Crowdfunding and me…

For a bit over 5 years, I’m more or less regularly participating in Crowdfunding campaigns. Most of the stuff is geeky technology or gaming things, but there were also art, music or fashion projects.

Kickstarter alone counts 89 successfully backed projects. Of those, these actually failed to deliver anything to me so far. (By that, I mean that I have actually given up any hope of receiving any useable product, to the point where I don’t expect to get anything at all):

  • "Pulse" Fudge dice ($15) The concept looked nifty enough. Alas, the creator apparently misjudged the difficulties of dealing with overseas manufacturers and eventually just gave up and disappeared. Sad, but really a not much of a loss. I kinda feel bad for the chap as I got the impression that he really tried.
  • Spinward Traveller TV Pilot ($15) Another fifteen bucks I won’t see again. The campaign spammed me with adverts to buy model space ships for further financing, showed me some badly edited scenes (apparently all actual filming got finished at last) and then amused me with links to pages where someone really got a hate-boner for the creator about allegedly constantly scamming potential TV production investors. I don’t know about that, at least something got done as far as I know…
  • MagNeo Adapter ($59) I am a bit upset about this one. It was supposed to deliver a mag-safe like USB-C adapter, but nothing has arrived so far at my doorstep and those who did receive something report that it’s shoddy and useless. The after-campaign updates suggest that the creators just ran into way more manufacturing problems than they expected, so instead of bad faith, I just ran into a bit of incompetency — which is always a risk with crowdfunding campaigns.
  • Intelligent Security Camera Cover (35 CHF) Ah.. this looked so easy and foolproof, but it got endlessly delayed and is now being shipped at an agonisingly slow rate — if at all. Hope Xavier had a nice time skiing. Yes, I strongly suspect a scam here, especially as there was an companion Indiegogo campaign and the creator netted half a million in all and now keeps complaining about lack of funds…

So… that is about 130 loss out of over 6.000 Euro I sank into crowdfunding over the years. About 2%, not too bad if I look at it that way.

Of course, there were also a few campaigns that only sort of delivered. I got the product, and it does what it says on the tin, but not well enough to be actually useable. (I'm looking at you, Lima.)

All in all, I’m pretty relaxed about crowdfunding by now though. There are a few projects that just take way longer than I ever expected, but the creators keep updating, explaining and communicating with their backers, so I’m not really worried. And projects like Matter, Secret Hitler, Scythe, Kung Fury and wonders like The Wrylon Robotical Illustrated Catalog of Botanical 'Bots really made the whole crowdfunding experience fun and rewarding for me. And how else would a project like the IT Barrier Tape come to life?

Terrifying German Culture Hour — Advertising

A while ago, I explained how we have fewer adbreaks here in german TV. Of course, we cought up a bit over the years, but it’s still a socialist paradise in comparison. But there is also of course a distinct… german-ness to the ads I was seeing as a kid and young adult. Even when these ads were supposed to take place in a big city in the USA:

I, and probably a lot of my german friends were utterly convinced that this is America. Cars, cool people, sunshine, car telephones, the works. Nothing in this ad struck me as anything but American.

Boy was I wrong. My girlfriend insisted that all the US kids were constantly weirded out by this odd german ad. How can this be? Nothing german ever makes it across the pond, right? Well, I went to the Internet and found out that this is indeed a work by  Pahnke & Partners. („Pahnke“ being such a cliché german name, I still think it must be a subsidy of Pahlgruber & Söhne)

Still, we also had ads that were much more distinctively german. They then mangled Mozart for fun and profit (with very subjective measures of fun):

And yes, every brand needs it’s distinctive jingle, here’s the one for Lagnese ice cream:

(„Nogger“ is, by the way, named after it’s nougat core. Pop culture germany was and often still is ignorant when it comes to how to handle race issues. That slogan roughly translates to „get a Nogger on“, and it still boggles my mind.)

At least, that song got a country makeover to make it better:

Eventually though, german advertisers cought on and some brands went for.. something different.

Ever heard of „Einstürzende Neubauten“? (translates to „collapsing new buildings“) If not, here’s a sample of their work:

The lead is Blixa Bargeld, and he did amazing spots for the DIY chain Hornbach:

In case you wondered: He’s reading copytext from the stores catalog.

Later on, Hornbach goes full on feelings:

And before you doubt me, yes, germans are pretty serious about nails:

So, modern german advertising has understood how to do viral buzz. And some agencies are really good at turning a brand around.

