Vladimir Putin's office recently announced something that's got me baffled. It's good for me it was announced in English, or I'd be in trouble, since the only Russian I can read isn't actually Russian but is Tetris fan fiction. To be specific Putin's office wanted people to know the Russian prime minister had not recently attended a concert, held in what press reports describe as a ``military-style compound'', performed by the band Bjorn Again, an ABBA tribute band. So whatever else may be said about the state of the world at least we have that straightened out. We know what Putin wants the world to know about his ABBA tribute band concert attendances.
My problem is I can't figure out what lead up to that announcement. It doesn't make sense as an unprovoked comment. If anyone told you, without being asked and I'd bet while you were both stuck in a line at the supermarket, ``I have not recently attended an ABBA tribute band concert at a military-style compound recently'', your only rational response would be to flee. Then you'd suspect, from a safe distance, that they must be lying and, worse, haven't got any idea how to lie competently. They should practice with some easier lies first, like, ``I like accidentally driving my car into muddy ditches'' or ``I can reverse the flow of time'' and work up to the hard-to-believe lies.
Yet the alternative is to suppose someone asked whether Putin had recently been at an ABBA tribute band concert recently, maybe at a military-style compound or maybe anywhere that ABBA tribute bands could be found. Who'd raise that question anytime before learning everything else there is to possibly know about Putin? And we can't have reached that point already. We still don't have a full explanation about his time as a children's television comedy star or the year he spent playing for the Green Bay Packers. Perhaps someone is going around asking everybody this particular question in the hopes of hitting something interesting, but then we ought to hear about lots of people who haven't recently been to ABBA tribute band concerts, such as those Antarctic station researchers who have to stay there all winter, or the Pope.
So these results suggest the question was asked because of specific rumors about Putin attending such a concert. That only moves the baffling part back one step: how could this be a rumor? ``Attended an ABBA tribute band concert'' is one of the least exciting rumors to spread about a person. It ranks somewhere below ``writes yesterday's date while filling out checks'', ``doesn't remember whether knights start a chess game next to the rooks or next to the king and queen'', and ``only pretends to look at web pages people mail him links to''. There are more compelling rumors being spread about green teas. Putting it at a ``military-style'' compound ought to increase the appeal of the rumor, but it mostly forces one to ask how much security an ABBA tribute band needs. I had thought they had amnesty.
I could offer plenty of better rumors to start if you needed, for example, ``Somehow haven't got the knack for using 2000 Flushes, so the water in the toilet stops turning blue after a disappointing couple dozen uses instead''. It's a heartbreaking problem and the person it was said of would get all sorts of well-meant advice which wouldn't help keeping the water from turning red. Or there's ``Believes that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has an incorrect understanding of how long the Renaissance painter Titian lived''. Anyone could sympathize with thinking a prime minister may not remember how long Titian lived. Titian, reached for comment, explained he had probably been dead for four centuries and was just leaving for a concert.
You know, now I wonder what if Putin's office actually announced this in Russian, and it was inaccurately translated to English before I could get at it. Maybe the original statement would make clear that Putin had actually recently not attended a Bangles tribute band's concert, and then the motives for making this publicly known would be obvious.
Trivia: As Warden of the Mint, Isaac Newton had an annual budget of about £7,500. Source: The Calculus Wars: Newton, Leibniz, and the Greatest Mathematical Clash of All Time, Jason Socrates Bardi.
Currently Reading: The Adventures Of Amos 'N' Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon, Melvin Patrick Ely.