Pressure or stress, in most humans, contributes to higher blood pressure. Sources for pressure are manifold and that is the basic problem. As it is hard to identify the major sources of high blood pressure, we often use a summary term “life style” in order to avoid shaming particular substances, (tabaco, red meat, alcohol to name just a few). Among life style elements is the daily rush to work and back home or bringing children to school and home again. Work itself is a major contributor as well. Leisure activities are not free of pressure in order to perform at a person’s best. As in many health topics, the balance does the trick. This is common knowledge beyond the Asian world as in their health philosophy of Yin and Yang. The Western world is proud to have the best and highest availability of medical treatment and hospitals for their populations, accepting some inequality in access nevertheless. For countries with less means for curative practices they have no choice and have to focus on preventive strategies (Lancet Study Link). Rural China, therefore, is a good case to study access and willingness to apply western medical type treatment of high blood pressure is too expensive and just not available in sufficient numbers. The good news is, with a preventive programme based on nurses rather than medical doctors the prevention of high blood pressure works reasonably well. Community health workers are therefore a cost-effective alternative in reducing blood pressure. Sitting is the new smoking, and driving around in a car rather than walking or cycling are health risks, even if the car or the chair is a very nice one.
Im Bundesarchiv in Berlin sind einige Fotos zu einer Variante der Vermessung von Menschen ausgestellt. Nicht nur in den Kolonialregionen wurden Menschen zu rassenideologischen Studien vermessen. Die Kurzbeschreibung dazu und die 2 Bilder reichen, um diese scheinbar wissenschaftliche Praxis zu dokumentieren. Zurecht wird auf den Skandal mit der weiteren Verwendung dieser Daten bis 1981 hingewiesen. Es gab Kontinuitäten von Wissenschaft die heute noch erschrecken lassen. Kritischer Umgang mit jeglicher Art von Daten gehört zu dem Curriculum guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis. Diese darf nicht vor ethischen Fragen Halt machen, auch wenn das die weitere Verwendung der Information blockiert. Der Kinofilm “Der vermessene Mensch” hat dafür erneut sensibilisiert. Ethnologen und Ärzte wurden vielfach in den Dienst von Ideologien gestellt oder haben sie willentlich vorangetrieben, oftmals aus persönlichen Beweggründen. Skandale in und um Archive gehören zur Weltgeschichte, wie die geschichtliche Erkenntnis selbst. Mediale Verbreitung und Bestätigung von Klischees werden schon lange verurteilt, aber mit wenig Erfolg, wie der Deutschlandfunk Kultur selbst berichtet (Link Sendung Fazit). Die Kitas und Schulen haben ihre Hausaufgaben ebenfalls schlecht gemacht (Link). Wo ein Wille ist, ist meistens auch ein Weg, aber wenn der Wille fehlt aufgrund von Stereotypen wird sich wenig ändern.
The advantage of the goal-setting at the U.N. is definately that the progress or regress can be monitored. To do this, a definition for each goal in words is presented, which has to be translated in all languages. Some notions are subject to conceptual issues. Poverty, for example, in an individualistic society needs to be defined at an individual level. In societies where women and dependent children or elderly persons are part of one household, the household is the unit of definition. After the conceptual clarification the measurement of a set of indicators needs to be identified. How do we measure poverty? Here the focus is either on absolute poverty (lump sum of money available) or relative poverty (relative to others in society). Stability of poverty, poverty as transitional or access to poverty relief programmes as well as charity organisations in a country will play a role here. No simple answers and comparisons here. Timeliness of data is another issue. Data and sampling are costly in itself, therefore not every year the measurement is repeated to gauge progress or regress.
I take account of the SDGs in my own work in the form that the 17 SDGs of the U.N. are part of my work as well. In consulting practice it is a frequent task to check for example a larger enterprise on its contribution to the implementation of SDGs locally, nationally or globally. To start a reflection phase of my blog entries I just used the “search function” of the webpage and entered the first 6 SDGs in English and German to check, whether my webpage is SDG-proof. The result shown below in simple frequencies. Education and Learning come out as top scores. Other areas show fewer entries. In some goals, like gender, the keywords to check for are more diverse and return less precise results. This opens the conceptual box again. The notions summarised under a SDG goal might be numerous or singular – which leads to a bias in results. “Bildung” in German finds also “Weiterbildung” = further or continuous education at the same time, not the English term education. Subtle differences, but potentially huge effects. Overall, an interesting exercise to analyse my/your own mind and business practice. Focused attention versus broad coverage of SDGs, each has its strength and weaknesses. Goal 17 to strengthen the means of implementation and global partnership may build just on many more organisations doing their SDG-homework. Name, Measure, Improve – that is the action. SDGs in Blog1-6
The Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) date back to 2015 for their enactment. The goal setting is a routine procedure for the UN and its subsidiary international organisations. This makes a lot of sense, because if you do not name the problems, you are unlikely to address them in a systematic fashion. Quantifying the goals is then a much more difficult task and that then already part of the ensuing discussion about idealist, illusive or realist goals. Most diplomatic exchanges focus on this goal setting and scheduled monitoring as well as more comprehensive evaluations of goal achievement. The SDGs comprise another strategic twist. Rather than concentrating on national governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses were encourages to actively participate in the implementation of the goals. After more than 7 years the achievements of intended improvements should become visible. Well, goal setting and monitoring over the last seven years is likely to reveal failure on several of the 17 indicators. Covid-19, disruption of supply chains, wars causing recessions and high inflation are major factors to explain failure. However, knowing the reasons of failure is a substantial part of improving in the next coming years. Returning to cooperation rather than confrontation could do the trick. Even after wars cooperation to organise relief is the only way forward to come closer to achieving the SDGs.
