“All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.” — Aristotle
Surprisingly old words:
- SPACESHIP (first print use: 1894)
- ACID RAIN (1858)
- HAIRDRESSER (1771)
- ANTACID (1753)
- HAS-BEEN (1606)
- EARTHLING (1593)
- MILKY WAY (ca. 1384, even earlier in Latin)
Amazingly, light beer (“leoht beor”) first shows up around the year 1000.
The next time you see Star Wars, watch for the scene when a Death Star stormtrooper falls into a chasm before Luke and Leia swing across it. That stormtrooper’s scream is more than 50 years old — and a time-honored in-joke among Hollywood sound designers.
The “Wilhelm scream” was originally recorded for the feature Distant Drums in 1951. From there it went into the studio’s sound effects library, where it was rediscovered in 1977 by Star Wars sound editor Ben Burtt. Burtt adopted it as his personal signature, and he enlisted a group of like-minded Hollywood sound-effects people to keep it alive.
You can hear the scream in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, Beauty and the Beast, Reservoir Dogs, Titanic, Spider-Man … more than 100 features, including this summer’s Revenge of the Sith.
It’s called the “Wilhelm scream” because that’s the name of the original screamer, a man who’s dragged underwater by an alligator in Distant Drums. Remember that when Buzz Lightyear is knocked out of the bedroom window in Toy Story — it’s the same sound.
Regulations posted in the dance halls of Lansing, Mich., circa 1920:
- No shadow or spotlight dances allowed.
- Moonlight dances not allowed where a single light is used to illuminate the Hall. Lights may be shaded to give Hall dimmed illuminated effect.
- All unnecessary shoulder or body movement or gratusque dances positively prohibited.
- Pivot reverse and running on the floor prohibited.
- All unnecessary hesitation, rocking from one foot to the other and see-sawing back and forth of the dancers will be prohibited.
- No loud talking, undue familiarity or suggestive remarks unbecoming any lady or gentleman will be tolerated.
Position of Dancers
- Right hand of gentleman must not be placed below the waist nor over the shoulder nor around the lady’s neck, nor lady’s left arm around gentleman’s neck. Lady’s right hand and gentleman’s left hand clasped and extended at least six inches from the body, and must not be folded and lay across the chest of dancers.
- Heads of dancers must not touch.
No beating of drum to produce Jazz effect will be allowed.
Any and all persons violating any of these rules will be subject to expulsion from the hall, also arrest for disorderly conduct.
By Order of
Chief of Police
Jayson Blair may not have been reaching high enough. The New York Times reporter was disgraced for faking quotes and interviews, but that’s kid stuff compared to the Great Moon Hoax of 1835, a series of articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) in which the New York Sun announced that life had been discovered on the moon.
“Reprinted” from the defunct Edinburgh Journal of Science, the six articles told of “an immense telescope of an entirely new principle” with which astronomer John Herschel supposedly discovered lunar bison, goats, pelicans, trees, beaches, and even bat-men who built temples of sapphire.
That last detail sent the Sun‘s circulation to 19,360, the world’s highest … and it stayed high even after Sun reporter Richard Adams Locke admitted that he’d invented the whole thing.
Strangely, most accounts report that the Sun‘s readers were amused at the joke. The real outrage came from rival newspapers that had reprinted the articles, claiming to be getting them from the original source. Now that’s embarrassing.
“Communism is like one big phone company.” — Lenny Bruce
It’s just an ordinary office in Palo Alto, but it’s going to need some extra space for plaques. This one building, 165 University Avenue, has served as the incubator for Logitech, Google, PayPal, and Danger Research, makers of the Danger Hiptop handheld device.
That’s even more surprising given the building’s small size. The first floor is occupied by storefronts, and the upper story is only 5,000 square feet, usually divided among three companies. The tenants are almost stepping on each other: Google left behind a sign with its logo, which Paypal then left in place for the next tenant, Danger.
What accounts for so many huge successes in such a small space? It’s probably mostly due to the proximity to Stanford, but don’t rule out owner Rahim Amidi, who runs a small company that provides early funding to tech companies. Apparently Amidi has a good eye: Of the 20 companies in which he’s invested, two have gone public and only two have failed. “If you know someone who is the next Danger or Google or PayPal,” he says, “let me know.”
The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558) may be the most misogynistic screed ever written:
For who can denie but it is repugneth to nature, that the blind shall be appointed to leade and conduct such as do see? That the weake, the sicke and impotent persons shall norishe and kepe the hole and strong? And finallie, that the foolishe, madde and phrenetike shal governe the discrete and give counsel to such as be sober of mind. And such be al women, compared unto man in bearing of authoritie. For their sight in civile regiment is but blindness; their strength, weaknes; their counsel, foolishnes; and judgment, phrensie, if it be rightlie considered.
That’s ironic, because the author’s real beef was religious: John Knox opposed female sovereigns like Mary, Queen of Scots, and Mary Tudor because of their Catholicism. When Elizabeth Tudor succeeded Mary, his plan backfired — she was sympathetic to his cause, but offended at his words. Hell hath no fury.
FORTY is the only number whose letters appear in alphabetical order.
In Spanish, the only such number is DOS.
Gadsby is a 50,000-word novel that doesn’t use the letter E:
“But a man has to think of that, Allan. And you will, as you grow up. My two big sons just put off on that big troop train. I don’t know how long Bill and Julius will stay away. Your big cannon might go Boom! and hit Bill or Julius. Do you know Frank Morgan, Paul Johnson and John Smith? All right; that big cannon might hit that trio, too. Nobody can say who a cannon will hit, Allan. Now, you go right on through Grammar School, and grow up into a big strong man, and don’t think about war;” and Gadsby, standing and gazing far off to Branton Hills’ charming hill district, thought: “I think that will bust up a wild young ambition!”
The author, Ernest Vincent Wright, notes that he could mention no numbers between 6 and 30. And “When introducing young ladies into the story, this is a real barrier; for what young woman wants to have it known that she is over thirty?”