Going Fishing

Finally some thoughts about Hacks’ play Die Fische. You’re patience regarding all the other thoughts is appreciated.

Living in Europe as an American is kind of funny. I don’t mean funny in the pure comedic sense – as in the stuff that makes you laugh out loud. It’s more like funny in the odd-ball sense – perhaps comparable to slapstick or something. I suppose if one were to look at it as long as I have, then one could also see the funny I’m talking about as macabre.

Bear with me…

Let me try to put it another way. Take for example the term culture. I think everyone would agree that in America “culture” is different than in Europe. For example, Fussball would not necessarily be considered as part of European culture. Unless, of course, there was some threat of losing money – at which time Europe would gladly, albeit while gritting its teeth, admit that kicking a ball around a really large field of grass could have something attributable to culture.

It’s not quite the same in the new country. In America the sheer multitude of sports available on TV means something more than it being a country full of no-brainers that kick, throw and run really fast. Baseball, for one, is definitely part of American culture. I’d go as far as to say that baseball, at a cultural phenomenon level, is equal to Jazz. In fact, baseball is an American past-time – which makes it something like THE national sport. Is there a national sport in Europe/Germany?

(One of my coaches (when I was young athlete in high school) used to say this about soccer: “Only communists play sports where you can’t use your hands!” Isn’t there something cultivated in that thought?)

(No?)

Unfortunately – and this a great regret of mine – I didn’t play much baseball when I was young. I played other sports like football, tennis and lacrosse. And because of all that running around, it took till something like my twenty-third year (of life) to actually sit down and read a book. Does that make me uncultivated?

Let me tell you, if you want to really understand the true nature of sportsmanship – or being American – you should play baseball. Or at least try to learn the rules governing it.

For those that don’t know it, one thing about baseball that makes it unique to America is that it is one of the best examples of how an individual can have such an overwhelming effect on the whole. Individualism is a trademark of (being) America(n). I don’t expect most Europeans to understand that. I mean, Europe is, if nothing else, the most successful example of high-end automaton-living on the planet at this time. Even if Europeans started playing baseball it wouldn’t make a difference. Europe would still remain a place of monotony where out-dated aristocracy can still dream of ruling the world and as long as that isn’t possible it can claim ownership of the Mona-fucking-Lisa.

Of course, don’t get me wrong. It’s quite obvious that not everybody plays baseball in America. Does that mean that – as opposed to Europe – “diversity” is also part of American culture? This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that there is one other activity that may be included in this pseudo-examination of transatlantic differences and what actually constitutes culture – or the like.

Digress 1. (Don’t worry. I’m getting to Die Fische.)

When I was a boy I enjoyed fishing and if I had the chance I would have done a lot more of it. Fishing is a great outdoor activity and is perfect for fatherless youth. In a way, fishing – and playing other sports – helped me stay out of trouble. For those unaware: trouble is yet another part of American culture. In fact, and this is kind of a secret regarding America, trouble stems out of the differences that make up America… (Sorry. I can’t reveal anymore or I’ll have to kill you.)

There’s really not much to fishing. You just need a bit of equipment and some patience. In fact, the first time I ever experienced anything like “karma” was when I was bass fishing on Virginia river shores.

Bass fishing on swampy river shores and inlets is almost like the fishing seen in the film “The River Runs Through It”. That film, based on the Novella by Norman Maclean, was about a different type of fishing called fly fishing. Bass fishing usually employs a small boat and our rivers didn’t move as quickly. Also, we used spinning rods instead of fly rods – and we considered the whole thing more like hunting. To say the least, there is nothing finer than hunting and catching a big mouth bass!

If you knew where to go and how to get there you could also bass fish/hunt from river/swamp shores – which is great if you’re young and can’t afford the boat. (Yours truly!) The biggest hurdle to this kind of fishing, beyond figuring out location, is learning how to caste. Casting a lure requires some pretty unique skills. I knew a guy that could caste a lure with a spin rod thirty or so yards and hit a penny lying on the ground – while he was standing in a boat on the river. Yeah, finding Karma requires some precision and skill and the ability to caste a lure between the half-sunken roots of trees lining river inlets where bass like to hide.

Now, I don’t know about you, but is there “culture” in anything mentioned above?

I really miss the idea that was/is my homeland, I really miss the/my geography. But could I go back to that culture?

