Sodoma: In the Closet of the Vatican. Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy, by Frédéric Martel

I really, really don’t have time to write any book reviews at the moment, but sometimes books are so good that I can’t keep my reaction to myself. This book is excellent; I will remain eternally grateful to my friend Christine for recommending it to me.

I like the English-language title more than the original French. It is an excellent summary of what to expect from the book, in which order of importance the elements are dealt with. Most of all, Frédéric Martel exposes just how power works in the Vatican, who has or had the power to do what and how this power is/was used. Not homosexuality itself, but the way the Catholic Church chooses to define it is the second most powerful element of this book; it explains so much, for example providing convincing arguments as to why bishops and cardinals didn’t react correctly to reports of sexual abuse of children. However, Frédéric Martel does not use this book as an opportunity to out anyone. The hypocrisy to be found in the Vatican is, last and perhaps least, the topic that will perhaps arouse the most rage and fury.

If you have any interest in the Vatican at all, you need to read this book. Frédéric Martel did the research, and the research is impeccable; the claims are documented many times over. More importantly, he drew the obvious and logical conclusions from the evidence, conclusions that many church leaders prefer to ignore or even repress. He has convincing explanations for events and decisions that puzzle everyone outside the Vatican.

This isn’t a reassuring book; on the contrary, it makes you seriously wonder if the Vatican, as it exists in its current form today, isn’t the biggest obstacle to or even biggest enemy of the Catholic faith.

Frédéric Martel doesn’t name that many names; he isn’t interested in outing people. He just describes how the inability of the Vatican to come to terms with the reality of homosexuality results in damaging behavior, in fear, hypocrisy, dishonesty, in downright unchristian behavior and actions.

I wasn’t upset by the descriptions of decadent behavior, although it does sound as if the goings-on at many Vatican parties would have even made a Freddie Mercury blush. However the descriptions of how so many cardinals, not just Italian, also American, live in exorbitantly luxurious opulence in Rome did arouse feelings of rage, fury, and plain old disgust in me. These bishops and cardinals didn’t “earn” the money they are throwing away on themselves. The Church’s money should be used to care for the poor. You’re not going to find much support in the New Testament for how these bishops and cardinals take advantage of the power to be had in and from the Vatican.

Frédéric Martel researched and fully documented all the facts he presented. They are what they are, and his conclusions are irrefutable.

More significantly, he recognized the truth behind the facts; his judgment of people’s character is impeccable.

I can vouch for his description and interpretation of Archbishop Gänswein. Frédéric Martel only made the slight geographical mistake of claiming that Georg Gänswein is Bavarian. Archbishop Gänswein is indeed many things, just not a Bavarian. The mistake came perhaps from the fact that Georg Gänswein studied canon law in Munich for several years and from the fact that he is a frequent and welcome guest in Regensburg, with the Ratzinger family and Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis. For many people outside Germany, southern Germany only consists of Bavaria. (Not true, by the way. There is also Baden-Württemberg.)

I, for my part, will claim to be a former colleague of Archbishop Gänswein’s. From 1994 to 1995 he also worked at the archdiocesan chancery office in Freiburg. He “delegated” many of his tasks to the employees in the library. Those of us who worked in the chancery office at that time know Archbishop Gänswein very well, and none of us will ever forget him. Frédéric Martel’s insight into Archbishop Gänswein’s character is exactly right.

Alone the description of the Dr. Georg Gänswein’s bishop’s consecration in Rome is worth the entire price of the book.

I have followed the career of Princess Gloria von Thurn and Taxis, whom Frédéric Martel affectionately (at least in the English translation) gives the nickname Gloria TNT, ever since the 1970’s and am very well acquainted with how her mind works, only surprised that she turned out to be such a financial genius. It is no surprise that other frequent guests to her castle in Regensburg include Steve Bannon and his ilk.  Continue reading

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Mis-Chipped ― Another fantastic read

Again, I really don’t have time to write book reviews at the moment, but sometimes the books are too good, and I can’t stop myself.

“Mis-Chipped”, the number six in the delightful series of Doodle mysteries, successor to Susan J. Kroupa’s “Bed-Bugged”, “Out-Sniffed”, “Dognabbed”, “Bad-Mouthed”, and “Ruff-Housed”, is entertaining, thoughtful, and a book you can’t put down!

“Mis-Chipped” is as important as it is fun.

Doodle, the skilled, perceptive, and tolerant Labradoodle, more poodle than Labrador, once again observes and comments on the often incomprehensible actions of those around him. People are simply not as astute or logical as dogs, much to Doodle’s confusion and dismay.

His employer Josh has built his bedbug-detection service around Doodle’s skill at sensing the presence of bedbugs. Josh has come to terms with the separation from his first wife and is now ready for a new relationship with Annie, a dog trainer.