I live in Berlin, and Berliners love to complain about the BVG, the state-owned company that runs public transit. In fact, Ton Steine Scherben, the band from a previous installment actually have a song that calls for actual revolution over not paying the tickets:

Of course, everything is relative. Aforementioned american girlfriend is happy and content that the U-Bahn here isn’t on actual fire:

But the BVG social media team has managed to turn things around. They actually run a store where you can buy various things with their trademarked seat pattern. And who wouldn’t want to wear this tanktop?

They also maintain quite the twitter feed and occasionally make even international splashes with their Youtube videos (The only line you need to understand is „Is mir egal“, which translates to „I don’t care“.):

And of course, classical music:

Hey, JollyOrc, that is no classical music, that is.. horrible 80ies synthpop!“

Well, you’re not quite correct. This is a cover of „Ohne Dich“, one of the bigger hits during the 80ies, originally by the Münchner Freiheit:

Every german in the 80ies knew this song, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t quite a few millenials who got conceived to this..

Of course, the opening salvo for this kind of viral, very german advertising came from Edeka, an until then, solidly square supermarket chain:

Friedrich Liechtenstein is a bonafide classical actor, artist and all around cool dude. But please, pretty-please, don’t confuse him with this swiss dude:

This ad ran so often in german TV that the inevitable happened: A eurotrash music video:

 

Terrifying German Culture Hour — Subversiveness

Today, I’ll tell you about the close relationship of the really popular „Schlager“ genre and, well, critical anti-establishment voices. But first, I need to take a slight detour. With cat content.

Well, cat-and-mouse content.

Regardless if you’re a german or US-american reader of this blog, you probably know Tom&Jerry. And the americans among you probably know this intro from your childhood:

If you’re a german reader, you will probably say: Hey, waitaminute… where’s the cake? The flowers? The catchy voice of Udo Jürgens?

Fear not, here it is:

See, dear american readers, german public tv thought that the original intro sequence was a little bland, lacking a proper introduction of what we should expect from the show. So they cut a little sequence together and added the refrain from one of the songs of the (actually austrian) national treasure Udo Jürgens: „Vielen Dank, für die Blumen“ (Thank you for the flowers)

Now, the refrain is basically a flowery reaction of someone who’s just been handed a shit sandwich. Or generally is coping with bad news the best way one can. In the end, it’s a really catchy tune that everyone of my generation associates with wacky cat-and-mouse animations. And the musical style of is very much a prime example of what a bourgeoisie-supporting Schlager should be. It’s comforting, it talks about inconsequential worries, lost love..

and, of course, Heimat:

(Nitpickers will tell me that Heino should be labelled Volksmusic, but frankly, he’s Volksmusik-dressed Schlager)

What we were missing from the Tom&Jerry intro were the whole lyrics of the same song. Because the individual verses tell the story of how & why said shit sandwich was being delivered in the first place: Trying to seduce the boss’s secretary — get fired! Trying to pick up the loveliest girl in the bar — who turns out to have a deep bass voice and is named „Dieter“. (sadly, casual trans- and homophobia was still a thing in the 70ies) Here’s the full thing, complete with musical cartoon sound effects:

Which brings us finally back to the topic of today: Subversiveness. Good art nearly always has a good heap of that in it, and Schlager is no exception to that, even though a lot of people miss this.

Here’s another song by Udo:

Even without speaking german, you’ll pick up bits & pieces like „New York“, „Hawaii“, „Jeans“ and so on. This song is about a father who walks out after dinner to pick a cigarettes, only to realize that… life is boring, and he never did something extraordinary. Why not just leave the wife and kids, see the world, never come back?

In the end, he just buys those cigarettes from a vending machine around the corner and gets back inside, through the staircase full of stuffiness and the smell of floor polish, to watch Dalli Dalli with the family.

Or that song called Greek Wine, which is chock full of sirtaki and happy-but-just-so-slightly melancholic:

If you’re at a party in germany, with people older than 40, this will be played. And everyone will love it and be happy about it.

Except it’s about the dilemma of foreign guest workers. Germany invited those into germany after WWII, because gee, somehow a large portion of the german men were either dead, prisoners of war or too shellshocked to be of any practical use. Those workers were at once both welcomed but also resented and had a very hard time to integrate into german society, constantly longing for their home, but also knowing that they are kinda stuck in Germany. It’s a song that addressed a very real problem that is still being felt right now, several decades later.

And even though very few of those happy drunken people at that party next to you, shouting „Griechischer Weeeeeiiin!“ at the top of their lungs think about that sad fact, it still gets through to them, at least sometimes.

If that isn’t subversive, I don’t know what is.

