Month: September 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Famous Flaming Rock! (Halley’s Comet)
A brief synapses of the universe's most famous inedible peanut.

Hurtling through space at a speed of 254,000 mph, plowing through the celestial void on its long, lonely, looping mission of futility, lies the quaint Idaho town on the planet earth called Hailey, from which a celebrated chunk of space ice might have taken its name, if it weren’t for some pesky things called correct spelling, facts and the correct use of plural possessives.

An Astronomical Comedy of Synapses

[x_pullquote type=”right”]Officially designated as 1P/Halley, because astronomers are nerds, Halley’s Comet (correct pronunciation: “Not The Way You Are Probably Doing It”) last appeared in 1986, the same year that Mark Twain would have died if he had lived another 76 years.[/x_pullquote]Officially designated as 1P/Halley, because astronomers are nerds, Halley’s Comet (correct pronunciation: “Not The Way You Are Probably Doing It”) last appeared in 1986, the same year that Mark Twain would have died if he had lived another 76 years. The appearance of the famous flaming rock, which is also a good band name, has been recorded as far back as 240 BPCDWNSTWCOOACA (Before Political Correctness Demanded We Never Say The Word ‘Christ’ Outside Of A Church Again), when Chinese astronomers said, “Look at that famous flaming rock!”, and Babylonian scientists said, “Yes, and wouldn’t that also make an excellent band name!”, then scribbled it down in their clay tablets. It wasn’t until 1705 that an English astronomer named Edmond (Spoiler Alert!) Halley, using laws that his buddy Isaac Newton cooked up to calculate the gravitational effects of Jupiter and Saturn on cometary orbits predicted that this particular comet would return in 1758 and wipe out all of mankind by infecting it with a deadly comet virus. He was partially right, obviously, as the comet did return that year, but the virus didn’t wipe us out; it apparently only just made us crave reality TV shows. Halley first proposed his theory in his Latin romantic comedy “Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis” (“An Astronomical Comedy of Synapses”). In it, he observed that between the years 1337 to 1698 a variety of occurrences of comet-like objects appeared, including 24 comets that were visible to the naked eye, and three which could only be viewed when fully clothed. He theorized that many of these occurrences were actually the same comet, and at the comet’s return in 1758 it was dubbed by astronomers “Edmond’s Comet,” which they changed the following year to “Halley’s Comet,” because there was another astronomer named Edmond that nobody liked because he always put shoe polish on the eyepiece of their telescopes.

Giotto, Kelvin and the Canadians

In 1985, the European Space Agency spacecraft “Giotto” was launched in order to more closely inspect the comet to determine if, in fact, it was sent here by an alien race of hideous bug-like creatures in order to enslave our women as we were told by the government would happen if we didn’t switch to the metric system. Fortunately, that was not the case, but the probe was able to determine that the comet is composed mostly of dusty, non-volatile materials, such as old Sunday school teachers and those cheap charcoal briquets that never light unless you douse them with a can of gas. The surface temperature was determined to range from 170 Kelvin (essentially 1 billion degrees below zero Fahrenheit, or -170 Centigrade if you’re into that sort of thing) to 220 Kelvin (still really, really, really, super cold), making it too cold even for Canadians to want to put an ice fishing cabin on.

Halley’s Comet facts

  • As Halley’s comet approaches the sun, it expels jets of sublimating gas from its surface, for which it never apologizes, then, as it leaves, it comments loudly, “whoever smelt it, dealt it.”
  • Some studies suggest that Halley will eventually evaporate, or fracture in two, within the next few tens of thousands of years, or that it will be ejected from the Solar System within a few hundred thousand years, or that it will suddenly and without warning strike the earth and obliterate it; no one really knows for sure.
  • The comet is 10 miles long, 5 miles wide, 5 miles tall, and shaped like a peanut, although it is inedible as far as we know, as if it were to impact the earth it would definitely destroy all peanut-tasting life forms on the planet before we could find out.
  • The next perihelion of Halley’s Comet will occur on July 28, 2061, so we suggest you start stocking up now on your perihelion creams, salves, and ointments as a precaution.
  • The famous writer Mark Twain said in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.” His words came to pass the following year, when he and Halley’s comet dined at the Gotham Bar and Grill on East 12th Street in New York City, where Twain had a Roasted Red And Yellow Beet Salad while the comet ordered the Maine Lobster with chanterelle mushrooms.
  • Although the blazing tail of the comet is noticeable for millions of miles, the comet’s actual surface is not bright at all, having possibly only ever passed the Third Grade.

