The Grotesque Mystery of Train Masturbators

Here's a recent police press release from Erfurt (g, my translation):

Yesterday, shortly before midnight, a 21-year-old female traveler spoke to a member of the federal police in the Erfurt central station. She seemed frightened, and told the officer that she had been harassed by a man in the train from Kassel. After he had stared at her for long time, she moved to a different seat. The man followed her, sat on the seat opposite, and began manipulating his penis. He did not open his pants.

After she got out in Erfurt to change trains, the man followed her. For this reason, she approached the police officer, who located the suspect in the train station. The suspect is a 31-year-old Iranian national. Because he could not prove his identity, the officer detained him. It is also suspected that the Iranian is in the country illegally.

And here's a picture of another alleged train masturbator from Cologne, whom the police are actively seeking: 

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This guy is suspected of staring at, and masturbating in front of (g), a group of children from 6 to 8 years old in a Cologne streetcar. The children were engaged in Sternsingen ('star-singing') the German version of Christmas caroling. This involves dressing up as the Three Wise Men, singing traditional tunes, and collecting for charity. This guy apparently found this activity sexually stimulating, so he began touching himself in full view of the children, their minders, everyone else on the train, and the apparently the surveillance camera (actually, this probably isn't a picture of him in the act of jerking off in front of small children. But then again, given the facial expression, I'm not so sure).

No word on whether he unzipped his pants. I assume I speak for everyone when I say I hope he didn't.

And these are not isolated incidents. Well, in one sense they are. We have to keep a sense of proportion here, your chance of being the object of some horny foreign man's intense staring and jerking off on your next train voyage is probably very small. But there have been literally thousands of these incidents by now in Germany. Almost without exception, they involve foreign males.*

When it comes to train masturbators, I am genuinely puzzled. I have taken trains in lots of developing countries, and have never seen this behavior there. Nor have I ever seen German males doing this in Germany. I've seen them get drunk and be rowdy, but never masturbate in public. 

Another puzzling thing is that these foreign train masturbators often don't seem to worry about getting caught. Most of the time, the woman who was the focus complains to police, and they often find the guy sitting in the train seat, as if nothing had happened. Many of these train masturbators seem unaware that anything they were doing was wrong, or that the woman they were jacking off in front of would complain about that. I am sure another factor is that Germans are a confrontation-avoiding lot who would rather complain to cops than confront train masturbators. I doubt a train masturbator who jacked off in front of a girl in Egypt would reach his destination uninjured.

I surmise there's often alcohol involved here. Most of our new fellow citizens come from countries in which alcohol is hard to come by. And then they land in Germany, where you can buy a bottle of rotgut which will get you pie-eyed for 5 Euros. I sometimes see them tottering along the streets of my own neighborhood, clutching half-empty bottles of cheap 80-proof booze, talking to themselves. But then again, I see Germans doing that, too.

Yet many of these incident reports don't mention alcohol (which police reports usually do when it's in play). Which implies that these men, while completely sober, decided to take their erect penises out of their pants in public and jack off while staring at females. Sometimes while staring at children

This is why I am convinced that there are an unusually high number of young males with mental problems among the recent migrants. Public masturbation is the quintessential sign of what psychologists call disinhibition and hypersexuality. I worked for almost 4 years in a public mental hospital, and one of the things we had to teach our acutely schizophrenic clients was the necessity of not masturbating in public (they were obviously allowed to masturbate, but in private only).

We don't have reliable stats yet, but I will be happy to bet any amount of money that if we ever get them, we will find very high rates of mental illness among these young lads.  

* I have yet to see any masturbators myself, but I have seen two incidents already of foreign males behaving in a bizarre and demanding fashion on German trains since mid-2015. One was evidently drunk, carrying a bunch of soiled clothing in plastic shopping bags, and sat down right across from myself and a seatmate, and began drunkenly demanding we tell him the German words for things in the train. As I pretended to get up to leave the train, I heard him retching behind me. I only hope my seat-mate escaped in time.

