Thursday, December 10, 2009

Entry: Georgia Guidestones

This article was sent to me by friend of the blog SeeASea.

If you ever find yourself in Georgia and feel like taking a road trip, how about checking out the Georgia Guidestones? Some guy had them erected (hee!) in 1980; sometimes referred to as the American Stonehenge, the guidestones consist of six granite slabs with ten guidelines for a better world, written in eight different languages.

Humanity does a pretty good job of following rules written on stone slabs, right? Let's see how we've been doing with this bunch:

Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
Guide reproduction wisely - improving fitness and diversity.
Unite humanity with a living new language.
Rule passion - faith - tradition - and all things with tempered reason.
Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
Balance personal rights with social duties.
Prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite.
Be not a cancer on the earth - Leave room for nature - Leave room for nature.

Well... there's the United Nations... and Esperanto... so... we're screwed. Although if we kill off 11 out of 12 people, we might be okay. (Consider my finger on my nose for this one.)

Not to mention that some people are apparently really super grumpy that there's a fancy new set of ten rules chiseled into stone strutting around, competing with the older set of ten rules. Seems like the same people who always get their panties in a twist regarding environmental messages, too. Did their moms not yell at them to keep their rooms clean or something?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Entry: Ghost-riding

Perhaps this blog relies overly much on the cracks that Wikipedia breaks in my white, middle-class perspective on the world. It happens all the freaking time, though! And like the Minister of Cliches once said, "Write what you know." And what I know is that I'm very prone to doubletakes, followed by exclaiming "People do that?!" in a shrill voice.

Take ghost riding the whip, for example:

...when a person puts a car with an automatic transmission in drive or allows it to idle and then the driver (and passengers) of a vehicle exit while it is still rolling and dance beside it or on the hood or roof.

Ghost riding is an activity that has been practiced in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years during what are called sydeshows. The popularization of ghost riding the whip is a byproduct of the popularity of Bay Area music and hyphy culture in general.

Now, I'm not personally familiar with hyphy culture, but it would seem to me that the majority of ghost-riders do not (a) ghost-ride golf carts, (b) ghost-ride at what appear to be summer camps, (c) wear yarmulkes. And yet, the Wiki article gives us this photo as illustration:

Don't make this more confusing for me than it already is, Wikipedia.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Entry: Andre the Giant Has a Posse

This kinda blew my mind. It was one of those instances where you see something, and you don't know what it is, and it turns out to be a random configuration of stuff that you already knew about. Although, if you know what molecules are, then pretty much everything falls into that category, but you're a smart group, I'm a lazy writer, you know what I mean.

So I had seen these stickers around in the public sphere, slapped to various large objects:

And I never paid them much mind. Until I stumbled upon the sticker's Wiki article! (Well, I didn't literally StumbleUpon the article, my friend and I were having a discussion about culture jamming and you don't care at all.)

Those stickers are a portrait of Andre the Giant (aka Fezzig from The Princess Bride), as created by Shepard Fairey (aka the guy who did the Obama "Hope" poster). And the "OBEY" is a reference to They Live (aka the movie with the guy with the crazy sunglasses). It's a crazy pop culture golem! My favorite kind of golem.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Entry: Lady Gaga

Hi there, cats and kittens, long time no see! I won't get into why this post is so late; it seems much more fun to leave you to your assumptions. (Hint: if you assumed "drunk in a gutter," you're on the right track!)

Speaking of assumptions: when you hear about how one pop star began her career (e.g. backup dancer, Mousketeer, relative of someone important), you start to assume that everyone in that profession had a similar start. And by "similar start," I mean "they're okay to look at and generally got very lucky." Which is why I was surprised to read this about Lady Gaga:

Playing piano by ear from the age of 4, she went on to write her first piano ballad at 13 and began performing at open mike nights by age 14. At age 17, she gained early admission to the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. There, she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion and socio-political order.
which is pretty much the last thing I ever expected to read in her Wiki article. It is comforting to know that at least one pop tart got famous through hard work and study. Or, studying until dropping out of school to pursue her career, but she's two years younger than me and has a number one album, so who made the right decision?

And honestly, being part of the New York art scene probably goes a long way to explain this:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Entry: List of Music Genome Project attributes

Prepared to lose an entire afternoon to this one, space cadets.

Like all cool kids, I utilize Pandora now and then to expand my musical horizons. Oftentimes, however, I go to look up the attributes of my stations and have no idea what the hell any of them mean. For instance, I'm apparently really super into "extensive vamping." And, until I turned to the Wik', I had no idea what that was. Basically, it means I'm a simpleminded twit who likes to hear the same thing repeated many, many times in the span of four minutes or so. Also recurring: "major key tonality" AND "minor key tonality." I'm such a fencesitter.

But perhaps your taste in music is overly specific, and you've wondered to yourself: what other musical attributes that I don't care for are floating around in the aether? Thanks Wiki. You've really outdone yourself this time.

Here are some highlights:

"Backbeat Hand Claps." Specifically hand claps. No drums, no footstomping.
"Blazin' Rappin'"/"Tight Lyrics". Perhaps my dorkiness is preventing me from understanding exactly what this term means, but doesn't that seem a little subjective for something calling itself a "Genome Project"?
"Lyrics with Heavy Erotic Content". Is there a subgenre of this that I don't know about? Don't get me wrong, I'm hip, I listen to Serge Gainsbourg... but I can't imagine not wanting to laugh my ass off at lyrics with heavy erotic content.
"Mystical Qualities". One of the backup singers is a unicorn, say.
"Sexist Lyrics". Okay, as a member of the group that usually gets the short end of the stick when it comes to sexism, I'm biased. But why the hell would someone actively seek this out as a quality of music?
"Use of Dirty-Sounding Organs". What, like a rectum?
"Vinyl Ambience". Just throwing it out there as a name for a drag queen act. Think about it, girls.

If anyone has any information as to which bands or songs embody the aforementioned, please let us know.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Entry: the Watusi

In true Bader-Meinhoff fashion, I got in a discussion about this with my friends at dinner last night, and then again with my coworker this afternoon. Anywho.

I wish to attend a function where there will be dancing, but find myself lacking proper instruction for an obsolete and spastic-looking move! O Wikipedia, can you help me?

In the classic Watusi, the dancer is almost stationary with knees slightly bent, although may advance forward and back by one or two small rhythmic paces. The arms, with palms flat in line, are held almost straight, alternately flail up and down in the vertical. The head is kept in line with the upper torso but may bob slightly to accentuate the arm flailing.

That's a good start, but my flailing feels a bit stiff and rehearsed. Perhaps, Wikipedia, perhaps you could help me to better embody the spirit of the Watusi...

The dance, which became popular in the American surf/beach sub-culture of 1960s, may be enhanced if one imagines that ones feet are on sand.

Thank you.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Entry: Posthumous execution

This link was sent to me by Erin... via iPhone. That's right, you can send me links even when you aren't sitting in front of your computer like a dork. Learn from Erin's example.

History has presented us with numerous cases, from different parts of the world, where a corpse has been ritually "killed" a second time. Because... people are dumb?

Some of these cases are understandable, like Vlad the Imapler, "who was beheaded following his assassination." You don't want to make a mistake and have that guy coming after you because you didn't kill him properly. Or Gerard Butler, who was beheaded and crucified after he died at the end of that movie. They were pretty grumpy with him, boy howdy, and desecrating a corpse can be a good method of working out those issues.

Some of them, however, are just ridiculous. "John Wycliffe (1328–1384), was burned as a heretic 45 years after he died." Why? This was the 14th century, nobody lived past 18! Nobody! Why would you get mad enough at some guy who was talking smack about Jesus to your grandfather to dig up and burn his corpse? There weren't any other live heretics running around to burn? Or at least more recently deceased heretics? I am so glad that I have Twitter to distract me from doing stupid crap like this.

There's also the dramatic example of Oliver Cromwell, whose corpse was exhumed, then hanged, drawn and quartered, and tossed into a pit sans head. His head was later given a burial in 1960. Lesson learned: don't try to kill your monarch. This also leads us to one of the best out-of-context sentences on the Wik: "See also Oliver Cromwell's head." He's so historically relevant, his dismembered body part has its own Wikipedia article!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Entry: Tsutomu Yamaguchi

So, how's your Monday been going? Get stuck in traffic? Forget your lunch at home?

