We just can’t seem to resist. Here be a pirate “Brickbats” spot from the January 2015 issue of Reason magazine.
If you are holding a Talk Like a Pirate Day celebration, you might expect someone to show up dressed as a pirate. But when one employee at North Carolina’s Richlands Elementary School saw another worker dressed as a pirate, the first staffer reported a suspicious person. Officials then locked down not just the elementary school but all schools in the area.
After which everyone was sent to a safe area for counseling and further dosing.
Filed under Snippets from the Art Archives 2/24/17
Infrequently Answered Question #110: What’s the most memorable and distinctive TV show theme music?
A: This will be an opinion, of course, because memorable and distinctive are perhaps subjective and not clear-cut or quantifiable exactly. Also, we haven’t heard every theme for every TV show out there. Then there’s the problem of our lack of deep musical knowledge, both historical and structural. Weasel words aside, one TV theme clearly stands out for us. Which we will get to after setting up why that is.
We might remember some themes because we’re heard them so many times we can’t drive them away if we wanted to. Which doesn’t make them memorable per se. Someone our age might have heard The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson theme every night for thirty years or whatever it was. So, you’re going to remember it, but it’s really not that memorable or distinctive. It’s pretty standard orchestration. And it lacks a real hook which makes a tune intrinsically memorable.
A hook is a hard thing to define, but all the most popular tunes have one. It’s like a short motif, phrase, melody or whatever that we connect with instantly, it’s catchy, somehow. Who knows why. A classic example, from Classical music, is the opening four note motif of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: Da-da-da Da-a-a-ah.
You could take several tacks on what makes something distinctive. You might consider an unusual structure or out-of-the-ordinary instruments or sounds. For instance the Addams Family theme with its finger snaps: Da-da-da-dum, snap, snap. This is a good candidate overall, catchy and unusual, which could be the same as memorable and distinctive. Still, there is one thing very run of the mill about it, the time signature.
Ninety-whatever percent of popular music these days is in 4/4 time. That’s four beats per measure by quarter notes. It’s no accident they call it Common Time. You’d be hard-pressed to find a popular tune or TV theme that wasn’t in 4/4 time. You might have a march, but that’s pretty much 4/4 time divided in half to play while stepping left-right, left-right. Musically about the same thing.
Another fairly common time is 3/4, or waltz time. This was much more popular in the past. Classical music uses it a lot. Ballets usually contained waltzes. Some symphony movements were in waltz time. On the other hand you’re not going to hear rockers and rappers doing waltzes. About the only big pop hit in the last forty or so years in waltz time we can think of is Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe.”
Still, to be really distinctive you can use one of the extremely rare time signatures. Such as 9/8 time. Though depending on the phrasing, as in three triplets per measure, that can be like very fast waltz time. Then there’s 7/8 time, which might be the rarest. Dave Brubeck used it once. If you’re old enough you might recall one pop tune that used it. Devo’s “Jocko Homo. (Are We Not Men?)”
Devo’s tune went back and forth between 7/8 and 4/4 times. Plus it had two different phrasings of the 7/8 parts. It started, 1-2-3-4, 5-6-7 and switched to 1-2-3, 4-5-6-7. Very adventurous for a rock song. One that wouldn’t be popular on American Bandstand because you can’t dance to it.
Last we have 5/4 time. This is the time signature of our winner, what makes it the most distinctive. It also has a good hook. It goes, 1… 3-4-5, 1… 3-4-5, or dum-m da-da-da, dum da-da-da. It’s a driving motif that seems unresolved because of the extra beat beyond the typical 4/4 time. It’s dramatic, puts you slightly on edge. It really works for what the show was about. For us, the most memorable and distinctive TV theme music…
One thing though, that’s the TV theme not the movie. They re-wrote the theme for the movies as a rock tune in 4/4 time. Idiots.
Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 2/23/17
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Filed under Odds & Ends 2/22/17
We just learned pirates did not use cutlasses during the Great Pirate Heyday around the turn of the 18th century. That’s because the cutlass wasn’t invented until after the American War of Independence. Pirates used other swords similar to a cutlass, like hangers and falchions or possibly backswords, shamshirs and rapiers. Who knows which, pirates didn’t keep good records.
In the opening pic we reprise the Jolly Rogers of Thomas Tew (left) and Calico Jack to show, whatever those swords were supposed to be, lacking a beefy hand guard they certainly weren’t cutlasses.
As for other errata generally throughout terry colon dot com, there are bound to be more. Especially as we tend to take liberties to make jokes, successfully or not. We do guarantee the information presented is 97.5% correct. Though we might be wrong about that.
The iconic Roman short sword was the gladius. It is where the term gladiator comes from, a man wielding a gladius. Gladius is simply Latin for sword, and gladiator pretty much translates to swordsman.
The modern sport fencing épée and foil were originally practice swords for the rapier and small-sword. Folks in the past weren’t stupid enough to practice with real swords. Considering everything has a learning curve, few would survive sword first grade to ever graduate.
There is a bit of trivia that makes the rounds that cavalry sabers were not sharpened and used as blunt impact weapons. ‘Fraid not. Military saber manuals contain instructions for cutting with a saber, which requires a sharpened blade to do.
