I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely love Werner Herzog. Not so much his films, especially not his dramatic ones. What I love is his Nietszchean, über-miserablist persona as demonstrated in his documentaries and also shown beautifully in the video below about the making of his film/descent into madness/love-hate platonic affair with Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo. I just find Herzog hilarious, especially having heard him talk about yoga or celebrities with the same carefully sculpted loathing as he expresses here for nature: “The trees here are in misery, the birds here are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain.”
Photo by Alistair Gentry.
I particularly love the German and Japanese languages, although obviously they’re not much alike. The Germans string together long fusillades of smaller words to target concepts that most people recognise but don’t necessarily have a name for in their own language. One of my favourites– both as a word and actually experiencing it because evidently I’m kind of a prick sometimes– is schadenfreude, the pleasure one feels at somebody else’s misfortune. Another great one is Backpfeifengesicht, a face in need of a punch or slap. It literally means something like “cheek-pipe-face” but I have no idea what that derives from or alludes to.
What I’d really like to draw your attention to, though, is the Japanese word bakataa (バカッター). It’s a pun on the word baka (バカ / 馬鹿, stupid or idiot) and Twitter. A bakataa is a person who writes something grossly stupid / illegal / offensive / provocative on Twitter, or does something stupid / illegal / offensive / provocative in real life then documents it on Twitter… and is somehow surprised to find that it backfires on them and causes real world repercussions. I suppose you could translate it literally (and clumsily) as “stupid-ter”, or more idiomatically as something like “twatter” to preserve the pun. But as in the case of schadenfreude, translation is mostly beside the point. Hardly a week seems to go by without at least one bakataa poking their baka head above the parapet to be shot off somewhere in the online world, so let’s just say arigato gozaimasu to whichever Japanese genius came up with a word for these people.
PS: Although it’s not German or Japanese I can’t pass up this opportunity to share the wonderful (and also social network-relevant) imagery of the Dutch mierenneuker, a petty “ant-fucker” who creates a huge fuss about trivial matters or rules.
I think the internet has rewired my brain. Nowadays when I’m reading a book (you know, the things made of bound paper), I’m constantly distracted by passing references or random facts because some part of me immediately knows I could look it up. One recent example occurred while I was reading about Jewish/Zionist terrorism in Palestine after WWII, which was mainly focused on forcing the colonial British to leave. There was a fleeting mention that the Mufti of Jerusalem had been involved in recruiting Muslims into the Nazi SS. Obviously there’s “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to consider, but Nazi Muslims? Outside of the crazed, ignorant, hateful imaginations of certain Republicans in the US, I mean?
It’s true. The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar didn’t actually operate in Palestine, but they were mostly recruited in 1943 from Bosnian Muslims to fight on the Axis side against Yugoslav partisans. A combination of naive orientalism, pseudoscience and the good old standby of Nazi hypocrisy allowed Heinrich Himmler to convince himself and his racist idiot cronies that Bosnian Muslims fit into the nonsensical genealogy of the so-called Aryan race. They definitely had nothing to do with Slavs, oh no, definitely not. The hardline Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni– fairly indiscriminately opposed to the British and to Jews no matter where they came from– was brought in to convince and legitimise Bosnian Muslims into defying their own Islamic clerics, who had expressly and unanimously (and wisely) forbidden their communities from getting involved with nationalist causes or the Nazis.
In common with all their other Schutzstaffel colleagues, the 13th Waffen distinguished themselves mainly for their indiscriminate brutality both in battle and against unarmed non-combatants. In this case it was mainly Serbian civilians who bore the brunt of war crimes that were punished afterwards with executions of the perpetrators. And of course, much like the rest of the SS with their Hugo Boss uniforms, the horror of what they did was somehow accentuated by the fact that they always turned up for mass murder, genocide and hatred immaculately styled, covered in logos… and in the case of the 13th Division, wearing a fez.
Members of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS. You can probably work it out for yourself, but the pamphlet they’re reading is ‘Islam and Judaism’.
“For was it, for instance, a thing likely to occur to any one as suspicious that, according to the declaration of an elegant beau of these tea-parties, Olimpia had, contrary to all good manners, sneezed oftener than she had yawned? The former must have been, in the opinion of this elegant gentleman, the winding up of the concealed clock-work; it had always been accompanied by an observable creaking, and so on. […] Several lovers, in order to be fully convinced that they were not paying court to a wooden puppet, required that their mistress should sing and dance a little out of time, should embroider or knit or play with her little pug, &c., when being read to, but above all things else that she should do something more than merely listen — that she should frequently speak in such a way as to really show that her words presupposed as a condition some thinking and feeling. The bonds of love were in many cases drawn closer in consequence, and so of course became more engaging; in other instances they gradually relaxed and fell away. “I cannot really be made responsible for it,” was the remark of more than one young gallant. At the tea-gatherings everybody, in order to ward off suspicion, yawned to an incredible extent and never sneezed. Spalanzani was obliged, as has been said, to leave the place in order to escape a criminal charge of having fraudulently imposed an automaton upon human society.”
The Sand-Man by Ernst T.W. Hoffmann, 1817.
This Figure For Ballroom Dancing Practice was patented in 1921 by one Sidney E. Feist, “of Brooklyn, New York.” The drawings are lovely, despite the inherent uncanniness with which most people in the 21st century automatically contextualise the idea of dancing with some kind of flapper-Dalek automaton who rolls towards you on what Mr. Feist worryingly (and Lovecraftianly) describes as a “tubular member.” She also has a kickstand under her dress. Continue Reading
It’s not at all unusual for me to see things on the internet that make me wish they were a brilliant piece of satire instead of an actual thing that really exists. Unfortunately I must report that action figures of Hitler and other leading Nazis are definitely things that really exist. The subtly and charmingly named 3Reich* offers such a wide selection of evil warmongers and architects of genocide that there’s sure to be somebody who takes your fancy: choose from Hitler, Göring, Goebbels, Heydrich, Dönitz, Himmler or even Japanese luminaries like Ito Hirobumi because, hey, there were loads of brilliant atrocities perpetrated in Manchuria, Korea and China too you know! The site says “our product is for historic education purposes only, and is not intended to glorify, nor exploit the horrors and atrocities of war.” So make sure you appreciate Hitler for his art and for how much you can learn from him, and not for his atrocities, OK? Continue Reading
Recently I was looking at a book about the world’s most photographed people. The book was published by the National Portrait Gallery in London and is called ‘Knit Twenty Outfits for Pet Monkeys at Home’- no, not really. Obviously it’s called ‘The World’s Most Photographed’. It’s by Robin Muir.
Anyway, the inevitable chapter about Adolf Hitler had this fabulous picture of the Führer looking exactly like the totally camp and podgy old knob end he really was [left].
- < “Fierce”, “work it bitch”, and so forth. Hitler in Lederhosen, Munich circa 1926, camp as Christmas.
Werner Herzog has a new documentary about the Palaeolithic cave paintings at Chauvet. When anybody asks me who my favourite artists are or which artists I most identify with, I occasionally answer that my favourite artists are the ones who painted Chauvet, Altamira, and the other European cave sites that we know of. Sometimes I’m even serious about it, so I look forward to seeing Caves of Forgotten Dreams. Jean Clotte’s Return to Chauvet Cave is a thorough, big and beautiful book about the place, if you’re at all interested. I’m not wild about Herzog as a narrative film director, but I love him as a documentarian and I recently watched his film about human presence and intervention in Antarctica, Encounters at the End of the World. Both of these things inspired me to write a little something about this magnificently miserable old bastard.