The day is still somewhat young, and I’ve already been engaged in an online debate with someone. This person saw an article I shared on Facebook about a German choreographer named Marco Goecke who was in the news because he smeared dog shit on Wiebke Hüster, a German dance critic. Ms. Hüster had been watching a ballet on Saturday night, and was taking a break from the performance, when Mr. Goecke suddenly appeared in front of her and did the disgusting deed.
Just that morning, Ms. Hüster’s negative review of Goecke’s latest dance, “In the Dutch Mountains”, was published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Mr. Goecke, who is the ballet director of the Hanover State Opera, is 50 years old and has a pet dachshund named Gustav. He confronted the dance critic, asking her why she had written such a negative review of his work. Then he pulled out a bag of excrement– presumably from Gustav– and smeared some of it on Hüster’s face.
Ms. Hüster, naturally, was shocked and started to scream. She has reported the incident to the police, and said that although she will still be a dance critic, her days of watching and reviewing Marco Goecke’s dances are over. Many people in the German dance world are left bewildered. From the article:
…much of Germany’s dance world is trying to understand why a respected choreographer would attack a critic, and whether it represented a sign of a damaging shift in how artists view criticism.
Prior to this incident, Goecke was a very highly respected choreographer. According to the article:
Manuel Brug, a critic for the German newspaper Die Welt, said in an interview that Mr. Goecke was “the most important ballet choreographer in Germany.” His signature style, Mr. Brug added, involving rapid arm movements, makes dancers look “like flying birds.”
I suspect Mr. Goecke will face some shitty consequences for his stunt. He has already been suspended from his job with the Hanover State Opera. In addition, Mr. Goecke is the associate choreographer at the Nederlands Dans Theater. Representatives from the Nederlands Dans Theater have stated that Goecke’s actions are contrary to their values. They have not yet decided what repercussions, if any, he will face for his antics. I doubt he will go to prison for smearing shit on a critic, but he’ll probably face fines and other unpleasant sanctions. We’ll see.
My position is that Mr. Goecke was absolutely wrong to physically attack Ms. Hüster over her review of his work. My friend’s position is that Ms. Hüster “had it coming”. So we had a bit of a back and forth about that. My friend’s take is that critics make a living “tearing down other people’s work.” My friend wondered how critics can sleep at night, earning money expressing negative views of people’s art.
I vehemently disagree that all critics make a living tearing down people’s work. In fact, given that critics are usually writers, I would say that what they do is also artistic. It takes talent and skill to write well constructed and reasoned opinions that interest other people. Moreover, no one is forced to read or heed the critic’s opinions. I have read plenty of opinions with which I disagreed. I have never felt it would be appropriate to physically attack the person with whom I disagreed, even if I was extremely opposed their views.
I used to write a lot of product reviews. I tried hard to be fair and balanced when I shared my opinions. It was very rare occasion that I couldn’t find something positive to include in my reviews, even if I really didn’t like something. I knew that my reviews helped people make buying decisions, but it certainly wasn’t the deciding factor. I’ve enjoyed entertainment that a whole lot of critics didn’t like. Their opinions didn’t stop me from enjoying things. They just offered a perspective. I am very opposed to the idea of squelching opinions, even if they’re negative.
My friend doesn’t like James Taylor’s music. I have never known this person to hold back opinions, so they were very comfortable letting me know that James Taylor isn’t their cup of tea. A few months ago, this friend also stated that they thought the beautifully prepared trout I was enjoying for lunch looked like someone had vomited on the plate. Personally, I disagreed with both of those opinions and actually felt a little hurt regarding the trout. It was delicious and beautifully presented, in my view. It’s not nice to yuck on other people’s yum, you know. But the idea that expressing negative opinions might be hurtful to me didn’t stop my friend from commenting.
What’s the difference? A talented newspaper journalist makes a living writing reviews. Some people care about their opinions, but a lot of people don’t. It’s a living. What they do is also creative.
As someone who makes his living in the arts, it should have been very obvious to him that alienating critics is not the best move for a choreographer. At the very least, it was completely unprofessional and embarrassing for the dance company, which is competing for audiences against a lot of other companies. At the worst, it was psychologically damaging and humiliating for Ms. Hüster, not to mention unsanitary and potentially unsafe.
It’s been said that all publicity is positive publicity. One might not like reading a negative review about one’s own work, but I think when it comes to the arts, a negative review is better than being ignored. Ms. Hüster is a respected dance critic who works for a major newspaper. She has said she won’t give Marco Goecke another chance. That means less publicity for Goecke AND the dancers, who are already in a tough business. Less publicity means less money. We all know that money is very important. Indeed, it makes the world go around. 😉
What Marco Goecke did may also have a “chilling effect” on other critics, which isn’t a good thing. It’s never a good thing to make people afraid to share their opinions. Sometimes, someone’s well-considered and constructive opinion leads to better and nicer things for everyone. In a free society, people should be free to express themselves and share ideas and opinions. If the opinion is that poorly considered, I would expect that Ms. Hüster would face consequences in the form of a demotion or job loss. She shouldn’t have to worry about her physical safety for practicing her craft as a journalist.
