President Busch is dead

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Yes, Bolivia had a President Busch, too.

In a strange coincidence, Germán Busch was the 41st and 43rd President of Bolivia, just like George Bush Sr. and Jr. were the 41st and 43rd Presidents of the United States of America. But Germán Busch’s first term in office was only three days. The second lasted two years until it was cut short by the President’s death at age 35.

The prevailing assumption is that he committed suicide. But when you consider that

  • Busch had been trained by Germany officers in Bolivia,
  • he had been an adjutant to Hans Kundt and Ernst Röhm,
  • during the Chaco War he fought together with Achim von Kries, who later established the Landesgruppe Bolivien of the German Nazi party NSDAP (yes, they were everywhere),
  • the Axis Powers and the Allies were competing for influence everywhere in South America at that time,
  • Busch had expropriated US-American oil companies,
  • Bolivia was negotiating with the Nazis about concessions for gold mines,
  • President Busch had already received a Mercedes-Benz cabriolet 770K as a gift from Adolf Hitler before the agreement was finalized,
  • Germany was financing the Bolivian national airline Lloyd Aereo Boliviano and the newspaper La Calle,
  • Busch died on 23 August 1939,
  • and one week later, World War II began,

this part of Bolivia’s history provides enough material for a thriller. And there would be many more incredible stories.

(Photographed at the cemetery of La Paz in Bolivia. – Zur deutschen Fassung.)

Posted in Bolivia, Death, Germany, History, Military, Photography, Politics, USA | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Not my kind of hostel

South America is noisy enough, I definitely don’t need a hostel that advertises “party”.

party-hostel

(Photographed in La Paz, Bolivia, where I found quieter and cozier places to stay.)

Posted in Bolivia, Photography, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

Murder on Easter Island

“Are you here to investigate the mysterious deaths?” I was asked when I arrived on Easter Island, shattering the image of a peaceful paradise.

“No,” I replied, but it made me curious. Over the following days, I should find plenty of evidence of a streak of murder and rage.

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Yes, that is a toppled moai in the background. The murderers need to topple the moai because they believe it could otherwise observe them.

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Some of these scenes would actually make for beautiful postcards.

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The cemetery on Easter Island is a wonderful example of syncretism, the blending of different beliefs, with Rapa Nui figures holding Christian crosses.

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On the return flight to Santiago a week later, a few seats were empty. More skeletons would be found soon. Time for CSI Rapa Nui to investigate.

(Hier könnt Ihr diesen Beitrag auf Deutsch lesen.)

Posted in Chile, Death, Easter Island, Photography, Travel | Tagged | 1 Comment

The little Literature Lover

The museum in Narihualac was closed. All I could do was walk through the dusty streets of the small village, watch one of the many religious processions which take place in Peru every day and visit some bars to soak up shade, water and chicha.

By Edward John Allen

The chicha had too much alcohol for me, but the children of the village were tough enough to devour the whole mug in seconds.

By Edward John Allen

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Narihualac’s main industry is actually not alcohol, but the production of straw hats which are better known under the name of Panama, which is really 1500 km away. So I went into one of the hat stores and was fascinated by an exhibition piece with a diameter of at least one meter.

By Edward John Allen

The daughter of the hat makers was more fascinated by my hat which had traveled 11,500 km from Transylvania to Peru. She was very eager to try on the Gabor hat and only reluctantly handed it back to me.

By Edward John Allen

From then on, Margarita, the 10-year old girl didn’t leave my side, although two boys of similar age told me that I should rather hire them as local guides because the girl was bad at school. Speaking about it, “why aren’t you at school?” I asked. It was Monday. “Today is our day off” she replied and because there were children running around everywhere, I had no choice but to believe it.

The curios girl asked me about Europe, if I had ever been on a plane, what languages I speak, how much my hat cost, where I would travel next, if she could try on the hat once more, whether I have pets, why I am so tall, if we have tablet computers in Europe and if I had games on my cell phone.

Finally, Margarita wanted to know what my profession is. When I talk to adults, I sometimes explain the concept of freelancing or of a digital nomad. Even when I want to keep it simple, I have several options: lawyer, translator, blogger, journalist, spy. In other languages I find it less boastful to use the word writer, so I replied that I am an escritor.