"Yamaguchi, an engineer in Hiroshima on a business trip for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on August 6, 1945 was just stepping off a tram when the atomic bomb Little Boy was dropped over the city just 3 kilometers away. The resulting explosion destroyed his eardrums, blinded him temporarily, and left him with serious burns over the left side of the top half of his body. He was wrapped in bandages for his skin wounds, and he went completely bald. Like many of the survivors of the atomic explosions, Yamaguchi suffered from effects caused by the explosions for much of his life. His wife was also poisoned by the nuclear fallout. Yamaguchi spent a fitful night in an air raid shelter before returning to his hometown of Nagasaki the following day. Yamaguchi was once again 3 kilometers away explaining to his supervisor how close he came to death just a few days before when the second bomb, Fat Man, was dropped."

Not only did he survive two nuclear explosions-- in fact, Yamaguchi is still alive-- but he wrote a book about his experience and is an activist for nuclear disarmament. Instead of, you know, in a padded room somewhere still trying to deal with the psychological implications of being in two nuclear explosions in three days. That's the truly amazing part, to me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Entry: High Five

This entry is a guest entry, which comes to me from Kirk, aka # μ from DO-xiii. Do you enjoy video games? How about laughter? ...wait, neither? What the hell is wrong with you? Check out Disorganization XIII anyway... freaking weirdo.

I found out about the entry for high-five via reddit, since I too an a lover of narwhals and bacon and recycled shit from /b/.

The high-five article is one of those articles that you think you know everything about, but goes on to surprise you. Part of what makes it awesome is entries for historically significant high-fives, such as the Jackson Five. But most of it is due to the awesome illustrative pictures explaining the "Too Slow" prank.

Not only is this series of pictures hilariously entertaining, they're an inspiration to us all to make Wikipedia a brighter place. Think of how many of the average digicam pictures merely contain a couch full of inebriated people, or a high-angle shot in someone's bathroom. If you're one of the cool kids, you'll devote at least a few of these pictures to contributing to an open-source internet encyclopedia. Actually, scratch that last sentence.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Entry: Twitterpated

For today's entry, we make a rare safari into the jungles of Wiktionary. Exciting, I know!

I've been familiar with the word "twitterpated" to mean lovestruck, but I was not aware that the first usage of the term was the movie Bambi. Let's all thank our lucky stars that we have monolithic entertainment corporations to embiggen our collective vocabulary.

Bambi was released in 1942 and the book it was based on, the dynamically titled Bambi, a Life in the Woods was published in 1923; so I suppose this would make "twitterpated" a neologism. But then again, what's the expiration date on a term being a neologism? Twitterpated has been around for at least 67 years; there are certainly many people still alive who were around before the advent of the word-- and oh what a dark and wretched time it was, only being able to describe someone as "besotted" or "smitten"-- but it's still a word that gained popular use through a movie, which, relative to the history of language is pretty cutting edge. So does that mean it's a paleoneologism? Destined in a few decades to become a simple word before retiring to Boca Raton with (obsolete) tacked onto the beginning of its definition?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Entry: Palm Dog Award

This is adorable.

Since 2001, the critics at the Cannes Film Festival have awarded the Palm Dog to outstanding performances by a canine or group of canines, real or animated, in one of the films shown at the festival.

Of course, out of the winners and nominees listed, I've only seen two of the films: Dogville and Triplets of Belleville. And let me say, I am pissed that the dog in the former won over the dog in the latter. Bruno is a charming, funny dog, who is pretty realistic for an animation. Moses is, for 99.99% of the role, a sound effect. Lame.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Entry: Staffordshire Hoard

Alert reader John sent me a link to this article. Thanks again, John!

This past July, amateur treasure hunter Terry Herbert uncovered the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold found to date, estimated to be worth over 1 million GBP! Which is over $1.5 million in real money!

Says John:

"The article itself is cool, but one line really grabbed me:

'The hoard was reported to the local officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and on 24 September 2009 was declared treasure by the South Staffordshire coroner.'

The coroner?! What the what?!? Why not the undertaker? Or the baker? Seriously. Those kooky Brits."

It does give one pause. Maybe they figured that he rifles through the dead's possessions enough that he was one most likely to be able to discern the crap from the good stuff?

Another thing to ponder: They found over 1500 pieces of armor and weaponry in about 20 square meters, with "no traces of any graves, buildings, or other structures have been found." How did they all end up there? A big giant battle, followed by a big giant pile of dead bodies that nobody bothered to clean up? A big giant barracks where everyone decided to become pacifist hippies one day and left all their swag behind? A big giant something else?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Entry: Tiger kidnapping

When I clicked on the link to tiger kidnapping, I was expecting something awesome, like stories of people chloroforming tigers and throwing them into the trunks of Buicks and driving off to abandoned warehouses with them. Instead, tiger kidnapping is just "is a crime in which an abduction forms part of a robbery." BORING. I'm disappointed in you, Wiki. You too, reality.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Entry: The Suckling

Take a few deep breaths.

Okay, good. Now, before I start this entry, be forewarned that it will discuss a specific controversial issue that usually starts a debate because everyone has a strong opinion about it, your humble blogger included. A debate that repeats other, similar debates before it, and a debate that never gets very far. In fact, I will recreate that debate here in the post for your convenience:

Commenter 1: I believe X!
Commenter 2: I believe ~X!
C1: ~X is wrong! Here is some rhetoric that supports my opinion!
C2: X is wrong! Here is some rhetoric that supports my opinion!
C1: There are logical fallacies in your reasoning.
C2: No, there are logical fallacies in YOUR reasoning.
Loop until the argument crumbles into personal attacks, and/or Godwin's Law comes into effect. Exuent COMMENTER 1 and COMMENTER 2, neither having changed their mind and both feeling that they have won.

There, the argument has been taken care of. No need for inflammatory comments. Moving on.

The Suckling is a 1989 horror film about a couple who seek an illegal abortion at a brothel (I guess it's a full-service establishment?). The fetus is exposed to toxic waste, and mutates into a murderous beast "complete with prehensile umbilical cord and hooked talons for hands", who "envelops the house in an enormous placenta and slaughters the inhabitants one by one."

Now, I know what you're thinking-- probably something along the lines of "Oh sweet Jesus, what kind of deranged mind would think such a film would be entertaining?"-- but I have to concede to the Wiki article itself for commentary:

As stated in the copy of one release of this film, "THE SUCKLING has been compared to Alien for its claustrophobic intensity and Die Hard for its non-stop action." Given the film's low budget and technical flaws, discerning filmgoers may disagree.

I have never read a more tactful criticism on a website.

What was bugging me, besides the subject matter, was the title. A suckling is, according to Wiktionary, "a young mammal which isn't weaned yet." So I guess it's technically correct, seeing as something that hasn't been born hasn't been weaned yet, but that can't be the correct usage of the term. And yes, I realize that I'm splitting hairs considering it's a movie in which a whorehouse is covered by a giant placenta, but they should have stuck with the alternate title: Sewer Baby.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Entry: Lynda Barry

I like to think that TILfW is generally a merry little blog, hewn from the sturdy wood of open-source encyclopedia articles and varnished with my weak attempts at humor. Its very concept is propelled by the sense of nerdish glee felt upon learning something interesting, and the resulting questions that crop up from wondering about said interesting fact.

Sometimes, however; sometimes learning can be a painful experience.

I had recently been rereading Lynda Barry's autobiographical graphic novel One! Hundred! Demons!, which I highly recommend if you're into that sort of thing, and went on the Wik' to find out more about her.

Apparently she and Ira Glass were a couple at one time. Initially kinda interesting, but then I found this in one of the footnotes, a quote from an article from some journal that doesn't change what it says according to the whims of random yahoos with a wifi signal (ie. a "reliable" source):

Barry does not remember the relationship fondly. The louse in her excellent One! Hundred! Demons! story "Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend" has been identified as Ira Glass. She is quoted in a 1998 Chicago Reader article as saying of Glass, "I went out with him. It was the worst thing I ever did. When we broke up he gave me a watch and said I was boring and shallow, and I wasn't enough in the moment for him, and it was over." Glass confirms, "Anything bad she says about me I can confirm."

My reality was shattered. Okay, not shattered, but the world seemed a little sadder and duller upon this discovery.

See, I'm sort of in love with him. Googling "crush on Ira Glass" yields 2,170 hits, which makes me feel less alone. He does appeal to the nerdy girl's sensibilities: smart, articulate, quirky, good listener, works for a nonprofit, wears funny glasses. I listen to the This American Life podcast every week, of course. I imagine Ira and I drinking chai lattes and browsing through flea markets, while he regales me with interesting stories unified around a theme; sometimes our friends David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell would be there too, and coincidentally have their own anecdotes to contribute. But this is apparently never going to happen (besides the fact that he's significantly older than me and lives halfway across the country and is married and probably not into girls who live with their parents) because he is a jerk. Or at least he was a jerk in the Eighties.

