Pension office

22 Nov

I went to the pension office this morning to clarify a few points and saw that some things have really changed in Austria and some things haven’t.

One thing that has changed: the woman in front of me in line at the reception desk was talking about her “Partnerins” (female partner’s) appointment. When there was some confusion about her name, she explained that when they had married she had taken on her partner’s family name and officially changed it on all her documents. Then I overheard that she herself isn’t self-employed but rather her partner, and she would like to be covered under her partner’s insurance.

This would have been unimaginable even five years ago (Austria enacted “Ehe für Alle” or “Marriage for All” on 1 January 2019, building on the civil union that became possible in 2010). For anyone who would like more information, here is a website (in German) giving an overview of the history of same-sex marriage as well as legal details: https://www.familienrechtsinfo.at/eherecht/ehe-fuer-alle/

Something that hasn’t yet changed? When I came out of my appointment, there was a man waiting, with his large, well-behaved, non-service dog. Wish I’d known I could have taken Maylo!

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NYTimes: Robert Clary, Who Took a Tragic Journey to ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dies at 96

20 Nov

Robert Clary, Who Took a Tragic Journey to ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dies at 96 https://nyti.ms/3GwlErL

My brother and I used to sneak “Hogan’s Heroes” because (a) we were limited in how much TV we were allowed to watch and (b) my mother, having grown up in Nazi Germany, objected to making light in any way of what happened. Would she feel differently if she knew that one actor was a concentration camp survivor and three were refugees? Perhaps. Or perhaps the reminders of those years would all still be too painful.

Three refugees, you ask? Robert Clary’s obituary only mentions Wilhelm Klemperer and John Banner. They left out Leon Askin, who played General Burkhalter. He was born Leon Aschkenasy in Vienna and lost both his parents in Treblinka. Ever since I learned that, years ago, I’ve thought how therapeutic it must have been to play the bad-tempered and quite repulsive General.

64,440 Names

13 Nov

I have finally gotten around to creating a blog article I have been meaning to post for over a year. It is in the form of the first, and possibly only, video I have filmed for my blog. Because of the size of the file I am putting a link here for those who wish to take a look. Warning: It is on an emotional topic.

Some links to additional information:
The official website
The ORF report from 9 November 2022
Every name stands for a world that was killed

World Champions

5 Nov

Having already pointed this out in four different years, I didn’t want to mention again that Austria once again did extremely well at the WorldSkills championships, where young people compete in the trades. (You can imagine that young Austrians do especially well in trades related to tourism and gastronomy.)

This year, though, something really special happened: the Gold medalist in stone-cutting was Austrian — and female. The Kurier this morning had an interview with Anna Karina Feldbauer (only 21 years old) about how this came about. Like most people who excel at something, she was simple fascinated by the idea of making things — even gravestones, a large part of stonecutters’ work — out of stone.

In a time when ever more businesses are seeking the next generation of skilled craftspeople yet ever more young people are going to university so that they have access to more prestigious jobs (and not necessarily because they’re really interested in, say, business administration), it strikes me that Anna Karina Feldbauer can be a really good role model.

Schwedenplatz 2020

3 Nov

Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the attacks at Schwedenplatz on that balmy evening that tempted so many people to be out and about on the eve of our third (or was it already our fourth?) lockdown.

So much has happened since then and life feels so different that it seems impossible that it has only been two years.

Halloween comes to Vienna

1 Nov

Austria’s fattest “photo album”

26 Oct

Today, October 26, is a holiday in Austria, commemorating the vote in Parliament that established Austria’s permanent neutrality. (My understanding is that it was the first business enacted by the Parliament after all occupying powers had left Austrian territory after the Second World War. More about the treaty here.)

It is probably no accident, then, that the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) chose today to draw attention to the special photo and image archive of the Austrian National Library. Here is a taste from the ORF site of the millions of photos stored.

The ORF article is lengthy and only in German, unfortunately. Some of the main points they make: the Imperial Collection created a foundation for the current collection (yes, there is a photo of the enigmatic Empress Elisabeth); the rise of press photography bearing contemporary witness to life vs. studio portraits; the suppression of free media and therefore, of course, photojournalism as well as the banning of Jewish photographers during the Nazi regime and the resurrection of those professions after the Second World War; the role photography played in documenting the Cold War and the images of its major players (one of the most chilling photos for me on the ORF site was of Russian soldiers goose-stepping in Moscow in 1988); and the challenges of maintaining a usable archive in the world of digital photography where photos can be snapped one a second. (In fact, the teaser for the article mentions sinking into Austria’s fattest “photo album”.)

A heads-up: The Austrian National Library is planning for 2023 a retrospective of photos by Yoichi Okamoto who was head of the United States Information Service during the Occupation in Austria and later presidential photographer for Lyndon B. Johnson.

Those who would like to see more photos, I have chosen the link to the digital archive with images of Vienna to share with you here.

The awful German Language

22 Oct

My father, who spoke very little German, used to get great pleasure out of the way German allowed the stringing together of nouns into one enormously long, often difficult-to-pronounce word. He would have loved this one: Gummischuhsohlenfabrikantenfamilie.

The family, who manufactured rubber soles for shoes, is named Beer and owned a villa in Hietzing that, Christian Seiler reports in today’s Kurier, is finally going to be renovated and opened to the public. Worth going to see apparently and not just for its designation.

P.S. I can’t help thinking that Mark Twain, too, would have delighted in this example of the awful German language.

On the tram

19 Oct

It’s quiet and everyone I can see is wearing a mask — properly. Seemed worth noting these days. 😉

Presidential election

9 Oct

According to projections, the incumbent, Alexander van der Bellen, has gotten an absolute majority — and that in a field with seven candidates. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks he’s doing a good job.