Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brits behaving badly


I realized today that a lot of what I've been reading could fall under the heading "Beach Reads", books that are light and undemanding, great for the summer season. You Can Get Arrested For That certainly fits the description. It's the true story of two Brits who traveled to the U.S. to intentionally break stupid laws. There are many absurdities in our country's legal codes and it was pleasant reading, following these two on their quest. They weren't always successful but managed to break enough laws to make their journey worthwhile. They fished while wearing pajamas in Illinois, entered a theater within three hours of eating garlic in Indiana, and peeled an orange in a hotel room in California. The unfortunate thing about the book was the constant drunkenness chronicled throughout. Did the reader really need to know that our travelers drank themselves silly in every Hooters they encountered? Alas.

You Can Get Arrested For That spurred a personal inquiry into our own state's peculiar laws. We've got 'em, although it sometimes takes a literal translation of the RCW to see how a law could be considered dumb. An example: no person may walk about in public if he or she has the common cold (per RCW 70.54.050, which forbids willfully exposing someone else to an infectious disease.) But some laws get right to the point, clearly making it illegal to pretend that one's parents are rich, buy a mattress on Sunday, or (love this one) paint polka dots on the American flag. Why are polka dots singled out? What happened, way back when? All of these have back-stories and I wish I knew them.

In Bremerton, you may not shuck peanuts on the street. You heard me. Don't do it.

Alphabet Juice, by Roy Blount Jr, is a great book for those who love everything to do with words. It's a dictionary, of sorts, offering alphabetic lists of words, expounding on their etymology, playing with usage, often leapfrogging from one fact to another and ending up far from where you started. I'd heard of Mr. Blount (Jr) but hadn't read anything written by him until Alphabet Juice. Shameful, really. He is right up my alley, in there with all the other smart and wry and funny folk, and I'm sorry I didn't pay attention earlier. An Author Binge may be looming.

Overheard on Twitter: Is it uncouth to eat the mac and cheese right out of the pot if it's just for you?

Next time: smoke alarms. Stay tuned.

(p.s. Regarding peanut laws, it is illegal to sell peanuts in Lee County, AL, after sundown. On Wednesdays.)

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