October 3 is the Day of German Unity, which commemorates the German reunification on October 3, 1990.
This year’s celebrations seem strangely subdued. Sure, there is the official celebration in the former capital of Bonn and there are the requisite speeches by all important politicians about how East and West have grown together/need to grow together. But usually, the TV schedules are full of East Germany and unification themed films and documentaries around October 3. Goodbye Lenin is always on somewhere, as is Das Leben der Anderen. This year, however, I haven’t seen either film in the TV listings, though a private channel is broadcasting Go Trabi Go in a late night slot. Well, it is East Germany/reunification themed, even if it is a slapstick comedy.
It almost seems as if last year’s 20th anniversary celebrations have dampened the mood for this year’s celebrations. Perhaps German unity is so established by now that we will only commemorate it in depth every five or ten years now. Which is probably a good thing, because it means normality.
On the other hand, October 3 is not really that meaningful a date for most Germans. Yes, it’s a public holiday and that’s nice. But the day that everybody remembers and that everybody has stories about is November 9, 1989, the day the wall fell. By comparison, I remember very little of October 3, 1990, except that I was angry, because a TV show I liked had been pushed back into a long past midnight slot, because they had to broadcast all sorts of official unification ceremonies first. And that I spent midnight on October 3, 1990, sitting on the toilet following the call of nature, because I used to tell people later on that I shat upon German unity. Yes, I was a very angry anti-patriot at the time.
Anyway, if you want to celebrate the Day of German Unity and don’t have a DVD of Goodbye Lenin or The Lives of Others or even Go Trabi Go handy, you could always read The Other Side of the Curtain, a spy story set in East Germany in 1965.
That was the ad break. And now on to today’s links:
The Lingua Franca blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education offers an amusing post on the specifically American irrational fear of the passive voice. I think we have decades of college classes regurgitating the questionable advice of Mssrs Strunk and White to thank for the anti-passive fanaticism.
I particularly liked this bit:
Am I seriously supposed to say “But an unexpected eventuality disrupted all plans”? And “when an oncologist named Price diagnosed her … “?
More generally, do the writing tutors of the world really think we should not report that a politician has been shot until we can specify the gunman? Do they honestly think it’s wrong to say that the lights are left on all night in an office building without supplying a list of the individuals who controlled the switches?
These examples are similar to the ones I use with my students to explain when the passive is appropriate. Except that instead of the doctor diagnosing a fatal illness I always used Lady Jane Grey being executed as an example for a case where the object of the action, i.e. the person to whom something is done, is more important than the actor. Though this year I updated my example sentence to “Osama Bin Laden was shot by Navy SEALs” to explain the principle.
The Lingua Franca blog looks very enjoyable in general. Here’s another amusing post about thriller writer Lee Child or rather his character Jack Reacher getting his phonetics mixed up.
The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating photo gallery of the home of designers Charles and Ray Eames in Pacific Palisades. What I find particularly interesting is that the house is not the austere and ascetic abode you would expect from a pair of famous midcentury interior designers. Instead, it looks warm and alive. I wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon there.
Finally, I also have a new post with several e-publishing related links up at Pegasus Pulp.