No. 265: "Serfs Up"

No. 265: "Serfs Up"

No. 265: "Serfs Up"

Testing your knowledge of what happened this week
June 25 1999 3:00 AM

No. 265: "Serfs Up"

"In England, the rule was well established that 'no lord could be sued by a vassal in his own court, but each petty lord was subject to suit in the courts of a higher lord.' "This surprisingly relevant bit of medieval lore turns out to be the philosophical foundation of what?


Send your answer by 5 p.m. ET Sunday to

Wednesday's Question (No. 264)--"The $156K Problem":

Overheard at Sotheby's Tuesday: "My intention is to do whatever he indicates to me he wants done with them. He may want them returned. He may want me to destroy them. He may not care at all." You make the prediction: Who will want whom to do what?

"J.D. Salinger will want the buyer of his letters to return them to him. Then Salinger will send them back to Joyce Maynard, and she'll auction them off again, and once again, they'll split the take in one of the most elaborate swindles ever devised."--Tim Carvell


"Rudy Giuliani will want Randy Levine to destroy the entire print run of the first issue of Talk. That'll stop people from voting for her!"--Daniel Radosh (Peter Carlin, Dave Gaffen, and Douglas Wolk had similar answers.)

"That scientist is still waiting for Al Gore to let him know about those test rabbits."--Karen Bitterman

"This is Jeb Bush's wife's response to the question of what she should do with the 'over budget' collection of clothes she tried to sneak by customs in Miami."--Gene Geer (similarly, Mac Thomason and Greg Diamond)

"Justice Kennedy does not care what law librarians across the country do with all the Supreme Court Reporters from 1790 through 1998. Apparently, for all those years the justices were just kidding around."--Charles Star (similarly, Greg Diamond)


Click for more answers.

Randy's Wrap-Up

Once "auction" invoked the incomprehensible high-speed chatter of a tobacco dealer, building to the giddy crescendo, "Sold American!" Then some Virginia farmer slipped a bag of cash to his senator, and we all went out and drank bourbon until we puked all over the store-bought shoes of a Philip Morris lobbyist. Lordy me, I'm as nostalgic for the old South as Justice Kennedy.

Now "auction" invokes eBay and the sort of human progress that means an unsociable collector of original animation cells from prewar Warner Bros. cartoons will now have even fewer occasions to socialize awkwardly with others, in their pretty-boy footwear.


And even nowier, it means Dutch auction, which has dismal connotations, but so does everything with a Netherlandish prefix--Dutch treat, Dutch courage, Dutch Schultz. This is, of course, because a Dutch treat is no treat, Dutch courage is no courage, and Dutch Schultz is no Schultz at all. Or maybe he is, but undoubtedly a very inferior sort of Schultz. However, as Slate's own James Surowiecki explains with admirable clarity, the Dutch auction is quite a fine idea. You see, the way this thing works is if someone bids $100 and someone else bids $5, the low bid takes it--can that be right?--but in some sophisticated way that makes it great for everyone except the staff of Salon. Although the fun of calling David Talbot a sap must be diminished by the fact that last week his assets were zero, this week he's got $3 million. What a loser. In his fancy schmantzy store-bought shoes.

Beholdin' to You Answer

J.D. Salinger will want Peter Norton to return those letters--that's my prediction--and on the way over, maybe pick up a pizza and some beer--no, malt liquor--and some pornographic magazines, and some 30-weight motor oil, and that cute girl at the 7-Eleven. That's what I forecast. Time will tell.

On Tuesday, at a Sotheby's auction, Norton, creator of the popular software Norton Utilities, paid $156,500 for 14 letters Salinger wrote to Joyce Maynard 27 years ago.


In other 80-year-old-recluse news, Simon & Schuster announced the impending publication of The Dream Catcher, the memoirs of Salinger's 43-year-old daughter, Margaret.

Fun With Fordice Extra

Caught in an adulterous liaison, Mississippi Gov. Kirk Fordice, a flamboyant champion of family values, resigned Tuesday as co-chair of Dan Quayle's presidential campaign. ("I said, 'I'm going to do what's best for you, Dan.' ") No pesky blanks to fill in, no messy matches to, erm, match. Simply join me in kicking a Southern governor when he's down.

"Fordice's Four Principles of Good Government" (for more official Fordice twaddle, click here):

  1. Is it pleasing in the eyes of the Lord?
  2. Is it good for the people of Mississippi?
  3. How much does it cost?
  4. How are we going to pay for it?

Fordice answers a reporter about that vacation with a Memphis widow:

"Let me tell you something, you invade my privacy this way, six months from now, I'll whip your ass."

Fordice explains he's not a hypocrite:

"You say somehow I've betrayed the idea of family values? To me, the idea of family values has to do with a father and a home with a mother and father and children and nurturing."

After pleading memory lapses for weeks, Fordice admits that it was indeed lover Ann Creson who was with him at the wine-heavy lunch that preceded his car crash:

"Of course it was. Did you ever doubt it? I told you the absolute truth I had no clue what was going on. I still don't, other than what I was filled in on. Later on, of course, I found out that's who I was having lunch with."

Fordice explains that when the president has an affair, it's bad, but when the governor of Mississippi has one, it's OK:

"I have never lied before a grand jury. I have never lied to the people, wagging my finger on TV and telling blatant lies about my conduct."

Dance in America Extra

" 'Hockey,' performed to Cole Porter's 'Every Time We Say Goodbye' and to music by Alkistis Protopsaltis, is a gliding in-line skating duet for the deliciously goofy Tony Guglietti as the Player and Cheryl Lewis as the Elusive Puck who tames him."--New York Times, June 24, 1999

Lois Ambash's Headline Haiku

Delegates vote to unionize
approval of politicians' lies
as the world heals
at a nude beach.

--New York Times, June 24, 1999

Greg Diamond's Ongoing Extra

Last chance to mock the AFI's Greatest Legends List of movie stars by devising a brief plot summary of a movie in which any equally ranked pair--for instance Charlie Chaplin and Joan Crawford are both rated No. 10--should have co-starred. Replies due by Sunday.

Inspirational example:

No. 17 I Am Spondylosis!--A brash young man (Kirk Douglas) plots to marry a rich heiress but finds himself smitten instead with her mute widowed grandmother (Lillian Gish).

Common Denominator

Leftover Lewinskiana.