Supermoon in Germany

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JENA/ KIEL/ BERLIN/ CHEMNITZ/MANNHEIM-  Hundreds of thousands of people armed themselves with cameras, telescopes and Smartphones to capture this moment in time. On Tuesday, the supermoon made its visit to the European part of the world, including Germany. Between 5:00pm and 8:15am Berlin time, people had a chance to watch the moon rise and set, looking 20% bigger than it usually is. While many people were awed by its shades of red, peach and dark yellow color luminating the sky at moonrise and at moonset, its brightness- which was 30% more than normal- provided many photographers with a chance to take some pictures of the scenery, as the skies that evening were brighter than what it is with a normal full moon. This unusual phenomenon, which last happened in 1948, occurred when the moon was only 221,524 miles away from Earth. Its next such occurrance will happen in 2034- 18 years from now.

In Germany itself, much of the country was able to take advantage of at least the rise of the moon, as seen in the films taken below in Kiel, Berlin, Chemnitz and Mannheim. However, as the weather system bringing mild temperatures and showers started moving in, it became very difficult to take some pictures of the supermoon at its brightest. In my case, being stationed in Jena (Thuringia), I was lucky to get some grand opportunities and take some pictures of the moon- close-ups after moonrise at around 5:30pm, and when it was shining at its brightest while biking at around 9:30pm. A gallery of the pics are towards the end of this article. The pics included scenes with the landscape and the bike, including some sillouettes. Clouds started moving in shortly before 10pm, which was followed by rain a couple hours later, yet for those who did get the chance to do that, it was  one of a lifetime. But sometimes luck comes in twos, which means the next supermoon, for those who missed this one, will be here sooner than you think.

Enjoy the following film scenes and my pictures below! A link to another gallery of supermoon pics, courtesy of National Geographic, can be seen by clicking here. 🙂

 

(Source: Chemnitz Free Press)

 

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A Tribute to Roger Cicero

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BERLIN- The music world lost a soul much too soon. Roger Cicero, son of famous Romanian pianist Eugene Cicero has died as a result of a massive stroke. His passing occurred on Gründonnerstag, the Thursday before Easter, with his family by his side, living only 45 years of life on this planet, but 45 years as an actor but most importantly, a key contributor to the jazz and pop music scene. Born on 6 July, 1970 in Berlin, Roger Cicero’s career started early at the age of 16, playing alongside his father and members of his music group, before warning his way towards a career as a soloist. After founding a jazz quartet in 2003, he released his first two albums in 2006- one with jazz pianist Julia Hülsmann and a solo with the title Männersachen (Things Typical of Men). He would release eight more solo albums before his untimely passing, the latest, Cicero Sings Sinatra, was released last year and was dedicated to Frank Sinatra, whom he used as a role model all his years. Counting the years with his jazz group and his father, Cicero had 16 albums in all.

Cicero became a household name when he represented Germany in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest with this song:

 

Cicero was also a successful actor, having starred alongside Heidi Makasch in the film Hilde in 2009, before dubbing the voice as the frog and Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog and lastly, starring alongside American actor Robert Davi in In the Night With (…), shooting scenes in New York City’s Little Italy section.

Cicero had been experiencing health problems in the last year, having cancelled his remaining 2015 tour in November after experiencing fatigue and collapsing on stage. The tour was set to go on this year, according to various resources on the German side. Unfortunately, those looking forward to seeing him live are now in mourning, as his passing was way too soon. We have lost way too many greats so far this year, including many over here in Germany, plus many musicians, like Glen Frey, David Bowie and Natalie Cole. Cicero’s loss is in the eyes of many, too big to swallow. All we can do is honor him for his work in hopes that others will use him as a reference and continue on in the jazz music scene, where Cicero had left off.

And so without further ado, in Dankbarkeit…..

 

and in honor of Frank Sinatra, his inspiration……

 

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Lights Out for Hamburg Handball Team

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Hamburg SV leaves German Handball Bundesliga because of Concourse and License Revocation. Legal Action expected.

HAMBURG- There is an old saying that describes the mentality of the European sports leagues: “Money makes the world go round.” If there is no money to operate a team, the team folds. Teams go up and down the elevator model, where promotion to higher tiered leagues and demotion lower tiered leagues are not only based on the performance of the players, but also the financial health of the club. If one puts the American basketball team the Philadelphia 76ers in the equation, that team would have folded by now. The fortunate part is in case of hard times like the basketball team is going through, the league steps in to take ownership, reshape the club and look for a new owner to replace the one ousted for the inability to operate the team properly, especially in financial terms.