Digress 2. (Yes. We’re getting to Die Fische.)

Unfortunately life moves on. And I made the grand mistake of “moving on” to Germany – where fishing is treated like another bureaucratic, consuming, state-sponsored activity and people are clueless to the simple beauty of baseball or fishing. As we all know bureaucracy rules everything in Germany. It even rules culture. The US has its bureaucracy, too, but I can say that it has nothing to do with fishing – or throwing a ball around. Yes, I guess one can say that I learned about bureaucracy the hard way: I went across the pond (the Atlantic) to actually swim in it.

During the early phase of my frustrating move to Germany, probably in the mid 90s, I thought about the possibility of going fishing. I mean, there are a lot of rivers in Germany. I even saw old men, mostly Ausländer, sitting on the banks of rivers with fishing poles and Styrofoam buckets at their side. Since I was becoming desperate regarding the error of my ways I thought I might be able to save my sanity and fish again.

I went to a German version of a Tackle Shop. The place had fishing poles and lures and… All the equipment I would need. Then I asked Herr Arrogance (the guy who inherited the store, of course) if there is anything I need to know about the rules. Typical of Euro sour-pusses, he acknowledged that I was different and then proceeded to tell me, with a sinister grin, that Germany loves its bureaucracy – because it does nothing more than protect his and everyone else’s claim to inheriting it.

Naturally, I’ve given up on fishing because bureaucracy has beaten me down to a pulp since moving to Germany. I also let the reality of mistakes settle into my soul and now I live in the grand cage that is oh-so golden. Trust me when I say that one can get used to such a cage. Yet sometimes I am reminded of things past and a lone tear falls from my left eye (because it’s the weakest one) and I think back to the days when life breathed inside me, to the day when I didn’t run away, to the day when it all wasn’t about feeding the machine that Europeans lie to themselves by screaming the world “culture” – and the state beats them to it screaming louder “bureaucracy”.

Such reminders stick with me and provide a spark that leads to a memory. The newest of which comes from the play Die Fische, by Peter Hacks. Even though this play has nothing to do with baseball, it reminded me of it. Even though this play has nothing to do with fishing, it reminded me of those swampy river banks in Virginia. And, yes, this play reminds me whole heartily of my newest love in this golden cage: cultivation.

Stop the presses! OK. Maybe the play Die Fische does have something to do with fishing…

I can no longer fish and I’m too old for sports. And now I thoroughly enjoy the only thing I’ve learned while living in Europe: cultivation. Cultivation is no different than learning how to fish or playing baseball. But it is not learning how to play soccer.

Digress 3.

Of the plays I’ve read so far this play is the most exciting – and not because it should be categorized as “macabre”. Die Fische takes place in May, 1866, in the mountains of Rio Frio, Mexico. This is during the French intervention under Napoleon III who also wants to install Maximillian (Hapsburg) as monarch. Supposedly Napoleon has sent Professor Simon, a scientist, to research an important discovery having to deal with the existence of “homo pisciforme” – or the fish-man.

Now, this play has quite a complex plot – and perhaps here lies the/my connection to American culture as listed above. One of the complexities in this plot is the underlying conflict between imperialist Europe and struggling republican Mexico with the duly elected Benito Juarez. Even deeper in the underlining plot is the fact that by 1866 the American civil war was over. With that mind, by the end of the play it’s not clear who the soldiers all worked for – as the concept of spying may be taken to a new level by Mr. Hacks.

The main conflict of the play is between the commanding soldier Goyon and Professor Simon. Goyon is preparing to leave Mexico and return to Europe because they (Europeans) have lost the conflict. Simon wants to stay and, according to the hand-written letter from Napoleon, Goyon has to follow his orders. Goyon thinks militarily about the situation because Juarez rebels are threatening him and easily questions not just Simon and his letter but the legitimacy of Simon’s research. And that’s where the macabre enters.

Homo Pisciforme is used in this play to describe a creature that is some kind of a hybrid between a fish and a man. Simon thinks he has finally found this hybrid, which will lead to the greatest scientific discovery of the century. But the only way to get this creature is to fish for it, which Simon is doing throughout the play. The thing that prevents him from making any kind of discovery, though, is the political conflict affecting their world and the fact that at the beginning of the play soldiers ate the first catch.

