Economic Narratives

Joseph Stiglitz (2003) provided a detailed description and interpretation of the economic history of the 1990s in his book on the roaring nineties. As a member of the Clinton Administration serving as a Chairman of the Council of economic advisers, he had first hand access to the information, debates about interpretations and conclusions drawn during the period. In the preface (2003, p.XII) he provides some of the lessons this work has provided him. “Today, the challenge is to get the balance right, between the state and the market, between collective action at the local, national, and global levels, and between government and non-governmental action. As economic circumstances change, the balance has to be redrawn. Government needs to take on new activities, and shed old ones. We have entered into an era of globalization in which the countries and peoples of the world are more closely integrated than ever before. But globalization itself means that we have to change that balance: we need more collective action at the international level, and we cannot escape issues of democracy and social justice in the global arena.”  The surprising approach by Stiglitz, as a winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize, to present no data in tables or figures demonstrates the need for telling convincing stories beyond throwing images and shuffled data at your audience. However, this is probably only feasible once you won a quasi-Nobel prize to not lose credibility among economists. Nevertheless, the issue is larger. Stiglitz manages to address the much larger audience of non-economists who construct or constructed their own “collective memory” of the legacy of the nineties as the “global 90s”.
The narrative of the 1990s grossly neglected the value of the biosphere. Asymmetric information (his shared prize winning issue) was and is still used in the market of natural resources to keep polluting the planet and push ahead with careless deforestation. The Exxon case is just one piece in the puzzle of asymmetric information and misinformation. Misguiding economic narratives play a powerful role. Maybe we need to write more about the “roaring failures” of economics and public policies across several decades in the 20th century. (red dots = forests lost on our planet A early 2000s, and there is no planet B)


Summary terms for the 1990s range from the “global 90s”, the “roaring (again) nineties”, the “fabulous 90s” to the “gay 90s”. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new era of reaping the economic benefits of more peaceful times had started. Re-unification or unification of Germany could have unsettled the balance of power on the continent. However, a firm integration into the European project and the withering away of the Cold War on a more global scale allowed economic growth in many countries and even continents. Joseph E. Stiglitz claimed it was the world’s most prosperous decade even. The overly popular view that unrestricted market principles will allow for rapid growth reached huge crowds before the new limits to growth (which were the old ones) and rising imbalances (in trade and among different firm sizes) became clear later on. The outlook of “America in the global ‘90s”, written in 1989 is overly optimistic. Nevertheless, it describes fairly well the almost euphoric view at the beginning of the nineties. “World economic growth will strengthen in the 1990s. Democracy and free markets are on the upswing. U.S. will retain its lead in technology and world trade. Openness to foreign capital, goods, immigrants is key. Budget and trade deficits will continue downward. America is a strong nation getting stronger.” (Kiplinger and Kiplinger, 1989 p.1)
Ten years make a decade, but the retrospective analysis might not make for such a rosy overall image. In other fields of study, many saw the real societal changes in the 90s in the liberation of views on gender. Gay movements and queer studies are on the rise throughout these years. The realisation of “Genders” beyond the male – female, binary vision captures more global attention as well. “Education reform in the ‘90s” (Finn et al. 1992) start to focus more on “higher-order learning skills, expanded methods of student assessment” (Joseph Murphy 1992 p.13) in addition to interdisciplinarity, core curriculum, original source materials and teacher choice. Diversification is high on the agenda, despite slow progress in social matters and high unemployment in many countries at the beginning of the 90s. Capture the peace dividend wherever it seems possible. Rapid globalization was the panacea of the decade; before the iron curtain would come down again 22 years later.  The photographic art by Didier Engels (Affordable Art Fair Brussels 2023) reflects the bright and colourful side of globalisation as much as the overload. The 90s made us believe mainly in the bright side of it.


The social sciences deal with time either as part of social theory and as part of social measurement in the broadest sense. The entry of time in “The encyclopedia of social theory” (Ritzer, 2006, p.837-41) reminds us that since the age of Augustinus, believing that time is a God-given concept, we have evolved with Kant’s notion of the “Ding an sich” that time exists within our experience, but also beyond our experience of it. It is Durkheim who sees time as a social institution and raises the issue of a social construction of the concept(s) of time. In the process of civilisation, Nobert Elias leads us to think of time as an evolving social process which allows us to reach higher levels of civilisations. Despite wars and other backlashes, the basic premise remains an eventual improvement on previous situations (Time 3). The phenomenological method applied by Husserl points at the “inner time consciousness” of persons, which finds its literary expression for example in Proust’s writings.
In addition to time as the object of social theories, we find frequent implicit use of concepts of time as a component of social theories. Life courses, social change, social mobility, social integration, learning, all these concepts are conceived with “time stamps” attached to the them. Their temporality, i.e. location in time and space, durations, sequential orders and interlinkages form huge fields of research. Whole societies have attempted to define when is the “normal”, “right” or “best” time to do something for the individual or the society as a whole. Social desirability is linked to time and space and varies accordingly. The 1960s probably were a decade where the questioning of social desirability was most obvious.
Social measurement of time and the location of social phenomena in time leads us to the empirical field of studying time or the treatment of time as a basic dimension in and of social processes. “The encyclopedia of social measurement” (Kempf-Leonard, 2005) list the sampling of time as a basic entry to the topic. Frequency of sampling, (yearly, quarterly), level of sampling (person, household, region, country), repeated surveys (prospective, retrospective) of same person or rotating samples of persons have their specific strengths and weaknesses. Analytical methods rely on the concepts of the measurement of time. It seems to be a fair observation that (Clarke and Granato, 2005, p.836) the future of time series analysis lies in the linkages to theory. After all, the 2 worlds of theory and empirical measurement are linked through the concept of time, despite the tendency to abstract from it or assuming a large overlap in the concept of time (and space) referred to. Clocks seems to be ticking differently in different places.
Image: Dali Paris. R. & N. Descharnes Salvador Dali Sculptures & Objects. Eccart. Ref. 615, page 238.


