Coffee With A Side of Reformation

Cammy: While I was gung ho for coffee with Katie Luther, I’m hesitant about Marty himself–as highly un-Lutheran as that admission may seem.  For one thing, Marty had his not-so-happy opinions on religion, which in and of itself isn’t a problem for me, but I strongly suspect that he could be a bit of an ass in expressing those opinions.  I kind of get the impression that he was, especially in his older years, a bit too into bookish theology and could take on a Sheldon Cooper-esque hard headedness in supporting his position.

But I guess I’m willing to risk it.  After all, we might be able to pick the man’s brain about his translations of the Bible into German–which actually has a lot of secular implications since it’s one of the earliest examples of standardized, written German.  Which is cool.  And if we could get him to leave Jesus out of it, I’d like to see if we could get the man to talk politics without the religion (and see how much of the Protestant movement he would be willing to admit was political).

Really, I just want to hear Kristy ask him about nailing Theocrats to a door.

Kristy: Eh… I’m a bit hesitant also.  For one thing, I’m not Lutheran.  Now that might not really be much of a problem for him, since from what I’ve heard he really had not intention of starting his own religion, but… It’s a little awkward sitting opposite someone so identified with their theology when you don’t exactly follow it.  I have my doubts about how much fun conversation with him would be.  Interesting?  Yes.  Enlightening?  Sure.  But fun?

On the other hand, I like interesting.  And if I’m not there, who’s going to ask him about nailing the 95 Theocrats to a Cathedral door?  And it might be cool to hear exactly how much reform/separation he intended.  And whether nationalism was a factor at all.  And vernacular language.  I have read my Benedict Anderson, after all.  Okay… sure… I’ll give it a go.  But I’m texting Bridget to call me in half an hour so I have an out if I need it.

Coffee With….Maria Cunitz

Cammy: Definitely want to have coffee with this woman.  There’s a shortage of women in the history of science generally, and an even greater shortage of those who get any press time (besides Marie Curie, bless her little Polish heart).  Cunitz was an astronomer in the 1600s in Silesia (Silesian roots, represent, yo).  She improved on Kepler’s laws of planetary motion (and apparently let the housework slide while working on it).  She also spoke seven languages (if you know anything about the location of Silesia, you know that at least 2 of those were just part of the area:  Polish and German).  She allegedly also had skill in music, art, medicine and poetry.  But the fact is, there just isn’t much known about her.  Part of this is due to, well, it was circa 1650.  And part was because of the times.  Many of her contemporaries ignored her astronomical calculations, her correspondence with other scholars had to be addressed to her husband and that same husband had to write a preface to her published work openly disclaiming authorship–because obviously no one would believe a woman capable of math.

So basically?  I want to have coffee to get the straight story here.  How pissed was she at playing games just to discuss her field with others?  When was she born (there are no accurate records to even tell us that much)?  Fleeing Silesia to avoid some of the Thirty Years War Conflict–was that done to avoid conversion to Catholicism (like her siblings who remained behind did), or just because?

Kristy: Yes.  Let’s face it, I might lack anything beyond a very basic understanding of physics and I lack even that when it comes to math.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect it.  And a woman of her era who managed to achieve that level of accomplishment in a field people didn’t even think women were biologically capable of comprehending?  That deserves something greater than just respect.  Besides, she seems to have been a serious Renaissance woman (in the figurative sense of the word).  Gotta love a woman who can write comfortably in multiple languages and who advocates the vernacular.  So yeah, I’d drink coffee with her.  I might get lost listening to her and Cammy talk about Germany, Silesia, and science.  But I’ll nod and smile convincingly.

