22 posts categorized "The Husband's Most Honourable"

Brexit Explained

Brexit
Where is he gay today?
 A burger joint on Fulham Broadway, London.

Overheard from the next table, a group of men in their early thirties. 

"Of course you got sick.  Can't 'elp it if you travel abroad."

"Mate o' mine reckons you can get sick from just handling the money. It's filthy."

"A lot of them carry their money in in their arse-cracks.  The criminals are so afraid of looking gay, they won't touch another bloke there." 

"They say you should get your cash out of the machine in the morning, put it in your pocket, and jump in the swimming pool."  (Murmured agreement)  "Yeah, the chlorine cleans it right up."

Conversation ends as Spanish waiter arrives at table with lunch. 

No, I'm not making this up. 


Ordnung ist das halbe Leben V: Protect Us from Dancing

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This helpful sign tells us what German youth are allowed, and not allowed, to do.  It clarifies the regulations under the Federal Jugendschutzgestez, or Youth Protection Act.  Hey kids, don't get excited over the word "allow"; the first sentence makes clear that just because it's legal, parents don't have to agree to it.  So none o' your lip. 

Naturally, many of the provisions concern alcohol. Thirsty adolescents should note in §9 that one may drink legally at the age of sixteen, as long as the drink contains no fortified spirits.  Germany recently declared college education free for all students, including those from abroad, and this loophole makes the deal even sweeter for many American youth who need to wait 'til they're twenty-one for a Miller Lite.  Dichter und Denker, meet underage Trinker. 

You may even do this in a pub—before midnight according to §4—but not in a nightclub.  Because there might be dancing.  

Youth dancing is controlled as strictly as alcohol.  §5 forbids those under 16 from entering a disco without the buzzkill of adult supervision.  And kids under 14 can't even do folk dancing past the hour of 10.00 pm. 

Bavarian Tanzangst reaches a peak next week when we celebrate the Feast of All Souls on November 1.  Halloween parties for all ages need to clear the dance floor on the stroke of midnight, lest it run afoul of the notorious Tanzverbot, or dancing ban.  The Church, still a powerful influence on German life, insists that the day remain solemn.  No dancing, public or private, for people of any age.

Because dancing might lead to sex.  That's probably why the sign tells us, in the grey highlight near the legend, that none of these restrictions apply to married youth under 18.   

The Tanzverbot turns adult citizens into adolescents.  Flout it.  Who wants to join me for a quick Madison in the Stachus next Saturday?  


Tattooed on the Memory

Where is he gay today? Edinburgh
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Thirty years ago, I found myself wishing bagpipes had a snooze button. 

Those sleepy mornings—over two dozen of them—took place in Edinburgh in the summer of 1985.  Seeking cheap digs, my pals and I bunked out at the Leith Nautical College, on the Firth of Forth.  A visiting pipe band from Canada, in town for Royal Tattoo, had the same idea.  They used the sports field outside the window to rehearse their drill.  Every morning, promptly at six forty-five.  

We spoke to management.  We explained that we were a comedy troupe from Australia, playing the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  Jet lag was eating our brains.  Lights went up for our show at midnight.  And we drank a lot after the curtain fell—in Scotland, we reasoned, such an argument held sway.  Could the Canadians please keep the noise down until lunchtime?  

The administrator replied in soft tones reminiscent of Gordon Jackson in Upstairs Downstairs.  "Now, you do realise you are in Scotland?"

Yes, we said.

"And you know that this college is an arm of the Royal Navy, and as such, is a military institution?"

Yes, we said.

"And you imagine that militia, in Scotland, might march to tunes played on a bagpipe?"

Um, yes, we said.

"Well..." he concluded, with a phrase that betrayed a schooling in classics not uncommon among east-coast Scots, "caveat emptor."

*     *     *     *     *   

Leith Nautical College closed its doors in 1987.  One of my fellow troupers quipped that had he known, he would have delayed his visit two years.  

But bagpipes before breakfast were a small price to pay for an extraordinary several weeks.  

Our band of undergrad comics regularly played the fringes of the festival in our native Adelaide, and sought to open our gills in a bigger pond.   We came as rubes from halfway across the world, and left as actual, minor-league almost-professionals.  (Up to a point. Only one of our troupe went on to earn a crust in showbiz.)  At the Fringe, both competition and opportunity ran hot.

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The Royal Mile.  As ever, packed with patrons of the arts

By the late seventies, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe had become the largest arts festival in the world, dwarfing the festival proper.  Every church, school, gym, pub, spare room and coat closet morphed into a theatre—though in 1985, we were still half a decade away from using the word morph.

Postcard_1985Millions crowded into a city which, under normal circumstances, held barely 350,000.  To squeeze the maximum number of butts on seats, most performances ran less than an hour.  Audiences sprinted from show to show, through as many as eight or nine in a day.  As you dashed to make the next curtain, performers plied their witty ways to get a playbill in your hand—a practice known as flyering.  It was chaos.  Energetic, inventive, brilliant chaos.

Billing ourselves haughtily as the Australian Comedic Revue, we touted that we were a hometown hit on the Adelaide Fringe—an exaggeration: we were less a hit, and more a mild slap.  

Several of us threw together a show called Wagga Wagga High High.  From memory, the blurb went something like the tale of a school so evil that it can turn children into accountants.  I played a character called Zeldor Fitzgerald, Teen from Another Planet. The costume included my own high school uniform, into which I still fitted. Yes, 1985 was a simpler time. 

We gave an even milder slap to the Edinburgh Fringe, but felt we acquitted ourselves well enough.  Thanks to a not-unkind review in The Scotsman, we sold out our season.  Russell Harty wanted to interview us, too.  But that fell through, because his phone at the BBC didn't allow Subscriber Trunk Dialling, or something.  

Edfringe 2014 logo
Edinburgh has since grown to half a milllion souls, but can still barely contain the beast.  In the first three weeks of August 2014, the Fringe sold 2,183,591 tickets to 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows in 299 venues.  

If you divide the number of tickets into the number of performances, one gets an average audience size of a little over forty.  Few impresarios count this as a real figure.  In 1985, rumour put the median audience size at twelve.  This year, word on the street tipped nine. 

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Better Together

In the decades since, I'd wanted to return, simply as an audience member. This year, encouraged by friends who now live in Edinburgh, we did.  The promise of some fine travelling companions clinched the deal.  

When I told people in Edinburgh that I'd performed on the Fringe thirty years ago, they grew curious.  It must have been very different back then, surely.

I shocked them with my reply.  No.

In my observation, here's what's changed.  

