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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?

UPDATE: Reaction to Iraq Speech and Other Topics

The Washington Note: "Did the President Declare 'Secret War' Against Syria and Iran?" Senators Biden and Hagel are concerned that the president could escalate the Iraq war by striking Syria and Iran without seeking authorization from Congress. President had said "We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." Secretary Rice did not put those concerns to a rest and Hagel brought up the Vietnam war: "Some of us remember 1970, Madame Secretary, and that was Cambodia, and when our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia."

Europe Reserved About Bush's New Way Forward in Iraq and the view from London

The Economist's Charlemagne describes the new power structure in the European and makes good points criticizing Chancellor Merkel's agenda for the EU presidency as too broad, too ambitious and focusing on the wrong priorities. The criticism of the plans for a "transatlantic free trade area" might be based on a misunderstanding. See the post about Merkel's Blitzvisit and the Harmonization of Technical Standards.

German Rent-a-Protestor Business on the Rise
Americans Taking Bigger Bite of German Christmas Fare

Controversial Mozart Opera gets staged after all -- without incident. (The earlier cancellation produced a lot of free publicity...)

"Foreign policy divides the Democrats:" The New Yorker describes some foreign policy positions by the potential Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards as well as Evan Bayh, the Senator from Indiana who recently decided that he will not seek the 2008 Democratic nomination for President. Very Interesting, but not specifically about President Bush's "surge." (HT: Marian)

Cultural Diplomacy via Movies and TV Series?

The 12th annual "Berlin & Beyond" seven-day cinema celebration of films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland starts in San Francisco, writes the SF Chronicle:
German-language films are more popular than ever in the United States, says Ingrid Eggers, Berlin & Beyond's program director and co-founder, who has watched the festival's audience grow from several hundred to more than 10,000. She cites recent U.S.-distributed Deutsch hits such as "Downfall" [,], "Run Lola Run" [,], "The Edukators" [,], and the Oscar-winning "Nowhere in Africa" [,] as reasons for the rise in popularity.
Is that true? Are German films indeed increasingly popular in the US? What would that mean for transatlantic relations on a cultural level? The Karnick blog noticed that American TV series are very popular in Europe and opined that "the reports of an increasingly tense relationship between the United States and Europe may be a bit exaggerated." How can we assess the cultural (or any political?) influence of CSI, 24, Lost, The Simpsons, South Park, Desperate Housewives, ER, Grey's Anatomy and many other American TV series and movies, which are watched by millions of Germans every day?
The San Francisco Chronicle continues to describe the program of the festival and also asks whether you have ever heard of "The Monks"?:
They were a group of five American GIs stationed in Germany during the 1960s who started out playing Chuck Berry covers and ended up becoming one of the first bands to mix pop music with offbeat art. They shaved the tops of their heads and dressed up like monks, and considered themselves to be the anti-Beatles. "The Transatlantic Feedback" captures a reunion of the influential group as the members reunite for the first time in more than 30 years. It screens at 3 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Castro.