Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So I have something to talk about anyway. Isn't that awesome? OK, easy there, guys. Right, OK. Yeah, put the chair down. Really, there's no need for....This story really isn't that interesting. Just give me five....Thank you. Anyway.

So after getting out of school today, I went to get my hair cut (oooh, ahhhh), then ran over to school to see the Faschingsfest. Don't ask me to translate "Fasching," because I don't know. But I do know it is part of the Karneval season, or the "Fünfte Jahreszeit (Fifth Season)," as they call it around here. It comes after Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) and before Aschenmittwoch (Ash Wednesday). Other than that, I'm clueless.

Now generally speaking, northern Germans aren't that big on the whole Karneval thing; it's one of those Catholic, and therefore southern, traditions people around here seem to tolerate but not really enjoy. They kind of groan and smile while telling you that Karneval really "ist nicht für mich," or "Karneval ist nicht mein Bier (Karneval isn't my beer)." Participation is generally reserved for times when there's nothing else to do, or when you just happen to turn on the television and see pictures from Cologne. Other than that, Karneval is greeted with the same enthusiasm as a New Year Resolution; it happens every year, but nobody really gives a damn or really notices when it's gone.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, Karneval is one of those publically sanctioned "Get Drunk in the Street" times, and every German from Cologne south seems to take full advantage of it. With its traditional and brightly colored lack of inhabitions, Karneval and a good Faschingsfest is just made for kids to go nuts. Hence today. And being Karneval, all the kids came "verkleidet" as just about anything, Hippies, Cowboys/girls being the most popular. I'll save the German fascination with the Wild West for another post. That's a big one. OK, back on track, back on track.

Most of the other costums were pretty typical (a Space Man, Vampires, Indians), but there were two that really got me. Seriously. I noticed the first one as soon as I sat down. He was dressed in a loose black robe, a large skull cap, and one of those sets of plastic glasses with a mustache and plastic nose. But this nose was huge. It was obscence. That spelled bad news in my book. I couldn't quite figure out what it was supposed to be exactly, but I had one of those uneasy moments of certain knowledge: some ethnic stereotype was coming my way. He really looked like a walking Jewish cartoon from some fascist newspapers from the thirties, but I remembered that that stuff doesn't fly here so well, at least not after 1945. OK, good. Close call. Maybe I was wrong. Nope.

All the kids stood up to introduce their costums. I waited with hope. I waited with confidence. I waited in vain. He was the Prophet Muhammed. WHAT! Christ, kid! Ahhhh! No! If you're having trouble picturing what he looked like, just get one of those spectacularly unclever Danish cartoons, make it ten years old, 80 pounds, and BLISSFULLY CLUELESS! Ahhhh! I cannot stress that enough: Ahhhh! Now, I know there aren't that many Muslims on the island in the winter, but still. You would THINK that after dozens of people had been killed in riots and threatened with decapitation you could find some other costum to wear besides one that looks like the distillation of every racist cartoon about the Middle East for the last hundred years. Or not. I forgot: people aren't racist here. Oh wait, yes they are.

The other one that blew me away was this pretty little girl in this incredible red dress and hat....OK, I know how creepy that sounds, but just give me a second. She was dressed as a "Rococo Woman." She said "eine alte rococo Dame," which sounds better, but you get the point. Rococo woman? Huh? When I was ten I was happy to pull off a faithful Ghost Busters or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles impression, but I guess incapsilating an 18th century French art style is the same thing. I mean, she did I good job; it looked like someone plucked her straight out of a painting for the afternoon for a walk in the park. I have to give her credit. And that dress was nuts.

Once again, kids have given so much to this blog. God bless you, munchkins everywhere.
So time to write has been pretty scarce lately. I don't know how, but all I've been doing lately is cleaning dishes and enjoying the feeling that my sinuses will soon implode. Paaarty! But, I did see a man on TV the other day named "Herr Mannsmann," which is basically: Mr. Man Man. Yes.

