True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country

Posted: 2010-06-18 13:50   |  More posts about far-right germany idiots india oddities politics

Photo: Reuters

A select few quotations from a BBC article on Hitler's bizarre popularity in India:

Latest reports say Bollywood is now planning to cash in. A film - Dear Friend Hitler - is due to be released by the end of the year, focusing on the dictator's relationship with his mistress Eva Braun.


It's hard to narrow down what makes the dictator popular in India, but some young people say they are attracted by his "discipline and patriotism".

Most of them are, however, quick to add that they do not approve of his racial prejudices and the Holocaust in which millions of Jews were killed.


Nearly all the booksellers and publishers contacted in India say it is mainly young people who read Mein Kampf. It's not just the autobiography - books on the Nazi leader, T-shirts, bags, bandanas and key-rings are also in demand. A shop in Pune, called Teens, says it sells nearly 100 T-shirts a month with Hitler's image on them.

Dimple Kumari, a research associate in Pune, has not read Mein Kampf but she would wear the Hitler T-shirt out of admiration for him. She calls him "a legend" and tries to put her admiration for him in perspective: "The killing of Jews was not good, but everybody has a positive and negative side."

I have to say, I find this peculiar naivety fascinating. I also can't imagine what it must be like for a Western traveller to be walking down a street in, say, Bangalore, spotting a few people coming towards him clad in Hitler Apparel. Indeed, staying with Bangalore, since it's such a huge IT hub... Should we expect to see originally well-meaning and innocuous (to Indians, that is) photographs of young IT workers on their IBM or Microsoft campus, posing happily with their corporate swipe-cards dangling from from their neck, the strap perfectly framing a portrait of their "Dear Friend Hitler"? Indeed, do such places, renowned for their lack of dress-code in the West, already have a strict dress-code in places like India, in order to prevent such embarrassments? I wonder.

And, before I go, here's another great article from Der Spiegel on the same phenomenon, only this time in Pakistan. Yep, they're at it too. Who knows - perhaps this new-found love for the 20th century's most hated, genocidal dictator will only serve to foster a new friendship of shared values between India and Pakistan, leading to a stable peace! Surely no harm could come of future generations of two of the world's most antagonistic and unstable nuclear-countries worshipping a genocidal, maniacal, militaristic dictator!

Brings a whole new sense to that Vonnegut quote...


Rette deine Freiheit

Posted: 2010-01-05 22:19   |  More posts about art censorship computers design digital rights germany internet politics words

At the moment in Germany, there is fierce opposition growing against plans by the CDU to implement internet censorship under the guise of attacking the spread of child pornography. A movement championed by the German Piratenpartei has dubbed ex-minister for family affairs Ursula von der Leyen "Zensursula", a portmandeau of Zensur (Censor) and Ursula, and is referring to the CDU's plans as Stasi 2.0, a nod to the brutal secret police which operated in former East Germany.

Not only is there to be a secret list of blocked websites, such as exists in Australia, but the government is pushing for more data to be collected from citizens and retained for a long period of time.

A video which caught my attention a while back was entitled Du bist Terrorist (You are a terrorist). With soft ambient music playing, and deceptively pleasantly designed imagery, the two-minute video parodies the Du bist Deutschland ad-campaign with a soft, reassuring voice informing you of what the German government has in store for you, in terms of heavier and more invasive surveillance -- because You are a terrorist.

Earlier this week I found that the same people had created a new video in the same vein, entitled Rette deine Freiheit (Save your freedom). The video focuses much more on the coming internet censorship in Germany than just data retention and physical surveillance.

Since there was no English translation available, I decided to translate it and re-upload to Youtube. The result is below:

The translation is by no means perfect, but at least it's something. There were a few tricky problems with it:

  • Einfach wegschauen: Literally "simply look away", the video describes this as the method tried-and-tested by members of families with a history of domestic abuse. I was going to translate it as "simply look the other way" in its first instance, since this is the closest phrase in English that pertains to such a situation. However, this doesn't exactly capture the double-meaning employed in the video, since it implies wilful ignorance which isn't quite applicable to what the government is doing, so I decided to settle on "simply block it out". I'm not sure I'm happy with this, however. Suggestions?
  • In the sentence, "In Prävention, Therapie und Personal investiert hätte dies vielen Opfern helfen können: Reinste Verschwendung", the meaning that is sarcastically implied is that the money that could be invested in preventative measures, therapy and personelle is much better spent on building an internet block. I don't think I captured this very well.

In any event, there's likely to be an official translation soon (I just saw an "Englisch (bald verfügbar)" notice at the top of the official page now -- perhaps my emailing asking for a transcript of the video got them in a rush) and these issues will cease to be.

One last thing -- if you are interested in learning more about the situation in Germany regarding internet freedom and the child pornography scare, I'd not only urge you to visit the links above, but also this shocking, but morbidly fascinating account of one techie's work in the murkiest of subcultures. Thankfully, he doesn't go into detail about actual child abuse, but instead details exactly how child pornography rings work, using the internet and computers.

Put simply, it proves what anyone with a clue already knows: current proposals for internet censorship will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on paedophiles and child pornographers and will only serve to infringe the rights of normal, law-abiding internet users.

Thanks to Áine and Patricia for help with one or two minor parts of the translation.


Die Stimme des Klaviers

Posted: 2009-10-07 18:20   |  More posts about art berlin computers experimental german language germany linguistics news oddities

Peter Ablinger, an Austrian composer currently residing in Berlin, has done something rather interesting: he made a recording of a child reading the Proclamation of the European Environmental Criminal Court, then invented a mechanical piano player capable of reading notes in a very high time resolution from a computer.

The computer performs a frequency analysis of the sound spectrum, aided by Ablinger himself, which is then fed into the piano player and out comes the child's voice.