The blunt saber idea may have arisen because many surviving old sabers are unsharpened. Two possibilities for that. First, swords were sharpened only after being issued. Warehoused swords would all be blunt. Secondly, even issued swords would not always be sharpened unless there was a war on or if the soldier served in a danger zone. Both warehoused and peacetime swords tended to survive more than swords used in combat.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 2/21/17
We had started to write something about the alewife in the Great Lakes when we wondered what the plural of alewife was. Alewives? That ain’t right. Then we figured, like most fish the plural is the same as the singular. As in, “The river is full of trout” and not, “The river is full of trouts.” You don’t catch five basses, you catch five bass. Basses is only plural for the musical instrument. (Bass, a heteronym. Our favorite.)
For land animals it’s a mixed bag. Deer, bison, elk, cattle, plural and singular. Unless they’re all one sex where they’re cows and bulls, or bucks and does. (Does, another heteronym.) For other ruminants we’re not sure. Is it a herd of wildebeest or wildebeests? A wildebeest is also called a gnu, which doesn’t help us since we don’t know if it’s a herd of gnu or gnus, either.
Then there are cases where instead of adding an S for plural you take it away. Hippopotamus to hippopotami or octopus to octopi. It’s a Latin thing. Other minus the S pluralizations are mouse and louse becoming mice and lice. That’s not a Latin thing it’s… we haven’t a clue. On the other hand, if the mouse and louse are not the animals, but are a computer device and a dirty scoundrel the plurals are mouses and louses.
Now then, what’s the plural of a Portugese man-of-war? Surprising to us, in our dictionary it’s men-of-war. But then, a man-of-war is sort-of a plural in its own self, being a collection of three different animals that live as a single entity. Very peculiar. We wonder if they all have to be the same sex or what? Or is it like some fish that can change their sex in mid-life? Which we have heard is where the term “sea change” comes from.
We admit there doesn’t seem to be a logical endpoint to any of this. Just some meandering musings. Perhaps there was a worthwhile tidbit or two in there. If not, sorry. But at least it’s over with and you can take comfort in knowing after all these years the Fish still lives and hasn’t been flushed down the toilet.
Filed under Words, Phrases, Sayings & Quotes 2/20/17
Another old spot from the archives for which the manuscript is long gone. So I’ll just have to fake it. It’s a joke. Get it? OK, not much of a joke, but I need an intro to get to the point at hand. Which is an old joke I never really understood until I began studying piano. Here goes, in a pared down version.
Two jazz musicians are walking along a pier. One falls over the edge into the water and cries out, “Help! I don’t know how to swim!” The other musician yells back, “Fake it.”
This joke really only works if you know musician lingo. What they mean by fake it. This is when you’re in a jam session and you don’t know the tune you can still play along by faking it. This doesn’t mean pretending to play, like a Hollywood actor moving his hands over the keys not actually playing anything. It means you pick out the tempo, key, and chord progression and play along with whatever you can manage that fits. Going through the tune you learn the melody and bridges at whatnot and can then play those, too. Well, if you’re any good you can, which leaves me out. Of course, it helps than most jazz, blues, rock and pop music have pretty much the same basic and fairly simple structure.
Anyway, this term, fake, also lends itself to what they call a fake book. This is not an imaginary book, but sheet music written with a shorthand musical notation system. You are likely familiar with classical music notation, those five line staffs with all the notes, clefs, rests, sharps, flats and what-have-you. These leave nothing to chance, every note (quaver) played is jotted down. Usually. Sometimes you can toss in your own flourishes, but mostly everything is there.
A fake book is different. All you have is a barebones melody line and shorthand key signatures through the progression, or changes as they say. So, instead of putting down all the sharps and flats and the notes that make the chord they’ll just put down something like F-7 (F minor seventh). The player knows what notes are played in that scale and how to play some version of the chord. Same goes for the melody line, you can fill in notes around it, mostly under, as long as you hit the melody line on the right beats. In simplistic terms the key signature tells you the bottom note, the melody line tells you the top note and you make up everything in between with whatever works in the scale.
The difference between classical and fake book notation reminds me of an anecdote from long ago. My mom was trying to work out on the piano how to play a popular tune of the day. Being trained in classical notation she was writing down every note in the chords and so on and so forth. A rock musician friend of mine tried to help her out by explaining how to do it the fake book way. “You’re doing it the hard way. Just write down the chord notation and insert the chords as you go along.” Or something to that effect.
Which is easier, if you’re used to playing that way. With lots of practice you get to the point where the left hand moves through the chords without much effort or thought really. It practically becomes automatic, muscle memory or something. Still, simply being told to do it that way and mastering it is quite a different thing believe you me. Whether my mom ever got the hang of it I can’t say.
So then, for any non-musician readers who have heard that old joke and didn’t really get it, as I didn’t for many years, now you know.
Filed under Snippets from the Art Archives 2/17/17
functionary (fŭnk′-shən ê-rē) noun. A person who has to perform official functions or duties.
perfunctory (pər fŭnk′ tə-rē) adj. Done or acting routinely and with little thought or care.
Seems to us there is a natural convergence of the two to add to our fauxcabulary. To wit…
perfunctionary (pər fŭnk′-shən ê-rē) noun. A person who performs official functions or duties routinely and with little thought or care.
In so many words, a government bureaucrat. Though we might be too generous here. Some do very little work at all, perfunctorily or otherwise. Which in some cases is a good thing. The more a perfunctionary’s work interferes with people actually trying to get something useful done, well, the less they do they better.
Which brings to mind a contronym, a word with two contrary meanings. Oversight. Which is an unintentional failure to notice or do something. Or it means the job of overseeing, to notice so things get done. So, you can have an oversight due to lack of oversight.
Filed under Words, Phrases, Sayings & Quotes 2/16/17
A bit of art from the 2000 archives about plagiarism that befits our picking up some writing advice from Business Insider.
