December 27, 2010

Degrees of Seperation

Photo: The Delta by ecstaticist on


`Did you know that you are acquainted with Barack Obama?´, Eric asked me.

Eric is a friend of mine. None of these`online friends´that you will pick up by the dozen to pimp up your MySpace account - no - a real friend, of flesh and blood, who doesn´t disappear but will meet and bear with me even on bad hair and bad mood days. I didn´t find him on the web, I simply found his door plate ... isn´t that old fashioned?. It said Conflict Manager. Everytime I drove home, I passed this door plate and heard an inner voice repeating conflict manager, conflict manager... Not having conflicts, but being a conflict at that time, I ended up ringing his doorbell one day. I met the man, his giant cobra snake (the snake, a SHE, was enthroned it her terrarium like a Queen, in the middle of the living room, sun-bathing under her infrared, lazily gazing at me with despise when I winched), his messy practice (which instantly gave me a feel of home), his huge collection of fossiles, his brillliant mind. Eric´s hourly rate: 60€. The first session took us 2 1/2 hours and cost me 60€. The second took us almost 3 hours (we also started talking about his own conflicts that were related to mine) and cost me another 60€. I started feeling uncomfortable - didn´t Freud say that a psycho should always, always, without fail!, respect the legendary 50-minutes-slot?

At the beginning of the third session (I had already crossed the magic border that is crying in front of who I believed was my psycho), I told him that I wondered how I would be able to afford him - or how he would be able to afford me - if we went on like this. `Remeber, I´m not a psychoanylisist´, he replied, `I´m a conflict manager. I studied theology, physics and archaeology, then I trained myself to help people and companies out of their conflicts and problems of communication. Usually not the kind of problem you´re presenting, but your conflict is not only of relational but also of communicative nature, and very interesting to me as I happen to be in the same situation as you are, so forget about the 50 minutes. And don´t worry about the payment.´ I gave in. But at the end of that session, I handed him a little stone that I found in my left pocket (a stone my son probably offered me) and reminded him that this would meet the need of symbolic payment , just as in children psychoanaysis.

He took the stone. Then looked at me for a while, in silence. I glared back at him. Then he started smiling and asked: `How about friendship?´ `OK´, I said, `if you lower your cigarette consumption to 5 per hour when we see each other.´ That´s how we became friends.

`Me, acquainted with Barack Obama? Sorry Eric, I don´t get your point...´

`Alice. You are acquainted with Barack Obama, just as you are acquainted with every Chinese rice farmer on this planet, by just six degrees of separation


`The Small World Phenomenon, Six degrees of Separation Theory, also referred to as the "Human Web"... It refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person they know and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people they know, then everyone is no more than six "steps" away from each person on Earth. The easier way to understand this is that person A only needs a maximum of five people in between to connect to person B. (Supposing person A and B don't know each other.)´

`Ah. You mean that everybody knows somebody who knows somebody etc....?´

`Exactly. MySpace, Facebook, StayFriends, Skype, LinkedIn, all those hundreds or thousands of "new" so-called social community network are based on the old concept of the Human Web, they are a modern manifestation of it, which proves that Frigyes Karinthy was a visionary.´

`Who was Frigyes Karinthy?´, I wondered.

`Well, he was a Hungarian author and has been regarded by some as the originator of the notion of Six Degrees of Separation. After World War I, statist theories on optimal design of cities, city traffic flows and neighborhoods and demographics were in vogue. These conjectures were expanded in 1929 by Karinthy, who published a volume of short stories titled "Everything is Different." One of these pieces was titled "Chains," or "Chain-Links." The story investigated in abstract, conceptual, and fictional terms many of the problems that would captivate future generations of mathematicians, sociologists, and physicists within the field of network theory. Due to technological advances in communications and travel, friendship networks could grow larger and span greater distances. In particular, Karinthy believed that the modern world was 'shrinking' due to this ever-increasing connectedness of human beings. He posited that despite great physical distances between the globe's individuals, the growing density of human networks made the actual social distance far smaller.

