On Generosity, Exploration, and Lederhosen

First order of business. I would like to thank the reader who donated last week for their contribution to my study abroad experience. Last week my Airport card stopped functioning, essentially cutting me off from all means of communication with family and friends back home. You paid for most of a DWL-G122 USB WiFi stick, which after some extensive hacking, works very well with OS X. Thank you very much and keep an eye on your mailbox. Reader contributions go toward legitimate needs. The exchange rate is hovering at about 1.35 US per 1 Euro. This makes everything 1/3 more expensive. I really do appreciate not having to worry about some of the minor expenses.

On Thursday, June 7 I will be making my way into Bayern (Bavaria) to the historic city of München (Munich). This will be the last “big” journey for me until the end of the semester. I plan on making it a good one by visiting Neuschwanstein and Konzentrationslager-Dachau. Of course you cannot go to München and not enjoy some of the local Brauerei (breweries).

When it comes to donations I cannot be picky. The axim “Beggars can’t be choosers” certainly applies. I do not make specific requests normally, but this one is too good to pass up. I have purchased some small Germany related momentos in the past. I have a stack of postcards, requisite pieces of the Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall), Krieg der Sterne: Das Imperium schlägt zurrück (Empire Strikes Back), and a scarf. However there is one thing that would trump all: Genuine Bavarian Lederhosen.

Lederhosen

If you can help me offset the cost of a pair of Lederhosen I promise the following. I will record myself dancing and singing a german drinking song. I will then post it to the interwebernettubes for all to enjoy. I leave for München next Thursday morning and will be there for only three days. Hell, I’ll even wear these things back home by request for all who donate. Even if I don’t have enough to justify the cost, your donation will go towards food, razors, and other daily expenses. It is for a good cause.
[donate]

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Das Reinheitsgebot

The Rheinheitsgebot, or German Purity Law, is the oldest law pertaining to the safety of Bier. Originally placed in the lawbooks in 1516, there are still a few breweries around today that still follow the provisions set forth. However, my friends, as with all things pertaining to deutsche Gesetze (german laws) there is always more that lies beneath the bureaucracy. This weekend I discovered a little law called das Geheimnisbiergradausteilungsundschutzvonauslanderngesetz von April 1945. Ready for the English translation? Secret Beer Grade Distribution and Protection from Foreigners Law of April 1945. In the turmoil this little law pertaining to beer drew little notice from the public. There were, after all, larger problems at hand.

The locals do not talk about it. Nor do they respond in kind when you approach them in an academic fashion thanks to its horrible origins. My discovery of this secret came only through months of infiltration. I have spent months at a local Kneipe (pub). I believe my blonde hair, blue eyes, and improved grasp of the german language when drinking led the barkeep to believe I was one of them. When only regulars were sitting around the bar in the early morning hours, he offered me something unnexpected when I asked him what was good. He replied, “Möchtest du etwas anders probieren? Vielleicht *ein Ultrabier* diese Runde für dich?” The way he said *ein Ultrabier* made it irresistable. Little did I know, what I was truly in for.

One sip of the amber and I was removed from all inhibition. German unity and its implications were suddenly made completely clear. The cited works of Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and other great german authors flooded out of my previously uncultured mouth. Melodies composed by Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn were played with ease through my fingers. The intricacies of the subjunctives, a stumbling block for many the german and german studying student alike, made perfect sense. This was Ultrabier. This was their great secret.

While the Ultraalkohol of Ultrabier worked its way through every corpuscle in my body, I was able to learn of another secret brew. It is called Omnibier, and it is only drunk by those who have tasted no other alcohol stemming from outside the borders of Germany. Omnibier is so potent that it is only legally allowed to be consumed as the last drink of those that are dying. Witnesses say that once consumed, the fate of all who they have come into contact with during their lifetime is made known, and is the last thing the person sees before they die. First-hand accounts state that the smile that comes to their face cannot be removed even post mortum.

