Help Test Spray-On Condoms

Germany is the Land of Ideas, as President Horst Köhler will have us believe. One of those bold new ideas: the spray-on condom. If you’re as excited by this idea as I am, just go to this website and type in your information. For now, just enjoy the "English-language" description of the study:

Spray-on Condom: Testers Wanted

We are looking for 30 Condom-Testers. Your job is testing the new condom. We are looking for men with a penislengh from 9 until 12 cm and 15 until 20 cm. Men between 13 to 14 cm are welcome, too. You should have experience with condoms and beeing almost 18 years old. Your data will be kept very safe. If you have any questions, please contact us.

[Hat-tip: Ed Philp.]

In Praise of Nasty Dutch Licorice

A few months ago, I visited the "Sugar Shop" in Heidelberg. In the storefront windows were elegantly-dressed, somehow perverted-looking mannequins. (see picture!)

After entering the store, I walked past some display copies of Nazis on Speed and made a very special Zuckerladen request to the heavily-tattooed woman working behind the counter. She responded with a knowing wink, and turned around and delved deep into a drawer. She brought out something and gave it to me in a plain brown wrapper. She told a few curious children they couldn’t have any of what I’d just bought. No, I hadn’t bought an "erotic guide" featuring (G) Paul McCartney’s wife. What I bought was more dangerous: Salzlakritz, or salt licorice.

This is a Northern European specialty I’ve never seen in the States. It’s made with licorice, all right, but it’s licorice mixed with big doses of salt and, sometimes, sage. These bitter additives multiply the normal tanginess of licorice exponentially. You pop a black, coin-shaped piece of Salzlakritz into your mouth and it’s as if you’ve begun chewing on a mixture of brimstone and melted car tires. You begin salivating like a dog; not so much because it’s so "delicious," but because your body wants to dilute the poison you’ve just stupidly begun to eat. After a few minutes, it feels as if someone’s taken a pipe-cleaner to the inside of your sinuses.

Thus, it wasn’t just be chance that the woman at the Zuckerladen called it richtig fieser Salzlakritz (really nasty salt licorice), and really, honestly wouldn’t let the children try it. Why spoil their innocent childish dreams of sweet, harmless licorice coils with the tongue-thrashing XXX masochism of the real thing?

And somehow, it’s delicious, and you want more. If you want more, visit this online shop. Not only can you order any sort of licorice you’d like in all shapes and sizes (from cats to houses to keys to crayons), you also get to delight in poetic product descriptions (slightly edited):

Soft salty Hindelooper diamonds,

pithy sweet Snekers

and real full sweet ship’s knots.

Very exclusive!

Make your choice when

you check out (3 or 1/1/1).

The First German Joys Prize in Lyrical Amateur Translation

I have the pleasure of now awarding the First German Joys Prize in Lyrical Amateur Translation. 

We English speakers are lucky.  Why?  Because almost everywhere we go, people translate guidebooks, inscriptions, pamphlets, and announcements into our language.  Often they are wise enough not to hire a professional native speaker to do this.  Instead they hire someone whom they know, or who has an enthusiasm for the subject matter.   This amateur translator then creates a surreal, often gorgeous new work of human creativity.  It is this process, which I will call Lyrical Amateur Translation, that I want to celebrate with this Prize.

This last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a wedding in the small Belgian town of Hastière.  Although Hastière claims to be the "Pearl of the Upper Meuse Valley" (and it is quite lovely), the website has had only 3,455 visitors.   (Can’t we do something about that, Joysters?)

The wedding itself was held in the local church, a modest gray-stone structure whose foundations date back 1000 years.  I picked up an information brochure called "The Romanesque Abbey Church of Hastiere," originally written by Abbé Pirotte, head of the "Gallery of our Past." 

The French original of this guide to the Church was translated in 1985 into English and lovingly-hand-typed onto sheets of foldeed A4 paper with a pink cover.  Abbé Pirotte hired a man whose name I will not post here (for fear of being misinterpreted), but who is indisputably a master of lyrical amateur translation.  Here is Page 14, the final page of the tour of the church grounds (I’ve tried to reproduce the formatting as much as possible):

Dear Pilgrim and Friend,

You are leaving now this church where you have been seeing what a fruit is created by the labour, the faith, and the hope of the men. 

Firmly fixed on the side of the Meuse, one foot on land, the other in water, the church is there as a place of welcome.

This monument had talked to you a different language from the one of everyday life.

For ten centuries, it had been contemplating the passing men.

It saw their misdeeds during the successive wars.

It has growed and acquired various artistic works through the ages.

But whether in the Middle Ages or whether in the twentieth century,

         the same faith impels the men,

         the same hope drive them out of their limits

It is the same belief that only God can give the man

         his real reason of living

that brings the man his unlimited size.