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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

500







Even Ducks bow to people who have Blogged 500 times.

Today is my 500th Blog. 

It seems almost impossible that someone with so little useful to say could blog 500 times and not be hunted down and killed by Blog Vigilantes – who I am sure exist somewhere. Perhaps I have survived because I am not listed in any telephone books and am effectively invisible in Vienna.

In 2009 there were 126 Million Blogs. That is a lot of Blogs. The figure now is probably 200 Million. If you looked at one new blog every second and never stopped it would take you more than 6 years. You would never reach the end because Bloggers multiply like rabbits  - and are indestructible. The only things that grow faster than Blogs are the Chinese population and Wall Street bonuses.

I have read a couple of books lately about the gigantic global catastrophe that was the financial crisis.

I wanted to know who stole so much of my pension fund. I now know – I even know most of their names – and how big their houses are (REALLY big!).

I am pleased to report that they are all doing pretty well. The ones who left did so with colossal payouts and enormous bonuses – and those who stayed are making more money than they ever did. Wall Street is on track this year to pay record bonuses – so it is nice to know that my money and your money (well – the money we used to have anyway) is being put to good use.

And with what the government gave them and what we contributed - every day is Christmas day in that fairytale land of financial derivatives.

The Republicans managed to emasculate any legislation tightening controls on Wall Street and the financial sector in general so any time they want to they can take us on another gigantic roller coaster ride,  invent new and improved worthless products - and take us again into the Land of the Massive Goat Fuck.

Except this time I am watching them very closely. If I see any warning signs I will let you know. Tip – if Sarah Palin looks like becoming President it is time to buy gold – but bury it real deep!

Monday, November 29, 2010

It was a victory - we did not get beaten!



We had lots more snow last night and Sissi loved it.  

It is still snowing today and it has been a delightful start to the winter – although probably not for the Austrians – who do not really seem to get happy about much at all. 

Except for Michael - the butcher at Radatz in the open air markets in Landstrasser Hauptstrasse.

He is unfailingly cheerful and helpful as I grind out my German. Of course I would probably be happy too if people were buying Lamm Ruckenfilets (Lamb Back Straps) at €37.50 per kilo. That is an astonishing amount of money – but Lamb is by far the most expensive meat here.

Australia has survived the first cricket match against England in the Ashes series. It was a draw (that is a tie for you Americans). 

I class this as a victory because they did not get beaten. It also avoids the embarrassment of Australia losing all five matches – the most they can lose now – and probably will – is four. 

Unfortunately my respite will be brief as the next match starts on Friday and I have no doubt that Australia will get flogged mercilessly by the English. 

An indication of where we are heading is the fact that England declared its second Innings at 1-517. That sort of score is enough to keep Australians awake at night. 

It's like finding a Redback Spider in your underpants as you put them on  - you think about it for a long time afterwards. 

(For Americans there is no exact equivalent - but to illustrate - it is like a 15-1 score in a Baseball game - it indicates that the team that scored 1 was not really in the game). 

The best part about this series is that it is being played in Australia so does not come on TV here until 1:00 AM – by which time I am in bed  - and finishes about 8:00 AM which means that I can avoid seeing any of at all. 

It is going to be a long, grisly and humiliating summer for Australian cricket supporters. But when it is over the English cricketers will go home to be awarded knighthoods or to be made Peers of the Realm and we can finally hang Ricky Ponting and banish the rest of the team to a detention center somewhere in the wilds of Australia.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don't push the Red Button.




Well we got a little bit of snow – but not enough to play around in. There was a small amount left on the table on the terrace for Sissi to inspect but she was decidedly unimpressed.  Even so Stadtpark looked quite gorgeous under a light covering of white fluffy stuff and I got some nice photos.

I don’t think the latest attack on South Korea by South Korea is anything to worry about.  

I mean the boss there suffers from the most serious case of relevance deprivation I have ever encountered. 

He presides over a steaming shithole of a country where people live on rats, rice and stones – and the rice is provided by South Korea and the USA. 

He needs to be noticed and as no one actually gives a rat’s arse about him or the pile of rubble he inhabits he has to throw the occasional Hissy Fit  to let the world now – Look at Me!  I’m Here! I’m Insane!

