Meanwhile at CNN

This is exactly why I don’t watch television news, and especially not American television news. I would love it if someone could find the clip that this was taken from.

Music Spotlight 2 — A-Trio

What does German indie rock sound like? When it has taste and style, it sounds like A-Trio. The band was formed in Magdeburg by André Weißkeller and has been around for a few years. They’ve done tons of shows and concerts so it’s amazing that they’re still struggling to make it. One reason may be that they had to change their band name in 2011 from Stayded, which may have obscured them a bit. They have one EP out there called Vorgeschriebene Ansichtssache which you can get at their website here.

Now that we have a bit of a biography here, let’s take a listen.

Did I mention that they’re from Magdeburg? They’re quite proud of this. Magdeburg State of Mind was done with Philipp Schmidt who appears to be involved to some degree with a number of German indie artists, including A-Trio. Or at least he was while they were known as Strayded (his own site doesn’t have their updated name). He also seems to have connections with the cheerleaders you saw in the last song. No, that wasn’t a sex joke. Apparently, Magdeburg has their own cheer squad known and mascots as the Guardian Angels. TIL. Here you can see them performing the song live with the Angels that’s pretty good.

Motifs like that are pretty cool for a German band considering their goofy American pop culture connotations. As a matter of fact you can see a lot of influences from that country in their music. My personal favorite of their songs is quite a bit more like American power rock than anything in Germany right now. Check out this jam:

It even has Football, not to be confused with that strange creature Fußball. ;)

Overall A-Trio is a great band with a lot of potential. They’re getting a little more attention then they used to and have had some live appearances on TV. I’m quite impressed with their stuff and their lead singers vocals. They have great showmanship and good beats. Want to see more of their stuff? Check out their sites:

Official Site




German Verb Valency

This is one of those posts that’s only been written, because something very useful has been staring you in the face for years, but no one ever brings it up. I wish someone had explained this stuff to me way back when I first started learning German. But now you guys get the benefit of having this wonderful diatribe on German verbs thrown at you.

So, what exactly is verb valency you ask? Verb valency is basically a linguistic theory that holds that a verb determines the maximum number of nouns that can be in a clause. The nouns are called “arguments” (or “compliments” in some circles) and verbs can take anywhere from 0-3 nouns, depending on the verb. The chart basically goes like this:

  • 0 nouns: avalent.
  • 1 nouns: intransitive. “Ich1 tanze.” “I1 dance.”
  • 2 nouns: transitive. “Ich1 liebe dich2.” “I1 love you2.”
  • 3 nouns: ditransitive. “Ich1 gab dir2 eines Gemälde3.” I1 gave you2 a painting3.”

The thing is, though, is that English doesn’t have avalent verbs and neither does German. Not unless you count verbs in the imperative mood, but that’s a separate subject. If it did, then there would be clauses with just a verb and no nouns, such as occurs in other languages like Spanish. For example, “Llueve” means “It’s raining”. In addition, another important concept for the valency theory of verbs, is that valency represents the maximum of nouns a verb can take, but it can take less. So one can say “Ich1 glaube dir2” (“I believe you”) as well as “Ich1 glaube” (“I believe”).

This is cool and all Adlerchen, but how does this relate to German? I’m glad you asked! German is a language with cases, which confuses this even more. As a result, German verbs have a valency for how many nouns they can take and what cases those nouns are. So put another way, there are 5 possible combinations in German:

  1. intransitive: nominative
  2. transitive: nominative + nominative
  3. transitive: nominative + accusative
  4. transitive: nominative + dative
  5. ditransitive: nominative + dative + accusative

The above patterns are determined solely by the verb they take. So as an extrapolation, one can say that there are 5 separate kinds of verbs in German based on this. Type 1 verbs have only a subject and no objects. Verb types 2-4 have one subject and one object. The subjects will of course be nominative and the objects’ case is determined by the type of verb at play. The the last verb type has one subject and two objects. The dative object is the indirect object, whereas the accusative object is the direct object. Simple enough, but let’s go a little in depth on each type and give some examples.

Type 1 verbs are relatively rare. In many circumstances standalone subjects are there because a verb actually has a higher valency, but the other arguments are being omitted or are simply not needed anyway. So, don’t always assume that clauses with one noun use verbs of this type, especially since all the other verbs from the other types have the technical potential to take only one noun. (Though in practice many verbs almost always use their maximum valence). “Ich schlafe” (“I sleep”) is an example of the first type.

Type 2 verbs are the rarest of them all. There are only three of them, namely sein, haben, and bleiben. So it’s not going to be any trouble to memorize this group. What’s peculiar about them though, is that the objects take the nominative which in any other case wouldn’t happen, because the nominative is for the subject. An example of this is the phrase “Sie ist der Hammer!” (“She rocks!”). Notice how the article stays der instead of becoming den.

Type 3 verbs are overwhelmingly the most common. If you have to guess what case the object of a clause is, presume it’s accusative unless it’s being modified by a preposition that takes the dative or the genitive. “Ich schreibe ein Buch” (“I’m writing a book”).

Type 4 verbs are another rare breed. There are only a handful of them, so it’s best to just memorize them separately. They include antworten, begegnen, danken, fehlen, folgen, gefühlen, gehören, gelingen, glauben, gratulieren, helfen, nützen, raten, schmecken, vertrauen, widersprechen, zuhören, and zuschauen. An example is the phrase “Ich danke dir” (“I thank you”).

