Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on September 23, 2013 in Personal with Comments closed |

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The Temptation Of Words by Viktoria Michaelis

The Temptation Of Words

by Viktoria Michaelis

Giveaway ends November 30, 2014.

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House Hunting: Is Now The Right Time?

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 23, 2014 in Personal |

At what age does a person – or family, couple, whatever – decide that it is the right time to start house hunting? I am sure that we all look at houses as we wander by, wondering who lives there, what it would be like to own such a house, especially some of the mansions, and whether we can afford to make such an investment. I am no different: I see beautiful houses as I travel and wonder; I note where For Sale signs have been posted and, now and then, take a closer look; I read the trash news to see which celebrities are currently selling and how much their former home costs on the market. Until now, though, I’ve never really given it a serious thought. We live in a very comfortable apartment close to the center of this small town with all the amenities a couple could possibly desire, but it isn’t our house. It is an apartment which we pay rent and utilities for each month. We have a landlord and everything that goes with it.

Viktoria Michaelis: House Hunting

Photo Credit: Images_of_MoneyCreative Commons

Lately, though, I’ve been giving it more consideration. The fact that I am probably going to stay here now, that I have no real reason to return to the United States, that I am very happy in my relationship and the small, select society that surrounds me weighs heavily. Should I, at twenty-two, be looking further into the future and consider making my presence here permanent, my relationship more solid with property? There is no shortage of realty on the market, a constant flux of movement as families grow, as means change, as new estates are opened, and some of the properties are very attractive indeed, some even fall within the scope of my own means.

But do I really want, or need, this kind of commitment?

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Review: Getting Colder

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 22, 2014 in Articles and Reviews |

Some people live in the past, either because they’ve never managed to come to grips with modern life, or because there are too many good things still left, they believe, which make it worth hanging on to. Yet others look back on the past, especially their own lives, and ask themselves what could have happened to me if… or, what happened around me that was kept hidden? When a family splits up, for whatever reason, the questions become more complicated, filled with wishes and desires, unanswered questions about who might have been at fault, whether life could have been different if only people had stayed together. For some these questions will probably never be answered, they are confronted with them at the most inopportune moments or at a time when life takes a twist, throws them a curve-ball, removes the only person who might have been able to set their mind at ease.

There are also many things in life which simply cannot be understood, the power of love is one of them. How can a person, so well set up in their home life, in their marriage, with their children, suddenly throw it all away and begin afresh? For someone who does not feel the same passion of love, it is almost impossible to explain, and can leave a deep hurt throughout the remaining years alongside the many unanswered, unasked questions. Would life have been different for Nigel and Louise if their mother Sara – or Sally as they knew her – hadn’t walked out in the late Seventies, sent them off to live with an Aunt, for Louise, or to a boarding school, for Nigel? What if their mother had never met the ‘Darling of the Eighties’, as Patrick came to be known when together with her, sharing the spotlight of his dubious fame and the eventual fall from grace?

Viktoria Michaelis: Getting Colder, Old Age, Memories

Photo Credit: joansorollaCreative Commons

All three come together once more, following the sudden death of their mother, in Patrick’s home, a dilapidated villa hidden away from the public gaze and hope, in their own way, to find answers to many of life’s questions. There is the prospect of an inheritance, of a new path through life, of a new start perhaps. And there is also Mia, a young student determined to make her own way upwards, by whatever means who, blinded perhaps by her prospects, throws aside her studies and begins to take control, as far as she can, over Patrick’s life. The whole, as all come together with their own complicated backgrounds, with their own problems, with their own memories, brings a delightful, bitterly humorous story of misunderstandings carried on over decades, of expectations unspoken, of questions never asked.