As a result of this hypothesis, Karinthy's characters believed that any two individuals could be connected through at most five acquaintances. That was the basis of the theory, as it has later been propagated by Stanley Milgram , John Guare, Duncan Watts and others. There´s a charity network website nowadays called, and last year Facebook launched a platform application named “Six Degrees” that has been developed by Karl Bunyan (London network), which calculates the degrees of separation between different people.´

`That´s amazing, Eric. But you know what? Evenif we´re able to find or contact almost anyone by a few mouse clicks today, I don´t think communication has become easier or less complicated in either case... Look, what if a person you love, someone you care for, is just one degree of seperation away from you (by the mere fact of being the other one, a different one than myself, in the sense of Sartre´s concept of L´Autre - as in "l´enfer, c´est l´autre", but also in a positive sense, as a mirror of soul or even a genuine source of love - ), what if you know 20 ways to reach that person, but can´t use any of them, simply because none of them is used by your vis-à-vis?´

`You mean the old who-calls-first-dilemma?´, Eric asked.

`Yes. I mean no. Well, more or less. It is more about non-communication, the lack of synchronicity . How can I explain better? Oh, have you read "The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene? One of my favourite novels! London at World War II, a man (Maurice) and a woman (Sarah) obsessively in love, she´s married to someone else but doesn´t want to divorce, he´s a writer. One night, while making love at his house, they are hit by a Blitz bomb... he is badly injured and nearly dies. After this incident, she breaks off the affair with no explanation. He mourns the loss of her for two years, and when her husband (Henry) contacts Maurice because he (Henry) has become suspicious that Sarah has a (new) lover, Maurice hires a private detective to find out. But once the detective gets Sarah's journal for him, he learns that Sarah made a promise to God not to see her lover again when she thought he was dead after the bombing, if only he would survive. Maurice realizes that his jealousy is misdirected; he should really be jealous of God. He understands Sarah's actions now, so he can't hate her anymore. He realizes that Henry didn't win her back after all, so there's no point hating him neither. Maurice ends up with all this pent up emotion and no where to direct it.

Sarah herself is struggling mightily with her ambivalence towards God and the promise she made Him in a moment of desparation:

A vow's not all that important--a vow to somebody I've never known, to somebody I don't really believe in. Nobody will know that I've broken a vow, except me and him--and he doesn't exist, does he? He can't exist. You can't have a merciful God and this despair.

Finally Sarah agrees to meet with him again. But, already stricken with a cough, returning home from their luncheon in the rain she becomes quite ill, sickens and dies of pneumonia... there is a sort of half-hearted attempt here to defend the lovers and minimize their sin, as when Maurice contemplates hiring the detective:

It isn't, when you come to think of it, a quite respectable trade, the detection of the innocent, for aren't lovers nearly always innocent? They have committed no crime, they are certain in their own minds that they have done no wrong, "so long as no one but myself is hurt," the old tag is ready on their lips, and love, of course, excuses everything--as they believe, as so I used to believe in the days when I loved.

But we don't really believe that's how Greene feels. After all, the heroic figure is not Maurice, who wants to continue sinning, but Sarah, who stops even though it kills her. After her death, a few heavenly miracles occur, and even Maurice is conveyed to belief in the end.

Well, there´s a much more in the book - within this setting, Greene methodically explores themes of love and hate, faithfulness, "the nobility of the struggle with sin and he moral heroism of those who can conquer it" (as a critique puts it) , and the presence of the divine in human lives.. - But the point I would like to make in relation to that six degrees of separation thingy is:

Although today, everything has changed (in terms of communication techniques), nothing has changed (when it comes to people´s moral and emotional ability to communicate with each other). We are still Sarah and Maurice. If we don´t even know, simply can´t make up our minds, whether or how we are morally allowed to intimately communicate with someone who matters (matters a lot! Like someone we love), who cares about the degree of seperation? One degree is equivalent to a thousand degrees, then! It is even more cruel, because we can´t cheat on ourselves anymore ("maybe the stage coach has been raided and the courier was killed, maybe her/his letters got lost and sank with the post ship, maybe he´s lost my phone number, maybe she can´t make a phone call because her husband is observing the telephone...?").

