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.
I occasionally encounter Germans who seem a bit shocked when I, or some other American, confidently assume that an American named 'Goldstein' or 'Feldman' or 'Rosenthal' is Jewish. (Generally, these are Germans who haven't spent much time in the USA). To them, these just seem like unusual German names, meaning the people who carry them could just as easily be Protestant or Catholic. I then explain that -- all stereotyping aside, not that it matters, etc. etc. -- the chance that an American with one of these names isn't Jewish is vanishingly small.
That's because these are names were imposed on Ashkenazi Jewish communities by German-speaking bureaucrats in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over at Slate, Bennett Muraskin has an article on the eubject:
Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844.
In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted, and educated (in that order of importance).
These Jews then emigrated to the United States, carrying their names with them. For obvious reasons, very few Jews with these names are left in Germany. Muraskin provides a fairly exhaustive list of the names, many of which are instantly recognizable to any German-speaker. One of them many life-changing benefits of learning German is the ability to impress your Jewish -- and even Gentile! -- friends by telling them what their names mean. Muraskin provides a list, allowing you non-speakers to play yourself:
Ackerman — plowman; Baker/Boker — baker; Blecher — tinsmith; Fleisher/Fleishman/Katzoff/Metger — butcher; Cooperman — coppersmith; Drucker — printer; Einstein — mason; Farber — painter/dyer; Feinstein — jeweler; Fisher — fisherman; Forman — driver/teamster; Garber/Gerber — tanner; Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier; Goldstein — goldsmith; Graber — engraver; Kastner — cabinetmaker; Kunstler — artist; Kramer — storekeeper; Miller — miller; Nagler — nailmaker; Plotnick — carpenter; Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker; Schmidt/Kovalsky — blacksmith; Shnitzer — carver; Silverstein — jeweler; Spielman — player (musician?); Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler; Wasserman — water carrier.
Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer; Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer; Kaufman — merchant; Rokeach — spice merchant; Salzman — salt merchant; Seid/Seidman—silk merchant; Tabachnik — snuff seller; Tuchman — cloth merchant; Wachsman — wax dealer; Wechsler/Halphan — money changer; Wollman — wool merchant; Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant.
Related to tailoring
Kravitz/Portnoy/Schneider/Snyder — tailor; Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor, but from "needle"; Sher/Sherman — also tailor, but from "scissors" or "shears"; Presser/Pressman — clothing presser; Futterman/Kirshner/Kushner/Peltz — furrier; Weber — weaver.
Alter/Alterman — old; Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane; Erlich — honest; Frum — devout ; Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout; Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair; Gross/Grossman — big; Gruber — coarse or vulgar; Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler; Fried/Friedman—happy; Hoch/Hochman/Langer/Langerman — tall; Klein/Kleinman — small; Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch; Krauss — curly, as in curly hair; Kurtz/Kurtzman — short; Reich/Reichman — rich; Reisser — giant; Roth/Rothman — red head; Roth/Rothbard — red beard; Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome; Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion; Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e intelligent; Stark — strong, from the Yiddish shtark ; Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump.
When Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were required to assume last names, some chose the nicest ones they could think of and may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. According to the YIVO Encyclopedia, "The resulting names often are associated with nature and beauty. It is very plausible that the choices were influenced by the general romantic tendencies of German culture at that time." These names include: Applebaum — apple tree; Birnbaum — pear tree; Buchsbaum — box tree; Kestenbaum — chestnut tree; Kirschenbaum — cherry tree; Mandelbaum — almond tree; Nussbaum — nut tree; Tannenbaum — fir tree; Teitelbaum — palm tree.
Other names, chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots:Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose), Schoen/Schein (pretty) — combined with berg (hill or mountain), thal (valley), bloom (flower), zweig (wreath), blatt (leaf), vald or wald (woods), feld (field).
Miscellaneous other names included Diamond; Glick/Gluck — luck; Hoffman — hopeful; Fried/Friedman — happiness; Lieber/Lieberman — lover.
I've been following Ralf Dobelli's excellent advice to ignore the news (g) for months now, and have been enjoying it. Any time I accidentally survey the German media landscape, I notice it's clogged with at least 4 categories of uselessness:
No. 1: Ineffectual bloviation (g) In this case, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt calling for reductions in German weapons exports. Um, not going to happen!
No. 2: Breathless fear-mongering concerning the German urban bourgeoisie's hobbyhorses, such as nuclear power, genetically-modified crops, the death penalty, Facebook, and 'turbo-capitalism'. Remember those heroic workers who embraced certain nuclear death (g) to try to save the Fukushima nuclear plant? They're fine. Remember the rats (somehow) encrusted with horrifying tumors thanks to genetically-modified corn? Study debunked (g). Anytime you read 'catastrophic' in German news, automatically replace it with 'slightly problematic'. Better yet, don't read the news at all.
No. 3: T & A (g). At least this stuff's entertaining!
No. 4: Superfluous profiles of achingly dull German politicians (g). After a cabinet reshuffle, German ministries now have different titular heads, but are still run by the same shadowy functionaries. For vast numbers of the Germans, the 'new' cabinet will have no direct practical consequences at all. And you have no control over what changes actually do affect you, anyway.
The news, honestly: intermittently accurate information about events that don't affect you and over which you have no control.
I recently gave a seminar in the Gerhart Hauptmann House in Düsseldorf (on a subject totally unrelated to him). The whole place seemed to be a kind of shrine to the former German populations in Eastern Europe, who were unceremoniously yet understandably kicked out of Poland, the Czech Republic, and other nations in the wake of World War II. This was the fate the befell Hauptmann (g), a German writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1912, himself. In fact the Hauptmann Haus in Düsseldorf is also the headquarters of the Bund der Vertriebenen for Northern Rhine - Westphalia (g). For those of you who don't know, this 'League of the Expelled' represents the interests of those millions of ethnic Germans who were expelled from historical areas of German settlement (as well as areas conquered and brutally occupied by the Nazis) east of the Oder/Neisse river, which was roughly the Eastern border of East Germany.
Somewhere between 12 and 16 million Germans were expelled from the East immediately after the war:
The expulsion was often brutal, accompanied by abuse and massacres, and most of the expellees were forced to leave their land and possessions behind. The human suffering was enormous, but, to put it bluntly, nobody cared much about German suffering in the immediate aftermath of World War II. After the collapse of Communism, the idea of compensation for the expropriated property was bruited in some German circles, but was met with incredulousness verging on hostility by Eastern European governments.
The survivors of the expellees are still well-organized today, and are a moderately powerful lobby in Germany. They're considered pretty right-wing, and their actions are often a thorn in the side of the German government. To say the issue of compensation for expelled ethnic Germans is a sensitive issue in Eastern capitals is quite the understatement.
Here are a few photographs from the dusty displays in the Haus, featuring typical toys, pastries, and even bitters from the German Sudetenland:
I had no idea that Becherovka was originally created by Germans.
Finally, a charming nativity scene. Well, except for the giant, flaccid penises pointing directly at the Christ Child. Oh wait, those are candles. Yet another embarrassing situation that could have been prevented by air-conditioning.