Culinary Update

Last night, I had my first-ever sip of Diesel. Diesel is the widely-reviled popular German drink that involves an equal mixture of beer and coke. Actually, it tasted just like root beer and didn’t offend at all. This taste experience posed two unsettling questions: (1) What exactly is root beer, anyway? and (2) What if it’s not as distinctive as we imagine it to be?

Mysteries of Czech Language: Diminutive Fever

Though I’ve left the Czech Republic for Germany, I feel obliged to keep up America’s favorite ongoing blog series, The Mysteries of Czech Language.

Czech language has a built-in structure where you can form diminutives from just about anything. A waitress at our favorite Prague restaurant seemed to have a nervous disorder that compelled her to use them constantly and ask me things like if I want ‘another little beer-y-poo.’ But the system of forming diminutives is applied most exhaustingly to children’s names: Zuzanna becomes Zuzka becomes Zuzinka and so on.

One couple we know had a daughter and named her Justina (like Justine, but the Ju sounds like ‘You’). Via the diminutive system, she’s most frequently called Justinka, like ‘you-STINK-a’. It’s almost impossible for me not to laugh every time I hear this. I try to keep a broad mind and remember that it sounds perfectly acceptable (a touch exotic, even) in Czech. But it just sounds like a corny set-up for one of those old ethnic humor shows, like Life With Luigi:

Hey-a. I come to America and everyone says, ‘Hey… you stink-a! And I say, ‘No, it’s-a not me. It’s my baby.’ And everyone says, ‘Oh, what a poor baby. She’s such a pretty girl. What’s her name-a?’ And I says-a-to-them ‘Justinka’. And they get angry and a-punch me in the cucalabanga! Hey-a!

While we’re here: my friend recently posted photos from his vacation to a small town in the Czech Republic, Lazy. He reports that there is also Horni Lazy nearby (Horni = high).

And: there is a phrase in Czech that sounds exactly like this: ‘FUCK YO?!’ It means, ‘Oh, really?’ and Czechs say it all the time. Just so you’re forewarned.

The Curious Case of J. Jitters

In case you’ve been reading along and worrying about whether I’ve found a workspace here… fear not, it’s been taken care of. I’m currently based out of the Berlin game studio Kunst-Stoff, where I sit at a makeshift desk set up in the office kitchen, pumping out my mellow blend of adult-contemporary design. Kunst-stoff (the name is a pun on the German word for ‘plastic’… also means ‘art-stuff’ the way they’ve spelled it) is an independent game development company started by my friend Patrick. I’m permitted to squat in their kitchen in exchange for about five minutes per week spent proofreading the English translations of their press releases.

If you ever get a chance to swing something like this, I can highly recommend any situation where you’re surrounded by people who are busily working on something, but where you have no professional connection whatsoever to whatever it is they are working on. In this case, whatever it is they are working on is an iPhone/iPad game called Pudding Panic that was released to the iTunes store a few weeks ago. The game’s premise–- described on game’s web site as ‘An anxious little pudding is trapped in a scary ghost train!”-– has earned the company highly positive reviews with titles like “Pudding Panic redefines weird“. If you like iPhone/iPad games, you should definitely check it out. I do not like such games (my feelings about gaming are discussed in this post about the Sims)– I bought a copy of the game to be a good sport, but have yet to install or play it.

I am quite smitten, however, with the game’s main character, a perpetually-shivering plate of jello named J. Jitters. Jitters seems ready-made for franchising and stars in a series of clever trailers for the game.

Also, I was interested to learn that Pudding Panic has climbed near the top of sales in the respective iTunes stores of a number of countries, including… Jamaica! This got me wondering about what the other best-sellers might be in Jamaica that Pudding Panic would have to knock off to take the top spot there:

  1. Mount Zion Picnic: scale the lofty heights before Babylon gets there and opens its picnic basket of roast mutton and other unclean foods.
  2. Super Haile Selassie Brothers 3: the year is 1973 and there’s a palace coup to put down! Throw barrels on the heads of your would-be usurpers as they attempt to climb up ladders to the top and wrest away your crown!
  3. Michal Rose vs. Zombies: Michal Rose’s coffee farm is under attack from Matthew Wilder and other pretend-reggae-musician zombies. Defeat the zombies or else your rhythms will appear on Solid Gold next to Marilyn McCoo.

Not the New Identity For The Jewish Museum

On Tuesday, I took a train to Prague to personally chaperone my final proposal for the Jewish Museum identity redesign to the museum administrators. My proposal did not win. In fact, I got the phone call from the museum’s PR department while I was still on the train back to Berlin the next day.

I don’t know much about the selection process other than that there was a committee of 17 doing the voting on five proposals, and that one of the other four was apparently selected (I’ll be curious to see what this looks like when it’s formally announced in a few months, presumably). In any case, it was an honor to partake in such an interesting project, and I’m happy with the proposal I came up with…


Form is based on the top of the Maisel Synagogue and is also meant to reference a Hanukkah Menorah

Czech version

Schematic showing proportions (this isn’t important to show…. I just like these)




Wayfinding system:

These are three icons out of a total of seven– there was also a proposed system for signage. The actual proposal was 12 pages long, in fact– this is just a partial sampling.