Posts tagged ‘smoking’

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Third Year of Gardening

Every year, some more square meters of the thick lawn are turning grey as I’m digging it over. Lots of couch grass in between, but I’m in no mood of using herbicides.

cat in the sun

There’s nothing like the warmth of dug-up earth …

five cats on the window ledge

… except bird-spotting from the window ledge, maybe.



» Spring by Day, April 3, 2013


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Die Zeit: Making Fun of “The Coming Insurrection”

German and Chinese people are usually nice to each other – as nice as they can. It must be for cultural reasons. I guess we are all afraid of situations where they might hit the roof. Neither Chinese nor Germans are usually good at getting angry and saving their own face at the same time. In other words,  both Chinese and German people can easily climb a tree – but they aren’t good at climbing down again.

Of course, I can’t tell if this is only true for German and Chinese people I know (myself included), or if this rule really applies beyond our circles.

Premature Concept

Our political system stifles creative solutions.

Fortunately, for both our ancient cultures and nations, there’s the internet for venting anger.

My old chum Taide has translated an article by Adam Soboczynski for Germany’s weekly Die Zeit into English. And as Sobo compares current German anger movements with the American Tea Party movement, he has earned himself a long trail of devastating comments. (Germans have nothing against America, except that the average German thinks of himself as someone smarter than the average American. If you equate a German not just with the average American, but with the kind of Americans he deems reactionary, so much the worse.) One could think that Soboczynski has hanged himself in the meantime, after reading the first ten or so comments on his article.

But that would be a misconception. Most probably, he wrote his article precisely because he knew that he would earn himself a lot of new critics – or retread his old critics. I’m not very familiar with commenter threads at Die Zeit or Der Spiegel, but at first glance, I’d think that you’ll find the same usual suspects there, most of the time.

The major irony about Soboczynski’s article is that the way many of his critics react to it seems to confirm his point. It’s a fruitful interaction at the author’s terms, and predictable at that.

When Germans or Chinese air grievances and feel that those aren’t taken sufficiently seriously, they’ll feel deeply offended in most cases – more so than Americans or British people would. JR isn’t trying to analyze the issue here – he’s no psychologist, and besides, he is at times overexposed to both German and Chinese psychographs, for personal and professional reasons. He’s too close to the problem.

But while he believes that Soboczynski made the comparison with The Coming Insurrection (European) and the Tea Party Movement (American) mainly for stoking the fire on his commenting thread, JR feels that the two movements may have a high degree of bigotry in common. They feel mucked about by illegitimate powers that be, they use the political classes of their respective countries as scapegoats for grievances that are usually not about daily life, but rather about a feeling of lacking political empowerment. According to Taide, Soboczynski wrote:

Apparently, every sense of formal aspects of democracy have been lost: people don’t want to get involved in the political parties’ mean business, but shortcut opinion formation by referenda. Ggovernments relying on discreet communication are deemed undesirable; people celebrate WikiLeaks. People wish to restrict minorities (such as migrants or smokers) by referenda, while the state is unnecessarily still protecting them.

Stuttgart 21, Wall of Grassroots Democracy

Stuttgart 21, Wall of Grassroots Democracy - Wikimedia Commons, Mussklprozz.

Of course, JR frequently feels angry, too. He may feel angry in his capacity as a smoker, for example. He’s discriminated against. His human rights are at stake. But as mentioned before, there’s the internet. And – in Germany – the Autobahn. (If you understand German, don’t miss the comments underneath the video.)


Why Wikileaks can’t Work, December 1, 2010
Anger Manipulation, July 12, 2009
“The Art of Happiness”, December 9, 2008
L’insurrection qui vient, March 22, 2007

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Detective Li

In the afternoon of April 30th, Li Peng went to Zhao’s place and described his observations: “When I arrived, the room was empty of people, but filled with lingering cigarette smoke and ashtrays full of cigarette butts. That means that Zhao had already held a meeting, but with whom? Nobody knows!”

Wu Guoguang (吴国光) reviews what is supposed to be former chief state councillor Li Peng‘s (李鹏) diary.

Detective Li

On the desk of Comrade Ziyang, Detective Li found some very unhealthy material


Related Tag: June 4

Thursday, April 29, 2010

About Bigots, and an Endorsement

Belonging to the camp left of the center myself, I know a thing or two about bigots from this side. Maybe the worst bunch of them lives (and governs) on the opposite side of the globe, in Australia.