As another example, but in a different genre, take Rio Reiser, one of the great intellectuals of german music:

This is a song about all the silly things he’d do if he were King of Germany. There’s the champagne for breakfast, having a birthday party every day, putting his favourite show on TV 247. But there’s also biting Ronny (Reagan) into the leg, abolishing the military, heartfelt critique of some parts of german public tv, and so on.

When he performed with his band Ton Steine Scherben, things got a bit more on the nose: No Power for No One!

Facts you should know about this song and this band:

  • current vice president of the german parliament Claudia Roth was their manager
  • Keine Macht für Niemand“ is a recurring headline to be used whenever there’s a row between politicans
  • You remember that axe-on-table thing from the installment about Shows? That was Nikel Pallat, one of the bands singers..

Still, König von Deutschland is another one of those songs drunken germans will scream at you during parties. So be prepared.

Oh, and before you leave: Heino is still around, although he adjusted his style just a tiny bit

I’d dub this the best cover of Paloma, but then, there's still these two boys from saxony

Bob and the Internet

This is the story of Bob: Bob is active in her chosen field, which exposes her to some wider audience. As Bob does things that people value, she has a podium on which to speak and she uses it to some effect.

Alas, Bob has a problem. For some reason, some folks don’t like her. Where she posts, there are often arguments, accusations of some kind, to the point where people publicly get into (verbal) fights about the perceived innocence or guilt of Bob and others.

Bob of course defends herself, and friends of hers join in, calling those out who deal in reprehensible behaviour. She makes a convincing case that she is the victim here, and gets increasingly vocal about it over time.

Eventually, friends become enemies, communities splinter and sometimes even the police needs to get involved when some people cross lines into doxxing, actual death threats or worse.

Poor Bob, you probably think.

But maybe we should take a dispassionate look at Bob. We may find that sometimes, she is either completely on the defence. Mostly though, Bob is doing full-on attacks on those who have slighted her.

For her, people are apparently either useful, background noise or, well, enemies. And once you are her enemy, or are not immediately distancing yourself from those enemies, Bob will remember you forever.

Occasionally, Bob will admit to err on factual things, but she certainly is always right in her assessment of interpersonal relations. And yes, she is the undoubtedly the victim here, because, have you seen what Steve did?

If a situation escalates, it is never Bobs fault. If people cry foul, they are harassers. If they want to have no part of the drama, they are enablers. If someone on her side oversteps some line, it is their fault, certainly not Bobs for inciting them.

Still poor Bob?

Look up the vocabulary that describes an Abuser. You will find terms like Gaslighting. Victim Playing, DARVO, Stalking, Belittling, Controlling who is allowed to talk with whom.. If you’re online, you will also find all the rhetoric tricks too: Hiding behind technicalities, ad hominem attacks, Whataboutism and so on.

Bob portrays all the quality of a narcissistic, highly abusive person.

There are many Bobs online, and I am often not sure if they are simply broken persons or just plain evil.

Before I get to know a Bob, I usually assume that she simply has problems parsing emotions through text, that I didn’t make my point or argument clear enough. Because I have that problem myself: Often enough, I don’t know how the other person wanted me to perceive them, what they really wanted to say.

Online interactions are often fleeting or brief. That means that I miss a half-sentence or misread things. English isn’t my first language, and often enough, I converse with people who are also non native english speakers. So I allow for a wide range of misinterpretations, attribute to human error what could also be malice.

Sadly enough, that plays right into Bobs hand, reinforcing the notion that she is blameless, and everyone else is wrong. Bob sits secure in her perfect perch, and laps up the attention she receives, slowly ruining the online life of others.

Don’t give in to the Bobs. Resist that. Stop interacting with them, even when they bait you to it. It is hard. It can be very painful. And you do not have to stay in an online place where a Bob resides. We don’t owe a Bob anything at all.

But we do owe the community we want to live in. Identify the Bobs in there and then make it clear that they need to demonstrate a willingness and effort to be civil, to be polite and to be mindful of how others perceive their voice — or they will be shunned and shut out.

Do not ask Alice to “make up with Bob, for the sake of the community”. This will allow Bob to further mess with Alice. In the end, Alice will have only the option of more suffering from Bob, or to leave the community that continues to allow Bobs presence.

And above all: Don’t give any attention to the Bobs. It’s what they want, what feeds their ego. It should of course be positive attention, but they don’t actually care if it is negative, so long as it keeps their ego fed.

So don’t.

Identify the Bobs. Explain them the rules. And shun them (and only them) when it becomes apparent that they won’t change.