Bold initiatives like the Marshall-Plan for Europe in the 20th century made it possible to rise from the ashes. Countries that have been in ruins at that time, now have important roles as financial contributors to support other regions. The goals remain the same, the challenges as well.
Der vermessene Mensch ist im Kino angelaufen. Die deutsche Kolonialmacht im südlichen Afrika weilte nur kurz, aber überaus grausam. Das ist mit aller Härte im Film von Lars Kraume dargestellt. Zu viele explizite Gewalttaten im Film erlauben nur eine Zulassung ab 14 Jahren. Das sollte ernst genommen werden. Die Kolonialgeschichten der Imperialmächte sind alle mit abscheulichen Verstößen gegen Menschenrechte verlaufen. Da darf nichts beschönigt werden. Der Film bietet daher eine gnadenlose Abrechnung mit den Verbrechen der damaligen Zeit. Und das ist gut so.
Die Wissenschaft und viele der Wissenschaftler haben sich in den Dienst der Machthaber einspannen lassen und nicht nur die Wissenschaft, sondern auch sich selbst verraten. Karriere, gesellschaftliche Stellung und Ansehen winkten den Kollaborateuren. Da wurde viel für die späteren Greueltaten und abscheuliche Praxis der Nationalsozialisten vorgeführt. Wichtig und sehenswert, aber keine leichte Kost mit Safari -Atmosphäre. Die Vermessenheit des Menschen, als seine Selbstüberschätzung gemeint, ist nahezu ein biblisches und religiöses Thema. Das passt in die Fastenzeit und den Ramadan. Dieser ausgesprochen gute Titel bleibt mir jedoch beständig als “Der vergessene Mensch” in Erinnerung. Wir haben lange so getan, als ob wir die Verbrechen mit Vergessenheit abmildern könnten. Verdrängtes kommt jedoch meist mit größerem Bumerangeffekt zurück. Der Mensch und die Angehörigen hinter diesem Mensch, alle Opfer des Verbrechens, werden zu dem vergessenen Mensch. Auch Wissenschaftler vergessen oft den Mensch hinter ihren Theorie und Datengerüsten. Für jede Person, die das Vermessen vergessen hatte, kommt der Bumerang noch heftiger zurück.
Ever since the visit to the exhibition “Care, Repair, Heal” at the Martin Gropiusbau in Berlin the image of flying protheses rest with me. Repairing the human body is feasible in many fantastic ways. The inner wounds, however, are less visible and sometimes hurting even more. In recognition of the thousands of victims again in the Russian war on Ukraine’s territory and the atrocities causes by mines to injure humans, we have to assist in caring, repairing and healing. This has not changed since the Great War or the Nazi-induced mass murder and mutilations. Humanity is unable to ban such landmines despite international conventions trying to achieve this. The strong image produced by the protheses as clouds in the sky (Kadar Attia) remind us of the lasting effects of war. Images we had associated with the mutilated soldiers and civilians of the 2nd world war, many still around us in the 60s or 70s, are coming back to Europe. Writing about the 20th century, Aurélien Bellanger described in words a similar traumatising vision of flying protheses in his story of the lonely poet and philosopher. We cannot repair history, but we can work towards reducing useless additional suffering. It is part of the absurdities of our world that technology has created masterpieces to assist us and reduce suffering, but at the same time technology is applied to create the worst suffering as well. Rather than thinking of this relationship as 2 sides of the same coin, I prefer to hope for dialectic evolution towards a better synthesis solution using enforceable international law. Yes, I still have a dream …
The 3 authors Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, Cass R. Sunstein have published in 2021 the impressive attempt to sell statistics to non-statisticians. The grip on the topic: “Noise. A Flaw in Human Judgment” is a bit misleading. Even the German translation (“Was unsere Entscheidungen verzerrt”), in my opinion, is grossly misleading. The work deals with judgment, or arriving at a sensible judgment. Decision-making is only the next step with a lot of other intervening processes. The German philosophical term since the enlightenment period has been “Urteilskraft“. We are all more or less familiar with the notion “bias” in judgment. Me, originating from the Moselle, will always be biased in favor of a Riesling compared to other vines. In addition to this naive bias I may apply a more professional judgment on wine. Testing several wines even from the same small area from the Moselle valley and then repeating the tasting I might make a noisy judgment. “When wine experts at a major US wine competition tasted the same wines twice, they scored only 18% of the wines identically (usually, the very worst ones).” (p. 80). In addition to the previously defined form of “level noise, pattern noise and system noise” (p.77), we have occasion noise, when judgments vary from an overall statistical perspective.
