Whiskas Travelling Commentary

Besides the obviously different perspectives which one gains from visiting different cities, countries or continents, I typically take travelling as an opportunity to sync up with the newspapers, as the waiting time between flights or trains - combined with the typically unreasonable prices for Internet access found at airports (*) - is best spent with a good read. So why not take this as a chance to present the Grad Line's readers with Whiskas' own take on the events around the world (**) ?
The headlines on virtually every major German periodic today discuss a change of Obama's opinion related to the construction of a Mosque somewhere close to the former site of the former World Trade Center in southern Manhattan, first supposedly supporting, now apparently denying it. Now, if we take the president's words precisely as the articles themselves put it, he did not put a case for any direction, and only spoke in name of the constitutional right to freedom of speech and religious choice. That the opposition takes anything which can be even vaguely framed as an opinion on the matter as material for a critic should not surprise anyone, but it highlights just how much the Americans are now distant from the ideals that once stood as paramount.

In contrast, one could say the "conservative" Europeans are the ones who are - to a certain extent - setting the example in not becoming religiously-motivated belligerent police States - with support from many discussions about what sort of moral behaviour I should expect were I to go for a States-side visit during my time in Canada. But the second set of headlines we read - on the immense levels of citizen-initiated protests against Google's plans of offering its Street View service - show that such a contrast is only relative, and Europeans still have conservative opinions of their own. Goethe's countrymen appear concerned about their house's façades, streets and parks being made available in digital format for the world to see. While the point could be well taken for the privacy of one's own home, what the perpetrators of such protests wish to protect that would otherwise not be accessible to an ordinary citizen walking and photographing (or painting, or writing, should the extra concerns relate to the digital media storage of such depictions) remains a mystery to me. I had a chance of using Street View when scouting for a place to stay in Waterloo, and, attesting to the usefulness of the service, I should thank all open-minded Canadians of Whatever Street that did not deny their neighbourhood being brought online. Cheers.

Germans can't agree if retirement should take place at 65, 67 or 70 years; and argue if a 50% tax on incomes above 80k a year, brutto, is fairer as a 35% on those over 50k/yr, brutto. They also discuss a new tax on nuclear fuel, which prompts power plant operators to consider shutting them off entirely as this would make them economically non-viable; ironically, were these reactors switched off, the necessary energy to balance the grid would be brought from foreign nuclear plants, from countries where such taxes are not in place, effectively just shifting the issue to a different location.

And more rain is forecast for the coming week, but this should not matter: not because I'll be long gone, but rather for everyone that had their chance to move out long ago (and still have!), but never did (and, as it seems, never will). Weather provides the perfect excuse to keep complaining, making the dark grey skies very fitting.
- - -
The plane was delayed for almost two hours; besides a complimentary newspaper, not a single glass of water was offered for the waiting passengers. Still, we made it to the other side, and while the connections I had written down were then long departed, I managed to follow Nathan's public transport instructions and got to Waterloo just before 11 pm. But that's already another post.
(*) "Air travel is a joke", reads a t-shirt which I am still to print. The premise that every traveller is a potential terrorist subjects everyone from young children to pregnant mothers and elder citizens to long inspections lines; moreover, commercial pressure allows airlines to deny passengers of not only leg room - already a given when flying Economy - but lately also any sort of snack or beverage. While the need for more profitable passenger-miles can be well understood in times of economic recession, decency should still allow for a regular-sized human to travel with moderate comfort, and any reasonable calculation can show that it is not the few cents saved by sparing a cup of coffee or a can of soda that is going to drive airlines out of the red numbers and into profitable margins.
And then there's the airports. While you can always get decent-priced food, coffee and hotels around any bus or train terminal - in fact, typically the cheapest ones in any given town - airports induce just the opposite, inducing all sorts of "convenience taxes" and what the hell else. I'm still all for paying ten euros or dollars more for a ticket every time I fly, but having access to reasonable-priced internet access, coffee, snacks. And a seat I'll fit, please.

(**) "Every home owner, or even every tenant nails his name plate on the door, like a coat of arms and studies the morning paper as if he were a world leader. (...) [There are] as many small states as there are individuals. And these small states are mobile. Everyone carries his own state with him..."
from Wim Wenders' Der Himmel über Berlin - a great movie, by the way.

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