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Category Archives: research

This blog is just like “Wild Kingdom” only with more unsatisfying bird-sex.

Today we’re going to talk about the glory of birds. (WE…DID IT ALL…FOR THE GLORY OF BIRRRRRDS!) (Shut up, when I was a teen-Amy, that song was my FAVORITE, because I was all into the Karate Kid movies. I didn’t always make the best choices. Still don’t.)

AMY! WE JUST TALKED ABOUT BIRDS! you are yelling at me. DINOSAUR BIRDS!

Well, yes, we did. But we’re totally not talking about dinosaur birds today. We’re talking about awesome REGULAR birds that exist on our OWN PLANET NOW. And did I mention they’re awesome? Because they ARE.

I have a weird history with birds. (That sounds terrible and naughty. It was not meant that way. I promise.) I had a pair of lovebirds when I was in high school. I was so excited because they were the first pets I got to own MYSELF and they were MY PETS and I got to NAME them and I was VERY EXCITED ZOMG. Only come to find out they did one thing, and that one thing was screech. Constantly. They didn’t stop. They started out in my bedroom but then I couldn’t sleep so we moved them to the laundry room and then the whole family couldn’t sleep so then we moved them to the BASEMENT and we STILL couldn’t sleep so we gave them away. SO LOUD. So pretty and green with pretty faces but so loud. And also they totally didn’t let me touch them. I wanted to touch their pretty feathers and snappy beaks.

They were peach-faced lovebirds so they were really the prettiest.

They were peach-faced lovebirds so they were really the prettiest.

Then in grad school I knew someone with a parrot that tried to eat my whole ear and I totally bled all over the place. That parrot was smart and could say things and was crafty but also super-mean. And we had a parakeet at the pet store where I worked that could say its name (“EGGY!” and no, I don’t know why its name was Eggy, I assume because it said something that sounded like Eggy, and someone who worked at the pet store before me said, “That must be his name!”) He also would ride around on your shoulder and he never pooped on your shirt. I liked Eggy very much.

There are no pictures of what Eggy looked like online. This is close.

There are no pictures of what Eggy looked like online. This is close.

I also had a pair of birds right after grad school but when I moved I gave them away because I decided I was not a bird person. They ALSO did not let me touch them, and also birds are messy and make a lot of noise. I’m better with cats that knock over things when they fall off the bookcase. Or fish. I’m very good with fish. I want fish again someday.

ANYWAY, after I blogged about dinosaur birds who used their dancy rumps to get all the ladies, I got TWO VIDEOS about OTHER AWESOME BIRDS from TWO PEOPLE I LOVE. See what a lucky woman I am? The luckiest, is how lucky.

First, the amazing Mer who I miss like CRAZY posted the following video to my Facebook page after she read about dinosaur rump-shakery:

This is the Vogelkop Bowerbird. I had never heard of this bird before. Now it is one of my favorite new feathered friends.

Look at my pleasing display, yo!

Look at my pleasing display, yo!

In case you decide not to watch this totally kickass video, I will tell you the highlights.

  • the Vogelkop Bowerbird is an interior decorator. He lives in a little thatchy thing. Which is, given his name, not surprisingly, called a bower. And he DECORATES it. With things like fungus, leaves, insects, and in one case, DEER DUNG. Heh. 
  • these birds also like color schemes. They’re like wedding planners. The deer dung bird liked nature colors so he chose browns. The other bird liked brighter colors. Also, his insect decor kept crawling away, and he kept running back to retrive the insects and put them back where they belonged and it was SO FUNNY AND AWESOME.
  • The deer dung bird didn’t want the fungus that was growing in his dung to mess up his all-brown color scheme so he spent a long time plucking all the fungus out of the dung. These birds crack my shit UP. No pun intended with the shit and the dung.
  • The reason these birds decorate their little bowers is because the lady-birds choose their mates depending on whose display pleases them the most. Sex knows no species boundaries, my friends. None at all.
  • Near the end of the video there’s some total birdie-style sexing, for those of you who like such things. I’m looking at you, Ding Dong Joe. (Also, apparently birds are QUICK. Whoo! I don’t feel that lady-bird’s needs were at all satisfied.)

This bird lives in Indonesia so the odds are good I will never ever see this bird. I don’t know that I’ll ever go to Indonesia.

According to Wikipedia, the Satin Bowerbird chooses items of ALL THE SAME COLOR, so that one’s even MORE fun. These birds are enjoyable as hell.

He likes blue the MOST. ALL THE BLUE THINGS!

He likes blue the MOST. ALL THE BLUE THINGS!

Also, when I was playing this video, Dumbcat stood in the middle of the living room and turned his head all around and said, “Merouuu?” because he thought there were birds in the house. Dumbcat wants to eat a bird very badly. Or make friends with a bird. I’m not quite sure of his motivations, bird-wise.

Then I tweeted Andreas, totally taking him to task for not telling me about this amazing bird. Because he’s all sciency, you see. Andreas should tell me about ALL the things. (It never crossed my mind he wouldn’t know about these birds. And as you will see, I was right in that assumption, even though you know what they say about making asses out of both you AND me.)