I'm heading to Bremen, Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig over the next week, and that should supply some entries. If not, that just means my life is sadly boring. I guess we'll just wait and see how that pans out.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I wrote the outline for this a couple of weeks ago, but the present pissing contest between Europe and the Middle East just makes it seem that much better.

-History's Bond Villains-


OK, I have to admit: his chief qualification is his name. Joseph Stalin, or "Joe Steel," ("stalin" is Russian for "steel") just SOUNDS like it's made to grind its enemies beneath the hard boot of dictatorship and forge the world anew into a distopia of steel and contrete. Man, that's awesome!

Stalin couldn't become the embodiment of despotic power and creepy police states if no one could pronouce his name. Imagine ordering someone to say: "Comrade Djugashvili sends his regards" before shooting someone from the dark corner of their apartment. It can't be done. Your henchman wouldn't even be halfway through stammering out your name before the meddlesome super spy used his cufflink missile launcher to pin him beneath a fallen beam just long enough to make his escape. Enter, Joe Steel.

A name to a maniacal super villian is almost as important as the chosen method of mass destruction, be it a death ray, controlling earth quakes, or mind control of heads of state. It's how you get yourself out there. You've got to sell it. I mean, would you ever forget that a man named Goldfinger dipped your seductive and short-time lover in gold paint, causing her to sufficate slowly? No. Because it sticks in your head. "Goldfinger." Try it. "Goldfinger."

Then, of course, there is the all-important uniform. Your old Rolling Stones T-shirt may be more comfortable, but let's face it, the hole just over your belly button doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of your enemies and chilling respect into those of your....OK, so all you have are enemies. Friendships are signs of weakness. What you need is a uniform, and good old "Uncle Joe" had it going on. He wore the same Soviet-style coat and hat everyday! Ever had doubts over how lightly Stalin took human life, all you had to do was look at his coat and the medals he never won to know that that man meant business.

Which brings us to the his great villainous accomplishment: the killing of about 35 million of his own people. Killing scores of foreigners and outsiders is to be expected (if you can't do that, what's the point getting out of bed), but it takes a special type of person to grind your own country into Hamburger meat. Have moral qualms about ordering millions of your men to charge an army with brooms and three bullets, or starving the peasant class to the brink of oblivion? Don't worry, it's all for the good of the State, which is another word for "me." And if you can do that while living in luxary so surrounded by fear and secrecy that no one wants to be the first to stop clapping at one of your speeches for fear of being executed, you win. And for all this, you, Joseph Stalin, are history's #1 Bond Villain.


Alright, so Stalin and Mao are tied, but someone has to be second. It was a tough one, though, because he fits every criteria set out above. I mean, think about it: his name was CHAIRMAN Mao! That just reeks of a secret and evil board of directors living deep within a hollowed out mountain, uncharted island, or undersea base. True, he didn't have a trap door installed in front of his desk to dispose of "incompetance," but he did have everyone from the ages of 15 to 25 slaughtering intellectuals, teachers, and "enemies of the Revolution" wholesale for a good decade, which is basically the same thing.

But I have to admit: Mao's uniform is better. Much better. It was a nice sleek two-piece gym outfit of doom. Unadorned and gray, it matches the emotional vacancy present at your execution in the basement of a sewing machine factory. If you're lucky, you get a "trial." Whoohoo!

Of course, his poetry is what really sets him apart from his contemporaries, for while Stalin liked the ballet and Hitler was a major Wagner fan boy, they never went so far as to write dreamy poems about blossoms falling from cherry trees or the sensual red ribbon in your lover's hair. But Mao did. AND YOU BETTER LIKE IT! This sort of twisted idea of beauty while, you know, totally disregarding human life has to count for something. There's no white cat on the lap, a creepy worship of Mozart or Beethoven "the key to the human soul," or keeping wolves because they are "the children of the Night," or something equally unsettling, but you can't have everything, I guess

But, much like Stalin with his Five Year Plans, Mao managed to convince this populous that dying from starvation was a good idea. Someone gets a gold star on their chart.