I would have been much more impressed by Marco Goecke if his response to Ms. Hüster’s criticism of his dance had been more like Tim Minchin’s. Tim once got a bad review by a journalist at The Guardian named Phil Daoust. Did Tim smear shit on Mr. Daoust for sharing his views? No… Instead, he used that review as fuel for another project. Behold:
You see, I think the sign of a true artist is channeling what they feel into something else. There’s nothing creative or artistic about Marco Goecke smearing shit on a woman’s face while she’s in public. There is no excuse for that conduct, even if some people think it was a funny thing to do (and it really isn’t– people laughing at this would NOT be laughing if it happened to them).
Marco Goecke should use his considerable artistic abilities to be constructive, stop dumping on his own reputation, and save the dog shit for the gray bin. That’s my critical opinion. 😉
Featured photo isArran in his carrier before we flew with him from Houston to Frankfurt in August 2014. Yes, we did take off his collar before the flight, as it was required by the airline.
This morning, I stumbled across yet another dog related horror story in the Washington Post. I’ve run out of gift articles for this month, but here’s the link and I’ll offer a quick and dirty recap. A family was moving from London to Nashville with their dog, Bluebell. They flew on British Airways, and somehow, the dog wound up going to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia instead of Nashville. Meanwhile, the dog meant to go to Riyadh wound up in Nashville.
When Bluebell finally got to Nashville, she was very upset after 63 hours in a crate. She’s had behavioral issues ever since her flight. The family is now trying to get compensated by IAG Cargo, the group that handles pet transportation for British Airways, as Bluebell has become destructive and very clingy. She was clearly traumatized by her international flying experience.
I don’t blame the family for wanting to be compensated for their terrible experience trying to fly their dog. It’s inexcusable that these two dogs ended up going to the wrong cities. Airline travel for pets is pretty awful, especially in the wake of the pandemic. It seems to have gotten more expensive in recent years, and we’re hearing more horror stories about dogs dying or being misrouted. However, the truth is, in spite of the horror stories and high costs of flying pets, the vast majority of pets who fly come through the experience with no issues whatsoever.
When we came to Germany the first time, back in 2007, we flew our beagles, Flea and MacGregor, on United Airlines as “excess baggage”. They were on the same flight with us, but in the hold of the plane. When we landed in Frankfurt eight hours later, they were waiting for us at the baggage claim. Flea was pitching a very noisy fit, but was otherwise just fine.
When we flew Delta Airlines out of Stuttgart in 2009, we had a couple of challenges. Flea had prostate cancer and, the day of our scheduled departure, a plane landed in Stuttgart without its landing gear. That shut down the runway, and our flight was delayed by a night while the mess was cleaned up. The next day, we flew to Atlanta with no problems. Once again, in spite of having cancer, Flea was pitching a huge, noisy fit… drawing admiration from southerners who like hunting dogs and drowning out the comments anyone had for us about flying with dogs.
But what was the alternative? Rehoming them in Germany? A lot of Germans already think Americans are shitty pet owners, precisely because some of them don’t take their pets with them when they move. Besides, Flea and MacGregor, both of whom are now at the Rainbow Bridge, were our babies. In those days, American carriers would fly pets as excess baggage. Now, they require people to use “cargo”, which as far as I can tell, just costs more and lands the animals in different parts of the airport.
When we moved back to Germany in 2014, we had Zane and Arran. We flew out of Houston on Lufthansa, which is probably the best airline for flying with pets. They flew as “excess baggage” again, but Lufthansa has holds that are light and temperature controlled. Again, no issues at all… They were waiting for us at baggage claim in Frankfurt. I don’t expect we’ll be flying with Arran again, since he has lymphoma and probably isn’t too much longer for the world. With Noyzi, we’ll probably need to hire a pet shipper, which will cost big bucks. But I fully expect he’ll survive the experience just fine. Thousands of animals travel with no issues whatsoever. The horror stories aren’t the norm, which is why they make the news.
Whenever there’s a news piece about an animal having a horrific experience on a plane, there are always a bunch of ignorant, emotionally rooted comments from people, most of whom have NEVER traveled internationally with a pet. They suggest doing things like rehoming the animal or hiring a private jet… or using a boat. To my knowledge, there is only ONE cruise ship that transports dogs and cats. That would be Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which travels between New York and Southampton, England. So if your pet needs to go somewhere other than across the Atlantic Ocean, you’re out of luck if you want to use a cruise ship. You also have to book way ahead, because there are only 24 kennels, and the cost could be prohibitive, especially for larger dogs, who might need two kennels. And it takes time to cross the Atlantic on a ship.
Chartering a private jet is also very expensive and, obviously, is not a realistic or feasible option for most people. Nevertheless, I saw people writing that that’s would they would try to do if they had to move abroad with a pet. I think they’d come down a few thousand feet if they saw how expensive that option is. People of average means won’t be able to swing the cost. It’s also not exactly the most environmentally sound option.
