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Archive for August, 2008

The internet, as it is known by the strange and curious folk who use it, is a truly marvelous invention that has allowed for previously unprecedented levels of communication and commerce. Its numerous merits can be praised until the end of time, but for some reason, it also has an invariably debilitating effect on the ability for people to use proper grammar. A well-mannered teenager who is polite to his parents and speaks in perfect English while in school will, upon going online, immediately transform into a slackjawed moron who brags that he ‘p3wned’ someone and how ‘u r teh lamzor!’

Proper spelling, sentence structure, any semblance of good taste… all become tragic victims the moment they are written in an online context. Internet L337 speak (which roughly translates to leet, or “elite” speak) is merely interested in expressing basic concepts and emotions in an extremely shorthand manner, preferably with numbers and ASCII symbols exchanged for the letters whenever possible. There is no need to use correct syntax – unless you’re talking about a syntax error, of course, but no one has seen one of those in quite some time.

L337 to English Dictionary:

LOL – Laughing in a loud and boisterous manner.
Haxxor – A computer programmer with great proficiency.
W00T – Hurrah! A pleasant experience has occurred!
Suxxor – Something has regrettably failed.
Pr0n – Adult material involving Jenna Jameson.
OMGWTF – Creator of mine, thou has forsaken me!
Noob – A youthful person lacking sufficient experience.
O RLY? – Are you sure you wouldn’t like to reconsider?

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There are a surprisingly large number of people who believe, to this day, that the earth is flat. They reject modern science out of hand, and are part of a organization known as The Flat Earth Society. You can show them a globe, or photographs of the planet from space, or Aristotle’s extensive treatise on the subject, but they just laugh at your predictable gullibility with the firm certainty that they haven’t had the wool pulled over their eyes and know better than the billions of people who weren’t accidentally dropped on their heads as a child.

On some basic level, their logic makes sense. If you walk outside, the earth certainly doesn’t look spherical. And seriously, if it was round, then people who lived on the bottom would just fall off into the void, right? And do you really expect us to believe in Newton’s Second Law of Motion? Keep in mind that these are the same people who think that the Apollo Moon Landing was secretly filmed in an Arizona studio, so their analytical notions should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Scientific tenets of the flat earth theory:

– The earth’s circumference is 78225 miles, and the diameter is 24,900 miles.
– Stars, moons, and other planets may be round, but the earth is not.
– Tides are the result of a constant wobbling of the earth.
– Gravity exists because the earth is continuously accelerating upwards at 1g, along with every other celestial body in the universe.
– Sunrises/sunsets are an optical illusion caused by the sun drifting around.
– The planet is surrounded by a 150 foot wall of ice which prevents water and everything else from falling off the edge. This has been concealed from the American public through an elaborate government conspiracy.

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Kings and queens throughout history had to face all manner of political intrigue. Many of them possessed dozens of enemies within the court who wanted nothing more than to see them dead, and had to deal with shadowy assassins being paid to pour vials of odd-looking black powder into the soup. It was therefore common practice to employ a royal food taster to consume some of the food and wine before the king sat down for his dinner. This way, it would just be a lowly peasant who died, and not someone important whose parents were first-degree blood cousins.

Now, the job wasn’t all bad. The food taster got to eat some of the finest meals of the time – roast suckling duck, candied yams, several types of stinky cheese. . . it was only a taste, though, and then the royal advisor would make sure that he wasn’t twitching uncontrollably or foaming at the mouth. If he was, they’d know that the food was poisoned and send for a new platter of plum pudding. The royal food taster would then get tossed into a ditch with all the other food tasters, which, depending on the political climate, could be quite large. If you’d like to know more, please consult with your local duke or baron for exciting employment opportunities.

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You don’t want to clean your house without proper chemicals. It just takes too long, especially when you get to the kitchen, and you can rub your knuckles raw as you scrape away with a brillo pad. Luckily, there are a wide number of domestic products available to make your job easier. Bleach is great because it can brighten tiles that have been stained dark with age. Ammonia is good because it’s a strong disinfectant that cleans almost anything it touches. When you combine the two, however, there’s a side effect: you’ve just made chlorine gas.

For those who don’t know, chlorine is lethal. This means that if you spray some Windex in the bathroom after dutifully scrubbing the area with Clorox, you could kill your entire family. The household products tend to contain massive warning labels that plead with users to not make such a ghastly mistake, but a huge number of people end up in the emergency room each year due to chemical mixing-related mishaps. As a general warning: when you start to see white spots appearing in your peripheral vision, it might be a good idea to get some fresh air.

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Reading was not a popular activity during the early parts of the 19th century. Sure, you had such great writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson, but they tended to use big words like ‘pontificate’ and seemed obsessed with making everyone feel bad all the time. Penny Dreadfuls, the earliest form of schlock literature, managed to counteract this on completely unprecedented levels. These gruesome little tales could be purchased for only a penny (hence the name) and were dreadfully written (hence the name).

The stories tended to be extremely bloody, with detailed descriptions of body parts being lopped off and precisely what happens when you push a boulder on top of someone’s head. This made them quite sought after by teenage boys, who quickly became the primary audience. Most of the flip-books tales were also serialized in nature, forcing readers to pony up their cash each month if they wanted to learn whether Jack Harkaway would be able to find his way out of the belly of whatever alligator he had inexplicably managed to end up in.

Despite their inherently bad reputation, many famous authors contributed stories to the genre, including Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins. Penny Dreadfuls were a major form of literary entertainment at the time, so it was simply a matter of going where the money was. The blood-soaked books have the additional fame of introducing Sweeney Todd to the world in the morbid tale, “The String of Pearls.” He would later go on to have a marvelous hairstyling career and operate one of the most fashionable salons on Fleet Street.

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Pokemon is a strangely popular children’s sensation that manages to combine the collectible aspect of card games with creepy anime characters that like to steal your eyeballs while you sleep. It’s also one of the most overly-saturated franchises in history, so it comes as little surprise that a stage production of the phenomenon once existed. Dubbed Pokemon Live!, it was a live-action version of the cartoon, complete with song and dance numbers, plus a team of doctors on hand for when all the kids suffered from the inevitable seizures.

The story, such as it was, involved protagonist Ash traveling through a forest on his way to a tournament, sudden monster battles with Pikachu, a floating cat-like balloon that drew on people’s faces, more exciting battles with Pikachu, and a heartwarming ending where everyone learns the true power of friendship. Huge mechanical pokemon were employed for use in the production, which might sound like a cool idea at first, until you realize that these gigantic monstrosities broke into song as well. All in all, it was one of theater’s sadder moments – the musical actually did quite decently, and managed outsell several other Broadway shows at the time.

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BAD SHOES – Moon Boots

Moon Boots are the fashion trend that just won’t die. They are puffy, garish, and have no left or right designation, so the shoes are basically interchangeable with each other. They gained popularity during the 1970’s, when people everywhere tired of their usual footwear and had the sudden urge to look like a space cowboy from the not-quite-distant-future. This may or may not be due to the prevalence of psychedelics at the time. Moon Boots eventually faded into obscurity, however, when everyone took a moment to glance down at their feet and realized how completely stupid they looked.

At least, that is, until 2004, and the release of Napoleon Dynamite. The title character, known for his good sense and impeccable fashion taste, wears moon boots at several points during the film, including the iconic dance at the end. This has inspired whole legions of teenagers to go out and buy the footwear, in some cases ironically, in many cases not. And while it’s probably good for them to seek out a role model who isn’t the latest blonde vapid look-alike to get their own show on the Disney Channel, one would hope that they would set their sights just a little bit higher.

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