Moving!

Well it is finally happening. I am giving up on trying to maintain two blogs (as you may have noticed from my lack of posting the past two months). But don’t fret. Random Acts is not going extinct. I am simply integrating it with my more active ScribblingDame WordPress blog which can be found here.

It is true that the Scribbling Dame site is more focused on weirdness and mothering, but it’s not always focused on that, as will be the case with the appearance of Random Acts. I hope to see you there!

So You Think You Can Dork

I just found out that today is Jeopardy’s 45th birthday. So, because I watch it almost every night, even though I still have bladder control and all my teeth, it seemed right for my March Random Act to pay its respects. I knew I was procrastinating for a reason!

Even though Alex Trebec has hosted the show since I was four-years-old, he is not the OG of Jeopardy hosting status. Art Fleming was the first host in 1964. You may have seen his cameos on Airplane II or in Weird Al Yankovic’s video “I lost on Jeopardy.” But, probably not.

Are you a fan of the 'stache?

The show was Merv Griffin’s wife’s idea, and was originally called “What’s the question?” which is a stupid question.

The cash value of the categories has changed, ranging from $10-$50 dollars in 1975 to $200 to $1000 currently. Inflation is a bitch. Of course, given the state of the economy, it’s probable that the category values will soon decline to depression-era quantities. “I’ll take Potpourri for ten cents Alex!”

In at least one of the Fleming shows, all three contestants had $0 left for the Double Jeopardy round, so that round was not played!

In 1984, there was a three-way tie and also someone who became champion with a total of $1 remaining. If you ask me, neither of those count.

If a contestant rings in before Alex is done reading the question, they are prevented from ringing in for one fourth of a whole second, which is less time than it is taking you to read this. No premature articulation!

In case you are visually impaired and worried about how this may effect your game, fear not! A light tone sounds when the five-second lights flash so you know when you have to give your answer. Tre considerate.

My favorite thing about Jeopardy is that it always gives the right answers to our most pressing questions; like, who is a bigger bad ass–Ken Jennings (74 time champion) or an IBM computer built by a bunch of people paid to be nerdier than Ken Jennings?

Chocolate for the Dogs

 

Valentine’s Day is over and you are, if attached, stuffing your face with the chocolates your lover gave you for letting them do “that thing they like” to you. Or, if you are single, you bought up the clearance chocolate to self-soothe your single’s sorrows. Either way, I thought it fitting to take a moment and appreciate the red-headed step-child of chocolate: carob.

For those of you who are perhaps a little too attached to your pet and live under the illusion that they are, in fact, hairy people who lick themselves, you should know that you can feed carob to your dog. Shame on you for not getting Fluffy her “chocolates” on Valentine’s.

Carob actually grows on trees in pods, and they are a relative of the pea. We typically eat the dried pods and not the nuts or seeds form the tree. This explains why it just doesn’t taste quite right to me and I don’t care what you vegan hippies say about it.

Hey Mister! Is that a carob blossom or did you just squeeze one off?

Here’s where it gets interesting–the male flowers are said to have a “characteristic odour resembling semen” according to Wikipedia, which just confirms that any fuckface can put entries into online Encyclopedias. Seriously, who is the person who, presumably claiming some sort of scientific authority, is cruising the Mediterannean and says, “Hmm. That’s either some fresh semen or those Carob trees are blooming.” As a practicing heterosexual for multiple decades, I have yet to know the smell typically associated with semen. [Creepy readers, please refrain from illicit offers.]

On a less disgusting note, the weight measurement of carat is likely derived from carob, as the seeds were used as a weight of measurement to characterize the size of gems and purity of gold–as in 24 carat seeds of weight (which is 4.5 grams) means the gold is pure.

And, since Egypt is such a hot topic these days, you should know that carob was used in the hieroglyph for the word “nedjem” which means sweet, and even today the carob is an Egyptian snack.

