... in germany

Dancing on the remains of the 20th century

27 Sep 2008 | 291 words | copyright germany technology architecture

I am on my way back from the still ongoing conference ‘Kreative Arbeit und Urheberecht‘ (Arbeit2.0) organized by irights.info and the HKMV in Dortmund. The conference is taking place in the phoenix-halle on the terrain of the former phönix-west iron works in Dortmund. The whole terrain is currently being developed into a nanotechnology/creative-industries/science park and this development takes place around the industrial ruin of the blast furnaces 5 & 6 of the former Phönix-west iron works, where at the hight of production in the early 20th century more than 6.200 workers produced steel.

We spend Friday’s lunch-break exploring the impressive ruin by climbing up to the top of the remaining blast furnace (most of the second one has been disassembled and shipped to china where is has been reassembled), which is quite a fantastic environment to explore as you can see from this series of beautiful black and white pictures taken within the same complex). Interestingly the construction workers that where renovating parts of the ruin did not seem to care about our presence at all (as long as we would greet them with ‘mahlzeit’ that is…).

For me the ruin provided a quite apt (and somewhat cynical) backdrop for the discussions of the conference which on the first day centered around the question how creative individuals can make a living from their work in times of ubiquitous access to creative works and a ever more repressive copyright system geared at preserving the rights of ‘big content’ and inflexible collective rights management organizations. I am sure that i was not the only person who took the ruins on the horizon as evidence that even the most established branches of industry can disappear as the result of changes that happen around them…

Sushi in Suhl

25 Dec 2007 | 701 words | food germany east germany 90s tourism japan

So i am at my parents place (somewhere in the middle of eastern Germany some 2 hours south of Berlin) for the holidays and naturally we are talking about food most of the time. My brother just informed us of his (outrageous) plan to make Sushi for lunch. how insane is this? Making sushi somewhere in the middle of nowhere where all the shops are closed and even if they were open they would still not be selling fresh fish (my brother informs me that he has frozen fish that he intends to use, yuk!).

Now my father says that it is not such an outrageous thing to make sushi here as this area (provincial eastern Germany) used to have the best japanese restaurant in the whole of europe in the 70s and 80s. sounds a bit insane to me (why would the best japanese restaurant in europe be located deep in the provinces of (then socialist) East Germany) but apparently this has indeed been the case (if you can trust the interwebs, which of course you can’t):

In the late 60s some crazy east German engineer bought a restaurant in Suhl (local joke: ‘Suhl is so close to the edge of the world you can see Zella-Mehlis‘) and transformed it into the best Japanese restaurant in Europe [the following is my own crappy translation of a badly written article that appeared in a local newspaper on the occasion of Rolf Anschütz’s 75th birthday on the 4th of May 2007]:

In 1960 Rolf Anschütz became an apprentice Chef and started studies to become an engineer. In the mid 60s he bought the wine-bar “Der Waffenschmied” [pk: the Armorer] in Suhl. He had the idea to transform it into a Japanese restaurant since the time in the chef-school in Leipzig: Only among the people from the land of the rising sun the culture of food preparation constitutes the primary element of the national culture as a whole. He was fascinated with this observation and went to great length to create his own japanese restaurant:

41 years ago the chop sticks were hand made in a local carpenters shop and the rice bowls were sourced from a pottery shop in nearby Rümhilde and the engineer himself cut off the legs from chairs and tables to bring them to japanese proportions. He also hung cloth to the walls to simulate a far eastern ambience and on the 14th of february 1966 he started serving japanese cuisine in the GDR!

At that time he could not foresee the success that ensued over the decades to come – but a legend had been born that day in Suhl. A day that should change his life once and for all: The restaurant deep in the province quickly became insiders tip for culinary events and after japanese journalists had started reporting about this culinary highlight back in Japan reservations for a meal needed to be booked 2 years in advance.

The restaurant was running at full capacity and in 1978 he in introduced the japanese ‘Gastmahl’ [pk: guest meal] that was celebrated according to traditional rules – including a common bath of the guests before the meal. At this time the “Waffenschmied” belonged to the most respected japanese restaurants outside of Japan. In Europe it is the undisputed number “1” followed by Brussel and Japan [pk: since when is Japan in Europe?]. The whole world came to visit Rolf Anschütz: from South American cattle barons to Japanese tourists for whom it became a must to visit Rolf Anschütz in Suhl. More than 96.000 guests from Japan ate at “Der Waffenschmied”. In total more than 2 million visitors from 126(!!) countries were guests at this exceptional Restaurant and 186.000 among them took part in the bathing ceremony.

