Tuesday, December 23, 2008

DDYK 12/13 - Diamond Engagement Rings are Horsecrap

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday and traveling safely. Here in Illinois we're getting douched with ice (Christmas Eve Eve Dinner with the in-laws tonight was entirely by candelight, and not by choice), which has sort of been a recurring theme here the last week or so. Just ridiculous weather, but hey, at least there'll be a white Christmas!

On to today's Daily Did-You-Know:

Here's something I wish I would've known before spending a great deal of my saving's on Amy's diamond engagement ring a couple years ago--diamond rings, and any engagement rings really, are just a clevel product of the media.

According to mentalfloss.com, nobody really bought engagement rings before the 1930s. I've wondered about this since my wife told me there were TWO rings necessary for a wedding and I spend the following days wandering the streets in confusion. It was in 1939 that the De Beers diamond company hired an ad agency to re-energize a struggling diamond market. They introduced the diamond engagment ring and the "Diamonds Are Forever" slogan that's made them so popular in the decades since. From there they put the rings on models in fashion magazines, which made all women want them. Sneaky, sneaky bastards.

So if you paid money for diamonds recently, you got ripped off. At least now you know why!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Student Quotes, Fall 2008

Twice a year I grace you with the silly and naive things my student say over the course of the school year. Today, I give you the rhetorical wit of my students from the fall of 2008. Most of these are sophomores, with a couple of junior and senior quotes sprinkled in... Enjoy!

Brian: “Hey Brigs, I listened to you on the radio yesterday morning.”
Me: “No you didn’t. Yesterday was Labor Day. I didn’t do the radio thing.”
Brian: “Yeah, sorry I lied to you. But I was up at 7:10 ready to listen to you and everything.”
Me: “On a three-day weekend? No you weren’t. You were still in bed.”
Brian, after a beat: “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry I lied to you again.”

Doug keeps referring to ethical appeals as “ethnical” appeals.

From art teacher Mrs. Manning: So I spend 2 days talking about the color wheel & mixing colors & primary, secondary, blahblahblah… Today I demonstrate mixing paint. They start painting. Jessica paints yellow & then tells me “I need like the plain orange paint.”

From a Boyz ‘n the Hood worksheet: I asked the kids to describe the neighborhood in the movie. Bailey said, “A run-down hood-like place,” and Aaron just wrote, “Gangsters by railroad.”

Test question: What aspect of Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “Upon the Burning of Our House” shows her Puritan values and/or beliefs?
Lindsey’s answer: “She talks about her big chest that burns, and many other objects, but she doesn’t care because she thinks God does everything for a reason.”

Student teacher Katie Hudson asking the kids what supernatural means:
Miss Hudson: “What is supernatural?”
Brody: “Unicorns!”

Doug: “You said that we have to type a final draft of our paper for tomorrow. Does that mean that if we already typed it up and there are parts that are wrong, we have to type it all over again?”
Me: “No, Doug. That’s kind of the whole point of typing it on the computer in the first place.”
Doug: “Oh, right.”

Miss Hudson, discussing “The Devil and Tom Walker,” asks, “What does the devil wear?”
Travis: “Isn’t it like a Speedo-lookin’ type of thing?”

Alex: “Hey Brigs, how’s that lemon?”
Me: “You mean melon? I’m eating melon.”
Keegan: “It’s called cantaloupe.”
Alex: “No, dummy; that’s an animal.”
Me: “You’re thinking of antelope. Cantaloupe actually is another word for melon.”

Miss Hudson: “So we could say that Timothy Treadwell (The Grizzly Man) was one of a kind?”
Travis: “No, that’s not true. I saw this thing on TV about a guy who was eaten in half by bear.”

Harley’s title for his Grizzly Man paper: “Dumbasses in the Wild”

Jennifer, referencing Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience,” in which he encourages nonviolent protest: “Are we going to have homework on homecoming weekend? If she gives us homework, I’m gonna do that ‘civil’ thingy we read about.”

Mark: “Isn’t Afghanistan in South America?”

Chase: “How did Edgar Allen Poe die?”
Me: “Nobody knows for sure. He just disappeared for a few days, showed up in a gutter, and then died before he could give an explanation as to what happened.”
(The class is silent, looking around at each other in confusion).
Chase: “They found him in a gutter?”
Me: “Yeah… why is that so hard to believe?”
Chase: “Well, how’d he get up there?”
Me, after a beat: “Not a rain gutter, you guys—a ditch!”
The class, collectively coming to realization: “Oooohhhhh.”

Aaron, after pinching a student and receiving the punishment of being held one minute after the bell that releases students for lunch: “Mr. Brigham, can’t you just take some points off of my grade or something instead?”

There’s a boy with Downs Syndrome at our school, and he’s absolutely the sweetest kid in the world. He’s big about high fives and hugs, and everybody—teachers and students—loves the kid. He and I had this interesting exchange this morning:

Him: “Are you coming to see me in the play this weekend?”
Me: “I really wish I could, buddy, but I’ve got to work this weekend. I’m going to the Bulls game to interview all the players and write about them.”
Him, excited: “Really?”
Me: “Yup, and I know Derrick Rose is your favorite player so I’ll tell him you said hello.”
Him, absolutely serious: “Will you give him a hug for me, too?”

Aaron: “I ain’t done nothing wrong!”
Me: “’I ain’t done nothing wrong?’”
Aaron: “Sorry—I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

In response to a Soulja Boy quote in which he said, “Shout out to the slave masters! Without them we’d still be in Africa. We wouldn’t be here to get this ice and these tattoos,” sophomore Justin responded, “Soulja Boy should be packed into a crate and shipped to Africa.”

Avvetta, starting a new book for a class she was absent for the previous day: “Miss Hudson, what’s this book about?”
Miss Hudson: “It’s about 260 pages. Now quiet down and get reading.”

Miss Hudson: “Tonight’s story is called A Mystery of Heroism…”
Chase: “Heroism? Like the drug?”
Trey: “You’re thinking of heroine, dummy.” Then, sarcastically, “I gotta go get some heroism from my dealer!”

Alex, during a discussion about bullies: “If someone calls you ugly, you just call them even uglier.”

Miss Hudson: “What came after the Civil War?”
Chris: “World War 1!”

After calling former student David immoral once I found out he’d been smoking, he wrote back to me with the following: “Immorality is just the morality of people having more fun.”

“Henry did not have huge viscous bears where he lived.”
-Nate’s Grizzly Man paper.

Chasen, for seemingly no reason: “Have you ever gotten an MRI? It feels like you wet yourself and you’re 150 degrees!”

Frank, God bless him, spelled the word “accepted” like this: “itsepthed.” Took Miss Hudson and I few minutes to figure that one out.

Miss Hudson: “Does anybody know what an anagram is?”
Chase: “It’s when you take a word like ‘book’ and find out it if you rearrange it you can get another word, like ‘koob’ or ‘kobo.’”

Me, to former yearbook kid Ivy: “Hi, Ivy. Have you lost weight?”
Ivy: “I don’t think so, but thanks.”
Me: “Yeah, well I think I’m gaining weight. Maybe it left you and went to me?”
Ivy, excitedly: “Or maybe you’re turning into Santa Claus and you don’t know yet! I saw that in a movie once.”

From my wife in the world of fourth graders: “For DLR today we were using context clues to determine the meaning of a word in a sentence. The word this morning was herpetologist. A little girl raised her hand and asked, ‘Isn’t that someone who studies herpes?’”

Another wifey gem: “I’m grading spelling sentences and one of the words this week is seize. One of my kids wrote, ‘I have a cold so bad that I seize a lot.’”

Jeff: “Hey Brigs, what’s a rite of passage?”
Me: “It’s something a person goes through where they sort of leave childhood and move towards adulthood. It could be something formal, like a Bar Mitzvah for Jewish boys, or it could just be some unplanned party where you get your first kiss or something like that.”
Frank McCray, trying to tease another boy: “Yeah, well Aaron ain’t had his Bar Mitzvah yet.” He and Jeff start laughing hysterically while Aaron rolls his eyes.
Me: “What are you talking about? Aaron’s not even Jewish.”
Frank, who immediately stops laughing and gets this really confused look on his face: “Huh? I thought you said a Bar Mitzvah was a party where people get their first kiss?”

“Jedediah Smith had stumbled onto Comanche Indian land during one of his expeditions when he was looking for water on the Santa Fe Trail, and when the Indians saw his traps they thought that he was a treat and he was killed.”
- from Jesse's “Western Expansion” paper

“Argeus” is the creative way Eric spelled “arduous” on a recent test.

