Scheisse n' Dice
Editor's note: this was originally published on Spielboy, a quarterly online journal about German games.
The German fascination with feces can be seen in many aspects of German life, from the way the trains "run" on time to the art and literature that Germans enjoy. In general, scatological references in art, film, and literature have long been used as a source of levity, not just to invoke feelings of shock or disgust, so it is no great surprise that you will find shit inside the many games you play, too.
Player elimination never felt so good as Spielboy makes a splash with this look at the mind of the German shitta.
Many scholars point to the Reformation as the beginnings of the German obsession with cleanliness, and conversely their obsession with heaving a Havana. Among the general population, it was not uncommon for Germans in the Middle Ages to park the fudge in the street. Bodily functions play a large role in many paintings and musical and theatrical productions of the time, and metaphors of shit were common in German literature as far back as the 17th century.
The modern German fascination with bowling from the pavilion end seems to have really taken hold at the beginning of the 20th century. It was at this time that German thinkers were advocating a revolt against the Victorian ideals of diligence, cleanliness, sobriety, and honesty. This helped Neitsche's notion of aestheitic nihilism capture the imagination of the general populace and the result had a profound impact on all aspects of German culture. In 1903, author Richard Ungewitter advocated a return to ancient Greek attitudes toward nudity for hygienic and moralistic reasons. And in 1905, Paul Zimmerman opened the first resort for social and family nudism, Freilichtpark (Free Light Park). As we will see in later sections, art, film and literature also benefitted from the rejection of the Victorian mores.
Bringing Up Baby
The notion that Germans have an obsession with children's feces is well known; Alan Dundes and Friedrich von Zglinicki wrote entire books on the subject. German parents take a tremendous interest in teaching their children that poo is bad, and it is this over-emphasis on the negativity of shit that causes repression and resentment of that instruction, and often leads to a development of fecal fascination later in life.
The Toxic Excretions gene makes your amoeba's excrement bad to eat.
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The Stink Bean is more like the Shit Bean in Bohnanza.
More info about Bohnanza.
Many parents shower children with praise when they curl one off. The more solid, round, and dark it is, the greater the praise. For the adult, a big fat one means their child is healthy and "productive". For the child, the pile of shit represents a magnificent present to the world. It's the only thing he owns, and the only thing he can produce on his own.
Because of the importance placed on the production of shit, witholding it, then, is a childish but powerful act of defiance. By holding back a steamer, children not only test the boundaries of right and wrong, but also develop a sense of self importance and often a taste for anal eroticism. And because German parents place an especially disproportionate emphasis on drawing mud from the well, their children are at risk to grow up with a distorted view of crap.
This is also the time when children first begin to associate burying a quaker with wealth accumulation. They made it, and their parents loved them for it. Later in life, they might show this association of riches with filth when saying "so-and-so is filthy rich", "she's rolling in it", or "he's got piles of it". This notion that poop has value is illustrated by the popular but misguided Austrian alchemist Cornelius Kolig, who's attempts at early chemistry led him to try and transmute shit into gold. Innovative idea, yes, since most of his contemporaries were still working with lead (the fools!), but ultimately unsuccessful.
When you talk crap about German children, you can't avoid bringing up the theories of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He spent a considerable amount of effort comparing and contrasting the metaphorical characteristics of feces, penises, and babies. When each of these are forced out, they "stimulate a membranous passage," which is psycho-babble for "turnin' you on". In his "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality" (1905), Freud drew a correllation between holding your bowels and erotic stimulation. To build a log cabin feels good. To not build a log cabin feels really gooooooood.
In "On transformations of instinct as exemplified in anal erotism" (1917), Freud then cheeses off half of the planet's population by exposing women's repressed wish to possess a penis. And since the penis, the baby, and the shit are the same (like an unclean trinity), women develop the same kind of neuroses about chucking muck as men. Furthermore, because German parents place too much importance on shitting, German children grow up with an interesting dichotomy: shit feels good and represents wealth, but it's so damn stinky. Eventually, they learn to repress the positive aspects of shit and emphasize the negative, but they never fully reject an interest in shit as part of their lives. Freud observed that "it is in particular the coprophilic impulses of childhood which are submitted the most vigorously to repression."
Freud also looked at feces as a representation of past generations, whereas babies represent the present and penises represent future generations. Most people just thought he was crazy.
The Shelf Toilet
Any examination of social attitudes toward crimping off a length must also include an inspection of the bowl: the central altar on which we bend and to which our bowels pray, the pyre on which we burn our excrement in effigy and offer the ashes up to the gods. Here, Germany stands among the few nations in the world that really surprises us with a cultural oddity: the shelf toilet (known as the flachspueler or "flatflusher" toilet).
The shelf toilet is nearly identical to a standard thunder mug in all ways except one: instead of an open pool in which to drop our kids off, a shelf protrudes into the middle so that the bum cigar might rest above the water before being flushed into oblivion. The following illustrations show the difference between the American standard crap-trap and the German flachspueler:
(Images from Scott Anderson's excellent piece, German Toilets).
