Flensburg Files News Flyer: 12 October 2011

While away at the German Horticulture Show BUGA in Koblenz this past weekend, we have some dedications to mention from both sides of the Atlantic and a mind-boggling story which might keep Germans from leaving the country and Americans from entering it- that is unless they take the train. Here’s another batch of Flensburg Files News Flyer stories to pass along to you.


Shooting Star in Minnesota:

For those following women’s basketball in Germany, one may be interested to know that the Minnesota Lynx women’s basketball team, coached by Cheryl Reeve and loaded with extraordinary talent, swept the Atlanta Dream to win its first ever WNBA basketball title. To make it even more special, this came at the time that the spinoff of the men’s basketball league NBA was celebrating its 15th year in business. The team, in its 13th year had never won a championship and only had two seasons where they reached the playoffs. The victory is bittersweet in a state which has been rattled with professional teams coming off dismal seasons, including the Minnesota Twins in baseball, the Minnesota Timberwolves in basketball and the Minnesota Vikings in American football, just to name three examples. The Twins, coming off their worst season in team history this year, were the last team that brought a championship to Minnesota, which was 1991.  The Flensburg Files would like to congratulate the team on its successful championship run and may it be the start of another dynasty.

Link: http://www.wnba.com/games/20111007/MINATL/gameinfo.html  (Sublinks available here as well)


The Loss of a Rebel in American Football:

While we’re on the same page with American Football, the world is mourning a loss of a rebel in the making, when Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, died this past weekend at his home. He was 82. Davis had owned the team since 1963, raking in three Super Bowl championships (1976, 1980 and 1983) and making it to the last one in 2002, only to lose to Tampa Bay. Davis, in the eyes of many, was a rebel with a passion for football, which was felt throughout both Oakland and Los Angeles (the latter was only a temporary venue from 1982 to 1995), which caused many, even the lawyers who challenged him in court, to fear him and fans and other team owners to adore him. While there are many who believed that the Raiders played dirty in professional football- especially since some of the players like Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak beefed themselves up with steroids (and paid the price in the end with their own lives as they died of cancer in the early 1990s)- Davis created a legacy which no one in the right mind at that time would had ever imagined and further more, went beyond hiring the first female executive, African American and later Latino football coaches, and so on. He is survived by his wife and son, the latter of which will now run the organization.  Our deepest condolences goes to the family, players and those who knew him for the loss of a passionate football rebel, whose motto will forever be “Just Win, Baby!”

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Davis


The loss of a computer icon:

There is no corner of the world that has not been touched by the loss of another true legend- this time in the computer industry. Steven Jobs, with the innovation of the personal computer to first fit the desk and later the palm of the hand, helped encourage society to create for the benefit of the community, even if they may be crazy at first. Unfortunately, the world lost not only the founder of Apple Computer, but also a thinker and man who encouraged us all to be creative this past Thursday at the age of 56. The Flensburg Files has a tribute to the great icon and thinker, which can be found here:

Link: http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/2011/10/12/flensburg-files%E2%80%98-tribute-to-steven-jobs-apple-founder-thinker-innovator-and-the-source-of-inspiration/


The loss of air traffic:

German air traffic may be grounded as early as Wednesday of this week, should there not be a solution to the problem of higher wages and benefits on the part of the air traffic controllers. Talks broke down over the weekend between the union and the Air Navigation Services DFS over the increase of pay in two different steps- for this year as well as in 2012. This may force people to take other forms of transportation or even choose airports outside of Germany to fly within and away from Europe and create chaos for the first time since the train strikes in 2007 and 2009, which grounded  train service to a halt in many places. More on this story as it develops.

Link with details of the demands: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/Fluege100.html

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15445836,00.html (in English)


Onion Market in Weimar:

Over 300,000 people convened on the small Thuringian city of 60,000 that is filled with history, philosophy and architecture this past weekend to celebrate the 366th annual Weimarer Zwiebelmarkt. The Onion market takes place every October and features many arts and crafts as well as foods using the onion as its main ingredient. This includes the onion bouquet, which can be sold in different sizes but at a decent price. Apart from that, one should not walk away from the market without trying the Zwiebelkuchen (baked onion bars) with Federweisse (carbonated white wine). Interestingly enough, there is another onion market that takes place not far from Weimar in a smaller city called Apolda. That took place during the last weekend in September and draws some thousands annually.

