Marcel Winatschek

Pen and Paper

Pen and Paper

I embrace my nerdy side not only through my boundless Japanophilia, which manifests in an arguably unhealthy consumption of anime, manga, and pop music I can’t understand, but also through my love of tabletop role-playing games. In this exciting fantasy realm, I navigate enchanted kingdoms as a magical dragon warrior, explore small towns overtaken by Cthulhu as a clumsy policeman, and venture through enemy spaceships as a trigger-happy captain. Tabletop role-playing games are like a vacation for the brain, offering a chance to let loose and try things you (probably) wouldn’t dare to do in real life.

A couple of friends and I have been members of a role-playing club for some time now, where we regularly experiment with different scenarios, characters, and rulebooks. From fantasy to science fiction to cyberpunk, there’s nothing we wouldn’t dare to try. Personally, I prefer the horror one shot adventures, where we slip into the roles of unsuspecting citizens who roam through abandoned settlements, haunted mansions, and cursed cathedrals, only to face crazy cultists, bewitched monsters, and, in the last dungeon, an overpowering deity and, in the best-case scenario, be torn to shreds by it. After all, survival is only for cowards.

I’ve wanted to try tabletop role-playing games for a long time after hearing about them in various podcasts, magazines, and not least in Stranger Things. So, I’m thrilled to have found other people who are just as eager to dive into other worlds and let their imaginations run wild. Where else can you try to ride angry unicorns, shoot the newly born Antichrist, or drown a doomed metropolis in feces to perhaps save it from its fate, only to realize in the end that all these ideas were rather semi-smart? Exactly. When I’m on my semester abroad, we’ll try to hold the sessions online. And maybe I’ll find a group in Japan that’s keen to play, too. Who knows.

Public Viewing

Public Viewing

Anyone who knows me even a little bit understands that soccer doesn’t interest me in the slightest. During some World Cups, I am a vague fan of the Japanese national team, but only to the extent that I follow their wins and losses from the sidelines. I generally have little interest in spending several hours watching others compete in sports unless they are characters in an anime or manga to whom I have formed an emotional attachment. In the end, my favorite soccer team remains the Kickers around Kakeru Daichi, even though they only know about winning tournaments from hearsay. But at least they scored a goal against the Falcons once. Yeah.

Despite my general disinterest in any ball sports, I went to a public viewing event in the city center on Friday night with some friends because Germany was playing Spain in the last sixteen round of the European Football Championship. As we all know, our national team lost, but I doubt anyone there cared less about that than I did. So why was I there anyway? Because I realized that it’s essential to socialize regularly, especially when you’re hanging out with people you know, like, and can have fun with. The reason for getting together becomes secondary. It’s much more important to feel connected to others - and eat some snacks while you’re at it.

The time I can spend with these people is finite. And that’s not just because of my own mortality, but because we’ll soon have to say goodbye to each other as the semester abroad is just around the corner. Mine in Japan doesn’t start until the fall, but others will be leaving in a few weeks to explore the world. From Spain to Canada to South Korea, everything is included. We won’t see each other again until next spring. That’s why I’m trying to spend as much time as possible with my friends before our schedules scatter us in all directions. And that, in turn, means that I even watch soccer with them, despite my interest in it being around freezing point.

My Heart Is a Ghost Town

My Heart Is a Ghost Town

Although I’ve always considered myself a global cosmopolitan who has long since cut ties with German pop culture, Paula Hartmann’s Kleine Feuer has been my most-listened-to album over the past few months. There were days when nothing else played in my AirPods all day but these 15 songs, from beginning to end, over and over again, morning, noon, and night. Others see ghosts, I only see you, Paula whispers to herself without any empathy. So long shadows with so little light. You send a smiley face, trap doors open. My heart is a ghost town and you are the ghost. The wine at two makes me cry again at three, then I fall asleep.

Paula’s apathetic voice and the bleakly pulsating beats are the anthem of my default emotional state, which I can only escape when I’m with other people, and which I fall back into as soon as I’m alone. The Berlin singer comments on the world I’m trapped in on lonely evenings. Wish we could talk to each other, wish us one last summer. Hear my friends say: ’Everything will be fine one day.’ As long as you swim through the rain and thunder. Where’s our happy home? I’ve forgotten where I live. Listen to our last notes, otherwise silence on my phone. Share no more songs, share no more smoke. Share the stars and the moon.

I like tracks that I can listen to in the background, but also immerse myself in. Paula’s music covers me like a blanket and reminds me that other people feel the same way as I do. The cord of my hoodie tastes like fall and the first birds are screaming in pain. The colorful ravens put on their black coats. A grandma behind every windowsill. The first bus wipes me up and then breathes me out. A brake light beacon in the exhaust, rusty leaves on cobblestones. A quick thought about you and suddenly gravity has me again. Kicks my legs, fall down and break. Your roof turns gray walls into a house. In it, we exchange disappointments for a lifetime.