As with life itself, Amanda Coe’s new work leaves many questions unanswered, and that is a good thing. We are able, as readers, to place ourselves into the fate-twisted lives of each of the characters, to read their thoughts and almost feel their emotions. There is a certain understanding between the reader and each person portrayed which concentrates itself around that one person and their history, but doesn’t impede upon the uniqueness of the other characters, doesn’t bring them the answers they need, but lets us, the readers, understand what may have been the cause, what could be the future. And the bitter humor is not just a satire upon the expectations of an emotionally material society, but an insight into ourselves, we who, but for the grace of the fates, could have found ourselves in the same position, might still be faced with it in one way or another. We relate to the characters, and that is what brings a good story to life as much as the setting, the plot, the unexpected turns of fate and fortune.

Published by Virago. ISBN: 978 0 349 00509 6.

  • Viktoria Michaelis
This title was supplied by the publisher for review.

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Twitter Links: Hitting Rock Bottom

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 21, 2014 in Internet, News & Opinion |

For some sites, security is of the utmost importance, and that is a good thing. As we read, almost every single week of the year, about another breach, about more phishing, about millions of e-mail addresses, social security numbers, names and address, bank account details being stolen from their supposedly secure repositories on a server somewhere, it is hard to believe that this security concern is more than publicity. Your private information (or anything else for that matter) is safe with us! Unless, in small print, someone comes in and takes it while we’re off on a coffee break or away for the weekend.

Some security measures are pure protectionism, and by this I do not mean protecting the customer but protecting the business interests of the company concerned. No one, whether a corporation or a private individual, wishes to be caught sending people off to a site which steals their information, uploads a virus to their computer or generally does things which are unacceptable in polite society. Protectionism in a business sense means keeping the company name clean, on the surface at least.

Viktoria Michaelis: Twitter Warning

Screenshot Source: Twitter

So it appears to be with Twitter and its private linking service, not available to anyone else outside of Twitter itself. Links going out from Twitter, whether shortened URLs or full links, have their t.co shortener added, often meaning that three or four links will be rushed through before anyone gets to the site they wish to view. This is probably not too much of a burden for the customer, who undoubtedly has a somewhat faster broadband connection – no more 56k modems out there these days! – but can still be a senseless burden on usage. Why should someone need to be diverted through a link system to another link system – and sometimes to two more – before arriving at their destination? It’s like offering a person a direct travel link to a certain railway station, and then shunting them off elsewhere, forcing them to change trains, then to somewhere else with another change.

What is considerably more disturbing about Twitter’s protectionism, about their desire to force either bit.ly – which they highly recommend, without mentioning the fact that bit.ly costs a considerably amount of money unless you shorten each link you wish to use by hand, individually – as a link shortening service, is what happens when you don’t use one of their own services or a major label that everyone recognizes. Rather than checking out the site at the end of the link, Twitter issues a warning that the site you’re about to visit may be harmful.

Let’s be honest here, even a site at the end of a t.co or bit.ly link could be harmful. They are not checked by Twitter’s people or system. The links are added automatically by a piece of software without human intervention and, I do not doubt, Twitter would tell us that it is a costly business going through all the sites linked to Tweets in a single hour – let alone a single minute – to ensure that they are safe or even what they claim to be. So, far easier to label every single site which doesn’t use one of the recognized, major shortening services as being potentially harmful, and give those with an interest in seeing something linked to a Tweet yet another hurdle to climb over.

Most sensible people use a virus or spyware service or have the appropriate software installed on their computer. Shouldn’t they be allowed to make their own judgements about what is safe and what is not and the software installed do its job of protecting them from hidden malicious content?

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Exploring: Off The Beaten Track

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 20, 2014 in Personal |

Some people don’t understand it when I make plain that I want to go down a side street, leave the main road and follow a track, get away from the bright lights of the tourist areas, tourist attractions and see something else. The shops, the bars, museums and galleries, they are what life is all about! Well, sorry, but I tend to disagree. Life is about actually living, about what you can see of how people really live now as much as then. It isn’t an exhibit in a glass case, although they are also interesting, nor about a picture amongst many others in a gallery, where I could easily spend plenty of time too. Life is about what surrounds us, the day-to-day events, those things which have not been set up for the tourists and their money.