  • Lager drinkers can choose from a wide array of bottled craft beers.
  • American university students majoring in theatrical administration or arts publicity often work on the Fringe as a course requirement.  We met several flyering. 
  • Edinburgh's quality broadsheet, The Scotsman, once provided the most authoritative critiques. The paper remains an authority, but nowadays a mammoth website called Broadway Baby overshadows it.  Curious, since the Fringe is about as un-Broadway as you can get.

That's about it.  Here's what hasn't changed since 1985. 

  • Busking bagpipers on the Royal Mile love the theme from Star Wars.  
  • Tickets are pretty cheap, but dedicated cheapskates pick up bargains at the half-price box office.
  • Snooty, sensitive, arty types hate the atmosphere.  Australian acts thrive.  American and Japanese artists enjoy the looser rules.  
  • An act lives or dies by its reviews—if you get a decent review, you put it on your flyers and flog the hell out of it.  
  • Modern times have seen the rise of the professional publicist.  But still, the best way to get an audience is for an artist to wear out some shoe leather, press some flesh, and perform on the street.  
  • Never sit in the front row for a stand-up comic. When he asks "And where are you from?"—and he will—whatever your answer, he will mock you mercilessly.  He will mock you mercilessly, too, if you decline to answer at all. Too often, the where-are-you-froms displace actual jokes.  It's heckling in reverse.  Hey, buddy, I'm your audience, not your material.  Lookin' at you, Fred McAulay and Scott Capurro.  I repeat, never sit in the front row for a stand-up comic, unless you crave attention.
  • You can take your drinks into the theatre, or indeed, anywhere.  Restaurants in most parts of the world will bundle leftover food in a doggie bag; in Edinburgh, pubs decant leftover drink into a Starbucks-style doggie cup.  Have you ever sipped beer through a straw?  Not my preferred means of suckage.
  • Scots like to vomit.  Billy Connolly's most famous routine even jokes about it.  Drinking Scots should be required to carry airsickness bags, in the same way dog-owners must carry plastic bags as a measure against their pets fouling the pavement. 
  • The Fringe organisation does an awesome job of managing the herd of over 20,000 temperamental performers. Nowadays, it provides a cool mobile app that lets you squeeze more theatre into a given day than you thought humanly possible.  Their website pulls together a programme, ticketing system, reviews and social media seamlessly.  But the telephone-book sized Fringe programme remains the most popular means for visitors, literally, to get their acts together.
  • With 20,000 performers in a city the size of Edinburgh, the Fringe thrusts artists and audience together in ways you simply don't find elsewhere.  Many performers mingle before and after the show—given the set-up of most venues, it's unavoidable.  If you want to talk to your comedy heroes face-to-face, go to an Edinburgh pub. 

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Umbilical Brother Dave Collins clowns with the public in the foyer after his show
—which was superb, by the way.

I've changed.  But the Fringe hasn't.  Every year, it finds new sources of energy, originality, and outrage.  Perhaps I shouldn't leave thirty years between visits.  Nowadays, I can afford a quieter place to sleep. 


Is Hitler Funny?

An arcade game at the Munich City Museum

An arcade game on display at the Munich City Museum

Hippies would set my father off.  He couldn't fault their principles—hippies had impeccable morals, you may recall.  So he went ballistic on their hair.   Filthy.  Bedraggled. Disgusting.  No wonder they can't get a damn job.
 
Once, as he sat at the kitchen table reading the paper, he stumbled onto an interview.  Perhaps a student protester, or a sitter-in of some kind.  Don't fault long hair, argued the spokeshippie, because Jesus had long hair, too.
 
To my father, this proved they were not just miscreants, but morons.  Even the biggest dunce knows that barbers didn't exist in those days, he would shout. This snippet stood as a centrepiece in his tirade repertoire for years. 
 
One day, when I was a senior (matriculant) in high school, I ventured a comment on what I'd been reading in class.  The Roman historian Plutarch wrote that people knew Cicero was in a bad way, because he walked through the forum unshaven, and hadn't been to the barber.  So they must have known how to cut hair in Jesus' time.
 
It seems my father had discovered another moron, in the form of his own flesh and blood.  Christ didn't live in Rome, he sneered. 
 
I pointed out calmly that Palestine was a Roman colony.  Christ could have found a barber if he wanted.  But most religious statues show Christ with long hair—statues endorsed by the church, on display in a consecrated space.  Maybe the Son of God thought long hair wasn't such a big deal.
 
He stayed silent for a moment, thinking about what he'd just heard.
 
Besides, I added, how many ancient statues have you seen with long hair?

The stream of abuse nearly drowned me.  Ungrateful, insolent, evil, immoral, that was me.  How dare you.  One more remark like that and you'll be thrown out on the street.  See how you like that, smartass.
 
I just stood there and took it.  Someone had bolted my feet to the floor.  I wanted to vomit.
 
When I could get a word in, I bleated hastily that I didn't mean anything by my remarks.  This had no effect whatsoever.  For ten minutes, the mudslide of bile never let up.   Only when my father was spent, physically, could I get away. 
 
Fascism, Dad-style

I recalled my father during that famous scene from Der Untergang (Downfall).

51CWF3Z4R9L._SL500_AA240_Downfall takes us into the Führerbunker, in the last days of the War.  An aide has just told Hitler that General Steiner couldn't carry out an attack, as ordered.  He simply had too few men.

Hitler loses it.  The army disobeyed an order.  The Prussian generals betrayed him.  All they learned at the military academy was how to use a knife and fork.  He should have shot them all, like Stalin did.  The soldiers were weaklings. Cowards.

One of Hitler's deputies stands his ground, meekly.  He rebuts the accusation as ungeheuerlich; "monstrous" or "outrageous".  Kafka uses the same word to shock us in the first sentence of Metamorphosis; he applies it to the giant vermin once called Grigor Samsa.

Does Hitler hear this?  Not at all.  The tirade goes on unabated, with no-one listening.  The Führer is the Führer's only audience. 

 

Nowadays, this behaviour has a clinical name: Narcissistic Rage.  It's often triggered by an insult, or a simple statement of uncomfortable facts.  In therapy, one treats the narcissist by revisiting the abuse which made him mentally ill.  But what's the right response for a casual victim, caught in the crossfire between a madman and his ego?

Mocking the Monster

Unless your tormentor holds a gun to your head, the wrong response is to stand there and take it.  You cede power to him.

The right reponse, I feel, is to smile.

An old adage tells us to laugh in the bully's face.  It takes his power away.    When the pompous ass gets a pie in the gob, his anger makes him look weaker, not stronger. I should have told my father dude, even fucking Fred Flinstone gets a haircut.

People with skills and lack of anything better to do, often spoof this scene in Downfall by way of subtitles.  Probably, that's how you first came across it.   Parodies became so numerous, that Constantin Film asked YouTube to take them down—illegally, as it happens.