He responded with:

Andreas makes me laugh and also smile with happiness. He’s just the best.

He then told me about the bird that only likes blue (I’m going to assume that’s the Satin Bowerbird) and then sent me the link to the NEXT video, and listen, this one’s ALSO an awesome bird. Check THIS one out:

This is the lyrebird. The lyrebird can make ALL THE SOUNDS. Not just other bird sounds. Did you watch that video? You should. It’s not even very long. And it’s totally the most entertaining. That bird is pretty and also VERY TALENTED.

Tail of PRETTINESS!!!

Tail of PRETTINESS!!!

It can make the following noises:

  • other birds;
  • photography equipment;
  • logging equipment like chainsaws; and
  • car alarms.

And they TOTALLY SOUND LIKE WHAT THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE. This bird sounds like he has a tape recorder in his throat. It is AMAZING. Plus he has a pretty tail, like a little mini-peacock.

THIS time, when I watched THIS video, Dumbcat LEAPT up onto the couch, and proceeded to crowd up onto my lap where the laptop was. I was all, “bub, what are we doing right now OH HUH THAT’S WELL NO LET’S NOT…” because he then attempted to lick the screen.

Apparently lyrebirds were more tempting than bowerbirds. Dumbcat wants to eat a lyrebird. Even though all those tailfeathers would make him sneeze and the minute it started making car-alarm noises, he’d get scared and hide in the pots-and-pans cupboard. (When the windows are open in the spring/summer, he also licks the screens when birds are on the porch. He doesn’t attempt to go THROUGH the screens. He’s hefty and totally could, if he wanted to. No, he just licks the metal screens. Because he’s…well, he’s my Dumbcat, I suppose.)

Also, I loved this video the most, because when the lyrebird made kookaburra noises, he was SO CONVINCING, a kookaburra totally came to see what was up. A KOOKABURRA! My favorite bird of ALL THE TIMES! Now I want a lyrebird AND a kookaburra. They would be the best of friends. I would name them Fred and Jimmy. Why? I don’t know, I don’t question your life choices. RUDE.

I like kookaburras because a., they seem to get the joke, b., when I saw one at the zoo it laughed JUST FOR ME, and c., when I was little Dad sang the kookaburra song with me. That's a lot of reasons, yo.

I like kookaburras because a., they seem to get the joke, b., when I saw one at the zoo it laughed JUST FOR ME, and c., when I was little Dad sang the kookaburra song with me. That’s a lot of reasons, yo.

Lyrebirds live in Australia, mate. I’d totally go to Australia and meet all the lyrebirds. And also all the kookaburras. And meet a guy with a sexy accent. And meet Nemo. Those things all can happen in Australia, I saw it on my teevee.

P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, Australia. IT WAS ON TEEVEE IT MUST BE TRUE!!!!

P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, Australia. ELLEN DEGENERES WAS A BLUE FISH AND SHE SAID IT ON MY TEEVEE IT MUST BE TRUE!!!!

So what have we learned today?

  • Bowerbirds are the interior decorators of the avian world
  • Bowerbirds only have sex for like thirty seconds
  • Female bowerbirds are probably bitter and grumpy due to that last tidbit of information
  • SATIN bowerbirds seem to only like blue things, which is super-selective and pretty
  • But, since they are bowerbirds, I assume they still are all wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am (SAD)
  • Lyrebirds are the best mimics ever and remind me of that guy from the Police Academy movies, only prettier
  • Lyrebirds can EVEN FOOL KOOKABURRAS
  • Andreas knows about all the birds, every last one of them
  • Dumbcat wants to either eat or make friends with a bird (debatable)

This has been a very big day, blog-wise. We have learned MANY THINGS. I think you’ll all want to take a nap now, probably. I can’t blame you.

If anyone has a lyrebird or a kookaburra they’re looking to rehome, you let me know. Dumbcat and I would take very good care of them. Promise.

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The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!

Ever since I posted about how we can hypermetabolize with our brains, Jim has been OBSESSED with this. He keeps commenting that he’s going to hypermetabolize with his brain and then he’s going to win…um…something, I don’t know. Here, I’ll let him tell you.

I’m sorry…I can’t get behind this hypermetabolism-as-trauma thing. It sounds like superpower. And the reason the rats died is because they just. couldn’t. hack it. Now I want hypermetabolism. I will lose weight and solve complicated math problems and lift all the weights! And my skin will most likely sparkle and they’ll make a movie about me, but they’ll call me a vampire because I stay up all night and kick so much ass. And because THEY CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!

I failed last night at hypermetabolism because I fell asleep in the middle of it, because I am an elderly. But tonight!! Ohhhhhh, tonight I will fucking SHINE!!!

He has since commented numerous times that he keeps falling asleep but SOON HE WILL HYPERMETABOLIZE. (Also, “I am an elderly” was the winner and made me giggle and giggle. Also, Jim’s only slightly more of an elderly than I am.)

