Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: My Year in Review

This isn't going to be your average year-in-review post. That's because I've been abroad and therefore mostly out of touch with American culture, except for what's leaked through on Memebase and Facebook. Besides, there are only about a bajillion year-in-review posts out there by now, with more on the way, so I'm sure you've had enough of all that pop culture bullsh*t by now.

In any case, I am so much more interesting than all of that.

So, instead, you're going to get the highlights of my year. Brace yourselves, kids, here it is – My Year in Review:

I Found Waldo

He was with Carmen San Diego. They're living with Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, D.B. Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa. I can't tell you where, though, obviously.

But it looked like this.

I Defeated an Ancient Vampire...Well, I Presume He was Ancient

It was a dark and stormy night. I was traveling through the mountains of Transylvania by rickety stagecoach, as you do, when the stagecoach broke down. Well, the stagecoach itself didn't break down, but the horse pulling it suddenly keeled over stone dead of, um, pneumonia. Yeah, that's right, pneumonia.

"Cough, cough." ~ BLW

The driver and I were alone. We were miles from the nearest town and we could hear wolves howling in the dark and storm-lashed forest.

“We're miles from the nearest town, and I can hear wolves howling in the dark and storm-lashed forest,” the driver said.

“I know,” I replied, not without pissyness, for the driver was creepy. He had one eye, this dude, and twice as many teeth.

“We'll have to go up to the castle,” the driver said. The evil glittering of his single eye suggested that something was afoot. I suspected vampires, naturally, but being the clever type, I kept my mouth shut.

I am capable of keeping my mouth shut, you know.

Luckily, I know a thing or two about killing vampires, and one should never travel through Transylvanian mountains without a supply of wooden stakes, garlic, holy water and crucifixes, especially not when the night is dark and stormy and your stagecoach driver only has one eye. I staked that sucker the minute I saw him.

“How am I going to get another job in this economy?” the stagecoach driver said, not without pissyness. He spat on the dusty floor and glared at me with his one eye.

“Maybe you and your eye can join the circus,” I suggested.

He was not amused.

I Killed the Butler in the Dining Room with the Lead Pipe

This one's kind of self-explanatory.

I Invented a Time Machine, and Traveled into the Past

And you should thank me, because if I hadn't done, you'd all have been eaten and/or enslaved by Nazi dinosaurs by now.

Like this, but invading Poland. ~ Matt Martyniuk

I Brought Down an International Drug Cartel

I did it with whiskey and toothpicks, just like we used to back in the Old Country.

Grandpa would be proud. ~ Beyond Silence

I Taught a Parrot Sign Language

It was an African Grey Parrot. They're widely regarded as one of the world's most intelligent birds, able to mimic the calls of many other bird species. African Greys are also able to understand colors, numbers, shapes and abstract concepts. They're supposed to have the intellectual capacity of a five-year-old child and the intellectual capacity of a three-year-old child, which means they sometimes throw things at researchers. Some of these birds have been said to develop vocabularies containing hundreds of words.

I called mine “Henry.”

Teaching Henry sign language was a bit tricky, because he didn't have hands, obviously. But I taught him to ruffle his feathers meaningfully. He thought I was an idiot, and didn't hesitate to say so.

"SQUAAAAWK! Dumbass! SQUAAAAWK!"~ Ernst Vikne

A lot of people might think there's no point in teaching a parrot sign language, since they can talk. It's certainly not a good idea to teach one how to open a window latch.

I'll miss you, Henry.

I Found the Lost City of El Dorado

It was under the couch. Who knew it would be so small.

Certainly not the Spaniards.

I Scaled Mt. Everest

Nah, I didn't really.

But I'm totally gonna say I did. ~ Pavel Novak

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #22: New Year's Edition

2012 is almost here, and I know you'll all need something to drunkenly discuss at your parties tomorrow night. Without further delay, here are your Fun Friday New Year's Facts:

1) Like Christmas, New Year's is one of the oldest continuously celebrated holidays in the world. The practice of ringing in a new year dates back at least as far as ancient Babylon, about 4,000 years ago. The Babylonians also invented the New Year's Resolution. They believed that vowing to return borrowed items to their rightful owners, pay off debts and other good stuff would bring them good luck in the year to come.

Actually doing it helps, too, you know.

