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The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

From US News and World Report

This article was originally published in U.S. News & World Report on Nov. 13, 2008.

Big walls are back in the news. There’s now one separating Israel from the Palestinian West Bank, justified as a way of excluding suicide bombers and terrorists from the Jewish state’s threatened cities. There’s another being built to keep illegal immigrants from Mexico out of the United States.

One thing is clear: Such controversial emergency barriers signal problems that governments can’t (or won’t) solve by other means. The notorious Berlin Wall was no different—except it was built not to shut people out but to keep them in.

Shortly before midnight on Aug. 12, 1961, thousands of East German workers, guarded by troops, began to construct concrete-block and wood barriers and barbed wire fences blocking boulevards, parks, streets, and alleys in the heart of the city of Berlin, as well as the perimeter adjoining the surrounding Communist state of East Germany. (read more)

That time a German kid smuggled a friend to freedom in a BMW Isetta

That time a German kid smuggled a friend to freedom in a BMW Isetta

wo friends, an East German checkpoint, and a tiny bubble car.

BMW’s Isetta isn’t, strictly speaking, a motorcycle. It isn’t a motorcycle in any way, really. It’s just a very odd, very adorable little car. However, it does have the four-stroke, single-cylinder engine out of a motorcycle, and that’s good enough for us. Plus, this story is just too insane to pass up. In 1963, a humble Isetta—a tiny bubble car with an engine smaller than nearly every motorcycle I’ve ever ridden—was used to smuggle a man out of East Germany. Smuggle him, it should be noted, inside the engine bay like some sort of oily, mechanical womb.

For our younger readers, Berlin (and, effectively, all of eastern Germany) was split right down the middle from 1961 to 1989 by what was (un)affectionally known as the Berlin Wall. On one side was West Germany, controlled by the United States, and home to freedom, puppies, and capitalism. On the other side was East Germany, controlled by the Soviet Union, home to communism, the Stazi, and countless Trabants. (read more)

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10 MORE Great Escapes Across The Berlin Wall

10 MORE Great Escapes Across The Berlin Wall

From LISTVERSE

 

After World War II, an estimated 2.5 million East Germans fled to West Germany. East Germany had lost a sixth of its population, and the government wanted to stop their people from leaving. They closed the border between the countries and erected the Berlin Wall.Soldiers patrolled the barrier, and they were ordered to shoot anyone who tried to escape. The Wall was largely effective, although many people still risked death or imprisonment trying to escape. The following people each made extraordinarily brave escapes over, under, around, or through the Berlin Wall. (read more)

The Surprising Human Factors Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Surprising Human Factors Behind the Fall of the Berlin Wall

From History.com

 

Great events do not always have great causes. One of history’s biggest surprises is how sometimes a series of small, seemingly insignificant events can suddenly add up to momentous change.

That’s how it happened with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the point-of-no-return moment in the collapse of the Cold War order. While there were broader historical forces at play, the Wall, a powerful symbol that had separated communist East Berlin from the democratic West for 28 years, would not have opened when and how it did without the last-minute decisions of a secret police officer named Harald Jäger. Struggling with the fear that he was dying of cancer, and angry over insults from higher-ups, he disobeyed direct orders and started letting East Germans through the gate. (read more)

10 Great Escapes Across The Berlin Wall

10 Great Escapes Across The Berlin Wall

From The Huffington Post.

For 28 years, communist-controlled East Germany was cut off from the capitalist enclave of West Berlin by a barrier of concrete, barbed wire and heavily armed guards.

The first barricades of what would become the Berlin Wall sprung up in August 1961, after the number of East Germans leaving the GDR via West Berlin reached record heights. For the next three decades, the barrier would divide families and neighborhoods that once shared the city.