Well, Jim, listen. You know I adore you. You know I do. You’re one of my favorite people that lives in my computer. You make me laugh. You are SMART and you are KIND and you are WACKY. So what I’m going to say right now is probably going to hurt a little. I’m sorry. I don’t like to hurt the people I care about. Here is a picture of an otter who also doesn’t like to hear bad news to mitigate the pain a little. I know you love otters.

Jim: I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to hypermetabolize. What with the elderly-ness and the sleeping and such.

I know. I’m sorry. I hate to break your heart. You’re so awesome, and that’s so mean of me.

However, to make things better, I decided to do some research for you. I mean, there must be some things we can do with our brains that are NOT hypermetabolizing. And there ARE. Oh, you wait. We have SO MANY BRAIN THINGS TO TALK ABOUT, Jim.

First, let’s get our brains to work for us, Jim. I mean, we carry these brains around with us and we keep them SAFE and WARM and what do they do for us? Nothing. So let’s make our brains DO something for us.

Luckily, in situations like this, we have our old friend wikiHow. wikiHow knows what’s up.

wikiHow’s going to tell us how to be TELEKINETIC, Jim! That’s GOT to be better than hypermetabolizing, right?

This article starts with SCIENCE. Well, Andreas will like it, then. It says all telekinesis is is SCIENCE. It is transferring the energy in our BODIES to the energy in things OUTSIDE of our body. Now, I don’t know what you’re going to use your telekinesis for, Jim, but I plan on using mine to either tweet or change the channels on the TV. All those little fiddly buttons! I think my brain should do this for me. I’ve got better things to do.

Next, it says choose something light to start with. So, I guess I shouldn’t choose Dumbcat, he weighs as much as a sack of potatoes. An unintelligent sack of potatoes that fell off the bookcase today when he jumped up on it. Um. Let’s see. I have a fortune from a fortune cookie over here that I’ve been meaning to tell you about because the fortune was so dumb. That’s pretty light. Let’s use that. wikiHow says to LET GO of the idea that the fortune and my brain are different because they CONTAIN THE SAME ENERGY. OK. So…all things are the same because they contain the same energy? I don’t know if that’s how science works. Andreas, is that how science works?

I AM THE SAME AS THE SUNNNNNN!

Then they want us to recognize and celebrate the energy flowing through our body but that seems like hippie shit. Is this article about hippie shit? I was not warned there would be hippie shit here. It says to flex all your muscles and FEEL THE BURN and also sit somewhere cold and then warm yourself up using the power of your mind. Well, kumbaya, you granola-loving flowerchild.

Hare krishna….HARE KRISHNA….damn hippies.

Next the person who wrote this article seems to have lost their mind because they start talking about how you can either push, pull or spin the item, but it’s a lot easier to pull the item, but not to levitate it (was levitating it even an option earlier? You can’t just throw in levitation like it’s just THERE) and then goes on and on and ON about calories and heat expended and such. I assume he or she is just trying to confuse us with sciencey terms. YOU DO NOT WIN. I’m still curious about this levitation thing you just popped in all willy-nilly.

This is not easy! You will bump your head on the ceiling, look out!

It then tells you to “focus your energy and direct it toward the system” but DOES NOT TELL YOU HOW TO DO IT. What the hell, wikiHow? That’s like giving someone directions on how to drive a car: “get behind the wheel and go.” Or how to bake a cake: “get some ingredients and make it.” UNHELPFUL.

It says to stop when you are tired. Well, that’s nice. Thanks for looking out for me, internets. I wish you’d told me this at the BEGINNING of the article, that’s when I got weary.

Jim! How’s your telekinesis going, good? Are you pushing pulling levitating shit all over? What? You’re not? Well, hell, this was a bust. Sorry. I have more, though, don’t you even worry.

This one’s not even weird and fake, Jim. This one is TRUE.

We can drive a CAR using our BRAINS.

Apparently, German engineers (those crafty German engineers! I assume Ken had something to do with this, I see “Germany” I immediately assume it’s Ken’s doing, I feel like he sneaks around Germany being crafty and then sneaking out before they know he was there) have rigged up a Passat so it works using the power of our BRAINS.

MAGIC BRAIN PASSAT!!!!

There is a lag, I guess, between your thought and the action of the car. But I guess if they implanted the sensors DIRECTLY into your brain, and not just in a weird headset-thingy, that lag wouldn’t happen.

Jim, what do you think? Want to get electrodes implanted in your brain so you can drive a car without using your hands? This is a very good use of our brains. And I think easier than hypermetabolization. Well, except for the brain surgery. I can’t imagine the brain surgery is all shits and giggles, you know? One time I watched a show about brain surgery and it went wrong and the patient couldn’t talk anymore. She talked all in gibberish but in her HEAD it made sense but it came out in GIBBERISH and that was how she was going to be FOREVER. I don’t know if I want car-driving brain-surgery if it makes me talk in gibberish forever, Jim. And I don’t think you should get this, either. Also, Passats aren’t even that cool of a car. Let’s not do this one, Jim. Not until they make it for convertibles or old-timey 50s cars or something cool like that.

Now let’s see what else we can do. OOH LOOK. We can BE MEAN TO CARROTS.

