Hire a troup of actors to give dramatic readings of Goethe and Schiller in corporate cafeterias during lunch.
Look at the German men in those photographs. Erect, athletic, courteous, stylishly-dressed, sexually chaste* and happy. They surely bore, with pride, real Teutonic names like Wolfram, Ekkehard, Adalbert, Friedhelm, Karlheinz, Ulf-Wotan, or Eike-Siegfried. Names that evoke crystalline mountain lakes, Wergeld, jousting tournaments, roving bards, sacred groves, and unmixed ancestry.
Yesterday the German men's national soccer team won the World Cup. But what sort of names did these "'Germans'" have? Per and Philipp are just barely acceptable, but Toni? Kevin? Mario? Sami? Manuel?
Did we lose a war, people?!
* This 1925 poster, from the collection of the German Hygiene Museum (!), reads: "Strive to remain chaste! The best way to do so is bodily exercise! Sports and games, swimming and hiking -- along with serious work, these make it easy to remain sexually continent. Continence is not harmful."
Speak for yourself, German Hygiene Council.
UPDATE: I bet these guys had Real German Names®:
An American legal journalists reacts to a German internet privacy ruling:
Wow, Europe just doesn’t buy the American idea that free speech online is sacrosanct. Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice ruled in favor of a “right to be forgotten,” requiring Google to remove links to old and embarrassing articles about debts a Spanish lawyer had long since paid. And now a German court has come down on the side of a woman who wants her ex-boyfriend to delete nude pictures and erotic videos of her from his computer. This kind of claim would never fly in the United States—the First Amendment would trample it. That’s exactly why I’m glad Europe is building a different sort of online universe. Will it prove better or worse to strike a different balance between the competing values of preventing reputational harm and protecting free speech? I look forward to finding out.
There is no right to dignity in the U.S. Constitution, much less the freedom to control the development of one’s personality, or brand. You can sue someone for slander, or the publication of private facts, if defamatory posts go up about you online. But those cases are hard to win (and sometimes even to find out the identity of the poster, if he or she acts anonymously). It is also hard to get any kind of relief if someone has nude images of you even if they took them without your consent. A few states have tried to address the problem of revenge porn, but this is only an initial effort. And it confronts an entrenched American tradition of treating the right to free speech as absolute. We do cherish our First Amendment.
What if the European experiment shows little speech of value to be lost—and a lot of relief from humiliation and invasion of privacy gained? Would we ever rethink our approach in the U.S.? Cases like this one in Germany raise the questions.
We seem to be witnessing the emergence of a Europe-wide legal consensus on the right to be forgotten (or in this case, deleted, since the defendant just had photos of his ex-girlfriend on his computer and had not posted them).
There are a couple of legal issues -- antitrust enforcement, for example -- in which courts all over Europe join a bandwagon to defend specifically 'European' values against American cultural influence. Which, as this case shows, can be a very good thing indeed! If European courts continue to develop the notion of Internet privacy, Big Data will have to develop programs to implement these rights. Of course they'll protest all the way, but once the model is developed, it can be also be used in the USA, if courts go along. We'll see.
Open Culture mocks this disclaimer here. Splintered Mind points to some of Kant's microagressions unfashionable views on homosexuality (the vice so horrible it must not be named), masturbation, marriage, killing bastards, and other topics here. Interestingly, Kant had this to say on organ donation: "To deprive oneself of an integral part or organ (to maim oneself) -- for example, to give away or sell a tooth to be transplanted into another's mouth... are ways of partially murdering oneself... cutting one's hair in order to sell it is not altogether free from blame."
A Montreal blogger got an email from a German academic publisher:
This one’s mostly for the search engines as I’m sure most of my readers don’t need to hear this.
I keep getting this spam email sent to me:
Begin forwarded message:
From: Yasmine Watson
Date: February 2, 2012 2:15:30 AM EST
Subject: Our Publication Offer: Your end-of-studies work
Dear Essam Hallak,
Some time ago I offered you the possibility of making your academic paper
entitled «Beyond Boundaries A Philosophical Mapping of the PreModern City of
the Levant» submitted to McGill University Montreal as part of your
postgraduate studies available as printed book. Our publishing company is
interested in your subject area for future publications. Since we did not
hear back from you, I am now wondering if you received my first email.
I would appreciate if you could confirm your interest in our publishing
house and I will be glad to provide you with detailed information about our
I am looking forward to receiving a positive response from you.