For the German professional handball team, Hamburger SV, the management is probably wishing that the American model was in place right now. The HSV has shut down operations this evening after receiving word on Wednesday that the team has lost its license to compete in the Premere League for the rest of the season. Furthermore, they will not be allowed to apply for the first or second tiers of the Bundesliga, thus putting them in the local league. The reason behind this was a snowball effect which has been in the making for well over a year. It started with a deficit, followed by the withdrawl of the main sponsor Andreas Rudolph, who had promised to invest 2.5 million Euros ($3.3 million) into the team, according to information from German public radio station NDR. The team was unable to come up with 2 million Euros at the end of the first half of the season. As a consequence, HSV filed for bankruptcy in December due to not enough liquidity to finance the remaining games of the season and the players. The German Handball Bundesliga revoked its license on Wednesday as a consequence, and the reaction was enormous. While almost all of the players have left the team, the revocation and as a result, the decision to shut down the Premere League team today will have negative repercussions on the league, as many teams hosting HSV in the second half of the season will have to recall the tickets, resulting in massive losses. Some of the teams, including Berlin, Minden and even Flensburg are considering legal actions against the now defunct team, demanding compensation for damages.

Hamburg’s demise is not the first in German or even American sports. Its exit from the top league is the first in handball since 1990. Yet its fall from grace is the first in German sports since the soccer teams of Kickers Offenbach and Dynamo Dresden. Offenbach was delegated to the regional league from the 3rd tier of the Bundesliga after the 2013/14 season for insufficient funding to continue in the upcoming season. Yet the last fall from the top came in 1995, when the German Soccer Federation denied the request of Dynamo Dresden to play in the 1st and 2nd league, thus forcing the eastern Saxony team to play in the regional league. That team is currently in first place in the 3rd League and is knocking on the door to its return to the 2nd League for the first time since 2014. On the American front, most of the teams folding due to financial issues came in the women’s basketball league, WNBA. The last casualty was the Sacramento Monarchs in California, where despite winning the WNBA championship in 2005, the team disbanded in 2009.

However, like this team as well as the Cleveland Browns in American football (which went on hiatus from 1996-99), handball in Hamburg will eventually return to national stage. While the Premere League team, which won the Bundesliga championship in 2011 and the Champions League in 2013, is officially disbanded, despite its current 4th place finish, HSV’s junior team is making its way to the third tier in the handball food chain with its lead in the state league standings. Because the HSV sports organization will not be affected by the sudden destruction of the Premere League handball  team, the junior team will have a chance to fill in the footsteps of the fallen dinosaur. If successful and if management can build a fan base and good sponsorship from companies in the free city, chances are that handball will return to national stage before 2020. It is highly unlikely that despite the potential legal actions, HSV will disappear and not return, like it happened to Saxony Leipzig in 2012. It would be too cruel to the city of nearly 2 million that has a popular Bundesliga soccer team. It will just be a few years before handball returns to national stage, and with that, a bigger fan base that will stay loyal until the very end. Just ask the fans of the Cleveland Browns, let alone the people in Sacramento, who are working to bring back the Monarchs to women’s basketball. 🙂

 

For more on the latest with HSV, please follow NDR whose link is here.

 

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The House of One in Berlin: Three Religions, One Dialog

Site of the construction of the House of One. Photo taken by Molgreen and available through WikiCommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20150917_xl_P1030026_Berlin-Mitte_Petriplatz_an_der_Gertraudenstrasse_The_House_of_One.JPG

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BERLIN-  In light of the plight of the refugees and the terrorist attacks that occurred in Beiruit, Paris and the latest in San Bernardino, California, our short term reaction would be to follow Donald Trump’s unrealistic advice by banning the Muslims and do what Adolf Hitler did during the days of the Third Reich- which is get rid of them. Both ideas have been shot down by the majority of the public as absurd, barbaric, even cowardly. Even historian Dee Brown would tout the comments “We are still here,” in reference to the Native Americans keeping their culture despite years of repression on the reservation and failed attempts to integrate into American society.

In Germany, a new concept is being built on the ruins of history that will change that. As a sign that Germany is the posterboy for multiculture and acceptance of people from different countries, three religious leaders: a pastor, a rabbi and an imam are creating a religious institution where people of all three religions can come to worship.  The House in One brings Christians, Jews and Muslims together for one dialog and one convention with God, bringing different traditions and friends interested together. It will house a church, synagogue and moschee in one building located on the ruins of five churches, the last one being the St. Peter’s Church, which sustained substantial damage during World War II and was subsequentially removed in 1964 to make space for a parking lot. Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin,  Pastor Gregor Hohberg  and Imam Kadir Sanchi developed the concept in 2011, with the goal of expanding the concept on a global level in the future. A brief explanation can be found in the video at the end of the article. Berlin was chosen because of not only its cosmopolitan setting, but it was a place where all three religions once thrived but were suppressed by dictatorship over the course of two centuries, including the Jews during the Third Reich and Christians during the era of Erich Honecker. With a starting sum of 10 million Euros, construction of the new building began, with a donation program being launched in 2014. As of right now, over 1 million Euros of the 43.5 million Euros needed has been collected, including a lion’s sum by the German Government.

