Intercontinental Discourse on Cheery 1960s Commercials

After two walls of text I owe you some light entertainment.

I have learned from the comments on this post that the song has been ingrained in the minds of American children in the 1960s and 1970s. True, I hear it in my dreams now, too. It’s Slinky, It’s Slinky! For fun it’s the best of the toys …

This is a service to my non-US and non-CA readers. Go indulge in this very retro black and white version.

Mind the delayed motions of the animals’ hindquarters (and their funny voices). I believe they give prove of the slinky’s secret as discussed in these comments: The bottom of the falling slinky needs some time to notice that the top had been released. In a similar way, the rear parts need time to notice that the animal has been pushed.

When walking down a stair, the segment of slinky that touches the next step of the staircase first needs to wait quite a while until it starts moving up again – in contrast to jumping compression spring or a rubber ball.

But the most important question to me was:

Which 1970s ad has influenced us over here in middle Europe?

The first one that came to my mind was hard to find although many people seem to search the internet  – posting heartbreaking requests: Does somebody have this video? I would pay any price!

So this is it: In German, very short, probably recorded by filming the TV version on a phone. It is an ad for detergents – I believe you get the message, the language barrier notwithstanding. It is about people being very happy with their clean and soft laundry, but – and this was maybe revolutionary: No Happy Housewife in this commercial, but little cartoon characters inhabiting your laundry.

These creatures have a legendary name – a literal translation would be: The Fabric Charmers. This name and this jingle has been ingrained to the brains of German speaking children. I have found websites featuring the large version fluffy plush version of those – and owners still proud of them.

Though these are talking creatures, just as the slinky animals, their voices are more cartoon-y. The average frequency (pitch) have been increased – most likely by using a higher play back rate than recording rate, not by letting the singers inhale helium.

Today little creatures cannot be found in the microstructure of the laundry anymore. Instead, we see ads of tiny monsters living in toilets on TV, especially under the brim. These monsters seem to have been created from material found in Pixar Studios’ dustbin.

Similar creatures do live in Australian toilets.

What can we learn from this intergalactical and intertemporal comparison?

Did the economic crisis kill the cute, fluffy pre-oil-crisis Fabric Charmers and replace them by Mutant Toilet Germs?

I Need More Trivial Content

Don’t panic – I have left the lofty heights of political analysis for now! But thanks again for all the fish, commenters, as I had ventured out of my geeky comfort zone quite a bit!

But now I am back: to down-to-earth, hands-on, ready-to-use …

Spam Poetry

The categories and tags for this blog are quite a mess – and I know it. Not even regular excessive re-tagging and re-categorizing did help.

In particular, I have no overall category for those experimental genres of art I am indulging in frequently. I tagged it with Search Term Poetry and Spam Poetry of course, but the category is – for whatever reasons


Since I do not want to turn my the categories upside down I try to align the content with the categories. I am in need of trivia.

An extraordinary spam commenter does help me out:
There is a new sort of spam, consisting of a full blog post of mine dumped to the comment section in its entirety. This provides me with a unique opportunity:

I am able to dissect and scramble my own post in order to create the most non-original spam poetry ever.

I probably might have discarded this idea of self-plagiarism, but the particular post picked by the spammer was just too good …

Discovering Your Life Being Cliché

… with ‘good’ referring to the level of self-reference, not necessarily to the quality of the content. I expect you to click on the link though: I had published it before my meteoric rise to fame as a search term poet. So this is like stumbling upon an hitherto undiscovered Picasso in your attic!

Rules are as follows –  as usual I am inventing them as I go:

  • All phrases need to be taken copied 1:1 from the post linked above.
  • Phrases need to appear in the post in the reverse order as they are quoted in the poem. Thus I force myself to work from the bottom to the top (This is not about work ethics in corporations, I just refer to scrolling a text)

The Matrix

google it and end up disappointed

I will not tell you

pseudo-postmodern analysis
via TV

those most trivial everyday clichés
describing trashy everyday stuff meticulously
explain the zeitgeist

in my hacker’s cave
the only woman who calls herself a nerd
many years ago

Probably it is worse than that
there are other intelligent lifeforms on this planet

it would be worth mentioning
that there are discussion groups

I once thought it singular to be
the true phenomenon or the illusion

right now millions of people write about
Every utmost obscure and bizarre topic

everything has already been told
Within milliseconds
in order to test
Your Life Being Cliché

This poem leaves me with the weird impression that my post either 1) works backwards also (How scary – do I find satanic messages as well?) or 2) there is no content anyway.