Molly, Josh’s daughter, is again concerned with the welfare of dogs she meets and goes all out to protect them from both evil and clueless adults. As usual she makes mistakes and has to find clever but dangerous ways to remedy them.

This time she discovers problems with chipping one’s dog to make it identifiable and runs into a larcenous photography teacher who puts all her students down. Her mother, Cori, a police officer, helps collect proof against the criminals. Madison Green, a journalist friend known from previous books and Grady’s mother, also comes to Molly’s assistance when Molly wants to rescue her friend Grady’s dog.

This is an exciting book, full of useful information for those who aren’t as familiar with the world of dogs or with dog flyball or with chipping pets. Perhaps more importantly, it is also truthful in its description of human relationships, not sugar-coating any problems but offering a hopeful optimism that everything can turn out all right at the end. Kids are able to persuade clueless adults to listen to them.

This is a book for everyone, of all ages, whether living with or without housepets. It is thrilling and heartwarming, entertaining and comforting, while at the same time informative and optimistic. Do yourself a favor! Buy this book, read this book, and then buy it for others and tell them to read it.



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Dr. Christian Heß: Max Josef Metzger

Ich schreibe nicht viele Buchbesprechungen, weil ich einfach die Zeit dafür nicht nehmen will. Aber manchmal gefällt mir ein Buch so gut, dass ich meine Gedanken doch verbreiten möchte. Also, meine Gedanken zu:

Christian Heß: “Ohne Christus, ohne tiefstes Christentum ist Krieg”. Die Christkönigsthematik als Leitidee im kirchlich-gesellschaftlichen Engagement Max Josef Metzgers.

Dieses Buch ist so gut. Vor allem ist es sehr, sehr gut geschrieben. Komplizierte Vorgänge, komplexe Ideen und Vorstellungen werden so anschaulich und begreiflich erklärt, dass jeder sie verstehen kann. Der Leser braucht weder Theologe noch Historiker zu sein um dieses Buch zu schätzen. Der Inhalt des Buches ist für jeden zugänglich. Herr Dr. Heß hat alles bis auf das letzte Detail recherchiert und dann die Vorgänge mit einer zugleich gelehrten wie unterhaltsamen Sprache beschrieben.

Der Leser hat das Gefühl, alles, besonders Ursache und Wirkung, zu verstehen und will immer weiterlesen, weil das Buch so spannend geschrieben ist.

Es ist schon viel über Max Josef Metzger geschrieben, sein Seligsprechungsverfahren läuft ja, aber dieses Buch von Herrn Dr. Heß ist wichtiger als die anderen, weil es die Grundmotivation von Max Josef Metzger, die durch sein ganzes Erwachsenenleben hindurch zog, erklärt und sie verständlich macht.

Max Josef Metzger war Priester, Militärpfarrer dann Pazifist, Ökumeniker, Vegetarier, Antialkoholiker, Choleriker, Esperanto-Fan, Naziregimegegner und Märtyrer. Er hatte viele Leidenschaften und war ein komplizierter, komplexer Mensch. Er war hoch intelligent und gebildet aber oft fehlte ihm den gesunden Menschenverstand, er war oft naiv, ganz ohne “street smarts”.

Heute käme man in Versuchung zu vermuten, er sei einfach ADHS gewesen, jemand, der sich immer wieder spontan und schnell für etwas Neues begeistert, aber damit würde man ihm Unrecht tun. Durch mächtige Recherchen hat Herr Dr. Heß den Faden gefunden, der durch das Leben Max Josef Metzgers ein Leben lang geführt hat.

Herr Dr. Heß zeigt, dass die Idee, die Max Josef Metzger durch alle Lebensabschnitte geführt hat, war Vorstellung, Bedeutung und Konsequenz aus der Christkönigtheologie. Nach der Katastrophe des Ersten Weltkriegs war es für Max Josef Metzger klar, dass die Herrschaft von Menschen nicht imstande sei, Krieg und Leid zu verhindern. Im Gegenteil: Im Ersten Weltkrieg gerade am Hartmannsweilerkopf, wo Max Josef Metzger eingesetzt war, haben deutsche Katholiken und französische Katholiken sich gegenseitig Tag für Tag hingemetzelt, und das völlig umsonst. Dies könne nicht mit der Lehre Christi im Einklang gebracht werden. Also sei die Herrschaft Jesu die einzige Rettung für die Menschheit. Also wurde die Christkönigtheologie zum Kern des Wesens des Max Josef Metzgers.

Herr Dr. Heß hat erkannt, dass diese Christkönigtheologie heutzutage relativ unbekannt oder gar bei vielen eher unbegreiflich ist. Daher, um Max Josef Metzger richtig zu verstehen, muss man zuerst wissen, was Christkönigtheologie eigentlich ist. Diese Theologie hat nämlich eine lange, eher komplizierte Geschichte, angefangen mit der Entstehung des Christkönigsfestes.

