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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Und der weiner sprecken, nien, du ist ein campfire girl.

I get the feeling that Germany is trying to refine their Teutonic sense of humor. Perhaps they hope to replace England as having the best sense of humor in Europe. And its going about as well as you would think. As an example, a waitress at a hamburger joint in Mainz was about to hand a bag of cheeseburgers to a customer at the drive-up window when a man suddenly appeared and grabbed the bag out of her hand “slightly injuring her” in the process, and then fled from the scene. Based on her statement the cops released the following description of the villain; a male, 1.7 to 1.8 meters tall, wearing a full-body ape costume and mask.” So far there are no arrests, but it seems to me the would-be practical joker missed the point. He shouldn’t have stolen the cheeseburgers from the lady’s hand while wearing an ape costume. That’s so 1970’s. He should have handed her a bag of cheeseburgers. A deliver to a drive-up window: now that would have been funny.

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Some Germans understand the basic rules of joke construction. A couple of weeks ago special overnight train from Leverkusen was jammed with cheerful (i.e. drunk) football (i.e. soccer) fans, headed to a match with Hamburg (i.e. an excuse to get plastered) when some swinehund broke the tap on one of the beer kegs. Ach du Leiber! Ein booze ist kaput. Gotterdam! Swinging into action with typical German efficiency the rail company, Deutsche Bahn, halted the train at the very next station. Fans piled out of the suddenly dry conveyance. Would there be a riot? That wouldn’t be funny. Instead, puzzled commuters (it was 9:30 in the morning) were treated to twenty-five minutes of loud and enthusiastic and drunken football songs and chants until a special taxi arrived from a local beer hall with a replacement spigot. The fans then happily re-boarded the train and resumed their jovial journey with all kegs working. God only knows if the fans would have been so complacent had the handle on one of the toilets broken.

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Of course the true test of a nation’s sense of humor is not how they tell a joke but how they take a joke, and Poland has recently been playing some ‘pranks’ on their neighbor, almost as if to test this experiment in funny krauts. The cover of the Polish magazine “Wprost” recently featured a photo of the German Chancellor, Ms. Merkel, naked above the waist, breast feeding a pair of Polish politicians, President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kacyznski. The magazine’s editor explained, “We thought of it as a little joke,” or “…skromny m figiel” in Polish. In German this translated as, “Fuck you, you strong German rolling in shit pig (ficken Ihinen, Sie starke deutsche sich uberfressen). The Germans are still unsure how to react to this, although some of the nationalistic and conservative parties have made a few suggestions. And, of course, the neo-Nazi’s would love to respond but in Germany, they are still illegal.

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But the true test of the new humor spirit in Germany may be what the United Nations has done at the memorial site, officially labeled the “Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and extermination camp.” You see, at the urging of the Poles, this year, 62 years after the war ended, the U.N. agreed to change the name of the memorial by inserting the word “German” right before the word “Nazi”: just in case anybody forgot who started the Nazis. And it seems the Poles were a little concerned that some people might think that anti-Semitic Poles had helped the Nazis murder the one million victims of the camp. Whereas, anyone familiar with Polish Church history would know the Poles never chased the Jews out of Poland, or burned any at the stake, or officially blamed them for murdering Jesus. The Polish Church has often spoken out against anti-Semitism, often. Not always, but often. As a church spokesman, Father Jozef Kloch, explained, “…you can’t expect us to take a stance (against anti-Semitism) on every occasion.”

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Good, point, Father. And how do you feel about anti-Catholicism? How about abortion and divorce, Satanism and secular humanism? And do you feel that way on every occasion you hear about them? Because, I was just wondering.

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