The pizza guy is late, and Hitler goes berserk.  The cast of Friends won't come to his birthday party, and Hitler goes berserk.  He is banned from X-Box Live, and Hitler goes berserk. Gran Turismo 5 changes its release date, and Hitler goes berserk—"as usual", the underscreed reminds us.  It took exactly 36 hours for Hitler to go berserk about Tom Cruise's divorce.

And you know what?  A lot of them are quite funny. 

Oliver Hirschbiegel, the director of Downfall, agrees.  Friends in the online world send him these parodies, at which he laughs heartily.   "The point of the film was to kick these terrible people off the throne that made them demons," he says. 

Do the parodies actually amplify the message of the original work?  When it comes to giving demons the shove, a belly laugh packs plenty of kick.  Think about political cartoons.  Think about animated cartoons, for that matter.  

DduckmeinkampfIn World War Two, animation powerhouses like Disney and Warner Brothers produced propaganda films.  In fact, Disney's State Department contract is credited with keeping the company afloat after Fantasia tanked at the box office in 1940.

In Der Fuehrer's Face,  Donald Duck dreams he is a Nazi and finds life rather unpleasant.  The theme song, recorded by the über-silly Spike Jones, became a hit in 1942, and the film itself won an Oscar in 1943.  (You can watch it here. And read a discussion here.)

But Disney's biggest war film is grim, overbearing and utterly unfunny.  Education for Death cracks a few limp jokes, but spends most of its ten excruciating minutes aping Leni Riefenstahl with ink-and-paint.  (Take a look at it here.)  Shadows, silhouettes and low, wide angles abound—a bit like a modern-day political attack ad.  Oscar bait, it ain't.

Slide1Education for Death evokes a visceral response.  The audience feels confusion, fear, and need to escape.  If that was the goal, it worked.  Fight or flee?  It was flee for me.

The enfants terrible of Warner Brothers took a different tack.  They made the enemy stupid, rather than evil.  Much easier to understand, and ultimately, to act upon.

Take the 1944 cartoon Russian Rhapsody.  (You can watch it here.)

Soon after the film starts, we catch Hitler in a fit of narcissistic rage, of the kind which defines him in our cultural memory.   He spits a torrent of nonsense at an unseen audience; the writers and animators used many of their own names to construct a German-sounding rant, since many had fled Germany a decade before.  After half a minute of hysterical shouting, the cartoon lands a devastating punch.  A hand holds a camera card before us.  It reads: Silly, isn't he?

Slide1Let's assume that these cartoons were an early example of the Family Guy school of animation.  That is, a cartoon aimed at adults, but which uses the conventions of the medium to reduce adult concerns to child-like simplicity.  Cartoons are crude by nature; they can turn superego concepts into big, loud, colourful creatures of the id.  

In World War II, Disney and Warners scratched two different spots on the American emotional underbelly.  Which approach proved more effective? 

Disney scares me.  This is useful in wartime, of course.   But the Warner approach succeeds on a different level.   

Warners mocked the enemy.  If someone had pointed out, in 1923, that Hitler was clearly and self-evidently a Froot Loop, maybe nobody would need to fight him in 1939.  

Columbia Studios actually did point out that Hitler was a Froot Loop, some time before the US entered the war and propaganda became official.  They harnessed another id-liberating force: The Three Stooges.  In You Natzy Spy, Moe Howard became the first American comedian to play Hitler on film, predating Charlie Chaplin by nine months.  Both Curly and Moe considered it their finest film.  For my taste, any Three Stooges short that didn't sock Hitler with a cream pie on the schnozzola, missed the opportunity of the century.

Ve Have Vays

The Nazis knew the subversive power of mockery only too well.  That's why they tried to stamp it out. 

Rudolph Herzog, son of the famous Werner, was cleaning out a great-aunt's apartment after she moved.  He made a rather curious discovery; several pages of jokes from the early forties, making fun of the government.  He set out to discover if these japes betrayed a sly resistance by rank-and-file Germans, or simply allowed a nation under pressure to blow off steam.

It led him to make a documentary film and write a book about humour under the Nazis.  The book is pubished in English as Dead Funny, and in the original German as Heil Hitler, das Schwein ist Tot!, or Heil Hitler, the Pig is Dead!  The accompanying documentary film bears the unfortunate title Ve Have Vays of Making You Laugh.

The Pig is Dead refers to the punchline of the all-time most famous anti-Hitler joke.  I shall not tell it here. It is no more than mildly funny, and further, it's one of those jokes that regularly get applied to almost any political leader.   

Among its 256 pages, Herzog's book contains about 100 jokes.  Most of them are simple ad hominem insults—few deal with the substance of Nazi ideology.  The Guardian review describes those jokes as "feeble".   And even for these, the tellers faced death.

The Nazis ruthlessly persecuted anyone who took to humour for a sense of perspective.  They wiped out a vibrant political cabaret scene, focussed on Berlin.  At its peak, the notorious People's Court  executed 2000 people a year for "defeatist humour".  Those who escaped the death penalty, might be harassed or imprisoned.  When the Nazis murdered comedian Robert Dorsay, they went so far as to announce it on billboards.  Be warned: that's what comes of a wisecracker. 

From a dozen years of history, in a nation which documented itself meticulously, we find a total of eight dozen political jokes.  And lame ones at that—of all the jokes Herzog documents, the most biting and inventive come from inmates of the concentration camps, often about themselves

It's a ghastly thought, but inescapable.  Jews, gypsies, jazz musicians, homosexuals, students and intellectuals—groups the Nazis most hated—held shrewd, distinctive senses of humour.   In his extraordinary paper on humour in the Holocaust, John Morreall reminds us of the Talmud.  According to the ancient Rabbis, those who make others laugh earn a place in Heaven. 

Under National Socialism, it might earn a Jew his place rather quickly.  Welsh journalist Gareth Jones wrote from Berlin in 1933:

Even Jewish jokes are regarded by many Nazis as part of the subtle scheme of world domination by the Jews. Hitler suggests that the Jews try to depict themselves in comic newspapers as a harmless, humorous people in order to mislead public opinion into thinking that they are no danger.

Any sensible person should have found this laughable.   Jones goes on to describe an encounter he had with the German Students Union.  Jews were constant liars, they maintained.  Since the language of the Jew is Hebrew, you see, anything he speaks in German must perforce be a lie.

How can one respond?   One could engage reason against this claim—does the same logic apply to translations of the Bible into German, for example?  But frankly, arguing with a madman agrees to the madman's terms.  A better response is are you fucking crazy

Crazy, they were. They were so fucking crazy, they couldn't see jokes cracked under their very noses. 