Me: “What do you call someone who doesn’t work in the military?”Chris: “A pedestrian.”Me: “No. A civilian, but I guess you were kind of close.”

These are my children, ladies and gentlemen :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DDYK 12/16 - Bagpipes Ain't From Scotland

When you think of the bagpipe, you immediately envision plaid kilts, long dark stockings, and red-bearded men carrying the awkward instrument. But slow your roll. This instrument wasn't invented in Scotland.

There have been instruments involving pipes and a bag dating all the way back to Ancient Egypt. Then the Persians picked it up, then the Greeks, then the Romans. It was that last empire that introduced the world's most annoying instrument (except maybe the kazoo) to Scotland, where it became a huge part of the country's culture and heritage.

It also should be noted that the instrument is called the bagpipe, not bagpipes. The instrument is singular; only add the "s" if you're talking about several bagpipes.

And now you know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

DDYK 12/15 - Jingle Bell Rock Solid

The infamous Christmas song "Jingle Bells" is officially 151 years old, and 100% American, baby! It was written and copyrighted by James Lord Pierpont, a choral director from Georgia in the pre-Civil War era. Here are few little Did-You-Knows about this fantabulous Christmas favorite:
  • It was originally written for the Thanksgiving.
  • In 1965 it became the first song ever broadcast from space.
  • When it talks about "bells on bob tail ring," it's not naming the horse "Bob;" the horse's tail is, in fact, bobbed, meaning it's been cut shorter to keep the tail from getting caught in the reins.
  • We all know the first verse by heart, and we've maybe heard verse two once a twice, but have you ever seen verse 4? Didn't think so...
  • Now the ground is white
    Go it while you're young,
    Take the girls tonight
    and sing this sleighing song;
    Just get a bob tailed bay
    Two-forty as his speed
    [and] Hitch him to an open sleigh
    And crack! you'll take the lead.
Now get back to work and jingle all the way, ya'll!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Goose Is Getting Fat

Christmas is coming, and here's how the ol' Brigham household is looking in preparation for its first Christmas with its new family:

(Click on picture to view slideshow)

Friday, December 12, 2008

DDYK 12/12 - You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

In the spirit of Christmas, let's take a look at everyone's favorite holiday marathon film, "A Christmas Story," which actually has some pretty interesting lore behind it, such as:

Jack Nicholson wanted to play Ralphie's dad, but hiring him would've been too expensive.

Ralphie says he wants a Red Rider BB Gun 28 times during the course of the movie, which is approximately once every 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

Peter Billingsly, the kid that played Ralphie, is all grown up now and was most recently the executive producer for the summer hit "Iron Man" and recent holiday release "Four Christmases," starring Vince Vaughn. He and Vaughn are actually really good friends.

The kid that played "Flick" did porn for a while.

There's apparently a semi-sequel to this movie called "My Summer Story," which came out in 1994 and stars Macauly Culkin's little brother as Ralphie and Charles Grodin as the father. I'm sort of glad I never saw that one.

And there you go, folks! Some fantastic holiday trivia heading into the weekend. Have a great one, and don't shoot your eyes out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Most Motivational of Speeches

This video makes me want to be somebody:

DDYK 12/11 - Do You Believe in Magic?

We've all seen the ol' pull-a-rabbit-out-of-the-hat magic trick, and most of us have been pretty impressed, but it must have been pretty jaw-dropping once upon a time, right? I mean, somebody had to invent the ol' pull-a-rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick, and it must have initially been smashing.

There's also a pretty fun story today about a psuedo-Asian who died trying to catch a magic bullet in his teeth. Magic is awesome.

"The Great Wizard of the North," John Henry Anderson - Not only is this guy credited with helping to bring magic from the streets into the theater, but he's also credited with being the first magician to pull a rabbit out of his hat. He also did some innovating things with advertising and sort of revolutionized the way magic was enjoyed.

John Nevil Maskelyne - Not only did he invent the "levitating body" trick way back in the 1800s, he also invented a lock for toilets that required a penny to operate. We wouldn't have pay toilets or floating people without this guy! Another thing of note with this guy, he was a member of a group called The Magic Circle with Harry Houdini. The purpose of the group was to disprove the existence of anything supernatural. One success story: showing that the Indian Rope Trick was a ruse. Before that, everyone that it was a real thing.

Chung Ling Soo - What a con-artist! Chung Ling Soo was really a white dude named William Ellsworth, who secretly changed his stage name from "Robinson, Man of Mystery" to seem more mysterious and exotic. He never spoke English in public and dressed up in stereotypical Asian gear to keep up the act. His famous trick was one in which an audience member shot a gun at him, which Soo (Ellsworth) would catch in his teeth. For one performance, though, something went amiss and the bullet nailed the guy in the chest. Once shot, he said, "Oh my God, something's happened. Lower the curtain." It was the first time he'd spoken English in public.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ninja Cat

If you haven't seen the Ninja Cat yet, you're REALLY missing out...

A Smack of Jellyfish

Remember the other day's DDYK about weird names for groups of animals? There's an author who wrote a children's book about that very topic, which you can sort of preview at her website:

www.smackofjellyfish.com

What a cool idea!

DDYK 12/10 - Extra Days Off

Some of American's biggest holidays - Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day - are strictly American. Nobody else in the world celebrates those specific holidays on the exact same day for the exact same reason we do.

Taking that into consideration, it would make sense that the rest of the world gets days off of work that we here do not.

Curious? I was. So here's a list:

2nd Monday of January - Japan - Adults's Day: A celebration for all people who have turned 20 in the last year, which in Japanese culture is when they are officially considered adults.

February - India - Full Moon Day: A day to commemorate Buddhist teachings. I could explain the details of this "Magha Puja," but they're more complex than you probably care to hear about. They're definitely more complex than I care to write about.

February 6 - New Zealand - Waitangi Day: Day to recall an 1840 treaty signed by the native Maori people, which officially founded the country of New Zealand.

April - Switzerland - Sechselauten: Celebrates the beginning of spring. One of the more awesome things the Swiss do to celebrate is symbolically say goodbye to winter by draping a giant snowman in explosives, which they of course detonate shortly thereafter. I absolutely am not making this up.

May 5 - Mexico - Cinco de Mayo: Celebrates 1861 victory over French military, not the day Corona was invented, as is commonly mistaken. It's not the Mexican Indpendence Day (that's in September); just commemorating an important battle. Actually, in today's world it's more about celebrating Mexican history and culture.

May 24 - Canada - Victoria Day: Birthday of late Queen Victoria of Great Britain. They've been celebrating this since before confederacy, and people in Victoria, British Columbia obviously love it. Canadians sometimes call the day "May Two-Four" not because it falls on the 24th, but because they're going to get sloppy on a 24-pack of beer. Again, honest-to-goodness truth. I wouldn't lie to you about beer.

July 14 - France - Bastille Day: Celebrates the start of the French Revolution in 1789, specifically the storming of the Bastille, which was seen as the symbol of the uprising of the Modern Nation.

November 5 - Great Britain - Guy Fawkes Day: Celebrates foiling of a traitorous 1605 plot in which Guy Fawkes and a bunch of other naughty Catholics were going to blow up the Houses of Paliament in London. Fawkes and Co. lost, obviously, and now they dance on his grave every November 5th. Actually, I can't prove that last part, but they definitely throw a party. Whether or not that's on Guy Fawkes's grave is currently unknown to me.

December 26 - Australia, Great Britain, Canada - Boxing Day: A bonus day for giving gifts after Christmas. Where we in American spend the day making returns and shopping our little greedy butts off, these other nations use the day to hand out gifts to those who are less fortunate. Sounds pretty boring, right? :)

Now, if we just keep our fingers crossed for the Barack Obama day some legislatures are trying to pass, even though he's not even the damn president yet and hasn't proved anything, we can maybe get an extra day off of work for that one, too!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

DDYK 12/9 - Nobel Explosion Prize

I discovered today that Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the man for whom the Nobel Peace Prize is named, is known primarily for inventing dynamite. Also, the original funding of the awards came from money left in his will. So essentially, the Nobel Peace Prize is named after and funded by the dude responsible for more explosions than almost anybody in history. How's that for irony?

Monday, December 08, 2008

DDYK 12/8 - A Crow Left of the Murder

When Incubus came out with an album titled "A Crow Left of the Murder," I learned a valuable fact: a group of crows is not called a flock. It's called a murder.

