WEEKEND BRIEFING
From A to Å

Jun. 11 - Today is a day of national mourning for Ronald Reagan in the United States. I was an anarcho-communist of 16 when he took office in 1981. When he left office eight years later, I was working for the California Republican Party in Los Angeles. My political pendulum still swings from year to year, but my affection for Reagan remains.

* * *

Today begins Week 31 of the pregnancy, meaning we're just 70 days from parenthood. We bought a car-seat this week, and it was discomfiting to see it sitting in our living room and know it hadn't been left by friends or delivered to us by accident. Fortunately one of the cats tried making it his home so we had to stash it in a more out-of-the-way place. (Er... the car-seat, not the cat.)

Molli Malou is still the odds-on favorite coming into the home stretch of the Baby Name Derby. (Fat lot of good that did Smarty Jones!)

* * *

By remarkable coincidence, just hours after I'd posted yesterday's Almanac about Danish politics and the EU vote, the topic came up in Studieskolen. Our teacher asked if we knew, for example, how many delegates Denmark sends to the EU parliament.

"Sixteen!" I answered exuberantly. I seldom answer exuberantly because I'm almost always wrong, and wrong answers want a quiet mumble. But today I was on fire: I had the dope and I knew it.

The teacher, fully aware of my track record, glanced at me dubiously.

"I think it's something like fourteen," she said.

"No, no, it's sixteen!" I declared jubilantly. "I was on Internet tomorrow and I saw, I have seen all the representatives from all the countries, how big they are, what number, and there was a table, and it was country, country, country this way, and party, party, party that way, also with totals." (I was speaking in Danish.)

"Well," she shrugged, "I think it's fourteen, but I don't know. Greg says it's 16, and he thinks he knows." (She wasn't being as snippy as that makes it sound, but I was a little stung just the same.) "So. . . why don't we go into the computer room and everybody spend fifteen minutes on the Internet and see what you can find out about the election, Danish parties, the EU parliament, and so on."

I couldn't contain my enthusiasm. I turned to England (female) and let it all out: "This is so cool," I babbled, "I just did a whole thing on my website about Danish politics and everything this morning, and I put in all these links to all these Danish political sites, so all I have to do is go to my own website and click on the links and—"

I stopped myself cold and thought, oops.

"Brilliant!" England said. "What's the address?"

Better to come clean, I thought. Don't let this become one of those sitcom situations where you struggle more and more to conceal something that doesn't even require concealment. After all, my own wife shares top billing with my foolishness on these electric pages, and she hardly ever reads them—why should the supporting cast be any more interested than one of the stars?

I gave her the URL and acknowledged guiltily that I sometimes wrote about our class. Her eyes widened and she got a wicked smile on her face. Oh Jesus, I thought: she's actually going to read it.

She sat beside me in the computer lab. It only took her a moment to find her way to the archives. She spent nearly the entire twenty minutes reading all my blog entries about Studieskolen—at least, as many as a literate Brit can read in twenty minutes.

"It wasn't actually tax reasons," she said at one point, presumably correcting something I had blogged about her husband's amazing architectural project. "It was more to do with property location, I think."

"Oh," I said. "I lie a lot."

"You what?"

"I lie a lot. If the facts don't fit whatever point I'm trying to make, or whatever joke I'm trying to set up. You know: I lie."

"You deceptive bastard!" she snarled. She struck me in the head with her keyboard, then fled the room in search of legal representation to prepare litigation against me.

(No she didn't. But she's probably reading this, and the opportunity to lie about having told the truth about having lied was too much to pass up.)

In any case, my cover is blown. It'll be interesting to see what effects, if any, that has on my Studieskolen experience in the weeks and months ahead.

Krispy Kringler

Thursday afternoon I got an email from Wisconsin:

A quick note on your comparisons between Denmark and Wisconsin:

Although I understand your comparisons are demographic in nature, I thought I'd point out that Wisconsin is also highly populated by Scandinavian people. The Danes are located throughout the state but their highest population is located in Racine, Wisconsin, where I am from. The reason that I note this is that Racine is famous worldwide (well nationally, but you know in the United States we have large egos), for Kringle.

Kringle as I am sure you are well aware of is a Danish pastry that is the most delicious Danish concoction ever created. There is one question I have pertaining to this. Seeing as you're from Chicago I am going to assume, probably quite incorrectly, that you have had Kringle from Racine. If this is the case does it taste the same as it does in Denmark, better then it does in Denmark or does it even really exist in the same capacity in Denmark?

I no sooner got this email than I ran out to buy a couple of kringler—one plain, one cinnamon—in the interests of science.

Mmm... untwisted...

The bakery in our neighborhood is nothing special. In the states it would be special but in Denmark it's just average. I don't know if it's fair to compare an average little bakery to something like this, but mine is not (always) to question why: mine is but to eat and describe.

(For what it's worth, the Grønhøj Kro in Karup boasts of the "world's best kringler," and will give you a cup of coffee, a slice of said kringler, and a ticket to their Agricultural Museum for 45 kroner, or about eight bucks.)

As regular readers are no doubt aware, I'm serious about science. I would have liked to conduct this experiment by means of a double-blind study with redundant controls and expensive electrical equipment. I would have liked to repeat the study at six-week intervals and correlated the results to other data. I would have liked to involve chimpanzees.

The budget of the Moron's Almanac makes that kind of testing prohibitive, however, so I went with a somewhat cruder methodology: the DMG and I each ate a couple of slices and decided we liked them.

In fact they were delicious. In this case the cinnamon kringle was better than the plain, but the DMG insists that plain kringle, done properly, is usually better than anything.