2) Even today, various cultures around the world celebrate the New Year on different days. The Chinese New Year, for instance, occurs on the first day of the lunar calendar and can be on a different day each year, though it's usually sometime between 20 January and 20 February. Many Muslims also celebrate the New Year on the first day of the lunar calendar. The Iranian New Year typically occurs on the date of the spring equinox, usually 21 March. In Korea, they celebrate both the Gregorian calendar New Year on 1 January, and the lunar calendar New Year, because they know a good thing when they see it.

3) In the West, people have celebrated New Year's Day on 1 January since the time of Julius Caesar. The original Roman calendar, with its 304 days split up into ten months, wasn't accurate, for some reason, so Julius Caesar rectified this by establishing the Julian calendar in 46 BC. This calendar, like the Gregorian calendar we use today, had 365 days, 12 months, and a leap year every four years. The months were all the same lengths and most of them had the same name.

4) Even though Julius Caesar commissioned some of the best scientific minds in Rome to create this new calendar of his, it was still kinda f*cked up. That is, it missed eleven minutes per year. These eleven lost minuted added up, so that, about four centuries later, it was noticed that the calendar was three days too short.

This had the effect of pushing the date of the spring equinox forward a little every few hundred years, so that by the late 16th century AD, the spring equinox was occurring on 11 March, and not on 21 March, where it damn well belonged. It wasn't just spring happening too soon, it was Easter happening too soon, as well. If this had been allowed to go on, Easter could be happening before itself, by now.

And then all hell would break loose. ~ I

Pope Gregory XIII rectified this awful situation by establishing the Gregorian calendar, which most of the world still uses today. It drops three leap years every four centuries, and no one ever notices, because we can't keep track of them anyway.

5) Many people believe that the tradition of celebrating the New Year with food, drink and smooching originated with pagan customs. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church denounced New Year's celebrations, insisting that it was sinful to exchange gifts, get drunk, leave out food for the elves, or any of the other New Year's traditions that flourished in medieval European culture. People kept doing their thing anyway, as people will do, and the Church eventually saw that it wasn't gonna win this one. It established a new religious feast day, the Feast of the Circumcision, on 1 January, since that is the day when, by Jewish custom, baby Jesus would have been circumcised. This may have made it okay for Christians to celebrate the New Year, but I still don't think it's necessary to commemorate the trimming of the holy weiner.

Oh man, look at the expression on Mary's face. Get that woman a drink.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year's Resolutions I Can Keep

The New Year is almost upon us, and in a few days I'll get the opportunity to celebrate one of my favoritest holidays, New Year's Eve. New Year's has always appealed to me. It's a chance to start over afresh, which seems to gain importance with each passing year, as my peers blossom further into adulthood and I, frankly, do not. Not to mention, New Year's Eve seems to require the consumption of large amounts of booze, and I can always get behind that sort of thing.

Or in front of it, as the case may be. ~ P. L. Armstrong

And then, of course, there are the New Year's resolutions. According to statistics, fifty percent of American adults will make a New Year's resolution. I will be one of them. Forty percent of those people will fail before the month is out. I will be one of them.

Not only do I fail, I usually wind up making things worse. I wind up doing the exact opposite of what I'd intended to do and venture so far off track that it's easier to just stay there and start a new colony. 

I keep doing this year after year, despite my long track record of abject and consistent failure. Not once have I quit smoking, quit smoking, quit smoking or quit smoking.

I think it's time to change tacks.

The thing is, self-improvement is hard, especially when you're a paragon of perfection and humility, as am I. My flawless logic whispers sensible things like, “You don't have to start today, you've got the whole year, you know,” or “Why should you need a public holiday as an excuse to start bettering yourself? That's lame,” and before you know it, I'm done for.

So, this year, I'm going to consider some more realistic New Year's resolutions. There are, after all, only two possible outcomes: 1) my inevitable success will increase my self-confidence and improve my life and 2) my predictable failure will lead me to start collecting cats.

BIG F*CKING CATS. ~ Monica Betley

Here are some of the New Year's resolutions I'm considering:

I Will Wax My Mustache More Often

As much fun as it is to stroke thoughtfully, my mustache is not what you'd call culturally acceptable. The average man doesn't fancy a woman with a thicker mustache than his own, and I'm not planning a career in the circus anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, I've always tried to keep the facial hair under control. I rip the mustache, and some of the skin, off my upper lip regularly. I'm not a total monster.