So what other animals have weird group names? Check it out (I swear to God these are all 100% factual):

A shrewdness of apes
A wake of buzzards
A bed of clams
A bask of crocodiles
A brace of ducks
A convocation of eagles
A business of ferrets (or flies)
A stand of flamingoes
A tower of giraffes
An army of gorillas
An army of herring
A bloat of hippopotamuses
A passel of hogs
A smack of jellyfish
A troop of kangaroos
An exaltation of larks
A plague of locusts
A labor of moles
A romp of otters
A parliment of owls
A muster of peacocks
A prickle of porcupines
A warren of rabbits
An unkindness of ravens
A crash of rhinoceroses
A pod of seals (or whales)
A shiver of sharks
A streak of tigers
A knot of toads
A gang of turkeys

And now you know.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dave Barnes Christmas Extravaganza 3

I have always enjoyed dave barnes for the quality of his music (we even played one of his songs for our first dance at the wedding), but now I officially have a man crush. This is the most fantastic thing I've seen in weeks.

Friday, December 05, 2008

DDYK 12/5 - There Were Clawmarks on the Uterus

There's a joke from my favorite show "Arrested Development" where Buster, the mama's boy character, was in his mother's uterus for 11 months and that by the end of gestation there were, as the title says, clawmarks on the uterus.

It's funny stuff if you've ever watched "Arrested Development," but after doing a little research it turns out that 11 months isn't anywhere near the longest gestation period for animals.

Human babies stay inside their mothers' bellies for between 253 and 303 days (on average, obviously), and the animals with the closest gestation period to humans are horses, deer, and cows, all of which carry babies for about nine months.

Some animals go even longer, though. Donkeys carry babies for a year, while a whale fetus can gestate from 365-547 days. Some elephant babies stay locked up for almost two years!

For some species, the gestation period is significantly shorter than nine months. Bear babies gestate for 5-7 months, and pigs and lions go just over 100 days. I know a lot of human ladies that would REALLY appreciate it if pregnancy lasted 3 1/2 months! Though I don't think they'd appreciate birthing a pig and/or lion.

And now you know.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Animal Abuse 2: Christmas Slay

We're so horribly cruel to these poor cats. Click on the picture to view the slideshow.

DDYK 12/4 - A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Did you ever wonder why everything you eat tastes like crap after you brush your teeth? Me, too. There's actually a real reason that happens.

Most toothpastes contain either sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES) or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), whose job is to lower the surface tension of liquids. These chemicals are added to your toothpastes to help create foam and spread the goods all over mouth while you brush.

That's the practical use of them, anyway. The by-product is that these chemicals temporarily supress the taste bud receptors that detect sweetness while also breaking up the receptors that protect us from bitterness. So as a result, our orange juice tastes like a monkey's dingleberries after a good tooth-brushing because a chemical in the paste is killing our ability to taste sweetness and enhancing our ability to taste bitterness.

So we kind of lose twice when we brush our teeth, which is exactly why I never do it.

(Today's Daily Did-You-Know source: mentalfloss.com)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

DDYK 12/3 - Hitler's Sex Doll

Adolph Hitler, perhaps the most hated man in the history of the world, was not only the father of Naziism, but was also the father of the inflatable sex doll.

This is no joke. To keep his soldiers from contracting debilitating STD's at brothels or, even worse, fornicating with non-Aryan women, Hitler came up with the idea of the sex doll to satiate his soldier's basic sexual needs. He ordered a Danish doctor named Olen Hannussen to develop the product, which, according to Hitler, should be "a natural size with a pretty woman's appearence with white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes 1.76 meters (5'9") high with large breasts and lips."

The dolls never went into mass production though, because the factory tagged for making the things was bombed with the rest of Dresden during WWII.

And now you know.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

DDYK 12/2 - Dumb Fads

Back in action after the Thanksgiving Holiday. Been a lovely hiatus, but let's get back to business...

Stupid Fads From the Last 100 Years

1920s - Raccoon Coats - These were worn mostly by college males in latter portion of the century. We're talking full-length coon-pelt coats here, apparently made popular tales of Davy Crockett, who killed him a bar when he was only three.

1924 - Flagpole Sitting - Stunt actor Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly is responsible for this fad when someone dared him to sit on top of a flagpole for as long as he could. He lasted over 13 hours and was followed by new idiot record setters, culminating in Kelly re-claming the title by staying aloft for 49 days. Moron. The new record, as far as I could find, is held by an Iowan named Bill Penfield, who lasted 51 days and 20 hours.

1939 - Goldfish Swallowing - Some goofball at Harvard swallowed a fish as a publicity stunt, sparking a nation of followers who read about it in the papers. I don't get it.

1950s - Bomb Shelters - Everyone was afraid of the Commies during the Cold War, so people were building these things in their back yards, stocked with canned foods and gallons of water and whatnot. The fad sort of made a comeback with all the Y2K nonsense in 1999.

1950s - Poodle Skirts - Women in postwar America wanted a modern, unique feminine fashion statement to do stuff like sing and dance and star in "Grease."

1959 - Phone Booth Stuffing - Apparently this one started in South Africa of all places, but it of course spread to America, where idiotic fads go to die. College kids literally crammed themselves into a phone booth until it couldn't hold any more people. The record is somewhere around 25, but no one cared enough to write down anything official anywhere.

1960s - Tie-Dye - Earliest examples of this originate in Peru around 500 A.D., but Janis Joplin made it mainstream in the '60s. It's still okay to wear these shirts, but only in moderation. Don't be a nerd about it, okay?

1970s - Platform Shoes - While the simplest explanation is that these raised shoes were invented just to be groovy, the real reason they were invented was that Ancient Grecians needed to literally elevate people of higher social standing. Hence, the platform shoe. Greece had nothing to do with the ones that have the goldfish in the heel, though.

1974 - Streaking - The first incident of a college kid stripping down and going streaking through the quad to the gymnasium was in 1804 at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. The '70s took it to new levels in America, though. It's apparently still very popular at soccer contests. "And he's off like a bull with gas."

1975 - Pet Rocks - An advertising exec named Gary Dahl made a fortune putting rocks in boxes and selling them to the moronic millions. They sold for $4 a pop and made Dahl a millionaire in six months. God bless America!

1980 - Rubik's Cube - This is considered the world's all-time best selling toy, having sold an estimated 300 million units by 2005. Some call it impossible, but it absoultely can be done. It was invented by a Hungarian professor of architecture named Erno Rubik, who now sleeps on a bed of money.

1983 - Cabbage Patch Kids - One of the craziest toy fads of all time, these cute little buggers started as all-cloth dolls based off the idea of quilts and sold only at craft shows. Now they're one of the best-selling toys of all time, even if it's not quite as impossible to find one at Christmas time as it used to be in the mid-80s.

1993 - Macarena - Huh patawella manasena macarena! Oom patwella cosifena madiyeda macarena! Heeeeyyyy macarena! Aight!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/26/2008

The Top 5 Fastest Roller Coasters in the World:

100 mph - The Tower of Terror, Dreamworld, Australia



100 mph - Superman the Escape, Six Flags Magic Mountain, California



106 mph - Dodonpa, Fujikyu Highland, Japan



120 mph - Top Thrill Dragster, Cedar Point Ohio



128 mph - Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey



The only one I've been on is Top Thrill Dragster and it was pretty ridiculous. You feel like the skin is going to peel right off your face. So awesome.

What My Dad Wants For Christmas

My father pointed out this eBay auction for me yesterday, and I'm just in love with the idea of it. Like every other American family we watch the Ralphie "Christmas Story" about a thousand times between December 24th and December 25th, and this auction has been designed to recreate the movie for one lucky bidder. Winner of the auction includes:
  • An overnight stay on Christmas Eve at the house where "A Christmas Story" was filmed.
  • Behind-the-scenes tours of the home and museum.
  • A ride in the family car.
  • Delivery of a "Fra-Gi-Le" prize crate to the house on Christmas Eve, complete with crowbar.
  • Little Orphan Annie decoder rings delivered in the mailbox.
  • a Chinese turkey dinner at Pearl of the Orient Restuarant.
  • A present-opening session on Christmas morning, including two Red Rider BB Guns, a blue bowling ball, and a pink bunny suit.

How fantastic is this? If I had $5,000 laying around, I'd make a bid, but this is too rich for my blood. Still, how fantastic, right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hammer Time

I have this friend. We’ll call him “Rich,” mostly because that’s his real name. Rich is not unlike the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons. Now, imagine taking the Tasmanian Devil with you out into public. Imagine doing it after the Tasmanian Devil has just ingested a third of his weight in alcohol.

