Gerhard Haas

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Gerhard Haas

Early Life

Gerhard was born in 1950, in a small village in the middle of Germany, where he spent his childhood. Life was simple in those days and Gerhard could roam in the meadows and forests along with his friends without inhibition.

Education

Gerhard went to primary school in Fürth[1] and then to the gymnasium (grammar school), the Martin Luther Schule in Rimbach, where he found a special interest in music and arts. At an early age he learned to play the piano.

Career

Gerhard was working at the pharmaceutical company Merck AG in Darmstadt, Germany. Later he took a course at the music academy, Akademie für Tonkunst in Darmstadt where he studied piano, clarinet and flute. He also worked as a volunteer and social worker at Release[2], a drug rehabilitation center in Ernsthofen.

In 1980 he moved to La Nouvelle Mayapura in France, where he was engaged as a teacher. It was there where he met his spiritual teacher A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami and received initiation and training in bhakti yoga. In 1988 he moved to England teaching German in schools, colleges and the private sector. He then studied music at the University of Leicester and later on worked as a freelance web designer.

For many years Gerhard has been engaged in charitable activities. He was instrumental in establishing two registered charities dedicated to the teachings of bhakti yoga, spiritual counseling, life coaching and food distribution to the homeless and needy. In 2017 he took up a course (Communication Arts) at Leicester's De Montfort University.

Websites and Social Media

Gerhard maintains a number of websites, social media accounts and blogs such as:

Assignment 1

Assignment 2

Plastic Ocean
Blog 1: Plastic Ocean
This blog post is a research piece of work about the environment and the pollution of our oceans. Besides hyperlinks it contains a Twitter feed and embedded YouTube videos. It contains a strong message from Captain Paul Watson about the hypocrisy of environmental groups and their lifestyle. It is a shocking account of the state of our oceans.
Saray Mangal
Blog 2: Saray Mangal
This blog post is about homelessness and contains hyperlinks, pictures and an audio interview with Mehmet Aydin, the owner of the 'Saray Mangal' restaurant in Leicester. For the second year Mehmet puts on a festival and free dinner on Christmas Day for over 150 homeless people in Leicester.
Bushby Lions
Blog 3: Bushby Lions
This blog is about a fund raising event with the Leicester 'Lions Club' in which we took part as volunteers. The event was organized around a Christmas theme with Santa and a Santa sledge pulled through the streets. It also gives background information about the 'Lions Club', its international reach and its 100 year history as well as its charitable and philanthropic aims. The blog contains hyperlinks, pictures and embedded videos.
The Bridge
Blog 4: The Bridge
'The Bridge' is an audio interview with a volunteer staffing a charity coffee float at Leicester's University Christmas Market. The homeless charity deploys the converted milk float on various occasions and at different venues to raise funds for its charitable objectives. The blog gives background information about 'The Bridge' and contains as its center piece an audio interview as well as embedded YouTube testimonials from service users along with pictures and relevant links to the charity's website. It also contains the charity's Twitter feed.
Reflection
Blog 5: Reflective Video
This video blog is a reflection on the blogging and Community Media journey undertaken so far. It chalks out the development from the position of almost zero to that of a fledgling Community Reporter. It looks back on the journey and evaluates the progress made so far. This video blog was recorded on a mobile phone, popped up on a stack of books in order to get the right height and choosing a neutral background, which was the bamboo window blind. The video blog runs slightly over time because only later it was realized that the mobile had actually a time counter.

