WEEKEND BRIEFING
Hi, Anxiety!

May 7 - It's National Anxiety Disorders Screening Day in the United States. For the fourth or fifth year in a row, I'm providing a free screening to all readers.

You can take this test right where you are.

Place the middle and index fingers of your right hand on your left wrist, applying just enough pressure to feel the gentle beating of your blood. That gentle beating is called your "pulse." This "pulse" proves you are alive, which is an indisputable symptom of anxiety disorders.

Medicate yourself as soon as possible and repeat until the world is bearable.

If you don't think you suffer from any anxiety disorders, and you think that the world is bearable just as it is, congratulations! You've already been lobotomized.

If you're feeling a little low on anxiety, however, feel free to have some of mine. I've got some excellent language anxiety building up in anticipation of my May 24 PrÝve i Dansk 3 exam, which will determine for once and for all whether I speak, understand, read, and write Danish well enough to get a certificate suitable for framing.

I've got plenty of financial anxiety, of both the incoming ("how can I make more money in a country where I'm just another immigrant grub?") and outgoing ("where the hell is all our money going?") varieties.

I've got all the standard parenting anxieties, plus a few of my own. (The fear, for example, that any day now my lovely daughter is going to transform into a hideous bat and fly away.)

I've also got anxieties about my writing, my weight, and my sanity.

My anxieties are an embarrassment of riches.

Help yourself.

* * *

And another thing: I've also been developing Almanac anxiety lately. I'm considering going back to the original (ca. 2000) weekly format. I'm going to think about it over the weekend.

(On the other hand, I'm feeling pretty good about the American in Denmark blog, which finally seems to be finding its niche.)

Hitler's Secretary

The German documentary Hitler's Secretary aired on Danish television the other night. Although it consisted almost entirely of the eponymous Traudl Junge speaking in German, and was subtitled only in Danish, I managed to follow it completely. Actually it wasn't so much a question of following it as a question of not being able to pull myself away from it.

(It has a "96% Fresh" rating from RottenTomatoes, which is one of the highest ratings I've ever seen.)

The documentary is simplicity itself. For almost the entire film, we see Traudl Junge, former secretary to Adolf Hitler, sitting in what appears to be her living room, delivering her recollections in monologue form. We are simply watching an old woman exploring her memories.

Most of her narrative concerns Hitler's final days. There has apparently been some concern that the documentary "humanizes" Hitler. I don't buy it. I've read several Hitler biographies, none of which converted me to National Socialism or into a Hitler apologist, and neither do Ms. Junge's memories.

After the war and his suicide, I had no idea what to expect the world to be like. For so long we were all in our little circle, and for so long I had heard him speak of what the world would be like if National Socialism failed. And after it was all over I discovered the world outside was not at all as he said. None of it was true. Rather than the oppression and downfall he described, there was a profound sense of liberation, of freedom. The Americans were kind and wonderful democrats.

I don't recommend many films because it's just not my thing. The internet is teeming with the recommendations of informed, opinionated people who've dedicated their entire online existence to suggesting which movies you ought to watch. It's professional etiquette: they don't write about the difficulty of learning Danish prepositions; I don't write about movies.

But if this were, say, the Moron's Movie Almanac, I'd give Hitler's Secretary four out of five somethings. (It's not perfect because there are no exploding spaceships, stylized combat scenes, or attractive nude women.)

I recommend it with uncharacteristic earnestness.

Change in the Weather

On May 6, 1758, Maximilien-Francois-Marie-Isidore de Robespierre was born. Even in the revolutionary context of his age, Mr. Robespierre stands out as one of the most revolting figures in history.

M. Robespierre fought valiantly to help revolutionary France achieve liberty, fraternity, and equality but inadvertently caused an unfortunate turn of weather known as the "rain of terror."

At first this rain caused only French loyalists to lose their heads, but M. Robespierre's egalitarian convictions led him to conclude that citoyens from all walks of life should lose theirs as well. The celebrated chemist Atoine-Laurent Lavoisier, for example, was beheaded on May 8, 1794 for having identified oxygen, which people mistakenly thought to be one of the noble gases.

M. Robespierre ended up losing his own head on the guillotine; this was called poetic justice by some Frenchmen and irony by others. This disagreement eventually produced the Napoleonic Age, in which soldiers had to crawl on their stomachs until Napoleon was disabled by the sight of Elba.

* * *

On May 6, 1937, the Hindenberg crashed and burned in Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing thirty-six but providing a really cool cover for Led Zepplin's first album.

* * *

The Moron's Almanac extends birthday greetings to British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the occassion of his 52nd Birthday today—he's certainly got plenty to celebrate. (Didn't he himself call these elections? I'm not familiar with the British voting system—is it possible he actually chose the date of yesterday's election just to have it over with before his birthday? I mean, if he knew he wanted an election roundabouts now to begin with?)

The 6th is also the birthday of George Clooney (1961), who probably won't be sending Mr. Blair a birthday card, Willie Mays (1931), Orson Welles (1915), Rudolph Valentino (1895), and Sigmund Freud (1856).

It's the Day of Bravery in the Philippines, Martyrs' Day in Lebanon and Syria (maybe just Syria, now)—probably a nice holiday to avoid if you're American, British, Danish, Polish, Italian, Bulgarian, Australian... on second thought, it's Tourist Appreciation Day and Nurses Day in America, so somebody's obviously done the math already.

Boom in a Nutshell

I've been agitating to make May 9 an American holiday for a number of years but I haven't been getting anywhere. This is partly because I've only been agitating in after-hours bars where my audiences have been less than receptive, but I'm sure it's also the Man trying to keep me down again.

The Man should stop trying to keep me down. Even the Man should appreciate the significance of May 9. On that date in 1960, the U.S. Congress passed a piece of legislation that revolutionized American culture (if you're willing to grant that it has one). Unlike other important legislation, like Murphy's Law or the Law of Gravity, this was a law you could get excited about. This was a law you could love. This was the legalization of The Pill.

Interestingly, this legislative watershed came almost exactly twenty years after an important commercial innovation: on May 15, 1940, the first nylons went on sale.

1940, nylons. 1960, oral contraceptives. 1940-1960, the baby boom.

Any questions?

Remember the Lusitania

It was on May 7, 1915, by the way, that a German submarine sank the Lusitania, killing 1100. There were no star-crossed young lovers aboard, however, so instead of making a movie about it the U.S. had to enter World War I.

Erstwhile pornstar Traci Lords turns 36 on May 7. She shares her birthday with the late, great Johnny Unitas (1933), as well as Janis Ian (1950), Eva Peron (1919), Gary Cooper (1901), Gabby Hayes (1885), Peter Tchaikovsky (1840), and Johannes Brahms (1833).

May 8 is the birthday of Melissa Gilbert (1964), Toni Tennille (1943), Don Rickles (1926), and Harry S. Truman (1884). It's Liberation Day in the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Armistice Day in France.

Enjoy the weekend!

© 2005, The Moron's Almanac™

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