Adolf and Me

Note this essay is a companion piece to previous essay titled: “Human Pearls,” describing gallbladder surgery.

I returned home from the hospital following my gallbladder removal feeling basically fine, but anticipating a few days of serious recuperation on the couch in front of the TV.  I heartily agree that TV is mostly a vast wasteland, and my TV watching is always combined with another dim bulb activity such as knitting or doing a crossword.  However, my energy level had dipped below multi-tasking so I knew that the TV would have to be my sole source of entertainment.  This called for careful channel selection to find something that I could nap in and out of without losing or caring about the gist of the show. 

 I surfed through my usual hierarchy of shows – Law and Order the flagship show and its spawn, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (referred to in our house as the “fluid in the panties” show).  No luck there.  It used to be that you could find some sort of Law and Order on at all times of the day, but it seems to have dipped a bit in popularity, probably due to overexposure.  Next I checked out sports, looking for either a football or hockey game.  Baseball is just too boring even for low wattage, postsurgical recuperation.  No luck here either.  When I began to check out the networks offering realities shows and 60s reruns, I knew I was slipping down the ladder into tenuous programming.  Bitchy housewives, small claims courts and reruns of Bonanza were the types of shows that you would be embarrassed to be caught watching, even if you had a fresh surgical scar as justification.   I finally settled on the channel of last resort – The Military Channel.  What can I say, I have always enjoyed military history, and I have previously relied on this channel as a toggler to avoid ads on other marginally acceptable shows. 

 The Military Channel was featuring a WWII marathon and my afternoon started with Hitler giving a histrionic speech.   Clearly, the man knew how to manipulate a nation of angry citizens who were in the grip of economic disaster in the aftermath of Word War I.  Rallies, parades and banners are a time honored technique to stoke nationalistic pride.  Even I feel a flush of American pride as I watch our little community 4thof July parade, and I can imagine the effect when magnified a million of time over in the famous Nuremburg rally  of 1934.  The speech was not translated, so I did not have the benefit of his frenzied rhetoric, but even so I would have thought that a commanding physical presence would be necessary to mesmerize an entire nation and create a deified personality cult.  This is where Hitler utterly failed.  He has an extremely plain face and unathletic pear shaped body accentuated by jodhpurs.  His hair is thin and oily and he has a bad haircut.  The Military Channel informs me that he would purposely arrive late at his speeches in order to build up the excitement of the rapt audience, and then when he did arrive he would stand silent at the podium for several minutes before he launched into his speech.  This was designed to further stoke the crowd’s anticipation, but to me, he looks nervous, stiff and awkward.  The speech starts slowly and then crescendos until he is shouting and spitting, accompanied by frantic hand gestures while rocking back and forth on his heels.  He frequently clenches his fists, but does so with slightly limp wrists, so the whole effect is effeminate.  He pauses after a particularly impactful phrase and crosses his arms, but does so with a flouncing movement – again effeminate.  He stops to smooth his sweaty hair, again that limp wrist and again effeminate –  a far cry from his Aryan ideal of a master race.  The show shows images of the propaganda movie Triumph of the Will, and I see the perfect ideal of the master race – bare chested men throwing hay bales onto a truck – think of the messenger boy/boyfriend Rolf in the movie Sound of Music.    All the men are tall, toned, handsome and blond, characteristics that absolutely do not apply to Hitler and his cronies Goring (fat, heroin addict) and Goebbels (short, ugly, gimpy leg).

The Military Channel is very adept and taking war footage and formatting it into different aspects of the war – there will be a show on a specific battle, and then a show on a specific piece of equipment, such as different kinds of planes, or the role of tanks, and then a profile of a specific general.  So maybe they are using the same footage over and over again, but it does seem that there was a camera man documenting every aspect of the war – both Axis and Allies.  There were many crowd shots, both of the army and desperate refugees, and I wondered if  viewers ever spot someone they know in these random shots.  But the one show that I would like to see is one devoted to Hitler’s moustache.  The “toothbrush” moustache is now known as the “Hitler” moustache and is a universal symbol of evil.  All anyone has to do to demonize a poster is to quickly add a couple strokes of a pen beneath the lip and the message is instantly clear – you are looking at a sociopathic despot.  According to one anecdote, Hitler apparently started his army career with a handlebar moustache, which was popular among the army elite, but as a minor officer in the trenches, he was ordered to shave it off because it did not fit under a gas mask.  Hilter then apparently adopted his trademark moustache full time as a rejection of the army elite and a celebration of the common soldier. 

However, as I logged my third hour with Adolf and his mates, I wondered why no on else had adopted this same style – none of his generals had a similar moustache and I never saw another toothbrush moustache in any of the crowd shots.  One would think German citizens would be eager to copy the upper lip of their adored leader.  While Oliver Hardy and Charlie Chaplin may have had Hitler moustaches, the only German that I could come up with who had such a moustache was the character of the bumbling buffoonish Sergeant Schultz in the 1960’s TV show Hogan’s Heroes, a sitcom that inexplicably found great success in making a German prison camp into a comedy.  Many found the show in reprehensible taste.  In response the networks pointed out that the Germans in the show, Sergeant Schultz and Colonol Klink were, in fact, Jews who had fled Germany, with the bizarre implication that this casting made the premise acceptable.  

Although I was committed to the Military Channel as my main focus,  I needed a good alternative channel for the ads.  I was delighted to find that America’s Next Top Model was on an different ad schedule and this became my go-to toggler.  This reality show featured a gaggle of coltish teenagers who are routinely transformed into alien creatures with layers of make-up, theatrical hair do, unrealistic clothes and then asked to assume weird poses.  One photo shoot required them to model jewelry while a tarantula crawled across their face.  Between shoots, the girls make catty comments about each other and talk about “stepping up their game,” and “pushing through;”  many of them did not appear to have a plan B if they got booted off the show.  Unexpectedly, I find myself seriously rooting for Laura from Kentucky, who had a very charming personality and southern accent and also looks like my cousin Serin.    

Okay, back to the Military Channel, but unfortunately there is an ad here also, but this gives me a chance to see who is advertising on this obscure channel, which in turn reflects the presumed demographics of the viewers, and it is clearly not me.  There are ads for wheelchairs, catheters and insurance policies that make you feel guilty about burdening your loved ones with your “final expenses.”  Then there is an add about a coin commemorating the 9/11 attacks, which includes an image of the twin towers. But wait, there’s more, the towers themselves are made from “priceless silver recovered in a bank vault in the ashes of ground zero.”  The ad then claims that the source of the silver is “triple authenticated,” by whom and under what authority is left vague, leading me to believe that anything that requires that type of authentication is probably fake in the first place.  But wait there’s even more – the towers themselves are on a hinge.  You can insert your fingernail under one of the towers just as if you were starting to pick a scab, and voila, you raise the towers from the ashes so that they are vertical.  Hogan’s Heroes is in bad taste, but so is this.

It is now 3 o’clock and thankfully, my afternoon with Adolf has come to an end.  I have discovered that I have entered into Law and Order territory, and am looking forward to a respite from war and sociopaths and enjoying some good, basic domestic violence. 

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like post, spot, stop).  The number of dashes indicates the number of letters.  One of the anagrams will be at the end of the line and will rhyme with preceding or following line, giving you a big hint.  Your job is to solve the missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.  Scroll down for the answers.

In the 1930s the German were frustrated and ——-

Defeated and blamed for the catastrophic world war they had waged,

Hitler stoked the resentments and ——- the crowd,

Restoring national pride was the thing he continually vowed.

Hilter’s rhetoric was like a verbal ——- that created a personality cult

 And an adoring and willfully oblivious public was the tragic result.







Answer: enraged, angered, grenade

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