German Word of the Week — Plus!: Moralin and Gulaschkanone

This week's German Words of the Week is not only a twofer but also — an example the kind of fabulous positive-plus synergy which makes this blog world-famous — coupled with What I Learned from Tatort. Wow! I can hardly wait to type the post!

Last week, I dutifully switched on my television to watch Tatort. Every Tatort plays in a different German city, and this one was in Kiel, a port city way up north on the Baltic sea. Unfortunately, the detective who features in the Kiel Tatorts is Borowski, who has all the charisma of a sea cucumber. Yes, I know, his waxen flesh and papery monotone are supposed to convey the legendary taciturnity of Germans from the north, renowned as the dullest, stuffiest, and most reserved of all Germans. Which, believe me, is saying a lot. My pragmatic Anglo-Saxon mind entertains the heretical notion of whether these Ent-like humanoids should be the subject of televisions shows that purport to be "entertainment." The most brutal blow was the casting of gorgeous Turkish vixen Sibel Kekilli in a supporting role. She stole every scene she was in, and made the viewer desperately yearn for her to suddenly break into the other scenes, which mainly featured North Germans bitching and seething.

But I digress. I should have known I'd be in for something special this time, because the entire week, the main German public-television station had been highlighting proper nutrition with various specials and cooking shows. And that meant that this week's Tatort had to Teach us about Proper Nutrition. As Christina Sieben observed in her review, the "die Gulaschkanone" of high-minded educational public TV was set on "constant bombardment." Now, a Gulaschkanone is basically what it sounds like: a goulash cannon. The term originally referred to military field kitchens, for obvious reasons. But here, in context, the cannon is spouting edifying lessons like a Stalin's organ. In Sieben's summary:

Artificial colors have to be, because nobody will buy white energy drinks. Cows are always chained up in the dairy. "Research Institutes" are in the pocket of industry. Good food costs money, but people are too cheap to pay for it. The old organic farmer in the show knows all his cows by name. Everyone wants to earn money. And, at the end of the day, it's all our fault. Bon appetit! 

Sieben goes on to predict that with Public Television Nutrition Edification Week over, the next Tatort will contain slightly less Moralin. You know, Moraline (not to be confused with Betweenanene (Screwene)). Like Adenosine, Guanine, Cytosine, Adrenaline, or Methamphetamine. Moraline bonds with plot elements in public-television dramas, causing the narrative to coalesce in ways that offer edifying lessons to the benighted, easily corruptible audience.

Thanks to Moraline, we learned all those valuable things about food and nature from last week's Tatort (although strangely enough, the topic of lavish cow subsidies (g) was barely mentioned). Moraline additive also helps us understand, for example, that unemployed people want to work, alcoholics and drug addicts roll like they do because of childhood trauma, women can do everything men can, family-run firms are the only halfway-acceptable form of free enterprise, and that Scientology, nationalism, plastic toys, wars, lobbysists, and nuclear power are evil.

If you watch too much German public television, your moraline levels may reach toxicity: You may begin to use phrases like "our fellow-citizens of the Islamic faith" or "food-chain-renewability enhancing measures" in everyday speech. At this point, you'll need to spend a few hours in a secure, moraline-free environment. The most reliable place is Titanic Magazine (g), which, is 100% moraline-free and whose motto is "Ein klares Ja zum Nein!" (A clear Yes to No!).

Teens and Sex in Europe

An American puts together a slideshow illustrating — by means of ads, video clips, survey results, and interviews — that Europeans have a much less hypocritical approach to young people screwing than America does.

Not much that will be surprising here, but still it's encouraging to see Americans looking across the pond for lessons in this particular area of social policy, in which the States does just about everything wrong…

Let’s Go to the Erotic Mass!

Let me clear something up right away. This Messe (which means both Mass and convention in German) won't be held in a church. Instead the "World of Eroticism" will be held next weekend in the Philipshalle (g) a medium-sized venue in Düsseldorf. As I always told my European friends in the US, you'll never really understand this country unless you visit a gun show. They took my advice, and returned blanched with terror at seeing so many gleaming weapons, hand grenades, and SS memorabilia in one place.

