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Musik Non Stop

Academic Heroes

And now for something completely different .... Rather than boring you with not so interesting information about childhood pranks (locking myself into public toilets with disturbing regularity), contagious diseases (I had scarlet fever one carnival, knocked out by antibiotics while my little brother and his buddies were merrily firing their toy guns just outside my window) and favourite stuffed toys (a "Steiff" rabbit by the name of Ossili), here a list of adult pleasures.

The Moving Image

  • One, Two, Three (Billy Wilder). Apparently, people in Berlin were none too pleased about Wilder's hilarious take on American interventionism in post-war Berlin - here embodied by an ambitious Coca-Cola manager (James Cagney) brainwashing an East Berlin communist who is about to elope with his boss's rather silly daughter (by now impregnated by the enemy) into an aristocratic alter ego compliant with capitalism. The best lines are given to communist Otto Piffl (Horst Buchholz) in his slanging matches with MacNamara (Cagney): "Russian spaceships go to Venus - American spaceships go to Miami Beach" and "Capitalism is like a fish in the sun: it glitters, but it stinks."

  • Die Zürcher Verlobung (Helmut Käutner). This German classic is much more raunchy than the usual Wirtschaftswunder fare (for one thing, the female protagonist is a single, independent woman caught between three men, who finally chooses the least likely of the trio - a grumpy film director known as "Buffalo" - as her partner). What is more, the film cleverly makes the point of how fiction sometimes seems to shape fact in disturbing ways. My first encounter with the concept of metafiction - long before I started to bother innocent students with the term - which never ceases to have me in stitches.

  • Storytelling (Todd Solondz) Why watch Michael Moore when there are intelligent American directors around?

  • Oh, I like this one, too: Fahrenheit 451



Among my favourite types of humour (apart from straight slapstick) is what I'd call "the comedy of unease," of which Ricky Gervais is the most striking recent representative around:

Though I must say, I like Gareth even more:

Territorial Army, wot? Oh, don't we all know a Gareth? All those guys trying to impress you with their middle- to low-brow fascinations -- like Sting, Ken Follett and Steven Spielberg - or Michael Moore, for that matter?

Gervais and Merchant are not the first to use this sense of humour. Britfilm buffs will of course remember Mike Leigh's cringe-inducing classic Abigail's Party. Alison Steadman as a self-important bully Beverly is pure David Brent - or rather, the other way round. I'm afraid a trailer was not to be found. The film is available on DVD, though, and highly recommended!

As an avowed Franconian, I indulge every now and then in some Lokalpatriotismus. This is why I like Erwin Pelzig, one of three alter egos of comedian Frank-Markus Barwasser -- all of whom remind me faintly of people I used to know back home.


Musik Non-stop

While I find the current fashion echoes of my 1980s childhood a wee bit disturbing (flouncy mini-skirts in hot pink, leggings [leggings!!] and off-the-shoulder baggy jumpers), the musical references to the not so past past are quite interesting. Hence this:

and this:

have an immediate energizing effect on me (rather than inducing the typical instant depression on confrontation with the Eighties). However, the real thing is not to be scorned either:

And otherwise, I like the following for absurdity and unobtrusive intelligence:


Academic Heroes

(And isn't Jeremy Paxman just such a pratt!!)

The problem with Richard Dawkins is: he is simply too brilliant to be adored with a clear conscience. Though his mild excitement when battling with hypocrites of whichever creed and denomination is a rather endearing feature indeed. You can tell he's boiling inside when yet another believer tells him the earth is only 6,000 years old and Neanderthal children used to ride on dinosaurs. Let's face it folks, The Flintstones is no reliable scientific source!

But then, I am also still taken by the performances of a certain Slovene philosopher whose appearance is closer to the Lacanian Real:

"At least something went terribly wrong" is probably the best thing you can say about the universe, eh?

My favourite fictional academic hero, however, is Prof. Karl-Friedrich Boerne (aka Jan-Josef Liefers) , the pathologist with a difference (and a vertically challenged assistant called Alberich), from the German crime show Tatort.