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German TV Series are Finally Taking Off

German TV series are finally taking off. Both historical drama and contemporary drama are red hot right now. Since GERMANY 83, a great Cold War spy drama based on the Able Archer NATO maneuver, all major streaming services have announced their own German productions: THE SAME SKY is an East German spy drama set in the 1970s. BABYLON BERLIN shows us the Roaring Twenties in a bipolar Berlin, torn between lavish parties and gruesome street violence. 4 BLOCKS is a gritty depiction of the present-day Neukölln mob. There is more: YOU ARE WANTED, DARK, CHARITÉ, EIGHT DAYS. Exciting times.

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Why is the NY Times so interested in Berlin?

It seems that Germany has become super important for the United States. At least I got the impression that the NYT is featuring my country more prominently these days. Alas, not in foreign policy. Rather on sexism, swabian separatists, comedians, and "creative types":

1. Today: "Germany's Sexism Provokes Backlash" by Melissa Eddy and Chris Cottrell. A serious topic, which is very popular on Twitter at the moment.

2. Eleven days ago: "Swabian Separatists Fling Spätzle to Make a Point" by Nicholas Kulish:

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Best Music Videos for the US Elections

I have tuned out of the Republican presidential debates. Too much pandering, too much silly campaign rhetoric. I wrote about their statements on Europe, for instance in Gingrich, Romney rely on Eurobashing to "define their America" and "Europe" is a Dirty Word in the United States. I do, however, tune into official and unoffical campaign music videos.

Here are my three favorites so far in this election cycle: The best music video for a presidential candidate (Rick Santorum), the best video against a presidential candidate (Newt Gingrich), and the most bizarre one from a (former) candidate (Herman Cain).

1. While I don't agree with Rick Santorum's political views, I consider this the best music video for a presidential candidate. It helps me to better understand why so many Americans like him and why his campaign is so successful at the moment. The music video "Game On" by the band First Love, praises Rick Santorum's stands on faith, abortion, and manufacturing:

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Some Good News for a Change: Afghanistan's Pop Idol

The Taliban had banned music and 99% of everything else that is fun. Now, an Afghan version of the "American Idol" called "Afghan Star" has been broadcasted for seven seasons. Millions are watching and voting for their favorite singers by mobile phone. For many this is their first encounter with democracy. A documentary from 2009 follows "the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk all to become the nation's favorite singer."

Watch the latest show from this week: 

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Kinder Surprise Eggs Banned in the United States

Since it is Easter, CNN writes this:

Kinder Eggs, a popular European chocolate egg that contains a toy inside, is banned from importation into the United States because it contains a "non-nutritive object embedded in it."

With the Easter holiday around the corner, the agency issued the reminder this week, warning that the candy is considered unsafe for children under 3. Last year, Customs and Border Protection seized 25,000 of them in 1,700 incidents.

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How Many Like Steve?

Steve Coll - whose book on the Bin Laden family we plugged - laments the 'end of civilisation' on his The New Yorker blog:
Before takeoff, as usual, I had thumbed through my email on my BlackBerry. As the in-flight wireless signal popped up on my laptop (fourteen dollars, including tax) I remembered all of what was left undone and decided to sign up.

[...]

I note that the Very Important Book, whose last hundred pages I had expected to finish before landing, sits tucked into the seatback pocket in front of me, in no particular danger of being read. My mission now is not to forget about it altogether and leave it on the airplane. These airliner tubes, with their confined hours-long intervals, had been a last refuge from the grid, a sort of enforced library reading room. Those of us in the bound-and-printed intellectual-property creation racket had best reconsider tweeting.
Sound familiar?

When I review my yearly Christmas reading - it is, again, the season - the Worldchanging book from last year sits in the shelf as an occassional reference, while I'm due for a third start-over of Against the Day, a novel I received two years ago. Both wonderful books, but not the type to easily read from cover to cover (I did manage a number of shorter books in between). A dismal record. This year, the reading will be somewhat less... liberal as I've settled on Drezner's 'All Politics is Global'.

Dealing with the Past in 'New Europe'

Guardian correspondent Jonathan Steele has an interesting piece about the different significance Lithuania attaches to the victims of Communism and of Nazism. He describes walking through the 'Museum of Genocide Victims':
But as I moved from room to dismal room, I had a growing sense something was missing. Vilnius was once known as the Jerusalem of the North. What about the Jews? Did their fate not merit remembrance? In a corridor I eventually found a placard with a brief, though telling, mention. It gave estimates for the victims of Lithuania's Soviet occupation and of the Nazi one as well. The number summarily shot, or who died in prison and during deportation in the Soviet period, reached 74,500. During three years of Nazi rule from June 1941, those killed amounted to 240,000, "including about 200,000 Jews".
It is worth noting that this is a general issue throughout the former communist countries of Europe. It is not hard to predict that countries will tend to play up their own victimhood and not discuss their complicity in a genocide. This was also the initial reaction of the West European countries that were occupied by the nazis. Over time, however, that has been replaced by a more critical narrative.

"Germany's Intolerant and Militaristic Culture"

"Support for the far-right National Democratic Party quadrupled in local elections in the eastern state of Saxony on Sunday. In the village of Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, one in four voters chose the NPD," writes Spiegel International.

Michael van der Galien of the PoliGazette blames Germany's culture for these election results. He also claims that most of his Dutch compatriots "basically believe that what happened in World War II was not an 'accident,' but a logical result of Germany's intolerant and militaristic culture."

Such accusations will not lead to more German troops for Afghanistan, more burden sharing within NATO or a higher defense spending, which have been long-standing demands by the United States and other NATO allies. Instead these accusations contribute to the dominant feeling among the majority of Germans that we should not participate in any wars on foreign soil anymore.

Well, the Dutch press -- in contrast to their US or Canadian counterparts -- has not called for more German troops for Afghanistan. I thought the reason was that they understand that there just is not enough support among the rather pacifist (a better term might be: "war-weary") German public. Though, perhaps van der Galien is right and "the Dutch" are really concerned about the next invasion by their xenophobic and militaristic neighbors and therefore they don't want the Germans to play a stronger military role in Afghanistan, but I doubt it. I think he exaggerates Dutch concerns regarding Germany.