Last week some of the literary allusions...

IN CATALOGING

February 10, 1992

IN CATALOGING last week some of the literary allusions George Bush's speechwriters had borrowed (unattributed) for his State of the Union address, we overlooked an obvious one.

The president assailed critics of his capital-gains tax cut by saying, "You kind of remind me of the old definition of the Puritan, who couldn't sleep at night worrying that somehow, someone, somewhere was out having a good time."

The exact words from a former contributor to this page, H. L. Mencken, were, "Puritanism -- The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

That is from the chapter, Sententiae, in "A Mencken Chrestomathy," the same chapter where you will also find such timely comments on today's politics as:

"The war on privilege will never end. Its next great campaign will be against the special privileges of the underprivileged." (Welfare reformers, please note.)

And, "A man always blames the woman who fools him. In the same way he blames the door he walks into in the dark." (Bill Clinton, please note.)

* * * OENOLOGISTS once thought they knew everything about the origins of wine -- it came from the ancient Egyptians, right? Wall paintings, preserved thousands of years, show that Egyptians knew how to press and ferment the fruit of the vine. Writings dating back 5,000 years detail their process.

But now a researcher from the University of Toronto has uncovered what Discover magazine calls "almost certain" proof that Sumerians -- not the Egyptians -- were the first wine-makers 500 years earlier.

Studying ancient pottery shards, a researcher noticed a reddish residue. She said it looked like wine, but established wisdom said it was only paint. Tests by the University of Pennsylvania's archaeological sleuths found near-conclusive proof it was wine, back in 3,000 B.C., and there's good reason to believe it was. After all, the Sumerian civilization did peter out in antiquity. Maybe they partied too hard.

* * * STATE SEN. Art Dorman is leading the fight to make the Astrodon our state's official dinosaur. "If they were our precursors here in Maryland, then we ought to have them as our dinosaur," he said.

Just a few questions:

* When Senator Dorman says the Astrodons were "our precursors," for whom is he speaking? Is he telling us the state Senate evolved from large, hungry reptiles?

* If Baltimore gets a pro football team, might it be called the Astrodons? Would its new stadium be called the Astrodondome? (Or, worse, Astrodondome at Camden Yards?)

* Isn't Maryland's venerable comptroller, Louie Goldstein, already the official state dinosaur?

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