Friday, May 30, 2014

In Hungary we have a saying...

So, I was watching Louie the other day, and there goes the Hungarian girlfriend's aunt:
"In Hungary we have a saying: If you didn't f*** the cow, it is not your cow."
Obviously, this is Louie being a comedian, not authentic Hungarian culture. It did, however, give me an idea for a post.
There are more Hungarian sayings, obviously, than I could list in one go, so this might become a regular thing on MopDog. But just off the top of my head, here are some of my favorites:

Nagy az Isten állatkertje.
Translation: "God's zoo is great."
Meaning: There is a fascinating number of idiots of all flavors and persuasions in this beautiful world.

Ki mit szakít, azt szagolja.
(Wisdom from my great-grandma)
Translation: "The one you pick is the one you smell."
Meaning: You shall bear the consequences of your choices. More specifically, you are stuck with the guy you pick, so choose wisely.

Pénz, paripa, fegyver.
Translation: "Money, horse, weapons."
Meaning: Everything's in order / Ready to roll. For youngsters: An ancient way of saying "Phone, keys, wallet."

Csalánba nem üt a mennykő.
Translation: "Lightning doesn't strike the nettle."
Meaning: Having the Devil's luck (or, bad people survive everything)

Szégyen a futás, de hasznos.
Translation: "Running is a shame, but useful."
Meaning: Choose your battles.

Eldűlt benne a Szentlélek.
Translation: "The Holy Ghost fell over in him/her."
Meaning: They got sleepy.

And, finally, one of my all-time favorites:

Rácsapott, mint gyöngytyúk a meleg takonyra.
Translation: "Pounced on it like chicken on warm snot."
Meaning: Self-explanatory.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Here's a bone to chew on

Hungary has recently announced the winner of the contest for designing the Hungarian pavilion for the 2015 Milan Wold Fair. The result is this beauty:
For those of you who immediately jumped to the false conclusion that Hungary 2015 decided to represent itself with a humongous fitness weight designed by creatively inclined Orcs, I will break it down: According to the designer's website, this piece of artful architecture symbolizes the harmony of tradition, nature, and humanity. Or, at least, Hungarians.
While the first guesses usually include "dead whale," "Christmas turkey," and even "Blood Eagle," this pavilion is in reality the depiction of some kind of an Ark of Nature, topped on both ends with shaman drums (possibly for greater buoyancy.) The designers wished to convey the idea that shaman drums create a spiritual connection between Man and Nature (and they probably voted against building gigantic happy 'shrooms instead. Or maybe Sweden already had that idea copyrighted. That's right, that was a Vikings reference.) The ribs are supposed to invoke images of openness, striving towards the sky, and "protecting flower petals." I wonder what flower they were looking at.
Also, I greatly regret to inform all interested parties that this creation is not capable of rolling sideways. I think they missed an opportunity there.

For comparison, here is our pavilion from 1992 in Sevilla:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beer, wine, liquor, and poppies - The family friendly games of our childhood

It's finally springtime, the meadows are in bloom, the dog is picking up prickly things in his fur, and all the bright red of the poppy flowers reminded me of a little game we used to play when I was a kid.

The game is known as "Sör, bor, pálinka" - "Beer, wine, pálinka," pálinka being a kind of hard liquor often made from fruit, that people regard as a true Hungarian staple. Tastes like crap if you ask me.
(Yes, I said it. This is a blog about Hungarian weird, not Hungarian marketing.)
The game is fairly simple: All you need is a big field of poppies that are not all in bloom yet. You pick some of the buds, and then you ask your opponent: "Beer, wine, or pálinka?" The goal is for them to guess what color the petals will be when you open the bud. Red is wine, pink is beer, and white is pálinka. You get points for guessing right, and take turns.
It is a sort of gambling game, until you become old enough to figure out that the bigger the bud is the darker the petals will be. But up to that point, you can entertain kids with it forever. And then go find an effective chemical way to clean their grubby little hands.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Graduate like there's no tomorrow!