Having received a second dose of a vaccination yesterday and having spent an unpleasant night my judgment for this review might be biased, because of impatience. So in order to reduce bias and variants of noise I shall repeat the review at a later stage. Let’s see what this returns. But for today, the Epilogue “A less noisy world” (p.377) appears rather odd to me. It is probably an illusion to believe that we can create a less noisy world, even with the best of wishes. The authors abstract from any strategic use of noise to influence judgments. The political form of choosing judges for Constitutional Courts in the U.S. needs to be dealt with. Noise in judgments is an important element, but strategic use of bias might be more influential to impact outcomes. Noise, when faced with a judge who has a reputation to be very tough in sentences might be overturned in an appeal court decision. There are plenty of procedural ways to overcome noise in judgments. I agree with the authors that you better know about the noise in judgments than ignore it. Awareness of random errors and noise involved in grading exams and recruitment decisions have determined many excellent “failures” to leave historic contributions to our world. In music, maths or literature some splendid talents probably have been impeeded at earlier stages of their life to make average or normal careers. Some of them left us with fantastic pieces thanks to the noise in judgment of others.
There seems to be an age bias in the tolerance of noise in the acoustic sense. Noise in the statistical sense has left a strong mark on me when I learned about white noise as error or stochastic process.
Image Kahneman, Sibony, Sunstein 2021. p3.
Over the 20th century technology has pushed forward in many fields. As there were huge investments needed the public campaigns to support new technology without much further reflection of potential consequences have pulled many western societies into risky technologies. Except the Club of Rome there were very few to question the naïve beliefs that technological change will make societies rich and potentially even more equal. The recent report “Climate Inequality Report 2023: Unequal Contributions to Climate Change” has debunked both of these claims. More flying across the planet, particularly short city hopping, has allowed few persons to reap the benefits of the jet-set world, but contributed to climate change in excessive quantities. This is a fact when we compare major world regions among each other as well as within each country. It has to be the wealthy countries that have to shoulder the biggest share of the costs. It has to be the wealthy that pay higher contributions for their pollution. Society has to reign in technology more than ever before. Moreover, we still have to get the income and pollution distribution organised in a better way. It is not only an implementation challenge, but the major question of the 21st century to repair the damage largely caused throughout the 20th century.
The 20th century has told us many lessons. History does not repeat itself, but it appears that new variants of old themes keep coming back. Slowly passing the century like a movie in decades instead of episodes, we witness socio-emotional tides. The first decade, the 00s intensify the beginning of urban planning and social revolutions. The 10s show the arousal and subsequent extinction of masses of people in trenches. The 20s were described as the Carefree Twenties. In the 30s we observed the rising tides of fascist organisations followed shortly afterwards by the disastrous 40s. After the Shoah and the World War the 50s were fabulous viewed from the U.S. and Western Europe. The 60s propagated sex, drugs and rock n’ roll spreading across continents. The wild 70s became almost inescapable through the continued rise of mass media. The 80s were depicted as the colourful 80s as the 2 previous decades had set the scene for psychedelic colours. The 1990s have been coined as the gay 90s by some. Coming out as a gay person became easier and Western societies more sensitive and open to diversity. The back cover of the recent publication by Aurélien Bellanger “Le vingtième siècle” (The 20th century) speaks of the book as “roman polyphonique virtuose”. I look back on the 20th century as “polyphone” in many respects. It would be an illusion to believe we can only keep the nice sounding harmonies without the tensions or dissonances.
1900 marks the year of the 5th world exhibition in Paris. The Eiffel tower, built for the 4th exhibition in Paris remains the iconic attraction despite the new architecture that is added to Paris as the Petit and Grand Palais as well as the 1st Metro line. Art Nouveau style adds to already impressive architecture in and around Paris. With the planning horizons of several years in advance of events, urban planning with all its facets of urban infrastructure and architecture becomes much of a defining scientific discipline for decades and for most of the time of the century. Grand urban architecture and design constitute just another form of competition between nation states. Most of them want to show off their imperialist acquisitions and, what they define as “curiosities” at the time.
Habib (2005, pp.502) singles out Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche as “heterological thinkers” who coin major thoughts in the late 19th century that shall influence the beginning of the 20th century right from the year 1900 onwards. “The world should be formed in your image by your reason, your will, and your love! And truly, it will be to your happiness you enlightened men!” (Nietzsche. Thus spoke Zarathustra 1978, p.110). In retrospect from the 21st century we shall doubt this overly positive approach to human intentions and their will to form the world according to their abstracting ideas only. Tensions between technology and society became visible and it took many decades before society became conscious that it is up to society to choose technologies they preferred.
The planning for the Brussel Expo 1910 started right after the previous Expo 1905 in Liège. Protests in Brussels accompanied already the choice of terrain for the Expo, but the governors and shareholders of the enterprise decided 1906 for a site near the “forêt de Soignes”, where trees had to be cut for access to the construction site and for future visitors under local protest. Women workers were present to exhibit the low pay of women in industries. Child labour was documented with shocking images. Around the globe labour movements started to raise attention. In the U.S. the National Women’s Trade Union League (1903) was founded as well as the National Child Labor Committee (1904). “Bloody Sunday” in St. Petersburg (1905) saw the killing of peaceful protestors in front of the Zsar’s palace, which ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the creation of the Russian Parliament. Some of these issues (child labor) keep returning to our social agenda well into the 21st century.
