WEEKEND BRIEFING
Pinses and Princes

Jun. 6 - It's another long weekend here in Denmark. Yesterday was Constitution Day, so everyone had the day off and Copenhagen rolled up its sidewalks; Sunday is Pinse, a Christian holiday, and Monday is Pinse II.

The Danes never seem content to celebrate a holiday on a Sunday. Sundays are nice enough as it is; dressing them up as holidays just wastes an opportunity to get a day off from work. On the other hand, the Danes have enormous respect for the religious traditions they no longer observe, so they're reluctant to simply move Pinse Søndag into Pinse Mandag. The solution: holiday sequels.

P2: Pinse is Back—But This Time, It's a Weekday.

(This holiday is either Pentecost or Whitsun, or both, in English.)

Pinse even has a prequel this year, since Saturday (June 7) is celebrated as Prince's Birthday in Denmark. This just goes to show how deeply our culture has infected Scandinavia. On the other hand, it's not called "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince's Birthday," so they may be talking about some other Prince—Prince Joachim, maybe, one of the Queen's two sons. (Here's a more official link.) Prince Joachim will be turning 34. His older brother, the Crown Prince Frederik, is a year older, and will someday be King of Denmark. Prince will be turning 45, and is therefore eligible for a revival.

Never Mind

Not long after I got here I mentioned that I hadn't encountered any of the anti-Americanism I'd been hearing so much about. I pointed out that in the only three conversations with strangers where my citizenship had even come up, I'd heard words of appreciation for America and what it represented. Last weekend I finally encountered some old-fashioned, homestyle Yankeephobia, so vehement and vitriolic I hardly knew how to react. (Or maybe I was just disoriented by the beer. There'd been a lot of beer.)

Anyway, I've been meaning to talk about that all week, but suddenly it's Friday and I don't have time to do it justice. It'll have to wait for Monday. Sorry.

Fame

On June 6, 1755, a boy was born in Coventry, Connecticut. He grew up, went to Yale, and became a teacher. He never distinguished himself in any way. He never wrote or said anything of note, never committed any famous or infamous deeds, never married or had children. He seemed destined to be swallowed whole by the omnivorous mouth of obscurity. He was therefore recruited by the United States Military as an intelligence agent, dispatched behind enemy lines in British-occupied Manhattan, and captured.

He was hanged by the British on September 22, 1776.

Moments before his execution, he expressed regret that he couldn't be hanged more than once. This remark catapulted him to posthumous fame (but only after his death), and Nathan Hale is revered to this day.

* * *

June 6, 1944, was D-Day, the day of the allied invasion of Normandy, which was called Operation Overlord. The military calls the date of every major operation D-Day, probably to confuse the enemy. This would have been especially confusing in Normandy, which is in France, where Day begins with a J. German spies were probably waiting to hear something about J-Day.

Treaty of Tordesillas Appreciation Day

On June 7, 1494, Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas.

In the volatile, war-torn world in which we live, many historical documents have become required reading. Not this one. You will never be standing at a cocktail party where someone says, "It's all because of that damn Treaty of Tordesillas." No one will ever blame the failures of the Mid East Peace Process or the brinkmanship in south Asia on the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Tordesillas. You'll never see your favorite pundit toss off the "Treaty of Tordesillas" in an ironic and off-handed way. You won't hear Noam Chomsky cite it as a cause or effect of American imperialism. Sean Penn isn't going to take out newspaper ads explaining how much better than the rest of us he understands the Treaty of Tordesillas. You already know more about that treaty than most people alive today. You may now forget it ever existed. It has no relevance to your life.

Ugo Buoncompagni was born on June 7, 1502. He became Pope Gregory III in 1572 and remained the Pope until 1585. He is best known for reforming the Julian calendar, which is why it's now Gregorian instead of Julian. Had he reformed the calendar before becoming Pope, it would be the Ugian Calendar. That would have been a calendar worth having. Ives W. McGaffey of Chicago patented his "sweeping machine," the first suction vacuum cleaner, on June 8, 1869, suggesting that Chicago was famous for sucking long before the emergence of the Cubs.

On June 8, 632, Mohammed died. He was the founder of Islam, and his death was the first in a long chain of events that ultimately resulted in the Treaty of Tordesillas.

Birthdays and Holidays

June 6 is Flag Day in Sweden, probably because it's Bjorn Borg's birthday (he's 47). It's also the birthday of Sandra Bernhard (1955), Thomas Mann (1875), Alexander Pushkin (1799), the aforementioned Hale, and Pierre Corneille (1606).

June 7 is Liberation Day in Chad, Prince Joachim's Birthday in Denmark, Republic Day in Iceland, Riot Commemoration Day in Malta, and Unionsopplosningen in Norway. Anna Kournikova turns 22 and shares her birthday with Prince (1958), Tom Jones (1940), Dean Martin (1917), Jessica Tandy (1909), Paul Gauguin (1848), and our old friend Ugo.

June 8 birthdays include Boz Scaggs (1944), Nancy Sinatra (1940), Barbara Bush (1925), Frank Lloyd Wright (1867), R.A. Schumann (1810), and Sir Francis Crick (1916).

Enjoy the weekend.

© 2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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