Some people think dogs should be allowed to fly in the cabin with people. They do things like claim their pets as support animals. The airlines in the United States have now pretty much banned emotional support animals on planes, because people were abusing the privilege and bringing untrained animals onboard, or they were bringing inappropriate animals, like peacocks and pigs. Dogs and mini horses are commonly used as assistance animals, and they can be specially and highly trained to do those jobs and behave appropriately in public spaces. Some people were trying to pass off their untrained pets as support animals, which does a huge disservice to actual support animals and the people who depend on them.
If your dog or cat is small enough, they can fly in a kennel under the seat in front of you. But they have to be really small to be able to do that. Most animals won’t qualify. So that’s why people find themselves flying with their pets as “excess baggage” or in cargo.
Flying with pets can be extremely stressful and expensive. Sometimes, there are true horror stories caused by negligence on the part of the airlines or cargo staff, or due to the owners’ own idiocy. For instance, there was a very sad story a couple of years ago about people who flew their dog from Korea to Germany. They took their dog out of her carrier in an unsecure location. She got away from them and was killed by a car.
We had our own nightmarish pet transportation story, when we tried to adopt a dog just as COVID-19 was striking. The pet taxi driver who brought him to us took him out of his box before putting a leash on him, and he got away from her and found his way to the Autobahn. People blamed us, as we publicized the situation in an attempt to get him back to us safely, which sadly wasn’t to be. It was pure negligence on the pet taxi driver’s part, and she ended up being sued by the rescue who hired her to bring the dog to us. Yet, even though that happened to us with ground transportation, it’s still not the norm.
The vast majority of pet transportation outfits will get your pet from point A to point B without a problem. That’s true with any form of transportation. Airlines have been transporting pets for many years. But, when these kinds of horror stories are publicized, people are naturally outraged, and assume that flying with pets is inherently unsafe. The outrage then causes well meaning, but highly restrictive laws to be passed, which makes it much more difficult to travel with pets. While it may seem like common sense to tell people they shouldn’t have pets if they plan to move abroad, consider what that might mean for the many animals who are waiting for a home.
A whole lot of people who travel with pets are people who are in the military or work for the government. If all of those people quit adopting animals because they might have to move abroad, that would mean more pets in shelters and rescues, waiting for families. That will mean even more healthy pets being euthanized due to overcrowding in shelters. The people screaming about how “cruel” air travel is for pets never seem to think about that, do they?
Automatically telling people to simply rehome their pets if they have to move abroad is also a crappy and insensitive idea. Sometimes, that is actually the best solution, but I think it should be a last resort. Pets are family. Our dog, Arran, is very bonded to Bill, and he was passed around a lot when he was a puppy. I think he’d be heartbroken if we left him in Germany. We’d be heartbroken to leave him here.
It seems to me that what needs to happen is airline reform to accommodate pets who need to travel. Think of the animals who have been rescued from meat markets in China, or horrific puppy mills in Virginia, where their fate was to be sold to laboratories for medical research. Our own Noyzi came to us from Kosovo, where he was a street dog. Isn’t it better that he has a loving family? And shouldn’t we insist on being able to get him home with us safely, if and when the time comes for us to move back to the United States?
When we’ve had to fly with our dogs, we’ve done all we could to make sure they traveled as safely and comfortably as possible. That means booking the shortest route with no layovers, and driving as much as we can. Last time we had to travel with animals, we had the luxury of using Lufthansa. People who are flying on the government’s dime typically have to fly on US carriers for as far as possible. Until recently (and perhaps even still) people got around that rule by booking code shared flights through US carriers. That is, they’d book a ticket on, say, United Airlines, but it would be a Lufthansa flight. That way, the animals could fly as “excess baggage”, on the same flight as their owners. It was a lot cheaper, too.
Anyway… we don’t know how much longer we’ll be in Germany. We’re not in a big hurry to leave here. One of the main reasons we don’t want to move is because of having to travel internationally with our dogs. It really is an expensive, stressful pain in the ass. And this is just one area where airlines need to do a lot better. It’s also too bad that people become such judgmental twats when tragedies happen. Some of the people who were commenting on Bluebell’s case were blaming the family for what happened to her. It’s not their fault. They should be raising holy hell with the cargo company that routed her to the wrong city. Sounds like they’re doing just that. I hope they get the money they deserve.
As I mentioned in today’s first post, my husband, Bill, is gone this week on a business trip in Bavaria. I don’t have any local buddies to hang out with, so that means I have a lot of empty time on my hands. When Bill was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, I spent a lot of time watching reality TV. At that time, we lived in the States on Fort Belvoir, and we had FiOS (fiber optic cable TV and Internet– which is just becoming a “thing” here in Germany). This was before Apple TV, so I couldn’t spend my time watching relics from my childhood, the way I do today. I’m glad for Apple TV and YouTube, because now I can watch stuff I missed back in the day.