Assignment 3

Slackers
Blog 1: Slackers
This blog tells us the story of Jim, who is homeless. It contains a recorded interview with him. We also get some revealing background information on homelessness in Leicester. Jim went into rehab but then lost his flat due to a lack of communication between the Rehab Center and the City Council. He was accused of making himself intentionally homeless, in which case the Council can deny any responsibility for support. This resulted in Jim being back on the streets of Leicester.
Then the Council told him he has no 'local connection', which is often the excuse for the authorities to push the problem elsewhere, even though Jim was born in Leicester. He tried his luck in Loughborough, however, there was only a provision for two days a week. Therefore he moved back to Leicester. This shows that people in the homeless community are highly mobile, moving from city to city and across County borders. This, of course, does not help to provide a local connection, with the result that it only worsens their problems. Dealing with the Council makes him feel that they think all homeless people are slackers who don't want to work and are thus not worthy of their help and support.
Plastic Fish
Blog 2: More Plastic than Fish
This blog describes the state of our oceans and how the global plastic production and plastic waste will soon outnumber fish (by weight). The blog outlines much detailed research with graphs, diagrams, statistics and relevant links. It explains that to date some 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastic[3] have been produced and 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste have been generated, of which only 9% were recycled, 12% incinerated and 79% were accumulated in the natural environment such as landfills and our oceans, according to the 'Science Magazine'.
'Plastics Europe'[4] have published an infographic which shows that packaging account for two-fifths of all European plastic demand, followed by construction, the automobile industry, electrical and electronic components and agriculture. Another graph shows the rapid increase in global demand for plastic production. This blog is well worth reading, especially if one wants to get some hard facts, figures and arguments regarding the extent of the global plastic pollution. Plastics Europe explains the concept of a circular rather than a linear economy[5] in regards to product production and recycling. It also proposes sustainable solutions for the world's oceans[6].
Amazon
Blog 3: Brazil without Borders
Fronteira Da Grandeza[7] is a documentary by the filmmakers Dodge Billingsley and Cory Leonard. It is the latest film in their 'Border' series and describes the historical development of Brazil's borders. This blog post speaks about the 'Documentary Media' event and the screening of the film at De Montfort University's Mill Studios. The blog contains links to Dodge Billingsley's YouTube channel, his Twitter feed and his Facebook page. It also contains Gerhard's Video Blog[8] and my thoughts about the film.
The film throws up many questions rather than providing answers and that is exactly what was intended, according to Dodge Billingsley, even though the filming took its own ways according to the specific situations the filmmakers found themselves in. One of these situations was that there was a unique language barrier because they only spoke English and the other party only Spanish, still communication took place somehow.
During the question and answer session, someone asked if there was a lot of red tape involved to obtain permissions. The answer was no, a contact introduced Dodge to the defence minister who happily gave permission. The soldiers at the local platoon were also very helpful.
Junkmail
Blog 4: Junk Mail Britain
This posting is an account about a presentation of Mark Craig, the well-known documentary producer and director of ‘The Last Man the Moon’. Mark presented two documentaries, ‘Junk Mail Britain’ and ‘The Last Manon the Moon’.
‘Junk Mail Britain’ tells the story of never-ending junk-mail pouring through our letterboxes. The film makes the point that despite so much diversity and differences we all have one thing in common, the never-ending stream of junk mail. The short film explores this topic in a brilliant way with unusual camera angles and much humour.
Furthermore, the blog post contains an excerpt from the film ‘The Last Man on the Moon’ as well as a photo of Mark Craig himself, posing for the camera at the DMU’s Mill Centre after his presentation and question and answer session.
Highcross
Blog 5: John Greensmith
This blog post describes a meeting and an interview with a security guard at the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester, who has a soft spot for the homeless community. We hear some amazing encounters with homeless people, especially the story of the iPhone guy who is a Big Issue seller.
Some hyperlinks, photos and quotes spice up the posting. The full audio interview with the security officer John Greensmith can also be found in the post as well as a Twitter feed to the Big Issue tweet, ‘Undefeated by The Beast from the East’. There is also a quote from John Greensmith telling us that nobody is better in his eyes than those homeless people on the street.
Media Café
Blog 6: Community Media Café
The article describes a visit to and practical involvement in discussions at the Community Media Café at Leicester’s Bishop Street. Groups of DMU students were paired with regular visitors to the Café and talked about their chosen projects in the relaxed atmosphere of the Media Café.
The post contains a number of photographs which capture the atmosphere at the Café. It also contains a Twitter feed from the ‘Leicester Media Café’ with the message ‘Here to Listen, not to Judge’. Moreover, it has an audio interview with one of the regular visitors to the Café along with informative hyperlinks and a Blockquote.
Peace Vigil
Blog 7: Grandmas for Peace
This posting describes the 2015 Peace Vigil at Leicester’s Clocktower[9] which has been a weekly ongoing event ever since. It has originally been an outcry against the British military involvement in Syria but has become a manifestation of universal peace and brotherhood.
The article contains a number of pavement chalk drawings and writings as well as an audio interview with Penny Walker and Marguerite, the original organizers of ‘Grandmas for Peace’. It also has beautiful video footage of the pavement writing which has been put to Tracey Chapman’s famous ‘Revolution’ song.
Mental Health
Blog 8: Mental Health Day
This blog post is a report about Mental Health Day at Leicester’s De Montfort University. The post features a video talk by Jo Cooke, the Associate Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of Student and Academic Services at the university.
It also contains a number of event photographs as well as a YouTube video about ten signs to be aware of in regards to bad mental and emotional health.
Womens Day
Blog 9: International Women's Day
International Women’s Day is a blog post about an event at the Old Library[10] on Beaver Street in Leicester. The evening was organized by Penny Walker, who is a peace activist and one of the original campaigners against the UK’s involvement in the war in Syria.
During the evening there was a presentation from Abeda Sakha[11], a doctor from Afghanistan who spoke about women’s condition under the Taliban and before the Taliban came to power. She also recited some of her poetry and answered questions from the audience. Anna Cheetham[12], a local artist and peace campaigner who produced many of the exhibits at the library also recited her poetry.
The blog post contains, amongst a number of informative hyperlinks, a video interview with Penny Walker as well as video recitals of Abeda’s and Anna’s poetry.
Reflections
Blog 10: Reflections
This is a reflexive video blog for assignment three. Much progress has been made since our first reflexive video blog[13], technically as well as in regards to content and the confidence and ability to go out into the community, find a story and conduct an interview. It is certainly very exciting to engage as fledgeling community reporter with the public.
This reflexive video blog charts some of the highlights of this journey as it takes us through a series of encounters with people and issues, most of it is reflected in my various blog posts.
There have been, of course, a number of challenges, technical as well as interactive ones and it is surprising how quickly one learns and adapts to a new learning environment. All the interviews, audio as well as video, have been done on a mobile device and it is astonishing to see how well they have come out.
The major drawback was the omnidirectional[14] nature of the mobile phone’s microphone. It picks up almost all the background noise and chatter, even to the extent of making the audio almost useless. An investment in a unidirectional portable microphone for the iPhone would be a major step forward. Besides this, I firmly believe in the mobile phone. The best recorder is the one which is always with you.
Regarding a video recording, I have realised that the lack of a tripod or mini-tripod forces one to hold up the mobile to one's eye level. This obstructs the line of view and hinders eye contact with the interviewee. It is needless to say that a good tripod arrangement which is set slightly to the side is a major contributing factor to make a good and realistic interview.
Another technical point is to practice a good introduction at the beginning of an audio or video interview, stating who the interviewer is, where the interview is taking place, the name of the interviewee and what the purpose of the interview is. There is still much space for improvement and it is good to see that all these things fall into place by practice.
Most of all, however, progress has been made in terms of increased confidence building. This also came about by practice alone and by trial and error and I am grateful for having been given this opportunity on the module. The course and especially the Community Media module have been very enjoyable so far and I have learned a lot. The Drawing Centre[15] with Chris Wright adds an extra plus to this.