I'm too heartbroken to pick on the article author for his or her awkward use of "confirm."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Entry: No Name Key

There is a small island that is part of the Florida Keys known as No Name Key, and its existence is driving me up a wall. The island is named for the fact that it doesn't have a name! What kind of postmodern geography bullshit is that? The kind that angries up the blood, I'll tell you that much.

To No Name Key's credit, however, it does provide a home to an adorable subspecies of white-tailed deer, known as Key Deer. Not No Name Deer, and thank the gods for that, because I would have thrown my laptop across the room in a fit of semiotic rage.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Entry: Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116

It seems I'm not as good as getting this blog back to its former prolific state as I had hoped; not through lack of material. I'm getting really interesting links from people, which is awesome! Thanks, link senders!

Case in point: the awesome See ASea sent me today's article, about young Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, a lad who has turned into a bit of an urban legend. I've heard this story brought up as an anecdote before-- "Did you know there was some lady who named her kid a string of random numbers and letters that's pronounced 'Steve'?"-- but this is the real deal.

It happened in Sweden in 1991. Elisabeth Hallin and Lasse Diding initially intended to not name their son anything, in protest of a law that disallowed names that would be considered offensive, unsuitable, or "can be supposed to cause discomfort for the one using it." However, since they had not given their son a name by his fifth birthday and faced a fine from the court, they attempted to name him Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced "Albin"), "claiming that it was 'a pregnant, expressionistic development that we see as an artistic creation.' The parents suggested the name be understood in the spirit of 'pataphysics. The court rejected the name and upheld the fine." I have to say, though, that rejecting that name on the last term given in the law is pretty reasonable; asking a first grader to write Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 on the top of his worksheet is pretty cruel. Hell, I can't even be bothered to type it out, I've been copypasting this whole time.

They then attempted to name their child A, also pronounced "Albin," but apparently in Sweden there is a law against one-letter names. That's kinda lame. So they gave up and named their kid Albin.

To be honest, I find naming your kid Brfxx... to be more palatable than some of the ridiculous spellings that American parents come up with for common names in a halfhearted stab at originality. But then again I'm not a parent, so What Do I Know. And besides, using a kid's name to make a statement about a law that sucks in theory but relative to other laws probably doesn't matter that much? Swedes, you are awesome. You only trail Iceland in terms of awesomeness.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Entry: GG Allin

This guy... oh man.

I'm sure a lot of my more hardcore readers already know who GG Allin is, and are probably making fun of me right now for being such a square. My good friend Jess is the one who first made mention of him to me, and she is punk as f-word. In fact, the last time I saw her, she broke a Jack Daniels bottle over my head. I accept your unique way of showing affection, Jess, but did you have to use a full one? That's just wasteful.

So where was I? Uh... oh yes. GG Allin. I'm just going to quote from the article, because I don't even know how to embellish on this.

- "GG was born as Jesus Christ Allin at Weeks Memorial Hospital in Lancaster, New Hampshire. He was given this messianic name because his father, Merle Colby Allin, Sr., told his young wife, Arleta Gunther, that Jesus Christ himself had visited him and told him that his newborn son would be a great and all powerful man in the vein of the Messiah."

- "During the early to mid 1980s, Allin fronted many acts. These included early albums varying from The Cedar Street Sluts to The Scumfucs in 1982, and The Texas Nazis in 1985."

- "...Allin also began eating laxatives before performances - as defecation was becoming a regular stage act."

- "He wrote and visited John Wayne Gacy in prison a number of times and Gacy painted a portrait of Allin, which became the album cover to the soundtrack of the film, Hated: GG Allin And The Murder Junkies."

- "By this point, Allin's performances, which often resulted in considerable damage to venues and sound equipment, were regularly stopped after only a few songs by police or venue owners. Allin was charged with assault and battery or indecent exposure a number of times. His constant touring was only stopped by jail time or by long hospital stays for broken bones, blood poisoning, and other physical trauma."

- "At his funeral, Allin's bloated, discolored corpse was dressed in his black leather jacket and trademark jock strap. He had a bottle of Jim Beam beside him in his casket, per his wishes (openly stated in his self-penned acoustic country ballad, "When I Die"). As part of his brother's request, the mortician was instructed not to wash the corpse (which smelled strongly of feces), or apply any makeup. The funeral became a wild party. Friends posed with the corpse, placing drugs and whiskey into its mouth. As the funeral ended, his brother put a pair of headphones on Allin. The headphones were plugged into a portable cassette player, in which was loaded a copy of The Suicide Sessions. The video of his funeral is widely available for purchase, and is an extra feature on the Hated DVD and some bootleg VHS tapes. His grave is regularly vandalized with feces and alcohol by fans."

That... he... damn. If you'll excuse me, I have some bits to torrent.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Entry: Association of the Dead

Yes folks, I'm back. Thanks for the kind birthday wishes! Maybe it's grim death for a young upstart blogger such as myself to take a hiatus, but... damn, I needed one. But I'm back, and as adequate as ever! Yeah!

To celebrate TILfW's resurrection, I thought I'd talk about the Association of the Dead. In a region of northern India called Uttar Pradesh, corrupt officials can be bribed to falsely declare someone dead. Sounds like a capital joke to play on one's chum, to be sure, but unfortunately it's used to do things like, oh, gain ownership of someone's land when they don't want to sell it. Luckily for the walking dead, this association is willing to go to bat for them, because according to the article, "the process to undo this is long, arduous, as well as often hopelessly inefficient and corrupt — not to mention that those least able to fight back make excellent victims." And considering the founder of the organization was "dead" for almost 20 years, this does seem like the kind of thing you'd need some backup for. And you thought the DMV was bad! Wakka wakka.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Entry: *thhbbbpppt*

It's my birthday, so y'all should amuse your damn selves. I've got some very important drinking to do.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Entry: C.B. Fry

This article was sent to me forever ago by Neil. Thanks Neil, and I apologize for sucking at doing things in a timely fashion.

So, I know nothing about sports, and I know even less about sports that are not popular in my country. But this cricket player, C.B. Fry, was one cool cat.

First, allow me to take a moment and marvel at the sentences in this article that are written in my native tongue, but convey little or no information to me:

"A highly effective right-handed batsman, Fry captained both Sussex and England, and scored over 30,000 first-class runs at an average of over 50 (a particularly high figure for an era when scores were generally lower than today)."


"In his early career Fry was an enthusiastic and successful fast bowler. This was unusual amongst gentleman amateurs and he regularly opened the bowling for University sides and the Gentlemen. The late 1890's saw a re emergence of the throwing controversy. Several professional bowlers including Arthur Mold and Ernie Jones were no balled and forced to retire. Fry's bowling action was criticised by opponents and team mates alike and it was only a matter of time before he too was no balled (by Jim Phillips), despite his status as a gentleman."

HE SURE DID! That throwing controversy will get you every damn time.

On top of cricket, he played football, rugby, tied for the world long jump record, and "was able, from a stationary position on the floor, to leap backwards onto a mantelpiece." Whichever servant got stuck cleaning footprints off the mantel must have loved that particular party trick.

Outside of sport, Fry was an Oxford alum, wrote several books (a good number of which are, unsurprisingly, about cricket), was an adviser to the Indian delegation at the League of Nations (for those of you even more history illiterate than I, the League of Nations was the even more useless precursor to the UN), started two magazines, ran for some kind of crazy British political office, had a career in radio, and was a teacher at a prep school.

And, not only was he a well-rounded intellectual and accomplished athlete, but he was also... um... colorful. Fry was given to telling wild stories, like being offered the throne of Albania, went for naked runs on Brighton Beach, and tried to develop an interest for cricket in Nazi Germany. Presumably he changed his mind on the last bit after the Germans started bombing the hell out of his homeland.

Enthusiasm for the sporting culture of fascist regimes aside, a rather interesting fellow.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Entry: Thagomizer

I thought I'd stick with the vague etymology theme I've had going on and talk about a link that friend of the blog Galadriel linked me to a while back. Thank you, Galadriel! Or, should I say, hantanyel.

If, like me, you went through a serious dinosaur phase as a kid, you probably remember that the stegosaurus is the one with the big plates sticking up off his back and a spiked tail. And if, like me, you went through a serious Far Side phase several years later, you probably remember that Gary Larson drew strips about cavemen, like, all the damn time.

Well, apparently paleontologists really took a shine to this particular comic

because the term thagomizer has become an accepted (if informal) synonym for stegosaurus' tail spikes. Seriously, is there anything better than a scientist with a great sense of humor? Okay, there's plenty of things, but... they're still pretty cool.

I love that the article is careful to point out that "The fate of Thag Simmons notwithstanding, stegosaurs and humans did not exist in the same era." Suck it, creationists. (Assuming that Leviticus will let you.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Entry: Avocado

Another dirty-minded friend, another adult-themed entry.

