Friday, September 30, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #10: Boobies, Knockers, Ta-Tas, Hooters...You know, BREASTS!

I have a confession to make. Sometimes it's hard for me to come up with themes or, for that matter, unrelated lists of stuff to write about in these columns. So, last night, I asked some of my buddies what they'd like me to write about. Plenty of great ideas were offered, but my friend and fellow blogger Christina Majaski came up with one I couldn't resist: boobs.

“You can't go wrong with boobs,” she said.

“That will certainly generate a lot of traffic,” I replied, and so this week's edition of Fun Friday Facts was born.

Enjoy! ~ brbyug

1) In the United States alone, there are estimated to be about four million fake boobies. That's a lot of fake boobies. That means two million American women are susceptible to the dangerous health complications associated with breast implants, which, as I've discussed before, can include hardening ofthe implants to a rock-like consistency.

2) Not only that, but ladies who get breast implants seem to be as much as three times more likely to commit suicide. Researchers believe that's nothing to due with the toxic effects of the implants themselves. Instead, they suspect that many women who get breast implants may be suffering from underlying psychological issues, such as hating themselves.

These will not solve your problems, honey.

3) The first successful breast augmentation surgery was performed in 1895, by a surgeon called Vincenz Czerny. Czerny performed this procedure to correct the shape of his patient's breast after tumor removal. He used some of the patient's own body fat, a technique still used today.

Most early breast augmentations weren't so successful, however. Surgeons used all manner of horrifying things to augment patients' breasts, including paraffin wax injections, glass balls, sponges, wool, ground rubber, wads of tape, and ox cartilage.

Screw it, let's just cram something in there. ~ US Navy

Surgeons in the 1940s and 1950s attempted injecting the breasts with surgical fillers, usually silicone, which backfired disastrously. The 50,000 women who had this procedure latter need mastectomies.

Silicone gel implants of the type still used today came along in 1961. American surgeons Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin invented them.

And there was much rejoicing. 

4) A lady's breasts tend to sag as she gets older. That's because the breasts continue to accumulate fatty tissue over time. Instead of making the breasts larger, as one might hope, they just contribute to the hard work done by gravity.

Sleeping on your stomach can also contribute to breast sagging, because it can gradually stretch the skin of the breast and change its shape. Apparently, you're supposed to sleep on your side, with a pillow under your boobs, to support them.

Smoking cigarettes will also cause your breasts to sag. That's because smoking cigarettes sucks the life right out of you.

Damn straight.

5) Various types of bras have been worn throughout history. The earliest bras date back to at least the 14 century BC, so they're not quite as old as flush toilets, but hey, that's still pretty old. Corsets and corset-like garments were popular in both the East and the West from about the 1500s to the second World War.

Herminie Cadolle, a Frenchwoman, invented the first modern brassiere in 1889. Commercial manufacture of bras began in the 1930s. Bras and elastic girdles gained popularity during WWII, when metal rationing prevented the wide-scale manufacture of traditional corsets. The girdle slowly fell out of favor during the later half of the 20th century.

Thank God.

6) As it so happens, men have nipples for a reason.

Who knew?

Under the right conditions, men can produce breastmilk. Famine, especially when combined with prolonged, strenuous physical activity, can stimulate the man's brain to produce prolactin, the hormone responsible for breastmilk production, usually after proper nutrition is restored. Certain drugs, including those given to cancer patients, or any drug that affects the pituitary gland, can also stimulate male lactation.

Some evidence suggests that fathers will produce these hormones by simply offering their babies a breast (if you wanna call it that). In 2002, a Sri Lankan widower began suckling his baby daughter when she refused to drink powdered formula. To his surprise, he began producing milk and was able to feed the girl.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Stay Out of the Friend Zone

If you're a human being living on Planet Earth, you know what the Friend Zone is. It's the place a woman knocks a guy back to when she says, “Yeah, I really like you, a friend.”

Men hate this sh*t. They mill around on the Internet and in the bars b*tching and moaning about how they've put so much time and effort into some woman at some point, and then she wouldn't even reciprocate with a single f*ck. That b*tch, stringing him along like that. They seem to think it's some kind of cruel joke.