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing GmbH & Co. KG
66121, Saarbrücken, Germany
Fon +49 681 3720-310
Fax +49 681 3720-3109
y.watson(at)lappublishing.com / www.lap-publishing.com
Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10752
General unlimited partner: VDM Management GmbH
Managing directors: Thorsten Ohm (CEO), Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, Esther
Joseph Stromberg got an email from someone 'named' Holmes at Lambert, which made him curious:
At this point, I did a bit more research into LAP Lambert and found that it’s really just the tip of the book-mill iceberg. Both it and AV Akademikerverlag GmbH & Co. KG are part of an enormous German publishing group called VDM that publishes 78 imprints and 27 subsidiary houses in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Russian, and plans to soon open up shop in Turkey and China. It has satellite offices in Latvia and Uruguay, but the majority of its English- and French-speaking staff are based in the tax haven of Mauritius, off the coast of Madagascar. Founded in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2002 by a man named Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, the company is notorious for using on-demand printing technology to package all sorts of strange content in book form and selling it online. The company declines to release financial data but claims to publish 50,000 books every month, making it, by its own accounting, one of the largest book publishers in the world.
How can it possibly churn out this many titles? Although a huge number are academic texts, hundreds of thousands result from an even stranger process: They’re built entirely from text copied from Wikipedia articles. On VDM’s own online bookstore, Morebooks.de, the listings for books like Tidal Power, Period (number),and Swimming Pool Sanitation (published by VDM’s Alphascript and Betascriptimprints) directly acknowledge this fact. Thousands are listed for sale on Amazon, all with the same cover design (albeit with different stock photos swapped in) and the same three names (Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, and John McBrewster) listed as the “authors.” Some go for as much as $100. Though the practice is technically legal—most Wikipedia content is published under licenses that allow it to be reproduced—critics say that it’s unethical and deceitful for the company to profit from content freely available on the Web.
But plenty of people consider the company’s strategy predatory—and in his research, Hodgkinson uncovered a curious pattern that lends credence to this view.He found that the Facebook profile of Kevin Woodmann, one of the acquisition editors, featured a “low budget royalty free” stock photo entitled “Confident middle aged man sitting and smiling in front of white background.” (The photo has since been removed from the Facebook profile.) Other acquisition editors used stock photos for profile pictures as well.
Ohm told me that after Hodgkinson’s article alerted him and other LAP Lambert management that their editors were using stock photos, they were instructed to immediately discontinue the practice and haven’t done it since. His explanation for the strange pattern is benign. “I know that not all editors, especially females, want to have their picture on Facebook,” he said. “This is especially a matter in some of our sites—for example, Mauritius—where we have Muslim and Hindu employees.”
But Hodgkinson thinks the editors’ use of stock photos—along with suspiciously Anglo-sounding names for staff that are largely based in Mauritius—are part of something more nefarious: a deceptive effort to seem more prestigious, especially for the large number of authors based in Africa, India, and other regions of the developing world. LAP Lambert doesn’t publish data on the countries of authors, but a casual search of its online bookstore and comments on blog posts reveals that a huge amount of authors appear to live in these areas. “Especially at many universities in developing countries, there are expectations or requirements that graduate students need to publish to receive a degree,” Hodgkinson told me, “and that pressure is leading them into the arms of these disreputable publishers.”
The business model, apparently, is to sell the books back to authors:
This from Salon:
This week, Pew Research Center published the results of a survey conducted among 40,080 people in 40 countries between 2011 and 2013. The survey asked a simple question: is belief in God essential to morality?
...In 22 of the 40 countries surveyed, the majority says it is necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person. “This position is highly prevalent, if not universal, in Africa and the Middle East,” says the report. No surprise there, but Asian and Latin countries such as Indonesia (99%), Malaysia (89%), the Philippines (99%), El Salvador (93%), and Brazil (86%) all fell in the highest percentile of respondents believing belief in a god (small G) is central to having good values.
Interestingly, clear majorities in all highly developed countries do not think belief in god to be necessary for morality, with one exception only: the U.S.A.
Only 15 percent of the French population answered in the affirmative. Spain: 19%. Australia: 23%. Britain: 20%. Italy: 27%. Canada: 31%. Germany 33%. Israel: 37%.
So what of the U.S.? A comparatively eye-popping 53 percent of Americans essentially believe atheists and agnostics are living in sin. Despite the fact that a research analyst at the Federal Bureau of Prisons determined that atheists are thoroughly under-represented in the places where rapists, thieves and murders invariably end up: prisons. While atheists make upward of 15 percent of the U.S. population, they only make up 0.2 percent of the prison population.
The result for Germany's a bit surprising -- just a reminder that despite green energy, a gay foreign minister, and swinger-club sex-and-suckling-pig parties (g - as a friend of mine once said, 'the ultimate integration test for foreigners'), large parts of Germany are still quite conservative. Also, these results are yet another reason no lazy reporter should ever mention 'Catholic Spain/Italy' again.
The atheist result is pretty interesting, although I'm sure it's mostly an artifact of the fact that atheists are richer and more educated than the general population, and are therefore less likely to end up in prison for various reasons. But still, if the New Atheists need a rallying cry, why not 'There are no Atheists in Prison Cells?' NAs, you can have this one for a reasonable licensing fee.
