On this day…

On this day, December 9th, in 1983, I first got to see more than just a few glimpses of Star Wars. That’s the reason why December 9th will always be an important date to me.

However, a lot of other things happened on December 8th/9th:

On December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was shot. This is the anniversary everybody is remembering at the moment with John Lennon songs on the radio, John Lennon documentaries on TV and a whole lot of posthumous eulogies and – sadly – smears.

I actually remember John Lennon’s death (my awareness of world and media events kicks in around 1978/1979), though I didn’t quite grasp at age seven why everybody was so upset at the death of some singer I’d never heard of. It didn’t help that the local radio station was playing “Yesterday” up and down, a song I didn’t particularly like, and barely mentioned all of the other songs he and Paul McCartney had written. If only they’d mentioned that John Lennon was also responsible for “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus Garden”, both of which I loved due to their Sesame Street renditions, my sentiments would have been different.

As it was, I didn’t learn to love the Beatles until 1987, when we were shown a video of Help! at school. Help! was my school’s go-to video to show for those lazy, just before the holidays lessons. I must have seen it four or five times all in all. Nowadays, I wonder how sick the teachers must have been of showing that one film again and again to class after class, considering how I feel about watching Chuck again and again with my students. However, we only ever saw the beginning of Help!, never the ending, because the film was longer than the lesson. I still don’t know how Ringo Starr escaped human sacrifice.

Coincidentally, seeing Help! so many times at school was not just the beginning of liking the Beatles, but also the moment I first took note of director Richard Lester‘s work, whose films from the 1960s I like very much. Coincidentally, the final scene of one of the films Richard Lester made with John Lennon, How I Won the War, was shot very close to my home on the Uesener Bridge across the Weser doubling for a Rhine bridge. Legend has it that the Uesener Bridge was chosen, because it was the only surviving pre-WWII steel bridge in North Germany (which isn’t quite right, there are others). Watching How I Won the War nowadays, it is not only very obvious to anyone who’s ever been there that the final scene was shot on the Uesener Bridge, but also that it looks nothing like the Rhine at all. For starters, the Uesener Bridge is really narrow, so narrow that it’s barely possible for two cars to cross it.

On December 9th, 1960, the British soap opera Coronation Street debuted on ITV. Fifty years later, it’s still going strong and one member of the original cast, this guy, is still on the show. Right now, Coronation Street is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an epic tram crash which demolishes half the street and decimates the cast.

And on December 8th, 1985, the German soap opera Lindenstraße debuted. Lindenstraße was intended to be Germany’s answer to Britain’s Coronation Street (and I don’t believe for a minute that the similar start date was coincidence) and also the first continuing soap opera on German TV. This Sunday, Lindenstraße will be celebrating its 25th anniversary with the wedding of childhood sweethearts Klausi Beimer (who was a little kid in the original cast) and Iffi Zenker (who arrived with her pleasantly chaotic family a few years later). Iffi, who was about 12 when she joined the cast and is younger than me, is already a grandmother in the show BTW, as she became pregnant at 15 and her son in turn fathered a kid of his own in recent episodes glimpsed at my parents.

The different anniversary event episodes also illustrate the gulf between Lindenstraße and Coronation Street and German and Brit soaps respectively. Because IMO, British soap operas are leagues ahead of German soaps in style, storylines and execution. And of all German soap operas, Lindenstraße with its dour earnestness and issue storylines (anti-nuclear protests, drugs, AIDS, gay kisses, teen pregnancy, holocaust survivors, torture and forced marriages among immigrants, the plight of asylum seekers, rape) is probably the least watchable. Most of the others, while not good, are at least funny in their profound silliness. Lindenstraße, however, is just bad. Actually, a tram crash to put them all out of their profound misery would be very welcome. And please, someone lock up Anna, a character I’ve hated since her first appearance in the late 1980s and who got away with two murders at least. And yes, I watched it regularly from the very first episode in 1985 until approx. 1995. My father still watches it, as far as I know.

Finally, December 8th also marks the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Which I have absolutely nothing whatsoever to say about.

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