Germany Seeks Popstar with German Voice, Supertalent and Fast Car

Unless you live under a rock, chances are you’ve heard by now the hype from American Idol, America’s Got Talent, America’s Next Top Model, America’s Best Dance Crew, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on to the point where one could easily get the impression that the TV talent search begins and ends in America – but that would be a serious misconception.

For discussion purposes only

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Despite its overwhelming popularity in the region, it would be a mistake to think that similar shows in other countries are all just loaners from the US— or the UK, for that matter. Instead, these shows are often a “multikulti” hodge-podge of global origins in whatever country they’re broadcast.

Like many countries on the western front, the vicious hoards of televised talent shows have also invaded the German-speaking world in search of fresh meat – er, talent.

Want proof? Here’s a sampling platter of “The top 5 most embarrassing performances” on  Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar (Germany seeks superstar). By the way, you don’t need to speak German to watch these and wince. Humiliation is pretty much universal.


DSDS – Die Top 5 der peinlichsten Performances – MyVideo

From the pioneering Popstars, to Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar, to Die Deutsche Stimme (The German Voice), Germany is awash in the frenzied fan-dom of casting shows.

In the year 2000, for example, Germany’s Popstars became the first in the arena of German-speaking TV talent searches after phenomenal success in New Zealand, where it originated, and in Australia.

Two years later, the UK’s Pop Idol roughly translated to Deutschland Sucht Den Superstar (DSDS) in Germany. The brainchild of producer and talent scout Simon Fuller, the Idol-concept spawned an entire family of Idol-worshippers from A to W (Australian to West Africa). The show was a huge hit in Germany, turning ordinary citizens like Alexander Klaws into insta-stars.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

And if imitation is the highest form of flattery, then parody must be the highest form of self-deprecating humor.

For example: German musician and entertainer Stefan Raab used the success of DSDS as a model for Stefan Sucht Den Super-Grand-Prix-Star (SSDSGPS), using the acronym to semantically poke fun at the onslaught of reality talent shows in his homeland.

In 2007, Raab even took it one step further with the show SSDSDSSWEMUGABRTLAD —Stefan sucht den Superstar, der singen soll, was er moechte, und gerne auch bei RTL auftreten darf! Translation: Stefan seeks superstar, who should sing what he likes and is also welcome to perform on the station RTL! I’d like to hear someone try to say that acronym ten times fast.

Jokes aside, however, the casting show invasion into pop culture has its share of serious critics (besides Simon Cowell). In fact, because of its widespread popularity, some experts worry the trend has a negative impact on its audience, especially young women.

Mit Castingshows wie Germany’s Next Topmodel, Popstars und DSDS kam auch der auch der Hype der Mädchen, sich modisch zu kleiden und mehr Wert auf ihr Äußeres zu legen, als auf ihre Fähigkeiten.

With castings shows like Germany’s Next Topmodel, Popstars and DSDS comes also the hype for girls to dress fashionably and to place more emphasis on their appearance than on their abilities.

An article in Der Westen even cites a study that shows young girls base their sense of self-worth on looks, while young boys base their worth on actions. According to one expert, this means gender roles are retrogressing, despite decades of attempts by enlightened parents and educators to overthrow these outdated “role clichés”.

It’s good to know that here in America we’re combating these stereotypical roles and placing more emphasis on competence in our reality star searches. Don’t believe me? Just check out this clip from America’s Most Smartest Model.

Krampus (For the Holidays!)

As part of my brief childhood experience in Europe, I was lucky enough to spend my Thanksgiving vacation in Vienna, Austria. While the Christmas Market, “Christkindlmarkt.” was in full swing with gifts, hot cider, and Wiener Schnitzel – some decorations reminded me more of Halloween than Christmas.

Meet Krampus:

Krampus

Krampus. Image © flickr/pixelpoint

Unlike in the United States where only Santa Claus keeps his list of “naughty and nice” – where the penalty for being a bad child is just a lump of coal in one’s stocking. In Austrian culture the job is split in two, with Saint Nicholas taking care of the good children while a goat-horned beast known as Krampus will come to beat bad children with rusty chains and take them away in his sack.

The result? Your typical holiday parade in America consists of Santa Claus, his reindeer and and some cute elves, fun for the whole family… while in Graz, Austria – things are a bit more frightening. Young men dress in elaborate Krampus costumes and fill the streets, scaring those in town before filling themselves with drink to continue a night of terror.


