Time for another trivia roundup…
1. Some things to know about lumberjacks:
a) The movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is about a septet of lumberjack siblings who, in the spirit of the classic Roman work The Rape of the Sabine Women decide to kidnap partners for themselves and WHAT THE FUCK, REALLY? That is the most horrifying plot summary I’ve ever heard that doesn’t involve the word “backdoor.”
b) The phrase “skid row” comes from logging, because logs were skidded down hills. A Seattle road was thus named Skid Road, and by happenstance became home to assorted drifters and down-on-their-luck types, leading to the term skid row. Albums by Skid Row include: Slave to the Grind and Subhuman Race.
c) Specialized jobs in logging camps include: whistle punk, chaser, and high climber.
d) The competitive Lumberjack World Championships are held annually in Hayward, Wisconsin. Events include the underhand chop, standing block chop, boom run, HOT SAW, speed climb, and log rolling. Right here is where I wanted to link to a clip of the “log rolling” scene from UCB, but it is sadly unavailable online. Just remember: log rolling makes even better decisions than coin flipping.
• • •
2. Shortly after founding Guinness in 1759, the founder leased the vacant St. James’s Brewery for the princely sum of £45 yearly, for a term of 9000 years. Not in perpetuity, but ending in nine thousand years, as though a lease of like, 100 or even 1000 years wouldn’t have covered (in actuality, Guinness bought the property a few years later). Long obsessed with quality control, in the early 20th century the company hired William Sealy Gossett (a statistician and grandfather of Louis Gossett Jr) to identify and select the strains of barley that provided the highest yield of beer.
In accomplishing this task, Gossett devised the t-test (and the underlying mathematical principle of the t-distribution), perhaps the most widely used statistical test in the social sciences. However, thanks to a previous issue with distribution of trade secrets, Guinness employees were not allowed to publish. Gossett, recognizing the scientific and philosophical importance of his work, wheedled the company until they let him publish under a pseudonym—which is the t-test is known as “Student’s t-test” and not “Gossett’s t-test.” It’s also why beer was responsible for some 99% of 20th-century progress in the social sciences.
• • •
3. Pepsi was first introduced in 1893 with the awesomely nondescript name “Brad’s Drink.” It was renamed five years later. The company subsequently went bankrupt in the 1920s, in part because they had lost money speculating on sugar prices during WWI (should’ve stuck to frozen concentrated OJ futures). Control of the company was passed around—Coke, famously, had three opportunities to purchase Pepsi but declined them all—until they made their name during the depression by selling a larger bottle at the same price as Coke. In the 1940s a “progressive” owner (Walter Mack, and the quotes are there to adjust for contemporaneous cultural standards, the way we do with inflation) took over, realized that people of color drink soda too, and hired an all-black advertising and sales team. One famous ad from this group pictured Ron Brown, future Secretary of Commerce, as a smiling, Pepsi-besmitten child:
You know that vague sense of unease you get when something partially positive is done, but for all the wrong reasons? Due to blowback, Mack was forced to publicly assuage the cola-miscegenation fears of his white shareholders and affiliates, and did so by saying something I won’t repeat but makes clear that he was either a) pandering to those white affiliates or b) pandering to people of color, and you can decide which is more likely. Absolutely nothing else happened until the 1980s when the cola wars were mentioned in Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire, and then in 1993 Crystal Pepsi was released:
(followed in 1994 by Crystal Gravy). Incidentally, there was also apparently a Tab Clear, and I think the commercial might have been directed by Buñuel:
Quasi-related sidenote: does anyone remember orbitz? It was like drinking a lava lamp:
And New York Seltzer, in those great hand-grenade glass bottles with the thick foam label:
Actual Pepsi varietals worldwide include Pepsi Salty Watermelon, Pepsi Mojito, Pepsi Kick (illegal in the US because of dangerously high caffeine and nicotine content. Yes, nicotine, and yes, I’m dead serious), Pepsi Mont Blanc (shades of Chateaux Faygeaux), Pepsi Candy (marketed as a “sweeter” version of Pepsi, presumably for oompa loompas), and Pepsi Pink (strawberry milk flavored). Also, I strongly recommend you see the obsessively catalogued wiki on We Didn’t Start the Fire here.
• • •
4. In a prior trivia roundup, we discussed the CIA’s Operation Acoustic Kitty, in which the agency went to great lengths to turn ordinary housecats into mobile Soviet-recording devices, and predictably failed. Despite their frequent Keystone Kops-like blunderings and their nefarious/deadly machinations in the name of imperialism, the CIA should be lauded for its unrivalled ability to name things:
a) Project ARTICHOKE: investigation interrogation techniques, including forced morphine addiction (followed by forced withdrawal)
b) MKULTRA: now-famous mind control experiments. One subproject of MKULTRA was Midnight Climax, in which an operative installed two way mirrors and recording equipment in a hotel room, and paid prostitutes to bring clients back to the room and dose them with LSD
c) Project Dormouse: a covert project to deflect attention away from ARTICHOKE and towards MKULTRA. I like that it wasn’t just trying to deflect attention away from both of them, but that one was obviously so bad that they preferred people focus on a less-repellent set of mind control experiments.
d) Project COLDFEET: In 1961, a naval aircraft discovered an abandoned Soviet Arctic drift research station. Getting researchers to and from the station, the project made use of the “Skyhook” deployed in Batman Begins. After reading about this, I may or may not have, but definitely did have a dream in which I met Ben Affleck in an airport, and told him that, on the heels of Argo, his next CIA-based movie should be about Coldfeet. He seemed receptive.
e) Operation CHAOS: Sounds like something from a James Bond movie.
f) Miscellaneous ominous-sounding names: Subproject 22, Stargate Project, Project Dark Gene.
• • •
5. In medieval Europe, “barber-surgeon” was a legitimate profession, and it is exactly how it sounds; surgery was not performed by physicians, but by barbers. Cutting hair, amputating limbs, these are just things we do with razors, so, yeah, sure. The red-and-white striped barber pole is thought to be a vestige of this history, representing blood and bandages. Still, though, I think it would be cool if modern surgeons gave you a haircut while you were anesthetized. Sure, you’re going to walk up nauseated and in excruciating pain, but, hey, free haircut.
• • •
6. A final uncategorized trivium that may one day save your, or your client’s, life: “under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, sea cow molestation constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor.”
• • •
7. Finally, a briefly annotated viewer’s guide to Skid Row’s 18 and Life
0:31 That face looks exactly like when they force Vigo the Carpathian back into the painting in Ghostbusters II:
0:33 I feel like white suburban teen angst is the purest kind of angst
0:38 Is that Ernest Borgnine?
0:46 Holy fuck he just threw him through a plate glass window!
0:48 Look, I’ve been thrown through plenty of plate glass windows in my life, at least twice by an angry, inebriated lummox in a wifebeater, but I’ve never been totally uninjured afterwards.
0:54 Dude, I know, it makes me really angry too when I get thrown through a plate glass window by Ernest Borgnine.
0:58 Their collective reactions to attempted murder are a dismissive hand wave. “Oh, you!”
1:17 “High five for finally getting your stitches out!”
1:19 Sebastian Bach really did have some nice hair. I wonder what he’s up to now.
1:32 “Drinking and starting dumpster fires is how I deal with my rage.”
1:39 omfg yesssssssssss Ernest Borgnine won’t know what hit him next time he throws that kid through a plate glass window (hint: it will be a bullet, right to the soul)
1:43 I hope he shoots his own balls off
1:44 “skid row fan, in the conservatory, with the revolver”
1:47 Gonna need lots of target practice so that you can be sure to hit the guy who’s 6 inches away, trying to throw you through a window
2:10 He must really hate that window shutter!
2:16 The graffiti reads “fuck a plate glass window”
2:23 Jesus christ, seriously? That is really happening? That PSA with the middle schooler who got high shot himself in the face with a hunting rifle was more realistic.
2:36 I want to make a giant poster of the silhouetted high five in front of a raging fire.
3:14 It’s ashame, if that fire were only 2000 degrees hotter, it probably would have melted all the physical evidence of him murdering his friend. Stay in school, kids.
3:30 So, just to sum this up, the lessons here are 1) if you have a physically abusive father who tries to murder you, be careful because if you get gun and plot vengeance, if you listen to Skid Row you’ll end up in jail after killing your friend, and 2) there are no consequences whatsoever to throwing someone through a plate glass window, assuming that person is a fan of Skid Row