The girl jumps two steps ahead of me, puts herself in my way and looks at me with excitement, her eyes and mouth wide open in delight: “You write stories?” She couldn’t be more enchanted if she had an astronaut in front of her.

“Yes.“

“And novels?” she asks hopefully.

“Not yet,” I am beginning to explain.

“But you are going to write a novel?” And before I can respond: “Do you also write fables?”

In this moment, in a dusty village in the Sechura Desert, on an unbearably hot day, while a young girl in sandals is going through all genres of literature like other children in her age could rattle down only TV shows or soccer players, and making the impression as if writer is the greatest profession on earth, I decide that I won’t return to my lawyer job after this journey, but that I will exclusively devote myself to writing.

I don’t care that most adults react differently. I don’t care that they respond with “huh?” instead of “wow”. I don’t care that they ask about the financial returns, health insurance or retirement plan. I don’t care about their lack of curiosity and excitement. I don’t care that almost nobody reads stories anymore and that most people prefer to mindlessly scroll through their phones. I don’t care that even friends suggest to me that I should make videos of my travels because they are too lazy to read.

None of that matters. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I want to explain the way I see the world. And if there are only a handful of people like the young literature lover from Peru, then it’s worth the effort.

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(Thanks to Edward Allen for the photos. More of them coming soon! – Hier geht es zur deutschen Fassung der Geschichte.)

Posted in Books, Panama, Peru, Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Prison for Writers: How Romania promotes Literature

When bloggers don’t write it’s not for lack of ideas. If that was their problem, they would never have had the idea of harassing the rest of the world – innocently and unsuspectingly stumbling through the internet – with their thoughts without being asked to do so in the first place. They don’t write for lack of time, lack of a quiet place or lack of money. Because the lack of the latter forces them to sell their time in other ways, prostituting themselves to clients instead of writing for a Pulitzer.

When starving writers meet, sooner or later you will hear one of them say “I would need to go to prison for half a year in order to write without any distractions”. As someone who has actually been to one of these institutions – albeit only for a week, during which I had no access to paper or pencil outside of interrogations, thus not permitting me to use that time productively – I always found this idea slightly inappropriate.

But Romania has made this writers’ dream come true and even provides incentives to creativity that expresses itself in writing. Inmates in Romanian prisons can shorten their remaining prison term by writing and publishing. Hence the saying “publish or perish”. You get 30 days off your sentence for each scientific work. And the inmates really do write. 76 books by inmates got published in 2014, often several by the same author. Fraudsters, money launderers, bribers and bribees suddenly turn creative.

But when fraudsters become creative, experience suggests that this goes beyond the actual writing. Just like they did with their Bachelor and Master theses, they hire ghostwriters who churn out book after book. Quality doesn’t matter in this program, it’s only the volume and the number of publications that count. The content isn’t checked. Thus it comes as no surprise that it is mainly politicians and managers, of whom there are many in Romanian prisons – still not enough of them, my Romanian readers will interject -, who avail themselves of this opportunity. They have the money to employ “research assistants”. Meanwhile, some of the other inmates can’t even properly read or write.

As much as this unjust system deserves to be criticized, at least one aspect has improved since Ceausescu’s time. It used to be that writing got you into prison, now it gets you out of prison. And maybe one of the books will turn out to be a good one. After all, Romania lays bare literary talents in the most unexpected places, as Varujan Vosganian, the former Minister of Economy and Commerce, proved with his novel Cartea şoaptelor, which has already been translated into several other languages, although apparently not yet into English.

I am writing these lines in the park in Bolyai Street, outside of the prison in Targu Mures, but I am not creative enough to contrive a crime that I could commit spontaneously, that wouldn’t really harm anybody and that would – considering my flimsy criminal record so far – lead to more than a fine, but to less than the death penalty. Additionally, it should be something special, because just like you don’t want to toss off a boring romance story, you don’t want to commit a commonplace crime. It should make the evening news or the Romanian equivalent of the Criminal Justice Review. For Christmas, I would like to get a copy of the Romanian Penal Code to stimulate my creativity.

“I have written all of these myself.”

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

Posted in Books, Law, Romania | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

New Blog Address

First of all, if you have a subscription to my blog, you don’t need to change anything. If you have bookmarked links to my blog, you don’t need to change anything.