Additional blogs

Reporter
Community Reporter
Although not for assessment this blog describes the Community Reporter's toolkit. It details the necessary tools to conduct a meaningful interview in a variety of circumstances, may it be an audio or video interview and what are the three main important steps, ABC, Audio, Background and Content. One can find some instructive photos in this regard.

Year 2 - 2018/19 - Component A

Feeding 5000
Blog 1: Feeding the 5,000
'Feeding the 5,000' is covering an event in the City Centre of Leicester, which took place on 22 September 2018. The blog contains background information about the event along with recorded video footage, Vox Pops, and interviews, thus putting learning at DMU into practice. It also contains a number of photos to provide a visual feel of the story. Moreover, the blog covers several of the United Nation’s SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)[16]
News Story
Blogh 2: Refugees - Another News Story
Another News Story[17] by award-winning director Orban Wallace[18] is a magnificent and epic documentary of historic proportions. It highlights the stark contrast between human suffering and professional journalism or conflict reportage. All the best and all the worse in humanity is represented in this story. It gives as profound an insight into the refugee crisis as one will ever get. This film will ignite a burning discussion about journalism ethics.

Year 2 - 2018/19 - Component B

Plastic Bag
Blog 1: Do you want a Bag?
This is an account of a Twitter exchange with Sainsbury's customer service [19]about one local rough plastic pushing store. This store asked customers who approached the till, 'Do you want a bag?', even if they just bought a lemon or any other single item. Still, after numerous discussions with the staff and even the manager of the store, there was no change. Only after writing to and formally complaining to customer services were things taken seriously. customer services approached the local store and from that day onwards a change had been affected. This is an account of single-handedly and successfully lobbying Sainsbury's regarding their environmental credentials and commitment of reducing their plastic footprint. It is an account of successfully effecting change. The full exchange with Sainsbury's customer services was documented to inspire others to civic action in order to reduce the amount of needless plastic pollution of our land and oceans.
Beacons
Blog 2: Purple Tuesday
This blog post is about Purple Tuesday, the UK’s first ever accessible shopping awareness day. Throughout Leicester, the colour purple took on new significance. The Highcross Shopping Centre[20] invited charities and disability organizations to set up their stalls. This article features a number of links for further information about Purple Tuesday, such as Web links, YouTube links and Instagram links.
Reflections
Blog 3: Reflections
This is my second reflective blog, looking back at the journey taken so far in the second year of my Community Media module of the Communication Arts course. New skills have been developed, deeper insights gained and new confidence has been achieved.

Interests

Gerhard was always interested in arts, especially music. He has made several music recordings and is a multi-instrumentalist. He also keeps an organic allotment garden which provides for his personal needs as well as for food distribution to the homeless and needy. The garden provides vegetables and fruit throughout the spring, summer and autumn. Gerhard plans to extend the capacity of the plots to grow larger quantities and more variety.

Organic Garden

Future Plans

Gerhard plans to build on his charity work and network with like-minded people and organizations to further develop into the area of community media. He also wants to increase his skills, especially in the field of music and film production. Moreover, he plans to develop his organic garden, all with an emphasis on self sufficiency and sustainable development.

References