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Empower the People of Myanmar to Help Themselves

My sister Daphne Wolf studied Burmese music in Yangon. Her music school is organizing relief aid. Daphne wrote this guest blog post:

Small and local aid agencies are best equipped to help the victims of cyclone Nargis because they are already operating on the ground. Donations to these agencies are more effective since big aid organizations are still struggling to access the affected areas.
Local relief groups such as the Music School Gitameit, are providing the most urgently needed first-aid supplies.

For two years I lived in Yangon, studying Burmese traditional music and teaching classical flute at the Gitameit Music Center, a private school founded by the American pianist Kit Young in 2003. I returned to Berlin in December 2007 to finish my masters in Musicology and Southeast Asian Studies.

My friends, former colleagues, and students all tell me that Yangon, the old capital, is widely devastated and that the fertile delta of the Irrawaddy River is still flooded:

Continue reading "Empower the People of Myanmar to Help Themselves"

Kids Dig DAF

Check out Ben Perry's video of two twins dancing to the sound of D.A.F., an influential German electropunk band formed in 1978. The name stands for "Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft" or "German-American Friendship."

Which of the two small children is supposed to represent America? And which one is dancing like a German? The twins are are tied up and tied together to symbolize transatlantic interdependence, I guess.The video appears to be some highly sophisticated metaphor or a very post-postmodern take on transatlantic relations. I am not sure, what the message is exactly, but I will ask Ben, who I will meet tomorrow.

Orangutan's Art in Germany

Spiegel International:
An orangutan is holding his first solo exhibition of his paintings in a zoo in Germany. Like many artists, he knows the therapeutic value of art: He took up painting after his partner died.
Please, don't accuse Germany of Anti-Americanism, when you learn the name of the orangutan. "Buschi" means "bushy" and refers to his long hair, I guess.

Crazy: German Government Pays for Tom Cruise Movie

New York Times:
A German film fund will grant subsidies worth $6.5 million to Tom Cruise’s new film, “Valkyrie,” Reuters reported. The grant, from a fund with an annual film-subsidy budget of $82 million, exceeds the total cost of most German movies. Last week the German government barred the filmmakers from using a location where the military officer portrayed by Mr. Cruise was executed for a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler. A spokesman for the German government said that Mr. Cruise’s affiliation with Scientology had nothing to do with that decision.
Germany has too much money, it seems: Reuters reports that "money falls from sky" these days in Germany.

Last week's post Scientology: Tom Cruise Banned from Filming in Berlin? received 38 comments, many of them very interesting.
Related: EU Shows European Sex on Youtube

Isn't it crazy that European governments subsidize movies? US taxes would never be used to finance American movies, I believe. Some US filmmakers get the right to film on government property, and some get support from the Pentagon (using military hardware), but they don't get money.

Historical Revisionism in Germany?

Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University, criticizes in his blog Marginal Revolution a "disturbing, trend in contemporary German culture to whitewash the past."
Prof. Cowen took the Oscar winning movie The Lives of Others
about the system of observation in former East Germany as an example: "The film shows many small acts of defiance against the Stasi, as if to redeem an otherwise sorry East German record."
He also expresses his dislike of the Sophie Scholl movie: "Last year -- fortunately I cannot remember the title -- we were shown the German martyrs against the Nazis." 
He stresses that his friends consider him "a cultural Germanophile (I could do "My Favorite Things German" for weeks), but I tend to be a cynic about the blacker historical episodes in the German past." Quite a few of his readers disagree strongly with Prof Cowen's statements on the movie and his comments on "whitewashing the past."
The Atlantic Review wrote about the Lives of Others and posted the trailer.

Last week, the state premier of Baden-Württemberg Günther Oettinger came under fire for praising his predecessor in a eulogy as an opponent of the Nazi regime, although Mr. Filbinger actually was a Nazi judge, who personally signed death sentences for soldiers deserting Hitler's army late in World War II. Mr. Oettinger has now "saved his political skin" by backing down from his original statement, writes DW World.
I think the fact that Mr. Oettinger did not get away with his attempt to rewrite history, indicates that historical revisionism does not have a chance of succeeding in Germany.
Related: Sign and Sight has translated Arno Widmann's article in the Frankfurter Rundschau: "The fine art of whitewashing"