Because women are objects, right? And you can totally buy us – if not with cash, then with a less tangible investment of acting like a doormat, right?


Once you're in the Friend Zone, the only thing you can do to get back out again is slay a freakin' dragon. Since dragons went extinct sometime around the Merovingian Dynasty, that's no longer an option. The best you can hope for is to stay out of the Friend Zone altogether.

Most girlies aren't heartless b*tches who like taking advantage of poor, can't-get-a-break “nice guys.” We aren't total idiots who keep dating a**holes because we don't know any better. Well, okay, yeah, but most of us learn our lesson by the time we reach our late 20s. That's why Douchebag's girlfriend is always 22, by the way.

I've been reading about evolutionary mating psychology lately, and thinking a lot about my personal experiences, and I've developed a theory.


Women are socially-oriented creatures. We like to make everyone feel safe, accepted and equal (at least to their faces).

Women are physically smaller and weaker than men.

Well...most women. ~ roonb

We're also more physically vulnerable, especially when we're pregnant, giving birth, or looking after young children. For millions of years, we've relied on strength in numbers to keep us safe from things like the rapists in the next tribe and that goldang cave bear we keep telling the chief to just freaking kill, already.

Don't come crying to me when it eats you. ~ Sergiodlarosa

Over the millennia, women have evolved to value strong social bonds, and many of us seem to have an inborn understanding of how to form and maintain those bonds. To make everyone feel safe, accepted and equal, you have to be gentle with people's feelings, and refrain from pissing anyone off.

This is why I don't have many friends.

Often, when a woman says, “I really like you, a friend,” what she really means is, “Please. Just. Go. Away.”

But she won't say that, because the tag-team of evolution and social conditioning have squeezed those impulses right out of her.

Over the past few decades, modern men have learned that modern women want kind, sensitive, supportive guys who will stick around to help them raise the babies. Actually, women have always wanted men who will stick around, and we managed, over thousands of years, to erect societal monoliths geared toward forcing men to provide for their spawn. We call these institutions “marriage” and “family” and they have probably been with us since around the time we started wearing clothes.

Then some chemist invented LSD, the Sexual Revolution happened, people decided that marriage was obsolete and it all went to sh*t.

Very colorful sh*t.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm glad I can have casual, drunken sex, without getting burned at the stake. I'm glad I can wear trousers and pursue a career (without getting burned at the stake). I'm glad I don't have to depend on a man, or men, for my very survival (vis à vis not getting burned at the stake). I'm glad that I, and women all over the Western world, are pursuing long-term relationships based on mutual happiness, rather than politics or economics or not getting burned at the stake.

Not cool, dude, not cool.

Until about 40 or 50 years ago, Western men didn't have to worry too much about having feelings and changing diapers. That was the woman's job, and if she wanted to eat, she'd do it.

Today's men seem to be struggling a little with the “kind and sensitive” part. You can't blame them, because fifty years won't erase millions of years of breeding. Besides, a fella could easily get confused. He hears us say we want kind, sensitive men, but he sees us hooking up with a**holes left and right.

Women, he might eventually conclude, are either lying, or they're fickle, brainless creatures who really don't know what they want. For the most part, neither of these conclusions is the correct one. There are, I think, at least three elements to this:

1) Douche-y guys are virile and provide strong, healthy offspring with good genes. If they didn't, there wouldn't be so many of them around. Back in the Stone Age, if not today, it was in a woman's best interests, for her own survival and that of her children, to find a man who would protect her from the cavebear. There weren't any who's-your-daddy tests back then, though, so the men who fathered the most children by the most women passed their philandering genes on down for the rest of us to b*tch about.
Thanks but no thanks, a**hole.

2) Douche-y guys are confident. I don't know if that's the result of genetics, or the result of thinking you're the hottest thing on feet, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was the latter.

We ladies like confidence. A confident man doesn't grovel endlessly. He doesn't need to be peeled off of us every time we leave the house. He doesn't weigh us down with needy, clingy, you-make-all-the-decisions-because-I-am-utterly-helpless bullshit. He takes some responsibility for himself and his own happiness. 