Just Hand Over The Thin Mints And No One Will Get Hurt (Girl Scout Cookies)
We chew our way through the history of America's yearly calorie indulgence.

Yes, it’s finally here; that time of year when we grab our wallets and write out large checks in order to fulfill the demands of our families as well as support our national economy. But enough about tax season; let’s talk about Girl Scout cookies.

Mistletoe, Rudy, and Coconut Dream ripoffs

[x_pullquote type=”right”]The Girl Scouts of America first had the idea to sell cookies in order to ruin the diets of every living American back in 1917, when cookies were probably made out of sawdust and hope.[/x_pullquote]The Girl Scouts of America first had the idea to sell cookies in order to ruin the diets of every living American back in 1917, when cookies were probably made out of sawdust and hope. They were first sold by the interestingly named “Mistletoe Troop” in Oklahoma, who I’ll assume did not meet in the same room as the “Spin The Bottle” Boy Scouts. These cookies were not yet the familiar, calorie-bombed versions we love to binge-eat behind our spouse’s backs today, as the girls had to make their own cookies. The 1922 issue of the Girl Scout magazine “American Girl” was the first to feature an article on using cookie sales as a troop fundraiser, as well as a somewhat racy feature on why heartthrob Rudy Valentino was not only the cat’s pajama’s but just plain the duckiest. It wasn’t until 1936 that the national Girl Scout organization began using commercial bakeries, such as Keebler, to manufacture their cookies, although their elves complained bitterly that the Scout’s “Caramel deLites” were just a ripoff of their own Coconut Dreams cookie. Some 125 troops launched cookie sales that year, which consisted of a large task force of Peanut Butter Patties proceeding up the middle of the main battle line, with 20 elite tactical troops waving boxes of Thin Mints attacking from both sides, producing a pincer effect which essentially brought America to it’s gluttonous knees.

Mrs. Brubaker’s Motivational Enhancement Therapy

As incentives to sell, Girl Scouts are offered prizes such as coupons, stuffed animals, recognition, and the promise that they will not have to sell any more Girl Scout cookies for at least a year. Girls can also choose to earn money for their troop in order to pay for such things as uniforms because Mrs. Brubaker used the troop dues to support her yearly “Motivational Enhancement Therapy” in Vegas again. Each regional council sets the price for their cookies, which has led to some controversy as illegal cookie syndicates have sprung up between neighboring towns, with rival gangs of minivan-driving moms making midnight runs of Peanut Butter Patties to sell to cutthroat cookie brokers for a profit. This has the added benefit of teaching the girls the vital position of graft in our society. Today, Girl Scout Cookies are a $700 million empire, with sales of over 200 million cookie boxes a year, enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to contract Type 2 diabetes in a week.

Girl Scout Cookie facts

  • Until recently, the record for most cookies ever sold was set by Elisabeth Brinton, who sold 18,000 boxes in a single season while garnering 122 walks and only 23 strikeouts. She even sold cookies to then-President Ronald Reagan, who immediately made her Secretary of Commerce.
  • In 1943, Girl Scouts collected fat in cans in order to aid the war effort. Ironically, today it is the cookie customers who collect fat in their cans.
  • The most popular cookie variety is the Thin Mint (25% of overall cookie sales), which is used as currency in some Indonesian countries.
  • There is an (unsanctioned) variety of marijuana called “Girl Scout Cookies”, which can be grown only with the tears of a Brownie who didn’t get her merit badge in horticulture.
  • “Golden Yangles”, “Kookaburras”, “Golden Nut Clusters”, and “Van’Chos” are not slang terms for diseases the Army warns you about in their training films, but some of the many types of cookies which are no longer made.