Morreall tells the tale of Freud's flight from occupied Austria.  The Reich agreed to let him emigrate, as long as he signed a letter stating he hadn't been mistreated.  Here's what he wrote:

To Whom It May Concern:
I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone.
Sigmund Freud

In a common cabaret schtick, artists would wear gags in their mouths, and sit silent onstage for several minutes.  When they left, the MC would announce that concludes the political part of our programme.   The sketch passed muster, it seems.

The Fish Laughs from the Head

Nazi discomfort with humour went all the way to the top, to the Führer himself.  In 1943, the US Office of Strategic Services (predecessor to the CIA) circulated a psychoanalytic profile of Hitler.  They, too, thought he was fucking crazy. 

Like so much early work in the field, it falls victim to psychobabble and speculation.

The authors spout conventional wisdom of the time, like homosexuality being a perversion and women being weak or submissive.  With Freud still avant-garde, they looked for daddy issues under every rock.  And the OSS let a few howlers slip through; Hitler's godfather, they maintain, was Jewish, which must have made for a perplexing baptism. 

Nonetheless, the report shows a good deal of corroborated evidence that Hitler despised even affectionate jests made at his expense—thousands were condemned after naming their dogs or horses "Adolph", for example.  

Hypocritical, since Hitler was a gifted mimic, who lampooned friends and associates mercilessly.   The report notes that he is "afraid of logic".  Since humour delights in following logic to extremes, it's no wonder he hated a joke.

The Nazis fractured a nation's funny bone, and for a dozen or more years, it joked with a limp.    How could they wipe out an entire culture's sense of humour, and get everyone to think it's a good idea?  How could they make humour a sign of decadence?   How could they make it politically incorrect to laugh?  How could they get away with it?

At this point, it would be easy to wheel out the old trope about humourless Germans.  Not only does it derail the discussion, but it simply isn't true.  There may be much to say about cultural differences among nations, and the distinctive ways they laugh about the world, but this tired stereotype shouldn't be included in it.  

Rather, let's get back to where we started.  Why did narcissistic rage earn respect it didn't deserve, when a laugh could deflate it? 

Righteous Anger. 

Many have written how they felt mesmerised—indeed hypnotised—by Hitler's public appearances.   He aimed to enchant as well as persuade; the music, the pomp, the surroundings, and even the (literal) armies of attractive men and women.  Hitler's speeches beguiled them so thoroughly that few found the power to resist.

His oratorical technique hardly broke new ground, though.  A memorable setting, repetition, pauses, sensing the emotional temperature of an audience, building to a climax—they are the foundations on which the great speeches of history get built. 

Read the words Shakespeare puts into Marc Antony's mouth at Caesar's funeral.  Notice how he starts casually and low key (Friends...lend me your ears...).   Look at how often he repeats words for rhetorical effect, like honourable and ambitious.  He saves the clincher for the end, where he subtly slams Caesar's opponents as "brutish beasts" who have "lost their reason".

Watch I Have a Dream, to see the same devices in action—which shows one can use rhetorical technique for good, as well as ill.  

 

What made Hitler different, and uniquely persuasive to his fellow Germans of the time?  Looking at his speeches today, the element that makes them distinctive is the sheer volume of  Narcissistic Rage.  He starts slow, sometimes almost benign, but whips himself into a torrent of anger.  Even the most fiery orators seldom reach the fury of Hitler in full flight.   Where else can we find the seductive certainty of Narcissistic Rage at work?

Look to the pulpit.  I recall the same tone of indignant anger at the conservative Catholic church of my childhood.  The priests spat contempt; for sin, for sinners, for the congregation itself (especially when the parish was short of cash).  And for the most part, the laity not only sucked it up, but did as told.

The most spellbinding holy rage, of course, comes from fundies.  They resist mockery because they are virtual parodies of themselves.  The late American comedian Sam Kinison, who specialised in the comedy of anger, actually started out as a fundamentalist preacher.  

Yet congregants take them seriously.   Believers are schooled to believe such anger is righteous and good.   No wonder.  For many years, such speech was legally protected from even the gentlest ribbing.  Remember blasphemy laws?   They prove stubborn to undo, even in the most liberal of jurisdictions.  While enforcement has relaxed, the social norms they fostered have not.   For many ardent believers, a mere chuckle at the word of god is tantamount to the most appalling violence.

And in Bavaria, where we endure a Catholic Church of the most bitter and toxic sort, should we be surprised that other bitter and toxic ideologies once earned a place at the table?

Anger Unlaughed At

In modern Germany, have we developed a healthier perspective on anger?    The ever-present threat of a public scolding by strangers, Wutbürger outrage, or even ex-President Wulff's voicemail messages, give me pause. 

One thing is for sure.  We have not re-learned how to make fun of fascists yet.

One of the reasons we don't make fun of fascists very well, is because you can't talk about them openly.  The government proscribes the manner in which Nazism may be depicted.  No Nazi symbols in public—though theatre, film, television and books may use such symbols as long as they do not advocate in favour.   When it comes to National Socialism, the German authorities really do have no sense of humour.

Still, as the events of the 1930s and 40s fade from living memory, German satirists have begun to experiment.  The results, so far, are grim. 

Take the 2007 film Mein Führer—Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler, or Mein Führer—The Really True, Totally Trudeldee-do Truest Truth About Adolph Hitler. (That's my own translation, which evokes the full cringe of Fremdschämen one feels when one hears the original).   It is considered a blot on he career of anyone associated with it.  Plug the Amazon reviews into Google Translate to get a sense of how badly audiences received the piece. 

Most object to the film on the same grounds as Downfall.  Talking about Hitler as a clown or weakling humanises him, and earns our sympathy.  This strikes me as a poor understanding of the mechanics of ridicule.

So the duty to humiliate last image from http://featherfiles.aviary.com/2012-08-22/f77694d11/3ae3168fc0d441a9b97995ceec46245a_hires.pngcentury's greatest tyrant falls to media from abroad.  And they earn mixed reviews here in Germany. 

Chaplin's The Great Dictator was released in the West in 1958, and in the East in 1980.  It gets a warm reception, perhaps warmer than in English-speaking countries. 

That's understandable, since the film is politically correct in a mainstream European way, and it ends with the hero making an angry public speech, in the finest German oratorical tradition. 

Even so, many approach it with caution.  Online comments in the German-speaking world always begin with the disclaimer we really shouldn't laugh at Hitler, but...  One Amazon reviewer suggests, kindly, that viewers need to be prepared to make an "emotional and intellectual investment" in a film such as this—presumably, without encouragement, they might be reluctant to do so. 