Emma told me to check out the article for Avocado, the most delicious of non-sweet fruits, specifically the "Etymology" part. So, innocent lamb that I am, I click on the link she tweeted me.

Well, my friends, innocent lamb no more! Avocados were named after balls. Balls.

Okay, specifically the Nahuatl word for testicle, "ahuacatl." On top of that, avocados have quite a sordid reputation: "Historically avocados had a long-standing stigma as a sexual stimulant and were not purchased or consumed by any person wishing to preserve a chaste image. Avocados were known by the Aztecs as 'the fertility fruit'."

This is shocking! Especially for me. I love avocados-- or at least, I used to. I live in a small town, I don't want gossip to spread about who I pick up at bars due to what I pick up in the produce aisle. (See what I did there? I am a clever one.)

And my longstanding and famous love of guacamole (for once, I am not lying for the sake of humor-- I am a guacamole fiend); what have people been assuming? That I like to mash up balls and mix them with lime juice, salt, garlic, and cilantro?

...although, if I ever become a high-powered corporate shark of some kind, that might not be a bad image to have. Or a dominatrix.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Entry: Mantis Shrimp

Another urgent text message regarding a Wiki article, this time from Ziggy! Ah, the benefits of surrounding oneself with irredeemable nerds.

The first thing that struck me about the article was, of course, the colorful photo:

"Oooh!" I said to myself, "How pretty! The mantis shrimp must be the geisha of the sea."

But then I actually set about reading and gaining information!

The mantis shrimp is cold-blooded, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. The hundreds of species of mantis shrimp are separated into groups by what kind of claws they have: spearers have appendages with barbed tips, while smashers have "possess a much more developed club and a more rudimentary spear". Shrimps got spears.

On top of that, they are very good at using their claws for carnage: "In smashers, these two weapons are employed with blinding quickness...about the acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet. Because they strike so rapidly, they generate cavitation bubbles between the appendage and the striking surface. The collapse of these cavitation bubbles produces measurable forces on their prey in addition to the instantaneous forces of 1,500 newton that are caused by the impact of the appendage against the striking surface, which means that the prey is hit twice by a single strike; first by the claw and then by the collapsing cavitation bubbles that immediately follow. Even if the initial strike misses the prey, the resulting shock wave can be enough to kill or stun the prey." Shrimps will cut you. With physics.

Additionally, their eyes can move independently of each other and can see both ultraviolet and infrared. And they exhibit high intelligence and complex social behavior.

So, in conclusion, my original hypothesis was wrong. Mantis shrimp are the samurai of the sea.

There's a lot of detailed information in the Wiki article, but it leaves a lot of questions. Why haven't mantis shrimp conquered humans yet? Is there an ongoing government project to transplant crazy shrimp eyes into human subjects, making a hybrid supersoldier? What is my obsession with analogies comparing marine life with Japanese stereotypes? The world may never know.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Entry: Wood (musician)

I was reading the article for the band British Sea Power, and was going to pick on the band members for having one-word stage names, but the stub for Wood, the drummer, was just too cute to pass up. Kind of like your mom.

Anyway, the stub reads:

"Matthew Wood (stage name Wood) is British Sea Power's drummer. He also helps design most of the artwork for the sleeves.

He is often seen as the quietest member of the band (rarely taking part in interviews), and when seen playing bass on 'No Red Indian' it is also evident he is the tallest member of the band. He has blond hair."

That's it! It's like a blurb you'd find in an indie rock version of Tiger Beat, right in the corner of the softly lit, airbrushed photo of the band. A tall, blond drummer. Dreamy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Entry: ...oh my.

My friend Pooka, of Art History, LOL, texted me with a request to write about Today's Featured Article. I figured if he sent me a text, it was pretty important. So I sat down to write about it, and...

...oh my. Pooka, you dirty bird! Tsk tsk!

I try to keep this blog family friendly, but this is a too neat to pass up. So be warned, the post contains naughty language and discussions of extramarital dalliances. If you are under 18, reader, ask your parents if you can continue reading this post. And, um, while you're at it, why don't you recommend that they start reading my blog? In fact, ask permission from all your friends. And link me on your Myspace page.

There now, back to business.

In cities throughout the British Isles, there are streets that were originally named Gropecunt Lane. I know!

The information in the article is, frankly, not very surprising. "Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a straightforward compound of the words grope and cunt...Although the name was once common throughout England, changes in attitude resulted in its being replaced by more innocuous versions such as Grape Lane." The interesting thing is that the article never definitively states that it was the name of the red light districts of medieval England, even though it does bring up that

"Organised prostitution was well established in London by the middle of the 12th century... the practice was often tolerated by the authorities, and there are many historical examples of it being dealt with by regulation rather than by censure: in 1393 the authorities in London allowed prostitutes to work only in Cocks Lane..." (Teehee!)


"It was normal practice for medieval street names to reflect their function, or the economic activity taking place within them (especially the commodities available for sale), hence the frequency of names such as The Shambles, Silver Street, Fish Street, and Swinegate (pork butchers) in cities with a medieval history."

However, we can only assume that, in a culture with regulated prostitution and streets named for economic activity, Gropecunt Lane might have been where the whores hung out. Maybe.

I can just imagine what the conversation might have been like:

Londoner of Yore: Welcome to our towne, wanderer! Pray, shall I give thee a tour?
Traveler: Aye, 'twould be most helpful!
LoY: Sirrah, here be Butcher Street, 'tis where ye may buy a side of beef. And this is Cooper Gate, where barrels be sold. And this is Gropecunt Lane!
Traveler: Ah, 'tis where a man might pay a shilling for some time with a strumpet!
LoY: Nay, the devil take your sinful tongue! 'Twas named for the parson Nigel Gropecunt, and is where we go to pray and mend the bindings on our Bibles!
Traveler: ...'kay.

Seems likely.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Entry: Christopher Guest

You guys know who Christopher Guest is, right? The director behind mockumentaries like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman? Husband to Jamie Lee Curtis? Former SNL castmember? Nigel Tufnel in Spinal Tap? 5th Baron Haden-Guest, of Saling, in the County of Essex-- OH SNAP BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT, FILM NERDS!

It's true. Even though Guest was born in the USA, he inherited the barony when his father died in 1996. He even served in the House of Lords until 1999, when the House of Lords was reformed to remove power from random people who were born into nobility and should be spending their time and energy directing humorous and largely improvised movies, as opposed to governing a country.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Entry: Fan death

I love urban legends. Sure, many of them prey on people's ignorance, and a fair chunk are born out of ugly stereotypes, but I can appreciate how they add a touch of the bizarre to everyday life, and how, even in an age where political revolutions are being Twittered, we still have a tendency to whisper to each other about monsters lurking in the night. Might be silly, but I find it very humanizing, and humbling, after a fashion.

This, however? The mortal peril of going to sleep in a closed room with a fan on? Oh man.

It's apparently possible that electric fans could, in rare cases, contribute to heat stroke, but consider some of the reasons given for fans supposedly being deadly:

"That an electric fan creates a vortex, which sucks the oxygen from the enclosed and sealed room and creates a partial vacuum inside."
"That an electric fan chops up all the oxygen particles in the air leaving none to breathe."
"The fan uses up the oxygen in the room and creates fatal levels of carbon dioxide."
"That if the fan is put directly in front of the face of the sleeping person, it will suck all the air away, preventing one from breathing."

Come on. I'm an abject moron when it comes to science, and even I know it doesn't work that way. The way you die from an electric fan is by sticking your fingers through the grate, then the fan blade severs your fingertip clean off and you bleed out. From your finger.

I think my favorite aspect of this urban legend is that Korean electric fan manufacturers cater to people who believe in it by putting timers on their products. GUYS. We're in the 21st century. Surely you'd make a lot more money if you slap some copy on the box about using the timer to reduce carbon emissions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Entry: Boston Molasses Disaster

This is tragic and in no way totally awesome.

The blurb at the top of the article pretty much says it all: "The Boston Molasses Disaster, also known as the Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. A large molasses tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150."

I've long held the opinion that any food, given that it is in enough quantity, eventually becomes really disgusting. You know: bulk jars of maraschino cherries, buckets of salad, Michael Moore's lunch (HIYOOOOO!)... I assumed that when I see a food item in such a vast quantity, my mind simultaneously interprets it as something I can eat (because it's a food item), and something that I can't eat (because there's so much of it), and the result is repulsion. But now, I see it's a survival response.

