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5 entries from September 2009

The second worst word in the English language


An exhibition poster at the Odeonsplatz subway station, Munich.

Did you ever know a gentlewoman—your former schoolteacher, or a maiden aunt—who felt coy about swearing, no matter how much she wanted to?  Such a woman would never dream of cursing a minor frustration with a muttered shit!  But she might happily say, in a ringing voice, merde!   A foreign tongue made her vulgar thought rather more polite. 

I'm beginning to feel the same way about fuck. 

Now, we all know that fuck is a meaningless syllable in many languages, including German.  But natives of other tongues have picked up a vague idea of its meaning, and the word has become rather popular.

Do non-native speakers of English, even the most skilled, really know how to use it?

"What a fucking day it's been!" I once declared to Master Right.

"Yes," he agreed, "It's been very fucking."

Since then, fucking has become my favourite predicate adjective.  The day is fucking.  The printer is fucking.  The pump jockey at the gas station is fucking.  Christmas is fucking.

I've brought all my interpretive skills to bear on the exhibition poster above.  I'm still not quite sure what the artist was trying to get at. 

Is he trying to say that beauty and hauteur go together?  That fame makes you bitter?  That that Marilyn Monroe would never have sex with anyone who rides the subway?

English is a long way from becoming the undisputed international language of business, diplomacy, science or academia.  (They say, for example, that three-quarters of the world's tax law is written in German. And I believe them.)

But English has turned into the preferred lingua franca for the crude.  Blame rock'n'roll.

The world really should make a thorough study of English vulgarity. Starting with that nasty little word at the top of the list. Fuck seems to be everywhere, but not its evil twin.  Can you find it on the box below, for a Japanese CD rack? 

Furniture pix 082

French is the language of seduction; Italian the language of passion; German the language of precision; and Japanese the language of politeness.  English....well, it found a different calling, I guess.  

EDIT:  To my esteemed colleagues in the office.  Don't worry.  You certainly know how to swear properly!  With great skill and charm, I might add.

Park[ing] Day 2009


In 2005, San Francisco design collective Rebar declared the first annual Park[ing] Day.  In a gesture designed to liberate our streets from the scourge of the parked car, citizens claim a metered spot and turn it into a public park of the human sort; a place where ordinary people can interact.    In the words of the founders, Park[ing] Day is "intended to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play."

Groovy Munich communications agency Büro Gelb decamped from their offices on nearby Einsteinstraße to take part.  One of their staffers explained the creative rationale behind Gelb's 2009 Park[ing] Day concept. "Usually, most Park[ing] Day parks have trees and greenery.  We thought that was very predictable."  He then used an English word which I hear a lot in translation, when discussing high-concept affairs. "We wanted to do something unseen."

Germans, as has been observed, pursue irony with a passion.  Parking a car in a park which is supposed to reclaim the street from parked cars could do one of two things: 

  • Make a brilliantly ironic statement about the role of motorised transport in our lives and culture. 
  • Completely miss the point.

What do you think? 

Oktoberfest Prep


9.00 am,18 September 2009.  Traffic restrictions in place around my office.  The neighbourhood braces itself for Oktoberfest, which opens across the street on September 19.

10.00 am., 18 September 2009. Supermarket near my office puts buckets of sand near front door.  The store is on the path between the Oktoberfest meadow and the local subway station.  It helps to clean up any alcohol-induced unpleasantness.  They have also employed security guards.


12.00 noon, 18 September 2009.  Facebook message from expatriate neighbour:

Uh, oh.  Dirndl appears to have shrunk in closet since last year. 

1.15 pm,18 September 2009.  Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8:

Do you guys own a sewing machine?  My dirndl needs emergency surgery. Thx.

1.30 pm, 18 September 2009.  Text message from headbang8 to Expat Blogger Pal:

We're not THAT gay.  Too much of the good life, my dear?

1.45 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8

The good life went straight to my bustline.  Have you bought lederhosen yet?

1.45 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from headbang8 to Expat Blogger Pal.

They're still fattening the cow, I'm afraid. 

2.07 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8

BTW, no pictures of my boobs this year.  Or else. 

2.09 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from headbang8 to Expat Blogger Pal

Awww.  Your boobs are my most Googled picture.

2.26 pm, 18 September 2009. Text message from Expat Blogger Pal to headbang8

You mean I'm being Google-ogled?

4.30, 18 September 2009.  Facebook message from two buddies abroad.

We are sooo looking forward to visiting Germany next week.  We'll be happy if we can have lots of food and drink.  Will that be OK?

4.35 18 September 2009.  Headbang8 replies.

I think that can be managed. 

Ah, Oktoberfest!

Flocking Hell! ImprovEverywhere comes to Munich.


The Urbanauts are a collective, active at Munich's Ludwig Maximillian University.  They emerged from the School of Architecture, with a mission to redefine how public spaces are seen and used.  

ImprovEverywhere will be working with the Urbanauts in Munich.  For those of you who don't know the IE, they were responsible for the famous Grand Central Station Freeze in New York.

The links lead to web pages which tell you how to participate.  The first activity is TODAY, November 3, so hurry.  Sadly, I'm abroad, so I'll miss it. 

I believe the ultimate goal is to create a public performance which mimics a flock of starlings.  The video below comes from their website, and is meant to give you an idea of the concept.  I can hardly wait.