Tag: Minnesota

Day 991: The Subjective Science of Getting Friendly With Your Water

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Good morning, water. You look lovely today. The way you have meticulously extracted the energizing essence of those crumbly brown nuggets of Sumatra in my coffee maker really brings out the glimmer in your droplets. Look, I’m a married man, but if I wasn’t, I would totally be gettin’ up in dat aqua, you feel me?

According to Dr. Masaru Emoto, I may have just created a more healthy and vibrant cup of coffee. Dr. Emoto is a revolutionary oracle of scientific knowledge, inasmuch as he has concocted his own definitions of the words “scientific” and “knowledge”. Dr. Emoto has “proven” (and it’s hard to find a source for his work that doesn’t nestle that word between the comforting pillows of quotation marks) that positive energy makes water better.

Not better-tasting, not more nutritious or refreshing… just better. Happier. More wholly fulfilled. Dr. Emoto unearthed that line where metaphysics and alternative medicine cross over into crazed Lynchian fiction, then leaped across it like a doped-up Olympian. He landed among the Technicolor bobbles of the absurd, cultivated his own particular brew of ludicrous reasoning and slapped a price tag on it.

And we bought in. Oh, how we bought in.

How could we not trust that sincere face?

How could we not trust that sincere face?

Masaru Emoto earned his doctorate at the Open University for Alternative Medicine in India, though I feel “earned” should be yet another resident of Quotes-Marks Manor, as I have unearthed a couple of sources which claim that such a degree can be bought for around $500. But Dr. Emoto’s doctorness is relatively moot, as he immediately set out to sail the vague ocean of alternative medicine, which contains far more fetid flotsam than it does navigable current. Read more…

Day 906: Lord Gordon-Gordon & The Case Of The Tycoon’s Million Bucks

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How does one judge the success of a swindle? To my hopelessly naïve and tragically honest mind, I believe one must be able to enjoy the bounty of one’s evil in order to truly rate it as a win. Others might disagree, claiming the mere act of absconding with a victim’s money is sufficient grounds for a toast of victory champagne. No matter how the cards tumble, a good scam makes for great human theatre.

When a British man adopted the curious name of Lord Gordon-Gordon and set out to pilfer a fortune from American railway interests, he was likely after the money and not the thrill of the swindle. To Jay Gould, the man who found himself a million dollars lighter courtesy of Lord Gordon-Gordon’s smooth and smarmy charm, it didn’t matter. He’d been taken. Humiliated. Kicked squarely in the fiscal nads. And he’d get his revenge, dammit.

The revenge itself is as weird a tale as whatever backstory Lord Gordon-Gordon might have used to explain his bizarre moniker. This is the story of how one schmoozy Brit almost singlehandedly instigated a war between the United States and Canada, all for the sake of a few bucks.

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Almost nothing is known about this man’s history. There’s a rumor that he may have been the illegitimate child of a North Country priest and his maid, but we don’t even know his real name so tracing his origin story is little more than an effort in fiction. He first appeared in London in 1868 under the name of ‘Glencairn’, insisting he was soon to become the heir to the title of Lord Glencairn, along with the immodest fortune that came with it. Read more…

Day 655: The Trademark Battles Of The Ages ™

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Yesterday’s voyage into the beechwood-aged fluids of Budweiser’s actual history vs. its American corporate identity merely tickled my fingers with its potential. Trademark law is a quivering glob of gelatinous weirdness, where the good guys and bad guys are seldom as opaque and forthright as they might have you believe.

Fortunately when my fingers tickle they tend to dance, and I’m more than happy to splay out one more thousandth of this wicked word project as a parquet stage for the trademark two-step, the pas-de-deux of passing off, and the ultra-groovy sport of tort. These are the battles-royale that have helped shape such bizarre legalities as NBA coach Pat Riley owning the word ‘Three-peat’ or a jewelry store owning a certain hue of blue.

Am I an expert? Of course not. Can my wikipedian sage be wholly trusted with something as precious and precarious as the truth? Not a chance. Am I nonetheless gifted in the art of asking myself softball questions and then answering them? Obviously. Let’s head to the sacred ring of justice and see what unspeakable goofballery we can poke with our thinking sticks:

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The Broil With Big Oil

In one corner we have the mighty Exxon Corporation, not yet sullied by its embarrassing Alaskan spill, yet already among that pantheon of untrustworthy corporate titans. In the other corner, a tiny British insurance company, just trying to make their way through the forest of yet another completely untrustworthy industry. They called themselves Exxon Insurance Consultants International Limited. Big Exxon claimed that they owned the trademark of their name, and that Little Exxon needed to smarten up and call themselves something else. Read more…

Day 565: Ninety Minutes From New York To Paris?

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There was a time when I pined about the lack of flying cars in this so-called future we live in, to the point where even my dogs learned to roll their eyes when I’d bring it up. Well Rufus, I’ll have you know there was more to my childhood daydreams of sci-fi transportation than a Buick with wings. And no, I’m not talking about the Millennium Falcon – we all know that isn’t the future. It says so at the start of the movie: that shit is from a long time ago.

No, I’m talking about the pneumatic tube.

That’s right, those snazzy plastic freeways that transport cash drops from Costco tills to some magic fairy-land where I can only assume it rains money. Or at least it rains plastic canisters filled with money, which might actually cause a lot of property damage. At least you’d have no problem affording the repairs.

But I’m not the first to envision those tubes as a viable mode of transportation. In fact, the word ‘viable’ never entered into it for me. But for some people, this was seen as the way of the future.

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Scottish inventor William Murdoch was the first to come up with the pneumatic capsule idea, back in 1836. This became the pinnacle of high-tech during the Victorian age, when people would use them to send messages or small packages (maybe even docile kittens) from telegraph offices to nearby buildings. Back when NASA ran things out of Houston, they relied on these tubes for communication between teams in different rooms. And while NASA may have ditched the technology, it still shows up in more places than your local grocery store. Read more…

Day 425: Screwing The Scoreboard – Worst Sports Teams

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Every month I take a look at some of the worst mistakes art has made, from misguided movies to terrible tunes to the rectum of the airwaves known as reality TV. But art is subjective. I’m sure there are tens, even dozens of people who found Manos: The Hands Of Fate to be inspiring, who think a reality show about people trying to keep their hands pressed against a truck to be riveting, or who dream of building their own city on rock ‘n roll.

But sports is a different bag of fish-parts. When you stink up the field, arena, pitch, court, park, stadium, or Light Cycle battledrome, everybody knows it. Maybe you’ve managed to secure a truly imperfect season, with no wins. Maybe you should have stuck with your original instincts to forego professional sports and become an accountant. Maybe you would have sucked at that also.

Every professional sports league has some team who claims the title of being the worst. Now they can receive the honor of having their shame thrown in their faces once again.

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Holding high the rancid wilted flag of Worst Season Ever is the 1906-1907 Liverpool City rugby club. A goose-egg in the Win column is bad enough, but to rack up 30 losses would make one ball-shatteringly morose. They scored 76 points in those thirty games, while allowing their opponents to pile up nearly 1400 points against them. These weren’t thirty narrow scrapes; the other teams in the league decimated them. Read more…

Day 136: A Strange Slice Of Saskatchewan

It goes without saying that anyone whose Wikipedia article describes him as a “Finnish-born sailor, farmer and Canadian madman” deserves a kilograph here. I had bungled on to the story of Tom Sukanen while researching my original topic, the Great Wall of Saskatchewan.

This is a real thing. Over the course of nearly 30 years, a Saskatchewan farmer named Albert Johnson stacked a bunch of stones together to build a cementless, mortorless wall. The wall-shaped pile is more than 3/8 of a mile long, averaging between six and twelve feet along the way.

It'd be an 8 hour drive for me to see this... I think it looks worth the effort.

You probably can’t see it from space, nor will it repel any invading hordes, but passes for a tourist attraction in Saskatchewan. As it turns out, so does Tom Sukanen.

Tom was born in Finland. He learned to build ships and set off to the Promised Land of America when he was 20. For whatever reason – and I’m sure there is a reason – most of the Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish immigrants were shipped off to the northern states. Tom landed in Minnesota.

He met a young Finnish girl who was stranded alone on her farm after her father had died. It’s a sweet story of a young romance, but don’t let the swelling string section distract you – Tom was not altogether stable.

Tom and his wife became farmers together. They did about as well as farmers could do in that early chunk of the twentieth century, meaning they were able to squeeze a passable living off the land, while finding time to pop out three daughters and a son. Life was idyllic on the Sukanen farm.

Then Tom took off. In 1911 he left his family – no one is quite certain why. Perhaps he was trying to find a better life for his flock, or maybe he’d just had enough of Minnesota. Maybe he’d had enough of his wife – she wasn’t invited. Read more…