The Saudis, their Flag and the Brothel.

Another headline that should prove to be google effective. Too bad the manager of, according to Spiegel Online, Europe’s largest brothel, Cologne’s “Pascha”, did not have to deal with google bots when he decided to apply the world cup’s motto “welcome to friends” rather literally and try to attract some football fans in need to discharge some tension by putting a giant poster featuring a scantily clad lady and the flags of all participating nations on one of the brothel’s walls. Unfortunately, the advertisement did not have the intended effect – but it did attract men from Cologne’s Muslim community who, enraged by the display of the Saudi Arabian and Iranian flag next to the depicted lady’s bottom, claimed that the poster amounted to an insult of the prophet Muhammad. Spiegel Online quotes the manager, Armin Lobscheid –

“On Saturday night there were 20 masked men armed with knives and sticks. They threatened to get violent and even bomb the place unless we black out the Iranian and Saudia Arabian flags on the poster…

The men had left before the police arrived. But to spare his establishment any more trouble, Lobscheid ordered a crane to black out the two flags…”

Now, it doesn’t really take an Islamic scholar to see that the depiction of a national flag next to a bottom can hardly be an insult of Muhammad. But could the relatively understanding way the European public treated the recent Muhammad cartoon row turn out to have had an incentivizing effect for this kind of behaviour? Coupled with more violent threats like the ones described above, could mentioning the possibility of having insulted the prophet Muhammad suddenly become sufficient to scare peopleinto compliance?

If that should indeed turn out to be the case, we should all call Lobscheid and ask for a sticker version of his poster.


Online Dating according to Der Spiegel

This week Der Spiegel’s cover story is about online dating and the business that it has become. Unfortunately, the authors of the thirteen pages long story seem as confused about the phenomenon as Bridget Jones at the edge of reason. Alas, their writing is far less charming, even despite the fact that, statistically, almost half of the people who participated in writing the article are living in single households (according to their own data, 49% percent of households in cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants are now single households).

If you’re interested in a brief summary of what the article tried to elucidate, here’s an excerpt from an email I once sent to Regina Lynn, Wired’s “Sex Drive” columnist (and author of the on-topic book “The Sexual Revolution 2.0: Getting Connected, Upgrading Your Sex Life, and Finding True Love – or at Least a Dinner Date – in the Internet Age“), as a reply to one of her columns about the social consequences of the fact that, increasingly, what was once considered “virtual” is becoming the real thing. It’s not exactly the question dealt with by Der Spiegel, but then again, I’m not sure they had a particularly clear idea of the question they were trying to answer, so this is, I believe, a reasonable summary…

“I believe no one really knows what’s happening to the future of interpersonal relations. Our lives and contacts are more and more mediated by technology, and, as with many businesses today, the changing technology fundamentally changes the transaction costs for the coordination of human conduct.

This is, in my opinion, essentially, what all the writing about the choice dilemma and all other “modern” dating literature comes down to. As with businesses, transaction costs will not disappear in the digitally mediated world. No one even really knows if “unit costs” will eventually be signifcantly lower.

And thus, in absence of any real evidence, the “majority opinion” about the social effects of technology oscillates between “hope” (eg online dating will help reduce unit search costs for dating) and “despair” (eg online dating increases our choice dilemma and thus increases unit search costs).

In my opinion, most researchers are at least as confused as the societies they study. Maybe we will choose to develop some kind of Matrix. But remember the end of “Demolition Man”, in which Silvester Stallone introduces Sandra Bullock to the advantages physical contact has over cyber sex. No one knows what the future will bring. Which, on the other hand, ensures a market for all those, like you, who eruditely write about these issues so close to our hearts.

oddly enough, photoblogging

No more dark corners.

See, I love living in a liberal country. And, personally, I believe that prostitution between consenting adults is a transaction increasing welfare, possibly considerably, so there’s no reason for state interference whatsoever. And, thanks to the Schröder government and a realistic court verdict deciding that prostitution was not ‘sittenwidrig’ (against the ‘ordre public’) anymore, Germany now has one of the world’s most progressive, and, in the long run hopefully most useful, laws regulating the oldest trade of the world.

