Where I’m from, you learn what borders are from an early age. The fence separating my own little world from the neighbors’ garden was a demarcation line toward enemy territory. Neighbors’ disputes were said to be the germ cell of war. And plucking low-hanging fruit from a branch of your neighbor’s apple tree, I was taught, was the one-way entry point to a life of crime. Where I’m from, the petty-bourgeois values of domestic peace, property protection, and Sunday-mow-day were not to mess with.Read More
Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse was once praised and disdained as a symbol of modern metropolitan life. Today, it might partly regain its former status, as the street is part of an ongoing experiment about revitalizing urban space.
“The spirit of Friedrichstrasse has rubbed off on the whole city,” German philosopher Martin Heidegger once wrote home to his wife Elfride, whom he addresses in his letters as “Mein liebes Seelchen!”—”My dear little soul!” “People here have lost their soul,” he continued his rant about the German Empire’s capital, which he visited while stationed in nearby Charlottenburg during the last months of World War I.Read More
Sometimes you have to cross a line to find true happiness. Sometimes, crossing a line takes you from happiness to hell. If only it were so clear in which direction you are crossing. Life isn’t always signposted that well, and sometimes the signs to happiness and those to hell point in the same direction. Agnes Varda’s film Le Bonheur (1965, English Happiness) gaily depicts such a journey with an ambiguous orientation. Does the film come with a happy ending? I wouldn’t tell you if I could.Read More
Meeting up with a couple of people for an easy ride through the city—this would be any cyclist’s dream, if only there weren’t so many cars that prefer to have the streets to themselves. This is precisely the reason why there is Critical Mass. The concept originated in San Francisco, where the first bicycle gathering under this name took place on the last Friday in September 1992. Since then, the idea has spread, and bikers in numerous cities across the globe reclaim their streets, which have long been dominated by motorized traffic.Read More
Silk roads, one could argue, are the opposite of borders. While borders pose barriers to the travel of people and goods, silk roads promote exchange between different cultural regions. This is not to imply, though, that the flow of goods and people along old trade routes was ever without hurdles or dangers.Read More
One day in September 2011, Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s most highly decorated chefs, walked into the Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant in Hudson Valley, New York. The main purpose of his visit being a photo shoot, he was served the epitome of a frugal meal—bread and butter. And yet, this simple dish featured the pride and joy of the restaurant’s co-owner and chef, Dan Barber. Single-udder butter is created from the cream of a single cow, with the intent to highlight the personality of the animal and the seasonal characteristics of the pasture it grazes on.Read More
Lütfi Ö. Akad’s film Law of the Border is a cinematic masterpiece that marked a pivotal point in Turkish cinema when it came out in 1966. Today, it appears as a brilliant reflection on the complexities of borders, unequal opportunities, and other limitations that define modern societies.
Borders are ambiguous phenomena. On the one hand, they are intended to be simplifying limitations, attempts at drawing clear lines through reality. On the other hand, they are limitless concatenations of complications: demarcation problems, territorial conflicts, stories of tragic separation, illegal crossings, fatal casualties.Read More
While global travel restrictions are currently changing daily, it’s time to reflect on borders and what lies between them—the nation-state. The Lithuanian poet and intellectual Tomas Venclova can provide some inspiring input for such reflections.
Countries across the globe have been slowly reopening their borders to travelers since the pandemic’s first wave has ebbed at least in some parts of the world. The reopening is very selective though, which is a reminder that the permeability of national borders is generally an extremely selective matter to most people, even in times of relative normality.Read More
Here’s the truth: I’ve never been on a roller coaster. I’ve never taken LSD. I’ve never tried to step out of an elevator on the 13th floor. I’ve never been to Austin, Texas. And I’ve never written about music. Hence this is no reportage; I’m not a music journalist. I’m not a historian either—facts are important to me, but at times they seem fleeting. And yet, all of these things fascinate me, especially when they are combined in one story.Read More
The year is not even half over, and there is no shortage of things I will always remember it for. If I were to give 2020 a title in my personal history book, though, I would call it the year when I learned to cherish and wield the power of habits.
Of course, habits have always been an important part of my life. Humans are creatures of habit; that’s a truism, and I’ve been aware of it for as long as I can remember. But honestly, I always viewed that habitual side of human existence as something boring, a quality that I would want to either ignore or minimize—if not overcome altogether. Instead, I have always been a great believer in conscious, planned action. The avid learner that I am, I placed my focus on two things: understanding by empathy or analysis, and practice by repetition. Habits, however, are an entirely different beast.Read More