On a personal note: I’m currently pondering the choices on offer in the upcoming German Bundestag (parliamentary) election. It’s not easy to get a handle on what’s going on when you’ve been living abroad for some years. From the Guardian News Blog I gather that there have been some significant changes in the campaigning style since I last observed it first-hand. At least the campaign music looks more interesting than what Mr Chirac came up with in 1981. (Except for the (liberal#[1]) FDP — “Money Money Money”, huh? Okay, I wouldn’t have voted for them anyway.)

And I’m still waiting for my postal-vote papers. Dealing with the German embassy is, as always, a pain. They must be the rudest people in Paris.

[1]: Not synonymous with “progressive” or “left-wing”. At all.

Reading this post on Margaret Marks’ Transblawg, I realised I had no I idea that outside Germany, if you have someone cremated after their death, you don’t have to give the ashes a proper burial (in a graveyard, or at sea, or whatever the options are the law provides for).

The land of Saxony-Anhalt is considering relaxing this requirement, and Margaret Marks comments:

I love the way they [i.e. Germans] say people will be able to put their next of kin’s ashes on the bookshelf. This is a sort of stereotype idea of how weird it would be not to bury the ashes.

Sure enough, the very first thought that sprang to mind was, “So they really do keep grandma on the mantelpiece? That’s not a joke?”

This makes me think of the concept of “modern jackass” from a radio show the Tensor just wrote about (and that I happen to have been listening to quite intently lately…).

Oh, and I had to look up hydriotaphia.

So Mr Schröder has made, er, creative use of the process that allows for a dismissal of (the lower chamber of) Parliament and new elections in Germany. It’s not entirely clear yet whether they will be okayed by the President. Just to make sure I’m up to date, I follow the political news that come out of my country-of-citizenship more closely than usual.

I can’t help but notice that the level of political discourse appears to be particularly, er, elevated this time. The site of the Tagesschau (which federates the news programming done by a network of public regional broadcasters and also provides a national program), provides an educational insight in the potential candidates’ vocabulary.

(A short introduction to the German political landscape, though: There are two large parties, SPD (German Social-Democratic Party) and CDU/CSU (Christian-Democratic Union, which operates everywhere except in the state of Bavaria, and Christian-Social Union, which is the Bavarian version thereof); three smaller parties that are likely to be represented in Parliament: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Federation 90/Green Party), FDP (German Liberal Party) and PDS (Party for Democratic Socialism) — the first two are currently partnered with one of the big parties each, who, in turn, need them to form a majority, while the third, as the successor of the East German communist party is still not fit for polite company at the federal level; and then there’s a newcomer, called Linksbündnis (or Federation of the Left), rallied around the controversial former SPD heavyweight Oskar Lafontaine and apparently in a partnership with the PDS. Mr Lafontaine has recently drawn major criticism for his populist public statements — in a way unsurprising, though: he has always had a populist streak; suffice it to say that this “Federation of the Left” is, to me, reminiscent of the British UKIP phenomenon.)

It’s party congress weekend for several of them, so future candidates seem to think it’s time to crank up the volume a bit:

  • [Geldgeiler Gockel] CSU General Secretary Markus Söder calls Mr Lafontaine a money-grubbing rooster (the original, with its alliteration and suggestion of vanity in Gockel is much better).
  • [Brechreiz] Green politician and Foreign Affairs Minister Joschka Fischer says Mr Lafontaine’s statements made him want to throw up.
  • [Die Penner von gestern] Chancellor Schröder hits out at the CDU/CSU, calling them yesterday’s hobos. (He has a way out, though: he could claim he only meant Penner as a slang term for someone who’s asleep. Maybe bummers or ragbags would have been a more toned-down translation.)
  • [Alte Säcke] Mr Söder, in turn, strikes back with the epithet old sacks or bags for his SPD rivals. Now this one needs a better translation: I have always understood the Sack in this particular insult to refer to the scrotum.
  • [Vergiftet] Meanwhile, Guido Westerwelle, the FDP president and allied with the CDU/CSU warns Angela Merkel, the Christian-Democratic challenger of Mr Schröder for the office of Chancellor not to accept the latter’s invitation to have a debate on TV — calling Mr Schröder’s suggestion poisoned, and adding (my translation): “If you want to win against Boris Becker, don’t challenge him to a tennis match but to a game of chess”.