But on this occasion I think it is just teething problems as the Dear Leader Hoo Flung Dung showed his son Han On Dong the ropes. He was just demonstrating to Han what happens when you push the Yellow button (sinks South Korean submarine) the Orange button (fires artillery into South Korea) and the Brown button (hot fudge sundae).

You know what boys are like - Han just had to push that Orange button. I hope his father has told him that if he pushes the Red button (launch nuclear strike) it will be the last button he ever pushes.

In the ‘if you cannot drill it – kill it’ department I note this snippet of good news from the weekend.

Alaska is considering mounting a legal challenge to President Obama's plan to set aside 187,000 square miles in the state as a "critical habitat" for polar bears, a move that could add restrictions to future offshore drilling for oil and gas.

Well shee-it! An't nothin gonna stop us drillin. 

I am bloody glad that Polar Bears – or indeed any other animals on the planet – can’t read the news or there would be lines a mile long  for anti-depressants.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Snow of the season




We had our first snow of the season last night.  We went to Jin’s Sinohouse in the 9th District for dinner and it came down in droves. There was not much left this morning but just enough to make it look interesting. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh no! Not another Grit-gate!



Red Square  -15. 

I just hope we’re not heading towards another Grit-gate situation the UK.  They have just had their coldest start to a winter in 17 years and already they are talking about grit shortages.  
Now that was a national catastrophe last year and I really hope they have learned their lesson. What we do not need this year is thousands of children all over the British Isles having to sacrifice their sand pits and crunchy nut cornflakes for the good of the motoring public.
I am pleased to report that in Vienna we are expecting snow on Saturday and Sunday.  The Viennese are better at these sorts of things and I do not expect a grit shortage. Billy has his Winter boots on and is ready for action. 
Cate is going to Moscow on Tuesday - where the temperature is expected to be -15.  I think she may have to take a her big woolly coat and UGG boots. I have been to Moscow when it was -15. It is not terrific.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Time for a Rant




I haven’t had a good rant about US politics for months so here goes.

President Obama in his Thanksgiving address has called for bipartisan support to get things done in government.

Good luck with that. He got zero support when he had control of Congress so I think the chances of the Republicans rallying around now are a bit slim.

The Republicans have already refused to consider the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty – because you can never have too many nuclear weapons – and because they are not going to give President Obama ANY wins between now and the next election.

Last week Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to consider fast-track legislation to extend federally funded unemployment insurance benefits, virtually guaranteeing that the program will expire November 30. That’s right – in 5 days time the long term unemployed in America will cease getting benefits. Happy Thanksgiving!

Why? Because the Republicans say that these costs cannot be afforded and have to be paid for with budget reductions.

But they will probably pass the legislation if they get an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the really, really rich – and no these tax cuts don’t have to be paid for because they are Republican tax cuts (Only democrats are required to pay for things – as evidenced  by George Bush spending money like a drunken sailor in Rio on New Year’s Eve). 

Next year in April the Republicans will get their big grandstanding chance when they get to shut down the government  again – and they will - because they can. 

They will also prevent any more stimulus funding and do what they can to kill the Health Care Legislation. They have a vested interest in pushing the country as far as they can into recession before the next election because – hey – it’s not our fault – Obama is President. But we can fix it if you elect a Republican President!

But on a much more cheerful note - Frank Rich has written a compelling piece in the New York Times  explaining how Sarah Palin can be President. 

I admit I was wrong about this and six months ago I said it could not happen because Ms Palin was unacceptable to the bigwigs in the Republican Party. But guess what – they have lost control of Sarah and she is now bigger than that are. Oh Dear!

Importantly – she now appears to be Rupert Murdoch’s nominee for the Presidency and has her own TV show on Fox – plus a nature documentary series and that is creating new viewing records – plus books she has her name on – plus ghost written economic pieces in Murdoch’s paper – The Wall Street Journal. (What a sad piece of shit that has become with Murdoch the Barbarian in charge). 

You should read the article – it will scare the Bejesus out of you.

