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  INCOMING! JULY 5, 2005.  
   
   
 

Tuesday

July 5 has to be the worst day of the entire summer. There you are, sitting in your windowless cubicle, sunburned from three days of outdoor fun and constipated from all the hot dogs you ate at various cookouts. It's sunny and beautiful outside, and all you want to do is take the summer off like you used to when you were a kid. So, to escape your depression you sit back, close your eyes and think of the beach.

Of course, if you're a heterosexual male, thinking of the beach means you're imagining one and only one thing: hot chicks in bikinis. For that pleasant memory, you can thank the French. Yeah, you heard me. French engineer Louis Reard, who introduced the bikini on this day in 1946, was seeking to create "the world's smallest bathing suit," essentially in an effort to beat out a competitor's design (the "Atome") that was created earlier in the year. He succeeded, giving males everywhere something to ogle at on the beach besides a woman's knees, and women stress and eating disorders that would continue for decades to come. Reard named the garment after the Bikini Atoll, an A-bomb test site, thinking excitement around his invention would be similar to an atomic bomb blast. So his bathing suit engineering skills didn't extend to knowledge of apocalyptic explosions. Can you blame the guy? He was too horny to think straight.

Anyway, the first bikini, modeled here by a French showgirl looks like a muumuu compared to the thongs and barely-there string bikinis seen today. But, hey, everybody has to start somewhere. And if it weren't for sexually frustrated engineers, where would we be in this world? Sitting in the dark and masturbating to images of women in hoop skirts, that's where.

Speaking of sexually frustrating professions, cartoonist Bill Watterson celebrates his 48th birthday today. To fill in all those who actually went on dates during high school in the Eighties and Nineties, Watterson was the man behind "Calvin and Hobbes," arguably the best comic strip of this generation. What makes Watterson admirable is that he never merchandised his creation, he took time off to recharge, and he ended his strip while he was still at the top of his game. Think about that when you see Sarge beat Beetle Bailey into a pulp

 





 
 

for the 14,523rd time.

Also on this day in 1971, President Nixon formally certified the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18, a provision of the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified four days earlier. This was being done to force all states to lower their voting age, as some refused to do after the provision was put in to an extension of the Voting Rights Act. Apparently, the 18-to-21 set was a little pissed that they couldn't vote but could be yanked out of their pot circles and dropped into a rice paddy with a gun in their hands, not having any idea why their being asked to shoot at people and burn down villages. Sheeh. Fucking ingrates.

 

 
 

Wednesday

This morning at around 7 a.m., the International Olympic Committee will announce the host city for the 2012 Olympics from Asian Party Central, otherwise known as "Singapore." As everyone in the New York area is aware, the city is still in the running for the honor, despite the defeat of the Ugliest Stadium Ever Conceived, which would have made most of midtown and the West Side a commuting nightmare for two weeks in 2012 and eight football weeks out of every year. Now the centerpiece to the Olympic bid is a replacement for the Second Ugliest Stadium Ever Conceived, Shea Stadium. The new Mets stadium is going to be designed to be expanded for the Olympics and brought back to baseball configuration after the Games are over. (The Mets will have to suffer the indignity of playing at Yankee Stadium for the 2012 season.)

Alas, they may not have anything to worry about, as oddsmakers are placing New York's chances of landing the Games behind those of Paris, London and Madrid. No doubt the chaos over the West Side stadium didn't help matters. But what might have sealed the city's fate was when the IOC members came to visit last February. Not only was it grey, cold and snowy the whole time they were there, but Central Park was littered with a series of ugly orange Gates. I'm surprised the committee members ever left their hotel rooms.

In other news, George W. Bush celebrates his 59th birthday today by visiting Denmark, land of pickled herring and hot dogs with mayonnaise. There, he will speak to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen about Iraq, the Middle East and the

   
 

European Union. Perhaps he'll go visit the Little Mermaid statue on Copenhagen's waterfront. I'm pretty sure President Bush is going to be disappointed, though; after all, it looks nothing like Ariel, and Sebastian is nowhere to be found.

From there, the president will be going to Glengales, Scotland, to attend the Group of Eight (G8) Summit, which starts today. At this meeting, the leaders of the United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada, France and the European Union will join Bush in long walks along the beach, photographers in tow, just like at last year's conference in Georgia. Oh yeah, and they'll talk about stuff like canceling the debts of the poorest countries in Africa and how to deal with the AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics there and in other poor countries. But not before the pig roast and some storytelling around the campfire.

 

 
 

Thursday

On this day in 1983, eleven-year-old Samantha Smith embarked on her trip to the Soviet Union. In what seems like a quaint event now but was a huge media circus 22 years ago, Smith was invited to the USSR at the invitation of then-premier Yuri Andropov, after he responded to a letter she wrote him as part of a school project. In that letter, she asked the Communist leader if he wanted peace with the United States. She was greeted warmly in Moscow and was treated like a VIP; she spoke to Russian youth who spoke freely about the country's problems, like bread lines, lack of money and the fact that those big furry hats itch like a mofo.

The fact that the Soviet dictator could have had his heart grow three sizes just by reading a little girl's letter showed many Americans that Russians were humans too and was one of the first events that foreshadowed the policy of glasnost that was implemented by Andropov's successor, Mikhail Gorbachev. Of course, other Americans looked at it as a cynical attempt at cheap publicity by an inherently evil government. They were both probably a little bit right. But at least the story took everyone's minds off the fact that they could be vaporized by a nuclear bomb at any second.

As bad as the Soviet Union of the eighties was, though, it paled in comparison to medieval England. Just ask Joan of Arc. On this day in 1456, the young female commander of the French Royal Army was found innocent of heresy after her battles with British forces. Good news, right? One small problem: She was executed 25 years earlier, burned at the stake after being convicted on flimsy

 



 
 

evidence of her secular nature, like demonic visions and cross-dressing (Heck, she was a general. What did they expect her to wear, an iron bodice?) . Even cross-dressers in Texas get cut more slack than Joan did. It's too bad she didn't wager her battles in California during the last fifteen years. She could have cut off Governator Schwarzenegger's head on live TV and not get convicted.

On the celebrity birthday front, Ringo Starr turns 65 today. Shit. He's the first Beatle eligible for full Social Security benefits. The fact that many of The Black Table's younger readers may scratch their heads and go "Ringo who?" makes me feel even older than his senior-citizen status does. He's not even married to a one-legged thirty-year old hottie.

 

 
 

Friday

On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read in public for the first time. The Liberty Bell rang from Independence Hall, hailing the completion of the rebellion against England and the start of a new free country. Of course, that's not entirely true. The Liberty Bell was not rung to celebrate independence, merely to call the citizens of Philadelphia to the reading. And the bell was not cracked during that ringing; it had been cracked and repaired many times over its 23-year existence. And the hall wasn't called Independence Hall at the time; it was (and still is) officially known as the Pennsylvania State House. The Liberty Bell itself was just a bell, nameless until 1837, when it became a symbol of the abolitionist movement. Even the handwritten copy of the Declaration, with John Hancock's famously gigantic signature, wasn't created until July 19. Oh, and George Washington had wooden teeth. But you knew that one already.

I'm sure there are plenty of other details about Revolutionary times that have either been mythologized or suppressed. Most people know by now, for instance, that Ben Franklin was the Colin Farrell of his day, romancing women around the world. According to this article in Salon, the Revolutionary War was about taxation on rum, not tea, a fact that prohibition-happy politicians swept under the rug. And, of course, we all know that Tom Jefferson fathered the children of at least one of his female slaves. The next thing you know, we're going to find out that Samuel Adams didn't really brew beer.

It's a lot to contemplate. So why don't you just sit

 



 
 

down, load up Grand Theft Auto and shoot a couple of cops to relax? Yes, kids, today is Video Games Day, so if you decide to skip work or class because you just need to finish that game of Halo 3, there's nothing to worry about. Well, except for the fact that you frittered away one precious day of your life in a darkened room surrounded by empty Doritos bags and bottles of Mountain Dew, a day that you can't get back. Hey, no judgments here. I'm just sayin', is all.

Someone who is definitely not playing video games, mainly because she doesn't even know how to turn on her Xbox, is Jessica Simpson. She celebrates her 25th birthday on Sunday, which means that she'll officially stop being famous, thanks to her advanced age. You know how it is in Hollywood; if you have no discernable talent except the ability to look good in a pair of Daisy Dukes, you're pretty much done by the time you're 25. It's like an accelerated version of Logan's Run, which took place in a society that killed people after they turned 30. Only in this case, it just affects women. And the expiration date is younger. And no one's wearing funky silver dresses. But it's just as nasty. Paris Hilton, watch your back.

Joel Keller is a freelance writer from New Jersey. He spent his July 4 sitting at home watching Match Game and Family Feud reruns and enjoyed every second of it.

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INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.