The Language Museum has samples of more than 2,000 languages, rather amazingly compiled by one guy in Beijing. Showoff.
If stars on Hollywood Boulevard actually recognized incendiary talent, this is what mine would look like. Unfortunately, the actual system is a lot more sordid than people think. Oscar Levant said, “Behind the phony tinsel of Hollywood lies the real tinsel.”
It’s the Chamber of Commerce that doles out the stars, choosing 20-24 each year from among 200-300 applicants. That’s right, you have to apply. It’s all just a big marketing project. Even if they pick you, they charge a $15,000 fee; usually that’s paid by your studio, which uses the ceremony to promote a recent project.
Like the Grammys, the stars are no measure of real merit. Al Pacino, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford, and Mel Gibson don’t have stars; Bob Barker, David Spade, Pee Wee Herman, and Big Bird do.
So save your money and design your own star like I did. You can blow the $15,000 on heroin and hookers.
FeralChildren.com has harrowing stories of almost 100 resilient children — kids raised by ostriches, raised in henhouses, running with jackals, or simply living alone in a forest.
Tarzan and Mowgli were hugely romanticized fictions. Real feral kids walk on all fours, their growth is retarded, they have keen senses, and they’re impervious to heat, cold, and rain. What an awful life. Linnaeus even classed them as a separate species.
Artist Kamiel Proost makes miniature paintings on dollar bills.
It’s a good thing he lives in Amsterdam, or he could face six months in the slammer.
Down in Front
George Bush and Dan Quayle are famous for fractured oratory, but the godfather of political malaprops is Sir Boyle Roche, an Irish member of Parliament in the 18th century. Highlights:
- “Mr. Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I’ll nip him in the bud.”
- “While I write this letter, I have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other.”
- “All along the untrodden paths of the future I can see the footprints of an unseen hand.”
- “He is the kind of opponent who would stab you in front of your face and then stab you in the chest when your back is turned.”
- “We should silence anyone who opposes the right to freedom of speech.”
- “I answer in the affirmative with an emphatic no.”
The best I’ve seen: “It would surely be better to give up, not only a part but, if necessary, the whole of our constitution, to preserve the remainder.”
Assign your own Bart Simpson chalk message.
The Earth Moved
The New Madrid Compendium collects eyewitness descriptions of the worst earthquake in American history. The Richter scale hadn’t been invented in 1811, but this quake would have measured 8.0:
The vibration of the earth shook down trees, thousands of willows were swept off like a pipe stem, about waist high, and the swamps became high ground, and the high land became low ground, and two islands in the river were so shaken, washed away and sunk, as not to be found.
The kicker: This happened in Missouri, rocking the state hard enough to ring bells in Boston. Seismologists say there’s a 90 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 to 7.0 quake in the same area before 2040, affecting as much as 20 times the area of a West Coast quake. I wonder if their insurance rates reflect this?
A Great Big Hand
Once thought to be a sign of witchcraft, extra digits are actually the most common developmental abnormality found at birth. About two children in a thousand have extra fingers or toes.
They’re even more common among the Amish, probably due to the “founder effect” — because the original settlers were few, their genetic legacy is amplified among their descendants, and apparently one of them had an extra finger.
If it’s so common, why does it creep people out? Fictional villains from Hannibal Lecter to Count Rugen have been given extra digits, to make them seem alien and somehow menacing.
They’re actually in quite good company. Marilyn Monroe didn’t have extra digits, urban legends notwithstanding, but Anne Boleyn and Winston Churchill both did. And Atlanta Braves pitcher Antonio “The Octopus” Alfonseca was born with six fingers and six toes. I’d like to hear him play the piano.
“No one can earn a million dollars honestly.” — William Jennings Bryan
The Dr. Phil Random Quote Generator has a simple-minded Texas platitude for every occasion:
- “You don’t need stain-resistant pants to join the circus.”
- “You don’t need a rope to learn about proper dental hygiene.”
- “You don’t need help to throw up in Tijuana.”
Truest observation: “You don’t need tap dancing lessons to hate my guts.”