DAILY BRIEFING
Vacation

Jul 18. - Denmark is on vacation.

The DMB tells me—and visual evidence seems to confirm—that of the six weeks of vacation allocated to most Danes each year, three or four of them (months, not Danes) get used up in July.

They go up to their summerhouses in north Zealand, Fyn, or Jutland. They flock to southern Europe and southeast Asia. Some of them just park themselves on bartools for the month, or stay at home and take little weekend trips to Sweden, Norway, Germany, Poland. . . But very few of them work.

Our local pizza guy took off to Turkey for the month. The convenience store around the corner is also closed until August. The place where I rented my tux shut down four days after my fitting and doesn't open again until about a week before our wedding. The DMB went to scope out a hairdresser yesterday—closed.

(The DMB could scope out hairdressers because the DMB is on vacation for a couple of weeks herself.)

Our neighbors in this apartment complex spend their days between their patios and the pool. They're up late at night. Buses and trains are half-empty at rush hour.

It's like one long, languid Saturday night—except it's still only dark about four hours a night, so it's more like one long, languid Saturday afternoon.

I just realized it sounds like I'm setting up a joke, or driving toward some ironic observation. I'm not.

I'm just sick with goddam envy and needed to get it off my chest. That's the blogger's prerogative, isn't it?

But enough of my whining. Here's the weekend almanac. (But first, a Moronic Question.)

Fish Breath

A reader from AOL asks, "If fish breath oxygen from the water then why can't they breath the oxygen from the air?"

This is another terrible question. All fish can breathe in oxygen from the air, just as all humans can drink arsenic. The problem isn't with the process so much as the results.

The breathing apparatus of your average fish is a complex affair involving mouths, gills, membranes, and something called an operculum. It's much too complicated to be interesting. Suffice it to say that fish don't breathe by sucking oxygen out of the air and into their lungs, but by filtering oxygen out of the water and into their bloodstreams.

Take them out of water and they have nothing to filter.

To visualize the problem, imagine you've got a coffeemaker. Pour a quart of water and a half-dozen tablespoons of ground coffee into the coffeepot, put it on the heating element, and turn the machine on. What happens?

You get a warm coffeepot full of grainy water.

It's not enough to have the right ingredients. You've got to put them together the right way.

(There are six species of Lungfishes that can breathe air for anything from a few days to a few months. Some of them have to build mud coccoons to survive out of the water, but others can make do in anything from a beach cabana to a cheap hotel.)

The Reign in Spain

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899. He was young at the time of his birth. It was fine to be young.

He drove an ambulance in the first world war. It wasn't called the first world war then. It was called the war. It was one of those times when people shot at each other. When people were shooting at each other they didn't have time to worry about what to call it. It was only afterwards that they needed to call it something. "What should we call that time when we were shooting at each other?" "Let's call it the Great War." "Good."

It was a good ambulance. It was long and white. It had flashing lights and a siren that went "wee-ooo, wee-ooo." He liked that.

After the war he lived in Paris. A lot of Americans lived in Paris after the war, but only a few of them had ever driven an ambulance. In the 30s he went to Spain. He was a journalist. They were having a war.

They called it the Spanish Civil War. It was started by an Evil Bastard named General Franco on July 18, 1936. It was a test to see whether or not they should have World War II. They had fascists and socialists and anarchists. They even had clowns. People shot at each other.

(General Franco finally gave up power on July 19, 1974, because he was sick. Maybe he had always been sick. It is sometimes hard to understand sickness. Maybe we are not meant to understand it.)

Later Hemingway lived in Cuba. He liked to fish. He thought all men should fish. He wrote stories about fishing. Finally he blew his brains out at his home in Idaho. It was July 2, 1961.

He had written a lot of books but now he was dead.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. It was a brave thing to do. Hemingway would have liked that.

But he would have been disappointed by the fishing.

Nat. Soc. Lit.

July 18 marks the seventy-eighth anniversary of the 1925 publication of Adolf Hitler's best-selling political memoir, Mein Kampf (or, in English, "I'm Crazy and I'm Gonna Kill You"). The book remains extremely popular with genocidal sociopaths and is therefore experiencing a renaissance of sales.

The book's original title was Four-and-a-Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice.

Really.

Fiddling Around

On July 18, 64 A.D., most of imperial Rome was burned to the ground because Emperor Nero had been playing the fiddle. This resulted in the persecution of Christians, many of whom were believed to have encouraged him.

Bad Craziness

July 18 is Hunter S. Thompson's birthday. He's still alive (at 64), armed, and dangerous. Dr. Thompson founded the Gonzo school of journalism in the 1970s; graduates from that school can today be seen every night on cable news.

Dr. Thompson inspired the character "Uncle Duke" in the comic strip Doonesbury, by former Canadian Prime Minister Gary Trudeau. ("Uncle Duke" first appeared in Doonesbury on July 8, 1974.) Several movies have been made about Dr. Thompson's life and work and psychotic episodes. He is perhaps the only American journalist to have been played on-screen by both Bill Murray and Johnny Depp.

Historical Miscellany

On July 19, 1870, France attempted to declare war on Russia. Due to a typographical error, however, she inadvertently declared war on Prussia and caused the Franco-Prussian war. This eventually led to the creation of Germany, which led to World War I, World War II, and the Volkswagen. Moral: always prooofread.

On July 20, 1402, at the battle of Angora, Tamerlane led his huge army of Taters against the Ottomans (or Ottomen). Tamerlane captured the Sultan (Head Ottoman), and this is why we call some sweaters Angoras to this day. (Angora, however, is now called Ankara.)

Birthdays and Holidays

Born on July 18: John Glenn (1921), Nelson Mandela (1918), Harriet Nelson (1914), Richard "Red" Skelton (1913), and Hume Cronyn (1911).

July 18 is Constitution Day in Uruguay.

July 19 birthdays: Anthony Edwards (1962), Vikki Carr (1941), George McGovern (1922), Lizzie Borden (1860), Edgar Degas (1834).

July 19 is Independence Day in Laos, Martyr's Day in Myanmar (and Burma), amd Liberation Day in Nicaragua.

July 20 birthdays: Carlos Santana (1947), Diana Rigg (1938), Natalie Wood (1938), Chuck Daly (1933), Sir Edmund Hillary (1919).

July 20 is President's Day in Botswana, Independence Day in Columbia, and Crown Prince Haakon's Birthday in Norway.

Enjoy the weekend!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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