So the next time you’re thinking about dieting, you silly overweight American, just remember that extra box of Thin Mints you hid under the fish sticks in the deep freeze when your spouse wasn’t looking. Remember, we’re here to help.

Don’t Get Your Gootch In A Sneedle: It’s Dr. Seuss
Our murky-mooshy humpf-humpf-a-dumpfer of the most bippo-no-bungus author in history.

Only one author in all of history can claim to have won an Academy Award and depicted Hitler as a turtle. That would be Theodore Giesel, more commonly known as “Dr. Seuss,” much less commonly known as “Jimbo the Cave-Diving Monkey Squirrel,” who sold an estimated 600 million books in his career, many of them containing the word “floob-boober-bab-boober-bubs.”

Steven Seagal vs. the Chartreuse Ovums

Giesel began his career as an advertising illustrator for Standard Oil and a product called “Flit,” which was a bug spray you bought in one of those big old-fashioned cartoony bug sprayers that, pumped once, fumigated your entire house, pets and family, as the bugs back then were all communists. He began to use the pseudonym “Seuss” in college (Geisel actually meant to have the name “Seuss” pronounced “Sue-ice.” Lesser known: he also wanted “Dr.” pronounced as “Dee-Arr-Dot.”) During World War II Giesel supported the war effort by drawing posters and working in the animation department of the Air Force, which was housed in the belly of a B-17 and would drop ink wells and derogatory cartoons on the heads of enemy soldiers. After the war he helped produce the decidedly non-kid-oriented documentary Design for Death, which did not star Steven Seagal as an undercover dressmaker in Cold War Moscow, but nevertheless won the Academy Award for “Documentary Not Using Made-Up Words Such As ‘Squitsch’, ‘Grickly Grucktus’, or ‘Gootch’.” It wasn’t until after the war that Seuss’s career began to take off, with a string of hits in the 50s including Horton Hears a Who!, The Cat in the Hat, and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. One of his most popular works was the result of a bet he made with his publisher that he couldn’t write a story using only 50 words, and none of them dirty. Seuss took the bet and wrote Green Eggs and Ham, which ranks 3rd in the most popular children’s books of all time, and contains such famous lines which, for copyright reasons, we cannot reprint here, but go something like:

“Do you prefer
Chartreuse ovums and the cured flesh from a domesticated porcine animal?
I do not prefer them, Sam, the self-aware antagonist
I do not prefer
Chartreuse ovums and the cured flesh from a domesticated porcine animal.”

Sloo-Slunkers and Amphibrachic Tetrameter

[x_pullquote type=”right”]Geisel wrote most of his books with anapestic tetrameter, a particularly virulent form of poetic arthritis that caused him to rhyme in four rhythmic units.[/x_pullquote]Geisel wrote most of his books with anapestic tetrameter, a particularly virulent form of poetic arthritis that caused him to rhyme in four rhythmic units. In later years, such as when he was writing “If I Ran The Circus,” he also suffered from amphibrachic tetrameter, a debilitating attack on the metrical foot consisting of a long syllable between two short syllables. Despite this, he was able to live a full, normal life, although he fathered no children. Most of Geisel’s artwork had a tendency to be somewhat rounded and droopy with no straight lines, indicating that he either was working in a hot studio or his ruler was broken. His post-war work was mostly in black and white sketch form, as color for the book and film industry was still being rationed, as can be seen in every Three Stooges short of the time. Later books, such as 1971’s “The Lorax,” used multiple colors, mixing bright greens, oranges, and purples, because it was the 70s, and no one knew any better because they were too worried about the width of their bell-bottoms. Some of his books have even been turned into full-blown Hollywood-style money-vacuuming motion pictures, which we’re going to pretend never happened, seeing as how none of them can hold a sloo-slunker to the classic Chuck Jones version of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

So no matter the color of your sneedle, or if you don’t know your zong from your diffendoofer, or if your turtle is a fascist, or if your belly has a star or just navel fuzz, or if you’re young or really old; I mean, like so old you can remember when there were pay phones, you can still enjoy the work of that guy who’s name I forgot because this sentence was too long.

