A break in the mundane for a bit of Bon vivantery

The Lenbach House in Munich’s Maxvorstadt neighbourhood.

Training for my new job has taken much of my time & nearly all of my energy, so the first thing that’s taken a backseat was blogging. Was recently alerted that this incarnation of my blogging is exactly two years old. Too bad I’ve not prepared anything more festive to celebrate the occasion.

However, I do have some rather good news for the excitement level of this site. Read recently that Elaine (@elaine4queen) was planning to run off and join the circus. Then I received an offer she thought I couldn’t refuse: Would I like to go with her? Run away and join the circus? Well, I don’t think either Elaine or I were cut out for the acrobatic or circus-like arts, but when she came up with a second option, I couldn’t resist. What, you ask, might that second option be?


Now, up until now I’ve refrained from bandying about stale stereotypes about Sicily being overrun by mafia sorts. To be frank, I’m momentarily easily distracted by stories of Palermo being the international centre of cake. What’s in store for you neglected readers in the next week or so is quite arguably the best thing that’s been going on hereabouts for a very long while.

Let the cake-ing commence. I can’t promise there won’t be at least one utterance of the questionably-attributed Marie Antoinette quote. You know? The one about running away and joining the circus.

forgiving the unforgivable

soldiers responsible for the flags at the memorial for the murdered athletes and coaches of the Israeli Olympic Team

One never knows what people will like. My last blogpost was one I’d saved, because although I thought it was morbid and dark, I thought it’d spur some conversation. Not in the least.

Amy over at Lucy’s Football commented on it, but she’d comment on me cutting and pasting swaths of the phone book. She’s on my team. Getting her into the conversation is sort of a given.

Why did I even go as negative as I did in Five things to harass the Dying? Well, believe it or not, there was method to my madness. I knew I’d be going to the ceremony commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics that day.

When I was having my first cup of tea that morning, I really pondered what it must’ve been like to be a family member of one of the slain Israeli athletes. Could I really forgive what was done in the name of making a political statement? If the people who perpetrated the crime never apologised or even saw that what they’d done was wrong, then how could forgiveness even be a topic under discussion?

I suppose the forgiveness is part of what’s slowly happening between the Jewish people and the German State. Think about it for a second, will you?

Your people were murdered in the millions in a methodical manner during a war that somehow engulfed most of the planet. Then nearly thirty years later the international community watches as your citizens are brutally murdered in the same country in which those wartime atrocities had taken place. How would you feel?

I know it’s very popular to criticise Israel, especially on the left, and I won’t begin to defend the way the present day Palestinians are being treated. It’s a travesty. Full stop. However, when I look at the way the Israeli citizens are treated in very symbolic ways, I can’t help but feel that there is some sort of prevailing anti-semitism on the world stage.

When the two athletes were killed at 31 Connolly Straße in the Olympic Village in Munich in the early morning hours of 5 September 1972, the world watched as those in control of the Olympics decided that the show must go on. Really? Two athletes had died at the hands of terrorists.

Because of enough of an outcry the Games were halted on that day while the police tried to figure out the best way to handle the situation. It was only much later that night that the remaining members of the team (both athletes and coaches), as well as one West German police officer, were killed by the terrorists.

Well,‘ you ask,’Certainly, they stopped the Games then, didn’t they?

You know where this is going, right? After what was deemed a suitable period of honorable waiting, the Olympics went on. The prevailing wisdom was that stopping the event would be letting the terrorists win. Twelve people had been murdered at the Olympics, and the Israeli government should somehow be grateful that there was a memorial service for those who were killed. I don’t think that’s how they saw it. Am pretty certain they saw it very differently.

I’m prepared for preposterous comments here as a result of this topic. Please be warned that I’ll delete any ridiculousness. If you can’t be civil, go somewhere else. I’ve got little, if any,time for nonsense. Really, I don’t.

Here’s what I wrote about in The Munich Eye after attending the memorial: Flags at half staff for the victims of the 1972 attacks. Notice how respectfully I tried to deal with it without getting overly political. Of course, I’m aware I could be emotional on the topic. I decided my blog was where I’d make my editorial comments.

right is right and wrong is wrong

who wouldn't let that car pass an emissions test?

That people lie, cheat and steal isn’t newsworthy. It’s human nature, right? If raised properly, then one assesses an ethical dilemma and simply does the right thing. It’s easy. No grey area at all. People with much more time than we have can be bothered with grey areas. We have things to do.

Yet as is so often the case, it’s not that simple. I heard a thing about fraud earlier  on npr (National Public Radio), and it got me thinking. That’s normally when the trouble starts. Here’s the offending piece that got all this started:

Psychology of Fraud: Why Good People Do Bad Things

First of all, I’m sure you like the title partially because you think of yourself as a good person. Most of us do. We’re the protagonists of our lives and we sail through vanquishing different forms of questionable behaviour. Well, some of us do.

Don’t believe the scolding press that tells you everyone’s only out for himself. In my experience, most people are trying to do the best they can. I truly believe that. Despite the fact that this position isn’t jaded or weary, I hold to it. People are good. Mostly.

So why do people bend the rules? 

Here the radio programme set it out quite succinctly:

‘Typically when we hear about large frauds, we assume the perpetrators were driven by financial incentives. But psychologists and economists say financial incentives don’t fully explain it. They’re interested in another possible explanation: Human beings commit fraud because human beings like each other.

