kottke.org posts about Germany

When they used to display people in zoosJul 10 2012

In 1880, the top attraction at a zoo in Hamburg, Germany was an Inuit family who performed seal hunts and other Eskimo-like activities for huge crowds.

At the Hagenbeck Tiergarten -- a private zoo in Hamburg -- the Inuit were the top attraction. The crowds likely viewed them as primitives, inferior to the cultured men and women of the Old World. "Who knows what these children of the roughest North may be thinking about their highly educated European fellow humans," wrote one German newspaperman. He was right about one thing: The Germans had no idea. Even as they gawked at the Inuit, the Inuit were peering back at them -- and taking notes.

Abraham Ulrikab was, in fact, more accomplished than most of the people paying to stare at him. Raised at a mission in Hebron, Labrador, he was 35 years old, spoke three languages, dabbled in cartography, and played a mean fiddle. He was also a church-going Christian who, in his real life, had long since abandoned the sealskin boots and parka that were his costume at the zoo. Since he could read and write, he kept a diary, documenting his experience as a human exhibit.

As with many other interactions between Europeans and native North Americans, this zoo experiment ended quickly and very badly. (thx, eva)

Michael Lewis on Germany's economy (and possible fascination with shit)Aug 26 2011

Michael Lewis continues his financial tour of the world with a stop in Germany. What, he asks, will the Germans do about the weakening financial situation in Europe and, more to Lewis' point, why will they do it?

The deputy finance minister further disturbs my wild assumptions about him by speaking clearly, even recklessly, about subjects most finance ministers believe it is their job to obscure. He offers up, without much prompting, that he has just finished reading the latest unpublished report by I.M.F. investigators on the progress made by the Greek government in reforming itself.

"They have not sufficiently implemented the measures they have promised to implement," he says simply. "And they have a massive problem still with revenue collection. Not with the tax law itself. It's the collection which needs to be overhauled."

Greeks are still refusing to pay their taxes, in other words. But it is only one of many Greek sins. "They are also having a problem with the structural reform. Their labor market is changing-but not as fast as it needs to," he continues. "Due to the developments in the last 10 years, a similar job in Germany pays 55,000 euros. In Greece it is 70,000." To get around pay restraints in the calendar year the Greek government simply paid employees a 13th and even 14th monthly salary-months that didn't exist. "There needs to be a change of the relationship between people and the government," he continues. "It is not a task that can be done in three months. You need time." He couldn't put it more bluntly: if the Greeks and the Germans are to coexist in a currency union, the Greeks need to change who they are.

Donald Duck in Germany: "a bird of arts and letters"May 06 2011

They love Donald Duck in Germany -- not so much for the cartoons, but the comics, which were deliberately smartened up in translation by the great Erika Fuchs:

In the years following World War II, American influence in the newly formed Federal Republic was strong, but German cultural institutions were hesitant to sanction one U.S. import: the comic book. A law banning comics was proposed, and some American comics were eventually burned by school officials worried about their effects on students' morals and ability to express themselves in complete sentences...

A Ph.D. in art history, Dr. Fuchs had never laid eyes on a comic book before the day an editor handed her a Donald Duck story, but no matter. She had a knack for breathing life into the German version of Carl Barks's duck. Her talent was so great she continued to fill speech bubbles for the denizens of Duckburg (which she renamed Entenhausen, based on the German word for "duck") until shortly before her death in 2005 at the age of 98.

[Comics publisher] Ehapa directed Dr. Fuchs to crank up the erudition level of the comics she translated, a task she took seriously. Her interpretations of the comic books often quote (and misquote) from the great classics of German literature, sometimes even inserting political subtexts into the duck tales. Dr. Fuchs both thickens and deepens Mr. Barks's often sparse dialogues, and the hilariousness of the result may explain why Donald Duck remains the most popular children's comic in Germany to this day.

Think Calvin and Hobbes and their philosophical wagon rides.

Photography criticism from the StasiApr 14 2009

Harald Hauswald, an East German photographer, published in West Germany a book of his work in 1987. The East German secret police, the Stasi, put Hauswald under surveillance and even went so far as to produce a detailed critique of his book, as a photo critic might. Joerg Colberg recently met with the photographer and obtained a copy of the Stasi report on Hauswald's work. From the report's introduction:

Especially the selection of the images gives away that we are dealing with a book that has a long-term purpose. People gathered everything somber, oppressive, from poor neighbourhoods, or primitive they could find. It seems apparent that color was intentionally omitted, because only black and white reproduction stresses the supposedly gray, bleak and dismal reality of East Berlin.

It's interesting to hear the charge of propaganda coming from the secret police of a Communist dictatorship.

Colorful German banknotes from the 1920sFeb 19 2009

In Germany in the 1920s, towns, banks, and companies printed their own money called notgeld.

Notgeld was mainly issued in the form of (paper) banknotes. Sometimes other forms were used, as well: coins, leather, silk, linen, stamps, aluminium foil, coal, and porcelain; there are also reports of elemental sulfur being used, as well as all sorts of re-used paper and carton material.

A Flickr user has uploaded hundreds of examples of the notgeld notes collected by his wife's family; they're so colorful! (via design observer)

Gunter Grass: How I Spent the War,Jun 04 2007

Gunter Grass: How I Spent the War, a first-person account of an SS recruit during WWII.

Update: Here's some biographical information about Grass, who is a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. (thx, red)

What are people smuggling into Germany? TwiceMar 15 2007

What are people smuggling into Germany? Twice as much cocaine as last year, stuffed lion cubs, and wine made from cobras.

Nine months after the World Cup, GermanyFeb 22 2007

Nine months after the World Cup, Germany is experiencing a baby boom, which is good news because Germany's birth rate is among the lowest in the world.

If Strangemaps wasn't such a reliable source,Feb 20 2007

If Strangemaps wasn't such a reliable source, I'd think this was a hoax. A small part of East Germany lives on in the Caribbean. Cuba gave the tiny island to the GDR in 1972 while on a state visit to East Berlin and it wasn't mentioned in the German unification treaties. Commenters on the thread have found satellite images of the island in question, including this one.

A new book, Heil Hitler, The PigSep 18 2006

A new book, Heil Hitler, The Pig is Dead, deals with humor during Hitler's reign in Germany. "From an early stage, Germans were well aware of their government's brutality. And the country wasn't possessed by 'evil spirits' nor was it hypnotised by the Nazis' brilliant propaganda, he says. Hypnotized people don't crack jokes."

Video of a BMW that parallel parksMar 09 2006

Video of a BMW that parallel parks itself. No word on if this was influenced by Knight Rider, starring David Hasselholf, who is big in Germany.

The last surviving WWII Comanche code talker diesJul 22 2005

The last surviving WWII Comanche code talker dies. "The group of Comanche Indians from the Lawton area were selected for special duty in the U.S. Army to provide the Allies with a language that the Germans could not decipher."

Tags related to Germany:
World War II Nazis wars

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