Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Affairs Of State

Chops Populi

Victor Biaka-Boda, who represented the Ivory Coast in the French Senate, set off on a tour of the hinterlands in January 1950 to let the people know where he stood on the issues, and to understand their concerns - one of which was apparently the food supply. His constituents ate him.

[His colleagues, according to an account in Time magazine in July 1951, remembered Biaka-Boda, a former witch doctor, as a "small, thin, worried-looking man."]


American Ambassador Joseph Hodges Choate was leaving an official reception in London, dressed in plain black, America having no diplomatic uniform. Another ambassador, mistaking him for a servant, briskly commanded, "Call me a cab!"

Choate gazed at him a moment, and then replied genially, "You're a cab, sir."

[Choate, according to his family, later told the enraged diplomat, "If you'd been better looking, I would have called you a hansom cab."]

A Diplomatic Reception

The first European ever seen in Sikkim was Deputy Commissioner Campbell of Darjeeling. He toiled his way up in the time of the great-grandfather of the present Chogyal.

Campbell's materialization in the audience room dismayed His Highness.

CHOGYAL [to his vizier, the only English-speaking courtier]: Who are these extraordinary creatures with red faces and hair growing out of their cheeks? They look like monkeys!

VIZIER [blandly, bowing to Deputy Commissioner Campbell]: His Highness bids you welcome. He expresses the hope that your journey was not unduly arduous.

Eating Democrats

Alferd Packer ate five prospectors whom he was guiding over a high Colorado plateau in 1874.

The judge who sentenced Packer to hang indignantly pointed out that "There was only six Democrats in all of Hinsdale County and you ate five of them."

[The Department of Agriculture startled the official community by dedicating the cafeteria in its Washington building to Alferd Packer in 1977. The General Services Administration then removed the dedicatory plaque, accusing the Department of Agriculture of "bad taste."]

Hot Seat

When the electric chair first became popular, shortly before the turn of the century, Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, hearing of this marvel, ordered it from America. Alas, it didn't work.

No one had told the emperor that for best results one needed electricity. Ethiopia had none.

The Abyssinian underworld relaxed. Menelik ordered the chair fitted up as a throne, which he put into regular service.


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