The Power of Taste
Part I: Individualism for Ruminants

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Contemplation
Flavor Wheel

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.

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“Law of the Border”

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Review
Tracing the Border

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.

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State of the Nation-State

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Contemplation
Nation-States

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.

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“Roller Coaster”

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Review
Gap In Between

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.

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The Power of Habits

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Contemplation
Coffee Filter

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.

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“Simply the Other Side”

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Review

C/O Berlin shows “Francesca Woodman: On Being an Angel,” the first cross-section through the work of the great American photographer ever presented in Germany.

Right when it opened in March, I had the plan to go see the exhibition “On Being an Angel” at C/O Berlin. Then came the pandemic, and the sudden lockdown thwarted my plan.

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Serendipity and the Art of Tracking Down Stories, Camels, and Outbreaks

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Contemplation
Silk Road Traces

An age-old tale about three princes inspired modern science, the creation of the word serendipity, and a whole tradition of detective fiction. It seems equally inspiring today in the midst of a pandemic and a global crisis of knowledge and information.

While listening to a podcast covering the latest coronavirus news the other day it struck me how much research around the outbreak is informed by veritable detective work. The virus harms and kills people quite randomly, much like a serial offender—to track it down and ideally put a stop to its game, researchers are set to acquire an ever-clearer picture of the phantom they are looking for.

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“…And the Pursuit of Happiness”

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Review
immigrant eyes

A review of Louis Malle’s 1986 documentary about immigration to the USA—an inspiring work of art which has aged very well.

Many eyes are looking at the United States of America these days with their lids wide-open. Some of them are filled with dismay and horror, some with confusion and bafflement, others with optimism and hope. And in some 100,000 eyes, those emotions may even be present all at once. I write this because today, on June 6, 2020, the US State Department announces the 55,000 lucky winners of the Diversity Visa Lottery. Those who’ve been chosen are now entitled to apply for a green card to live and work in the US. And with their eyes wide open they might be wondering what sort of happiness they can actually hope to pursue in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

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Cherry Blossom Row

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Contemplation
Cherry Tree

Near where I live, a row of Japanese cherry blossom trees is thriving along the same line where the Wall once used to be. When the Wall came down, the people of Japan got so invested in the events in Europe that they donated hundreds of their favorite trees to the reunited people of Germany. These trees were then planted along the former inner-city border. Today, on a sunny afternoon, the lush life of the metropolis is bustling under them.

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