Friday, September 18, 2009


As we live out our daily lives in what may be the last gasps of the American empire, I am increasingly interested in East Germany, not just because I used to live there (briefly). This semester I am doing an independent study on East German documentaries: What does it mean to make a film about truth in a state where the state regulates truth (and how does that compare to our lives, where capitalism and the market regulate truth?) ? What does it mean to film and have a national film and television identity and suddenly have your identity canceled out by a few swift marks of the pen and a televised tearing down of a wall? I am peripherally familiar with the cultural and linguistic peculiarities of East Germany and Ostalgie and a country that no longer exists, but what of its visual rhetoric?

You may not realize it or even care but East Germany is so marginalized, both within Germany itself and within history. The way Americans understand it is the wall came down, happily ever after. The way most Germans understood it when I was there depended on what side of the scar of the wall you were on.

German film is marginalized to begin with. Even within Germany few people (that I met, anyway) had heard of Herzog, Fassbinder, etc. DEFA - that's East German state studio - film is even more marginalized. Stautde, Wolf, Carow, the names only serious Germanists or Eurocentric film scholars know.

So I was delighted that this book, edited by Sean Allen (whose name has an accent I'm too lazy to reproduced, apologies!) and John Sandford, like, totally exists. I got it because my friend's neighbor in Brooklyn threw it out. Seriously.

Defa: East German Cinema, 1946-1992

The book is not without flaws, but if you want to act like you know anything about DEFA film at cocktail parties, it is definitely Recommended. Therefore, it is today's recommendation.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

back and ready for...something.

Having overcome the various tribulations involved in naming furry freeloaders and HAND CANCER, I am ready once again, dear readers. to Recommend Something To You.

I rarely get a chance to read anything for fun when I am in the grasp of the semester, but I recently read Rapture Ready!: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture
by Daniel Radosh.

I am sort of obsessed with Christian pop culture. I am not a Christian nor do I have any interest in becoming one, but the bizarre grasp - you could say the stranglehold - the religion has on the culture, science, and politics of America fascinates me. So I'd wanted to read this book for a while and after only a small battle with my university's library (apparently they only have 1 copy and it's just for undergrads, WTF?) I was able to borrow a copy (but I strongly suggest you buy one through my Amazon store, because there's a recession going on, and I have a lot of student loans).

Radosh resists the trap of sneering intellectual contempt for the stuff he studies, even when I feel it's warranted, and for that he should really be commended. The book is organized as a series of adventures as he goes to a Christian rock festival, a "Jesus junk" convention, a Christian theme park in Florida, etc. While I was admittedly hoping for it to be more amusing than it was, Radosh has a lot more sympathy and empathy than was necessary.

Anyway, the Christian pop culture industry is insidious and worth $7 billion a year in America. If you ever wondered about the banalization of culture, about why well-organized groups throw a fit every time a film's released that has a bad word in it, this book goes a long way towards explaining why in an entertaining, accessible way. It is Recommended. Enjoy!

Also recommended: Hell House, 2001, a great documentary about Christian "hell houses". Entry to follow. Maybe. Depends how bad this semester eats me alive.