Quote of the Day: Dostoevsky on Virtue Signalling

The narrator describes an article by the writer Karmazinov, Dosteovsky's satirical portrayal of Turgenev:

"A year before, I had read an article of his in a review, written with an immense affectation of naïve poetry, and psychology too. He described the wreck of some steamer on the English coast, of which he had been the witness, and how he had seen the drowning people saved, and the dead bodies brought ashore. All this rather long and verbose article was written solely with the object of self-display. One seemed to read between the lines: 'Concentrate yourselves on me. Behold what I was like at those moments. What are the sea, the storm, the rocks, the splinters of wrecked ships to you? I have described all that sufficiently to you with my mighty pen. Why look at that drowned woman with the dead child in her dead arms? Look rather at me, see how I was unable to bear that sight and turned away from it. Here I stood with my back to it; here I was horrified and could not bring myself to look; I blinked my eyes—isn't that interesting?'"

Dostoevsky, The Possessed

Dialog With a Mass Murderer

This video is grimly fascinating: it shows the Munich spree killer walking around on the top of a parking garage.

The guy filming him (or someone close by) begins screaming insults at the killer, and the killer responds and gives a few reasons why he is doing what he's doing. In a Youtube comment, Scalpelli provides a pretty good translated English transcript of their dialog:

Some English translations floating around on here are wrong. Here's the correct one:

Balcony     Man: "You fucking asshole you…"

>Shooter: "Because of you I got bullied for 7 years…" (referring to Turks)

Balcony Man: "You wanker you. you're a wanker"

>Shooter: "…and now I have to buy a gun to shoot you"

Balcony Man: "Yeah, you know what? Your head should be cut off, you asshole!"

>Shooter and Balcony man shouting at each other

Balcony Man apparently to people filming: "He's got a gun here, the guy has one"

>Shooter: "Fucking Turks!"

Balcony Man: "Fucking wogs" ("Kanake" is a mean term for Turkish immigrant workers)

Balcony man to someone else: "EY! HE'S GOT A GUN! He has loaded his gun! Get the cops here!"

>Shooter: "I am German."

Balcony Man: "You're a wanker, that's what you are"

>Shooter: "Stop filming!"

Balcony Man: "A wanker is what you are, what the fuck are you doing?"

>Shooter: "Yeah what, I was born here!"

Balcony Man: "Yeah and what the fuck you think you're doing???"

>Shooter: "I grew up here in the Hartz 4 area. Here in the Turk-region, in the Hasenbergl" ("Hartz 4" = social welfare benefits in Germany / "Hasenbergl" = district just next to the shopping mall)".

>Shooter says he was depressed for some time and got clinical treatment ("stationäre Behandlung" here usually refers to being under treatment at a psychiatric clinic).

Balcony Man: "Yeah treatment, you belong in a psychiatric clinic, you fucking asshole."

>Shooter: "I didn't do anything wrong. [unintelligible] Just shut the fuck up man!"

Balcony Man: "You wanker you"

Balcony Man: "HEY! HE'S ON THE UPPER FLOOR HERE. YOU IDIOTS"

Filming man goes into cover, shooter starts firing.

Balcony Man: "You're not quite right in the head / You're fucked in the head you wanker"

Unknown voice (police?): "EY, go over there!"

Balcony man: "You fucking asshole, you're fucked in the head!" – literally translated though he says "They shat into your brain", to which the shooter replies:

"No they didn't, that's the thing, they didn't"

Video ends.

German YouTube Produces The Most Widely-Seen Denglish Fail in Human History

As many of you know, Germany's music royalties organization, GEMA, has been locked in conflict with YouTube for years now:

According to a German court in Hamburg, Google's subsidiary YouTube could be held liable for damages when it hosts copyrighted videos without the copyright holder's permission. As a result, music videos for major label artists on YouTube, as well as many videos containing background music, are censored in Germany since the end of March 2009 after the previous agreement had expired and negotiations for a new license agreement were stopped. On 30 June 2015, Google won a partial victory against GEMA in a state court in Munich, which ruled that they could not be held liable for such damages.

This is the English-language version of the message you get when you try to watch a blocked video:

Dengilsh

Along with hopeless confusion about until/by ("I'll have that report on your desk until 5, boss!"), mismarked relative clauses are quintessential Denglish errors. Oxford, refresh our memories:

A relative clause is one that’s connected to the main clause of the sentence by a word such as who, whom, which, that, or whose. For example:

It reminded him of the house that he used to live in.

The items, which are believed to be family heirlooms, included a grandfather clock worth around £3,000.