While this all seems quite terrifying – I would imagine it does help Austrian parents keep their children well behaved – and of course spawning some more satirical portrayals of the beast.

As part of my search for Krampus-related material, I came across “Krampus Kards,” a blog run by Brandon Dawley featuring drawings of the mythical creature created by the artist, vintage postcards from his collection and a Etsy shop selling cards he makes for the holidays.

As part of the globalization of society thanks for the internet, Krampus is now becoming part of American pop culture too, with various satirical shirts, videos, and gifts finding popularity – notably a special guest appearance by Krampus himself on The Colbert Report... nothing quite like a man dressed in fur with a mask to get you in the holiday spirit.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Blitzkrieg on Grinchitude – Hallmark & Krampus
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive

Schnell Euro verdienen : Earn Euros quickly

Regardless of how greatly or little one values money, it is to a certain extent non replaceable. After all, everyone needs basic things like a place to live, food, means of transportation and even insurance. So we need money to buy these things to live but how much do we really care about it/ value it?

Most typically people go to work to get the money they need. As an alternative one may be able to make money really fast without having to work by using online strategies. These strategies seem at first glance to be legal and scam free. However, I believe it is wise to be cautious of quick money plans on the internet in case of the possibility of scam. If you are on the wrong end of an internet scam, you may end up losing money quickly, which is the opposite of the desired outcome in the first place!

With online Casinos there exists the possibility to stay at home while gambling. This strategy is for European roulette and claims you could win between 100€ and 500€ every day. Even though this website offers the possibility of winning money through a complex roulette system, the fact of the matter remains that gambling entails risk.

To earn money quickly online there is the possibility of starting a lucrative website. On an Austrian news site there is a detailed strategy for creating such a web site. I can imagine that with the right set up there could be a web site that generates money, but such a site would require great effort. All things considered, there is money in web pages, but it is not a quick or easy task to create and maintain a successful one.

The most fishy of the online strategies to make money are the ones that don’t even have an explanation. A German blogger advertises one such method. This post advocates a website that is supposed to be able to make the user quick-money. Based on the widely unexplained nature of this site, this surely is not a legitimate means to earn money fast. Feel free to visit the blog though, as it is not a direct link to the site.

The conclusion seems to be that making quick-money on the internet is anything but fail proof. The very idea of easily earning money has become so widespread by the internet, which is still a relatively new phenomenon. Surely get-rich-quick schemes have been around long before the internet. The difference between now and then is: before the internet, these easy to gain/ lose opportunities were not nearly as accessible. This ease of accessibility to quick gains and losses over the internet creates an amplified moral dilemma for the internet generation.

Russian Jazz – From Swinging Soviets to Scat-singing Slavs

Russia’s relationship with the U.S. has a long and complicated history, the greater part of which consisted of big red buttons and mutually assured destruction.

But before the soviets were the object of American fear and loathing, they were big fans of our greatest national export – jazz.

The First Eccentric Orchestra of the Russian Federated Socialist Republic - Valentin Parnakh's Jazz Band

The first recorded jazz concert in Russian history took place months before the Soviet Union was even born, on October 1st, 1922, in Moscow. The concert was put on by Valentin Parnakh, a famed Russian polymath, often regarded as the founding father of Soviet jazz. His band, the First Eccentric Orchestra of the Russian Federated Socialist Republic, besides having a ridiculously long name, played mostly Dixieland jazz that Parnakh first heard and imported from Paris, a major hub of jazz.

However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that jazz gained major popularity in Russia. Through the movies of Leonid Utesov, a prominent soviet actor and singer, particularly Весёлые Ребята (The Happy Fellows), which featured a very jazzy soundtrack, jazz became all the rage in the nascent Soviet state.

The popularity of jazz continued to grow during World War II, but this growth halted abruptly with the end of the war, and the start of the Cold War. Jazz was thrown in the fire of anti-western sentiment, fomented by the government of Joseph Stalin. Jazz bands were persecuted and many Russian jazz composers were forced to go into hiding.


Yuri Nikulin sings Песня про Зайцов in the film Бриллиантовая Рука (The Diamond Arm).

