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Saturday, November 14, 2015


About 12 hours ago, a coordinated terrorist attack in Paris left more than 120 people dead and many injured. At a restaurant, a concert hall (during an Eagles of Death Metal show) and near a sports stadium (during a friendly with Germany), men armed with rifles and explosives murdered civilians and took hostages, seven out of eight attackers committed suicide bombings while the eighth was shot by the police. By now, the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility, who President Hollande already identified as such. During the brutal attack, the perpetrators supposedly mentioned Syria and the French involvement in the US-led coalition against IS. A day before the attack, Bavarian police arrested a man on his way to Paris, who was transporting weapons and TNT in his car. The attack took place in the vicinity of the Charlie Hebdo offices that had seen Jihadi violence in January, France had remained on highest alert level since then. In the case of Charlie Hebdo however, it was a very targeted attack, this savage act of violence on the other hand was directed at random civilians, which has a whole different quality to it.

The public reaction was instant. While the French police were still assaulting the concert venue where the hostages were round up and murdered, people tweeted their addresses as #PorteOuverte, open door, for those seeking refuge. With the phone network collapsed, Google made international Hangout calls to France free, people started looking for their friends and relatives on Instagram-photos and people shared their location and situation online. Political leaders from all over the world (including Israel and Iran, USA and Russia, China and Japan) expressed their condolences and condemned the savage attacks.

Just as instant were discussions about refugees, Europe's relationship to Islam and the military involvement in Syria - and also what this will mean for European foreign policies. Polish foreign Minister Waszczykowski already made statements that Poland will reconsider taking in refugees at all, while German Chancellor Merkel stated she is not about to change her current policy. What everybody agrees on is that this will further polarize the debate.

So far the facts. My subjective thoughts on that:

The statements that a) the reason Syrian and Afghani refugees flee their countries is exactly because of this kind of violence and b) that it is easy for military radicals to hide in the huge number of refugees are equally true. These attacks weren't conducted by the kind of people that sit in refugee camps because they fled their country, they were conducted by the kind of people that cause millions to flee. Radical right-wingers will still abuse this terrible event as a reason for further acts of violence against foreigners. Either way, I find it hard to imagine that there won't be significant changes in terms of borders patrols and probably digital and physical surveillance.

I think I've already said that in my opinion, Islam has no place in our world. Yes, only a small fraction of Muslims are Jihadi barbarians, but that should be enough. If an ideology is capable of producing inhuman murderers, it must be abolished. Same principle applies for nazism. Even if Islam wasn't the most common reference for international terrorism and acts of shocking violence - if you believe that the things in the Koran are literally true, you and your doctrine don't belong in the 21st century.

France has again been targeted, many reports comment, because of its involvement in the military campaign against IS. One reason for the refugee crisis is the failed foreign policy in the near east (that every mayor in Germany now has to deal with), where in typical Merkel fashion the policy of inactivity first and managing the fallout later has led to the terrible violence that has become normal for that region now spreading internationally. I've already said that I regrettably see the need for significantly extended pressure on IS, including boots on the ground. That also means better international coordination, especially with Russia.

Europe can go ahead and shut down its borders, increase general surveillance on the entire population, increase police presence, check airports more closely and so on, but the only thing that will achieve is a worse life for Europeans, condemning refugees to illegality, and only address symptoms, not root causes. 
If the European nations want to live in safety, they need to eradicate the reason these attacks take place. If that means fifteen years of increased intelligence, military and police involvement at the heart of these inhuman murderers, that seems more reasonable than fifty years plus of the same effort, wasted on tearing down the liberties these attacks were directed at. The entire world stands with France in these difficult days. It might be sensible to use this opportunity to find a consensus.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Axis Mundi

I've written a short story, not like normally where it's blog post length, but quite a bit longer. I've never put together anything this long before and spent quite a few hours of late-night typing on it. After several re-workings and minor changes, and although I know it's genre fiction schlock, I think I can now call it finished. The title of the story is Axis Mundi.

