Love Letters to Hitler

A cult of private fealty to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler grew in the years before World War II, reflecting public fawning by the Reich's city fathers. These love letters – some from prominent Americans – now read as a warning.

Want to know why men fight—and why we like to watch?

Jon Gottschall is a man you want at every academic dinner party. He seems to have read everything, takes interest in the work of others, and can converse for hours about anything.

Hitler's bookbinder

Michael Shaughnessy reports the untold story of Frieda Thiersch—and the mysteries of her life, her motives and her books

Guestblogger signing off!

I am signing off as a BB guest blogger. It has been a great deal of fun to post here occasionally and I was very happy to contribute to a site I have been reading for years. Thanks to all the BB editors who write articles provoking thoughts, laughter, and outrage. Particular thanks to Rob Beschizza for helping me craft my pieces and providing excellent layout work on a number of features.

I will still be a not-so-mild-mannered professor and continue my work with CAPL to provide free, high quality, authentic images for the foreign language teaching community.

Most of all, I would like to acknowledge to support of my family of three amazing kids and my smokin' hot wife Christy. She is also a foreign language professor and I have never met someone who is simultaneously so intelligent and kind hearted. Much of my work owes a great deal to her support and critical eye. Sláinte! Read the rest

Welcome to Bierwelt, Bavaria's theme park based on beer

I invite you to make the journey deep into the heart of Bavaria. Only 90km from Munich lies Abensberg in the Hallertau, the world's largest hop growing region. Abensberg is home to Kuchlbauer, a small brewery specializing in Hefeweizen style beers. This region is also home to the two oldest known licensed breweries in the world, Weihenstephan (1040) and Weltenburg (1050), and currently has about 600 operating breweries. Despite brewing traditions going back almost a thousand years, Hefeweizen is a fairly new phenomenon in beer. Traditionally, the malt in German beer is barley. The addition of wheat as a malted grain has become increasingly popular over the past sixty years. Kuchlabuer decided to specialize in Hefeweizen early in the twentieth century and has been operating a tour of its facility for about thirty years. Read the rest

Art-mageddon: Artistic impulses in post-war Munich

I am in Munich teaching a three week travel-course with some of my German majors. In preparation for this course, I have been digging through a number of items to use as examples of how the people of Munich dealt with the post war period from 1945-1949. I am particulary interested in the role that art played in the aftermath of war. One image I use is a small hand colored comic I acquired a few years back entitled "American Boys in Bavaria" by W.D. Zehetmair. It depicts a Jeep full of GIs driving through Munich. One of the GIs tosses a cigarette and four men appear to dive on it. It is reminiscent of the scene in Fassbinder's Marriage of Maria Braun (7:09) when Germans pounce upon a cigarette butt thrown by a soldier highlighting the value that cigarettes had as currency in post war Germany. Read the rest

1895 Viennese Archetype Images

I recently posted a collection of archetypal images from 1895 to the CAPL web site. These images were drawings by Ferdninand Wüst as 'figural compositions', or images that symbolically tell a story from "everyday life". These specific images were of the archetypal variety, meant to highlight easily recognizable universal ideals through the variety of different aspects in each drawing.

They are images meant to awaken the instinctive understanding of the viewer. Since they come from 1895 Vienna, the instinctive ability of the modern viewer may be limited, or may allow for a peek into the mind of the past. The image of electricity is most compelling, although I personally don't recognize every aspect of that drawing. These images can be a puzzle, with many pieces combined to form a greater whole. The image marked 'empire' has a number of turn of the century themes combined to show the hope for a Western European Empire: medicine, industry, foreign goods, a connected postal system, etc. And then, there are the beer and wine images.

All of the drawings are provided in high quality with a friendly CC 3.0 license. Prost! Read the rest

CAPL, an open multilingual photo dictionary

As a language teacher, I am always making my own materials. Good language teachers do this habitually. We don't only rely on content provided to us; we constantly tinker with materials, re-form them, borrow, adapt, and use anything we can get our hands on to make the language learning process more relevant and interesting to our students. We are essentially "makers" of curricular materials.

Images do improve vocabulary acquisition and are essential for the instruction of culture. Simply put, access to good media is limited for teachers. Sure, we all have MS Clipart, but how do you explain a ticket cancelling machine in the unit on public transit with clipart? Or how do you convey what a Döner is? An image is a good place to start. Simply taking images from search engines doesn't always work. There can be too many and finding the right image is often hard when you want to convey a specific cultural idea in a different language.

In 2003 I approached a colleague of mine at W&J College about a project idea I had. Read the rest

Testing the TSA with Titanium Man

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I have been covertly testing airport security since early 2002. I file no reports and the only notes I take are mental. I am the person that knows when the airport has security holes and still boards the plane. I am titanium man.

