January 8, 2012

A consumer-product tour of Berlin

Guten tag! Actually, I haven't been in Germany in ten days (unless you count my airport layover in Munich six days ago, en route from Switzerland), but forgive me, your quizmaster is still in New Year's catch-up mode. 'Cause I rock just that hard, yo. (Also, I was busy listening to 2011's "best" music for the very first time.)

As I do every time I visit an exotic or semi-exotic place, I like to enter a supermarket and photographically take note of novel and/or bizarre products, from my Amero-Canadian POV. On this blog I've discussed shopping adventures in Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and London, and now we come to Berlin. A four-day post-Xmas visit with family was extremely historically educational; there was something exceedingly historically gratifying about lighting the Hanukkah candles and reading Superman comics in the heart of the former Third Reich (especially while my bedtime reading was The Man in the High Castle). I think I determined that the Germans aren't that bizarre, despite what porno-obsessed stand-up comics might tell you, But still, here's what I found (sorry for the lousy photos, but the grocer was eying me suspiciously)…
It seems appropriately German to me that the English names for these generic cereals are so clinically descriptive: "Cinnamon Flavored Squares" and "Fruit Rings." Maybe we should start calling Rice Krispies "Oblong Dun-Colored Pellets of Crisped Rice Grain."

I am almost literally the farthest thing from a beer expert, but I don't think I've ever seen this before: loose bottles of beer (and whatever that vodka drink is) on an unrefrigerated shelf. Something seems really, really low-rent about it; I mean, even a frat house finds room for a crappy fridge. Yet these are the Germans were talking about, the world's beer authorities, mandating the quality of the beverage by law. So who are we to question their shelving techniques?

Speaking of lack of refrigeration…

These are packages of German-farm-fresh eggs, just sitting out there on the shelf, ready to go rotten or worse. (I also saw what looked like frozen dinner entrées exposed to the temperate world.) This made me slightly queasy—don't eggs go, like, instantly bad if they're not treated with the utmost care? Aren't you courting digestive death via omelette? Yet when I mentioned this apparent anamoly to my sister (a Swiss resident), she looked at me like I was crazy. "Oh, sure," she said. "They never do that anywhere in this part of Europe. We've taken to not refrigerating our eggs at home; it makes a lot more sense." Great, one year as a European resident and she already hates our American way of life.

I'm convinced there's a huge vein of untapped humor in the topic of toothpaste. From the Cavity Creeps to Triple Protection Aqua Fresh, no general product category has inspired more hilariously overblown and bizarre TV commercials over the past 60 years. Thus, I really dig the names of these German brands: Odol-med 3, Aronal, Elmex. I'm guessing those were rejected names for members of the Three Musketeers.

This made my heart skip a beat (almost literally)…

The USA may be the greatest country ever in the history of all time since the beginning of the universe, but you know what we don't have enough of? Breakfast cereals adapted from candy bars. We have Reese's Puffs, but that's all that comes to mind. Yet in Germany, not only did I spot Nestlé Crunch cereal (I can't imagine the deliciousness), but this: Lion Cereal. For the uninitiated, Lion Bars are very popular and indescribably tasty candy bars found throughout Europe; I discovered them when I spent a teenage summer in the U.K. and ate them pretty much nonstop (you can find them in NYC if you put in a little effort). I'm fascinated by the concept of beginning my day consuming a variant on the product. Now you know what to get me for Valentine's Day.

Finally, German is an inherently funny language. So on a side trip to a department store, these gave me 20 minutes of serious amusement:
I was about to write that I really, really want to know what Don Corleone sounds like in German, but then I thought I also want to hear Luca Brasi. And Jack Woltz. And fuck it, Fredo too.

POTA is one of my absolute favorite movies ever, but the one logical flaw that has always stuck in my craw is the fact that the apes speak English. No, even that is fine: It's that they speak English and Taylor doesn't find that strange (though the twist ending provides a plausible enough explanation). But if the apes are speaking German…well, now we're playing a whole different ball game, aren't we?

I'm guessing that Dynasty, or its closest German equivalent, just doesn't fly in German as indicating jet-setting glamor and intrigue among the super-rich of the 1980s. But does Der Denver Clan ("the Denver clan") really solve the problem. I mean, Denver? Doesn't quite have the cachet of Dallas, does it?

"Murder is her h0bby." Oh, boy. There's that great stat that considering the small size of Cabot Cove, Maine, over the entire 12-year run of Murder, She Wrote, a full 2% of the residents were killed. And that maybe the secret behind the series is that Jessica Fletcher is a serial killer (with some powers of mind control, enabling her to hypnotize others into confessing to her crimes). I guarantee this all seems so much more believable in German.

Where to next? Australia…I'm hoping (by the time I'm 40, I've been saying). Care to join me?

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