So there’s also a little bit of cannibalism in the play as it begins with three soldiers eating one of the caught fish. When they learn what they have eaten they want to kill Simon. To say the least, Hacks has created quite a comedic character in Prof. Simon and an adequate character of authority in Goyo. Unfortunately time is not on Simon’s side and the scientific discovery must continue to wait. As usual, authority always wins – even if you don’t quite know where it’s coming from.

I won’t spoil the play any more here because I recommend that everyone read this play. My only question is, when one considers all the boring plays available on German corporate subsidized theatres these days, why is this exciting play no where to be seen? It really is a cool play and unlike that krapp from Botho Strauß or Moritz Rinke, it’s not a play about being German. Thank goodness!

Rant on.

-tgs-

Chip On Shoulder

Obviously in my last two posts I failed at writing about the most recent play that I read by Hacks. In fact, it was my intention to write about Die Fische but I never quite got around to it. That shouldn’t be understood as any kind of conclusion regarding the play. It is a play that I actually enjoyed reading. I guess, to put it another way, I’ve reached a kind of wall regarding Hacks.

Well maybe the word “wall” isn’t quite right. Perhaps I should term it: dilemma. And my … dilemma isn’t about actually writing about Peter Hacks. In fact, give me pen & paper or a lowly old typewriter and I could write about anything. I am WorstWriter! (https://worstwriter.wordpress.com/) With that in mind, the stuff I write doesn’t make much sense, but who really needs to make any sense in this day & age of gluttonous, superficial nothingness where “worst” should prefix almost everything?

I confronted the publisher of this forum about my meaningless little dilemma because, well, I thought I might need some motivating to continue. The publisher’s advice was to simply write about something else, which I did. And then I turn around and he’s no longer running the Peter-Hacks.de website. Has he run out of stuff to say about Hacks?

Anywho.

I might get to Peter Hacks’ Die Fische in my next post. Until then… Get this…

In America we have various sayings and euphemism for the misery-happiness that is life. Naturally this is subjective but if one were to take the time and analyze it then it might be somewhat clearer that if America and the American Way of Life could be summed up in a few words those words just might be these: Chip on Shoulder.

The words are used something like this: Wow, that guy has a chip on his shoulder. Or you might have heard it used like this: Tom, you need to get that chip off your shoulder. The connotation here is that the person with the chip on his/her shoulder has a grievance or is somehow angry about life and/or his/her situation. That maybe true but…

I think the meaning of Chip on Shoulder is completely misunderstood. The reason it is misunderstood is simple. We no longer live in a world where achievement (chip?) can actually be measured. Hence, this is also the reason that I believe (in)human genetic coding has evolved to include the Chip on Shoulder. That’s right: we’re all now born with it. Since the advent of the 20th century and the success of The West the “chip” is like a non-opposing thumb that is always under our skin. When I was young there were actually people that still had to go out to acquire the chip. Boy, evolution is tricky, eh.

Facing truths.

Way, way, way, way, way back… in a time before marketing, service-industry-employment and pop-culture replaced the actual making of things in the so-called First World, the saying “he has a chip on his shoulder” didn’t mean that someone had a problem and therefore blamed the world for his/her problem. Instead, the whole idea of the “chip” was literally a way for a man to confront another man that something is wrong (in the game of life).

It worked like this. A man would put a piece of wood (chip) on his shoulder and walk up to another man and say: I dare you to knock it off. Of course, what we’re dealing with here is violence. I think by and large, this is one of those rare acceptable forms of violence – you know, as is the case with some sporting events. In order to control the violence, though, there should be a law/rule that says you can’t kill someone – no matter what. If the challenge was accepted then, in a way, the score (the conflict) would/could be equalled and the game (of life) could continue.

Duelling.

The fact is the “chip” was a fairly decent way of replacing the duel where someone usually would die. I mean, how can a man really face his problems in the days of rampant individual arms-collecting? Remember, we do live in a world where the only possible and yet irrational measurement for achievement is material gain. Today Chip on Shoulder has been relegated to meaning that a man simply has a problem and he blames the whole world for it. I guess it’s no wonder that so many people pick up guns these days and take so many out with them since they have no game to play anymore. Yeah, running amok is a one-sided duel!

Fairness and justice.