Type 5 verbs are about as rare as type 4 verbs. They include anbieten, beantworten, beweisen, bringen, empfehlen, erklären, erlauben, erzählen, geben, leihen, mitteilen, sagen, schenken, schicken, verbieten, versprechen, vorschlagen, wegnehmen, wünschen, and zeigen. An example in action is “Ich bringe dir das Buch” (“I’m bringing you the book”).

Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, go forth and German! With these handy lists you can start memorizing which cases you need for which verbs. After that, all you have to do is memorize which prepositions each verb takes. ;)

Germany loses first place in global popularity

Since 2008, the BBC has been conducting a poll to see which countries are viewed the most positively. In the last 4 years, Germany has repeatedly topped the charts. This year however, Japan beat it out by a few percentage points. The change probably reflects the controversies that Germany has been involved in since last year, its insistence on austerity measures certainly included. But who can say in an anonymous poll like this? Much of the decreased approval seemed to come from other Western countries, which makes sense when you think about it. Approval from Spain dropped 14% and disapproval rose by 15%, which probably has to do with the cucumber scare from earlier last year. Whatever the sociopolitical reasons behind it, Germany is still very beloved. Only Pakistan viewed it more negatively than positively. As a matter of fact, only Canada was seen less negatively. It’s economy was cited as its biggest contribution to the world and its most positive influence. Its foreign policy was seen as its next biggest contribution, which also makes sense because of Germany’s overwhelmingly peaceful stance worldwide.

The poll itself is pretty interesting and is worth a look. The whole thing can be found here.

“Was gesagt werden muss” by Günter Grass

On April 4th Nobel laureate Günter Grass, and all around king of modern German literature, published what he implied to be his last poem online to Süddeutsche Zeitung at first and later to Der Spiegel. The poem, called “Was gesagt werden muss” or “What Must be Said”, created a firestorm of controversy. But, it being a critique of Israel that was a predictable outcome. Israel is at the center of seemingly endless scandals and is one of the most talked about countries on the planet. Among these hotly debated topics are its recent threats to attack Iran and its speculated nuclear arsenal. In “Was gesagt werden muss” both of themes come together to show what one possible outcome is, if Israel and Iran do go to war. Grass has always been an advocate of anti-militarism, so it’s no surprise that he would pen this. However, even baring in mind the controversial nature of this topic, this will probably be known as his most misunderstood work.

Multiple news stories ran on it, but some completely misrepresented the poem, or failed to analyze it in any meaningful way. This was due partly to language barrier issues (at least in the English speaking world). There are a number of translations out there for it already, so this is hardly excusable. There was a cursory one put out there at first by Heather Horn in the Atlantic. There is also one by Breon Mitchell at the Guardian, which seems to be the most cited. Then Joseph Kuggelmass put a far better and less literal one on his blog. And, Michael Keefer and Nica Mintz had put out the best translation in my opinion on Pulse Media, which makes no sacrifice of meaning and keeps in large part the poetics and feel of the original. However they do add in a few things not found in the original.

I’m putting out a translation here, as well, worded specifically to keep the emotions of urgency intact and to make the political aims of the poem clear. It will be followed by the original German poem for comparison. Enjoy!

“What Must Be Said” by Günter Grass, translated by Adlerchen

Why am I silent, concealing for too long
What is obvious and practised in war games,
where at its end, we as survivers
are only footnoots at most?

It is this supposed right for a preemptive strike,
that was co-opted by one of the arrogant,
who is leading others to orginized cheering
for an attack that could wipe out the Iranian people,
because the building of an atomic bomb
is suspected in their domain.

But why do I forbide myself to name
that other country,
in which for years – even though kept secret –
they have had a growing and usable nuclear arsenal,
beyond control,
because no inspection can be obtained?

I find the universal concealment of these facts,
which my own silence was accessory to,
as damned lies and force
that, in plain view, bring punishment
and disregard to one at the same time.
The verdict of “antisemitism” is familiar.

But now, my country,
which has its own crimes
that are without compare,
with which time and time again it is confronted over,
that again in sheer comercialism,
even though nimble lips have declared it to be just atonement,
we should supply an additional submarine to Israel,
that’s specifically admitted specialty
is the delivery of all-destroying nuclear warheads
to where the exsistance of even a single atomic bomb is unknown.
But when fear is proof,
I say what must be said.

But why have I kept silent for this long?
Because I felt that my past,
which is mared with am unremovable stain,
forbade me from mention of this absolute fact
about the land of Israel,
Of which I am connected to
and wish to remain so.

Why do I say this only now,
so aged and with my last ink?
The nuclear might of Israel endangers
the already fragile peace of the world.
Because, what must be said
could already be too late tomorrow.
Also because we – as Germans, burdoned enough already –
could become suppliers of a crime
that is forseeable. Which is why our complicity
would not be erasable
through any of the usual excuses.

And I confess: I’m silent no longer
because I’m sick of the hypocracy of the West.
Furthermore, it is hoped that it will
free many others from silence,
challenge the cause of the known danger,
renounce violance,
and equally to insist on
an unhindered and perminent control
of the israeli aresenal
and the iranian nuclear power plants
by an international agency
which the governments of both countries will agree to.

Only then can one help
the Israelis and Palestinians.
And even more, all the people, who live side by side as enemies
in this region occupied by madness.
And finnaly, to help us too.

“Was gesagt werden muss” von Günter Grass

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren – wenn auch geheimgehalten –
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt “Antisemitismus” ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?
Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir – als Deutsche belastet genug –
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.

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