Hollywood’s Calling

Hollywood’s Calling

My favorite project of the semester, which is slowly coming to an end, was a short film I created for the compulsory elective course Motion Graphics. The topic was Young People and Old Trees. While my fellow students focused on animations to complete the task, I insisted on making a real film and was allowed to do so. After all, I had always wanted to do something like this. So, I grabbed a good friend of mine and we went to the nearest forest together to shoot Into the Woods. I can confidently say that the movie is an absolute masterpiece, and I’m expecting a call from Hollywood any second now to become the next world’s most famous director.

The short film is about a young woman who embarks on a journey into the depths of the forest to meet her destiny. I aimed to combine the flair of The Blair Witch Project with the aesthetics of David Hamilton. The piano music, which I composed while tapping away on my keyboard, is intended to give the story an ominous touch. The countless retro filters I applied to the videos provide the whole piece with a dreamy feel. Incidentally, the ending features a computer-generated imagery firework that makes even Michael Bay look outdated. I really enjoyed the shooting, even though the model caught eight ticks in the process. Suffering for the sake of art.

Into the Woods premiered in a museum last weekend, and interested viewers asked me afterward whether the young woman survived, what the fire meant, and if the movie was an allusion to the climate crisis we’re currently in. I replied that I would answer all their questions in the upcoming second part, Into the Woods 2: Revenge of the Trees. Finally, I’ve acquired a taste for chasing nude girls through nature in front of my camera. Fortunately, I’ve received a bunch of requests from potential models who would like to participate. So, you can look forward to my next magnum opus, which will be shown in an artistic, or adult oriented, movie theater near you.

Chaos Nation

Chaos Nation

I love dystopian movies. Children of Men, The Road, Snowpiercer - the more hopelessly the future is depicted, the happier I grin. Classical psychoanalytic theory would attribute my passion for the end of the world to the death drive, the urge for doom and destruction. This concept was first proposed by the Russian psychoanalyst Sabina Spielrein in her essay Destruction as the Cause of Coming Into Being and later expanded upon by Sigmund Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Personally, however, I believe I am simply fascinated by chaos because my life is a minefield of self-imposed rules, and I need confirmation that abandoning them would lead to anarchy.

Last night, I watched Alex Garland’s Civil War starring Kirsten Dunst, Nick Offerman, and Cailee Spaeny. In the dystopian thriller, the President of the United States illegally secures a third term in office, plunging the country into another civil war. A ragtag group of journalists embarks on a dangerous road trip to conduct one last interview with the fascist Donald Trump lookalike before the rebel army reaches the White House to end the man-made horror and restore democracy to the deeply divided nation. But between them and the most powerful man in the world lies a mayhem universe full of racist lunatics, mindless soldiers, and creepy murderers.

The mental appeal of Civil War lies in the increased probability that the world it depicts could become reality with just a few wrong decisions. Many inhabitants of the land of opportunity already yearn for anarchic freedom and want to turn the United States of America into a lawless theme park where anything deemed unpatriotic, or just Mexican, can be shot at. Perhaps Civil War is not just a glimpse into the future but into our present. And because this idea is only exciting until it comes true, next time I’ll prefer watching another unrealistic disaster movie. Preferably something with zombies, asteroids, or ravenous sharks that live in tornadoes.

Too Many People

Too Many People

A few friends and I were out and about at the Augsburg Summer Nights over the weekend. For a few days, the city center transforms into one big party with all kinds of music stages, food stalls, and even a silent disco. But before we threw ourselves into the thundering crowds of the Bavarian town, we chilled out in a pal’s garden right next to the hustle and bustle, treated ourselves to a few cool drinks, and shared some funny life stories. There, I met an amusing sports student whose chaotic love life sweetened my evening, and my psychologically quite committed playmate, with whose help I became the undisputed king of a certain board game.

Unfortunately, I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy the Augsburg Summer Nights - unlike my friends. There were just far too many people crammed into one place. I couldn’t enjoy the various music performances or have a bite to eat in peace. Everyone transformed into a huge ocean of bodies and I felt like I was drowning right in it. I was glad when I finally stepped out of the barrier into the airy freedom again and took a few breaths without being pushed around by a crowd. The first thing I did with my newfound freedom was grab an ice-cold Coke Zero from a nearby convenience store and watch the colorful and very loud turmoil from afar.

This experience made me realize once again that although I don’t mind lots of people coming together in one place, I only enjoy it if they move in one direction as quickly as I do. That way, I can simply glide through them like some kind of slippery fish, as I do it in big cities like New York, Tokyo, or even Berlin. For the fun part, however, such events are not really for me. I prefer quieter house parties where I can talk, drink, and dance with the guests without getting run over by a horde of drunken revelers. But after all, everyone has a different idea of fun. And I don’t judge if others had a nice evening or two at the Augsburg Summer Nights. You do you.

