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Papa’s Risqué Mash Note, and Other News

March 12, 2014 | by


Publicity still of Marlene Dietrich in No Highway. Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • “Drunk and naked I would advance from the rear, or your rear, wearing evening clothes.” A ribald note from Hemingway to Marlene Dietrich is soon to be auctioned—their relationship was, alas, never consummated, but if the price is right, you could own a record of their long flirtation, replete with such swooning phrases as “whore blood,” “foaming at the mouth,” and “Dearest Kraut.”
  • Talking doors, gossip machines, super-duper turntables: here’s what Philip K. Dick, writing from the vantage point of 1966, thought 1992 might have been like. Would that it were.
  • While we’re on sci-fi: the New Museum’s new exhibition, “Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module,” plunges you into the old socialist vision of space travel. “Filko has a wall-mounted tablet nearby where, donning a wall-tethered headset that brings your forehead unnaturally close to the screen, you can ponder his ruminations on the fourth dimension.”
  • “Tomorrow starts here.” “One course at a time.” “Be the difference.” The surprisingly vacuous phrases copyrighted by universities.
  • A newly reprinted 1856 essay gives German comedy quite the drubbing: “German humor generally shows no sense of measure, no instinctive tact; it is either floundering and clumsy as the antics of a leviathan, or laborious and interminable as a Lapland day, in which one loses all hope that the stars and quiet will ever come.”




  1. Helen DeWitt | March 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    C21 readers of German, of course, can form their impression of German humor by reading the blog of Berlin’s Sankt Oberholz Café on items Lost and Found (, or Anatol Stephanowitsch’s Sprachblog, or Joachim Schulz’s Quantenwelt, or Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre’s Transkript…

    JBK: Aber das–
    BVSB: Das war ‘ne B-Seite.
    JBK: Herr St– nein, das war kein, das war keine B-Seite, Sie sind einfach zu jung dafür, Herr v. Stuckrad-Barre.

    [But that– That was a B side. Mr. St– no, that was not, that was NOT a B side, you’re just too young for it, Mr. von Stuckrad-Barre.]

    Slight, I grant you, but that’s kind of the point; anyone who has not read BVSB on what makes for ein cooles T-shirt has probably only ever heard the B side of German humor.

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