Herbert Spencer was the 19th century philosopher, scientist and all-around smart cookie who coined the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” after having read Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species. While some may argue each and every tenet of evolutionary theory (much to the exhaustion of everyone who actually knows a little something about science), we have come to realize that Spencer was only half-right in determining which genes get promoted into the next generation. It’s also a matter of Survival of the Sexiest.
Sexual selection extends beyond the boast-worthy ability to fend off predators, gather food and shoot zombies with a crossbow. Mate selection based on these factors certainly occurs, but the truth grabs many more hairs between its gnarled knuckles. So much of who we are plays into our subconscious exigency to be sexually selected.
So if you’re finding your Saturday nights have of late been more occupied by binge marathons of Murder, She Wrote than sweaty, carnal bodyslapping, perhaps you should turn to science to understand why. With a few tiny modifications to your being, you might just find yourself crotch-deep in sexual social butterflydom.
You need to word good. Humans – at least most humans – possess a far greater vocabulary than that which is needed for basic communication. It’s true – most of us know words like ‘dungarees’, ‘mellifluous’ and ‘woebegone’, but how often do we really need to use them? Evolutionary scientists suspect we throw down this excess of verbiage in an effort to show off our intelligence to potential mates. This has been tested; we tend to spew a more flowery and profound lexicon when we’re in a romantic mindset. Then again, some of us do it just to make a living. Read more…
There’s a tiny voice inside my head, that interminable squawk of the ever-shrinking crimson-lensed optimist, who wants to believe that Dr. Theodor Morell was doing his best to assassinate Adolph Hitler from the inside out. Morell was the Fuhrer’s personal physician, and as the world began to warp around the consequences of his patient’s actions, his freewheeling approach to the prescription pen increased. Was he doing his ill-informed best to keep Germany’s leader in good health? Or was he subversively hoping to kill him?
Okay, that’s an easy one; Dr. Morell was an incompetent putz who appeared to have forged his medical path through a garbled jungle of whim and outlandish guess-work. Had he truly been looking to snuff out Hitler’s flame he would have been just a bit more thorough in his boobery. Also, he would have likely been facing a swift execution by the other Third Reich brass.
The truth behind Hitler’s health is a curious stew of horrors and weirdness. The man deserves none of our pity of course, but in looking over what we have learned about his bizarre journey through Germany’s medical industry, I have to wonder if some of his unmitigated evil might have been a result of the strange goings-on within his innards.
In November 2008 a curious story wormed its way into the news cycle. The story can be traced through Polish priest and amateur historian Franciszek Pawlar, who claims to have once spoken with a man named Johan Jambor (pictured above). Jambor had been a medic for Germany during the first World War, and it was he who treated a wounded Adolf Hitler at the Battle of the Somme in France in 1916. Hitler had received a wound to the “groin” – a more specific account I’m afraid I can’t offer. Read more…
If anyone asks, I’m currently beefing up for the lead role in the upcoming biopic about Orson Welles’ final days. I haven’t been cast yet, and to my knowledge no such movie exists, but when Hollywood finally comes around to making it, I’ll be ready. So yes, I will have that second bag of deep-fried Oreos.
Screen actors – and perhaps stage actors as well, but that information is trickier to find – must occasionally alter their physical weight to slip into a part. Sure, they can cheat like Chris Evans in Captain America, whose 220-pound bulk was deflated to a scrawny pre-Atlas sand-faced wimp through the magic of CGI, but outside of the superhero genre, you’re not likely to see that. These self-abusatory body-wallops are a good reminder that some of the faces speckled across movie screens are actual artists who are willing to endure physical torture for their craft.
In tracking down some of the wonkier stories for this piece, I tried to uncover an actress who has made a similar transformation, but there aren’t many. Renée Zellweger snarfed back some pastries to gain twenty pounds for Bridget Jones’ Diary, but her final appearance was hardly extreme. I’m more impressed with Anne Hathaway’s 25-pound drop for Les Miserables, much of which occurred throughout the filming process. If anyone knows of any other actresses who pulled off feats like these, please tell me in the comments section. It’s quite the sausage-fest on this page.
Considered to be one of the greatest actors of the last 50 years, Robert De Niro has yet to win an Academy Award since 1981. While I’ll withhold judgment on some of the scripts he has chosen in the last 20 years (I still can’t scrub The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle from the part of my brain upon which it splattered back in 2000), watching him perform usually justifies the cost of admission. If you have somehow deprived yourself of seeing 1980’s Raging Bull (for which he won his most recent Oscar), then you must immediately stop calling yourself a film fan until you do so – particularly if you have seen even one Tyler Perry movie. Read more…
People often ask me whether or not I worry about running out of interesting topics before this thousand days is up. My response is always the same. “Of course not,” I tell them. “I haven’t yet written about toilet gods.”
Well, today I throw caution at the swirling fan and cash in on one of our species’ most notably bizarre predilections: assigning a higher power to the place where we poop.
Modern religions have spent too long on the proverbial fence, blindly adhering to its monotheistic principles and paying no mind to our spiritual doody needs. There is no patron saint of having eaten too many spicy enchiladas last night, nor am I aware of any Hebrew or Muslim prayer to combat lactose intolerance. We must look to the faiths of the ancients for this.
In old-timey Japan, bodily waste wasn’t buried underground and forgotten. It would be collected and spread around the fields, acting as a fertilizer and completing that grand circle of life that most of us would rather not think about. For this reason, the kawaya kami (toilet god) was a god of fertility. Not the fun kind of fertility that we usually (but not always) reserve for another room in the house, but the food/crop sort of fertility. Sometimes family members would sit in front of the toilet and eat a bowl of rice in order to appease the god.
The other big plus in praying to kawaya kami was for protection. Collecting fertilizer material from toilet basins was dirty work, but also a bit on the dangerous side. There was the risk of tumbling into the muck and drowning, which is probably the worst way to die this side of inhaling next to Ann Coulter. Kawaya kami – if properly appeased by your consumption of malodorous rice – can save you from such a fetid fate. Read more…
Not a word one hears often in polite conversation, in fact it’s not a word that the good folks at Microsoft felt necessary to plop into their default dictionary, according to the squiggly red snake of shame underneath what I just typed. But among those who have devoted their lives to fighting crime – and here we’re talking about the manufacturers of theft-deterrents, not Batman – it’s a word that has led to a technological breakthrough that can save shop-owners from untold amounts of stress.
The technological side of crime prevention is not simply alarm systems, security cameras and high-power laser-scoped potato guns. There’s a vast catalog of ideas out there, aiming to shut down crime before it happens. Store managers and even civilians are encouraged to dig around and find the solution that works best for them. My personal approach to avoiding theft is simply to not own anything worth stealing. Also, if I’m ever mugged I find that spontaneously ranting about Corey Feldman whilst drooling profusely will encourage most street thugs to retreat quietly back into the shadows.
But I’ll always applaud more creative and practical solutions.
Back in the days when leeches were more common a medical remedy than aspirin, doctors knew disturbingly little about what keeps the great mechanism a-tickin’ in our innards. We can thank the pioneers of anatomical study for advancing our collective knowledge and teaching us that our sicknesses are more likely to be caused by the squishy pink stuff under our skin than a poorly-aligned spate of bad humors. But to learn about our inner anatomy, doctors and medical students needed to poke around the mushy bits of our deceased brethren. And deceased brethren were not always easy to come by. Read more…
In the sprawling kitchen of international cuisine, your teeth will never know a greater pleasure than when they sink into the perfect pizza. The specifics of that perfection are purely subjective; pizza can be a health food or a grease-laden fat-trap. You may prefer a dripping slab of foldable New York pie or the hearty fork-bending stew of genuine Chicago deep-dish. An unleavened square-slice from St. Louis or a scissor-cut crispy rectangle, Lazio-style. It doesn’t matter – your perfect pizza is your perfect food.
I can’t say with any degree of certainty what my perfect pizza would be. I know I have to skip the opening credits when I watch an episode of Louie because that shot of New York pizza will set my taste buds into meltdown. But the first time I learned that real Chicago deep-dish was nothing like the dough-heavy flaccidity they call ‘deep-dish’ in this part of the world, it was an epiphany.
It’s like choosing between Beatles albums. Or children. Ultimately, there’s more than enough pizza-love to spread around.
First off, let’s get the pronunciation right. The Italian pronunciation is ‘pittsa’, though unless you’re talking to an actual Italian pronouncing it that way will seem a little douchey. No one knows pizza’s origin story, though it likely grew from the topping-adorned focaccia bread from Roman Empire times. Actually you could go back further to Ancient Greece, where they topped their ‘plakous’ (flatbread) with herbs, onion and garlic. Naples gets dibs on the title of modern pizza’s birthplace. It was a galette flatbread, and it was known as the foodstuff of the poor folk. Read more…
The reaction to yesterday’s article, which outlined future planetary events over the next couple centuries, was overwhelming. “It changed the way I see the world,” said one fan that I made up. “So much information in such a callipygian space!” said another, who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘callipygian’ (it means well-proportioned buttocks).
But the question that was asked most often – I’d like to say by curious fans, but truthfully just by myself during the commercials of a M*A*S*H rerun last night – was what about our lives? Sure, maybe Venus will eclipse Jupiter in 2123, but certainly there must me more I can find out about life on this planet during the short window I’ll get to see.
Well, good news. With 400 articles yet to be slapped upon the giant refrigerator of this project, I have grabbed my next magnet and selected a good mix of forecasts about life on earth to form the basis of today’s entry. Let’s see what we can expect over the next fifty or so years.
I hope it’s all good news.
For starters, there are going to be a lot of us. We just passed the post of seven billion souls (and a handful of soulless folks) on this planet, and in the next 12-13 years we’ll hit eight. Nine billion in the early 40’s, and the United Nations is confident we’ll be bursting at the seams with ten billion people by 2083. I suppose the upswing to global warming is that the toastier temperatures should make the real estate in Greenland a lot more valuable – that’ll take some of the crowd-burden off the rest of us. Read more…