Come on, face the truth: if you get no news, your vis-à-vis wants to stay silent, for whatever reason (and there you go again, wondering why, struggling with yourself, the oneself, with love, faith, morality, truth, pride...).´

Eric looked at me in silence, then nodded.


October 29, 2010

So Far Away

Alice liest aus "Die Liebe am Nachmittag" von Ernó Szép

5. Nacht

Also dann komm jetzt, kleine Iboly.
Dass mich das Mädchen am Theater aufhielt, das geschah etwa anderthalb Jahre, nachdem ich angefangen hatte, die Dame [=seine derzeitige Geliebte, Anm. der Vorleserin] kennenzulernen.
Drei Tage später rief mich diese Iboly an.
Immer wenn das Telefon klingelt, fahre ich zusammen.
Ich hatte gearbeitet. Ekelhaft, wenn man so aufgeschreckt wird. Wer spricht? Ich erkannte die zaghafte Frauenstimme nicht.
Iboly. Was für eine Iboly? Den Namen hatte ich nicht parat.
Ja, ja, im Theater. Bitte.
"Sind Sie mir böse?"
Ach woher, meine Liebe. Aber Sagen Sie, worum es geht.
Sie begann damit, dass sie schon gestern bei mir angerufen habe, leider erst nach eins, als die Schule aus war; von der Schule aus mag sie nicht telefonieren, man kann da nicht reden, die Mädchen hören alles mit. Ich war nicht zu Hause.
Gestern Mittag musste ich bei einer Zeitungsredaktion vorstellig werden, weil mir das Geld ausgegangen war.
Ich versprach, ihr die 20 Heller zu ersetzen, die sie gestern umsonst hinaus- beziehungsweise eingeworfen hat.
Sie lachte neckisch, ach, das ist doch nicht Ihr Ernst.
Also dann, was hatte sie denn auf dem Herzen.
Das möchte sie mir gern persönlich sagen. Schon seit Längerem wollte sie mit mir sprechen.
Ich spüre, wie heftig sie atmet, zwischen ihren kurzen Sätzen stockt sie. Am Ende hüstelt sie ein wenig, war wohl ziemlich aufgeregt.
Wieviele Sekunden dauert es, bis man ein solches Mädchen taxiert hat und dann entscheidet, ob man etwas davon begehrt oder nicht? Ist dieses Mädchen hübsch? Ich kann mich jetzt nur an etwas Blondes und jugendlich Ungestümes erinnern. Von ihren Augen weiß ich gar nicht, ob sie blau oder braun sind. Mit den Beinen gibt es, soweit ich mich erinnere, kein Problem.
Vielleicht ist mir das Wort schneller entschlüpft, als ich es ihm gestatten wollte.
Also gut, gern. Heute Nachmittag, wenn sie aus der Schule kommt, falls sie auch nichts Besseres vorhat.
Nein, da hat sie nie etwas vor. Sie hätte sich´s auch so gedacht. Um sechs ist die Schule aus, sagen wir um achtzehn Uhr zehn. Wo ich warten wollte, sie würde da sein. Freue sich schon so!
Die Schauspielschule liegt am Anfang des Leopoldrings. Am besten träfen wir uns an der Margeretenbrücke bei der Haltestelle der 16er.
Ich kann unmöglich an der Schule vor den Augen aller auf ein Mädchen warten.
Als ich den Hörer auflege, starrte ich eine Minute lang den stummen Apparat an. Lauschte in mich hinein, ob mein Herz etwa so vernehmlich schlug wie der Gong vor einer Feierstunde. Ob mein Gesicht heißer geworden war? Und die Augen auffälliger strahlten? Doch ich spürte nichts dergleichen. Weiß nicht, ob ich etwas merkte. Denn irgendetwas musste ich doch fühlen? Was wollte dieses Mädchen? Täuschte ich mich, wenn ich annahm, es ginge um Protektion bei irgendeinem Theater oder Kabarett? Im letzten Jahr beispielsweise, da schrieb mir ein kleines krankes Girl, das ich nie gesehen hatte, und bat um zehn Pengó. Und ich, was will ich von diesem Mädchen? Bin ich denn neugierig auf so eine Dutzend-Iboly? Hat mich irgendetwas an dem Mädchen beührt? Warum habe ich mich nach ihr umgedreht, ihr nachgeschaut, wo ich doch den Kopf voller Sorgen hatte? Möglicherweise nur, weil dieses Gesicht zufällig in meiner Erinnerung aufgetaucht ist und mein Blick sie ganz unwillkürlich traf; und hätte ich dieses Mädchen nicht sogleich wieder vergessen, wenn ich nicht von ihr angesprochen worden wäre? Welches Novum habe ich von dieser Schauspielschülerin zu erwarten, was für eine neue Stimme, einen wie merkwürdigen Geschmack auf der Zunge, in welche Träume kann sie mich versenken, mir welche Sterne vom Himmel holen? Ein eiliger Seufzer, lass uns weitermachen. Wo waren wir doch gerade?