Einstein’s publication of the theory of special relativity (1905) as well as challenges from social philosophy reflects the huge discrepancy between advancement of the sciences and the living conditions of the masses. Social theories and science advances foreshadow the violent turbulence throughout the 20th century.
(Sources: (1) Max Welch Guerra et al. (2023). European Planning History in the 20th Century: A Continent of Urban Planning. Routledge. (2) St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide: Major Events in Labor History and Their Impact, Neil Schlager (2004). (3) Images from I. Van Hasselt(1980) Bruxelles Expo 1910: l’incendie / de brand. J Stevens.
The 1910s have been eclipsed completely by “the Great War” between 1914 to 1918. The 1st world war certainly was the most horrific period of the decade of revolutions and mass arousal. From a global history perspective the years preceding and shortly after the humanitarian disasters deserve more attention, if we were to derive lessons for prevention of other world encompassing wars of imperialist states. The numbers 1st, 2nd, … 3rd (?) world war suggest an unescapable numbering of events. We no longer can think in this trivialising logic of war or historical determinism. Empires go to war more easily than democracies. This was the social scientists’ consensus after the Great War. It took several years for many European states to turn more democratic, allowing women to vote, or introduce more robust health and social security systems. Powerful aristocracies would not cede power easily, only the widespread poverty after the Great War and the human losses discredited many aristocratic regimes throughout Europe. The imperialist dominance of the beginning of the 1910s produced a spirit of ruthless conquest and exploitation of colonies around the world. It took another global war and almost half a century to dismantle these regimes. To understand global alliances and impediments of wars in the 21st century, the early 1910s are instructive as they inform the restitution of artefacts debate in the 2020s. In the history of ideas, the 1910s are probably best characterised as the period of attempting to turn “grand ideas” into political facts on the globe. The rise of Marxist ideology, liberal and fascist counter movements started to take powerful roots at the end of the 1910s. All these ideas and factual changes of the maps of power still seem to govern a lot of international politics even today.
With 22 years into the 21st century it’s about time to dare to write the history of the 20th century. This is in many ways a steep challenge. Summarizing across so many decades (20s, 30s …) has to focus on a few events (wars) or topics (hate) that serve to characterize the century. Of course, intrinsic to the matter is the comparison to other centuries as well. Therefore, the task might be left to great historians only. Well other approaches are feasible as well and “Le vingtième siècle” by author and journalist Aurélien Bellanger constitutes a literary version of the time span of a hundred years corresponding to the 20th century. Bellanger chooses Walter Benjamin as philosophical anchor, both his works and life history. But as this history describes maybe the first half of the century he extends the reach of Benjamin into the 2nd half by introducing a “history-repeating” character into the narration. A literary circle interested in Benjamin as philosopher of the 20th century inquires about another disappearance of a poet and philosopher. Whereas the 19th century literature was full of romantic drama and “Freitod”, the 20th century has characterising deaths out of despair. Walter Benjamin is a prominent example of this. The solitude of the democraticly minded critic who ends in despair of the rising tide of fascism. Despite his premature death trying to escape the persecution of Nazi Germany, his writings live on beyond the fascists attempt to erradicate his critical thoughts. Loneliness of writers and poets in the 2nd half of the century is of another kind, but still frequently marked by isolation. Even fantastic libraries like the 2 sites of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) houses many artists and researchers literally lost in archives. Most of them escape tragedy by publishing splendid pieces of their own creative minds. The “economy of attention” allows only very short time slots of recognition. The “Entzauberung der Welt”, the demystification of the world no longer allows for secrets and splendour at the end of the 20th century.
Long exchanges of long letters were an intellectual ritual at the beginning of the century subsequently lost to ever shorter and faster email exchanges. Acceleration is the time stamp of the 20th century and time for interpersonal exchange and group formation or circles of artists as well as scientists. Aurélien Bellanger achieves a splendid masterpiece that invites us to reflect on our recent past from a philosophical perspective. The philosophy of language is an interesting angle to choose. A cubist perspective asks us to add other angles to describe and analyse the prism of the 20th century.
Construction as an industrial sector was growing strongly in the last decade. Corona crises, supply chain disruptions have slowed growth in the last two years, but the sector was still growing in terms of employment. The topic of skill and employee shortages hardened from year to year. In March 2023 the sector has more time to reflect on the somehow rapid, if not sometimes chaotic growth of the previous decade. The macro-economic scenario has changed now. Following on supply chain disruptions, we saw the high inflation rates of raw materials. The war of Russia against Ukraine caused energy prices to soar and eventually come down again. Latest worry is the increase in interest rates to finance construction projects of public, private and the business sector.
