Monthly Archives: May 2014

A living hell beneath the streets of Bucharest

Deep under the streets of Bucharest – in Europe, in the 21st century – there is a network of tunnels and sewers that is home to hundreds of men, women and children stricken by drug abuse HIV and TB.

On the surface, the newest member of the European club has worked hard to redefine itself. But there’s another Romania, underground.
When Ceausescu fell there were tens of thousands of children in orphanages and in state “care” in Romania. But in 1990 a series of reports revealed what a nightmarish misnomer that was. Scenes of neglect and cruelty reminiscent of the concentration camps.

So what happened to those children?
We’ve been told that some moved into the tunnels underneath Bucharest. Drug addiction is rife, some have had children of their own.

The entrance to this underworld is a hole in the pavement on a traffic island in front of the station. By late afternoon they start to wake up, clambering up out of the ground like the undead.

Among them is a little boy, Nicu, who looks about 12. We find out later that “little” Nicu is in fact 17 but his development has been stunted by the drug abuse. He agrees to send word down that we would like to meet the boss.
This underworld, we’re told, has an overlord and you only get to go down by invitation. A couple of hours later and word comes back up: he will see us now.

On our hands and knees we pothole down into the darkness and a parallel universe. It’s the heat that hits you first. These old tunnels were part of Ceausescu’s grand design to centrally heat the city.

Then there’s the smell: a metallic paint called Aurolac (or Bronze), snorted by the addicts from small black bags. Next up the music.
The whole place is wired with electricity, there’s a stereo system pumping out dance music. If they had a club night in hell it would feel like this.
19_brucelee1_w_LRG
We’re in the first chamber: they call it The Office. You try not to gawp. Out of the corner of your eye, a woman with a syringe between her legs; a little boy stares at you with the Aurolac bag at his mouth, pumping slowly, like a black heart.

Everyone here is HIV positive, a quarter have TB. They’re all on their way to “the counter“.
The man behind the counter is called “Bruce Lee” (pictured above) after his street fighting days. He points to a tattoo on his inner thigh, it reads: “Bruce Lee, King of the Sewers“.

He will be our guide down Bucharest’s surreal, tragic rabbit hole.
19_brucelee2_w_LRG

Source.

La pescuit, în familie

125556Nu ştiu câţi dintre voi aţi prins vreodată vreun peşte. În ce mă priveşte, cea mai mare captură pescăreasca este şi singura mea ispravă de acest gen. Am fost împreună cu părinţii într-o staţiune de odihnă montană şi am intrat într-o păstrăvărie. Trebuia să plăteşti la intrare o mică sumă de bani şi ţi se elibera un bon, pe baza căruia aveai dreptul să dai la peşte şi să prinzi un păstrăv. Uite aşa am fost noi la pescuit, în familie şi ne-am ales cu trei păstrăvi, care au fost curăţaţi şi fripţi pe jeratic.

Eram copil, nu cred că aveam mai mult de 12 ani când am fost cu ai mei la păstrăvărie. Erau mulţi oameni de jur împrejurul bazinului cu peşti şi cu toţii dădeau la peşte. Tata ne-a spus că dis-de-dimineaţă, înainte de a se deschide porţile păstrăvăriei, îngrijitorii hrănesc bine peştii, aşa încât, în momentul în care aceştia vedeau momeli în jurul lor, nu reacţionau, mai ales păstrăvii mari. Singurii peşti interesaţi de hrana cu care îi momeam erau numai cei mici, care nu apucaseră să mănânce până atunci din pricina celor mai mari.

În aceste condiţii, nu-i de mirare că n-am pescuit decât o biată fâţă leşinată de foame. Părinţii mei au prins nişte păstrăvi mai răsăriţi aşa că au avut ce frige. Eu mă simţeam vinovat pentru captura mea sărăcăcioasă, iar tata mi-a explicat că el nu lăsa peştii mici să se apropie de momeala lui, aşa cum făcusem eu. Mde, o tactică la care nu mă gândisem şi mă mulţumisem cu o captură neînsemnată.

Ei bine, aceasta a fost prima mea încercare de descoperi pescarul din mine. Ancestralul a rămas mut, n-a dat din mine un mare pescar care speram că zace adormit. Totuşi, i-am mai dat o şansă să se trezească şi să-şi arate măiestria, câţiva ani mai târziu, pe malul unui râu, împreună cu mai mulţi prieteni. Aiurea! Nu s-a trezit nimic din mine, ancestralul a rămas tăcut şi m-am gândit că într-o altă viaţă am cultivat cereale şi am cules fructe. Nicidecum nu m-am apropiat de apă.