That’s Rich. It’s always a good time.

And so, we journey together into what I have often called the best summer of my life, where I, wealthy off the spoils of my college graduation and blissfully unemployed, grew into a fantastic friendship with Rich and two other guys who helped completely shift my view of the world at a time when my view of the world really needed it. I had spent the better part of the last 12 months doing nothing but research projects and failing with women, and a summer spent swigging Coronas and playing no-limit Texas Hold’em in people’s garages was just what the doctor ordered. I wouldn’t be a happy, confident person today without that summer. A month after it ended I moved back to Bloomington for good and met my future wife, who I never would’ve had the gumption to speak to had I not changed so much in the previous 100 days. In a way, those guys saved me. Even Taz has his redeeming qualities, folks.

But life after the summer of 2004 is a story for another day. Maybe a memoir that I doubt anyone would buy or even read if presented with a free copy. This entry refers to the summer of 2004 itself, and one of the most classic Rich stories I can think to tell.

Two months into the summer we had been playing poker so much (literally 3-4 times a week) that we all had started taking it entirely too seriously. It’s like when kids get so into a video game that they start having dreams about beating the game, and everything else in their lives suffer until the damn thing is conquered. Sorta how our lives were in regards to cards that July.

We’re in Cole’s garage with the poker table set up, the usually quartet anteing up conservatively and dragging the games out as long as we could to make sure everyone had an equal shot at stealing the $20 pot. We had been playing for quite a while, and the competition in this particular game was getting heavy, when Rich’s phone rang.

Those of you that have played poker with buddies before know that when the phone rings, proper etiquette is to either hit “silence,” or answer it and immediately tell the caller you’ll hit them up once you win or once you’re out. This usually works out fine, unless the caller is the callee’s girlfriend, as was the case in this particular instance.

So Rich starts cooing and kissing into the phone for a few minutes, then he says, “Hang on. Deal it up and I’ll be back in a second” and heads outside to complete his Duncan Hines cake conversation in privacy to avoid being chastised by Cole, Sean, and myself (which, by the way, always happened anyway).

Ten minutes, fifteen minutes, thirty minutes pass. The three of us are sitting there sipping on warm beer swill while we wait for Mr. Betty Crocker to return to the table. It’s at this point we get the idea to stack the deck.

Going into this we knew that Rich, who turns into a wiry little Incredible Hulk when he’s pissed off, would go apey when he discovered the ruse, but at this point we were all pretty annoyed and thought the risk could be worth the rewards. We didn’t deal, but just set up the deck so that Rich would get a straight flush to the King (literally the second-highest hand in poker) and Cole would get a royal flush (the only hand that can beat it).

After about a half-hour (but what felt like an evening-and-a-half), Rich comes moseying back in like he’d just been laid. “Alright, let’s do this,” he says, and Sean deals.

The cards come spraying out like an automatic sprinkler, and everything is set up like we planned out. The first three cards get flipped onto the table, and we’re well aware that Rich has four of a suit and an open-ended straight draw. He’s going to bet strong, and he does.

We’re all holding back snickers, trying to look as serious as possible. The Turn gives Rich his flush, but the straight flush won’t come until the River. Even still, it’s enough for him to start betting like a moron because he’s got it King-high. Quickly it becomes too right for Sean’s and my blood, so we fold while Cole keeps pushing Rich, who looks extremely confident. We suppress laughter watching him try unsuccessfully to suppress his cool. Rich is a talker during cards. Whenever he gets really quiet and serious, you know there’s got to be something good in his craw. This was common knowledge, but seeing it all unfold was just too great for words.

Finally the last card rolls out and it gives Rich his straight flush to the King. When the card came down and he sort of adjusted himself in his chair, like a contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” that has just answered the final question correctly and is waiting for Regis to announce him as the winner. A small tear of joy welled up in his right eye, and it’s absolutely probably that a small squirt of pee escaped from his body the moment that card hit the table.

“All in,” he tries to say casual, as if it’s really no big deal. Sean and I start making cat calls at the ballsy move, as if we don’t know what the result is going to be. Rich leans back and waits on Cole, who seems to be deliberating for a moment, just to create success, but it’s not long before he finally comes back with, “I call.”

Rich flips over his fantastic hand and starts talking about he couldn’t believe the hand while starting to rake the chips towards him.

But then Cole says, “Uh, Rich.. hang on a second, buddy,” and lays down his royal flush.

The kid’s entire body went slack, like someone who had just been shot right through the heart. He couldn’t believe it. Didn’t even see it coming. The odds were absolutely impossible. This kind of thing only happens in movies, right? The only way something this happens in a garage in Clifton is if somebody stacks the de…

Wait a tick.

It’s at this point Rich realizes he’s been had. The three of us had a good 20 seconds of uproarious laughter before he caught on and every glorious one of them was bliss.

But then Rich released the Tasmanian Devil.

His first instinct, and I don’t know why this would be anyone’s first instinct, was to look for a hammer. We all scattered like Japanese civilians fleeing from Godzilla. Cole had the hand that won, so that’s the direction Rich took, chasing the poor kid out into the cornfields, claw of the hammer raining down on him in little bursts. I like to think that if Cole actually had gotten caught he would’ve gotten through it alive, but today I’m not so sure.

Eventually Sean and I returned to the garage to wait for those two to come back, and we waited for quite some time with no returns.

“You think Rich killed him?” Sean asked.

Just then Cole ran into the garage, alive, praise Allah, and locked everything up. Everything was quiet for a solid minute before I asked Cole in a whisper, “Where is he?”

Afraid to even move, Cole answered, “I don’t know, he was right behind me.” And then more silence.

But in a moment, the door leading from the garage to house, which could not be locked from outside, swung open and a maniacal Rich stood silhouetted in the dark doorframe, hammer in hand. I half-expected him to say something witty in a gruff voice, like “Hammertime, boys,” but he didn’t. He ran straight for Cole, gave him a few solid whacks in the ribs with the tool and slumped down into a chair to regain his breath.

When it returned, he cursed us all out and we all laughed again. Cole ended up with only a couple of bruises, but that’s fair payment for one of the best memories of that fantastic summer. The night Taz got served and ran loose with a hammer. Like I said, always a good time.

Daily Did-You-Know 11/25/2008

There are a lot of great musicians out there - Paul McCartney, Yo-Yo Ma, Andrea Bocelli, Ruben Studdard - but who has been most recognized with the most Grammys in the history of the award? Never fear, folks. As always, I'm dropping the knowledge on ya:

8 people tied with 16 awards: Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Vince Gill, Leonard Bernstein, Pat Metheny, Robert Shaw, and Sting.

17 awards: Alison Krauss

20 awards: Henry Mancini

22 awards: Stevie Wonder

2 people tied with 25 awards: Pierre Boulez and Vladimir Horowitz

27 awards: Quincy Jones

And the person with the most Grammy awards in history, with 31 awards: Sir Georg Solti! Who the hell is that! Further research shows he was an internationally renowned conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic. I suppose that'll get the job done, eh?

Elvis, The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones didn't make the top 15, and in fact not a single one of them has ever won a Grammy for Record of the Year. The person to win that specific Grammy the most times was Paul Simon, who took it home thrice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/24/2008

I've got an Official Blog Entry just about ready to roll. It'll be up tomorrow, even though I know I promised one for today. My bad, ya'll. It's coming though, I promise!

Now for the Daily Did-You-Know...

The top five most expensive paintings ever sold are:


"Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier" by Paul Cezanne, sold for $55 million in 1999.

"Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe" by Vincent Van Gogh, sold for $65 million in 1998.




"Au Moulin de la Galette" by Pierre de la Galette, sold for $71 million in 1990 and then re-sold in 2002 for $76.7 million.




"Portrait of Dr. Gachet" by Vincent Van Gogh, sold for $82.5 million in 1990.


"Garcon a la Pipe" by Pablo Picasso, sold for whopping $104 million in 2004.

A parting note on this topic: According to Wikipedia, a Jackson Pollack painting was sold in 2006 (after the publication of the book I pulled today's Did-You-Know from) for a record $140 million. It's an expressionist piece, and you absolutely will not believe that anybody paid $140 for it, let alone $140 million. Curious? Click HERE to see it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Joe Namath: "I Want to Kiss You"

Here's the setup: Jets legend Joe Namath is getting interviewed on the sidelines during a Jets game (this was a few years ago) by ESPN reporter Suzi Kolber. Turns out, ol' Joe is absoutely wasted, the happiest of happy drunks, and halfway through the interview he starts making moves towards Kolber. It's the most awkward, uncomfortable thing I've seen at a sporting event, and I remember watching this live. Just insane. I'm ashamed of myself for forgetting about it because this is classic sports right here. As classic as sports can be.

