WEEKEND BRIEFINGSave the Haggis!
Jan. 23 - We enter Week 11 today, meaning it's still two full weeks until we're into the second trimester. It's driving the DMG and me crazy how long this takes, even though we're both astonished at the information that, by the end of Week 11, our little bean will have virtually all of its component parts and will spend the rest of its time just growing.
My goal during Week 11 is to stop reading all the week-by-week pregnancy guides I've been following. They make me anxious and neurotic. I never had any idea how many things could go wrong with a pregnancy, or how many afflictions could strike a developing fetus. I have to keep reminding myself that we're a hardy species, of which the DMG and I are both hardy specimens. Homo sapiens progressed from cowering on the savannahs to playing golf on the moon; I made it through ninth grade; the DMG spent a year in Green Bay without knowing anything about American football. Surely our bean can get through the next seven months without my fretting over every little detail of its development.
A reader responds to yesterday's Aaron Burr squib: "Regarding January 22 (an astonishingly balmy 30F here in Boston!), I know I needn't remind you that only two vice-presidents have served a full term (or two) and proceeded to ascend immediately to the presidency (assasination, resignation, John Tyler, and Albert Gore notwithstanding). The first was John Adams and the last was George H. W. Bush...."
The reminder did me no good, because I didn't know it to begin with, but I'm glad to know it now and happy to pass it on.
Plenty of Womb
After a friend had seen bean's ultrasound images earlier this week, he observed that the bean looked awfully comfortable in there. "Put a DishTV in there, a microwave, some nachos and a carrot cake or two, who would ever wanna come out?" Indeed. I took a closer look at the image, and I begin to wonder if the bean isn't somehow reading my email...
Red Turk, Blue Turk. . .
In 1908, a group of young officers in the Ottoman army formed a political group called the "Committee for Unity and Progress." Like so many young men before them, they were angry at the way things were and felt confident they could do a better job of things.
The guy responsible for the status quo was Sultan Abdul Hamid, head of the Ottoman Empire. As Sultan he controlled Ottoman worldly affairs, and as Caliph he directed their spiritual affairs. Both of these were in a shambles, and the angry young men brought all the political pressure they could to bear upon the Sultan (the phrase "political pressure" is used euphemestically), until at last they compelled him to accept a constitution.
The constitution, it was hoped, would modernize the empire and return the Ottomans to their rightful place (presumably in front of the Recliners). One of the things it guaranteed was religious liberty, which brought on the immediate disapproval of Islamites. Unlike their modern counterparts, these Islamites could be quite vicious when they felt snubbed, so they attempted a coup against the Sultan.
It failed. But the Sultan took note of the simmering discontent, and attempted to slow down the secularization being urged by the C.U.P., which was by now half full.
Unfortunately, the new constiution specified that interference with the constitution was unconstitutional, and so the Sultan was deposed and replaced.
The C.U.P. had begun as a pan-national movement designed to broaden support for the crumbling Ottoman Empire by appealing to the various nationalities of its constituents. But now they began to have second thoughts. It was very complicated being pan-national. It would be easier just to be Turks.
By 1913 other political groups were contending for power with the C.U.P., so they did the logical thing. Ninety-one years ago this very day (January 23), they seized power. The Ottoman Empire was thenceforward ruled by the so-called Young Turks, three young men in their mid-thirties: Enver Pasha, Mehmed Talaat, and Ahmed Djemal.
Pasha became the Minister of War, Talaat was put in charge of Internal Affairs, and Djemal was given the Navy.
Having studied extensively in Europe, the three men judged it prudent to side with the Central European powers in the first world war. With an eye toward the second, they took the added step of ratcheting up their Turkish Pride and decimating half the Armenian population—an act of genocide with no equal in the history of the world (for about thirty years).
This resulted in military defeat and bad karma, and the Young Turks fell from power at the war's end in 1918. Middle-Aged Turks took over from there, and the rest was smooth sailing.
Inducted & Indicted
On January 23, 1985, O.J. Simpson was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. The great Buffalo running back, Leslie Nielsen sidekick, and alleged decapitator was the first Heisman Trophy winner to be inducted. He remains the only inductee to the Hall of Fame to have been acquitted of double homicide.