Other Stuff I Should Have Posted About Instead of Penguins

Just after I’d posted Sunday night about the giant penguins, I realized I really should have hit two other big anniversaries for this early October.  Running on the theory of “better late than never” augmented by “better a little late than 6 months from now”:

-October 2 marked the 175 Anniversary of The Battle of Gonzales, the first battle of the Texas Revolution.  Short version:  The Anglo-Texian settlement at Gonzales, in the Green DeWitt colony, had a cannon.  The Mexican government, fearing revolt (from Texas and multiple other Mexican states) came to take said cannon back.  The Texians weren’t having any of that (because, Comanche = bad news and cannon = answer).  First the settlers buried it to hide it, and then they dug it up and used it against the Mexican troops sent to retrieve it, while flying a flag with a picture of the cannon and the words “Come And Take It.”  So just in case you think that the near-fanaticism over the right to bear arms is a new thing to the fabric of Texas, it’s not.  And neither is being a little bit of a smart ass to one’s enemies.  The Texans won, the battle, and eventually, the revolution that followed from it.

-October 3, 20th Anniversary of German Unification:  A scant 4 years before Oct. 3, 1990, my Dad had been going through a map of the two Germany’s with me and trying to help my 6 year old brain understand the whole Iron Curtain thing, and painting a bleak picture of life on the other side, with particular focus on Germany.  I asked Dad if maybe there was a chance that one of these days they might put Germany back together.  His answer was, “No, I don’t think so.  Not in my lifetime and probably not in yours.”   It’s still one of the clearest memories I have before age 10.  Just as clear was my memory of standing in front of the TV watching people rip up the wall about 3 years later and Dad simply looking at me and saying, “Cammy, I can’t believe it, but I was wrong”–both of us knowing exactly what moment he was talking about.  But even the wall tumbling wasn’t the complete repair.  That didn’t happen until 3 October of 1990 when, at the stroke of midnight, East Germany didn’t so much turn into a pumpkin as cease to exist.

With two events like this?  I’m beginning to think early October is apparently a ripe time if you want massive political upheaval of one sort or another.

(It’s also a good time to drink beer).

In Which Cammy Drinks a Pink Beer

I’m a beer kind of gal.  And for the most part my beer preference takes a fairly conservative,-bordering-on-full-Reinheitsgebot, German beer bent.  The 1516 Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Act, limited the contents of beer to barley, water and hops.  It was a largely political-control move that had little to do with the quality of beer (and more to do with control of grain markets), but the limitations resulted in German brews being finely crafted within those narrow confines to give us the wonderful substance that makes October a more bearable month and provides the only reason most non-Germans (and some Germans) tolerate polka music.  Germans are pretty proud of the law even though it’s been repealed (and they figured out that yeast was also involved in beer–a fact which no one knew in 1516).

But the side effect of so many years of  restricted brewing contents eliminated other types of beer.  The beer scene of Belgium, however, remained a refuge for more adventurous beer-making.  Fruits, spices….the options were open there, resulting in fantastic things like frambois.  While I can appreciate the open atmosphere for creative brewing and the more varied results, for the most part?  I’m still going to sit at the table with my German peeps and stick to the basics.  Give me a dark beer, easy on the hops.

But now and then, I branch out.  This weekend was such a day.  For some reason, I decided to go for something that seemed lighter and more summer-ish.  Something girly.

I wound up with pink beer.  Not red or burgundy:  pink.

And a pink wheat beer at that (I’m normally not wild about weiss beers).

It was Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss, and while I definitely wouldn’t want this most of the time, it just hit the spot for this weekend.  It’s definitely sweeter and it’s definitely lighter….and did I mention it’s PINK? I mean, even the head of foam was pink (a rather pleasant shade, actually).  And it foamed quite nicely.  Beautiful head on this beer.

But, honestly?  It doesn’t taste like beer.  I know for some this is a good thing, but for me?  Well, I was hoping for something with subtle fruity flavors.  This is not subtle.  It’s also not like a Frambois.  It feels less mature than a frambois (which manages to make sure you know that it’s a beer).  It’s basically a wine cooler with a little less sweetness.  It tastes just fine, don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed it….but it’s not beer to me.  And if I’d been in a less experimental beer-mood and someone had handed me this?  I’d be disappointed.  But as a beverage in general?  It’s tasty.  I’ll drink it.

