Sunday, April 25, 2010

Video Post

So unfortunately Blogger doesn't let me upload videos (or if it does, I haven't figured out how).  In any case, I have a video here for you- this is the chorus from Bergwerk.  I dedicate this song to Madame, because she's the best!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


In Greek mythology Echo was a wood nymph who loved a youth by the name of Narcissus. He was a beautiful creature loved by many but Narcissus loved no one. He enjoyed attention, praise and envy. In Narcissus' eyes nobody matched him and as such he considered none were worthy of him.
Echo's passion for Narcissus was equaled only by her passion for talking as she always had to have the last word. One day she enabled the escape of the goddess Juno's adulterous husband by engaging Juno in conversation. On finding out Echo's treachery Juno cursed Echo by removing her voice with the exception that she could only speak that which was spoken to her.

Echo often waited in the woods to see Narcissus hoping for a chance to be noticed. One day as she lingered in the bushes he heard her footsteps and called out “Who's here?” Echo replied “Here!” Narcissus called again "Come", Echo replied "Come!". Narcissus called once more “Why do you shun me?... Let us join one another.” Echo was overjoyed that Narcissus had asked her to join him. She longed to tell him who she was and of all the love she had for him in her heart but she could not speak. She ran towards him and threw herself upon him.

Narcissus became angry “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!” and threw Echo to the ground. Echo left the woods a ruin, her heart broken. Ashamed she ran away to live in the mountains yearning for a love that would never be returned. The grief killed her. Her body became one with the mountain stone. All that remained was her voice which replied in kind when others spoke.

Narcissus continued to attract many nymphs all of whom he briefly entertained before scorning and refusing them. The gods grew tired of his behaviour and cursed Narcissus. They wanted him to know what it felt like to love and never be loved. They made it so there was only one whom he would love, someone who was not real and could never love him back.

One day whilst out enjoying the sunshine Narcissus came upon a pool of water. As he gazed into it he caught a glimpse of what he thought was a beautiful water spirit. He did not recognise his own reflection and was immediately enamoured. Narcissus bent down his head to kiss the vision. As he did so the reflection mimicked his actions. Taking this as a sign of reciprocation Narcissus reached into the pool to draw the water spirit to him. The water displaced and the vision was gone. He panicked, where had his love gone? When the water became calm the water spirit returned. “Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” Again he reached out and again his love disappeared. Frightened to touch the water Narcissus lay still by the pool gazing in to the eyes of his vision.

He cried in frustration. As he did so Echo also cried. He did not move, he did not eat or drink, he only suffered. As he pined he became gaunt loosing his beauty. The nymphs that loved him pleaded with him to come away from the pool. As they did so Echo also pleaded with him. He was transfixed; he wanted to stay there forever. Narcissus like Echo died with grief. His body disappeared and where his body once lay a flower grew in it's place. The nymphs mourned his death and as they mourned Echo also mourned.

What's interesting is the way German and English have used this myth.

In English, we have the word "Narcissist", which is defined as this:

The term narcissism refers to the personality trait of self-esteem, which includes the set of character traits concerned with self-image ego. The terms narcissism, ', and ' are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. ...

In German, there's the word "Narzisse".  Unlike the English word, though, "Narzisse" means daffodil- the flower that Narcissus became after his body disappeared.
I think it's interesting how a root word can evolve into two words with such wildly different meanings.

"Narzisse" are also called Osterblume, Ostergloeckchen, Maerzenbecher, Osterglocke, or Trompetenblume.  A skilled botanist could probably identify differences between all of these, but they are all species of daffodils.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tea Partys, Plumbers, and Hangings? Oh my!

I try to keep this blog pretty non-controversial, but I stumbled onto a piece of good writing today that I can't help but to share (thanks Zach):

"It’s one thing to be ignorant. It’s another to take pride in it. And it’s quite another to venture b...eyond that into full-blown stupidity. It’s not often that you get to use the word “stupidity” in a non-ad hominem context, but now — with the majority of Republicans believing Obama is a socialist without having any idea what socialism is, over a third believing he is foreign-born, and featured Tea Party speakers calling for the hanging of a US senator (Patty Murray) — it’s becoming harder and harder to euphemize some of things we’re witnessing as anything but."