Aus: "Die Liebe am Nachmittag" von Ernó Szép 
(1884-1953 / Foto rechts)

April 17, 2010

How it was, how it might have been, how it is, how it could be, how it ought to be...


Best Picture
Best Actor
Best Film Music
Best Screenplay 

Highly recommended!!!



April 13, 2010

April 07, 2010

Spring Is In The Air

Hello Sunshine!

There you are, finally back! Ushering spring in! How wonderful!!! I love spring time. It is my favourite time of the year, really.

Temperatures are rising, birds are singing, flowers are peeking, people are falling in love all over the place - isn´t it wonderful?

Well! I have to make a confession: I am getting that spring feeling too. And I have just fallen in love, head over heals. To be honest, it already happened over the winter (that endless, dreadful, fucking cold winter). My intriguingly good-looking colleague from work asked me out for dinner last Tuesday, but I had to decline: "Sorry, I already have a date."
"Do I know him ?", he asked?
I blushed, answering: "Oh well, yeah, probably. He is quite famous, ya know?"
"Oh really? What´s his name, then?"
"His name is House. As in house. He´s a doctor", I proudly exclaimed. "Dr Gregory House!"
My very nice-looking colleague (tall & slim, Greek profile, full hair elegantly turning grey, unhappily married - of course) just stared at me.
"You mean that Dr. House, the one from the TV soap?"
"It´s not a soap!" My voice was close to hysteria. "It´s a cult programme!"
Silence, another stunned glance. But my temper had been unleashed.
"In case you didn´t notice: the programme itself is cult, it´s subversive, intelligent, inspired, genuine entertainment at its best, and Dr. House himself is the sexiest male character in global TV ever!"

That was bound to raise his eyebrows: "Are we talking about the same person - that vicious, limping, drug-addict psycho with the haggard face pretending to be someone special, someone different from the infantry, phhh...! "
"Right! He´s edgy in every possible sense, and that is exactly what makes him so attractive!" My face was glowing with excitement. "But you are a man, you simply can´t understand."

The next day, that same colleague entered my office room, waving a sheet of paper in front of my nose:
"Do you know what this is, eh? It´s survey result, saying that Dr. House has a viewing rate of 33% amongst the 14-49-year old. And 66% of them are bored females in their pre-menopause! Let´s face it, Alice: Dr. House is plainly mainstream, he is mainstream, and you are in the middle of mainstream!" He didn´t say that I was actually mainstream myself, but he surely meant it.

Right. OK.

I generally do not respond to this kind of cockiness. I know it´s all impudence out of jealousy and conceit. I stand by my doctor. I´m even willing to share him with all the other females. Maybe I´ll meet him one day, or at least another male being of his kind... who knows? I won´t stop looking for it, I´m sure it will happen one day, maybe this year, maybe at the rest home.

