Incidental History

A Review of Micheal Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

This is a special book for me. It’s a book that accompanied me for some troubled months of hardship, turmoil, and uncertainty. It’s a record holder. It is the book that took me the longest to finish. I have laboured longer on certain books. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen comes to my mind, but I’ve never laboured this long on a book and not put it away unfinished. Putting a book away is not a failure, but there’s a difference to having to put a book back in its place with the knowledge that I won’t come back to it for a long time or potentially even forever. This book was different.

It never managed to excite me enough to finish it quickly, but it also never bored me enough to not want to read further along. In a way that was torturous, but in a meta way it was also a very interesting experience. Of course, that experience was contingent on my shaken up mental health, but we don’t need to get too far into that right now.

Life's Library Book Club

I got to this book through John Green‘s internet bookclub Life’s Library. It was read and talked about there throughout June and July 2019 and it was at a point where I could jump in after Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost had made me miss two reading periods. (Maybe that too is a book I could talk about in future.) Anyhow, I started reading it about 10 days into the reading period, and it took me on a now 5-month ride, I want to tell you about.

The Physical Book

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and The Gallows Pole

To my shame, I have never been a paying member of Life’s Library but had always worked to find the book in question through other means, sometimes in a German translation. To my further shame, my lingering depression made it seem the easiest to ignore my intentions to patronise the local bookstores and to order it on Amazon.

The copy I ordered, is the UK paperback edition of the book published by 4th Estate, London in 2010. And its cover struck me with its noirish tones and imagery. Two detectives facing each other, cigarettes stuck in each face, framed by a fedora and an opened collar. I quite enjoy that kind of punchy design, though I don’t think it’s my favourite book cover I could find in my collection of mismatched books.

The Story & The World Behind IT

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is a strange book that in its own way defies categorisation. It is a mystery thriller, maybe with a dollop of the political set in a world that deviated from our current political world sometime around 1948. It hits on everpresent Jewish themes like life in the diaspora, blatant antisemitism, but also on finding and building a new home and personal trauma.

The plot unfolds in cyclic circles, expanding into the world, gaining greater reach, and then folding in on themselves hitting closer to home again. Though for the first part the book reads to me like a frankly crawling and cliched police procedural just with the odd flair thrown in here and there. The world-building gains more importance in the second part where the plot picks up on speed and twists. Frankly, that is where my reading speed picked up considerably too.

The Characters & The Writing

The Protagonist Meyer Landsmann is fleshed out to be a broken man. He’s the divorced and alcoholic police detective who doesn’t care for the rules too much. Through unfortunate circumstances, he came to work with his ex-wife as his boss and she very much enjoys the rules Landsmann doesn’t care for. But here the biggest problem of Chabon’s writing looms. He doesn’t write female characters that well. Throughout this book. Female characters even more so than male ones fall onto trodden tropes, become at times even just golden calves to drive the action, but they don’t feel lifelike. Their decisions feel at times unmotivated or ill-conceived.

I don’t think Chabon’s male characters in this book are amazing, but they are considerably more well-rounded than the women that surround them. There’s some room for a favourable interpretation of some of the flaws around female characters. Certainly, the story’s point of view character Landsmann doesn’t have favourable views of women. In a sense, the narrator’s bias against women fits in with the noirish tropes of a brooding and hurting detective. A question remains: are Chabon’s female characters in other books any better?

As much as the female characters in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union are flawed, that doesn’t detract much from the story, Chabon tries to tell, largely through the regrettable fact that the women in this story, for the most part, play a role on the sidelines of the action. They are witnesses, judges hovering above the action but they aren’t directly and emotionally involved until the book hits its finale.

There’s a fool of a devil in him that wants to feel the thrum of current, there’s a current in him that wants to feel the devil in the wire.

Page 293

What fascinated me most about Chabon’s writing is his command of similes and rhythm. His descriptions of the world enthralled me at times, they showed his research and they showed an inventiveness that was very enjoyable to me. Though this talent of style doesn’t necessarily extend to talent in crafting suspenseful arcs. Especially the first half of the book felt like a slow drag. Like an investment needed to get to the faster-paced and tighter written second part, when the circles widen from a pure provincial crime procedural to a wider and wider conspiracy.

