Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Entry: 2008

How cool is this: where I am (East Coast of the USA), it's 2 hours until midnight on New Year's Eve, and this is the (currently) first sentence of the entry for 2008:

Okay, so I trimmed it to the point where you can't tell it's from Wikipedia, but you guys believe me, right? Trustworthy stranger on the Internet? Yeah? Good.

It is so nice to know that there are dedicated Wiki nerds who have put aside culturally acceptable drunken bacchanals to keep the Wik' as accurate as possible. Kudos to you, friends. And here's to a great 2009, hopefully filled with largely useless factoids and dorky quips.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Entry: Heil Honey I'm Home!



Heil Honey I'm Home was a British sitcom that touted itself as a lost series from the 1950s, and therefore was styled to parody shows like Leave it to Beaver. The main characters were Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun. Yeah. Apparently most of the plots revolved around Adolf's inability to get along with their neighbors. The Goldensteins. I say "apparently" because the network pulled it after one episode.

There has to be a Valkyrie joke in there somewhere, but I'm too busy being flabbergasted to make it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Entry: Yule Lads

I am having trouble wrapping my narrow American mind around this.

In Iceland, instead of Santa Claus (well, considering the scope of globalization, I'm sure Icelanders are familiar with Santa-- I digress), the traditional Christmas Characters are known as Jólasveinarnir, or the Yule Lads. Now, they might sound like the kind of folk band that wears matching sweater vests, but in actuality they are thirteen sons of trolls who come around one by one, starting with Stekkjastaur on December 12, and stay for two weeks each, the last one, Kertasníkir, leaves on January 6. And, apparently, they bring four weeks of utter misery, although in modern times they have taken to leaving presents in children's shoes, probably at the advice of a wise publicist.

Anyway, back to the mischief... each Lad has a unique method of harassing the good citizens of Iceland. You can see the whole list (and the translation of the Lads' names) if you read the article, but to give you a taste: Stekkjastaur, the first one, "harasses sheep." I'm not going to make the obvious joke. The other one I mentioned, Kertasnikir, steals candles from children, presumably said children's only source of light. I don't know if finding a Rubik's cube in my shoes would make up for wandering around lost in the dark and the cold. Most of the others commit food-related shenanigans, such as Bjúgnakrækir, who hides in the rafters of a house and steals sausages hung up for smoking.

To top it all off, "the Yule Lads are often depicted with the Yuletide Cat, a beast that, according to folklore, eats children that don't receive new clothes in time for Christmas." The hell? I understand legends where naughty children receive some kind of grim punishment, but not receiving new clothing in time for Christmas? Are children in Iceland especially whiny when they're dragged to the mall for new clothing?

So let that be a lesson to you: before you bitch that Santa didn't bring you an iPhone, remember that you could be wandering around candleless and sausageless in the Icelandic winter with a traumatized sheep.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Entry: Up to eleven

Sometimes Wikiquote will link you back to Wikipedia, as I discovered whilst perusing the This Is Spinal Tap page, searching for the correct phrasing of the "these go up to eleven" scene. And on top of that discovery, an even more astounding one from the aforementioned linked article:

"Up to eleven" is in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Now, I don't understand why the article specified the SOED, because I would think that if it's in the abbreviated version, it will be in the full version, too. But who am I to argue with open-source information?

Oncemore, the reported definition is somewhat lacking: "up to the maximum volume." Pffft. Technically true, but fails to capture all the nuances of meaning in the expression. Would you define The Great Gatsby as "a book about whiny rich people?" (Well, I would, but I didn't like The Great Gatsby.) Who better than to explain the phrase than Nigel Tufnel himself:

Well, despite the glaring imperfections, I remain pleased that one of the funniest movies ever made had found such a permanent place in our vernacular.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Entry: ...None?!

Tonight I learned a lesson of such value and importance, it surpassed everything I've read on the Wik' in the past few days. And I learned it from the back of the box that my dinner came in*.

To extrapolate: cardboard is flammable. A maxim I will hold dear to my heart for all time.

One has to wonder if this warning was the result of a lawsuit.

* To save face: I like cooking, I'm pretty decent at it, I just didn't have the energy for it tonight.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Entry: the Gaslight Anthem

I like to peruse music critics' end-of-year lists for new bands to check out. Doing so this year netted me The Gaslight Anthem's fantastic The '59 Sound. Looking to Wikipedia to tell me more about the band, I found out that they started out in New Brunswick, NJ-- the city in which I attended college. (R-U rah rah, etc.) And they formed when I was in college. Meaning that I missed out on seeing them at a house party or dive bar, giving me the ability to, when someone mentioned them in casual conversation, sigh ponderously and say, "Yeah, I was into them when they were... y'know... less commercial." Another opportunity to gain indie cred slips through my fingers like so much mercury.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Entry: Rabbits in Australia

I'm cheating a little bit with this entry; usually I post about things I've learned via random browsing, looking up one thing and discovering something completely different of interest, and the occasional link from friends. This time I heard something mentioned in passing on the latest episode of Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, didn't believe it, and looked it up on Wiki. And am still somewhat surprised.

Now, I knew that Australia had many problems with invasive species, one of them being the European rabbit. And I knew that the Australians had tried to take care of the problem by building a very long fence that helped three little girls find their way home and thwarted Kenneth Brannagh in being a dick.

But what I did not know was that the Australian government resorted to biological warfare. In 1950, wild rabbits were infected with myxomatosis, which causes tumors and allows for secondary bacterial infections. This caused the wild rabbit population to drop from 600 million to 100 million. However, we all know what rabbits do well, and the Australian rabbit population recovered doubled by 1991.

Now, I know that invasive species have a devastating effect on the environment in which they are introduced, but I can't help but feel a bit sorry for the rabbits. I blame my soft-heartedness on having seen the film version of Watership Down when I was a child, and been scarred for life. Although come to think of it, a sequel to WD that takes place in Australia during the 1950s would be neat. Picture it: rabbits in biohazard suits!

...okay, I'll stop now.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Entry: Shea Butter

I'm so completely insulated by my middle-class American existence, I feel a little embarrassed that I didn't know this. (I also might have a job involving the sale of products using said ingredient.)

That being said: shea butter, which is known popularly in my neck of the woods as a moisturizing agent in skin cream, is used as a cooking oil in West Africa. Neat!

Also: man, we will put just about anything on our skin, won't we? I wonder if anyone would buy lard if the Body Shop sold it for $20 per tin.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Entry: Hooverball

I was linked to this article by Kirk. Thanks, Kirk!

Hooverball is a game, played with a medicine ball, developed for former President Herbert Hoover by his personal physician.

"Now why," I can hear you asking, "didn't Hoover go to pilates class like everyone else?" Because when you're the leader of the free world, you get your very own sport, God dammit! In fact, all the presidents have had their own sports. And believe me, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as eXtreme Taftgliding.

The game itself, as I understand it, is something like a cross between volleyball and catch. You have two teams separated by an 8-foot net, and a 6-pound medicine ball is thrown back and forth. You have to stand still after catching the ball, and you can't throw from front court to front court. Because any attempts to spike a 6-pound medicine ball will result in pain. Winning point is scored by the first team that creates policies that fail to combat massive economic downturn.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Entry: Sea Wolf

I was browsing the Wik' for new bands to check out, but instead I was met with the sober reminder that Wikipedia is occasionally full of lies.

The standard format for a band article is to have a photo of said band on the right side at the top of the article, but look what I found on Sea Wolf's page:

This is an obvious fake; if the subject of this photo was in an indie band, he'd be dressed like a hobo. Nice try, random Wikipedia rapscallion. Don't think I didn't notice the MSPaint scribble in the bottom left corner. What are you trying to hide?

Also, Sea Wolf wrote an original song, "Song of the Magpie," for the audiobook version of Augusten Burroughs’ memoir A Wolf at the Table. Neat! If you can believe it.