the humor of their creators (yes, German can have humor). I know nobody who can resist them (to the cakes, not the German). Those who in the country make critics about the Christmas tree, the decoration of the windows, will be the first to dive for a cinnamon star. No cynic ever refused a coconut snowball. Unforgettable, those Kipferl, sort of croissant of nut and almond paste. Respected of all people, in this story repeating, you discover the true nature of the German, full of tradition, perfectionists, innovating. The collective manufacturing of those Weihnachtsplätzchen has also therapeutics virtues in this country, paralysed with anguish. Outside, the rain knock against the window and the wind bends the naked tree in the courtyard. There is a frontier between the smelly warm inside world and the dangers of the city outside. Sometimes, an echo of the outside world comes inside. Money is bad ? quick, let’s take another coriander piece in a bath of dark chocolate. The stock exchange is falling down ? Let’s make some white ice eggs. No growth next year ? In the kitchen, the cheeks are red, sweat is on the face, fingers manufacture a paste’s model. Actually, the Weihnachtsplätzchen are like a Prozac , efficient and without any secondary effects for the German.