Yes, smoking kills. But so does paragliding. And even non-smokers have to die. Also, if smoking is terrible, you can at least make sure that the packages look nice.
I have the suspicion that bashing smokers has become so popular within the left spectrum because they are supposed to be lower-class – and social democrats are most likely to feel embarrassed of their own clientele. Besides, there is that particular leftist drive to “educate the common people”. I know – it’s a tradition to venerable to simply do away with, even if it does more harm than good.


Talking about bigots, I have no idea if the potential voter Leonid Brezhnev Gordon Brown had a word with this week is a bigot or if she isn’t. All I can say is, have a cigarette, folks. That will help you to relax. Brown may have shown some disdain for a voter – but I’ll quit smoking if someone can convince me that his main political competitors are really more respectful than him.


Anyway. If Gordon Brown is the man you people of Britain love to hate, vote for him on May 6th. Because whichever party you are going to vote into government (if any in particular), it will have to make very unpleasant budget cuts. You can vote Mr Brown in for another term, hate him for five years (or less, depending on a number of factors too complex to discuss in a short post), and make a fresh choice then, with a rebalanced budget. He’ll do a good job at rebalancing it.


As for Australia, where elections are to be held this year, too: I don’t know. It’s so far away. But anyway, vote for some bright, nice and relaxed people.


Embarrassed of your Yellow Toe Nails, Ezine, someday

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Be careful what you ask for, Margie Mason!

The angle from which this video was shot suggests that it was a Hong Kong airport staffer’s revenge on a woman who gave people a hard time after missing her flight.

There were several other reports from Hong Kong, too, on people losing it in rather bizarre ways, in otherwise everyday situations. I’m wondering: would such things occur less easily if smoking was a more acceptable habit in Hong Kong?

I know – smoking kills, leads to chronic diseases, impairs our performance at sports, and may also have an effect on our performance at work. But when reading how Margie Mason, a medical writer with Associated Press (AP), recommends Hong Kong to mainland China as a shining example as to how improve peoples’ health and life expectancy, the airport woman comes to my mind. Maybe she is leading a very healthy life in that she is hanging it all out. But the video may have left a negative effect on her health after all – and it all may not have happened if she had gone outside for a moment – there are ashtrays available a minute’s walk away from the checkin counters – and lit a cigarette instead of molesting the staff, and embarassing the old man who was apparently her travel companion.

Smoking frequently kills. But it also frequently kills feelings. It may not be the most efficient kind of anger management, but in the absence of better tools, I’m wondering how often a cigarette will have saved, rather than terminated lives.


Killers on Amrum, but No Smoking, January 12, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

A (fictional) Obituary: Johnny Neihu

Taipei — No quantity of Changshou (long life) cigarettes could stabilize the old man’s feelings anymore. If we can believe the Taipei Times, the paper which hosted his regular splittist columns, Johnny Neihu has left this vale of tears after scaring a Sichuan Province Engineering Safety Division, CCP Cadre Delegation (inspecting a patriotic statue in Taiwan’s capital)  shitless with a bloody auto-mutliation reading “ECFA”, and by blowing himself and the statue up as an ultimate statement. An unspecified number of lives was – reportedly – lost in the process.

His zougou running dog 走狗 anyway, dog, Punkspleen, relates to the cruel event as Mr Neihu’s finest hour. Just as the hero of the splittists used to say, or kind of said:

Don’t ask what your renegade province can do for you – ask what you can do for your renegade province.

We should have been warned. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Killers on Amrum, but No Smoking

Amrum is a North Sea island on the West coast of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost federal state. Bremedia, a company from this town, produced a movie which was released on January 11. That is to say, it was broadcast by one of Germany’s two nationwide public television channels at 20:15 last night. A friend told me that it was a must-see.

So we watched it. It was a nice movie, no waste of time, and I believe it could have become a great movie. Why wasn’t it exactly great after all?

Container ship heading for Hamburg, Germany, September 2009

Container ship heading for Hamburg, Germany, September 2009

For one, it probably wasn’t really meant to be great. Just a nice bit of more or less thrilling evening entertainment. I rarely watch television, and maybe what I’ve watched on Monday night was the standard kind of movie on television here.