The whole sector is known for its economic role of forerunner of economic cycles, up or down. So, what are the prospects? Not so rosy, as the experts explain for example on the expert forum of the Belgian construction forum. The official from the Belgian National Bank announced a rather bleak outlook for the sector. New construction is stalling, but the renovation of buildings, especially for the purpose of reducing energy consumption is still strong and growing. Long-term reduction of emissions keeps the sector busy, thanks to the EU green deal in my opinion. The public, private and business investments in buildings all keep growth from turning negative. 2 big worries remain: (1) skill shortages and the lack of employees signalled in job openings in the sector is high and still rising; (2) the scarcity of women employed in the sector is still trailing most other sectors. Most companies have seen earnings grow over the last decade, sufficient time to build up reserves for the tougher quarters to come. Skill shortages and gender biases are harder to overcome. The Construction Forum in Brussels addressed both topics and tries to convince employers and the younger generation. Construction companies have to work on their male-dominated image was one of the take home messages Hélène de Troostemberg, the Director of Build Up pronounced.
It is not certainly not enough to have a woman as moderator of a panel and an all-female singers group accompanying the presentations. Women as architects, technicians and builders will make the sector even more attractive for the next generation of men as well. Aging of employees in the sector is another tough issue waiting for innovative solutions. Digitalisation of every step in the value chain is an additional necessary step. The leadership and trade unions in the sector are well aware of these facts. Maybe next year women engineers will pilot the robotics demonstration rather than being in charge of building a nice atmosphere with their songs. I must admit I liked the intro song to the Forum: “We build this city on rock ‘n role”, but I am less sure whether rock ‘n role will solve the gender and recruiting issue of the sector. However, naming and framing the problem(s) is already part of the solution.
Spring has sprung, a little bit early in 2023. On the 16th of March in the vicinity of Paris, where Caillebotte designed his impressionist garden. It is still 4 weeks until Easter. The spring flowers will hardly survive until then. Hence, we prepare for an early summer, nice because of less heating, but the vegetation is suffering in the region due to the lack of rain. Hay fever for millions of persons will start early this year as well. The damages from a fire in the nearby forest “Sénart” from 2018 have still not really disappeared. It is expensive and needs a lot of workers, equipment and knowhow to avoid the same old mistakes of planting mono-cultures of trees again. When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.
Gustave Caillebotte has done it again. Son of a great beneficiary of war efforts himself. He started with support from his father’s fortune on a painting career. Soon after his father’s death, he joined the group of “alternative artists”, later called the impressionists in France. On the 1.2.2023 the Musée d’Orsay acquired a key painting of Caillebotte for 43 Million € with the help of a donation by LVMH. Where does the hype come from? A catalogue of the exhibition of the painter “Gustave Caillebotte, The painter’s eye” from the National Gallery of Art in Washington from 2015 established Caillebotte again as a key person of the impressionist movement. Rich in diversity of motifs, the painter and supporter of the impressionists (Philantropist) has foreseen the challenge photography could bring to painting. The painter’s eye is well explained by Michael Marrinan (pp.22) in the catalogue. In fact, the spatial depth of the views of the streets of Paris is a precursor to many photographers and movies of several decades later. Caillebotte’s images of Paris depict well the mixed feelings about a daunting city size and the isolation of people captured in their own little inner circles with little communication despite or because of the noisy surroundings. Misty atmospheres allow to focus on impressions. Almost meditative walking in the city is his modern topic. Reflecting on painting as profession versus painting as artist is somehow an impressionist’s sociology of professions. Gustave Caillebotte did not have to paint for money and he was aware of social class differences as son of a factory owner. It did not spoil his artistic view with social facts, but rather tried to reveal the intrinsic beauty not only of landscapes, but ordinary working people. Other impressionists painted beautiful ballerinas, Caillebotte painted workers and sometimes more challenging parts of Paris in his early years. With climate change near Caillebotte’s home in full swing, we shall “adore” the rainy days in Paris even more. And in the countryside, too. The painter’s eye reveals a visionary view of the modern and post-modern world.
Die Oper Stradella von Flotow wurde in 2006 eingehend besprochen. Sarah Hibbert hat ein immer wieder aktuelles Thema: Wie sollten vorherige Stilepochen in der Aufführungspraxis und der Komposition behandelt werden? Die Legende über den Sänger Stradella, der einem Fürsten die Braut ausgespannt hat und deswegen ermordet werden sollte, bietet einen interessanten (sex and crime) Plot. Wegen der Gesangskunst des Verführers, wollten die bestellten .Auftragsmörder den bezaubernden Sänger nicht töten. Tatort ist der Auftritt der Sängers in einer Kathedrale. Fritz von Flotow und Louis Niedermeyer haben beide fast zeitgleich eine Version des Librettos vertont. Es stellt sich nun die Frage, wie denn am besten der historische Stoff aus dem 17-ten Jahrhundert darzubieten ist. Beide Komponisten komponierten im Stil der romantischen Oper des 19-ten Jahrhunderts. Flotow wählt eine stärker historisierende Variante der mittelalterlichen Musik der Stradella-themen in seiner Oper. Die Klangfarben der mittelalterlichen Kirchenmusik passen aber nur schwerlich zu den Erwartungen des zeitgenössischen (1830er) Opernpublikums. Daraus resultiert,en eine spannende kompositorische Aufgabe und entsprechende Herausforderung für die Aufführung des Werks. Darüber hinaus müssen noch Unterschiede zwischen der ersten mehr populären Form der Oper für Paris (Vaudeville) und der später in Hamburg uraufgeführten Version der Flotowschen Stradella Fassung beachtet werden. Historisierung mit Anlehnungen an Gesänge von Palestrina sind nicht der Geschmack eines jeden im Publikum und der Kritiker. Grund genug, in die Opern mal wieder reinzuhören. Den Tenor, die Arie “Jungfrau Maria” singend, hätte ich wahrscheinlich auch nicht als Auftragsmörder töten können. Rolando Villazón ist darin recht überzeugend.