Apparently you can heal yourself using the power of your mind (I know people believe this, and that’s great, but I’m a doctor-advocate; give me pills and/or surgery over brain-power any day, I don’t know enough science to heal myself, good gravy) but with THIS you can PROVE the POWER of your MIND to HEAL yourself (and also carrots.)

You’re supposed to cut the tops off carrots, and also the green stuff, and put them in two dishes of water in the sun, and mark one with a PLUS SIGN and one with a MINUS SIGN and then say nice things to the plus-carrots and encourage them, and cuss out the bad carrots and send them all the bad vibes.

I guess what will happen is that the plus-carrots will grow and thrive and go to Harvard, and the minus-carrots will get negative self-esteem and probably make bad decisions and start smoking weed and have teen pregnancies.

I don’t know what I think about this, Jim. I think hypermetabolizing might be better than insulting carrots. Insulting carrots seems beneath us, somehow, don’t you agree? Those poor carrots. They didn’t do anything to deserve our scorn. Well, other than being carroty. I do so hate carrots. The other day I had a frozen meal, and it was utterly FILLED with carrots. GROSS. I didn’t eat a single one. I threw them ALL AWAY.

So what have we learned today, Jim? We have learned that we can:

  • move things with our mind, or maybe we can’t
  • drive cars with our mind using the power of brain surgery
  • insult carrots

These all seem more likely than the possibility of hypermetabolization. I hope I didn’t kill your dreams too much. I like you just that much and I hate to be all dream-crushy, I really do. After all, you are:

…and we can’t go hurting our people over here. That would be extremely poor form.

Let me know how these things go, ok? I have every faith in you and your magical brain.

Just stop insulting those carrots. THEY DID NOTHING WRONG.


“Robert did it.” …and then I didn’t sleep again for a week.

I find dolls terrifying.

I don’t think they’re cute or funny or a good toy for children at all. Stuffed animals are fine. I like stuffed animals. I might own a few more than a grown woman should. They are puffy and harmless and soft and most likely won’t kill you when you sleep. Notice the “most likely” there. I don’t rule anything out in the world.

But dolls are terrible. Dolls have dead, dead eyes and are not at all soft or puffy. They have hard faces and they could come to life when you are sleeping and strangle you with their scary hands and they could talk with their scary plastic mouths. Whenever I mention dolls, my beloved Elaine sends me this link. THIS DOES NOT MAKE MY DOLL PHOBIA ANY BETTER, ELAINE.

Then you think about all the horrible dolls on television and in the movies that want to eat your face like:

Chucky, who was a lot scarier before the movies got weird and campy, and…

Talky Tina, who was going to kill you (ugh, this doll terrifies me) and…

The effing clown-doll in Poltergeist. WHY DID THESE CHILDREN EVEN HAVE THIS TOY? What kind of parents would give their children a toy like this? AND THEN KEEP IT IN THEIR BEDROOM WHERE IT CAN EAT THEIR FACES AND SOULS AS THEY SLEEP?

Anyway, a couple days ago I found out a very terrifying doll-story. WORSE than the dolls above, you guys. SO MUCH WORSE. And I didn’t know it even EXISTED until recently and I kind of wish I didn’t know it, to be honest, because it is utterly horrifying, and possibly worse than that clip above of Jane Fonda getting eaten by dolls with chompy teeth.

Why is it worse? BECAUSE APPARENTLY IT IS REAL LIFE TRUE TALES. *gulp*

This is Robert “Gene” Otto. He was born in 1900 in Key West to a rich and artsy family. Their house was like an artists’ colony so I assume everyone was all high-strung and there was a lot of sex and people were talking about things like “this room has the best light” and “I NEED MORE CERULEAN! STOP STEALING MY CERULEAN!” all the time. I guess that’d be ok in small doses.

When Robert was 4, his nanny made him a doll. Some people say it was because she liked him; some people say it’s because she was putting a curse on the kid because his mother had fired her for performing black magic. She apparently wanted it to be VERY LIFELIKE: she put ROBERT’S OWN HAIR on the doll. Well, that’s not at all creepy and terrifying and voodoo-like. Are you ready to see the doll? Sure you are. (No, you’re not, actually.)

BRUH. This is AWFUL. Look at those DEAD EYES. Who wants to guess what this doll’s name is?

Robert. This doll’s name is also Robert.

But that didn’t sit well with young HUMAN Robert, so he said, “Yo, henceforth you need to be callin’ me Gene, yo, because my DOLL’S name is Robert, and that confuses us, because WE ARE ONE.”

He-Who-Will-From-Now-On-Be-Called-Gene was obsessed with his doll. He brought it with him everywhere. He dressed in a sailor suit all the time so he and his doll were wearing the same clothes. He insisted that a chair be put at the table for Robert the Doll at every meal. And – AND – check these terrifying tidbits of information out from the interwebs:

“In time, both parents and servents observed, when Gene and Robert were alone, TWO distinct voices could be heard coming from their playroom. When the silverware was found in disarray and Gene was blamed, he was quick to volunteer that ‘Robert did it.'”