Save the Haggis
(Note: This article is reprised each year as part of my ongoing effort to bring attention to this annual holocaust.)
January 25 is Burns Night in Scotland. The "Burns Supper" is eaten all across Scotland each year on the anniversary of the national poet's birth. It consists of haggis and whiskey. It is customary for the host to read Burns's Ode to a Haggis at the dinner table, presumably as a diversionary tactic. The poem concludes:
Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o'fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
Haggis are a gentle breed of playful mammals indigenous to the Scottish highlands. They have never survived attempts at transplantation. They have been popular cuisine for as long as the British isles have been populated. Julius Caesar reflects in his memoirs that he tried to bring several thousand haggis back to Rome for breeding after his conquest of Brittania—a controversial decision that eventually led to civil war in the Roman Empire.
The ancient Picts of Ireland invaded and eventually settled Scotland in no small part because of their affinity for haggis. (The ancient Celts migrated in the opposite direction, presumably to avoid it.)
Haggis were traditionally trapped, killed, and prepared like most other small mammals. Toward the end of the eighteenth century, however, it became fashionable to drop living haggis, like lobster, into pots of boiling water.
This is because after boiling for half an hour the pelt peels off easily and can then be dried and used in textiles. Haggis fur is especially popular in Scottish gloves, coats, earmuffs, and seat covers.
Each year I have tried to bring some attention to the terrible plight of the delicate and sweet-tempered Haggis, whose inoffensive lives are too often ended by being boiled alive at the hands of a boozy Scot.
In today's frigid atmosphere of political correctness, it is considered unfair to condemn the Scots for their grotesque maltreatment of these affectionate animals. To deplore their treatment of the haggis is to criticize their culture, and cultural criticism is an obscenity.
But Scottish culture? We're all grateful for whiskey, but is it enough to justify bagpipes and men in skirts? Has any other culture cried out so eloquently for condemnation?
Try looking into the trusting brown eyes of a haggis and explaining that it must be boiled alive and ceremonially dismembered for the sake of Scottish culture.
According to People against the Indefensible Treatment of Haggis, more than eight million haggis were "ranched" for this year's festivities. Over six million of these ranch-bred haggis, beside whom veal calves might well be considered pampered, were sold to Scots who will take them home, boiled them alive, then skin and dismember them. The nearly two million not sold will be tossed alive into commercial blenders, mixed with fresh cream, frozen, and later sold as the popular Scottish summer treat, Haggis Ice.
This holocaust must end. To help bring it home to Americans, I ask my American readers to take a moment to reflect on our own Groundhog's Day. Each February 2, we honor the prognosticative skills of that curious little creature in a vast national celebration of pagan superstition. How many groundhogs die for this celebration? None. How many groundhog mothers are separated from their groundhog children in order to satisfy our national groundhog needs? None. How many grandfathers stand at the heads of their dinner tables, proudly presiding over the dismemberment of a steaming groundhog carcass? Not very many.
The Scots could learn a thing or two about ethical animal treatment from us.
We could probably teach them a thing or two about trousers, too.
Stop the holocaust now. Sent your outraged emails to the presiding officer of Scottish Parliament.
Birthdays, Holidays, etc.
For the second year in a row, Tiffani-Amber Thiessen turns 29 on the 23rd. She shares her birthday with Princess Caroline of Monaco (1957), Dr. Laura Schlessinger (1947), Rutger Hauer (1944), Chita Rivera (1933), Jeanne Moreau (1928), Ernie Kovacs (1919), Humphrey Bogart (1899), Edouard Manet (1832), and John Hancock (1737).
(Bogart may have been born in December. This is controversial.)
The 23rd is Flag Day in Belgium and Burning of the Bounty Day on Pitcairn Island.
January 24 is the birthday of Mary Lou Retton (1968), Nastassia Kinski (1960), Yakov Smirnoff (1951), John Belushi (1949), Neil Diamond (1941), Ernest Borgnine (1917), Edith Wharton (1862), and Pierre de Beaumarchais (1732).
January 25 is the birthday of Corazon Aquino (1933), Dean Jones (1931), Virginia Woolf (1882), and that father of mammalian genocide, Robert Burns (1759).
January 25 is Flag Day in South Korea.
Enjoy the weekend!
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac