WEEKEND BRIEFING
Let's Not Get Political

Oct 1. - I'm going to relate this anecdote as neutrally as possible. The conclusions you draw will be your own.

During one exercise in Studieskolen yesterday, each student had to speak up in turn and say something in Danish about their homeland, integrating superlatives. I was third or fourth, after the Philippines, Brazil, and Thailand. I don't even remember what I said—something about the fact that our smallest state had the longest name, I think—but someone spoke up out of turn and asked if I were going to watch the debates tonight.

I told them more or less what I told you yesterday—set the alarm last night, woke up at 3am, went into the living room, wondered what the hell had happened to the debates, then remembered it was Thursday, not Friday, ha ha ha.

I was asked again if I planned to watch the debates. (Bear in mind this was all in Danish)

"Of course," I answered. "They should be very exciting."

"They're very important," our teacher said.

"Yes," I said.

"Can you vote in this election?" Asked one of my classmates.

"Yes," I said. "Yes, I can."

"Who are you going to vote for?" asked the teacher.

"Yeah, who?" asked some of the other students.

"We don't talk about that kind of thing in the states," I said. "It's private, like religion or sex."

"Who do you think will win the debate?" My teacher asked.

"I don't know," I answered, "I really don't."

"Who do you hope will win?" My teacher asked.

I pretended I hadn't heard.

"It's a very important election!" My teacher said.

"Yes," I said. And I added: "I'm an American, so I consider all our elections important."

"Yes," she said, "but this one is especially important, isn't it?"

"As important as every other election," I said.

"But... this one especially, I think," she said, no longer seeking any kind of confirmation from me. "This is such a very important election for the whole world!"

"Okay," I said. I heard a few of my classmates utter some pejoratives about the current U.S. president.

"Do you at least know whom you're going to vote for?" she asked.

Some classmates piped in with the same question. "Yeah, who?"

A girl across from me smiled and said, "Come on, just admit it, it's Kerry right?"

And there was great laughter at the obviousness of it all.

"I know who I'm going to vote for," I said, smiling as brightly as possible.

And we moved on to Iceland. Then Ireland, Indonesia, Japan, Poland, Lebanon, England, another Poland, all without any awkward questions. Then came China.

The girl from China talked a little about the Chinese wall (biggest in the world), and observed that China was home to the tallest mountain in the world.

"Mount Everest?" asked our teacher.

China nodded.

"Mm," said teacher, "Some people might say that's in Tibet, but that's politics. We don't want to talk politics." She made a crinkly "yucky" face and looked expectantly to Spain.

My eager classmates nodded in agreement. Yes, they all seemed to be concurring, it would be wrong to get political.

Everyone looked to Spain.

"The biggest mountain range in Spain is the Pyrenees," he said.

And that concluded the exercise.

* * *

We got an envelope in the mail from the church yesterday, addressed to Trine and me. There's only thing we've dealt with the Danish church for, and that's Molli's name. We knew the envelope held the answer... but would it be the answer we wanted? We were terrified. I opened the envelope with a letter opener and the two of us stood there staring down at Molli in her playpen.

"We'll give it one more try if they reject it," Trine said.

"Right," I said.

I pulled the sheet out of the envelope. Next thing I knew we were jumping around and hugging and kissing and whooping and hollering like a couple of winners on the Price is Right.

Our daughter is now legally, officially, authentically, and permanently Molli Malou Kammer Nagan.

I was a little chagrined to find myself celebrating something that ought to have been mundane from the very start, but chagrin's a pretty low-caliber emotion. Happiness and relief have kicked its ass.

Not long after we got the good news, I did a Google search on the literal string "Molli Malou." My own websites were the only thing that popped up. We weren't trying to find a totally unique name for our daughter, but apparently we did. Out of curiosity, I then did a search on "Molly Malou" to see what might have been. I was rewarded with a list of mostly Swedish sites about dogs and horses.

Here's one sweet Molly Malou (scroll down a little)... someday we'll have to get them together for a drooling contest!

* * *

I did manage to watch the whole debate last night (transcript), plus half an hour of post-debate spin coverage.

Senator Kerry managed to come across as mostly human—he did a fair job of sloughing off his normal demeanor of someone irritated by his listeners' obvious inferiority. On the other hand, I don't think the positions he took made much sense. Most of it seemed to boil down, I thought, to something like this:

"What Bush is doing is wrong, stupid, and dangerous, and I think I could do the same thing only better, because I'd have more meetings."

For his part, President Bush seemed to do a decent job of reiterating his position without inducing too many winces. (And I loved the way he said "moolahs" when talking about the "mullahs" in Iran—sort of like Churchill's dismissive pronunciation of "Narzi's.")

I'd say the whole thing probably worked to Senator Kerry's advantage, except that I don't think there was anything in the debate to change anyone's mind. If you already liked Kerry, you're probably reassured to think there may be actual blood in his veins; if you already liked Bush, you're probably relieved he didn't mangle the English language any worse then usual. If you've been sitting on the fence, you're so disconnected from public affairs that I can't even begin to imagine the kinds of things that must influence your thinking—maybe the debate inclined you one way or another, but your next meal will probably have just as big an influence on how you ultimately vote.

So, for what it's worth (exactly nothing), I'd call it a draw.

October

Today is the first day of October. October is the tenth month of the year and its name is therefore derived from octo, the Latin word for eight. October is often preceded by September and followed by November.

There are 31 days in October, many of which are Wednesdays. (Wednesday is the fourth day of the week and its name is therefore derived from wednes, the Latin word for hump.)

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, National Car Care Month, National Helmet Safety Month, National Energy Awareness Month, National Stamp Collecting Month, National Roller Skating Month, and National Rodent Prevention Month. It also International Dinosaur Month.

As a result of U.N. resolutions passed last year, October is no longer Soiled Linens Month (September) or International Smegma Appreciation Month (February).

There are thirty shopping days left until Halloween.

Funny People

Three of the past century's finest comedians were born on October 2: Groucho Marx (1890), Bud Abbot (1895), and Mahatma Gandhi (1869).

Groucho and Abbot were funny enough, but they pale beside the towering comic greatness of Gandhi. "Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind," he once quipped: "It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man."

That a humorist capable of such scathing sarcastic wit should have sullied himself with politics is regrettable, but not much worse than Jesus having gotten into religion.

It should also be remembered that for most of Gandhi's life the Indian subcontinent was occupied by the British, and that for the first few formative decades of his existence the British were ruled by a queen who was famously unamused. Gandhi went to extraordinary lengths to amuse Queen Victoria. It was only decades after her death that his genius came to full flower, however, and one can only hope she was amused posthumously.

(Eventually the British realized they didn't get Gandhi's jokes and withdrew from India to develop Monty Python.)

Reunited

On October 3, 1990, East and West Germany were officially reunited. The reunification of this once great nation was recognized as a clear sign that the Cold War was coming to an end, and was therefore celebrated not only in Germany, but throughout the world—excepting certain corridors of France, Poland, and the Czech Republic, where the exuberance was strangely muted.

Birthdays and Holidays

Those born the first of October include Mark McGwire (1963), Randy Quaid (1950), Rod Carew (1945), Julie Andrews (1935), Richard Harris (1932), George Peppard (1928), Tom Bosley (1927), Jimmy Carter (1924), Walter Matthau (1920), and Vladimir Horowitz (1904).

Less hilarious persons born on October 2 include Sting (1951), Donna Karan (1948), Don McLean (1945), Rex Reed (1938), and Graham Greene (1904).

Neve Campbell turns 30 on October 3, which is also the birthday of Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954), Chubby Checker (1941), Gore Vidal (1925), and Thomas Wolfe (1900).

October 1 is Founding of the Republic Day in China, Armed Forces Day in South Korea, and Independence Day in Cyprus, Nigeria, Palau, and Tuvalu.

October 2 is Independence Day in Guinea. Gandhi's Birthday is a national holiday in India.

October 3 was also celebrated as Independence Day in Iraq up until 2002. I'm guessing they'll have a new Independence Day eventually, but I'm not sure what date they'll choose. The nice thing is, they get to choose. It's National Foundation Day in South Korea.

Enjoy the weekend, and have a happy October!

2004, The Moron's Almanac™

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