No Part of My Life

No Part of My Life

It’s an afflicting feeling to know people with whom I once felt very close, but who are no longer part of my life. It’s not as if they’ve moved away, disappeared, or even died, but our relationship has changed so much from one day to the next that we no longer communicate. Not even when we are literally standing next to each other. Then we ignore one another because that’s what you have to do under these circumstances. And if we would usually have talked, laughed, and shared a few worries, we are now like strangers who happen to be finding themselves in the same place and will soon go our separate ways again without even looking at each other’s faces.

I find this situation particularly difficult at times when I experience something interesting or get exciting news that I would otherwise have liked to share with this person immediately. Until recently, these topics eventually mattered to both of us, or at least we knew that the human being on the other side of the city always had an open ear. But just before I mindlessly reach for my phone to write her an update on my world or record a voice message asking for her honest opinion or valuable expertise, I remember that I’m no longer allowed to communicate with my former friend and have to deal with this current challenge piling up in front of me on my own.

The hole that this person leaves in my heart will close. Her profile photo will slide further down in the messages and, at some point, disappear. Other faces will take her place and talk, laugh, and share some worries with me. I will soon have forgotten this once important character and the melancholy feeling of emptiness that she’s causing. It will be as if she had never existed at all. And then I will no longer reach for my phone to share a part of my life with her, because for a brief moment I forgot that this person is no longer a part of it. But before that happens, I wonder if this gloomy emotion I’m carrying around could have been avoided, or if it was inevitable.

Studying in Japan

Studying in Japan

The idyllic harbor town of Kumamoto is located on the island of Kyushu in the southwest of Japan and has not only a beautiful castle, an old samurai house, and a colorful landscape garden to offer but also a university that happens to be the partner institution of my college. This means that every semester there is a lively exchange of academics-to-be between these two learning establishments. Some students are sent from Japan to Germany, and some students are sent from Germany to Japan in return. And guess who has two thumbs and is one of the ambitious people sent from Europe’s politically split heart to the Land of the Rising Sun? This guy!

I will be spending the upcoming semester as an exchange student at the private Sojo University in Kumamoto, where I’m going to study creative subjects such as Graphic Design, Photography, and Manga Media in the Department of Design at the Faculty of Art. I will be living in a free dormitory that is only a few minutes’ walk from the university’s campus and available to students from all around the world. The winter semester doesn’t start until October, but I’ll be spending a few weeks in my favorite city of Tokyo beforehand, exploring my old hoods Shibuya, Harajuku, and Akihabara and hopefully seeing some old friends from back then.

The flights to and within Japan and the hotel in Tokyo are already booked. Now I just have to sublet my apartment in Germany and make the remaining travel arrangements so that I’m ready to go to the Land of the Rising Sun for the third time in my life this fall. I should probably use the next few months to improve my Japanese language skills. Otherwise, it could be a bit difficult to communicate with my fellow students and the rest of the locals during my semester abroad in Kumamoto, because I probably won’t get very far with just basics like Hello, Goodbye, and Sorry, but where’s the nearest toilet? See you soon, Japan. I hope you’ve missed me.

Just Fun

Just Fun

I’m not sure if it’s my diet, the sun, or my antidepressants, but lately, I’ve generally been worrying less about my life. Whereas I used to spend weeks, months, maybe even years, doing nothing but creating as many sorrows as humanly possible in my mind, I’ve recently been blessed with a stoic calmness that is almost uncanny. There’s so much free space in my head now, and I can fill it however I want. It’s not as if I don’t care about what happens to and around me, but I take note of it, accept it, grow a little from it, and then continue on my way. Maybe that’s just what you do as some kind of functioning adult - or somebody who pretends to be one.

In the past, even the smallest unforeseeable obstacle would have sent me into acute self-doubt and bottomless panic. But today, I know that difficulties are not only part of life but are essential for me to be a better person tomorrow. And that it is an art to use them to my own advantage. With this knowledge, I don’t waste a second too much on problems that aren’t really problems at all. Not only that: with this newly acquired form of acceptable equanimity, I automatically allow myself to have fun without any, or at least many, regrets. Because when I invest less time in irrelevant conflicts that should be ignored, I have more time for the good things in life.

So I prefer to spend my time with people who also choose to have fun. I don’t care what exactly they understand by this term or why they have decided to do so. Maybe they don’t want to be alone. Maybe they need a distraction from their everyday worries. Or maybe they have simply learned that celebrating the time we spend together has no negative impact on our future. Quite the opposite. Life is too short to spend it only in my own head. It’s always the happiest moments that I like to remember the most. So I try to collect a bunch of them before it’s too late. Because as Frank Ocean once said: Have as much fun as possible! Amen, brother.