The 35 mph speed is interesting, too. My original response was "35 mph? Pfft.", but then I realized that it was with regards to a substance that is a cliche hallmark for slowness. Plus this was 1919, when nothing when 35 mph, ever. And considering that the company that owned the molasses factory "ultimately paid out $600,000 in out-of-court settlements (at least $6.6 million in 2005 dollars)"... relatively speaking, the wave of molasses must have caused a sonic boom.

Also, I don't know what the status of syrup production is in Boston today, but to be on the safe side, I encourage my Massachucetts readers to wear flotation devices at all times. You can't be too careful, kids.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Entry: The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover

(Before I start the post, it's only fair to warn you that it contains spoilers for The Monster at the End of This Book. I give away the ending. If this is a problem, visit the children's section of your local library before continuing.)

One thing I hear a lot is, "OMG, Regina, you're so pretentious." All the freaking time! Even more often than "Ma'am, you're making a scene."

And, okay, it is kind of true. Every cultural object I love is meta-this and post-that. And I thought it all started in college, or maybe late high school, when I saw Being John Malkovich and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of highly theoretical intellectual masturbation. And if it features John Cusack in some way, so much the better.

The Wik', however, has proven me wrong. My love of post-modernism apparently extends back to early childhood.

When I was a wee child, and the family computer was only useful for playing Reader Rabbit, one of my favorite books was The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. We probably owned a copy of it, but my memory situates me in my pediatrician's waiting room, reading it with my mom. I liked Grover, probably because he was the only creature in existence more neurotic than I. (Well, okay, Telly could have probably benefited from the occasional benzodiazepine tablet too.)

Anyway: the Wikipedia article describes The Monster at the End of this Book as a "post-modern children's book" that is self-reflexive; Grover is conscious of the fact that he is a character in a book (he tries to stop the reader from turning the page by tying the pages together). I guess you could also argue that since it ends with the reader and Grover confronting the monster at the end of the book-- which turns out to be Grover himself-- thus forcing Grover to accept his identity as a monster, it is a sort of bildungsroman as well. Although, he doesn't really age during the course of the book. An $80,000 liberal arts education put to use, ladies and gentlemen.

I was so excited to have one of my favorite books growing up put in this light. Next time I'm at a party drinking PBR from a keg and feeling insecure because I'm not dressed like I got attacked by a Goodwill, I'll be sure to smugly mention the fact that I've been into metafiction since I could read.

That, and I was totally into Rilo Kiley way before they got all mainstream.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Commons: Picture of the Year/2008

Okay, so this entry is technically cheating, since it's from Wikimedia Commons-- doesn't that sound like a delightful spot to go a-picknicking? "Oh do come down to Wikimedia Commons with us, Millicent! Grace has assembled a delightful basket for our dinner, and the Kensington boys shall play bowls and fence for our amusement!"-- ahem, as I was saying: Wikimedia Commons.

The article I was looking at was the results of Picture of the Year 2008. The entries were the year's featured pictures, and the voting body were users from the various Wikimedia projects, including my reason for existing on this planet, Wikipedia.

One would expect that the top ten photos would be images from great scientific and historic occurrences and far-flung locales frozen in time and put on the Internet for the benefit of those of us who, for whatever reason, are probably never going to be privy to such sights in reality. Most of the entries are really beautiful and intriguing photos. (First place: HORSIES! Second place: GUY BREATHING FIRE!)

But there was one picture on the top ten that really caught my attention. Cooler than a fountain of pahoehoe lava spurting from a Hawaiian volcano. More dramatic than a burning building in Quebec. More iconic than Dorothea Lange's photos of migrant workers during the Great Depression.

What was this amazing picture that captured the hearts and minds of Wikimedia users the world over, gaining the #7 slot?

A scantily-clad anime girl. Comma, you hopeless pack of nerds. Wikimedia users: turn the computer off, sit in the corner, and think about what you've done.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Entry: Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

You guys, this is my 100th post! I'm very excited, because my typical approach to projects is something along the lines of "Hey, I wanna be a lepidopterist! No, I wanna build a model train town! No, I wanna run for mayor of a sparsely-populated town in Montana!" and then I end up spending the night drinking beer and watching cartoons. But I've actually stuck with this. Pat on the back to me!

Additionally, a pat on the back to everyone who has read and supported this blog. Without you guys, I might as well just be talking at a blank wall. But instead, I talk at a blank wall when I'm done blogging. Your comments keep me writing, and promoting TILfW on your websites has taken my readership from nobody to a hair under three-thousand unique visitors in the past month. The fact that there's an audience out there for my half-baked, self-consciously twee ramblings means the world to me. It really does.

Okay, on to the entry.

Thanks to my friends Matt and Jess, whom I have known since high school and still talk to me for some reason, I've gained an appreciation for really awful movies. If the phrase "GARBAGE DAY!" means anything to you beyond taking out the trash, you know exactly what kind of movies I'm talking about. So when I came across this ridiculous clip on YouTube:

I had to know more. "...what?" is right.

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is, um, the third in the Shark Attack series. It was released direct to DVD-- I know, I'm surprised too-- in 2002. Yes, 2002. Yes, with those special effects.

There's a very long plot summary, which is flagged as being both "too long or detailed compared to the rest of the content" and "[describing] a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style." I didn't even bother. Giant shark, eats people. Moving on. Surely such a ridiculous and low-budget movie has an equally pathetic cast of talentless nobodies?

Not exactly. The protagonist is played by none other than consummate sexypants John Barrowman, aka Captain Jack Harkness from Dr. Who and Torchwood. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I learned that, I can tell you, especially when I found the YouTube video of the jewel in Shark Attack 3's crown of suck.

Note: the above link is NSFW. I will bowdlerize the quote below for your convenience.

Cataline Stone: *sigh* I'm exhausted.
Ben Carpenter: Yeah, me too. But you know, I'm really wired. What do you say I take you home and [stimulate your vulva with my mouth].

One would assume that this was just a prime example of depressingly terrible screenwriting, lay the blame squarely on cocaine, and move on with one's day. But no, friends. No. According to the Wik', the line was an improvisation on Barrowman's part, with the intention of cracking up his co-star, that was left in the final cut. It stands to reason that whatever line had been in the script to end the scene, the above was considered the preferable dialogue.

I'll leave you with that to muse on.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Entry: Gullibility

Sorry for my tardiness in updating, I've been a combination of busy, distracted, uninspired, and sans Internet. Ever onward.

Last night, one of my "friends" took advantage of my trusting nature for the sake of entertainment and told me that "gullible" is not in the dictionary. You'll be happy to know that I did not run to look it up. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me several times... still shame on you.

It did, however, lead me to wonder if there was a Wikipedia article on "gullibility" and if it mentioned the joke. As it turns out, gullible is not on Wikipedia.

No, it's really not.

No, really, click on the damn link. It's not there.

See, would-be mockers, the Wik is on my side.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Entry: Boiling Frog

The frog in the heated pot of water. Have you heard this? Of course you have. It's one of the most overused illustrative anecdotes ever, especially on very serious television news special reports. In case you've been trapped in an elevator for the past fifty years and you've managed to find this blog before the shock of the 21st century overwhelms you: a frog is sitting in a pot of water, which is slowly heated. The frog remains unaware of the gradual change in temperature, and eventually boils. And while you're thinking about dead, boiled frogs, stop polluting the environment/ferrying illegal aliens into the country/looking at porn on the Internet.

You guys. The origin of this story is really shaky. The experiment was performed over 100 years ago; an article that the Wik' article links to at the University of Georgia's ecol lab website states that frogs will jump out of the water when it gets uncomfortably hot, unless the scientist put it in a pot with really high sides and it can't get out. Dick move, scientist. But my point is: it's a big cliché, and it might not even be true.

We need a new metaphor to warn about the dangers of complacency. My suggestion: professional television writers get incrementally sloppier at their jobs until they're only capable of producing hackneyed crap aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. SCARY! Watch your cholesterol.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Entry: Scientology

The Wik' has found itself in news headlines once again, after deciding to ban the IP addresses of both the Church of Scientology and some of its more biased and outspoken Wiki-critics for engaging in editing wars. I'm going out on a limb here and linking to a non-Wiki news article about the incident from

Hush now, Church of Scientology; dry your eyes. I know what you're going through. I remember the fateful day at a former job where I tried to edit an article's grammar only to find that the IP I was using had been banned because someone else had been making inappropriate edits to the Dragonball Z article. I felt frustrated and sad and totally confused, because I don't think any of my coworkers could have even told you what Dragonball Z is, let alone find a reason to edit the Wiki article. And, of course, I think you guys are a complete scam and the fact that you use the legal system to bully your critics is disgusting, so while I don't feel sorry for you in the least, I can relate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Entry: Splayd

I think it's an adolescent rite of passage to go through an obsession with sporks. At least, my high school friends and I did. I still have a gold-painted spork on my wall that my best friend Jess made for me, I believe as part of a birthday present. They have a funny name, an unusual shape, and your lame-wad parents don't keep them in the lame-wad utensil drawer. No, you have to go to the mall food court to get your spork. Anything can happen at the mall food court.