Benny Goodman in Moscow - Amazon.com

All of this changed with Stalin’s death, and his successor, Nikita Krushchev. Krushchev’s process of de-Stalinization allowed for jazz to once again come to the fore. American jazz great Benny Goodman toured the USSR in 1962 and even recorded an album in Moscow. Again, the rising popularity of jazz was augmented by film, including the 1968 classic, Бриллиантовая Рука (The Diamond Arm). By now, Soviet jazz had become its own genre, synthesizing swing and the A-minor tradition of Russian folk music, with jazz instrumentation.

As a genre, jazz enjoyed continued popularity in the USSR throughout the ’70s and ’80s, long after it fell off the pop charts in the U.S. Even today, there are many prominent Russian jazz musicians around the world, and groups like A’Cappella ExpreSSS are popular throughout Russia.

As an avid listener and performer of jazz, I was largely unaware of the music’s history in Russia. It strikes me as a testament to the universality of jazz that it was able to not only persist, but thrive in the Soviet Union, despite the overwhelming political tension between the USSR and jazz’s country of origin. Also, while I think the preservation and advancement of jazz is important here in the states, as part of our history, I think it is equally important around the globe, as jazz has become such an inextricable part of the history of many countries.


A’Cappella ExpreSSS perform Hit the Road Jack.

Terror in Germany

When many Americans think of terrorism, they think of plots against Americans carefully planned by evil middle eastern extremists. However, terrorism is a world-wide problem. Germany is one of many countries always on the watch for potential terrorist threats… and for good reason.

In 2006, two bombs were hidden in suitcases and placed on regional trains heading for the cities of Koblenz and Dortmund. Luckily, the bombs ended up not exploding due to faulty construction techniques but this event raised awareness of Germany’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks. Since then, Deutschland has increased its ability to infilitrate suspect groups and has also raised the extent which it monitors internet activity.

Germany’s Interior Ministry has stated that since the beginning of the year, threats to Germany from Al-Qaeda  and other Islamist organizations have increased to a whole new level.

Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maiziere, has confirmed that the ministry has received concrete indications of not just one, but a whole series of attacks planned for the end of November. With security already at a heightened level, the German government is taking these threats very seriously. Hopefully, Germany’s government will succeed in putting a stop to any and all plots to harm their citizens.

The Cologne Sound – Brought To You By *Kompakt

Cologne-based Kompakt Records is one of the premiere distributors of creative electronic music in Germany alongside Freude am Tanzen from Jena, Moon Harbour from Leipzig, and Playhouse from Frankfurt. In June, Kompakt stated in a press-release that they were opening an online-only store specifically geared towards selling “extremely limited” and hard to find records from numerous artists. There is definitely a market for rare electronic records, and Germany is no stranger to dynamic electronic music.

If you think that electronic music is only repetitive loops, pounding bass lines, and inaudible, abrasive lyrics (think of a dance club scene from a movie in which everyone is wearing tight black leather adorned with chains – the club scene early in The Matrix comes to mind), you should take another look. Germany is known worldwide for being a hotbed of creative electronic music artists, and also for having a lively electronic music scene. Evidence of this comes in the form of the hundreds of music blogs that cover the German music scene. Germany is also home to the three largest celebrations of dance music culture in the world: Mayday, Nature One and The Love Parade. In July of this year, The Love Parade experienced a very unfortunate incident where 21 people were killed and many were injured. It will no longer be held out of respect for the victims.

Electronic music has a long history in Germany. The German electronic music scene laid its roots in the late 80s and early 90s in Berlin. After the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989, electronic music in Germany hit the dance floor running, literally. Eager youths and DJs flooded into the freshly vacant Eastern Bloc buildings, transforming them into all-night music clubs, some of which are still operating today. This event helped ignite an already sparking dance music scene that has since flourished in Berlin and other cities in Germany such as Cologne. Music enthusiasts have lovingly nicknamed Berlin the Ibiza of the North, and Cologne even has its own calling card as the city that pioneered “The Cologne Sound”.

Today there are many German music labels dedicated to bringing German electronic music to the rest of the world. Kompakt Records is one such label, and it is gaining an international presence as a bastion for aural bliss.

British music critic Simon Reynolds has characterized Kompakt as the “label that’s contributed more than any other to Germany’s dominance of electronic dance music this decade [the 2000s]”.

via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kompakt

Kompakt Records was started as a small record store in Cologne in 1993 by Wolfgang Voight, Michael Mayer and Jürgen Paape, but has since dropped the local record store format and become an online store only.

