Bearable Taxation (etc.)

May 27 - I'm going to be in Germany for the rest of the week, so today's briefing will have to suffice until next Monday. On the plus side, though, the Moron Game should be ready to go online by then.

Ordinarily I would have put off reader mail until next week, since this briefing is so fat already (and yesterday's was so anomalous), but a reader from Moted.org said his question was a test, and I'm not going to be in the mood to fail anything after a visit to Germany.

"This is a test to see if you make all the questions up yourself and are basically lonely," he writes. The problem with that part of his question is that it only works for him, since as far as anyone else is concerned I could have made up that question just as easily as any other. It's the last test question I'll answer.

Now comes his real question, which actually sounds more like a riddle: "There's a walled town with one gate. The gate keeper asks everyone who wants to enter what their business is. If they have no business, they are immediately hung at the adjacent gallows. This works fine until a smart-ass shows up and says his business is to be hung. What should the gate-keeper do?"

Being hung is well and good, but making a business of it probably violates the town's decency laws—although I can't imagine that a town offering penile implants at its gallows would object to someone making a business of his extra-charitable endowment, but you never know. People can be very hypocritical.

If the smart-ass had said his business was to be hanged, however, it'd an entirely different question.

In that case, if I were the gatekeeper, I'd hang the bastard on principle. I've never met anyone whose business was being hanged. It's not offered by any MBA program I'm aware of, and the fundamentals strike me as flawed at best. Anyone stupid enough to pursue such a business model deserves to be hanged, even if he's hung.

An Uplifting History

Breasts are an important mammalian characteristic. They allow mothers to nurture their young through protracted infancies, and no infancy is longer than that of the human species—especially that of the American male, which often lasts until death.

Breasts are more than just feedbags for the young, however. On humans at least, they also have valuable recreational value. Nothing else has the combined nutrition, entertainment, and sheer jiggle value of the human breast (although Jello comes close).

Naturally, men couldn't leave anything with the power, appeal, and nutritive value of breasts in the hands of women, literally or metaphorically. From the very dawn of human history, therefore, breasts have been in men's hands.

In 2500 BC, the Minoan women of Crete are believed to have worn a special garment that lifted their breasts entirely out of their clothing. (Like another popular story of ancient Minos, this is believed to be half bull.) By the rise of the Hellenic (Greek) and Roman (Roman) civilizations, however, women were wearing tightly bound breast bands to reduce their busts. This style persisted until 476 AD, rightly referred to by historians as the Fall of Rome.

As history progressed, the popularity of breasts rose and fell, heaved and plunged, lifted and separated. Each new culture found a new way of exalting or obscuring the breast, according to their inclinations. By the nineteenth century in Europe, breasts were being pressed together and thrust upward by means of whalebone-fortified corsets.

The strain was unbearable. Something had to give.

At last, on May 30, 1889, the world's first bra was invented. (I've lost track of where I found that date, but that's not important. What matters is that I keep talking about breasts until the search engines pay more attention to me.)

Corset maker Herminie Cadolle invented the "Bien-Ítre" in 1889. This "health aid" was the first garment to support breasts from the shoulder down instead of squeezing them up from below.

Marie Tucek patented the first "breast supporter" in 1893. Her innovations included separate pockets for the breasts and over-the-shoulder straps fastened by hook-and-eye closures.

New York socialite Mary Jacob Phelps invented a modern bra in 1913 (with two handkerchiefs, some ribbon, and a bit of cord) to accommodate a sheer evening gown. In 1914, Ms Phelps sold her invention, which she called the brassiere, to the Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1500.

The US War Industries Board encouraged the assimilation of the bra in 1917 by encouraging women to stop buying corsets, thereby freeing up for military use the nearly sixty million pounds of metal used in them (collectively, one presumes, although to hear accounts from the period one has to wonder).

During the 1920s, a Russian immigrant by the name of Ida Rosenthal founded Maidenform with her husband William. The Rosenthals grouped breasts into cup sizes and developed bras for women of every age.

