Saturday, 19 April 2014

Literary Corner : Look Who's Back

"The advantage of being older than one hundred and twenty is
chiefly tactical. One's political opponent is not anticipating it...."

(Pic : Canberra Times)
It's good I'm posting this today instead of tomorrow, as tomorrow would be the 125th anniversary of Hitler's birth and....questions....would be asked.

Timur Vermes' Er ist wieder da? (literal translation "He's back again?" - English title, Look Who's Back) has sold more than 1.5million copies in Germany. Film rights have also been sold, with an anticipated 2015 release date. It makes you wonder if they can get Bruno Ganz to reprise his (infamous) role from Der Untergang.

After being translated into English – very well, I must say, by Jamie Bulloch - I couldn't resist it. You shouldn't judge books by covers, as the old saying goes, but this one deserves an award.

Look Who's Back is a dark satire, giving Adolf Hitler's first-person account of coming to terms with modern life, after reappearing outside the long-demolished Führerbunker in Berlin with no explanation as to how he got there.

With everyone convinced he's a "really good method actor" who's been kicked out by his girlfriend, he's "discovered" by a television production company, and put on as a side-act in a popular Turko-German comedian's show, producing a tirade where he supports said comedian's ridiculing of foreigners.

He crashed and burned, shocking Germany. The press turn on him, determined to find out who the "real person" is behind the act. After skillfully turning the press's criticism against them, Hitler becomes a viral sensation, handed his own Ali G style TV show (The F
ührer Speaks) and running a blog at "Führer Headquarters" - which didn't hit close to home at all.

The most memorable bits involve Hitler's "fish out of water" commentary on modern life – from television shows, bad drivers, which breed of dog is the "Jewhound" (the answer will surprise you) and leafblowers. He even offers dating advice; usually involving women wearing summer dresses, getting pregnant and waiting for their husbands to die in glorious service to the fatherland.

This resurrected Hitler holds the computer and the "internetwork" in high regard due to the propaganda potential – and that's a key theme. He thinks "Vikipedia" is a "proto-Germanic work", describing it as "a project which brought me to the verge of tears" demonstrating "that even in the absence of the National Socialist Party the German Volk instinctively worked to support its fellow man".

It's been suspected that if Hitler were alive today, he'd listen to The Cure, The Smiths and Depeche Mode. Come to think of it, This Charming Man might make perfect trailer music for the film.


Those predictions were wide of the mark, but you do end up agreeing with Hitler on occasions. Most ringtones are "drunken clowns playing the xylophone", aren't they?

A particularly amusing section – which lifted my spirits – involves Hitler using a smart phone for the first time, which his (Jewish) Goth secretary, Fraulein Krömeier, sets up with Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries as a ringtone.
"'Hitler!' I said. 'Hitler here!' And when the Valkyries continues to ride I tried 'Führer headquarters!' Just in case the caller was in shock at having got through to me personally. Nothing happened save for the Valkyries getting louder. By now my ear was truly hurting."

Look Who's Back is chock full of Monty Python style one-liners about World War II tactics, personalities and battles. And, of course, there's the political commentary.

Angela Merkel is, "a chunky woman with all the confidence and charisma of a weeping willow." He describes Vladimir Putin as "an interesting fellow" but adds "the moment a politician removes his shirt, his policies are dead in the water." He also says he would've left a loaded revolver on the desk of, "a war minister who was photographed in a swimming pool with a wench....while his troops were preparing for deployment."

I don't know if the following is some sort of commentary on German politics or not, but this Hitler seems fonder of the Greens than the NDP (Germany's BNP). He shares their "long-term vision for the future", citing energy independence plans. On his TV show, he agrees with the Green leader on a withdrawal from Afghanistan because there's "nothing to gain there", also asking her straight-up, "If the Greens took power in this country, which would be the first state they would annex?"

There are a few German pop-culture references that might go over people's heads. Hitler's compared to "Stromberg" - a German version of The Office's David Brent - parodied as being exactly like Hitler. As long as you know that Pro Sieben is a TV station and Bild is the German equivalent of The Sun and Daily Mail combined it's not much of an issue.

In satirical terms, this is definitely Juvevalian and reads like Johnathan Swift's work and even A Clockwork Orange in parts. There are firm echos of Mein Kampf too (obviously).

Basically, imagine Peep Show with Hitler as the main character.

There are two broad themes really. The first is a satire on the modern media, which suggests that the next Hitler would roll around like a pig in muck if they had access to social media and the internet.

That's the "warning message" here, and perhaps aimed squarely at populist hard-right parties. One of the main reasons Hitler was elected was because he wrapped his genocidal fantasies in a blanket of  common sense policies on things like transport, housing etc. The original Hitler was very much a Frankenstein's monster created by the media, gobbled up by the people. It could easily happen again if we allow other people to do the thinking for us.

The second theme is the German fixation on Hitler that borders on an obsession (aka "Hitleritis").

Hitler is still, just about, in living memory. Though in fifty years time, Hitler will be considered another Napoleon, Genghis Khan or Charlemagne and will be hard to relate to outside of history classrooms and war films.

Germans have been making fun of Hitler for years, but laughing with Hitler like this is part of the healing process, and a way to cast off the burden of guilt they might feel Hitler placed on Germany since the end of WW2. It's a process they started after reunification and through the 2006 World Cup, but hasn't totally ended yet.

Also, if Germany should get over democratically-electing one of history's greatest monsters, those of us in Allied countries should perhaps – after 69 years – learn to be good winners and let it go too.

Look Who's Back contains some very black humour that would certainly push people's buttons. I appreciate such things - and it's got me into trouble numerous times - but there are jokes and witticisms that could be considered racist or anti-Semitic. Though it's bloody obvious why!

It's good, but not quite great as the tone becomes repetitive - though it's short enough to avoid getting boring. It's genuinely funny, but it's not going to be to everyone's taste as it's very hard to make a genocidal maniac a sympathetic comic character.

For a German author to manage that is ballsy at the very least, verging on genius.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Album Cover MS Paint

Most album covers are pretty over the top, but very creative. Metal album covers even more so. What could make them stupider and funnier at the same time? Recreating them in MS Paint/ of course!

I stumbled across this ancient internet thread at Nuclear War Now, and various other sites. It can be quite difficult to use a mouse to draw stuff, so this underlines the talent some of these people have.

Manowar's Blow Your Speakers from Peretcadsart
Your speakers. Blow them.

Blow Your Speakers

From bnh on the Nuclear War Now thread – Motorhead's Ace of Spades. It perfectly encapsulates Phil Taylor's vacant expression.

Agnostic Front's Cause for Alarm :

Piledriver's Metal Inquisition. Underlining the seriousness of metal.

From Equinox777 – Czech Black Metal band, Enochian's Night Monumental Evil. Having fun in the snow/circus training centre. They'll catch their death of cold.

You can improvise too. Screaming pasta makes for a very close approximation of Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness. This sums up what was going through my head when watching Arsenal this afternoon.

It's not just metal either. Here's an interpretation of Talking Heads' seminal New Wave album, Remain in Light. I think you'll agree it's pretty much spot on.

From Ultimatum, here's a damn good attempt at Grace Jones' Island Life :
This is probably my favourite. A recreation of Witchfinder General's Death Penalty. It's the faces that do it for me. You can see the anguish, terror and dread.

It wouldn't be right to blog on this without having a go myself. So I choose something relatively simple - the complete abortion of a collaborative album from Metallica & Lou Reed, Lulu. The dummy has clearly had a stroke and has put on a few pounds around the chest area.

And I forgot the TABLE! TABLE! TABLE!