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Dahoam is Dahoam is football

Sunday, 11 May, 2014 0 Comments

“Football’s comin’ Dahoam” chanted a group of Bayern Munich fans yesterday as their team celebrated winning the Bundesliga. The Bavarian saying “Dahoam is dahoam” (Home is home) is also the title of a popular soap opera about the lives of the residents of a fictitious village in Upper Bavaria where the characters speak in the kind of dialect that can be found in Hoamatgsang, a 19th-centry Austrian song by Franz Stelzhamer and Hans Schnopfhagen that became the anthem of Upper Austria.

Dahoam is dahoam,
Wannst net fort muaßt, so bleib;
Denn d’Hoamat is ehnter
Der zweit Muaderleib

FC Bayern


The Hildebrandts: Gollum and Banksy

Monday, 18 November, 2013 0 Comments

In the legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien, the figure of Gollum is one of the most memorable and frightening. Down through the centuries of his miserable existence, Gollum has come to love and loathe the Ring, just as he loves and despises himself. But the Ring, which Gollum calls “my precious”, brings him no joy because he’s torn between lust for it and a desire to be free of it. This is the tragedy of the hoarder.

There’s something of the Gollum in Cornelius Gurlitt, who stashed 1,280 paintings and drawings — masterworks believed to be worth more than $1 billion — in his Munich apartment. Speaking to Der Spiegel magazine last week, Gurlitt said he had not watched television since 1963 and had never gone online, but did talk to his pictures. He kept some of his favourites in a small suitcase that he would unpack each evening to admire and for more than half-century his only true friends were a huge collection of prized images created by Picasso, Chagall, Gauguin and a multitude of other modern masters. He inherited the works from his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, a Third Reich-era art dealer, partly Jewish, and one of just four people authorized by the Nazis to trade so-called degenerate art during their reign.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Hildebrand Gurlitt was questioned by members of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives unit of the United States military, the group of historians, curators and soldiers entrusted with safeguarding Europe’s cultural heritage. In his statements to investigators, he emphasized his anti-Nazi sentiments and claimed that he had never handled stolen art, and that the works in his possession were mostly “the personal property of my family or myself.” The Monuments Men concluded that he was not a key player in the art trade and later returned to him paintings, drawings and other fine art objects. After his death in 1956, his son Cornelius inherited the family treasures and kept them, and most of the art world, in the dark for another five decades. His precious.

Unlike his Gollum-like son, Hildebrand Gurlitt was a worldly figure, a true opportunist and a totally amoral individual. His assistant, Karl Heinz Hering, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that his boss knew how to satisfy those post-war customers with large wallets, zero taste and a longing for a little Heimat on their walls. “Well-off hunters used to come to the gallery, but most of the paintings on offer were by French artists, who were inspired mainly by the atmospheric aspects of landscapes. No hunting animals or familiar fauna, in other words. But Gurlitt was clever and he didn’t want to see the disciples of art going home empty handed so he’d find someone who could insert an imposing stag in a grove or a copse.”

This sounds a bit like Banksy, who bought a kitsch painting for $50 in New York last month and added a Nazi officer enjoying the bucolic Bavarianish landscape. It would be Hitler’s idea of perfect art, so Bansky titled it “The Banality of the Banality of Evil”. It was sold for $615,000 with the money going to the homeless charity Housing Works. Unlike Banksy, however, Cornelius Gurlitt isn’t giving anything away.

Banksy


Where’s the European GAFAT?

Thursday, 17 October, 2013 0 Comments

A rum lot of politicians and publishers have gathered in Munich for the annual Medientage talk fest. They’re being aided and abetted in their deliberations by the bureaucrats of Germany’s media apparatus, who intone the yearly incantations about the vital role that newspapers and state broadcasters play in preserving democracy. That these pieties are nothing but a tawdry appeal for protectionism against the inroads being made by the new media is lost on no one, but they must be uttered to ward off the dark shadows being cast by GAFA. That’s Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, by the way. Europe’s total failure to produce its own GAFA is never openly discussed at events like the Munich Medientage for fear that it might expose how dependent the continent’s media industry is now on the kindness of more innovative strangers.

And when it comes to the future of journalism, the shape of things to come won’t be defined in Europe, either. Yesterday’s announcement by Pierre Omidyar that he was “in the very early stages of creating a new mass media organization… that will be independent of my other organizations” suggests that it won’t be paper based or based in Omidyar’s native France, for that matter. He made his money by founding eBay and now lives in Honolulu.

Then there’s the agora, that space in which democracies conduct open discussion. According to the Munich media apparatchiks, state gatekeepers are best placed to take care of that. In the real world, however, the critical service for the well-being of the global public sphere is going to be Twitter. So, make that GAFAT.

This just in: The International Journalism Festival, set to take place in April 2014 in Perugia, has been cancelled. Reason? The thing that’s said to be the root of all evil. In this case, the lack of it. The organizers should have asked @pierre for a few dollars. He’s got them and he’s hot on journalism. Major fail, that, Europe.