»Tempus fugit» (Latin proverb) time is flying, or time is escaping us. This is a classical quote. Students of Latin come across it in language acquisition.  “Carpe diem” make the most of the day, others responded. Some even raise it to a dogma of their existence. Whereas in classical times, time was more likely to be perceived as a linear concept (v = s x t), modern concepts discuss time as “acceleration” a nonlinear concept (a = v x t = s x t²)  or higher order non-linearities even (time³). Social time is embedded in such concepts of time. At some moments we perceive time as running very slowly, at other instances as running fast or accelerating. The synchronisation of time for friends, a couple, a family, lives, within a society or between societies is the big challenge. We tend to use calendars to synchronize our time acknowledging that time might be running at different speed for different persons. We have invented rituals of synchronisation like celebrating birthdays, departures at work, retirements or relative to seasons, with corresponding seasonal greetings. In between these events time fluctuates with different speed for different persons. Commonly in a kind of superficial objectivity, time is running in the same second-, minute-, hour-, day-like fashion, but considering activities or experiences, the same time span is widely different across persons. A lot of intergenerational conflicts have their origins in this non-synchronicity of time across generations. Bernard Guy (2018) reminds us of the link of time and space, as in the equations above, common in classical physics, where we could replace s with the change of coordinates of 2 GPS-signals. This space – time relationship complicates our simple reference to time. We have become used to think in time zones across the planet or within continents, however, our imagination is a bit stretched by imagining others sleeping while we are terribly busy on the other side of the globe. Global production and logistic processes have integrated the time and space framework for just-in-time delivery and optimisation of processes. As mankind we are still having a hard time to think about time and spend years “à la recherche du temps perdu” (Proust manuscript image below, BnF Paris2023).
Guy, B. (2018). Parler d’accélération, c’est aussi dire comment nous comprenons le temps. Dans : Nicole Aubert éd., @ la recherche du temps: Individus hyperconnectés, société accélérée : tensions et transformations (pp. 111-123). Toulouse: Érès.

Flotow Kontroversen

Während Flotows Lehrjahren in Paris ereigneten sich historische Ereignisse, wie zum Beispiel die Pariser Juli-Revolution 1830, Commune oder die 1848er Revolutionen in Paris und Deutschland. Später sollte der dt-frz. Krieg 1870 ein weiters einschneidendes Erlebnis darstellen. Über all diese historischen Verwerfungen hinweg sind Kunstschaffende ständig den nationalen Vereinnahmungen und Verwertungen ausgesetzt. Bei Flotow äußerst sich das in den Intrigen von unterschiedlichen Seiten, die gegen ihn gefahren werden. Von deutscher Seite mal als Demokrat verunglimpft (s.u.), wird er in Frankreich als frankreichfeindlich bezichtigt. Aktiv dagegenhalten, gehörte schon damals zum Geschäft im europäischen Raum. Mit dem Eintreten für Autorenrechte an Werken und deren Aufführungen schaffte er sich sicherlich nicht nur begeisterte Freunde in der Theaterwelt. Vergleichbar dem Disput über Patentrechte zu Hörnern, Trompeten und dem Saxophon, musste die Lebensgrundlage für viele Komponierende erst noch geschaffen werden. Eine Nominierung als Korrespondent der „Akadémie des Beaux-Arts“ ist da eine tolle Anerkennung. Die Probleme von höchst prekären Lebensverhältnissen von Kunstschaffenden im weitesten Sinne bleiben eine ständige Aufgabe und Herausforderung (Mäzene). Der kleine Fritz von Flotow hatte in seiner Kindheit mit genau diesen Einstellungen gegenüber dem oft brotlosen Beruf des Kunst– und/oder Musikschaffenden zu kämpfen. Als streitbarer Aristokrat mit demokratischen Zügen fiel er mitten in die soziale Zerrissenheit und politischen Wechselbäder des 19. Jahrhunderts.

Sax and the Sax

Adolphe Sax is celebrated for his celebrated design of musical instruments in what it known and played as the Sax family of musical instruments. Most museums around the world have an example of an early Sax instrument in their collections. Beyond the many fascinating musical delights and emotions produced with the instrument, there is a century-old debate around the issue of the patent attributed to the various designs claimed by Adolphe Sax for the Saxophone among others. The patent attribution was hugely different across Europe in the 19th century (largely inexistant in other parts of the world at the time). The reason for this were differing laws guiding intellectual property rights. “In France no preliminary examination was necessary before a patent could be granted; in Germany examination was obligatory; and … British patent laws, which allowed makers to register designs or apply for patents for developments that had been copied from abroad (imported inventions), as long as they had not been published in Britain.” (Mitroulia and Myers, 2008 p.93). There is a well-documented controversy about the “Berlin valves” and the contested patent in France of it. Design of instruments, particularly popular ones, guarantee sizable earnings for producers of instruments. After 20 years of the 1846 patent in France 1866 the patent expired and the copies could become even cheaper. Some ugly disputes in the middle of Europe were fought around this issue. Remember that military music was still accompanying troops for better or worse. “Visionary or plagiarist? The authors are unable to give a simple verdict. … The fact that Sax claimed originality for some borrowed ideas seems in retrospect less important than the true vision shown.” (Mitroulia and Myers, 2008 p.135). We might not agree with this statement. The visit to the MIM in Brussels gives a good overview of the evolution of musical instruments over thousands of years and across continents, which pushes us to rethink the link of society and technology through the lens of music and technology. Welcome to techno music beyond patent laws. Pushing the boundaries of copyrights on sound sequences to new limits.
(Sources: MIM Brussels, Rice A. R. (2009). Making and improving the nineteenth-century saxophone. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society. 35:81-122. Mitroulia, E., A. Myers. (2008). Adolphe Sax: Visionary or plagiarist? Historic Brass Society journal, 20, 93-141).