Wir Leser haben es der Schreibkunst von Herrn Dr. Heß zu verdanken, dass dieses Thema so brillant begreiflich und wirklich unterhaltsam erläutert wird. Er beschreibt auf sehr spannende Art wie Ereignisse der politischen Geschichte und der Kirchengeschichte aufeinander prallten, natürlich mit den üblichen Missverständnissen und Abzweigungen. Längst nicht alle Kleriker und Bischöfe konnten etwas mit dem Christkönigfest anfangen, aber ab 1925 gab es dieses Fest, und die dazugehörige Theologie entwickelte sich weiter.

Durch diese so überschaubare Beschreibung kann man dann nachvollziehen, wie diese Christkönigtheologie für Max Josef Metzger zur Antwort auf menschliche Probleme auf Erde wurde.

Bei jedem Lebensabschnitt sieht man in diesem Buch, wie es Max Josef Metzger klar wurde, dass die Menschheit nur Christus als Herrscher folgen dürfe. Menschen verursachen oder dulden Kriege; Christus rufe zum Frieden auf. Menschen erlauben sich Konfessionsquerelen; Christus rufe einfach zur Nachfolge auf, ohne Rücksicht auf Konfession. Vielen Menschen gehe es wirtschaftlich und sozial schlecht; Christen sollen auf Dinge verzichten, die dieses Unrecht begünstigen, wie Alkohol oder Fleisch. Verständnis zwischen den Völkern werde durch Sprachprobleme verursacht oder verstärkt; eine Einheitssprache sei notwendig, damit kein Volk Vorteile durch seine Sprache erhält. Da Latein nicht mehr dazu fähig sei, müsse Esperanto her.

Max Josef Metzger war letzten Endes ein Visionär, überzeugt davon, dass wenn alle Menschen die Königsherrschaft Jesu akzeptieren würden, zumindest Friede auf Erden möglich wäre.

Jetzt läuft sein Heiligsprechungs-, bzw. Seligsprechungsprozess. Viele vom Vatikan als heilig anerkannte Menschen haben ein einziges Ziel vor Augen gehabt, eine feste Überzeugung, die ihnen die Kraft gab, so zu wirken. Ob eine solche Überzeugung zu haben dann der Vorbildfunktion gut tut, darüber lässt sich natürlich streiten.

Dr. Heß zeigt Fall für Fall, Ereignis für Ereignis, wie diese Christkönigtheologie Max Josef Metzger inspiriert und geführt hat. Dadurch schreibt er die spannendste Biografie von Max Josef Metzger, die es gibt.

Am Ende bleibt Max Josef Metzger ein Visionär, seiner Zeit ziemlich voraus. Als Naziregimegegner bleibt er unumstritten, ein Märtyrer und Held. Als Ökumeniker war er seiner Zeit weit, weit voraus, aber die katholische Kirche hat sich in seine Richtung bewegt. Inzwischen sehen viele christliche Konfessionen den Weltfrieden als etwas Gottgewolltes. Als Vegetarier und Antialkoholiker war Max Josef Metzger auch seiner Zeit voraus, aber die meisten, die diese Überzeugung teilen, könnten mit einer Christkönigherrschaft nicht viel anfangen. Esperanto, mit seiner eurozentrischen Ausrichtung, wird auch kaum noch eine Rolle spielen, wenn es um Verständnis unter den Völkern geht. Und die Vorstellung, dass die Menschheit insgesamt einer Christkönigherrschaft unterwerfen würde, ist heute auch nicht mehr wahrscheinlich.

Also bleibt die Geschichte eines gläubigen Menschen, der eine theologische Antwort auf die Nöte der Menschheit gefunden hat und versucht hat diese Antwort in seinem Wirken zu realisieren. Und diese Geschichte ist im Buch von Herrn Dr. Heß perfekt geschrieben.

Es lohnt sich sehr, dieses Buch zu lesen, weil es so gut und interessant und spannend geschrieben ist. Nach dieser Lektüre kommt der Leser dann unaufhörlich auf Gedanken, zum Beispiel, dass theologische Ideen durchaus Antworten auf menschliche Probleme bieten können, auch wenn solche Antworten weder perfekt noch von ewiger Dauer sind.

Mary Jo Rabe

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Rest in peace, Dr. Bechtold.