The German-language production of Mel Brooks' The Producers, if you'll pardon the expression, bombed.  (For the plot of The Producers, click its Wikipedia page here

The press and theatre cognoscenti gave it a thumbs up,—could they do anything else, lest they be painted as humourless German stereotypes?  The Berlin production won an honorary Ernst Lubitsch Prize, usually awarded for a comic performance in German language film.  A spokesperson for the Admiralspalast Theatre spoke of the honour: "The story of two Jewish crooks fits to Berlin like no other, reflecting the great tradition of Jewish humour."  (My emphasis) 

I see.  It's Jewish humour, not humour per se

After an inital flourish of enthusiasm in both Vienna and Berlin, audiences stayed away.  Promoters blamed poor marketing 

Let's conduct a brief thought experiment.  Imagine Atlanta in the late 1920s.  A theatrical impressario wants to mount the latest Broadway success, a story of two scamming theatrical producers who need to find a guaranteed flop.  The protagonists stumble upon a play called Springtime for Ol' Massa, with a centrepiece that features a chorus of Antebellum gentry singing about all the human beings they might chain up and whip. Its plot turns on how the play-within-a-play is mistaken for satire, and becomes a surprise hit. 

Our impressario might blame his failure on poor marketing, too. 

P1100734_2
At ten Euros, a German-dubbed version of the original Producers commands
almost twice the price of a DVD of Mein Führer—the Truest Truth
Season One of Hogan's Heroes costs over thirty Euros, by the way.

On the other hand, we can point to a real-life Nazi-themed surprise hit: Ein Käfig voller Helden, better known as Hogan's Heroes.   The show, dubbed into German, enjoys a solid cult following, and is a staple of DVD racks across Germany.  Now there's something to make a cultural anthropologist's head explode. 

(Recently, my language skills have progressed from atrocious to merely awful.  I've set myself the task of watching Hogan's Heroes and The Great Dictator in German.  The Vienna cast album of The Producers sits in the car CD player.   Lemme get back to you after I've digested them all.)

Practical Mockery

Not long after I arrived in Munich, I stumbled onto a demonstration at the Isartor.  A neo-Nazi group had organised a march, and it earned a huge police presence.  Officers lined the streets, formed human barriers around public buildings, and filmed the event so troublemakers could be recognised later. 

Caught in the crowd, I had missed an important fact.  When I got home and read the press reports, I learned that the police spent most of their energy on the angry counter-protestors.   The evening paper told us how the police kept Nazi opponents kettled-in, as we say in German.   The placard in the photo reads Fascism is not an opinion, but a crime.

P1090915

Tempers flared.  The neo-Nazis, relatively few in number, actually had the upper hand from a political and PR point of view.  Police needed to keep cool heads, since the encounter easily might have turned into a conflagration. 

Did anger work?  What might have worked better? 

To answer that question, please click on this link.  It shows a parade float from Karneval 2007 in Düsseldorf, via the Petaflop Design Group's coverage.  The float consists of a giant papier-mache figure of Hitler in uniform (minus the swastikas, of course, since that would be illegal to show in public).  A large turd hangs out of his ass.  The turd is labelled "NPD" for the National Democratic Party of Germany, widely regarded as a neo-Nazi group

Why didn't the protestors just borrow the parade float, park it along the route, and repair to the pub?  Much better plan.

Of course, it was important to view the neo-Nazis as a serious threat.  Their ideas and twisted morals pose such a danger to humanity, we must stop them at every turn, and by every means.  Thoughtful men and women must be roused to action.

But it doesn't hurt to make fun of their goddamn stupid shoes, either.

P1100433
The Brown Danger.  So Dangerous are Bavaria's Neo-Nazis

Responsible Comedy.

Laughter has magic to it. Those who employ humour to mock an undeserving subject, generally come undone.  Those who make a sense of humour their constant companion, hold up a shield against hypocrisy and inhumanity.  Morreall reminds us that laughter is our most powerful weapon against indoctrination.

But should we, like Lear, make the jester our conscience?   Are comedians becoming our moral voice?  Arguably, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert act as the moral voice of America, since America's traditional moral voices spout the devil's words. 

That brings with it a responsibility.  Bill Maher is one of the new breed of moralist comedians; he cautions the angry comics of this world to remember their power.  The have a choice to use that power for active good, not just to skewer an easy target.  

Prince Harry goes regimentalNot every joke about Hitler serves a noble purpose. And just calling your opponent a Nazi hardly amounts to a winning argument

As Charlie Chaplin began to shoot The Great Dictator, he reflected on the project.  Both he and Hitler were born in April of 1889, were of the same height, and even had the same moustache.   Chaplin observed that the Führer "is the madman and I'm the comedian...but it could have just as easily be reversed."

Laughter helps us remember who's who.

Must his madness drive us?

I don't think about my late father very much.  When I do, my jaw clenches, and my blood pressure rises.  He failed the benefit of the doubt I gave him so often, and so consistently, that I mentally look the other way when he pops into my head.   If anger seeks to breed, then mission accomplished.

He was very much the family rogue.  His several siblings, along with their spouses and children, tiptoe around my father's memory.   Just like I do. 

At a recent family gathering, we chatted about how my aunts and uncles enjoyed such close and devoted relationships.  Marriages of forty and fifty years are the norm; divorce in our family is practically unheard of.

Except for my father, of course.  When he died, he was engaged to his third fiance.

The exception had to be acknowledged—especially since his son was part of the conversation—but the family did its best to politely sidestep the topic.  I felt I should say something.

"Well, you know Mike. He was a randy old billy goat."

A cousin spurted her drink out of her nose.  Another replied, quietly, "Yup."   Everybody laughed. 

I felt better.  We all felt better.  We could move on, to talk about important things; which granchild was graduating from where, what the latest baby had been named, who was on vacation, what flavour doughnut one should choose at the coffee shop, and the price of gas these days.

We could move on.

So, my German friends and neighbours, feel better.  Laugh at Hitler heartily.  When you hesitate to do so, you cede him (and his contemporary followers) more power than they deserve. 

Is Hitler funny?  The answer is yes. Moreover, he's laughable.  And long may he stay that way.

Hipsterhitler
Images in this post come from diverse sources.  I believe that the reproduction of all images and content conforms with US and EU rules on fair use in quotation and criticism.  If you use these images, similar conditions apply.


This Wedding Needs More Sex

Dear Abby,

I’m about to witness a major social gaffe.  An etiquette atrocity.  A crime against the peace, order and good government provisions of the Australian Constitution .  Proof that the universe is imploding.  A herald of the Rapture. 