3) As usually happens when men attempt to understand women or vice versa, there's been a misunderstanding. When a woman says she's looking for a kind, sensitive man, there's a part of that statement that goes unspoken. We are looking for kind, sensitive (attractive, well-groomed) men who are secure in themselves and not afraid to show their interest from the start. 

That part is vital. When you pass yourself off as a friend, that's exactly what we take you for – a friend. Many women don't understand the “Men are always interested” rule, so we think your friendly overtures are, you know, friendly. You guys, on the other hand, seem to take female friendliness for flirtatiousness. What it is, in fact, is friendliness.

Establishing a friendship with ulterior motives is therefore a form of betrayal.

Not only that, but it makes you look like a spineless ninny who's not even brave enough to ask a girl out. If you can't do that, what are you going to do when the Zombie Apocalypse comes?

Sorry, this spot's taken. ~ Dennis Matheson

We're not in middle school anymore. Try doing something radical and unheard-of, like asking her out when you first realize you like her. Hanging around for two months of Grey's Anatomy and shopping trips with the girls is not the way to make yourself look manly.

In other words, grow a pair. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

5 More Things that Freak Me Out

I recently blogged about hairless cats, which are among the things that freak me out. I'd rather caress a bearded water dragon than one of those things, and bearded water dragons are not what you'd call “cuddly.”

Definitely not.

You might be surprised to learn that hairless cats are not the only things that freak me out. Additional entries on this rather long list include:

1) Spiders

I wouldn't say I was terrified of spiders. Once upon a time I was, but now I've reached an accord with the spiders. I saw this was necessary in 2002, when I moved into an apartment infested with big, furry brown ones. They reared up threateningly when I approached, waving their hairy little forelegs and looking at me through their thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of eyes.

So I killed them all. I launched a full-on genocide. With bug spray, newspapers, my boot, you name it. I sucked a particularly big one up in the vacuum cleaner, then spent the rest of the day convinced that it was alive in there, somehow, and that it was going to crawl out and get me, in the night.

Or send its cousins to avenge it ~ samcatchesides

With the spiders gone, flies took over the apartment. Flies, as it turns out, are much harder to kill, and infinitely more annoying.

So...I accept spiders. As long as they stay over there, and mind their own business, and don't build their webs across my bedroom door like that one did.

It learned its lesson...the hard way. 

2) Going to the Bank

I shouldn't be afraid to go to the bank. I know I'm just going to wait in line, like I've done a thousand times before, until it's my turn, at which point I'm going to conduct my business, and depart, like I've done a thousand times before. The teller doesn't leap across the desk and rip the throat out of every 100th customer. I'm not in any danger. There's nothing particularly scary about the bank, except I guess for the threat of bank robbers, which you can't stop thinking about because all the tellers these days stand behind bulletproof glass.

3) Any Teeny, Tiny, Trivial Health Complaint

I'll admit it – I'm a total hypochondriac. Got a cough? Cancer! Stomachache? Cancer! Mysterious bruise? DOUBLE CANCER!

I try not to bring these things up in everyday conversation. Some people seem to think I'm actually making a really bad joke, and get all pissy, because “there are people who actually have cancer, you know.”

Yeah, I do know, and I'm actually kind of worried that I'm one of them.

Others get all, “You shouldn't say that, it might happen!”

Logically, I know that saying a thing doesn't make it happen. If it did, then monkeys would fly out of my ass right now.

Nope, no monkeys.

But hearing you say it doesn't help.

My friends know that I'm just looking for reassurance. I understand they're not doctors, but I learned a long time ago that doctors will roll their eyes if you keep asking them about every little thing. That doesn't mean my friends won't get annoyed if I go on about it constantly. They will, and I know it. I'm crazy, not stupid.

Everyone knows that I'm nuts, but there's no need to make it any worse. When some a**hole who doesn't even know me asks my friend why she'd ever want to hang out with a nutter like me, it's probably best if she doesn't stop and say to herself, “Actually, I don't know, she's always going on about having cancer.”