Mai mult, mi s-a părut o plictiseală îngrozitoare să stau pe marginea apei, într-o linişte mormântală, pentru ca peştii să binevoiască să înşface momelile care li se aruncă. E mai simplu să cumperi câţiva peşti mari chiar de la pescarii profesionişti şi să-i duci acasă, având cu ce te lăuda. Încă sunt vii şi poţi spune că ai un talent înnăscut pentru pescuit. Oriune te-ai aşeza cu biata ta undiţă, peştii dau năvală, se luptă care să se prindă mai repede în cârlig.

De fapt, undiţa e mai mult de decor. E de ajuns să arunci acul cu momeală prins într-un fir ţinut cu mâna şi să scoţi imediat peştele din apă. Ehe, vise! Adevărul e că îţi trebuie scule profesioniste, ca să prinzi peşti cu care să te poţi mândri. Și cel mai bun magazin pescuit online este Bibanu, din care să-şi alegi sculele pe care ţi le doreşti: vergi, lansete, mulinete, fire, cârlige, plute, năluci, nade, momeli, plumbi etc. Ba găseşti şi îmbrăcăminte şi încălţări adecvate, mincioguri şi juvelnice, ambarcaţii, sonare şi câte şi mai câte.

Roombots: robotic blocks that transform into furniture

roombotsAfter i told you about the year 2020 when I believe it will be a technology breakthrough.
Imagine if you can just snap your fingers or issue a verbal command for a table, a chair or any other furniture to assemble right in front of you. That’s what a team of researchers from the Swiss Biorobotics Laboratory (BioRob) at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) hopes to achieve by developing Lego-like robotic blocks called Roombots that can stick to each other and form different structures. Each Roombot is made up of two blocks with wireless connection and a battery that powers motors, which the robot uses to rotate into place. These blocks also have retractable claws so anything you conjure up can climb walls and ceilings or stay attached to floors. The researchers believe that Roombots could be very useful to the elderly and people with disabilities, as they could eventually tell the machines to move closer to them or move out of the way.

For now, though, the team still needs to figure out how users can control the robots — while voice or gesture command would be ideal, the team’s looking at using software made for tablets at the moment. They still also need to smooth out the robots’ movements, tweak their algorithm and make sure they work together better first before your can fill your homes with reconfigurable furniture.

Source

About Hannover – third part

Second part
Yes, the official story, for both sides, even for many of the Jews themselves, was that Kristallnacht was initiated as a retaliation to the action of a Polish Jew originally from Hanover, Herschel Grynszpan, who had shot a German embassy official in Paris, (himself, allegedly, maybe ironically, at the time, under investigation by the Gestapo for “aiding Jews“.) Hanover’s infrastructure had been bombed to almost total destruction by the Allies. Who the hell were they expecting to clean and reconstruct it? The former prisoners from Bergen-Belsen, (the very ones who were showed emaciated, starving, dying, in the news after the libration of that camp)? Maybe import some re-imported Polish Jews again? Maybe some non-Jewish Poles would have been a better idea? Let them work to reconstruct Hanover, since Poles are “known” to be hard workers.

But everyone had to wait for that until the Iron Curtain fell, so pretty much this is maybe why the architectural soul of today’s Hanover is actually boring, (with the exception of a reconstructed originally creative type of bridge design named Lavesbrucke, imagined by neoclassical architect and construction engineer Georg Ludwig Friedrich Laves in the first part of the 19th century, who also designed a rather pretty and probably sunny giant Barbie dollhouse type home for himself.) This is also maybe, with a higher degree of speculation involved, why today Hanover has absolutely no good German restaurants, just a mixture of various pseudo-exotic postmodern locales from some younger entrepreneurs from Greece, Italy, Africa, and an occasional French one. German cuisine has lost its soul once it chased almost all of its traditional Jewish mothers and grandmothers away. They were the ones who had been feeding for several generations the starving Saxons who had remained in the center of Europe, maybe also several of the other Germanic tribes, maybe not all, of course, and sometimes maybe even against a degree of reluctance or ambivalence from the part of some of the more highly educated own daughters and sons who wished most of all, as many studious youngsters seem to do, to assimilate. (I am not speaking from a strictly Jewish experience here, but from the experience of a rather reluctant, better said, risk adverse, occasional and almost accidental pastoral wanderer, with absolutely no special expertise about food or even pastoral literature.)

