It's good to know someone else is obsessed with odd sports -- the bloggers at YesButNoButYes have put together a top-ten list of harebrained physical activities, including:
* The World Highland Games: Events like the Sheaf toss where you throw a bundle of straw, the stone put where you throw a rock, and the caber toss where you throw a tree.
* Surf Lifesaving: Combining the grace and beauty of watersports with the thrill of cardiac arrest.
* Extreme Ironing: You see what marriage does to... READ ON
On Saturday I saw my favorite film of the year so far (excepting my beloved POTC), which was a full-length documentary about asparagus.
Really, Asparagus! (a Stalk-umentary), which just won the "best of" award at the Rural Route Film Festival, is a fascinating exploration of (a) what happens when U.S. drug policy goes wrong, (b) factory farming and globalization's effects on rural America, and (c) people who raise crops and the bizarre subcultures that sprout (see what I just did?) up... READ ON
Now that the Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest is over (that's the winner, Chris Storm, pictured at left), the Hemingway estate can move on to bigger issues -- specifically, what to do about the 50-odd cats roaming the old man's house, a popular tourist site:
The caretakers of Ernest Hemingway's Key West home want a federal judge to intervene in their dispute with the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the six-toed cats that roam the property.
More than 50 descendants of a multi-toed cat the novelist... READ ON
Having thoroughly tired ourselves out over the weekend with cheese racing, my husband and I are looking for another quirky sport to adopt. mental_floss research editor Sandy Wood suggested sausage racing, which has a spicy new twist this year:
Wearing an oversized brown sombrero and a bright yellow shirt emblazoned with the number five, Chorizo became the fifth pork product to run the famed sausage race at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers. ...
Chorizo will be put through the grind in the minor league,... READ ON
What better way to end your workweek than with a dose of complete and utter slackitude? That is, if you're even still at the office. Yeah, we saw you trying to sneak out early, but we know you were just trying to emulate these guys:
Famous Figures Who Never Held Day Jobs
Socrates: Aside from a possible brief stint as a sculptor, Socrates seems to have spent most of his hours ambling around the agora -- the gymnasium where Athenians exercised, which was also Athens' central public meeting place and... READ ON
What?! You haven't been reading my Forbidden Friday posts all day? How could you?! Oh, you're gonna regret this, mister, 'cause I'm so angry I could scream! I'm gonna hurt you! Just as soon as you finish reading about:
Historical Bar Brawls
Truckee, California: One of the best barroom brawl scenes isn't plucked from an old classic or Western, but rather from a real-life saloon in Truckee, California. In 1891, Jacob Teeter was the constable and James Reed the sometimes deputy of Truckee.... READ ON
If you haven't eaten lunch by now, you might want to do that right now, because you're certainly not going to want much to eat or drink after reading these thorougly unappetizing and cautionary tales from Forbidden Knowledge. Hey, don't say we didn't warn you:
Deaths Caused by Overindulgence
Henry I: Henry I wasn't exactly given the throne. As the third son of William the Conqueror, Henry became king only after one of his older brothers died and he'd beaten the other out of the throne. He had quite... READ ON
Oh, the list of blogs we envy: Boingboing, Gawker, Engadget, the HuffPo"¦ Cory, Jessica, Pete, Arianna, link to us! We'll love you forever, when we're not cursing you for being so huge!
Er, sorry, the following folks' inferiority complexes must have rubbed off on us:
Musicians Who Always Felt Cheated
Big Mama Thornton: In 1953, while playing at New York's Apollo Theater as part of the "Hot Harlem Revue," Thornton was asked by composers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller to record a... READ ON
If you've got a hot date tonight, you'll definitely want to read the following tidbits from our book Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits -- and then get yourself to an exotic foods market:
World's Strangest Aphrodisiacs
Frog Legs: Sometimes you can have too much of a wood -- er, good -- thing. In the case of an unfortunate group of French Foreign Legion soldiers in North Africa, frog legs proved to be such an effective enhancer of "erectile function" that priapism... READ ON
It's well established on this blog that I'm fascinated by bank robberies. (Not that I'd ever steal anything except copyrighted images and the occasional MP3 myself, no sir.) Thus, for your second installment of Forbidden Friday, I present to you:
Great Bank Robberies
The Great Northfield, Minnesota, Raid: OK, in terms of actual success, this 1876 robbery was a bust. But it had a heck of a cast: legendary bandits Frank and Jesse James; Cole, Jim and Bob Younger; and three... READ ON
AJ was having computer problems earlier, so I was more than happy to relay this message from him (and take credit for it):
I may be way late to this party, but I loved the Onion's parody of Wikipedia.
As someone who uses Wikipedia too much (sorry, Britannica) I thought it was a nice reminder that backup sources are probably a good idea. Especially since Wikipedia once said a friend of mine is gay, when, last time I checked (which was yesterday) he has a wife and two kids. And no, my friend is not the... READ ON
Today I'm in New York, my favorite city of sin (sorry, Vegas), so to honor my surroundings I thought I'd parcel out some goodies from our book Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits. First up, under the deadly sin of Pride, something Manhattanites know absolutely nothing about:
World Leaders Obsessed with Their Own Images
Mausolus: For 24 years, Mausolus ruled over the city-state of Halicarnassus in what is now Turkey, and he spent a lot of time... READ ON
In a development that should please AJ to no end, scientists have found a link between the pharoah Tutankhamun and the Tunguska Event (aside from their both starting with T and being impossible to spell):
In 1996 in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Italian mineralogist Vincenzo de Michele spotted an unusual yellow-green gem in the middle of one of Tutankhamun's necklaces. The jewel was tested and found to be glass, but intriguingly it is older than the earliest Egyptian civilisation.
Working with Egyptian... READ ON
From the New Scientist Short Sharp Science blog:
A California conceptual artist claims he has "painstakingly decoded" alien artwork broadcast from deep space. Yes, you read that right.
"Concluding centuries of speculation about extraterrestrial intelligence, conceptual artist Jonathon Keats recently discovered that a radio signal detected by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico contains artwork broadcast from deep space," says the press release. ...
Keats' other pseudo-science works include... READ ON
PZ Myers of Pharyngula is trying to identify the fuzzy thing at right:
I got a request to help identify this bizarre creature. I'm guessing it's a slug caterpillar, from the family Limacodidae, although I couldn't possibly narrow it down further, and could be completely wrong. Whoever was filming it can be heard telling someone not to touch it—which is a good idea. These things shed fine hairs that can cause a painful allergic rash.
It's kind of cute, anyway. ...
Update: He thinks it's a puss... READ ON
Pennylicious, the new money blog from Alex of Neatorama fame, has a great bit on "hell money," which (name notwithstanding) doesn't seem to have anything to do with taxes:
The Chinese believe that after someone dies, his (or her) spirit goes to the afterlife, where it lives on pretty much like in real life. And so just like in real life, you'll need money in the afterlife - lots of it. So how does one get money in the afterlife? Through surviving relatives and friends, of course, who burn these... READ ON
We promise, we'll quit with the ice-cream fixation once the weather cools down, but:
In its quest to create ice cream as voluptuous as butter and as virtuous as broccoli, the ice cream industry has probed the depths of the Arctic Ocean, studied the intimate structures of algae and foisted numerous failures on the American public. ... For Americans who spend each summer wrestling with temptation, there is fresh hope in the freezer case. New industrial processes, including one that involves a protein cloned... READ ON
One of my favorite blogs at the moment is Effect Measure, which is theoretically all about pressing public health issues but also includes such nuggets as "Paul Revere was a member of the first local Board of Health in the United States" (and that's just in the "about us" profile). Right now on EM, you can read about Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice," the Indian blogspot ban, Iraqi cats that have come down with bird flu, and "popcorn workers' lung," which is apparently the modern-day equivalent of black lung:... READ ON
If you think having to ferry around three screaming kids in a minivan is bad, try carpooling with a swarm of backseat-driving bees, like these British researchers:
Bumblebees are being dropped off at famous landmarks in North East England by Newcastle University researchers, who then observe if they can find their way back to a nest on campus. The record flight was from a garden centre in Heddon on the Wall in the Tyne Valley in the county of Northumberland -- some eight miles or 13km from their nest.... READ ON
Grow-a-brain today is featuring the Hemp Hotel, an outpost in Amsterdam dedicated to using hemp "as much as possible, from mattresses, curtains, shampoo, [and] soap to a hemp roll for breakfast." There's also mention of a hotel bar, which serves hemp lollipops, hemp ice cream, hemp seeds, and 11 kinds of hemp beer (if you prefer your mind-altering substances in liquid form). I thought I'd see what other accommodations were available on Unusual Hotels of the World, aside from the usual underwater lairs and... READ ON
Don't get me wrong, I love me some New Yorker, but the mag's online division missed an easy opportunity to use the interweb for what it's best at -- being an interweb -- with this new article on the woes of Wikipedia. (The piece, by Pulitzer-winning writer Stacy Schiff, is great otherwise.) Take the paragraph that begins "Apparently, no traditional encyclopedia has ever suspected that someone might wonder about Sudoku or about prostitution in China." Apparently, the traditional magazine in question has... READ ON
No, not you, Mr. P.Funk -- we mean George Clinton, vice president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who would have been 267 today. (George Clinton the musician hit 65 last week but doesn't appear to be nearing retirement.) Infoplease says that Clinton:
unsuccessfully fought as a brigadier general in the Revolutionary War, giving up Fort Clinton (ahem) to a British general, Sir Henry (you guessed it) Clinton.
was New York's first and longest-serving governor, holding the post for 22 years.... READ ON
Last week I went to a backyard wedding where the main entertainment was not dancing or drinking but cheese racing. It may not be an event in the World Games yet, but this "sport" has at least four followers aside from the bridal revelers, according to (what else?) cheeseracing.org:
It was 1997 before the next great leap forward was made. Four friends had gathered in a quiet campsite near Osmington in Dorset. After an evening barbecue, their finely-honed analytical minds fortified by a combination of... READ ON
We got the following note from a reader named Cindy Karpiak:
I want you guys to research why Alberta (Canada) spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to be christened a "rat-free province". There's numerous websites addressing the issue, and the fact that it is illegal to own rats even as pets in Alberta. I don't get all the fuss. ... We're looking at moving back to Alberta and wondering just how easy it will be to smuggle [our pet rats] in, or is the air treated so that they die on contact... READ ON
The next time someone asks you, don't tell them it's simply because gas molecules in the air absorb light waves with short wavelengths and then reflect them back out (or, God forbid, because "the Lord made it that way"). Instead, draw on this wonderful piece from the National Post and answer that it's not blue -- it's violet:
The violet wavelengths from the sun, having still shorter wavelengths than blue, should be scattered even more. Given this, shouldn't the sky be violet, not blue? Indeed the sky is... READ ON
Apparently, in the weeks since we first wrote about test-tube filet mignon, it's become a real red-meat issue for vegetarians:
The super-veggies and the mere-veggies can't agree on whether they're a green and ethical end-run around farmed animal flesh, or an unholy combination of Matrix-style technoslavery and the horror that is ham sandwiches (I'm not making this up).
Follow the link for a fascinating, freewheeling debate on Soylent Green, the pressing need for mitochondrial labor... READ ON
My husband was reading Mango's ode yesterday to the emperors of ice cream and volunteered a story about the sweet stuff served to new arrivals at Ellis Island: quite a few of them couldn't identify it, figured it was butter, and spread it on their toast. What's Cooking America confirms this little tale, and also provides the following creamy facts:
In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt publicly confessed that he liked to have ice cream at least once a day.
During World War I (1914-1918), ice cream... READ ON
Last week we wrote about how hard it is to be a member of Class Osteichthyes; this week it seems the fish are fighting back:
A fisherman was recovering from surgery after he was speared in the chest and knocked into the Atlantic Ocean by a blue marlin during a fishing competition off Bermuda's coast. ... [Ian] Card and his father, Alan, both operators of a charter fishing boat and experienced marlin fishermen, had just hooked the fish Saturday when it suddenly leapt out of the water, impaled Ian Card just... READ ON
No, that's not a Death Star under construction -- it's the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, featured in a great slideshow over at SEED. The world's largest particle accelerator, it will open in November 2007, barring any Big Dig-style catastrophe. Wikipedia says 2,000 scientists are building this thing primarily to answer the following questions:
Is the popular Higgs mechanism for generating elementary particle masses in the Standard Model violated? If not, how many Higgs bosons are there, and what are... READ ON
As if Africa didn't already have enough problems to deal with, scientists apparently are worried that it's splitting apart. Last September an earthquake opened up a 37-mile crack in Ethiopia that could spread all the way to the Red Sea, allowing water to flood in and turning Ethiopia and Eritrea into an island.
It's only 8m wide, and it doesn't look so different from cracks that often appear after earthquakes. But all the interesting stuff is going on beneath the surface, and it's only now that we've got... READ ON
You think you've had a tough week? Just be glad you're not a member of Class Osteichthyes, which has taken a real beating in the last few days. 40,000 salmon and trout died in Scotland this week after someone poisoned their river with sodium hypochlorite, a chemical used for treating water in swimming pools. Thousands of sturgeon who already had the bad luck to be living in an aquaculture farm died in a six-alarm fire last night at the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota. (It's unfortunate for local restaurants,... READ ON
The Times reports today that scientists are reconstructing the Neanderthal genome, which has led to lots of debate about whether we should clone one, were that possible. Putting aside what society would actually do with a cloned Neanderthal (put him in some unholy Pleistocene Park? cast him in a Geico commercial?), the guy would need some major image rehab, because over the years his species has been scientifically slandered. Here, courtesy of Channel 4, are 10 Neanderthal myths that need debunking:... READ ON
The Kircher Society has been running a feature on Lesser-Known Museums all week, including today's Frog Museum, "a collection of 150-year-old satirical tableaus of domestic life in the 19th century "“ all involving stuffed frogs." We thought we'd join in:
Take two trips to the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices and call us when you've lost all faith in the medical profession. Those in search of history's quack science can find what they're looking for in the St. Paul tourist attraction,... READ ON
Several blogs have been passing around the story of Oxana Malaya, who, as the saying goes, was literally raised by dogs:
Oxana is a feral child, one of only about 100 known in the world. The story goes that, when she was three, her indifferent, alcoholic parents left her outside one night and she crawled into a hovel where they kept dogs. ... A shameful five years later, a neighbour reported a child living with animals. When she was found, at the age of eight in 1991, Oxana could hardly speak and ran... READ ON
The not-at-all-daft Carolyn Bickford of "Daft Musings" alerted us to her Comic Book Convention Party Cheat Sheet, inspired by our own Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets. Carolyn's cheat sheet should prove highly useful at Comic-Con, which is starting at this very minute (really, 10 a.m. PST) in San Diego. We liked it so much we had to share a bit here:
Marvel versus DC. They're both comic book companies, but it's rare to find the mainstream comic book fan who reads titles from both companies: no matter how many... READ ON
This just in: Scientists in Australia have discovered that, according to the headline, "DRINKING CAN BE DANGEROUS:"
People who drink alcohol are up to four times more likely than non-drinkers to be hurt from physical injuries such as a fall or punch, new research shows.
More obviousness: "Binge drinkers were more at risk of being injured than regular drinkers. And people who sustained serious injuries were more likely to have consumed beer and have been drinking in a licensed premises."
Slightly less... READ ON
What do you want to be in it?
If you've ever wondered who invented putt-putt or how a creature as gawky as a giraffe came to be, you're in luck -- we're working on an entire book devoted to the bizarre beginnings of stuff you might take for granted today. Right now we're making a list of topics, from "asteroids" to "zippers," we might like to include. So far we've got:
* condoms (the guy who came up with them got the idea from sausage casings)
* spam (the somewhat-edible kind and the e-mail kind)... READ ON
While doing research for an upcoming m_f book on origins, I came across something for those of you who start your days with our quiz -- an etymological exploration of that very word. Originally, was the term "quiz"...
a) a nonsense neologism coined by a Dublin theatre proprietor as a prank?
b) slang for the sort of lovable oddballs who read our magazine?
c) another name for a yo-yo?
d) a mystery, because no one has any idea where it came from?
The answer is after the... READ ON
Obviousness of the week: According to a new study, one easy way to make high-school cafeterias more appealing is to demystify the contents of the mystery meat.
[Providing] nutrition information did, in fact, improve the healthy choices made by students. ... Students were also more satisfied with food quality and service quality, [e]ven though the food did not change.
More obviousness: In perhaps the only time someone has used the word "ambiance" to describe a high-school lunchroom, the nutrition info... READ ON
There's always catsthatlooklikehitler.com.