Briefly summarized, the story finds our protagonist on the fringes of society where the centralized digital powerhouses of the cloud era have failed and left public infrastructure in shambles. In the aftermath of the big technological breakdown, he has created his own small tech infrastructure that runs outside of the big services, and in his struggle to keep it running makes a few encounters that challenge his policy of non-involvement.

I'm stealing ideas from Neuromancer, S.T.A.L.K.E.R., all sorts of cyberpunk works, but mostly from the current tech news and from my professional experience. It's not about flying cars or super-intelligent robots or space travel, but rather about what the digital revolution means for society within the next twenty to thirty years. I've put in a lot of tiny references to works of fiction, real tech, digital subcultures and The Hero's Journey. Essentially, the story is about how the merging of the virtual and the physical realm might crash and burn and on the external, and about opportunities and what to make of them on the internal.
If you go ahead and read it, I recommend putting on Pertubator or GosT. 

As I haven't written something of this length before, I'd really appreciate some spoiler-free honest feedback in the comments in regards to the story, the character, the scenario and maybe even the phrasing.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Decapitation Blues

VHÖL - Deeper Than Sky [2015] []
Both Hammers of Misfortune and Ludicra aren't really for me, so VHÖL as a supergroup made up of those two plus Agalloch and YOB didn't impress by name. What it did impress with is how weird it is. There's bits and pieces of so many different styles in here, not necessary blended, but piled on top of each other. Progressive Heavy Metal stealing punkish riffs, Doom Metal smeared onto Darkthrone's last album, there is nothing that really sounds like it - the most fitting comparison might be with latter-day Coroner, until VHÖL brings out the piano and tambourine and female vocals, only to do a thrash metal song after that. Though it's not overly technical, it's complex. I can't even tell if it's particularly good. I'm only certain that it's a unique experience to listen to this record and that alone makes it a recommendation.

Clutch - Psychic Warfare [2015] []
I skipped Earth Rocker because one of my once-favorite bands had become stale and my musical tastes drifted into more extreme realms. Psychic Warfare returns Clutch to me with a fury. The recipe is still the same, but the mixture is slightly tilted to be sharper, more energetic, more to the point, despite the (overly?) clean sound. Not to say that the slow, atmospheric songs aren't fantastic (Doom Saloon + Our Lady of Electric Light), but many tracks spew the power of Pure Rock Fury or The Mob Goes Wild. Noble Savage might as well be a Motörhead song, and it takes until the very last song to bring out the bluesy feel that triumphed on the Beale Street album. Neil Fallon again proves himself the greatest rock singer of our time like it aint no thing. Steak-and-potatoes heavy rock music. More than 20 years later, Clutch still got it.

Apparatus - Apparatus [2015] []
This is the first full length by Apparatus from Copenhagen. Within the first few minutes, there is one striking comparison of what they sound like and that is Portal. I maintain that Vexovoid from 2013 was one of the best albums of the last ten years, and Apparatus try to hit that same sweet spot of experimental death metal that sounds like the soundtrack to a cave where a lovecraftian elder god dwells. If it wasn't for that comparison, had I only known this record and Vexovoid didn't exist, I would celebrate it as an amazingly weird, dark, heavy and scary piece of music. Because Portal "did it first" and sound strikingly similar, Vexovoid is what they fail to live up to. It's still a powerful, occult-sounding piece of indigestible black death metal sludge reaching for you from the abyss, but one abyss over, it's just a bit more spooky. A good second place.

Tribulation - The Formulas Of Death [2013] []
Everybody and their mom celebrate Tribulation's 2015 album "The Children of the Night" and 2009's "The Horror" as their best. I wasn't particularly enjoying either record, but between those two, the Swedes released "The Formulas of Death", which instantly took to my liking. Between the polished Death Metal sound of their native country (without sounding like another Dismember clone though!), there's lots of instrumental, experimental bits that might just as well have been on a YES album, but integrated in a way that they accompany the heavy parts rather than contrast them. If you cut out the progressive bits, there's a fun, professional and catchy Death Metal record to be enjoyed, but it's the transgression of genre boundaries without forgetting their roots that makes this record so good. In my eyes, this is their best album.