In a world where economics and politics is driven by people who in order to survive must consume it has become fairly easy to blur the truth of justice. In fact, if you ask me, this is one of the reasons “democracy” has failed and will continue to fail until it is removed. I’m really sorry to bust your bubbles out there but 50%-50% politics isn’t democracy. Even 49-51 or 52-48 politics isn’t democratic. What it really is – is this: collectivism. I suppose The West’s failure is comparable to the theory of phase-cancellation but I won’t get into that here. Everyone has a problem on both sides of the so-called democratic process. Yet voting solves no problems.

The good thing about using the old Chip on Shoulder as a way to solve problems is that if the challenge is/was done right, usually in the public domain, the conflict between the two men/parties could be addressed because after the fight the core of the problem is revealed. Here, of course, is the difference to a duel. A duel would usually kill one side of the challenge. But more importantly, in a duel the person who survives has killed the truth. Remember, there was a time when a death in a duel was considered “fair”. With the whole Chip on Shoulder thing no one has to die – including the truth. Perhaps that’s the reason so many people today mix up fairness and justice?

Is there really a financial crisis right now?

Unless you believe that bears shit in toilets there is really no financial crisis in the world right now. But there is a great example of how Chip on Shoulder is finally being taken away as a chance to even the score. In fact, we’re living in that example. If anyone wants to truly understand the current financial crisis taking place in my Grand United Mistakes and the world, then give this a thought.

As you may or may not know, Dubya (G.W. Bush) and A L L his neo-con cronies are very successful failures. We in America have created a new term for these people. These are not people that achieve anything with their lives and/or the things they do. Yet they seem to “succeed”. But it’s not really success that they share amongst themselves, now is it? Hence we call them and what they do: failing upwards.

The reality is the entire request in United Mistakes Congress for $700 billion dollars to bail out “Wall Street” is a really good joke – if you understand that kind of humour. It has nothing do with bailing out anything – nor does it have anything to do with the financial situation of the United Mistakes or the world. What the request from the United Mistakes Secretary of the Treasury (crony) and Dubya’s administration is, is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to secure the cherry that has been floating atop the cream that they’ve already horded for the past thirty (or so, i.e. since Ronal Regan) years. So for you numb-nuts out there, the $700 billion isn’t about socialism taking over capitalism. Nor is it about capitalism failing. It is simply a continuation of something that so many refuse to even look at because they/you are so obsessed with measuring “achievements” that do not even exist. Bush & Company are laughing their asses off!

Although I don’t care to actually explain what I’m writing (or thinking) I will put the above paragraph another way: Failing upwards is nothing new. In fact, the people that have failed upwards are the ones that built our world. More to the point: these people are nothing more than robber-barons. Any numb-nuts out there know that term? They do not care what happens to “Wall Street” nor do they care about America or the world. And this is really the saddest part of the whole Dubya debacle over the last eight years: the American people and the world deserve every bit that’s coming to them. The American people and the entire “Western” world put Bush right where he is and have enjoyed it to the hilt – and now that their/your masters want a chunk more (before their term ends) everyone thinks that DAS VOLK is being screwed.

I’m laughing my ass-off too.

Again, 50%-50% politicking doesn’t quite get anything done, does it? Germans should know this well from their silly multiple-party corporate government. No one can maintain a clear political mandate in Germany in order to make a difference for the participants or DAS VOLK. The fact is, if there are people out there that were/are against Dubya and this type of “capitalism” then where are the chips on their shoulders!

It doesn’t matter on what side of the Atlantic you live. The game is over. Robber barons will be quite happy with just the cream! But I suppose, since I live in Germany, I should give some credit where it’s due. Thank goodness Fr. Merkel got on the TV this week to announce that the/her robber-barons should get their fair cut. But then again, I’ve yet to meet in all my travels a PHD that’s much brighter than her.

The interesting thing about Dubya and his world is that he is probably the first (in)human that has been able to take advantage of the evolution of the Chip On Shoulder. You see, by moving to Europe and living amongst a bunch of perverted socialists that have perfected the Grand Masquerade Ball also known as “society”, I have been able to see through the divide that is the Atlantic. My conclusion is that there really is no difference. With that in mind, I think it’s time to walk tall, carry a big stick and say: come on, I dare you. It’s time to start standing up for something…

Rant on.

-tgs-