On Nov. 9, 1989, the wall came down almost as quickly as it had first appeared. When an East German official prematurely announced the opening of the border, thousands of elated East Germans headed to the Wall and started ripping it down piece by piece. British academic Timothy Garton Ash described the scene as “the greatest street party in the history of the world.” (read more)

IA Literi

Saturday, Great Audience. Great Day at IA Literi Casa Italia.
Who painted the bald spot on the back of my head?13217420_1218667768143858_1466502291049770223_o (2)

SARA PARETSKY Renown Author of V I Warshawski, Social Activist & Chicagoan

Q: Sara, you’ve been interviewed many times and asked the same questions regarding V I Warshawski, the character and the books. I think our readers would like to know more about Sara Paretsky, writer and Chicagoan. Your resume indicates you received degrees in political science and history. Please explain the evolution to mystery writing.
Sara: My mSaraParetskyother loved crime fiction so I grew up surrounded by the writers that she checked out of our local library. (I still remember the thrill of meeting Dorothy Salisbury Davis for the first time: a major writer whose work my mother often read wanted to talk to me. We became quite good friends but she always carried that aura of Significant Writer in my own mind.)
As I matured as a reader I became increasingly troubled – actually, outraged – by the roles women played in most crime fiction. A woman with a sex life was by definition wicked. A woman with no sex life was good but incapable of tying her shoes without adult supervision. In my 20s I began fantasizing about creating a woman investigator who would reflect women’s’ experience more accurately, both as a problem solver and as a human being. I wrote from an early age, but never imagined that I would write outside the home. It took eight years from when I first started day dreaming about creating a woman investigator until I actually began work on what became my first novel. During that time I completed a PhD in history, an MBA, and worked at many jobs ranging from running conferences on employment issues for Fortune 1000 companies to persuading insurance agents to automate their offices.

Q: What was life like, growing up in rural Kansas? How did it compare/contrast with your early experiences here in Chicago?
Sara: We lived in a big house set along a dirt road so part of my memories are the constant effort to keep the house clean. The house had a basement with a dirt floor and was home to snakes and spiders. Therefore whenever there was a tornado warning, I took my chances with mother nature. I went to a two room school where – long before Title IX – girls played on the same teams as boys because that was the only way we had enough players to make up a team. I have very happy memories of my days as a third base person for Kaw Valley District 95. Coming to Chicago was almost overwhelming at first, between the population density, the racial diversity and racial friction, the cultural opportunities and the lake. At Kaw Valley we had studied the Cook County Democratic Machine as an example of the worst kind of corruption in American politics and it was startling to become a bit-player in the struggle to end that corruption. (Of course Kansas has its own Republican Machine which is just as corrupt but in a different way. There are fewer people in the state of Kansas than in the city of Chicago and so it’s much harder to uncover secret deals. People are more tightly bound to each other and there’s less opportunity for a whistle blower to
emerge.)

Q: You’ve been involved with social issues both as a writer and an advocate since the 1960s including serving on a community organizing committee with then Senator Obama and writing numerous essays on topics such as abortion, free speech, and the Patriot Act. What do you feel is the writer’s role in society when she/he feels passionate about social concerns? What are some issues that concern you today?
Sara: Questions of speech – who gets to talk, how someone’s speech is limited or silenced – are the issues that matter to me at a visceral level. Growing up in a highly conservative family and culture as it affected girls, my struggle for much of my young life and well into middle age was how to find a voice and how to make people attend to me. By extension, overt government efforts to silence speech, as happens with things like the Patriot Act, feel direct and personal to me. There are also more insidious ways of silencing speech. For instance cutting library budgets to the bone as it is happening all over America reduces peoples’ access to a wide variety of points of view. Allowing Amazon to have a monopoly in the book selling world further limits voices to those that Amazon most wants to hear or promote. White women and people of color of both sexes continue to be marginalized and to find it hard to get a hearing. The brouhaha around the 2016 Oscars underscored that. These issues are often front and center in my mind and therefore inevitably end up in some way or other in my work. For some readers it’s a boon and a bonus, for others it’s an annoyance.

Q: As a fellow Chicagoan, writer, dog lover, and long-suffering Cub fan, I’m often asked, ‘Why do you live in that cold wintery city, and how is it inspiring for a writer?’ Sara, what would your answer be?
Sara: I love Chicago, warts and all. Despite the Cubs and the miserable, cold winters I can’t imagine being happy elsewhere. True, New York has much more to offer in the arts. On the other hand, if I lived in New York I could only afford two or three rooms as opposed to my lovely house in the heart of Chicago. San Francisco is gorgeous but I’m a ten minute walk from Lake Michigan. Writers here are very collegial. In some ways we are all competing for oxygen but Chicago writers and artists put aside their insecurities and help each other out. I can live without a World Series victory.