“By all accounts the attachment to this toy was a strange one. It has been rumoured that the doll was imbued with powers through the use of voodoo by four servants, including the creator of the doll.”

Oh, well, this isn’t going to end well. THE DOLL TALKS. And it is a VOODOO DOLL. And it MESSES UP THE SILVERWARE.

After the family got freaked out by his behavior, they put the doll in an attic room.

“After numerous occurrences like these, Robert was banished to the turret room in the Victorian-style mansion. Children passing by on their way to school would notice Robert in one window in the morning and having moved to another window in the afternoon— yet he hadn’t been moved by any human who’d claim it.”

Oh, well, that’s not at all nightmare-inducing for those poor children. “What’s wrong, pookie, can’t sleep?” “I FEEL HIS EYES WATCHING ME MOMMY HIS EVIL DEAD BLACK EYESSSSSS!”

So then Gene got married. He became an artist like his parents, and supposedly was pretty good at it, which is nice. However, he wasn’t the best husband. He and his wife fought a lot. And apparently, it wasn’t his fault: it was Robert’s.

“Theirs was an average marriage, oddly punctuated by suddenly volatile behavior from Gene. As always, after each outburst was over, Gene would say, ‘Robert did it.'”

…Robert did what. Robert fought with your wife? No. YOU fought with your wife, and I think you’ve lost your everloving mind.

Unsurprisingly, Mrs. Gene hated that doll. Haaaaaated. Can’t say as I blame her. That’s creepy as hell, yo. So when old Gene kicked the bucket in 1972, Ann locked that doll in a trunk in the attic AND THEN LEFT THE HOUSE. Not even kidding. She took the hell off. She made a new plan, Stan. She hopped on the bus, Gus. She didn’t even look back. See ya, you creepy dead-eyed thing.

“She left Robert in his turret room and rented out the house. A strict provision in the rental agreement stated that Robert must stay in his room and it was strictly adhered to until Anne passed away in 1976, even though the residents actually put Robert in a trunk, then left the trunk in the turret room.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not renting ANY home where there’s a proviso “you must keep the demonically-possessed doll in ‘his room’ at all times – what do you mean, ‘what demonically-possessed doll,” EVERY HOUSE HAS ONE, I assure you of that!” in the rental agreement.

Eventually, Ann died and the house was sold. That damn trunk of evil was still in it. The child of the owners found Robert the Doll and was all, “YAY NEW DOLL” (nothing I’ve read says she was blind, but I can’t imagine she had SIGHT and was STILL all “yay new doll” because THIS THING IS TERRIFYING WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU) and brought it down to hang with her other dolls.

“Robert waited patiently up in the attic to be discovered once again. The Ten year old daughter of the new owners was quick to find Robert in the attic, and added him to her other toy’s in her bedroom. It was not long before Robert unleashed his displeasure on the child… The little girl began screaming out in the night,claiming that the doll moved about the room, and would climb on her bed and attack her as she tried to sleep. Even after more than thirty years later, she steadfastly claims that ‘the doll was alive and wanted to kill her.'”

(Please ignore those typos and grammatical issues. I assure you they are not mine.)

Then all the websites don’t say what happened between the 70s and the 90s, which worries me. I can only assume that means Robert the Doll killed a billion children and ate their souls.

Now Robert the Doll is in the Fort East Martello Museum. According to one of the websites, you’d damn well better not mock him if you see him OR YOU WILL BE CURSED as will your progeny.

“If you choose to visit Robert in the museum and want to take a picture you need to ask politely and do NOT make fun of the doll! If he allows you to take a picture he will tilt his head to the side, if he does not tilt his head and you take a picture anyway bad things happen to not only you but to anyone you were with or family members. The walls in that room of the museum are covered in letters from people asking Robert to please take the curse off, and apologizing for making fun of him.”

TILT HIS HEAD? What the hell is happening here? I’m not visiting anything that is inanimate, yet moves, and has the potential to possibly curse me or family members. TERRIFYING AND TERRIBLE. You couldn’t pay me enough money to visit this museum. NO NO NO.

So if you have kids that are SUPER-ATTACHED to something creepy, it’s probably best you just burn it; burn it with fire. Then bury it. And salt the earth. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned from all the horror stories I’ve read, it’s that these damn things come BACK. And they’re PISSED at you. AND THEY WILL EAT YOUR FACE AND ALSO YOUR SOUL.

Let’s talk about something nice tomorrow, ok? Kittens and rainbows and such? Because seriously. UGH.


The Naughtiness of Avocados

Today I was thinking about words. Specifically, how much I love them, and how much I love etymology. You’re all brilliant beyond compare and know exactly what that means, but I know (through my insane obsession with my stats) that I get a lot of high school kids who want me to do my homework for them round these here parts, so for you, you cheaty high school kids, etymology is the study of the history and origin of words and how their use and meaning has changed over time. I find etymology fascinating. I love words; the words we currently use, the words we used to use that have dropped out of favor, either because they’re no longer of use because technology has advanced (you don’t drop “zeppelin” in conversation too often nowadays, now do you? I mean, I suppose unless you’re talking about the band) or just because life moved on and the word became forgotten (for a kickass list of these, check this site out; so many gorgeous words we no longer use! Bonifate! Celeripedean! Diffibulate!)

