Sunday, February 22, 2015

Stirlitz Jokes: The Spy that Couldn't

Here is another Hungarian genre that is extremely hard to explain, but not less entertaining than the Aggressive Piglet or Little Rabbit jokes. It takes us back to the glorious days of Soviet-era film making, and the daring adventures of Russian spies.

The whole thing started with a Soviet TV series called Seventeen Moments of Summer, released in 1973. It is... well, it is an interesting cinematic experience. All you really need to know that the hero of the series is a Russian spy who, under the codename Max Otto von Stierlitz, infiltrates Nazi Germany. The point of most jokes about him all ride on the same theme: Everyone knows Stirlitz is a spy. He is not very good at it.

Most Stirlitz jokes are really making fun of Soviet era efficiency and institutions (as well as poking fun at Nazi intelligence), and the incompetency of spy operations. Some of them also make a joke out of the slow-and-pensive style of many scenes in the show. Some are harder to explain than others, but for us, coming from a former Soviet satellite state, they are all extremely hilarious. I have no idea how well the humor translates, but I'll try anyway.

Stirlitz receives a coded message from home: "Your son was born today." His eyes fill up with tears and he feels all warm and fuzzy inside, thinking of his dear wife he has not seen for almost five years.

February 23rd, the Day of the Red Army: Stirlitz walks up and down the street, singing Soviet war songs. Little does he know how close he is in those moments to being outed as a spy.

Hitler is having a meeting with his officers at his secret headquarters. Suddenly the door opens, Stirlitz walks in with an orange on a platter. He puts the platter down, walks to the cabinet, picks the lock, takes photos of secret documents, then leaves.
Hitler: "Who the hell was that?"
Officer: "Oh, that's a Soviet spy."
Hitler: "And why has he not been apprehended and executed yet?!"
Officer: "We tried, mein Führer, but somehow he always talks himself out of it..."

April, 1945. Hitler wanders around in his headquarters, but no one cares about him anymore. They are losing the war. Frustrated, he finally opens a door and steps into Stirlitz's office. Stirlitz bolts up and salutes him: "Heil Hitler!"
Hitler, exhausted: "Come on, Maksimits, at least you don't screw with me today."

Stirlitz has a private word with a German officer: "Herr Müller, would you like to work for the Soviet intelligence? We pay well."
Müller: "What are you talking about?! Of course not!"
Stirlitz: "Oh, in that case, do you happen to have something against a headache?"
Stirlitz was smart enough to know that people tend to only remember the last sentence of a conversation.

Stirlitz walks alone at night, and suddenly sees a pair of lights in the distance.
"A truck" he deducts smartly.
"Truck my ass" the owl thinks.

Stirlitz walks alone on the street and sees two prostitutes.
"Hookers." thinks Stirlitz.
"Stirlitz." think the hookers.

Stirlitz walks around on the streets of Berlin, and notices that people look at him suspiciously.
"They spotted me. I wonder why. It could be my masculine Russian features... or could it be this parachute on my back?"

Stirlitz and Müller go to a sauna. As they undress, Müller notices the large red star on Stirlitz's underwear.
"Stirlitz, where did you get that?!"
"In Moscow." Stirlitz answered, then thought to himself: "I hope I didn't say too much."

Stirlitz stepped out of the Gestapo headquarters. "Dasvidaniya!" he greeted the guards, then wondered if he had maybe made a mistake.

Martin Bormann is roused in the early hours of the morning by someone banging on his door. When he opens, he sees a man wearing skis and a parachute. The man says, with a strong Russian accent:
"The elephants can go f*ck themselves" Bormann sighs "Stirlitz lives one floor up."

Stirlitz entered Müller's office, and found him dead on the floor.
"Must have poisoned himself" he thought as the pensively touched the ax in Müller's back.

Five black cars pulled up to Stirlitz's home. Gestapo officers got out and knocked.
"Who are you looking for?" asked a voice on the other side.
"I'm not home!"
The officers swore. It had been two weeks now that Stirlitz had been on the run like that.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ever wonder what Morgan Freeman sounds like in Hungarian?

One of my favorite pastimes is trying to explain dubs to my American friends. Since Hollywood's idea of dubbing is to completely re-shoot every foreign film with Johnny Depp and Rachel McAdams in the lead, I decided I'll give you a taste of voices I grew up with, long before I discovered that you can watch movies with the original sound.
Hungarian dubs used to be stellar when I was a kid (it wasn't that long ago, thank you). Some of them - mostly animated movies - still are. Others... well, not so much. And since I have been repeatedly told that what makes Hungary a third world country is growing up deprived of Morgan Freeman's real voice, I'll just give you a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can sort it out for yourself.
(All links are YouTube videos)

Mufasa from the Lion King - Hungarian voice: Imre Sinkovits
Sinkovits is the Morgan Freeman of Hungary. He is The Voice. Until he passed away he was also the voice of Papa Smurf and the dragon from Dragonheart. Among many, many other things.

