Here’s an Idea: Write About the Light Bulb
We shed some dubious light on the most important invention since Easy Cheese.

There is one invention by which all others are measured in terms of impact and usefulness, having irrevocably changed when and how we live our lives. I’m speaking, of course, about Easy Cheese, which you can accurately spray into your mouth at all hours of the day with the help of another cool invention, the light bulb. Commonly accredited to inventor Thomas Edison, the incandescent bulb was the result of many earlier experiments by multiple scientists in laboratories surrounded by bubbling test tubes and those cool, tall arcing things that zap lightning bolts like in the original Frankenstein movie. A final, commercially successful version of an incandescent bulb was achieved around 1879, finally giving cartoonists something they could use to represent when Mickey Mouse had a brilliant idea. But before we get to that we have to read about some boring history stuff.

Navel lint and tanning beds

Although the basic principle of the light bulb seems simple to you and me today, because we’ve never had to invent anything more complex than a way to get the lint out of our navel, it took years of experimentation to produce a commercially viable bulb that would afford mankind the ability to get skin cancer in tanning beds without having to go outside. Up to 22 inventors could lay claim to being the inventor of the incandescent bulb, but since most of them are dead we’re going to have to rely on Wikipedia again for the real truth.

Fifty Shades of Sprengel pumps

[pullquote type=”right”]Savvy experimenters hit upon the idea of using a vacuum inside the bulb in order to help the filament burn longer, but this proved difficult, as the vacuum wouldn’t be invented until 1901, and the bulb would have had to be gigantic in order to accommodate it.[/pullquote]Humphry “For The Last Time, There’s No ‘E’ In My First Name!” Davy created the first incandescent lamp in 1802 by passing an electric current through a platinum strip. Over the next 75 years, various inventors also tried iridium wires, carbonized paper filaments, bamboo, inanimate carbon rods and evacuated, semi-evacuated or fully constipated enclosures. In 1835 James Bowman “Goober” Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric light in Dundee, Scotland, which he stated allowed him to “read a book at a distance of one and a half feet, although it was ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, so, yeah.” Savvy experimenters hit upon the idea of using a vacuum inside the bulb in order to help the filament burn longer, but this proved difficult, as the vacuum wouldn’t be invented until 1901, and the bulb would have had to be gigantic in order to accommodate it. Fortunately, light bulb inventors weren’t as lame as that last joke and were able to achieve viable vacuum bulbs by the late 19th century. Edison began using the extensive resources of his Menlo Park laboratory to develop his own bulb around 1878. The first successful test was on October 22, 1879, with a bulb that lasted 13.5 hours, long enough to allow him to finish a really tough jigsaw puzzle of him kicking Nikola Tesla in the butt. Historians believe that Edison’s version of the light bulb was able to overshadow other models for three reasons: he found a more effective incandescent material, he was able to achieve a higher vacuum through the use of a Sprengel pump, and he was millionaire playboy Thomas Freakin’ Edison. Lamps with three-way filaments were invented as early as 1902, and allowed homeowners to experience multiple levels of storage boxes in which to toss their half-burnt-out bulbs in hopes they might still work somewhere else, like the downstairs closet.

Today, the light bulb and it’s current variations is as common and necessary to our way of life as the television, car, or television shows about cars. And remember, when spraying your Easy Cheese, to squirt it in short bursts.

Photo Credit: – Komodor – cc

Gentlemen, Start Your Marmons! (the Indianapolis 500)
Our possibly fabricated take on "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing"

Billed as “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, along with the fees that homeowners outside the track charge to park your car, the Indianapolis 500 is one of the most recognizable motor races in the world. Contested every Memorial Day in the US at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it is part of the “Triple Crown of Motorsport” along with the Monaco Grand Prix and the Kentucky Internal Combustion Horse Robot Derby. The race had its 100th anniversary in 2011, and, through an apparently yet unidentified space/time anomaly, the 98th running was held in 2014. The event is contested by “Indy cars”, which are open cockpit, single-seat, open-wheel billboards for auto parts with a car built underneath them. Each race features a field of 33 cars arranged in a grid of 11 rows of three cars apiece, which are then mashed together until someone either crashes or wins or both. The current winner’s prize is $2.5 million, which, although one of the richest purses in sports, is still less than a Mouawad 1001 Night Diamond Purse, which goes for $3.58 million.