Further listening:
Morbus Chron - Sweven: Heady Progressive Death Metal, haven't quite figured it out yet
Mgla - Exercises in Futility: Modern Black Metal par excellence
Satan - Life Sentence: Can NWOBHM founders sucessfully return after 26 years? Yes!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Deutschland 83

I hardly ever watch any German TV shows or movies (except for news and documentaries), simply because they lack the production value and expertise of American or English productions. One recent exception is "Deutschland 83".

The eight-part series, as the title implies, takes place in Germany in the year 1983. The Stasi (Eastern Germany's secret service) suspects that NATO is planning a full-on attack on the DDR and sends out a young spy to go undercover in the western military and gather information on the impending assault. The show revolves around Martin Rauch, the young border patrol guard become spy, as he infiltrates the Bundeswehr and finds himself right in the middle of the Cold War heating up like hardly ever before. Between his duties in the Bundeswehr and the theft of information, he also has to deal with his family back in the DDR. Following the real Able Archer and RYAN operations, the assignment leads up to a situation where any further escalation could have meant the start of World War III and nuclear annihilation of Central Europe.

The show features lots of contemporary television reports, music, fashion and technology. The direction and editing, while not spectacular, accomplishes the right mixture of seriousness, occasional gags, spy action and family drama. It's quiet when it ought to be quiet, and it increases its pace when it should. The casting, especially Jonas Nay as Martin, the protagonist, Ulrich Noethen as Bundeswehr General Edel and Maria Schrader as Martin's aunt and Stasi contact stand out. The acting and screenplay is not quite up there with the triple-A shows from HBO and AMC, but I don't remember any German drama this fresh and exciting ever.

Deutschland 83 was shown on SundanceTV in the United States (in German with subtitles!) and is coming up in Germany on RTL (bleh). I was very positively surprised and clearly recommend this show - the only piece of television that ever managed to make anything DDR-related exciting.

"Sagen Sie nicht cool!"

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Genetically Modified Food

Our food always consisted of GMOs, only the method of modification is not just selective breeding anymore, but also genetic engineering. The arguments against GMOs as human food are, that results/side effects of the manipulation are not extensively researched, that biodiversity will be reduced, that the impact on other lifeforms in the same biosphere will be destabilizing, that the dependency on specific products and companies will be favoured, and many more. The arguments for GMOs as human food  are about productivity. The UN estimates that about 805 million of the 7.3 billion people in the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2012-2014. If the same agricultural area yields larger crops, it fights both world hunger and the need for deforestation. Personally, I think that genetic modification will be necessary to provide enough food for the increasing world population, but worry that they create proprietary means in the hands of the few patent-holders.

Disclaimer : Picture is not an accurate depiction of the average GMO tomato.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Trilobites are an extinct class of Arthropods and therefore ancestral cousins of spiders, centipedes and shrimp (and yes, Kabuto). A relative with great visual similarity is the horseshoe crab. At the peak of their diversity, up to 20.000 species existed. All across the world, there are many fossil records of these marine creatures, from the Himalayas to Death Valley in Northern America, from the Russian steppes to the British Isles. The biggest specimen ever found had an approximate length of 70cm.

Between the Pre-Cambrian (600 million years ago) to the Permian era (250 million years ago), evolution caused these early animals to develop diverse orders and families. Some Trilobites were predators that walked on the ocean floors and chewed up worms and slugs, while other Trilobites were able to swim and filter particles from the water. Because of this huge diversification, they were the dominant species of their day, until their population shrunk and was ultimately extinguished right before or during the Permian–Triassic extinction event that killed off 95% of all marine species. 

For 270.000.000 years, Trilobites were present in the Earth's oceans and remained one of the biggest populations of animals during much of that time. For comparison, Dinosaurs reigned the planet for about half that time. The Homo genus which includes the species Homo Sapiens developed ca. 2.800.000 years ago, so creatures that could be considered human have been around for ca. 1% of the timespan that Trilobites existed.