What will be the acronym for the First Dude? FDOTUS does not work. I think just DOTUS will do it for me. 

Get over it!





















Hey I think this is me!

Going into and coming back from Israel a week or so ago I was give a pretty thorough going over by the security people – and it included full body scans pat-downs all over my aged and wrinkly body - to ensure that I was not carrying anything that I should not. I expected this – it is now part of air travel life.

It is the price we pay so that every couple of years the USA can bomb the shit out of other countries and then invade them.

A ‘mommy blogger’ was subjected last week to that same sort of process and has thrown a World Class Hissy fit. Her story – and the many nauseous blog comments – is here.

One of my very favorite comments is

‘Oh my goodness, I am sorry that you had to go through this experience. I am praying for you as you go through this time. I am very proud of to take the stand and share your story with us, it is not right. Blessings to you and yours.'

Yeh – prayer should help. Spare me! Oh Hugs to you! 

I imagine that what really happened is that she gave the poor wretch doing this thankless task an earful because she had a child with her, had written a book about $5 meals and is just such a fecking important blogger that she should have been borne through security in a Sedan chair being carried by four Nubian slaves.  I imagine that in retribution the patter-downer did some extra patting.

Is this right? No – but I think her response was so over the top as to be laughable. It has brought anti-security people out of the woodwork and they are now marching in the streets saying they will not allow themselves to go through body scanners and certainly no one is going to touch their precious little bodies.

Americans almost single-handedly created the current terrorist threats and now don’t want to pay the price of securing passenger aircraft.

But – you know – they are right. No sane terrorist is going to try to get weapons on a plane. They will simply refine the processes of sending packages in airfreight – and it will very long time before we can scan all that stuff. I remember that before we left Sydney there was a report that the airports in Australia had the capacity to scan only about 10% of cargo. Of course they will have made a major effort over the last couple of years and it would not surprise me if that figure is now something like 12%.

We can’t stop terrorism, we can’t inspect all air cargo and and we can’t stop invading other countries so we will just have to get used to body scan and pat downs. Get over it.

PS: Sarah Palin say we need to support our ally North Korea as they bomb the shit out of South Korea. You Betcha!




Monday, November 22, 2010

It would be easier if you could lend it to me for an hour





















I would look good in this!

I got Cate out of the furniture section eventually and dragged her to the crockery section. This was a complete failure and it took her less than 10 seconds to scan every item of crockery and reject each item as being entirely unsuitable.

She has this uncanny ability to assess things without actually looking at them. It might be a Cate thing (but could well be a girl thing). She can walk past a clothing store and cast a fleeting glimpse into the window and say ‘there is nothing in there that I would like!’

Now ’Nothing’ is a big call. But I know from experience that she is right. If she went in there she would assess every item of clothing within seconds and we would be back on the street.

In my case – for menswear stores – there are things that I would like but that would be entirely unsuitable. I am as good at buying clothes as I am at buying furniture – which is why I am not allowed to buy clothes on my own - ever. And with almost no exceptions these days – I don’t – because there is nothing I hate more than having to take clothing back for a refund straight after I have bought it. (Actually I hate Meryl Streep more than this - but that’s another story).

On the very rare occasion I have seen something and just had to buy it - I have tried to convince the Sales Assistant that he/she would be better off just lending it to me for an hour or so (I would leave my watch as security) and this would save having to sell it to me and then do a refund. I am all for preventing hassle – but they are never interested –except when I return within the hour.

‘May I ask why you are returning this item sir?’

‘Certainly. My wife says it is the wrong sort of clothing for me, it is the wrong color, it is the wrong size, it looks like it came from an Op Shop and if I was going to keep it I would also need a matching funny red nose and clown shoes’.

Of course I don’t return everything. I once bought 20 T-Shirts on sale and Cate hated the Death Metal and Hell’s Angels themes and told me to take them back. I could not face this so they are still in a box in the basement. It seemed like a good idea at the time – and I was only going to wear them around the house - and they were very cheap.

Now crockery looks like crockery to me. They are sort of white plate and cup-like things that you eat off. But apparently they are all different – even if to me they look the same. (Except of course for our old set - which looks like it has been used for Clay Shooting. Pull!)

