A while ago, the lovely and talented Katrin S., who writes for the Welt Kompakt newspaper, interviewed me. A short piece resulting from that interview was published today on Page 28 of that paper. I think this is the NRW-teil, which means you can only read it if you buy the Welt Kompakt in the German state of Northern Rhine/Westphalia.
NRW, as the state is fondly called, is the most populous state in Germany, jam-packed with 18, 058,150 fresh, juicy human beings. As this link shows you, every one of us NRWler, as we’re called, has an amount of space availabe to us that is the equivalent of one-quarter the size of a football field.
In the article, Katrin says lots of nice things about me, and, what’s more important, quotes me saying lots of nice things about me. I won’t translate it, because translating stuff about me creeps me out, just like hearing my own voice. But if you happen to be visiting German Joys because of the article, welcome aboard.
On the same page is another piece (which can’t be linked, unfortunately), that nicely ties up a few themes of German life. We meet Remy-Pascal Bernet, a 19-year old German who designed an audioguide for the (splendid) Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum (G) in Duisburg, a museum dedicated to modern scultpture and focussing on the Expressionist sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck.
The audioguide is special because it’s designed for the blind. Blind visitors are allowed to touch the sculptures while listening to the descriptions. They have to be accompanied throughout the museum by a guide, because some of the sculptures consist of stuff scattered on the floor, and blind visitors might accidentally "destroy" the sculpture with their canes.
Remy-Pascal Bernet get this prized internship by not training to fight for his country. Germany still has a draft, which means, at least theoretically, that all young German men must report for military service. For the many young Germans who would find this boring or inconvenient (and some who are convinced pacifists) there’s a way out: you need only convince the military draft board that you have a conscientious objection to training for military service. During the Cold War, when Germany theoretically needed soldiers, you had to prove you were sincere. Now, I hear, the process is not much more complicated than checking off a box on a postcard.
That’s what Mr. Bernet did. Instead of military service he signed up for program called the Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr (‘Volunteer Social Year’) in which the conscientious objector work in some non-profit institution, such as a retirement home or museum. Thus, the state subsidized a pacifist to help blind people appreciate art. Could there be anything more European?