My liver and kidneys did their job purging the Ultraalkohol from my system. In a yellow stream, all that I had sung, cited, and debated over had disappeared in a haze. My amazing ability to craft the most complex sentences in german disappeared. Forget Absinthe, Ultrabier is my new love.

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Darth Vader’s Diagnosis

Cruising through digg.com I came across an article on the CBS News website about Darth Vader. With the movies wrapped up, he usually only reappears in major news articles as being listed one of the most scary movie villains in celluloid history. Apparently the American Psychiatric Association has suggested a diagnosis for Darth Vader. From the article:

Schmitt’s team describes Skywalker’s symptoms, including problems with controlling anger and impulsivity, temporary stress-related paranoia, “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment (when trying to save his wife at all costs), and a pattern of unstable and intense personal relationships,” including his relationships with his Jedi masters.

No kidding. It took a team of doctor’s to tell the public what Star Wars geeks have known for years. I suppose the years of slavery, separation from his mother, and exposure to a megalomaniac politician didn’t help either. Watching his mother die in his arms after being tortured by marauders was probably traumatic. Then there is the years on the front lines of an intergalactic war. I would have a borderline personality disorder too if my mentor cut off three of my limbs and left me for dead next to a lava flow. I suppose the years of rehabilitation from the burns and isolation in a mechanical body wouldn’t help either. Then there is the whole thing about my pregnant wife being “killed” and being taken into hiding, never to be heard from again. I suppose the day-to-day stresses of organizing contractors to build a moon-sized battle station capable of destroying a planet couldn’t help.

I wonder what the APA would have to say about my compulsion to buy any action figure of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader that I come across. The APA should stop focusing on fictional characters. Their energy would be better spent rehabilitating geeks across America.

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Skype Contest

My Skype number is going to expire on May 28 and I will not be renewing it. Other than my parents and the occaisional telemarketer I do not get very many calls or voice messages with it. I could extend it for another three month chunk, but I will only be here for two. I don’t think it is worth it thanks to e-mail, instant messangers, SMS, and video chat. What does this mean for you?

It means that you have a week to leave me the most messed up message. It does not necessarily have to be obscene, but those who craft a funny message without will get bonus points. My Skype number is an Oshkosh area number so local rates apply. You won’t get hit with an international charge because the messages are forwarded to me over the interwebtubes when I login to Skype.

The best message will receive something german in return for their efforts. Caller must clearly identify themselves in the message. Multiple entries will be accepted. Winners for this contest will be decided on criteria totally made up by me at the moment of judging. Messages left may be posted (with names removed) at a future date on this website.

You can reach my Skype message box by calling 920-626-4536. You have until May 28!

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Zu Heiß

Dieser Tag zeigt das Thermometer 32 Grad. Für die Amerikaner, dass bedeutet ungefähr 90 Grad Fahrenheit. Ich machte den Fehler, nach die Uni mit meinem Fahrrad zu fahren. Und jetzt bin ich mit Schwitze voll gesattigt. Ich brauche eine Düsche, aber ich glaube meinen Blützuckerwert niedrig ist.  Ich bin voll überzeugt, dass  Erdwärmung existiert. Ich erinnere mich nicht von einem Mai so warm. Diese ganze Woche will heiß sein. Hoffentlich ist dieses Wochenende auch schön, weil ich die Lust Köln zu sehen habe, aber ich hoffe nicht so heiß. Leider muss ich zuerst alle meine Hausaufgabe machen.

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A Million Watts of Sound

After a long hiatus The Smashing Pumpkins are back together. They are playing a reunion show in Paris on May 22. Their new single Tarantula of their return album Zeitgeist is definitely not lacking that “kick you in the gut for a good time” quality. Give a listen over at spinner.com.

The unreleased new Marilyn Manson album Eat Me, Drink Me, however, leaves something to be desired. I just have not been able to immediately take to the tracks. But more on that after the release date.

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Reader Mail?