Another uniqueness of this book is its slang. Chabon took it upon him to at least develop a rudimentary form of local slang for the colony of Jews in Alaska. It is heavily influenced by Yiddish as the title would suggest. Switching languages, especially between English and Yiddish, remains a constant occurrence in relationships to the outside world. The reader doesn’t have to follow these switches, they are fleshed out only in the dropping of certain slang words, the reader can either pick up on or look up in the glossary some editions provide. To me, the allusions to Yiddish didn’t assume the role of a big obstacle, as Yiddish is more closely related to my native German than to many other languages, but it certainly makes reading a bit harder. Especially in interaction with a full list of names and their variants, it can at times get confusing.

Summary

I am conflicted about this book. On the one hand, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union casts its feathers and becomes a suspenseful read somewhere around the midpoint; on the other hand, the first half is a bit of a drag. On one side, the book offers a rich world and an interesting conundrum, on the other side, the writing and characters are hard to get through at times. I don’t think I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t super interested in alt-history and crime, but then I don’t think this is the best these genres have to offer.

Mrs Dalloway and The Gallows Pole

On to other books, my next projects in this department are Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers. The first of which has been waiting in my to-be-read-pile for about 2 years now. It was a Christmas present made by my then-girlfriend. And The Gallows Pole has been started and unfinished since a trip to London in the summer of 2018. Buried behind work and more exciting or pressing books to read. Maybe I can finally make a dent in it.

This is my first book review on this site, many more might follow, but they aren’t here yet. If you enjoy my reviews, I’d like to direct you to my reviews of 1956’s Eurovision Song Contest entries: for example: Speaking like a German Melancholist.

Speedy through Luxembourg

Don’t believe it, but this is another first in Eurovision history. I mean, of course, it is Luxembourg’s first entry into the competition, but no, that’s not what I had in mind. This is actually the first up-tempo song in the competition. It is, however, a trade-off between speedy delivery and length of the song. It is with regret that I have to inform you that this short break from drawn-out chansons is not even two minutes long. Listen to it for yourself:

This, of course, is Michèle Arnaud with her rendition of Ne Crois Pas. For once it delivers a break from all the slow chansons the competition offered so far. Wikipedia makes me hopeful it will at least not remain the only up-tempo entry, but I don’t know yet if, “In contrast to most of the other entries of this Contest, the song is an up-tempo number […].”, is just the authors hedging their bets.

The song’s fast tempo might be fitting with its general message of the vanity inherent in beauty. The song is a plea to a lover to disregard their beauty because it would be meaningless in the long run. In a way, this topic reminds me of German baroque poetry. Vanitas and evanescence, beauty as a temporary good, are all things that crop up in German poetry of the 17th century. Germany as a state didn’t exist by then, but the general area of what would once become Germany was thrashed by the turmoils of the Thirty Years War then. There’s a parallel to Luxembourg only 11 years after the end of World War II.

Similar to the Thirty Years War, the Second World War was a pointer to the evanescence of life, beauty and safety and showed the depths humanity could descend to. Ne Crois Pas in itself isn’t a reference to said turmoil but it’s a mirror towards society’s ingrained believes about evanescence. A young lover could have very well been drafted into a war and have lost his beauty within months of fighting, perhaps, through injury, perhaps, just through the ceaseless trauma of war laying its creases on their face.

But there is a twist to the baroque motifs. While the poets of the 17th century put their fingers up and warned of the fleetingness of beauty and in the same breath extolled a veritable form of nihilism, Michèle Arnaud’s song gives more practical and less philosophical advice: Use it while it lasts!

My take on this song is probably deeper than the author of the song ever intended, but I am of the strong opinion that for every medium there’s one important adage: “The author is dead.” I don’t mean that literally, though at least for this piece it’s probably the truth. At least Arnaud died in 1998 already and I don’t think the composer Christian Guitreau is still alive.

