The Library, the Monk and the Sandals

The Library, the Monk and the Sandals – read by the author Brenda Arnold

“Take their books! They’re useless propaganda. Get rid of them!”

This actually happened. “Duh,” you’re thinking, “everybody knows how the Third Reich banned books.”

Not so fast. This did take place in Germany, but I’m not talking about the book burning of the Nazis. They didn’t invent openly regressive politics. This event occurred during the secularization of 1802/1803, a historical development that had drastic consequences. Including for books.

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The 400-year-old Marketing Flop You’ve Never Heard Of

26 August 2021

The 400-year-old Marketing Flop You’ve Never Heard of read by Brenda Arnold

They told me in college that marketing was invented in the U.S. The industrial revolution had produced a surplus of goods. Suddenly, stuff needed to be made more attractive to find buyers. Marketed.

The whole idea of marketing is associated with modern times. Medieval shoemakers weren’t worried about customers, nor were blacksmiths concerned about not selling their horseshoes. Unless there was a famine and nobody in the village had any money to buy anything, in which case they had bigger problems anyway. 

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Get those escargots out of my lawnmower

The one thing missing from your Blame the French list

11 August 2021

Get those escargots out of my lawnmower – read by the author Brenda Arnold

The list of French innovations impacting Anglo-Saxon culture has no end. To wit, there are no fewer than four words in this last sentence that the Normans brought along with them across the English Channel in 1066. A little perk included in the saddlebags of William the Conqueror, so to speak. While his minions spread across the country crying “Payez vos taxes!” they were also sowing Latin-based words via Norman French. I can guess one of the first words that English peasants learned when they realized what had befallen them: merde.

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Vaccination Fascination

25 July 2021

Read by Brenda Arnold

A strange thing has set upon us. Suddenly, we’re all doctors. Better yet, we’re virologists. At least you’d think so listening to the conversations around you.

Small talk used to revolve around topics such as “How are the kids?” or “How’s work?” Ha! Those were the days. Little did we know how good we had it, having the luxury of discussing such mundane things as your offspring, work and the latest annoying construction site on the beltway and how your commute is stressing you out.

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The Prussian Rock Star in my Wardrobe

18 July 2021

The Prussian Rock Star in my Wardrobe read by Brenda Arnold

Many people have been using their downtime from the pandemic to tackle long-delayed projects like sort through closets. After years of accumulating, the clothes have become packed to the point of being barely extractable. You have to fight to pull out that blouse and when you do manage to free it from the morass, it bears the imprint of the buttons from the neighboring jacket. Little by little, the clothing has gotten swallowed up in the quicksand of overabundance, sometimes disappearing for years.

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Stand down, parler, this word is too good to debauch

Language is constantly in flux. Words come, words go, and sometimes their meaning changes altogether. Long gone are the days when I associated the word “gay with being happy, dancing around the room and singing one of my favorite songs from the musical Camelot. When you leave your home country as I did, you must also pay close attention to language changes that happen in your absence, causing you to call a club by its 1980s name: disco. Then the advent of the internet brought about the expression “brick and mortar” to denote a physical store rather than an online merchant.

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The Race for Space is Over (but not the way you think)

It took social distancing to finally put me at ease

29 May 2020

Embarking on my first trip to the grocery store after the corona outbreak, I am pumped up with anxiety. It’s the same grocery store where I have shopped for years, but entering it is suddenly daunting.

Will it look the same? What kinds of precautions are they taking to protect people from the pandemic? I picture cashiers in full hazmat suits, outfitted with face masks and helmets with clear plastic face shields and latex gloves. They’re probably taking customers’ temperatures, too, like they did in China.

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Berlin, lost and sometimes found

One last pre-corona trip to the capital

1 April 2020

Berlin is so packed with history, it’s more a matter of what to leave out than what to include when you’re visiting. The Prussian empire, with Frederick the Great as its leading man; the Nazis, whose leading man needs no mention; or the Cold War that split Berlin in two? Over four days, we discovered several interesting tidbits about each of these epochs.

Berlin, lost and sometimes found – read by author Brenda Arnold
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The Secret Second Life of Balconies

Too cold to sit outside, but no need to waste that space

The Secret Second Life of Balconies read by the author Brenda Arnold

28 January 2020

German apartments are often small compared to the average American one. Besides, more people live in houses in America and have more room. Because space is at a premium, Germans know exactly how many square meters their place has and scratch their chins in wonder when they hear a description like three-bedroom apartment. Such vague classification would never satisfy. Just how big are those bedrooms, pray tell? And is it a live-in kitchen (sorry, that’s my best translation for Wohnküche)? How many square meters is the living room?

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Hot wine and cold toes

Trying to fake it as a local at the Regensburg Christmas market

Hot Wine and Cold Toes read by the author Brenda Arnold

Who lives in these towns and what do they do for a living, I wonder as I watch the landscape roll by.  I’m on a train headed to Regensburg to visit my friend Michaela and the Christmas market. Two hours of reading time, yay, I think, but can’t keep myself from looking out the window at the never-ending beautiful scenery. Gently rolling hills and pine forests alternate with

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