There is no spoon!

It is not the spoon that bends – it is only yourself

Happy Easter


Work Hard – Play Hard

There is indeed a ‘corporate culture’ named like this. Trusting Wikipedia on this:

In their 1984  [sic!] book, Corporate Cultures, Deal and Kennedy identified a particular corporate culture which they called the ‘work hard/play hard culture’:

“Fun and action are the rule here, and employees take few risks, all with quick feedback; to succeed, the culture encourages them to maintain a high level of relatively low-risk activity.

The book is called a classic in business literature by an amazon reviewer; so I am not surprised Work Hard/Play Hard  is one of four quadrants – based on the combination of risk and feedback. If you really want to know: The high risk / intense feedback culture is called the Tough-Guy Macho Culture.

Why I am really interested in this: Work Hard – Play Hard is also a sublime German documentary I have just watched accidentally.

Here is the trailer, with English subtitles, that captures the atmosphere quite well. I could only find the full video  in German or French although the links to film festivals (below) imply that a version with English subtitles does exist.

It is not a Michael Moore movie. There is no voice from the off that will explain anything. It is people and buildings, speaking for themselves. Aesthetic buildings and sleek design, however not as vibrant and colored as you might expect from articles on, say, Google’s offices.

If this were a fictional movie, you would expect it to be set in a parallel world with a dark secret tied to technology:

All alleged human beings would be artificial life forms or clones created by the last survivors of a cyberpunk apocalypse – who happened to haven’t saved anything but their MBA courses’ lecture notes before their embarked on their lifeboat-spaceship and left the earth to found a new civilization. Or the protagonists might also be ants that have acquired some level of intelligence – so we see The Fly in a reversed version – but they struggle to find a real narrative or myth for their culture, just as Data wants to become a human being by tinkering with the emotion chip.

Their world remains grayed out and a diluted holodeck-like copy, and as a disengaged observer you tried to find the fault in the matrix. At least you believe you are disengaged – watching TV in your minimalist concrete-and-glass hotel, relaxing during your business trip and checking your smartphone.

I found the role of background sounds most intriguing – low and perfectly normal sounds like phones and keyboards, but disturbing like HAL’s voice and the phone at the agency in 24 – all mixed with slightly unpleasant ‘music’ that sounds what I expect tinnitus to be like.

But I better leave it to the professionals – the following reviews are spot-on:

Work Hard – Play Hard is a well-conceived and aesthetically refined contribution to the debate about the future of work in postindustrial society: Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ meets psychological science fiction in a reality where many spend half of their waking lives [Copenhagen International Documentary Festival 2011 – Link broken*]

A measured and brilliantly crafted documentary, Work Hard, Play Hard is a remarkably assured debut film from Carmen Losmann. Focusing on changing perceptions of the workplace the film mixes a clinically precise tone with a social conscience and some dark satire. [Helsinki International Film Festival 2012, quoting Laurence Boyce, Screen Daily*]

[*] Links broken

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants and Not Recognizing It

Unfortunately I need to quote myself again and again: Every time I figured I had been very original and creative, The Internet tells me I am not. Others have come before me. I am a lousy historian of geeky art.

I have been made aware on Google+ of the fact that there have been other spam poets, having created #spampoems more than 10 years ago. At least I have proved all experts wrong who say G+ is  a boring ghost town.

So my previous article was not at all the ‘definitive history’. Here it is:

… which also has an impressive list of links. BBC has reported on this in 2003:

Some have composed poems using the subject lines of the spam they receive; others are creating verse using the strings of strange words that are often found inside spam messages. A lucky few have even found excerpts of novels buried in spam.

Even haikus are mentioned in the Wikipedia article – so I need to ping back once more to the alleged first haiku poet.

But wait:

SPoetry on WkipediaThe entry does not meet Wikipedia’s guidelines, the sources are obviously considered not reliable enough. Are all the articles fakes perhaps?

Above all, this is about spam poetry only. There is still hope that I might have founded search term poetry? I don’t dare to do more research!

In addition, this is an English entry. So chances are that the founder of the hashtag #spampoems is probably the first creator of German or French spam poetry (2019: Links broken).

Spam dish

Spam – as we like it! (Wikimedia)

Seasoned spam poets and search term poets – please bring any other omission to my attention! I will repent in public!

Retro-Geek: On the Fascination of Machinery

I have no clue about art or design. I learned recently from The Time Traveler that stuff like the following has its own genre and sub-culture: It is called Steampunk.