The great Oktoberfest clearance sale

Sunday, 6 October, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in Munich, the 180th Oktoberfest ends. The organizers are very pleased with the statistics: 6.4 million drinkers and 6.7 million Maß beer drunk. And then there’s the business of Tracht, the traditional attire that was worn by peasants in the Alpine regions during the 18th century. Back in August, in an article titled […]

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Life without air-con

Thursday, 25 July, 2013 0 Comments

On Sunday, in Munich, the temperature is predicted to reach 38C, and it might even touch 40C. Because Germans regard air-conditioning as “American” and, therefore, depraved, unnecessary suffering will be widespread; especially hard hit will be helpless patients in many of the city’s clinics and hospitals.

There was a time, however, on the other side of the Atlantic when air-conditioning was unknown and Arthur Miller captured the hardship of summer in Manhattan beautifully in “Before air-conditioning,” which was first published in the New Yorker in June 1998. Snippet:

“People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.

Even through the nights, the pall of heat never broke. With a couple of other kids, I would go across 110th to the Park and walk among the hundreds of people, singles and families, who slept on the grass, next to their big alarm clocks, which set up a mild cacophony of the seconds passing, one clock’s ticks syncopating with another’s.”

On the other hand, the Bavarians might be justified in their rejection of air conditioning because as Garrison Keillor once noted: “It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming.”

Munich weather


The desire to brew and drink beer

Sunday, 14 July, 2013 0 Comments

“So, if people didn’t settle down to take up farming, why then did they embark on this entirely new way of living? We have no idea — or actually, we have lots of ideas, but we don’t know if any of them are right. According to Felipe Fernández-Armesto, at least thirty-eight theories have been put […]

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Champions League: Karl Lagerfeld vs. Uli Hoeneß

Friday, 24 May, 2013 0 Comments

The German fashion designer, artist and photographer Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many talents, and he doesn’t shun controversy. Unfashionably, he defends the use of fur in fashion. In a BBC interview in 2009 he claimed that hunters “make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting, killing those beasts who would kill us […]

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And then there were two

Thursday, 2 May, 2013 0 Comments

Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München will contest the Champions League final on 25 May in Wembley Stadium in London. While Dortmund did just enough to edge past Real Madrid, it is the thrashing of Barcelona by Bayern that has sent the football world searching for words to explain, interpret and understand what we have seen.

“We’re witnessing the beginning of the end of an era for Barca, and the end of the beginning of an era for Bayern,” said Gary Lineker on the BBC last night. And then there were the tweets:

So does this mean that the Bundesliga is the model for European clubs? Not quite, argues economist David McWilliams: “Without free-spending, debt-financed, brash Spanish giants like Real Madrid and Barcelona, Bayern would have nobody to play with. There would be no Champions League. Put simply, without the huge spending of the likes of Real, the Germans would have no competition to play in or against.”


Messi, Messi

Tuesday, 23 April, 2013 1 Comment

“The overwhelming sensation when you watch Messi is still this: He’s a child. The nerd with the flowerpot hairdo looks like a kid who has won a competition to spend a day with Barcelona. His physique seems to mock all the man monsters and fitness rooms and ‘food supplements’ of modern sport. When Messi receives […]

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A meshugener in the Haus der Kunst

Sunday, 14 April, 2013 0 Comments

When the Nazis decided to erect a monument, one that would glorify the concept of art as propaganda and venerate their Aryan supremacist ideology, they chose Munich, the “Capital of the Movement”, as the location. The Haus der Kunst (House of Art) “) at Prinzregentenstrasse 1 opened on 18 July 1937 with the Große Deutsche […]

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Giovanni Trapattoni kicks off our Italian week

Monday, 18 February, 2013 0 Comments

Italy is very much in the news these days. For instance, there’s a critical general election next weekend and that will be followed by the papal conclave in Rome as a result of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. True to form, these major events have been preceded by the arrest of the former head of the country’s third largest bank for alleged fraud and bribery, and the arrest of the chairman of the air defense group Finmeccanica over his alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.

Life goes on, however, and that symbol of a kinder, gentler Italy, Giovanni Trapattoni, will today preside over the opening a new shopping mall in Munich. Trap, as fans call him, managed local team Bayern Munich for two seasons and he remains very popular in the Bavarian capital because of his style, charm and cryptic use of German. The expression “Ich habe fertig!” (“I’m done!”) is a legendary Trapattonism that owes its linguistic fame to his usage of the verb habe (have) instead of bin (am) during an emotional press conference and has since become part of spoken German.

Fertig!

Beneath the jolly exterior, beats a canny heart and Trapattoni struck a one of the century’s best deals in 2008 when he convinced the Football Association of Ireland to appoint him as manager of the national squad on a munificent salary of €2 million a year, plus €750,000 a year for his backroom team. It was this kind of profligacy that saw Ireland seek an EU bailout in 2010 and in a selfless gesture of burden-sharing a year later, Trapattoni agreed to have his pay cut to €1 million per annum. Odd jobs like opening a shopping mall in prosperous Munich helps Trap to cope with that sharp drop in income.

Whilst in Munich, the devout Catholic Giovanni Trapattoni will, no doubt, find time to pray for the Bavarian Pope, Benedetto, who is the subject of tomorrow’s post here.