So we went to Interio where they have a very small selection of crockery but had just what we (Cate) wanted.

Except that it does not come in boxes. There are enormous piles of plates and things and you take the number you want – wrap them in tissue paper - and Schlepp them to the Kassa. This is not as easy as it sounds.

This system actually works quite well  - and saves on cardboard - but it is a bit scary getting it all home in one piece.

As we always do – we decided that some of our old stuff was worth keeping – so now still have some of the old crappy stuff and the new stuff crammed together in the cupboards.

We bought dinner plates so large that they do not fit in the dishwasher. They will be useful for tobogganing when the snow arrives. 

Cate is in Dubai. Only one more trip after this for the rest of the year. Yippee!.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why would you ask me anything?


I had a sort of crockery headcount a few weeks ago and discovered that we do not really have any matching plates and related crockery. We actually have no cups at all because for some unaccountable reason when we were unpacking we threw all the cups away - and kept the saucers. The stuff we are using now looks like it is left over from a Greek Wedding.

Now we do have a set of Wedgwood which we use for ‘special’ occasions but these are few and far between these days  - and mainly it stays where it is because it is too difficult to extract from the cupboards.

So I mentioned to Cate that I thought we should get some crockery for daily use and – suspiciously – she agreed to this with some degree of enthusiasm - and even suggested that we go to Shopping City Sud.

Now this sent my alarm bells ringing because she hates SCS more than she hates almost anything else in the world - except Meryl Streep - but by then I was trapped by my own stupidity.

So there was clearly an ulterior motive for going to SCS but I was resigned to the fact that I was not going to find out what it was until we were there.

I have been trapped many times before with this type of ruse but am simply a dumb animal in the hands of Cate - who is a master tactician.

If she says something like ‘Let’s go to Caf√© Central for lunch today’ I will think it is a great idea until we are sort of wandering past Steffl and she says she just needs to pop in and get a ‘couple of things’.

This means for Cate a close examination of a number of sections of the store - accompanied by some purchases.

This means for me being perched for hours on ‘Male Humiliation’ chairs that they plonk in the middle of these stores – which are built exclusively for the delights of female shoppers.

I sit there dribbling and staring vacantly into space – or playing Angry Birds - accompanied by other unfortunate men who were also too stupid to see the traps laid for them or were not quick enough to throw themselves off the balcony and break something.  

Not that I mind if Cate buys clothes. I love her to buy clothes. She has lots of beautiful clothes and should have lots more – just not with me in the picture.

Fortunately she buys most of her clobber in the USA these days so I escape the brunt of the torture – but get enough to keep me on edge.

So we got to SCS and I started heading towards the crockery in Leiner and I realized that Cate was not with me and had detoured to the (Shriek!) furniture section. I found her sitting on a leather lounge suite.

Heart sinks.

This is the worst possible outcome because I have to participate fully in the process in respect of design, color, style and all the other possible permutations of lounge furniture.

When I say participate I mean that I have to be there and answer innumerable questions – knowing that my opinion is worthless and will be disregarded.

Cate says things like ‘How would this one work with the Ottoman over there?’

‘Looks good to me’ I say – not having the foggiest idea what works with what.

‘She will examine my statement thoughtfully and will then say ‘No – it doesn’t work at all’.

And we will move on to the next of approximately a million combinations.

I love nice furniture. But I have no sense of color or style. Never have had. With clothes or anything else. I mean all I ever wear is T-Shirts and Jeans – who would want my opinion about anything. Cate does not even let me buy my own T-Shirts.

Cate may as well take a Giraffe with her when she shops for furniture – or any home item at all for that matter.

To be continued…..

Friday, November 19, 2010

Merry Schlockmas




I got my first Christmas Bag today when I went to Bobby’s market to buy some Porridge. 

Bobby’s is the only place I can find Porridge in Vienna. The woman in Bobby’s gave me a Christmas Bag. It has Santa Claus and Kittens on it. I have no idea what Kittens have to do with Christmas. 

Were their kittens in the Manger?  They were not there last week when I visited.  