The mustache, however, seems to have a mind of its own. It doesn't “grow back” so much as it “reappears.” One day, I'll be fine, and the next, whaddya know, I've got a freakin' mustache. I'm going to have to take more drastic measures.

I've explained this to the mustache with care and tact, and it seems to understand. We're hoping for the best.

I Will Get Plenty of Sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial to good health, and since I can't seem to quit smoking, I probably ought to hedge my bets. I can use this one as an excuse to take more naps. In fact, I think I'll go take one right now.

Two hours later...

I Will Refrain from Getting Any Fatter than I Already Am

Over the past year or so, I've gained about ten pounds. I was going to resolve to lose those ten pounds, but then I remembered about the failure thing and realized I'd probably just get fatter. Besides, some of that fat has traveled to my bustline, where it is perfectly welcome to stay as long as it likes.

No, I'm not going to show you my tits. Perv.

I managed not to gain any weight over Christmas, so I'm already on the right track.

I Will Smoke More

Tee hee hee.

I Will Go to the Dentist

I'm sure I've already mentioned that I hate the freaking dentist. Power tools in the mouth, masked man, etc. Well, I've made an appointment for 3 January. They're going to tell me that all my teeth are rotting out of my head and that I'm suffering from a systemic tooth infection that's reached my brain and that I'm actually in a coma and my entire adult life has been a dream. I'm bracing myself for this.

It would explain a lot.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #21: Christmas Edition

A Mother Life

Christmas is the day after tomorrow. The dead tree is festooned with baubles, the lights are hanging from the window for some reason, and three boxes of leftover ornaments are still sitting out in the middle of the floor because we're lazy. The gifts, needless to say, have yet to be wrapped.

Here, Faithful Readers, are your facts:

1) According to this probably-reputable website, Charles Dickens originally told Ebeneezer Scrooge to exclaim “Bah, Christmas!” in the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. By changing the catchphrase to “Bah, humbug!” Dickens presumably capitalized on the meaning of the word “humbug,” which was, at the time, “nonsense,” “gibberish,” “jest,”“hoax,” or “impostor.”

Nowadays, of course, it means "crotchety old c*nt who hates Christmas."

2) Speaking of A Christmas Carol, Dickens makes it clear that Bob Cratchitt's son, Tiny Tim, will die if Scrooge continues to deprive his family of the resources they need. Dickens never names Tiny Tim's disease, but it's made clear that a more nutritious diet is key to his recovery. Many literary scholars believe that the boy was dying of rickets, a vitamin D deficiency that causes softening of the bones, osteoporosis, musclar weakness and pain in the joints. It's possible that the smog in 19th century London was thick enough to block out the sunlight, depriving Tiny Tim's body of the opportunity to manufacture its own vitamin D, and these were the days before fortified foods largely eradicted vitamin deficiencies in the developed world.

Other scholars believe that Tiny Tim was suffering from renal tubular acidosis, a kidney disease that disrupts the blood's pH levels. Doctors of the time wouldn't have been able to identify such a disease, any more than they would have been able to identify a vitamin D deficiency. In any case, it's likely that they would have treated Tiny Tim's symptoms with a change of diet.

Me, I'm putting my money on rickets.

3) As many of you are no doubt aware by now, the holiday now known as Christmas is one of the world's oldest excuses to throw a party. Perhaps that's why we make such a big deal of it.

Christmas coincides rather nicely with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, after which the days start getting longer again. Centuries before the birth of Christ, Europeans celebrated the occasion in much the same way they do now, by feasting and drinking. Pre-Christian peoples figured the advent of winter was as good a time as any to slaughter all the livestock, since they wouldn't be able to feed it through the cold months anyway. Fresh meat wasn't as plentiful in the days before refrigeration, so they ate as much as they could as soon as they'd killed it. The year's beer and wine was also well-fermented and ready for drinking right around this same time.


3) When Christianity was a young religion, its biggest holiday was Easter. This made sense, not only because Easter's kind of a big deal, but also because everyone could agree on the correct date. The Bible doesn't specify the date of Jesus's birth, and some people think he must have been born in the spring or summer, because why would shepherds be herding sheep in the middle of winter?

