April 2008

Deutschland/Österreich trip 16-26 April200 8

Writing this while still in the grip of jet lag may be a problem. This was perhaps one of our more enjoyable trips to Europe. Every place we visited was too short and too quick, otherwise, we were more than overwhelmed. The weather was mostly rainy and cold, so the photographs tended to not be quite so nice.
Departure was with Scandanavian Airlines on Wednesday evening. As usual, we popped a sleeping pill soon after boarding the plane, and off we went. The next day, we were greeted by an enthusiastic, and delightful Dr. Herbert, and then stayed two nights at his place, catching up on matters, discussing politics, etc.


Herbert and Betsy at a local restaurant

Me with a new pipe that Herbert got me
Herbert is always a delight to visit, and it was sad having to say goodbye. The next phase of the trip was Berlin, where we met Diane. Our first stop was the Kaiser Wilhelm GedächtnisKirche, close to the hotel we were staying in. Concurrently, the Dortmund-München Fußballspiel was occurring in Berlin, with fans everywhere on the streets, on the train and transportation, and in all public buildings drinking cases of bier and singing their team cheer songs. It was well behaved but very entertaining. The Kaiser Wilhelm Church was not repaired after the war, so we won’t forget what grief a war will cause. We won’t forget.

The next day, we visited many notable buildings, including the Reichstag

the Brandenburger Tor

and even the site for Hitler’s bunker, which now happens to be an obscure parking lot…

Poor Adolf, now buried beneath a parking lot and across from a Jewish memorial. We also went to the Pergamon Museum to see the Isar Tor, which is one of the smallest gates leading into the city of ancient Babylon, of fame noted by the book of Daniel

Of course, there was our first attempt at Döner, and we had what was called Dürüm Döner, which is Döner that looks like a burrito.

Rachel, we thought about you as we ate our Döner! On Monday, Betsy and I took a hop down to Lutherstadt Wittemberg to see the Luther sites. These included the Leucoria, which was the seminary where Luther taught

Luther’s house next door to the university

The church and door where Luther nailed the 95 theses….(this was not the original door, which was made of wood, and destroyed during the first 30 years war of the world against Germany, as well as Luther’s grave…

We also went into St. Marys Church (Marienkirche) where Luther did much of his preaching. Here is the ascent to the pulpit

In this church was a billboard that stated Luther’s sentiments quite accurately, “ Der wahre Schatz der Kirche ist das allerheigiste Evangelium von der Herrlichkeit und Gnade Gottes” (The true treasure of the church is the most holy message of the gospel regarding the majesty and grace of God). Indeed, something that Luther was missing in the Catholic church, and is unfortunately now missing even in Luther’s church as well as the Catholic church. Meanwhile, back in Berlin, we headed to Alexander Platz, which is sitting in east Berlin, and had a sense of some sentiment against the US…

Oddly, they need to express that sentiment to the two people that got them more trouble than Amerika, their old friends Karl and Freddy…

Wahnsinn. Diane was a delight to see, as she was most enthusiastic about her studies, and already becoming moderately fluent in the language. It was sad to say goodbye. After more bier and Döner, we headed to München. Here is Betsy in the main town square, in front of the City Hall (Rathaus). We mostly walked the town, went to the Englischer Garten, and had bier and Würst at the Hofbrauhaus

From there, it was to Wien (Vienna). There we met a friend of ours Doktor Annita Budzanowski, and stayed at their parents’ house, Edward and Aldona…

This was most precious to us. They were the most kind, loving, hospitable family. We truly hope we can be able to return kindness to them with a visit to the USA, or perhaps, getting Annita into a US surgical residency close by. The first night in Wien entailed a night at the opera, at the most famous Wiener Staatsoper, where we saw a production of Richard Strauss’ Solome.

What a special treat. I couldn’t say how extremely delighted Betsy and I was to be at one of the two most famous opera houses in the world, close up, actually enjoying an opera. Besides that, we walked downtown several times, went to the Wiener Kunsthistorisches Museum, where many Egyptian,  Greek, and Roman artifacts were on display, as well as the works of many Dutch and late Italian masters. There was a huge collection of Rubens, Rembrandt, Carravagio, and many other well-known artists. What a treat! The last evening, the Budzanowskis took us to Schönbrunn, modeled after Versaille and the summer residence of the emperors, and then up to the top of Kahlenberg, which overlooks the city of Wien

Schönbrunn was unfortunately closed so we couldn’t go in. Kahlenberg was the site where the Polish King Jan Sobieski led the attack on the Turks that had sieged the city in 1683. It is no wonder that Austria has a deep respect for the Poles. All in all, our visit to Wien was most unforgettable, made very special by the graciousness of our hosts, the Budzanowskis. Departure back to Seattle was difficult, but, its time to get back to work.