Daily Did-You-Know 11/21/2008

The following are some words that were once used all the time a generation or two ago but now sound ridiculous whenever somebody uses them. But guess who's going to START using them? This guy...

bloomers (n): ladies' underwear
bee's knees (adj): neat, cool
dapper (adj): describes a fancy dresser
gentleman caller (n): boyfriend
knickers (n): kids' short pants
settee (n): small sofa
thither (adv): over there
zounds! (int): expression of surprise

I forgot all about "bee's knees." That's fantastic! Are there any more you can think up, especially you older folks out there? Hit up the comments!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/20/2008

Today we look at seven famous hoaxes from the annals (tee hee) of American history. Some of these are goodies, and all of them have links to Wikipedia or Snopes pages with more information if you somehow get particularly interested. Which you might do.

1842 - The Feejee Mermaid

P.T. Barnum was responsible for making the world believe mermaids were real, but his version of the mermaid corpse, which was like half-monkey and half-fish, doesn't look anything like Disney's Ariel, who's like the hottest redhead I've ever seen outside of Isla Fisher.

1869 - The Cardiff Giant

The corpse of a ten-foot man was found in Great Britain, but stupid people in the 19th century thought the stone statue was a gigantic fossilized dead guy. Clearly, that wasn't the case. Thank goodness we have no forensic technology that can tell the difference between a dead person and rocks!

1911 - The Piltdown Man

More tomfoolery in England. A "Missing Link" skull that was purported to be 500,000 years old ended up aging 50,000 years old. Oops! Added a zero! The skull's jawbone was only a decade old.

1978 - The Human Clone

A science writer wrote that a millionare had made a clone of himself, which obviously never happened. As far as I'm aware there has never been a human clone, unless you count the Governator in "The Sixth Day," which was a crappy movie anyway.

1999 - The Piltdown Chicken

Scientists find a "Missing Link" fossil between lizards and birds, helping to prove evolution. Turns out two fossils had been melded together to create a fancy effect. Now if there was a Piltdown Egg, we could argue which of the two came first.

2000 - Shinichi Fujimura's Rocks

This famous Asian scientist claimed to have discovered stone tools that were over 600,000 years old. Pretty awesome story. Except for the fact that Shinichi buried the tools himself. Looks like he was the tool, am I right?

2000 - The Monster Cat

We've all seen the picture of Snowball at some point, but I'm here to tell you it's Photoshopped. No cat is that big, except my sister's. They eat bacon.

Got any others I'm forgetting? Hit up the comments!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/19/2008

The following plants are poisonous if eaten:

Azaleas, Buttercups, Daffodils (the bulbs), Eldeberry (the roots), Hyacinth (the bulbs), Hudrangeas (the buds, leaves, and branches), Laurels, Misteltoe, Morning Glories (the seeds), Poinsettias, and Rododendrons.

Plus, you know, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac. Them ain't good, either.

The following plants are actually good for your body:

Aloe (sunburns), Chili Peppers (reduces pain), Eucalyptus (kills germs), Garlic (heals infections), Ginger (helps indigestion), Mint (reduces nausea and indigestion), Roses (rich in Vitamin C), Wormwood (heals parasitic worms), and St. John's Wort (good for the nervous system).

Top 10 Arguments That Can't Be Won

Top 10 Arguments That Can't Be Won.

According to the guy that wrote this, at least. I think the answers are pretty easy. They are as follows:
  1. Evolution, clearly. But who's to say evolution isn't the result of an intelligent creator?
  2. Some combination of Nature AND Nurture
  3. Keep guns legal but limit the types of guns that can be owned
  4. A dying person's wishes should be honored, even if that means pulling the plug.
  5. For it. Sometimes death is the only acceptible punishment for a crime. Humans have doing this for year and it works just fine. You think the Mongols had life without parole?
  6. Pro-choice. Can't go pro-life for as long as women can potentially get pregnant as a result of rape.
  7. Destiny exists, but it can only take us so far; eventually we have decisions to make for ourselves.
  8. Morals clearly are relative. Ever watch that "Taboo" show? That proves it right there.
  9. Who cares? Both are delicious.
  10. Has to. The world can't just be strings of good and bad luck. God may not watch over the universe like a manager watches over the day shift, but there's got to be something God-like out there. At least I certainly hope so!

Nice to Meet You #3: Richard Jenkins

The guy in this picture has to look familiar, right? That’s Richard Jenkins, an actor that was born in DeKalb, Illinois and graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University, which is also my alma mater. If you’re a Will Ferrell fan you might have seen him in “Step Brothers” this past summer. He played Ferrell’s dad in the so-so comedy. He was also the lead in “The Visitor,” which, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. In case you’re trying to figure out where else you’ve seen the guy, check out his IMDB.com page here.

Anyhoo, I met Mr. Jenkins about a month ago at IWU’s homecoming weekend, where he had returned to town to show “The Visitor” and do a little Q&A afterwards. I missed the show for some reason—I forget why—but when I was rolling around with pals on campus the next day I bumped into him at the book store. So I just rolled up and introduced myself.

I said I was a big fan, even though I’ve only seen about four of his films, but he seemed genuinely flattered and engaged himself in a fantastic conversation with me, which I neither expected nor deserved. Mostly just a bunch of mundane chatter about his feelings on IWU, a few anecdotes from his time there, and a couple of cool stories about John C. Reilly, who he actually knew when Reilly was a kid. Jenkins used to work for the kid’s grandfather and remembers the “Step Brothers” co-star as a four-year-old saying someday he was going to be a bigger actor than Unkie Richard. Jenkins sort of laughed and said the kid was right (Reilly got an Oscar nod for “Chicago,” if’n you recall).

All in all, he was a fantastic guy. One of those pure, deep voices that subtly rattle your insides like the bassline from a good rock song. Firm handshake, authentic smile. I just enjoyed talking with the dude. I’d do it again if presented the opportunity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/18/2008

Did you know I am both mythical and magical? Check it out:
  • Select three different numbers between 1 and 9.
  • Write the three numbers down next to one another, largest first, forming a three-digit number.
  • Now reverse the digits, putting the smallest first, and write this number underneath the first three-digit-number.
  • Subtract the lower number from the upper number.
  • The answer is 18.

Also, your dead childhood pet says "hello."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/17/2008

Okay, so we all know that George Washington is on the $1 bill and Abraham Lincoln is on the penny. See if you can nail down what faces go with the rest of American bills and coins:

(Highlight each line to view the answers).

Penny = Abraham Lincoln
Nickel = Thomas Jefferson
Dime = Franklin Roosevelt
Quarter = George Washington
Half-Dollar = John F. Kennedy

$1 Bill = George Washington
$2 Bill = Thomas Jefferson
$5 Bill = Abraham Lincoln
$10 Bill = Alexander Hamilton
$20 Bill = Andrew Jackson
$50 Bill = Ulysses Grant
$100 Bill = Benjamin Franklin

Also, did you know that are $500 (William McKinley), $1,000 (Grover Cleveland), $10,000 (Salmon P. Chase, the only non-president in the bunch), and $100,000 (Woodrow Wilson) bills in circulation, too? They're used by banks and large businesses, but you won't find them floating around in 7-Eleven cash drawers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/13/2008

Can you pick out the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World from the following list? It's harder than you think...

The Great Pyramid, Egypt (pic)
Aztec Temple in Tenochtitlan, Mexico (pic)
Colosseum, Rome (pic)
Great Wall of China, China (pic)
Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Modern-Day Iraq (pic)
Temple of Artemis, Turkey (pic)
Great Sphinx, Egypt (pic)
Statue of Zeus, Greece (pic)
Machu Picchu, Peru (pic)
Moai Statues of Easter Island, Chile (pic)
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Turkey (pic)
Parthenon, Greece (pic)
Colossus of Rhodes, Greece (pic)
Stonehenge, England (pic)
Taj Mahal, India (pic)
Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt (pic)

Answers: (highlight to view)

  1. Great Pyramid
  2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. Temple of Artemis
  4. Statue of Zeus
  5. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. Colossus of Rhodes
  7. Lighthouse of Alexandria

Once you've checked your answers, you can read the following. Did you already try to answer? you're not cheating by reading this? Okay. Carry on...

