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The Genius of Georg Kreisler

If things had worked out differently, Georg Kreisler might have written the bulk of his satricial songs in English. An Austrian Jew, Kreisler fled Vienna in 1938. He became a US citizen in 1943 and worked on movies with Charlie Chaplin after the war. But he couldn’t find his audience. In 1947, he was rejected by the record labels, his songs  dubbed “un-American.” Listen to this example and you’ll see why his songs might have been a little over the top on the black humor side for a 1940s American audience: In 1955, Kreisler returned to Europe where he spent…

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I Voted (the sticker proves it)

I moved to Berlin the last year of the Clinton administration. When Bush first got elected, I remember sitting in Cafe Rix, opening up a copy of Die Zeit and seeing a cartoon of George W. in a cowboy hat, swinging a Colt revolver. “Well, this can’t be good,” I thought. Little did I know his presidency would soon go from “not good” to very bad to downright terrifying. And I constantly got flack for it. “Hey, people. I didn’t vote for him.” I did still vote, even in the local California elections. I’d order an absentee ballot far in advance and…

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Music And What It Means To Me: Words

When I’m speaking German, sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly I’m lost in the fog. Words disappear, adjectives smash into nouns. When this happens, I’m sure my Gegenüber assumes it’s because I’m not a native speaker. Little do they know the same thing sometimes happens to me in English. It’s like my mind is an ocean and words are fish; sometimes they jump eagerly into the nets. Other times they refuse to come to the surface. When I insist, they thrash about, causing me trouble. That why I love music: it never has to go to…

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Big In Japan

When I was twelve, I was sure we had an underground cave inside the hill in our backyard. It was there, full of stalagmites and stalactites and an underground lake if I was lucky. All I had to do was find the entrance. But I wasn’t some pre-teen explorer; if I found the cave, I knew I could charge at least five dollars admission. This was not my first get-rich-quick scheme. When I was a kid in Arizona, I was sure the waxy coating inside palo verde seed pods was pure rubber, which, of course, meant they were extremely valuable.…

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Why I’ve Considered Giving Up My Citizenship (Even Though I Don’t Want To)

  At first, I planned to live in Berlin a year, then head back to the US for graduate school. But a year became two, then three, then four. I stayed, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in love again, got married, started a family. I still remember taking my younger daughter to the US Embassy to get her first passport. Only six weeks old, she was dressed in a cow print onesie, complete with little plush horns on the hood. You can see my husband’s hand holding her up in the passport photo. Although my husband and…

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