Austria’s fights to preserve its own form of German

Vienna-Schönbrunn Palace

Pulling a page from French efforts to keep their language “pure,” Austria is undertaking a major new endeavor to preserve its own unique tongue.

The difference is that while the French seek curtail the use of phrases imported from English, Austrians aren’t fighting against a foreign language, but against German, the same tongue spoken in Austrian.

While both Austrians and Germans speak German there are many words and phrases that mark Austrian German as different from standard German.

Austrian German traces its beginning to the mid-18th century, when Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II introduced compulsory schooling and several administrative reforms. They chose to adopt the already standardized language of Saxony, which was based on the standard language used for administrative purposes in cities such as Dresden.

Austrian German is spoken by approximately 8.5 million people and is recognized as an official language not only in Austria, but also in nearby Italy.

Austria’s education minister this week announced plans to preserve the unique Austrian form of German, amid increased intrusion from words and expressions from neighboring Germany, according to The Telegraph.

“What is heard in movies, on TV or the internet, is often produced or dubbed in our neighboring country Germany,” the education minister, Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, wrote in a 64-page booklet distributed to schools. “One consequence is that specifically Austrian peculiarities and expressions of our language slowly but surely fall into the background.”

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Museum under scrutiny regarding noted work

Winslow_Homer_-_Milking_Time

Delaware museum officials desperate for cash have removed one of their prized paintings from their walls but remain tight-lipped about the work’s future.

Winslow Homer’s “Milking Time,” among the Delaware Art Museum’s most treasured works, disappeared from its wall and collections database earlier this month, shortly after the museum announced that it would sell as many as four artworks to repay its construction debt and replenish its endowment.

Museum officials have declined to confirm whether the 1875 oil painting of rural Americana is among works to be sold over the next few months, according to the News-Journal of Wilmington, Del.

However, museum and art experts say the change is suspicious and likely indicates the painting will be sold, the publication added.

“Milking Time” is considered a landmark painting by Homer, regarded as one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century.

Homer, the renown landscape painter, created “Milking Time” in 1875 while living on a farm in upstate New York.

“Milking Time” is a “landmark painting for him,” according to Kathleen Foster, who curated an exhibition of Homer’s seascapes for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in late 2012. The Philadelphia museum owns four Homer works, including one of his most famous, “The Life Line.”

“Milking Time” was painted during a formative time in Homer’s career, a period in which he was searching for an identity as an artist, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

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Ronald McDonald: From apathy to loathing

ronald%20mcdonald

The Ronald McDonald makeover would likely have escaped the notice of this blog had it not been for the utterly inane press release that accompanied the restyling.

As a bit of background, even as a kid I saw Ronald McDonald as, at best, a neutral figure. A large red-haired, red-nosed clown in a weird yellow outfit with giant red shoes, he had little positive or negative impact on me or my desire to consume low-grade fast food.

Last week, however, McDonald’s announced that the character was being revamped, and in a most invidious manner.

It’s not irritating enough that the clown will be garbed in a new wardrobe which includes yellow cargo pants, a vest and a red-and-white striped rugby shirt, along with “whimsical new red blazer” and a special bowtie for special events, according to a company press release.

The mindless consumerism really kicks in when one reads the press release:

Ronald McDonald, who represents the magic and happiness of the McDonald’s brand, is setting out on a global mission to rally the public through inspiring events.

For the first time, Ronald McDonald will take an active role on McDonald’s social media channels around the world and engage consumers using the #RonaldMcDonald hashtag. As Ronald begins his journey, he seeks to deliver on the mission: ‘Fun makes great things happen’ – the idea that moments of fun and enjoyment bring out the simple pleasures in life and can lead to acts of goodness.

‘Ronald brings to life the fun of our brand by connecting with customers around the world, whether he’s promoting literacy or spreading cheer at a Ronald McDonald House,’ said Dean Barrett, Senior Vice President, Global Relationship Officer. ‘Customers today want to engage with brands in different ways and Ronald will continue to evolve to be modern and relevant.’

Questions which arise from this bit of tripe: What does “Fun makes great things happen” mean?

If fun really made great things happen, my fraternity would have come up with an inexpensive means to desalinize ocean water, invented cheap, safe, portable nuclear reactors that could have helped reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cured all forms of cancer, likely within a few weekends.

Judging from our collective grade-point averages, fun alone does not make great things happen.

Following that up, the idea “that moments of fun and enjoyment bring out the simple pleasures in life and can lead to acts of goodness,” is utter nonsense that even a child would have trouble stomaching. Too often, people seeking fun and enjoyment do so at the expense of others, which doesn’t exactly lead to acts of goodness. Often, in fact, it leads to acts of utter selfishness.

If you’re going to come up with hokey marketing pabulum to throw at the masses, try not to make it sound like something out of Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984.

And then there’s “Global Relationship Officer” Dean Barrett’s assertion that, “Customers today want to engage with brands in different ways …”

Umm, no, I don’t want to “engage” with brands in different ways. I want to “engage” in the McDonald’s brand in one single, solitary way. That way consists of me forking over currency in exchange for Grade C meat products, wilted lettuce, a slice of unripe tomato and room-temperature American cheese, all slapped between two flattened buns, served by a surly teenager who detests his assistant manager and/or thinks a music company is just moments away from walking in to offer them a recording deal.

If your want to remain “modern and relevant,” stop trying to be cutting edge and concentrate on making the food edible and the hired help civil.

If all that weren’t enough to turn my stomach, McDonald’s ends its press release with this absurd idiocy: “Ronald McDonald can’t wait to connect with people through social media. ‘Selfies …here I come! It’s a big world and now, wherever I go and whatever I do…I’m ready to show how fun can make great things happen,” said Ronald McDonald.’

