Forty Days

This book is on Luke’s book shelf. Forty Days is a 1992 non-fiction book by Bob Simon, an award-winning veteran journalist for CBS News. The book describes the forty days he spent being imprisoned and tortured by the Iraqis after being captured, along with four of his crew, during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

It’s not clear whether Luke or Jess is reading the book – but like Lorelai and Rory, there is a good chance that they share books anyway. If it’s Luke’s book, it shows that, like Jess, he has an interest in journalism. (It feels as if everyone is interested in journalism on Gilmore Girls!).

Germany’s Victory in the Franco-Prussian War

DARREN: What about the year of Germany’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War?

The Franco-Prussian War, often referred to in France as the War of 1870, lasted from 19 July 1870 to 28 January 1871. Germany won after besieging Paris for more than four months, and one of the main consequences of the war was the unification of Germany, leading to the formation of the modern German state, which became the dominant world power in Europe.

[Painting is Battle of Mars-le-Tour, August 16 1870 by Emil Hünten, 1870]


DARREN: Do you know which French city famous for its water was the capital of collaborationist France?

LORELAI: Oh, me? Um, Evian, Perrier, uh, Le Crystal Geyser?


Vichy is a city in central France on the river Allier, a spa town and resort famous for its warm mineral springs, the direct result of historical volcanic activity – although the volcanoes have been dormant for more than a century. During World War II, it was the seat of government for Vichy France from 1940 to 1942. Officially independent, Vichy France adopted a policy of collaboration with Nazi Germany.

Lorelai quickly says the first brands of mineral water she can think of. Evian has been bottling mineral water from Évian-les-Bains in the French Alps since 1829. Perrier bottles its carbonated mineral water from Vergèze in Southern France, beginning production in 1898. Crystal Geyser is actually an American company, founded in Calistoga, California in 1977.

Chopin, Padarewski

DARREN: Jack, which Polish composer –

JACK: Chopin!

DARREN: Patience . . . became Prime Minister of his country?

JACK: Paderewski.

Frédéric Chopin, born Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849), Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period, who wrote primarily for solo piano. He was one of the earliest musical celebrities, and he has maintained his reputation as a poetic genius and one of the great musicians of his generation.

Ignacy Jan Padarewski (1860-1941) [pictured], Polish pianist and composer who became a spokesman for Polish independence. He was appointed prime minister in January 1919, and signed the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I. He resigned in November 1919, and continued his musical career, rarely visiting Poland again.

The French Revolution and The Crusades

PARIS: But this year – everything changes, starting with the library. It’s completely out of proportion with its subjects. I mean, there’s five hundred volumes on the French Revolution, yet only three on the Crusades.

The French Revolution, previously mentioned. A period of radical political and societal change in France from 1789 to 1799. Many of its ideas are considered fundamental principles of liberal democracy, while phrases like liberté, égalité, fraternité reappeared in other revolts, such as the 1917 Russian Revolution, and inspired campaigns for the abolition of slavery and universal suffrage. The values and institutions it created dominate French politics to this day.

The Crusades, a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Roman Catholic Church in the medieval period. Beginning with the First Crusade which resulted in the recovery of Jerusalem in 1099, dozens of Crusades were fought, providing a focal point of European history for centuries.

“All great empires have fallen”

PARIS: In the past, all great empires have fallen. The feeling seems to be that it’s inevitable – that something like what the Romans built could not last.

Paris refers to the Roman Empire, previously mentioned.

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican era of Roman civilisation, lasting from the accession of the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, in 27 BC to 395 AD, when it disintegrated under onslaughts from Germanic tribes such as the Goths and the Huns after the death of Theodosius the Great, the last Roman Emperor.

The fall of the Roman Empire is often invoked whenever a particular long-standing institution is threatened, or is perceived to be threatened, by destructive outside forces.

[Painting shown is The Course of Empire, Destruction by Thomas Cole, 1836].

Annie Oakley

LORELAI: Well, apparently this lovely girl came home to find her husband giving the nanny a nice little bonus package … The man was shot thirty-five times. He looks like a sprinkler system.

EMILY: I can’t believe this. Shauna was always such a nice girl. She was bright, cultured, well-spoken.

LORELAI: And apparently, a big Annie Oakley fan.

Annie Oakley, sharpshooter, previously discussed.

Emily manages to get in a nice little dig at Lorelai by remarking of Shauna, “At least she had a husband to kill”.

Manhattan Garbage Union

LUKE: Yup, it’s tough when the universe is against you. That’s like taking on the Manhattan Garbage Union.

Luke refers to the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, called “New York’s Strongest”. Workers at New York City’s Sanitation Department are responsible for collecting trash, and for clearing the streets of snow during winter.

The strength of their union became apparent in February 1968 when they went on strike for nine days demanding higher wages, leading to 100 000 tons of trash on the streets, with piles of garbage everywhere [pictured]. The strike was ended when state governor Nelson Rockefeller agreed to the sanitation workers receiving a slightly higher wage than they otherwise would have, and further arbitration.

Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis that year was in support of the sanitation workers, and it inspired the sanitation workers in Memphis to launch their own strike, just days after the one in New York ended. The Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association claim Martin Luther King Day (16th January) as a holiday each year, in recognition of Dr King’s support for their cause.

There were other strikes by the sanitation workers during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, but they were usually resolved within a day or two, the city having learned its lesson that you have to take care of the people who collect your trash.

Ottoman and Napoleon Complex

RORY: Hello living room.

LORELAI: Hello Rory, we missed you. Not the ottoman, of course, but everyone knows he’s a snob. Napoleon complex, he only really likes the magazine rack.

An ottoman is a small padded seat without a back or arms that can be used as a table, stool, or footstool. They are also known as tuffets, hassocks, or pouffes. The name comes from the Ottoman Empire from where it originated, the seat introduced to Europe in the 18th century.

A Napoleon complex is an imaginary syndrome attributed to people of short stature, where the short person (usually a man), overcompensates for their size by being too aggressive or domineering. In psychology, it is regarded as a derogatory social stereotype and a piece of mysandry. It comes from the idea put about by the British in the 19th century that Napoleon Bonaparte’s short temper was caused by him being of short size. In fact, Napoleon was 5 foot 7, average height for his era.

Presumably the ottoman only likes the magazine rack because it’s the one thing smaller than it is!

General Sherman

MRS. KIM: This was Sherman’s shaving table … General Sherman, famous man, burned Atlanta, liked a close shave.

General William Tecumseh Sherman, previously mentioned. A general in the Union Army during the Civil War, he invaded Georgia with three armies in the spring of 1864. His campaign against Atlanta ended successfully in September of that year with the capturing of the city, and he gave orders that all civilians were to evacuate the city before giving instructions that all military and government buildings were to be burned, although many private homes and businesses were too. This victory made him a household name, and ensured the re-election of President Abraham Lincoln in November that year.

In fact General Sherman had a slightly scruffy beard, rather than being close-shaven. This seems to be another hint that Mrs Kim is not always honest about her antiques.