Anna Katharina Schaffner reviews several recent books on the phenomenon of burnout in Germany in the Times Literary Supplement:
Articles on burnout in the German supplements in recent years have been legion – in fact, so many have appeared that some observers are already complaining about “burnout burnout”. Academic publications, too, have mushroomed: in addition to the two books reviewed here, there is Stephan Grünewald’s Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft (2013), Patrick Kury’s Der überforderte Mensch (2012) and Byung-Chul Han’s Müdigkeitsgesellschaft (2010; and already in its eighth printing). All this clearly attests to a wider preoccupation with the relationship between individual energy levels and the organization of work in the age of techno-capitalism. Yet many of the strategies used to explain what is represented as an unprecedented epidemic of burnout are in fact very similar to those that were used in pre- and early modern accounts of melancholia and acedia, as well as in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century theories of nervous weakness and neurasthenia.
It is tempting to speculate on why exhaustion has become such a popular topic in Germany at present, and not, for instance, in the UK. Germany’s economy is currently the strongest in Europe, and the country’s income levels and general quality of life are also higher than those of most of its neighbours. According to the statistics, Germans do not work longer hours than the British, or indeed many other nations – a recent OECD survey showed that only the Dutch work fewer hours than the Germans. Why, then, do the Germans feel so exhausted? Might there be some truth to the old cliché of the specifically German Arbeitsethos (work ethic) after all? Do they perhaps invest more (emotionally, physically, existentially) in their work, and are they therefore more prone to burnout? Max Weber certainly thought so. In his theorization of the Protestant work ethic, he presented a range of theological and historical reasons to explain the Berufspflicht that led to the exhaustion of one’s energies in work. Yet Germany is, of course, not the only predominantly Protestant nation in Europe. Moreover, as Martynkewicz and others have shown, Weber’s theses were not only in tune with the exhausted zeitgeist of his age, but might also at least partly have been motivated by personal experience.
Being burned out is a socially “respectable” condition, implying, as it does, that one has simply worked too hard. It carries less stigma than depression. It is a disease of those who have overtaxed themselves in the name of work, and it might therefore be worn almost as a badge of honour. Wolfgang Martynkewicz convincingly demonstrates that a not inconsiderable degree of pride and self-moulding was often involved in the accounts of neurasthenics in the late nineteenth century: neurasthenia signified refinement, sensibility and an artistic streak. Burnout, in contrast, signifies a work ethic carried to the extreme. Seen from that perspective, one can begin to imagine how, paradoxically, it might serve as a means not only to deplore modernity but also to praise it.
This is an archetypal German Trinkhalle, found on the Behrenstraße in Duesseldorf. Note the red-white color scheme. These are the colors of Fortuna 95 Duesseldorf, the local soccer club. The Behrenstraße is a vortex of Fortuna fandom, with red-and-white banners hanging from many balconies. The former owner of this Trinkhalle seems to have accepted advertising only from sponsors whose logos share the Fortuna color scheme. Now that's dedication.
The word Trinkhalle comes from the root of the verb trinken (drink), plus Halle. I've never really understood this pairing, because a Halle generally refers either to a large, ceremonial hall, as in Festhalle (banqueting-hall), or to a cavernous storage space, such as a Lagerhalle (warehouse building).
A Trinkhalle, though, is anything but cavernous. They range from the ludicrously tiny to stately specimens like such as the one above. What distinguishes a Trinkhalle from a Stehcafe (standing-cafe) is generally the plexiglas service-window of the traditional Trinkhalle. And they're just plexiglas. Germany has essentially no random hand gun crime, so there's no need to make store windows bulletproof, even in the diciest areas.
You walk up, get the attention of the guy inside, and order your beer, cola, cigarettes, magazines, or candy. If you're well-off, you order pre-rolled cigarettes and quality German or Czech beers. If you're not, you buy off-brand Oettinger beer and a cardboard cylinder of barely-smokable shag and roll your own. If you're lonely, you stand there chatting with the owner as you consume them and watch street life roll by. Trinkhallen are often run by immigrants from non-Christian (or at least non-Western-Christian) countries, so they'll be open on Sunday and other religious days. Very useful!
Trinkhallen, at their best, are genuine neighborhood institutions and generate the all-important eyes on the street that keep German cities vital and safe. They're also probably kind of inefficient. Which means some group of soulless plutocrats capital investors, somewhere, is plotting to replace them with anonymous chain outlets or trendy boutiques. Will we let them win?
A man walks through Düsseldorf and asks random strangers if they know what's on their T-shirts. None does. I should note that about half of them are foreigners, to judge by their accents.
Herewith a taxonomy of T-shirt inscriptions, some from the video above, some not:
The place being evoked is always America, you never see something like 'Hull Danger Warriors' or 'Yorkshire Youth Movement No. 445'. I always ask Germans wearing these things why they bought this T-shirt or jacket and what the random phrase on it means to them, but -- like the people in the video -- they're never able to explain.
Books I've written or translated