In Gedächtnis

The bombed-out remains of the former splendor of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche in Berlin remind us of the lasting effects of war. There was a true statement found written inside this church, that in war there are no winners. We often forget that, especially as we try to achieve a sense of “peace” in the world. One often wonders when the next great war will occur. It is only childish naiveté that would cause one the images that we have evolved as a species to the point where detente, liberal sentiments of tolerance and acceptance, and goodwill will bring an end to major wars. An example of this is the violent sign we saw posted in old East Berlin, saying “Fxxx Off Amerika”. Violent reaction to war is a contradiction in terms, seen only too realistically in the first world war, which was a war most certainly guaranteed to cause even more war by the way it was settled in the Treaty of Versaille. We will not forget that WWI was the war to end all wars.
When we visited Diane, she noted that she had one student tell her that he hated all Americans and wanted to kill Americans. He was Greek. I guess he would have preferred to have continued German involvement in Greece under the rule of the Nazis? How quickly he forgets the good, as well as the bad that comes out of America. Perhaps his thinking is only a reaction of the Greek public group-think.
I don’t have good answers to America’s woes. Certainly, the world thought it right for us to intervene in Bosnia. I disagree. Europe should have taken care of their own backdoor problems, yet they are too militarily weak to do so. True story. The world thought it right for us to intervene in freeing Kuwait. I disagreed. The Arabs should have sorted out their own problems. The world is upset that we re-invaded Iraq. I don’t have a perfect answer on this, and I don’t believe that the case is entirely settled regarding weapons of mass destruction. Saddam gassed the Kurds, and that was cause enough to terminate that evil man. Yet, we should have followed the gospel of Wilsonianism, given the Kurds their freedom, and not forced the Muslim factions of Sunni-boys and Shits to endure a joint government-its like asking the followers of Malcolm X and the Ku Klux Klan to kiss and make up. It won’t happen, so don’t try it. It is here that my true red-blood Calvinism makes its stand, believing that all men, including the “good” ones, are intrinsically evil to the core. Only the grace of God allows an occasional resemblance of peace in the world.
I still feel askance about the strong sentiments of hatred toward America. There are two aspects of this. One is our involvement in Iraq. Yet, those who have the loudest voice have the fewest answers, or the least pity toward the 9-11 New York Twin Towers incident, to the Kuwait invasion, and the most naive sense that everybody in the world really just wants to get along. I was opposed from the start to the second invasion in Iraq, mostly grounded on the arguments of Ron Paul. Nobody in America, I repeat, NOBODY else, including Hillarious or B. Hussain Obama, was making a loud stance against the war.
The second aspect of American hatred is our economic instability. I think that everybody feels that if America has depression, this would draw the entire world into a depression. It is possibly true. America has been most foolish in its economic management, but, this started in 1912, and not in the start of the reign of Emperor George II. He only exacerbated the problem by spending like a mad housewife, and “a chicken in every pot” mentality toward winning Republican votes. He lost mine. Yet, if the world is mad at us for our economic instability, it is like a child whose parent takes a toy away from them. It was our economic largesse that fueled international prosperity throughout the world. The Marshall doctrine of rebuilding Europe and Japan led to those nations being the most prosperous in the world, possibly more so than the US itself! The economy will probably crash in the next 10-20 years, and this will have both good and bad consequences, though I shudder to think of what those bad consequences could possibly be.
European sentiment against America has some grounding but seems to be the fostering of a love-hate relationship with their best friend. It is like one student in Diane’s school stated to her, “we hate America but we love its culture”. Well, that doesn’t make any sense at all. America is diverse enough, that we ARE our culture. And, most Americans hate their government.
Lastly, Europe must remember that we are them. There is no such thing as “Americans”. We are English, and Germans, and French, and Italians, and Jews, and Poles, and Greeks,  and Australians, and Africans, and Mexicans, and Indians, and Japanese, and Chinese, and Koreans, and Russians, etc., etc. There is no nation that can’t be found in America. And, they are still coming, many times, quite illegally coming, forcing their way into America. All of us have brought our particular cultures and beliefs with us. The only uniting factor that used to exist was a prevailing Christian faith and Judeo-Christian mindset. This no longer exists in either America or Europe. So, if you truly hate America, look in a mirror, and scream at the top of your lungs, “I hate you”. You are experiencing inverted Narcissism. Don’t worry. We also hate you. The world hates you. God hates you. The Devil hates you. Even the mirror hates you.
The ultimate solution to war is through the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, also the Lord of hosts, strong and mighty in battle. Such is not a contradiction. While I do not expect that we will see true peace in our time, I will not look to alternative solutions to peace. Such alternatives may consist of politics and government, individual solidarity, movements, resistance, group protest, religious experience, or any other human activity. My personal responsibility is for purity of thought and action, resisting evil, and fighting for the right, as defined by the Scriptures of the Bible.  When Christ asked us to love our enemies, he didn’t mean this in a theoretical or philosophical manner, but rather, in true love and concern for all that comes your way. So, just in case you wondered, I love you.
Please see the Kritik section for a review of our trip to Germany and Austria, and also new music and bike ride reviews.

