The Moron's Weekend Briefing

Oct. 11 - Picture this. You're hanging out with a friend, catching each other up on your busy lives, when he suddenly exclaims, "Oh! I found the greatest little French restaurant!" (It doesn't have to be French or a restaurant--it could be a remote golf course, a cool bookstore, a cozy little bar, a crack house, anything.)

Whether or not you actually care, you'll feign interest because this person is your friend. We all feign for our friends. And our friends, being our friends, usually know that we're feigning. It doesn't bother them any more than it bothers us. So they go on.

"Julie and I wound up in a new part of town the other night, and we were both starving, and we stumbled into this fantastic French bistro."

(All right, your friend is David and Julie's his girlfriend. You probably never really liked Julie, but that's beside the point. David's trying to communicate. Give the poor guy a chance.)

"The service was spectacular, the place was elegant but casual, very romantic, the food was out of this world, the wine was exquisite, and it was still the cheapest dinner I've had in years."

(David's always using words like spectacular and exquisite, but stifle your nausea just a little longer. He needs to get this off his chest.)

"We couldn't believe our luck, finding it by accident the way we did. What a discovery!"

He's waiting for you to prompt him. Nod. Good. Smile. Very good.

"Well, you know me. I'm not about to walk away from a discovery like that. You know what we did? I asked the waiter to introduce us to the owner. When she came to our table, I distracted her while Julie snuck up from behind with a steak knife and slit her throat. We herded the wait staff into the walk-in, locked them in, painted our names on the sign in front of the restaurant, and now it's all ours!"

Don't be too hard on David... he's only following the historical precedent set by Christopher Columbus, who "discovered" the Bahamas on October 12, 1492.

Don't get me wrong. I admire Columbus, but it seems to me that in calling his conquest of the Bahamas a "discovery" we do grave injury to the indigineous peoples of that island nation, and still graver injury to the English language. David and Julie didn't discover their French restaurant--they stumbled across it. They liked it. They took it.

A few hundred years ago, there was nothing shameful in that kind of behavior. Anyone who's ever studied Latin or done a couple of crossword puzzles knows that Caesar even bragged about it. "I came, I saw, I conquered," he said. He certainly didn't say, "I came, I saw, I spread the beneficent light of western civilization into hitherto benighted cesspools of squalor."

So instead of praising Columbus for his discovery, or damning him for his conquest, it might be more appropriate simply to recognize him as history's most aggressive tourist.

The wave of aggressive European tourists that followed Columbus is often criticized for having brought war and pestilence to the primeval bliss of the Americas. This is unfair. War and pestilence already existed throughout the New World, but her peoples had not yet become sophisticated enough to commercialize them. Human history is just the side-effect of our gradually improving ability to kill one another. Aggressive European tourists helped the budding civilizations of the New World acquire in decades what it had taken Western Civilization centuries to develop on its own.

Where's the gratitude?

On October 12, 1960, at a U.N. general assembly, Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev pounded his desk with his shoe. This resulted in the popular stereotype of the Soviet Dictator who pounds his desk with his shoe.

Many Soviet Dictators did not pound their desks with their shoes.

Also worth noting: On October 11, 1899, the Bores of South Africa declared war on Great Britain in the hopes of generating Interest. On October 11, 1976, the Gang of Four were arrested in Peking. On October 13, 1903, the Boston Red Sox beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series. The Boston Red Sox. Not the Yankees. The Red Sox.

October 11 is the birthday of Steve Young (1961), Elmore Leonard (1925), Jerome Robbins (1918), Eleanor Roosevelt (1884), and Henry John Heinz (1844).

October 12 is the birthday of Kirk Cameron (1970), Susan Anton (1950), Luciano Pavarotti (1935), and Dick Gregory (1932).

October 13 is the birthday of Nancy Kerrigan (1969), Jerry Rice (1962), Marie Osmond (1959), Paul Simon (1941), Lenny Bruce (1925), Margaret Thatcher (1925), Nipsey Russell (1924), Art Tatum (1910), and Molly Pitcher (1754).

I forget if it's Paul Simon the former Illinois senator or Paul Simon the musical artist celebrating their 61st birthday this year, so send them each a card to cover all the bases.

And did you notice that the birthdays of Steve Young and Jerry Rice are just two days apart? Do you think they used to celebrate together on the 12th, as a kind of compromise? I bet they did.

Canadians foolishly celebrate Thanksgiving on October 11, a full five to six weeks before the holiday actually occurs. It's also the date of Revolution Day in Panama and Flag Day in Uzbekistan. (I was going to provide a link to the flag of Uzbekistan, but that would be too easy. Show some initiative, dammit.)

October 12 is Dia de la Raza in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. But it's Discovery Day in the Bahamas, Independence Day in Equatorial Guinea, and Columbus Day in the US (see above; observance varies).

October 13 is a Sunday.

Enjoy the weekend.

2002, The Moron's Almanac™

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