I heard my first Christmas advertising jingle on the radio. It was for Orange Austria. They have enlisted Santa Claus in this noble endeavor.

Last night I checked the English Cable TV music channels to confirm that they have started showing the usual array of dreadful ‘Christmas’ Music. This is about the only time that Cliff Richard, Rod Stewart and the Osmonds get a run these days.

So it has started. There will be an increasing avalanche of gruesome Schlock which will bury us up to our necks for the next 5 weeks as every retailer in the Christian world tries to wring every last dollar from all the suffering punters.

Surprisingly – it is much better here than in Australia where every shop is playing Christmas Carols from October onwards. In Wien it is relatively subdued in retail land and it is almost pleasant to go shopping. Almost.

The big decision we need to make this year is if we put Christmas Decorations on the tree. We did not do this last year because Sissi was in Terminator Mode and would have destroyed them all.

In June 2009  I complained because Spar signed up Cindy Crawford as their new face of something. I complained because she was so last century.

Well now it’s even worse. They have developed a new line of ‘luxury’ goods and this line is being fronted by Pierce Brosnan. Now that really is last century.

It is lucky that I am not in advertising because it would simply not have occurred to me to use Pierce for a new line of Paprika Chips – but I simply have no imagination.

George Clooney for Nespresso? Brilliant. Add John Malkovich? Inspired!

But Pierce for premium Apple Sauce? Hmmmmm. However, I am sure they know best and will trust their judgment.

I have tried Pierce’s Macadamia Ice cream and it is not bad at all.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Praise the Grand Woofie Bird




Well of course I am thrilled by the news of the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. And I just love it that these days Princes can marry commoners without the fuss that used to go on years ago when royalty married beneath their station.

Of course there have been some colossal disasters in the past but if you mix and match you have to expect the occasional foul up because after all commoners are so – well – common.

I would have preferred not to have learned about this blessed event from CNN - who very nearly had kittens with the excitement of it all. 

It was breaking news for some hours as they told the same story over and over again overlaid by the same video footage. I did not watch it continuously but checked in every hour or do to see if anything had changed – no – still engaged – still breaking.

Eventually they crossed in turn to a great many people who confirmed that William and Kate were in fact engaged and told us many things that we already knew. Then they told us again - and again.

I think there should be rules about breaking news. New breaks when you tell it. After that it is broken. Once they told us the first time about the engagement that was the news being broken. Telling us the same thing 10,000 times does not count.

But on a day when there are no plane crashes or earthquakes I suppose you just have to do the best you can and flog it senseless in the hope that there may be someone, somewhere who is confined to a wheelchair and has been propped up in front of the TV by nurse and cannot escape. This person will now have a new Mastermind subject.

Of course the other people having kittens are the gossip magazines which have all stopped the presses and are at this moment all preparing the same ‘exclusive’ stories - while already planning wedding and baby editions. 

This will give a brief respite to the D grade celebrities and poor drunken slappers with their knickers round their ankles being photographed as they lurch from nightclubs trailing clouds of Mary Jane.

Cate is in Bad Homburg which is close to Frankfurt. She is there for a meeting with her peers and bosses from the USA.  They are apparently working very late and do not get to bed until the wee hours.

Next week she goes to Dubai, then she goes to Moscow and then – praise the Grand Woofie Bird – she has a month or so at home and we can enjoy Vienna at Christmas.

A most delightful time of the year for us because we love the cold and we adore snow. The decorations are up in Landstrasser Hauptstrasse and are probably already up in the city. I shall check soon and report.

  