My number one fag hag, Miss Betty Ford, has decided to tie the knot.  That’s not the gaffe, though.  The wedding plans look exquisite.  Miss Betty always gives good wedding.

It's like this. Our dear Betty is the Angelina Jolie of fag hags.  She will adopt any nancy boy with a sob story.  If you've been orphaned by your fag hag when she got a cat/hobby/boyfriend/life, call Betty.  She'll let you cry big, manly tears on her shoulder.

I much prefer crying into her bosom, actually, since her bosom is supremely comfortable. Yours Truly is the only man, apart from her beloved, to whom she grants pillowing priveleges. 

Betty often remarked that for a gay chap, I am oddly fond of a good tit.  Then she met my mother, and recognized that two of the moons of Jupiter nursed me.  She has since supplied her chesty charity in many moments of need.

P1140863 The Wedding Dress.  *sigh*

The problem  has to do with her bachelorette party, you see.  (In Australia, they call it a hen's night.)  Thanks to a heady mix of Facebook and Renmano Sauvignon Blanc, Betty invited all her gay buddies.  Ever the generous soul, she imagined they might enjoy the...um, entertainment.

Now, Betty's Matron of Humour is the splendid Arizaphale, who's crafted a loving tribute to the bride.  She has written heartfelt toasts, assembled mementos of their shared youth, and concocted amusing parlour games which would reveal how much each guest knows about Betty's past.  She thought up several witty puns about hens. But it soon became apparent that she had arranged no...um, entertainment.

Oh my god.  Oh. My. God.  Oh! My! God!  

When confronted with her faux pas, Arizaphale pleaded ennui.  "We good ole girls aren't exactly spring chickens," she wrote, warming to the hen's night theme.  "We've seen enough cock to last us a lifetime, and therefore are less than impressed with it anymore."

I can make neither head nor tail of that sentence.  Surely, the phrase "enough cock" is logically impossible. 

The question is, Abby, should we gay boys take matters into our own hands? (And if we're lucky, mouths?) 

Is it best to be subtle?  Perhaps a hired hunk might stroll past and casually drop trou, maintaining it was a coincidence that he was overcome by a heat rash on his buttocks at that very moment? 

Should we damn the torpedoes and get the guy in the cop uniform to do the whole who's-been-a-naughty-girl routine, even if handcuffs cost extra? 

Or ought we do the job ourselves, arriving naked to ensure there are some ornamental genitalia on display? 

Further, the couple's beloved dog will act as ring bearer.  Technically, she's a member of the bridal party, too.  Should we rent a Great Dane or something?

P1140848_2
Anxiously awaiting your advice. The party is tonight, and the wedding approaches!

The Honourable Husband
Serial Wedding Guest


Fucking and Intercourse are quite similar.

Where is he gay today?  Fucking, Austria, and Intercourse, Pennsylvania.

Have you experienced Intercourse?   What!  You haven't?   Let me show you.   There are many pictures of  Intercourse online, but I believe these are the most explicit.

Intercourse sign

Even in the midst of Intercourse, the Big O can remain elusive.   You might end up with a big zero.

How did the town get its name?  As you can see from the picture below, Intercourse brings people together in a three-way.  Perhaps many travellers crossed paths, like ships in the night, and enjoyed much intercourse on this very spot.  In those days, there was little else to do.

Intercourse from above

Other stories about the name come from the town's equestrian history.  Apparently, the village sprang up around the entrance to a race course.  Over the years, Enter Course became Intercourse.   So remember, Intercourse is not a race!  You'd be surprised how many think it is. 

The road to Intercourse—well, you can take it fast, or take it slow.   Once you've reached Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse is not far away.  If you discover Blue Ball, perhaps you missed it.

Will you find yourself saying "Oh, God!" in the middle of Intercourse?  The locals do.  It's an Amish town, quite strictly religious.  For those of you who don't know about their distinctive beliefs, the Amish eschew any technology not mentioned in the Bible.  This means they must negotiate Intercourse with horses.

Intercourse wide shot

Intercoursers. Or is that Intercoursians?
 

Luckily, one of the things they found in the Bible was money.  The town does a thriving trade in traditional Amish quilts, and some of them cost a fortune.  It's a little bit sad to be in the middle of Intercourse, and your mind is on how you mustn't stain the bedclothing.

To my taste, the town's T-shirts stop short of celebrating Intercourse in the way it deserves.   Religious influence keeps the jokes rather coy.

Intercourse waht I expected

Enough of Intercourse.  On to Fucking.  

With a population one-tenth the size of Intercourse, the village gets few visitors.   People talk a lot about Fucking, but few of them of them go all the way.

Fucking pure and simple

Fucking is a littlle more down-and-dirty than Intercourse.  The name means, in the local dialect, people of Fuck.  Except, like Entercourse and Intercourse, the name Fuck was originally Focko, whose descendants adopted the noble name de Fucingin.   So the town is a bastardisation of a legitimate German surname. 

Like many of our age, we used a device to to help with Fucking.


Fucking Goal

Next stop: Fucking Mitte

It confused us to discover we couldn't program a Fucking address into the navigation system.  Usually, the screen tells you the street on which you're travelling, and the next street en route.  But as we approached Fucking, the poor car could think of nothing else.

Fucking Close

Google Earth shared the same obsession, it seemed.  Every street was named Fucking.  Is it possible for one of de Fucingin's descendants to be, say, Baron von Fuck, of Fuckingstraße 28, 4774 Fucking, Austria?  Truly a case of Fucking on the brain.

Much Fucking

The sign below explains it all.  It seems that many towns in Austria use a Japanese-style address system.  In each small neighbourhood, they simply number the houses in the order they were built.  Hence, Baron von Fuck's address would be Fucking 28, Austria.  It makes Fucking easy to handle, wouldn't you agree?

Fucking and wolfing

Before you get to Fucking, you need to go through Petting, and before that, Willing.  There is even a town called Kissing, but that's in Baden-Württemburg.  If you've reached Kissing, you're still nowhere near Fucking.

Like Intercourse, Fucking is a religious experience.  The sign below asks God to bless the harvest.   It's quite fertile around there, so a good Fucking plowing often bears fruit.  In Fucking, be careful where you drop your seed.

Downtown fucking 2

That said, there's not much to recommend Fucking.  Unless you're with someone you like, Fucking can be quite dull.

Fucking 1

The picture below reveals a highlight of downtown Fucking.

Fucking nice

Alas, not a Fucking soul to be seen.  These chaps below were the closest things to Fuckingers we could find.  (Yes, the townsfolk are called Fuckingers, which is perhaps not what you thought. )  Maybe everyone was in Hiding.  I think that's near Linz. 

Fuckingers

One thing you can say about Fucking—it's over quickly.   Fare thee well.