4) Going to the Dentist

Lots of people are afraid of the dentist. There's the pain, the needles, the freaking power tools in my mouth, the masked man sticking his fingers down my throat. As if all that weren't bad enough, I'm terrified the dentist will lecture me about not using mouthwash or some stupid sh*t like that, and then I'll feel bad about myself for a couple of hours. That's lame, isn't it? Of all the scary things about dentistry, the least of them should be slight and temporary damage to my self-esteem. Especially since I'll probably die of double-tooth-cancer while I'm still in the waiting room.

5) Dishwasher-Safe Dildos

Because why? Just, why?!? Knowing that there are people out there who put dildos in the dishwasher just makes me freaking shudder. In there with your dishes, that you're going to eat from. Eeeeeewwwwwww.

Yeah, yeah, I know the water in the dishwasher is mega-hot and there's no way in hell any germs or creepy crawlies are gonna come through that alive. It's just the idea of the thing. It's disgusting. Can't you wash them by hand? It's just like washing a cucumber.

On the other hand, I guess if it's easier to run a whole load... ~  Towsunu2003

Friday, September 23, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #9: More Things From History

1) The oldest piece of chewing gum ever found is believed to be at least 5,000 years old, if not older. A Scottish archeology student named Sarah Pickin found the gum in Finland in 2007. Pickin told reporters that she first thought the gum “might have been a bit of fossilised poo,” which makes archeology suddenly sound disgusting.

Pickin consulted her colleagues, and everyone agreed that the filthy little lump appeared to be a piece of birch-bark tar, which was the Stone Age equivalent of Juicy Fruit. The thing had actual tooth marks in it, which was kind of a tip-off. Ancient people probably chewed this stuff to treat mouth infections.

I bet it tasted like crap. ~ a paulchu shot

2) Flush toilets date back to the 26th century BC. No, I didn't know that either. I would've thought, you know, like 150 years or so. Looks like we were both wrong.

The Indus Valley Civilization, located in what is now northwest India and Pakistan, was an advanced Bronze Age culture with a sophisticated urban sewage system. In the cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, just about every household had a flush toilet.

Flush toilet technology arrived in Greece in the 18th century BC and spread throughout Europe with the Romans. Modern types of sewage disposal disappeared from Europe with the fall of the Roman Empire.

In the late 1500s, Englishman Sir John Harrington designed the first modern flush toilet. This is the one where the cistern hangs on the wall over your head, and you have to yank the chain and hope it doesn't snap.

The first American toilet design was patented in 1857. The general idea didn't really start to catch on until around the turn of the century, when an innovative and profit-minded fellow named Thomas Crapper established a showroom to advertise the toilets, bathtubs and washbasins his company traded in.

Naturally, Crapper slapped his surname all over his toilet tanks.

And we still call them "crappers" to this day. ~Oxyman

3) If any group of people takes the History Crazy Cake, it's the Roman Emperors. Some scholars think it's because the Romans used lead pipes for plumbing, which may have caused widespread brain damage.

To be fair, one or two of the Emperors were not only perfectly sane, but really good rulers. Take Ceasar Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Ceasar, for example. Augustus gets the credit for establishing the 200-year Pax Romana, and for laying the framework that supported Roman civilization for 1500 years after his death, until the fall of the Empire. He gave Rome firemen, policemen, a standing army, a comprehensive highway infrastructure, a postal system, and all kinds of other cool sh*t, like tax collectors.

Many of his successors, however, were batsh*t insane. Nero, for instance, castrated a boy, married him, and then insisted the kid was his wife. He carried on a sexual affair with his own mother, and then attempted to assassinate her – without success – at least five times before finally managing to have her executed.

Most people reckon Caligula was the craziest Emperor, probably because he nominated his horse for public office and believed himself to be the god Jupiter. Bet you didn't know that Caligula started out fairly normal, and then went crazy after suffering a serious illness about six months into his reign.

My personal favorite Crazy Roman Emperor is Elagabalus. He came from Syria, and belonged to a family of priests serving the Sun God El-Gabal. Prior to becoming Emperor at the age of 13, Elagabalus was legitimately considered an actual living god, kind of like the Pharoah, I guess.