Flotow Singelée

Frédéric de Flotow hatte sicherlich in Jean-Baptiste Singelée einen Fan. 2 seiner frühen Opern, Stradella und Martha, wurden mit Fantasien für Violine und Klavier von Singelée neu arrangiert. Der Geiger, Dirigent und Komponist Jean-Baptiste Singelée, geboren 1812 in Brüssel (damals noch zugehörig zu Frankreich) ist in Ostende 1875 verstorben. Eine spätere Würdigung im Kursaal in Ostende mit einem Konzert verdeutlicht die Wertschätzung über sein Wirken als Konzertmeister und Dirigent hinaus u.a. in Brüssel. Sein kompositorisches Werk ist beachtlich, auch wenn seine einzige Oper vielleicht nicht so viel Nachhaltigkeit erreicht hat, trotz des einprägsamen Titels: „Les dentelles de Bruxelles“. Uns interessieren hier seine Fantasien basierend auf Themen von Flotow, die als Drucke erhalten geblieben sind und in der „public domain“ einsehbar sind. Interessant ist auch die gemeinsame Zeit am „Conservatoire Royale de Musique à Bruxelles“ mit Alphonse Sax, der später die Patente auf die Instrumentenfamilie der Saxophone erlangte. Klassische Musik populär machen, war schon ein frühes Bestreben vieler Komponierenden und Musikschaffenden. Ganz nach dem Motto: „Ich mag keine Klassik, aber das gefällt mir“ werden so Personen erreicht, die sich ansonsten für ganz andere Musik und Rhythmen interessieren. Da hat der Fritz oder Frédéric de Flotow vielleicht noch mehr Chancen in der Unterhaltungsmusik. Mit Jacques Offenbach verband ihn eine Freundschaft, die “Co-creation” hervorgebracht hat. Beide verdienten sich wohl etwas Geld für den Lebensunterhalt in Paris in jungen Jahren.

Thucydides on War

Thucydides (born around -460) has received a lot of fame for his “thick description” of the Peloponnesian War. He deserves continued praise even for inspiring statisticians. The account of events without emotions, but with lots of details, is often perceived as the beginning of historiography and history as science as well as empirical political science. The entry of “Thucydides” in the Encyclopedia of Social Measurement (2005, p.805) by P.A. Furia and A. Kohen cites the derivation of a causal or explanatory effect based on his historical account as a foundation of scientific approaches based on empirical data. “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon (i.e. Sparta), made war inevitable” (Thucydides, I 23). The empirical assessment of the growth of power is subject to controversial accounts. Power may derive from population, wealth, industry, weapons, munition or general military capabilities or skills. The assessment would also need to consider relative rather than absolute strength of just a one-sided approach. Here we are in the middle of the Russian war on Ukraine from 24.2.2022 onwards. Statisticians discuss, whether it is just a single variable that has the overall explanatory power for the beginning of the war and what other intervening variables might be important to take into account to avoid a selection bias. Beyond this materialist explanation we might stress the importance of the sociological concept of “collective fear” (links to approximation through trust, xenophobia) of the strength of Athens as the underlying causation of the beginning of war. The ideation of perceived strength gives rise to the construction of many intervening processes (Coleman’s macro-micro-macro linkages), which make a simple causal attribution just to material strength an illusion or risky shortcut explanation. The Thucydidean Method (p.806) exemplifies much of the dilemma and spice of social science analyses. Scholars of diplomacy challenge the empiricist perspective in arguing that the breakdown of diplomatic discourse several decades before was at the beginning of the causal chain. Here again we can make links to the preparation of war by Russia through strategic diplomacy as well as the risks taken through a break-up of diplomatic channels of communication. The perceived strength of the opponent in war might play a decisive role at the beginning and at the end of war. The charisma of leaders, democratic decision-making and political alliances with neighbouring states, Sicily at the time of the Peloponnesian War, were further intervening processes. This is perhaps not all too different from today, if we consider the role of Belarus in the aggression of Russia against the Ukraine. In fact, Thucydides seemed to be convinced that under similar circumstances human behaviour would reproduce itself. Therefore, thick description of historical facts might still inform political leaders today and tomorrow.
(Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, XV pp. 752,
Der neue Pauly, Enzyklopädie der Antike 12, pp.505 image below).

Ukraine Resilience

The opening of the exhibition on war crimes committed by Russian soldiers took place in front of the European Parliament today. The images frighten us as they reveal human atrocities. Destruction on a large scale with so many lifes lost will take a long time to overcome the grief. The images of the commemoration and the minute of silence show the solidarity of the whole of Europe with the Ukrainian people. The European Parliament has the patronage of the exhibition which is curated by Justyna Napiórkowskiej. Commissioner Reynders expressed the commitment of the EU to support the Ukraine 🇺🇦 in their capacity to fight back and the rebuilding of the country. Stand with Ukraine.