Steampunk Computer (Wikimedia)

I am intrigued – as I was by the illustrations in Stephen Hawking’s book Illustrated Brief History of Time long before I knew this was Steampunk at its best. Why does Steampunk ‘work’ so well?

I believe it does for the same reasons as: The Flintstones, Max Raabe, even Star Wars, and the British Sherlock Holmes TV show. Though the latter should maybe be tagged Steampunk anyway. It is the 1 one 1 correspondence of modern gadgets and their ancient counter-parts that have never existed – done meticulously at a ridiculous, nearly microscopic level.

I am sure there are tons of articles by artists, designers or psychologists (which I did not research) that explain the phenomenon. Is it about our nostalgic feeling about an ancient era? Plus the spirit of innovation and the probably naive believe in technological progress (at ‘that time’)? Is it our subconscious longing for really understanding how stuff works – locating the tooth wheels and levers, instead of being put off by the enigmatic – but dull – integrated circuit boards in our iPhones and notebooks?

Or is it just the combination of metal and wood? Of silver, gold, black and a bit of rust & dust?

Steampunk transformer helmet

Steampunk transformer helmet (Wikimedia,

Every scientist or engineer starts out as a tinkerer in his parents’ garage or the like (the cliché says, but this is backed by bios of famous physicists, such as Richard Feynman or Isaac Newton). So as for geeks in particular, Steampunk seems to allude to a part of our common DNA. We remember the clocks and cameras we had dismantled.

But probably you should not or cannot dissect a cultural phenomenon by writing about it. You can rather tell a story or create artwork that follows the unwritten rules of the sub-culture, and like-minded people will get it – or not.

It seems I have established the tradition of The Light Geeky Friday Post since last week. So I add a new category to my blog:
Geek Collection (and I might re-categorize old stuff, very retro).

Physicist, Philosopher, and Engineer

The headline indicates that I am going to tell one of this old jokes: A physicist, a philosopher and an engineer meet …

This is in fact correct, but in an extremely subtle way. As the title of this blog and the pseudo-intellectual summary in the left pane should imply I am of course considering myself all three of them. A physicist by training, a philosopher by self-proclamation based on reading arbitrarily picked stuff,  and an engineer by just doing it. So I am actually working as an engineer. Why?

Comics often do grasp the essence of profound decisions in our careers, in particular in geeky careers. I owe this insight on the importance of comics in science also to the astute posting at nebusresearch on comics and mathematics.

So here’s the explanation

Why You Want To Be An Engineer – by SMBC Comics

Discovering Your Life Being Cliché

You are browsing the internet in order to test – by anecdotal evidence – if your original ideas are that original or your most creative writing that creative.

Within milliseconds you detect that everything has already been told, shared, pictured, thought, sketched.

For every clever business idea I had, I found zillions of companies that already had implemented version 3.0 of this idea. Every super fancy domain I ever wanted to register was taken. Every utmost obscure and bizarre topic I wanted to write about was covered in 1000s posts, tweets, and doctoral theses. I believe that right now millions of people write about the true phenomenon or the illusion of (there is for sure a scientific term for it) all their ideas being published already by somebody else.

I once thought it singular to be

a physicist working in IT security

Then I discovered, in passing, not even searching for it, that there are discussion groups called physicists in IT security.

Then I thought it would be worth mentioning to be

a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science.
a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science and being a fan of Star Trek.
a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science and being a fan of Star Trek, Douglas Adams.
a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science and being a fan of Star Trek, Douglas Adams and Douglas Coupland.


You might discover that there are other intelligent lifeforms on this planet who indulge in enigmatic messages teleported via the search strings that make users hit their website just like you.

Probably it is worse than that. Maybe we are determined by clichés before we know it (sort of Minority Report style). I watched The Net with Sandra Bullock many years ago and this scene was the essential part of the movie!

I was not yet the only woman who calls herself a nerd (reference: a colleague) and I was not yet tracking down security issues in my hacker’s cave, fuelled by pizza and caffeine (source: self-assessment).

But I morphed into my favorite cliché wholeheartedly. I delved into it, and I accepted my destiny. I adore writers who make cliché the hidden recurring topic of their work; who are able to explain the zeitgeist of an era by describing trashy everyday stuff meticulously. As Douglas Coupland.

I have another theory that says this only works with clichés that have emerged after the ~ 1960s, because then it was possible to beam those most trivial everyday clichés down to people’s hearts and brains via TV.

Do I have to offer a solution apart from pseudo-postmodern analysis? Yes, but I will not tell you. Otherwise somebody who has come up with the same solution will google it and end up disappointed.