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.

Warum verschwindet der Link von meinem Kommentar?

In der letzten Zeit, und auf verschiedenen Blogs und Foren in denen ich involviert bin, trudeln Kommentare ein, die auf den ersten Blick hilfreich und on-topic ausschauen. Ihnen gemeinsam ist aber:

  • sie tauchen in recht alten Beiträgen auf
  • sie enthalten einen Link auf eine Seite, die im Endeffekt ein Sammelsurium von Amazon-Partnerlinks zu einer Produktkategorie ist.

Das Geschäftsmodell ist klar: Man erstellt eine Seite die mittels SEO überdurchschnittlich gefunden wird, wenn jemand nach einer bestimmten Sorte Spiele o.ä. sucht. Wer die Seite dann hat, und das Spiel will, klickt dann auf Amazon, kauft, und der Seitenbetreiber bekommt eine Provision.

Soweit so fair, aber meine Seiten haben nun einmal keine Werbung, und die zwei (in Zahlen: 2)  Male, wo ich ein Produkt zur Rezension zugeschickt bekommen habe, habe ich das kenntlich gemacht. Wer aber einfach meine Seiten als SEO-Optimierung verwenden will.. nö. Egal wieviel Mühe Ihr Euch bei der Formulierung der Kommentare gebt.

Terrifying German Culture Hour — Country AND Western

To understand the following, you have to keep in mind that basically all germans for several generations have grown up with the stories of the brave and noble apache chief Winnetou, and his friend Old Shatterhand. The german author Karl May penned those, claiming they were the novelized diaries of his travels of the wild west — while never having left german soil.

Then 1945 the GIs came in and were eventually seen as saviours, so everything America was simply the best.

So we got us french hearthrob actor Pierre Brice to perform the very same role of the noble indian. (And from the point of view of my ten year old self, this is of course not racist or wrong in any way. Yeah, ten-year-old me was kinda stupid.)

Thankfully, at some point even us germans realized how wrong this was and instead decided to parody the whole thing:

So, aside from the movies, country & western music actually has quite a fan following in Germany.Of course, we initially needed it to be translated, and, well, germanized:

But soon enough, real german country bands showed up and we made things our own, especially once we figured out that country music can be coupled with trucks:

Yes, this is a song about someone driving 120 pigs to Beirut. Why? No one knows…

Truck Stop is, for better or worse, the german country band. They have songs about doing the Osnabrück-Hamburg run in one day, how to survive a night-run without Dave Dudley on the radio, why fishing is so damn relaxing, and, oh, how to be a cop in the big city:

If, while watching this, you’re in the vicinity of a german who’s a Fischkopp (a fishhead, as those who are from the northern parts of the country are happily calling themselves), you will notice at least a slight humming along, if not outright singing.

This is because this song, „Big City Beat“, is the title song for a TV series portraying the day-to-day encounters of two police officers who patrol the more earthier parts of Hamburg. The tone is down-to-earth, the pacing relaxed, and the protagonists at the same time cosmopolitan and grounded salt-of-the-earth locals.

If you don’t understood the dialogue, here’s the summary: He’s telling her why he’s on this beat now. Because he didn’t play along to racial profiling and abuse of a different fellow officer. And the actor, Jan Fedder is someone you really want to like. Here’s him in a talk show, singing a traditional Hamburg folk song. Yes, this talk show is habitually being taped in an actual bar, and yes, everyone is chugging alcohol.

He’s a bit older these days, and the perfect yokel.

And yes, folkys yokels are the same everywhere. So people make fun of them:

The singer is Stefan Raab,a former butcher you started out as a VJ, who occasionally regularly made fun of things. And yes, this is the same band as in a few videos back.

Still, Stefan is a special kind of musical genius, who can genre-hop like no other.

(the genre he’s lampooning here is „Volksmusik“. The closest equivalent would be Country, but it most certainly is not that. But that will be another installment of this blog series.)

He habitually reworked Germanys Funniest Home Videos into the summer smash hit of uh.. who cares. But this here highlights very aptly the difficulties everyday germans have when trying to adapt to foreign music.

But the true road to greatness was paved by Stefan Raabs contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest. You might have heard about that, by John Oliver:

Germany used to be represented by things like this:

Things got a teensy bit more tedious in the 90ies:

(The Eurocats still perform regularly on cruise ships)

And the other european nationalities used to send similar candidates. For decades! In the end, fewer and fewer people watched the contest. Stefan Raab thought that someone should do something, so he produced THIS:

Yes, we ran with that, while everyone else was still doing this, this or that. Yes, Eurotrash is a word. Eventually Stefan decided to run himself, so we progressed to…

The finns accepted the challenge and eventually things escalated a bit, and now the Eurovision Song Contest is the camp fest that John Oliver so loved to be confused about:

Thanks Stefan!

PS: At some point, we understood how to do Country. Really:

and yes, we brought Country to the European Song Contest:

(thanks to Jan for reminding me of this!)