In cultural performances it is always interesting to refer back to titles given or attributed for example to music pieces. Dumky is the title of Antonin Dvořák’s 4. Klavier-Trio opus 90. In the late 19th century Antonin Dvořák found inspiration in the notion of Dumky. Rather than just composing a “Trauergesang with few joyful intermezzi” he creates a new form for this Trio containing, quite unusual, 6 parts. Dvořák plays around with structure and sharp swings from “piano to forte” parts, “moll to dur” intonations reflecting sorrow and joy in frequent and refreshing short sequences. It feels sometimes like fireworks, but at times the sorrow of soldiers and their families becomes evident as well. However, the music proves resilient. Knowing that Dumky is a Ukrainian word and notion, the choice of one of the masterpieces of Antonin Dvořák  close to the 24.2.2023, the day of the anniversary of the Russian attack on Ukraine is a commemoration of the sorrow caused by war and ways to overcome it. The “Concerts de Midi” of the Musée des Instruments de Musique” allowed us to travel through Ukraine a bit and experience the longing for better times. Joy will eventually prevail there again just listen to Dvořák’s version of the Dumky. Superb and effectful presentation of the work by the “Trio Impression” made for a memorable lunch break in the city centre of Brussels. The (virtual) visit of the Museum should be one of the attractions of visitors to Brussels as well, not just for the Art Nouveau architecture, but for the inclusive “global music” collection.

Animation 23

The animation festival “Anima” in Brussels is a good chance to catch up with new trends in the field (teasers). AR and VR animation is taking the first few time slots there as well. As much as it is important to allow visits behind the scene in opera houses, it is part of our common knowledge to understand the creation of animated films. This pedagogic mission is taken seriously at “Anima”. Taking the example of the animation “Un amour de cochon“, with several farm stages where Babs and Oink are exposed in the original small scale production scenery for the animation. However, it needs a lot of professionals to let a story come alive (Images below).
The short AR films represented seem to get carried away with futuristic city and landscape designs, which you experience in 360° turning your head with the heavy headset. Beyond the futuristic, historic or folkish settings chosen, the intended message, narrative or story is key. A metaverse immersion experience alone is tedious, if there is not a strong emotion or message connected to the immersive images. Sitting at the bar in front of a virtual drink is a bit dry, but the Paul Klee experience conveys a terrifying message. Totalitarian regimes use unimaginable brutality in wars and against their own people and artists. This has not changed. Animations catch specific (younger) audiences and therefore we surely will have more of this kind of imagination become real, or virtual or a real virtual experience.

Aphorismen L

Lichtenberg hatte den späteren ausufernden Individualismus spekulativ in seinen Aphorismen vorweggenommen. Im ersten Band der Sudelbücher schrieb er bereits: „Je länger man Gesichter beobachtet, desto mehr wird man an den sogenannten nichtsbedeutenden Gesichtern Dinge wahrnehmen, die sie individuell machen.“ (1976, S.25). Unsere Fototechnik und soziale Medien haben eine wahre Revolution durch die Flut der allgegenwärtigen Fotos geschaffen. Was früher der Spiegel war, ist längst der schnelle morgendliche Blick in die Kamera des Handys geworden. Intelligente Spiegel wären also die durch Kamera aufgenommenen und direkt auf einen größeren Bildschirm übertragenen Bilder. Das Hautscannen auf Melanome oder checken von depressiven Phasen könnten eine frühzeitige Erkennung ermöglichen. Sollten wir das wollen? Aus derartigen Hinweisen lässt sich sozial invasiv Gefahren für den Einzelnen, die Einzelne ableiten, aber eben durch Bezug des Einzelfalls auf verallgemeinerungsfähige Vergleichsfotos. Gesichter länger anzusehen, das hat seine sozialen Grenzen. Mit Breughel durften wir das dann. Kindern wird früh erklärt Personen nicht anzustarren, dabei trainieren sie so, was das einzelne Gesicht so singulär macht, die Augen, Ohren, Mund, Zähne, Nase oder Schattierungen. Donatello, gepriesen als der Erfinder der Renaissance, spielte schon mit den Details der Gesichter. Mehr Mut zum längeren Hinsehen sollten wir aufbringen, auch beim Hinsehen auf einfache Charaktere, auf Armut statt Wegsehen. Oft ist David interessanter als Goliath. Die Rahmung des Bronzolino verstärkt geschickt eine zeitgenössische Analogie zum 24.2.2023.