In general, experimental electronic music artists have a reputation for being difficult to categorize. Because many electronic artists make rhythmic, danceable music, they are many times filed under the Techno moniker. It may be true in one sense of the word, since Techno music is dance music. However, the artists who have found a home at Kompakt are not simply making Techno music. Many of the artists create from a “minimal techno” perspective, creating lush, pop sensible arrangements backed by danceable rhythms. The term “minimal techno” has, however, become unclear as of late, and many artists shy away from a term that could pigeon-hole their unique style. Difficulty defining what its musical niche is prompted Kompakt Records to create additional branches such as Kompakt.Pop and Kompakt.Extra to address the ever-growing and varying sounds of its artists.

Jürgen Paape’s velvety song “So Weit Wie Noch Nie” is a staple gem from the vaults of Kompakt Records, a song that showcases Kompakt’s pop-sensible aesthetic. (If you already know this song, you may notice that the vocals are different in this YouTube version than in the original.)

In 2007, a Kompakt artist who makes similarly sounding, blissful electronic music was given the crowning title of “Best New Music” by Pitchfork. Pitchfork is a music website dedicated to helping Urban Outfitters decide what music to play in their store to ensure vintage dress and skinny jeans sales (notwithstanding the sarcasm, this could be a true statement.) Pitchfork raised a toast to Axel Willner, the artist who creates shiver-inducing electronic music under the name The Field. Pitchfork music reviewer Jess Harvell lavished his 2007 album From Here We Go Sublime with praise saying:

If Willner [The Field] doesn’t hit at least some of your pleasure centers, well, forget your ears — your nerve endings might actually be dead.

via http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/10022-from-here-we-go-sublime/

There are other German electronic artists making names for themselves in the current music scene. German born Hendrik Weber, or Pantha du Prince, is also making waves this year. He was awarded the illustrious title of “Best New Music” by Pitchfork for his album released earlier this year titled, Black Noise.

If you open your ears to the electronic music that is being made today, you will find that it is not just Techno music as you may have previously thought. In today’s electronic scene, you will find that their are many artists making incredibly engaging music that is just as creative and worthy of praise as any band doing things in the traditional format (a few people on stage with instruments.) If you’re still not convinced that electronic music is more than just thumping beats and strobe lights, go home and check out your music collection. Do you have any Folk music? Some electronic artists, such as Barbara Morgenstern (pictured) have been looking to Folk music for inspiration and are creating more serious sounding Folksy electronic music.

With Kompakt’s new online-only record store up and running, connoisseurs of electronic music should be keeping an open ear for any new sounds that they can wrap their senses around. What may turn out to be most the exciting news for fans of experimental electronic music is the announcement that Kompakt will be releasing an extremely limited single from Panda Bear, one of the founding members of Animal Collective. This is considerable news for Kompakt, since other limited singles from Panda Bear have already been released and have very quickly become high-priced collectors items.

Presidential Cars

The U.S. Presidential State car has historically been produced by General Motors. Obama rides around in style, in a car dubbed as “Cadillac One.”

In France, Sarkozy used the Peugeot 607 for his inaugural parade. Peugeot is a French automaker.

So what do they do in Russia? For some time now, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been tooling around in – wait for it – a Mercedes-Benz. (Mercedes-Benz is a German company). This is a tradition that dates back only to the Boris Yeltsin-era.

According to a May 2010 Guardian article, “Until now, the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, has expressed a preference for German vehicles – a love affair that may have begun when he was a KGB spy in east Germany. He has been keen to restore the emblems of superpower status, including the Soviet national anthem and showing off tanks and intercontinental missiles at the annual Red Square parade.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but change is quickly coming to Russia. Back in May 2010, The Moscow Times reported that Medvedev ordered his administration to look into renewing the production of limousines by ZiL (a Russian car manufacturer).

Earlier this month, concept images of the Russian presidential ZiL limousine were released. The designs are by Slava Saakyan (a design company, named after its founder).

ZiL Limousine Concept Picture

Typically when thinking about concept cars, I think about sleek futuristic looking cars. Even the term “concept car,” brings up images in my head of a Yahoo! article about the “Top 10 Weirdest Looking Cars of the Future,” or something to that effect.