If we come back to the surface. I can, but agree, that this song could also just be a story about vanity and jealousy. Vanity not in the sense of baroque vanitas but strictly speaking as a negative personality trait. Though a look at both words alone should hint you at a deep etymological link between the two.

I don’t enjoy this song enough to put it in any of my personal playlists, but I very much enjoyed the variety it brings to the 1956 lineup of songs. I hope up-tempo songs get a second chance for this first Eurovision year. I’ll leave you with the current playlist of reviewed ESC 1956 songs:

If you want more Eurovision Reviews, you can find them here. If you want something different and would like to see more of my art, how about my reflexions on this year’s Inktober? And maybe you’d enjoy Part III of my ongoing story about trees.

Inktober Debriefing

“Inktober is over”, you can almost hear the sigh of relief artists all over the world are letting out. My sigh of relief, however, is tarnished by slight regrets. While you might not have seen anything on here beyond Day 4. I managed to do a bit more. Well, I at least managed to go through half of Inktober. You could have seen that if you followed me on Instagram or Twitter. Hint, Hint.

I felt the need to debrief and reflect on my experiences during my first Inktober, I participated in. I’ve never considered myself an artist or even talented, but the most important thing Inktober showed me, is that I can draw relatively well, and most of all that I enjoy drawing. The habit of daily drawing, Inktober establishes, is genuinely helpful, especially to someone like me who has trouble with habit formation. But as I have trouble with habit formation, that also meant that as soon as I hit the first major roadblock my habit died down.

Unfortunately, that major roadblock came up at Day 7 already, when I got a serious case of the tiny chickens, or as normal people like to call it, the common cold. My cold forced me into drawing hiatus, and while I knew the second half of the month would be exhausting anyway because of the stressful circumstances of my life, I didn’t expect the backlog of prompts I had accumulated to impede my motivation as much. I still produced some of my favourite pieces after my cold, but I knew I couldn’t catch up to 31 drawings. The last finished drawing is for Day 15 and it’s actually one I’m particularly proud of.

Day 15: Sir Edmond, a truly legendary squid, on their way to their day job as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I have a rough draft for Day 16, but it’s quite unfinished. That being said, I don’t want to torture you more with my own reflexions, so without further ado, here is a gallery of all my Inktober drawings:

Anyhow, that’s it, isn’t it? Well, I still have a few things left to say. The first thing is to say, I might still finish Inktober with a delay. I already said, how much I enjoyed this experience and I hope I can at least try to think something up for all the other prompts. The second thing, I need to talk about is: Where does this leave me for National Novel Writing Month? Well, the answer is short, I don’t think I want to participate. At least not this year. There’s a bit too much on my plate right now, even if I could do with some motivation to write more. This isn’t a final decision, but it’s my gut feeling now at 2 am.

On the Importance of Touching a Tree III

The day of initial contact was momentous. In hindsight, even more so than she had realised on that day. Sure, it had been an absolutely wild experience, but who was to say that she was the first one with that experience

This is part two of a continuous story, part one is Old Home. The whole story is here

Reveal

The day of initial contact was momentous. In hindsight, even more so than she had realised on that day. Sure, it had been an absolutely wild experience, but who was to say that she was the first one with that experience, and who could have known what consequences this encounter with the trees would have had. Now, hurtling through space in what could only be described as a tin can, she could know! It had been not only life-changing but also earth-shattering.

Now she was in space. The rumbling and rattling, the shaking and trembling the pure force of powered ascent had ceased. Now it was tranquillity. Sure she was still hurtling through space at an unimaginable speed, but she didn’t feel that. “Human’s can’t feel speed, we can only feel acceleration”, she remembered her instructors repeating over and over again. During the ascent, she had felt that incredible acceleration and the increased acceleration whenever one of the giant stages of the rocked, that pushed her into her seat, had burnt up and fell back down to its fiery demise in the atmosphere. But now she was in perceived silence. she looked out of the tiny window her capsule had to offer.

