Yup, not only the cars are fast on the German autobahn!

Crazy Skateboard Downhill German Autobahn

Oh, and now the police try to find him so they can give him a ticket, tsk, tsk...

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"The smoking bans in the German states of Baden-Württemberg and Berlin violate the constitution. However, the laws stay valid until the end of 2009, by when the parliaments have to pass new laws."

Seen on tagesschau.de (German). Crazy. Baden-Württemberg happens to be the state I live in.

It seems, the laws violate the rights of owners of very small bars. Why? Because owners of bigger bars are allowed to designate special areas to smokers; in smaller bars, that's impossible, leading to a significant disadvantage for these bars. As people won't have a way to smoke there, they'll move on to bigger bars instead, violating the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of profession.

Apparently, while only the anti-smoking laws of two states were in question here, this is a big signal for the other 14 states as well, as most of them have almost identical laws in place.

We'll see how the state governments react to that. If I had to guess, I'd say they'll allow bar owners under a specific square meter size of the establishment to choose whether or not they want to be a smoking or non-smoking venues.

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Interesting, I just noticed that what is known (and has been for like a decade or so) as the "Opel Astra" in Europe is sold here in the US under the Saturn brand name, making it the Saturn Astra:

Both Saturn and Opel are brands under the hood of General Motors, so there's no big surprise here. What's more interesting is that 4-dollars-a-gallon seem to be making American car buyers interested in smaller European-style cars quite a bit more than they used to.

Also, the very same cars (sold under the same or a different brand name, doesn't matter) are much more affordable over here. The abovementioned Astra can be bought for 18.000 US dollars on this side of the big pond, while you'll have to cough up 20.000 Euros (that's about 30.000 dollars) easily for the same car in continental Europe.

The usual excuse for higher car prices in Europe used to be "the European customer wants higher quality than the American one" -- when the very same car is concerned though, this argument is hardly convincing.

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Semi-finals!! Need I say more?

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"Don't fall asleep!" -- a nice reminder for the drummer of the big band I play in, on the 1943 Tommy Dorsy piece "Opus One".

And because you've been such a good readership lately, here's the original record for you. Enjoy!

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Something tells me, this sign I came across in a German store has one "e" too much:

Or maybe I just missed the latest trend and in fact, slime is the new black.

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A little video from the Animaniacs TV show featuring a song about the nations of the world.

Funny how they sing "Germany now in one piece" -- of course some things are outdated too, such as "Czechoslovakia". Needless to say that "Yugoslavia" is also a thing of the past. These facts, by the way, date the song somewhere between 1990 and 1993, if I am not mistaken.

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Exactly 75 years ago today, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor by the President of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg. This was the start of the Nazi regime and marked the beginning of what would become the darkest chapter in German history.

The very same day, Hitler's SA goons (nicknamed the "brown shirts") started bullying people in the streets and held torchlight processions. In an article in the local paper today, it is mentioned that none of these processions happened in Ettlingen, the fairly little city I live in (which consisted of hardly 10,000 citizens at the time), and in the few remaining elections, the catholic "Zentrum" party still got the majority in the city, in spite of the overwhelming propaganda started by the Nazis. However, that this is a sign of "inner resistance" can be doubted: The same year, 1933, the city awarded Hitler honorary citizenship for his "immortal achievements" for Germany -- something that hardly speaks for neutrality, let alone resistance.

A nice quote (yet, due to his slightly vulgar Berlin dialect, hardly ever officially mentioned) comes from Max Liebermann, a German painter of the time, who was allegedly watching the Nazi procession in Berlin from his apartment, when he said (my translation):

You know, I can hardly eat as much as I'd like to vomit.

Reichstag Fire, source: WikipediaIn one month now, on February 27th, it will be the 75 anniversary of the Reichstag fire, an arson attack to the German parliament that the Nazis took as an excuse for their infamous Reichstag Fire Decree, abolishing central constitutional rights in order to suppress any opposition to the regime.

At the time, a Dutch bricklayer was allegedly arrested inside the Reichstag claiming he had set the fire. He was sentenced to death and killed in early 1934. However, he was likely a scapegoat and who actually set the Reichstag on fire remains unclear still today. Only two weeks ago, the death sentence against him was finally officially thrown out by a German judge, on the basis of the violation of "breaches of basic conceptions of justice". At the time of the fire, arsonists could not be sentenced to death in the Weimar Republic; only an emergency decree released after the fact and applied retroactively led to his eventual execution.

As you can see, Germany still hasn't worked through all the remainders of nazism and is still today in the process of "cleaning up" the injustice left by the regime.

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Librivox.org, a public domain audiobook project, has a copy of Mark Twain's fabulous essay "The Aweful German Language" in which he pleasurably depicts the pitfalls and oddities of the German language. The summary reads:

If you’ve ever studied German (and maybe even if you haven’t), you’re likely to find this short essay to be hilarious. Published as Appendix D from Twain’s 1880 book A Tramp Abroad, this comedic gem outlines the pitfalls one will encounter when trying to wrap one’s mind around the torturous German cases, adjective endings, noun genders, and verb placement. (Summary by Kara)

Incidentally, the audiobook is read by a German, which adds to its hilarity. (And I hereby admit to probably having a similar accent, so yeah...)

By the way: Don't take the poor Mark Twain too literally. German really isn't that bad! :)

Link to the audiobook (the page also has a link to add it to iTunes with one click).

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Funny: According to German news magazine tagesschau.de, the CNN weather forecast still draws a thick border between the former German Democratic Republic and West Germany:

CNN Europe: West Germany and the GDR

Of course, we really can't expect them to update their maps within 17 years after a major political event.

The screenshot is an actual screenshot from today, but meanwhile, CNN has acknowledged the "recent" developments in world history and removed the obsolete border. Luckily, you can't zoom in any further -- otherwise we'd likely find the Berlin Wall intact and well-guarded ;) .

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