Berlin Wahl 2023

Wähle Wähler, sonst hast du die Wahl verloren. Die wiederholte Wahl geht sicherlich in die deutsche Wahlforschung ein. Murks bei der Durchführung einer Senats- oder Landtagswahl dürfte in etablierten Demokratien nicht in diesem Ausmaß vorkommen. Solche Versuche, demokratische Systeme zu delegitimieren, kennen wir aus demokratiefeindlichen Umgebungen. Die angeordnete Neuwahl hat eine um ca. 150.000 Stimmen geringere Wahlbeteiligung ergeben, bei einer Anzahl von ca. 1.500.000 abgegebenen Zweitstimmen von ca 2.500.000 Wahlberechtigten. Neuwahlen bringen also nicht unbedingt ein faireres Ergebnis im Sinne der Beteiligung an Demokratie mit sich. Im Gegenteil, Frustrationen äußern sich an Wahlurnen in Form von Denkzetteln statt Wahlzetteln. Die Summe der entschieden für Demokratie eintretenden Wählerstimmen, die im Senat vertreten sein werden liegt nur bei 1.170.905 Stimmen. Das ist keine absolute Mehrheit der Wahlberechtigten mehr. Damit sollten die demokratischen Alarmglocken klingeln. Während sich Rot-Grün-Rot im Zentrum behauptet ist der Speckgürtel deutlich schwärzer geworden. Die Neuwahl hat ca 1 von 10 Wählenden abgeschreckt. Sogar die Protestwählenden und ungültigen Stimmen sind rückläufig. Meinungsäußerung über das Parlament wird dadurch weniger repräsentativ und das kann auch gefährlich werden. Interessenvertretung findet dann mehr auf der Straße statt als im Parlament. Partikularinteressen, die Tierschutzpartei hat 36.233 Zweitstimmen gewinnen können, die FDP nicht einmal das doppelte davon, können Parlamente bereichern, in dem sie kleine Gruppenmeinungen ermöglichen. Das fordert die Koalitionsfähigkeit und den Koalitionswillen aller demokratischer Parteien heraus. Allzu knappe Wahlergebnisse von 105 Stimmen, wie zwischen den Grünen und der SPD in Berlin bei den Zweitstimmen schüren kontraproduktive Glaubwürdigkeitsdebatten. Der Gerichtsbeschluss zur Neuwahl 2-2023 ist gültig, verloren hat aber eher die Demokratie als Ganzes, die das Gericht zu schützen glaubte. Vielleicht am Überraschendsten von allem ist, dass die Skandalpresse nicht wirklich von diesem Ereignis profitieren konnte. Die noch Lesenden sind wohl auch von der belehrenden Berichterstattung dazu eher angewidert gewesen. So schreitet das Auseinanderleben der Stadt und der Gesellschaft weiter voran. Solche sozialen Prozesse sind lange bekannt. Sie heißen „Schelling’s process of segregation“. (genauer Gentrification) Eine fortschreitende Entmischung einer städtischen Bevölkerung ist die Konsequenz. Schelling’s Modell ist ein gutes Beispiel. Der Markt alleine, auch mit häufigen Wahlen,  wird die Gesellschaft nicht zusammenbringen oder zusammenhalten. Bund gegen Stadtverwaltung gegen Bezirksverwaltung bringt noch mehr Unzufriedenheit in die Stadt. Es ist Karneval und die Berliner Bären tanzen noch gemeinsam, hoffen wir mal. (Datenquelle: Wahlleiter Berlin)

Double bind

Knowledge and knowhow are a pair of notions that have strong links between each other. It is a challenge to see 2 knowledge systems, knowledges, to co-exist sometimes for a very long time. Medicine is a good example. The traditional Chinese medicine continues to exist in parallel to the western style science based medicine. It remains a challenge to analyse the effectiveness, efficiency and equality each system can provide. In terms of public health the border between knowledge and knowhow becomes more blurred. The knowledge about diseases needs to be transferred into knowhow of how to prevent the disease to the population at large. This is a steep challenge as the persistence of alcohol abuse, smoking habits and other drugs abuses show on a global scale. Knowledge alone on the negative consequences is far from enough to prevent abuse. The thin and blurred line between use and abuse of pharmaceutical products equally challenges our traditional views on knowledge and knowhow. In a knowledge graph knowledge would figure, for example, in the core and knowhow as a satellite on the periphery. However, despite the strong link between these 2 notions, knowhow has a lot of additional links to topics like health or yin and yang. Knowhow has a basic link also to notions like memory (techniques) or even war (equipment). The more abstract notion of knowledge, “le savoir”, has been seen for a long time superior to the less abstract notion of knowhow, “savoir faire”. Polymaths have been identified for touching on several fields of knowledge with little concern for the practical side of things, despite the fact that Leonardo da Vinci combined many fields of science of his time to improve technology of his time including visions for the future. The double bind link exists in the recursive element of a link between 2 notions. Rather than denying its existence we have a lot to do to incorporate the more complicated links into our scientific knowledge and the more practical knowhow.

Know how

The construction of a knowledge graph is like an exercise in visual thinking or image thinking. A common method in design, visual thinking uses graphical tools to visualize ideas and develop the ideas on the basis of these visuals. So, let’s take our ABC of notions running from action … over nature … to zero. We place these notions in the core of the knowledge space and develop the satellite combined notions around the core. Visually this is easily reflected in the figure below. Content-wise a lot of thinking has to fill the combinations and check empirically this mind map of the knowledge space. Abundant complexity will let us search for digital tools to accomplish such tasks. On this webpage we find already a cloud of words that is empirically showing biggest the words with the most entries of the same key word. This shows us visually what this blog is mainly about. Europe and democracy appear fairly big. Additional analytical tools will clarify what are major or minor links to this pair of notions. “There’s something on my mind”, something which I might not even be aware of. Just an empirical question, should be easy to solve, eventually.


In family histories we like to look on tree-like linking structures. Most frequently the choice is the descendant perspective (Top down). X, Y, Z have been the children of A and B and so on for a couple of generations. Bottom-up perspectives are equally feasible and modern patchwork families have more widespread representations of their families. Those representations were easy to do as families were lifelong bonds. Shorter family bonds, previously mainly caused by pre-mature deaths, are more common as people might have different partners and off-springs at different periods of their life course. Drawing family trees then looks more like a network structure of several families. History and literature is full of stories of how families aimed to keep their genealogy simple to the outside world. Modern days are no exception to this. Law had to adapt to these societal facts and changes thereof. Comparing decades over the last century there is, in my view, the remarkable trend to allow for more complexity in family histories, even after the 60s leading to many complete ruptures of family ties and links throughout the 70s and 80s.
With reducing fertility rates in most, not only western regions of the world, medical demography is back on the agenda. Similar to family trees, new forms of identifying promising pharmaceutical products have moved to more data-driven disease insights. Historically the local medical doctor had an overview about the likelihood of diseases following family’s medical histories over generations. Data-driven analyses, supported by data analytics and/or AI support, can learn permanently about potential and actual risks. New links of diseases are discovered this way extending the family doctor’s view of risks to watch out for in patients. Additional remedy and marketing potentials of existing drugs are also detected this way, beyond anecdotal evidence. Research published in the “Journal of biomedical semantics” by Vlietstra et al. (2020) classifies disease trajectories to construct knowledge graphs of biomolecular interactions. What previously a medical doctor in region could infer from his medical records in a less systematic way, can now be analysed on big data sets of countries, continents or even the global scale. Data is knowledge, and some already know, that this data-driven knowledge is worth a lot of money. Linking previously and seemingly unrelated facts or events, just like becoming aware of more complex family trees through DNA-analyses is the medical part of history. How we deal with this as families or societies as a whole, is the trickier part. Structural changes of societies are marked by decades-like changes, but specific events like “Fukushima”, Tschernobyl or other man-made rather than natural disasters have created new forms of contamination and the spreading of it. In addition to family trees we need broader consideration for knowledge bases to demonstrate, for example, the spread of cancer in the networked society. Additionally this evidence should have a stronger recognition in courts as prove of contamination lines. Statistical reasoning is more likely to become court-relevant. Hence, train the legal profession beyond what “statistical discrimination” is like. Causal mechanisms are manifold. Some are more likely than others. Semantic knowledge graphs remind us of the presence of reverse causality many relationships. Scientists need an optimistic state of mind to abstract from many intervening processes on health, be they tiny micro- or bigger macro-level societal effects.

