WEEKEND BRIEFING
Skiltes

Sept. 17 - It was a party day for us at Studieskolen on Thursday. We had all passed our Module 3 exams, so we had a kind of international pot luck that was actually one of the great meals of my life. When's the last time you sat down to a table with homemade regional dishes prepared by a dozen men and women from all over the world?

(As a New York demi-Jew, I was supposed to make my own bagels. I didn't have time. I ended up buying some at an extortionate little shop in Frederiksberg that charges about $1.66 per bagel, doesn't give dozen or half-dozen discounts, and doesn't sell cream cheese except when smeared onto a bagel.)

After we'd eaten ourselves sick we took a little break. Some of my classmates wandered off to chat with friends or make phone calls out in the hallway. Suddenly one of them came roaring back into the room.

"Oh my God," she exclaimed, "have you heard the news?"

My heart jumped to my throat—had there been a major terrorist attack somewhere? Was Copenhagen on fire? My classmates were just as apprehensive as I was. We stared back at our breathless comrade.

"Joachim and Alexandra are getting a divorce!"

There were gasps and exclamations. A scurrying for cellphones followed. Our informant was probed for more details.

Yes, Prince Joachim and Princess Alexandra are going their separate ways. The news had just come out of a royal press conference. After some soul-searching as to whether or not I wanted to be the kind of person that would do such a thing, I finally gave in to the lesser angels of my nature and called Trine. How exciting to finally have the scoop on some major Danish news before her!

"Did you hear the news?" I asked.

"About the divorce?"

My disappointment was surely palpable, but I kept my chin up and made some tepid conversation about the event before hanging up. I believe that something in the Danish genetic code allows Danes to receive telepathic updates on the status of the royal family. It's the only way to explain it.

Molli will have that gene, too. I'll be the only one in my family without it.

I wonder if it's related to the gene for enjoying remoulade?

Moronic Constitutional

On July 4, 1776, the American colonies told Britain to kiss their hairy American asses. This began the Revolutionary War, during which the Redcoats were coming, a shot was heard round the world, and Paul Revere could see the whites of their eyes.

The complexities of war demanded organization between the states, so they established Articles of Confederation. These resulted in a Continental Congress. This Congress was adequate to see the erstwhile colonies through the war, but by the late 1780s it became clear that both the Continental Congress and the Articles of Confederation sucked.

Even way back then Americans didn't want anything to do with anything that sucked (unless it meant a substantial discount, which in this case it did not).

The Continental Congress tried to fix the Articles of Confederation in 1786. The Congress itself still sucked, however, so they failed.

In the spring of 1787 the states sent new delegates to a new convention designed to produce a government that wouldn't be so awful.

On September 17, 1787 (that's the money date), the Constitutional Convention voted its approval of a new Constitution, which they immediately ran out to have printed.

The Continental Congress acted with its usual efficiency, so by July 2 of the following year, the Constitution had become the law of the land. The last act of the Continental Congress was to schedule federal elections for its replacement.

Today is Constitution Day in the U.S. Celebrate by refusing to allow soldiers to be billeted in your home.

(It's also the 374th anniversary of the founding of Boston, but since that's not divisible by 5 it can't possibly be significant.)

* * *

Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1971, in London. He was 27 years old.

Laying Stone

On September 18, 1793, President George Washington laid the foundation stone for the U.S. Capitol. According to numerous sources, President Washington "laid the stone in a Masonic ceremony... preceded by a parade and followed by celebration and feasting."

(I am troubled by such deviant sexual behavior on the part of our founding father. I am surprised by our young nation's apparent celebration of his bizarre geological fetish. I therefore endorse a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting federal representatives from engaging in sexual relations with rocks.)

The 1792 competition for the design of the Capitol had been won by an amateur architect, and the building was therefore burned by the British before it could be completed. Congress had moved into the building on November 22, 1800, but managed to escape the fire.

* * *

On September 18, 1830, that the first locomotive ever built in the U.S., the "Tom Thumb," lost a nine-mile race to a horse.

Bewitched, Bothered, and Besplattered

Giles Corey was accused of witchcraft in 1692. This put him in a difficult spot. If he pleaded guilty, he'd be burned alive at the stake. If he pleaded not guilty, he'd have to take a lie-detector test.

The state-of-the-art lie detector of 1692 wasn't any less accurate than today's models, but it was significantly rougher on its subjects. It was called "dunking." The tightly bound subject would be dunked repeatedly into a pond or lake until the truth emerged.

One of the primary symptoms of demonic possession was immunity to water, so those who survived the process were rewarded with a warm, dry burning at the stake. Those who drowned, on the other hand, were clearly innocent and received a favorable ruling.

Giles Corey wasn't eager to be burned at the stake, but he wasn't keen on posthumous vindication, either. A plea of guilty meant the stake; a plea of not-guilty meant drowning (or the stake, depending on the results of the lie-detector test). Mr. Corey therefore did what any reasonable person might have done: he claimed his Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution and said nothing.

This was a foolish and costly blunder, as the Constitution had not yet been invented.

Baffled by the accused's refusal to enter a plea, the court pressed him for an answer. Literally. On September 19, 1692, Giles Corey became the first, last, and only American ever to have been pressed to death by his own government.

* * *

On September 19, 1947, the U.S. conducted its first underground nuclear test in the Nevada desert. This caused a major disturbance in the natural order of the fragile desert eco-system, ultimately resulting in Las Vegas.

Birthdays and Holdiays

The 17th is the birthday of Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson (1951), John Ritter (1948), Ken Kesey (1935), Anne Bancroft (1931), Roddy McDowall (1928), Hank Williams, Sr. (1923), and William Carlos Williams (1883).

The 18th is the birthday of Frankie Avalon (1939), Jack Warden (1920), Greta Garbo (1905), and Samuel Johnson (1709).

The 19th is the birthday of Alison Sweeny (1976), Joan Lunden (1950), Leslie "Twiggy" Lawson (1949), Jeremy Irons (1948), "Mama" Cass Elliott (1943), Paul Williams (1940), and William Golding (1911).

The 18th is Independence Day in Chile.

The 19th is Liberation Day in Luxembourg and Independence Day in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Enjoy the weekend!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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