It is sad to say that here in America it is primarily used by evil-doers as a sorry substitute for chocolate, dog food, and curing baby diarrhea. We seem to lack the imagination of using it for liquor, aphrodisiacs and holiday sweets as our friends in Europe, Africa and the Middle East have managed. Next thing you know they’ll be using social networks to topple governments!

Leather Apron Society–not just for serial killers…

Everyone will be wearing leather aprons this Spring...

I like to think that a blog is the modern day salon, only far less selective. This is probably because modern day society does not like to gather a lot of smart people in one place, since they are hard to find. You don’t want to blow your whole wad in one shot, after all. (If you’re reading this you are probably smart. I am pretty much referring to dumb Americans in general, of the Fox news watching variety.)

But, back in the day smart people were more common and one of the most famous smart persons of all, Ben Franklin, decided to create what is perhaps the OG version of TED talks today; a little thing called a junto, or also The Leather Apron Society. The point of the LAS was to provide a forum for discussing “mutual improvement” in Philadelphia in 1727 using collective knowledge of politics, business, morality and natural sciences. The original group had 12 members, all people who were members of an industry–from bar-tending to shoemaking to investing.

The rules were that each member had to bring a question for discussion and once every three months write and read an essay to the club on a topic of choice. Each member also had to satisfactorily answer oath questions. And they would beat each other up and not tell anyone about it. Oh wait, wrong Club.

I'd do him.

Just in case things got stale, Franklin wrote up his own 24 question stimulus, a la Actor’s Studio, to keep conversations going. My favorites:

#7: What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? of imprudence? of passion? or of any other vice or folly?–This sounds like man-gossip to me.

#11: Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?–What a nice question. How thoughtful!

#19: Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress? –Mafia style. I dig.

There are of course modern day juntos in intellectual capitals (Silicon Valley and the like) as well as colleges across the U.S., and the locale of the original in Philly still hosts a monthly meeting. The junto eventually morphed into what is now known as the American Philosophical Society, which is still quite active today, though not in the same vein of do-gooders and curious cats as much as it is a self-indulgent academic ego-stroking orgy.

A long lost college major…Penology

As we near the holidays, death comes up a lot. We think of the loved ones we may have lost this year, or we are forced into awkward social situations that we would rather die than participate in. We also want to kill others in the shopping mall or the airport.* (*author is not endorsing murder and any actions taken by reader are the sole responsibility of said reader. Don’t be creepy.)

But in the not-so-distant past, being an executioner was a legitimate occupation, often passed down from generation to generation. It was generally known as “high justice,” a differentiation provided by a warrant that is issued to the executioner to distinguish it from murder. It’s kind of the same as Miley Cyrus not being considered slutty because she is in the entertainment business. Endorsement matters, people.

"My what big pokeys you have!"

Police, prison staff or military men can carry out an execution–an exception being in Roman times where executioners were victims, a practice known as fustuarium. In some American neighborhoods, this is known as “imgonnafuckuup.”

One might think getting a job as an executioner doesn’t require a lot of skill, however the job description requires quite an array of talents such as general torture and corporal punishment skills, in addition to the following techniques in execution dependent upon time period and region:

Boiling · Breaking wheel · Burning ·Crucifixion · Crushing · Disembowelment ·Dismemberment · Flaying · Impaling ·Necklacing · Sawing · Slow slicing · Torture

Naturally the ability to lift 30 pounds, people skills and a willingness to travel were also requirements.

The last abolition of a formal executioner job was in France in 1981. If you are going to travel in a foreign country and get really fucked up and do stupid things, be sure to do it in one of the nineteen countries who no longer practice capital punishment.

If you are truly interested in learning more about how societies manage and punish crime, you can become a penologist but don’t expect a lot of respect. For that, you have to be an executioner.

Turdlings.

Modern children have more discriminating palettes than children of yore, but there is probably one time of year where children indiscriminately devour anything sugar-licious placed in front of them.  Like tiny rabid wildlife, children collect and devour all the spoils of of their Halloweening, without which I am sure the Tootsie Roll would be obsolete. Let’s be real here. Tootsie Rolls look like cylindrical rabbit turdlings, but once you get past appearances, we all know they fill your mouth with “chocolate-y” niceness, ensuring that you will never again sneer at your next encounter.

Like anything ugly in this world, the Tootsie Roll has a story.

Not poop.

First of all, respect the authority of the Tootsie Roll. It was born in New York in 1896 and is therefore your elder.

Technically the Tootsie Roll is not chocolate. It is what is referred to as “ersatz” chocolate which is German for “substitute.” It keeps well and as such was a regular part of soldier’s field rations during World War II. So you know, it’s a patriotic candy.

It is also economically friendly as it was the first penny candy ever offered, meaning it was the first candy you could buy outside of bulk quantities.

The Tootsie Pop, invented in 1932,  was also considered an affordable treat during the Depression–plus the added bonus of a built in challenge figuring out how many licks it really takes. (Actually the website has quite a bit of info on this phenomenon and estimates it takes between 100-5,800 licks. There have also been formal studies conducted.)

The candy is named after the daughter of its inventer: Clara “Tootsie” Hirshfield.  She was not a transvestite like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1982 film.

Nowadays the Tootsie Roll lives in Chicago and is manufactured by Tootsie Roll Industries, among the largest candy distributors in the country. They make 64 million Tootsie Rolls everyday.

In 2009, the Tootsie Roll converted to Judaism and went kosher. They are also gluten-free if you are freaky like that.

More Reasons to be Terrified of Birds. And childhood.

As old as time and involved in almost every rhyming fairy tale of childhood (unless it’s got dismemberment and really fucked up family dynamics–then you know it’s a Grimm), Mother Goose is one of those nerdy topics that I was like, “Mother Goose. What the fuck is that about? Is she a mother or is she a goose?”

Don't worry. This is not a real goose.

Yet another public service provided you by this week’s random act:

Bird or lady?

I will not keep you in suspense. Mother Goose has nothing to do with birds. The whole goose part is just random. She may, however, have been a real person either from Boston or the French court. I can understand the confusion because it’s totally easy to confuse Bean-town natives with French royalty. Another more likely option is that she was made up.

The Boston story is that mother goose was Mary Goose or Elizabeth Foster Goose who married Isaac Goose, adding her six children to his 10. After her husband died she went to live with her daughter who had married a publisher, who then subsequently published all of the tales and poems Mother Goose would share with her bazillion grandchildren. Not likely, Boston, but we think it’s cute how you try to be cultured. I am pretty sure Ben Affleck and The New Kids on the Block have permanently ruined your chances. Oh yeah, and the Sox.

Alternatively Mother Goose was married to Robert the II of France. She was known as “Bertha the Spinner” because she told tales at court that enraptured all the children. However the leading authority on Mother Goose is Iona Opie, and  she says this is also bullshit.

It is most likely that Mother Goose was made up as part of a collection of fairy tales published by Charles Perrault in 1695 where the subtitle of the publication was “Tales from Mother Goose.”

Geese may be able to play the piano, but they definitely don't write poems, Silly.

Lesser known Mother Goose poems with double entendre titles and creepy lyrics:

Bobby Snooks (no relation to Snooki)

Ride a Cock Horse

Pussy Cat and Queen

Young Lambs to Sell

Twenty Nails

The only poem about Mother Goose…

Old Mother Goose,
When she wanted to wander,
Would ride through the air
On a very fine gander.
Jack’s mother came in,
And caught the goose soon,
And mounting its back,
Flew up to the moon.

Does it strike anyone else that Mother Goose may have been a pedophile? Or is Jack into bestiality? Or is this an Oedipal thing? I have an MA in literature and can’t figure this one out…