Since only one of the original Seven Wonders is still around, a Swiss company started an initiative in 2001 to name the New Seven Wonders of the World. After letting people all over the world vote, and after narrowing the list down to 21 finalists, this is the final list they came up with:

The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, the Roman Colosseum, Taj Mahal, Brazil's Christ the Redeemer (pic), Jordan's Petra Monastary (pic), and Mexico's Chichen Itza (pic).

There Are Two Assassins Living In My House

How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/12/2008

Only three world cities have a larger population than New York (18 million people including the suburbs). What are they?

Answers (highlight to view):
  1. Tokyo, Japan (31.2 million)
  2. Mexico City, Mexico (21.5 million)
  3. San Paolo, Brazil (19.9 million)

The Price is Definitely Right

This kid's kind of a moron, but I've never seen anything like this on "The Price is Right."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/11/2008

Put the following world religions in order, starting with the largest number of believers and working down to the fewest number of believers:

Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists

Answers (highlight to view):
  1. Christians (2 billion believers)
  2. Muslims (1.3 billion believers)
  3. Hindus (900 million believers)
  4. Buddhists (360 million believers)
  5. Jews (14.4 million believers)

Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals

This is hilarious.

Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals

The Mayne Event

I love me some some Kenny Mayne. The best thing about these little clips is that some of them co-star the guy at http://www.rejectedjokes.com/, whom I enjoy very, very much. He reminds me of Ed, which would explain the man-crush.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nice to Meet You #2: Ben Wallace

My first season covering the Bulls was right after the summer they brought in multiple-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace for a ridiculous sum of money. Pretty much everybody else on the team was young, vibrant, and open to pretty much anything in terms of chatting with the media, but not Big Ben. He didn’t scare me necessarily, but he did intimidate the crap out of me. There absolutely is a difference.

This past weekend when the Cleveland Cavaliers (Wallace’s new team) came through, I needed to get some audio from him for a piece I was doing. Now let me explain what I mean by intimidating—as I reached the point in approaching him that it was clear I needed an interview, he sort of stopped tying his shoes and looked up at me like I was about to ruin his day. The man has never warmed to me. Rarely do I get the sort of feeling that imposing on someone to interview them, but it’s that way with Big Ben.

He did agree to answer my questions, and the whole thing was less scary in real life than I think it was in my head, but it’s the anxiety in approaching the guy that’s always killed me. People who know him well love him, swear he’s the coolest, most down-to-earth guy in the world. And I can absolutely see that. He’s the sort of person you want to impress so that you, too, can become part of that circle of trust and partake in meaningful high fives and familial banter.

Alas, it was never meant to be with me and Mr. Ben Wallace. Part of it is just that he’s a quiet, self-kept guy. I understand that, but sometimes quiet, self-kept guys aren’t the most fun to talk to. And sometimes quiet, self-kept guys can be a little intimidating.

Okay, fine. Scary. The man is a little scary.

Daily Did-You-Know 11/10/2008

Let's test your smarts. The following are all "extinct" countires, meaning they no longer go buy these names. How many of these can you match up with its modern-day name? If you're as smart as me, the answer is "zero."

Extinct Countries:
  1. Gold Coast
  2. Persia
  3. Siam
  4. Yugoslavia
  5. Burma
  6. Rhodesia
  7. Sumatra
Answers: (highlight to view... they're invisible!)
  1. Ghana
  2. Iran
  3. Thailand
  4. Serbia and Montenegro
  5. Myanmar
  6. Zimbabwe
  7. Indonesia

Friday, November 07, 2008

Nice to Meet You #1: Shaquille O'Neal

When you hear that Shaquille O’Neal is 7’2”, you think, “Wow, he must be really big.” Then you see him on commercials and in video games and you might mutter, “Eh, he’s not so bad.” Trust me. The man is huge.

But he’s also one of the nicer NBA players I’ve ever met. All it takes for me to explain this is by demonstrating the following exchange:

Me: “Hi, Joel Brigham with HOOPSWORLD, how you doin’ man?”
Most NBA Players: “Hey” or “Whassup” or “(inaudible grunt)” or absolute silence.

Now let’s see how Shaq responds, shall we?

Me: “Hi, Joel Brigham with HOOPSWORLD, how you doin’ big guy?”
Shaquille O’Neal, making eye contact and smiling: “Hi, Joel. It’s really nice to meet you.”

Then he cracked some jokes, had a few laughs, he touched my leg (okay, maybe not the last thing), and he was gone. But as things go for superstars, he was one of the cooler guys I’ve come across. Yes, his biceps are larger than most mortal toddlers. Yes, his head is literally so large it has its own gravitational pull. He wears a size 22 shoe for goodness sake. I’m not coming anywhere close to exaggerating when I say you could use those shoes as bassinettes for average-sized twin infants.

But his heart is bigger than all of those things. Cheesy? Perhaps. But true.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Daily Did-You-Know 11/6/2008

If you're like me, the following names don't mean anything to you:

Daniel Tompkins, George Dallas, William King, Schuyler Colfax, Henry Wilson, William Wheeler, Thomas Hendricks, Levi Morton, Garret Hobart, or Charles Fairbanks.

Why should they? Because all of them are the names of former U.S. Vice Presidents.

Taming the Dragon

I had totally forgotten about this sketch. A bright spot in SNL's not particularly funny years. And remember when Lindsay Lohan used to be hot?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Why Has No One Ever Thought Of This?

Check out this amazing catch. I've literally never seen anything like this. Why has no one ever thought to do this before?



And congratulations to Barack Obama. Love him or hate him, he's our next president. Let's hope he's able to resurrect American the way so many people think he's capable of doing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

If The Other Party Won

A little something for election day:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Which President Had Anal Fissures?

When it comes to presidential diseases, we all know that FDR was confined to a wheelchair because of a tough bout with polio, William Taft was morbidly obese, and George Washington was as toothless as an 80-year-old hooker.

What you don’t know is all the presidents who battled alcoholism and depression, and lots of other really weird stuff. Some of these surprised me quite a bit, as I’m sure they will you, too. In the spirit of election day tomorrow, let’s re-visit some more fabulous did-you-knows from our nation’s presidential past.
  • George Washington was sterile. In Washington’s case, ol’ Martha birthed four children pre-G.W. but was unable to conceive in her 40-year marriage to our first president. Washington wouldn’t admit it to himself—in fact, he often said that if Martha died and he started bumping uglies with a new main squeeze he’d have tons of little Washingtons, no problem—but he couldn’t have kids.

Diagnosis: Sterile

  • So was James Polk, whose sterility came from having a bladder stone removed (ouch!).

  • Warren G. Harding was believed to have been infertile his whole life, but turns out his little boys worked just fine in the form of an illegitimate daughter who came out of the woodworks four years after Harding died. Because he had a childless marriage, most believed he was infertile, but in 1927 when his bastard daughter wrote a book it certainly shook up that theory. Modern geneticists generally agree that this “Nan Britton” lady was Harding’s daughter, killing any possibility of him ever being as awesome as George Washington.

  • Thomas Jefferson may have had Asperger Syndrome. Was the man that wrote our Declaration of Independence autistic? Asperger is a high-functioning form of autism that allows the patient to come off extremely intelligent but socially daft. Not everyone agrees with this diagnosis 200 years after the fact, but support of the theory includes Jefferson’s shyness, his inability to relate to other people, his lack of comfort and charisma in public speaking, and obsessive behaviors like spending much of 54 years remodeling his house and walking around with a pet bird on his shoulder. Pundits argue that autism must be diagnosed from observing childhood behaviors, not adult behaviors, and since a fire burned up Jefferson’s childhood home and history, there’s no way to tell for sure. Still, there are a few books out there that make a compelling case.

Diagnosis: Autistic

  • John Tyler experienced several years of paralysis. Nobody really knows what specifically was wrong with Tyler, but his paralysis forced him to take a two-year hiatus from Congress in his pre-presidential years. He did eventually recover, but that still sucks. Could’ve been a tick, some say. Others site numerous diseases as potential culprits.

  • James Polk at one point suffered from “debilitating diarrhea.” I can’t imagine how not fun that must have been. Even less fun is going down in the “annals” of history as being the guy with explosive doo-doo disease.

  • Abraham Lincoln was slightly cross-eyed and may have been colorblind. For years people have generally agreed that Lincoln was colorblind, but more recent evidence calls that into question. At present, there is nothing to prove definitively that Honest Abe couldn’t distinguish between colors. The cross-eyed thing was real, though. Something genetic, though you really couldn’t tell just by looking at him.