Still, I’m too sure what to think about the fact that brothels and other establishments in the horizontal business are now extensively using their rights to advertise their services in public. There’s a chance it’ll help the public to deal with this facet of their life. But for the moment I feel it’s a little strange (not least because the advertised brothel is situated at least 2 hours from where the cab stood…).

web 2.0

Germany Blogs (a little)

Wie ich blogge?!True, the relatively small size of the German blogosphere, just as the relatively large size of the French one, has always been an interesting phenomenon leading to all kinds of cultural hypotheses and repetitions of all too common stereotypes. But, believe it or not – Germany Blogs!

At least that’s the hypothesis – and in order to find out more about the endangered species “German blogger”, Jan Schmidt at the University of Bamberg is conducting a survey called “Weblogs 2005 – Bloggen im deutschsprachigen Raum”.

So, whether you’ve started yesterday or in 1999, or, like me, in 2002 – fill out the survey to demonstrate clearly that the claim is actually true : Germany blogs!

almost a diary

Me? Germany? A little, maybe.


(26/1/2007) As of March 2006 has been integrated into almost a diary. The archive is available as a category – just click on Du bist Deutschland in the tag cloud.

Just to let you know, my gentle readers, I have blogged in German for the first time today. Following an intriguing conversation with Lyssa, the current winner of the afoe Satin Pajama for “best German blog” at the Frankfurt International motor show last Saturday, I felt I should at least try once something that comes natural for most bloggers: blogging in their native language.

So should you be able and willing, you can read my ‘coverage’ of the initial reaction to Germany’s biggest social marketing campaign “Du bist Deutschland” (“You are Germany”), which was launched today, over at my new German blog Ich bin (auch) Deutschland.

oddly enough, photoblogging

Red Light Cab.

Red Light Cab.It’s probably hard to see, but this cab is featuring an advertisement for a brothel – Germany’s biggest, if I heard correctly. Never seen that before.. and it’s located in Cologne, easily a two-hour drive away. That would be an obscene cab ride in so many ways…

Clicking the image will take you to my flickr account. The picture was taken with a SE t610.


I’m Embarrassed.

I have to apologize. I do. Really. There were times when I made fun of other countries where only 13% of people knew where to find a recently invaded country on a map. Right here on this blog. And there were times when I was startled that a good part of the usually WW2 obsessed Brits had no idea who Hitler was (that was on afoe).

But then I found the results of a survey concerning the historical knowledge of Germans of voting age, conducted in March 2005 by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, a rather reliable pollster, for ZDF television (in German). Apparently, the sample of 1087 people is statistically representative, although I do hope they are wrong – I really do. Of course I know that most people are not able to remember at least one of the topics mentioned in news broadcasts even half an hour after they watched it. But this

clearly exceeds my capability of comprehension. Apparently, despite all the education in this respect, only 51% of all people 18-24 know what the Holocaust was. I think this is a stunning figure, far more impressive and shocking than all the statistics that have been produced by the OECD’s PISA study.

It is a single figure that illustrates to which extent current public education in Germany is clearly missing a fundamental objective – explaining the larger social context of the society in which the kids grow up. It also indicates that families don’t seem to talk about history and social context either – which probably means they don’t talk at all -, despite all the “history” on tv (incidentally, the name of the programme for which the survey was produced…).

But there’s another number that’s equally scary: according to the survey, only 96% of people with a university degree seem know about the Holocaust… I can only hope these people lied about their educational achievements.

For the first time I do a little bit understand the concern of Jewish leaders about the possibility of rising anti-semitism. And tonight, I’m a little embarrassed to say ich bin auch Deutschland.


Good News For Klinsmann…

Via Slashdot:

“As reported over on Sportsdot, the 2005 RoboCup US Open wrapped up today in Atlanta, Georgia. The American entry from the University of Texas fell 2-0 in robot soccer to the powerhouse German squad, the MicroSoft HellHounds. After the match, the German robot dogs were programmed to flex their metal biceps. With the time to devote to development and the financial backing of a company like Microsoft, the German entries are much more polished then their American counterparts at the moment. Last month at the RoboCup German Open, the Germans dominated nearly every category.”



A friend of today accidentally explained some of Germany’s ills: We’re still the country of thinkers and writers…

Other people have a little angel and a little devil fighting over their conscience. I have two intellectuals…

In other news – congratulations to Jürgen Klopp and his boys. Mainz05 managed to stay in the Bundesliga after a historic first season! Way to go!

Speaking of football, I will soon release a short film about the meaning of “Spielvergnungen” for our life right here on this blog.