Sunday, March 29, 2009


i went to berlin with omi it was very cool we stayed in a nice apartment and went to an awesome soocer game of berlin vs. leverkusen berlin won 1 to 0 we went to the dome thing that i dont remember the name of and we also went to the brandemburg gate it was very cool we ate at an awesome german restaurant on the first night and i got awesome meatloaf with potatoes, brussel sprouts, and bacon sause

Thursday, March 26, 2009

carcassonne pix - by b

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Cathars - by b

I was up earlier than everybody over the weekend in carcassonne so i thought i'd google a bit about the very cute (too-cute-for-me-but-i-understand-why-people-like-it) town.

i wasn't looking for a history lesson. as it is, i'm in the middle of a more-than-heavyish book about spanish history during and since the civil war... so i was thinking maybe i'd read about a place to have some lunch or see some art or something. something, you know, light.

thanks to wikipedia though i realized that we were staying in a region that some consider to be the site of the worst atrocity of the catholic church.

the cathars lived in this region of france. (emphasis on livED.. the last one was burnt at the stake in 1321). i'd never heard of them.. but i suppose if you pronounce my last name with a lisp.......

they were gnostics which is a term i'd heard but never read up on. now i did read about it -- and the basic tenet resonates with me in a certain way... the idea is that there are two gods... a totally pure peace- and love-loving "godhead" and a "demiurge" or a god of matter. it is the god of matter that created the world and human beings and, therefore, the power structures that we as humans have created. gnostics see love and power as totally incompatible. and they see humans as being trapped in the "prison of matter" until we can eventually work towards a pure spiritual place.

the pope (actually popes) at the time weren't too fond of gnostics. it was a theological thing (think about it.. if matter is a bad thing, what's that make jesus?).. but also it was a power thing. cathars in this region were numerous enough and, despite their ascetism, plugged in with the nobility.

successive popes were pissed,  especially Innocent III (who was nothing but)

a couple popes had failed to convert the cathars to a more acceptable form of christianity through kinder and gentler means -- including the creation of the dominican order to seemingly meet the cathars on their terms... dominic himself said "zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility" .. of course he went on to say "false sanctity by real sanctity". i guess the cathars saw thru the guy

anyway.. innocent III would have none of this.. it'd been going on for too long

so he got a crusade going --- and also an inquisition

neither were particularly good things to be on the receiving end of

if you were even rumored to be a heretic you could be called in front of the inquisitor ... and then you were in a catch 22 (that is a great understatement).. you were either guilty or guilty... you either were either killed (burned at the stake to show you (reallly to show everybody watching) the fires of hell and how heretics go directly there) or you were made to repent...



one of these...

yellow signs

on your...


how's your lisp?

carcassonne and sad news by k

a few people have asked me why i haven't been blogging lately. i guess i was too preoccupied with the decision of whether to stay or go, and i didn't want to go on and on like a broken record. so i stayed silent.

but here i am, in another new place and feeling like writing. earlier i was feeling like writing about this medieval town in the south of france, carcassonne, but now the sad news i just got feels more pressing. i just heard that one of my cousins from munich, eugenie, has a brain tumor. it's advanced and she is going to die. probably sooner than later. she is the daughter of my father's oldest brother, wolfram. wolfram was the first of six kids. when he was one or two he got menigitis and ended up deaf. obviously that impacted the life he lead and leads. he is a humble and loving man. his wife died not long ago of cancer. it's unfair that he will now lose his daughter. it's unfair that she will now leave her father, her husband and her two kids, who are fortunately in their twenties. life is not fair. i feel so sad for all of them. so very sad.

and yet, here i sit in carcassone, in the strange little house we rented for two days. i have my children sitting here watching a tv show on the computer, and barak and my mom upstairs reading. the sun is shining, the sky is bright blue. we had breakfast on a plaza, walked through the castle and fortifications, strolled through the "new" town (pretty damn old itself), watched arel and dorian get drenched by fountains that shoot out water randomly. how can i be so lucky?

it's charming here, but when you read of the history of this place there has also been a lot of pain. it is easy to forget that, though, when you walk through the perfectly taken care of unesco world heritage site that is carcassonne. it's old, but there is no tension to be felt here. not like jerusalem. it's so touristy and sheltered that none of the current tensions in france over unemployment, racism, immigration, etc. are felt here. this is not real life. and yet real life was lived here. strange. i refuse to visit the musuem of torture, even though it is a very real piece of history.

but i did agree to go to the castle. when we went to buy tickets this morning, the booth was closed. my mom had read that it opened at 9:30 on sunday, and it was already 10:30 when we arrived. and we saw there were people in there. turns out the woman who sells tickets was on a cigarette break. just like that! this is a major tourist destination and the only person selling tickets decides to close down for ten minutes to have a cigarette! some things are still very different and i suppose that's a good thing.

kids get free do the unemployed. my mom and i thought that was a good thing. barak thought differently. he sees (at least this is what i understood) it as rewarding unemployment and taking away the incentive to find work. of course, it was a pain having to fight all the unemployed people in the castle to get to see the sights! just kidding, as my mom and i pointed out, there is probably not a great exodus of unemployed people heading here to visit the castle and save the 8 euros. interesting difference...another thing that would never happen in the united states!

another fun travel fact...the french apparently eat pretzels (you can buy them here). the spanish don't. dorian is happy. happy with pretzels and crepes with nutella.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

a thought - by b

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

boundary spanning - by b

i am in san francisco. weird! that's all i can say. i am staying with kirstin and sean. and i have been up since godfuckingknows a.m.

sean is doing his phd thesis on "boundary spanning"... boundary spanners are people who are comfortable "spanning" more than one culture.. can speak the languages, walk the walks, etc. and are actually accepted in more than one culture.. sean is a boundary spanner.. he has taught on death row in san quentin and studied at harvard...

i don't know if i'm boundary spanning rignt now.. i'm a tired mess... if anything i'm "boundary spraining".. last night i walked out to get a slice of pizza and a glass of wine for myself and everything (and everyone) felt familiar and strange all at once

this is going to be an interesting few days

now i have got to pour some caffeine in my body.. and get to work... that's why i came.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

march 3, 2009 by k

barak left this morning for san francisco. he took our one huge suitcase with him (a compromise on his part, as he wanted to come here with only carry-on luggage last august), filled with winter coats and random stuff we have accumulated in our time here. he'll leave the suitcase there and we'll try to do only carry-on coming home. coming home. yes, it looks like that is what is going to happen. coming home. going home. i told barak yesterday that i feel like his leaving now is kind of like the beginning of the end of our time in barcelona.

on my way home after taking arel and dorian to school, i started up the mountain for a jog that i was dreading. as i walked past a little tree in full bloom i stepped over, pulled a branch to me to get a whiff of the blossoms, a whiff of spring. couldn't smell much...i think the rain had washed the scent away, and then i caught a glimpse of a huge, dead wild boar lying close to the tree. that sent me scurrying on my way. wonder what it died of. strange.

up on the mountain i was finally olfactorily rewarded with the smell of pine being mulched. they're still cleaning up from the wind storm and today they were stuffing branches into a mulcher and shooting it over the hills to help the next generation of trees grow.