Let me be up front about my cultural biases: I grew up in the south, in a half-Appalachian family. People down there are good at spinning yarns (if you just want a brief idea, this Mother Jones piece about the “last moonshiner” is a good example). Furthermore, my mom studied Appalachian storytelling, and I grew up going to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. So I’m not just aware that fish stories, so to speak, exist, I’m used to it, and they were an important part of my childhood growing up.

So when it’s revealed that, 34 short years ago when he was 16, Mark Kirk couldn’t have actually stood on his capsized boat and watched the sun go down, or that maybe his body wasn’t as cold as he said it was, or maybe he didn’t swim a mile… my reaction is pretty much the opposite of surprise. Or

While we’re on the subject, an official taxonomy of Mark Kirk embellishments:

Military service: concerning, and just weird, since Kirk has an honorable record on its own.
Teaching experience: just weird.
Something that happened when he was 16 and likely hypothermic: everybody just calm down a bit.

Rich Miller has a lot more.

And it’s certainly worth noting: nothing Kirk’s said about his recent or distant past has bothered me as much as Alexi Giannoulias’s campaign ad about his bank.