<object width="490" height="344"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowfullscreen="true" allowScriptAccess="always" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

(Video in German with English subtitles)

While I wouldn't have much hope for people trying to work out what the piano is "saying" without the aid of seeing the words as they're heard, I think it's a pretty interesting experiment. The auto-player in itself is something to be marvelled at. Neat!


Satire als Rhetorik

Posted: 2009-05-31 01:25   |  More posts about german language germany politics

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen haben eine neue Werbung für die kommende Europawahl produziert, die wahrscheinlich ziemlich kontrovers wird. Schau mal:

Wie finden Sie das? Haben sie den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen oder haben sie nur eine krasse, opportunistische Werbung gemacht?


Jan Vormann's Legowelt

Posted: 2009-05-21 12:22   |  More posts about architecture art berlin germany oddities

Jan Vormann goes around Berlin, patching up war-time holes with Lego.


Head over to the Jarmuschek exhibition space for more info, and this Jorymon blogpost for more pictures.


Berlin as an outsider

Posted: 2009-05-16 15:16   |  More posts about berlin germany ireland politics words

6 months ago, there was a great article written in the Irish Times' magazine by Louise East, who, in her own words:

...with another London winter looming and my lease running out, I decided I needed a change. Within days, I had arranged a sublet on a cheap apartment in Berlin and found a friend gracious enough to give my boxes basement space.

After this article, which is definitely worth the read if you haven't come across it before, there wasn't a peep out of her, and I'd become suspicious that she'd perhaps fallen prey to Berlin's wilder side and been checked into a mental institution. Thankfully, that was just my imagination running riot, and she's back today with another article:

Six months on, I’m in the throes of a full-blown crush and like all newly besotted people, I’m kind of insufferable. On a bad day, I’ll argue that Berlin is woven from a blend of cashmere and unicorn milk known to solve nine out of 10 Middle Eastern crises and eliminate e-mail spam.

Apparently, the shower in her profoundly beautiful apartment was going on the blink. She writes of the German work ethic:

... Ten minutes later, a plumber phoned and told me he was terribly sorry, but it would not be possible for him to attend to my situation until perhaps 3pm. At that point, it was noon.

And of the unique reaction to the world-wide downturn that Berlin has taken:

A recent article in Der Spiegel online confirmed what I guessed already; the recession is not hitting Berlin in the same way it is affecting the rest of the world. With jobs not there to be lost, and consumerism already scaled back, Berlin appears to be practically immune to the black panic gripping the rest of the world. Or, as one gallery owner quoted in the Der Spiegel piece puts it: “Berlin is now the only place in the world you can go where everyone isn’t depressed. In this evolutionary cycle, they’re perfectly adapted for survival.” Clearly, much credit must go to the quality of Berlin’s social services (high) and its price of living (low) but increasingly, I wonder whether some tiny, seemingly trivial differences may, in fact, be the opposable thumbs of city evolution.

Thanks to John for bringing this new article to my attention!


Internet Censorship - a Wikileaks editorial

Posted: 2009-03-30 22:24   |  More posts about censorship germany internet politics

Today, an editorial was posted on Wikileaks highly critical of the German and Australian governments' pursuit of a rigid system of censorship for internet access in those countries. It describes bounding down the slippery slope from the implementation of these schemes in the interest of censoring child pornography, to the point where "the Australian government's "Minister for censorship", Senator Stephen Conroy, has admitted that fully half of the sites on the secret list are unrelated to child pornography", and finishes up with a few good reasons why censorship shouldn't be considered especially in the case of combatting child pornography online.

I have posted the entire article below, for posterity and as a mirror to the wikileaks site (which seems to have gone down with the strain):



berlin.unlike any other

Posted: 2009-03-30 15:34   |  More posts about architecture art berlin germany

As probably anyone who knows me can attest to, I'm something of a Berlin-fanatic. It's most likely insufferable in real life, hearing someone go on and on about the virtues of this great city, but at least I can harp on about it here in little conversations with myself to my heart's content, in the knowledge that it shall at worst cause nobody annoyance and at best perhaps prove useful to one or two of the internet's many lost souls.

First up in what is likely to be a long string of love-letters to Germany's capital city is a descovery I made the other day: the website berlin.unlike. With a tag-line stating its aim to be the "definitive city guide for the mobile generation" (whatever the fuck that means), it provides articles on all the usual stuff: where to eat, where to club and where to stay, but also some interesting guides on "wellness" and "thrills."

What first brought me to the site was an article about Haus Biesenthal, a stunning manor-house on the outskirts of Berlin. Seemingly bought and renovated by a group of artists and architects, it is "supposed to be the center point of an ecological special zone", the artists having preserved the facade of the house while completely revamping everything else:


Inside, there's impressive minimalist architecture complemented with rather busy interior design: it seems the only decorations adorning the walls are the artists' own works:


Incredible stuff. Apparently the house serves as a kind of art gallery, and the third exhibition, featuring the art of 20 different artists, will begin on the 5th July. My exams finish at the end of July - I find myself hoping the exhibition will go on for a few months...

Another feature of the website which I particularly liked were the guides to Berlin written by local celebrities such as Lars Eidinger and DJ Shir Khan, who list bars, restaurants and attractions of Berlin which are notable and which the average person may not know about. They also explain what they find special about these places in a paragraph or two (most interestingly in Eidinger's guide, as a slightly unusual case in that he was born and grew up in Berlin).

This blog post is simply an unfairly shallow scratch at the surface of this wonderful website which demands far more than simply a cursory glance. Indeed, it turns out it's more of a network than a single website: there are .unlike websites for Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, London, Miami, Paris, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Vienna.

Konrad Fischer
GalerieKonrad Fischer Galerie