Link: http://www.apolda.de/kultur_und_tourismus/veranstaltungen/maerkte_und_stadtfeste/zwiebelmarkt_bockbier.html (Apolda)

http://www.thueringer-allgemeine.de/startseite/detail/-/specific/300-000-Besucher-beim-358-Weimarer-Zwiebelmarkt-dabei-1826947470 (Weimar)

Flensburg Files‘ Tribute to Steven Jobs, Apple founder, thinker, innovator, and the source of inspiration

An Apple a Day helps keep the doctor away- this was an old saying that was used by many to encourage people to eat healthy everyday and avoid seeing the doctor for any illnesses that may come about. My grandmother used to preach this when I was growing up and it helped a great deal when it came to creativity and imagination as a teacher, columnist/writer, parent and a person in general.

That is unless you have an Apple Computer and you are using it every day, like I do. Then the anecdote should read “An Apple a day helps your creativity run away.” I was first introduced to the Apple IIe while in elementary school in 1984 and grew up with the computer, embracing one new type after another, and embracing one new word processing program after another, all the way through high school and to a certain degree, college. Every time I wanted to do something creative and artistic, I always looked to Apple as a source of guidance and inspiration.

For the founder of Apple, Steven Jobs, there was more to creativity than the products he invented over the years, going from the personal computer that covered the entire desk, to the one which fits in the palm of your hand and plays music, saves all kinds of things, and helps you organize your plans and thoughts thoroughly.  There is so much that has been mentioned about his rise to stardom and how he rivaled the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Thomas Edison, and the like that mentioning it again here in this column is like reinventing the wheel. Job was a thinker- an “iPhilosopher” as some have coined it- who encouraged society to be creative, take the risk, and invent and create something that may not be acceptable at first but will be popular in the long term. From a point of view of a political scientist and historian, I would call this the theory of innovation or Jobbesianism, implying that one’s creativity and innovation will have an impact on society and how people behave towards one another, even if it is not accepted at first. In other words, we should create, convince and capture in order to better ourselves and society in general. Jobs may not be the savior, like the Lord Jesus Christ, as he was portrayed holding the iPad in the May 2010 edition of the Economist magazine, but he was the person who made a difference in the lives of many through his philosophy. This goes beyond the company Apple, the computer industry, and science and technology, but for society in general.

Hearing the news of his passing this past Thursday, right before my first class of the day at the university, the response was speechless. While he may have succumbed to pancreatic cancer, the same deadliest form of cancer that has taken the lives of many stars, like Michael Landon (he was diagnosed in 1989 and died less than two years later), he left a legacy that will last for generations to come, a legacy that encourages us to be creative and take a risk at what we are doing so that in the end, win or lose, we can say that we were successful in our own ideas. To end this column, I decided to compile a few excerpts that he mentioned below for you to think about and encourage yourselves to make the best of society and be creative in what you do.  Mull over these comments and go out there and invent. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with in the end.


“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do,”  both quotes he mentioned to the Stanford University graduates in 2005.

“My job is not to be easy on people. My jobs is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” – All About Steve Jobs

“So when a good idea comes, you know, part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people, get different people together to explore different aspects of it quietly, and, you know – just explore things.” – CNNMoney

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Wikiquote, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Summer 1993).




The Pope’s Visit from the Columnist’s Point of View- live in Erfurt:

The flag of the Vatican hanging outside the window of a townhouse near Augustiner Kloster

There is a book that was released a few years ago entitled “1000 Places to visit before you die”, providing the reader with the top 1000 places that people should see in their lifetimes; among them include the Galapagos, Great Barrier Reef, the Alps, and of course cities like New York, Cairo, Rome and the Vatican.

Perhaps they should release a book on 1000 things you must do before you die sometime in their lifetime.