The flachspueler provides several benefits to the wind jammer, but also has some downsides:
Author Erica Jong writes of the shelf toilet:
I hated [the Germans'] fanatical obsession with the illusion of cleanliness. Illusion, mind you, because Germans really are not clean. ... But just go into any German toilet and you'll find a fixture unlike any other in the world. It has a cute little porcelain platform for the shit to fall on so you can inspect it before it whirls off into the watery abyss, and there is, in fact, no water in the toilet until you flush it. As a result German toilets have the strongest shit smell of any toilets anywhere.
--from Fear of Flying (1973)
From all indications, the flachspueler is not ubiquitous in Germany. In most public places, traditional open bowls are more common; the flachspueler appears mostly in residential bathrooms. For the curious traveller, several models are on display, like the doots they provide shelf space for, at the Zentrum für Aussergewohnliche Museum in Kreuth, Germany, where there is a permanent display of historic toilets.
Shit Lit 101
The use of scatology can be seen across many German forms of expression, from visual arts to literature, stand-up comedy to film.
According to Dieter and Jackqueline Rollfinke in "The Call of Human Nature", English writers rarely use scatological elements in their writing. In German literature, though, scatology appears in the works of writers such as Busch, Benn, Thomas Mann, and Kafka. Modern German literature is littered with it as they found that the use of shit metaphors and allegories is in "relative abundance".
Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters' masterpiece was "The Merzbau": a massive interior sculpture that Schwitters created in his own house starting in the late 1910s. The Merzbau itself contains literal shit and urine, as well as the incorporaton of many kinds of detritus. The curator of the exibit once remarked, "[The Merzbau is] a kind of fecal smearing -- a sick and sickening relapse into the social irresponsibility of the infant who plays with trash and filth".
Horses leave "road apples" as they wander in the pasture, the farmers collect the "apples" hoping to use the manure in their gardens. One of the variations wants you to gather poop and trade them for carrots.
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In Ursuppe, your amoeba excrete cubes and then eat other amoeba's excretions. Delicious.
More info about Ursuppe.
Schwitters is described as an artist who exibited many contradictory tendencies, often simultaneously. It is just these contradictions which make opening the lunchbox so fascinating to the Germans. On the one hand, shit is an attention getter. On the other hand, it's shit and should be avoided.
The Aktionist artistic movement, which was directly influenced by the Dadaists, rose from 1960's German counter-culture scene. Artists Hermann Nitsch, Otto Muehl, Gunter Brus and Rudolph Schwarzkogler seemed to delight in shocking for the purpose of shocking, and in that pursuit naturally came to rely on the scatalogical. Nitsch summed it up nicely: "Through my artistic production I take upon myself all that appears negative, unsavoury, perverse and obscene, in order to spare YOU the defilement and shame entailed by the descent into the extreme."
Other German artists to use shit included Helmut Brosch and Bernd Eilts; the latter of which casually explained his use of blown mud in his artwork: "Artists are always looking for new materials and I was struck by the similarities in the consistency of the manure to my paints... I used sheep droppings at first but they were too small so I switched to cow dung."
In film, Germans were able to commit scatalogical atrocities to celluloid with remarkable flair and frequency. For example, in "Otmar Bauer Presents", the eponymous writer/director sits at a dinner table and proceeds to shit, vomit, urinate, and ejaculate into his plate and then devour it.
Then there was the controversial film "The Colour Brown" (directed by Byrnes), which was shown at 45th Sydney Film Festival. It dealt with the German fascination with cleanliness and shit as it relates to vague tendencies of racial purity and the racial conflicts of the early 1990s.
In Bonobo Beach, shitting is bad, since you score less points when your beach-goers end up near active outhouses.
More info about Bonobo Beach.
According to the translated website, "the long overdue chicken poop is here for complete gaming fun." If you fall in someone else's poo, you have to give that player all your feathers!
More info about Zicke Zacke Entenkacke.
In the vernacular, the term "German Kaviar films" refers to shit-lover movies, such as Die Kaviarklinik and Eat My Kaviar. One internet forum poster opined that "Poop porn is the backbone of the German adult film industry!"
Perhaps it's unfair to paint the many for the actions of the few. Just because a handful of artists, filmmakers, and writers wallow in shit, one should not necessarily draw the conclusion that the entire German culture rolls in the shit its artists play with. Indeed, for every Schwitters or Bauer, there is a Mapplethorpe or Waters who's fingernails are equally dirty.
But linguist Peter Farb says that the German fascination with the dishonourable discharge is clear from other aspects of German culture, too, like the national sense of humor. According to Farb, where French jokes focus on seduction and adultery, British on homosexuality and incest, and American on oral-genital contact and misogyny, German jokes focus on the bathroom and the bowel movements. A good German joke, so goes the conventional wisdom, always ends in scheisse!
Peter Ruhmkorf studied the strong fecal focus in German children's rhymes and the Rollfinkes go to great lengths to show that modern German print advertising features scatological elements more openly and regularly than any other culture.
What is important to remember, though, is that the portrayal of basic bodily functions is not just an unhealthy approach to engage the audience. When used properly, shit can be a powerful tool to convey a message, and its very use should not preclude a work from serious examination. In the words of Jae Num Lee, "scatology as such does not make a work bad or good in a thematic, moral or rhetorical sense." (Swift and Scatalogical Satire, 1971).