The magic number is ‘vier’

Germany sends Maradona and Argentina packing with a stunning 4-0 victory at Green Point Stadium. And a well-deserved victory it was — the Germans came out as a disciplined eleven playing as a team, while Argentina generally lacked discipline. If anything, the Germans were a little loose on offense, while the Argentines were loose on defense, and you just can’t have poor goal-zone defense in a World Cup quarter-finals match. With three four-goal games so far the Germans are emerging as definite favorites for the Cup. Herzlichen Glückwunsch!

How time flies

It’s been 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell today, and I haven’t been able to put that out of my mind all day. Not being German it’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, but 20 years ago I was in front of the TV watching CNN and witnessing what turned out to be the end of the Cold War — the only geopolitical frame of reference I had ever known in my life. Basically, the Communist world, in a very short amount of time, realizing that it was done, that its page of history had turned already.

I find it quite striking personally because this really is the first history-changing event I experienced as an adult; so really all but 7 months of my adult life has taken place since then. Sometimes it’s hard to keep from thinking about how much of that was wasted, but there’s little purpose dwelling on that. You have to wonder, though — besides events like 9/11, what is it that the generation after mine will remember fondly in its middle age? It’s not to say that such a big terrorist attack was insignificant, but it just doesn’t strike me as the same sort of event.

Things I found out recently — the wall came down as a result of a mistake. An East German official, Günter Schabowski, screwed up when reading about a plan to lift restrictions on travel by East Germans, and said that the new “open border” policy applied right away, which it clearly wasn’t intended to. This was picked up by West German television stations that ran with the story an hour or two later, and the East Berliners, who watched mostly West German television, heard about it and rushed the border points. The guards didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on, but there were far too many people for them to control.

How did it look when that Schabowski interviewed for his next job… “well, in my last job I misread something on television and started the demise of the country I was working for.” I’ve not always been a perfect worker, but I can honestly say that in no previous job have I ever caused a country to cease to exist.

Things I found out today — the Berlin wall was only built in August 1961. Prior to that Berliners (and Germans generally) could go from East to West Germany and back. So when Kennedy gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech the wall was practically still new.

Words fail me…

Maybe I wasn’t following the news at the time because I really would have remembered this, but earlier in the 2000s it seems that German industrial giant Siemens had plans to use the name “Zyklon” for a range of products that was slated to include gas ovens, which is incredibly tasteless considering the history of the company. Think about that for a moment. Were they going to use the swastika as a logo for this brand?..