Quelle: Hibbert, S. 2006. Murder in the Cathedral. Stradella, Musical Power and Performing the Past in 1830s Paris. Music & Letters Vol 87 Nr. 4. doi:10.1093/ml/gcl081 (Photos, KS Kathedrale in Meaux, F).
The pandorra’s box is wide open. With ChatGPT applications the discussion has started to use it for more medical applications. As for much research having assistants to support you in routine tasks in your research is a standard procedure. Now the medical profession is also discussing the use of ChatGPT for the boring and time-consuming task to draft reports. The first study, published in the Lancet Digital Health, evaluates in a preliminary form the patient-sensitive form of communication between clinics and patients. Beyond chatbots, which organise information from calling persons, the obvious application is the use of ChatGPT to draft patient clinic letters. The example in the study is the skin cancer reporting. Lengthy reporting back to patients of lots of “hot and cold spots” might be done by AI with sufficient reliability. All depends on the correctness of the data base, the screening and samples taken. The communication between clinic and patient can then focus on other issues. ChatGPT just like neuroflash has its strength in being able to control for the “level” of the language. In addition to the choice of the output language it is possible to use, as it is required in the U.S., an average understanding level of patients. In other words, easy language rather than medical expert language is an option or even a requirement. Anecdotal evidence and the PISA for adults studies show how difficult it can be to talk the same language even if you talk the same language. There is ample scope for improvement and ChatGPT or neuroflash for German applications of AI are prime candidates to fill this gap in clinic patient communication. Considering that our mobile phones (can) do already most of the scanning of skin cancer dots and AI is used in pre-scanning the images and recommends to consult medical expertise, the next step to improve health delivery seems feasible. Whereas the statistical analysis explains 62% of “median humanness”, the score of 37% of explained variance of median correctness is a surprise as the basis of the model to explain deviation from correctness should be as low as possible. Medical data, like many other data, is not simply binary. The way forward is most likely relying on a “human-in-the-loop” approach for some time. A limited human input might reassure many patients as well.
Source: Stephen R Ali, Thomas D Dobbs, Hayley A Hutchings, Iain S Whitaker (2003). Using ChatGPT to write patient clinic letters. Lancet Digit Health 2023 https://doi.org/10.1016/S2589-7500(23)00048-1
In retrospect from the 1930s and in prospect from the 1910s, the 1920s may well be described as “The Carefree Twenties”. Several other summary notions are attributed to the 1920s. “Les années folles” in the French speaking world, “The Jazz years” within the U.S. or the “Wild 20s” in Germany coined the decade after the disillusion of the 1st world war. The economic and cultural revival after the period of atrocities has seen thriving city centres and comparatively little economic hardship until the Wall Street crashed on October 24th in 1929 the so-called “Black Thursday”. The party was suddenly over and a lengthy economic crisis spread globally. It was within this carefree spirit of the 1920s that the counter movements of the 30s started to take roots. The 20s saw the skyscrapers soar and the credit-financed speculation was at its highest. Pierre Boudon (1991, pp. 137) characterises the architecture of the 1930s as “l’inversion des signes”. The Bauhaus of the 1920s was later forced into emigration. The film of F. Lang “Metropolis” (1927) prolonged the constructivist lines of the 1920s to a haunting vision of big cities with its daunting acceleration of economic and cultural experiences. Walter Benjamin later referred to the method of technical reproduction as one of the major foundations for the mass movements and mass culture, which turned the relatively carefree 20s into the disastrous 30s. Indeed, many scholars group the 20s and 30s into one historical period as the rise and decline between the 2 world wars of the 20th century. Certainly in terms of economic development many countries witness as steep rise in prosperity in the 20s followed by deep recession in the 30s. What went up in spectacular terms in the 20s, economic development, democratic participation, came down in the next decade due the rise of Fascist movements. 100 years later in 2020s we still struggle with many of the same issues. Poverty and “Existenzminimum” as topic of the 2nd International congress of modern architecture in 1929 in Frankfurt reflects the ever lasting need to address “social questions” throughout decades, if not whole centuries of mankind.
Approaching history with a personal touch is a powerful way of attracting persons into learning about others and themselves. The use of some personal belongings as part of a “history box” can be the beginning of an historical journey into the 30s, 40s, 50s or any other decade. It is an empowering tool for learners of all ages. Digging deeper into personal histories, societal constellations and societal change becomes alive through tiny little things. Communicating about these artefacts blends old and new narratives, just as much as the life courses of the “common woman or man” with the celebrities of the time. “Getting personal” is the hype in the time when social media want to define our life though endless nudging. Reflecting on origins is not what we tend to do, PhotoAPPs create retrospects for us, take it, or leave it. History is catching up on us. The fashion world reinvents history on a seasonal basis. After all, a bag is a bag is a bag. Or is it different from the one a person took to Auschwitz.