Still on the graduation theme, here is another thing we like to do: Go completely crazy in a school-sanctioned way. This event, known as the Bolondballagás (Crazy Graduation) usually precedes the actual serious ceremony by a few days/weeks. I am sensing a trend here, now that I think of it: Everything that involves drinking and partying, we do BEFORE the actual graduation exams. Because logic?
(Also, for those of you clutching your pearls, the legal drinking age in Hungary is 18)

Crazy graduation is exactly what it sounds like. The senior classes go to school dressed up in costumes, fueled by enthusiasm, mischief and possibly alcohol, armed with water guns and other shenanigans, ready to turn a perfectly good school day upside down. I can't talk for the entirety of the country, so I'll tell you my own experience.
I was a pirate for crazy graduation, and my best friend dressed up as the Crow (our class was too worn out at this point to come up with a cohesive theme). We also had sexy nurses, guys decked out as Baywatch babes, and a bunch of other things people prefer not to remember now. We went to school, all dressed and painted, and then proceeded to wreak havoc in the institution. We broke into classrooms, wiped the board, handed out chocolate to the kids (my school went from first grade all the way up to high school, but we mostly left the ankle biters alone lest they become uncontrollable with excitement). We marched up and down the hallways singing, teased the teachers, and then collectively boarded the next bus and headed downtown. Since most schools in town did crazy graduation on the same day, senior classes all converged on the main street, comparing costumes, clinking bottles, and generally having a great time. I even met my childhood crush sporting a miniskirt and high heels (and he rocked them). By this time, my artistically inclined Crow friend also painted my face in various colors. By the time people partied themselves out and dispersed, we ended up in the local gaming club (neeeeerds) and continued to pay for snacks with chocolate pirate coins. Since this day was the one between our two crazy nights of serenading (see the previous post) I dragged myself home in the afternoon, delightfully exhausted. The lady I shared the elevator ride with back to the apartment gave me a once over and pouted disapprovingly. "You look horrible, young lady." To which there was only one answer from a seriously sleep-deprived pirate: "Well, you do too."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

So long, and don't forget to serenade your teachers

We are coming up on graduation season fast, so I thought I'd share another strange contemporary Hungarian custom that I just recently discovered does not exist elsewhere (namely, the US). The custom in question is the great and noble tradition of serenading the teachers before (high school) graduation.

In most cases the graduating class visits some of their more significant teachers over the course of an appointed night, and sing under their windows together. Unofficially, it usually means a night of moderate debauchery, over the course of which people get increasingly drunk, and the songs get increasingly scrambled. Some teachers tend to invite the entire class into their homes after the serenade and treat them to pastries and drinks before they send them on their merry way. Other teachers try their best to keep their location a secret and their infants/pets/neighbors undisturbed in their sleep.

My high school class, being a cohort of legendary overachievers, decided that we were going to go big or go home: We serenaded every single teacher on our collective list, which (because Hungarian education) meant teachers for Math, Advanced Math, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geography, History, Advanced History, Art, Music, English, German, Spanish, French, Religion, PE, and possibly a few others. Since teachers don't tend to live in communes, that meant we had a two-night trip around the extended suburbs of the city, from dusk till dawn, in a caravan of three cars crammed full with a number of students I should not name (Hungarian teenagers seldom drive at all). I only vaguely remember all the details; I was the only person with a guitar, so the trip was way more exhausting for me than for the rest of the bunch.

My mother has been teaching high school for decades, so I have had experiences with the receiving end of the serenade tradition as well. For most of my childhood years we lived on the eighth floor of an apartment complex, which did not stop the teens from serenading; they usually showed up around midnight, and treated us, the seven floors below us, and the two other apartment complexes framing the yard to loud and painfully long renditions of all the traditional serenade songs. As a kid, those were my favorite nights in the spring, although sadly I was not allowed to drop things on them from the balcony.