Apart from this rather dubious newspaper article there is not much information to be found online. however it seems that a feature film about the restaurant is in production at the time of writing (IMDB lists ‘Sushi in Suhl‘ as ‘in production’) and the film seems to have received production money from the film fund of the German federal state of Hessen.

Rolf Anschütz in the “Waffenschmied”

Rolf Anschütz with japanese guests

Re-erecting the border fences to combat piracy?

Yesterday a number of eastern european countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia & Slovenia) implemented the schengen agreement, by removing border control posts on the internal Schengen border crossings. Of course this does not mean that there will be no more border controls between these countries as there will be ‘random’ border police checks up to 30km away from the actual border.

As we have argued before the Schengen agreement is not so much about abolishing border(control)s but intended to modernize the system of selective admission to the national economies of western (and now central) Europe. From the perspective of nation states the ability to control the border-crossing public is traded-in for having a centralized database containing background information about suspected individuals (and stolen property) from all the member states.

Drawing of the bunker containing the SIS in a sleepy suburb of Strasbourg

For some reason this deal seems to make sense to most people (those inside the Schengen zone that is, as the external borders of the Schengen zone are much harder to cross for people trying to gain access) and so there have been various celebrations over the last couple of days. The only people who are not celebrating are those idiots from the GVU (the German equivalent of the RIAA/MPAA):

In an interview GVU’s director, Ronald Schäfer, warned that they were expecting more pirated CDs/DVDs in Germany now that the border with the Czech Republic would open (he comes short of suggesting that we should re-erect the iron curtain in order to keep those evil warez out of Germany). What a moron! He should shut the fuck up and go x-mas shopping! He probably also believes that region coding was a good idea and that piracy funds terrorism.

Email == artillery

13 Aug 2007 | 576 words | future technology imagination germany

Spend two days at my parents place in east Germany this weekend and yesterday my dad suddenly came up and insisted on reading us a short excerpt from the complete works of Heinrich von Kleist. It is a short note that he wrote in october 1810 as editor of the ‘Berliner Abendblättern’, where it was published under the title ‘Useful Inventions: Concept for a bomb mail system’:

It’s a bit of a far-fetched concept that suggests to address one of the main shortcomings of the then-just-launched telegraph system which, in his words, only allowed for the transmission of ‘short, laconic messages but did not work for sending ‘letters, notes, attachments’. In other words, Kleist wanted to have email instead of SMS and suggested to implement it using ‘mortars and howitzers‘ that would fire shells filled with letters from one station to another, where the shells would be opend, and letters would then either be delivered or, if they where addressed for another station put into a new shell and fired to the next station.

Could not find this particular text in english so here it comes in german (with a rather complicated grammar):