Back in February 1987, I was fifteen years old, and very busy with school and taking care of my horse. I wasn’t at all interested in politics, religion, or current events. I was kind of “dumb” then, as we didn’t have all of the news and information sources we have now. In those days, the Soviet Union was still very much a thing. People worried about nuclear war to the extent that it was a topic on sitcoms, like The Golden Girls. There were a number of Soviet themed films that were released for the big screen. I remember the movie, Red Dawn, came out in 1984, when I was 12 years old. It was the very first PG-13 rated movie, mainly because it was, and still is, a very violent film about Soviets invading the United States. I remember being very “fired up” when I saw that movie the first time. I was young and impressionable, and thought the height of patriotism would be to join the military and fight for my country. Hell, when I was 12, I might have even made the military’s weight standards. 😉 Actually, I’m kidding. As a teenager, I thought I was fat, but I really wasn’t. Like I said… I was kind of dumb in those days… dumber than I am today. But today, I am fatter than I was in the 80s.
Since the Soviet Union was still so threatening, the American Broadcasting Company, otherwise known as ABC, made the mother of all miniseries. It was a seven night EVENT, which even in the era of network TV, was a big production for a miniseries. Most miniseries lasted two or three nights. I was interested in very few of them, because like I said, I was BUSY then… and not interested in politics, religion, or current events. But other people were interested, so ABC made this miniseries called Amerika. It was set in 1997, in a fictional midwestern town called Milford in Nebraska. It starred, Kris Kristofferson, Mariel Hemingway, Cindy Pickett (“Ferris Beuller’s mom”), Christine Lahti, Robert Ulrich, and a very young Lara Flynn Boyle, among other people who are now either dead, or more or less famous than they were in 1987.
The premise of Amerika was that the Soviet Union’s leaders had messed with our elections and that had led to a “bloodless” coup. The United States was no longer. Instead, it was broken up into smaller areas. The flag and national anthem were changed, and the idea of communism was introduced to our capitalistic society. The miniseries was about how the country changed. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it was obviously based on the propaganda of the time. Remember, the Soviet Union ceased to exist in December 1991, so a lot of today’s adults weren’t around when it was still in existence. But some of us old farts remember it very well.
Well, I completely missed seeing Amerika when it originally aired. It only aired once, because it caused a lot of issues with leaders in the Soviet Union, who were outraged by it. It was also a really long television event that was probably expensive and disruptive to air. In the 80s, we had our “must see TV”, and these kinds of special shows would usurp our old favorites. And then, after just a few years, Amerika seemed over the top and ridiculous, as the Soviet Union literally fell apart, and formerly closed borders started opening. Hell, the movie was set in 1997, but I was actually finishing up my Peace Corps assignment in Armenia, a former Soviet country, in 1997. So, as you can see, it didn’t make a lot of sense to air the program again. It was later released on video, but it doesn’t look like a DVD set was ever released. However… someone did upload the entire series to YouTube. I watched the whole thing in several sittings, as the program is over fourteen hours in length. Even couch potatoes like me need to get up and move sometimes.
I don’t want to get too much into the specific plot of this series, because frankly, it seems like an overwhelming task. As I mentioned up post, the series was set in a fictional town of Milford, which was named after the enterprising American family that helped build it. Some of them still lived in Milford, only to watch their town being overrun by Soviets and American politicians who figuratively “got in bed” with them in a bid to seize power. We watch as people with private businesses can no longer offer what they used to have. A woman who ran a cafe for over thirty years was forced to serve soy products instead of the comfort food she used to offer. Later, everyone is forced into a curfew and heavily armed Soviet soldiers bust the woman’s neon sign, which had been lit for decades. She cries as she’s forced into the back of a truck to be driven off to God knows where.
We see a talented young dancer (Boyle’s character, Jackie Bradford) being ignored when she auditions for a show because she’s too good and would ruin the uniformity of mediocrity of the others. By the way, while I can see where the writers were going with this point, years of watching Soviet athletes and listening to Soviet trained musicians tells me that the culture certainly embraced the talented. They were showcased! Just watch any 70s or 80s era Olympics or a Russian ballet! But the point is, communists didn’t give anyone an incentive to excel, since everyone was “treated equally”. Except they actually weren’t. There were certainly people in communist countries who had it better than others did, due to their stations in life.
We see dissidents being forced into “re-education” camps. Kristofferson’s character, a former politician and 1988 presidential candidate named Devin Milford, had been imprisoned in Texas for trying to fight against the regime and speaking out against corruption. At the beginning of the series, we see him being released and sent into exile in Milford, where he is to stay within 25 miles of his property or risk being jailed or shot. He watches as families lose their homes as Soviet squatters are not recognizing the former Americans’ rights to own land. Children in school are being propagandized with communist principles, which they spout off by rote.
Devin’s eldest son is sent to a psychiatric hospital to be “treated” for thought crimes. He and his fellow patients are shown propaganda while hooked up to electrodes, drugged, and kept in cells. His middle and youngest sons are kept from him. The middle child is bright enough to see through what is happening, but the youngest child becomes very indoctrinated, to the point at which he turns on his father, with a literal gun. Devin’s ex wife, Marion Andrews (Wendy Hughes), is becoming a government leader who wants her ex husband killed.
