Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is that a Gartenzwerg in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

I'm always looking for a good way to describe to people that don't know Germany what a Spiesser is (well, technically: Spie/ß/er, I guess, but I never liked that letter. Go screw yourself, Eszett). "Square" is an approximation, but all the important connotations are missing. Then I found this on another blog:

It's a gross over-simplification to say a Spießer is a square, but it gives us a starting point. [...] So think of it this way: to be a square is to be uncool. [...] But a Spießer is more than just square.

He or she is one who has narrow and limited scope to their thinking and behavior. They are controlled by society's expectations for them and its definition of what is right and proper. Nonspießers are comfortable defining their own rules. The Spießer is always looking over her shoulder to see what someone else thinks.

So, while a square is defined mostly by style: clothing, music, dance moves or a lack thereof, Spießers are defined more by substance: what they do, how they act in a given situation. Clothing can be spießig, but clever Spießers are potentially everywhere, disguised by a Bundeswehr backpack or an Ärzte tattoo. It's best not to rely too much on personal style to detect them. [...]

And there's another essential difference between the American square and the German Spießer. Between the square and the hip there is a wall that is seldom crossed. If you're hip, you remain hip, because you're, well... hip. But in the German cultural universe the phrase most often used is "Spießer werden."

He goes on to say that, in his experience, the defining characteristic of the Germans he knew wasn't that they were Spiessers, but rather their fear to turn into one, their "Urangst" to become spiessig. He has a point, I guess. There were occasions when I claimed that the act of breathing itself is kind of spiessig.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Das geistige Äquivalent zur Drüberkämmerfrisur

Sehr einsichtiger (soll heissen: "aufschlussreich, und nach meinen eigenen Ansichten auch noch zutreffend"), vor allem aber mehr als solide geschriebener Artikel von Kathrin Passig im 'Merkur', über Technologiefeindlichkeit (und implizit auch über Technologiebegeisterung -- genau an der Stelle könnte man Passig dann auch einige Punkte entgegenhalten, im Sinne von "vorauseilender Enthusiasmus für alles Neue und Glitzernde ist auch doof, irgendwie").

Besser geschrieben als fast alles, was man sonst im Feuilleton sieht, und progressiv noch dazu, was man auch nicht so oft findet (vielleicht sollte ich mal was anderes als das FAZ Feuilleton lesen...). Max Goldt hätte es an einigen Stellen vielleicht noch besser in Worte gefasst, aber dafür fangen seine Ansichten zuletzt an etwas zu verspiessen. Muss der Erfolg sein, der macht bekanntlich satt.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Aus unserer Reihe "Die Schönsten Sätze der Deutschen Sprache"

Folge I:

"Die Auseinandersetzung verlagerte sich unter andauerndem Gerangel in den Supermarkt bis vor die Käsetheke."

[Rheinische Post Online, "Prügelei um Einkaufswagen", 13.12.2009]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Das weisse Band

Remarkable movie. Then again, Haneke's movies always are. The trademark uneasy feeling of 'Funny Games' is still there, but the story, the whole atmosphere seems less detached from reality than in his earlier works, even though the film still appears to be set in an alternative reality where the ugliness of human behavior is immediately visible, at every moment in time. You could call this perspective a depressing one.[1]

I don't mind the somewhat arbitrary connection to "the great war" at the end, there's a long tradition of doing exactly that (cf. Zauberberg, Radetzkymarsch, Lord of the Rings), without giving any further explanation, and it certainly worked before. What I do mind are technical aspects: the movie doesn't look good, or rather, it doesn't look as good as it could given its otherwise excellent style. I would say that, mainly, the lighting is off. I read Haneke used color film stock during filming which was turned into black-and-white during post-production. Maybe that explains the impression.

What bothers me the most however is a kind of uneven quality of the acting, in particular when it comes to the dialogues. Some of the actors seem to be able to get into the period in which the movie is set, acting, and most importantly, talking accordingly, while others don't. Compare this to Shyamalan's 'The Village'; a lesser movie, sure, but I guess in that one they intensively voice coached the actors, or whatever magic those big (Hollywood big, I mean) movie productions employ, and as a result the time setting is conveyed more consistently in 'The Village'.

And then there's Detlev Buck. His own movies... naja. Don't really work for me. But the short scene in which he questions the suitor of his daughter (who is also the narrator of the movie) is a much needed moment of awesome comic relief, and it manages to be so without disturbing the rest of the movie. As a supporting actor he's a constant in Leander Haussmann's movies, and he's great in those, but I really want to see him in a leading role in a movie by, say, Dani Levy.

* * *

[1] By now I'm almost not surprised by it anymore, but it turns out my taste in movies is changing. About 10 years ago, I was basically in love with 'Funny Games', but recently I started to notice that I like this kind of movie less and less, and it has nothing to do with their quality, only with their perspective on life. I can't really describe the sentiment yet, so I'll just use a quote by Jim Dodge that I think is connected to the feeling I am trying to get across:
JD: (...) As to your direct question whether I'm a glass-half-full type of guy my glib answer would be "break the fucking glass!" In fact, though, it depends on my mood and who I'm talking to, though in my writing I tend to appeal to the positive and hopeful in human life, partly as a reflex of gratitude for the possibilities presented by this adventure in consciousness, partly because I want to encourage the best within us. Nihilism is easy, cheap, and ignoble; if you want to refuse the glorious opportunities life offers, fine--shut up and destroy yourself. But don't spit on the gift, or extend your destruction to others.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Upon leaving Bungehuis (not to be pronounced "Bungee house")

"Why don't you take a class at the linguistics department? Full of cute girls. Some of them are pretty smart, too."

"Nah... I don't feel like preying on the Uncomplicated."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Add one spoonful of insult to injury

The Facebook 'Suggestions' feature has already received
some attention, and then some more, so there's not much for me to add, but it appears that Facebook selects those users for suggestions from your friends list that show little Facebook activity, or only have few friends and wall posts, i.e. appear to be neglected.

The consequence, sending around suggestions to random friends to encourage them to pay more attention to the Facebook loners reminds me of a mother coming to the school yard one day, telling the older kids to "stop picking on my son, you bullies!". Something that doesn't even sound appealing in theory (unless your actions and the knowledge about their likely consequences are completely untainted by reality or experience).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hingabe, vorehelich. Nicht empfehlenswert.

Alter deutscher Farbfilm (...) Nicht wegen der realistischen Milieuschilderung, sondern im Hinblick auf seine sittliche Indifferenz (voreheliche Hingabe) wird vom Besuch abgeraten.

Handbuch V der katholischen Filmkritik, 1963, über den Filmklassiker 'Grosse Freiheit Nr. 7'