But then observant reader Jeff sent me a link to the splayd, a combination of all three basic utensils. The splayd has a spoon-like bowl, four tines, and sharp sides for cutting. And it's metal. And they come in an attractive box. Don't even get me started on spifes. (Spifes? Spives? Spiven?)

Sporks, I think you've been bested. My golden memories of childhood seem a bit dimmer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Entry: Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den

Thanks to SeeaSea for sending me a link to this article!

"Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den," on top of being an awesome title in a variety of circumstances, is a classical Mandarin poem written by Yuen Ren Chao, a contemporary Chinese linguist.

In a stunning feet of tonal language acrobatics, the poem is 92 syllables, all of which are "shi." In Hanyu Pinyin, a method of Romanticizing Mandarin, it looks like this:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

The English translation:

In a stone den was a poet Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o'clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.

Yes, fellow Westerners, in classical Mandarin, "shi" means all those things. Since it's a tonal language, the distinction comes from how each syllable is said (if your voice goes up at the end, for instance).

The poem isn't profound (unless there's an extended metaphor in there that went completely over my Western head), but still a really impressive example of constrained writing. I can't even crank out a decent villanelle.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Entry: Eurovision Song Contest/ Eurovision Song Contest 2009

My European readers and the more worldly among the non-European readers are probably going to find this post repetitive and boring. My apologies.

Last night, my friends introduced me to Eurovision, an annual music competition among the members of the European Broadcasting Union that has been going on for over fifty years. Each country enters a musical artist (or artists, up to six) performing a previously unreleased song; citizens of the participating nations vote for their favorite songs (excluding the entry from their own country).

We watched every entry on YouTube; admittedly, we couldn't sit through most of them the whole way.

"But if these songs are supposed to represent the best the country has to offer, why couldn't you listen to them?"

Because these songs are designed to be palatable to as many people as possible, they end up being (for the most part) the blandest, most inoffensive, middle-of-the-road easy listening pop imaginable*. Take, for instance, Britain's entry. Remember now, this is the country that gave us the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Clash... I'm going to stop before I depress myself.

Listening to that song, all the corporate executives and government officials and marketing consultants and endless focus groups are practically a section of the orchestra. And Ms. Ewen came in 5th.

Some of the entries were pretty good. I quite liked Estonia's Urban Symphony:

My friend Ziggy was a fan of the Armenian entry, "Jan Jan" by Inga and Arnush:

There was also, the Romani rapper/superhero representing the Czech Republic:

Anyway, I was Wiki'ing furiously during this smorgasbord of mediocrity, and oh man I learned so much about Eurovision! Bullet points away!

- The song that Georgia entered, "We Don't Wanna Put In" by Stefane & 3G, was withdrawn from the contest due to the political content of the lyrics (specifically, a criticism of Vladimir Putin).
- Even more controversial: Spain had to preempt their live feed by about an hour, and had to rely on a jury to cast their votes, instead of public voting.
- Entries are allowed to be sung in any language. "This linguistic freedom led to the Belgian entry in 2003, 'Sanomi,' being sung in an entirely fictional language. In 2006 the Dutch entry, 'Amambanda,' was sung partly in English and partly in an artificial language. In 2007, Romanian participants Todomondo sang 'Liubi, Liubi, I Love You' in six different languages and in 2008, again a Belgian entry, 'O Julissi' was made in an imaginary language."
- "The most notable winning Eurovision artist whose career was directly launched into the spotlight following their win was ABBA, who won the Contest for Sweden in 1974 with their song 'Waterloo.' ABBA went on to be one of the most successful bands of their time." See, told you not all the entries are awful. Yes, I like ABBA. No, I am not a middle-aged gay man.
- "The Contest has long been perceived as politically influenced, where judges —and now televoters— allocate points based on their nation's relationship to the other countries, rather than on the musical merits of the songs. According to one study of Eurovision voting patterns, certain countries do tend to form 'clusters' or 'cliques' by frequently voting in the same way. Defenders of the Contest argue that the reason certain countries allocate disproportionately high points to others is because the people of those countries share similar musical tastes and cultures and speak similar languages, and are therefore more likely to appreciate each other's music... Another influential factor is the high proportion of expatriates living in certain countries, often due to recent political upheaval. Since residents of a country cannot vote for their own entry, countries where a large minority of the population are ethnically tied to a neighbouring country and votes for their entrant can distort the vote considerably... Following these criticisms, it was announced that juries would return to the Contest in 2009. Two systems will work together, with 50 per cent of the vote decided by the jurors and the other 50 via televoting."
- "The 'Big 4' countries (United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain) as they are the 4 largest economic contributors to the contest, and are rewarded with automatic spots in the final." Aw c'mon you guys, that's not fair!
- "No restriction on the nationality of the performers exists, which has resulted in countries being represented by artists who are not nationals of that country. One of the most well-known winning artists, Canadian Céline Dion represented Switzerland in 1988 (It seems to be a Swiss tactic, as their 2005 performance was by Estonian group Vanilla Ninja and their 2006 performance is by the multinational group six4one with performers coming from Israel, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sweden, Malta and Portugal as well as from Switzerland)." Switzerland! Where's your national pride? You make delicious chocolate and useful pocketknives, surely you can come up with some talented musicians.
- "As of 2009, the country which has entered the longest with no wins to their name is Portugal. They started entering in 1964, and are still awaiting their first win." Now that is a shame. I thought the 2009 Portuguese entry was really good.

This is probably the longest TILfW entry ever, and there is so much more to say. What were your favorite Eurovision entries for 2009?

Oh, and for those of you who missed it and can't stand the suspense, this year's winner was Norway's Alexander Rybak, performing "Fairytale:"

* And I am aware that my own country is responsible for more than its fair share of bland, inoffensive pop. I shudder to think what the American entry would sound like; it would probably make Kelly Clarkson sound like Kate Bush.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Entry: Dyatlov Pass Incident

I know, I'm remiss in my postings. You know that thing where you aren't on your computer, and engage in situations that don't happen on the Internet? The name escapes me... anyway, I was dealing with that.

Today's article was sent to me by Ms. Tatertot. In 1959, ten Soviet men and women went on a recreational skiing hike. Nine of them died, under very mysterious and creepy circumstances.

From the article:

"The mysterious circumstances and subsequent investigations of the hikers' deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigations of the deaths suggest that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow; while the corpses show no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. According to sources, the victims' clothing contained high levels of radiation - though this was likely added at a later date, since no reference is made to it in contemporary documentation and only in later documents. Soviet investigators determined only that 'a compelling unknown force' had caused the deaths, barring entry to the area for years thereafter. The causes of the accident remain unclear."

The rest of the article is similarly hair-raising, and since I'm now terrified of irradiated communist ski-zombies, I'm going to go hide under my bedcovers.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Entry: Natalie Tran

Sometimes when I really like someone or something or somewhere (somehow), I check the Wik' to make sure the object of my affections has an article, because I am a deeply insecure person who needs to know that other people likes what she likes. I like. Yes. Anyway.

I was very pleased to see that vlogger Natalie Tran (communitychannel) has a healthy article. Kind of silly of me, considering that she has thousands of subscribers, but like I said, deeply insecure. She's been vlogging for a few years, but I only started watching her videos about a month ago, and I have the biggest hetero-crush on her. (I know it's a bro-mance when it's two guys, but what is it with a girl and a girl? Ho-mance? Axe commercial? Doesn't require a name because women are expected to be more open to feelings of affection?) She's smart and funny and prolific and cute as a button, and Australian accents are like a +5 in my book. If Hitler had an Australian accent, I'd probably be all, "Well, he was evil incarnate, but he pronounces his r's so cute! Maybe I'll just sweep the Lambeth Walk thing under the rug and blog about puppies." Okay, probably not.

Anyway, Natalie Tran is awesome (and curses a little bit. Beware, office slackers):

(Disregard that last bit, though. My mother is a saint. And doesn't go on YouTube, like, ever.)

I was shocked, though, to see that the two photos in the article are going to be deleted:


(Additionally: you like my MSPaint job? That's how I roll: using a track pad and sprawling on the couch.)

I can only take solace in the fact that after May 14, 2009, my hastily constructed jpeg will stand as a monument to the article as it once was. Goodnight, sweet prince.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Entry: Hamlet

I'm not feeling terribly witty today ("But Regina," you say, "when has that stopped you from posting before?"), but luckily my good friend Greg from Art History, LOL also peruses the Wiki, and has some thoughts on Hamlet. And considering that he played Guildenstern-- oh yes he did-- he is an expert on the subject.