Wherever, whenever... heaven knows! But hey, Sunshine! I´m keeping my eyes peeled:-)

February 26, 2010

Discovering Robert Frost

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

Robert Frost (American poet, 1974-1963)

February 23, 2010

Every Day Without Fail

Every single day
I wake up and I fall asleep
I play it down, I´m just skin-deep
I´m fighting with my creep fatigue
I´m watching golden comets fleet
Every day without fail

Every single day
You wash your face and sing aloud
You tune the strings, you chase the clouds
You´re struggling with a little doubt
You´re wondering what it´s all about
Every day without fail

Every single day
My legs transport me to some place
Whereas you´re busy filling space
Two souls entangled in a race
Would you misgive me, face to face?
Every day without fail

Every single day
The quality of mercy isn´t strained
Make glorious summer of our discontent
To do a great right, do a little wrong
If music be the food of love, play on!
Every day without fail


Alice McDuff ~ 23 February 2010

Photo by forestgladesinwander

Last stanza inspired by William Shakespeare

February 10, 2010

About Love

When did YOU last hear somebody tell you "I love you" - for the first time?


Last week was a difficult, an exhausting week! The cold, the snow, a lot of work, many deadlines, changes, multiplied lack of sleep, piercing eye teeth and the terrible twos didn´t make it easier.

And the day before yesterday, it seemed as if everything reached a peak: So I literally passed out, at least momentarily... that happened in front of my computer at work, not in the car, thank God!

In the evening, I tried to put my little girl to sleep. But she obviously had something to settle at first. She was excited, and though she already speaks quite well, even 3 or 4 word sentences (sort of "sentences") she´s only 21 months old. So she obviously had to centre herself, and concentrate. First of all, she forced me to calm down. She said (in German): "Mama da liegen!" (Translation: "Lay down here Mum!") and pointed at my bed. Then she climbed the bed, cuddled up to me as close as possible and exclaimed, with a deep sigh: "Meine Mama! MEINE Mama! MEINE MAMA!" ("My Mum! MY Mum! MY MUM!"). Her rosy, little face came even closer, she put her cheek to my cheek - peaches and cream

February 03, 2010

Nothing Broke

Nobody knows
Nobody cares
Nobody bothers to ask
Nobody dares

What an easy answer
It would be: inside of me
Nothing broke, you see?

If the key got lost
I have the double
I kept it through
Any kind of trouble

I wear it on my chest
Close to my heart
Between my small breasts

Right there it is:
Warm, full and clear
It´s alive, it´s real
It doesn´t count or deal

It is simply love
Nothing more or less
It´s an imperative feeling
Not a game of chess

So truly, by now
Guess it´s needless to say:
Nothing broke forever
Today is just another day.


Alice McDuff – 3 February 2010

photo by squeakypeach4

January 01, 2010

Im Altenstift

Heute war ich dann dort
Bei Dir, an diesem Ort,
Nach langer Zeit einmal wieder.
Draußen tönten Weihnachtslieder.

Du liegst in Deinem Bett.
Gewaschen, gekämmt, adrett.
Eigentlich alles am Platz,
Der Kranz, die Kerzen, der Latz.

Ich erzähle Dir dies und das,
Hoffentlich macht Dir das Spaß.
Und doch mit Scham im Gesicht,
Denn so einfach ist es nicht.

Du aber schaust durch die Wand
In ein anderes, fernes Land.
Vielleicht gerade noch essen,
Es ist leichter, den Rest zu vergessen.

Minuten zerfließen wie Jahre.
Bist Du böse, wenn ich bald fahre?
Vielleicht noch ein einziges Wort
Von Dir, denn gleich muss ich fort?

Es heißt, Du könntest nicht reden,
Doch die Lippen kannst Du bewegen.
Einen Satz kann ich darauf sehen:
„Es ist gut, Sie können jetzt gehen!“


Alice McDuff – 22 Dezember 2009
(Besuch bei Großtante Gerta)