Nützliche Erfindungen: Entwurf einer Bombenpost

Man hat in diesen Tagen, des Verkehrs innerhalb der Grenzen der vier Weltteile, einen elektrischen Telegraphen erfunden; einen Telegraphen, der mit der Schnelligkeit des Gedankens, ich will sagen, in kürzerer Zeit, als irgendein chronometrisches Instrument angeben kann, vermittelst des Elektrophors und des Metalldrahts Nachrichten mitteilt; dergestalt, dass wenn jemand, falls nur sonst die Vorrichtung dazu getroffen wäre, einen guten Freund, den er unter den Antipoden hätte, fragen wollte: ‘wie geht’s dir?’ derselbe, ehe man noch eine Hand umkehrt ohngefähr so als ob er in einem und dem selben Zimmer stünde, antworten könnte: ‘recht gut’. Sofern wir dem Erfinder dieser Post die, auf recht eigentliche Weise, auf Flügeln des Blitzes reitet, die Krone des Verdienstes zugestehen, so hat doch auch diese Fernschreibekunst noch die Unvollkommenheit, dass sie nur, dem Interesse des Kaufmanns wenig erspriesslich, zur Versendung ganz kurzer und lakonischer Nachrichten, nicht aber zur übermachung von Briefen, Berichten, Beilagen und Paketen taugt. Demnach schlagen wir, um auch diese Lücke zu erfüllen, zur Beschleunigung und Vervielfachung der Handeslkommunikationen, wenigstens in den Grenzen der kultivierten Welt, eine Wurf- oder Bombenpost vor; ein Institut, dass sich auf zweckmäßig, innerhalb des Raumes einer Schussweite angelegten Artilleriestationen aus Mörsern oder Haubitzen, hohle, statt des Pulvers mit Briefen angefüllte kugeln, die mann, ohne alle Schwierigkeit mit den Augen verfolgen und wo sie hinfallen, falls es ein Morastgrund ist, wieder auffinden kann, zuwürfe; dergestalt, dass die Kugel, auf jeder Station zuvorderst eröffnet, die respektiven Briefe für jeden Ort herausgenommen, die neuen hineingelegt, dass ganze wieder verschlossen, in einen neuen Mörser geladen und zur nächsten Station weiterspediert werden könnte. den Prospektus des ganzen und die Beschreibung und Auseinandersetzung der Anlagen und Kosten behalten wir einer umständlicheren und weitläufigeren Abhandlung bevor. da man, auf diese weise, wie eine kurze mathematische Berechnung lehrt binnen Zeit eines halben Tages, gegen geringe kosten von Berlin nach Stettin oder Breslau würde schreiben oder respondieren können und mithin, verglichen mit unseren reitenden Posten ein zehnfacher Zeitgewinn entsteht, oder es ebensoviel ist als ob ein Zauberstab, diese Orte der Stadt Berlin zehnmal nähergerückt hätte: so glauben wir für das Bürgerliche sowohl als Handeltreibende Publikum eine Erfindung von dem größesten und entscheidendsten Gewicht, geschickt den Verkehr auf den höchsten Gipfel der Vollkommenheit zu treiben, an den Tag gelegt zu haben.

Berlin den 10ten Oktober 1810

National anthem...

27 Jan 2007 | 160 words | amsterdam germany media radio

Yesterday night (while standing on my balcony listening to the radio) I realized that my neighbours must have a rather strange idea about my identity:

Dutschlandfunk (the german national news/culture radio station) has the annoying habit of playing the german national anthem at the end of every single day (and now during the german EU presidency they also feel compelled to play the European anthem, right after it). Now i tend to listen to Deutschlandfunk a lot (particularly the 23h to midnight wrap up of the days news) and this means i end up playing the national anthem every other day or so. To my neighbors this must look (sound) as if i am some Über-patriotic weirdo who keeps misses his home country so much that he has to listen to the national anthem before being able to fall asleep. Guess i have to explain this to my neighbors (or better someone should tell the Deutschlandfunk to stop this silliness).

Observing elections

17 Sep 2006 | 124 words | berlin germany elections democracy

If I was an election observer i would definitely sign up for the early shift. the one were the city is still half asleep and disgruntled volunteers head to the polling stations they have been assigned to to open them hours before the first 10% the electorate show up to exercise their democratic rights.

If there is a mood that expresses the status of those tired, self-defeating and worn-out parliamentary democracies societies it is probably the mood which prevailed in the streets of Berlin this morning at half past 7.

No clue where this particular party gets the inspiration for its economic program from but i would be rather surprised if attracting heavy industry to Berlin will really give the youth a glorious future.

Teach yourself german

21 Aug 2006 | 130 words | delhi germany india traffic

Usually i do not really like being recognized as a german when i am in a far-away-country, but todays encounter somewhere on a road just west of Delhi’s old city was kind of hilarious. the auto rikshaw we were traveling in was overtaken by a small white car and when the guy sitting next to the driver saw that the passengers were Westerners he immediately asked me ‘are you german?’ while showing his ‘how to teach yourself german’ course-book. my reply that i was indeed german seemed to make him profoundly happy:

When they managed to come next to the rickshaw again he pulled out his mobile phone to take a similar picture of me and my Delhi street map book. We should have really exchanged those pictures via bluetooth…

Police != intelligence

09 Jun 2006 | 485 words | railways germany border stupidity netherlands soccer

Looks like the football world cup has begun today. Unfortunately i am traveling to berlin on this very same day (by train via Arnhem/Duesseldorf), which means that you have to share the slightly overcrowded train with about 300 english football supporters and lots of bottles of more or less warm beer (i never loved my sound-canceling headphones more). However it also means that the authorities are freaking out in the name of security and decide to stop the train at the border station (where it usually does not stop) in order to let a posse of badly dressed, short-haired idiots wearing reflective vests on board of the train to check everybody’s passport.

