It’s been the weirdest couple of weeks in Europe that I can remember in quite a while. The odd natural phenomenon that grabbed everyone’s attention is a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland. It blanketed Europe and shut down all aviation traffic over the continent for an unprecedented six days (twice as long as the shutdown of American air space after “9/11″). Toward the end of the week, planes were mostly back in the air, and airline officials in London, Paris, and Frankfurt were scrambling...
It’s the dead of winter in Berlin. Or at least it was all the way into mid-February. Temperatures steadily in the minus-4 to minus-14 degree range ever since Christmas. Coldest winter in recent memory. Plenty of snow, icy sidewalks, frozen mud and slush, the very weather that the Winter Olympic Games organizers in Vancouver are presumably longing for, instead of the Gothic fog, rain, and premature spring that they’ve got. Here, public discourse has been reduced to earnest debates about the relation...
The poet Robin Blaser died of a brain tumour on May 7, 2009, in Vancouver, at age 83.
One of the first poems of Blaser’s to which I paid attention, published in editor Don Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry, 1945-60 (1960), was an untitled sonnet-like work that begins, “And when I pay death’s duty / a few men will come to mind.”
I was fascinated by the triple-pun-like meaning of the second line. In Blaser’s imagining of his own death, written at age 30 or so, in...
Berlin — Springtime Berlin has been plastered with election posters for the last month. But what a strange electoral contest: religion versus ethics!
Under balmy skies, and amid blossoming chestnut trees and lilac bushes, the German capital has been embroiled in a bitter debate about education, theology, and civic values that was only settled in a citywide referendum Sunday, April 26.
It was strange to see every lamppost along every major thoroughfare festooned with competing signs urging such abstruse...
Polaroids: Attila Richard Lukacs and Michael Morris (exhibition at the Art Gallery of Alberta; Edmonton, Alberta, until May 18, 2009).
The first piece of “visual art” I saw, or perhaps the first that I actually looked at, upon arriving in Berlin, Germany in spring 1990 — at the apartment of Canadian artist Michael Morris — was a set of 20 Polaroid photos, placed in a single frame, of a nude young male, perhaps 19 or 20 years old, taken by Attila Richard Lukacs, a then 27-year-old...
Reviewing a two-volume, 900-page-long history of analytic philosophy a couple of years ago in the London Review of Books (Jan. 20, 2005), Richard Rorty begins his reflections on the prodigious tome at hand with an anecdote about a conversation he had with a fellow philosopher. Here’s the opening of his review:
“‘I had hoped my department would hire somebody in the history of philosophy,’ my friend lamented, ‘but my colleagues decided that we needed somebody who was contributing...
One evening shortly before I went to Rostock for the G-8 demo on
Saturday, June 2, I had a friendly argument over dinner about political
protestors and violence. That week there had been a protest
demonstration in the northern German port city of Hamburg where Asian
and European foreign ministers were meeting, and the story about it in Der Spiegel,
Germany’s major newsweekly, was headed “Violence in Hamburg Streets.”
The story’s provocative “take out”...
Okay, I didn’t expect that there would be a blast of celestial trumpets when parliament a couple of weeks ago decisively voted 175-123 against re-visiting and challenging Canada’s 2005 law that legalised same-sex marriage. Nor was I anticipating that the parliamentary gallery would rise as one and belt out a chorus of “Hark, the herald angels sing.” So I wasn’t disappointed by the absence of triumphal horns or hearty chorals.
What I expected was pretty much what happened: a 48-hour minor political...
in memory of Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006
The guy from the city said that we had to trim the hedge.
The hedge he was referring to is a succession of large laurel bushes that border the whole length of the eastern side of the Kitsilano property on which the house where I lived in Vancouver, at 2504 York, is sited. It’s a corner two-storey house running about a half block up the hill along Larch to the lane, between York and 1st, part of the long initial...
VANCOUVER — When I’m in Berlin, I frequently post a “Letter from Berlin” to explain some of the ins and outs of German and European politics to my compatriots in North America. (I’m one of those people who “divides” his time between two cities — in my case, Vancouver and Berlin.) Given the oddities of the January 23, 2006 Canadian federal election, it might be a good idea to return the favour and post a “Letter to Berlin” in an attempt to explain some of the idiosyncracies of Canadian...