There are two types of relative clause: restrictive (or defining) relative clauses and non-restrictive (or non-defining) relative clauses. The difference between them is as follows:

  • A restrictive relative clause provides essential information about the noun to which it refers. It cannot be left out of the sentence without affecting the meaning. The highlighted section of the first sentence above is a restrictive relative clause. If it was left out, the sentence would not make sense:

It reminded him of the house. [which house?]

  • A non-restrictive relative clause provides information that can be left out without affecting the meaning or structure of the sentence. The highlighted section of the second sentence above is a non-restrictive relative clause. If it was left out, the sentence would still make perfect sense:

The items included a grandfather clock worth around £3,000.

You do not need to put a comma before restrictive relative clauses. On the other hand, non-restrictive relative clauses should be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma or commas. For example:

A list of contents would have made it easier to steer through the book, which also lacks a map.

Bill, who had fallen asleep on the sofa, suddenly roused himself.

Now we see what's wrong with the GEMA message. The phrase "for which we could not agree on on conditions of use with GEMA" (which itself caused a fight between GEMA and YouTube, since GEMA thought it unfairly made them out to be the villain) is a restrictive relative clause, like "that he used to live in" in the Oxford example. Therefore, it should not be marked off with a comma.

But virtually all relative clauses in German are marked off with commas. So Germans frequently insert too many commas when they write or edit English. Any translator will tell you of epic, 79-email battles with German clients who think they know English and who insist on re-inserting commas. This usually culminates in an email from the translator which says "I'm really going to have to put my foot down about this. The comma must go, and it's not a style issue, it changes the meaning of the sentence. Trust me." but which really means: I AM A FUCKING PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATOR WHOM YOU HIRED TO TRANSLATE THIS FUCKING DOCUMENT BECAUSE I AM A NATIVE FUCKING SPEAKER OF ENGLISH. YOU ARE NOT. I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG. IF YOU REINSERT ONE MORE FUCKING COMMA, I WILL FUCKING STRANGLE YOU.

The meaning of the GEMA warning is obviously incomplete without the clause about the GEMA conditions. Without that clause, the warning simply says you can't see the video "because it could contain music". The marking of the clause with commas tells an English speaker that the phrase "for which we could not agree on conditions of use with GEMA" is a non-restrictive clause, which would mean that it applies to all music in general: i.e., that GEMA and YouTube sat down to negotiate an agreement about all music ever created and failed to do so. With the comma removed, the sentence now correctly states that you're seeing the warning because GEMA and YouTube could not agree on terms for the music in this specific video.

It seems incredible, but YouTube obviously did not have this warning, which has probably been seen literally billions of times, checked by a native English speaker. I can just imagine some pompous, gel-haired German YouTube executive insisting it was correct, and zis konversation iss over!

German Police Can Seize Your Phone and Arrest You If You Film Them

Via Udo Vetter's excellent lawblog, this police report (g) from Bamberg, Germany:

Early Saturday morning, a person on the Schönleinplatz was halted by police for a check. The 29-year-old student refuse to tell police his personal information and began filming the policeman. He was informed that this was not allowed and constitutes a criminal offense, but the man nevertheless continued. 

As his mobile telephone was being seized, the man resisted officers and was arrested.

He has been charged with resistance against peace officers.

Vetter believes the charges should be dropped, since the police officer's claim that filming him was illegal was incorrect, and citizens are permitted to resist illegal police actions. However, the comments reflect a wide variety of views about whether filming the cop was in fact legal or not, and if not, whether it could be a criminal or civil offense.

The upshot: if you attempt to record police officers in Germany, they may seize your phone and arrest you, and you will only find out your actions were justified after a long and expensive legal proceeding. This is practically the definition of 'chilling effect'.

It's long past time for Germany to pass a law making it absolutely clear that any citizen has the right to film and broadcast any police officer in the performance of his or her duties, no matter what, under any circumstances, as long as the filming does not interfere with performance of the officers' duties.

Golden Rules for East German Teachers

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Courtesy of the DDR (East German) Museum Pirna, a plaque with guidance for teachers: 

Golden Rules for Teachers' Work

Make an Effort to Maintain Ideological Clarity!

Take Up a Firm Fundamental Position!

Be Optimistic!

Be Humble!

Be Balanced! Guard Against Cynicism!

Judge Your Work Realistically and Be Critical of Yourself!

Recognize Successes! Use Scolding Rarely!

Trust and Love Children!

Respect the Pupil! Give Him Responsibility! 

Convince, Don't Browbeat!