Viktoria Michaelis: Memorial Stone, Süstedt, Germany

Photo: Viktoria Michaelis – Süstedt

I also don’t understand those people – and there are many of them here during the summer – who set off on a road trip with their bicycles and just follow the route on their maps. They stick to the main route, never deviating, and are proud of themselves when, at the end of the day, they’ve covered a certain number of miles. But what have they seen? Cars to their left and fields or houses to their right. What lies beyond the houses? What is tucked away in small corners of a village, of an old town? How else would we have come across this wonderfully carved memorial stone if we hadn’t left the main drag in Süstedt?

In Baltimore we could have stuck to the museums, to the Inner Harbor, to the town center. We didn’t. We wandered around Little Italy, saw Mexican and Spanish shops, tree-lined residential areas where the roots have pushed the pavement up into an almost impossible mess to navigate over. We saw the back streets, the places where people really live. We turned our backs on the main attraction and saw the sideshows. That, for me at least, is what exploring, is what life is all about.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Claiming Freedom Of The Press

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 19, 2014 in News & Opinion |

Freedom of the press is one thing, but the freedom of the reader often gets second place, when it even comes to mind.

Freedom of the press and humanity are the foundation of The Epoch Times; our beginnings hailed from a great need to provide uncensored news to a people immersed in propaganda and censorship in China.

I have no intention of playing down the ideals of The Epoch Times, their stance is something everyone should be proud of in a modern world where, despite the wide-ranging possibilities of technology, we are still hampered in the gathering of information by governments, by outdated laws and by those who do not wish us to see the whole picture.

Viktoria Michaelis: Video Unavailable

Screenshot Source: The Epoch Times

The video in question is about the nurse – Nina Pham – who, following her work as a carer for Thomas Eric Duncan, contracted Ebola. If you believe the propaganda surrounding the disease, this is a world-wide problem, so why isn’t the information available world-wide? Why does a web site have to block some countries from viewing information about a matter which appears in every single newspaper?

Perhaps it is time that a few Western countries took a look at their copyright laws, at the restrictions imposed which, in such a case, restrict not just the Freedom of the Press, but also the Freedom of Information.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Just A Matter Of Timing

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 18, 2014 in Internet |

Timing can be everything, a split second too late, or too early, and a whole creation could disappear down the plug hole. Anyone who has tried to prepare and serve the perfect souffle can tell you about it! Sometimes, though, timing is more a matter of coincidence than anything else, a matter of two things coming together at exactly the right time and complimenting – or disproving – one another.

Viktoria Michaelis: Twitter, Monika Hartmann

Screenshot Source: Twitter

So this evening as I saw Monika Hartmann’s Tweet about Rebecca Lorenz’s new book of poems: Von Herzen: Gedichte des Lebens. Right next to it was another Tweet from a parody Steve Jobs account retweeted by a parody Syvia Plath account – well, you can understand that neither one of them does a great deal on Twitter these days.

Viktoria Michaelis: Twitter, Steve Jobs

Screenshot Source: Twitter

Oh, how love changes with the passage of time!

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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Paris: The Death Of A Christmas Dream

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 18, 2014 in Immoral Conversations |

You’d think that people would have more respect. The season of goodwill is almost upon us, at least as far as every shop in the Christian world is concerned, and everyone is preparing themselves for the onslaught of the holiday season, having only just accepted that it is Fall and getting cold again. And the season of goodwill means decorations, lights, parcels filled with odd seasonal wares, mince pies and future good intentions – such as losing all that gained weight once more.

Not in France. In Paris a few people have decided that there should be no special celebration this year, that the festive season should be without its centerpiece on every single market square, and have taken revenge – if you can term it that – on one of those symbols of Christmas.