The view on the big blue marble commonly called earth was still pristine. At least what crescent she could see was still a blue paradise of water. She could see the halo that was earth’s atmosphere, but she could also see the vast emptiness of space behind it.


“What?”, stumbled Laura still completely aghast by the sudden voice in her ear. Dennis hadn’t noticed anything – apparently. He was still just looking at gaps at the roots of trees.

“Hello, Laura!”, the voice repeated with a deep rumbling. The leaves of the old oak tree rustled softly in the wind.
“Who the hell are you, and … how the hell do you know my name?”, Dennis looked up at her confused. His eyes seemed to be question marks. She looked at him, rolling her eyes as to signal that she wasn’t talking to him. That, however, made him even more confused. Does this boy never understand anything, she thought to herself.
“They will learn to listen to us early enough”, the voice answered her silent thought, “you are ready, and we don’t have much time!”
“Time for what?!” she really couldn’t think of anything that would fit that particular word choice. These weren’t her words. She was having a conversation solely in her mind. Were those her own thoughts? Was she talking to someone else? Who was she talking to?
“I imagine this must be confusing. It will be alright, you’ll learn what I am talking about, but this is neither the time nor place to do so. For now, we are what you call trees, and we need your help, desperately.”
“My help?”
“Your help!”

She couldn’t even imagine how she could be helpful to anyone, not to even speak of being helpful to all of the trees … treehood? She couldn’t even really get her life on track, how in god’s name was she supposed to help millions of trees. The tree’s call seemed pressing. Not something that should’ve been postponed, but still the tree was softspoken and calm, like a gentle giant. Did the tree have a name? Wait why didn’t the tree answer her thoughts anymore? What had happened why did it fall silent?

She looked at her hand and it became apparent. She had lost touch with the tree. Her hand wasn’t feeling the rough old and crusty bark anymore. She slowly moved her hand closer to the trunk. And surely, the humming in the bones of her arm started again.

“We need contact to communicate, we need that connection.”
“I’m sorry.”, Laura apologised.
“It is fine, you’ll learn to keep your hand steady, you’ll learn to know us more, but the darkness is coming upon this place. It is getting dangerous for you out here, you should really move. We can talk when daylight sets in again.”
“Now you really sound like my parents!”, Laura snarked, and she could feel the tree smiling.
“Better grab them and go to the theatre with the moving lights”. And even though Laura had no information she knew who was meant with “them”.
“And we’ll talk tomorrow again?”
“Yes, we will!”
And with that Laura removed her palm from the tree and lost contact again.

A little later, Laura and Dennis were walking down the neighbourhood street, on their way to the cinema. Dennis had laid his arm around her waist, but she was mostly staring at her feet, steadily flying above the cracks and slabs of the pavement. She didn’t really notice Dennis. She knew he was there, right to her side, but she was lost in her own thoughts.

She had so many thoughts, she wanted to burst out with, but there was no tree listening in on her thoughts anymore, and Dennis definitely had turned silent. She didn’t know how to broach the conversation. And that inability made her uncomfortable, but she just didn’t know a way out of it.

After they cut around a few corners, they were at the cinema, and even while going through the ticket purchase and getting a few snacks, they didn’t talk much beyond the inevitable. Only after they had seen a movie, of which Laura didn’t remember much she still was caught up in thought. The trees, did they have a name? Did the big oak tree have a name? How do they communicate with each other? Do they link up their roots? Do they send over leaves? Do they have a deeper connection?

After the film had finished, Laura was still caught up in her thoughts. As if she was in a trance she just followed Dennis’ decisions to find a quiet table hidden away in a corner of the otherwise quite busy café right next to the cinema. People were pouring in here after their showings stopped, just to drink a beer or to talk about their still fresh cinematic experience. Laura was getting anxious. She remembered nothing of the movie. She still was thinking about the trees. Would she even have anything to say if Dennis wanted to talk about the movie?

