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Lifestyles of the Animated and High

When people think of cartoon characters getting high, the conversation always turns to Shaggy of Scooby-Doo. And why not? He talks to a dog. He’s paranoid that he’s being chased by ghosts. He has a perpetual box of Scooby Snacks when the munchies hit.
1 shaggy Lifestyles of the Animated and High

But Shaggy’s not the only animated guy toking up in the back seat of the Mystery Machine. Check out the secret drug addictions of these ten cartoon characters.

Defendant: Yogi Bear

Drug of Choice: Marijuana

2 yogi 220x300 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

Shaggy’s not the only one indulging in a spliff. Perhaps Yogi grows his own in Jellystone National Park. An omnipresent yearning for pic-a-nic baskets and Ranger Smith paranoia are both signs of the pot smoker. Plus his mention that he’s “smarter than the average bear” is a version of the “I swear, I’m not drunk” tell.

Defendant: Underdog

Drug of Choice: Anabolic steroids

3 underdog Lifestyles of the Animated and High

He’s a mild-mannered Shoeshine Boy – until Polly Purebred’s in trouble. Then he pops an “Underdog Super Energy Pill” and he morphs into a canine version of Superman. In the mid-to-late 80s, they edited the pill-popping scenes out. That way no one would know what steroids are!

Defendant: Sherman (of Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman)

Drug of Choice: LSD

4 sherman 300x200 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

Sherman is “owned” by a “genius dog” named “Mr. Peabody” and takes “trips” in the “WABAC machine” that go “back in time.” ‘Nuff said.

Defendant: Wilma Flintstone & Betty Rubble (of The Flintstones)

Drug of Choice: Valium

5 wilma betty 300x221 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

Wilma and Betty are the cave precursors to Hot Chicks with Douchebags. Although Fred and Barney are less douchey than dopey. The only way that they haven’t gone all Bam-Bam on their men has to be a healthy dose of Mother’s Little Helper.

Defendant: Morocco Mole (of The Secret Squirrel Show.)

Drug of Choice: Hashish

6 moroccomole 282x300 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

He’s from Morocco. He’s got beady eyes. And he wears a fez but no pants?

Defendant: Jem (of Jem and the Holograms)

Drug of Choice: Ecstasy

7 mjem 300x246 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

When her father died, he left her Synergy, a holographic computer designed to be the “ultimate visual entertainment synthesizer.” I’m sure he left her his happy pills, too. Jem single-handedly introduced rave culture to the tween set.

Defendant: Speedy Gonzalez

Drug of Choice: Crank

8 speedy 234x300 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

This one’s pretty obvious. Although I discovered that Speedy, as well as being a speed freak, was also a pimp. Maybe he was chasing his high some 72-hour weekend as well?

Defendant: Elroy Jetson (of The Jetsons)

Drug of Choice: Ritalin

9 elroy 300x238 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

Brilliant. Focused. Straight-A student. Never gets into trouble. With parents like clueless George and perfectionist Jane, this kid’s gotta be on something.

Defendant: Natasha Fatale (of Rocky & Bullwinkle)

Drug of Choice: Diet pills.

10 natasha 300x196 Lifestyles of the Animated and High

She’s a former model and a past Miss Transylvania who’s managed to keep her figure. All before heroin chic!

Defendant: Tom (of Tom & Jerry)

Drug of Choice: Vicodin

11 cartoontom 300x207 Lifestyles of the Animated and HighHe’s been hit on the head with hammers, with frying pans, with baseball bats. He’s been set on fire, drowned, run over, blown up. Like a feline Timex, this housecat takes a licking and keeps on ticking. What’s his secret? I say liberal doses of Vicodin.

What sort of drugs do you think the characters of your favorite cartoons/comics do?

100w advertising festival

The annual International Advertising Festival 100W (100 watts) is being carried out in Sweden for 18 years now. This year’s opening was scheduled for 27 October. Agency Lowe Brindfors encouraged advertisers to participate, with the help of an advertising campaign “Awarding effective advertising”.

The creative idea is the impact of advertising, which prompted people to buy such goods, which they absolutely do not need – such as blind people have bought LCD TV, and bald – hair dryer.

click on images to enlarge

Coulrophobia: Are You Afraid of Clowns?

Did you find Heath Ledger as The Joker scary? Then perhaps you suffer from coulrophobia, the abnormal fear of clowns. Join a self-confessed coulrophobic for a look at these guys and see if you are too. Like you don’t already know.

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Why do so many people find clowns scary?  Only last year the Bestival Festival on the Isle of Wight in the UK had to rethink its plans.  Each year there is a theme and they thought they would follow up their successful cowboy theme with one based around clowns.  They had so many phone calls from adult ticket holders complaining that they would no longer be able to come because of their fear of clowns that the organizers had to rethink the theme.

So why is it that so many people are afraid of clowns?  I am certainly no exception.  One of my earliest memories is a visit to the circus where – sat on the ringside row, I watched the clowns make their entrance.  They circled around the ring, laughing and jolly and one made a beeline for me, eager it seemed to shake my hands.  The resulting hysteria almost, so my mother maintained for years, brought the house down.  It seems that I was pretty much the most entertaining feature of the show.