Is there such a thing as a "middle of winter" here? ~ FinnWikiNo/Richardprins

Scholars from Indiana University believe that the Star of Bethlemen may have been an unusual convergence of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which would have created a dazzingly bright “star” on the western horizon on 17 June in the year 2 BC. Such a convergence has not been seen for, oh, about 2,000 years.

The convergence would have occurred in the Leo constellation, which was linked with the Hebrews in the Old Testament. It may have also aligned with the star Regulus, which was associated with kingship. So, theoretically, if some wise men living east of ancient Judea had seen this “star” blazing in the sky, right next to this kingship star, they might have taken it as a sign to hustle their butts to Bethlehem, posthaste.

But I digress. By the fourth century AD, the winter solstice had become Christmas. Pope Julius I established 25 December as the official date of the Christmas feast. It's commonly believed that the growing Catholic Church hoped to win more pagan converts by incorporating this beloved festival, and its already-ancient traditions, into the Catholic calendar.

If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or something like that.

4) All this got Christmas into trouble later on, when the Protestants took over England and discontinued Christmas in 1647, on the grounds that it was bogus and decadent. Maybe if they hadn't done that, they wouldn't have been overthrown by royalists who reinstated Christmas, along with King Charles II, in 1660.

"Bring me some friggin' eggnog."

5) Colonial America wasn't too keen on Christmas either, on account of having been settled by a load of Puritans who didn't go in for such humbug. While Americans in Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and New York happily celebrated Christmas in colonial years, residents of other areas didn't celebrate Christmas at all until late in the 19th century. After the American Revolution, Christmas celebrations lost their luster for most Americans, who saw the holiday as a symbol of British rule.

Christmas came back to the States slowly, and largely due to literary depictions in works by Washington Irving, Clement Clarke Moore and, you guessed it, Charles Dickens. By 1860, fourteen states (and remember, there were a lot fewer of them back then) had declared Christmas an official holiday. On 26 June 1870, the Christmas became a US federal holiday. Today, 91% of Americans claim to celebrate Christmas, including 55% of American atheists.

Atheists like presents, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Another F*cking Christmas Post

As some of you who've been paying attention might have noticed, Christmas and I aren't on the best of terms. I wouldn't say I hate Christmas; hate is kind of a strong word. I wouldn't, for instance, kidnap Christmas, throw it in my trunk, drive it out into the middle of the woods and torture it to death with an icepick, or anything like that. But if I bumped into Christmas at the bar, I'd chat with it as briefly as possible before latching onto somebody else, like New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day – I like those guys.

But not as much as I like Halloween. ~ P.L. Armstrong

The thing about Christmas is, it's not just a holiday. Hell, it's not even a holiday. It's a full-scale stress-a-thon. Christmas is even listed on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a professionally-established list of 43 things that can stress you out enough to make you ill even unto death. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale awards “stress points” to each item on the list, and if you rack up enough of these points in a year's time, you could die.

Not unlike Weight Watchers. ~ John Phelan

And Christmas makes the list. Granted, it's number 42 on the list, but it's still on the list, along with such events as “death of a spouse,” “imprisonment,” and “foreclosure.” Not that I'm freakin' surprised. Just last night, when we were trimming the tree, my grandmother's elderly dog tried to eat a string of lights. Or possibly something on the floor beneath the string of lights. Anyway, it was somewhat stressful.

Also, my phone camera sucks.

I can imagine that Christmas could be really stressful, what with all the caroling, church-attending, card-dispatching, partying, gift-buying, gift-wrapping, awful sweater-wearing, tree-trimming, home illumination, and what not. I've been abroad for the past three Christmases, so, since I didn't have any family around and since I'm a weird recluse anyway, I didn't bother with a lot of celebrating. I recently realized how much I liked it that way, right around the time I set about untangling the first string of lights.

Why do we even need lights? Baby Jesus didn't have lights. ~ Daniel Schwen 

Of course, there's always the media-induced PRESSURE to buy JUST THE RIGHT GIFT and from what I can gather, they'd have you believe you need lots of them, too. I might be the only person in the world who gets her Christmas shopping done in two hours at Wal-Mart. Maybe I'll spend some time on Amazon, if I haven't left it to the last minute.

But you know I have.

Not to mention, there's all the b*tching and moaning about how we're not allowed to say “Merry Christmas” anymore, although you could've fooled me, because I've been saying it regularly for a week and no one's punched me or burst into tears yet.