How to improve anything you write in 2 minutes
We find ourselves agreeing that eliminating “that” from sentences is something that works well. Or rather, we agree eliminating “that” from sentences works well. See, a lot of what they say really works. Still, there can be exceptions.
For instance, adding “I think,” “I imagine,” “I suppose” and the like are qualifiers to let readers know what follows are opinions and not facts or certainties. Which might be important depending on the context and subject. If you’re writing for comic effect a long sentence full of asides, insertions, diversions, and looping around verbiage is the stuff to feed the troops. We think.
Still, overall their advice is sound. Especially for business communication, memos, directives, email, that sort of thing. Also for directions and when conveying complex information. Chop it up into easily swallowed little bites rather than force feeding heaping helpings in one go. That’s the way to feed the troops.
Filed under Snippets from the Art Archives 2/15/17
In Hollywood productions Roman legionaries invariably wear the iconic segmented plate armor, Lorica segmentata. If the time period is the early Empire, as is usual in films, that’s spot on. Though through most of Roman history, Kingdom, Republic and late Empire, the Romans wore (chain) mail (Lorica hamata) or scale armor (Lorica squamata).
One interesting thing about Lorica segmentata was, unlike a cuirass, it could be custom fit after being forged. As the torso was covered with a series of steel bands they could make a bunch of different length bands to later combine however needed to fit any body shape and size.
Despite what you might see on the silver screen there is no evidence Romans ever wore leather armor, segmented or otherwise. Ask yourself, why would they segment leather armor anyway when leather is flexible?
In the movies legionaries are uniformly clad in red tunics. Not always the case in the Roman world. Some units wore white, some wore green, some wore brown. Naval legionaries wore blue, a lot like modern sailors do.
Also in films Roman soldiers almost always sport leather wrist bands. What was the purpose of those, one might wonder. Actually, they had no purpose, the Romans never wore them anywhere outside of Hollywood. How that ever got started is something of a mystery.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 2/14/17
I had an unexpected visitor this morning. Seems one of the neighborhood tomcats figured out how to use the cat hatch on the exterior kitchen door and sauntered in as big as you please. One of my pair of cats got into a fit of hissing (wonder if cats are the origin of hissy fit) at this interloper alerting me that the mewing coming from the hall was not from one of the resident felines. Rising to investigate I spied a biggish, yellow tom well into the hall scoping the environs. Upon confronting me the old boy beat a hasty retreat where I quickly let him out the back door as he seemed a bit unsure that the kitty door worked going out as well as in. Still, no harm, no foul.
On the unrelated note, if you like reading an eclectic mix of topics I gladly recommend Isegoria blog. Well, if you like the kind of things I like, which is hard to categorize or explain really. Here are a couple links to recent entries I found quite interesting. The first is about shell shock not being only a purely psychological phenomenon, but can be a physical effect on the brain from blast compression. The second is about some African bushmen’s take on Hamlet.
Btw, that’s not me in the pic. I’m a poor caricaturist and a worse self-caricaturist. So I used my stand-in for the scene. But I’ll be darned if it doesn’t look exactly like him.
Filed under Odds & Ends 2/13/17
Why is a coaster called a coaster when it just sits there and doesn’t coast along at all? Why doesn’t a saucer hold sauce? What’s the difference between a hall and a hallway? A question which leads us to ponder…
Why did our ancestors come up with completely unique, one-off words for some types of rooms but not others? For instance there’s kitchen, closet, pantry, parlor, hall, library, den, study, and foyer. On the other hand their imaginations seem to have gone on vacation and they just tacked the word room on the end of some function to name these: living room, dining room, laundry room, mudroom, bedroom, bathroom. How come the last three became single words and the others didn’t?
To rectify the situation we offer the following coinages so posterity might be saved time wondering as we do. Living room, couchoria; dining room, eatorium; laundry room, laundreen; mudroom, cloddet; bedroom, sleepiary; bathroom, relievatory.
One last query, how does “how come” mean “why did,” “why do,” or “why”? The more we say the phrase in our heads the less right it sounds. How come?
Filed under Words, Phrases, Sayings & Quotes 2/13/17
Infrequently Answered Question #109: I’m having trouble falling asleep. Have you any tips on curing insomnia?
A: Believe it or not, we find the best method is the age-old advice of counting sheep. Not literally counting real sheep grazing around your bed or imaginary sheep jumping over a hypothetical fence, we mean doing what the old folk remedy is actually all about. Which is to stop pondering your troubles and think about something unexciting and settling.
This can take many forms, though usually some kind of fantasy works well. But not a scenario where you have to solve problems, which will keep you awake just like solving your real problems. It should be something where everything works the way you want. Once you have a few established fantasies, run one through your head as you hit the hay and you’ll be sawing logs in no time. Yes, it becomes a terribly boring rerun night after night, but that’s the whole point. Basically you bore yourself to sleep.
The downside is some folks get some of their best ideas relaxing in bed before the sandman arrives. We know sometimes we do. Then you have to get up and write it down so you won’t forget, which is not good if you’re trying to get to sleep. But then, you didn’t ask about being creative, so we let it slide. Anyway, they also say you can solve problems and improve your mastery of things in your dreams, so there is that.
As for other remedies like drinking warm milk or listening to ocean waves and such-like, we’re not sure. We’ve not tried those. The tactic outlined above works for us like a dream. (ha) We don’t recommend drinking yourself into a stupor or drugs, which often makes you pass out into dreamless unconsciousness, which isn’t sleep or all that reinvigorating. We did hear you can circle around on the bed three times, sit down and lick your… Oh wait, that’s for dogs.
Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 2/11/17
We excerpt an amusing short review by William M. Briggs on what looks to be a funny new Science Fiction novel, A Theory of Nothing by Thomas Barlow. While we try to poke fun at some of the nonsense in Sci-fi and the way science is too often done in the real world, this book seems to have skewered both in a way we can only envy.
The working of this beastie conjured the theoretical negatronium particle, which was duly searched for and discovered. Thinking on this led Barlow to have Karlof say, “It is one of the extraordinary attributes of modern theories that their theories often prove malleable enough to conform to almost any fact.”
This allows Barlow to have a wise old man to tell Karlof, “Long ago, we invented the first truly effective way to disconnect Americans from reality. It’s called the national debt… What we’ve shown, through the practical application of simple economic principles, is that if Americans cannot have free energy, they can at least have free money. Public debt is our equivalent of a perpetual motion machine.”
(Good joke in the comments, too.)
Filed under Odds & Ends 2/10/17
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More from the strange but should be true file. You just knew we’d slap one of these in here sooner or later.
Filed under Odds & Ends 2/8/17
Here’s an old spot from Fortean Times of 1998. Does the color treatment and subject remind you of anything you’ve seen here recently? What can I say, people tend to repeat themselves. Even if they don’t realize they are doing it. They say great minds think alike. Well, mediocre minds think alike, too. Especially when it’s the same mediocre mind thinking alike itself.
Filed under Snippets from the Art Archives 2/7/17
How many times does the Earth rotate on its axis in one year?
D. all of the above
Before giving your answer, consider the following imaginary universe as pictured below. Looking down from the north poles we have star A and planet Z, which luckily for our purposes is divided into four equal, differently colored quadrants.
Let’s say Z doesn’t rotate at all relative to the universe and orbits A counter-clockwise. It starts with quadrant yellow facing A, after a quarter orbit quadrant green is facing A. Meaning, if Z does not rotate on its axis in relation to the universe the planet will make one full clockwise rotation relative to star A. To someone living there, star A will rise in the west and set in the east once a year. Also, there will be no astrology on Z because the constellations look to be in the same place all year.
Now let’s say Z rotates on its axis counter-clockwise. To anyone on the planet A would rise in the east and set in the west. If Z rotated once per orbit, after a quarter orbit it rotates 90 degrees. If it began with quadrant yellow facing A, quadrant yellow would still be facing A at the quarter mark. Meaning in one counter-clockwise rotation during one counter-clockwise orbit the same quadrant will face the star all the time. There will be no changing day or night. People on planet Z can only mark the calendar by the Zodiac which to them rotates once a year.
So then, in order to have one day and one night Z needs to rotate counter-clockwise two times per year to negate the effective clockwise rotation from the orbit. To have 365.25 days and nights Z must rotate on its axis 366.25 times per year.
With that in mind, the correct answer to the opening question is B. If you were counting rotations of the Earth from some other galaxy you would see 366.25 rotations per orbit. Each of these woud be a sidereal rotation.
sidereal (sī-dîr′ ē-əl) adj. Measured or determined by means of the stars. Relative to the stars.
On the other hand, if you were counting rotations from the sun the answer is A, you’d see 365.25 rotations. If you were observing from the surface of the Earth you wouldn’t see any rotations of the Earth, but the sun and universe rotating around you. In which case the correct answer is C, zero. Meaning, depending on your point of view A, B, and C are each correct. Therefore, the correct answer to the opening question is D, all of the above.
This is the one trick question you simply cannot get wrong depending how you want to look at it. Our gift to you.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 2/6/17
pareidolia (per-ī dō′-lē-ə) noun. The tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern. The human ability to see shapes or make pictures out of randomness.
Can you say Rorschach inkblot test? How about the Big Dipper? How about bunny rabbit cloud or potato chip that looks like Nixon? How about ;-) ?
apophenia (a-pə fē′-nē-ə) noun. The tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas).
Can you say superstition or astrology? How about vast conspiracy? How about, “With a capital T, which rhymes with P, and that stands for pool”?
Both of the above human tendencies are the outcome of the way people naturally make sense of and deal with the world, pattern recognition and categorization. When one thing is like another we can understand a new thing more quickly and easily without having to examine it starting from scratch, so to speak. At least that’s the pattern we see. Hm-m-m…
Filed under Words, Phrases, Sayings & Quotes 2/5/17
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Infrequently Answered Question #108: Will California secede? Should California be allowed to secede?
A: Normally we don’t comment much on issues in the news, and we’re really not going to here. Instead we’ll cop out and co-opt the questions to illustrate a point of human psychology. Ask yourself honestly, what was your initial reaction to hearing some Californians want to secede? For? Against? The fact that you had an initial reaction, assuming you did, is what we’re on about.
People more often than not have an opinion first, and afterward seek or come up with reasons to support the opinion. Which is not to say the initial reaction is formed in a vacuum out of thin air, to mix a metaphor. Still, decisions about many things in all areas of life are not necessarily arrived at by any type of scientific method of gathering facts and then drawing conclusions. Heck, a lot of science isn’t done that way, but that’s another story.
This is one reason people can sometimes have completely contradictory opinions on very similar, or even identical situations applied at different times. For instance, a person might be against the right of California to declare independence from the U.S. but approve the right of California to declare independence from Mexico as happened in the 1800s. Then again, a pro independence Californian might also be a pro one world government type where nobody has the right to independence.
Thing is, people are a less rational than we’d like to believe. It’s just the way the mind works, it’s very hard to disconnect emotion from thinking. You might say it’s because emotion is part of thinking, it’s all done in the same place the same way. Though you can argue about how the mind works, too. Folks understand thinking a lot less than might be generally supposed. The whole brain mapping with MRIs is not an exact science, it’s a lot of fuzzy details run through averaging programs which themselves are based on assumptions. But, as we’re quite fuzzy on the details, we’ll not go into all that here.
We’re not claiming to have all the answers, or even all the pertinent questions. We are also not going to give our opinion on the matter, that’s not the kind of thing terry colon dot com does. Still, we suggest there are questions that need to be asked and answered. If some areas of California are against secession, should they be allowed to secede from California and remain in the U.S.? Should a town in either area be allowed to secede and form a city-state?
As we said at the beginning, this post has strayed from our typically light tone. We’ll try to get back to our usual more frivolous form in the future. To that end we ask one last and less serious question: Do the California secession rights advocates owe an historical apology for denying the same right of secession to the Confederate States of America?
To further get away from brow-knitting seriousness, you might also check out our map of the U.S. after the break-up:
Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 2/4/17
Is it odd that the University of Notre Dame nickname is the Fighting Irish? After all, Notre Dame cathedral is in Paris. That aside, what’s up with the fighting stance in the little cartoon logo they use? Why does the feisty little Irishman hold his fists palms in and curled back? What kind of a way is that to fight?
We can’t say for sure, but it seems to be taken from 19th century pugilism. Not to be confused with boxing, pugilism was akin to what they now call ultimate fighting. There was punching, grappling, kicking, kneeing, elbowing and even head-butting in some cases. Depends on where the fight took place as different places had different rules. The most no-holds-barred rules were in Lancaster, England where they called it catch as catch can. We think, but don’t hold us to that.
Since combatants could punch or grapple a fighter needed to defend against both. Holding the fists turned that way, pronated, kept the arms and elbows tucked up against the body closing the opening for an opponent to grapple. Without the protection of gloves bare knuckle fighters had to both punch and defend differently than modern boxers. To protect the vulnerable hands they curled them back against strikes. That’s why in old films you sometimes see brawlers milling their fists in little circles, made them harder to hit.
In bare knuckle fighting hooks and round punches were rare because they wanted to strike with the bigger, stronger first knuckles to avoid breaking their hand and so used straight punches. They also punched with the thumb upward, rather than supinated with the thumb on the bottom. This was to avoid catching the thumb on the opponents guard and possibly snapping it back and breaking it. This can still happen when wearing boxing gloves, but is mitigated by the glove’s shape, padding and stiffness.
Anyway, that all might explain the little Fighting Irish cartoon man’s fighting style. And why they’re the Fighting Irish and not the Boxing Irish. Though, being pugilists, they could have been the Pug Irish.
Still, Notre Dame is not a Gaelic name. Though it’s not really French, it comes from Latin. Catholic services were in Latin. Notre Dame is a Catholic school and Ireland is a Catholic country. So it fits together. At least to us. You can work it out any way you want. Anyway, the name makes more sense than the Boston Celtics. The people were Celts not Celtics. It’s like calling Notre Dame the Fighting Irishes.
Filed under The Casual Sportsman 2/3/17
Woodchuck, groundhog, same thing. But we already did that. The question on everyone’s mind, will the woodchuck come out of its burrow and chuck some wood? The second question, how much wood would the… forget it, we already did that one, too.
Groundhog Day is one of those holidays, if it can be called that, which nobody takes seriously. Like Arbor Day and April Fools Day. Along similar lines are Saint Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Labor Day. The first is an excuse for folks to pretend to be Irish and drink green beer. Though it’s named for a Saint, there’s nothing very saintly about it.
Valentine’s Day has mostly lost the Saint part of the name. About the only time it’s tacked on is for the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Which was not very saintly either. There are lots of other Saint days, but very few people keep track of them any more. Do you know when Saint Crispin’s Day is? See?
As for Labor Day, do people go out and celebrate the working class on Labor Day? We don’t think all that much. It’s just a day off work for a lot of folks or a seasonal marker to put away the white belts and white shoes. Though in this tacky sneaker-wearing age white shoes are year-round attire.
This year, instead of rousting some poor groundhog from its slumber to see if it sees its shadow, let’s sing Bob Dylan’s woodchuck song. Don’t know it? Sure you do.
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Filed under Odds & Ends 2/2/17
Are some supermarkets putting the parking lot shopping cart corrals, or whatever they’re called, in the wrong place? They’re often about a third or so of the way up the lane. Now then, handicapped parking is located near the store entrance so the handicapped don’t have so far to go. But to return a shopping cart they have to go back to the entrance or out to where the cart corral is. Wouldn’t it make more sense to locate the return corral right next to the handicapped parking?
Why is fresh produce usually the first thing you encounter in the supermarket? You’d think boxed items and canned goods would be first, that’s what you want at the bottom of your shopping cart. We mean, you don’t want to pile canned goods on top of your tomatoes, bananas, and such, right? Shouldn’t produce and baked goods be the last thing next to the checkout?
Though how a store is set up might depend on logistics, it probably makes sense to have coolers and freezers along a wall. On the other hand, some of a store’s layout is psychology, enticing people to make impulse buys or have confidence in the products or the store. Grocery stores toss out a lot of produce, but keep produce overstocked because it just looks shabby if the bins are low on goods. Shoppers don’t trust a store with slim pickings.
Another trick is the “five for five dollars” type offer. This simply means one dollar apiece, you needn’t buy five to get that price though some people think you do have to buy five, and so do. Then there’s the absolutely meaningless offer. Which we’ll explain with a little anecdote.
Some time ago in a party store (maybe called a liquor store, box store, bodega, corner market, or convenience store depending where you live and who sells the hard booze) we noticed the proprietor had several signs on shelves of liquor reading “Best Buy!” We said to the man behind the counter, “We don’t get your ‘best buy’ signs, aren’t liquor prices set by the state?” To which he replied, “Yes. The prices are not lower, but it helps move things that aren’t selling well.” Thing is, the sign is no lie. You will not find a better buy on the same bottle of booze anywhere in the state since the price is the same everywhere.
Which reminds us of a line spoken by Humphrey Bogart’s character in We’re No Angels. “We’re not selling a product, we’re selling an idea.”
The liquor store story reminds us of another thing. We spent some time in Charleston, South Carolina and noticed they had a lot of “Box Stores” all over the place. It puzzled us why there were so many stores selling cardboard boxes. Why? Did people move a lot down there or what? Only later did we learn they were liquor outlets. Unlike Michigan where packaged liquor is sold in any old store with a license, down there they had dedicated stores for it. Why they called them a Box Store is still puzzling to us.
Filed under Odds & Ends 2/1/17
Do you know your U.S. geography? Think you can pass this short quiz? You know us, we like to sometimes present fun facts in a slightly off-kilter way. You gotta figure there’s a trick question or two in there. Or trick answers, more like. Still, beyond the silly asides the information is true enough.
Mouseover boxes for answers
What is the capital of Vermont?
The U.S. dollar. The capitol (with an O) is Montpelier, the least populous state capitol city. Count it correct if you spotted the misspelling.
What is the only state to border on only one other state?
Maine. Which is also the only state with a one syllable name.
Which states have borders that are partly circular?
The border between Pennsylvania and Delaware is a circle segment.
Name the state(s) which is (are) rectangular.
Due to a surveyor’s error the western border of Colorado has a slight kink and so is not a rectangle. Which leaves only Wyoming. Except the curvature of the earth makes the bottom wider than the top. Which means there are no rectangular states.
Which middle western state is literally flat as a pancake?
Kansas. If you scaled a pancake up to the size of Kansas its surface would have topographical surface deviations roughly equal to Kansas. Such a pancake would feed the people of the surrounding states for 100 years, give or take.
What’s the fewest number of states you must cross to drive from Albany, New York to Seattle, Washington?
Zero. We didn’t say you couldn’t drive through Canada. Whether you’re allowed in Canada is up to them, not us.
Is Rhode Island an island?
Rhode Island is indeed an island in Narragansett Bay and a part of what is officially called Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Which state looks like part of the human anatomy?
We will accept Michigan looking like a hand in a mitten or Louisiana looking like a foot in a sock unravelling at the toe. If you thought of any other state looking like something other than a hand or foot, you have an overactive imagination, or a dirty mind.
9-10 correct: You know your trivia but not your math, there are only 8 questions.
7-8 correct: You know your trivia and can spot a trick question a mile away. Or you’re a liar.
5-6 correct: You know your trivia. Give yourself a cigar.
3-4 correct: You know some trivia. Give yourself a pat on the back.
1-2 correct: You don’t know your trivia. Give yourself a slap on the forehead.
0 correct: You don’t know squat. Kick yourself.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 1/30/17
Infrequently Answered Question #107: Say a plane had a takeoff speed of 100 mph. If this plane were on a conveyor belt that was moving backward at 100 mph, would it be able to take off?
A: This is a hypothetical question of course, nobody in their right mind would build a runway that’s a conveyor belt. Still, there’s been some speculation and debate about this on the Interwebs. Let’s see if we can suss it out without having to build a runway conveyor belt to try it.
A car going 100 mph on a conveyor belt going 100 mph the opposite way would be going 0 mph compared to the surroundings beyond the conveyor belt. Still, relative to the belt the car is going 100 mph. Easy enough to understand. Substitute the car with a plane and what happens? Before answering that, answer this: Is the plane’s engine connected to the wheels and do the plane’s wheels move it forward?
A car travels forward by applying force to the ground. A plane travels forward by applying force to the air, not the ground. Ergo, the ground moving backward would have no effect on how the plane moves forward. So, a plane on a conveyor belt runway would take off as it normally would, except the wheels would spin twice as fast. Which wouldn’t do anything except put extra wear and tear on the wheels.
What if the same plane tried taking off into a 100 mph headwind? No problem, hypothetically speaking. Even though relative to the ground the plane is going
All the same, they didn’t launch planes into 100 mph headwinds, nobody in their right mind would take off into a typhoon.
Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 1/29/17
Yep. You may not have picked up on it straight away, but there’s an additional button at the top: Cartoon. We broke it out of the Humor section to list our Suck.com links, Reader’s Digest bits, Cracked articles, and other cartoony type stuff in a similar vien. The wordier bits remain in the Humor section.
Wait, that’s not all. We retitled the Fun section as Fun & Games. We figure that gives readers a better idea what’s to be found in there since just the word “fun” is pretty ambiguous.
We also renamed Shorts as Blog for similar reasons. We know what we meant by Shorts, but the great web going public might not. Blog they understand. While our blog doesn’t quite function like your usual blog, no comments or perma-links, that’s pretty much what it is so we might as well call it that.
Filed under Odds & Ends 1/28/17
Another mystery spot from the old art archives. This one from 2000. What could a post-apocalyptic Borg cockroach be about? Was somebody working on this sort of thing back at the turn of the millenium? Is there a covert operation Gregor going on? Just what the heck is the CIA spending taxpayer dollars on anyway? We want answers! Even if we got answers, would they be true? How can we believe people whose job it is to deceive? Do they even tell the truth to each other? Once down the rabbit hole, is there a way back?
OK, OK. We’re pretty certain the Frankenroach had nothing to do with any of that. Maybe something about bio-engineering? We just can’t figure it. It’s like trying to decipher the hieroglyphics of a long gone people and language. How do they do that anyway? If there were an apocalypse and all that remained was graffiti, what would a race of roach-bots make of it? Ever think of that? Niether did we.
Filed under Snippets from the Art Archives 1/27/17
There are only four English root words that begin with DW. Do you know them? We’re sure you do, they aren’t obscure words. Rather we should ask, can you think of them off the top of your head? Here’s a short hint, word nerd. Live with a shrink. Those are your four cryptic clues.
This might be about the easiest word puzzler to solve, ever. Simply grab a dictionary, look under DW, and there they are. Though looking them up is not much different than peeking at the answers, in your heart you know it’s cheating. Besides, it’s more satisfying to come up with the answer on your lonesome. After all, would Trivial Pursuit be any fun if players could look up answers on their iPhones?
Still, we have to provide the answers so you can check if you’re right, but not so you will see them inadvertently and spoil the fun. The answers are in the pic. That is, if you hover the answer will appear.
Filed under Words, Phrases, Sayings & Quotes 1/26/17
This entry will only make sense if you first see the splash page it refers to. You can see that at the link below. Check it out. We’ll wait…
The chart loosely shows how I arrived here and the influences and distractions that made it all possible. When I say loosely shows, make that very loosely. I never lived in Siberia or during the Stone Age. But, in a way, it took thousands of years of civilization, culture and technological achievement to pave the way for terry colon dot com. Hardly seems the bother, but there it is.
That’s how I got here, how you arrived I couldn’t say. Possibly by accident searching for a site about colon cleansing. You know, enemas. While you might not find anything here funny enough to make you crap your pants, they do say laughter is the best medicine. Perhaps a smile is second best. While the site may not cure what ails you or help with your number twos… I don’t know how to finish that sentence.
In case you’re wondering about the logo in the pic, I designed that for a Detroit based record label, Transmat. That was back in the day after discovering there was no market for hand turkeys and before I became an illustrator. I suppose I could have chosen some other things I designed or drew to represent those days long gone by, but most of it is pretty unmemorable. I’m trying to forget about it myself.
Filed under Odds & Ends 1/25/17
Many of the Wehrmacht soldiers manning the Normandy defenses on D-Day were not Germans, but came from countries occupied by or allied with the Third Reich; such as Romania, Hungary, Georgia, and even Japan. These were Osttruppen, east troops. When’s the last time you saw that in a Hollywood film? Well, when’s the last time you watched Saving Private Ryan?
In a scene about twenty minutes in, an American G.I. guns down two unarmed Wehrmacht soldiers trying to surrender, but not being understood because they didn’t speak English. If you have an ear for language you may have picked out they were not speaking German. What the first soldier says is “Nestŕílejte. Já jsem nikoho nezabil. Já jsem Čech.” In English, “Don’t shoot. I haven’t killed anyone. I’m Czech.”
While Director Steven Spielberg correctly includes Osttruppen, he seems to have fallen for the common misconception these troops were conscripts who didn’t put up a fight and were eager to be liberated. This is largely post-war spin, the battle records indicate otherwise. It’s the old, “Nazi? I’m not a Nazi. I’m Swiss.”
All that aside, it seems the Czechs couldn’t win for losing. If the Allies weren’t shooting them during the war, they were handing their country over to the Nazis before the war and then to the Communists after the war. And now they’re in the E.U. run out of Brussels by unelected bureaucrats. Though they have only themselves to blame for that.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 1/24/17
“You can’t interrupt a German because you don’t know what he’s saying since the verb at the end of the sentence comes.”
–attributed to Mark Twain
A funny line if you know the basics of German syntax. Which is actually explained in the joke. Now that we’ve established the verb at the end of the sentence business, perhaps this next gag will raise a smile. “I once read an entire book in German but didn’t know what was happening until I got to the verbs on the last page.”
Clearly not enamored with Der Father Tongue, Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad has a section called “That Awful German Language.” Here’s more Twain on German.
A dog is “der Hund”; a woman is “die Frau”; a horse is “das Pferd”; now you put that dog in the genitive case, and is he the same dog he was before? No, sir; he is “des Hundes”; put him in the dative case and what is he? Why, he is “dem Hund.” Now you snatch him into the accusative case and how is it with him? Why, he is “den Hunden.” But suppose he happens to be twins and you have to pluralize him– what then? Why, they’ll swat that twin dog around through the 4 cases until he’ll think he’s an entire international dog-show all in is own person. I don’t like dogs, but I wouldn’t treat a dog like that– I wouldn’t even treat a borrowed dog that way. Well, it’s just the same with a cat. They start her in at the nominative singular in good health and fair to look upon, and they sweat her through all the 4 cases and the 16 the’s and when she limps out through the accusative plural you wouldn’t recognize her for the same being. Yes, sir, once the German language gets hold of a cat, it’s goodbye cat. That’s about the amount of it.