Looking at images of the ZiL doesn’t make me think about the future. This car pretty much looks like it came straight out of the 1980s. I can imagine it fitting in perfectly on the set of “A View to Kill,” or “The Living Daylight.” (Both are James Bond movies, for the culturally uninformed). Maybe that’s what Medvedev was going for?

But the car isn’t completely without updates.

According to an article from Speedlux.com, “Saakyan have designed the new Zil which is the base model incorporated with some new features. The car this time is secure as it has done away with the rear window which was an easy point of access for probable assassins; as well the car is comfortable. The newly creased edges have also been cleaned up in the modern design of the Zil.”

Although surprising at first, it does seem like a standard idea, considering this is a car responsible for transporting a world leader. Maybe Russia will even follow in the footsteps of the U.S., who destroys presidential cars after they’re retired — fearing their secrets will be revealed.

Parisian Nightlife a Snooze

Could it be that Paris, the city of party-loving bohemians and home of the historic and famous nightlife hot spot Moulin Rouge, is turning into the European capital of boredom?


    Paris la nuit … c’est fini !
    envoyé par cap24-wizdeo. – Regardez plus de courts métrages.

According the Le Figaro, Paris is no longer a party. Compared to Madrid, London, Amsterdam and Berlin, the City of Lights’ nightlife is dimming drastically. First, there is the issue of cost – nightlife in Paris can be especially expensive! Second, Paris is known to have a tradition of picky entrance selection to its bars and night clubs. Third, transportation seems to be pretty weak. There is the Noctambus, or night bus, which has a limited route (and tends to hold a sketchy crowd of night owls) and the metro, which only runs until 2 a.m. on the weekends.

But these reasons for poor nightlife in Paris are only the tip of the iceberg.

Paris is a very old, very dense city – and residential areas are often intermixed with other offices, businesses, shops and restaurants within the same building complex. Too often, bars and discos are stuck between residential apartment buildings – and neighbors are losing their patience with the close proximity.

In the past few years, new laws have been making it harder for nightlife venues to survive – noise ordinances and a tobacco ban, more specifically. Local residents are getting fed up with the constant noise of party-ers and the lingering of smokers on sidewalks at all hours of the night. Noise complaints and fines have risen drastically and bars are suffering the repercussions – paying expensive fines, being shut down for periods at a time, and now investing in expensive soundproofing.

In order to restore and protect Parisian nightlife, a petition was started in October of 2009. This petition declares that the law of silence will turn the “City of Light” into a European capital “City of Sleep.” My personal favorite argument of the document:

Quel peut être le sens d’une Loi de Santé publique qui aboutit à empêcher les gens de danser?”

What is the sense of a public health measure that leads to a ban on dancing?

It continues to fight the reputation of une capitale morte, or a dead capital, today (See the continually updated Facebook fan page).

So is Paris really a dying city?

In defense, Anne Hidalgo argues that one cannot easily compare Paris with other European cities. For instance, Berlin is eight times larger and less dense – comparisons are not necessarily accurate nor relevant. Mao Peninou, the adjoint chargé des Temps à la Mairie de Paris, claims that Paris is the sixth most festive city in Europe, representing 230,000 employees that work in the heart of the night. He also makes the point that Parisians do not need bars or clubs to have a party spontaneously – how many youth gather together on the banks of the Seine to hang out? (From what I saw during my time studying abroad, quite a lot!)

Planning a trip to Paris? Don’t let this post discourage you! Check out how to experience Parisian nightlife on a budget at this blog.

Photo by Jaclyn

Benedict blacklists Bruni

On Friday, October 8, Pope Benedict XVI welcomed French president Nicolas Sarkozy to the Vatican.  The French president’s visit was allegedly prompted by plummeting approval ratings among the country’s Catholic population.  The declining approval rating stemmed from Sarkozy’s extremely controversial effort to deport Roma Gypsies from his country.  However, an official statement from the Vatican itself revealed that there was no discussion of the Roma deportation during the Pope’s audience with the French president.  Instead, the topics ranged from relations with the Middle East, to ethical, social, and economic issues. The international media, however, found much of this of very little importance.  Instead, many took note that Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, former Italian triple-threat (model, singer, and actress) and current French first lady, was not in attendance.