But if you want to tell your friends about my blog, I have made it easier for you by getting a shorter and more memorable domain name:

www-e

 

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If you don’t have a subscription to my blog, I recommend that you get one. It’s free and you can unsubscribe yourself anytime. Unlike with Facebook or Twitter, there is no nefarious algorithm that stands between my writing and your reading. Either use the RSS reader of your choice or click on this button

subscribe

in the right hand column of the blog and enter your e-mail address. With the RSS feed, you can even get tailored subscriptions, for example only to photos, only to travel articles or even to articles about a specific country. Very fancy stuff.

For those of you who speak – or at least read – German, I still have my German blog, which will from now on be available at www.andreas-moser.blog. Easy to remember: English blog without hyphen, German blog with hyphen. If too many readers will get confused by this, I can still change the address of the German blog to http://www.fueralledieessonstnichtkapieren-dashieristmeinblogaufdeutsch.de. The subjects there are often the same, but of course there are more articles about German politics and law, which I don’t find worthwhile to translate into English. And some of my more creative writing remains untranslated because it wouldn’t work in English, although this also happens the other way around.

By the way, if you ever think – as I do – that I am not writing enough, fast enough, there are around one thousand posts from the past four years. Enough to read for a whole week. It almost makes you want to break a leg in order to be confined to a hospital bed for that time, doesn’t it?

Posted in Facebook, Language, Technology | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts of the Day 4

  1. Donald Trump doesn’t understand the role of the media, asking them to please be nice because it will make things so much easier for him. It reminded me of the film Spotlight in which the Catholic Church asks the Boston Globe the same.
  2. Trump’s statement that “the President can’t have a conflict of interest” on the other hand reminded me of Richard Nixon’s “if the President does it, it’s not illegal”, if not of the defense used in the Nürnberg Trials.
  3. Jürgen Klinsmann is the first victim of Trumpism.
  4. Interestingly, if Donald Trump were to implement a huge infrastructure program, it would probably lead to more immigration from Mexico again.
  5. From an article about the death penalty in the US: “Stephen Bright, founder of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, argued that death sentences were generally imposed ‘not for the worst crimes, but the worst lawyers.'”
  6. For the few fellow lawyers who are interested in legal history, the BBC has a podcast about Justinian’s Legal Code.
  7. It was 100 years ago that Jack London died and many of the obituaries omit his greatest novel, Martin Eden. I am always sad when I see Jack London being reduced to his adventure novels, while Martin Eden is a beautiful book, in which I could really identify with the main protagonist, misunderstood by everyone else. One of the few novels I have read several times. Highly recommended in particular for anyone who is writing or wants to write. jack-london
  8. It’s interesting that Martin Eden is much more widely known in other languages, in particular in Russian and in Turkish than it is in the English word. Once I was in a bookstore in Tirana in Albania when a young couple in front of me bought Martin Iden, how he is called in Albanian. I congratulated them on their purchase and later saw them sitting on the steps outside of the theater, reading the book together.
  9. I left the store with a pile of books by Ismail Kadare. The File on H. was the best one.
  10. Albania is one of the countries that are totally underrated touristically and culturally. I would love to spend a few months there.
  11. After dinner, I also sat on the stairs in front of the theater, reading a newspaper and smoking a cigar, when the road and the square were blocked off. But because I looked somehow official in my khaki pants and blue shirt, the police didn’t ask me to leave. Then, several black bullet-proof cars with a US flag sped by. But it was only Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State, not President Obama.
  12. I did see Barack Obama twice, though, once in Berlin and once in Prague.
  13. The latter should be an encounter with far-reaching consequences for my arrest by the Iranian Intelligence Service a few months later.
  14. Ok, I am jumping from one story to the next. Let’s stop this. If I want to tell a story, I should sit down and write a book. When Jack London was as old as me, he was already dead.
  15. But did you know that my blog is still censored in Iran? If you try to access it, the Islamic Republic helpfully shows a page indicating more useful and interesting sites. Censorship with a smile. iran-filter-2011
  16. Book reviews on YouTube are mostly boring.
  17. The rescue of manuscripts from Timbuktu to Bamako is an old story, but I was just reminded of it by the conviction of Ahmad Al-Mahdi at the ICC.
  18. Finally, a photo of Peleş Castle. Maybe it will help you understand why I long for the Romanian winter, even when I am spending the summer in the southern hemisphere. peles-winter
Posted in Albania, Books, Iran, Law, Media, Romania, Sports, US election 2016, USA | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment