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  INCOMING! AUGUST 29, 2005.  


Do you like to play games? Aside from the kind that involve treating your boyfriend to arbitrary mood swings? Then shuffle up and deal, because today is According to Hoyle Day. On this day in 1742, English barrister and general know-it-all Edmond Hoyle published his "Short Treatise on the Game of Whist," a tutorial on the card game that he sold to friends and clients. Unfortunately, Hoyle died in 1769, just a few years before the game's explosion and its eventual expansion into such venues as internet Whist, the World Series of Whist and Celebrity Whist Showdown. Though he wrote similar treatises on only a handful of games, the phrase "According to Hoyle" has become shorthand for any definitive set of directions. So today, play by the rules and live your life according to Hoyle. Tomorrow, you tell Hoyle I said to suck it.

Also on this day in 1949, the Soviets successfully detonated their first atomic bomb at a remote test site in Kazakhstan. The blast not only incinerated all structures and living creatures within several hundred yards, but was also a rude awakening for an America no longer able to claim atomic supremacy. Ever the innovator, the U.S. detonated the world's first hydrogen bomb three years later, followed three years later by the Russkies' very own H-bomb. Kind of like that "Anything You Can Do" song from Annie Get Your Gun, only with less Ethel Merman and more threat of thermonuclear annihilation.






Today is Kazakhstan Constitution Day! Happy Kazakhstan Constitution Day! Celebrate by enjoying a … traditional thing they eat and/or drink in Kazakhstan! Yes, in 1995, the first constitution was adopted by national referendum, giving the burgeoning country a reason to exist beyond merely being "that place where the Commies used to test atomic bombs."

Alas, it's not always so easy to follow the example set by the Kazakhstanis a decade ago. Like in Iraq, for instance. Last week, the Iraqi parliament postponed, for the third time, a session to approve the draft of a new constitution. As leaders among the Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni blocs continue to bicker over key provisions, our own President Bush is starting to look more and more like the henpecked husband worried about being late to the party while his wife cheerfully takes her time upstairs trying on outfit after outfit. The White House has urged Shiites to make concessions to Sunni Arabs on stumbling block issues, concerned that if the document is voted on without Sunni approval, it could exacerbate the Sunni-dominated insurgency and have the exact opposite effect on Iraq that finalizing a constitution was supposed to have. In other words, things go more boom.

Despite the setbacks and continuing violence, the new constitution is still scheduled to be put to Iraqi voters in an October 15 referendum, when, if accepted, the Iraqi people can finally start on the vital task of amending the thing to prevent gay people from getting married.






Every year on the last Wednesday in August, the Spanish town of Buñol becomes home to the world's biggest food fight: La Tomatina. On this day, 35,000 revelers will pelt each other with 120 tons of tomatoes in a disgusting splatterfest that, admittedly, is packed with vitamins A and C. La Tomatina, or as it's known in English, "idiots with tomatoes," began in 1945 as all good parties do; namely, with an act of violence. A few rowdy spectators who had crowded into the town square to witness a carnival parade pushed over one of the marchers. The angry victim spotted a nearby vegetable stall, and La Tomatina was born. These days, the festival is organized by the town itself, and the sight of thousands of pulp-drenched partiers destroying truckloads of perfectly good food is an annual spectacle that delights people the world over, particularly people living in poverty-stricken African villages. Just kidding! Ha ha! They don't even have TVs to watch it on! Ha ha!

If you prefer your vegetable-related festivals a little more subdued, you might want to check out the Corn Palace Festival, which starts today in Mitchell, South Dakota, home to what the town proudly reminds you is the world's only Corn Palace. Despite its lofty name, the Corn Palace is more of a meeting and convention center and less of a compound where wealthy Dakota prince-farmers would keep their concubines. But it's the building's exterior that gets the royal treatment, decorated each year with huge murals made with thousands of bushels of corn, as well as grain, wild oats, rye and wheat.

If you can't make it to either La Tomatina or the Corn Palace Festival this year, you can still participate in the spirit of these celebrations by purchasing a few hundred dollars worth of items from Whole Foods, and then throwing it all into a dumpster in front of a homeless person.





Today is the first day of September, which means it's also the first day of a whole host of important commemorative months. And not a moment too soon. For as our nation's children prepare for their return to school, parents everywhere once again grow anxious over such safety concerns as rampant bullying, the threat of molestation by crossing guard and virulent strains of vaccination-resistant cooties. Get a head start on schoolyard security with Backpack Safety America Month, when kids can learn valuable tips such as the recommended maximum weight for a loaded backpack (no more than 15 percent of your body weight), and which packs have the best hidden yet accessible zippered pockets for you to store your dimebag after you pop out for a quick smoke during study hall.

Those parents whose kids are a little too young for backpack safety will probably appreciate that September is also Baby Safety Month. And for those celebrating both events, a reminder to our readers engaged in human trafficking: When securing babies in your backpack for transport over state lines, make sure the total gross weight is no more than 15 percent of your body weight. After all, it would be a shame to damage your baby-smuggling backpack and have to go back to the old days of stuffing a baby in a condom and shoving it up your ass.

Finally, for those who favor more "alternative" pursuits, September is International Gay Square Dance Month, lending a whole new meaning to the phrase "swing your partner." This month, be sensitive to our friends in the GSD community. After all, it's hard enough coming out of the closet once without having to admit you're also a square dancing enthusiast.






Today is VJ Day, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the first time The Black Table masturbated to Martha Quinn.

Oh, all right. It was on this day in 1945 that the Japanese formally surrendered to the Allies, marking the official end of World War II. While VJ Day is commemorated in the U.S. on August 14, when news of the surrender reached our shores, it was today that Japanese officials joined American commanders aboard a battleship in Tokyo Bay for the official signing of the "instrument of surrender" -- interestingly enough, the very same instrument on which Cheap Trick would later record their 1978 classic of the same name.

In honor of the occasion, artist J. Seward Johnson has created a life-size sculpture of what is perhaps the most enduring image of the occasion: Alfred Eisenstadt's famous photograph of an American sailor smooching a nurse in Times Square. Original kiss-ee Edith Shain, now 87, was on hand for the unveiling and recalled the kisser as, frankly, a bit of a cold fish. "After he left me alone, I walked away," says Shain. "This was somebody I didn't know, so I couldn't relate to it at all." Way to get into it, lady. You might be the greatest generation, but at least our girls have gone wild.

Also today in 1969, the first automatic teller machine in the United States was installed in Rockville Centre, New York. The introduction of the ATM was a milestone for banking and convenience and was followed the very next day by another milestone: The first time anyone in a restaurant used the phrase, "I've only got twenties. Anyone got small bills? No? Everybody only has twenties? All right, well, I guess we'll just wait for change." Ah, progress.




Jason Reich is an Emmy-winning writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.


INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.