Watch out for Marcy and Marmons

[pullquote type=”right”]The first Indianapolis 500 race was run in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon, a rare, 4-wheeled rodent, which reached the hideous speed of 75 MPH.[/pullquote]The original racetrack was built as a gravel-and-tar track in 1909 and hosted three long-distance races which were marred by crashes as a result of potholes mandatorily placed there by the Indiana DOT. Principal track owner Carl Fischer then decided to spend $155,000 (current equivalent: $1.4 trazillion) to pave the track with 3.2 million bricks, and added a 2 foot 9 inch wall around the track to catch the parts from crashed vehicles in order to sell them to local Applebee’s restaurants for their walls. The track owners decided to concentrate their racing efforts into one big 500-mile race and offered the then phenomenal purse of $25,000 (current equivalent: GNP Portugal) to the winner. This first Indianapolis 500 race was run in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon, a rare, 4-wheeled rodent, which reached the hideous speed of 75 MPH. However, Harroun was considered a hazard by the other racers as he did not ride with a riding mechanic, whose job it was to watch for traffic, ask the driver why he didn’t take a particular exit, and constantly check to see if he was speeding because their friend Marcy said this road always has cops.

Indianapolis 500 Facts

  • After taking an amazingly wrong turn during band practice, the Purdue All-American Marching Band found themselves performing on the track near the finish line in 1927, and it has been a tradition ever since for them to play.
  • The practice of singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the race begins was started in 1948 by operatic tenor James Melton, who reasoned that there just wasn’t enough opera in car racing.
  • The winner is awarded the Borg-Warner trophy, made with parts from Patrick Stewart’s Star Trek “Locutus” costume welded to a rusty brake drum and valued at $1 million.
  • Janet Guthrie was the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, and the first to ask for directions when she got lost at the 145th lap.
  • In 1977, Tom Sneva became the first driver in the race’s history to run a lap at more than 200 mph when a misguided practical joke by his pit crew superglued his accelerator pedal to the floor.
  • If all of the hot dogs and bratwurst sold on race day were laid end-to-end, the entire state of Indiana would spontaneously vomit in revulsion.
  • It is said that Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs, the Colosseum in Rome and Vatican City could all fit inside the massive Motor Speedway track, which may explain why ESPN is planning a baseball game played with footballs by priests on horses being chased by starving lions for next years’ sweeps week.

[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Sports Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]

Photo Credit: State Farm cc

Ready For Some Family Therapy? Let’s Play Monopoly!
Just so we’re clear: I get the race car this time.

Monopoly is the quintessential American board game we all know and shun on family game night because we don’t want to pay for more group counseling after the bickering escalates. Originally intended to demonstrate the evils of land ownership, it ended up mostly demonstrating the evils of totally destroying your sister’s dignity when she landed on your fully-hoteled Boardwalk. The initial version was invented by Elizabeth J. “Park Place” Phillips in 1903, with the game intended to be an explanation of the single tax theory of Henry George, which holds that the economic value derived from natural resources and natural opportunities should belong equally to all residents of a Zzzzzzzzzzzzz….. As this had no relevance on being able to get your little brother to cry when he had to mortgage Reading Railroad to get out of jail, it and similar games were modified by Parker Brothers in 1935 into the more familiar, relationship-splintering version we know today. Players move around the game board buying or trading properties, developing their properties by adding houses and hotels, and collecting rent from their opponents, with the ultimate goal of not having your uncle be the banker because he always cheats. An instant success during the Great Depression, the game has since spread across the globe, where even now, two goat shepherds in a yurt in Mongolia are coming to blows over whether you still get your $200 when Chance makes you go to jail.

Hey! I get to be the Segway this time!