John Rosenthal, an American journalist living in France, wrote about "Germany and Historical Revisionism" in his Transatlantic Intelligencer blog in 2005 and took the Neue Wache memorial as an example:
After Reunification, in 1993, the Neue Wache was re-opened as the “Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany”. The inscription had been changed. Instead of the “Victims of Fascism and Militarism”, it is now dedicated to the “Victims of War and Tyranny [Gewaltherrschaft]”. The substitution of “Tyranny” for “Fascism” served to establish an equivalence between the Nazi regime and the Communist regime of East Germany. The substitution of “War” for “Militarism” served to evade the question of responsibility: notably, of German responsibility for the Second World War and hence for the carnage it entailed.
He concluded:
Although it is true that when Chancellor Schröder and President Köhler lay their wreaths before the Kollwitz Pietà they paid tribute to the victims of Nazi crimes, this is only part of the truth. They also – silently, without having to say any words that might provoke unease outside of Germany – paid tribute to many of the perpetrators of those crimes.
Personal comment: I don't notice a fundamental historical revisionism in Germany. I think that the past is commemorated rather than rewritten. There is still a lot of Vergangenheitsbewältigung in Germany, i.e. a sort of a reflective "coming to terms with the past." German history is part of every debate about sending German troops abroad. Recognitition of German victims of the second world war is more prominent now than before, but there is not more to it.
Though, maybe
Tyler Cowen and John Rosenthal are right, and I am just too biased and blinded to recognize the revisionism in Germany... What do you think, dear readers?

Johnny Cash's Birthday

Johnny Cash would have turned 75 yesterday. The German paper Die Welt writes about the rapidly increasing admiration for this "conservative," deeply religious musician in Germany and recommends a new CD and DVD (HT: Marian).
Don Stadler, an American in London, wrote a guest blog post in the Atlantic Review a few months ago: The Beast in Me: Johnny Cash and the American Recordings

German Movies Nominated for an Oscar (Categorie "Best Foreign Language Film")

UPDATE: Germany's The Lives of Others has won the Oscar!
Director Von Donnersmarck thanked Arnold Schwarzenegger "for teaching me that the words 'I can't' should be stricken from my vocabulary."
I know many Germans, who learned this can-do spirit in the United States. This optimism and positive attitude is one of the main reasons, why many Germans are fascinated by Americans and love the American way of life. [End of update]

"If there is any justice, this year's Academy Award for best foreign-language film will go to The Lives of Others," writes the The New Yorker about a German movie dealing with the system of observation in former East Germany.

The IHT writes "Oscar-nominated 'Lives of Others' arrives in US from Germany, where it prompted national debate."
Trailer with English subtitles below and at google video. You might have to click twice on play.

Boston Globe starts its review with this paragraph:
The Bush Administration has taken a pounding for its unauthorized spying on American citizens in the name of national security. But imagine living in a country, the former East Germany, in which the secret police, known as the Stasi, had 100,000 employees and 200,000 informants, and whose stated goal was "to know everything." And all this for a population that never exceeded 16 million. A new German film, "The Lives of Others" (Das Leben der Anderen), which opens Friday, makes the horrors of this police state concrete by focusing on the relationship between a writer, Georg Dreyman (played by Sebastian Koch), and his actress wife, Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), and a Stasi agent named Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) who monitors every minute of their waking lives through the listening devices planted in their apartment. The film has already won a host of prestigious prizes in Europe and is one of five finalists for the foreign-language Oscar this year.
• The only German movies, that won an Oscar for best foreign film, were set in the Nazi era: "The Tin Drum" and "Nowhere in Africa." The last two years the academy nominated films about Nazi-Germany as well: "Downfall" and "The Final Days." I like best The Tin Drum and The Final Days about Sophie Scholl of the resistance group White Rose.

I have created an aStore at with direct links to all four films and a few more good German movies, including "The Boat" and "Beyond Silence," which were nominated for an Oscar in 1983 and 1997, as well as three excellent German movies, which were submitted for the Academy Award, but did not receive a nomination: "Run Lola Run" (1998), "The Experiment" (2001) and "Good Bye, Lenin" (2003).
Three more decent movies ("Manitu's Shoe," "Edukators," and "Rosenstrasse") are included as well.
My favorite German movie is "Run, Lola, Run."  What is your favorite German movie?
German Films has a list of German films submitted for the Academy Award (OSCAR) for Best Foreign Language Film.

• "German films are riding on a wave of critical and commercial acclaim as directors find that they can make people laugh—to everyone's surprise," writes the (via: TheYellowDuckPond)