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Here I am again



Well so much for the rest. 
My problem is of course my Migraines. They are knocking me about. I can mitigate the effects with tablets but they make me wonky and unable to focus on much at all. 
I hasten to add that my Migraines are not the star-spangled-vomit-all-over-the-place lying-in-a-dark-room-groaning-with-a-wet-towel-over-my-head kind. They are however bad, daily and never-fecking-ending. 
But I went to see Dr Mordor’s wife  today for a prescription (yes she does the repeat prescriptions) and she suggested that I could go to the headache clinic at the local hospital. A friend of hers had migraines and went there - with excellent results. 
That I need to find out this from the Doctor’s wife gives you an idea of how much the good Doctor has helped me so far. 
I have asked the wonderful Rozalin to see if she can get me in to the clinic - and we shall see.  I am quite sure they will not ask me to talk to a Chocolate Moose. 
Yes I know I should find another Doctor but it is just not that easy. I have tried a few others and am still looking. 
Today I had to fire up the PC to find some stuff that was not on my Mac. It crashed after 20 seconds (not a record – the record for a PC for me is pressing the start button and hearing a loud bang followed by lots of smoke) and then lurched into a series of grinding crashes punctuated by excruciating pauses while the memory decided whether or not it would actually do anything useful at all.
PC thinking.....
‘I wonder if I should do this - I am philosophically opposed to opening this program because it is not a Microsoft program and Mr Gates said that I don’t have to open anything that is not his and if I do I can do it very slowly and am allowed to crash before opening - or even better - when the punter has already done something with it and will scream and froth - but I can tell by the look on his face today that he is not in the mood for love so perhaps I will give him the BSOD and what do I care - that asshole has a shiny new white iMac sitting next to me and it is so much faster than me that it makes me want to vomit OK that settles it - CRASH!’
It was my fault really – one should never ask Windows to do more than one thing at a time because it has the attention span of a red ant and all the powers of concentration of a wet lace doily. 
I had my cricket bat at the ready and was contemplating doing it a favor and performing involuntary euthanasia but I have some stuff and some programs on the steam-driven beast that just cannot put on the Mac. So it lives (after a fashion) to bother me further. But one day…..
I hasten to add that it is not the fault of Dell which I have found from long experience to be sensationally reliable. I bought my first Dell in about 1997 over the Internet and have since owned more than 12 – in fact I still have 3 in working order.  (Is this too many?).
In the entire time I have owned Dell I have never had hardware failure - except for a faulty CD Burner which Dell replaced within 48 hours. 
I have - of course - had some excruciating conversations with people in India about some minor faults that needed rectification. There is nothing like talking to someone in India for four hours to improve the digestion and get the creative juices flowing. 
(We have been talking for so long Ragiv and I know so little about you and your family - while we are waiting for this 47th re-boot why don’t you tell me about your mother’s operation. No - there is no longer any need to pretend you are in Melbourne - just be honest with me - I know you cannot fix this - you know you cannot fix this - just have mercy and send me a technician. Thank you Ragiv - of course I will come to your wedding).
The problem is Windows. When Microsoft says that they have improved Windows what they mean is that they have added 60 Billion bits of stuff that 99.9% if people will never use. To do this they have quadrupled the size of of the program and you now need a Gazillion Megs of RAM to run it. When you actually have it running as fast as a startled Gazelle they will then identify approximately 5 Million security problems and start issuing patches - each one of which will work like glue on the RAM.
Within a few weeks of buying the world’s fastest computer it will be running like a Snail on Morphine pushing a dead Elephant over wet sand. Sure you can improve the speed by tweaking - and each tweak brings the entire platform closer to the stability level of Lindsay Lohan. 
Where was I?
Oh yeh. I sat in front of my Mac for two nights with a throbbing head and could not write. So I thought I needed a break. Then I thought ‘just because you have a headache can you disappoint 100,000 readers whose lives are so meaningless and shallow that they need your Blog to survive?’ 
Shit no! 
So here I am again. 

Badger is Blogless























The Badger appears to be suffering from blog fatigue and is incapable of writing anything at all.  So he will take a break to refresh himself. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I wish I had bought a Miele




William alerted me to this. 

At the G20 Conference in Korea the Koreans have made little dolls of the attendees. 

Our Julia is dressed as an Austrian and is wearing a Dirndl. She is however carrying the right flag. 

It is not a very flattering portrayal of Jools and she is certainly not built for a Dirndl. 

I just don’t know why the two countries are confused. They are nothing like each other and are nowhere near each other. I must say though that when we travel many people are mightily confused when we explain to them than we are Australians living in Austria.  We often have to explain it to them a number of times before they get the hang of it.