Morgan Freeman - Hungarian voice: Tibor Kristóf
It is customary for certain famous actors to have one assigned Hungarian actor that dubs them in most of their roles. For Morgan Freeman, that voice is Tibor Kristóf. Interestingly, he is also an assigned voice for Sean Connery and Scar (Zordon, for us) from the Lion King.

Samuel L. Jackson - Hungarian voice: Oszkár Gáti
"Hungarian, motherf*cker, do you speak it?!"

Eric Cartman - Hungarian voice: Gábor Csőre
The sound clip speaks for itself, really. By the way, the guy also dubbed Frodo from Lord of the Rings. And... Leonard from TBBT. Oh, and Loki.

Smaug - Hungarian voice: Péter Haás Vander
If a Benedict Cumberbatch falls in a Hungarian dub, does it make a sound?... Fun fact: He sounds exactly like Dexter on Showtime.

Sherlock - Hungarian voice: Kornél Simon
Here is a less dragoned-up variation on Cumberbatch. It was not easy to find a clip. Probably for the better.

Alan Rickman - Hungarian voice: Oszkár Gáti
"Call off Christmas!"

Iago from Aladdin - Hungarian voice: Károly Kassai
We don't have a Gilbert Gottfried, obviously, but this guy comes pretty close.

Ace Ventura - Hungarian voice: József Kerekes
I don't envy the guy who has to keep up with Jim Carrey. He also does Donkey from Shrek.

The Avengers - Hungarian voices: Ernő Fekete (Iron Man), Ervin Nagy (Thor), Soma Zámbori (Captain America), Katalin Csondor (Black Widow), Zoltán Rajkai (Hulk), András Stohl (Hawkeye), Gábor Vass (Nick Fury)
Here is a clip of "Shakespeare in the park."
Fun fact: The voice of Hawkeye is another well known Hungarian actor. He dubbed (grown-up) Simba from the Lion King, Woody from Toy Story, Heath Ledger in Knight's Tale, Hugh Grant in pretty much everything... the list goes on.

Elsa - Hungarian voice: Nikolett Füredi (song), Réka Farkasházi (speech)
Yeah, that happens too, characters have separate singing and speaking voices. And yes we are aware she's off key.

The Big Bang Theory - Hungarian voices: Gábor Csőre (Leonard), Máté Szabó (Sheldon), Zoltán Karácsonyi (Howard), Szabolcs Pálmai (Rajesh), Kitty Mezei (Penny)
Hint: This one is not under the "good" label.

Shrek and Donkey - Hungarian voices: Károly Gesztesi (Shrek), József Kerekes (Donkey)
Gesztesi is another well known voice from film and television. He also dubbed Sulley from Monsters Inc., Bunk from The Wire, and Lando Calrissian from Star Wars.

(Now taking suggestions for future follor-up posts)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nostaliga lane: Non-Hungarian cartoons Hungarian kids grew up with

Born in 1986, I fall into that magical pool of nostalgia about 50% of the Internet is made up of: I was a 90's kid. With that said, every time I see "only 90's kids will remember this" type posts and pictures, I always realize how different my childhood was from that of the same age group in America. Part of that is because Hungarian TV played a fair amount of cartoons from other countries (next to American shows like Sunday afternoon Disney, and original Hungarian-made animation that I will gush about later).
In the spirit of nostalgia and introducing you to some of my personal favorites, here are some examples.
(Links lead to videos, I hate embedding them)
(Also, obviously, these are not all 90's shows. They were just played a lot in the 90's.)

Once upon a time: Life (French-Japanese)
The only OUAT show worth watching if you ask me. Life deals with how the body works, spending an entire episode on each organ and how they function, presenting such scandalous and controversial (*sarcasm sign*) topics as how babies are made, how vaccines work, and how evolution shaped our bodies. A huge part of my biology knowledge still comes from this series - I had pretty much all of it on VHS and watched it billions of times. Science, bitches.

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Holgersson (Swedish-Japanese)
Based on the books of Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf, this show tells the story of Nils, a boy shrunk down by magic as punishment for being cruel to animals and a wandering tomte (dwarf-like creature). He goes on a long journey with a flock of wild geese (and one escaped domestic goose) on their yearly migration, and learns a lot of things about animals, kindness, and the history of Sweden.