So you might be asking why good old Adolf is all the way down at place three. It's easy; he was WAY to evil for a Bond Villain. Wanting to destroy the world with a hidden nuclear device: OK. Incenerating the planet with your secret laser satellite as it passes over all the world capitals on the aniversary of the day you were fired from the top secret weapons program: Of course. Starting a massive race war that engulfs almost the entire world and takes the lives of 55 million people: That's just dirty pool.

So sorry there, kleiner Adolf, you're playing third base. BUT, he was a vegitarian. That's got Bond Villain written all over it. Forsaking the duplicitous human race for the civilized and trustworthy company of fish or a chunk of coral is just whimsically insane enough to win you some friends. It's also a Bond Villain staple (See: "The Spy Who Loved Me). You know you're on your way to being a wacked-out super villain with your stuff together when you can look at your sixth grade terrarium and find a ready-made Social Darwinist view of the universe: "The worm snake has no mercy for its prey. It takes what it wants, quietly, with force, from the weak. You, my poor fool, are the worm, and I, I am the worm snake." And if you think I'm making this stuff up, you should watch the old Nazi propaganda films with two dung beetles duking it out on the forest floor. Apparently, the German people are dung beetles. Yeah, it's not very flattering.

True, Hitler's clothes weren't as nice as Stalin's or Mao's, but his total disconnection with what we foolish mortals with a lack of vision like to call "reality" really seems to capture a facet of the super villain that both Mao and Stalin hint at but never quite reach.

Imagine this sceen:

"The Leader" is snuggled deep within a plush red seat in a private screening room, lights low, the dust from the projector belt faintly reflecting in the light from the back of the room. There is no smoke (it is an evil and unhealthy habit), but the crunch of carrots is sharp next to the soft faintness of the film's soundtrack. Outside, the servants are preparing a salad free of meat, for the killing of animals is a barbaric practice he had long learned to rise above. There is a laugh as Charlie Chaplin falls over a bench on screen. In the street, a machine gun chatters.

Now THAT'S crazy. Gut gemacht, Adolfi. Du bist auf der Liste.


OK, I know what you're thinking: "hey, this is about HISTORICAL figures, and Cheney's still Vice President." Nice try. But a historical figure is, at least in the confines of this...."study," someone who's dead. And Cheney is certainly not alive, because he has no heart. SO, good old Dick is on the list because he has managed to triumph over the petty concerns of mortality and empathy by regularly consuming the blood of baby animals and petroleum derivatives.

He also has this annoying habit of chairing secretive and highly dubious meetings between executives to divide up the most vital resource on the planet, effectively controlling our destiny. 1 + 1 = 2, and Cheney + No Heart x Greed = Bond Villain.


Again, not dead, but for this guy, I'm willing to make some acceptions. The main one? He's batshit nuts. There's really not a whole lot I can add here apart from the jewels that drip from his mouth about every week, but I will say that he has MAJOR promise. A relative new-comer on the tour, he has succeeded in making a huge impression in just over a year.

I mean, Stalin and Mao both had over twenty years to their names, Hitler a very busy twelve, and Cheney's been sucking the life-blood out of the democratic ideal for the last thirty years in several administrations, but Mahmoud. Man! That guy just needs a vacation. He's ruffled the international community, endorsed the destruction of an entire nation, and even found time to have creepy pictures of himself taken with children. And all within the last four months! Just two words: Pace yourself. You don't want to burn out too fast. But we'll see if he can live up to all the hype. I have a feeling we'll see big things from him in the future.

So that's it. For now. It's incomplete, but I might add little additions here and there when the mood strikes. I know everyone's looking forward to that.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Hey, Brandon, how do you say 'Mullet' in German?"

God, if I had a dime for everytime someone asked me that! Well, my dear readers, the answer has arrived. It is:


The word is verbal short-hand, actually. It comes from the phrase: "Vorne kurz, hinten lang (Short in front, long in back)". VOrne KUrz, HInten LAng, see? It's brilliant!

In case you really want to use it (who wouldn't want to use such knowlege), it's pronounced: Fokooheela. Enjoy. And no, there's no need to thank me.