“So, eh, I don’t really know how to start the conversation, and I don’t know, this should, well this should be easy, considering who you are, still…”, Dennis started.
This was definitely not about the movie. What was going on? This was not what was keeping Laura’s mind occupied but this wasn’t the movie either.
“well after, you came out to me, eh, I had some time to think about myself for a bit longer, and ehm, I’m definitely not sure about it, but I think, ehm. Well, I don’t know, but could you try out they/them for me?”, Dennis continued, after a short but nevertheless awkward pause.
“Eh, sure.”, Laura mumbled. She was perplexed.
“I’m not sure yet, but I think I might be non-binary.”


“Where the hell is Dennis?”, someone yelled behind Laura.
“Oh they said, they were on their way to the bathroom”, Laura replied without averting her eyes from the earth, slowly shrinking, slowly dissolving into the vastness of space.

Planet Earth

Oh, hi, it’s me again the author. I have never done this, but it seems so fitting. Today, all of educational youtube seems to have conspired to release videos in support of #teamtrees, and while I myself neither have the resources to support them monetarily nor to do deeper research, so maybe consider chipping in with a few bucks. Alternatively, you could also check out this wonderful video in support of Partners in Health in Sierra Leone.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I hope together we can do a bit of good in the world.

Inktober Day 4 and 3

Oh hello, there, I didn’t see you. Yes, yes, I didn’t post anything on here last night. Not because I did nothing for Day 3 of Inktober, but because I feel that a singular artwork doesn’t deserve a full write up. That however, means, that whoever wanted to see my artwork for the 3rd of October could do so only on Twitter and Instagram. I’ll rectify that later, Let’s start with the news.

Is Freezing OK?

For the fourth day of Inktober I decided to write something. Today’s prompts were Freeze and OK, or was it 0K?


Am I OK? I don’t know. My mind is numb, my bones are cold. Am I freezing? Maybe I am, but my mind is too numb to notice. This feels pleasant, this feels like a dream.

Oh shit? Am I freezing? Yes, oh god! But then again would that be so bad? Oh, I don’t know. I just want to get warm. Oh, hot chocolate would be nice, or how about a glass of hot milk with honey, and then just falling asleep. Oh, how much would I give up for a bed now? My eyes are getting tired. Maybe I should rest for a bit and dream of hot chocolate. Stop, stop, no, I can’t fall asleep now; I’ll freeze to death. Good, let’s stay awake. I need to concentrate. How many of these locked boxes are in this room? One, two … three … four … all locked. I wish I could get at, what’s inside. Five … six … seven. Hot chocolate would really be nice – no, no, I need to focus! Eight … nine … ten … eleven … Maybe just a small nap? I’m feeling warm. I can nap. Surely I’ll wake up before I freeze. Yawn. Someone will get me out of here, just … sleep.


This is just a vignette with an added quick line drawing, but now for what I made yesterday.

Robotic Bait

The prompts for the 3rd of October were Robot and Bait. I decided to make a tinder dating profile for one of them. Enjoy:

This concludes my summary of the last few Inktober Days, I hope you enjoyed it and if you’re here you can check out my other Inktober antics or how about my latest review of a song from Eurovision 1956.

2nd of Inktober

As expected today, my creative juices weren’t as plentiful as yesterday. Today’s official Inktober prompt was mindless and Tuataria’s prompt was emoji. Plagued from a sleepless night and personal stressors, the only thing I came up with was a drooling emoji.

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Day_2 #mindless #emoji for #inktober2019

A post shared by Chwiggy (@instachwiggy) on

And well, because I was in search of a mindless task for my sleep-deprived mind, I fished an old technique out of the treasure trove that is my childhood: randomised patterns.

Randomised Pattern
The pattern was generated based on random numbers

I had a few more ideas, that never came to fruition within the bounds of the 2nd of October. Including a Zombie story. I hope I can put more weight behind tomorrows prompts. Until then feel free to take a look at yesterday’s eggy works.