I've now used the word "breast" enough to titillate the search engines, so we can move on.

The Great Humanitarian

On May 28, 1743, Joseph Ignace Guillotine was born in France. Later he became a doctor. As a politically active humanitarian, he was understandably disturbed by the grisly executions of the French Revolution. He was sure people could be killed more efficiently, and he invented a device to do just that.

His machine sliced the victim's head off by means of a heavy, suspended blade rushing down a pair of siderails onto (or more accurately through) the victim's neck. Not only was it quick and painless: in those dull years before cable, it was also great entertainment. Dr Guillotine enjoyed watching the youngsters scampering playfully about the machine, fighting for the severed head.

During the rough weather that followed the French Revolution (known to meteorologists as "The Rain of Terror") it became necessary to purge the Republic of all obstacles to the welfare of its people. Sadly, most of those obstacles were people themselves, and there were a damned lot of them.

Drunk with power (a lingering effect of the Bourbon era) and armed with Dr Guillotine's new invention, the government succeeded in eliminating thousands of such obstacles quickly and effectively, in a way that made the children laugh and sing right up to the moment that their own heads were sliced off.

Dr Guillotine himself was eventually guillotined, suggesting the possible existence of a moral to his story. (Readers seeking morals, however, are advised as always to conduct their searches elsewhere.)

* * *

Patrick Henry was born on May 29, 1736. Mr Henry was an American patriot best known for never having been able to make up his mind. Asked the simplest question, Mr Henry found himself befuddled for days. It therefore came as no surprise to anyone who knew him when, given the choice between liberty and death, he famously pronounced that either would be welcome. History records his vow at St. John's Church in March of 1775 as "Give me liberty or give me death!" Eyewitnesses and other contemporaries claim he actually said, "Liberty, death, whatever, let's just wrap this thing up."

John F. Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917, and is best remembered for telling Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself, an axiom that many Americans found problematic in the face of increasing cold war tensions, imminent nuclear war, an escalating presence in Vietnam, the troubled state of race relations, and the ubiquitous threat of poisonous snakes. Born on the same day but several centuries earlier (in 1630), was King Charles II of England, best known for the saying, "Give me back my throne."

Bareable Taxation

It was May 31 that the lovely young Lady Godiva, aged 17, rode naked on horseback through Coventry, England, to protest the high tax rate established by her own husband, Earl Leofric of Mercia. Her protest worked and he lowered taxes. I strongly endorse this type of civil disobedience, and remind female readers that taxes are pretty high just about everywhere these days, especially here in Denmark.

On May 31, 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed, canceling the Bore War for lack of interest. (The Bore War should not be confused with the Boar War, which was much more exciting on account of tusks.)


Born on May 27: Henry Kissinger (1923), Hubert Humphrey (1911), Vincent Price (1911), Dashiell Hammett (1894), Isadora Duncan (1878), and Wild Bill Hickock (1837).

Born on May 28: Sir Rudolph Giuliani (1944), Gladys Knight (1944), Ian Fleming (1908), Jim Thorpe (1888), and Joseph Guillotine (1738).

Born on May 29: Annette Bening (1958), Al Unser (1939), John F. Kennedy (1917), T.H. White (1906), Bob Hope (1903), Patrick Henry (1736), and King Charles II, England (1630).

Born on May 30: Wynonna Judd (1964), Benny Goodman (1909), Mel Blanc (1908), and Peter the Great (1672).

Born on May 31: Brooke Shields (1965), Joe Namath (1943), Johnny Paycheck (1941), Clint Eastwood (1930), Fred Allen (1894), Walt Whitman (1819), and King Manuel I of Portugal (1469).


May 27 is Heroes' Day in Uganda.

May 28 is Republic Day in Armenia and Independence Day in Azerbaijan

May 29 is Flag Day in Finland.

May 30 is Anguilla Day in Anguilla, of all places.

May 31 is Independence Day in South Africa.

Enjoy the week!

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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