Fellow Milfordite, Peter Bradford (Robert Ulrich) becomes president, with his wife Amanda (Cindy Pickett) as his first lady. Amanda is very disturbed by all she sees, and tells Bradford that she can be his wife, but not his first lady. Sounds kind of like Melania Trump! Except Amanda is nowhere near as narcissistic and vacuous as Melania is. 😉
And then there’s Kimberly Ballard (Mariel Hemingway), who was very young and beautiful in 1987. She plays a musical theater actress whose work is affected because of censorship. She also gets involved with a Soviet military leader– well… she falls in love with him, and he falls in love with her. But their love can’t survive, because she’s an American through and through, and he’s a Soviet. And politics always take precedence over love.
Like I said, this is a very long series, and to be honest, it was a bit of a plod to get through it. It starts off rather slowly, but then gets more interesting. The musical score may be familiar to some people, too, as the composer of much of the music was Basil Poledouris, the same guy who did the music for the original Red Dawn. In some ways, this film reminded me a bit of Red Dawn, minus most of the violence… at least at first. As Americans start waking up to the reality of communism, a la a frog in slowly heated water, there’s more violent action. Some of it was kind of chilling to see, even by today’s bloodthirsty standards. There are a lot of “dead” people shown– eyes frozen open in shock and horror, as fake blood runs down their faces. In 1987, it was still uncommon for Americans to see mass shooting events.
In some ways, Amerika still seems far fetched and ridiculous. It’s now 2022, and 1997 was a long time ago– 25 years! But realizing that this movie was made in 1987, it’s kind of interesting to see what we had in 1997 that wasn’t yet conceived of in 1987. So, for 1997, Amerika seems pretty quaint and antiquated. However, I moved to Armenia in 1995, which was only about 3.5 years after the Soviet Union fell apart. Things were still very antiquated there in 1995, and things were still pretty much run like they were in the Soviet era. In fact, conditions were worse there at that time, because they were on their own. We had no electricity most of the time; some places had no running water; and almost no one had hot water from a tap. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia in 1995, I took bucket baths with water heated on my kerosene heaters or propane stove. I read books at night by kerosene lamp light. Anything I wanted to buy was behind a counter. And I lived in a series of ugly Soviet era cookie cutter apartments.
But, in other ways, Amerika is scarily prescient. The miniseries was probably conceived of by right wing political conservatives, as it has a very anti-communism message. BUT… as we all know, in 2016, the Russians fucked with our presidential elections. We had a “Republican” leader in Donald Trump, who doesn’t really resemble an old style Republican at all and, in fact, isn’t one. Trump is a fascist, dictator wannabe, and he’s spawned a bunch of power hungry acolytes who would love to follow in his footsteps, even though he’s clearly against freedom and outwardly said the Constitution needs to be “suspended” so he can be put back in power.
Yesterday, there was news about how, on January 17, 2021, South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman sent a text message to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, calling for Trump to institute “Marshall law”. He means “martial law”, of course. But he was actually calling for Trump to use military force to overturn the legal and fair 2020 presidential election, to prevent Joe Biden from taking his rightful place as the US President. Can you fucking believe it? These are Republicans! Aren’t they supposed to be about smaller government, the Constitution, and freedom for everyone (except women of childbearing age)?
I saw a lot of comments on the Amerika videos. Many people were trashing Biden, and saying that America is headed for the scary communist dystopian reality presented in Amerika. And yet, I lived in a former Soviet country, and I learned that the people living there weren’t bad people. They really weren’t that different than I was. They just came from a poorer country in need of assistance. In the 25 years since I left Armenia, I have been really heartened to see how far the country has come. It’s truly become a cool place to be, in terms of the incredible culture and the insane talents of its citizenry. Meanwhile, the United States is starting to look more like it could go the way of the old Soviet Union, as Trump and his minions try to take over and force us to accept his “leadership”. I’m actually not that afraid of Trump anymore, because he’s old and has been revealed for what he is. BUT… I am afraid of the younger, smarter, more polished, power hungry types in his wake who claim to be patriots and fans of the Constitution, but want to do away with fundamental American principles like separation of church and state, the right to privacy, and not having the military running the government so that the overall unpopular extremist, dictatorial types like Trump can stay in charge.
This week, there was a coup stopped in Germany, which is where I live right now. The people involved in that are now in massive legal trouble. They have been arrested. In the United States, Donald Trump is still a free man, in spite of showing us who he is, and what he wants to do. For some reason, Republicans think their party is still what it was years ago, when it was about keeping government out of people’s private business and keeping taxes low. Do these folks really believe that Trump and his deplorable minions won’t be trying their best to take what’s yours? Trump just wants money and power. But there are people inspired by him who want more. They have shown us… and there are a lot of awful people in public office who care more about being re-elected than doing what is right for the citizens of the United States and running free and FAIR elections, without corruption.