  • James Garfield suffered from anal fissures. I just keep thinking of that episode of “The Office” when Dwight is going through everyone’s diseases to pick a new health plan and gets to this disease. “Anal fissures? Very funny. Like that’s even a real disease.” Poor President Garfield. I bet there was a Dwight combing through his health insurance plan back then, too.

  • Teddy Roosevelt, because of a detached retina was blind in one eye, but also was deaf in one eye. Essentially, he was only half a man. Nah, I’m just kidding. Actually, Roosevelt was one of the biggest badasses the Oval Office ever saw. I bet you’re wondering how that little retina got detached? He hosted a boxing match at the White House, and he got hit pretty hard in the eye. THAT’S how you go blind, gentlemen! As for the deaf thing, that came as a result of a childhood ear in infection. Sort of lame, I guess, unless it was an infection he contracted during a boxing match! Maybe via use of unclean gloves?

  • Woodrow Wilson may have had dyslexia and ADHD. President Wilson didn’t learn to read until he was 12 years old as a result of the dyslexia, but he taught himself shorthand to get him through school. The man just worked really hard to get over his disability and eventually graduated from Princeton and then law school at the University of Virginia. Kinda gangster in his own way. He and Theo Huxtable are the only famous dyslexic people I know.

  • JFK had Addison Disease. Some have called John Kennedy’s cover-up of this adrenal-failure disease the best smokescreen in presidential election history. In 1947 Kennedy was diagnosed with Addison’s by a doctor in London, and it was so bad that he almost died on the boat ride back. He was given his last rights and everything. By the time the 1960 presidential race came along he denied ever having had the disease, even though it continued to bother him after various surgeries in the early ‘60s. Had he not gotten shot, he may have died on his own. For the record, he also had a couple of sexually transmitted ailments which couldn’t have helped his case either. Why cheat on Jackie O? She was a hottie in her day!

  • Jimmy Carter spent his presidency and later life battling severe chronic hemorrhoids. The source I read to get this information literally listed it as “severe chronic hemorrhoids.” I’ve got to believe that’s worse than just play old hemorrhoids. Like, regular strength Preparation H wouldn’t get the job done.

Diagnosis: Hemorrhoids

The following presidents reportedly suffered from some sort of depression:

  • John Adams – his health broke down several times over the course of his life, due largely in part to a few severe bouts with depression. No Zoloft back then, either, so he had to play it hardcore style and just deal. Couldn’t have been fun.
  • Thomas Jefferson – Jefferson died broke, despite keeping meticulous records of his finances, and combined with some serious back issues, depression was imminent in his final years.

  • Abraham Lincoln – Apparently most of the “evidence” to prove this is in his facial expressions and general demeanor during hard times in his life, like when his mother died, his fiancée Anne Rutledge died, and when he was having marital issues with Mary Todd, who was legitimately insane. He also lost two children during their childhoods and dealt with a whole lot of crap while running the Civil War. If not depression, then at least a really serious bout of sadness. The difference being that one of those can be diagnosed, and the other is just an everyday human emotion. Personally, I don’t know anywhere near enough to draw a conclusion about Abe’s situation.

  • Diagnosis: Semi-Depression

  • Calvin Coolidge – His sixteen-year-old son died of sepsis during his presidency, and most close to him agreed that he was never the same.
The following presidents reportedly suffered from alcoholism:
  • James Buchanan – Our country’s only bachelor president, some believe that Buchanan was a homosexual because of over two decades of living with a fellow male senator and his failure to ever get married. I suppose keeping that sort of secret would drive a man to the bottle, right?

  • Andrew Johnson – This guy was so bad that he went to his inauguration drunk. He got up on the pulpit and started rambling really offensive things about other higher-ups, and eventually someone had to usher him to his seat just to get him to shut up. It rubbed off on his sons, too. His kid Charles was killed in a drunk driving accident—but this was before cars. He died falling off his horse. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • Ulysses S. Grant – The guy that won the Civil War for the union was a drunk, sure, but reportedly a very happy drunk. In this guy’s case, drinking made him awesome. When he was Union General under Lincoln, Abe knew he was on the sauce and hired him anything. One more reason to love Ulysses S. Grant.

Diagnosis: Fun-Drunk

  • George W. Bush – He’s not an alky anymore, but we all know he was at some point. Like we needed more fuel for the Bush Hate Fire.

  • Poor old Franklin Pierce had a little touch of both depression and alcoholism. Being in Washington alienated him from his friends, and as a result he got bummed out and started drinking. Then, he met a good woman who got his ass in shape. But eventually he was so horrible as a president that his own party wouldn’t re-nominate him. This, along with a few other mitigating factors, drove him back to the bottle, and he eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver.
Okay, that should do it for my presidential brouhaha. If you haven’t already, get out there and vote tomorrow. But get up and go early… polls are going to be STACKED! Let’s go Obama!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Solution to the Presidential Debate

Let me tell you how they used to do things back in the day. When our country first started electing presidents in 1789, candidates didn’t pick vice-presidential running mates and hit the ticket together. The vice president was the guy who got the second-most Electoral College votes in the presidential race.

For example, even though George Washington won his first two elections uncontested (he was basically the country’s biggest celebrity at the time because of his Revolutionary War feats), John Adams became his vice president because he had the second most Electoral College votes both times.

By the third election in 1796, when Federalist Adams won the election by a slight margin over Democratic-Republican Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson became the vice president even though he was of the opposing political party. Even Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, brought aboard Democrat Andrew Johnson for his second term, and Abe’s like the greatest president in the history of the world.

Eventually, however, party systems became more defined, philosophies between the two continued to widen, and American citizens started aligning themselves with these parties a little more passionately.

Enter 2008, where we’re all fighting over which presidential candidate is the one to lead us out of the crapstorm our country has become. For what I feel are very obvious reasons as a middle-class educator, I’m leaning heavily towards Obama, but I’ve got nothing against John McCain. I liked him in 2000 when he lost to Bush in the Republican primaries. I get that he brings a lot of experience to the table. That’s a good thing, I’ll admit it. Why not go ahead and say it—I like both candidates on some level.

It’s Sarah Palin who scares the hell out of me. She’s aloof and naïve (and believes dinosaurs roamed the earth 4,000 years ago, even though Science proves otherwise), and considering McCain could keel over any minute, I can’t imagine her as the Chief of Staff of our military. She’s no good as a potential president, and honestly neither is whitebread oldschool senator Joe Biden, who for some reason really reminds me of that creepy vice president from “24” who was always plotting against Jack Bauer.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Why not bring it back to the oldschool and stick the loser with the winner to form our president/vice president combo in ’08? Wouldn’t you think the nation could stomach Obama a lot more easily if McCain was his vice president? Same thing for the vice versa; wouldn’t Obama help keep McCain honest while the new Republican president did all he could to close out the war in Iraq, which clearly is McCain’s primary focus?

Most importantly, if some redneck yokel knocks off Obama, or if McCain keels over during a high-stress round of BINGO at the local Methodist church hall, we’ve got a competent guy to back things up. Not… (Gulp!)… Sarah Palin, smiling and winking at the helm of our great country.

You’re welcome to call me a moron for voting for Obama, and you can argue McCain’s case all you want. I’m used to it (oddly, most of my friends are voting Republican). It’s not going to change my mind. But how can you tell me that this idea isn’t a great solution to the issue of a split country? Why have a bipartisan system of government if both parties aren’t represented prominently in the executive branch? If it worked for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, then dammit, it can work for these guys, too.

I leave you today with some outstanding facts about presidents past. I promise you’re going to love this stuff. Some of these blew my mind. Make sure you all get out there and vote on Tuesday!