Elagabalus set himself up as the head of the Roman pantheon, insisting that everyone in Rome start worshipping him instead of Jupiter. He then started wearing makeup and women's clothes, and whoring himself out from the palace, for reasons presumably unrelated to religion. He took five wives, one of whom was a Vestal Virgin, which was not cool, since they were supposed to be virgins. Of course, it's entirely possible that he never f*cked her, or any of this other wives. He never produced any children, and he seemed to prefer the company of Hierocles, one of his two husbands.

He lasted about four years. Caligula lasted for five years. Nero, one of the most murdering-est of all, lasted for fifteen years. In the Roman Empire, rape, incest, murder, orgies, and torturing people for no reason could be tolerated, but being a cross-dressing homosexual prostitute was just taking things a little too far.

Poor bastard. ~ G. dallorto

4) For some time now, Eygptologists have believed that the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids by hauling huge limestone blocks via sledges and ramps. Some scientists believe that the upper blocks were made of poured concrete, which would take a lot of the huge-block-hauling out of the equation. Ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, believed that the pharaohs used slave labor to build their pyramids, with work forces numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

Herodotus, however, was rather famously full of sh*t, and this pyramid thing was no exception. He wrote about them centuries after the fact, and made use of his awe-inspiring powers of exaggeration when he did so. His view, however, remained the accepted one for centuries, until modern Egyptologists actually tried the rock-dragging thing and discovered that it only takes between eight and 20 men to haul one of these stones, depending on the size of the stone and whether they're dragging it on an flat surface or a slope.

Modern Egyptologists, like Mark Lehner, believe that it would have taken 20,000 to 30,000 men to construct the Great Pyramid. This number includes more than just the stone-dragging grunts – it also takes into account the cooks, carpenters, metal workers and others who supported the manual labor force. Sensibly enough, Lehner points out that fewer laborers would have been needed on a particular pyramid as construction neared its end. 

It's also highly likely that few slaves were used to build the pyramids. Most of the workers were locals who lived in villages erected specifically to house them. Farmers probably also pitched in during the inundation, or yearly flooding of the Nile, when they had nothing better to do. Construction of all the significant pyramids occurred over about two centuries' time. As one pyramid neared completion, they'd start another one, so that everyone had a job of some sort, year-round. The workers were paid in food, and got a day off every ten days.

And that's how you keep an economy going.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

So Many Awards I Don't Know Where to Put Them All

So, as you may have gathered, I've been given another blogging award. I've actually been given two. Friday before last (the day I blogged about birthdays and booze), Christina Majaski at Solitary Mama gave me the Leibster Award, because she loves me. Thanks, Christina. I love you too. * sniff *

Look how shiny!

Even longer ago, on 27 June, Lyn Midnight at Lyn Midnight Against the Odds gave me the Versatile Blogger award, which some of you may have noticed lurking around on the sidebar under my author profile. I have presumably been given this award for versatility in blogging. I guess that's right on, since I've managed to blog about a sh*tload of different topics ranging from good old-fashioned sexism to liquid chicken to hairless cats.

I'm particularly proud of the hairless cats. ~ JLPlusAL

I've been sitting on that one for a while, and Lyn probably thought I was never going to blog about it at all. See, Lyn, I'm full of surprises.

I seriously do not know where to put all these awards. I tried re-arranging the layout of the blog, but that made everything go crazy, so I put it back, and breathed a sigh of relief. I suppose I'll just have to keep sticking them down below my profile and hope for the best.

The trouble with these blog awards is that, according to the rules of engagement, I'm supposed to pass them along to a certain number of other bloggers. This is a problem for me because I don't read that many blogs, and I feel a bit idiotic handing them out to the same people every time. Not that I hear them complaining.

Giving someone a blog award feels like A BIG DECISION. Who am I to go around giving awards? What if the person doesn't want my award? What am I to do then?

I guess I could put that f*ck with all the other ones I don't give.

Besides which, in case you haven't noticed, I kind of have a problem following rules. My high school principal, my mother and at least one former landlady would agree that I have issues with authority.