Not long after the president’s visit, the French satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné reported that the first lady had no choice to attend, but in fact had been told via a message directly from the Holy See that she was not welcome to accompany her husband. An ultra-A-list smack-down anybody? According to the report, the Pope was concerned that nude photographs from Bruni’s modeling days would resurface in the Italian tabloids in association with him.  The story quickly spread internationally, despite the reputation of the newspaper that first published it and the noticeable lack of credibility to the story.

by Neno°

This, however, was not Bruni’s first run in with the Pope Benedict XVI.  She did not attend Sarkozy’s first audience with him in 2007 since the two were not yet married.  Bruni later took harsh criticism from French Catholics after she publicly reprimanded the pope for his stance on the use of contraception for the prevention of the spread of AIDS in Africa.  Can she really be blamed though?  The Pope suggested that the use of condoms may actually increase the spread of AIDS.  Somebody had to say something.

Perhaps it wasn’t the position of the French first lady to voice her opinion. But then again what does it mean to “be” a first lady?  It’s clear that since Jackie Kennedy took up residence in the White House, maybe even before, that the position of first lady was revolutionized.  The first lady is no longer just the president’s wife.  She is often adopted as a pop-culture icon.  What she does matters, what she says matters, and yes, even what she wears matters. From Jackie Kennedy to Princess Di, and now to Michelle Obama, these women married to politicians have seemingly surpassed their husbands and became public figures of their own making.

Carla Bruni is no exception. Everyone wants to know what she’s wearing, many are willing to pay small fortunes for prints (usually nude) that date from her modeling days, you can purchase a purse with her image printed on it, and, yes, she will soon be the heroine of her own comic book.  And now we have the celebrity feud between Mrs. Sarkozy and Pope Benedict XVI that has been fueled by the media.  It seems as if the French first lady’s doings will always be noteworthy, even if there really isn’t a story there.

Who you gonna call? Ghost Busters!

picture taken from www.immediateregret.com

I fear no ghosts! When watching TV in the U.S., however, I might easily get an eerie feeling. TV shows like Ghost Adventures make us believe that we’re surrounded by ghosts and that paranormal activities happen anytime anywhere. Even History Channel reports matter-of-factly that aliens have evidently erected many of the world’s finest buildings such as the pyramids of Giza or Machu Pichu.

If these are proven facts (as TV makes us believe) why didn’t anyone in Germany tell me about it? It seems like Sir Simon and his peers have vacated medieval castles in Europe to settle in more modern American homes – and who can blame them. Apparently, Europeans spooked the ghosts, who then fled over the Atlantic. And Americans seem to welcome them with open arms. If the Otis Family isn’t scared – Zak Bagans “didn’t believe in ghosts until [he] came face to face with one.

But why are Americans more perceptible to hauntings, ghosts, and aliens? To me, there doesn’t seem to be an apparent reason why Americans should be more superstitious than Germans. In a poll executed by CBS in 2005, one in five Americans claims to have seen a ghost themselves and almost half of the people in the study admitted to be believers. According to FOX (2007) one third of Americans believes in ghosts and UFOs. These findings are supported by the large number of blogs that deal with the topic. In Germany, only about 10 % believe in paranormal activities.

What I found most striking though, is that according to CBS, the younger the people are, the more susceptible they are to these beliefs. This made me wonder how much influence the said TV shows like Ghost Adventures and the like have on the results of these polls. Halloween and the media obviously make paranormal appearances pop culture in the US, whereas you hardly have any mentioning of ghosts on German TV. To the uncritical viewer of American TV, it really may seem like ghosts, ghouls, and extra-terrestrials are among us. You may not even be aware of how close they actually might be –  the Missouri-based Kindred Moon Paranormal Society has recorded “something unexplained” in MU’s Ellis Library. Now this might be a good excuse for a missed research assignment.

If you want to watch the Ellis Library Episode, follow this link. Then select Kindred Moon Productions, click on Season 1, Episode 3 and you can start the video above.

Who got knocked up by Ronaldo?

Christiano Ronaldo’s name carries far beyond the sport of soccer. In addition to being a Portuguese soccer star that plays professionally for Real Madrid, he is seen in advertisements and promotions across the world, like the one below:

Ronaldo recently caught headlines around the world when he had a son, but the mother of that son isn’t being revealed. This raises the question, who could the mother be? The only thing that Ronaldo would say about it is:

It is with great joy and emotion that I inform I have recently become father to a baby boy. As agreed with the baby’s mother, who prefers to have her identity kept confidential, my son will be under my exclusive guardianship. No further information will be provided on this subject and I request everyone to fully respect my right to privacy (and that of the child) at least on issues as personal as these are.”

