Dubious Knowledge (Book Two)
Doubtful Facts, Twisted History, and Other Humorosities
If you like learning with a lively dose of laughter, you’ll love this hilarious book full of fishy facts, twisted history, and general “Dubious Knowledge” from humor columnist Dan Van Oss.
This second book of collected from the best of Dan’s “Dubious Knowledge Institute” humor column features 37 side-splitting features that will keep you laughing as you learn. Evoking the style of classic humor columnists such as Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten, Dan expertly melds fact and fiction into a zany mixture of learning and laughter.
Gotta Have That New World Smell (Columbus Day)
EVERY AMERICAN SCHOOLCHILD IS PROBABLY FAMILIAR with that famous poem about Christopher Columbus, so if some of you out there know it could you please send it to me? Because I can’t think of it right now and I’m too lazy to Google. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the day behind the man behind the day celebrated as the time Equatorial Guinea declared its independence from Spain in 1968, except we call it Columbus Day, and we celebrate it because a Spanish guy discovering the Bahamas 600 years before Carnival Cruise lines.
Colorectal Polyps and Colusa, Illinois
Although Columbus is traditionally celebrated as the first European to discover America, it is now commonly known that that honor goes to Leif Ericson and his Vikings, who beat the Packers 26-10 sometime in the 11th century at a settlement called “L’Anse aux Meadows” in Newfoundland (Official Motto: “We’re Not Just A Dog, We’re Also A Country!”). Even so, Columbus has secured his place in history, right between colorectal polyp and Colusa, Illinois, as the discoverer of the New World® #NewWorldColumbus #NWRocks #IndigenousSlavery
That New World Smell
Columbus began his journey where most explorers do: at the local bank, which, in this case, was the King and Queen (Ferdinand and Isabella) of Spain. After lobbying for two years he was finally able to procure funding from the court in the sum of 1.14 million maravedis, or 555,000 guildergroats, or 3.5 million guineafrancs; an amount so large that in today’s dollars it could only be measured in Kelvin. So, while Isabella and Ferdinand presumably waved their hankies from the dock, Columbus set sail on August 3 in a small fleet consisting of a large carrack called the Santa María, two smaller caravels, the Pinta and the Nina, and three tiny caramels named Dick, Bartholomew, and Leon, which Columbus kept in his right pantaloon pocket. After a voyage of however many units Spanish people used to measure the time it takes to sail to the New World with back then, a lookout on the Pinta spotted land at 2:00 in the morning while he was watching the Late, Late Show. He immediately alerted the Captain, who was able to verify the discovery and alerted Columbus by firing a lombard, who, being part of the Lombards Local 128, later sued Columbus for wrongful termination, but that’s another story. Calling the new land “San Salvador”, because “Finland” was already taken, Columbus began a long career of making scholars write history books about him which you can read if you want to know more. After three more trips, the intrepid explorer decided to settle in what is now Haiti while it still had what he called “that New World smell.”
Columbus Day Cards and Frank Sinatra
Columbus’s voyage has been celebrated since colonial times in the United States; many cities celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in 1792 by taking a day off from wearing their itchy powdered wigs. In 1892 President Benjamin “Yes, I Was A President, Too” Harrison called upon the people of the United States, apparently with a huge megaphone, to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th Anniversary of the day he landed, which was October 12 if you haven’t been keeping score. The first state to officially recognize Columbus Day as an official holiday was the famous, tropical seafaring land of Colorado in 1906. In 1934 Generoso “Not The Real” Pope, an Italian leader in New York City, along with the Knights of Columbus lobbied to make Columbus Day a Federal Holiday, until they realized that “lobbying” did not mean hanging out at the bar in the foyer of the Biltmore Hotel on West 47th Street hoping to score some free drinks. It wasn’t officially recognized as a federal holiday until 1937 when the Hallmark Company reluctantly agreed to make a couple of Columbus Day cards (“New World? I was just getting used to the old one!” and “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Columbus sailed under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain in the context of emerging western imperialism and economic competition between European kingdoms through the establishment of trade routes and colonies in 1492”). Many Italian-Americans celebrate Columbus Day as a reminder of their heritage, for although Columbus wasn’t an American, he did apparently like to listen to Frank Sinatra.
