Tag: Springfield

Day 994: The Game Of Milton Bradley’s Life

Header

I confess: I am but one week away from commemorating my 40th year on this planet, and I have yet to ever play The Game of Life. This is not due to some ethical or existential objection to simulating the course of one’s existence upon a square slab of cardboard, but rather due to my friends and I having spent our youthful recreation time with Star Wars toys and kindly ol’ Super Mario. I never got around to playing Candyland either.

As beloved as this board game may be, with its plastic minivans, its cruel cash-drains and generous paydays, buried deep within its roots is a transformative story. The original version of the game, concocted by Mr. Milton Bradley himself, elevated the concept of gaming from prescriptive quests for moral elevation to a more practical and modernized measure of success. More importantly, it came packaged with choice.

The Game of Life as we know it (well, as you probably know it, since I’ve never played the thing) features one early decision: go to school or get a job. After that, each soul is subjected to the whim of the spiteful spinner, suggesting that life is but a cavalcade of random collisions, and that we are always at the mercy of the fickle flick of fate. Mr. Bradley’s outlook on destiny was far more empowering.

Milton Bradley, 1860s

Tracing the Bradley lineage would suggest that a rather dreary definition of “life” could have taken center-stage in his outlook. The family tree was planted in America in 1635, and since then its bark shows the hatchet-marks of murder, Indian attack, kidnapping, and at one point hot embers being poured into an infant’s mouth. When Milton finally squeezed his way onto the planet in 1836, the Bradleys were a little less prone to being butchered, but far from being economic titans. Read more…

Day 886: When Whales Explode

Header

Human beings – and I’d specify the male of the species here, though I’m quite certain this amply bridges the gender gap – love to watch things explode. David Letterman helped to build his reputation by throwing stuff off a building and airing the ensuing splatter. TV shows on the Discovery Channel have existed for the sole purpose of blowing things up for our amusement. And deep down, we all know that we could never possess the internal discipline to walk bad-ass-like away from an explosion without looking back and applauding like a giddy tween in the presence of some douchey boy-band star.

Which is why it should come as no surprise to learn that when a beached whale carcass appeared on an Oregon beach one afternoon in 1970, the people in charge of its disposal embraced the dramatic. It became a media event, and it’s still a memorable slice of history today because it also became an absolute debacle.

The fact is, sometimes whales explode on their own, due to a build-up of gasses bloating out its insides. But it’s usually more fun when humans intervene and attempt to assert their dominance over nature via dynamite. We are a truly wondrous species.

Whale-1

The sperm whale (that’s the one on the left) was a 45-foot, 8-ton beast. It drifted ashore in central Oregon, along the coast near the town of Florence. In 1970, beaches were inexplicably classified as state highways in Oregon, meaning the people in charge of the carcass’s removal were the same folks who helped to craft the Pacific Coast Highway – the Oregon Department of Transportation. The district engineer had disappeared on a hunting trip, so the responsibility for the body disposal fell upon the backup guy, George Thornton. Read more…

Day 554: The Fictional Elite

Header

Some lucky soul (or souls) claimed the Lotto Max on Friday night, the Canada-wide lottery that often stretches its jackpot to $50 million. This was one of those big-money draws, and I was denied the prize once again, for the silly inconsequential reason that I didn’t buy a ticket.

Who among us hasn’t imagined how our life would change with the sudden injection of eight pre-decimal figures in our bank account? Every year, Forbes magazine drops its list of the wealthiest humans on the globe, and because I know my name will never grace those pages, it’s with only the mildest of interest that I check to see if the big winner is Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, or some Saudi Arabian prince, floating on a sea of oil.

I don’t wish any of these people ill-will, but they really don’t have a tremendous effect on my life so I just can’t get excited about their appearance on the list. But Forbes also prints another list. These wealthy money-hoarders may not be technically “real”, but some of them are a lot more interesting than the ones who top that other list. These are the Forbes Fictional 15.

RichieRich

As you may have guessed, the Forbes Fictional 15 is a list of the wealthiest fifteen fictional characters, as compiled from numerous sources, including books, movies, cartoons, comics, TV shows, and using the authors’ best guesses as to their respective fiscal value. Forbes started printing this list in 2002, and though they’ve skipped a few years along the way, the list has become a curious cultural touchstone. Folklore and mythological characters are exempt, as are real people that we simply wish were only fictional. Read more…

Day 507: Saving The Souls Of All Bostonians

Header

I’ve never been one to target the masses with swift aplomb and savvy scribing. Possibly because I still use expressions like ‘swift aplomb’ – the masses aren’t really into that. But had fate plunked me down in a simpler, less outspoken, less internet-y time, I would have known the secret to placing my words at the iris-end of eyeballs all over the country, even the world.

The trick, as any writer from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries would tell you, is to get your stuff banned in Boston.

This might also net you a snazzy t-shirt.

This might also net you a snazzy t-shirt.

Why Boston? Why is there no Wikipedia page devoted to things that were banned in Pittsburgh? Or Richmond? Or <insert city name that you, the reader, despise>? Everyone knows those schlubs don’t know from quality literature.