There has been a minor diplomatic kerfuffle here in the last few days.  The Turkish ambassador in Vienna has been branded an "arrogant nationalist" for claiming Austrians were only interested in other cultures when on holiday.

I think that is an exaggeration.  I don’t think the Austrians have the slightest interest in other cultures when they are on holidays. 

They have a perfectly good culture of their own and do not wish to have it messed up by all these foreigners.  I think we may have a new Turkish Ambassador soon. Perhaps he was tired and emotional after a long night in the Billabong.  

The dryer is well and truly kaput this time and needs new electronics. This will take a while. OH how I wish I had bought a Miele.

I have some sensational news about the  scaffolding at the Am Heumarkt entrance.  Stay tuned.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hello Dad!





















I am exploring all avenues to find the cause of my Migraines. 

Rozalin suggested that I see an Osteopath and I did not really know what an Osteopath did so had a look to see. It sounded all right so I went to visit Frau Winkel who has done wonders for Rozalin in the past.

Turns out she is not a normal Osteopath - she is a sort of alternative Osteopath. After many questions she decided that my headaches were caused by my childhood. 

This was followed by a body examination to confirm that all my internal organs are in the right places (they are). This ruled out a medical reason for the headaches so we moved onto other possibilities.

We embarked on a short program of Klopfen (tapping on various parts of the anatomy) followed by some meditation with suitable mystical music.

For the main course I was required to choose a stuffed animal from a pile of stuffed animals and – pretending it was my father – tell it all those things that I had not had the opportunity to tell him when I was a child. 

I chose a Chocolate colored Moose - which proved to be a bad choice because it totally lacked credibility and looked nothing like my father.

Anyway Frau Winkel left me alone with the Chocolate Moose and I spoke to it in the manner I was supposed to for a while and told it some of the things I think I may have told my father if I had the opportunity. 

After this the Moose was given a shake to rid it of any bad vibes it had picked up from me – I was relieved of €100 and told to come back in a week.

When I told Rozalin what had happened to me she said that her treatment involved physical rather than spiritual intervention.

Look – I have an open mind about many things but I have grave reservations about this type of treatment.  I think this has as much chance of working as a trip to Lourdes.

In the Church of the Holy Sepulchure in Jerusalem there is something called the Stone of Unction. This stone commemorates the anointment of Jesus before his burial. We saw hordes of people around this rubbing cloths over it and had no idea what they were doing.

An Indian woman explained to us that they rubbed the cloth on the stone to get the ‘scent of Jesus’ and when they got home they cut the cloth into small pieces to give to their family and friends.

Except that this is not the actual stone on which his body was laid – if indeed there was a stone - or even a body. The stone was put there in 1810. 

That is the kind of faith I would need to get the Chocolate Moose to work – and I just don’t have that sort of faith.

Back to the drawing board. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

God is not good at real estate






















God may be good at a number of things but his strong point is not real estate.  Now if I was going to pick a place for people to live it would not be Palestine, which seems to be mainly a large collection of rocks and dust surrounded by desert. 

I mean if this is the best he could do it shows great poverty of imagination. Perhaps he was too focused on beetles and winged creatures to worry about the earthly environment.

Anyway we went to see the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Jericho and a number of other very dusty places. Cate paddled in the Dead Sea because this has apparently been a lifelong dream of hers. (?) The place we went to is very popular and people cover themselves in mud and stand about baking in the sun. I kept a safe distance.

Our driver knows everyone in Palestine and his role was to introduce us to most of them so that they could extract money from us. He was remarkably good at this. We had some trouble getting to the place where Jesus was born because once again it was packed to the rafters with pilgrims. However we had a guide (a relative of the driver) who took us through the vast throngs and sweaty masses without the necessity to line up. Every pilgrim wanted to kiss the exact spot where Jesus was born. 

This was easy to find because it is conveniently marked with a big silver star (a gift from the French in 1717). The kissing thing looked to be decidedly unsanitary so we did not consider indulging.

As in Jerusalem – there were large numbers of very young men with very big guns – only these men were Palestinian. They did not look unfriendly but we gave them no cause for alarm and conducted our pilgrimage in a very circumspect manner – smiling sweetly from the back seat at the soldiers who stopped us at the barriers and inspected us for signs of either hostility or lack of religiosity.