I really don't know what else to... READ ON
I'm not sure the folks at the University of Utah created "Mouse Party" as an anti-drug effort - it looks like it's aimed at neuroscience students, not smack-addled teenagers - but it's easily the best one I've seen since the fried-egg ads. Drag the little cartoon lab mice into a scanner, and you get to see what various controlled substances do to their brains. Best part: When they're not in the scanner, the little guys act like they're actually on their respective drugs, all to a cool club beat: Ecstasy... READ ON
With a heat wave sweeping vast swaths of the country, including the swath that encompasses my un-air-conditioned apartment, I've found only two forms of sweet solace: (A) sticking my head in the freezer and (B) reading, over and over again, these bits of cool trivia that A.J. kindly provided for our latest issue:
Ice: The next time you're sipping a vodka on the rocks while watching "Barbershop 2," give a little toast to the man behind the ice cube -- Boston entrepreneur Frederic "the Ice King" Tudor.... READ ON
What do the Great Fire of Rome, the publication of Mein Kampf, Ted Kennedy's plunge off a Chappaquiddick bridge, the McDonald's massacre, a tidal wave that killed 3,000 Papua New Guineans, and the Kobe Bryant rape charge have in common?
They all happened on July 18th, i.e., today.
If anyone needs me for the rest of the afternoon, I'll be huddled under the covers, waiting for the horsemen to show... READ ON
From McSweeney's, Notes on "Sweet Child O' Mine," as delivered to Axl Rose by his editor:
She's got a smile that, it seems to me—Why equivocate? You weaken your point by framing this as a mere personal observation instead of a fact.
Reminds me of childhood memories—Redundant. You either have a memory or you're reminded of something. You're not reminded of a memory. Heavy-metal fans won't stand for such writing, my friend. ...
Finally, Axl, I think we might have had a misunderstanding... READ ON
I just got back from a sunburned weekend in the twee little town of Ogunquit and thought I'd share a few things I learned:
* If anyone tries to tell you that "Ogunquit" means "beautiful place by the sea" (which happens to be the town motto) tell them to Ogun-quit it: The word, from the Western Abenaki Indians, means "coastal lagoon."
* That doesn't mean Ogunquit isn't a beautiful place by the sea -- in the early 20th century, its cliffs were the subject of paeans from well-known painters, including a... READ ON
A la Slate's "Today's Papers," I glean the best stuff from the country's top three newspapers so you don't have to:
"Forging Ahead in Moscow," from the LA Times
Persey Tours was barely keeping the bill collectors at bay before it started offering fake vacations last year. Now it's selling 15 a month — providing ersatz ticket stubs, hotel receipts, photos with clients' images superimposed on famous landmarks, a few souvenirs for living room shelves. ... Of course, it's not the real thing. But in... READ ON
Sydney Brenner is a brilliant biologist, Freeman Dyson is a fantastic physicist, W.D. Snodgrass is a prodigious poet (and what a name!) -- but why would you want me to tell you that when the geniuses themselves can do it directly and with less goofy alliteration? I refer to the People's Archive, a trove of first-person stories from the great intellectual celebrities of our time, including some who have recently passed on, such as Francis Crick and Ernst Mayr. Give me Brenner sitting in a cozy library,... READ ON
I know it's not nice to make fun of people from "the hills of eastern Kentucky" (I'm from the hills of eastern Georgia, so there's a pot-kettle dynamic), but the Kircher Society does it in such an interesting way:
Sometime around 1820, a French orphan named Martin Fugate, carrier of an incredibly rare recessive gene for a disease known as hereditary methemoglobinemia, settled on the banks of Troublesome Creek in Eastern Kentucky and married Elizabeth Smith, carrier of the same incredibly rare... READ ON
Say what you will about eco-warrior Alex Martin, for the past year she hasn't once looked in her closet and thought "I have nothing to wear." That's because every single day from July 7, 2005 to July 7, 2006, she wore the same item of clothing -- a homemade little brown dress:
The project is influenced in part by the art/anti-fashion movement "Grey Sweatsuit Revolution", in which participants attend a social event or public gathering wearing un-flattering sweatsuits as a statement against... READ ON
Minggu Mang anak Madang recently described himself to Malaysian newspapers as being "the living dead," but don't worry, he's not about to terrorize y'all's neighborhood:
Official records show that Minggu Mang anak Madang passed away from head injuries in the town of Bintulu in the eastern state of Sarawak on January 18, 2002, and was buried. But Minggu Mang, 40, says that he is alive and rallying for years to show to authorities he was not dead. ... He said he found out that he was proclaimed dead when he... READ ON
Obsessive nose picking is called rhinotillexomania.