Friday, 13 March 2009

S'up, peeps? Or, the Doctor is in.

I'd like to introduce myself by saying that I was moved to post on this blog because of Herr Professor D's post (below) on his Carnival costume not being recognized by the obtuse populace. Even allowing for the drunk-unto-death stupor in which most of the revellers remain for the entire week, how can anyone fail to recognize a look as iconic as Indiana Jones'? Beats me.

HPD touched a nerve, because I've had similar experiences in two years of attending Carnival, and have concluded that if you dress as anything that wouldn't be recognized by a German toddler, no one will have a clue what you're wearing. That pretty much narrows the range of costumes to clown, cowboy or Indian chief. Year after year after year. Yawn.

Of course, I didn't know any of that during my first year in Cologne, so I went to Carnival 2007 wearing the costume above. I thought the connection between my outfit and a certain well-known film trilogy was perfectly obvious. Mais non, mes chers! How wrong I was. I dutifully spectated at the parade line, hung out with friends from work, and generally spent hours outside seeing and being seen by hundreds of people, but NOBODY could figure out to what cultural thingy my costume referred. Even adults who were sci-fi fans and had spent years in the States or the UK. And when I explained it to them, I got mostly blank looks.

Can any of you identify the character on which my costume is based? How about the film trilogy? Anybody? Bueller?

How about this one on the right? I literally held a sign that, while it didn't spell out the name of the famous literary character who inspired my costume, made it pretty unambiguous (or so I thought). I mean, if you see a woman in Middle Eastern dress--colorful, but fully-covered, so clearly not a belly dancer--holding a sign that says "Once upon a time" in three languages (one of which is clearly Middle Eastern), don't you think: "hmmm, it must be something to do with storytelling?"

I work in a building full of fantastically well-educated and well-travelled Germans, so I had high hopes that they would "get" the costume. Wrong again. Instead, I got responses like: "I know--you're a suicide bomber!" Uh, nope. Another guessed, "You're a feminist protesting something?" [headdesk]

So I ask you, fellow English-speakers: is there some kind of imaginative impairment afflicting da Faddaland?

And while I'm at it, here are a few other questions which have haunted my 2.5 years in Cologne, and I'd really appreciate any insights you might have:

1) Why do people in Cologne body-check each other on the sidewalk and in other public spaces when there's plenty of room to avoid collisions by taking a step to one side? And why, when they bash into each other, do they never apologize? I've been in some of the most crowded cities in the world (like Shanghai and New Dehli) and somehow people mostly manage to avoid banging into each other; when rubbing shoulders, and assorted other body parts, is unavoidable, they excuse themselves. But I've gotten pushed and shoved far more harshly, and with more bruises to show for it, in Cologne than anyplace I've ever been. Does this have something to do with the annexation of the Suedetenland?

2) The mullet--elsewhere in the world, it has been mocked to near-extinction. Here, it flourishes. Why? Can someone explain whatever it is about the German (or Cologne) aesthetic that I'm missing?

3) Same question re: the dozen or so women I see every day on the U-Bahn and on the sidewalks, who have dyed their hair electric burgundy and traffic-safety orange. This looks good on no one. I can understand some of this as youthful bad judgement and/or rebellion, but it seems to be a particularly popular strategy among women in their 50s and 60s. To me, they look like scary clowns. But they seem to think they look really foxy. Again, can someone explain this aesthetic?

Yours faithfully, over and out,
Professor Chupacabra