A zeppelin! You may never say this word in conversation again, unless you’re discussing the band. Doesn’t that make you sad?

I love that sometimes I’ll mention that I found a lovely German word or French word or word in another language that just looks beautiful and Andreas will tell me what he knows about that word in Swedish and sometimes it’s funny that it’s so similar and sometimes there are awesome diacritical marks that make me grin like a looney.

Oh, these just make me drool.

Words just utterly amaze me. In another life, I’m pretty sure I should have been an etymologist. Is that a thing? Is that a job someone does and gets paid for? Why the hell didn’t I go in for that? I would have RULED at that.

What’s that? Did another shooting happen today which caused me to have a half-hour crying jag? Maybe so. Maybe just so. STOP SHOOTING PEOPLE FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. I have people I CARE about in Texas. What if one of my people had been walking by randomly and you shot them? And even if you didn’t shoot any of my people, you shot SOMEONE’S people! Ugh, stop it stop it STOP IT. I’m going to seriously hide under my bed until this all stops. What’s that? It never stops? Well, I guess someone’s going to have to bring me my meals under there, then.

Bring me a popsicle, would you?

Anyway, I was looking up happy etymology and found the following four things which made me smile. Also, were you aware that like 97% of our words have German origin? I totally made that up, but it’s a lot, yo. This is another reason it’s very important I have a German assassin friend. He can help with things like etymology. And, well, assassining, I suppose.

Assassin

Sample sentence: My dad is quite sure Ken’s an assassin.

According to this fun website, assassin has QUITE the history as a word. Apparently, assassins started out as Muslims, who were hired to attack Christian enemies. (If my dad knew this, he would nod knowingly and say “THAT’S WHAT THEY DO” because he thinks everyone’s a terrorist that’s not a Christian. Believe me, it’s not worth arguing about, you’re not changing his mind.) So in order to get all fired up to perform their assassiny assassinings, the assassins (who, at that time, were not yet KNOWN as assassins!) would toke up on large quantities of hashish, like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

I will KEEL you.

The killers therefore were called “hashshashin” (or on another site I found, “hashshashim”) which meant “people who ate or smoked hashish.” See how that sounds like assassin? Is that not the most interesting? The answer to that question is YES IT IS. Also, I think old-timey assassins must have been equal parts more scary and easier to escape. More scary, because they’d be all unpredictable and drugged-up, but also easier to escape because from what I remember from old movies about the people in hash dens, they were all moving in slow-motion and their eyes were half-closed, so you could probably hide under a table and the hashshashin would never find you and then wander off somewhere else and eat some brownies or something. Also, hashish is BAD NEWS. Didn’t you all see that sad movie Return to Paradise with Joaquin Phoenix? ZOMG it made me cry all the tears.

Yes, yes, it looks terrible and I might be the only person in the world who loved this but it makes me SO SAD.

Avocado

Sample sentence: One of my favorite foods ever is an avocado, but now that I know where the name came from, I feel kind of filthy.

YUM. Does that make me a perv? Eh, I probably was already anyway.

According to Wikipedia (dear Wikipedia, before you existed, how did we? Exist, I mean?), avocado comes from the Spanish word aguacate (which I had to research ALL BY MYSELF, thanks, Wikipedia, but because I love you, I did it, and it means, well, avocado) and, in turn, the Spanish word came from the Nahuatl word ahuácatl. And guess what THAT means? Guess. No, seriously, guess. Testicles. AVOCADOS WERE NAMED AFTER TESTICLES YOU GUYS! Is that not the most fun factoid ever? And apparently, since they look SO MUCH LIKE TESTICLES (now, seriously, I’m not saying I have ALL the experience, but I’ve seen some danglies, and…um…they weren’t this big? Or shaped like this? Or, well, hell, green? Was I doing it wrong? Were the guys I was with genetic aberrations?) avocados were worshiped as “the fertility fruit” by the Aztecs. Well, I don’t know about them being “the fertility fruit” but I think they’re sexy as hell. They have a very sexy silky texture in your mouth. So, yeah, I’d totally want to make out if some guy fed me some avocados. I’m not saying I’d turn that down.

Astronaut

Sample sentence: I never wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, because aliens made me nervous, yo.

There’s totally a killer alien behind him you can’t see, how much do you want to bet.

This isn’t a long one (THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID); it just made me smile. Astronaut is two Greek words combined. “Astron” means “star” and “nautes” means “sailor.” Aw, you GUYS! Star sailor! How awesome is THAT?

Cole Slaw

Sample sentence: sj hates cole slaw the most. (She really does.)