Cheers to the House Party

Cheers to the House Party

Last night I found myself at a house party in a part of town I haven’t been before, where half the girls in attendance seemed to be called Julia. I like house parties. They’re much more cozy than clubs. And you can have intense conversations there, often with people you’ve just met. The birthday girl had gone to great lengths to make her party pleasant. In addition to champagne, snacks, and suitable music, there was a bowl full of little challenges at the entrance that each guest could complete if they wanted to. My task was to transform myself into a so-called woo girl and to cheer loudly even at the most inappropriate moments.

Between the colorful fog machine, soap bubbles everywhere, and a drying rack turned into a beer pong table, I met new people who sweetened my evening with their stories. A photographer struggling with herself, a psychologist from Vienna, and an artist whose individual skills made a packed balcony roar with laughter. I think it’s important to surround myself with new people and be inspired, guided, and encouraged by their dreams, hopes, and perhaps even worries at times when I seem to be at a standstill, at a loss, or generally thinking too much about the purpose of it all. And house parties are the perfect opportunity to meet just such folks.

As I step outside and board the over-punctual night bus with two of the many Julias, I am glad to have been here today among all the cheerful faces, whose laughter from the bottom of their hearts makes me forget my own sorrows. The evening has shown me once again that this city is full of unique and interesting characters. And it is unfortunately far too easy to overlook them repeatedly in my stressful everyday life as I rush through the big and small streets. But it’s worth stopping, listening, and both hearing their stories and enriching them with my thoughts. I’m already looking forward to the next house party - wherever it may take place.

I am Europe

I am Europe

I voted in the European elections this morning. After I bought a coffee at the nearby coffee shop and went for a walk to the next elementary school, where the voting took place, I chose the Green Party because they most closely represent my political views on environmental protection, digitalization, and human rights. I don’t want to leave Europe to the radical left or the radical right. People who trample on our fundamental democratic values out of greed, ideology, or sheer stupidity must not be the ones who end up destroying our chances of a future worth living. Because tomorrow belongs to those who are committed not to fear, but to hope.

I don’t believe in heritage, tradition, and nationalism. Although I was born in Germany, I do not feel German at all, but as a citizen of the world who is dedicated to the wonders and possibilities of all the different cultures this planet provides. For me, the idea of a unified Europe is the logical step away from restrictive borders and towards an open society characterized by a wide variety of people, cultures, and views. Thanks to the benefits, safeguards, and support of the European Union, I have met countless amazing people from different corners of the Earth that I would never have been able to meet without the opportunities of a united continent.

We should be happy to be part of Europe because it strengthens us financially, socially, and culturally. The European Union must be led by people who have only one goal in mind: To improve our community and the lives of us all. By casting my vote, I have helped to ensure that we are hopefully spared a dystopian future in which radicals, fascists, and populists, under the guise of democracy, aim to undermine and destroy it and our very own existences following thereafter. Committing ourselves to the European idea is the best chance we have of a realistic utopia in this period of human history. We are united in diversity, we are the future, we are Europe.

You Can Have Alone Time When You’re Dead

You Can Have Alone Time When You’re Dead

My biggest concern when I started college wasn’t about the courses, the professors, or future fears about what I would do with the degree, but how the other students would react to my age. While the president of the university gave a speech on the first day, the campus was packed with young people scurrying back and forth, equally confused and full of nervousness. In between the guided tours, through the buildings, the city, and the room where the beer fridge throned, I got into conversation with my fellow students. Gradually, the more or less fashionably dressed puppets turned into interesting characters with names, pasts, and humor.

When I entered the cafeteria the following Monday, the first familiar heads were already smiling at me. Hey, Marcel! I heard from one of the tables cheerfully call over. Of course, I’m still the old fart. Just like Kerstin is the stoner, Jonas is the farter, and Dana is the one who got mounted in a fire truck. I’m not the only one who gets stupid looks from other students I don’t know yet, no, everyone has to carry their baggage in whatever way. Since that fateful first week, various friendships have emerged from the hundreds of encounters that have taken me all over the city, to buoyant apartments, clubs, and bars.

No matter where I go, I see familiar faces everywhere. Not only from university, but also from friends, roommates, and relationships of those who didn’t avoid me because of my difference, but, on the contrary, invited me into their lives with open arms. As we stumble out of Iveta’s apartment, hooting loudly, and smelling of tequila, wine, and popcorn schnapps, into the nearest convenience store to buy a few more road beers, I glance down the brightly lit street. I am now part of this scenery. Because I have dared to do something and have not closed myself off from the unknown. Since one truth is certain: You can have alone time when you’re dead.