One thing that I did learn, having lived in Armenia, is that abortion wasn’t really a big deal in the Soviet Union. I met many women who’d had them, mainly because birth control wasn’t freely available, and their men didn’t want to bother with condoms. And when you’re making the US equivalent of $10 a month, it’s hard to have enough money to raise children. But, it hasn’t escaped my attention that a lot of Republican business owners who don’t want to pay a living wage, nor do they want to offer birth control coverage on health insurance policies provided through work, are very much against allowing abortion. At least for now. 😉 Some of those folks might eventually realize that religion makes it harder for them to control the masses, as people have a power higher than the state. I think with time, religion and the so-called morals espoused because of “God” will become much less fashionable among Republicans, just as the Constitution apparently has.
Anyway… just like I was in 1987, a lot of Americans are concerned about other things. And they aren’t paying attention, even though we have a lot more ways to pay attention now, than we ever had in the past. I hope some people wake up before we start seeing America turn into Amerika. I don’t even want to say that all Republicans are bad, per se. It’s just that the old school ones are being replaced like MAGAts… like cancer cells, they are taking over.
So, although Amerika was a “plod” to get through, I am glad I took the time to watch it. It made me think. If I had taken more time, I probably could have written a much better blog post about it. But if I manage to inspire someone to watch it and draw their own conclusions, maybe I will have done my good deed for the day. It was eye opening for me, but not in the way that other viewers saw it, apparently. This is the type of thing conservatives would tend to watch, because of that dirty word– communism– and Soviet Union style politics. They don’t see the similarities between Soviet Union style communism and Trump style fascism that I see, like the Trump style desire to suppress the media— something very much in the Soviet playbook. As someone who has experienced life over there, and has voted on either side of the spectrum, I see other, more frightening things. We, as a nation, need to collectively wake up and do something about these deranged, fascist, violent people before it’s too late.
WHEW… I meant for this to be about two movies. Guess I’ll be writing another post, which seems fair enough, since it’s snowing outside right now.
I don’t have a lot to write about yesterday’s revelation. I read about it online— a group of 25 Q Anon types in Germany, with designs on violently overthrowing the government in Germany. I am not a German citizen, but Germany has been home to me for ten years of my life. I’m 50 years old, so that’s 20 percent of my lifetime– a pretty good chunk. And realizing that, I figure maybe it really is time I learned the language. 😉 A potential New Year’s resolution, perhaps?
Among the right wing wackos was a descendent of German royalty, 71-year-old Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss. The Local: Germany had a couple of pictures of the prince sitting in the back of a police car, wearing an FFP2 face mask and handcuffs. The Polizei had kindly cuffed the man in front, rather than behind his back. They picked up the prince in Frankfurt, which is maybe a twenty minute drive from where Bill and I are currently living. When I saw the photos of him, I was struck by just how German he looked. It’s clear that Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss is a man of means, just based on his dress. For instance, I think I spotted a kravat around his neck, which matched his blazer, blue shirt, and orange-ish brown pants. He was all “put together” looking… it wasn’t a look I would expect to see on a typical Q Anon type in the United States. I read that he works (or worked) as a real estate developer.
I noticed the German cops were all wearing ninja looking coverings over their heads and faces. Bill said it was because German cops get targeted for doing their jobs. I haven’t seen many rank and file police officers wearing those hoods, so I guess this is a practice more for the high speed police officers who deal with people planning to harm leaders and violently overthrow the government. This particular right wing group, The Reichsbürger movement, and had plans to storm the parliament with a team of heavily armed militants. According to The Local: Germany, this movement has existed since the 80s and mostly consists of gun enthusiasts, neo-Nazis, and conspiracy theorists. However, the incarnation of the group that had actual plans to storm the Reichstag formed in November 2021, “at the latest.”
From what I’ve read, other members of the prince’s family have distanced themselves from him, because of his increasingly divisive rhetoric. I read that he and the rest of his posse are convinced that Germany is being run by a deep state that was formed after World War I. At this time, the prince is said to be the “ringleader” of the group. He pictured himself to be the leader of the new revolutionary government, if the group had managed to pull off the coup attempt. Heinrich XIII Prince Reuss is a descendant of the the House of Reuß that ruled parts of Thuringia for about 800 years. My guess is that he admires Donald Trump very much and would like him to “hold his beer.”
The Local: Germany reports:
In a notorious speech given at a business summit in Zurich in 2019, Heinrich XIII had referenced the antisemitic conspiracy theory that the 20th century world order had been engineered by the Rothschild dynasty and the freemasons. He also complained that his own dynasty had been “disposessed” after the first world war.
“Ever since Germany surrendered, it has never been sovereign again,” he told listeners. “It has only been made an administrative structure of the allies.”
Obviously, this situation has been stuck in the prince’s craw for a long time. He was ready to do something about it. People in the group he led were trying to consort with Russians. Some members were highly trained military officials. One woman is a lawyer by training and had become very vocal against immigration and was speaking out about conspiracy theories pushed by Q Anon.