So, the next time you’re eating a caravel, watching the Vikings beat the Packers, or just firing your lombard, remember Columbus, the man who’s memory we honor in the most American way possible: by not getting our mail for a day.
Smells Like Preschool Spirit (Play-Doh)
PLAY-DOH IS A MODELING COMPOUND used by children as an unsupervised alternate food source plus a really easy way to make snakes. Simple, colorful, and reusable, this popular creative toy is lodged in the memories of most American children like a piece of dried, red Play-Doh stuck in that “Fun Factory” thing that’s supposed to squeeze out cool tubes that look like poop but your sister left it out last time she used it even though you were the one who cleaned it the last time she left it like that and now it’s all dried out again and I’m telling mom.
Fuzzy Pumper Crazy Cuts and the Red Can
Play-Doh was originally designed in the 1930’s to be a wallpaper cleaner, back when dirty wallpaper must have been a raging epidemic. It was invented by Noah “Not The One In The Bible” McVicker for a Cincinnati manufacturer called the Kutol Products Company (Official Motto: “We’re A Products Company; So… That’s Pretty Much Our Official Motto”). By the mid-1950s Kutol was on the verge of bankruptcy, probably due to the invention of self-cleaning wallpaper, so Noah’s nephew, Joe, was assigned the task of saving the company. Joe discovered that a classroom of children, apparently bored with playing with the drain cleaner and scouring paste, was using the Kutol compound to make Christmas ornaments. He wisely saw this as an opportunity to save the company and quickly began marketing scouring paste as modeling clay for children, whereupon his wife suggested using the wallpaper cleaning stuff instead. In 1956 the McVickers began to manufacture their new product, called “Play-Doh,” under their newly-formed Rainbow Crafts Company, which was bought by General Mills in 1965, which placed it with Kenner Products, which then merged with Rainbow Crafts in 1971, which was bought by the Tonka Corporation in 1987, which was bought by Hasbro in 1991, which is now planning a major motion picture featuring Dwayne Johnson as the Red Can and Bruce Willis as Fuzzy Pumper Crazy Cuts.
Mommy needs a what now?
After advertising on the popular children’s shows of the late 50’s such as Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room, Ding Dong School, Brat Academy and Mommy Needs A Cocktail Now, sales for Play-Doh increased dramatically, reaching $3 million by 1958 (today’s money: enough to buy two complete Play-Doh 24-packs with a Scoops ’n Treats DIY Ice Cream Set). Now a soft, pliable part of our cultural landscape, giant Play-Doh Fun Factories 12 stories tall daily squeeze out tons of multi-colored, coiling Play-Doh onto barges for distribution to hungry children around the world.
- Play-Doh’s main ingredients are flour, salt, water, mineral oil, boric acid, dog hair, dust and dried bits of older Play-Doh.
- September 16 is National Play-Doh Day, possibly because it also marks the day that Gandhi began his fast in protest of caste separation in India in 1932, but most likely because Hallmark wanted another reason to sell greeting cards.
- Over two billion three-ounce cans of Play-Doh have been sold since its inception, enough to make a huge, doughy, six-billion ounce ball of Play-Doh.
- The Demeter Fragrance Library partnered with the Hasbro Company to make a Play-Doh-scented fragrance they are calling “Sweaty Preschool In The Morning,” to go with their line of other toy-oriented fragrances, “Stretch Armstrong Guts,” “Model Airplane Glue,” and “Eau du Strawberry Shortcake.”
- The official mascot on every box of Play-Doh is “Play-Doh Pete,” who is actually a 45-year-old actress named Barbara who lives in Santa Monica and drives a Tesla.
- Play-Doh was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998 where, during a controversial acceptance speech, it kissed Madonna.