"It's 4:30 on a Tuesday, so I am surfing the Wik. And I've looked at the origins of Hamlet before, but today I just really, really read it. I noticed a few things of interest!

1. The names are WAY better. Gertrude is Gerutha. Claudius is Feng. Old Hamlet? Horvendill! Other notables? Former King RORIK SLENGEBORRE! (I guess he's the Fortinbras analog...)

2. The first half sounds pretty close to the play: king is slain by jealous brother, jealous brother marries queen, pissed off son concocts a plan of faked madness, and is shipped off to England before coming back and killing people. But, then there's this whole part that, uh, I don't quite remember. Amleth/Hamlet marries the English princess, kills the ENTIRE court of Denmark by getting them drunk and pinning them down with a burning tapestry, demands the people make him king, goes back to England for his wife, kills HER father, hops up to Scotland to win the heart of the Scottish queen, takes them both back to Denmark, and dies in battle with the young Fortinbras analog.

Um. Is this the plot of Hamlet 2? I didn't see it."

[Ed. note: No. The plot of Hamlet 2 involves Jesus, a time machine, and a gay men's chorus, wrapped up in a package of gratuitous nudity and satire of the Inspirational White Teacher Helps Urban Minority Teens trope. In other words, it's better than anything Shakespeare ever wrote or thought about writing. Although I admit it could have benefited from a burning tapestry.]

"3. The article contains the phrase: '[he] sent Amleth as proxy wooer for the hand of a terrible Scottish queen Hermuthruda, who had put all former wooers to death'. Proxy wooer? It doesn't get much better than that."

I am changing every username I have to proxy_wooer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Entry: Dancing Plague of 1518

Ah, here's one of those weird historical nuggets that you expect from a blog entitled "Things I've Learned from Wikipedia."

Submitted for your approval: the year is 1518. The place: Strasborg, France. A woman begins dancing uncontrollably in the street, continuing for days without rest. Within a month, she has been joined by 400 of her closest friends and family. Local officials attempt to cure the epidemic by opening guildhalls and hiring musicians, in hopes that that encouraging the dancers will allow them to stop. But unbeknownst to these medieval townsfolk, they are just about to foxtrot themselves into... the Twilight Zone.

Seriously though, a lot of people died.

The article includes several theories as to what caused the Dancing Plague. Mass psychogenic illness seems to be the most probable explanation, but there is another theory:

"Historian Nikhil Murthy of Emory University believes that the epidemic can largely be attributed to the accidental synthesis of MDMA. Although MDMA was not formally synthesized in a laboratory until 1912 by Anton Köllisch, an accidental mixture could easily have been concocted by subjecting Safrole, a commonly available plant in the area, with a basic substance."

DARK AGES RAVE! WHOOOOOOOOOOO! The next time I go to a Renaissance Faire, I'm bringing glowsticks and candy necklaces!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Entry: Road Rage

Someone randomly mentioned road rage yesterday, and I was wondering if it's still a "thing." The worst exchange I've ever dealt with while driving has been a honking horn or a middle finger (the latter of which is considered road rage by the article, but c'mon. With regards to driving, I spent my formative years in New Jersey; the bird is tantamount to saying hello).

Two things that stood out to me in the article:

1. The list of websites devoted to dealing with road rage by recording other drivers' license plate numbers and crazy driving habits. I guess this would help you deal with your anger after the fact, but it's not a very good preventative measure, unless you find a list of repeat offenders in your town and memorize their license plates. "Watch out, Louise, FPQ-4291 just merged into the lane behind us, and you know his reputation for tailgating!" Also, if you're in a dangerous driving situation, are you really going to take your concentration off the road and record the other person's plate number? Maybe if you licked your finger and traced it in the dust on your dashboard. Not that I've ever left a note to myself that way.

2. A 1988 newspaper article that was quoted as an example of an early usage of the term "road rage" has a grammatical error, complete with a finger-wagging [sic] added by the editor of the Wikipedia article. Sucks to be you, St. Petersburg Times! Now, I make my share of errors while writing, but that's why I don't work for a newspaper. Well, actually I don't work for a newspaper because it's hard to find an entry-level position in a dying industry, but I digress.

I don't consider my initial question to be answered by the Wik', though, because a lot of the statements in the article were followed by the "citation needed" superscript, a red flag in my mind. Perhaps this "road rage" is a fabrication cooked up by the liberal Jewish media. Or maybe it was the conservative Christian media. Or even the damned dirty neutral Buddhist media. Bastards.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Entry: the Lambeth Walk

"The Lambeth Walk", a song from the 1937 musical Me and My Girl, led to the creation of a popular dance of the time in England, which was performed "in a jaunty, strutting style." So far about as interesting as the Macarena will be in fifty years (in fact, I'm flinching right now from referencing the Macarena [seriously, what the hell is my problem?]), except for the fact that a few years later, the British Ministry of Information released a short film featuring "The Lambeth Walk" and some other folks known for walking around in a jaunty, strutting style:

It's a proto-remix!

The Wiki article describes it as a propaganda film, which I think is a pretty loaded term (although I can't think of a more accurate one to describe media released by the government to reflect a certain political view, despite that view being pretty cut-and-dry), but I'm generally in favor of propaganda that makes Nazis look foolish. Score one for Minitrue!

Just for the sake of comparison, here's the number from the 1987 Broadway revival:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Entry: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

I'm probably not going to get a chance to update twice next week, and I feel like I've dropped the ball this week, so what the heck, a third post. Huzzah! Refill the flagon of chuckles*!

Also, this entry contains spoilers for the movie Once Upon a Time in the West. I know, not expected based on the title, but consider yourselves forewarned.

So I heard the old pop song "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" on the radio today, which said was done by Earth, Wind, and Fire, but which Wikipedia attributes to the Hollies. I trust Wiki, but with some hesitation, as you shall soon see.

Hearing the song made me think of the story that inspired it, where a priest sees a young boy carrying a younger boy down the street, asks him if he's tired or something along those lines, and the boy responds with the title of the song. In four part harmony. I also seemed to remember that this inspired the creation of a non-profit, but couldn't remember which. (So this is technically a Thing I Recalled via Wikipedia, but I digress.)

The organization in question is Boys Town, but that's not the part of the article that caught my eye. Apparently, there were other versions of the story, including this... um... heartwarming account:

"It is also believed to refer to a native american story, of two brothers caught by aggressors. One was stood on the other's shoulders, with a noose hung around the top brother's neck. The idea being that when the bottom brother could no longer bear the weight, he would collapse, thus hanging his brother. The story then concluded, with the bottom brother standing strong, saying: 'He ain't heavy, he's my brother!' Or maybe this was from the movie Once Upon a Time in the West."

A few things spring to mind.

1. Grammar, please.
2. Who is the bottom brother talking to? The aggressors? Or is he delirious from the stressful encounter and addressing a hallucination?
3. Yeah, maybe it's from the movie Once Upon a Time in the West. Great idea. If that was the case, the name of the song would either be "He Ain't Moving, Because Henry Fonda Killed Him (and I'm Going to Spend Decades Seeking Revenge)" or possibly "It Ain't Tedious, It's a Western."

* I've been listening to a lot of Patton Oswalt standup lately.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Entry: the Principality of Sealand

Reader seeasea was kind enough to send me links to many an interesting Wikipedia article, including one about Sealand.

Although not recognized as a sovereign nation by the UN, Sealand is categorized as a micronation. Built as a sea fort during World War II, it was taken over by Paddy Roy Bates in 1967, over ten years after British Navy personnel had abandoned it. Since it is six miles off the coast of England, it is in international waters and out of the country's territorial water claim (at the time). Sealand had its own constitution, flag, currency, and passports-- it even had a war! So much better than a lame tree fort.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Entry: War Pigs

Last night's Daily Show was a repeat, but it did feature a bit on how funding is going to be cut for laser-mounted jet fighters. Tragic, but as it turns out, our ancestors had a [technically] long-range weapon that was six million times more badass and can be had for a fraction of the price: a herd of pigs set on fire. The finest in anti-war-elephant combat.

"Aelian reports that Antipater's siege of Megara during the Wars of the Diadochi was broken when the Megarians poured oil on a herd of pigs, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy's massed war elephants. The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming squealing pigs often killing great numbers of the army the elephant was part of."

Despite that final run-on sentence, that's quite the mental image.