Flotow Potpourri

Über das musikalische Thema der Flotow Oper „Martha“ gibt es der heutigen Popmusik vergleichbar spätere verkürzte Versionen. Zu einiger Beliebtheit ist das Potpourri zu den Motiven von Martha gekommen. Kleineres Orchester und ein melodisches vereinfachtes Arrangement konnten für kurze Konzertabende verwandt werden. Der Komponist und Arrangeur Spasny Op. 65 hat Flotows Melodien aus „Martha“ publiziert (desgleichen von Wagner und Verdi). Die Kopie in der KBR Bruxelles ist ein kompletter Orchestersatz datiert von 1886 und 28.7.1894. Aufgeführt wurde das Potpourri im Kursaal von Ostende, wahrscheinlich für die Sommergäste in der Hafenstadt mit naheliegenden Erholungsgebieten und Küstenorten. Neben einigen schönen handschriftlichen Kopien für Violine (5 Seiten) oder Pauken (1 Seite, viele Pausentakte) ist die Partitur für die 1. Violino als „Conducteur“ (assisté?) ausgewiesen und sehr abgegriffen. Interessant sind die Anmerkungen und Einfügungen, wahrscheinlich zu wichtigen Parallelstimmen. Die komplette Streichung ab dem Larghetto am Ende der Partitur, anfänglich in Des-Dur, war vielleicht zu anspruchsvoll, für das zu erwartende Publikum. Ein F-Dur Abschlussakkord vorher klingt erholsamer, zumal im Urlaub nicht wahr. Der an einem Gag interessierte Musikfreund amüsiert sich an der Kritzelei am Anfang. Aus MARTHA; POTPOURRI ist Martha, Potpourrie geworden, was so viel heißt, wie „Martha verdorben“. Der Dirigent (Assistent? Es gibt noch ein sauberes Conducteurexemplar in der Mappe) hatte wohl einen schwierigen befristeten Sommerjob angenommen. Alternativ könnten wir das aber auch interpretieren als Kommentar zu der vereinfachten, aber verdorbenen Version der Flotowschen Martha als Originalstück. Genauer wollen wir das gar nicht wissen, oder?

Flotow Europa

In der späteren Aufführungspraxis des Werks von „Fritz“ von Flotow, wie ihn seine Mutter in MeckPom nannte, sollte es für den in Frankreich ausgebildeten Jugendlichen einige Fallstricke zu überwinden geben. Bereits seine erste Oper „Alessandro Stradella“ hatte mit Produktpiraterie zu kämpfen. Der Übersetzer Gustave Oppelt (1844 Autor zu Stradella genannt BNF), mit Erwähnung auch von Alphonse Royer, hatten die Rechte des Librettos inne (Stempel des Dépôt Légal 1859 Nr 1139). Anlässlich der Erstaufführung in Brüssel am 2-3-1859 au Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie erschien das gedruckte Libretto versehen mit einem Echtheitsstempel. Bereits 1860 gab es dann Anlass, dass Gustave Oppelt mit der Unterstützung von „Frédéric de Flotow“ für seine Übersetzungsrechte kämpfen musste und dazu eine Notiz in der „La revue et gazette musicale de Paris“ veröffentlichen mussten. Autorenrechte waren und sind keine Selbstverständlichkeit. Die Lebensgrundlagen vieler Künstler, besonders der KünstlerInnen, auch heute, bleiben meistens prekär. Flotow war bereits beteiligt an Vereinen, die die Kompensation von AutorInnenrechten vertraten. Die „Dédicace“ an die königliche Hoheit  Madame la grande Duchesse Douairière Alexandrine de Mecklembourg-Schwerin, née princesse de Prusse (Link Stammbaum), versteht sich dabei wohl auch als Dank für die Berufung von Flotow als Intendant an das Theater von Schwerin, gleich neben dem schönen Schloss. Mäzene konnten wohl über Stellenbesetzungen KünstlerInnen ihr künstlerisches Arbeiten weiterhin ermöglichen. Flotow brauchte auch die Unterstützung, die ihn zu seinem Lebensende nach Darmstadt umziehen ließ.