Ronaldo has dated women from all over the world, including from America, Russia, Italy, Colombia, Brazil, India and his home country of Portugal. Most of these women are either models or celebrities. All of this considered, it makes it extremely difficult to try and figure out who the mother of the child is. In this blog post, SoccerLens lists all of the prospects and the likelihood that each one is the mother.

One of Soccerlen’s prospects and Ronaldo’s current girlfriend, Russian lingerie model Irina Shayk, reacted to the news on Facebook, saying:

My boyfriend is now father of a boy.”

Soccer star Christiano Ronaldo sits next to his current girlfriend, Russian model Irina Shayk. Is Shayk the mother of Ronaldo's newborn son?

So who is the mother? Is it Shayk? Or could it possibly be another celebrity that Ronaldo has previously dated, such as:

SoccerLens doesn’t believe any of these are likely, but the rumors of who the mother is do make it interesting, even to people who aren’t soccer fans.

Could it possibly be someone who isn’t even on this list? This blog believes that the mother is an American woman that Ronaldo picked up one night at the bars.

For a pop culture icon to date only date supermodels, it shows how accepting society is of lingerie models. This used to be considered a lowly profession, but now it is one that brings fame and money. The western world adores lingerie models, but also criticizes the eastern part of the world for making the women wear veils, not allowing them to drive, etc. However, the western world is in a way being hypocritical, since it can also be criticized for the way it treats its women, such as making them wear stuff that is “sexy” and “inappropriate” and encouraging them to be as skinny as possible.

Ronaldo and Shayk are rumored to be engaged and planning on marrying in 2011, which begs the question of if Shayk is not the mother, than how is the real mother taking to the fact that her son’s dad is about to be married to another woman? Also, why is the mother willing to give up her son?

Ronaldo captained Portugal during the team’s World Cup campaign in South Africa, which ended with a 1-0 defeat to Spain in the second round. Here are some highlights of the soccer player, who is considered to be one of the best in the world.

Germany banning Muslim tradition?

Currently in Germany, there is a law being proposed by Angela Merkel’s cabinet designed to criminalize forced marriages.  However, this presents a huge controversy since forced marriages are prevalent in the Arab/Turk communities and are considered a Muslim tradition. Adding to the controversy, there are a lot of Turkish (along with other nationalities) immigrants living in Germany.

As an American who very much values my freedom, I was initially for the banning of these marriages. As I delved deeper into the subject, I began to question the right that Germany has to do away with a tradition that has been around longer than Germany has officially been a country! I came across compelling evidence which well supported both sides.
Obviously, the woman in the video had an extremely negative experience with her forced marriage and I think it is safe to assume there are many more like her. Also, different rights groups have said that young immigrants in Germany are beginning to identify with Western values and value the freedom of choosing their own partner.

However, it is important to note the difference between forced marriages and arranged marriages. In an arranged marriage, the bride and groom are matched by a third party but consent is given by both people being marries. In a forced marriage, the partners are matched without consent (usually from the woman) to marry.

This video is a bit lengthy, but shows that arranged marriages can be very successful in terms of both people being happy.

I believe banning forced marriages is a great move on Germany’s part. However, if they were looking to ban arranged marriages that would be an entirely different story. On the other hand, does a government have the right to ban something that some (a vast minority of Muslims) people consider part of their religion? My answer is yes.

My final position on the subject was that this issue was that it is a human rights violation to allow people to be forcefully married. Too often, this results in the bride being victimized in a variety of ways.

Space milestones

Earlier this week, the International Space Station marked 10 years of continuous human habitation, beating out Mir’s (a Russian space station) record.

ISS

According to a blog post from The Voice of Russia, “since the 2nd of November 2000, over 190 people have visited the largest manned-space station that has embraced a group of researchers from 16 countries.”

The event wasn’t met with frustration or anger on Russia’s part. Rather, the cosmonauts celebrated along with the Americans on board the ISS.

Russian cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri, Oleg Skripochki and American astronaut Scott Kelly gathered (oddly enough in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft) to have a celebratory dinner together.

“Their menu was quite simple, tea, coffee, chicken in white sauce, beef with vegetables and buckwheat. Among those who congratulated the crew is Sergei Krikalev who was the first to arrive at the station ten years ago,” the blog post stated.