Now I know that some of you want to reply "Mmm, bacon." Guys, that's disgusting. Those pigs were covered in tar sometimes.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Entry: Jeffrey Hudson

Between this guy and Jack Churchill, I think I need to start a new category of entries specific to crazy-ass people doing crazy-ass things. Or some categorization of a similar nature. I'm going to quote the first paragraph of the article; I can't imagine how I could possibly embellish.

"Jeffrey Hudson (1619 – circa 1682) was an English dwarf at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria. He was famous as the "Queen's dwarf" and "Lord Minimus", and was considered one of the "wonders of the age" because of his extreme but well-proportioned smallness. He fought with the Royalists in the English Civil War and fled with the Queen to France but was expelled from her court when he killed a man in a duel. He was captured by Barbary pirates and spent 25 years as a slave in North Africa before being ransomed back to England."

To quote Ryan North: "Daaaaamn!"

According to the article, he joined the court of Queen Henrietta Maria when he was presented to her in a pie in a banquet. I thought that was pretty awesome-- "Oh man, he so had the edge over the dwarves who were just faxing in their cover letter and resume!"-- until I read on and discovered that he was in fact given to the Queen as a gift from the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, who could apparently give their subjects as housewarming presents in those days. Um. Yay democracy?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Entry: Snow Leopard Award

This is just a mini-entry as a follow up to the Mother Hero medal: the Soviet Union also gave the Snow Leopard Award to accomplished mountaineers who made it to the peaks of the five mountains in the USSR taller than 7000m:

"In Tajikistan's Pamir Mountains there are 3 Snow Leopard peaks, Ismail Samani Peak (formerly Communism Peak) 7,495 m (24,590 ft), Peak Korzhenevskaya 7,105 m (23,310 ft), and Ibn Sina Peak (formerly Lenin Peak) 7,134 m (23,406 ft) on the Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border. In the Tian Shan there are 2 Snow Leopard peaks, Jengish Chokusu (formerly Peak Pobeda) 7,439 metres (24,406 ft) in Kyrgyzstan (divided by the border with China), and Khan Tengri 7,010 m (22,998 ft) on the Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan border."

Communism's got side quests!

Also, I love the fact that one of the mountains used to be called Communism Peak. That's so creative. Can we rename Pikes Peak as Capitalism Peak? No, wait, let's rename Mount Rushmore: Capitalism Mountain with Dead Guy Faces. You know you want to.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Entry: Mother Hero

Gender equality is very important to me. Since my last entry was about vasectomies, this time I will attempt to make the women in the audience feel sympathy pains in their bathing-suit areas. It's only fair.

In the Soviet Union, if a woman successfully raised 10 or more children who all survived until at least the tenth child's first birthday, she was awarded the title of Mother Hero. The exception for the children's life expectancy was if they died due to honorable circumstances. Additionally, one man was given the award for being a foster father to twelve boys. Seeing as a lot of Russians died in World War 2, they really needed to shore up the numbers.

Recipients got perks from the government and a snazzy badge-- a gold star on a silver background, as opposed to something more explicitly related to the accomplishment, such as a cartoon uterus with a frowny face. And, unfortunately for the Яolcats, I don't think litters counted.

Can you imagine how over-protective Soviet mothers must have been of their offspring after child #6 or so? "Dammit, Ivan, chew your borscht! I didn't get stretch marks in the pattern of the streets of Leningrad for you to choke to death!" You can't even chew borscht! Wild!

Oh, and: requisite Octo-mom joke! Heh. That woman's a clown car.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Entry: Vasectomy

On a recent road trip, we saw a billboard for a vasectomy clinic that was notable for two reasons:

1. The doctor looked a lot like Fred Willard,
2. The vasectomies were advertised as being done without scalpels or needles.

The last one left me nonplussed. How could a vasectomy possibly be performed without making an incision-- or at least a local anasthetic? I speculated that they might use a burdizzo, but considering the look of abject horror that earned me from my boyfriend, it didn't seem likely.

According to the article, a scalpel-less procedure known as a keyhole vasectomy is done with a sharp hemostat (those clamps that look like a long skinny pair of scissors). While that wouldn't technically be false advertising, it is pretty misleading. "We're not going to stick your scrotum with a needle or a knife... we're going to use doom-scissors!" There didn't seem to be a less-grisly option, so for the squeamish fellas in the audience: stick with condoms.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Entry: Matter-Eater Lad

I haven't read a lot of superhero comic books-- and even less DC-- but a pattern I've been noticing is that the concept for any character whose superhero name ends with "Lad" is going to be kinda dumb.

Take Tenzil Kem, aka Matter-Eater Lad, for instance: he is a lad who eats matter. Any matter. But no mere cafeteria sideshow is he; Tenzil is able to bite through and digest anything. "In his first appearance, Matter-Eater Lad explains his origins, saying that the natives of Bismoll found that microbes had made all their food inedible, and that the populace evolved their ability to eat all matter as a survival mechanism." I'm no scientist, but I would think that evolving an immunity to the microbes in question would be simpler. Then again, Immune to a Specific Kind of Microbe Lad is admittedly a step backwards in terms of crime-fighting and world-saving. Originally a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, M.L.E. was often written out of the plots because the writing staff had trouble translating making his ability useful in combat. After the Zero Hour storyarc in the 90s, when the world was rewritten, he returned as the Legion of Super Hero's chef. Because a dude who eats through fences obviously has a refined sense of haute cuisine. And he can spit acid. Great.

Best caption ever, might I add.

As alluded to earlier, Matter-Eater Lad is from the planet Bismoll, where his entire species has his ability. According to Wiki, this origin story is shared by many members of the Legion of Super-Heroes: I come from a planet where everyone does this, hand me a cape. Matter-Eater Lad isn't even the best of his kind at eating matter; Calorie Queen, another citizen of Bismoll, can convert the energy from what she eats into super strength. Why not recruit her instead? It makes me wish that some organization was recruiting Earthlings for a similar legion in hopes that we would share a "fantastic" ability that we take for granted. I could be Hair-Growing Woman, or the Salivator...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Entry: British Film Institute list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14

...made me feel like an uncultured hayseed.

The BFI composed this list in an attempt to convince parents and educators that film can be a legitimate art form, and that children should be exposed to great films the same way they are to visual art and literature; I can only assume that means "until the school has budgeting issues or one parent thinks their child might be exposed to something potentially offensive."

I like to think that I have good taste in movies, and I have seen a whole bunch in my day, but according to the BFI, I have been woefully underexposed. Here are their top ten films that kids should see by age 14, in order:

1. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
3. Kes (1969)
4. Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)
5. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
6. Show Me Love (1998)
7. Spirited Away (2001)
8. Toy Story (1995)
9. Where is My Friend's House? (1987)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Out of these films, I have seen E.T. (although I was so young when I saw it, I don't remember it-- is there a part where E.T. gets rabies? Because I've been laboring under that impression), Spirited Away (which came out after I turned 14, but is one of my favorites), Toy Story, and The Wizard of Oz. The Night of the Hunter and Show Me Love are on my Netflix queue. I had never before heard of Kes or Where Is my Friend's House?, and now I'm convinced that there are British tweens out there mocking me for it.

Now, I agree that exposing children to classic movies and teaching them to view them as art is a good idea, but I'm not sure I'd want my kids to see some of these films if they were under 14. I haven't seen Les Quatre Cens Coups, but maybe you should let your kids hit puberty before exposing them to French New Wave. And to be honest, I'm a little surprised that Show Me Love is listed, considering it's about two teenage girls that fall in love; I guess Brits are a lot more queer-friendly than Americans.

The rest of the list is also in the article, and there's a lot of fantastic movies listed... but I can't speak for the whole thing, because as it turns out, I've seen less than half of them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some very important reality shows to watch.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Entry: Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

This is one of those things that requires theremin-heavy music in the background.

That'll do. Read on.

I StumbleUpon-ed the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon article this afternoon. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, something I'm sure everyone's experienced at least once, is that bizarre synchronicity whereupon you learn something for the first time and then hear about it again a short time later. The term itself was coined by someone writing an editorial in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about experiencing the B-M P; their readership responded overwhelmingly with similar stories.

I was glad to know that this is apparently a Thing, but didn't think I was going to write about it... until tonight! David Malki of Wondermark notoriety had Twittered about using the Valsalva maneuver; I made note of the unfamiliar phrase, but antithetical to my nature, did not Wiki it. I know, I'm disappointed in myself too. But then, not an hour later, I was goofing around on the Straight Dope, and Cecil Adams explained the very same Valsalva maneuver in the article I was reading! And, the Valsalva maneuver just happens to be exhaling forcibly with your mouth and nose closed to clear your ear canals, which I do all the damn time because my inner ear bits get congested especially during allergy season!

Baader-Meinhof phenomenon! Spooky stuff!