Beethoven: Complete Masterpieces Sony

Beethoven Complete Masterpieces, Sony, 60 CD Limited Edition ★★★★
This is my third complete Beethoven, and I just acquired a fourth, so thought a review would be in order. It would be difficult for me to rate the various sets since each is superbly performed though with different styles and performers.
Deutsche Grammophone – Probably the best, though the most expensive.
Amado – Generally uses smaller orchestras, and less well know performers, but all impeccably done
Sony- This review – see below
Brilliant – Brilliant will be reviewed later (once I listen to it), but was a total steal of $125 for 85 discs, of many superb performances, many published in the past, including the string quartets and symphonies and superb in their own right, but combined into a total bargain basement collection.
Ok, back to the Sony set review. In all, this is not a complete Beethoven, and many lesser works were omitted. Still, it doesn’t hurt the set. I paid about $99 for this set, which is a total bargain, considering that the recordings were technically impeccable, and the performances themselves were flawless. For those who love Beethoven, I’d advise one to purchase all four sets. For the less ambitious, any one of these four sets would be quite adequate, giving one many hours of delightful music.

A Humpty Dumpty World

Today I wax philosophical and political, sneaking in a blog before our trip to Europe.
Above, you see the building being torn down that Dr. Knittel built about 20 years ago. It was still a very good office, just located in the wrong place, close to St. Samaritan Hospital. The rooms that you see being chewed away by the crane are probably one of the rooms Sarah went to have her pre-natal check-ups with Dr. Eun. Edstrom and Eun had legal first right of refusal on purchasing the building, but the hospital, being bigger and stronger and more politically correct, avoided the law by means I know not how, and purchased the land to build a new hospital. True, St. Samaritan needs a new hospital, but not at the expense of its integrity. Lesson: when somebody or some institution advertises their honesty, know that they are lying.
New topic. As Betsy and I are preparing for yet another trip to the Vaterland, our thoughts reflect on the history of the region. I am currently listening to Prof. Thomas Childers’ lectures on WWII. He is superb, and you can get his lecture series from www.teachco.com. Some people will read my comments and think that I am some left-wing wacko liberal pro-Nazi, pro-bad, pro-evil commentator. Think what you will, but I will not let the prevalent left or right opinion determine my opinions, as public opinion has been more often than not wrong throughout history. I am conservative, not neo-conservative. My vote will be for President Ron Paul, even if McCain happens to have the Republican nomination.
History is written by the “victors”, who usually get things wrong, I ask what history might have been written if the “losers” wrote the history. To this, I thank Uncle Herbert, who introduced me to Joachim Fernau, a total must-read, if one can read German, as I don’t think he will ever be translated into English. Two books are a must, “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” and “Halleluja, die Geschichte der Vereinigten Staaten”, translated “Germany above all”, and “Hallelujah, the History of the United States”.
Okay, back to WWII. What is the scoop? Germany invades Poland. England and France have a pact with Poland to defend them against invaders. They declare war on Germany. Germany has no interest in a war with France and England but now have no choice. England’s defense is that they must stop aggression. Stop. Ask the Indians (in India) about British aggression! England controlled 1/3 of the earth’s surface, and they were worried about aggression? Nicht verstehe!!! England must stop aggression, so long it was not them that was being aggressive. They must defend Poland. The raison d’être for WWII was the protection of Polish sovereignty. Strangely, England had no qualms about giving Poland to the Soviets after the war, who made life worse in Poland than anything that Germany ever did. Oh, but you say, the Germans were killing the Jews!!! Yea, right. That was true, and that was wrong. Just don’t mention that England expelled the Jews, France expelled the Jews, Spain expelled the Jews, Italy ghettoized the Jews, and Stalin murdered about 2.5x as many Jews as Adolf. Besides, Adolf simply wanted to export the Jews, and England blockaded that effort.
So, the USA enters WWII after being attacked? Whoa! Try again, Pedro! The USA never ever ever ever behaved neutrally toward England, France, Japan or Germany. First, England should have never entered the war and backed out peacefully. The USA should have reprimanded Great Britain. France? One seems to forget that France and Germany always seem to occupy each other temporarily, and things would have worked out. Remember the French version of Hitler (Napoleon), who is still honored by the French!!!! Can you believe that? It would be like the Germans set up a memorial to honor Hitler!!! Really! Read the life of Napoleon. He was totally disgusting, just like Adolf. The French temporarily occupied Germany in the early 1800s but had to be forced out. In 1870, the Germans occupied France but did not have to be forced out, as they left peacefully. The blame for WWI will never be resolved (contrary to the treaty of Versailles), but probably all parties were equally responsible. The USA NEVER was neutral in any of these wars, in spite of our profuse profession of innocence. During the first phases of WWII, we were actively supplying England with massive, I mean, massive amounts of aid, just like WWI. No wonder Germany should take umbrage. And then, in the south Pacific, we were actively interfering in politics of the region, aiding China, who themselves were divided extremely, and later blocked Japanese ability to obtain oil. We had no reason to do that. The region would have sorted things out. There were virtually no American interests at stake, save for our occupation of the Philippines. We left Japan with absolutely no choice, save to go to war with the US. The ultimate result is that we ended up with China in an even bigger mess than ever, with communism overtaking the country—we could not have had China’s best interests in mind. WWII is often presented as a moral war of good against evil.  Really now? Stalin was our ally!!! Stalin was nuttier, crazier, loonier, eviler than Hitler at his worst. Stalin was our friend. We would support him by any means possible, knowing that he would return a kind deed to us, and liberate his population after the war. Yea, right.
The total aftermath of WWII was simple. England wanted to maintain their world hegemony and lost it. The Soviets, with Stalin still in control, were able to engage in continued lunacy through to the end of the twentieth century. Germany and Japan were humiliated, and then became the strongest economic states in their parts of the world, and the USA, hoping to replace Great Britain as the controller of the world but not learning their lessons, is now getting into a mess wherever the USA sets foot. Only a few sane voices, such as that of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, seem to understand what a mess we are making of ourselves. The end of the book Halleluja by Fernau delineates the wars that the USA has been in in the twentieth century. It is just astounding, the length of the list. We are numb to how the US has its fingers into every part of the globe, wanting to control and dominate. Unfortunately, we will experience the same fate as Great Britain. We will wake up too late. When, we (the USA) fall off the wall, who will be there to put us (US) back together again?