Presidential Did-You-Knows

  • There were more Episcopalian presidents than any other religion.
  • Abraham Lincoln had no religious affiliation.
  • Four of our presidents never actually ran for president (John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur)
  • Gerald Ford was the only president to have run for president, but never actually get elected to the office.
  • George Washington won his two terms as president unopposed. The only other president to win an election unopposed was James Monroe’s second term.
  • Three pairs of presidents defeated each other over the course of their presidential careers: John Quincy Adams beat Andrew Jackson in 1824, but then Jackson beat Adams in 1828. Martin Van Buren defeated William Henry Harrison in 1836, then Harrison defeated Van Buren in 1840. Finally, Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888, then Harrison defeated Cleveland in 1892.
  • Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve as president in two non-consecutive terms.
  • Washington is the only president to have ever received 100% of the Electoral College votes.
  • James Madison was the half first cousin twice removed of George Washington.
  • Zachary Taylor was the second cousin of James Madison.
  • Theodore Roosevelt was more closely related to Martin Van Buren than he was to Franklin Roosevelt. (Teddy was a third cousin twice removed to Van Buren and a fifth cousin to FDR).
  • The Bush clan is distantly related to Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln, and Gerald Ford.
  • Five presidents allegedly have some mix of Caucasian and African blood. According to the U.S. law of their time, that would make them African-American. It’s hard to prove this, but if it’s true, the following are our five black presidents: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Harding, and Dwight Eisenhower.
    James Buchanan was the only bachelor president.
  • Three presidents had children out of wedlock: Thomas Jefferson (famously with one of his slaves), Grover Cleveland, and Warren Harding.
  • Only three presidents never had any children: James Madison, James Polk, and James Buchanan. Remind me not to name my son James. Apparently that leads to infertility and/or loneliness.
  • Ronald Regan was the only president to get a divorce.
  • John Quincy Adams was the only president who did not belong to any political party.
  • Two presidents were accused of killing men outside of war; Andrew Jackson was a big duel guy, and George Washington was accused of murdering a French ambassador during peace time.
  • The following presidents all owned slaves at some point in their lives: George Washington,
  • Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, Zachary Taylor.
  • Only ten of our 42 president had facial hair. Make that 43 after this next election, because neither Obama nor McCain has any facial hair (unless you count McCain’s crusty old man fuzz underneath his 72-year-old chin).

Monday, October 27, 2008

More Halloween History, Courtesty of YouTube

This sort of corroborates some of the Halloween historical knowledge I dropped on you last week. It's only about three minutes long and offers some new facts even I didn't know after doing research on Wikipedia for approximately 12 mintues.

And is it me, or does the narrator of this piece sound WAY too happy to be voicing over something that clearly needs a Vincent Price type of persona?


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Animal Abuse

Amy and I didn't have to buy our cats Halloween costumes, but we did. I'm not sure if this counts at animal abuse or not, so feel free to call PETA and ask them. We're okay if you tell on us and they smear red paint all over the front of our house. It was absolutely worth it.
Buddy was a pirate (pictured above), and BB was a cowboy. Click HERE for entire slideshow.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals

I loved this WAY too much. Watch both clips for the full effect!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Leroy Jenkins

Since my student teacher has the full course load right now, I'm running low on things to do. To occupy myself I started writing a story where the "hero" is an uncoordinated high school kid that plays World of Warcraft and writes novels about vampires and dragons. I've read plenty of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis, so I get the whole fantasy literary genre, but I know jack squat about online fantasy video games.

To remedy that, I did some research yetserday to get a general sense of what World of Warcraft is all about. Essentially you create a character and then go into a world with a bunch of other nerds who also created characters and you go on quests to kill monsters and get jewels and stuff. Super exciting, right? Gotta be considering there are over 10 million people currently paying to play this online game right now.

In any event, my research led me to this video, which from my understanding is rather old, but which also made me laugh so hard yesterday I had tears in my eyes. Totally alone in the English prep room, I'm crying because I'm laughing so hard. You've just gotta watch. Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Lesson on Halloween

When I got to thinking about Halloween today, I realized that the entire thing is ridiculous. We dress up in costumes, yell “trick-or-treat” to get candy (why not just ring the doorbell and ask the kind lady, “May I please have some of your communal candy?”), and carve faces into pumpkins.

Why do we do all of these things? Mr. Brigham did a little bit of research, boys and girls. So get out your notes, and no you may not use the bathroom.

Why? Because I’m just getting ready to start the lecture and you’re only five minutes removed from a 40-minute lunch period.

Well, maybe you need to budget your time a little better at lunch and decide what’s more important—relieving your bladder or finding out what your table-mate thinks about what happened on “Laguna Beach” last night. You can pee your pants for all I care, but you’re going to sit there and listen to what I have to say.

Whew. Now…

Jack-o-Lanterns

Ever wonder why carving a couple holes into a pumpkin and sticking a flickering candle inside suddenly changes that mild-mannered pumpkin into a Jack-o-lantern? The answer is both surprisingly simple, and surprisingly complex.

Let’s start with the simple. “Jack-o-lantern” is a contraction of “Jack of the Lantern,” which is a synonym for will-o-the-wisp. Ta-dah!

So what the hell is a will-o-the-wisp, right? It’s the phenomenon of glowing lights appearing over bogs at twilight, like there’s some spirit out there waving a lantern. The name Jack was tagged on in an early incarnation of the Irish folklore associated with will-o-the-wisps. The story goes that a ne’er-do-well named Drunk Jack made a deal with the Devil where he offered his soul if Satan would pick up his significant bar tab. Jack later tricks the Devil to stay alive, but he eventually has to die and since he’s a bad dude, and he pissed off the Under-Lord, he’s neither welcome in heaven nor in hell. As punishment, he is only given an ember from the fires of hell so that he may wander around bogs at twilight for some reason (wouldn't living in hell be a worse punishment? This is a stupid story.) Drunk Jack keeps this ember in a carved turnip, creating a lantern for his ghostly eternity. (This is where I flick the flashlight on and off rapidly while laughing hysterically.)

So they’ve been carving up vegetables in Ireland and Britain ever since, but we in the U.S.A. didn’t start carving pumpkins until the early 1800s. Actually, it was first done here as part of harvest celebrations, and it didn’t even latch on to Halloween imagery until much later.

Wearing Costumes

Halloween originates from the Pagan Celtic holiday of Samhain, which is the eve of the Catholic Church’s All Saint’s Day. While a lot of popular histories about Halloween claim that masks and costumes always have been a part of the holiday, there are few primary resources to actually prove this.

In truth, costumes didn’t really even become popular in American until the early 1900s, and they weren’t mass produced for children until trick-or-treating got going heavily in the 1930s. I’d love to say that we wear costumes on October 31st because it’s some big tradition dating back hundreds of years, but I can’t. We wear them because it’s fun to dress up once a year. Also, skanky college chicks need an excuse to dress like the slut version of Alice in Wonderland so that they can give away their lady goods in exchange for a few Jell-o shots and lame drunken compliments like, “You’re so beautiful tonight, baby. Let’s go find an empty closet and grope each other.”

The most popular costumes for kids in 2007 included princesses, witches, and Spider-Man, followed closely by Disney characters and (this one I couldn’t believe) Star Wars characters. Why can’t former nerds-turned-parents just let their children pick out their own costumes? What six-year-old is begging their dad to let them dress up like baby Chewbacca when there are Power Rangers and Finding Nemos to choose from?

Trick-or-Treat!

This one, like everything else Halloween related, dates back to a Celtic legend where spirits roaming the earth freely on All Hallow’s Eve (October 31) would come to people’s homes asking for treats. If they did not receive the best treat that homeowner had to offer, a trick would be in order. I’m not sure what sort of tricks spirits used to pull back in the day of yore, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with lighting a flaming bag of dog poo on front stoops and then ringing the doorbell and hiding in the bushes. Facts are facts, people.

In truth, I don’t see the point of yelling “trick-or-treat” anymore, because almost everybody has candy to give kids anyway. And besides, what sort of “trick” should I expect from a six-year-old dressed up like The Little Mermaid? What’s she going to do if I don’t fork over a Snickers bar? I could maybe see her crying a little bit, but that’s a crappy trick. Put some effort into it. Show some originality.

Nowadays, kids do their trick-or-treating during the light of the early afternoon, but when I was a kid we always ran around at night. Something in the ambience of the evening made the experience so much more enchanting, but all that changed when child rapists started putting razor blades in the apples. What child is going to eat an apple in their Halloween stash anyway? What red-blooded American toddler forgoes Skittles and Laffy Taffy for a piece of real, live fruit? If it were me, by November 8th there would be a nearly-empty candy bowl harboring only a few empty gum wrappers, a couple of uneaten peppermints from the weird old lady around the corner, and a rotted, completely in-tact apple. Parents should’ve used a little more common sense before taking their candy to hospitals to get it x-rayed for needles and blades (I swear that really happened—it’s too ridiculous to make up).

So there you go. You learned some things about Halloween today. Hopefully you’ll go to bed tonight feeling proud of yourself for all the knowledge you’ve accumulated. Then you’ll wake up, burn your skanky Alice in Wonderland getup, and carve yourself a couple of pumpkins.

For my pumpkin this year, I’m carving the symbol “pi” into it. You know, 3.14? Pumpkin Pi! Get it?!