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February 2012
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April 2012

Yet Another Reason to Mislike the Controversial Austrian Statesman

He cut off the supply of German nudist magazines to British, err, enthusiasts, as JB Priestley reported in 1937 (courtesy of Obscene Desserts):

'I went into [a wine bar in Southampton]; and it had a surprising succession of Ye Olde panelled rooms, in one of which I drank a shilling glass of moderate sherry and listening  to four citizens talking earnestly about German nudist papers, their supply having recently been cut off by Hitler. Their interest in these papers was genuine but not of a kind to commend itself to the leaders of the nudist movement.'

Silly English perverts! They just didn't know where to look. The Nazis embraced Freikörperkultur, officially legalized nude bathing in 1942, and employed photographers such as Hans Suren to document National Socialist hotness:

Behold those magnificent Teutonic tufts!

More here (g).


Heino's Hideous Handicap

Rumors have circulated about Heino, the German pop star whom Lonely Planet once immortally dubbed a 'tranquilized albino Ken doll', for many a year. The reason? He is never seen in public without dark sunglasses. Some say it's because his eyes are an eerie reddish rat-eye color, or because he's abnormally photosensitive, or because he's German. But I believe this album cover, found at a blog post called Worst Album Covers of All Time, has solved the mystery:

Mommy, why didn't you open the door to let me give you these? Why did I have to break through a basement window and poison Fido?
Heino, the albino baker's apprentice turned German Schlager legend, has strabismus, also known as heterotropia! Now personally, I can't see why this should have driven the man to don dark glasses. I happen to find strabismus extremely attractive in women (please lift the restraining order, Condi! I've learned my lesson!). But I suppose EMI Germany's crack mid-70s market research gurus soon concluded that Heino was just a bit too Marty Feldmanian to inspire swooning fits among the frumpy Hausfraus who remain his target audience. By the way, the single is called "Dear Mother...A Bouquet that Never Wilts." I'm not sure whether he's giving his mother this or comparing her to one, but either way, I should call my mother.

One other thing. Why is it that posts that promise you the "Worst Album Covers of All Time" routinely include some of the best album covers of all time? Case in point:

Is it just me, or did everyone sweat more in the 1970s?


Ed Philp Reviews the Hunger Games

Sometime guest-blogger Ed Philp has a neat sneak preview of the movie sensation of the year in the US which will probably be the movie sensation of the year in Germany soon:

Hi, it’s Ed Philp, gratefully guest-blogging for a “Retourkutsche” post (is there an equivalent word in English?). Germany needs to prepare itself for the next installment of verifiably non-European teenage entertainment that is about to arrive at cinemas throughout the country, namely, the movie version of the bestselling book  “The Hunger Games”, or “Panem” for the German version.

 The Hunger Games is a quintessentially American teenager book (yes, I am aware that the Japanese Battle Royale preceded it). It posits a dystopian future in which – as a result of various events – the US is divided into various districts and the Capitol. Each year, the Capitol organizes “Hunger Games” in which teenage participants fight to the death until there is one survivor, egged on by millions of (semi-compelled) viewers. US entertainment has a very long tradition in this genre; Blade Runner, Stephen King’s The Long Walk, and many others. What makes The Hunger Games somewhat unique?

 It is pitched to teenagers, involves virtually no sex among 17 year old protagonists (if I recall, the heroine of the book had never kissed anyone before being drafted into the Games, and then did it only under duress for various complicated survival reasons), and includes remarkable levels of violence. Poisoning, knifing, spear-throwing, animal mauling and several explosive endings all play a role in ensuring that the final couple make it the end of the Games. Sound a little bit familiar? It’s Twilight on steroids (chaste love story that otherwise features dismemberment, murder, the walking dead and pledges of love “to the death”).

 The book leaves various components of the story open: We are provided in the book with remarkably little information on the protagonists, Katniss and Peeta, except that one has “breasts” (mentioned once during the book) and one has blond wavy hair and is strong and compact, like all bakers. The film fills in these details, of course casting exceptionally good looking people in the roles. The sexual tension/pitch will be immediately evident just based on the trailer. These two perfect examples of teenage male and female will ultimately get together and… produce babies (which is indeed how the whole Hunger Games series ends). In the meantime, wholesale slaughter will ensue. Once again, it is remarkable how US culture shuns natural sexual relations while placing a premium on ultraviolence. The entire Hunger Games book turns on the various vivid ways in which people die, have died, will die.

