“A Cake with an Ejection Seat”

That’s the title of this article in Spiegel (apparently not available online).

It tells the story of Dani, a Serbian air-defense soldier who shot down an American F-117A stealth fighter. Dani says he always enjoyed playing around with computers, and one day discovered a small midification to the Serbs’ ancient Soviet air-defense radar system that would make it possible to detect a stealth fighter. He suggested the change to the army brass.

In true Joseph Heller fashion, they told him to bugger off. But he tweaked his own unit’s machines anyway , and lo and behold, became the only person ever to shoot down an F-117A (the pilot was later rescued). He was promoted, but transferred out of the air defense troops because he had modified the computer system without permission.

Now Dani has returned to civilian life. He lives in the town of Kovin, near Belgrade, and runs a bakery. His best-selling cake?

The F-117A special, naturally:

[h/t Mica]

Moments in Gummy Bear History

…courtesy of Hans Traxler’s 1992 book "The Life and Times of Gummy Bears," one of the few German comic books to have been translated into English. I have the German version, but I’ll translate the captions into English.

"Ivan the Terrible went mad when he realized that he could not impress gummy bears with his tried-and-true torture methods."


"Through contact with humans, gummy bears began to develop all the afflictions of civilized life." (overweight, fear of flying, tennis elbow, weltschmerz)



Miraculous Self-Splitting Case of Beer

Ahh, glorious German beer. Bought most cheaply in crates of 18 to 24 bottles. The only problem is that these crates can be heavy and unwieldy, especially when they’re full of beer.

If you dropped one on a small child, for instance, tragedy could strike — you could lose several bottles, if not the entire case. Fortunately, German ingenuity has left its mark here. Behold the Paulaner 20-bottle crate (here, full of Kristallweizen):


When you liftt up the golden handles on either side of the top, something charming happens:


It splits safely into two halves, which are not only stable but easier to carry (in the above photo, I have returned the carry-handles to their "locked" position to make the separation mechanism clearer). The only problem is that for the uninitiated, like me, there is no warning this will happen. I picked up the handles of this case of beer at the store, and suddenly the bottom seemed to drop out of it. I quickly reached under the crate to stabilize it before I took a closer look, and saw that, indeed, the crate was designed to split apart in precisely this manner.

After that dawned on me, I was filled for admiration for the designer of this beer crate. Anyone happen to know who it is?

Primal Force: Volk

The word Volk (people, national community) is famously hard to translate into English. So famously hard to translate that it probably no longer needs to be translated.

I just heard a Deutschland RadioKultur documentary Urkraft Volk (G) on the history of the concept in Germany. It all started with the Roman historian Tacitus’ description of the Germanic peoples, in which he speculated that they must have been a native population, since their ‘blue eyes, reddish hair, and large, capable bodies’ seemed distinct from neighboring tribes. The notion of a unique, ancient Germanic habitus took on a life of its own in the 19th century. Hegel praised the "ardency" of the German Volk, Kleist called the German Volk purer than any other.

In the words of the moderator, the poets and thinkers gave their imprimatur to the discourse of "remote origins, purity, and superiority" that would be taken up by the white-knuckled ideologue of race and nation who began to flourish in the later 19th century. Here is where the notion of a Volkskörper ("people’s body") comes into play; the analogy of the entire group of humans of "Germanic" or "Aryan" descent to one large body. Of course a body must defends itself and cast out impurities; the nationalist thinker Julius Langbein said in 1900: "Life is a defensive struggle. One’s own blood wants to prevail against foreign blood; therefore Aryan blood wants to and will prevail against all other." It goes without saying that the "bloodstream" of the German Volkskörper must be purged of all elements "alien to the species," just as the Volksseele (national soul) must be purged of foreign philosophies and ideologies.

I think we all know where this led to. Let us, to paraphrase Gibbon, draw a veil before these unhallowed doings.

The documentary proposes that völkisch thinking is creeping back into the national discourse through four outlets. First, right-wing music, which is pretty open about the need to combat foreign and artfremde (alien to the species) people and ideas. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; What else are they going to sing about — butterflies? Second, fantasy novels and games. They’re generally harmless, but sometimes contain searches for roots and ancient mystical origins that have something of the folkish about them. Third, esoteric religious movements such as the New Heathenism. If you’re not convinced by the völkisch theory that Jesus wasn’t Jewish, then you have little choice but to chuck Christianity and go back to the ancient Druidic/Wicca religion of your forefathers, which has the added advantage of a lot of wicked-cool accessories of varying authenticity (runes, witchcraft, robes, crystals, ancient healing secrets, etc). Fourth, the crusty old national-conservatives, whose press organ is the Junge Freiheit and think-tank the Institut fuer Staatspolitik.

I don’t have much to add here; I just thought I’d link to this this thoughtful documentary.

Toxophily and Dunghill Cogk

Sure, the foreign countries are full of pretty churches and mountains. But what brings me the most inspiration is their uninhibited use of English. A few examples from Greece:


The ‘Super Toxophily Set’. Perhaps your children can use it to create poisoned arrows. Since they’re too young for jail, what better way to eliminate your enemies?  Which would explain the slogan at the bottom of the package:


It turns out, though, that Toxophily is just an obscure word for archery. I picture a toy factory owner calling up Stavros, who has a bunch of old English books back from his student days at Birmingham in the 30s, and asking him "Stavros, my brother, what is the English word for the making-moving of the arrows with the bow?"

And now to a picture I like to call "Hold the Dunghill — But bring on the Cogk": 


Klaus Pfeiffer, born in Germany, citizen of Naxos, artist with the FluxusNaxos movement, with a poster for his Youtube project, "Water is Life":


Watch Klaus make shoes from water bottles, and ‘kinetic sculptures’ from beer cans here:

A German Looks at Democracy in Boise, Idaho

Via signandsight, an English translation of Ekkehard Knörer’s review of Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary "State Legislature" — an almost four-hour long film about the inner workings of the Idaho State Legislature.  Knörer notes with interest that most Idaho politicians are genuine citizen-legislators (fairly common in the Western U.S.), and the close attention they pay to constituent complaints.  He wraps up his review thus:

"State Legislature" documents both the idea and the praxis of politics in America, showing how even – or precisely – at the semi-professional state level, the two are inseparably linked. The politicians we watch are shown as embodiments of the indissoluble interweaving of praxis and idea. The omnipresent reference to the founding fathers of the constitution, the ever-present antagonism – even in conservative Idaho – between the principles of freedom and control, all of this determines the most nitty-gritty debates and decision-making. Even if you don’t share many or even most of the often reactionary positions and attitudes expressed, "State Legislature" shows what holds not only this state, but the whole of the United States together: the idea that procedures must exist that give people a hearing in matters that concern them. The grandeur of this idea shines through the nuts and bolts of political workings, and Europeans can only look on in astonishment.

Kempowski on Gloomy Literature and Death

From a long interview (G) with the gravely-ill Walter Kempowski (my translation):

You have the gift of humor. Why does everything have to be so gloomy in German literature?

Gloomy and ideological. Germans so often had to twist themselves to Christianity, Communism, Nazism — who could possibly keep a sense of humor during all that?


How do you want to die?

Like [Theodor] Fontane. While eating, he told his daughter: "I’m just going to go into the other room." When she looked in after a quarter-hour, he lay there on the bed, dead. I probably won’t have it that easy.