The Agatha Jones

Sep. 15 - Agatha Christie was born on this date in 1891. Since my arrival in Denmark, she's done more to preserve my sanity than any other person, living, dead, or fictional. I have therefore become dependent on her.

I didn't bring any books to Denmark. The DMB—Trine—thought that was pretty stupid of me, since I usually read a couple of books a week and English-language books are apparently hard to come by in Denmark. (Go figure.)

But I figured I'd never learn Danish if I could retreat into the English (or American) language at any given moment. I thought I'd stock up on Danish kiddie lit and satisfy my reading jones with the Danish equivalents of Good Night Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

So that's what I did—for about six weeks.

Granted, I can read all the English-language stuff I want on the Internet. Unfortunately, I can't haul my monitor into bed with me to read myself to sleep. (Technically that's not true. I probably could. It would be more accurate to say that I have so far chosen—wisely, I think—not to test the viability of this option.) For bedtime reading, you want a book or a magazine—or a printout, or a cereal box. Something, in other words, that minimizes the risk of electrocution.

The only English-language books we had in the house were Trine's mystery novels. She loves mysteries. My parents love mysteries. Almost every one I know loves mysteries, but for some reason I'd consigned them to the same literary ghetto as pirate stories, romance novels, deconstructionist criticism, and People magazine: nice places to visit, but only for other people.

Am I an ass, or am I an ass? (I'm not asking if I'm a moron—we've established that.)

Naturally, it only took about ten pages of Christie's literary smack to addict me. There's been no turning back. And, like any other narcotic, Agatha Christie novels can be found almost anywhere. Last weekend we wandered into a used bookstore down the street that had a shelfload of English-language Agatha books (there were even more in Danish, but I'm not going to tackle Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple in Danish before I've got a grip on The Little Red Hen). We bought all of them. It's a nice stash, but it won't last forever. I'm trying to cut my Agatha Christie with a little Graham Greene to string it out longer.

Sooner or later, however, I'm going to exhaust her repertoire, and there's no knowing what that will lead to. Withdrawal, I'm sure, probably requiring expensive medical treatment.

I should have stuck with Mip og Mup and The Little Mole Who Wanted to Know Who Had Taken a Shit on His Head.

My only consolation is that others might learn from my example.

Reader Mail

A reader from Bellsouth.net has asked, "If it were to rain carrots, would the carrots be fit to eat? What if they landed in the ocean? I've been fascinated by the concept since I was a small child."

Intrepid scholars can point to several vegetable downpours in meteorological history, but I am neither intrepid nor a scholar. The phrasing of your question, "If it were to rain carrots," furthermore implies that, as common sense would suggest, it has not rained carrots previously—at least not in your vicinity.

Carrots as they occur in nature are of course edible, so I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't be fit for consumption just because they'd been sucked up into the atmosphere and rained back onto the earth. If they landed in the ocean they'd be salty.

I think the problem with raining carrots would have less to do with their edibility and more to do with their projectile velocity. A carrot deluge would be devastating. A small storm over a middling city would probably cause billions of dollars in property damage and kill thousands of persons—especially children, the elderly, and people standing outside with their mouths open.

* * *

Another reader has asked how to pronounce Trine's name. Before we moved here, I would have said it rhymes with Tina, Gina, or Sabrina. One of the horrors of moving here, however, has been my discovery that I've never pronounced my girlfrend's name properly.

Matrimony hasn't granted me any magical powers of pronunciation.

I asked her recently if it bothered her that her husband couldn't pronounce her name properly and she said it didn't. I don't know if that was an honest answer, but it was the one I wanted to hear so I'm going to accept her ruling as final.

Regular Daily Briefing Effluvium

On this date in 1776, the British occupied Manhattan. Outraged by the rents and discouraged by the lack of parking, however, they left shortly afterwards, leaving only journalists behind.

On this date in 1830, British MP William Huskisson was chatting amiably with the Duke of Wellington at the grand opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, when all at once the right honorable gentleman distinguished himself for posterity by becoming the first human being in history to be run over by a train.

(The Duke of Wellington, on the other hand, is remembered for his Beef.)

Thirty-four years later, on this date in 1864, another hardy British soul, the explorer John Speke, distinguished himself by becoming the first European to see Africa's Lake Victoria and then accidentally shoot and kill himself while hunting partridges.

The Germans occupied the Sudetenland in late summer of 1938. This enraged the British and the English, who both feared for the loss of the Sudetenland's celebrated pea crops. On September 15 of that year, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Germany to meet Hitler at Bertesgaden to discuss the situation. Hitler assured him that there would be plenty of peas to go around, and Chamberlain returned to England with the famous proclamation of Peas in Our Time. World War II was therefore avoided and did not break out until some time later.

On this date in 1928, Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered that the mold penicillin had an antibiotic effect. Had he cleaned his laboratory every night and put all his things away like a good little boy, he never would have discovered penicillin, and half of us would be dead right now.

Today is Independence Day in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. It's Respect for the Aged Day in Japan.

It's the birthday of Britain's Prince Harry (1984), Dan Marino (1961), Tommy Lee Jones (1946), Oliver Stone (1946), Merlin Olsen (1940), Jackie Cooper (1922), Fay Wray (1907), Agatha Christie (1891), Robert Benchley (1889), William H. Taft (1857), and James Fenimore Cooper (1789).

Happy Monday!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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