There are many wonderful tributes to Dr. Otto Bechtold.

for example (all in German):

from Father Wolfgang Sauer,

from the Archdiocese of Freiburg,

from the Konradsblatt (weekly diocesan magazine of the Archdiocese of Freiburg),

My thoughts, on the other hand, are certainly neither extensive enough nor adequate nor probably even worthy of the man. My memories are limited yet heartfelt. When I remember Dr. Bechtold, the first thing that comes to mind is that he was a consistently kind and good man, honest, helpful, and humble. These qualities are rare enough in the general population, but Dr. Bechtold was a “higher-up” in administration of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, where such qualities were indeed exceptional.

In his 45 years in the chancery office, Dr. Bechtold was in charge of two important departments in the chancery office, the finance department and the department of buildings and properties before becoming vicar general of the Archdiocese of Freiburg from 1988 through 2003. For those not completely up on Catholic jargon, the bishop or archbishop of a diocese is like the chairman of the board and the vicar general like the CEO, i.e. the one in charge of managing the whole organization.

I first worked in the archdiocesan archives in 1973 to 1974 and was a librarian in the archdiocesan library from 1976 to 2016. Dr. Bechtold was an enormously popular and extremely considerate library user.

It’s still hard to know where to start. I miss Dr. Bechtold. He left us far too soon (though he was almost 91 when he died in January). So I’ll begin with the obvious: Dr. Otto Bechtold was one of the good guys, one of the genuinely and thoroughly good inhabitants of this planet.

He made it his business to know everything that went on in the chancery office but never acted like a bombastic know-it-all. He always assumed that people knew what they were doing and that they would try to do their best at their jobs. However, I remember a few specific occasions when he stepped in after the personnel department made yet another deplorably wrong-headed decision (details about these and other memories will provide material for future blogs) and simply said, “No, we won’t do that.”

He was always available as the last level of appeals in the very top-heavy bureaucratic structure that was the chancery office. In the 1990’s when the person (feel free to supply your own epithets; I certainly have mine) in charge of all computer activity in the chancery office (a responsibility he took on with the justification that he had a computer at home) only allowed the library a daisy-wheel printer that barely had enough memory to print one and a half single-spaced pages, Dr. Bechtold, my last hope, somehow persuaded said individual to grant us a functional printer.

When Dr. Bechtold learned that my mother had been diagnosed with cancer, he came into the library and said that he would pray for her.

He attended every company trip and went on the strenuous “long” hikes, even only eight months after getting new heart valves.

He had hoped to retire in 2001, but when Archbishop Saier retired in 2002, Dr. Bechtold had to stay on until the new archbishop could name his own vicar general, which didn’t happen until late 2003.

His calm, tolerant, and benevolent presence in the chancery office was sorely missed. But I continued to hear from him. I worked on “Dialog”, the company magazine, and after every issue, Dr. Bechtold called to say how much he liked it. I sent people Christmas form letters and form letters from the U.S. throughout the years, and Dr. Bechtold never failed to call and thank me for the letters. He called to thank me for every birthday greeting, even after I had retired.

At the funeral Mass for Dr. Bechtold, Archbishop Stephan Burger read some messages Dr. Bechtold had placed in his will and requested to be read. Dr. Bechtold wanted everyone to know how grateful he was for all the kind help he had received throughout the years and wanted to apologize to anyone he might have neglected or disappointed. This was so typical for him; even after death he wanted to continue to comfort and help people.

Dr. Bechtold’s religious convictions weren’t any kind of in-your-face proselytizing. Rather, he lived for and through his beliefs. As long as it was physically possible for him, he said Mass every day, either in the cathedral or in nursing homes. He always saw himself as a simple priest trying to do the best he could for God and the people entrusted to him. Occasionally you could see him physically wince when someone wished him a “good weekend”. He preferred wishes for a “blessed Sunday”, since Sunday was the highpoint of the week for him.

With all the babble about training people to help them develop leadership qualities, more and more I’m convinced that the really good leaders are born and not educated. In my humble opinion Dr. Bechtold was the best possible manager, if not the perfect manager. Despite all his responsibilities for a huge organization (In Germany both the Catholic churches and the Protestant churches have large amounts of money at their disposal due to the government-collected church tax. Large amounts of money result in large bureaucratic structures), Dr. Bechtold was unfailingly kind and considerate in his dealings with everyone. Without exception he gave every employee the feeling that he was valued and respected, probably because Dr. Bechtold did value and respect every individual he ever met.

I am very skeptical about the value of canonization, naming saints, especially considering the no-longer-credible demand for verified, medical miracles. However, when you have the vastly good fortune of encountering someone like Dr. Otto Bechtold, you do begin to see a certain value in naming role models, giving credit where credit is due. If anyone I ever met deserved to be considered a modern saint, it was Dr. Bechtold.

Rest in peace, Dr. Bechtold. You made your part of the world a better and kinder place.