Present company excluded, of course. ~ elvertbarnes

Ok, the rules for the Leibster Award say that I have to pass it along to at least five other bloggers. The rules for the Versatile Blogger Award say that I have to pass it along to at least fifteen other bloggers (I think), although most people seem to be coming in at between five and eight. I'm not the only one who has a problem following rules.

Both awards require the recipients to thank and link back to the bloggers who bestowed the honor. Check and check.

The Versatile Blogger Award came with a list of questions I was supposed to answer, such as “If you were stranded on a desert island with a monkey, how would you attract the attention of a passing ship,” but I'm not sure I understand what the monkey has to do with it.

Unless it's Cheetah the Chimp, but he's an ape, not a monkey. ~ Thomas Lersch

So I'm going to break the rules (gasp!) and change the questions! Well, at least some of the questions. They will surely be interesting as all get-out.

But first, I'm going to go ahead and announce the winners. Since I have two awards to give out, I'm just going to put both on here, and you can go ahead and take whichever one you want. Or both, for all I care. I'm not here to tell you what to do.

And the winners are (envelope puh-lease):

Katie McNemar (@MissKatieMae) at The Dailies. Katie and I have known each other since we were both about knee-high, which is totally NOT the reason I keep giving her awards, honestly, I swear. She runs a sweet little blog over there, especially for those Christians in the group who have stuck around in spite of my wise-cracking about that whole Rapture thing.

Paulie Elliot (@thisispaulie) at This is Paulie. Ok, Paulie doesn't technically exist, but his blog does, and it's awesome. Besides, if I know my Paulie, he loves awards almost as much as he loves politics (and by “politics,” I mean sex). At any rate, I didn't see anything in the rules about existence being a requirement for receiving either of these awards. So, there.

Sarah E. Melville (@sarahemelville) at I Hate Everything. Although I have to say, Sarah, you could pump a whole lot more hatefulness into that blog.

Lyn Midnight (@lynmidnight) at Lyn Midnight Against the Odds. Lyn's given me two awards so far, so now it's time to give something back. Also, she has an awesome blog and is just generally a very nice lady.

Don Stemple (@WV_Paladin) at 21st Century Skeptic, because he is almost as smart as me. You need to blog more often, Don. I know you're a busy man, but don't shirk your responsibilities.

Eden Baylee (@edenbaylee) at Eden Baylee. Eden is ten kinds of cool and probably has all the blog awards she could possibly want by now, but I'm giving her one anyway, because I can and she deserves it. It's the least I can do after she's tweeted the hell out of all my posts, grossed me out with pictures of her fingernails, and made some very pertinent hat recommendations. Don't forget to check out her steamy book, Fall Into Winter (and by "steamy," I mean "sexy").

That's five, right? No, it's six. I'm not great at this counting thing. Good thing I'm not a banker.

If you're following along at home, don't be afraid to check these blogs out. Follow, subscribe by email, leave comments, and share links on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon and wherever else you may be sharing your links. Bloggers love this sort of thing, you guys. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, like swallowing a kitten.

Now, on to the questions:

Q: If you were a vampire, which celebrity would you bite first?

A: I would not bite any of them. I don't give a f*ck about celebrities, as I've established in a previous post. Nor can I think of a single one that I'd like to have hanging around for literally the rest of time. Furthermore, if I've learned anything from the vampire films I have watched and the vampire books I have read, I, as the creator vampire, would probably be personally stuck with this particular celebrity until I personally rammed a stake through his or her heart, chopped off his or her head, stuffed his or her mouth with garlic, left him or her out in the sun, and then chucked his or her ashes into the nearest body of swiftly flowing water. Your celebrity un-life will be ending sometime next week.

Q: What's your middle name? Not your real middle name, your MIDDLE middle name?

A: I'm not sure I understand this one either, but I've already blogged extensively about my weird-ass name, so those of you following along at home already know that my MIDDLE middle name is Prunella.

Q: If you had to go to a desert island, and you could only take one thing with you, what would that object be?

A: A flying carpet.

Q: What is your worst fear?

A: Fish. Seriously. Fun trick: Throw me in the water and see how fast I move if one touches me. Put in some earplugs first.

Q: Describe your best friend in five words.

A: She's a real live wire. (That's a good thing, if you ask me. I'm so nuts you could plant me and I'd grow into a really nice tree. I'm also not as judgmental as you might think, in real life. I save that up for you guys. Aren't you lucky).

Q: What's your current favorite song? What about the annoying one stuck in your head?

A: Don't ask me to pick a favorite song. I could never choose. The other songs might get their feelings hurt. Besides, you'd know more about my musical tastes than I care to reveal at this juncture.

I don't have an earworm at the moment, and thank f*ck for that. Those things make me want to rip my own brain out through my nose with a clothes hanger.

Q: What was the last movie you watched? Did you like it?

A: Megamind. Yes, I liked it. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #8: Medieval Edition

I've always been fascinated by the Middle Ages. I couldn't tell you why, really – it doesn't sound that exciting. No one ever took a bath, people dropped dead over the simplest things and you went to church whether you liked it or not. There was no aspirin or mustache wax and if I'd lived there, I'd have cut my hair and posed as a man.

If I'm gonna have a mustache, I might as well use it.

Thankfully, I don't have to live there, at least not in this incarnation. So I'm going to sit here enjoying my electricity, vaccine-induced antibodies and civil rights, while I tell you guys all about it.

1) As many of you know, the Moors (that's what they called Muslims back then) occupied Spain from about 711 AD until 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and the Moors were evicted from Spain because f*ck them. During that time, Arab civilization, technology, science and culture advanced far, far beyond anything the non-bathing, dead-dropping Christians to the north were able to come up with. Among other things, they invented mathematics, neurosurgery and freakin' parachutes.

Like this one.

And what are parachutes made of? That's right, silk. Know what else was made of silk back then? Burial shrouds. Christian Europe needed a lot of those, on account of all the dying going on, so for hundreds of years, they imported them from Muslim Spain.

The Muslims, being proud craftsmen, marked their work to show it was theirs. These shrouds were expensive, so they were used to wrap up important people – like Saint Cuthbert, who lies in his tomb in Durham Cathedral in a shroud that reads, “There is no God but Allah.”

Joke's on you, Cuthbert.

2) Some scholars believe that King Richard the Lionheart (the one who went to the Crusades and left King John in charge in that Disney movie about Robin Hood), was gay. The evidence? He had no children with his wife, Berengaria, which was kind of a big deal back in the “give me a son or I'll chop off your head” days.  

I mean it, b*tch.

Richard spent so little time with his wife that the Pope had to order him to do so. Their “relations” were said to be “formal,” and what's more, Richard appeared to share a “passionate love” with King Philip of France. By which I mean they ate together, “from the same dish,” slept in the same bed, and presumably gazed into one another's eyes between battles. Some historians like to think that this behavior was purely political and not at all sexual, merely symbolic of the union between the two countries.

Uh-huh. Right.

Richard was Catholic, and Catholics have to confess their sins. In the Middle Ages, people often did this publicly, up in the pulpit, in front of the whole church. Guess what Richard repeatedly confessed to?

If you guessed "boning this guy," you win one (1) Internet.

3) In Europe during the Middle Ages, drinking water wasn't very safe. Wine and beer were popular substitutes – wine for the nobility, beer for the peasants. Hard liquor became popular around the time of the Black Death of 1347-1351. Everyone was dropping dead and medicines seemed useless. Every medicine, that is, except for booze.

Sweet, sweet booze. ~ xlibber

Liquor alone appeared to revive plague victims and restore them to some state of strength. Medieval doctors logically deduced that maybe getting dead drunk could keep you from getting actually dead. So, for about three hundred years, everyone in Europe drank until they couldn't flee the witch hunters. They still caught plague and died, but at least they didn't give a sh*t.

Today, the tradition continues. ~ senator86

4) Ok, so I lied to you about the bathing. I wanted to see who would stop reading right now and rush to the comments to tell me off.

There's always one. ~ bisgovik

People in the Middle Ages did bathe. I know it's fun to think of people in the past as stupid and disgusting, but plenty of people in the present are stupid and disgusting, too, and pointing that out is much more gratifying. Bath houses existed, and flourished until the time of the Protestant Reformation, when uptightness got the better of us. Wooden bathtubs were common, and baths probably occurred at intervals ranging from daily to monthly, depending on the person. Just like some people today, some people back then couldn't be bothered to bathe.