Fucking Over

Which is better, Fucking or Intercourse?  Tough call. 

I think Fucking is a little more personal than Intercourse.  Intercourse is more romantic.  But if I had my druthers, I'd choose to stay in Austria and visit a town called Poppendorf.  As you may know, the word dorf in German means town, and the word Poppen means—please forgive my language—fucking.

EDIT: Look what else we came across!


Waking up from the American Dream, Part One.

Change. A good idea.

American values. Another good idea.

Am I the only one who sees a train wreck coming?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for change. Hell, I voted for change. And thank goodness that change has come.

Changing presidents is the easy bit. Changing America will be tough. Some treasured American values need an overhaul.

Many would argue that rather than change, American values must change back. Back to an earlier, purer, more noble version of themselves.

Whatever. The truth is, my fellow Americans need to look hard at the values by which they live today, and not flinch when they see hypocrisy, shallowness, inhumanity and falsehood.

It takes moral courage to do this; you must be open to truth, from any source. Stop buying half-truths ready-made, cloaked under religious rhetoric, or cooked in glib sentimental goo.

What values need to change? Here's one.

The marketplace is moral.

Victoria de Grazia opens her book Irresistible Empire, the classic study of how American consumer society triumphed over European bourgeois civilisation, with an astonishing scene.
She recounts Woodrow Wilson's 1916 address to the World Salesmanship Congress in Detroit. With the American century still a decade away from its first spectacular cycle of boom-and-bust, he argued, with touching innocence, that greed is good.
America's "democracy of business" had to take the lead in "the struggle for peaceful conquest of the world," Wilson said...
"let your thoughts and imagination run abroad throughout the whole world, and with the inspiration...that you are Americans and are meant to carry liberty and justice and the principles of humanity wherever you go, go out and sell goods that will make the world more comfortable and happy, and [thus] convert them to the principles of America." (pp. 1-2)
Over the next several pages, de Grazia analyses Wilson's assumptions in eloquent detail. She describes a caste of mind which I find familiar from my American boyhood.
If the gentry turn up their noses at the great unwashed, then one should use the power of mass production to make soap cheap enough for them to buy. Pretty soon, the great unwashed will look pretty clean and smell pretty good, and the gentry will seem a whole lot less genteel by comparison. The influence of the wicked old gentry will fade away, along with their silly elitist ideas. Democracy triumphs, and freedom reigns supreme.

So pervasive is this notion through the United States, that many have ceased to see material goods as a means to an end, but as the end in itself.

During my recent stint back in the USA, I would challenge people to show me how America was, in fact, the land of the free. Disturbingly, proof often pivoted on the freedom to choose amongst a vast array of consumer products.

Again, don't get me wrong. A vast array of consumer products is a jolly nice thing. In fact, I make my dosh shilling for a vast array of consumer products.

But consuming in quantity does not equal living in freedom.

You can walk right into any American supermarket you damn well please and vote with your wallet for Liquid-Plumr® over Drano®. Is that the beginning and end of freedom? Are these the fruits of democracy? You'd be surprised at how many Americans believe so.

De Grazia points out that Wilson endorsed "a peculiarly American notion of democracy, that which comes from having habits in common rather than arising from equal economic standing, freedom to select far fetched alternatives, or recognising diversity and learning to live with it."


That is, if billionaire George Bush drives a pick-up truck, and I drive a pick-up truck, then the difference in our incomes doesn't matter all that much. Homogenised tastes iron out political differences. Promoting that homogeneity furthers peace and progress. Right?
(Elections have been won and lost in America for the sake of homogenous tastes. Earlier this month, 48% of America voted the Republican ticket. Many of these voters did so, at least in part, because it contained a hockey/soccer mom just like us. More about that later, perhaps.)
Does it work?
Let's make a value judgement on this system of values. Does it work?
Recent history vividly shows that this sea of material goods is not, to stretch a metaphor, a tide that lifts all boats. The gentry hasn't drowned in an ocean of the gentrified middle class. If anything, the worker's quest for material comfort has enriched the elite far more handsomely than it has enriched the worker.
Getting richer doesn't guarantee that a worthwhile democracy will take root, as is implicit in Wilson's argument. "Liberty and justice, and the principles of humanity" don't necessarily follow from owning a lot of stuff.
Look at the Middle East or China. There are plenty of ways to get rich, and not all of them are the American way.
Nor does democracy make you rich, automatically. Just ask a South African township worker, or a disappointed eastern European after the Iron Curtain fell.

Did the spread of American bounty result in the "peaceful conquest of the world," as Wilson predicted? If only he could see how much of her wealth America pours, today, into the violent conquest of the world. With little real peace to show for it.
The marketplace is incredibly good at sorting out, and providing in abundance, what is useful. But that misleads us. An abundance of useful stuff doesn't guarantee that amongst it, you'll find what is essential.
Like healthcare. Or education. Or art. Or justice. Or equality. Or peace.
Modern Americans seem to believe that if you just get rich enough, everything else will sort itself out. From there, it is not a long stretch to believe that getting rich is the only way to sort everything out. If we're all fat and happy, what else matters?
Shovel enough Oldsmobiles, Pop-Tarts, Magnavoxes and Cheez-Whiz in my direction, and do I really need to marry the man I love? If my supermarket shelves are well stocked, is it important that the local library's shelves are not?
I'm not knocking materialism--hey, I work in advertising. But it it's a pretty poor place to search for values.
Modern American values are so entwined in materialism, that it will be a hard habit of mind to break. Can we do it? I hope so.

Digg!
Photos from Cape May, New Jersey, April 2007, and the Woodbridge neighbourhood of Detroit, 2004.

Cape May is a classic, picturesque American seaside resort, popular for weekends away from Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. Some time ago, the town's hotels and guest houses were booked out by Disney executives. Locals were abuzz with speculation that they might see a new Disneyland nearby. Alas, the Mousers were in Cape May to rip it off; the town of Celebration, Florida is an ersatz Cape May. Celebration is so creepily fake, that they filmed The Truman Show there.

I do? That's easy for you to say.

As if to rub our noses in it, our local park, Europa Platz beim Friedensengel, does a brisk trade in wedding photos. What's to bet that the bride chucks a wobbly and demands they retouch the rubbish bin out of the picture?

* * * * *
Naturally, Master Right and I are in favour of gay marriage. But we violently oppose gay weddings.
So many trappings of a conventional wedding demean and insult the couple whose joint life it is meant to celebrate. The bride officially becomes property of the groom, while the groom is more-or-less a bytander at the whole affair. Mainlining alcohol, guests unpack their emotional baggage on each other and behave like monkeys. Yes, weddings suck.