Before I start with this, I just have to say: I am very torn on cole slaw. VERY TORN. I like some cole slaw so, so much – like, I could eat GALLONS of it – and some of it I hate so much I want to throw it out the window. The worst part is: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MAKES ME LIKE OR DISLIKE CERTAIN VARIETIES OF COLE SLAW. I don’t think it’s the veggies. I’m pretty sure it’s the dressing, but I don’t know what’s IN the dressing I’m so offended by. Like, I used to love (shut up, I never said I grew up classy) Dairy Queen cole slaw. I could have eaten that for breakfast, lunch and dinner and never gotten tired of that.

When I was a kid, this was my favorite thing to eat in all the world. Dairy Queen fried shrimp, fries, and cole slaw. Guess what? Still kind of is in the top 10.

However! My mom’s cole slaw? I hate that so much it makes my head ache. I can’t even take a bite. And my mom’s cooking is fantastic. I don’t know, either. ANYWAY. Apparently, we stole Dutch words to make our cole slaw: “cole slaw” is just Dutch for “cabbage salad.” But in Dutch, the words are actually “kool sla.” Hee! We should have stuck with that, because I like the idea that the word “kool” would have been in regular rotation as something other than a weird cigarette advertised on the back of the TV Guide.

I wanted to research fun things for Ken like mustard and cheese and euphemism but their history was totally the most blah. That made me sad. I suppose I could make up a fun history for them, like “mustard” was from the Spanish “mus” which means “zesty mouth food” and “tard” which means “yellow condiment” or something but it would be a flat-out lie. I even tried to find the etymology of the word goat for Ken because you’d THINK that would have some sort of fun etymology because goats are the BEST but the most interesting fact I could find is maybe the word has roots in the Slavic or Sanskrit word for “jump” and that’s kind of fun, but mostly the root of the word goat is just various versions of the word “goat” in other languages and that’s not whimsical at ALL. I also wanted to find fun Swedish etymology for Andreas but the internet is so not being helpful. I did find this page of “commonly used German words in English” and it made me laugh and laugh because yes, yes I often drop “Rollmops” or “Flatterzunge” in my day-to-day conversations with people, Wikipedia. (ZOMG Flatterzunge. That’s like my new favorite word.) It’s like you KNOW me! Are you spying on my conversations? You tricky website! (Are you guys using these in your conversations with people? Should I be? Now I feel like I’m left out of some sort of super-fancy conversations.)

I did learn that “fruit” came from the Latin “frui” meaning “to enjoy” which is just rude to those of us who hate fruit. YES. All TWO of us who hate fruit. There are two of us, because I know someone else who doesn’t like it, too. SO THERE.

Thank you, words! You are my favorite and have taken my mind off ickiness for like two whole hours. Well, the avocado thing was a little icky, but also kind of whimsical, so I forgive you, words. I forgive you.


Yours is a prudent, well-considered audacity!

I know. You’re all SOOOOO OVER the Olympics. And they’re done, at least for two more years. (That’s how that works, right? It’s every two years? It’ll be somewhere in the winter in two years, won’t it? I should probably look that up. Wait, don’t go anywhere. FINE, the interwebs tells me that in two years, the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia. That’s a cute town name. It sounds like a stuffed animal or a delicious coffee beverage. I like that a lot.)

Dude! Sochi looks like Florida, how fun is that?

But I found this mention of something I totally found interesting in all the Olympic coverage, and I couldn’t not mention it. How could I not mention it? It covers all the things I love. Arts, weirdness, some sort of odd coverup, and SKULLDUGGERY. Well, also sports, but meh, I’ll pretend that’s not happening, you know how me + sports = a big fat who-cares.

Some of you might know this – you’re all pretty web-savvy, so you might have seen mention of this, here or here – but some of you might have missed this, in all of the Olympic lunacy. Were you aware that, for 36 years, there were arts events in the Olympics? Not sports – no one getting all sweaty and running all around and being better-faster-stronger – but ARTS events! It is totally true!

Gold medal in poetry reading in front of other people! Which is the most scary thing ever! ALL THE GOLD!

There were five categories – architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. In each of those categories, there were various awards you could win. Like, in architecture, one of the awards was for town planning. And in literature, there were four sub-categories: mixed literature, dramatic works, epic works, and lyric and speculative works.

Is this not a totally cool thing? That we were giving Olympic medals to our artists?

Gold in art! Gold in architecture! Gold for all the artists!

Well, yes, sure, in theory, it totally was. But it was actually kind of weird, and poorly-planned, and not very well-thought-out or executed.

The creator of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Coubertin (you can tell by the name he was a good Italian boy, right? heh) decided that he’d like the Olympic Games to be more like the old-timey Olympic Games. Apparently, back in Greek times, they really were keen on their artists. (YAY GREEKS!) So he decided, let’s have some arts events. Let’s let our artists be showcased and let’s celebrate them, too.

ZOMG Pierre’s MOUSTACHE! That is ALL THE FACIAL HAIR! You could hang onto that while riding a motorcycle behind him like safety handlebars! Whoo!

