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david's really interesting pages | palaeoart, animation and stuff
david's really interesting pages | palaeoart, animation and stuff

German revealed: ist/soll

Just marveling over the efficiency of certain German expressions… specifically ist/soll.

In English (with the help of the fantastic LEO discussions):
– “target vs actual business results analysis”
– “variance analysis”
– “nominal-actual value analysis”
– “deviation appraisal”
but most interestingly, this case of translating “Motivation entsteht über Ist-Soll-Diskrepanzen” in the context of personal motivation and time management.

Don Tyler suggests this apt translation:
“Motivation arises from the discrepancy between what is and what you feel should be.”

Happy New Year’s!

Berlin is quite special when it comes to New Year’s, though not in any sentimental, kitschy way. Everyone stocks up on fireworks and lights them up at the magic hour. Though most people do this in the spirit of celebration, there’s a sizable portion of the population who enjoys taking passersby under fire, or tossing fairly powerful firecrackers under cars.

No matter, its a fantastic evening and we had a great time. The video is a collage of our New Year’s, and I think it captures the groove. The fairly stationary video segment towards the right is a zoom of the celebrations over at Brandenburger Tor, and in the middle is the TV tower at Alex.







AWN; World Cup and Culture Shock

Click the beepBall to read my post at AWN.

coments; inglorious basterds (spoilers)

I watched Inglorious Basterds last night. The trailers had left me wary, as they were all tightly oriented around placative macho motives of revenge… combine that with the war movie genre and Hitlers being slaughtered by Jews and well… I was cautious. On top of that, I live here in the heart of Germany – the land that impulsively contemplates its belly-button, as the (poorly interpreted) German saying  goes. Most reviews had been reserved to negative, and close friends had given unmistakable warning; gratuitous violence, macho fairy tale, etc.

So of course I went to see it, and humbly report that I have a new favorite Tarantino film. There’s loads to talk about, from masterful cinematic moments and surprisingly shoddy sets (that didn’t bother me in the least) but I’ll concentrate on one aspect: the German identity.

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German – a clean room with perfect corners

In the last Spiegel, Daniel Tammet praises the German language as “a clean room with perfect, 90 degree corners”, “orderly and straightforward” and ‘poetic, transparent and elegant”.

So many cliches! But… they fit the mold. I’m reminded of this every time I try to explain yet another irregular English something – German is wonderfully straightforward. Its refreshing how a rigid language like German and a quirly mish-mash of influences like English can both achieve poetry from fully different approaches. Interesting enough, Tammet is a savant with Asperger syndrom who is learning German in one week and will appear on television to discuss brain research and autism.

How good is my Hitler?


My progress on Hitler over at the modo forums has triggered some heated reactions which go beyond the purpose of that forum, so I thought I’d formulate my views here. I understand the emotions that can be involved enough to admit that I don’t always understand the emotions involved. I’ve confronted Neo-Nazis at a market in Schadensleben, given the Hitler-greeting in East Berlin. I’ve also been attacked in a Dutch train, ignored in a Paris restaurant and escorted from a party in New York because I “am from Germany”.  My Russian wife was considered a traitor for wanting to study in East Germany. A young (black) German exchange student to America was asked in ernest if he were a Nazi. I’ve been reading about a vigilent policeman who opened his front door to a thug (likely neo-nazi) who stabbed him inches from his heart. I’ve witnessed violent racism in then-Czechoslovakia and Poland, and less violent (but no less volatile) racism in the USA.

I can certainly understand caution when confronted with this kind of portrait and wieslaw_ is very right in asking in what context this figure will appear. It would be one thing to be confronted with Hitler in a heroic pose and another to see him within an ad that calls on us all to be vigilant in defending human rights, which is the case here. Sounds straight forward, but I won’t pretend that there isn’t a large realm of grey zone. The readiness to engage such critique varies greatly from culture to culture.

There are endless facets to consider – freedom of speech being high up there, but also respect for victims or – more likely in 2009 – for the traumatized children of victims as was the case in the New York party. Then there’s the need to differentiate between Nazis and neo-Nazis and the German nation as a whole – a nation that first roused itself to wave its national flag while hosting the World Cup in 2006 and understandably tires from being stigmatized.
There’s the issue of being able to digitally create images of sufficient realism that they can be misunderstood as real. There’s the issue of the rights involved in being able to put words in a historical figure’s mouth and make it look like an authentic documentary. There’s the issue of stylization as a means of implicating further clues as to the author’s intent and intended audience – above we see my own caricaturized take on the more realistic portrait. Of course, these things are progressing full speed ahead; in cinema, documentaries, you tube films, even forensics.


Here’s an interesting and mildly related action from the recent past: a re-print and distribution of a national socialist newspaper “Der Angriff” (The Attack) from 1927 in today’s modern Germany. Imagine going to your local news shop and being confronted with a polemic headline decrying Jewish treason and eschewing the nation’s superiority. At first they wanted to publish the paers uncommmented, but in the end they included a cover page to establish context – making sure no one mistook the message. Personally, I feel this to be an unfortunate but understandable decision.

Having to interpret for one’s self is so much more powerful, I feel. But then… many people haven’t learned such skills.

That Pinnochio sketch is apparently from Hitler himself, a failed art student and adamant admirer of Walt Disney.