Each of us has a “To Do” List containing at least 200 things that we should do in our lifetime, whether it is bungee jumping, meeting an important statesman or even accomplishing feats not known to man. Nine out of ten of us- myself included- have the encounter with the Pope on our list.

Consider that mission completed.

Friday the 23rd of September, which naturally coincided with the first day of autumn, was the day Pope Benedikt XVI came to Thuringia, and everyone in the city of Erfurt, as well as Leinefelde and Etzelbach were busying themselves for his arrival,  which included special deals on Benedikt merchandise, such as Benedictus beer, traditional Thuringian specialties, and even chocolate products bearing the Pope’s name. Sections of the autobahn A-38 were blocked off to provide buses with parking opportunities for the vesper service in Etzelbach. Even sections of Erfurt’s beloved city center, including Domplatz (where the cathedral is located) was barricaded to prepare for mass services the following morning. This included a corridor between the Airport and Augustiner Kloster, located north of Krämerbrücke, where policemen and women from all over the country were lining up to escort the Pope and his constituents to their destination.

Friday was supposed to be the day to take care of some university-related errands in Erfurt, but given the high security and restrictions in traffic because of sections being blocked off, it had to be put off to another time. But it did provide me with an opportunity to see and get some pics of the Pope himself, as he was scheduled to meet the cardinals and other important church officials at the Augustiner Kloster.  It would be a one of a kind event, something to share with the rest of the family.

It was 10:30 in the morning at Erfurt Central Railway Station, people were going about their business, selling their goods and getting to their destination by train. All was normal with the exception of policemen patrolling the platform to ensure that there was no trouble.  While no one really showed it, there was a chill of excitement in the air. The Pope was coming and everyone wanted to make sure that his stay was a memorable one. After all, the region he was visiting was predominately Lutheran even though well over half of the population was either agnostic or atheist.  It was his plan to embrace the population in hopes that peace and prosperity dominated politics and products.

Domplatz fenced off
Behind the scenes at Domplatz: Preparing for Saturday morning mass


Arriving at Domplatz at 10:45, it was clear that everybody was gearing up for the Pope’s arrival. Already the pedestrian zone in front of the cathedral was fenced off in preparation for the holy mass service, scheduled for the next day at 9:00. Bleachers were already lined up and the speakers were being established so that all of Erfurt could listen to him that morning. The Pope was scheduled to land at the airport and be escorted by caravan to Augustiner Kloster, but given his seal tight schedule and the fact he was flying from Berlin, he was at least a half hour behind schedule when he arrived at the airport. But still, the city had to keep to the schedule and cored off the route at 11:00am, forcing street cars and traffic to make a wide detour around the city center. When an important figure, like the Pope, shows up in a city like Erfurt, it is not a good idea to go either by car or by public transport. If anything, the bike is the most viable option, given the city’s infrastructural landscape. But it was not a problem, as I had my bike with me, an eastern German brand Diamant black city bike going by the name of Galloping Gertie, and it was not a problem getting around, let alone parking it near the cathedral to attend the event. By the time the corridor was sealed off, I was on the north end, and like many others- journalists, photographers and innocent bystanders alike, it was more of a waiting game until the Pope’s caravan showed up.

The Pope's Motorcade at Domplatz

11:45am- the Pope arrives. Five cars and a van, escorted by police motor cycles and Germany’s version of the Secret Service.  It was obvious when the Pope was going to pass through when two different sets of squad vehicles passed through- the first were motorcycles to provide a signal to the police lining up that the route was no longer to be crossed. Five minutes later, three cars pass to provide a signal that the Pope and his caravan was coming.  Then came the caravan- a dozen police motorcycles followed by five black cars and a van- the Pope was in the fourth car and was waving at the crowd. Cameras were firing off photos like the paparazzi following a celebrity. It was no wonder why the Pope’s car was driving as fast as possible. While it was possible to see him waving, it was next to impossible to get a clear shot at him. The fortunate part of the whole deal was that I was able to photograph his car and film his motorcade passing by at the same time- a feat that can only be accomplished by an expert photographer/ journalist (barring any bragging rights with this statement).  After passing through down the sealed off corridor, I made my way back to the bike, which was parked on the other side of the corridor and it took over 45 minutes to get to as lines of police officers ensured that no one crossed until the Pope left the city center, which would not be before 2:00pm. The walk was worth it as I had a chance to meet those who wanted to see the Pope but were barricaded so far away that it was impossible to do.  Although I did eventually get to my bike, which was parked on the southeast end of the fenced off Domplatz, I found it nearly impossible to maneuver around the city center given the high security and masses of people roaming around the streets. But it did provide me with an opportunity to do two things:

Benedikt XVI mugs at a store near Fischmarkt
  1. Check out the small booths that sprouted up in the city center.  With the Pope’s visit came many opportunities to sell knickknacks bearing the seal of the Pope on there- whether they were beer mugs (which I have more than enough in my china hutch), T-shirts with a sheep on there with the Pope’s name in vein (I have plenty of those in my stock, including a couple I picked up during my USA visit) to Benedictus Beer with the Pope’s name on it (I’ll prefer my Flensburger beer,  thank you.) And while the Pope had already mentioned to a crowd in Berlin a night earlier that modernization and consumption was poisonous to today’s society, it seems that many people did not listen to him and decided to make that easy dollar in an attempt to show that they appreciate his visit. This definitely spoils the meaning of his visit, which is to listen to him and take something valuable from his sermon with him. I sometimes wonder if everyone will listen and not just the few, who like me do not fancy things that clutter up our space in our lives…. Eventually I did take a souvenir home with me- a box of Canadian chocolates (of course, with the Pope’s seal on it), courtesy of a candy-export company in western Thuringia. Unlike the American counterpart, this sortiment tasted creamier and more like fudge, which was mouth-watering for someone with a sweet tooth.  For me, it is more appropriate to try something new than to take something back to show to everyone that he/she was there.


Around the corner at the pharmacy near Augustiner Kloster (where the two police officers were standing)
  1. Find another pocket for some photo opportunities for the Pope’s trip back to the airport for his trip to Etzelbach for his evening vesper. While the police had formed a line to provide a corridor for his trip to and from Augustiner, it did not necessarily mean that it was impossible to get some closer shots of him. People living in apartments above the corridor were probably the biggest winners as far as seeing him live is concerned, while those who were on those narrow side streets right up to the barricade came in a close second. I was one of those who benefitted from the latter as I found another spot which was closer than the one I had to put up with on the north end of Domplatz.  Despite the fact that he was behind schedule, we were treated with an even longer motorcade at around 1:45pm, as he and at least a dozen cardinals and bishops were enroute back to the airport to catch a helicopter flight to Etzelbach for a vesper that evening. There, the Pope was in a limousine bearing the white and gold flag of the Vatican City, the smallest city-state in the world with only 1,000 people. Unlike the route to Augustiner, he rolled down his window and waved at a huge crowd as the limo was mastering the sharp corners in slow motion. Sadly however, my poor Pentax had to keel over and expire due to low batteries, but it did not matter. Seeing the person up that close (at the most about 50 meters) and smiling to a crowd brought my day, as well as those who wanted to see him for the first (and perhaps last time for many).  I don’t know if anyone I knew had come that close, including a friend and former classmate of mine, who went to the Pope’s sermon in Colorado in 1993 (Pope John Paul II led the Church at that time).  But it was one that is worth remembering and justifying marking off my list of things to do before leaving this planet.

There is one caveat that I do regret and that is meeting him eye to eye. Despite his sermon in Erfurt, where he favored tradition over modernization,  peace over materialism and greed, and harmony over inequality, if there was an opportunity to ask him one question, it would be this: How do you see society in general, from your point of view and that of God’s, and what would you do to change it? It is a general question, but one that requires a lot of thought which goes beyond whatever sermon he has given to date and beyond the scandals that he and the Church has endured over the past two years. While chances of that ever happening are a million to one, maybe when reading this article, he might consider at least answering it when doing his next sermon.