Cate and I of course both had to suspend disbelief to enable us to do all that we did because we don’t actually believe any of it. But that did not stop us from immersing ourselves in the ancientness of the sites.

I must admit that I found Jerusalem and Palestine to be depressing. I never comment on the politics of the situation – as indeed I never comment on anything to do with Islam  - for the very simple reason that I will be flamed by hostile comments as soon as I do – if not hunted down and killed.

But – they are sad places. Armed soldiers everywhere, barriers, barbed wire, poverty, religious nutters,  gigantic fences to keep the Palestinians out of Israel and Israeli settlements – and no indication that this situation will ever end. I rather suspect that this sorry saga will not have a happy ending.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Holy Toledo! Or indeed Holy Jerusalem!




The Western Wall 

I have never seen anything like it. An amazing vista as thousands – nay – hundreds of thousands – of heaving, sweating, foaming pilgrims pushed, shoved and elbowed each other out of the way to see where Jesus was born, crucified, got his driver’s license, had his Bar Mitzvah, rose from the dead etc.

We were sort of carried along with the seething masses – there was very little optional movement but we clung to each other shouting things like ‘I love you Pumpkin’ and ‘See you on the other side – if there is one’.

Reunited at last we embraced and sobbed and raced for the Jaffa Gate – pausing only to throw money at the swarms of Charlatans, Bandits, Merchants. Pickpockets, Taxi drivers, Beggars and the wide range of multifarious Ruffians whose sworn duty it is to relieve Pilgrims of every last Shekel so that they finally arrive at Ben Gurion airport with empty pockets but with full heart and with bags of Pictures, Postcards, Books, Maps and some of the most gruesome schlock that was ever manufactured in the name of religion – and there is a lot of competition for that title.

And what you have experienced in the Old City is good training for what you are about to experience at Ben Gurion when you try to leave Israel. Think again if you think you have experienced a security check anywhere else.

I have never been asked so many questions in such a short space of time. The only saving grace is that most of the security staff are young Israeli woman many of whom are very cute. However, they are supported by a large number of teenagers carrying very large guns indeed. And I don’t mean automatic pistols. I mean the very largest Mo Fo weapons I have ever seen!  These guns are as big as these boys are. And I have no doubt that they know how to use them.

However – moving at comatose snail pace through security is good training for when you get to Immigration - which is something the likes of which I have not seen for 30 years. I vaguely remember something like it in Hong Kong in about 1980. Therapy has erased most of the memories.

Imagine a large room the size of a Basketball stadium. The maximum capacity is say 2,000 people so you cram 10,000 in there. There are 30 booths capable of housing an Immigration Officer. You designate 5 of these for Israeli Citizens. Then you designate the other 25 booths for ‘Foreign Passports’.  You close 20 of these. 

You then hold a competition. The lucky ones who can reach an Immigration Booth can leave the country. To make the competition fair, there are no barriers or supervised lines. There are no staff and no one giving direction.  It is open slather. Natural selection. The survival of the fittest. Darwin’s finest hour.

The frail and the weak have just spent three hours getting through security so are now in very poor shape. The last time they saw water was when it was confiscated by the security people a long time ago. They are licking the sweat of each other’s foreheads.  They are dispatched easily and trampled underfoot.  

All children under the age of 8 are now completely and frothingly hysterical so their parents are trying to prevent them from turning purple and exploding. The way around them is easy.

This leaves the strong, the cunning, the desperate, and the determined. I am not good at this because I am not pushy. Unfortunately for me, almost everyone else in that hall was, so it took me longer than expected because I kept getting shoved aside by Eastern Europeans and Germans. (Russians are ferocious!) But I made it. I popped out into an oasis, a fairyland of cafes and shops, of seats, of Tuna Salad sandwiches and free wireless Internet.

See - it is training for Heaven. Struggle, be good, visit holy sites,  you will reach paradise.

Tomorrow. The oldest city in the world. The deadest sea in the world. What Palestine is really like and why it has no contestants in the ‘Tidy Towns Awards’.