The story: two policemen are stationed on Amrum – an elder, and one who is several decades his junior. Life is easy, just that the junior can’t find a wife, because no young woman seems to be interested in the peaceful life on the island. All of a sudden, a wounded lady who turns out to be one of two bodyguard for a threatened witness who lives in hiding on Amrum, bursts into the police station and seeks help from the two officers. I missed some bits of the plot, but somehow, the second one of the bodyguards hiding the witness on the island has been killed already, and the second one, seeking help from the local police, was wounded in the incidence, and then she apparently succumbs, too.

So the two provincial policemen find themselves alone on duty with the witness, a young lady from Moldova who is scheduled to be deported from Germany for living here illegally. But before she is taken to the plane, she needs to testify against a well-connected Russian mafiosi, or something of that kind. That mafiosi, from detention while awaiting trial, raises hell to get her killed – all her bodyguards, next to her, and the agents somewhat more at large on Amrum and on the Schleswig-Holstein mainland, have also been killed, and there’s a mole at the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, which is why the two slightly dorky flatfoots can’t call the Federal Office for help.

Eventually, they still do so, very much against the advice of the Moldovian lady. They have little choice, after finding one of the murdered (more remote) federal agents dead on the beach. So the Federal Office sends another agent, who is murdered on the ferry, and dumped into the tideland. His killer then becomes the manipulator on the island and organizes the hunt for the Moldovian witness there.

There seem to be some logical flaws in the plot. For one, the junior officer doesn’t open fire as his boss is killed by the manipulator. In real life, that would have led to an investigation – but not in the movie. Then, as the junior, as the only surviving law enforcer on Amrum, makes a phonecall to the Schleswig-Holstein mainland for help, he can’t get any, because there is a whole gale on the mainland, and no ferries or helicopters can leave for the island. Nor can the coastguard. But on Amrum, there is no storm at all, and the island is less than fifty kilometers off the coast – not to be confused with Heligoland which is a truly open-sea island.

Once the storm has abated, the next scheduled ferry from the mainland comes in, but rather than help for the junior policeman, reinforcements for the manipulator arrive with it. In the end, it takes help from all the policeman’s brave friends on the island (from all those who dare to stick their necks out) to finish the gangsters off and to save the witness from Moldova.

The movie is a nice commercial for tourism here in the North. It paints a likeable, but not excessively flattering picture of us people behind the dykes and dunes.

OK, and there is still another inconsistency with real life, as I see it. Most of the protagonists in the movie drink alcohol, sometimes quite heavily. But even though I watched 94 per cent of the movie closely, I didn’t see a single cigarette there*), even though they are all the kind of people who do smoke in real life, and real life in Germany provides lots of opportunities to smoke publicly. Maybe smoking movie characters wouldn’t have made it past the tv station’s broadcasting council – the supervisors from our political parties, religious communities, labor unions etc who constitute such a council.

The influence a political class exerts on a country’s media may need to be subtle in a democratic country, but it is here. Real life probably gets distorted whereever a television camera shows up.

As for the missing cigarettes in classical situations during the movie, I’m wondering how many of the television audience even noticed their absence.


Title: Mörder auf Amrum, Germany, 2009 / 2010

*) We were absent from the living room for some five minutes of smoking outside – our hosts were faithful non-smokers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dumpstuff ’09

Before the are leaving this decade (the 2000s, that’s the timespan from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2009), let’s do away with some unnecessary things here in Germany.

  • the German-Chinese “Dialog on the Rule of Law” (Rechtsstaatsdialog), initiated by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder and then Chinese chief state councillor Zhu Rongji, in 1999. It’s a waste of money and time.
  • some aspects of our country’s family policies, especially the litter bonuses. We don’t need to encourage parents to have more children. We “only” need to take better care of the kids who are already here. That may even lead to higher birthrates. And if not, let’s think hard: won’t low birthrates offer opportunities, too?
  • the Non-Smokers’ Protecton Law (Nichtraucherschutzgesetz). Smokers may stink up the air, but conferences which turned their venues into heavy industrial zones usually achieved more, than all the treehugger events of these days. We may live shorter, but we may also accomplish more in our lives.

Further suggestions from home and abroad are welcome, but hurry up. This decade is rapidly drawing to a close. And before anyone comes up with dumb ideas, lemme tell you that this beautiful blog is here to stay.

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