Photo Credit: Jim Larrison cc

I Don’t Ever Not Care If I Don’t Never Not Get Back (Cracker Jack)
Stick around for a doolalley of a column on America's oldest snack.

Cracker Jack is a uniquely American snack surprisingly made from neither crackers nor jacks, but molasses-flavored popcorn and peanuts. It was invented in the late 19th century (Official Motto: “Anyone Want To Buy A Bunch Of Buggy Whips Cheap?”) by Frederick William Rueckheim, a Chicago popcorn vendor who developed the now closely-guarded secret method of keeping molasses-coated popcorn kernels from clumping together by [redacted by Frito Lay company], and that’s how babies are made. Fritz, as he was called, produced the first batch of his new confection in 1896, and trademarked the “Cracker Jack” name later that year. The name was taken after an unusually excited customer, after tasting it, proclaimed “that’s a crackerjack!”, which, not to drive you all doolally and take the gilt off the gingerbread, but at the time meant it was the cat’s meow of a dressed to the nine’s bee’s knees sitting in the catbird seat, by a long chalk. The name stuck like a hot glob of molasses on a doolally, and Cracker Jack began selling like hotcakes, albeit hotcakes made from peanuts and molasses-coated popcorn using the super-secret method of [redacted by Frito Lay company], and that’s how we beat the Nazis in the Big War. Fritz quickly registered the Cracker Jack name, along with the slogan “The More You Eat The More You Want,” which it obviously did not steal from the National School Lunch Association.

Save your sous for your grammatical hissy fit

Cracker Jack’s long association with the game of baseball began in 1908 when songwriting team Jack “No, Not The Cracker Kind” Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer wrote the song “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” containing the line “Ev’ry sou, Katie blew,” which even the hipsters and doolallies of the time didn’t get. But it also featured the line “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back,” which is now traditionally sung during a baseball game’s “Seventh Inning Stretch,” assuring that generations of stuffy ex-English teachers would throw a grammatical hissy fit because of its use of a double-negative. Nevertheless, the song has unmistakably cemented Cracker Jack and baseball together like a hot glob of molasses on a bee’s knee, and it is still as common a sight at ballparks across America as that drunk guy and his loud friends who always sit behind you at every game.

Hippo Vaughn and the Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs

One of the hallmarks of Cracker Jack that separate it from it’s rival candy-coated popcorn products such as Fiddle Faddle, Poppycock, Screaming Yellow Zonkers or Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs is not only that it surprisingly has the least ridiculous-sounding name, but its inclusion of a “prize” inside, although all you apparently have to do to “win” the prize is to be able to eat candy-coated popcorn and peanuts. Prizes were placed in boxes starting in 1912 and originally were called a “Toy Surprise,” because anyone discovering the “toy surprise” was “surprised” to find a baseball card was called a “toy.” However, if you happen to be an approximately 105-year-old boy with a 1915 Cracker Jack “Hippo Vaughn” card in mint condition, you could sell it for $15,000, provided you hadn’t already died from a mirth-induced heart attack from laughing at the name “Hippo.” Longtime fans of Cracker Jack have lamented the quality of the recent prizes, however, which have been reduced to stickers, paper puzzles and lame jokes that would make even Bazooka Joe cringe.

So next time you’re at the ballpark, remember to remember past remembrances by remembering to get some Cracker Jack, and enjoy the sweet caramel goodness of Fritz Rueckheim’s famous recipe made by [redacted by Frito Lay company] and then the robots will come to destroy us.

Photo Credit: JeepersMedia cc

Tree Sap, Science, and Bazooka Joe’s Real Name (Chewing Gum)
We ruminate on (but don't swallow) the history of our most favorite inedible hydrocarbon polymer.

Chewing gum is a soft, flavored confectionery designed for maximum adherence to minivan carpets. It is also used for freshening breath, blowing bubbles, popping bubbles in order to annoy coworkers, and for reminding smokers that their doctor was right: nicotine is really addictive.

