The Heintje Never Stops

It’s official. If I die, one line of my obituary will read "In 2005, Hammel unwittingly created an online forum for people who love the 1970s German child star Heintje. This turned out to be his most significant contribution to public discourse."

No other post has gathered such a consistent and varied stream of worldwide comments as my ruminations (rather rude ones, I might add) on Heintje.

In a desperate bid for more website hits, and to help Judith the Heintje fan, let me promote the latest Heintje comment to the main page of this blog.

Hi Heintje fans

Heintje cds can be found on

I have been trying to find a dvd of his film "Ich sing ein lied fur dich" which I saw at the cinema in Hong Kong in 1970.

Does anybody know where I can find one?


Go visit the post to find Judith’s email, and help her re-live her fond memories. 

One question: What on earth was a Heintje movie doing playing in Hong Kong?

Vacation Policies in Europe and the USA

A recent report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. compared government policy on paid vacation time among OECD nations. No surprises here; the chart says it all:


A couple caveats here: the report’s authors don’t seem to have considered U.S. state law. I suspect that that more liberal U.S. states probably do provide mandated paid vacation, and it might be helpful to know which ones do. Nevertheless, as the authors correctly note, there’s no federal regulation on the subject, so states are free to act as they please. As for Germany, the authors note: "[T]here is only one national public holiday, German Unity Day. Other public holidays are determined on the state level, and vary between 0 and 16."

Of course, American workers do get holidays. As usual, though, the amount of vacation you get will vary with your social power:

On average, private-sector workers in the United States have about nine days of paid vacation per year, plus about six paid holidays. . . . .  [P]art-time workers, low earners, and workers in small establishments (fewer than 100 workers) are less likely to receive paid vacation and paid holidays, and when they do, these workers receive fewer paid days off. Lower-wage workers are less likely (69 percent) than higher-wage workers (88 percent) to have paid vacations.

Mandatory paid vacation is a classic welfare-state policy. Policies like these serve at least three functions. First, they ensure that everybody gets some vacation. Second, they ‘signal’ that leisure time is an important social value and policy goal. As the report notes, most European employers actually go above the minimum requirements voluntarily. Third, they ensure that the gap between rich and poor in vacation time does not become too large.

In any society, the highly-qualified or well-connected have a lot of autonomy concerning how much they choose to work. Of course, many choose to work extremely hard, but they don’t have to; they can bargain away money and prestige in favor of leisure time (or time with the family) whenever they wish. It’s the less-qualified, ‘interchangeable’ workers that get the short end when there are no policies to protect them. Put another way, if you’re a low-skilled employee in Europe, you’re not more likely than an American low-skilled employee to get more than the legal minimum of paid vacation. But, as we see, that legal minimum is very different…

Funder on the Impossibility of Das Leben der Anderen

Anna Funder, author of the excellent Stasiland (which I reviewed here), writes in The Guardian that despite Das Leben der Anderen‘s appeal as a movie, the assumption it’s based on — that a Stasi spy might take pity on the subjects of his surveillance and shield them from persecution — just could not have happened:

The ex-Stasi are vociferous in their claims of being "victims of democracy". But the truth is that, by and large, they are doing much better in the new Germany than the people they oppressed. They have the educations and solid work histories they denied their victims. Many of them were snapped up by security firms and private detective agencies eager for their considerable expertise, or they went into business, skilled as they are – to perhaps an unholy degree – in "managing" people. Surprisingly often, they sold property and insurance, occupations unknown in the Soviet bloc. (I think they had a head start here – after all, they were schooled in the art of convincing people to do things against their better judgment.)

[Dr. Hubertus] Knabe [director of the Hohenschoenhausen memorial (G)] is no doubt correct about the internal surveillance of the Stasi making it physically impossible for a Stasi man to try to save people. But in my experience, the more frightening thing is that they didn’t want to. The institutional coercion made these men into true believers; it shrank their consciences and heightened their tolerance for injustice and cruelty "for the cause".

Von Donnersmarck spent four years researching the film, and knows as well as anyone that there is no case of a Stasi man trying to save victims. He has said: "I didn’t want to tell a true story as much as explore how someone might have behaved. The film is more of a basic expression of belief in humanity than an account of what actually happened." The terrible truth is that the Stasi provide no material for a "basic expression of belief in humanity". For expressions of conscience and courage, one would need to look to the resisters.


The international contemporary art show Documenta, held in the German city of Kassel, is just around the corner. Needless to say, I’m already planning a visit. And it looks like they’re already beginning to epater les bourgeois. Yesterday, for a short time, the documenta website was ‘taken over’ by link (G) to an S & M video created by a Berlin-based performance artist and "theoretician" Hito Steyerl (G).

Here’s an English-language description from Artworld Salon:

An hour ago, Artworld Salon regular Heman Chong informed me that an extremely NSFW [= Not Safe for Work, ah] video (bondage, nudity, etc, in the Araki style) was had just been posted on the main page of Documenta’s website. It’s the trailer for “Lovely Andrea” by Hito Steyerl, and ties into Documenta theme number 2, “What is bare life?” explained thus on the site: “Bare life deals with that part of our existence from which no measure of security will ever protect us. But, as in sexuality, absolute exposure is intricately connected with infinite pleasure.” I watched it in disbelief, and started to write this post.

