Sunday, December 12, 2004

East meets West

Ate at Bodean's BBQ Smoke House in Soho today. Fantastic food: creamy, chunky clam chowder, BBQ ribs with coleslaw and beans, key lime pie that was not too sweet, and a few Bloody Mary's. Bright tartan carpet, leather booths, brisk (and cute) waiters. With Chattanooga Choo Choo streaming through the bathroom, in all it was a really comforting afternoon.

Then back home to watch Goodbye, Lenin! on DVD.

When Christiane wakes up from a coma, her two grown children try desperately to prevent her from discovering that her beloved East Berlin is no more. The Wall has come down, the statue of Lenin is being hawled away by helicopter, Coca Cola is advertising on a wall outside her apartment and her favourite pickles are now being imported from Holland.

But Christiane is not to know this because in order to speed her recovery by not causing her undue stress, her children and their friends fake TV news reports of the continuing triumph of Communism, replace the labels of Dutch pickle jars with Russian ones, and blindfold her during a surprise trip through the city to their country cabin. Her daughter somehow manages to hide the fact that she gave up her economics degree for a job at Burger King, and her son manages to convince her that all these modern cars on the road and strangers moving in to neighbouring apartments are the result of people fleeing West Germany for the non-consumerist values of the DDR!

I quite liked this German update of the Rip Van Winkle story for its quirkiness and absurdities. At times it was also quite touching.

But the mother is merely a pawn for her children's antics and you have to wonder how an intelligent, politicised woman would be so easily duped for so long. The movie would have been far stronger and more powerful had the script fashioned a Christiane more savvy to her children's games.

Related links:
+ How the GDR became cool

Other links today:

+ One of the things that struck me about William Gibson's novel "Pattern Recognition" was the stealth marketing tactics of one of the characters, Magda, employed by companies to name-drop their products casually into conversations at clubs, on the steet, and in stores. So I was interested to read a recent New York Times article on hidden persuaders.

+ "This was not architecture for humans, but architecture for machines, everything ordered to assist the movement of molten steel, and winnow out the slag, all intake and outtake, converting one form of matter to another." The pleasures and pathos of industrial ruins. I never thought I'd be so interested in reading about steel, but I've read this post three five times already.

+ Peace-bombing. "The Thai government has dropped an estimated one hundred million paper origami birds over the country's Muslim south in an unusual peace bid after a surge of violence in the area."

+ The Yes Men — "anti-corporate activist-pranksters" - strike again, but this seems particularly cruel to the Bhopal victims who were also duped into believing a big payout was pending.

+ You can now rent DVDs from Amazon UK

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