With dialog and peace being the only remedies to stop the conflicts that have been ocurring and end the attempts of fulfilling certain prophecies, could a person imagine having a place of worship for Christians, Muslims and Jews, maybe even adding other religions, like Buddhism, Taoists, or even some Native American religions? For people like Donald Trump, it is unimaginable, however their hate comes from the lack of information about religions and the real situation in society today. Inspite of the protests against taking on refugees, even in the United States (which could house 10 times as many refugees as Germany has been doing), perhaps a house of worship for many religions can serve as a place of peace and dialog. For the House of One in Berlin, the first of its kind in the world once it is open in 2016, the three founders are creating the platform for others to follow, and perhaps a remedy for all the religious conflicts going on today. If you are interested in donating for the House of One, click here for more details and watch the video for more information. Together, we can make it happen. 🙂

God Bless, no matter what religion you come from.

 

The ruins of St. Peter’s Church at Petriplatz in Berlin. Photo taken in 1951, courtesy of the German Federal Archives

 

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Genre of the Week: Christmas from Heaven

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This genre of the week, which ties in nicely with the holiday season, starts off with a quote the main character got from his father. It stated “From little things come big things.”  The person who learned this was not the author Tom Brokaw, who wrote this book and added to his storied biography spanning over 50 years as a writer and journalist. Nor did it come from Robert T. Barrett, who illustrated this book from cover to cover and in a realist manner which takes the reader back to a bygone era.

The quote came from the main character, Gail Halvorsen, known to many as Uncle Wiggly Wings.

For many who do not know who this person is, Halvorsen pioneered efforts to provide supplies to war-torn areas-  by air!  The story takes place in Berlin in 1948, the time when the city and the rest of Germany was divided into four zones, occupied by the US, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Josef Stalin worked to choke off West Berlin, which was occupied by the Allies. In return, airlifts were undertaken by the allies, plus Australia, New Zealand and Canada to name a few, providing Westberliners with the necessary supplies needed to survive, including food, coal, fuel and clothing. This was done by flying into Templehof Airport from the military bases stationed in West Germany.

One of the pilots who took part was Halvorsen, who was flying a C-54 cargo plane and was filming scenes in Germany, when he met several children, underdressed and with little to eat. After conversing with them, who asked him questions about the cargo planes and how the supplies were being flown in, he sympathized with the kids and offered them two pieces of gum to be divided up into pieces to be shared among the group. He then came up with the idea of airdropping candy from the plane. The children were extactic and asked him how they would recognize his plane. His response: he would wiggle his wings.

And the rest was history. From the airdropping of candy bars, gum and other sweets (in individual parachuttes) contributed by his friends, later other members of the armed forces and companies, the mission became known as Operation Vittles, as declared by his superior, Lt. Gen. William Tunner.  And with that came the model that the US has been using to help the people affected by the war, as troops have airdropped not only candies and gum, but also books, stuffed animals, and anything that is not too heavy that can land with a parachutte.

And with Operation Vittles came reconciliation between Germany and the US, marking the beginning of a continuous close bond between the US and Germany that still exists to this day. Halvorsen still has ties to the country today, despite having long since retired from the Air Force, and has won several awards from both sides of the great pond for his work, including the German Order of Merit and the Eric Warburg Award.

The book itself provides in depth details of Halvorsen’s accounts of his mission from several aspects, including his motives and how he became who he was, including his upbringing as a Mormon. But going beyond his past, one can find many themes in the story that are worth discussing in the classroom, aside from the historical part. This includes the willingness to reconcile for the actions done to one another, to start over from scratch and develop the trust that went up in smoke because of the bombings. As the setting of the story is around Christmas time in 1948, another theme worth looking at is perpetual hope. With every crisis or war, there is hope for a new beginning  and peace between people and among groups. Sometimes one’s actions can change the perspective of the recipient in an instant, which is something that is addressed in the book. Even the smallest action can have a huge impact, even if it is not felt right away.  It is seen even in the illustrations in the book, where the setting starts as dark, with Halvorsen sitting in the cockpit of the plane, then it flashes back to his first encounter with the children at Templehof  and the gum, before returning to the scene where he drops off another shipment of candy and food to the children with dawn breaking on Berlin.

How he made the parachuttes, one can see in the instructions in addition to the Tabernacle Choir CD provided in the book.

Christmas from Heaven is one story that goes beyond being a Christmas bedtime story. It can be used as a history lesson with a moral of doing small which becomes a big thing in the end. Halvorsen’s two sticks of gum, combined with his plan of airdropping candy to the children became the platform for further missions done by air for the benefit of those in need. Sometimes a donation of a few dollars or Euros for a worthy cause will help a big deal in the end. And sometimes even donating blood and organs can save more lives than a person can ever think.  A small good deed can erase a bad one, but also produce vast effects that will reap rewards in the end.  Think about it at the dinner table this Christmas and ask yourself what you can do for the people. There is more than enough to do going around.

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