HUGO in the sky tomorrow in BERN

My good buddy and partner in celestial crimes, Rudolf von Steiger, and his buddies Daniel Schümperli and Lukas Frey are giving a concert tomorrow at the Natural History Museum in Bern at 19:30. For reservations call +41 31 350 71 11.

It will be a geeky concert. What the trio does is to take atmospheric data collected for scientific purposes and improvise music to the cosmic bits. It is sort of hard to describe, but it will be worthwhile to go and listen for the experience of turning the factual into the sensual.

NB: Rudi is a director at the International Space Science Instiute at the University of Bern. Daniel is s molecular biologist, and I heard rumours that he is molecular himself even while playing the clarinet, while Lukas is a geographer having an affair with a contrabass.


At present there is an initiative up for votation this month that wants to forbid the construction of minarets in the country. I read a rather good column on Der Bund paper version today written by Rudolf Strahm that sketches the history of the moslem migration to Switzerland. Yes, it is called migration. Yes private sector interests were involved, and these were fueled by greed. Go read the column, get some facts straight, and then think.

This reminds me of a story that a friend of mine once told me when we were either in Salt, Jordan or some other place a few kilometers from there. Anyhow, the place has both christian and moslem worship places, and the story went that one demonstration of power was to see who had the highest tower, the christians or the moslems. Then I think of all the towers scattered through Bologna or Venice, and my perverted imagination tells me that once more we are discussing phallic symbols. Umberto Eco would undoubtedly agree with me, but really, the whole thing is ridiculous.

What is this minaret initiative about? Discrimination, religious discrimination. This is evil, this is bad, this initiative is to be fought and defeated. This is how it starts, and the process is not pretty. Hate symbols are created and propagated, then dehumanization, mobs, polarization. When things get really ugly then the mobs start death lists and then extermination is planned. It lands in genocide.

For those who need a refresher here is the Universal Human Rights Declaration of 1948. If that was not enough, go to the European Convention on Human Rights that you can read in German (French, Italian also available). It might not hurt to have a look at the Swiss Constitution while you are at it.

Use your right to vote to make a positive contribution. I think a few minarets and a few modern mosques might be a very positive contribution to the architectural landscape of the country. Discrimination is the unjust and unequal treatment of diversity.

I do not know about you, but I have the fondest memories of exploring Venice with my son when he was just a little boy and climbing one tower after the other. Actually we worked a compromise, for each tower he wanted to climb, we got to go to a museum that I wanted to go to . This way he discovered Mondrian before he could read, and I the joys of stair climbing. Still, I think that this bit of the phallic symbols is a good contest to have!

Red Herring

Today’s session at the Bernese Rathaus was fascinating. There was a debate over the city’s welfare office that ran for over two hours, and some of the speakers got a bit emotional, others got down to the facts, one was particularly sarcastic, and there were a lot of words spilled over into the air waves and onto the voice recorder. To make it all sweeter there were a few photographers and more journalists than usual. What was really fascinating was what was NOT said. Theatre! Pure theatre and that is how government works.

I could not help it but to think that the whole subject of the debate was actually a red herring. The issue, if there was one, lies elsewhere. There is a game being played and you – the public and the voters – think that it is these crazy power hungry attention whores that we have for politicians in office (count me in that group, I am one of them). But no, the game being played is the one called government, this is how government works.

Good rational and scientifically sounded arguments and policy rarely get anybody too excited, much less do they move emotions or people to vote. Irrational emotional argumentation aroused the dead!

This is a lot better than I had ever imagined politics could be. Really, infinitely better. Imagine for a while that government and politics would be a linear and rational process, how dull would that be? It would be immensely boring and no challenge at all, so much so that I can not really imagine how totally boring it would be and can only predict that nobody would ever find a reason to live because there would be nothing to fight for. Imagine that this town run smoothly, and that the present red-green coalition actually would have a bike friendly traffic plan implemented in this city. Now, that would be really boring, wouldn’t it?