[pullquote type=”right”]The familiar playing pieces used in the game (dog, shoe, top hat, etc.) each have their storied history, which doesn’t matter because I get to be the race car YOU WERE THE RACE CAR LAST TIME.[/pullquote]The familiar playing pieces used in the game (dog, shoe, top hat, etc.) each have their storied history, which doesn’t matter because I get to be the race car YOU WERE THE RACE CAR LAST TIME. History, or at least Google, has it that one of the originators of the game, Charles Darrow, wanted players to use items they could find around the house during the 30s, such as buttons, bottle caps, little piles of dust or foreclosure notices. His nieces suggested that he use the charms from a girl’s charm bracelet of the time, such as an iron, to show the long life of maternal poverty that awaited her, or a shoe, which was her usual dinner on Sunday nights. The pieces have remained more or less the same since then, with some variations to keep up with the times. The modern Electronic Banking version of the game features pieces such as a flat screen TV, a Segway, a credit card statement with a negative balance and, somewhat ironically, a foreclosure notice.

Get your own something-opoly

Parker Brothers began licensing Monopoly in 1994, which has led to over 100 versions of the game, such as “Disney Villains Monopoly”, “Bass Fishing Monopoly”, “Street Fighter Monopoly” and “Trump Monopoly”, which uses real hotels to destroy your credit rating if you don’t pay for overnight parking (Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200). Just about everything has been made into a something-opoly, to the point that some smaller countries are considering creating their own versions (“Mauritania-oply”) so they can fund their next coup with the royalties.

Monopoly facts

  • The longest game of Monopoly lasted 70 straight days, after the players realized they were using three dice instead of two.
  • The original subtitle was “The Interminably Slow 12-Hour Rainy Day Marathon Mom-Exasperating All-Out Sibling Brawl Trading Game”, which was soon changed to the less-accurate but shorter “The Fast-Dealing Property Trading Game”.
  • The iconic mustachioed lead character of the game with the top hat is called “Rich Uncle Pennybags”. Sadly, having never been paid for his modeling work, he is neither rich nor even an uncle, and today lives in an organic farming collective in Oregon with the Hungry Hungry Hippos.
  • More than 1 billion people have played Monopoly worldwide, most of them without access to the proper counseling.
  • To make the game relevant to Welsh consumers, the properties all have four extra consonants added to them.
  • There are four ways to get out of Jail in Monopoly; pay $50, roll doubles, use a Get Out Of Jail Free card, or punch your brother in the arm and steal his Get Out Of Jail Free card.
  • In WashingtonDC-opoly, you cannot build a house on any property that hasn’t been listed by HUD as suitable/available exclusively for a period of 60 days from the date of this Notice, where said property is described as for “off-site use only” by recipients in order to maximize the opportunity to utilize a suitable property, where providers should submit their written expressions of interest at the appropriate time, in accordance with applicable law, subject to screening for other Federal use. No one has ever completed a game of WashingtonDC-opoly.
Photo Credit: Bill Selak cc

All About Pizza (and 124,439 Red, Rusty 1992 Datsuns)
We slice up America's favorite food for teenagers and Ninja Turtles.

The word “pizza” was first documented in Gaeta, Italy in 997 AD, where it meant, loosely translated, “inedible cardboard wheel”. It’s origins are hard to determine, as various groups, such as the “Hut” tribe of Kansas and the “Domino” clan of Ypsilanti, all lay claim to it’s invention, if not it’s demise. Almost every civilization with access to bread and hot rocks had some form of ancient pizza, from Mediterranean focaccia bread to a Greek flatbread called plakous, but although similar, each had the common trait of not being called pizza. It wasn’t until the 16th century in Naples, Italy that it was referred to as “pizza”, and was considered primarily a dish for poor people who didn’t want to get out of their recliners to make some food because the game was on in 15 minutes. Early pizzas were actually sweet, and not savory, as indicated by Pellegrino Artusi‘s classic early twentieth century cookbook, La Scienza in cucina e l’Arte di mangiar bene (“The Science and Art of Really Great Eats”), which had three recipes for pizza, all of which were sweet, meaning they were always gone by the time you got up to the buffet because that fat guy in the booth next to you beat you to them. What began to make pizza the familiar food it is today was the addition of tomato during the late 18th century. First attempts at this were clumsy, consisting of sticking a whole tomato in the center of the pizza, or wrapping the pizza around the tomato, or just desperately throwing a tomato at the pizza to see if it stuck, but eventually, someone figured out the concept of tomato paste, and everything went pretty smooth from there. Pizza made its way to the United States via Italian immigrants, not all of which necessarily said, “Hey-a! Try this-a new-a Italiano dish-a we brought-a!”, because that is a tired stereotype.