YET. ~ Malene Thyssen

A healthy amount of eye-rolling is all I need to deal with most of this Christmas-related sh*t. Then, there's the music.

No other holiday, as far as I'm aware, requires us all to play annoying songs for four weeks. You occasionally get some twangy country star crooning about the American Way on the Fourth of July, but that only lasts for a day, and it doesn't take up every second of air time on every station. They don't slip them into your commercial breaks when you're trying to watch Sister Wives. They're unobstrusive.

Years ago, before I became so awesome, I used to work in retail, and I was forced to listen to “Christmas in Killarney” until my head asploded.

It was lucky I was wearing a helmet.

Retail jobs at Christmas time are bad enough without feeling the constant need to deafen yourself with two pencils. You've got some old lady shopping for candles at one in the morning, you've got to turn back up before dawn for the door-buster, you've narrowly escaped being trampled on several occasions and you actually have been trampled at least twice – and to top it all off, you've got to listen to some dumb b*tch cover “Last Christmas” for the umpteenth f*cking time. Honestly, you guys, holidays and music DO NOT MIX.

And that's what drove me to drink. ~ xlibber

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #20: Santa Claus Edition

It's almost Christmas, and you know what that means – any day now, someone will haul a dead tree into the house and coerce me into festooning it with baubles and lights. The best part of all this is getting to use the word “festoon.”

It also means that, in just a few short days, some of us will get visits from that merriest of souls, Santa Claus – or, as I like to call him, Stalker Claus.

He watches you sleep, you know. ~ Matti Matilla

Ever wondered what the deal is with this guy? Here's the scoop:

1) Pop culture myth states the Coca-Cola invented Santa Claus as we know him today – the fat, bearded, jolly elf-creature with the alcoholic-red nose and the cheerfully enabling wife. This, however, isn't true. Our modern Santa Claus is the creation of two men, Clement Clarke Moore and Thomas Nast.

Moore was an Episcopalian minister. In 1822, he decided to amuse his children by writing the now-famous Christmas poem, “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas.” The popular image of Santa Claus as an supernatural entity capable of zipping up and down chimneys and visiting every single child in the world in one night originates from this poem, which Moore, fearing death from embarassment, almost didn't publish.

With a face like that, I'm not surprised.

Moore's poem also gives us the concept of the flying sleigh, the original eight reindeer, and the long-suffering Mrs. Claus. Prior to the 1820s, Santa Claus was a confirmed bachelor.

Thomas Nast, an American political cartoonist, did his part in 1881 when he drew the first modern depiction of Santa Claus. Nast's cartoon depicted Santa with his big white beard, his red, fur-trimmed suit, his workshop at the North Pole, his elves, his sack of toys, and his wife.

2) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a more modern addition to Santa's entourage. Moore's 1822 poem names only eight tiny, aerodynamic reindeer. Poor, beleaguered Rudolph didn't come along until 1939, when Robert L. May, a Montgomery Ward copywriter, wrote the poem as an advertising gimmick.

May's gimmick proved so popular that the 1939 edition sold 2.5 million copies. A 1946 reprint sold more than 3.5 million copies. To date, the poem has been translated into 25 languages, and serves as the basis for the popular television movie, which has been aired yearly since 1964.

3) Most historians that the man who started it all, at least in American culture, was born in Turkey in about 280 AD. His name was Nicholas, and he loved God so much that he eventually became a bishop, and later, a saint. His relics can be found at the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari, Italy, where they were interred after being stolen from their original Turkish location in early 1087.

"We shall honor this man by stealing his bones. Thus sayeth the Lord."

Saint Nicholas was revered for his good works and general holiness. Legend has it that Nicholas who was born into great wealth, traveled the country, distributing money to the needy. In one famous legend, Saint Nicholas came upon the home of a butcher who had murdered three children and was curing their flesh to sell as ham. Not only did Nicholas expose the murderer, he used his prayer-powers to bring the children back to life.

I dunno, he looks pretty shifty-eyed to me.