The Moomins (Swedish-Finnish-Japanese-Dutch)
Based on children's books by Swedish-Finnish author Tove Jansson, the Moomin films and TV show follow the life of a family of trolls (although most people thought they were white hippos) and their weird, magical friends as they go on many adventures. It's the most strange and adorable thing you have ever seen. You're welcome.
The Smurfs (Belgian)
I don't have to introduce them to anyone, so I'll just stop for a second and say that the 3D Smurfs movies were an absolute travesty and they should be all buried six feet deep and forgotten forever. Ugh. Moving on.

Asterix (French-Belgian)
I am still slightly disturbed when I find out that someone doesn't know who Asterix is. One of the most popular comics in European history, the books, cartoons and movies of Asterix center around an imaginary village of Gauls resisting the Roman occupation, due to a magic potion that gives them superhuman strength. The entire thing is hilarious, clever, often sarcastic, and entirely lovely. Additional bonus that the Hungarian translation was genius.

Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea [played in Hungarian as "Sunken Worlds"] (French)
Okay, so I only vaguely remember this one because it is as old as I am, but the music will never ever get out of your head. It is a strange sci-fi-fantasy series involving a lost civilization living inside the Earth and a pair of Earth children traveling with a bunch of even stranger companions to visit and save it. Or something along those lines. From what I remember, it was prime material for driving my parents crazy.

(This list is by far not complete. I'll write more later)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The reason why I buy Dr. Pepper

The MopDog strikes again! Pulis are just so darn adorable, I was surprised one would be homeless in the USA to begin with. They are not all actually this obedient - some are too smart for their own good - and they are very hyper, but yes, they are adorable. I should know, I grew up with them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dear USA, I wish you would quit these 5 things

Dear United States of America,

You and I have been in a relationship for a while now, and I feel like we have arrived to a point where we need to talk about some minor issues. I still like you (don't worry, I won't say the other L word, I know we are not ready for that kind of commitment yet), but I feel like I need to express my feelings and voice my concerns, to keep this relationship healthy. To make this painless and time-efficient, I made a list of the top 5 things I would like to see changed in the near future:

Right on red
I understand that everyone is very important and everyone needs to be somewhere RIGHT NOW, but this "right on red" concept makes me feel insecure. As a pedestrian by European birthright, having to jump in between cars turning from two or three different directions while the light indicates it is my turn to walk makes me feel undervalued and kind of invisible. I mean, I might as well jump into traffic at any given point and pray. I understand prayer is important to you, but this behavior is no way to encourage it.

Toilet doors
Honey, I hate to break it to you, but I have noticed an ever widening disconnect between toilet doors and door frames around here. I am a firm believer in the universal sisterhood of women, but that does not mean that I need to establish eye contact with each and every one of them while I am changing tampons. You might not have this experience, so I am just letting you know.

I appreciate openness and communal sentiment, but frankly, I don't think we should air dirty laundry in front of strangers. It definitely hurts our relationship. Making the presence of a washing machine in an apartment the sign of some kind of adult commitment is juvenile, and I feel like I need to put my foot down about my basic needs. I understand that it is the tradition of your people to parade dirty panties down the street and into the laundromat where they can tumble cheerfully around on full display in the company of their playmates, but we need to find some kind of a cross-cultural common ground.

I need more warmth in this relationship, especially when it comes to drinks (and by the way, soda, pop, coke, please make up your mind). There is a range between "European warm soda" and "shattered upper incisors." I know it is hard to believe, but it is a wonderful mystical land and I have been there.

Shop decorations
I understand that you are enthusiastic about holidays, and I truly like that about you. It's cute. However, sometimes you need to give me a little time to breath and regroup. I simply don't have the energy to wake up from the food coma of fervent Christmas celebrations, and lunge straight into some carefree Valentine's Day shopping spree. I simply can't. Sometimes I just need some animalistic, mindless workdays devoid of emotional attachments. And, honestly, if someone gives me a box of chocolates they bought eight weeks ago, heart-shaped box or not, I will take it as a symbol of contempt, not love.

That is all, I guess. I know it sounds like a lot, but these are all small changes that could be implemented over time with minimal effort, for both of our sakes. Please promise me you'll think about it.

Like you,

(Obviously, this is not a Hungarian themed post per se, but I am Hungarian and these are the cultural differences no one warned be about, so there you go. What were your most stunning sources of culture shock?)