Among the famous and important people with lives and destinies intertwined with Hanover’s are 2 philosophers, (although one of them wished to identify herself as otherwise, considering maybe at her historical time of her life that the business of philosophy may be a rather egotistical, also maybe singularly subjective and not always lucid one), the first, (chronologically), being Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, (the local University of Hanover deciding to name itself after him relatvely recently, in 2006, probably having reassured itself that by this time the fans of Monsieur de Voltaire would not be making fun of them for doing so after all, since it had managed to develop into a more complex educational institution since it had been first founded as a vocational technical high school in 1831), the second thinker being Johanna “Hannah” Arendt, (who is known to have been written the books named The Origins of Totalitarism, The Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem: a Report on the Banality of Evil, and also a collection of biographical essays about interesting people such as philosopher Karl Jaspers, Pope John XXIII, and renowned author Isaak Dinesen/Karen Blixen, in a volume named Men in Dark Times, and who preferred to call herself a political theorist rather than a philosopher). Also known as being originally from Hanover are 2 astronomers, brother and sister, Frederick William Herschel, who apparently discovered the planet Uranus and its two major moons, Titania and Oberon, plus to other moons of the already known planet Saturn, and Caroline Lucretia Herschel, who discovered several comets, one of which, a periodical comet which orbits the Sun in 155 years, is named after her, comet 35P/Herschel- Rigollet, (Rigollet being the one who had the chance to see it from France in 1939). More recent famous people include the winner of the 2010 Eurovision contest, artist Lena, who sang the song Satellite, the musical group Scorpions, and politician Gerhard Fritz Kurt Schroder, (who would have been about 21 years old when the band Scorpions came into existence, whose father, a senior lance corporal in the Wermacht, had been killed in combat during the latter stages of WW2 on the territory of Romania, near Cluj, a few months after the birth of his son, son who would be later decorated with the Grand Cross category of the Romanian Star Order around the time he was still Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.)

Here is a video presentation of today’s touristic Hanover highlights:

About Hannover – the second part

First part
I kid u not, pretty much all the ethnic and cultural social groups of Europe, including even the Scots and the Welsh, were making fun of the Saxons and their seaxes at the time of Charlemagne, only much later, actually at the very time Lord Lumley was reviewing the plans for the Hanover Square development in London, did Friederich Handel manage to improve a tad their image in the eyes of the always pretentious European intellectual crowd with the help of a rather risque operatic concert presented at the International Carnival of Venice in 1709 !) That Hanover region also contained a town, with the same name as the greater region, established there in the middle of the 17th century.

During the 18th century Hanover was joined in an official “personal union” with the United Kingdom. Hanover’s ruler was the same person as the King of the United Kingdom. Even while still engaged in that personal union, in 1803 the territory of Hanover was practically occupied, even annexed by the French, advancing East under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. After the abdication of Napoleon and hist first exile to Elba, Hanover became independent in 1814 and even became a real kingdom, the Kingdom of Hanover, between 1814 and 1866, initially still in a personal union with the UK. That personal union ended with the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837, because of the Salic Law that governed many of the monarchies in Europe, which did not permit females to become monarchs in those various lands which kept appearing and disappearing over time across this continent, so between 1837 and 1866 the king of the Kingdom of Hanover was an uncle of Queen Victoria, Ernest Augustus. He was not well liked by the new class of Hannoverian intellectuals because he wanted to change the Constitution, which he considered too liberal, and even dismissed the brothers Grimm, along 5 other professors, (Dahlmann, a historian and politician, Gervinus, a political and literary historian who wrote the first comprehensive textbook about the history of German literature, Albrecht, a constitutional jurist, Ewald, a theologian and orientalist, and Weber, a physicist scientist, who alongside world famous mathematician Gauss invented one of the the first ergonomically functional electromagnetic telegraphs), all known as the Gottingen Seven, from their professorial positions at the University of Gottingen, because they protested publicly against his political-administrative leadership style. So pretty much most Hannoverians were probably ready at the time to divorce the UK and be annexed by Prussia, (although they initially officially declared war against her, but that was because they were probably in love with her anyway.) Apparently, after WW2, in 1946, the British tried to reinstate a German province named the Land of Hanover, within the same theoretical borders of the earlier Kingdom of Hanover, but the Hannoverians preferred instead to merge with 3 other regions or former small states, (Oldenburg, Brunswick, and Schaumburg-Lippe), into a larger state known as Lower Saxony, while declaring Hanover as the capital of that new state.

From a small fisherman and ferrymen along the river Leine during earlier Medieval times, later more rapidly expanded as a town during the times of the Hanseatic League due to its situation at a relatively busy crossroads for commercial travel over land and water, today’s Hanover is a real city with 1/2 million people (and a little over 1 million counted altogether in the larger metropolitan area). It has sadly lost, maybe forever, its entire Jewish population because not one single rabbi was willing to remain there after 1951, even if some of the survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp tried to resettle in Hanover and retain a rabbi among them, but he left, and no other was ever willing to replace him. Most of the remaining people left to America. Very few of them had originally been from Hanover anyway, because most of those had been deported to Poland, and obviously couldn’t come back. Plus they had been blamed to have started WW2, or anyway Kristallnacht.

Third part

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