Beethoven: Symphony #9

Beethoven Symphony No. 9 Berliner Philharmoniker, von Karajan, Performed 31DEC1977  ★★★★★★
Yes, I know. You can only give 5 stars total. This production was just too good to limit to five stars. As you could tell from the cover, this was the DVD version. Most DVD versions tend to have the camera drift to insignificant parts of the stage, though this DVD does a reasonable job of directing the attention to where one would be looking should you actually be in the audience.
A number of years ago, Alan Segall (a professional musician) and I blindly played to each other versions of many symphonies including segments of Beethoven’s 9th, and both of us peculiarly picked out Karajan routinely as the favorite or preferred rendering. This was especially true of Beethoven’s 9th. Toscanini was bottom of the list. I grew up on Toscanini’s 9th. Ron Bonneau recommended Toscanini’s 9th, so we assumed that it was the greatest. We were wrong. I can recall sitting in our Mill Street house basement, playing Toscanini’s 9th on vinyl, sitting around with brother Lewis and a close friend Steve Miller, adoring Beethoven and his 9th, of course, Toscanini’s version. This was our start on music appreciation. I’ve come a long way since then. Beethoven still has his magnetic attraction, but so do many other composers from Bach to Shostakovich.
Karajan’s conducting style certainly is somewhat different. Betsy thought he was very unemotional. This is simply not true. Oddly, Karajan rarely opens his eyes–I think that he is too consumed with the music. Those who accuse Karajan of showmanship fail to pay attention to other conductors like Bernstein, who make the wildest theatric gestures throughout an entire performance. Others have accused Karajan of being a Nazi and thus objected to his music. True, Karajan was a Nazi, like Furtwängler, and every other great conductor (except for Bernstein) of the twentieth century. I can think of many folks who are worse than being Nazis, like being arrogant Amerikan prigs. Why is it that every ethical discussion eventually likens Hitler as the penultimate evil? We forget the other competitive evil people of the twentieth century, namely, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Tojo. Honestly, I’d have a hard time accusing any one of them of being either better or worse than the rest of the bunch. But, that’s me, and I’m going off track from the discussion. For whatever you think politically of Karajan, there is no denying his musical genius. That genius is clearly seen in this performance, which many feel to be one of the greatest renderings of Beethoven’s 9th ever. Unless you read the Penguin guide, where the little Lilliputian Englanders set around eating their crumpets and sucking their tea with the baby finger protruding, objecting that the production was too emotional, or that original instruments were not used, or that Karajan was singing along during the choral parts. Too bad. They just don’t know good music.