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Denglish, Part 1

Now that I have reanimated my blog and am multi-tasking like crazy (I’ve read that multi-tasking only works for women in their twenties, and that ship has long since sailed, but I can’t resist the temptation), I want to start with what will be a recurring topic: my love of precise use of the English language.

I consider myself to be more or less bilingual, having lived non-stop in Germany since August of 1976, but I read and write for pleasure in English and am by nature a wordsmith (though trying to become a storyteller). Naturally my use of the English language is not perfect, but that doesn’t keep me from admiring perfection wherever I find it.

Germans love to take words from the English language and incorporate them into the German language, often changing the meaning along the way. A “smoking”, for example, is a noun in German and means “tuxedo”; a “beamer” is a projector; a “handy” is a cell phone; “trampen” is “hitchhiking”; the “city” is the downtown area, etc.

Most of these imported English expressions get on my nerves, since they involve misuse and abuse of the English language. The next person in my presence who says or writes “happy end” instead of “happy ending” takes his life into his hands.

I know, “his hands”. I accept the fact that languages change, including English. And I realize that some change is necessary for pronouns referring to transgender, genderqueer, intersex, nonbinary, etc., human beings because all human beings deserve respect in language treatment. So far this function has been delegated to the forms of “they”, “their”, etc., these being gender ambiguous. I understand the theory but it annoys me that the forms of “they” are now less precise than before. There is no way of knowing if forms of “they” refer to singular or plural antecedents.

But getting back to the reason for this blog: At the train station a few weeks ago I saw a huge McDonald’s ad for “Hamburger Royal You Can Eat”. For a native speaker of English this is quite puzzling. Surely McDonald’s doesn’t want to imply that you can’t eat all of its products. Does this hint at cannibalism, eating those of royal blood? Or does it inform clueless royals that they are allowed to eat at McDonald’s?

No, the answer is more convoluted. Quarterpounders (as we learned in Pulp Fiction) are called Hamburger Royal in Germany due to truth in advertising laws. McDonald’s quarterpounders aren’t a quarter of a metric pound, 125 grams, but rather at most a quarter of an American pound, ca. 114 grams.

And, of course, Germans pronounce “royal” with the stress on the second syllable. So the clever ad should be pronounced “roy all you can eat”, which no doubt the ad people at McDonald’s thought was extremely clever and which works well for people with English as a second language.

But due to my love of precise use of the English language, to me this is never-ending fingernails running up and down a blackboard.

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Another great read

Hoping to get back to regular posts soon, I can at least talk about a wonderful middle-grade book that everyone would enjoy.

“Ruff-Housed”, the brilliant successor to Susan J. Kroupa’s “Bed-Bugged”, “Out-Sniffed”, “Dognabbed”, and “Bad-Mouthed”, is simply wonderful! Doodle’s humorous musings about his human companions again provide optimal comic relief to the serious challenges the humans are confronted with: a con-man neighbor with a vicious dog, a conflicted teenaged dognapper, dog-killing fanatics who claim to remove pets from their enslaved existence, lonely rich kids who lose their nannies, the only adults who have time for them.

In book five of the series Doodle, a labradoodle specifically trained to hunt for bedbugs, helps Molly and her friends when they are confronted with animal fanatics, criminal activity, unhappy children, and clueless though well-meaning adults. Molly, friends, and Doodle recognize troubling situations, try to inform the clueless adults, and then take things into their own hands. Unexpected problems arise. Eventually the clueless adults show that they can help.

Josh values Doodle as his employee without whom he would have no bedbug detection service. Molly, Josh’s daughter, sees Doodle as a family member and confidant. Doodle is intensely loyal to his human family, Josh and Molly, even though humans generally puzzle him with their imprecise use of language and illogical actions. Doodle has a bemused tolerance of human weaknesses and appreciates Molly’s pampering. As a matter of pride, he always uses his trained nose to sniff out all bedbugs Josh asks him to look for.

As with the previous four Doodle volumes, this is a lovely book, funny due to Doodle’s reflections on human actions ,but with a serious look at current problems. Most importantly, it is an optimistic book, showing its middle-grade readers that problems can be solved, that clueless adults will listen and help. Family situations may not be perfect, but good people make a difference. The happy ending is believable and satisfying.

Dog owners will appreciate the accuracy of the canine behavior described. Non-dog owners will find themselves wondering if they don’t perhaps need a Doodle in their homes and in their lives.

Buy this book for yourself, no matter what age group you belong to, and then buy some more as presents for people who could benefit from this enjoyable book.

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Two more entertaining books

I still wish I had time for my blog, but since I can’t even squirrel away time for writing letters, e-mails,  or stories, it doesn’t seem realistic to promise that I will be writing much before I finally retire on December 1, 2016. However starting then I will blog regularly – no problem since I have opinions on practically everything.