 
Q: If our readers would want to find out more about Sara Paretsky and her work, what might they do?
Sara: My website, Saraparetsky.com, answers a lot of questions and I often post personal, chatty news on my Facebook pages. I wrote a kind of memoir called Writing in an Age of Silence which might also answer questions people have.

 
Q: What’s your philosophy of life, and/or what advice might you give to our readers to help them enjoy life and its stressors?
Sara: A couple of years ago, my GP sent me for a stress test. I thought this was ridiculous – I already know I’m stressed. Since this is a particularly high stress time in my own life I’m constantly trying to find ways to answer your question. They are often very small ways. I’m trying to meditate although I’m not at all good at it. I find it helpful to write five things every day that I’m genuinely grateful for. Those might range from being able to walk – after a major car accident I had two years where I could barely walk – to seeing an unusual sunrise. Lake Michigan is the thing in my life for which I’m most grateful, besides my dog, my cappuccino machine, the existence of chocolate and a few other things. The lake changes every day and its vastness and beauty are a real balm to the spirit.

 
Q: Is there any other information you would like to share with us?
Sara: I’m very compulsive about my work. Like V.I., I’m an abominable housekeeper but I like things to be perfect, which is a sure fire recipe for stress. I want my writing to be perfect and it never is. I want the cappuccinos I make to be perfect and I will throw out five or six cups of coffee until I get one that approximates perfection.

CLOWN TOWN OSCAR NIGHT AWARDS

Academy_Award_trophyCLOWN TOWN OSCAR NIGHT AWARDSAcademy_Award_trophy

BEST TUXEDO

Nominees:

Burgess

Burgess Meredith

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A real penguin

Ellen G

Ellen DeGeneres

Bruce Tux

Bruce Jenner

duck dynasty

Duck Dynasty

MOST PROVACATIVE GOWN

Nominees:

Ellen 2

Ellen DeGeneres

Caitlin

Caitlyn Jenner

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Sylvester Stallone

MOST LIKELY NOT TO SHOW UP

Nominees:

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Chris Rock

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Black People

Clark-Gable

Clark Gable

Elvis-Star-of-David-Necklace-640x479

Elvis

MOST LIKELY TO SHOW UP UNEXPECTEDLY

Nominees:

oscars-chris-jpg

Chris Rock

oscarwhitepeople

A Bunch of White People

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Elvis

andy-kaufman

Andy Kaufman

MOST CREATIVE PLASTIC SURGERY

Nominees:

Bride-of-Frankenstein-Bride-Screaming

Priscilla Presley

Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)

Mickey Rourke

SHORTEST SPEECH

Nominee:

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Harpo Marx

BEST SPEECH

Nominee:

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Harpo Marx

 

A LETTER FROM LOU

A LETTER FROM LOU

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Hey, Clown Towners,
Okay, a few years ago I wanted to fulfill one of my dreams—to provide a fun magazine for my friends while enjoying the life of a published author. I created a “magaletter” (very catchy) called Clown Town. We tried to publish monthly, but it proved too much for an aging Italian-American author; so, we moved to bimonthly, then quarterly, and now that I’m working on my next-masterpiece-no-doubt-about-it-best-seller-based-on-a-true-story with the working title The Greatest Escape, it’ll come out whenever I can.
My publicists from Eckhartz Press suggested that I try publishing it on this blogging page (open for comments and dialogue) just a section at time, so I’m trying it. Right now, it’s just this LETTER FROM LOU. Coming up we have:
• An interview with best-selling, world renown author of the V. I. Warshawski series Sara Paretsky
• An interview with a biker-adventurer-firefighter-realtor-skydiver and more.
• Humor that will send you to the hospital for laughing cramps and hyperventilation.
• Entertainment and reading recommendations.
• And much more.
So, hang in there with me, and don’t be afraid to recommend Clown Town to your friends. They may think you’re really cool . . . or they may never speak to you again. Either way, as the late and great Paul Newman once said, “In this life, you’re either scoring the winning points or just showing your ass.”
Love and Best,

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Lou

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