Talking about songs: There is kind of a canon that exists around the country that less creatively inspired classes can place their trust in. One of the all-time favorites is this gem of a song from the '90s:
The refrain very appropriately translates as: "This is who we were, wild and good, innocent among sinners; this is who we were, and there will be a sign that we leave behind when we leave..."
(I'd like to note that it is an unspoken rule that students shall not leave empty beer cans in the teacher's front yard)
More creative classes can present truly inspired performances: If they are lucky enough to have musically educated people in the class, they usually bring out all the violins, guitars and fanfares, and pick songs that are better in quality and in presentations. Also, classes get bonus points in my book every time they sing "Another brick in the wall."

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Marvel goes Budapest

I am starting a collection of Hungary-references in Marvel, mostly because they are so few and far between, and most of them are hilarious. When you live in a small and not well-known country, you are fine tuned to pick out the few mentions your homeland gets in Western media. Sadly, we don't have a Hungarian superhero yet (not even a Hungarian-American one), but we have not given up hope.
Here are some of the highlights so far:

"You and I remember Budapest very differently."

Yep, that's from The Avengers movie. Apparently Black Widow and Hawkeye went on a mission to Budapest and got up to some shenanigans that were better for her than for him. Go figure. The fun part? Marvel did not stop there (in retrospect, they should have). They went and did an entire mini-run to explain what, exactly, happened in Budapest. And because they took the throwaway quote very literally, they actually messed with Hawkeye's memories. They also introduced "Andras Bertesy," a Hungarian villain who deals in arms, drugs, women, and dark magic. Also, sells to Al Qaeda. That is how far East we are of the West, people.
Fun fact: Thugs do speak Hungarian in one of the panels. Courtesy of Google Translate, judging from the grammar.
If you want the whole story, read Secret Avengers #1 (no, not the current #1. The #1 from last year. Because Marvel.) If you want to see the incredible fandom theories the quote spawned on the Interwebs, Google "Marvel Budapest." At your own risk.

"They are speaking Hungarian!"

Oh no, they better don't! Remember that scene from Iron Man 1? Apparently Yinsen, while fluent in all kinds of Central Asian languages, was baffled when the terrorists started yelling through the door in Hungarian. Maybe because Hungarian is not a Central Asian language? Go figure. After a while he did yell back "Egy perec!" which was meant as "One minute!" but really came out as "One pretzel!" Sadly, the hilarity did not carry over into the Hungarian dub of the movie. Our terrorists spoke French, if I remember correctly.

Adopt a mutant from Budapest!

Guess who adopted a baby from Budapest? Angelina Jolie? No! Jubilee did, in the latest reboot of the X-men comics (X-men #1, 2013). Shogo, the mysterious Asian baby and future armored badass was picked up by our favorite X-vampire and officially adopted, paperwork and everything. We don't know yet what the deal is with him, but Jubilee seems to be really happy. And, according to Storm, the Hungarian "rendőrség" did not mind the adoption at all. Also, nice of them to spell their Hungarian words correctly for once. They also accidentally leveled a Hungarian high-tech cybernetics hospital, the Szent Margit Institute, in the process. Well, at least we had one.

At least we are good at turning out villains?...
So guess who popped up when I searched for Hungary in the Marvel universe? Probably the biggest Marvel villain no one knows is originally Hungarian. Yep, that's Madame Hydra (also known as Viper). You have seen her in the latest Wolverine movie. She doesn't have close ties to Hungary apart from being born and orphaned there, but there it is. Hail Hydra?...

We really need a Hungarian Marvel hero.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The most famous Hungarian alive

Guess who is Hungarian and has almost 2 million followers on Facebook? This guy!
No, I am not talking about Mark Zuckerberg. I am talking about the dog. Duh.

Beast (public figure) is currently probably the most famous Hungarian alive. He is a puli dog, one of the most easily recognized and also fluffiest staples of our country, and he has the good luck of being owned by one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Beast also has his own Facebook page and 1,855,817 followers. That's more than Pope Francis, people.

So, the world-famous Beast and that Facebook guy both have strong enough ties to Hungary for us to shamelessly claim at least one of them as their own. There were even articles about them visiting last year; to prove my point, the articles are mostly about the puli, not Zuckerberg. You can read one of them here.

For the second most famous puli in the world, see this adorable, oldie but goodie, Budweiser commercial:

We really need to cash in on the puli popularity more.