I can’t even pretend to know a lot about this situation yet, as it was just reported yesterday. Until then, I was thinking Germany was somewhat more normal than my long suffering homeland is right now. But obviously, there are some dangerous people here, too, and they have big plans. We really are living in interesting times, aren’t we? But it seems that yesterday’s arrests came after some 3,000 police officers conducted early morning raids in over 130 properties. Two of the arrests occurred abroad– in Austria and Italy.
Germany’s domestic intelligence service estimates that there are about 20,000 people involved in The Reichsbürger movement. Of those, about 2,000 are considered violent and potentially dangerous. Last April, the police arrested members of an affiliated group, “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers), who were angry about the COVID rules and lockdowns, and were planning to kidnap Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach.
Crazy shit, huh? Anyway, I’ll be watching the news to see what else comes out about this group.
I didn’t mention this earlier, but there was also a fatal knife attack on a 14 year old German girl of Turkish descent this week. She and a 13 year old friend were walking home in the small town of Ilenkirchberg, near Ulm, when they were attacked by a knife wielding 27-year-old man. The 13 year old was injured, but not fatally injured. The 14 year old died at a hospital. The man who allegedly attacked them was picked up at “asylum seekers’ accommodation” near where the incident occurred. The suspect was injured when he was arrested, so he’s been in the hospital under guard. He is an asylum seeker from Eritrea, and this case has already been used by right wing politicians as an example of why they think Germany’s fairly liberal asylum policies should be amended and curtailed.
To their credit, the police have asked people “not to harbour general suspicions against strangers, or asylum seekers in general, or to encourage or support such suspicions.” That’s pretty progressive, isn’t it? But violent crimes like that one are no help in discouraging right wing wackos to feel entitled to try to overthrow the government.
I feel so sorry for those poor girls. One died much too young, and the other will never again be the same as she was. May God help us all.
The featured photo is of Arran and Bill, just a few days ago… As you can see, they love each other very much. Arran is glad to be here with his favorite person. I’m glad we can afford to treat his cancer and keep him comfortable for a little while longer. And I’m grateful that living in Germany allows this outcome for us.
A month ago, I wrote a post about our decision to treat our dog, Arran, for B-cell lymphoma. I was inspired to write that post after reading an article in the Washington Post about the cost of treating major diseases in pets. The article in the WaPo was written by Kim Kavin, whose dog, Blue, was diagnosed with cancer. She decided to pull out all the stops to treat Blue, and it cost a lot of money. Blue initially responded to the treatment, but then suffered a relapse when the cancer came roaring back with a vengeance. Kavin’s piece ran in the paper, and lots of people had negative opinions about it. I felt badly that she was getting so many brutal comments, so I wrote my own post about our decision to treat Arran.
At this writing, Arran has had six chemo treatments. If we hadn’t done these treatments, I feel pretty sure he would have died by now. When we started the chemotherapy on October 13th, he was starting to get sick. He wasn’t eating much, and looked very sad. He spent a lot of time sleeping, and could barely manage a short walk around the block. Now, he eats, sleeps, takes walks, jumps on the furniture, and tears things up. The chemotherapy hasn’t made him feel sick. The only thing I’ve noticed is that he sleeps a bit after he gets Vincristine and/or Endoxan. But he doesn’t have diarrhea or issues with vomiting. He hasn’t lost his fur. He doesn’t even have to take medication every day. And you’d never know he has cancer.
What has his treatment cost us so far? So far, we’ve paid for six weeks of treatment, which consists of weekly IV pushes of Vinistrine, a chemo drug. He takes two Endoxan pills per week– on Thursdays and Saturdays. Every other day, he takes three 5 milligram tablets of Prednisolone. This regime will continue for another two weeks, and then it will change to one that is less extreme. Total cost here in Germany? Still less than 1000 euros. And he feels much better with a great quality of life, while we’ve been able to enjoy his company for a little bit longer. I think he’ll make it to his tenth anniversary with us. That’s all we could have ever hoped for.
A couple of days ago, The Atlantic ran a story titled “How Much Would You Pay to Save Your Cat’s Life?”, by Sarah Zhang. The story was about the veterinary hospitals in the United States that give cats kidney transplants to save their lives. Their owners shell out $15,000 for the surgery, which involves using a donor cat’s kidney, implanting it in an often elderly cat. Many times, the owners end up adopting the donor cats, too, as they are typically young and healthy and in need of a home. As it is for most humans, cats can get by just fine with one kidney. In one case, the prospective donor got adopted anyway, when the cat that needed a kidney passed from heart failure before the surgery could be done.
It was noted in the article that kidney transplants are the only transplant surgeries available to cats. The donors are not killed. Apparently, transplants are not yet available for dogs, because “the canine immune system is unusually reactive, leading to kidney rejection.”