12 Jahre nach der Kernschmelze im Atomkraftwerk der technologiebegeisterten Japaner stellt sich immer noch die Frage nach der Entsorgung der verstrahlten Reste und Kühlwassers. Laut eines Berichts und den veröffentlichten Bildern zu dem Kernkraftwerk Fukushima staunen wir über das weite verseuchte Umfeld und die riesigen Lagerstätten für den verstrahlten Abfall. Geothermie, Wasserkraft, Windkraft und Solarenergie könnten auf der Fläche sicherlich riesige Mengen von nachhaltigem Strom produzieren. Das hatte bis vor 13 Jahren niemand denken oder aussprechen dürfen. Heute nach 18.000 Toten und vielen Folgeschäden durch Krebs und geschädigtes Erbgut wird der Unsinn weitergehen. Da sind sehr starke Interessen am Werk, denen es nicht um Menschenleben geht. Atomkraft, koste es was es wolle. Die Einleitung eines Teils des verseuchten Wassers ins Meer ist wohl bereits erfolgt. Noch mehr wird folgen müssen. Über die Fische als Teil der Nahrungskette werden Menschen dann mehr Radioaktivität aufnehmen. Das war schon so mit den Pilzen nach Tschernobyl. Fukushima bleibt ein abschreckendes Beispiel weltweit, da helfen jetzt zum 12. Jahrestag ein paar Solarzellen als Trostpflaster wenig. (Bilder aus ARD Tagesschau 11.3.2023.
White is white, we may say, just like in the song of the mid 1980s “Live is life”. Raimund Girke focused his paintings around the notion of white. White is pure energy he writes on his webpage summarising somehow his activity between 1986 and 1999 before he turned 70 years old. The energy of white can be experienced at the gallery and arts centre of Alex Vervoordt near Antwerp. Set in abundant white and otherwise empty space the paintings of white reflect Girke’s idea that white is rest and movement. The developmental process of white in the work of Raimund Girke reflects for me a conceptual proximity to the artists’ group of “zero”. Light and shadows are parts of the same coin. White is the sum of all colours, not only in the physical definition of it. Hence, white can serve as reflection of space and transposition of movement.
The experience in the gallery of Vervoordt allows to come to grips with our own perception of white. It needs a huge white space around the paintings to get into the mood of, maybe, purity. It is by putting colours together that white comes into existence in the spectators view. In seeing white, we see many additions of other colours. That creates the impression of energy. Up to you to test it, maybe, virtually live.
In retrospect the 1930s would deserve well the label of the disastrous 30s. In terms of human tragedy the 40s were worse, but the foundations for the millions of deaths through the Shoah and the second world war were enacted throughout the 1930s. My reading of the decade is dominated by the rising tide of hate throughout the 30s. The fascist movements in Italy and Germany were growing rapidly. From the entry number 185.729 (later committed war crimes in Ukraine) at the 1st of January 1930 the German NSDAP membership grew to 7.352.197 (Reichsakademie für Leibesübungen) on the 1.1.1940. This is still about 3 million persons less than at around the peak in 1944/45 of for example entry number 10.123.636 (later Foreign Secretary of Germany). The House of European History of the European Parliament in Brussels provides a good depiction of the spread of Fascism and dictatorships in Europe in the 1930s. Whereas Italy had turned Fascist already before 1930. Hungary was also under dictatorship already at the beginning of 1930. The rise of the German Nazi political party NSDAP turned out to be the most disastrous and devastating fascist movement and dictatorship throughout the 30s. The maps with timelines represented in the permanent exhibition in the House of European History reflect the spreading disaster for millions of persons. Many writers and social scientist had the correct apprehension and “apocalyptic imagination” (Pearce, 1971) to seek refuge early. But this turned out to be a not generalisable exit option for most persons concerned. Only few countries managed through early decisive action against the spread of fascism to escape from, better shield themselves, or fight against the rising tide. In the late 60s and the 70s youth at the time started to question the role of their parents in the rise of nationalist movements in Europe. An interesting reference for Canada is the teaching reform that materialised in the “box of the 30s” (Weinland and Roberts, 1972). The 1930s Multi Media Kit for teaching history contained photos (Guernica), radio clips, extracts from novels, but also recipes or recorded interviews. Make history speak and start with a “personal touch” to it. Avoiding the economic failures of the 1930s and the rising tide of fascists throughout the 30s are high on the political agenda 90 years later in the 2020s again.