So I didn’t have to pour it down the sink, I’ve found a beer I can offer to my non-beer-fan friends.  But I’ve also found one more reason I appreciate the influence of the Reinheitsgebot.

The Second Time I’ve Been Disappointed In My Peeps

I am German-American.  Very proudly so as Kristy will attest.  Of my grandparents 3/4 claim identified as German.  2 out of the 4 had German as their first language.  The third it was a mixture of German and English at home.  Even the fourth branch, which is predominantly English-Scottish-Irish, has a nice spot of German back in the days of colonization of Pennsylvania.

While I did not grow up speaking German, I was made acutely aware of my family’s heritage.  In some cases I didn’t know it wasn’t normal.  I say “gesundheit” more than “God bless you” and until I was in college, I thought EVERYONE’s Dad yelled “Kommen Sie HIER!” when he was royally ticked off and wanted to have a serious talk with you.  I have family members who have made livings in polka bands.  Things I found common were seen as foreign and strange to my new friends (consumption of sauerkraut and cabbage in all forms, tendency to sing “O Tannenbaum” instead of “O Christmas Tree”…) when my family moved to an area with a virtually non-existent German population from the very predominantly German Farm communities we’d always lived in before.

My surname, however, is a bit odd.  Even I know that at first glance, it does not appear “German”.  For reasons of not-wanting-to-be-stalked, I will not give you all of it, but I will tell you that it ends in -ian.  More than once I’ve been asked if I was Armenian, as -ian is a common ending for Armenian surnames.  But it’s not Armenian.  My great Uncle has documents showing that part of the family came from Prussia.  I’ll grant you, where they were living is now Poland, not Germany, but they spoke German, settled into very German communities, and obviously identified as German.  From everything my great-uncle has gathered, the surname was mangled somewhere on entry to the United States–a not unfamiliar tale for immigrants.  The first part of the surname actually seems very similar to the partcular region we know they hailed from.  It also appears that at one point the name bore the “von” prefix–a sign of land ownership and nobility in Germany.  But, like many a Schmidt became a Smith and a Mueller became a Miller in the hands of an Anglo clerk at the port, so too did my surname appear to suffer.  Certainly I’d like to know what it really was before the mangling, but ultimately, my last name is incredibly unique, if you know it and you meet someone with the name you KNOW the are related to me.  According to Kristy, I am not allowed to give up this name upon marriage because it’s just fun to SAY.  For me, it’s German because that is the way my family has identified ourselves since long before I was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.

And all that is just the branch from which the name comes.  That doesn’t include the part of Grandpa’s family that were German noblemen, or literally the first German family in Texas, or the part that is a member of the most well documented non-royal family in Germany (or all of Europe for that matter).  It also doesn’t include Grandma’s family, where I still have cousins living in the same town in Germany where my great-grandparents and great-great grandparents (and possibly much farther back) were born and raised.  Or my mom’s mother who  grew up eating pickled-everything and remembers her “Grosspapa” living behind the house, and whose family name is all over the painfully German Lutheran church in the tiny Texas town where she was born.  If my mangled surname isn’t enough to satisfy a German, I’ve got a whole list of other names who share just as large a percentage in my DNA that are so undeniably German its ridiculous.

So, here I am in Budapest at an international conference, squeezed into an elevator that’s kind of like the UN.  I’m jammed up next to a German (or perhaps he was Austrian, I didn’t really ask), trying very hard to keep my elbows pinned to my sides so as not to hit him.  He looks at my name tag.   “Did you know your name is Armenian?”  I smiled and said, “I’ve been told that, but actually me whole family comes from Germany.”  As I’ve said, this is old hat for me.  I’ve been asked this by work colleagues, people I’ve just met and even random people messaging me on Facebook.  He hrmphed me in a way that only a German man over the age of 45 can do, and said, “THAT is not a German name.  That is Armenian.”  The clear implication was that I was an little uneducated, unsophisticated waif who was either ignorant of or ashamed of my heritage and chose to refer to myself as German to cover my tracks and that in either case, he resented the fact that trash such as myself would sully his fair nationality.