Fun facts

  • Americans eat an estimated 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second. Canadians eat an estimated 75.4 hectares of pizza per megajoule or 298.6 slices Celsius.
  • Pizza Expo is the world’s largest pizza-only trade show, where you can catch events such as “Freestyle Acrobatic Dough-Tossing”, “Fumbling For Change In Sub-Zero Weather”, and “How To Egg The House Of The Frat Guys That Never Tip”
  • There are approximately 61,269 pizzerias in the United States, half of which have the name “Original”, “Famous”, or “Ray’s” in them.
  • 62 percent of Americans prefer meat toppings on their pizza. The other 38 percent are suspected to be communists.
  • Russians cover their pizza in “mockba”, a combination of sardines, mackerel, tuna, salmon, and onions, which is why you never, ever see Russians kissing each other.
  • It is speculated that basic pizza began in prehistoric times, with bread cooked on hot, flat stones and covered in spoiled yak milk and bits of spiced saber-toothed rat, then delivered to your cave in 15 minutes or it was free.
  • Pizza Hut is the largest purveyor of pizza in the world, with over 12,500 restaurants employing 160,000 workers driving a fleet of 124,439 red, rusty 1992 Datsuns.
  • The world’s largest pizza was created on October 11, 1987. Measuring 140 feet across, it took 3 semi-trailer trucks to deliver to the house of Harold Shankstivers in Lumberton, New Jersey, who stiffed the drivers on the tip.

20 (Suspicious and Somewhat Useles) Facts About South Dakota
The state that gave you forced perspective photos of tourists picking Mt. Rushmore's nose is back with 20 almost believable facts.


Official Motto: “Under God the People Rule”
Unofficial Motto: “Under God the People Rule (We Just Don’t Have a Lot Of’em To Do It”)


South Dakota’s name is derived from two Native American Sioux Dakota words: “Dakota”, meaning “Uh, That’s JustOur Name”, and “Hekahele itoka kasota mapiya oyate oaako iyakahea”, meaning “South”.


The geographical center of the United States has been determined to be Belle Fourche, South Dakota, so designated by a huge, 200-foot-tall red pin stuck into the center of town.


The largest underground gold mine in South Dakota is the Homestake Mine in Lead. Ironically, the largest lead house in South Dakota is the Goldmine Home in Stake.


The famous Mt. Rushmore monument took 14 years to complete. It was designed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who, contrary to popular belief, was not a founding member of the pop group “Abba”.


The World’s Largest Petrified Wood Park is located in Lemmon, South Dakota, next to the world’s largest collection of broken drill bits and busted saws.


The Sage Creek Wilderness in the Badlands is overseeing the re-introduction into nature of the Black-Footed Ferret, the tastiest and most endangered mammal in North America.


Wild Bill Hickok was killed while playing poker in the city of Deadwood, South Dakota, holding aces and eights, which became known as the “dead man’s hand”. The cigar brand he was smoking became known as the “dead man’s cigar”, followed by “dead man’s rickety saloon chair”, “dead man’s argyle socks”, “dead man’s hair tonic”, etc., until the saloon owner threatened to shoot everybody if they didn’t knock it off with the “dead man’s” stuff.


Clark, the potato capital of South Dakota, hosts a Mashed Potato Wrestling contest each year. Competition is fierce, as losers are doused in gravy and eaten.


Towering starkly some 1400 feet above the prairie near Sturgis, Bear Butte is easy to find. It is used by visiting junior high boys as their main source of whispering and snickering.


There are an estimated 1,500 free-roaming buffalo in Custer State Park. Most keep to themselves, but occasionally a few wander drunkenly into bars bellowing and looking for their ex-girlfriends.


Woonsocket is known as “That Town With The Hilarious Name That Should Be A Character In A Douglas Adams Book.”


Wind Cave National Park is one of the longest and most complex cave systems in the world. It is home to a rare formation known as boxwork, which is made by the remains of thousands of discarded Amazon delivery boxes left by ancient Native Americans.


The Herschell Spillman steam carousel in Prairie Village featured a steam-powered calliope and a coal fired boiler. It was sunk off the coast of Virginia in a battle with the iron-clad ship HMS Warrior.