 I imagine that The Hunger Games will be avidly watched in the US, and I somehow suspect that it will make particular inroads in various conservative districts. What story could be more compelling in an election year – an essentially fascist Capitol holds an honest, simple and hardworking (largely agrarian and trade-oriented) District population in bondage, forcing them to serve up their prime and innocent youth for the spectacle of the elite masses each year. The only social construct on which one can have any reliance is family and maybe friends. Homespun regional traditions and icons loom large as symbols of resistance to the Capitol. Individual resourcefulness and essentially god-given luck play a role, as do cunning, Teamwork and social collaboration are paths to doom. Individual sacrifice is accorded its due, but collective sacrifice is never an option. Those closest to the ground (who know how to hunt birds with a bow and arrow) are of course the best off, since guns have – of course – been confiscated and prohibited. Other nations and a global economy do not exist in the storyline. In numerous instances, salvation – coming from the sky – is provided through essentially capitalist elements, namely sponsorship by donors. Private charity is key to those in dire circumstances; public welfare does not exist. The “public” and the state are, as a whole, the enemy.

 I’ll be extremely interested to see the German reaction to this most American of movies. I, for one, have already reserved tickets. This will be a small cultural icon, and I want to see how it is received here.

As for me, I have remained completely ignorant of the HG hype up to now, not out of any aversion, but just because I like to see movies completely, stone-cold ignorant of everything about them. In fact, for precisely this reason, I didn't even read Ed's review, so I hope he didn't anything defamatory in there...


German Joys Review: Canton Chrono 509 Loudspeakers

  Canton 509s
My trusty 12-year-old Paradigm loudspeakers finally began showing their age, so I went shopping for some new speakers, and finally settled on a pair of Canton Chrono 509s. What convinced me was Canton's solid reputation, and the unanimity of the 5-star reviews on German Amazon (g). These speakers have delighted both punters and pros. Plus, the price has been cut in half (g) since Canton brought out newer series. They were getting ratings of 'oustanding' price/performance ration even when they used to cost over €1000, and now you can get them for under €400. An unbelievable bargain.

I've now had them for a week, and am absolutely delighted. The bass is rich and detailed, the highs crystal-clear, and the mid-ranges and tweeters handle Renaissance choral music (a big part of my collection) with aplomb, which is often a challenge for other speakers. The soundstage is magnificent -- I'm listening to Bernstein's recording of Mahler's 4th right now (my second-favorite after Tennstedt's magnificently joyous, spontaneous, albeit slightly messy version), and the horns are beautifully detailed, the strings mellifluous and glowing, and the climaxes smooth and swelling. The sleigh bells are so vivid and localized that you can almost reach out and touch them. Jazz and guitar-based pop also sounds quite good, although the Canton's give you a more well-rounded, slightly subdued sound than the aggressive, ripping tone you might get from more rock-oriented loudspeakers. House and drum & bass are just stunning: the mid-ranges and treble sounds float with millimeter-precise spatial placement over a magnificantly bulbous, tumescent bass that retains a clear tonal profile even as it rocks your world.

I also bought a Canton AS 85.2 subwoofer -- the first subwoofer I've ever bought -- which is also doing yeoman service. However, the bass is quite rich even without it -- the subwoofer just makes it bone-shaking. I probably didn't really need the subwoofer, but it is nice to have.

As for appearance, they're pretty much standard big black oblongs, but still relatively unobtrusive and extremely solidly-built and stable.

German precision engineering at its finest!


¡Ay Madre de Dios! ¡Que Lastima!

Via Chateau Heartiste, a joyfully non-PC blog which brings the merciless insights of evolutionary psychology to bear on the dating landscape in advanced capitalist societies in the Global North, comes this priceless anecdote, from a Village Voice article about guys who dig morbidly obese women:

“There aren’t many fat girls in Spain,” reports Charlotte, who spent six months as an exchange student there in 2006. Back then, she weighed 425 [that's a dainty193 kilos - ed.], and she claims that the department organizers at her Northeastern women’s college tried to dissuade her from going abroad because she was “too big.” She balked and went anyway, though she admits European daily life was far more taxing: The public bathrooms were “itty-bitty,” the online clothes retailers she frequents didn’t service Spain (Lane Bryant’s sizes are too small for her), and walking was the primary method of transportation. “Anytime I would walk down the street, people would stare at me like I was a circus sideshow. Here, people kind of like glance out of their eyes, but there people would stop and stare as I walked by.”

One time in Spain, an old woman spotted Charlotte in public, stopped abruptly, and crossed herself. “Like I was Satan.”

Here you have a nice anecdote that helps explain why urban density and car-dependency have helped made America the fattest country on earth. I have to admit, the old woman crossing herself made me laugh. I can't imagine how Charlotte made it. It gets to be 35+ degrees in Spain in the summer, day after day, and air-conditioning is often hard to find. As David Letterman once said, 'Think of the chafing'!