In the meantime, here are reviews I managed to write about two wonderful books, volumes three and four of Susan J. Kroupa’s delightful “Doodlebugged” middle-grade mystery series:

Volume 3: Dog-Nabbed

“Dognabbed”, the wonderful successor to Susan J. Kroupa’s “Bed-Bugged” and “Out-Sniffed”, is again warmhearted and funny but never superficial. Middle-grade kids will love it; older kids will enjoy it secretly, without perhaps ever admitting that they read it. Adults with the good fortune of having a dog in their lives will adore the book; adults without canine companionship will start wondering if they need a labradoodle. Book three stands on its own, but lucky readers will want to read books one and two as soon as possible.

In “Dognabbed”, main character Doodle, the bedbug-detecting labradoodle “employee” of Josh Hunter and companion to Josh’s 10-year-old daughter Molly, again grasps every situation immediately, his wry assessments of human behavior spot on the money. Adult human beings in the story stumble cluelessly and then fail to repair their regrettable mistakes. Children are imaginative and flexible enough to think outside any box and come up with obvious solutions which of course succeed, once the adults are willing to try them.

Over Thanksgiving on a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains Molly has an opportunity to get to know more of her mother’s side of the family while her father has to deal with challenges on his side. Molly is also confronted with serious family problems a friend of hers has. Doodle loves the woodsy environment, even giving in to a puppylike desire to chase wild turkeys.

In the end, thanks to Molly and Doodle, situations are resolved with solutions acceptable to all, except perhaps the villains who don’t deserve any better. The reader’s sense of justice is not disappointed. Adults’ bad choices are presented objectively but compassionately, and of course Molly and Doodle know what has to be done to remedy sad situations.

This is a marvelous book. Buy it, read it, and then buy another one so that someone else can enjoy it as much as you did.

Volume 4: Bad-Mouthed:

“Bad-Mouthed”, the wonderful successor to Susan J. Kroupa’s “Bed-Bugged”, “Out-Sniffed” and “Dognabbed”, is again warmhearted and funny but never superficial. Middle-grade kids will love it; older kids will enjoy it secretly, perhaps not ever admitting that they read it. Adults with the good fortune of having a dog in their lives will treasure the book; adults without canine companionship will start wondering if they need a labradoodle. Book four stands on its own, but fortunate readers will want to read books one, two, and three as soon as possible.

In “Bad-Mouthed”, main character Doodle, the bedbug-detecting labradoodle “employee” of Josh Hunter and companion to Josh’s 10-year-old daughter Molly, again grasps every situation immediately, his wry assessments of human behavior always accurate and insightful. Naive adult human beings in the story stumble cluelessly and then try to repair their unfortunate mistakes. Children are imaginative and flexible enough to think evaluate the situations and come up with obvious solutions which turn out to be perfect once the adults finally implement them.

This time Doodle’s adventures begin with his finding and catching a rat at a Christmas pageant, an obvious good deed that no one seems to appreciate. Adults in the book exhibit contradictory behavior, which ends up causing serious problems for Josh and his business. However, with the exception of two evil villains with no redeeming qualities, all the adults are depicted with compassion; they are shown as flawed human beings who truly want to do the right thing, but of course fail over and over again.

Fortunately Molly’s detective work and Doodle’s instincts and actions can save the day for Josh, for Molly’s mother, for Grady, the troubled son of one of Josh’s initial adversaries, and for innocent, deserving dogs. The happy ending includes a few surprises but satisfies everyone’s desire for justice.

This is a remarkable book. Buy it, read it, and then buy another one so that someone else can enjoy it as much as you did.

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Rest in peace, Bishop Wolfgang Kirchgässner

Trying to get started on my New Year’s resolutions, among which were taking better care of my blogs, a sad occasion does make me want to find the time to write.

Auxiliary Bishop Wolfgang Kirchgässner died on March 25 a few months shy of his 86th birthday. I really can’t add anything to the many wonderful obituaries that I have read, except that I miss him. He was one of the genuine good guys, someone I have been very fortunate to know and work with.

I didn’t meet the bishop until he entered the chancery office of Freiburg as auxiliary bishop back in 1979. However, my first boss, Dr. Franz Hundsnurscher told us how Bishop Kirchgässner had twice before been called into the chancery office, from 1960 to 1963 as the secretary and research assistant for Archbishop Schäufele and from 1974 to 1977 to organize the future planning of pastoral work and the structure of the chancery office. Both times he managed to flee and return to being a parish priest, the profession he truly loved and was dedicated to. In 1979 however, when they made him a bishop, he couldn’t flee any more.

This was a great loss for his parish in Breisach but a huge gain for those of us working in the chancery office. Bishop Kirchgässner was such a kind, considerate man, highly intelligent, well-informed, and very modest in his demeanor and appearance.

