I blame the Scots for the worldwide embrace of midnight debauchery. And, of course, whoever it was that, some little while beforehand, went and invented public clocks. Clocks are the real key. The whole notion of bidding formal and raucous farewell to the Old and offering optimistic greeting to the New was something that could really only occur once we in the public square knew when the exact moment of midnight was. Until the manufacture of proper clock escapements, and until Galileo exhibited the marvels of the pendulum, the slow appearance of dawn just had to do. First light was the only clue anyone had as to the start of a new year. But then came clocks, at first great clanking iron engines equipped with enormous hanging bells that could inform us of the passing of time. Clocks that could perform this magic were first placed on top of specially-built church towers—initially to wake the villagers from slumber, to bring the harvest-workers home from the fields, or to sound the Angelus and bring in the pious to pray. These devices first began to peal their chimes in the 15th century, and they had become popular and quite widely dispersed by the 17th. All towns had them by then, as did most villages—and it was about this time that the Scots, armed with timepieces of their own, enthusiastically got into the act.They (the Scots, anyway) say the Scots are the smartest people in the world. I don't know about that. The most-drunken, yes. the most-debauched, yes. Poorest, they're getting there. But not the smartest. *This might be one of the most-astounding drinking stories of the aged year, and it comes from the Land of Giant President Heads and Motorcycle Rallies: "A Sturgis woman had a blood-alcohol level of .708 percent, possibly a state record, when she was found earlier this month behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle parked on Interstate 90, according to Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal." Point seven!?!? I didn't think a person could even live after passing .5. Remarkable. If this were April 1st, I'd think it was a hoax.
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