Zhang wrote about a 16 year old cat named Strawberry who got a new kidney. Strawberry’s owner did not want to be identified, as she feared backlash from people about the cost. The surgery alone costs $15,000, but with travel, follow-up care, and other costs, it can end up being twice as expensive. And Strawberry’s owner didn’t want to deal with a bunch of negativity about her choice to spend that money. Zhang writes that she interviewed a dozen cat owners who had opted for the surgery and also wanted to remain anonymous. One person quipped, “I wouldn’t think of saying to somebody, ‘Wow, that’s an expensive car,’ But people seem pretty free to say, ‘Wow, you spent a lot of money on a cat.’ ”
I remember the very negative and judgmental comments on Kavin’s article in the Washington Post. I expected to see similar comments on The Atlantic’s article. Much to my surprise and delight, The Atlantic’s readers seem to be a lot more open-minded. Or, at least they aren’t as full of judgmental bile about what people will spend their money on, as well as the mistaken belief that cancer treatment is always unpleasant and leads to sickness, as it often does in humans. And one person wrote a very astute comment, which I think really highlights why people tend to have strong reactions to other people’s choices to treat illnesses like cancer in their pets. Facebook user Isaac Suárez wrote:
The issue is not “is a cat’s life worth saving.” A cat is a companion, to be loved and cared for. There is no shame in wanting to preserve this bond and prevent unnecessary suffering.
Rather, the judgement comes from the fact that some have $15k to burn on pet care while the vast majority of people don’t. I know many people who’d happily pay the price to help a friend; I know very few who have the money to do so.
Sadly, a cat with kidney failure is just one of innumerable occasions where the stark class divide of our country manifests. Instead of talking about “are cats worth the price” we should be asking “why is the price so high” and “why do some people have the freedom to make this choice when the vast majority don’t?” As with many topics covered by Atlantic, the question is misframed and a valuable opportunity to address a visceral and important issue is sidestepped.
Another Facebook user liked Isaac’s comment, and responded thusly:
Brilliant and eloquent response! Its heartbreaking that so many must choose to have their beloved pet euthanized because the treatment cannot be afforded or people take on a hideous amount if debt in order to save their pet. Either way, there is a great deal of needless pain.
I also really related to Isaac’s comment, especially as an American who lives in a country where healthcare and veterinary treatments are much more reasonably priced than they are in the United States. If Bill and I were living in the United States, Arran’s treatment would no doubt cost a whole lot more. It would probably be undertaken at a high speed referral center, rather than at our local vet’s office. And we would be paying much more for his medications, as well as every single thing that would be done for him. We love Arran very much, but we’re practical people. He’s already an old guy. I can’t see us spending many thousands of dollars to keep him going. But in Germany, we can easily afford the treatment, and it makes him feel better. So he gets this comfort care at the end of his life, which will allow him more time with us, and give the vet more valuable experience treating lymphoma. It’s a win-win.
Many Americans resent how some people can afford to provide such advanced care for a pet, while human beings are going without care because they can’t afford it. And yet, so many people continue to vote for the same leaders, who do nothing about this problem. The United States is among the richest countries in the world, yet so many Americans lack the ability to pay for their own healthcare, let alone that of their pet’s. But a lot of us would never bat an eye at buying the latest iPad or tennis shoes. We don’t roll our eyes when a neighbor takes a trip to Hawaii or buys a Tesla. A pet can give a family intangible things that an iPad or a Tesla never can. Why should anyone be ashamed to spend money on their best friends? And why should anyone feel the need to judge someone negatively for making that choice? It’s not as if that person who can afford the advanced veterinary treatment for their dog or cat is going to be paying for their neighbor’s treatment.
I am probably not one of those people who would opt for a kitty kidney transplant, especially on a cat who is 16 years old. But now that I’ve experienced giving a dog chemo, I might opt to do it again for another dog… if I think the dog is well enough to be treated and wants to fight. I would probably pay a fair amount for that option, even if I’m living in the United States, where it will undoubtedly cost a lot more. Here in Germany, it’s a no brainer to give chemo a chance, although not all dogs respond the way Arran has. The response depends a lot on the animal and the type of disease. In Arran’s case, he is resilient, and he has a type of lymphoma that responds to treatment. We have the money. Why not treat it? What makes it any different than treating him for heartworms or diabetes or any other disease that people don’t think twice about treating in their pets? And if someone else has the ability and the desire to pay for advanced treatment for their cat, who am I to judge them? I’m not involved in the aftermath of that decision, and it’s really none of my business.
Anyway… I found Sarah Zhang’s article thought provoking on many levels, especially since we’re dealing with a pet who has cancer now. Arran is our fourth dog to get cancer, but he’s the first one we’ve been able to do anything for… and it really does feel good to do something. I can see, every day, that Arran is glad to be here. No, it’s not fun for him to get intravenous medications every week, but that’s only for about a half an hour. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be getting the IV meds less frequently. We’ll see how long he can make it before it’s time to let him go. I’m just glad we have the luxury of being able to prepare for the end, and enjoying every minute with our beloved Arran. If we weren’t in Germany, I’m not sure we’d have that. This shouldn’t be something that other people judge us negatively for doing, simply because our healthcare system is so fucked up and prices for humans and animals needing medical care are so ridiculously high. It seems to me that Americans ought to be demanding lower healthcare costs. I know that’s the way I’m going to be voting from now on.
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