I did, however, manage to do a Frankenstein’s Monster emoji. Here for a truly mindless emoji, I present to you the weirdly cute Frankenmoji:

A drooling depiction of Frankenstein’s Monster as an Emoji

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that I actually managed to do a quick mockup of the third project for today. – 2019-10-02 23:30 UTC

Schmaltz for the Glockenspiel

Hello, there. You thought I had lost my mind? I don’t fault you for it. After all, my last two Eurovision pieces, about both the first Belgian entry and the first German entry, were strikingly positive. If you thought this would start a streak of generally more positive reviews, I have to disappoint you. The song in question today strikes me as a technical achievement, that I absolutely detest. I detest it so much this review took me way longer than it should have and so long that I’m now in the midst of the creative endurance test of Inktober. But alas here it is, Le Temps Perdu or in English Lost Time by Parisian born singer Mathé Altéry.

I’m not up for much purple prose with this song. I could try to describe the heights Mathé Altéry reaches with her surely magnificent vocal cords, but to be honest, even if it might be a feat of technical prowess, I can’t enjoy it. It sounds to my untrained ear less like an artistic choice but more like an attempt at showing off.

Actually, after now listening to it for what is a month since my last review of a Eurovision song. It actually has grown on me. Don’t get me wrong. I still don’t like it and I still think the song’s long-drawn-out searches for the highest note could have been scrapped for the benefit of the audience. I, however, have to admit I don’t mind the song as much as when I wrote the introduction to this review.


As much as I’m not an expert in music, I’m not an expert in French either. I took a year of French courses in my ill-fated attempts at a university education. And while I have a certified level of A1 in the CEFR that is as of now, hardly enough to easily understand the depths of the lyrics Mathé Altéry sings. My way out of this is to rely on translations. I went to the length of double-checking if they are at least plausible, but as with every translation, translation is always a game of interpretation. The following analysis won’t withstand academic rigour, but then again no entry of this series claims to be academic at all. This is just my opinion.

The Glockenspiel or Carillon near Leicester Square in London, UK

The song is reminiscent of a long lost lover. Contrary to what Wikipedia states, Altéry is not, in fact, hoping her own song will distract herself from the pain of lost love, but she’s beseeching the carillon to take her pain away with its beautiful song. But what in the world even is a carillon? Well, it’s a Glockenspiel.

Well actually, it’s more complicated than that. Wikipedia’s article about Carillons opens up an interesting linguistic rabbit hole. There is a loop of cultural differences in action between French, the origin of carillon, German, the origin of Glockenspiel, and of course English, as ever multiple languages in a trenchcoat passing as one, going on. carillon in French translates to Glockenspiel in German, Glockenspiel in English translates to Metallophon in German and carillon in English translates to Glockenspiel in English.

The word “carillon” is said to originate from the French quadrillon, meaning four bells. In German, a carillon is also called a Glockenspiel; while the percussion instrument called a “glockenspiel” by English speakers is often called a carillon in French.

Wikipedia: Carillon

But back from these linguistic anomalies to the song at hand. The lyrics of Le Temps Perdu are quite rich in metaphors and optimistic sweetness. They are soft in tone and don’t fit well with the screeching that the vocals elicit in my mind. Reading the song, surprisingly enough, makes me hopeful. I like its images of moving rivers, and evenings and nights full of longing and languor. Even if in total it might be a bit too heavy on the schmaltz.

Sing, carillon, sing for my happiness

Mathé Altéry, Le temps perdu

As introduced in the last review, I made a Spotify playlist, now including Le Temps Perdu. If you really want to torture yourself, and maybe even find a liking to a few of the songs, feel free to give it a listen.

Other than that, I think, I’ll leave you with an encouragement to read into the other projects on this blog, namely Inktober and Touching a Tree, or if you want to you could start with the first Eurovision Review about De Vogels Van Holland. Thanks for reading, and have a good day. Oh and feel free to comment and share.

1st of Inktober

This is the first time I dared to try Inktober. I, at least, like to consider myself a creative mind. I don’t know if that is actually true, but if it isn’t, I don’t think practice hurts. I usually have trouble with sticking to projects so I don’t know how long I will stick with this. And I also don’t know in which way this will affect my progress with ongoing projects. I very much would like to keep up with The Importance of Touching a Tree and my Eurovision reviews, but publication might slow down during Inktober for obvious reasons of creative depletion. I very much hope this will not be the case, but I can’t guarantee anything.