And NOW I understand why people don’t like Germans.  Outside of the obvious Word War II problem (which was the first Great German Disappointment), I have never understood negativity toward Germans.  My experiences were always very, very positive. I’ve never, EVER had an encounter with a German like that.  I’ve only ever been embraced by them.  In the case of family it’s been the natural connection of shared blood, but even strangers have eagerly questioned about “Where in Germany your family comes from?”   Never have I been written off like this, never.  I’ve nothing at all against Armenians, I’ve met several who were exceedingly polite, if a little shy, but the grandfather from whom I get this name definitely didn’t grow up speaking Armenian in his family.  I’ll grant you that there’s a high probability that at some point these folks were Polish, but Armenian is a leap beyond reason.  Knowing all this, I DO NOT appreciate the disdainful look I received from this man as he took it upon himself to correct me on what I’ve known all my life, and to inform me that I was not of German descent.

But it’s all right.  After informing me that my name wasn’t German, and hearing my response, with the same arrogant sniff he said, “But you are American.” As if to say “this is better than an Armenian, although not by much.”  I know that there are plenty of Americans that give the lot of us a bad name, but I was polite, friendly, and had been very careful not to bump him as I got onto that crowded elevator, so my behavior was definitely above reproach, no matter what other Americans might behave like.  But I didn’t rise to that tone.  I smiled again and nodded.  “Yes, I am.”  What I meant was “Yes, I am you arrogant sonofabitch.  I get all the fun of German beer-drinking, sausage eating heritage and none of the guilt of a genocide.  I get to rock out to a polka, and maintain a sense of humor.  I get to sing “Stille Nacht” and “Aber Heidschi Bum Beidschi” at Christmas….but I don’t have to pay a God Damn VAT.  So SUCK IT.”

To be honest, I really should have stuck it to him with the honest response:  “Oh, I’m not just an American.  *I* am a Texan.”  And turned up my nose.  But I didn’t.  Anyone ignorant enough to look down their schnoz at my surname doesn’t deserve to know the presence of Texas greatness by which they are being graced ;).

Because there’s a real reason my family left what was once Germany:  We were just too God Damn awesome to waste our time there.

German Americans: Because the European Continent Wasn’t Zoned for This Much Coolness.

Coffee With…. Angela Merkel

Cammy: Yes!  While I know I should probably hesitate more about this, I can’t help it.  I would completely risk looking like a moron to sit down and have a cup of coffee with the “Iron Mädchen.”  Just as long as I had easy access to a German-English dictionary and time to brush up on my verb conjugations because the last thing in the world I’d want to do is go in and “Du-tz” the Chancellor of Germany (familiar rather than formal “you”).

I’ve got a boatload of topics I want to cover with this woman, starting with the quote I’ve heard attributed to her that “Anyone with something to say needs no makeup” (“Jeder, der wirklich etwas zu sagen hat, braucht kein Make-up”).  There’s a lot of clues to this woman’s personality wrapped up in that one, especially knowing how vastly she had to be “transformed” style-wise before winning her spot as Chancellor.  And the transition from physicist to politician–there’s got to be a goldmine of interesting talk to be had there.  I’ve got my theories about women in political power with science backgrounds, and a conversation with Merkel would go a long way toward testing those theories.  And, of course, I couldn’t talk with this woman without going into the East German thing.  Not just the recent little amusing story about how she was at the sauna when the wall came down, but about the impressive fact that she’s an East German in the top job in a unified German.  Symbolic, if nothing else.