Now everyone including the train staff assumed they would board the train and then do the checking while the train is moving. Instead the well-dressed gentlemen who was in charge of the whole operation had the brilliant idea to stop the train for the entire duration of the operation.

The well-dressed gentleman in charge (note the stylish combination of vest, shirt and belly

When asked them if he thought that this was a good idea his even less intelligent sidekick (with a much bette taste in facial hairdo though) told us that the stop was not related to their activities, but due to the trains engine having to be changed at the border. Now this is the biggest bullshit i have heard in a long time as there was (a) no stop scheduled and (b) the ICE3 does not even have a separate engine but rather a number of electrical motors under all the carriages. He also told us ‘to shut up as it was none of our businesses’

Now, to make matters worse, the 20-or-so cops decided that it was most efficient if they would walk through the entire train in one big group instead of splitting up in smaller groups. the result: the aisle clotted by a slowly moving mass of cops who were permanently bumping into each other (i guess that is why they were wearing kevlar vests) and stepped on each others feet while shouting personal data of everyone looking remotely British or non-european into their mobile phones.

All in all this truly impressive display of collective intelligence took more than 30 minutes. No terrorists where apprehended, the English supporters got their first good laugh at the German police and everybody missed their connections (which on a Friday afternoon is a bit of a pain in the neck).

The badly dressed, short-haired, reflective-vest-wearing idiots having a smoke

Also shortly before Duisburg the bar ran out of beer which is a bit embarrassing as the Deutsche Bahn is one of the main sponsors o the wold cup and has been running ads depicting happy supporters on trains for quite awhile now. Somebody at market research should have told them that happy football supporters consume more beer than average train passengers.

Scum (?)

05 Feb 2006 | 117 words | germany netherlands berlin soccer advertisement

It seems that the Dutch are not the only ones to prepare themselves for the Soccer World Cup. In Berlin advertisements of the German red cross have started to appear on billboards in various s-bahn stations. The advertisements show a young red-cross paramedic (with a 70es haircut, a reference to ’74?) that bandages the knee of a fully dressed out Dutch football supporter:

We help everybody

The caption on the picture reads, ‘in action for everybody’, which at least to me sounds like ‘ we really help everybody, even those who are scum’… guess the Dutch won’t really appreciate this. And what ever happened to the red-cross? i always thought they where for peace, love and harmony.

Posters with multiple politicians on them

03 Sep 2005 | 282 words | elections democracy germany east germany lebanon

There are federal elections on the 18th in Germany. One of the parties contesting (and having a good chance of actually entering parliament) is the newly founded ‘Die Linke.PDS‘. This party is a merger of the PDS (which is the sucessor party to the former east German ruling party SED and the WASG which is a left wing split-off from the SPD. being a merger they have to leaders (Oskar Lafontaine & Gregor Gisi) and arguably the worst election poster so far:

That’s Lafontaine on the left and Gisi on the right. Its hard for me to imagine what went through the minds of the people who have come up with this arrangement. To me it looks like the guy on the left has died and the guy on the right is praising now dead leader for his wisdom and life time achievements. Now Oskar Lafontaine has not really died yet (although he has narrowly escaped an attempt on his life a couple of years ago) and Gisi has no real reason to kowtow to lafontaine like this (his PDS commands the bigger part of the potential electorate of the merged ‘Die Linke.PDS’) but maybe they have been inspired by the recent elections in Lebanon where having a dead godfather on your side (and lots of posters with him in the background hanging around town) has proven to be a decisive asset for the anti-syrian opposition. Speaking of Lebanon, they make much nicer posters with multiple politicians on them over there.

Update (10.09.05): Seems they have figured it out themselves and reverted to posters with single politicians on them: individual portraits of Oskar Lafontaine in West Germany and Gregor Gisy east Germany.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: