Fun Stuff > Humour
"Some dream of being dream men and only remain dreamers."
"So mancher möcht’ ein Traummann sein und bringt es nur zum Traummännlein."
Machos like us?
Good Night Story. As my daughter requested me to read her bedtime stories, we rediscovered a "Matscho"-tale called "Story to scatter about." It is both a story for diversion and a story about being absent-minded. Do you also have this sometimes? This feeling of weariness and lack of focus, when you should really bite the bullet and get things done? What does it take to fight your inner couch potato and face the ongoing challenges in a fast-paced and constantly changing environment? We live in "Modern Times," as Charlie Chaplin would put it. We can be reached at any time of day on our cell phone, we dial in using landline or wireless to connect our computer, which we address as "stupid tin box (Blechtrottel)," while depending more and more on it. We are flexible and restless. And then there are those quiet moments. Even in a crowded subway once in a while you manage to shut down (like a PC) and relax by reading a little humorous story.
Disastrous Disorientation. The all-time favourite "Story to scatter about" starts with a rather big statement: "With today's reflection I actually wanted to change the world. Unfortunately, the topic slipped my mind. Sometimes I am a little absentminded, you know... Yesterday after work I wanted to buy a stuffed animal for my son Macho junior. The good child went potty for the first time without peeing off target and this unhoped-for good job had to be honoured of course. Well, entering the store, I admit being a little absentminded, I asked for Macho junior's favourite: A Donald Duck which can say 'quack.' Only as the otherwise likeable and merry mister behind the counter asked barbarically: 'Hashed or on the whole?' I observed that I was in the wrong shop. But that doesn't matter, our butcher knows me, I have already ordered totally different things from him."
Public Reading. "Matscho" is not only a phonetic transcription of Macho but also stands for "the funny tragedies from the everyday life of an emancipated husband." Playing with the stereotype of the talkative woman, he would throw in ironic statements like: "When women want to attract attention, they organize a silent protest." Which would only provoke another pithy comeback such as: "When men want to cause a sensation, they pass an intelligence test." You can't win, can you? Whenever using public transportation in Vienna, instead of just staring holes into the air you got the chance to read that column in the VOR Magazine, hanging out in streetcars and subways.
Fight for Male Rights. Matscho's unusual word creations would grab one's attention, such as "Potbelloid (Wampoid)" as story about a fully figured man's struggle with tying his shoes, or a fairy tale of Toyland meant to spread Christmas spirit, despite its toy fight ending in "giraffe hash." Books collecting the monthly column are typically titled "Equal rights for Macho (Gleiches Recht für Matscho)" or "People prefer Macho, positively (Matscho mag man eben)," a variation of the popular Manner-wafer advertisement slogan. Here is an attempt of an English translation of key passages of some of my favourite stories. (So many "of's" in one sentence, a new record!)
Viennese Reading before Retirement
Age Rebate. The late masterwork "Young Women, old Man" contains my boy's favourite wake-up quote. The story begins: "Fountain of Youth - As much goes wrong in life, one thing always functions. It works from the beginning to the end of our being: Day-to-day, reliable and without any struggle. We are talking about - you guessed right - aging, getting older... One day I went to the soccer stadium of my favourite football club, to support 'FC Ugly Ottakring' with my loud voice. At the entrance there was a young lady with green-yellow-purple strands of hair. Type: Public Housing Flower. I love them, for they got humour and the delightful dry charm of a stinging nettle. 'One ticket for senior citizen,' I asked for in order to provoke a humorous answer like: 'Don't kid me, young man!' In reality, the girl looked up briefly and said: 'Retiree pays 5 Euros.' I tried to avoid the catastrophe by replying: 'Unfortunately I've got no ID with me!' The Public Housing Flower calmed me down, using her delightful dry nettle-charm: 'Never mind, I got eyes in my head to see!' Verbal blows like these you can easier cope with by riding a streetcar and reading the transport network's free magazine (containing this very column)..." Fishing for compliments can go terribly wrong! Typical male, HE wants to look good and control things, but too often things just turn out differently and there is nothing you can do about it. As Rainhard Fendrich used to rhyme: "Macho Macho kannst' nicht lernen, Macho Macho muss man sein - Macho Macho you can't learn, Macho Macho you gotta be!"
Retirement & Reprint. After 300 stories, 7 books and 22 years of publicity work for Old Ottakring, the 16th district of Vienna, Wolfgang Kubasta, "The Kishon of Vienna," declared that by the end of 2009 his cult figure "Matscho" would enter a well-deserved retirement. His final column, titled "Proud Record," would end with the tear-soaked all-time famous words: "In this sense, final whistle, curtain, closing hour, and please don't cry: The Macho stops - the subway goes on." After he had stopped writing, for a while the VOR Mag would reprint some of his earlier stories. While my Latin skills were never outstanding, the following phrase appears appropriate to describe the loss: "Post Scriptum: Pro Otio Seniore - After writing: Before senior retirement." The end of an era?
Dialect Festival. About one and a half years earlier my boy and me had attended a "Matscho"-reading in Vienna's 12th district with the likeable name Wien-Meidling. As part of an event cycle called "Truly Vienna - Festival of the Viennese dialect (Echt Wien - Festival des Wienerischen '08)," he would read a few short stories, connected by even shorter comments told in between. It was a real experience! During his presentation, author Wolfgang Kubasta would reminisce times at the campfire, when he used to sing to his (future) wife: "Niemand liebt Dich so wie ich - Nobody loves you as much as I do!" Even after 32 years of marriage, once in a while he sings that same song to her, just with a slight text modification: "Niemand liebt Dich, wieso ich - Nobody loves you as much, why do I do?" Towards the end of the program he remembered that his kids were about 3 and 6 years old during that legendary Chinese restaurant visit, which he had brought to paper under the following title...
Macho junior, when he was little, sweetened my breakfast with a cheerful "Good morning, Dad." Today he mumbles a patronizing "Well, old man, you woke up again after all?" Matscho junior hat mir, als er noch klein war, mit einem munteren „Guten Morgen, Papa“ das Frühstück versüßt. Heute murmelt er lediglich ein gönnerhaftes „Na, alter Mann, doch wieder aufgewacht?“
(Matscho: "junge Frauen, Alter Mann - Young Women, old Man", W.Kubasta, 2008)
The Chinese Wall
Record of Disaster. "On Sundays the Macho family likes to eat out. For years they would always go to the same restaurant and that with good reason. It is, as adventurous as that sounds, related to the Great Wall of China. The clueless reader may find himself now confronted with a riddle. The mindful reading of the following protocolary notes may help him though to disclose the secret.
Wherewith the riddle from the beginning of the story is solved: Only people with a never-ending patience like that could ever build the Great Wall of China." (What this story tells me is how much we loud Westerners can still learn from others.)
The Broken Chopstick
Own Experience. As we saw above, "Patience was made in China," is a conclusion not only John Wayne gets to in the movie "Blood Alley." As I'd like to demonstrate below, there are satires, only real-life keeps for us, such as the experience of eating crab in KL. During a stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we would visit the area of Star Hill, a happening place called Jalan Bukit Bintan with a mile where one Chinese restaurant is next to another on the street. We would have some fish and ultimately order crab. As the guest I was supposed to go first, so I tried to pull the meat out of a crab leg, using my chopsticks. I tried hard and harder, until suddenly there was a noise like "pling!" As I looked down at my dark blue plastic eating device, it appeared unusually short. To my very embarrassment, one of my chopsticks had just broken in half! Next thing I know is incredible giggling next to me. Finally, I was taught the proper way to eat crab: By using the hands. Unforgettable also the Jelly Fish chips I picked up there to take home, where success with them was... uuhm, limited.
Child's Confusion. Almost one century earlier, when I was a kid myself, my first visit to a Chinese restaurant was nothing less than a big surprise. Ordering beef with lice, I must have pictured a big piece of meat, but the friendly waiter brought it sliced in small strips. Seeing Chinese food for the first time in my young life, I was optically surprised and refused to eat any of the delicious dish.
Hair Shampoo. One generation later, it had been at a Chinese restaurant nearby that my boy encountered liquid soap for the first time in his life. What a surprise, when he came out of the restroom with his head wet and soapy. He had thought it was shampoo and wanted to wash his hair. We ended up blow drying it under the hand dryer. Ever since, when we feed our youngest steamed rice with chopsticks, we'd consider to wash his hair as well.
River Restaurant. The name of the restaurant had been "Golden Rose", but in Chinese characters it would read "Jin Jiang Fan Dian - Colourful River Restaurant," a reference to a most famous hotel restaurants in Shang Hai. Actually, the owner's family originates from a town called Jin Jiang, a county-level city in the Fujian province, near the coast in the south of China, not too far from Taiwan. The nearby river Jin Jiang is a branch of the Min Jiang or Min River. Which should not be confused with a river of same name in Si Chuan, another of China's 31 provinces, located in the center of the country.
Statue on the Floor. Sometimes you can feel things happening - even on the other side of the globe. As it occurred to a grandaunt and -uncle, who kept a wooden figure on top of their small piano. It was a little black man carved out of elastic wood. Maybe it was made from African blackwood or ebony, which is said to have magical properties. Derived from the Greek word for "fruit of the gods," the same wood is best known for its mention in the fairy tale of Snow White, who "had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony..." Anyway, one morning my relatives found their black figure lying on the carpet.
Forgotten Tremble. On the radio they heard about an earthquake in China, probably the one destroying the city of Tang Shan (located in the northern Hebei province) in July 1976. Were its vibrations strong enough to reach Europe and cause the little incident in their home? My daughter remembers the same late grandaunt mostly for visiting my grandfather on New Year's day. She said that she would wish us all the best, although sadly she had just forgotten on which occasion.
Spicy Show Off. Szechuan chicken is a delicious dish, prepared with lots of chili pepper. It reminds me of going to a Chinese restaurant in my hometown with two friends a long time ago. We were showing off in front of each other, how much chili sauce we could take with our Eight or more Treasures. In the end, one of us was coughing, the next blowing his nose and the third had tears in his eyes. That taught us, I guess. We needed lots of cool beer to put out the fires in our mouths, not knowing that "Jingjiu" means cheers, by the way.
Three Cheers. The German "Prost" is derived from the Latin "Prosit" for "It may be of use (or luck)." And when you clink glasses, don't forget to look into each other's eyes! Be especially careful though with the usage of "Gambei," for it means bottoms up, like "Ex or Schurl" in German, meaning "drink up or (you will be called) George." The Hermann Leopoldi composition "Chinesenschurl - China Georgie" comes to mind with the unbelievable verse: "Then he pulls out of his bag two small poles, for this is the Chinese silverware. With those they then eat tasty bread rolls. The people around them can't help but stare."
Golden Luck in the City
Sticky Surprise. But now back to "Matscho" and back to a fondly remembered classic story with the charming title "The small, golden Luck." Surprisingly, it would address the rather unappetizing problem of dog waste on the sidewalks in Vienna:
"The Macho-column is generally known for being a very Viennese column. This time though it would be as Viennese as it had never been before. Vienna's landmark is St. Stephen's cathedral, as everybody knows. Your very devoted Macho has already a long time ago declared something completely different, an even more commonplace image as the secret symbol of the city, which lures friendly inviting in parks, on sidewalks, or in between parking cars, waiting to ambush an unsuspecting passer-by. This refers to the full-of-life, well shaped digestion-monument of our four-legged friends: the dog-pooh.
Dog droppings, also called pile, belong to the Viennese identity as much as the Court Riding School, Sacher Chocolate Cake and hot dog stand. And that is not meant in a nasty way. For it is no disgrace, if you like dogs, and our city is just a dog friendly city... Regrettably there is a virulent opposition to dog waste and indeed it can lead to annoyance, when it cleverly hides below leaves or snow. In this context you need to be absolutely warned of the good piece that gets stuck between shoe heel and sole, hardening rock-solid and only thawing up at times, when fellow men have the least use for it, e.g. at the movies...