Viktoria Michaelis: Paris, Butt Plug Tree

Screenshot Source: Twitter

This was the Christmas tree erected for the celebrations. Around this tree countless happy holidaymakers could have cavorted, have enjoyed their hot toddy, French Glühwein and the lure of all those seasonal markets with their shiny toys and tree decorations. Looking at the dismal pile, all that remains of the festive tree, some might be inclined to ask: why? Why would anyone want to destroy the symbol of Christian fellowship, portrayed by the far more appropriate fir-tree? We are assailed throughout the rest of the year with the symbol of death – the cross – so how can this be any worse? Who would have done such a thing?

Read more…

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Review: The Curvy Girls Club

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 17, 2014 in Articles and Reviews |

You might just as well give up right now, don’t even think about it, don’t seek any remedies; retreat back into your hole, under your stone, and regret everything. Look at it this way: you’re over thirty; you have one or two children who take up all of your time; that baby-fat is there to stay; shopping for clothes has you looking for the tent department. All the pretty little things dive out of your way, for fear of injury, when you hit the dance floor and every single chair you settle down into squeezes your thighs together into a pork roast waiting for the oven, while the chair itself lets out a deep, unsettling groan. The world is made for skinny people, people who can wear skinny jeans, drink skinny drinks, eat skinny meals and, above all, fit in skinny sizes from Top Shop. Life is filled with running after the children, checking the mirror for another wrinkle, cakes and pastries and that latest diet to try to lose one, maybe even two of those extra pounds. The world is no longer made for those sporting a Rubens figure, society and fashion are thin.

For some this opening paragraph is a fact of life, they are faced with the restrictions of their added weight, those few extra pounds about the waist, every single day. Bathroom scales are a thing of the past, an enemy. Shopping is a torture of beautiful fashion, made too small. Public transport is the hope of a double seat. Some people, it is fair to say, allow society to dictate how they should look, how they should feel, and whether they should be happy with themselves as they are. The Curvy Girls Club is something else again: a small group of four who decide that there must be more to life than constant dieting, worrying about their weight, sitting on the sidelines and watching everyone else have all the fun. It is time for a change, they decide, and what better way but to break with social conventions and set up their own club for the larger woman – and one or two men.

Viktoria Michaelis: Cookie

Photo Credit: scomedyCreative Commons

Michele Gorman’s latest work is, indeed, a feel-good work, a story of a small group of people who not only wish for something, but go out and grab it, grab life by the horns and make it work. They see that there is a need for something new, something which captures the imagination, the needs, of other women who, like them, are slightly larger than the social norm. At the same time it is hardly something which just works: Gorman’s writing is true to life, covering all the pitfalls, the arguments, the mistakes of life as the story flows across the page. The humor is something every single reader – skinny or plump – can appreciate, from the comic one-liner through to the biting, the heart-wrenching jokes about weight, fashion, even everyday work. We are shown lives governed by the acceptance of the skinny as being ideal, as being better – and the predominance of male governance in the workplace – as well as the difficulties of everyday life away from a desk and telephone. We live the arguments, appreciate the reality, sigh and laugh with the characters in each new situation. But for the grace of God, and those tempting cakes on the dessert trolley, go we.

Whilst this book is filled with humor, it also brings a massive slice of reality with it: the restrictions within the workplace; in a theater; a restaurant. What we take for granted in our everyday lives is an obstacle for some, without them needing to be disabled in any way, they are still labeled, pushed into a pigeonhole and condemned, simply because of their size. At the same time this reality is not pushed on the reader, we come to see it almost subconsciously, recognizing the truth of our lives and what we see, experience all the time, against the reality other people live through. Daily realities which some of us, sad to say, promote and support.

Amusing, light and refreshing, Michele Gorman’s The Curvy Girls Club is a good and most enjoyable read, even for those not yet thinking about that first child, career prospects after childbirth, desserts or the problems of settling, permanent baby fat or the future after that sumptuous thirtieth birthday party.

Published by Avon Books. ISBN: 978 0 00 758562 5

  • Viktoria Michaelis.
This title was supplied by the Publisher for review.