And then fifteen minutes later it was gone. (There’s a link to the video in YouTube here. Sometimes it seems to be password-protected,UPDATE: “This video has been removed due to terms of use violation.” Here are some NSFW screencaps.) Kremlinologists of the artworld, how shall we parse this: Is someone inside subverting Buergel’s secretiveness? Is this more of his peekaboo promotional tactics? Or perhaps a sign of boldness, that was suddenly second-guessed and yanked offline? (UPDATE: It’s answer #2, see comment from Heman below.)

In said comment, Heman Chong, whose name I’d kill for, says: "Apparently, according to my insider sources, the video will be up for a couple of hours each day for the next couple of days. So it might be worth it to troll around your computer to catch a glimpse of it."

French Word of the Week: Internaute

Last night I caught a bit of a documentary on arte about the influence of the Internet on the recent French elections. Francois Bayrou was out in front using the Internet to mobilize voters, and even proposed an Internet debate. Alas, he found — like so many before him — that the Internet still only reaches a tiny fraction of the country’s population. The smartest, best-looking fraction, of course, but still just a fraction. In France, where 85% of the population voted in this last Presidential election, that’s not enough.

People who use the Internet are called, in French, internautes. Shouldn’t this word be brought into English, and even German? Why can’t we all be called Internauts, or Internauten? I hereby announce a world-wide initiative, the Global Internaut Alliance (GIA, not to be confused with the Armed Islamic Group) to make this happen.

Oh, an one other funny thing was the action of French independent-media entrepreneur Karl Zéro. As a gesture of protest against French election law — which forbids the release of vote projections until hours after the polls have closed — he announced himself as a "refugee" in front of the Belgian Embassy in Paris, so that he could post the projections on his website. They let him inside, and he went straight to a computer — only to find out that the Internet had crashed everywhere in France owing to huge demand for election information. Or, least, that’s what they told him…

The Texas Bohemians

You should all probably run right out and buy volumes one and two of Texas Bohemia, a compilation of live and recorded performances by the Bohemian and German bands of south central Texas.

A German fellow named Thomas Meinecke got excited by the existence of this cast-off bit of Central European folk culture, and visited Texas himself to record bands and buy records. He and his group released two records in the mid 1990s — In Germany as well as the US. Not only is there all the beer-soaked oompa-ing you can shake a stick at, the liner notes to both albums are beautifully-written mini-essays conveying Meinecke’s passion for the Texas heritage of this odd, sleepy part of the USA and the "unbelievably strange farmer-swing" it produces.

Herewith a translation of the first few paragraphs of the Texas Bohemia liner notes. Below, you’ll find a link to a song. 

The Country

As we rolled into the little town of Frelsburg in 1992, our fuel gauge had been on empty quite a while. The sun had already begun to go down, but in Heinsohn’s General Store (Gemischtwarenhandlung!) the light was still on. We drove behind the building and filled up our tank with some cheap gasoline. We could hear old Heinsohn there at the cash register, debating the merits of a new kind of cow feed with a few local farmers. In an unmistakable Lower Saxony dialect. We joined the conversation, asked about the background of the locals, and learned that their great-grandfathers had come from the Bremen area. For dinner, we can recommend Hackemack’s nearby beer hall, and Keiler’s renovated hotel in Fayetteville.

The next day, the oppressive heat continued. After breakfast in Orsak’s Czech Cafe, we bought a package of fresh kolaches at Chovanek’s. In Warrenton, behind Oldeburg and Walhalla, be visited the old wooden Harmonia Liederhalle, and in the tiny town of Round Top an old gray-haired fellow named Herr Knutzen recounted to us, in absolutely perfect Holstein idioms, about coyote hunting and that unfortunate shoot-out in the old saloon that had driven his father ’round the bend 60 years ago. In Sacks’ spic and span mom-and-pop store, we got some ice-cold refreshments, and behold, Ronny Sacks, only 41 years old, conversed with us in the most fluent German you could imagine. We’d read here and there that Germany is in Texas, but the fact that even two world wars weren’t enough to exterminate the German language in the USA was news to us. As with the Cajuns in Louisiana, it was also here the television-driven uniformization (Gleichschaltung) of the youth culture in the 1960s that put an end to the all-too-lovingly cultivated old-country habits of the various individual ethic groups.

In contrast to the Cajun country of southwest Louisiana, the German and Bohemian enclaves in Central and South Texas are less well-known. I heard a reference years ago in an interview with Ry Cooder to the diversity of the musical cultures of the Texas-Czechs and Germans. The fundamental influence of the accordion-driven polkas and waltzes of the German immigrants on the Tex-Mex music along the Mexican border had already been explored by Cooder on his own records, not least through his collaboration with conjunto-accordion great Flaco Jimenez.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Texas bands like the Sir Douglas Quintet or Brave Combo repeatedly brought German and Czech elements into their music, and even the Texas Swing of the 1930s (Bob Wills), as well as the beer-soaked Honky Tonk music of the 50s (Hank Thompson) was clearly based on the central European two-step, the Polka. In the 1980s, the California folk label Arhoolie/Folklyric brought out two albums which made the Bohemian music of Texas a bit better-known: one collection called Texas Czech-Bohemian bands, based on early shellac records from the 1920s to the 1950s, and a collection called South Texas Swing, with historical recordings from the Western-swing pioneer Adolph Hofner. I grabbed up both records, and was thrilled — as with Cajun and Tex-Mex music — by the aesthetic bonus of European folklore music gains overseas (rhythm, soul, booze, and electrification), and could not wait to visit Bohemian Texas myself.

And now, for your musical enjoyment, the Knutsch Band with "Zwei Wie Wir Zwei".