While visiting someone else's office, I took out a random volume of a German commentary on the law of obligations (Schuldrecht) and found this sentence (my translation):
'Apothecaries and druggists are subject to a special duty of care when giving poisons and explosives to children.'
You can say that again! The citation for this actual quotation is the book Dauner-Lieb/Langen, BGB Schuldrecht, p. 4619 (!). The footnote -- footnote 2396! -- cites RGZ 152, 325. Law nerds, look it up.
One of mankind's more regrettable discoveries is that you can eat fish at a certain stage of decomposition and survive. Confusing ought with is, some people then decided that because it was possible to do this, it should be done. If you were ever to be transported back to ancient Rome, you would immediately be confronted with the omnipresence of garum, the fermented fish sauce that was used as a seasoning and widely mocked as repulsive even in Roman times. The Vietnamese also use fish sauce to this day.
But the Swedes take it one step back, refusing to wait until the fish liquefied. A friend recently brought back from Sweden a bulging tin can of 'fermented' (that is, half-rotten) chunks of herring, a Swedish specialty called 'surströmming'. A genteel Swiss food critic described this dish as 'horror in a can' (g) and described a tasting 'party' thus:
The biggest challenge when eating strömming is to vomit only after the first bite, not before. The word 'bestial' aptly describes the odor, the taste is just plain disgusting. Spicy, bitter, tangy, and sour. No-one in the group was able to take more than 5 grams into their mouths.
My friend, who staged a tasting party of his own, reached deep into his richly-stocked clearinghouse of metaphors to describe it:
Unspeakably vile. I managed one bite without throwing up and
couldn’t get down any more than that. It was a taste that resembled a rotting
corpse in a plastic bag left in an alley behind an Indian restaurant in the sun
for a few days. It was like what I imagine it would taste like blowing a
syphilitic homeless man who has pissed himself for the past three days
straight. It wasn’t pungent or offensive in smell beyond a ripe fart, it wasn’t
sharp, or tangy at all, but dear lord – in the mouth, it was like licking the
worst thing imaginable. The sheer sickly putrefaction taste just conjured up
dead flies in the bottom of a cheap beer bottle in a deserted crack house.
In the following video, the indomitable Aussie Louis barely manages to choke down some surströmming, which is really something, seeing as he has no problem eating roadkill and live scorpions.
Right on schedule (that is, about 5 years after America) hipster-hating is coming to Germany (g, h/t JCW). But before we assail them, let's celebrate the magic they can work when their obsessions meet with a solid work ethic. I recently dropped by a party held in Generation 13 (g), a combination of cafe, 'museum of pop culture', and shop in Berlin-Mitte.
The museum sprawls through the entire basement of a large building. Everywhere you look, pop culture ephemera from the 1970s and 1980s is displayed with a mixture of Teutonic organization and loving care. I wandered, spellbound. Memories from my misspent youth drifted to the surface: idle afternoons watching Battlestar Galactica, Space: 1999, and the Six Million Dollar Man; my Kiss album collection; the first primitive pong video game; and so much more of the crap that we filled our lives with in the 1970s.
I learned much from this museum as well. For instance, that there were once action figures of the Ramones, Johnny Rotten(!), and John Lennon(!!). That the movie Battlestar Galactica was once released on Super-8 film in German. And that the original Donkey Kong video arcade game, of which there's one in the shop, is as difficult as it is addictive. Here are a few cellphone photos to give you an idea of what's on display.
Scarfolk is a town in North West England that did not progress
beyond 1979. Instead, the entire decade of the 1970s loops ad infinitum.
Here in Scarfolk, pagan rituals blend seamlessly with science;
hauntology is a compulsory subject at school, and everyone must be in
bed by 8pm because they are perpetually running a slight fever. "Visit
Scarfolk today. Our number one priority is keeping rabies at bay." For
more information please reread.
Browsing the Interwebs, I found this image -- this unhallowed, accursèd, brain-scorching, crotch-freezing Unding of an image -- embedded in its original context, which I cropped it out of. And before you guess it came from the late, lamented Gay Nazi Sex Ads website, it did not. Kudos to anyone who can identify its original context.
It's carnival time here in the Rheinland, which means it's time for offensive baked goods! Around here, we have the Mohrenkopf (g). or 'Moor's head'. These appear just in time for the growing controversy in Germany about outdated language in childrens' books (g) and racially-loaded imagery in everyday life (noted right here in 2012 and 2005).
I found this beauty at my local Bader bakery:
He suffered a bit of maxillofacial trauma on the way home, but -- most importantly -- the tiny cowboy hat stayed on. I like to think of this pastry not as a crude stereotype, but as a loving hommage to the unjustly neglected black cowboy. I called him Sheriff Bart (see clip).
Unfortunately, things soon took a tragic turn. Upon removing the tiny hat, it became clear that it had somehow become fused to the unfortunate Sheriff's very skull. The second photograph, in which Bart's soft, foamy yellow brain is clearly visible, highlights his almost-unbelievable composure. How many of us would still be smiling after such massive cranial trauma?
Eventually, to put Bart out of his misery, I ate him. He was delicious.