  1. As many as 160,000 people attended the masses of the Pope in Germany including 30,000 in Erfurt, 65,000 in Berlin and 25,000 in Freiburg im Breisgau. Most striking is the fact that in the eastern part of the country, around 60% of the population is not religious at all; especially in Berlin and parts of central and eastern Thuringia. And the statistics can be clearly indicated through a poll conducted by the eastern Thuringian newspaper, OTZ (based in Erfurt) where over 61% of the population were indifferent about the Pope’s visit and only 17% were happy that he came.
  2. The visit did not come without incident. In Berlin, the Pope was confronted by thousands of people demanding a solution to the problem of sexual abuse in the church. Since the scandal broke out in Bavaria two years ago, the Pope has come under fire for not handling the issue properly although many pastors and bishops have resigned amid scandals both there as well as elsewhere in the country and beyond.  In Erfurt, a man opened fire at a group of officers while attempting to break through the barriers. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the shooter who fired four volleys was apprehended.
  3. While security was tight, the police should be commended for handling the visit in a professional manner, which includes helping guests find their way to their destinations, answering questions about the visit and at times escorting people across the sealed off corridors to help them get to their destinations. This was evident in the photos taken below during the Pope’s trip through Erfurt.



Links (Note- sublinks available here as well):






Photos of the event taken by the columnist on 23 September 2011:

Police lining up at the front of the motorcade at Domplatz


Pope's plane arriving at Erfurt Airport


Pope spectators waiting for his arrival at Domplatz (taken in front of the barricade)


Directions to Augustinerkloster (due east from Domplatz)


Police helping visitors find their way to their destinations


The Flensburg Files‘ Tribute to Loriot


There are some textbook stereotypes that many people from different cultures have learned when it comes to the Germans. The most common stereotypes that I have heard regarding Germans include the fact that they are obsessed with high quality products, take matters too seriously, and they don’t know how to laugh and have fun.  That is unless you are someone like Vicco von Bulow (alias Loriot) who begged to differ from these myths.

I was first introduced to Loriot by my then fiancée (now wife) when I was an exchange student at her alma mater in Jena (located southwest of Leipzig and known for its optical and tech industries) and had all these stereotypes that I had learned during my days in college in the US flushed away in an instant. Born in Brandenburg an der Havel (located between Berlin and Magdeburg)  on 12 November, 1923, Loriot first started his career as a cartoonist in the 1950s, but expanded his career to include actor, comedian, conductor,  poet, narrator, storyteller……. Well, as you can see, he was one who had multiple roles because he had multiple talents, which made those like me respect him throughout his career. He was also one who could play multiple roles in not only his own films, but also his own shows during the 70s and 80s. Take for instance the film Papa ante Portas, a film that was produced in 1991. Loriot played as many as 10 roles in that film, in addition to his main character, Heinrich Lohse, a retired senior executive who seemed to have some problems getting acquainted with life as a retiree, driving his wife Renate (played by the late Evelyn Hamann) and son over the edge. In the end they eventually find that common medium in their relationship and family life at a birthday party for the wife’s mother at the expense of the siblings and their spouses that were there at the event.  But looking at the roles Loriot played, he was a violinist, reader at a event in a local library and the old grandpa. In many scenes, he played more than one part which is impressive to even today’s Hollywood standards (not many actors and actresses can pride themselves on that feat).  With his sidekick Evelyn Hamann (who succumbed to cancer in 2006) and other actors appearing frequently on his shows, the dream team made the Germans and those who knew Loriot laugh for two decades, ending in the early 90s when he decided to call it quits and retire. Even if his hey day was in the 70s and 80s when there were two Germanys and lots of bickering between the Americans and the Soviets, many of us still laugh at his antics and blunders, resulting in Hamann’s rolling of the eyes and reactions stemming from question marks to irritable remarks. Putting it bluntly, he made the Germans laugh at the way of life that can always go wrong even if they pride themselves on extensive planning and high quality as a result of the way of thinking. But most importantly, Loriot proved those, who though Germans were too serious , wrong just by his own work that is still highly respected to this day.  Even the current German President Christian Wulff considered Loriot the face of Germany- “There’s German humor and then there’s Loriot,” he stated.