I’m not a fickle consumer, but I certainly don’t believe in rewarding inanity. Any company that includes the sentence “Selfies … here I come!” in a press release is, in its own way, giving the middle finger to humanity.

Whoever wrote that line ought to be force-fed Big Macs until they slip into a sodium-induced coma, then slathered with gunk from a fast-food grease trap and dropped into a pit of ravenous badgers.

Hot Pockets: Now even worse for you

Pity the poor folk whose job it is to market Hot Pockets, those ubiquitous microwaveable turnovers filled with one or more types of cheese, meat, or vegetables.

For years, Hot Pockets were a staple of comedian Jim Gaffigan’s standup routine (see above), in which he effectively ensured that a generation of consumers would associate the food item with indigestion, diarrhea and a variety of other ailments.

There’s likely no amount of money or promotional effort that Nestle, which produces Hot Pockets, could ever come up with to overcome the effectiveness of Gaffigan’s biting ridicule, and now the company is facing another PR nightmare.

Nestle is voluntarily recalling an unspecified number of “Philly Steak” and “Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese” Hot Pockets because they could contain meat that is unfit for human consumption, according to the USDA.

Gaffigan’s gag, of course, is that they were never fit for human consumption in the first place.

Anyhoo, nearly 9 million pounds of beef products were recalled last week by Rancho Feeding Corp. after regulators said it processed diseased and unsound animals without a full inspection, according to the Associated Press.

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You better watch out, Santa’s got a ‘brand’

santa logo2Brand Books are often used by corporations and other large entities to highlight inside details, goals and marketing techniques.

Created to help bring consistency to the way a brand is communicated, the goal, to paraphrase one Brand Book, is to provide the necessary tools to present the brand correctly and consistently in any and all forms of communication.

They feature a collection of the brand elements and a detailed description of “the brand.”

Brand Books influence every marketing campaign, communication and product. By covering every aspect of the brand from mission statement and logos to color palettes and typography guidelines, it serves as a strategic guideline.

Brand Books are often, but not always, created by advertising firms, and, not surprisingly, tend to be riddled with ad jargon.

To that end, United Kingdom communication consultants The Quiet Room has spoofed its own profession by creating a Brand Book for Santa Claus, defining Father Christmas’s “entire being as if he were dreamt up by a team of obsessive brand ‘experts,’’ according to PSFK.com.

“The result is the *Santa* Brand Book, which spoofs branding strategies used by companies all around the globe. Some prime examples you can find within the book include a meaningless mission statement, acronyms, excessive jargon, obligatory diagrams, and official style guides for the Santa ‘brand,’” adds the PSFK site.

As the *Santa* Brand Book’s cover states: “*Santa* is a Concept, not an idea,” adding, “It begins with the Hiss of Power and ends with the Ah of Surprise.”

You can view the entire *Santa* “Brand Book” here. It’s not only good for a few laughs, but offers an interesting and instructive insight into how major advertising agencies operate.

(Above: Page taken from *Santa* Brand Book, a spoof created by The Quiet Room, a UK advertising agency. Click to embiggen.)

China receives first US bulk sorghum shipment

sorghum field

The burgeoning US-China agriculture-trade relationship was evident late last week when the first-ever bulk shipment of American grain sorghum reached the Asian nation.

The 2.36 million bushel shipment, the first of several scheduled for China this year, reached the port city of Guangzhou, the south China city historically known as Canton, on Oct. 18.

The cargo is designated for animal feed and demonstrates the continued modernization of China’s feed industry, according to Bryan Lohmar, US Grains Council director in China.

“The Council believes US sorghum has significant potential to become a regular feed ingredient in China,” he said. “Sorghum imports from the United States can help keep food prices low and improve China’s overall food security.”

Sorghum, a grain, is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water. It is known as a high-energy, drought tolerant crop, according to the National Sorghum Producers.

Sorghum was planted on approximately 6.2 million US acres in 2012, with Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Dakota the top five-Sorghum producing states.

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Rising up against the tyranny of free papers

stupid free newspapers

As large daily newspapers continue to gasp for life like oversized carp thrashing in ever-shrinking pools of muddy water, an interesting phenomenon has occurred:

Free weekly publications appear to be thriving across the US.

These “newspapers” are usually little more than a whole mess of advertising wrapped around a handful of inane drivel – often about the advertisers themselves – which is passed off as news.

Unfortunately, the modus operandi of these publications is to carpet bomb as many homes as possible with papers in order to boost circulation numbers.

The higher the circulation, the more publications can charge for advertising. As a result, the companies behind these papers tend to deliver to anything that looks even remotely like a home: run-down trailers, dog houses, tool sheds, etc.

Of course, what is undisclosed is how many or, more accurately, how few people actually read the publication. Also undisclosed is the anger that tends to build up when those that receive the unsolicited publications are unable to end delivery.

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No career prepares you for Career Day

thank you

In my neck of the woods, one of the highlights of being a dad is being asked to make an appearance at “Career Day” when your child is in 4th grade. I was fortunate enough to be invited by my youngest to speak to her class recently, and, as always, it was a treat.

The favorite part of this year’s appearance, however, were the Thank Yous I received afterward.

The notes were decorated elaborately; many in a variety of colors and inks, and all with the unguarded sweet words of appreciation that seemingly only a child can muster.

It’s important to note that I work for a state banking association – a job I thoroughly enjoy, but not exactly what most 9- or 10-year olds would consider a glamorous position, or even one many at that age can comprehend.

As a result I opted to skip planned discussions on the Federal Reserve System and Quantitative Easing, and a proposed Q&A breakout session on the merits of returning to a bimetallic monetary standard.

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