We like to help each other, especially people we identify with. And when we are helping people, we really don’t see what we are doing as unethical.’

That doesn’t seem like such a stretch, does it? Sounds logical to me.

They use the example of emissions testers. A sleek, expensive BMW pulls up coughing out black smoke, and that baby’s going to fail that emissions test. As well it should. However, if a more modest vehicle drives up to be tested, the emissions tester is more likely to identify with that driver and let the car slide.

When the emissions tester commits the fraud, he’s not doing it out of greed. It actually comes down to being nice. In that moment, the bigger picture of that decision doesn’t exist. The researcher goes on:

‘…cognitively, emissions testers can’t appreciate the consequences of their fraud, the costs of the decision that they are making in the moment. The cost is abstract: the global environment. They are literally being asked to weigh the costs to the global environment against the benefits of passing someone who is right there who needs help. We are not cognitively designed to do that.’

Am I the only one who finds this fascinating? I can’t be. The implications are too huge.

We can’t just lump all the people who make unethical decisions into a group and call them ‘bad’. I mean, you can. And many people certainly do without any crisis of conscience. I like how the npr story ends, so I’ll let it speak for itself. It’s a dilemma I don’t brush away lightly:

‘…we could just keep saying what we’ve always said — that right is right, and wrong is wrong, and people should know the difference.’

you’ve got stool

Postbox in Weimar (don't have a photo of a Munich postbox)

It all started this last summer. There were a few mentions of it in the local paper, but you could tell they didn’t want to say too much. Give too many details. Their concern regarding copycat incidents was understandable. You don’t want to give people ideas.

Someone in the Munich area has been sending more than the mail in local postboxes. The Deutsche Post has discovered faeces in their bright yellow receptacles. First they thought it was dog waste, but they’ve looked into the matter, and it turns out that this is manmade.

Here, I’ll let you read what I found about this in English: Crappy correspondence confounds Munich.

As they say in the article, ‘…the errant stool…has caused thousands of dollars in damage and much aggravation.’ This one’s almost writing itself.

Why on earth am I even telling you about all this? You’re trying to eat your breakfast or whatever and you open up what up until now has been a relatively refined and thought-provoking blog, and what’s he talking about? Poop in the chute? The postman always wipes twice?

Well, that reserved blogging is behind us. If you read the article to the end you’ll see that they’re offering a €4,000 reward. I’ll be able to buy all the Bavarian Weißwurst I want with that kind of dosh.

Here’s where you come in. You’ve watched those Profiler shows, right? Where they come up with a motive and zero in on the killer? Yes, that kind. But here there’s no murder. It’s property damage. Rather than ‘you’ve got mail’ it’s ‘you’ve got poop’ (thanks @piisalie  in Oklahoma City). This is serious stuff.

I need you to help me come up with a profile. What sort of person would shove his own excrement back into such a tight space? Maybe it started as a prank, and it was just too much fun. Which begs the question: Who would find such a thing fun? These are Profiler questions-pay attention folks.

So now it’s up to you. I’ve been very impressed with the player participation on this non-teablog thus far. From Jim w (@blogginglily) the nicest troll to ever muck up an early blogpost and trailblazer1‘s excellent research skills in finding out more about Benedetto Cotrugli and Double-Entry Bookkeeping, all the way through to Lisa Galaviz introducing us to the wonders of truckballs (http://southern4x4.com/images/Truck%20Nutz.jpg).

You readers are an eclectic and industrious lot. Now? Let’s go catch us the perpetrator of all this Poop Mail.

updated version:

Ok, I’m going to build a composite based on your excellent profiling skills (I’ll work from the last ones backwards):

If he’s been eating carrots or sweet corn, we’re going to know about it. Not sure about what I’d actually be looking for if I staked out a supermarket…individuals buying sweet corn? Or carrots? That seems like a stretch, but otherwise…uh…an interesting lead Lisa.

From what inkstainedpaws has deduced, he’s a mentally ill adolescent. Ok, looks like we’re getting somewhere. If he’s buying sweet corn or carrots, we’ve almost got him cornered.

Our good friend Lewin has also gone down the digestive tract of leads, as it were. Once the Bavarian authorities let me near the evidence, we’ll be well on our way. lucysfootball offered her assistance, I magnanimously said I’d share my Weißwurst, but we’ve heard nothing else from the dear lady. She clearly has no idea how delicious the Weißwurst is. Come on lucysfootball. We could use your valuable hands-on attention.

Some of you were rather proficient at this whole Profiler thing. Patrick doubts the perpetrator’s using his own fecal material, and is sure the guys making a point about modern society’s filth. Why he’d drive an upmarket vehicle, I don’t know. But on the other hand, why not? Clean-shaven, married, once-divorced financial market worker. Wow…it’s like we’ve already caught the bastard. Thanks Patrick. Hope you like Weißwurst. Hope no CSU functionaries actually read this. Their notorious good sense of humour will probably fail in this situation.

Canzonett makes a good point that this is most definitely a man, as Lewin does later. No one seriously thinks this is a lady. If it is, in fact, a woman, she’s been crazy like a fox. And blogginglily quite logically believes that this can all be attributed to anger with the sewage/waste department. An unpaid bill or some sort of unbelievable slight on him that the city services have unknowingly committed.

All of you should start preparing the celebrations. This fellow is most definitely getting nervous as we close in on him.