In another legend, Saint Nicholas heard of a poor man whose three daughters would soon be forced into prostitution, since there was no money to give them dowries. Saint Nicholas came to the man's house in the middle of the night and tossed a sack of gold through the window. The next night, he returned with another sack of gold. On the third night, Saint Nicholas caught wind that the man, now curious to know his benefactor, would be lying in wait outside the house. Saint Nicholas, not wanting to reveal his identity, crept up onto the roof of the house and dropped the third sack of gold down the chimney. It landed in the third daughter's stocking, which had been hanging over the embers to dry.

Hmmm...sounds familiar... ~ Elf

4) The first man to dress up as Santa and sit in a department store was James Edgar. He did this in 1890, in his Brockton, Massachusetts dry goods store. Edgar had to have his Santa costume specially made, and he didn't just sit around the store, either – he got out there and wondered the streets, dressed as a fictional character.

Edgar's gambit really paid off, though – word of the “Santa” in Brockton spread like wild fire and soon parents from all over the state were begged and wheedled into hauling their kids to Edgar's store to see the “real” Santa. Today, you can find a dude in a stained costume sitting in every mall and department store in the country around Christmastime. If you're a Santa and you take your duties seriously, you can go to the International University of Santa Claus and get a Master of Santa Claus.

Like this guy, Jonathan Meath. He has a degree in Santa.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Things That Kinda Freak Me Out: Reborn Dolls

For those of you who don't know, a “reborn” doll is a baby doll that's made to look as realistic as possible. So much so that on at least two separate occasions, police officers have broken into locked cars to rescue what turned out to be a toy.

I bet they were so pissed. ~ zuzu

These dolls are made from vinyl, painted to look like real baby skin. This is achieved by painting the inside of the doll blue, and the outside flesh-colored. Real hairs or mohairs are threaded into the scalp, one at a time. The doll might be weighted, as appropriate for its “age,” and some will have magnets inside the head or mouth for attaching hair bows or pacifiers. Some reborn dolls are heated, make baby sounds, or have gadgets inside them that simulate breathing and a heartbeat. A really fancy reborn doll can cost thousands of dollars. They are sometimes called “living dolls” or, even creepier, “unliving dolls.”

It's a small step from "unliving" to "undead," you know. ~  Donna Lee Originals

Artists began making these creepy little critters in about 1990. Apparently, the doll collecting community wasn't happy with your standard dead porcelain eyes anymore, and wanted something even more soul-destroying. The International Reborn Doll Artists (IRDA) club was born (pun intended).

Some people simply collect them, like you'd collect any doll. While this may not be the wisest use of a n adult person's money, it's not that unusual.

Other people, however, have taken this way, way overboard, and actually treat the dolls just like they're real babies, except, I guess, for the “leaving them alone in a locked car” part.

Reborn dolls come with birth certificates and adoption papers. You can have your doll handcrafted to resemble the baby your grown child used to be, just in case that grown child still loves you at all. Or, you can have the reborn doll handcrafted to resemble your dead or miscarried baby, because nothing says “moving on” like taking a replica of your dead child everywhere you go.

Scientists believe that holding a real baby causes people to release bonding hormones, such as oxytocin, and they suspect that holding reborn dolls may have the same effect. Doctors in the UK have used them to soothe elderly patients. Some psychiatrists support the use of reborn dolls as part of the grieving process for bereaved parents. Others, however, think that's the stupidest thing they've ever heard.

There's some concern that the use of such a doll could inspire the mentally unsound to kidnap a real baby. Others point out that owners of these dolls can easily wreak havoc in social situations by carrying, changing, and, I'd imagine, attempting to feed a piece of plastic.

There are more interesting ways to wreak social havoc. Trust me. 

One lady told Reuters that she bought a reborn doll because her (living) child wanted a sibling and she, the mother, didn't feel like having any more children. When I asked for a little sister or brother, my mother said “No,” and bought me a puppy.

It ran away. ~ NewYorker10021

Some women presumably buy these dolls because they don't want a real baby, what with all the puking, screaming and sh*tting real babies tend to do. Those who carry these dolls in public say they enjoy the positive feedback from strangers, who compliment the “baby's” good behavior. I'd like to know how many of these women respond, “Of course it's well-behaved, it's a doll.”

"Yes, I'm 45 and I carry a doll in public." "I...see..."

Honestly, though, these things are freakin' creepy. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Harrod's has refused to stock them, on the grounds that they might come to life at night and kill the janitor.

Who f*cking knows, man. ~ Donna Lee Originals

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fun Friday Facts #19: Air Travel Edition

Ok, so firstly I owe y'all an apology because I missed last Friday's Fun Facts. I was in the middle of moving back to the U.S. from Europe, and these things are complicated, especially when you're trying to figure out how to fit everything you own into one suitcase. I was going to do it on Saturday/Sunday/Monday/Tuesday but I was still working on the suitcase thing. Eventually I gave up and packed three suitcases. Well, four, if you count the carry-on. I may be a genius, but I'm not a magician.

THIS GUY is a magician. ~ Piotrus

Of course, I know you'll accept my apology and forgive me, because that's what love means, dammit.

In honor of my journey (which involved bad weather, long flight delays and general hellishness), I've decided to make this Friday's Back-on-Track Fun Facts all about AIR TRAVEL. Yay, we love air travel, don't we? Yes, we do.

1) Like toilets and toilet paper, the history of aviation extends back much further than it has any business doing. The first toy plane (or “flying model” as the academics like to call it) was the work of Archytas, a Greek philosopher, in 400 BC.

Greek philosophers were thick on the ground in those days. ~ Marie-Lan Nguyen

The toy, called “The Pigeon,” was shaped like a (you guessed it) pigeon and was probably steam-powered. It flew for about 656 feet (200 meters), which is further than most people are willing to run.

2) The Chinese invented hot air balloons a century later, but it's believed they were used for signalling purposes only. Jacques-Etienne and Joseph-Michel Montgolfier are credited with the first manned hot air balloon flight, which occurred on 15 October 1783. Jacques-Etienne's did briefly ascend in the balloon, he did not release it from its tether, because f*ck that crazy sh*t. The first men to ascend without the tether were Marquis François d'Arlandes and Pilâtre de Rozier, who did so on 21 November 1783.

And they didn't even die.

3) During the Middle Ages, various geniuses began pursuing the dream of flight via hang glider. Early inventors such as Elmer of Malmesbury managed to build gliders that took them as far as 656 feet (200 meters), because that, apparently, is the magic number of early flight experiments. Malmesbury accomplished this feat by jumping off the tower of Malmesbury Abbey. No one knows how tall the tower was back then, but it's believed that Elmer's flight would have lasted about 15 seconds and taken him over numerous structures. He sustained injuries upon landing, because he'd jumped off a f*cking tower.

But it was worth it, because he got this cool window. ~ Radicalrobbo

4) The first person to be killed in an aviation-related accident was Pilâtrede Rozier, the same guy from before. He designed his own balloon, the Rozière balloon, which combined hot air with gases such as helium or hydrogen in order to lift the balloon using less fuel. De Rozier wanted to cross the English channel, and the Montgolfier balloon (designed by that other guy from before) required too much fuel to make the trip.

On 15 June 1785, de Rozier and copilot Pierre Romain set out from Boulogne-sur-Mer on what was to be their final flight. Although they initially seemed to do well, a sudden change in the wind pushed them back to land, and their balloon deflated. They crash-landed near Wimereux, falling about 1500 feet (457 meters).

And they totally died. This is getting depressing. 

4) Since we like feminists around here, the first woman to die in an aviation-related accident was Sophie Blanchard, wife of Jean-Pierre Blanchard, who was only the first professional aviator EVAR. While not the first female aviator, Sophie was pretty famous in her time. She was one of Napoleon's favorites, often entertaining him with ascents from the Champ de Mars in Paris, or commemorating such events as the birth of his son or his marriage to Marie-Louise of Austria. Sophie was famous throughout Europe, on one occasion crossing the Alps and, on another, flying from Rome to Naples in her balloon. More than once, Sophie ascended so far that she lost consciousness. She liked to fly at night, and would sometimes remain in the air until morning.

Sophie Blanchard's balloon was filled with hydrogen gas. Sophie's bi-weekly performances at the Tivoli Gardens in Paris included large fireworks displays. These fireworks were actually attached to the balloon itself. Sophie's final show was meant to use even more fireworks than usual. Fire and hydrogen gas do not mix well.

Not well at all. 

Sophie had been repeatedly warned of the dangers involved here, and, on the night of her death, 6 July 1819, she is said to have hesitated to go up. Finally, Sophie decided to go through with the performance, although witnesses report that she swore it would be her final one.

She was right.