I guess the European equivalent might be such an Erotikmesse. So I think I'll go next weekend, since it's going to be literally around the corner from where I live. If I survive, I'll post a dispatch.

The Afghanistan Endgame

Stephen Walt peers into the crystal ball in Afghanistan:

So let me tell you what I think is going to happen. The United States is going to spend the next few months trying to clear out or kill as many Taliban as we can find, accompanied by a lot of optimistic reports about how well we are doing. This won't be about a "hearts and minds" approach or even a long-term strategy of nation-building; it will be about creating the appearance of momentum and success. At the same time, we're going to try to shepherd a political process that can be sold as "peace deal" between the Karzai government and some moderate Taliban. If we're really lucky and offer big enough bribes (oops, I mean foreign aid), we might get Pakistan to pretend to be on board too.And then Obama will claim "the Afghan surge worked" sometime in the latter half of 2011, and begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

As our numbers fall, the Taliban will regroup, Pakistan will help rearm them covertly, and the struggle for power in Afghanistan will resume. Afghanistan's fate will once again be primarily in the hands of the Afghan people and the nearby neighbors who meddle there for their own reasons. I don't know who will win, but it actually won't matter very much for U.S. national securityinterests.

There are ample historical precedents for this sort of outcome. The Soviet Unionconcocted a peace deal before they withdrew in 1988, but their chosen successor, Najibullah, didn't last long once they had left. (Notice, however, that their enemies in Afghanistan didn't "follow them home" either). The United States achieved "peace with honor" in the 1973 Vietnam peace accords, but then Saigon fell two years later. No matter; the United States ended up winning the Cold War anyway. And then there's Iraq,where the 2007 "surge" was hailed as a great military victory but is now unraveling. In each case, the peace deal was mostly a fig leaf designed to let a great power get out of a costly war without admitting it had been beaten.

Meet the New Bossman


My faithful Slovenia correspondent (h/t SK) points me to this article about the election of the first black mayor in the former Yugoslavia:

Peter Bossman, a candidate of the centre-left Social Democrats (SD), narrowly won a municipal election in the Slovenian coastal town of Piran.

He said people no longer saw the colour of his skin and his election showed the "high level of democracy in Slovenia".

Mr Bossman came to the country in the 1980s, when it was still part of the former Yugoslavia, to study medicine.

He won a narrow victory over the previous mayor, Tomaz Gantar, with 51.4% of the vote.

Mr Bossman told the Reuters news agency that he had faced no discrimination because of his skin colour or origins in recent years.

"There are always small groups of people not accepting people who are different and in the first months after coming to Slovenia I felt that some people did not want to be with us," he said.

"But for the last 10 or 15 years, I experienced nothing like that any more. I have no problems at all and I think people no longer see the colour of my skin when they look at me," he added.

Bossman wants to build a golf course and an airport (noooooo!) but seems otherwise to be a fine chap. Piran, birthplace of Giuseppe Tartini (the first picture shows the square named after him) is a charming town in the equally charming country of Slovenia.

Here are some pictures from my last visit:

216 tartini square piran


231 pusterla street piran
227 tartini square with bell tower & venetian bldg
230 elderly slovenians enjoying the sea
226 slovenian kids 

German Joys – Immer ein Bisschen Voraus

Always a little ahead of the curve, that is. German Joys leads, other news sources follow. Item:

  • Way back in 2007, GJ noted the absurdity of Germans being forced to pay 20 times as much for aspirin as the residents of most other advanced industrialized nations. What do I see on the front page of my Zeit newspaper this morning? The headline: "Why do Germans pay so much for Aspirin?" (g). Welcome aboard, Herr di Lorenzo (finally)…. As for me, I always bring back from the States a 500-tablet bottle of aspirin, which costs the equivalent of 2 Euro.
  • Last year, GJ was bemused over the fact that there is actually a tree called the "Caucasian Wingnut." Many months later, Talking Points Memo has discovered this fun fact. You're welcome, Mr. Marshall….