This all just goes to show how two once bitter space rivals are now working in cooperation toward a higher goal. Still taking from the Voice of Russia post, Russia is set to launch a multi-purpose laboratory to dock with the ISS in 2012 and suggested creating an ISS assembly shop, to assist in long distance missions.

Even more recently, three American astronauts filled out their absentee ballots — from space. It’s a practice dating back to 1997, when astronaut David Wolf voted from the Mir space station.

“I voted on Sunday through an electronic e-mail system,” Navy Capt. Scott Kelly said in a Fox News story. “I think Texas actually passed a law where we could vote from space, and it felt like an honor and privilege to exercise our rights as U.S. citizens from the International Space Station.”

Unfortunately, Mir is no longer with us. The station was taken offline in March of 2001, producing quite the light show throughout Fiji’s skyline.

It must have been a sad time for Sergei Krikalev, who has spent more time in space than anyone else — most of his time was on board of Mir. Having spent 803 days in orbit, throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, his home country, the Soviet Union, actually collapsed.

When Classic Meets Cult

When classical music meets Rock n’ Roll, you get a violinist who plays Nirvana with Vivaldi, Metallica next to Bach, and mixes Michael Jackson with Mozart.

In other words, you get David Garrett.

At another recently sold-out performance at O2 World in Hamburg, the 30-year-old German native enthralled an audience of 11,000 fans of all ages, backgrounds and personal tastes. According to an article in the Hamburger Abendblatt, grandmothers and teens alike listened with rapt attention as the violinist skillfully switched between cultured classical compositions and edgy, in-your-face rock favorites. It is his skill at expertly “wandering between worlds” that makes Garrett’s style a “mainstream compromise” for the masses, appealing to the rebel and the aristocrat alike.

Beim Wandern zwischen den Welten hat Garrett eine Schnittmenge gefunden zwischen arriviert und rebellierend, zwischen Rock ‘n’ Roll und Klassik. Nichts für die Menschen, denen “ihre” Musik heilig ist, sondern ein Mainstream-Kompromiss für viele.

The son of a German lawyer and American ballerina, David Garrett picked up his first violin when he was just four years old and has been playing ever since. His journey has been a steady rise to stardom: often called a “Wunderkind” of classical music, he won his first prize in a violin competition at the age of five, began performing in public at seven, attended London’s Royal College of Music and Juilliard, and has since released several albums.

Remarkably, his life story resembles that of another European “Wunderkind” born over 200 years ago: three days before his fifth birthday, it took this little boy “all of thirty minutes … to master his first musical composition.”

Like Garrett, Mozart also reportedly went through a stage of his life characterized by rebellion, challenging the status quo through musical arrangements and devising new techniques to gain popularity for an outmoded genre.

“These forms were not new, but Mozart advanced their technical sophistication and emotional reach. He almost single-handedly developed and popularized the Classical piano concerto.”

The website David-Garrett.com describes Garrett’s similar avant garde approach to musical composition thus:

the visionary violinist has committed himself to a clearly defined goal – introducing young people to the classics and kindling enthusiasm for reputedly serious music.

In other words, Garrett wants to transform classical music — typically regarded as unapproachable and bourgeois (think bowties and powdered wigs), especially by the younger generations, into a more palatable, pop form.

Like what the movie Amadeus did for Mozart.

However, as blogger Jim Sullivan points out, by chasing the mainstream, Garrett runs the risk of alienating musical purists of either genre.

But Garrett doesn’t seem worried about that. In his talk with Jim Sullivan he’s quoted as saying:  “I don’t necessarily see the dangers as long as you stay true as to where you’re coming from, which for me is classical music.”

And it’s doubtful Garrett’s classical rockstar image will fade anytime soon — he recently joined that elite group of stars with their own fragrance lines. You know you’ve reached celebrity status when people want to smell like something because it has your name on it. His brand? “Single David.” According to an article in Promiflash.de, the women are going wild over that one — but the former model likes to leave them hanging. When asked after the concert how he liked the girls in Hamburg, he said coyly, “I like Hamburg. It’s a beautiful city with beautiful architecture, but as for the Hamburger girls, I can’t say. I went straight to my hotel after the concert — alone.”

(If they ever make a movie about David Garrett, I doubt that part will be included.)

Rock me, David Garrett.