Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Is it Myanmar or your Burma?

I had a whole different topic in mind for today, and I may get to it later, but first I need to address an issue that has arisen in the media coverage of martial law and government crackdown on protests in a Southeast Asian nation of uncertain name and, for most of us anyway, even more uncertain location. Now, before you read any further, this is a very serious situation involving civil rights, religious persecution, and people willing to die for a cause, so, naturally, I am going to make some jokes about it.

This morning, reported on this story in Burma, said the name Burma in each of the first four paragraphs, and did not once mention Myanmar. said it took place in Myanmar, and the only mention of Burma came in a statement from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said that the U.N. should send an envoy there. went with Burma, except that a sidebar labeled "About Burma" said that Burma is also known as Myanmar and stuck with that label for the rest of the blurb.

Like most people under the age of, let's say 50, my previous knowledge of this geographic conundrum comes from one J. Peterman on "Seinfeld." "You most likely know it as Myanmar, but it will always be Burma to me." Man, this is giving me a bigger headache than the whole Turin/Torino debate at the last Winter Olympics.

I say we settle this thing once and for all, right now. Burma implies a connection to Burma Shave, a product that harkens back to 1950's era American nostalgia and optimism. Myanmar could be a generic brand Mallomar or, more likely, a file-sharing system your kids are using to illegally trade the latest Fergie and Plain White Tees singles. Sure it's popular now, but once the FCC and the corporate overlords catch on, it'll end up sharing a room with Webvan and Against my better judgment as a closet subversive, I think I'll go with Burma.

Okay, so it's Burma, now where is this place? My frame of reference for world geography will forever be the map from Risk ("the game of world domination), so is Burma anywhere near Yakutsk, or is more in the Kamchatka neighborhood? I know, I know, it's in Southeast Asia, which means Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc., so at least we have a solid track record of military success should we need to intervene in this crisis.

What did we learn at Fitzfacts today? Personally, I learned that there is no such breed of dog as the Burmese Mountain Dog. It's a Bernese Mountain Dog and is native to Switzerland, which has had the same name, location, and geographic borders for nearly 200 years.

Tomorrow: My Favorite Movie Critics

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