The official prompt for today the 1st of October 2019 was “Ring“. I, in part, decided to combine this with a prompt list based on in-jokes of the Tuataria Discord Server, made by the wonderful Alys. Today’s prompt on that list was “Egg“.

My first idea was an eggy proposal. I just did a quick sketch with fine liners right before going to sleep (admittedly way too late.

Are those Ass-Eggs?

After a bit of sleep. I tried to do something a bit more ambitious. I’m still learning my way around with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but I had a spacey Idea, building on a background I had completed for another project earlier in September. I struggled a bit with shading and with colouration, but also with making a believable egg-shape.

The rings of an Eggso-Planet

After this attempt, I moved away from the extraneous egg prompt and tried to do something else entirely, but I couldn’t keep my mind from drawing. I got inspired by someone else’s idea of colourful turtles and made my own sketch of very special turtles. Maybe, you could say a ring of turtles.

These turtles say trans rights!

But then I came up with the one to rule them all. And yes this is obviously a Lord of the Rings reference.

I’m really quite proud of this one.

This concludes my artistry for the first day of this endeavour. I hope I’ll be back for more tomorrow. I’ll leave you with a bit of writing, for some eggy rings:


Nowhere on earth, you can get egg dishes as delicious as they are in a small inconspicuous restaurant hidden in a small alleyway behind the local Tommyball stadium on Kepler 31 b – 01372. Every day when the shadow of Kepler 31 b – 01372’s or as the locals call it, Egota’s rings graces the capital. The local restauranteur and owner off The Egg Bar, Blod Farnsteik, opens the doors to his kingdom. 25 chefs employed by Farnsteik serve the most flamboyant egg dishes of this Galaxy.

The tradition of serving eggs on Egota is a long one, and only recently has it gotten a bit awkward. Only a year has passed since the local space ferry company made their first trip to a neighbouring planet mainly inhabited by the Egg people. Which of course is not what they named themselves, but what Egota’s sentient races decided to mock the suspiciously egg-shaped people from the said planet with.

Interplanetary race relationships are never an easy topic to navigate so Blod Farnsteik probably did well to diversify his business by investing in other restaurants with less controversial culinary themes. However, even if the servings of The Egg Bar have gotten their fair share of hate and ire on social media platforms, it would be a shame to lose the extraordinary cuisine The Egg Bar serves from sunny-side-ups to scrambled or to even creations I don’t dare to describe to earthlings not accustomed to Egota’s extraordinary gusto, everything that is egg-related. The egg bar is open every day from ring-rise to sunset. Reservations are recommended, especially during the high traffic season in April and October.

Synergise to Hell!

“This feels weird” was my first thought when I clicked on Veritasium’s video on electric vehicles. At first, I thought it was only weird because Derek had applied his lessons about clickbaity thumbnails as detailed in his latest video on viral videos and the YouTube algorithm, but that was at best only part of my spider-senses going off. The first shot of the video hit me pretty hard. Derek walking through a lobby filled with new and shiny BMW cars. Apparently, he was invited to Munich by BMW.

What’s my point with this piece? I don’t know. This is more of an experiment in branching my writing out to different topics. Please leave all the feedback you have. And if you’d rather read something different, please check out the last Eurovision-Review, my first poem on this blog or my serial fiction about trees.

“This feels weird” was my first thought when I clicked on Veritasium’s video on electric vehicles. At first, I thought it was only weird because Derek had applied his lessons about clickbaity thumbnails as detailed in his latest video on viral videos and the YouTube algorithm, but that was at best only part of my spider-senses going off. The first shot of the video hit me pretty hard. Derek walking through a lobby filled with new and shiny BMW cars. Apparently, he was invited to Munich by BMW. I mean that’s fair after all, many YouTubers I enjoy get invited sometimes by companies to film their videos there. The best example of this, that comes to my mind, is Tom Scott.