About the German Language –Mark Twain quotes
Filed under Words, Phrases, Sayings & Quotes 1/22/17
Dassler Brothers Shoes was founded in Germany in 1925 by Adi and Rudi Dassler. After the Second World War Rudi left to start his own company, Puma. Since it was no longer brothers running it, Adi renamed Dassler Brothers Shoes after himself, Adi Das(sler), Adidas.
If you order a pepperoni pizza in Italy try not to look surprised when they bring you a veggie pizza. There is no sausage called pepperoni there, or any word pepperoni. Peperoni (no double P) is Italian for bell pepper. The bell peppers on your pizza might be red, orange, yellow or green, which are all the same fruit in various stages of ripeness. Just like the difference between black (ripe) olives and green (unripe) olives.
A second is called a second because it’s the second division of an hour, the first division being a minute. Making a second more minute than a minute. We can’t explain why a minute is called a minute, nor why we are so amused by heteronyms.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 1/21/17
Here’s a recent bit of art from Reason magazine’s “Brickbats” department. The old rag got a new art director recently who, as new art directors often do, wanted to revamp things a bit, including the color pallet throughout. So we came up with a new three-color scheme for the spots. Of course, it’s really printed in CMYK so it’s three-color from four-color. The scheme is black plus two colors and tints of those two colors which change from month to month.
The new art director originally wanted me to revert to an old drawing style I used in Cracked about twenty tears ago. As seen in Roller Coaster Mania. I convinced her this was the preferable option. Besides, I’m not sure I could go back to that old style. New habits die hard. Anyway, as is the customary pratice here’s the text for the spot:
France is the first country to ban disposable plastic cups and plates. The new law requires “all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020.”
Filed under Snippets from the Art Archives 1/20/17
Infrequently Answered Question #106: If there’s nothing new under the sun, where do inventions come from?
A: From people working indoors. Mostly garages. Or maybe basements. Which is why a lot of inventions never see the light of day. A rather feeble Q&A segue to get to the real issue at hand.
Forget building a better mousetrap, the thing invention-minded tinkerers really like to tinker with are firearms. Over the centuries the gun has been reinvented more times than wheels and mousetraps put together, a combination some inventor has probably tried. There’s been many improvements, and many what we like to call dimprovements, bad improvements, backward advances, or whatever you’d like to call them. Among these might be gravity guns, chain guns, and turret pistols. Some gun tinkerers were Q from MI6 before there was an MI6. These guys came up with knife guns, cane guns, watch fob guns, guns concealed in handbags and hats, and so forth.
Then there were gun reinventions we’d call dumbprovements, to coin a new word. For instance, one gun that shot rocket powered bullets. Which might not sound so absurd until you consider it took the bullets time to get up to speed meaning it was worthless at close range. Next was a pistol with triangular bullets for no reason anyone can figure out. The bullets of which were called trounds, triangular rounds. To go one better was the gun that was supposed to fire round bullets at Christians and square bullets at heathens. We don’t know what to call, or how explain a square round.
If you like obscure and oddball weapons, and perhaps even want to buy one at auction, check out…
Forgotten Weapons –You Tube Home
Whether, as building a better mousetrap is supposed to do, building a better handgun will have the world beating a path to your door is an open question. Though we imagine building some types of weaponry in the basement might bring the FBI. After which you might be reduced to fashioning a handgun out of a bar of soap and some shoe polish.
Filed under Infrequently Answered Questions 1/19/17
We’ve written in the past about how bikes and motorcycles lean into a turn. Planes, trains and automobiles also lean into turns. Or at least NASCAR automobiles do on a banked track. Planes don’t run on a track, they bank themselves. But trains? Yep, trains lean into turns so they don’t topple over, which is bad for business and for anything that happens to be sitting by the side of the tracks.
Most folks don’t own or drive trains, so the need to lean them into turns isn’t something they ever need worry about. Yet, we suppose most kids in America have played with toy trains (or model railroads if you prefer) so they’ve likely noticed what train wheels look like, that flange and slightly tapered shape of the flat bit that sits on the rail. Have you ever wondered why they’re tapered? That’s what makes trains lean into a turn.
The taper means the wheel at the flange is a bigger diameter than on the tapered side. In other words, the wheel is a truncated cone. As the train track turns left, say, the wheel, which wants to go straight, rides up the rail until the flange hits the rail turning the train left. When it does the outside wheel rides on the large diameter part of the wheel and the inside wheel rides on the smaller diameter part of the wheel. Any vehicle with bigger wheels on one side will be lopsided and lean. Presto, the train leans into the turn.
Looking at the pic it ain’t much of a lean. Two things, trains don’t take sharp turns and compared to bikes or cars trains are very tall and top-heavy so a little lean goes a long way. Besides, you don’t want them leaning too much inside the turn or they’d tip over that way, which is bad for business etc.
To really see the difference, mouseover the pic.
There is a second advantage to this. Through a turn the outside wheel covers more ground than the inside wheel. For two wheels rotating at the same pace the outside wheel needs to be bigger so it has a greater circumference to cover more ground. If both wheels were the same size connected to a single axel, one or the other would roll too fast or too slow depending. That’s friction, that makes the engine work harder and adds wear and tear. So if the wheels are small inside and big outside… voila! No problem.
This is pretty ingenious engineering, elegantly simple, totally passive, set it and forget it. No need for a complicated suspension with motors, actuators, servos or gizmos of any kind. We doff our metaphorical caps to whoever devised it.
Filed under Fun Facts & Trivia 1/17/17