What were the rules? Well, that’s where things are kind of hazy. There’s not a lot written about these events. What I’ve been able to find out is that you couldn’t be a professional “artist” – only amateurs were allowed to compete – but the participants were allowed to sell their submissions during the Olympics (I like to imagine a painter running along the sidelines of an event, all, “Paintings! Get your paintings here!”) The works of art had to be “directly inspired by the idea of sport.” Which is pretty broad, when you think about it. You could pretty much say anything was “inspired” by the idea of sport. I could write a poem about gardening and throw in something about how it’s like shotputting and wouldn’t that fit that broad description, really? I mean, I’m not saying it would be good, but it’d fit the description.

So the first year they did these events, the judges (they’re like the old-timey version of the American Idol judges, is my guess) were SO SO SO EXCITED that they had JUST THE PERFECT POEM that had been submitted. It was very exciting, full of things like “the radiant messenger of a past age” and “O, Sport! You are Honour!” and “yours is a prudent, well-considered audacity” (hee! I love that!) and “destroying unhealthy seed” (yeah, I don’t…I don’t know about that last one) and the judges were TOTALLY creaming their old-timey shorts over this poem. (Check this out: “He/who, with some shameful trick,/manages to deceive his fellow com-/petitors feels guilt to his very core/and lives in fear of the ignominious/epithet which shall forever be/attached to his name should his/trickery be discovered.” WHOA. This guy HATED trickery! So much! Hee!)

The authors were some super-fancy gents named Georges Hohrod and Martin Eschbach. So the judges were all, “bring us Georges and Martin! Let us PRESENT THEM WITH LAURELS!” Only…no one could find ol’ Georges and Martin. Where were they? Where were Georges and Martin?

Well, they didn’t exist. Why? Because someone else wrote the poem and made up the authors. Who made up the poem?

Our tricky French friend Pierre de Coubertin. He was worried no one would submit decent poetry for his first outing in Olympic artiness, so he wrote what he considered to be the PERFECT POEM.

All you can expect from this guy is trickery. I mean, look at that moustache. It’s not even the same color as his head-hair!

Guess what? They still gave him the gold medal that first year, even though he was a lying liar who lied. They actually awarded it to the imaginary names – the Martin/Georges combo – but everyone knew it was ol’ de Coubertin.

Pretty sneaky, sis!

There were a lot of problems with the arts competition. There were no rules about how many medals had to be given out, so there were a lot of years where there were just not enough good entries in the categories to award a gold, a silver, and a bronze. There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in the categories among artists – you know how artists are, with their “You’re a SELLOUT, yo!” mentality. (And, yeah, it’s a fine line, the sellout thing. You gotta feed yourself, but you also want your fellow artists to respect you, and you want the public at large to respect you, and you want to be able to look yourself in the eye at the end of the day…so it’s tough, deciding what you can do and still be an “artist” and not a “douchebag,” I guess.)

The arts categories eventually got phased out for a variety of reasons – the events weren’t considered very professional, were getting too commercial, and, as mentioned above, the rules were kind of all over the place. (Also, the Germans tried to add a “film” category at one point and the committee was all “NO NO NO” which is just dumb.  A film category would have been a good addition. Why you naysaying the Germans, yo?) Apparently, there’s a concurrent Olympic art show that runs every two years with the summer Olympics now, which is a nod toward the Olympic art events.

So what’s weird about this? Well, how about how NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT? I didn’t hear about it until this year. You’d think this would be something that’s a little more publicized. People love Olympic trivia (I don’t know why, they just do. I don’t. PEOPLE do. NORMAL people.) Even a search when I was writing this didn’t bring up a hell of a lot – the two articles I linked above, a couple others – this one from the New York Times, an article informing me that NPR had been holding a throwback poetry competition to celebrate the long-lost Olympic events. The articles even told me that the poems were never collected anywhere, and – and check this out from the Wikipedia article, how weird is this? “The IOC does not track medalists in Olympic art competitions in its database and thus the prize winners have been taken from the original Olympic reports.” What the hell? I’m sure there are excellent records of all the winners of Olympic events, going back to forever and ever, but not of these events? Are they embarrassed about them, or do they just not matter at all? I find this all quite bizarre.

I feel kind of bad for these artists. They submitted their stuff and they totally won Olympic gold (or silver or bronze) and they’ve totally been forgotten by history. That makes me sad. They were winners, same as the athletes. They deserve kudos, same as any other winner. (Even if they say things like “prudent, well-considered audacity.”)

So! When you are having happy Olympic memories and such, send a few thoughts out toward people like Urho Karhumäki, a Finnish (yay for Finland!) poet who won gold for a poem called “Avoveteen” (Andreas could tell you, but apparently, that means “Into free water”, which makes me smile – I like that there’s one word that means that), or Rudolf Binding, a German who wrote the (I’m sure FILLED with euphemism, because he’s from Ken’s country!) silver-medal-winning poem “Reitvorschrift für eine Geliebte.” What’s that mean? Well. I’m glad you asked. It means “Rider’s Instructions to his Lover.” (Also, UMLAUT YAY!) Who says poetry inspired by sport can’t be ALL THE SEXY?

This kind of riding? Perhaps. Or perhaps something EVEN MORE EUPHEMISTIC!

Yay for exciting history and poems filled with euphemism and giving awards to artists!


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