OK, enough of the dramatic science fiction; the truth is stranger. I have a few replacement parts installed in my body. Both my right and left humerus are constructed of titanium pins and plates with a number of screws in each arm and my right tibia has a full titanium core with a number of screws to fix it to my ankle and up by my knee. The details of how they all got there would be book length. The short version is that in early 2002 I had to get around in a wheel chair for a while, learn to walk, write, dress myself, eat, cook, all over again. It was an odd rebirth with metal ersatz bones to keep me all together. Unable to use my arms for much at the time due to their reconstruction, I managed to get around by dragging my left foot against the ground to propel the wheelchair. It was much like skateboarding when you get enough momentum to get from place to place. Read the rest

How (not) to exterminate a book.

As a book freak (bibliophile is just too refined to describe my love for certain bound publications) I have been researching the case of a particular poetry volume for a few years now. Recently, Xeni posted on the U.S. government's purchase and destruction of upwards of 10,000 books that reminded me of the case I am researching and I found the parallels between the two instances eerie. I am going to request a suspension of Godwin's law for the time that you read this piece as the unintentional but unavoidable comparison to the Nazis cannot be hidden.

Gottfried Benn: German poet, medical doctor, and Nazi sympathizer, published a collection of his poems in May 1936 entitled "Selected Poems - Ausgewählte Gedichte". Although authorized for publication under the Nazis, upon a closer reading of the poems the authorities quickly changed their minds. The Black Corps - Das Schwarze Korps, the official weekly propaganda newspaper of the SS, vilified the publication by calling Benn a Selbsterrreger (Self-agitator or Masturbator). Some of his early expressionist poems were deemed to be inappropriate for a Nazi audience and the newspaper advised him, "Give it up, poet Benn, the times for such disgusting things (Ferkeleien - literally 'acts of piglets') are permanently gone".

This created such a furor over the poetry volume that the book was banned at the beginning of the summer of 1936. The copies in existence were systematically rounded up and destroyed by the government.

Unlike previous instances of Nazi book burning that were largely symbolic but did not represent a complete extermination of a particular work, this instance of publication, review, recall, and destruction eliminated almost all of the original first editions printed. Read the rest

My Man Anton Schutz: An Immigrant's View of the New York

Anton Schutz in his studio When talking about immigration, it is either an often cited or often forgotten fact that most of us here in the USA are decendents of immigrants. What I think is more often forgotten is that it the immigrant who sees the positive side of a new life in the US and contributes to our culture in ways that current residents don't: with the eyes of the outsider. Read the rest

Being Dead in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh's weird geography means that you never know quite what lies underfoot. Old maps and folk history reveal the forgotten graveyards hidden beneath asphalt and office blocks -- or reclaimed by nature.

1906: vintage color photos of Europe

A selection of untinted vintage color photographs, dating to 1906, of locations in Europe. The set was marked: "Institute for Color Photography, Carl Weller, Berlin/Verlagsanstalt für Farbenfotographie, 1906."

Postcard from Language Camp

Greetings from one of the best places in the world to learn foreign languages! DLI, CIA University? No, a small town in Vermont that hosts an annual summer language institute: Middlebury. To call the Middlebury language schools a camp is like calling a hurricane a rain shower. Read the rest

Seeing Languages Differently

How we see the world impacts our use of language and our use of language impacts how we see the world. Cognitive scientists in the vein of Benjamin Whorf regularly investigate the connections to thought and language use, including how visual perception varies across languages. Since I use (authentic) visual media to assist in foreign language acquisition, my research does have a practical side to the normally impenetrable fields of visual cognition and psycholinguistics. I use photographs at the earliest stages of language learning to train the brain not only in the use of new words, but literally how to "see" in the new language. Seeing a language differently embeds that language into a visual cultural context for the learner and makes for more effective recall later.

Let's look at two aspects of the visual world that provide good examples of how the visual impacts language and vary between languages and cultures: Color & Space. Read the rest

How the military improved its language education

We may ask why the US sends troops abroad, but the fact is that we do send large numbers into a region about which they have little knowledge and almost no cultural connection. We then ask them to interact safely and efficiently with military and civilian natives. These interactions require varying levels of linguistic, cultural, and interpersonal background. As a foreign language educator, I am fascinated by the evolution of the training materials given to US soldiers and how cultural visual knowledge plays and increasingly important role.

Over the past seven years, the military has noticeably changed how it trains soldiers for these vital kinds of cross-cultural interactions. These "changes in visuality" allow an exemplary look at how visual & cultural literacy has seriously impacted language and cultural training. Read the rest

Chramer, gip die varwe mir! Germans and Colors

Chramer, gip die varwe mir (Shopkeeper, give me color!) is a line from a drinking song in the Carmina Burana, a medieval collection of songs and poems in Old Latin and Middle High German. The 'color' requested is rouge to redden the face of a young working woman in order to make her more appealing to the boys. This 'red' means life, vitality, strength, and in the Middle Ages being able to make it through the next winter was particularly attractive. Part of my research into Computer Assisted Language learning deals with the effects that colors have on people and how these difference among cultures can be used to assist in language learning. My own passion lies in the German speaking world and in reflection on my own language learning experiences, I started thinking about color difference in German. Read the rest

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