Etiquette manuals of the time suggested cleaning the hands, face, teeth and fingernails daily. Hair was usually washed in a bowl of warm water. Fragrant herbs or rose petals were sometimes added to the water, and perfumed powders were often applied after bathing.

5) Remember how I told you that Muslim civilization was far more advanced than Christian civilization? That being the case, many young men traveled to Spain to get an education. One of these men was Gerbert d'Aurillac, who became the first French pope, Pope Sylvester II. He's credited with reforming European education by emphasing the importance of rhetoric, logic and grammar in monastery schools. He introduced the Arabic numeral system to Europe, helped to standardize the use of the abacus, and revolutionized European astronomy with a gadget called the armillary sphere, or spherical astrolabe.

This thing. It's important. Trust me.

Of course, you don't get to change the world without catching some sh*t. People accused Gerbert d'Aurillac of dark sorcery and cahooting with the Devil.

Pictured here. 

Rumor held that Gerbert won his papal office in a game of dice with Satan, fiddling contests having not yet been invented. Others believed he'd stolen his Muslim teacher's spellbook, and then used it to evade the man's pursuit. He was said to have built a mechanical head, which answered his yes-or-no questions, like a Magic 8-Ball for the 10th century AD.

I bet he got sick of hearing "Ask again later" real damn fast.  

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #7: Birthdays and Booze Edition

Just so you know, my birthday was last Tuesday. But I'm celebrating it tonight, because it's my damn birthday and I can do it when I want.

I was going to blog about birthday facts, but then I realized there aren't that many birthday facts. I was about to collapse in a heap of despair, when I realized there's something else commonly associated with birthdays – or at least, commonly associated with mine:


Yeah, baby. ~ P.L. Armstrong

So this is going to be the birthday booze-up edition of Fun Friday Facts. Brace yourselves.

1) Which came first, the birthday party or the booze-up? Well, it looks like the booze-up did. Historians trace the production of the first alcoholic beverages back to 10,000 BC. That's the Stone Age, you guys.
What was that first alcoholic beverage, you ask? Why, none other than beer.

Yummy, yummy beer.

Wine didn't come along until four to five thousand years later, which is why it is inherently not as good.

2) Birthday parties, on the other hand, probably didn't appear until between 800 and 600 BC, in ancient Greece. I say probably, because there appears to have been some scholarly debate on the subject.

Scholars are a lively bunch.

Many historians credit the Greeks with the invention of birthday cakes and candles. They placed their illuminated cakes in the temple of Artemis, with the idea that the smoke and flame of the candles would carry their wishes up to her.

Others believe that the tradition originated in Germany in the Middle Ages, as a way of pleasing children.

There are worse reasons ~ Joonasi

3) The American Temperance Movement, a social movement that sought to eliminate alcohol from society altogether, began in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1789. The movement eventually led to Prohibition, the 1919 Constitutional Amendment that forbid the production, sale, transporit, import or export of alcohol in the United States. This bullsh*t lasted until 1933, when a combination of bootlegging-related gang violence and falling tax revenues convinced the government that banning booze was a baaaaad idea. Also, it was the Great Depression, and we desperately needed a drink.

4) It's widely believed that, among pre-Christian pagan cultures, people were considered especially vulnerable to magical incantations and general supernatural shenanigans on their birthdays. Friends and relatives therefore began the tradition of visiting the birthday boy or girl and loudly wishing them happiness and luck, as a means of deflecting any black magic that may have been chucked their way.

Otherwise, this might happen.
5) Okay, I told you fact number three so I could tell you this one: The National Temperance Society and Publishing House was founded in New York in 1865. Between 1865 and 1925 the organization published more than one billion pages of teetotalers' literature. Its three monthly periodicals reached a combined circulation of about 600,000. The Society also produced more than 2,000 books and leaflets, because they had a lot to say about the evils of drink.

Today, the structure in which the National Temperance Society and Publishing House was located has been converted into a bar.

Take that, Prohibition! ~ xlibber