Thankfully, in Germany, one doesn't need to do all that. One simply visits a notary's office, signs an agreement, and you're hitched. Gay or straight.

Well, it's simple if you're German. If you're a foreigner, you need to wave a brace of documents under an official nose, to guard against bigamy, marriages-of-convenience, or other hanky-panky.

First, you need to prove when and where you were born, and that you are not married to anyone else.

No problem for Master Right. His birthplace, Japan, is sensible. The whole thing can be taken care of in a single visit to the consulate.

As a citizen of both the USA and Australia, I am in a messy position. Both countries are federations of states, and each state keeps track of hatches, matches and despatches.

The US authorities are uncooperative or obtuse, and the Australians are mostly drunk or something. The US is not a signatory to the Hague Convention for the internationalization of documents, so my birth certificate needed to cross the Atlantic several times to be stamped, sealed, confirmed, apostilled and vouchsafed by an army of civil servants. And in spite of letters and sworn statements which showed the contrary, the Australian Botschaft (embassy) still issued documents which referred to Miss Master Right. The Australian Botschaft? More like the Australian botch-up.

If you and your spouse wish to live here, the demands mount. One needs to prove coverage by health insurance and a sufficient income. You must submit a floorplan of your home; German law demands a home provide 12.5 square metres per person.

Further, the notary must satisfy herself that both parties understand the agreement. This means that one needs a sworn translator into one's native tongue.

Thus, a rather peculiar wedding party assembled last week, amid the girly, weddingy decor at the offices of Frau Ehe, Notary Public. There was Master Right, his Japanese translator, my English translator, and me.

Oh, and my translator's dog. He goes everywhere with her. Since this is an anonymous blog, I shall not post pictures of the wedding party, but I feel it safe to show a snapshot of the dog. His name is Kuscheln. Or, in English, Cuddles.

Cuddles always pees at weddings. It's the excitement.
As we waited for Frau Ehe to arrive, our translators chatted. Both had recently served time behind bars; that is, they translated in prison. I joked that they need adjust their vocabulary only slightly from arraignment to marriage. The Japanese translator remarked that foreigners can get themselves into trouble under both circumstances.

I really lucked into a great English translator; a leader in her field, and office-holder in the professional association of translators. She was curious to observe her Japanese counterpart, another highly-qualified professional, who faced quite different obstacles with her assignment.

The Japanese language uses sparse grammar and limited sounds. Much day-to-day Japanese is structured to keep a polite distance between two speakers; it can be constructed to reveal little.

When one needs to speak of more complex matters--like law, love or laughter--Japanese reverts to elaborate metaphor. And emotional arguments sometimes carry the same weight as rational ones.

A linguistic challenge, given the thorough, and thoroughly dry, German documents that Frau Ehe led us through. She took great pains to stress that the Lebenspartnerschaft wouldn't apply in the US, Australia, or Japan. She wanted to make clear that this union was not a back-door way to obtain a legally-binding marriage in our home countries.

Therefore, it was only useful if our life would be based in Germany. Herr Honourable has chosen to make his life in Germany, she observed, and asked if Herr Right had yet done the same.

Before Master Right could answer--indeed, before this were even translated into Japanese for him--the translator leapt into a passionate speech. This man, she pleaded, was a man of courage, following his dream and creating a new life in spite of the odds. This went on for several sentences. Master Right was touched.
"Would you like me to tell you our story?" I offered, in English.
"No," replied Frau Ehe, "I get it."
Naturally. our Japanese translator embarked on a subsequent translation of this whole exchange. And it served as a neat segue into Frau Ehe's next subject. A little homily.
We asked for no wedding vows or such silliness, but Frau Ehe decided she'd toss in a speech, for free. It picked up on the theme of courage.
She reminded us that the uncertainty which affects modern life acts against the idea of marriage. That making a commitment to a shared life, forever, takes bravery and faith in the future. She congratulated us for making that choice, in a binding agreement before the state. And, she added uncomfortably, God. Or, um, whatever we would like to call that thing up there. Ah, good ol' Catholic Bavaria.
Both our translators signed the document, along with Master Right and me. Et voila, we were husbands. We declined the you-may-now-kiss business--we're not into PDAs--and gave each other a hearty, relieved hug.
The perfect wedding, I think.
* * * * *
P.S. Hat-tip to Brock and Manuel for referring us to Frau Ehe.

UPDATE

We presented our Lebenspartnerschaft to the Kreisverwaltungsreferrat. (Don't you love German words?) Good news. Master Right now has a visa to stay in Germany, but he has five years to learn German. That will be amusing.

A public rehearsal

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-02-23/61fbdb4b-674a-42cf-b29d-1dbc6fdae3a0.png

The theatre makes magic. That's its job. 
 
Like all jobs, magic entails work. Very few elements of an actor's art are truly spontaneous; it is her craft to conceal this fact.
 
Artistic inspiration comes only when the nuts and bolts are tight, when we have dispensed with the practical demands of putting people around each other in a limited space. To paraphrase Noël Coward, magic happens when everyone knows his lines, and nobody trips over the furniture.
 
A good rehearsal is like carpentry. At the end, you've built a functional object, the performance. Like a door, you can open it and close it as many times as you like, and it will always do the same thing.
 
In my student theatre days, I used to love rehearsals; nowadays, I treasure the moments when I stumble across one. Cycling home from work today, I did just that.
 

The Altstadtfest happens this weekend, a highlight of Munich's 850th birthday celebrations. One of major performances is the München Revue, in the Odeonsplatz. It will, it seems, involve an acrobat on a trapeze suspended above the crowd.

Just another workaday job on a working city street. Very few of the passers-by even noticed.

Plenty of workers sitting around, leaning on their shovels. In the theatre, that's forgivable; indeed, it's necessary. They're waiting for a cue.

The craft of the theatre doubles in complexity when you put it on film. If managing actors in a physical space in a theatre proves a challenge, imagine the same thing with the audience wearing blinkers. That's film.

These filmy types are working for Bayerische Rundfunk, the German version of the BBC. Actually, it's not quite the German BBC: that's Deutsche Welle, based in Cologne. Bayerische Rundfunk is the Bavarian state BBC. They've covered Munich's birthday celebrations diligently.
 
Though not a national institution, BR is a broadcaster of considerable standing. Listen to any classical music station on the planet, and you'll soon hear a recording made by the so-called Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. That's BR.
 
With 20 million inhabitants, Bavaria holds as many people as Australia; why shouldn't our local broadcaster be on a par, at least with the ABC? BR broadcasts throughout Germany.

These pictures are much better if you embiggen them, BTW. By a neat coincedence, this week's Photo Friday challenge is Lightness.