Boston was founded way back at the dawn of what would become America by a bunch of uppity Puritans who had no time for such blasphemous notions like profanity, mature content, adult themes, or independent thought. Actually, I think a lot of early American cities were founded by Puritans, it’s just that Boston took a little longer to shimmy free from the shackles of repression – a word I’ve decided is a portmanteau of ‘religious oppression’. Boston was a theocracy, pure and simple. And despite whatever yammer-jammer may have been scribbled in the First Amendment later on, city officials still held on to the right to save its citizens from objectionable material that had the potential to book their souls on a one-way ticket to an unfathomable HELL. Read more…

Day 444: The Lexicon Gets Jiggy With It – Words From The 90s

Header

As a full-time juggler, manhandler, and crass exploiter of words, I sense a giddy little lightning shiver of excitement when a linguistic topic floats to the top of the chum-pile for selection in my daily tithe. I’ve marveled at some of our most recent additions to the western lexicon, today I tripped over a list of words coined in the decade that truly heralded the inescapable Information Age: the 1990’s.

A lot of words on this list are still lilting in the air, often getting plucked by someone’s voice and dropped into conversations without fanfare. We know what a webisode is, the term LGBT is commonplace, and we’re all familiar with the internet meme. The word ‘blog’ is everywhere. Some people have called this site a blog, which I suppose it is, though I prefer the term ‘endurance experiment’.

Here are a handful of terms who surged in the 1990’s and have since dropped off my radar.

Disneyfication

In the 90’s, it was important to differentiate between Disneyfication, McDonaldization and Walmarting. Disneyfication is what everyone fears about the new Star Wars movies – it involves stripping the original from its real character and repackaging it in a sanitized, child-safe format. Some complain that Times Square is Disneyfied, closed off for safe pedestrian travel, packed full of approachable chain restaurants and tourist sights, and sadly lacking in the pornographic theaters and random masturbators that made the area a true adventure back in the 1980’s. Read more…

Day 184: It’s An Emergency! Dial… Something!

Okay, so your drunken neighbor was showing off his crossbow, when he accidentally shot a flaming arrow that sailed over his fence, nicked your leg, and started your garden shed on fire. Now you have three problems. One, there’s a McNugget-size chunk of your leg now smoldering among your chrysanthemums. Two, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose that Garden Weasel you ordered by phone back in 1992 because Jim Martindale promised it would give you two inches of mulch, and the fire may spread to your home. Three, you appear to have a potentially dangerous and sociopathic neighbor.

What do you do?

If you live in North America, you’d probably call 9-1-1, explain the situation, and await help. If you live in England (and I would assume then that your prized botanical instrument might be called the Garden Hazel Dormouse, or something more British-y), you’d ring up 9-9-9 on your mobile and await the bobbies. But it wasn’t always so simple.

When you live next to this guy, you want things to be simple.

Back in the old-timey days, you’d pick up your telephone receiver and await the operator’s voice. Stating “Police, please,” would get you the police. If you lived in a big city, the operator would dispatch whatever you needed. In a small town, the operator might tell you where you can find the nearest doctor, would often sound the town’s fire alarm herself, and may even have had the responsibility of running through the streets, screaming of an impending apocalypse. Small towns were a lot more dramatic back in those days.

Once the telephone companies’ manual switching systems were changed over to automatic, people began to panic. How could people be expected to dial something for emergencies after having been trained to simply scream into the receiver for the right crew to be dispatched? Pandemonium would ensue; the terrorists would win.

Read more…

Day 76: Lite Beer From Miller – It’s Everything You Always Wanted In An Article… And Less.

 

I have not yet written an article on one of my favorite topics: great beer. Today I will unfortunately not be breaking that streak. My topic du jour is Miller Lite.

I’ve only had one Miller Lite in my thirty-seven years, and I vaguely remember it being only marginally different in gustatory satisfaction from Bud Lite, which left my taste buds shrugging their buddish shoulders, wondering when they could expect to be used. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my more sophisticated beer-soaked buds would be more receptive to Miller Lite today. But I doubt it.

Lite’s Wiki-page lists the ingredients contained within the beer “at one point.” I don’t know what has changed, maybe Miller has since conformed to the Reinheitsgebot principle of “Bavarian Purity.” For those who think I just made up that word (and I’m known for making up words whenever it fits my mood), the Reinheitsgebot law was brought forward in 1487 Germany, decreeing that the only ingredients that are to appear in any beer in the nation would be water, barley and hops. They have since expanded the law to include yeast, and even wheat and cane sugar, but that’s about it. Let’s see what was in Miller Lite “at one point”.

Water, barley, hops and yeast, they all make an appearance. Miller Lite also contained propylene glycol, a seaweed extract also found in moisturizers, shampoo, deodorant, smoke machines, tobacco and antifreeze. That’s a good start. You’ll also find corn syrup, carbon dioxide, papain enzyme (which can whiten your teeth, take the pain out of a jellyfish sting, and block THC from showing up on your drug test), liquid sugar, food coloring, and potassium metabisulfite (which can be found in certain photographic developer solutions). Yum!

Crisp... clean... high resolution.

Alright, but it’s only 96 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs. So it’s almost good for you! (except for the antifreeze) Read more…