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Review: Iron Kingdom

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 16, 2014 in Articles and Reviews |

As everyone who has spent more than ten minutes in a classroom knows, history is a boring subject packed with dates and names which have to be learned by heart so that, at the end of the year, everything can be regurgitated on an exam paper. The textbooks given out are bland, filled with maps and the occasional portrait, and seem to whisk the reader through hundreds of years as if it were a forty-five minute lecture. It is hard enough finding interest for current events, when so much information is available, the older periods of history, when history was really in the making, are often just too much.

For anyone with this attitude, yes, you’re probably right, history teaching misses out a great deal, cuts corners, doesn’t go into any real depth in the early stages of school life and, as such it is a boring subject. If someone like Christopher Clark was writing the school textbooks, though, it might be a completely different matter. He brings the reader, even over a great period of recounted time, into a land, into a period with such skill that the long-dead seem to spring to life once more, populating the page with figures we can almost see, can feel, can relate to.

Viktoria Michaelis: Prussia, Preußen, Frederick, Germany

Photo Credit: michael.berlinCreative Commons

With Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 it is no different. Clark brings the dry facts of a period long ago in a foreign land to life with his writing style, his capturing of the times and customs. All the names and dates are there, but far more too: there are insights into character, into motivation, into the political and social pressures facing not only those in the higher echelons, but also those on the ground. We are allowed an insight, a form of understanding of how a situation came about, the problems involved, the greed as much as fear involved. Clark writes with a style which could be akin to fiction, were it not for the fact that we know all these events took place, and can place ourselves within the context of the times. His books are not a dry recounting of dates and names, but living recollections of a period which shaped, in this case, European thinking, politics and the geography of a continent, as well as influencing the tactics and prejudices of modern generations.

Anyone lost within the desert of a textbook on Prussia, on the relationship between the Austro-Hungarian Empire, France, the slowly forming might of Germany, Russia and Great Britain can lay their textbooks momentarily to one side and delve into a real, livid account of this historical period which, when those end of term exams rear their heads, enlivens the understanding as much as the retelling.

Published by Allen Lane / Penguin. ISBN: 978 0 014 029334 0.

  • Viktoria Michaelis.

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Sharing: In Sickness And In Health

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on October 15, 2014 in Personal |

I just love the generosity of other people, especially when they have something to share that you don’t really want, but have no way of refusing. By this I don’t mean that third toaster at a wedding, or the reindeer pullover Aunt Maud knitted for your twentieth birthday which fits one arm but not the other and makes Rudolf look like a drunken sot rather than red-nosed.

We had one this week: a case of unwanted sharing with all and sundry. He sat in the middle of the lecture hall, surrounded, as the hour went on, by an increasing pile of used paper tissues, coughing, spluttering and generally disturbing everyone else with sneezes and wheezes and sprays of something I do not wish to either describe nor think about. Such generosity should go rewarded, but it is unlikely in this case. I pity those who sat near him, at the beginning of the lecture, and can well understand those same people who, as the talk continued, gathered their few belongings together and moved far, far away.

Viktoria Michaelis: Mask, Health, Surgical Mask

Photo Credit: pouchinCreative Commons

Although, I suspect, by then it was too late. I do not doubt we will have a few more people sniffling into their work towards the weekend, having caught the bug so freely passed on.

I’m inclined to say that the lecture was not so important, he could have missed it without any problems, if he had been someone else. The thing is, he’s missed other lectures, in good health, for whatever reason, but chose to come to this one carrying the bug which could lay all low. Added to which, I doubt that he caught much of what was said anyway, with all the noise he was making.

Hopefully I was far enough away from me, I tend to sit towards the front in the hope of catching some extra inspiration, some nuance which can’t be seen from the cheap seats. How far and how quickly can these bugs travel? At least I now know why so many Japanese people wear masks wherever they go, even when they’re not in Tokyo trying to find an oxygen machine.

Love & Kisses, Viki.

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