I will always remember one act of kindness to my then boss on the occasion of Dr. Franz Hundsnurscher’s 60th birthday. Dr. Hundsnurscher was never one to suffer fools gladly and tended to make his views known, especially concerning conditions and situations he thought were not right in the chancery office. As a result he had a fair number of opponents and too few friends at the workplace. He often felt unappreciated and predicted that no one among the higher-ups would take the slightest notice of his upcoming birthday. I thought the problem was more ignorance and therefore went through the building knocking on doors and asking people to please stop by and wish my boss a happy birthday the next week. Some people did then call, but Bishop Kirchgässner took the time to stop by in the archives, bring my boss a bottle of wine, and chat about things of mutual interest.

I have never forgotten this favor.

Bishop Kirchgässner was a tall man for his age group (born in 1928, not a healthy time to be a child in Germany), about 6′ 3″ (ca. 190 cm), but he wore his height like he wore his faith, matter-of-factly, an intrinsic part of who he was that needed no further explanation. After he retired at age 70, he and his housekeeper moved to a guest house at the Convent of the St. Lioba Sisters in Freiburg-Günterstal. Bishop Kirchgässner was quite busy in the next few years, and it was always wonderful to help him find books or periodicals. He continued to bless altars, administer all the sacraments, provide spiritual guidance, again doing the work he loved best. After his housekeeper died, his health also took a turn for the worse and he moved to an assisted living section of the St. Carolus-Haus nursing home where he then died.

I send out Christmas form letters and form letters from the U.S., and Bishop Kirchgässner never failed to write a personal letter in reply, thanking me for thinking of him. That’s just the way he was, kind and considerate. The world is a far poorer place without him.

I don’t know how long this link will be live, but this works for now:

One of the few things the good bishop and I have in common is that we are both not terribly photogenic. At least none of the pictures I have seen of him so far begin to do him justice.
However, I think this is the best of the ones I’ve seen so far:

Rest in peace, Bishop Kirchgässner. I’m grateful to have known you.

Posted in Bishop Wolfgang Kirchgässner, library work | Tagged | 2 Comments

Two entertaining books

I’m still not able to write the blog I want to write (Inetbib 2013); life keeps getting in the way, one aspect of which was a fantastic writing workshop I attended in Lincoln City, Oregon, about which I also don’t yet feel capable of writing anything. I’m too blown away by the kindness and the competence I experienced there. Plus I’m trying to practice everything I learned there often enough so I don’t forget it.

However, while at the workshop and in Lincoln City (which deserves to be famous for things other than poor Richard Swanson’s being killed on Highway 101 there), I discovered two wonderful books by Susan J. Kroupa, the first two of her Doodlebugged Mysteries, books she recommends for middle-grade (I would guess ages 9-12) and anyone who likes dogs.

The protagonist, point-of-view character and star of the books is Doodle, a labradoodle (a dog with curly, dark hair and beautiful brown eyes, part labrador and part poodle) who has been trained to sniff out bedbugs. Doodle, favored with a wry intelligence and clear-headed view of human beings, manages to clear up mysteries, repair relationship problems, and solve most of the other problems of his human employers, despite the fact that said humans are woefully incapable of understanding his unambiguous commands. I haven’t met a fictional character in a long time that I enjoyed melding my mind with as much as Doodle. Susan J. Kroupa claims Doodle is inspired by Shadow, her independent labradoodle, but I think I recognized a few human sources of inspiration, at least every time Doodle commented “Just sayin’ …”

Anyway, Book One of what will hopefully be a long and prosperous series, is “Bed-Bugged” in which Doodle, while sniffing out bedbugs, also aids his employer’s 10-year-old daughter in flushing out a gang of art thieves (who were foolish enough to let the paintings become infested with bedbugs). As if that weren’t enough, Doodle also helps the daughter find her long-lost mother and accept a reality that doesn’t entirely match her dreams. Along the way Doodle comments on the inanities and insanities of human behavior.

Book Two more than exceeds the expectations you have after enjoying Book One. In Book One Susan J. Kroupa touches on serious topics of children’s coming to terms with less than perfect home lives, on problems of illegal immigrants, and on problems of single fathers trying to earn a living and do justice to their children’s needs. These problems continue in Book Two, “Out-Sniffed”, but Kroupa, without ever being heavy-handed, now adds problems of bullying, teen-aged drug use, a well-meaning but often helpless police force, and inept pet owners to the mix.

Fortunately, the ten-year-old daughter, with the help of Doodle, still the most intelligent and competent character in the book, manages to solve these problems and Doodle’s employer’s problems with stupid criminals while learning to accept her flawed but loving parents for the complex human beings that they are. “Out-Sniffed” is warmhearted and funny but never superficial. Doodle, of course, as he comments regularly, sees through every situation immediately, while the human beings do their best, fumble, and then get up and try again. Doodle occasionally indulges himself in some gentle sarcasm, but always lets slip at the end how much he cherishes his human companions.