As I recently entered a taxi at the Vienna airport, my beloved Vienna appeared strange to me. The cab driver was a role model of friendliness, he even knew his way around and the street lights were all switched to green. To make a long story short: The city presented itself curiously unfamiliar. But then I opened the door, swung my right leg out of the car - and stepped right into the golden luck. By then, at the latest, I knew: Home again, at last!"
Big Belly Bewilderment. The early episode "Radetzky March" describes the rivalry between his daughter and a kindergarten friend: "'But my dad has a bigger belly than yours,' my daughter triumped. She was certainly right, in so many parts of the world the belly is a symbol of wealth, following the motto: The bigger the tummy, the more he got money (Je größer der Wamst, desto ausgeben kannst). Nevertheless, I was very embarrassed about the whole thing.. To make it short: One word led to another. The two girls were on a roll and couldn't stop talking, they bragged as if there were no tomorrow." One of the following statements would provide the episode title and reveal musical talents that should have better remained hidden: "My father can even burp the whole Radetzky March."
Good Luck with "Hloupa Husa"
Czech Chocoloate Cake. The above mentioned Sacher Chocolate Cake I would also encounter in Spain, where it is known as "Tarta de Sacher". The reason why it is called "Prazhskyy Tort - Prague Cake" in the Ukraine was explained to me with its export via Czechia, where it is still referred to as "Viennese Chocolate Cake", or in short "Sacher Dort". As a general rule from times of the Old Austrian Empire, a typical Viennese family name has to have Czech origin. The Macho tale "Hloupa Husa" would play with these roots on the occasion of a very special day:
"Every second Sunday in May we celebrate the mothers. But let us not forget our grandmothers, as they are also mothers to speak, which is why at the same time it is Grandmother's Day. Even I once had a grandmother, whom I typically remember at Mother's Day: She was a grandmother out of a picture book, and yet a bit hot-tempered, too...
Of course, Grandma had a husband. Grandpa was feared for his strange sense of humour. When my grandparents felt unwatched, they liked to talk in their own language - then they didn't miss their Czech homeland as much. I was still in elementary school, when I planned to surprise my grandmother by wishing her Happy Mother's Day in her Czech mother tongue. 'What does 'All the best' translate to?' I asked Grandpa fro advice. The same looked at me seriously and mask-like. 'Hloupa husa!' he replied, and the tips of his whiskers trembled perfidiously. But I was already on the way to the kitchen. Joyfully, I emerged in front of Grandma and congratulated her politely: 'Hloupa husa!'
Dear Grandma, I forgive you! I forgive you that you chased me after these unfortunate words, armed with wooden spoon and egg beater, all the way through the house and garden and several times around the dunghill. However, you have to admit, ever since I have never again said 'Silly Goose' to you, not even in Czech language. And I have also learned my lesson for life: Not to trust anybody, especially not perfidious, elderly men with a strange sense of humour."
In order to ensure preservation of unvaluable cultural heritage and to honour a colleague, who recently became grandmother, nearby you will find a shortened version of the original German text.Sometime later, part of it was recycled into the episode "Sprachengewirr - Confusion of Languages," but as so often, nothing gets close to the original...
Go to the next page to read about the forever-jester,
we know as Kasperl.
"What would be the art of cooking without the sweet pleasure of enjoyment?
However, I am not just a fan of simple home style food, oh no, I am also open to experimental cooking…"
"Was wäre die schöne Kunst des Kochens ohne die süße Lust des Genießens? Dabei bin ich keineswegs nur ein Freund der bodenständigen Hausmannskost, oh nein! Auch der experimentellen Küche gegenüber zeige ich mich aufgeschlossen…" (Matscho: "Nie wieder New York - New York Never Again", W.Kubasta, 2000)