The rest of the article was too contentious for my taste, so I am not going to link to it- I don't want it's views to be reflected on me, and it gets a little too... bitchy, for lack of a better word.  This paragraph, though, seemed to have a kernel of truth- true, I'm not in the US any more, and I'm really not completely caught up.  In the last few days, though, I've been following a few news sites, and I'm not liking a lot of what I'm seeing.  

Why is Sarah Palin still around?  And what's more, when did so much of America become anti-intellectual?  When was Colin Powell replaced by Joe the Plumber?

I feel like we could have a field day in US World History on this one...

Mr. Mike

I'm going to go ahead and borrow something from a friend of mine's blog- Mike Kalunzy is a great guy, a fellow Camp Onway-er, and also here in Germany, chilling in Braunschweig.  You can find his whole blog here.

I'm actually going to take two of his posts- they're both very insightful about the German language, and are worth reading for anyone interested in learning it.  My comments are italicized in black, his posts are in purple.

The first:

beugen: to decline or conjugate (grammar)

I keep running up against this notion of noun classes and grammatical gender. Why do some languages have grammatical gender? Does it simplify language or make it easier to learn and understand? Gender is just plain confusing! In German you have to learn 3 articles for three different genders and then each gender in the 4 different cases and then the appropriate declinations for adjectives with either definite/indefinite/or no article. The list goes on and on. I have yet to find a decent explanation as to why this is all necessary.

 My own thoughts- yes!  This is very true, and, subsequently, German is an impossibly difficult language to master.  I have bemoaned grammatical gender many, many a time.  It is sometimes useful, though- for example, when there are two nouns of a separate gender in a sentence, they may both be referred to in subsequent sentences with pronouns, and the antecedent doesn't need to be repeated.  For example, in English, it's confusing to say, "The bird sat on the chair.  It was blue."  It is ambiguous- it could refer to the chair or the bird.
Of course, this only works sometimes in German.  Sometimes the two nouns will both be of the same gender, in which case we still need antecedents.
In German the problem is compounded by the fact that the language applies grammatical gender as opposed to natural gender. The latter is when the gender of the noun agrees with the natural gender of the object. For example die Frau: the woman. Die is the feminine article. German throws a wrench in the works by calling obviously feminine nouns such as the girl, das M√§dchen. That is grammatical gender. I.E the gender of the noun doesn’t have to make sense.

For most English speakers, a language (seemingly) devoid of gender, all of this is very confusing. Learning articles is a chore that just has to be dealt with when learning vocabulary. The word Frau doesn’t exists. It’s die Frau. 

My point with all this is to illuminate the fact, that although grammatical gender in German is a pain, it also exists in English in a few number of cases. For example, oftentimes when countries, ships or cars are referred to, the pronoun she or her is used. While not required, it is a manifestation of gender in the English language.
Just an observation.

This is important to note- I think in English, when we use a gender to describe something that is traditionally genderless (countries, ships, cars, etc.), it's an emotional technique.  The application of a gender is supposed to draw a response- it's a sort of poetry in prose, designed at affecting the feelings of the audience.  

For German, this means one of two things:
1.  The German language is naturally poetic, or,
2.  German is just plain hard. Punkt.

In any case, the whole topic here reminded me of a study I read about sometime last year:

"[When] describing the word key (feminine in Spanish and masculine in German), Spanish speakers produced adjectives such as intricate, little, lovely, shiny, and tiny, and German speakers generated adjectives such as hard, metal, jagged, and useful." (Sera, Berge & Del Pintado, 1994)

What this suggests is that grammatical gender does indeed have a purpose: it helps unify the speakers in a language on a conceptual representation of nouns.  Even without a natural gender, feminine and masculine nouns are consequently lent metaphorical characteristics.  

This conclusion would lead me to strike Point 2 above, and concede that while grammatical gender is infuriating to learn, it really does lead to a poetic language-among native speakers, that is.


The second:

One of my favorite things about the German language is how it simply deals with common diseases and medical conditions. In English, for example, most diseases are referred to be their scientific and medical names.
In German:
die Lungenentz√ľndung: Lung inflamation
die Zuckerkrankheit: sugar disease
der Durchfall: ~fall through

It's not just medical terms that are like this, there are hundreds of words.  "A twig", translated literally, is "a thin stick".  "A bruise" translated literally is "a blue spot".  "Fenders" are "shit wings", "power outlet" is a "stick-in box", "Vacuum" is a "dust-sucker".  In some ways, German really does make sense!