“Wenn die Erinnerung an die Jugend nicht wäre, so würde man das Alter nicht verspüren, nur dass man das nicht zu tun vermag, was man ehmals vermochte, macht die Krankheit aus. Denn der Alte ist gewiss ein ebenso vollkommenes Geschöpf in seiner Art als der Jüngling.“ (Lichtenberg S. 241, L 532). Die Gedanken von Lichtenberg zum Alter und Altern orientieren sich an der Erinnerung. Älter werden heißt mehr Erinnerungen ansammeln. Erinnerungen verstanden als Reichtum, lässt uns erfahrener und somit reicher werden. Jetzt ist selbstverständlich nicht jede Erfahrung, die sich als Erinnerung einprägt zwangläufig eine positive, jedoch lassen sich viele früher negativ empfundene Erfahrungen in der Rückschau als nicht so negativ oder positiv erleben. Das Durchsehen von Photosammlungen mag dazu eine Übungsstunde sein. Walter Benjamin schrieb dazu bereits, dass Photographien ein Standard geworden sind zur Dokumentation von historischen Ereignissen, und somit eine versteckte politische Signifikanz erreichen. Die Gleichwertigkeit zwischen jungen und alten, eventuell kranken Menschen war für Lichtenberg im 18. Jahrhundert bereits eine Selbstverständlichkeit. Wir tun uns wieder schwer, bei Corona und Kostendiskussionen, diesen Gleichheitsgrundsatz faktisch umzusetzen. Erinnerung als Wert an sich zu schätzen, ist eine gesunde Strategie des erfolgreichen Alterns. Mit jedem neuen Tag oder Jahr merken wir, sie wird beständig mehr.
“Was für Aussichten würden wir bekommen, wenn wir unser Kapital von Wahrheiten einmal von demjenigen entblößen könnten, was ihnen nicht sowohl wesentlich ist, als vielmehr aus der öfteren Wiederholung zuwächst.“ (Lichtenberg S. 50). Die Wiederholung ist eine starke Lernmethode. Sie wird seit Jahrtausenden erfolgreich eingesetzt. Alle Religionen bedienen sich am liebsten täglich dieser Methode, um sich der Treue der Anbetenden zu vergewissern. Der Glaube im Glauben ist: Oft genug wiederholt ist gut verinnerlicht. Dabei bleibt ein Glaube ein Glaube, selbst bei ständiger Wiederholung. Lediglich so manchem Mensch erscheint durch regelmäßiges Wiederholen die Botschaft als verinnerlichte Selbstverständlichkeit. Wahrscheinlich ist es beruhigender, sich nicht täglich zu fragen, ob das 1x,2x,3x mal tägliche Einmassieren von Chemikalien auf Zähne und Zahnfleisch wirklich nachhaltig gesundheitsfördernd ist. Alleine dem Markt wollen wir das Thema nun auch nicht überantworten. Warten wir weiterhin auf die nächste entblößende, hoffentlich wirklich unabhängige, wissenschaftliche Studie dazu. Mit den Pestiziden in der Ernährung hat das bekanntlich nur sehr bedingt funktioniert. Wie schön, dass alle Jahre wieder Frühling kommt und die finsteren Tage hinter uns lässt. Wiederholungen lassen Routinen entstehen, die uns das ständige Hinterfragen ersparen. Rasch gehen wir über Fragen von Kindern hinweg: Muss ich heute in die Schule gehen? Dabei ist Hinterfragen von Wiederholungen ein wichtiges Lernen, dem Mitläufertum entgegen zu wirken.
Alkohol ist eine Droge, da Alkohol abhängig machen kann. Die Bewusstseinsveränderungen können beachtliche bis extreme Ausmaße erreichen. Das wissen wir alle und zwar seit Jahrhunderten. Mäßigung bei Rauschmitteln ist nötig, aber schwer erlernbar. Etwas Genuss ist gesellschaftlich nicht nur toleriert, sondern gewollt zur Förderung der Geselligkeit. Zu viel Genuss beeinträchtigt meistens andere und wird dann zu einer schwierigen Problematik. Ärztinnen, Psychologinnen und andere Heilberufe stehen oft hilflos, wie auch das nahe familiäre Umfeld, vor dieser Situation. Selbst neuere Studien weisen darauf hin, dass die Versorgung dieser Patienten (UK), bestenfalls in der Hälfte der Fälle als gut einzustufen ist. Die Studie zu Großbritannien beschreibt gleichfalls die Krankheitsgeschichte und -versorgung als „eskalierende Tragödie“. Für die meisten anderen Länder liegen keine wirklich guten Daten vor, die weder einen Handlungsbedarf noch auf einen gesellschaftlichen Gestaltungswillen hindeuten würden.
Die Radiosendung zum Thema „Umgang mit Alkoholkranken“ und die Initiative von Sänger Max Mutzke, „Kindern suchtkranker Eltern eine Stimme geben“ beschreibt eindrücklich die generationsübergreifende Bedeutung von Alkoholkrankheit. Alkohol ist eben nicht nur das Problem der betroffenen Person. Ein ganzes Umfeld ist betroffen. Das Problem wächst sich meistens aus zu einer Problematik für das weitere familiäre Umfeld, Freundeskreise und ArbeitskollegInnen. Es ist erstaunlich, dass wir seit Jahrhunderten keinen anderen Umgang mit alkoholbasierten Rauschmitteln gefunden haben, als alles erlaubt oder alles verboten, außer der Altersbegrenzung für Kinder und beim Autofahren. Der Maler Bruegel sah das wohl ähnlich. Den St. Martinswein kann sich heute jeder im Laden um die Ecke selbst kaufen. Mäßigung im Umgang mit Drogen ist nach wie vor ein schwieriger Lernprozess, für Einzelne (Jordaens – Der König drinkt!), wie für die Gesellschaft. ( fast betrunkenes Video Alko VLC Bruegel MRBA Bruxelles.jpg zur Bildexploration).