O, Berlin

Das ist so Berlin!


skullThere’s a bit of a flap about the food at Oberlin College in Ohio. It appears at least two students from Asia have felt “microaggressions” about the appropriation of their nation’s food, in particular Banh Mi and sushi. I’m sorry that what they’ve been served doesn’t properly reflect their heritage, but food at American educational institutions has NEVER been culturally appropriate.  Who among us has had “pizza” made from canned tomatoes (perhaps a sauce, but sometimes just chunks), quasi-Americanized cheese (or a cheese facsimile), all set enticingly on an “English” muffin?

Some critics of the students have pointed out that Banh Mi itself is a hybrid, mixing as it does French and Vietnamese ingredients, but that’s another argument.

And why should anyone expect dining-hall sushi in the American mid-west to be comparable to that found in Japan?

Evidently, the Oberlin administration has put the strong-arm on the food services staff to make the food more “authentic”, thereby robbing these students of a true American higher education experience.

If one has traveled, one has encountered weak international attempts at national cuisines.  In my Cinco de Mayo neighborhood a hamburger stand makes “American” style hamburgers that – despite the restaurant’s efforts – just aren’t anything like those I’ve had in California. I ate “New York” style pizza in California that was nothing like what could be found anywhere in the five boroughs; Italian sausage here in Mexico isn’t the same as one would find in Italy or even the U.S., even when made by Italians; French-style and Italian-style breads here aren’t the same as found in those countries despite bakers from the home countries living here. The “Mexican” food I tried in France was a disaster.  Good Tex-Mex is hard to find outside its home. So, I think the college’s food service staff should be given some slack.

Some observers – I don’t think they’re Trump supporters, much more likely those of Rubio or Cruz – see this as a “liberal” issue, most likely because of the institution’s academic reputation, but this isn’t a liberal campaign.  It’s the most conservative of attitudes: make my food as momma does.


Berlin, New Hampshire never held appeal for me when I lived in New England.  Despite being just 60 miles from Quebec City, it was easier just to follow the Maine roads to Canada instead of New Hampshire’s. Berlin’s pulp and paper business had long been in decline and, like other cities in Maine and New Hampshire sited alongside the Androscoggin River, had lost its economic polish. No longer poisoning the river with discharge of industrial chemicals, Berlin’s populace has since endured long periods of unemployment and, as in other parts of rural America, turned to another poison:  speed, in the form of meth. Now, New Hampshire is in the news not only because of its Presidential Primary, but because of its heroin problem, which has been noticed by 60 Minutes and CNN. It’s a problem affecting more and more white and middle-class Americans. It’s no longer an inner-city problem, no longer a black or Puerto Rican or ______ problem, it’s a white problem and so it’s now worthy of government action (for some reason Libertarians aren’t challenging government spending on this). From multiple corners one now hears this disease is the fault of someone other than the addict:  fingers point to doctors who over-prescribed oxycodone and related pain killers given for sports or dance injuries, etc., etc. One no longer hears about this being the individual’s fault, about individual weakness, etc. What a difference skin color makes.


Berlin, Germany is considered one of the “hot” places to live right now. A destination for Millenials. Full of dynamism, a hotbed of fashion, tech savviness, cross-cultural interchange, business startups, couchsurfing, Airbnb and Über. It’s a city with a statue of Snowden, Assange, and Manning.

3 statues

Davide Dormingo’s Anything To Say at Die ökologische Kulturoase (Berlin)

It is, as Peter Geyer says,

an international city … it has a very cosmopolitan flavor … Berlin is big without being overwhelming.  It is always reinventing itself, but it also has elements that are constant.  It is incredibly inexpensive to live here – with a cost of living about 30% less than Washington, DC.  And finally – and this may shock some people – we have found native Berliners to be very friendly and welcoming to us. Maybe it is because we are not the typical 20-something hipsters that have swarmed into the city, but we have always felt incredibly welcome here.

Nadia Cho quotes a PR representative of a fashion house:

Berlin is in its moment right now. There isn’t really any significant industry, but there is creativity and design. But what is going on here at the moment is not real life and it will come to pass.

Brandenburg Gate Revisited (Brubeck)

Brubeck’s Brandenburg Gate appeared on the Jazz Impressions of Eurasia (1958) album.  This composition came five years later.


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