Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Tsar Is Born

Today we honor, since he told us to, the birthday of Ivan Vasilyevich, better known, behind his back, of course, as Ivan the Terrible. It’s a little known fact that Ivan was named Terrible years before he slaughtered entire villages, inadvertently caused the death of his son, turned lots of Russia into ruin and was murdered by men worried he was going to murder them (since they had the gall to stop him from raping someone). It turns out that Ivan, like so many children, was unruly, and was the first youth for which the term “the Terrible Twos” was created. The odd part is Ivan just remained terrible into his threes and fours and on and on, and even when he had a mildly calmer period in his early teens—which some historians chalk up to his being slowed by venereal disease—everyone called him Terrible. Then everyone was taken behind the building and beheaded.

Today we respect his terribleness, at a safe distance of 475 years, and his choice to adopt the name tsar for what he was. When you’re the tsar you get to use words that begin with “ts,” even though it seems, uh, terribly wrong. So think about that the next time you’re out having a tsar salad, that anchovy pasted crouton is in honor of a man who was so impressed with St. Basil’s Cathedral after he had it built that he had the architects blinded, so that they could never design anything as beautiful again. Of course after that all design in Russia went in the crapper for a couple centuries, as no one wanted to be rewarded for beauty with getting their eyes poked out.

BTW, if you’re planning on having a child who will grow up in politics, don’t give birth on August 25. This is also the birthday of Ludwig II, the Mad King of Bavaria, and of George Wallace, the racist of Alabama (ok ok, a racist of Alabama).


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