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February 2005
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April 2005

Catholic Church in Crisis?

Here you'll find the English version of an article by dissident Catholic theologian Hans Küng. Technically, I guess you can't call him a theologian anymore, since the Church took away his permit to teach Catholic doctrine in 1979 after he wrote a book challenging the doctrine of papal infallibility. Küng finds almost nothing good about the Pope's tenure, singling out the following areas:

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Titanic Sinkings 2: Max Goldt

Max Goldt also writes a column for Titanic, about which I have already enlightened you. Column's a pretty grand name; it's more a series of musings. Often inspired by things he's found at a flea market. Such as the following picture (caption translation mine):

Sophia_loren

Sophia Loren.  Jawohl: the great, incomparable Sophia Loren.  No less a personage than this renowned actress adorned the cover of the edition of the American magazine “Life” from 1964, in which the meat dish reproduced above was found.  Looking at the photo, you might wonder at what kind of inconceivable crap people ate 40 years ago, or rejoice in the progress that food photography has made since the photo was taken.  But you could just as well turn the photo upside-down, as I’ve done here, and, to your amazement, recognize a Dadaist anti-war collage from the time directly after the First World War.

[Titanic, March 2005, p.45]


Show me a blog & Make 10 Euro!

German universities are encrusted with bureaucracy -- a fact everyone here complains about but nobody tries to remedy. New books take months to arrive in libraries, after which they are immediate whisked away to some undisclosed location for the process of labeling and classification, which for some reason also takes months. (I have a mental picture of a German librarian carefully reading the entire book, and then, pondering for a good several weeks exactly what sort of book it is). What's worse, you can't just turn to the Internet to get your hands on good academic work. Only a small amount of research is published online, and that which is is rarely available in one centralized, catalogued index or databank.

I wondered whether the professors themselves were more tech-friendly than the institutions they worked in. Were German professors were using blogs to broadcast and exchange ideas?  I had in mind something like Crooked Timber, Language Log, or the Volokh Conspiracy, where professors (in the humanities, linguistics, and the law) mix off-the-cuff insights with occasional deeper discussions.

I exhausted my meager German skills trying to find one blog – just one blog – run by any German professor or group of professors. I couldn’t find a single one. I was surprised since I'd always thought professors and blogs were a natural combination. After all, professors have lots to say and generally love to spout off. A blog, especially one written by several profs in collaboration, is a natural medium for the exchange and refinement of ideas. The idea behind such blogs is that you trade ideas and thoughts in raw form, expose them to criticism, and then perhaps later release them more formally, burnished and refined in some article somewhere. [Which will probably be read by many fewer people than the blog posts were.] As bloggin' professor David Dow puts it, "blah blah blah. it's the modern public square."

Can it really be that not a single one of the thousands of professors in Germany has hit upon the idea of running a blog?  Not one?

To test this theory I came up with a bet -- one that everyone -- yes, even you! -- gets to take part in [details and important restrictions below the fold]

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Now that's what I call dignity!

Ahh, the wonders of the Bild-Zeitung, Germany's largest tabloid.  Its title means simply "Picture Magazine."  Although its website is in German, you should visit it long enought to click "Erotik" on the lower left-hand side, to get an idea of what gets Otto Normalverbraucher (Joe Sixpack)'s blood pumping.  Also only in German, unfortunately, is Bild's "anti-website", the Bild Blog, which keeps a tab of Bild's numberless idiocies. 

Today, Bild's theme was dignity. 

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German Word of the Week I: Verniemandung

It means "Nobody-ification." Strictly speaking, it’s not really  proper German.  The definition will be provided by the German satirist Eckhard Henscheid (link in German, he's unfortunately unknown outside of Germany).  In 1985, Henscheid opened up the German front in the War on Crap with “Dummdeutsch” (Idiot German), a dictionary of moronic new phrases from the worlds of academia, business, and sport.  Take it away, Hensch:

Verniemandung.  The well-known author and editor of the works of Hölderlin D.E. Sattler bemoaned in the Frankfurter Rundschau the “nobody-ification” … of Germans through the advertising campaign of Egon Hölder, Director of the Federal Statistics Agency. The ads reassured Germans “Your name helps us count and will later be destroyed.” 

Granted, not an especially clever formulation.  But then again, not everyone is a Hölderlin, or his editor. Through sentences like “it was an attack on the productive imagination, that lies in the non-normative marking quality of names” Herr Sattler’s name, in turn, will not be "destroyed" but rather eternally branded as completely nuts.  By us, namely.  Here.


Lucio Fontana's Mary

I visited Rome in early March.  I'll spare you the details here, but I did want to share one picture. 

It was taken in the Vatican museums, where you can see oodles of treasures, including the Caravaggio Entombment and the Sistine Chapel.  For me, a high point was a short trip through the Vatican Museum Collection of Contemporary Religious Art, a less-visited section of the museum.  Put together by a few forward-looking Popes, it contains many works by little-known Italian artists, including one painting featuring a crucified Christ in a business suit, which I found a bit jarring. 

I was surprised to see how many bona-fide contemporary artists have done a Holy Family or St. Christopher or two, including such unusual suspectMary_by_lucio_fontanas as Max Beckmann and Otto Dix.  The most unusual was perhaps Lucio Fontana, the Argentine/Italian sculptor, best known for thoroughly abstract works involving punctured canvases and globes with erupting holes.  He was given to names like "Spatial Concept."  Here, he shows an unexpectedly lyrical side with this enchanting Madonna.  No idea how this work came to be, but I'm quite glad it did.


Titanic Sinkings 1: The Theft of the World Cup

Days ago, the new issue of Titanic (German) arrived in my inbox. I will devour it, but carefully - each slim volume is to be treasured. Titanic - the Final Satire Magazine, is the real thing. Raunchy, caustic, epochally politically incorrect, it's easily the funniest publication in Germany. The editors, led by the wiry Martin Sonneborn, are renowned as much for the magazine as for the elaborate pranks they stage, which take a jackhammer to the most vulnerable points in the German psyche. This post inaugurates a new feature: as the blog continues, I will be selecting choice bits from the German satire magazine Titanic and translating them.  Let's call them "Titanic Sinkings."

There is no other place to start but with a crowning moment of Titanic history: Titanic's sabotage of Germany's bid for the 2006 World Cup.

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