I’m anticipating that the woman has at least a little bit of a sense of humor (anyone making a crack about the German sense of humor is invited to attend one of my family reunions for a counter-argument), which, hopefully, would keep her from getting pissed at me firing off questions like a fan-girl at at Con Q & A.  Hmmmm, maybe this should be over a beer instead of coffee….

Kristy: Um… probably not.  To be clear, this is not about not wanting to have coffee with Chancellor Merkel.  I’m just fairly certain she wouldn’t want to have coffee with me.  There’s that whole thing about the make-up.  Personally, I’m a huge fan of make-up (what?  I have fair skin and had horrible acne as a teen, I’m covered with acne stains and no one wants to see them).  I know some feminists will roll their eyes and tell me I’m just allowing myself to be exploited and I’m trying to fit myself to the expectations of men and yadda yadda.  But I disagree.  I don’t wear make-up for men–they don’t notice it.  I’ve had conversations with my male friends about how they don’t like women with lots of make-up; inevitably they praise me for not wearing much, oblivious to the fact I’m speaking from underneath a pound of concealer and powder.  I wear make-up for myself.  Partially because the powder absorbs the grease my skin produces and keeps it from clogging my pores, but mostly because I feel better about myself with it on.  And when I feel better, I’m more confident, more likely to speak my mind, more likely to get things done.  But somehow I think the “Iron Maedchen” might just see me as superficial and vain.  Also, I’ll be totally lost when she and Cammy start talking about science and physics.  And I don’t know a word of German.  So I will eagerly take notes about everything she says when Cammy comes back with a full report, but I don’t think I’ll be attending that little coffee klatch.

Cammy: I think there’s more to  the cultural aspect of the make-up thing here.  It’s not just about the make-up itself–it’s how it ties to her being an East German.  As I understand it, cosmetics were an incredible luxury item before Communism collapsed.  An Epic!Win hostess gift when visiting the East was some CoverGirl eyeshadow.  It’s one of those things that set “Ossis” apart from the West.  There was, and still remains a view of those from the East as being backward in comparison to the West (at least in Germany).  So, needing make-up for confidence was as much a luxury as the make-up itself, especially immediately after unification when the East Germans definitely had something to say.  Merkel’s line is more of a defense against those in the West who were too busy laughing at their dowdy Eastern neighbors.  I’ll grant you that I like that quote because I’m the lazy girl who doesn’t like to put on make up and would love to level the cultural playing field enough to remove the pressure for me to put it on, but the reality of the quote is something different altogether and it probably doesn’t do either of us much credit to reduce it to mere physical appearance.

All that said, I’ll give you an out on this one, Kristy, though part of me would really like to drag you in.  I have a feeling you’d find a way to hit it off with the Iron Mädchen better than I would.  If nothing else, you two could sit around and practice your Russian together and leave me out.  And don’t forget, no matter how you interpret the make-up comment, they DID hire a stylist for the woman to get her into office, and last election she was workin’ the cleavage, so…..

Coffee With….Nuns Edition Continued!

Would we drink coffee with Katharina Von Bora – Luther

Cammy: Oh, no doubt  I would totally sit down for a cup of coffee with Katie Luther.  Maybe this is because I was raised a Lutheran and the single deviation from straight-up bible stories you got in Sunday school was that around Reformation Sunday you’d get one lesson on the 95 Theses, and if you were REALLY lucky your teacher would talk a little about how ex-monk Martin Luther married a former nun who was smuggled out of a convent in a fish barrel.

Seriously.  Renegade nuns in a barrel!  How could I not want to get this woman to sit down and have a cup of coffee?