Ukraine 360

360 days of traumatising war of Russia in Ukraine. Yet, Ukrainians manage to stem the invasion this time for a year. My generation of baby boomers in Western Europe no longer knows the day to day horrors of war. A photo-realistic exhibition organised by Dr. Justyna Napiórkowsak together with the Ukrainian Embassy in Brussels brings to us more than images of destruction. The Exhibition builds on a transparent organisation. All day and night long you can feel and reflect in front of the gallery windows of what war means to people affected. Rather than passing over the daily horrific news, it is important to take in images that will last within you. Since the exhibitions excels in linking to strong own emotions, the images tell lasting stories. Communicating about war is difficult. This exposition at the “Mont des Arts 8” in Brussels, not far from the “Place des Martyres” is symbolic. Ukrainian artists are going to stay with us, showing us what “The year of resilience. courage, determination and solidarity” mean in the Europe of today. Ukrainian youth, like the whole population, demonstrates all of this in posing for their 2022 graduation photo (Stanyslav Senyk, 2022) actually within the ruins of their city. They seem to sing: “We shall build this city on rock and roll” again. Ukrainian culture is unique. Putin’s Russia is still living in the 50s state of mind. The Russian soldiers might soon have their 60s moment “make love, not war”. For persons with Russian roots in Eastern Europe it feels like what you believed or were told was a friend before is now turning around and you shooting at you including committing war crimes (Geneva convention) on you. The exposition is a “homage to Ukraine”, Ukraine’s resistance and resilience. Teaching us lessons, lessons we should like to learn fast for the survival of democracy and our way of life based on freedom not coercion. The sociology of war informs what the term “Zeitenwende” means. Look at it, rather than look away. As previous College Master at Jacobs University Bremen graduation ceremonies were very personal and emotional events meeting students, many with their families. Ukraine 3.0 will prevail eventually. Thanks, Justyna for putting images 360° and 360 days next to this optimistic message.


The years spanning from January 1940 to December 1949 are probably the worst to cramp into one decade. However, there are a few historians that use this approach to throw new light on a distant series of historical events in the 40s. The European perspective is dominated by war years and still has to deal with the unimaginable atrocities committed by Nazi-Germany until the end of the Second World War. From a more global historical perspective the war in the pacific also leaves lasting political changes, which are important to understand international politics and affairs of today. After a disastrous beginning with war for the USA for the decade, on the 10-12-1948 the United Nations (Charter Ratification 24-10-1945) General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the timeline at the end of the 40s we find the founding of NATO (4.4.1949) and (12-8-1949) the Geneva Convention which specifies internationally accepted laws of warfare. The beginning of the Cold War (Yalta and Potsdam Conferences in 1945) with strategies of containment and confrontation (Thomas Tandy Lewis, 2011 p.220), Berlin blockade determined a long-lasting concern for a balance of power across the world. The 40s were a market period of de-colonisation as well. The U.S. enabled struggles for independence to succeed with a sticks and carrots politics towards their wartime allies.  The Marshall Plan for European Recovery is the most prominent example of this period. Ronald Goldberg (2012) includes a chapter on the home front in his summary of the forties in the U.S.A. After the 2nd World War all countries had to re-establish their societies and economies that had suffered due to lack of sometimes even caring for the most basic needs. Important lessons have to be learnt from the 1940s (Dave Renton, 2000 p.144) concerning how Fascists could rise and why, for example Britain, could resist the fascist movement. Anti-fascism in Britain during the 1940s and the importance to stop beginnings of an undemocratic political movement early and with the help of the police are 2 elements of the lessons learnt. Goldberg argues that it is less the Fascist ideology that conquered the minds of people, but the organisation as a political and para-military movement that is the more important threat to democracy.

From AI with Love

Love is action. Love is balance. Love is corruption.
Love is democracy. Love is enterprise. Love is freedom.
Love is god. Love is health. Love is imagination. Love is joy.
Love is knowledge. Love is law. Love is memory.
Love is nature. Love is optimism. Love is policy.
Love is question. Love is repairing. Love is society. Love is time.
Love is union. Love is value. Love is war.
Love is xeno. Love is yinyang.
Love is zero.
All you need is laugh. Love is all you need.