Kringler, by the way, used to be twisted around into the pretzel shape you see in the photograph that introduced this item. Today that's the Danish symbol for bakeries: it's the twisty-pretzel-looking thing that means, "Sweet Danish bakery goodness within." But for some reason most Danish bakeries have stopped twisting their kringler. If any Danes know why, I'd love to have that information.

I should point out that I'm happy to perform public services such as this. I will always do my best to satisfy my readers' curiosity—all in the interests of science.

An Unimpressive Gamut

The American alphabet begins with A and ends with Z. The same is also true of other Anglophonic alphabets, although they mistakenly call the latter "zed" instead of "zee." The first twenty-six letters of the Danish alphabet are the same as ours, but the last three are Æ, Ø, and Å.

Dorothy Parker once acidly criticized an actress by observing that her performance had run "the gamut of emotions from A to B." But even that sounds like an improvement over the entire scope of the twenty-nine letter Danish alphabet, which runs "from A to Å." It just doesn't look that all-encompassing, does it?

Football Heroes

June 11 is an important day for American football fans and seems almost inevitably slated to someday become a national holiday. It's the birthday of Vince Lombardi (1913) and Joe Montana (1956).

Mr Lombardi played at Fordham University and was a Latin and chemistry teacher in New Jersey before becoming the head coach of the Green Bay Packers at the age of 46.

They had won only one of twelve games the season before he was hired; they won seven his first year. Over the course of his brief career, the Packers won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls (Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II, in that order).

It was Coach Lombardi's background in Latin that persuaded the NFL to use Roman numerals to number the Super Bowls.

"Winning isn't everything," Coach Lombardi famously declared, "but it's awfully darn important in competitive endeavors." (He was the first NFL coach to hire a publicist and his statements were often edited for distribution to the Green Bay press corps.)

Over the course of his career, Joe Montana completed 3409 of 5391 passes and threw 273 touchdowns. In the playoffs, he completed 460 of 734 passes and threw 45 touchdowns. As a starter, he won 117 and lost 47 regular season games.

Upon his retirement, the town of Ismay, Montana, changed its name to Joe. The town of Joe, Rhode Island, attempted to change the name of its state to Montana, but was prohibited from doing so by heavily-monied special interests.

* * *

The Swiss Army Knife was patented on June 12, 1897. It was the fruit of centuries of Swiss research, development, and testing. Its release was heralded as the dawn of a golden age of Swiss technology. Switzerland may not have won a war since, but they've never been caught without a corkscrew.

Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys, the personal physician to Louis XIV, performed the first blood transfusion in history on June 12,1667. He performed the transfusion on a fifteen year old boy, using blood from a sheep. The experiment was considered a success, although it was clearly a disappointment if you were rooting for the sheep.

Death and Taxes (and Death)

In early 1381 England imposed a new tax, which was called the "Pole Tax" because everyone got the shaft.

In the village of Maidstone, Kent, there lived a Pheasant (or Villain) whose daughter was about fourteen years old. The day the Taxman came around to collect, the Villain was away. Only his wife and daughter were home. The Taxman didn't believe that the girl was less than fifteen. She and her mother insisted that she was. At last the Taxman tore the girl's clothes off to see for himself.

After stripping her, he quickly determined that a more tactile examination would be necessary. When she resisted, the situation took a violent turn—and at that volatile moment, the girl's father came in and saw what was going on. Like any good father, he crushed the Taxman's skull and stomped on his brains.

News of the event spread. The Pheasants (Villains) of southeast England rallied to the father's support. They began Wat Tyler's Rebellion on June 13, 1381.

They made the skull-smashing father their leader because his name was Wat Tyler. Over the next few days, Wat Tyler led the Pheasants (Villains) against the government, burning the Archbishop of Salisbury at the Stake (whence the expression "Salisbury Steak").

The purpose of this rebellion was to secure a pardon for having rebelled. When Wat Tyler confronted King Richard II in Smithfield, he voiced this demand and was consequently stabbed to death, etc, by the Lord Mayor of London. Upon Wat Tyler's death, of course, it was no longer possible to have Wat Tyler's Rebellion, so everyone else went home (hence "Pheasants coming home to roost").

Many of them were later killed.

Further back in history, on June 13, 323 BC, a youthful Alexander the Great died in Babylon. The precise cause of his death has baffled modern science for thousands of years. Many historians believe he died of hybris, also known as Syphilis or the Greek Fire. Alexander had a horse named Bucephelas, and is best known for having devoured the Gordian Nut.

On June 13, 1917, fourteen German Gotha bomber planes flew over London in the first aerial bombardment in history (not counting Zeppelins); on June 13, 1944, Germany commemorated the anniversary by launching the first of its V-1 flying bombs on southern England; on June 13, 1990, East Germany began tearing down the Berlin Wall. The date apparently has some significance in the Teutonic psyche. Be gentle with men in lederhosen.

Birthdays & Holidays

Lombardi and Montana share their June 11 birthday with Adrienne Barbeau (1945), Gene Wilder (1935) and Jacques Cousteau (1910), none of whom ever won a Super Bowl.

June 11 is King Kamehameha I Day in Hawaii. (Kamehameha is Hawaiian for "Thrower of tight spiral.")

June 12 is the birthday of former president George H.W. Bush, who's turning 79, along with Marv Albert (1941), Jim Nabors (1932), and Anne Frank (1929).

June 12 is Flag Day in New Zealand and Luxembourg, and Independence Day in the Philippines and Russia.

June 13 is the birthday of Malcolm McDowell (1943), Christo (1935), Paul Lynde (1926), and William Butler Yeats (1865), and it's Flag Day in Palau.

Enjoy the weekend!

© 2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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