Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talk about repurposing....

A new luxury apartment building has opened in the Charlottenburg area of Berlin. Thanks to the superb location and beautiful rooms, apartments in the Atrion are being snapped up. But since the monthly rents start at $6,000, I don't think I'll try to take up residence.

The marketers for the building are fond of using the word 'Tradition.' The Atrion even has a brief note on the history of this very elegant area of Berlin. However nowhere on the website (at least that I can find) is there any mention of the history of the building itself. Which is a pity, as it is a respectable 100 years old. But then again if they discuss the building's history they might have to mention that during the late thirties and early forties the building was known as the Reichskriegsgericht. It was a Nazi military court where over 1400 dissidents were sentenced to death.

This situation cries out for some blisteringly bitter jokes, but I'm just not up to the job right now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When Late Really Isn't Better Than Never

The Federal Prosecutor of the Republic of Germany has thrown out the 1933 arson conviction of Marinus van der Lubbe. He was accused of setting fire to the Reichstag (the German parliament building).

Van der Lubbe was executed in January 1934.

Monday, January 21, 2008

No Disrespect Intended....

...but I can't think of Martin Luther King without remembering one of the darkest periods of my life--just after college when I was teaching English comp. for $600 a month.

The composition curriculum was fairly rigid. The initial weeks of each class were devoted to analyses and discussion of nonfiction texts, taking them apart and showing the students the nuts and bolts of, say, Joan Didion's "I Can't Get That Monster Out of My Mind" or May Sarton's "On Solitude." At a certain point in the class we discussed traditional tools of classical rhetoric, such as anadiplosis (repetition of a word or phrase in successive clauses) and climax (arranging words or phrases in order of increasing importance). Then came their first paper: they were to choose a famous piece of writing and discuss the author's technique.

I was sitting my office grading these papers when I came to one on MLK's "I Have a Dream" written by my student Darren.* Darren was conscientious, sweet, and not very bright. He was going through the speech in a fairly competent manner, pointing out Biblical allusions and parallelism in all the right places and then:

"At this point, Martin Luther King had a climax."

When I finished banging my head on my desk I decided to take a break. I was walking through the corridors of the English department when I saw a professor whom I knew fairly well. I said to him blithely, "Did you know Martin Luther King had a climax during the 'I Have a Dream Speech'?"

A flicker of astonishment in his eyes was followed by a dirty little gleam. Then he grinned.

"Did he really?"

*All names have been changed to protect the clueless.

No famous speeches or filthy-minded professors were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Oh. Canada.

FP Passport recently featured a post about the candidates' foreign policy gaffes--leading with Mike Huckabee's admission that he had never heard of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.

Far funnier but equally terrifying in its own way: last year Canadian television personality Rick Mercer convinced* Huckabee that the Canadian Parliament meets in a giant igloo.**

*'Convinced' is perhaps too strong a word, suggesting some persuasion was necessary. Apparently it wasn't.

**To be fair, at least Huckabee knows Canada is an independent nation (at least I think he does). As late as World War II, most Americans assumed Canada was governed from London. When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, Cordell Hull (Roosevelt's secretary of state) is said to have called the Canadian Embassy to find out if London's declaration of war meant that Canada was at war as well. Or do you people declare war on your own now, eh?

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