Sadly, while camping in Little Falls, Minnesota, I was informed of his passing on 23 August as a result of old age. He was 91 years old when he passed away at his home in Ammerland an Starberger See.  He is survived by his wife, Romi, two daughters and two grandchildren.  Loriot left a lasting legacy which has made us think differently of Germany.  We can no longer think of Germans as way too serious or too obsessed with the way of life, even though some people try and stress that still. We can no longer think that they are perfectionists, although some products, like the BMW, Audi, and Volkswagon are made to be perfect. But we can think of Germans as innovators and creators of our own talents, which if not spoiled rotten by the media, like it has happened to the likes of Justin Bieber, we can respect them and count them as one of our own culture. Loriot fits the German profile quite nicely because after all, Germans have humor and they have Loriot to thank for that. From my perspective Loriot, thank you for allowing me to get to know you and your humor and for helping others prove Germany differently than what the stereotype tells us. May you entertain those in the heavens including your sidekick Evelyn and make them laugh.


Some interesting links to Loriot and his legacy can be found here:





And the Legend Plays On: A Tribute to R.E.M.


1987 at a restaurant in Jackson, Minnesota (USA): I was having pizza with my family at a family restaurant in the town’s small business district. Families of kids my age were playing arcade and entertaining each other while stuffing our faces full with pizza, which includes the restaurant’s special, a three-meat, three cheese pizza, when the song “Stand” started blaring the speakers. The electric organ and the guitar danced hand-in-hand, the sound of three tenors very striking, like the sound of three college students completing a degree in electronics taking a stand and making a statement to the audience. At the end of the song, the faces of impressionism stoked the faces of many including myself, who had hoped that more songs like these would show up soon. This was the sound of R.E.M. and they were six years in infancy when the song was released.

Forward to 1992; their heyday. I was eating pizza with a bunch of friends in high school at a popular pizza restaurant chain in Marshall, just 180 km up the road from Jackson, losing track of the number of songs that were released by R.E.M. and were playing by the radio station by the hour- must have been three or four. But “Losing My Religion” was stuck in my head as I was chomping away at my taco pizza, as the song relates to the search of identity despite hard times, as the singer stated. For a 15-year old, the theme fitted our age of adolescence quite nicely.  The 1990s would be when they reached their peak, even though the band’s drummer, Bill Berry had to leave the band because of aneurysm of the brain and was subsequentially replaced.  At least two dozen songs were in the Top 40 in the US, half of them became internationally renowned.

Forward to the present, 2011! After 31 years together, the band will release their last album in November, containing the best songs of their career, plus various ones unreleased. And while the band has decided to hang it up, they will not be forgotten for the music people like me grew up with.  The decision of disbanding caused a split among the fans who were taken by surprise on one hand but was not unexpected because of their long periods of hiatuses from others. From my point of view, the only way to leave is quietly and with dignity, allowing others to talk about the band and their successes and shortcomings. There was no farewell tour, no ending celebrations, no interviews announcing their break-up, nothing. There was simply a short explanation saying that all things do have an ending and the time was right to call it quits, right when they were in their prime.  This is the type of exit that people like- leave quietly and let the music play for itself. And they will definitely leave footprints in the hearts of many and a legacy for those wanting nothing more but intellectual tunes and some food for thought, a theme found in much of R.E.M.’s music. This is something that is missing from today’s music, dubbed as too stupefying, too techno, and too cheesy for the taste of many, like mine.

Regardless of their reason for leaving, the timing was right to move on and leave the music up to those who grew up with them and those who want a better alternative to the mainstream music they are used to.  This applies to the younger generations, including that of my daughter’s. 31 years worth of songs that will be heard on the speakers at an Italian restaurant in the city center of a medium size German town by her and her friends. The music will be around for many years to come thanks to their music and how it has shaped society as we know it. R.E.M. will not be forgotten for this!


Link on the band’s history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.E.M.