Still, this felt different, but why? I don’t think sponsored content is prima facie bad, and I think there are great examples of how sponsors can bring their advertisement slots to good use, convince viewers or listeners of their product and sometimes as with the brilliant Cards Against Humanity sponsorships on the Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP), in which they made nitpicky John Siracusa review a variety of toaster ovens. This, however, is at the extreme end of toasters sponsorships working well and enriching the content of content creators. In its way, it is a best-case scenario for both the creator as for the sponsor. Normal unintrusive sponsorships maybe play off of some traits or interests the content creator has, but don’t necessarily infringe on the creators content too much. Audible sponsorships come to mind where the creator just gives a few sales arguments, maybe a book tip and the sponsor, in turn, leaves the rest of the content alone.

John Siracusa’s Toaster Reviews

The two central Veritasium videos are different in two key points: Firstly, the sponsorship isn’t contained to a bounded ad read but comes up multiple times within the video. Secondly, the content of both videos is strictly dependent on the sponsor itself. Both videos wouldn’t make sense without the sponsor setting the video up.

For the BMW sponsored video, the sponsorship seems to make sense. BMW wants to foster an image of technological advancements and hopes to sell cars in a video that is fundamentally about cars. To be more specific: electric cars.

The relation of Starbucks to the content of Liquid Nitrogen seems even more forced. No one would associate their morning coffee with science & technology videos.

This is why the Liquid Nitrogen video needs the help of a made-up challenge. Starbuck has to challenge Derek to make liquid nitrogen because there is no other way to motivate a mention of Starbucks in a roughly ten-minute science video. Showing off the tech Starbucks actually uses to make their Nitro Cold Brew didn’t even make it into the video, and even showing off the admittedly cool pattern of bubbles only made it into the video as an afterthought, even more so than Derek trying Nitro Cold Brew for “the first time” at the start of the video.

It isn’t wrong, all the elements for a good sponsored video are present and still, it feels wrong. It feels wrong because it’s forced. It is awkward to look someone in the eye who’s trying to sell you coffee in a science video without having genuine synergies with the sponsor.

Let’s look at it from a different perspective, the one of the audience. We as viewers have a gut reaction whether something feels genuine or not. That gut reaction might not be true. After all, some people can act better than Derek Muller, but that gut reaction inevitably tinges if we are more willing to get interested in a marketed product.

Sure we have to decide on how we want to be convinced to buy products. Marketing and advertisement is an old industry and I can definitely see moral gradations between someone honestly saying: “Hey I work for Starbucks. And I think you would enjoy Nitro Cold Brew” and more clandestine or covert advertisement like product placement or even non-declared sponsorships. No one wants to read fake or paid reviews for a restaurant without knowing that those reviews aren’t genuine, but as an audience, we still understand there’s a genuine need for creators especially independent creators to make money.

YouTube’s monetisation scheme doesn’t necessarily provide enough revenue to keep a channel going. YouTube’s monetisation at least to an extent keeps content and advertisement separate. Of course, there’s “advertiser-friendly content” and content advertisers don’t want to put advertisements against, but the advertiser has no direct control or influence on the content. This relationship of content and advertisement is definitely the most transparent and least misleading to the audience, but that’s not what advertisement is for.

Hence the ideas of product placement and sponsored content. Blurring the line between pure content and pure advertisement is a winner for those who seek to earn money, but it has its disadvantages for the audience. Suddenly, judgements about products within the content might not be untinged by considerations for the advertiser. Is this cold brew really enjoyable or is the enjoyment faked to appease the advertisement gods?

Certainly, there’s a path for creators to enjoy the benefits of sponsored content without losing their perceived authenticity. This path is contingent on a careful selection of advertisers. The advertisements need to be somewhat related to the actual content, but also not too related to the content. If the advertisements are too far off from the content the target audience is probably missed, if the advertisement is too close too the content potential confusion arises. This is I think the crux with a Starbucks sponsorship in a Veritasium video.

Since I started writing this piece, CGP Grey announced in a video that his YouTube content would stop to be sponsored and that he would concentrate on crowdfunding through Patreon.