Archive for July, 2009

BAD JOBS – Castrato

When it comes to bad jobs, choral singer would normally seem to be an odd choice. Though not the most lucrative of professions, it did pay the rent and granted a great deal of admiration of one’s peers. During the 16th century, it also enjoyed a resurgence of popularity that put the singers in high demand. These choirs were typically filled with young men who were raised by the church and trained at an early age to sing about the wonders and glory of God. Their voices were legendary and transcendent, and to hear them harmonize in unison was said to be like reaching out and touching the divine.

In order to reach those really, really high notes, however, certain… alterations needed to be made, usually by a half-blind monk with a rusty knife and complete lack of anesthetic. The operation would only take a few seconds, but the effects lasted a lifetime. These Castrato would never go on to reach sexual maturity, and were destined to spend their lives without hair on their chins and rather confused feelings whenever Isabella the barmaid walked by. The lack of testosterone in their system further meant that their bones grew out in a unnatural manner, prompting their limbs to become long and gangly.

Of course, the act of castration was no guarantee of a successful career. Many Castrato would sing in the heavenly choirs for just a few short years before the priests stumbled upon an even younger lad with an even more beautiful voice, and replaced them without a second’s thought. It was a distinctly sad sight to witness these functional eunuchs on the streets of Rome with hand-made vellum signs that said, “Will sing God’s seven virtues for food.” They also tended to get beaten up by the tenors, who still had all their jiggly bits and were generally renowned as unruly sorts.


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Medieval Witch
The Middle Ages were not particularly known for their tolerance. It was a time of great ignorance, and bad hygiene, where peasants regularly pointed suspicious fingers at each other and persecuted people of different beliefs. One of the groups that was hunted down were witches – or rather, any man or woman who just happened to be next to the accuser’s pig before it died.

It was fairly easy to determine whether a person was a witch or not. You simply tied them to a bag of rocks and threw them into a lake, and if they floated, they were a witch! You then dragged them out and promptly burned them at the stake. If, on the other hand, the person sunk to their death, you knew that they weren’t a witch, and gave them a big posthumous hug.

It’s not known how many people were killed or imprisoned for being a witch. Some claim tens of thousands, while others believe far less. What is known is that many were accused of sorcery and put on trial for their villainous deeds (with the trial mostly consisting of the person being pelted with rancid tomatoes for half an hour.) This is far different in modern times, where they merely have to explain to people the tenets of a mysterious thing called ‘science’.

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Asbestos is a fibrous material that was a popular method of insulation for hundreds of years. The main reason it works so well is that it’s highly resistant to heat and chemicals. It’s also quite cheap, and can easily be mixed with cement and fabric.

There’s just one problem: breathing the substance can result in terrible health problems, most notably lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The first known death was in 1906, when a man living in an asbestos mining town mysteriously keeled over. This was followed by several hundred more deaths, usually accompanied by hacking and wheezing, which prompted scientists to search for the common link. They soon discovered the health hazards involved, and news was spread, but people still continued to use asbestos. Seriously, you’re not going to find insulation at that price anywhere else!

It wasn’t until 1989 that the U.S. banned use of the substance. They issued the Asbestos Ban and Phase Out Rule, which required companies to stop filling people’s homes with the toxic material. This was overturned by the high court two years later, however, and nowadays many businesses still sell objects that contain trace amounts of asbestos. These products tend to be only sold to poor people, however, so it’s probably not worth getting worked up over.

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Manos: The Hands of Fate is a surprisingly famous film. Not because it made a lot of money, or won any prestigious awards at international film festivals. It’s because the good people at Mystery Science Theater 3000, who spent eleven seasons watching some of the worst movies in existence, had incredible difficulty in finding anything funny to say about the film. They just sat in horrified silence as the story unfolded before their eyes. It’s that bad.

The movie’s plot is simple: a family is driving along searching for somewhere to stop for the night. They come upon a creepy house on a hill, where they are greeted by Torgo, a small man who suffers from a knee deformity. There’s something undeniably strange about this man – he talks constantly about “The Master”, and every time he walks across the screen, it takes approximately five minutes while “Do-do-do-do-DO-DO-DO-DO” plays loudly in the background.

They investigate the house, and discover a mysterious tomb surrounded by women in slinky nightgowns. Torgo shows up, and captures the father in the most ludicrous chase sequence known to man. The Master then awakens, and decides to sacrifice the family to his evil god ‘Manos’. The women disagree, and engage in a five minute long slap fight. The family is tied to a stake, and… well, we wouldn’t want to spoil the whole film for you. You’ll just have to watch the rest yourself.

On a side note, Manos is the Spanish word for hands. This means that the true title of the movie is ‘Hands: the Hands of Fate’. Yes, that sounds about right.

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BAD MUSIC – Karaoke

Karaoke is one of the great plagues of the earth. It has destroyed the lives of men. It has brought whole kingdoms to ruin. And it has spread more madness and pain than all four John Denver Christmas specials.

The basic notion is simple – you take a microphone, play some music from a box, and sing Top 40 hits to a crowd of drunken people. Now, this wouldn’t be too bad if everyone in the world could sing on-key. As you may have discovered, however, this is most certainly not the case. The vast majority of people can’t hold a tune to save their lives, and sound like a deranged howler monkey being shocked repeatedly by some sort of cruel torture implement.

That doesn’t stop karaoke from being a favored form of entertainment for the masses. Every night of the week, hordes of men and women descend upon karaoke bars so they can drink light beer and have a chance to sing ‘Hooked on a Feeling.’ They just love performing in front of a crowd and showing off their amazing musical talent. The dozens of people outside covering their ears and fleeing down the street in terror are obviously just suffering from an ill-timed ear infection.

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When times get tough, people are forced to spend less. They cut back on clothes, and haircuts, and most of all, food. Sure, it’s nice to eat a juicy steak, but you just can’t afford one at the moment. Spam is almost as good, right?

No. No it is not.

Spam is one of the most revolting foods on the planet. To simulate the taste, you simply need to purchase a ham, leave it out in the sun for three days, drop it in some puddle water, and then stomp on it with your foot.

The only redeeming factor about this food, and that term is used lightly, is that it can last pretty much forever. If a nuclear war occurs, you can rest assured that any spam you manage to scavenge will still be good several decades later. Mostly because even the radioactive cockroaches won’t touch it.

It should also noted that some people claim (particularly from the state of Hawaii) that spam is actually quite tasty. They say that if you fry it just right, and add a few spices, it can provide a delectable dish that can’t be beat. Of course, some people claim that Vanilla Ice was a misunderstood artist ahead of his time, so you should probably take such claims with a grain of salt.

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