A good read about languages (I haven't read it completely myself, only chapters here and there, but it's very interesting!):

Crosslinguistic Influence in Language and Cognition, by Scott Jarvisand Aneta Pavlenko.  You can find a lot of it on Google Books, here.

Die Projektwoche

I figure I can post real quickly about the projektwoche (project week) before I go to bed.  I'll get to Bergwerk and Sweden some other time this week- hopefully Bergwerk tomorrow.

The week before our vacation was a Projektwoche- what that means is that the Oberstufe (grades 9-12) got to go in a little later to school every day and had our choice of "projects".  I chose two- Bandprojekt and American Films You Should Know.  It's actually pretty ironic- Herr Wiegandt, my English teacher, asked if I would help lead the class.  I said sure, gladly.  Anyone who knows me, though, knows that I don't know anything about films, American or otherwise.  I'm lucky if I can stay awake through a whole movie, much less critique it.

Anyway, we ended up watching three films in the week- American Graffiti, Apollo 13, and Witness.  American Graffiti was pretty cool- I'd recommend it just for kicks and giggles for a dull rainy day.  Everyone knows Apollo 13 already (actually, everyone probably know American Graffiti already, and it's just me who doesn't... whichever).  I had never even heard of Witness, that was Mr. Wiegandt's vorschlag, but it was a pretty good film.  It was about an Amish boy who witnesses a murder- it's a thriller, but it takes a look at the Amish community.  I liked it.

In the Bandprojekt, we started a rock band, and on the last day we had a little concert.  I had originally thought that it would be a blues/boogies woogie kind of band, but it turned into rock.  Since there's no place for a trombone in rock music (usually), I ended up playing keys and singing.  It worked out well, though- we had three songs, and at the end of the week I think we sounded all right.  I was happy with it, at least.  Somebody took a movie- when I get back to school I'll try to track it down, and maybe upload it.

Okay, time for bed.  Gute Nacht!

Nazi Gegendemonstration

Okay, let's go back to March 27, 2010.

In short, the Nazi party (extreme right) had planned a march through Luebeck, like every year, and the Luebeck left (and non-political anti-Nazis) wanted to stop it.  It was a pretty big deal, so I decided to go and check it out- I invited Todd to join me.

Here's a news article (in German), if you'd like to check it out:

There were about 250 neo-Nazis, 2500 anti-protesters, and 2000 police officers (mostly state police officers).

It's important to note that the Nazis have a right to march and to rally.  Just like in the US, political parties are allowed to peacefully meet.  The anti-demonstrators were formed of three organized groups- the organized Left, Luebecks churches, and trade unions.  In addition were a handful of non-political anti-Nazi recruits- I guess Todd and I would belong to this last group.  The goal of the anti-demonstrators was to blockade all of the surface streets into the Altstadt, or the central part of Luebeck.  The goal of the police was to keep everything non-violent, and ultimately to try and separate the protesters and the anti-protesters as much as possible. 

In the end, the police and the Left were both pretty successful- Todd and I went down to the Hauptbanhof at 10:00 and literally everything was stopped.  The police had taken over the train station, keeping Nazis from coming in and anti-Nazis from leaving, the bridge leading into the Luebeck altstadt was literally covered with police vehicles and a large number of the protesters were separated from the action.  The Nazis did end up marching outside of Luebeck, but their planned march route was disrupted by the blockades assembled by anti-demonstrators.  I think I read somewhere that eight people were arrested in the whole day, which isn't too shabby for so big a deal.

Todd and I didn't actually see any Nazis (like I said, the cops did a nice job of separating the Nazis and the anti-Nazis), but we did see a lot of excited people, lots of cops, and got a feel for the German political mood.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Man I've been busy lately.  I'm just going to throw out some thoughts here so I don't forget what I ought to go back and touch upon, and then later I'll clarify.  Some stuff I've been up to:

Anti-Nazi Demo
Bergwerk Musikfreizeit

Right now I've got one more vacation week, and then I'll be going back to school next Monday.  I've been writing scholarship apps all day, and I've got more for tomorrow... some vacation.  After tomorrow I should be able to get out a little more, though- a few days work, a few days play.  We'll see.

This post is dedicated to Mrs. Janus!  She's the best and should have a wonderful day!

Extrem Wichtig!

Before I get to anything else that's been going on in the last few months, there's something very very important I need to say!


Have a lovely year!