The most decorated World War II battleship was the U.S.S. South Dakota. It featured over 15,000 multi-colored bulbs, 2,000 hand-blown glass ornaments, 13 tons of tinsel and a gigantic rotating gold star on the conning tower.


Mitchell is the home of the world famous Corn Palace. Emperor Gustav Corn still holds court each day from his throne of glued-together Jiffy Mix boxes, throwing cans of creamed corn at startled tourists.


The tallest water tower in the state is in Bowdle. The shortest water tower in the state is a small pond with a hose coming out of it in Hosmer.


The Anne Hathaway Cottage in Wessington Springs is the only thatched-roof structure in the country that features a shrine to Mr. Drysdale’s famous secretary from The Beverly Hillbillies.


The Flaming Fountain on South Dakota State Capitol Lake is so named because the original builders hit a gas main during construction and were too lazy to fix it.


Visitors to Badlands National Park can see over 35 million years of fossil evidence, including a saber-toothed cat, a dog-sized brontosaurus, a bird that apparently played records, and a stocky humanoid wearing a fuzzy “Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes” hat.

Photo Credit Nicolas Raymond cc

All About Michelangelo: Part 2 (Pope Orange Julius and Della’s Signature Pizza)
Our second, pizza-infused, mostly apocryphal account of the maker of the world’s nudest art.

See Part 1 here.

Just to bring you up to date on our first episode about Michelangelo, here are the highlights: spoiled capicola, snowmen and Pope Tag. Now that you’re caught up, we can go to Rome.

Rome in 1496 was, surprisingly, much like it is today, except with less crumbling, run-down 500-year-old buildings, fewer cars, no reality TV shows, etc. It was into this world that Michelangelo, at the age of 21, entered in order to continue his sculpting career, because “Communication Design Management Specialization” at Devry University hadn’t been invented yet. It was here, at the age of 24, that he finished his first great masterpiece, a “pieta” (pizza) consisting of pepperoni, crumbled bacon, gorgonzola cheese, and just a little oregano in the sauce. As he was eating this, he was also working on a sculpture of the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus, which, coincidentally, was also called a “pieta”. It was deemed by local sculpture reviewers as “A revelation of all the potentialities and force of the art of sculpture. See it with someone you love. Marble-ous! Five stars. (check out more of my reviews at pietariffic.com.)” It currently resides at St. Peter’s Basilica, right across the street from Pizzeria Tavola Calda, which has great, cheap food. If they like you, the owners give you a free piece of cake.

In 1499, Michelangelo returned to Florence where he was asked by the Guild of Wool to create an immense, 10-foot tall statue of a stocking hat, I suppose as some sort of promotional stunt. Instead, Michelangelo offered to complete one of their 40-year-old unfinished projects depicting David as a symbol of Florentine freedom, which apparently has something to do with unashamed, gigantic nudity. This, his most famous work, was originally to be installed on the gable of the Florence Cathedral, but, since no one could find an industrial-grade military helicopter to lift it there, it was decided it would be easier to place it in the Piazza della Signoria (“Della’s Signature Pizza”) and sell small, plastic versions of it in a gift shop. This statue established Michelangelo as an artist of great skill and artistic insight, and brought him more prestigious commissions, offers, and an appearance on The Today Show, where he taught Natalie Morales how to sculpt a bust of Al Roker out of a block of cheese. “David” is now located in the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, or “Gallery of Fire Knowledge”, where its nude figure sustains approximately 15,000 sniggers, titters, and embarrassed whispers from school boys each year.

Michelangelo returned to Rome in 1505 at the invitation of Pope “Orange” Julius II, where he was commissioned to build a tomb for the Pope, consisting of a three-story building with 40 statues and 100 of those wacky inflatable tube guys dressed as archbishops. He was given a timeline of 5 years because I guess that’s when the Pope was planning to off himself and fall into his tomb. But, due to interruptions including other projects and more Today Show appearances, it took over 40 years to complete, probably much to the relief of the Pope, but not his inheritors, who had caught a peek at his substantial life insurance policy. Many of the 40 statues completed for the tomb are now located in other museums so that school children in those cities can also be forced to look at culture on their field trips. One of these interruptions was to become an epic work of such beauty, scope and endurance that it can hardly be described without saving it for the next installment, so I guess that’s what we’re going to do.