Today I went to my diminuitive mailbox and was pleasently suprised by a light blue envelope. Without thinking I tore open the thing expecting some sappy love note from my girlfriend. Wait a minute…

two fingers

It has been a while since I’ve had my prostate checked for cancer, but normally my physician doesn’t send out such subtle reminders. I checked the return address on the envelope and it originated from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I’ve sent mail in other people’s names before (might be a crime), but the post office mark also supports that it came Eau Claire. The back of the card is purple and only says “Thinking of you…” It is clear by the cut on one side that this was a card given previously to someone. Most peculiar. If you are the one responsible for this ruse, by all means, make yourself known. I had quite a laugh.

If you too would like to send me crap in Germany my address is:

Ken Fager
Ernst-Lemmer-Strasse 15
35041 Marburg, Zimmer Nr. 01-16
Deutschland

[Update: The sender has made himself known in the comments. Thanks for coming forward!]

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Thanks for Your Support

Thanks to my supporters (yes, plural) who have contributed to my study abroad experience in the past two weeks. Your contributions do go towards necessary costs. This week you bought me the following.:

  • 1L 1.5% Fett Milch
  • 1L Orangensaft
  • 2L Pepsi Light
  • 750ml Riesling Wein
  • 2x Corny Riegel
  • 200g Crunchips
  • 150g Nachochips
  • 500g Hackenfleisch
  • 10 Scheibe Käse
  • 1x Vollkorn Brot
  • 2x Laugenbrezel
  • 1x Lasagne
  • 2x Salami Pizza
  • 500g Spaghetti
  • 400g Classico Soße
  • 500g Peanut Butter
  • 250g Butter
  • 4x 100g Johgurt
  • 6x Razors

Average food costs per week are around 50 Euro ($65) cooking all of my meager meals. I rarely, if ever, eat at a restaurant around here unless absolutely necessary. With all seriousness, thanks for your continued support.
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(Edit: I have to buy groceries at least twice a week. 50 Euro is closer to reality.)

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Konzentrationslager Buchenwald

A few kilometers outside of Weimar, in the forest of the Ettersberg, is field of rubble and stone. Concrete spires with the remains of barbed-wire are visible on all sides but one. The far side of the field has been reclaimed by the surrounding flora. The main gate that overlooks this field of rubble has a clock on its tower eternally frozen at 3:15, the moment of liberation. KL-Buchenwald at that moment ceased its existence as an extermination camp and was entered into evidence for future generations of just how cruel humans can be. The main gate of KL-Buchenwald still bears the phrase “Jedem des Seine” (to each their own). The gate also used to have a sign that said “Recht oder Unrecht – Mein Vaterland” (right or wrong – my fatherland).

There were three things at the camp that struck an unnerving chord. The first is a measuring stick in a “clinic” where prisoners were told to stand. Believing that only their hight was being measured the prisoner would oblige. A shot would barrel through their skull a moment later. Behind the measuring bar was a slot, where an SS officer with a gun would stand, and shoot through the slot. The officer would never face his victim. The victim would never see it coming.

The second element was the zoo enclosure for bears placed directly next to the outside of the camp. It was installed to improve morale among the SS officers working in the camp. It also served as a reminder to the prisoners. The prisoners in the camp were treated worse than the bears who lived outside the camp. They were less than human. They were less than animals to the Nazi regime.

Being 60+ years removed from this event and only experiencing it in an academic way made it difficult to truly connect with this event. The last item on the guided tour is a steel memorial embedded into the ground. It bears the names of all the countries who had victims perish in the camp. It is a rather unassuming monument until it is touched. The monument is heated to 98.3 degrees Fahrenheit and kept constant. It is the temperature of the human body. All that transpired within the camp suddenly came to en epoch, a grim realization that though these people are dead, they live on in the hearts and memories of others. It was extremely difficult to stay composed.

As promised I have posted my full collection of Konzentrationslager-Buchenwald photos.

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