Eine Sammlung von Aphorismen, wie sie Georg Christoph Lichtenberg hinterlassen hatte, regten viele Denkende an, sich mit seinem Gedankengebäude zu befassen. Die prägnante Form der Zusammenfassungen, Hypothesen oder Vermutungen zu jeweils einem großen Thema hat ihn unsterblich werden lassen. In Form von Gedankenblitzen, Neudeutsch Tweets, vor mehr als 222 Jahren, gestorben ist er im Jahr 1799, zeugen von großem Weitblick, Tiefe und Breite seines Wissens (Polymath). Jede Person, die sich heute in der Schule mit der Infinitesimalrechnung befasst, der mathematischen Annäherung an einen GrenzwertS (Mathe Vorlesungsnotizen pdf), findet bei Lichtenberg zum Beispiel die Anwendung dieser Methode auf soziale Phänomene. Einer Wahrheit werden wir uns auch nur annähern können, selbst wenn wir sie auf unsere Weise, zumindest temporär, als solche definieren.  Vor mehr als 250 Jahren hat Lichtenberg bereits in seinem ersten „Sudelbuch“ interessante Gedanken niedergeschrieben, die uns heute noch Nachdenken lassen. „Unser Leben hängt so genau in der Mitte zwischen Vergnügen und Schmerz, dass uns schon zuweilen Dinge schädlich werden können, die uns zu unserm Unterhalt dienen, wie ganz natürlich veränderte Luft, da wir doch in die Luft geschaffen sind.“
Dem modernen Menschen ist das Bewusstsein, in die Luft geschaffen zu sein, fast vollständig abhandengekommen. Unsere Eingriffe, wider besseren Wissens, lassen weltweit jährlich Millionen Menschen vorzeitig sterben am Smog der Moderne. Innovation ist enervierend, wenn sie nicht vornehmlich den Menschen im Blick hat. Es sollte noch einige Jahre nach Lichtenberg brauchen bis Goethe Faust den Satz sagen ließ: Die Geister, die ich rief, ich werd’ sie nicht mehr los. Lichtenberg setzte das obige Zitat so fort: „Allein wer weiß, ob nicht vieles von unserem Vergnügen von diesem Balancement abhängt; diese Empfindlichkeit ist vielleicht ein wichtiges Stück von dem, was unsern Vorzug vor den Tieren ausmacht.“   Aus dem Akt der Balance den jede/r Einzelne zwischen Schmerz und Vergnügen im Lebensverlauf beschreibt ist längst ein gesellschaftlicher und politischer Balanceakt geworden, zwischen gesellschaftlichen Gruppen sowie zwischen Generationen. Die Abweichungen von einem Grenzwert oder von einem ausbalancierten Zustand sind ebenfalls größer geworden, so dass der ganze Akt ins Wanken gerät. Mit dem beschriebenen, unserem Vorzug vor den Tieren, könnte jedoch ebenfalls ein Teil des Problems sein, denn die Vernichtung der Biodiversität ist nun mal noch die Lebensgrundlage des homo sapiens. Seien es Schwankungen um einen Mittelwert oder immer kleinere Annäherungen an einen Grenzwert, wir wanken auf Pfaden, die Lichtenberg angerissen hat. Blogposts sind wohl vergleichbar den Einträgen in Sudelbüchern.  Aus vielen Puzzleteilen kann ein Gesamtbild entstehen, muss aber nicht. Die Begriffe „Random Walk“ oder „Brownsche Bewegung“ sind erst lange nach Lichtenberg entwickelt worden. Heute sind wir von dem „Random Walker Algorithmus“ begeistert oder erschreckt, wenn letzterer für „fake news“ statt Wahrheitsfindung missbraucht wird.

Photo K

The self portrait is a timely topic for an exhibition of photography. As part of the European month of photography (EMOP), the PhotoBrusselsFestival offers a good overview of what photography deals with in the 21 century. The Korean cultural centre (KCC) in Brussels has a long tradition to serve as an exposition in the centre of Brussels (Sablon) and is joining this year’s photo festival. The 2023 photography festival has the “Self-Portrait” as a guiding theme. Rather than entering the debate about “portrait chosen or portrait endured” (Photographica 5,2022) the self-portrait has more degrees of freedom in it. Even if it is apparently a choice to portrait oneself, there are ample examples, where the urge to produce a self-portrait is part of a wider concern for fundamental issues.
The exhibition of 5 artists from Korea at the KCC invites us to reflect on the pervasive self-portrait practice all around us. The self-portrait is not only a tool of self-reflection, which has a long tradition in art (just think of a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer of himself), but self-portraits are also pervasive on media and social media today. Additionally, the self-portrait is a powerful tool of thinking and imagining yourself at various stages of the life-course. For centuries it had been a social or political privilege to have your portrait taken. It still is to some extent, but only if the person taking the photograph, has a special reputation. In a market difference to the selfie, the exhibition of artists in the KCC highlights the process of self-reflection that is part of creating the portrait as well as the ensuing reflection by the spectator. In looking at the self-portrait of the photographer, we might involuntarily deal first with our own perception of the image. Danger, dreams, fantasy, sorrow, pain, self-assertion and reconstruction of the self, all these themes come to mind when confronted with the self-portraits of the 5 artists (Bae Chan-hyo, Jeong Yun-soon, Lee Jee-young, Ahn Jun, Choi Young-kwi).
KCC director Kim Jae-hwan names this collection, curated by Seok Jae-hyun, “An odyssey of images leading to self-re-flection”. In referring back to the protagonists in novels from Hermann Hesse, he points our attention to the “unique journey through images as they find themselves”. To embark on the journey visit KCC in Brussels, ask for a copy of the catalogue or start by reading the title of the exposition: “Who Am I” – it is apparently no longer a question after the journey. Is it for you?  More reflection on images and photos here.

Affordable Art

The affordable art fair in Brussels 2023 has different rules than other art fairs. First of all, well behaved dogs are allowed to visit. Underdogs might have a problem. The entry fee is an astonishing 20€, only 5€ less than “Brafa”. Inflation hits affordable art apparently more than the prestigious fair, at least at first impression. It remains questionable, whether artists represented as affordable art can actually afford to make a decent living from their art, now and at retirement. Taking into account the cost of rent, material and working time of artist, gallerist and transportation, art is frequently the art of minimalist approaches. The “garbage cycle N18” by Alessandro Gerull presented by WinArts challenges our habits of endless production of garbage by use of recycled material for making art. Not an entirely new idea, but still intriguing at affordable prices. Similarly, from the same gallery the work from Golsa Golchini invites us to “Remember to water the plants” as we might have asked somebody to help us out.
Re-use of material or innovation in photography are present at many places. Discovering new talents at affordable prices is a feasible feature of affordable art around the globe. The thresholds of entry are considerably lower than at Brafa. The surroundings of the old Tour & Taxis Logistics Centre in Brussels are an interesting excursion in modern renovation of old industrial sites as well. Not many skill-shortages in arts, except the more critical and provocative artists probably have still a hard time to find their way into galleries and art fairs. Other cities dare more daring art, be it affordable or not. The concept is a bit like coffee or “art to go”, quite many people walk away with a nice, little parcel in their hands. Even participatory art is represented, a kind of do-it-yourself, or finish it yourself drawing. It is fun to experience and to be part of affordable art of that kind to leave with some positive vibes (Roxehga). Enjoy!