My post Sunday-school knowledge of Katie is only marginally larger.  Data on her is limited.  To the fish barrel bit I’ve added knowledge that she was put into a convent at 5, took vows at 16 and after her escape Luther helped find a place for her to stay with the family of Lucas Cranach the Elder (a German artist–if you ever do costuming for the Reformation era in Germany, his works are fantastic resources).  Career options being limited, the idea was to marry her off.  She hit it off with one fellow, but his family disapproved.  Several others she didn’t like and finally Katie herself laid it out– it would be Luther or his buddy von Armsdorf, or she wasn’t getting married.  Who knows if Luther actually loved her, or just realized the woman would be able to take care of the place so he could work?  Because that is exactly what she did.  Raising kids (her own and those they adopted), raising cows, raising crops and–my personal favorite–brewing beer!  Luther refers to her in his writings as “My Lord Katie” and alludes more than once to her running the house, saying that in spiritual matters he looked to God, but in domestic matters he looked to Katie.

I need coffee to get the details and fill the gaps.  A renegade, fish-barrel nun who brews beer and rules the house while her hubby totters off to think and write deep thoughts.  There’s no way she’s not a witty woman.  Just no way.  Forget a treatise on being saved by grace not by works–I want to hear about brewing beer and how she got her hands on Protestant contraband before blowing out of that cloistered-Popsicle stand.

Kristy: I’ll admit I never heard of Katherina von Bora Luther before living with Cammy.  Little Methodist children didn’t get any lessons about renegade nuns and nailing theocrats to cathedral doors.  We didn’t even get Reformation Sunday.  But she sounds like a cool lady.  Clearly strongminded, not ruled by convention, but not in your face unless necessary.  You get the impression that if Marty forgot to wipe the mud off his boots before entering her kitchen he was likely to get a sound lashing from a wooden spoon.  Or perhaps worse, denied beer.  And I bet she’s not above sharing some convent gossip over a cup of strong coffee.  Sounds like a good time.

Cammy: Wait, wait, wait.  You don’t get a Reformation Sunday?  *gasp*  What’s the point of being Protestant?!?  And I think you’re right about the boots.  I suspect there was tight ship run in the Luther household.  I think we should grab your Sor Juana together so we can listen to them compare nun stories, though I suspect those stories would be better served with das bier than das kaffee.

Kristy: I guess maybe since us Methodists split from the Anglicans rather than directly from the Catholics we don’t have quite the special place for Marty that you Lutherans do.  Also, it’s possible we do have Reformation Sunday and just don’t do anything about it.  ‘Member we’re the warm, fuzzy variety of Protestants; and it’s hard to bother observing obscure holidays when you’re being all fuzzy.

Coffee With… Ben Franklin

Cammy: I really don’t think I could have coffee with Ben Franklin.  Not because I don’t like him or I’m scared of him or anything like that.  I just think that he would insist on beer.  And, me having no problems whatsoever with that most blessed of beverages–I agree with something Ben once said about beer being proof that God love us and wants us to be happy–I could totally follow him down to the nearest pub or bar for a pint and some good conversation.  As long as he didn’t try to hit on us.  I mean, I want to talk inventions, his choice not to patent his works–geeky stuff.  It’s tougher to do that if the old guy is flirting with you, ya know?  I also want to give him a little heck about his comments about German girls not being quality enough for an English guy to marry without a huge dowery.  Oh, yeah, we DEFINITELY have to have a little talk about that one, Ben.

Kristy: How could I not?  Out of all our founding father’s I suspect he was the most fun to hang out with.  Cammy’s probably right about the beer, and I’m not much of a beer drinker.  But I think Ben would be okay with me sipping on a nice glass of port while he drinks his beer.  Somehow I think he’d rather I drink port than a girly, fruity malt beverage like I tend to when forced to drink beer.  It would be interesting to hear what he thinks of us now.  I suspect he thinks Americans have retained more puritanical traits than he would have hoped.  As and early defender of Native Americans I’d hate to have to tell him how much we screwed that up.  I think we could have an interesting convo about American folklore though, and I think he’d be thrilled that people are studying it seriously, rather than trying to imitate the Europeans in everything.  Got to be careful though–I suspect Ben’s the kind of enabler who refills your glass when you’re not looking.  Definitely going tandem with Cammy on this one too.