So, I recommend this book highly to anyone who is aged 9-12, who knows someone aged 9-12, who likes dogs, or who might enjoy spending some time in the mind of a highly intelligent labradoodle who remains tolerant of human foibles.

These are both entertaining reads. Do yourself a favor and take the time for them.

Posted in Doodlebugged Mysteries, Susan J. Kroupa, writers, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

I like Pizza Hut

So far I still haven’t had time to work on my blog about the fantastic Inetbib Conference in Berlin, and various practical constraints (promises made that have to be kept) will probably delay it a few more weeks.

However, I do have time for one quick blog about how much I like Pizza Hut restaurants, especially the ones I’m acquainted with in Germany.

Living in Germany, I only really know one Pizza Hut restaurant in the U.S., the wonderful restaurant in Mesa, Arizona, in a little shopping center more or less at the intersection of Baseline Road and Gilbert Road. The staff there is incredibly friendly and helpful, and their lunch buffet is excellent. However, I also have fond memories of the Pizza Hut restaurants in Clinton, Iowa and Savanna, Illinois, my first exposure to their delicious food.

Unfortunately, there is no Pizza Hut close to where we live here in Germany. Pizza Hut in Germany, I wish you would consider opening a restaurant in Freiburg.

So, I’m reduced to searching for Pizza Hut restaurants in the cities where I attend library conferences. Fortunately, I often get lucky.

In Leipzig the magnificent Pizza Hut restaurant is conveniently located in the train station, at the level of the train platforms. For those who don’t know the Leipzig train station, it is a huge, beautiful mall that also lets trains stop there. You can literally spend hours or days wandering around in there, but you should make it to the Pizza Hut at least once a day.

I was so sad when I could no longer locate the Pizza Hut restaurant on the Kürfürstendamm in Berlin, but its more than worthy successor is located at the Potsdamer Platz. It isn’t completely easy to find in the dark if you haven’t been there before (there are many shops and restaurants at the Potsdamer Platz), but it is worth effort. I recommend searching for it in daylight so that you can find it at night.

The Pizza Hut restaurant in Karlsruhe is extraordinarily beautiful, and within walking distance of practically everything, the train station (maybe 30 minutes away, but the streetcar ride there will only take about seven minutes), the Badische Landesbibliothek (state library of the Baden section of our state of Baden-Württemberg), the magnificent university (one of my favorites – again maybe 30 minutes away by foot and seven to ten minutes by streetcar), and the administration building of the unified Protestant Church of Baden.

The smaller but equally beautiful Pizza Hut restaurant in Aachen isn’t completely easy to find if you are coming from the train station. You have to walk all the way around the cathedral (which, however, isn’t all that difficult to find) and not give up. It is so worth the effort!

The lovely Pizza Hut restaurant in Würzburg is at one edge of the downtown pedestrian zone, maybe a ten-minute walk from the train station (fifteen minutes if you are dragging a heavy suitcase). This restaurant is worth looking for.

It’s been far too long since I was at the Pizza Hut restaurant in Heidelberg, but I still have fond memories of it.

I also have fond memories of the Pizza Hut restaurant in Dresden, but I haven’t been there in a while, and according to the Pizza Hut “restaurant finder” for Germany, it is no longer there.

So, why am I so fond of Pizza Hut? Mostly, I love the food, the pizzas, the pasta (I’m especially fond of chicken with broccoli), the garlic bread toasted to perfection, and the delicious deserts, like the dinner-plate sized warm chocolate chip cookie with ice cream. I love the taste of the food. I love the huge variety to be found on the menus. I could eat there every day and find something different I liked each time. The Pizza Hut employees are amazingly and uniformly kind, friendly, helpful, and very, very pleasant. They make your stay even more enjoyable.

Again, when will there be a Pizza Hut restaurant in Freiburg? People there also deserve this wonderful food.

As a public service measure, here is where you can search for Pizza Hut restaurants in Germany:

However, I do have one minor source of discontent with respect to the Pizza Hut organization in Germany, the “Pizza Hut Express” food facilities. Basically, and in most cases, they are a mistake. I understand the theory, taking advantage of small spaces available and busy customers who truly want to grab one or two slices of pizza, wolf them down while standing, and then run on their satiated way. However, the “menu” is extraordinarily limited, and the food just doesn’t taste as good to me as the food especially prepared for me in a Pizza Hut restaurant. In the long run, I’m afraid these Pizza Hut Express establishments will ruin the excellent Pizza Hut reputation. Just sayin’ … A word to the wise … etc.

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