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Tragedy with a Happy Ending ... is already here

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“Americans want a tragedy with a happy ending.”

I like that funny quip, but I am surprised when I hear that some people really believe it.

What the little joke really means is: Americans, being new and young, don’t understand culture, in comparison with other cultures, mainly Europeans. Europeans know what tragedy is. They’ve been doing tragedy for two thousand years. It’s established, you can’t change it, it is what it is and anyone who does things differently doesn’t get it. What the funny saying is saying is that the Europeans have the right of definition when it comes to culture.

I heard the saying recently in a podcast of an excellent podium discussion on American history at Stanford featuring Jack Rakove and Gordon Wood (yes, I’m a fan). It was a toss-off statement, Americans making fun of their own supposed lack of culture. But it surprised me that they took it seriously: They were talking about writing books for a broad public and they accepted the adage that Americans are too …

Always Wondered What We Eat in Hawaii?

Everyone knows how much we love spam in Hawaii, but few people know much else about what we eat there. I'll tell you: Cholesterol.

Here is a video from the New Yorker website about the hip chefs at Animal in Los Angeles preparing a Hawaiian dish known among surfers as "loco moco." It's mainly hamburger, Spam and fried (quail) egg, but for you health nuts they throw in a little rice, too, which in Hawaii counts as a vegetable.



Here's the original story (just a short blog posting).

What Yours Boys Will Be Up Against

The Germans are still busy complaining about how women are paid less for the same work as men and seem oblivious to the real trend - that women will dominate the job market place in one generation and men will slip into a place below them financially speaking.

This trend has become obvious in America, where women today already are better educated than men and thus getting the better-paying jobs (and as a result having trouble finding a man who earns more than they do and whom they can respect). Here and here are a few links.

The trend will come to Germany because the school system here has the same problem as in America: It is girl-oriented and boys get bored or antsy and break out and don't end up with the good degrees.

It seems like Deutsche Telekom has recognized that the trend is happening: Recently it installed a "woman hiring quota". They sold it as kind of a broad-minded feminist thing, but in fact it was just an acknowledgment that the times are changing. The pre…

If Helene Hegemann and Bushido had a baby, would it be theirs?

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Thank God for the French!

Whoever thought I would say that one day? After weeks of listening to Germans make excuses for a young, hip plagiarist Helene Hegemann until my stomach turned at the thought of the empty-headedness of the German literary intelligentsia, the French stepped forward and showed the Germans what it’s really all about.

This is what happened: The young, hip Berlin writer Helen Hegemann, who just turned 18, wrote a popular book entitled “Axolot Roadkill.” After a while, websites began mentioning that some passages in her book had been published previously in books of other authors. When she was confronted with the concept of “plagiarism”, she said something like, “Oh no, that’s different for my generation, we recycle everything, it’s a different way of creating art.”

Literary types from Berlin to New York – even the New York Times picked it up - began discussing this new form of creating art, afraid, probably, that if they just stood up and said, “Wait a minute, that’…

Out now! The new Erica Fischer!

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My friend Erica Fischer, the Bestseller-writer of "Aimee and Jaguar", has hernew book about, a dramatic love story called "Mein Erzengel" (My Guardian Angel).

Knowing Erica, I'm assuming there's a certain amount of irony in that title.

More here (in German).

Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers in their natural element

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Photographer Kyle Cassidy has a great gallery of science fiction and fantasy writers in their workrooms. If you like science fiction and fantasy you will like this. And I happen to like science fiction and fantasy. Here's the full gallery of photos and here's his website with lots of other great photos.

Out now: The new Van Leuwen!

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"EizHeart" is the title of my friend Claus Cornelius Fischer's new murder mystery featuring the Amsterdam detective Bruno van Leuwen. More here (in German).

Good luck with the new masterpiece, Claus!

And I thought the Germans were sleeping

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I'm surprised: someone went out and did something.

When a while back Maxim Biller's novel Esra was forbidden by the highest German court - the constitutional court - my heart sunk. It was a serious blow against freedom of speech. The novel is a thinly veiled autobiographic love story between Biller and his ex-girlfriend, an unnamed Turkish actress, and there is some graphic sex involved and most likely (Biller is that kind of guy) the girl didn't come away looking that good.

The girl and her mother (who was also in the book) sued for violation of personality rights.

There was certainly some merit in the suit, and Biller was willing to tone it down a bit, but by absolutely forbidding publication, the court set a precedent that is deadly for journalism and literature: Writers are becoming more and more afraid of simply portraying the world they see around them. That may or may not protect the individual (it's still legal to gossip about someone, it's just not legal to …

Just out now - new word!

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According to a NYT article, the word "sokojikara" was coined by the Japanese scholar and professor of international relations (I can find out very little about him on the Net) Fuji Kamiya and means “a reserve power that allows (a nation) to overcome both the inadequacies of its leaders and the foibles of its citizens.”

Does Japan have it? Yes. Does Germany have it? Yes. Does America have it? Yes.

I have to think of it because the Germans all around me tend to look at things very negatively. They don't know themselves how resilient and able they really are. Then there are moments when my own country America falls into despair, as now, in the crisis. But it's worth trying not to forget the strengths we have and may not always be aware of.

This is a word we should get used to - there is a strength within us that we often do not see ourselves, and blind to it we underestimate ourselves and lose faith in ourselves - a faith we in fact deserve.

For the Love of Science

I love this. A series of poetic and poppy love songs to science featuring Sagan, Feynman and other popular scientists - beautiful and true. More on the website: Symphony of Science.