Tree sap vs. Manilkara zapota van Royen

[x_pullquote type=”right”]The first gum chewers voluntarily put into their faces the same thing that sticks to our hands for a week after putting up a Christmas tree.[/x_pullquote]Varieties of substances have been chewed for enjoyment by humans for centuries: ancient man chewed aromatic twigs from trees, ancient woman then chewed ancient man for chewing twigs when he should have been hunting wild animals they could chew for food, while the wild animals in turn chewed ancient woman while ancient man was out not hunting them, completing the great, masticating circle of life. Then, somewhere around the mid 1860s, American John Bacon “Yes, That’s My Real Middle Name” Curtis and his exemplary 19th-century beard created and sold the first commercial chewing gum, which he named “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”, an appropriate name considering IT WAS MADE FROM TREE SAP. Yes, the first gum chewers voluntarily put into their faces the same thing that sticks to our hands for a week after putting up a Christmas tree. Around that same time chicle, a rubbery tree sap made from the sapodilla tree, a member of the family Sapotaceae, known botanically as Manilkara zapota van Royen (syns. M. achras Fosb., M.) blah blah science was brought to the US by Mexican President General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de “Long Name” Lebrón. President Long Name gave the gummy sap to his former secretary Thomas Adams (not the Thomas Adams who was the Lord Mayor of London, or the son of U.S. President John Adams, or the Commander-in-Chief of India, or the English organist and composer, or the English bookseller and publisher, or the English Nottingham lace manufacturer and philanthropist, etc.). Adams first intended to use the substance as a replacement for rubber tires, but after realizing no one wanted to drive around on thin, pink wheels that popped every two feet and stuck all over your fenders, he naturally switched to using chicle to manufacture gum. He marketed this first product in 1871 as “Adams New York Chewing Gum” because the name “Most Boring Gum Name In The Universe” was already taken by the aforementioned “State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum”, and soon gums such as Chiclets and Black Jack dominated the market.

The dawn of Dubble Bubble, plus: more science

The first successful gum designed specifically for blowing bubbles (previous test versions had caused hideous disfigurement) was invented by Walter Diemer for the Fleer company in 1928 (Official Motto: “Thanks a Lot For Warning Us About The Stock Market Crash, History”). Called “Dubble Bubble“, it was an immediate hit among school children because it deliberately misspelled “double” and their teachers couldn’t do a thing about it. The 1930s and 40s saw the replacement of chicle with synthetic substances; primarily hydrocarbon polymers such as styrene-butadiene rubber, isobutylene, isoprene copolymer, paraffin wax, blah blah more science. Although flavors and gimmicks, such as dental industry-mandated sugarless gum or bacon gumballs, have been added over the years, modern chewing gum has changed little since its inception, except for the parts about it coming from tree sap and tasting like tree sap and smelling like tree sap and sticking to your face like tree sap and also not being pink.

Chewing gum facts

    • The world’s oldest piece of chewing gum is over 9,000 years old. And, yes, it tastes horrible.
    • Chewing gum while cutting onions can keep you from crying. Conversely, chewing onions while cutting gum causes those around you to laugh uncontrollably.
    • If bubble gum gets stuck in your hair, congratulations! You’re not bald. You can remove it by rubbing the stuck gum with peanut butter. To remove the peanut butter, sprinkle cornstarch on the area and let stand for 15 minutes. To remove the cornstarch, dab it with chewing gum.
    • The largest bubble ever blown was 23 inches in diameter by Susan Williams of Fresno, California, who is still presumed to be floating somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
    • One of bubble gum’s most famous icons is Bazooka Joe, who, curiously, is actually armed with a Smith and Wesson Model 460V Revolver and whose real name was “Alphonse LeCribbage”.
    • The Topps card company began packing gum in their baseball card sets in order to teach kids about the dangers of chewing pink cardboard.
    • A common myth is that if you swallow chewing gum a watermelon will grow in your stomach. This, of course, is not true; watermelon’s grow in your pancreas. Swallowed gum is processed normally through the digestive system, where it is excreted and used to make circus peanuts.
Photo Credit: patrick_damiano cc