Maternal lack of sympathy aside – as well as a lasting embarrassment throughout my childhood and teen years – why did I as a toddler find clowning about so terrifying?  Was it that my burgeoning ability to process the facial features of others was put in to a form of panic-struck overdrive by the sight of so many exaggerated and colorful beings? Was it that the skin tone and facial appearance of the clowns threw me off kilter and – at some primal level at least – made me do the only thing I could which was, of course, to scream my head off?

Bring in the clowns?  Blame the buggers!  Even before psychology was an ‘ology’ people instinctively knew what made others tick.  The clowning tradition did not evolve purely with entertainment in mind and so it might not be any surprise that a lot of adults as well as children find the distorted features of clowns more than a little disturbing.  Many people even form an early fear of that arch-clown, Santa Claus.  The thrill of fear can leave lasting memories and performers have been quick to use this through the centuries.  However, when does a simple aversion become a phobia?

Why fear these harmless entertainers?  I wasn’t a particularly sensitive child (unless it suited me, so I am told).  Was it because I saw myself in their anarchic actions?  Did they represent, however subconsciously, unreason and out of control nature which I somehow recognized?  Was I afraid of their casual violence towards each other and fearful that it would extend to me? Were they a mirror to my soul?  Or was I just a wee wuss?

However you look at it, by the nineteen eighties the condition was so widespread that a word had to be coined for it – and what an odd word it is.  Like all phobias it has its origins in Greek and the ‘coul’ part comes from the Greek for limb.  It is a rather odd choice of words but the Greeks themselves had no equivalent to a clown so the real origin of the word comes from kolobathristes which is a stilt walker.  Strange, but true.

When something is taken out of its usual context it can sometimes create a reaction that others may feel is disproportionate?  I was lucky in many ways that McDonalds did not open one of its ‘restaurants’ in my home town until I was in my mid-teens.  With all the rationality associated with teenage boys I found the presence of a certain Ronald McDonald completely unnerving.  My mother had always told me not to talk to strange men and this man was, indeed, most peculiar.

Seeing the clown outside of a circus could have been what predicated by pubescent panic.  Lon Chaney, famous for his portrayal of The Phantom of The Opera among others said ‘There is nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight’ and I for one am inclined to agree with that sentiment.  So, when a clown is seen where it simply doesn’t belong it is, perhaps, quite human to have a negative reaction.  After all, if Lon Chaney was spooked by them, who can blame me?

Significantly, a study at a UK hospital has gone some way to prove this theory.  Around two hundred and fifty children were polled and all of them said that they found the visual representations of clowns around the hospital were scary.  Yes, that’s right; every single respondent said that they were unhappy with the presence of clown images in the institution.  Rather than encouraging a happy space the clowns were actually frightening the children.

So, what do we do about the clowns?  Do we send them away?  Most psychologists will tell you that the occasional scare can be good for the system.  A great deal of the population will not even believe that coulrophobia is a real condition.  If you are not convinced that people are truly scared of clowns, take a look at this clip.


Donald Duck Family Tree

Donald Duck Family Tree

donald duck family tree Donald Duck Family Tree

click to enlarge

All appearances:

Huey Duck, Dewey Duck, Louie Duck, ? Duck, Della Duck, Donald Duck, Gladstone Gander, Fethry Duck, Abner “Whitewater” Duck, Gus Goose, Matilda McDuck, Scrooge McDuck, Hortense McDuck, Quackmore Duck, Goostave gander, Daphne Duck, Lullubelle Loon, Eider Duck, Fanny Coot, Luke Goose, Cuthbert Coot, Downy O’Drake, Fergus McDuck, Jake McDuck, Angus “Pothole” McDuck, Humperdink Duck, Elvira “Grandma” Coot, Casey Coot, Gretchen Grebe, Quackmire McDuck, “Dirty” Dingus McDuck, Molly Mallard, Gertrude Gadwall, Clinton Coot, Sir Roast McDuck, Sir Swamphole McDuck, Hugh “Seafoam” McDuck, Malcolm McDuck, Sir Quackly McDuck, Sir Stuft McDuck, Sir Eider McDuck, Pintail Duck, Cornelius Coot.

Sidebar (Friends of the family):
Daisy Duck, April, May, June, Gyro Gearloose.

The signs:
The Clan McDuck, The Duck Family, Coot Kin

The Stupidest Business Decisions in History

We’ve all made mistakes … but probably not big mistakes like making snot beer, saying no to The Beatles, or turning down the patent for the telephone. In fact, here are some of the biggest business blunders in history:
Turning Down The Beatles


The Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show in 1964
1 beatles on ed sullivan show The Stupidest Business Decisions in History Executives: Mike Smith and Dick Rowe, executives in charge of evaluating new talent for the London office of Decca Records.

Background: On December 13, 1961, Mike Smith traveled to Liverpool to watch a local rock ‘n’ roll band perform. He decided they had talent, and invited them to audition on New Year’s Day 1962. The group made the trip to London and spent two hours playing 15 different songs at the Decca studios. Then they went home and waited for an answer.

They waited for weeks.

Decision: Finally, Rowe told the band’s manager that the label wasn’t interested, because they sounded too much like a popular group called The Shadows. In one of the most famous of all rejection lines, he said: “Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, but we don’t like your boys’ sound. Groups are out; four-piece groups with guitars particularly are finished.”

Impact: The group was The Beatles, of course. They eventually signed with EMI Records, started a trend back to guitar bands, and ultimately became the most popular band of all time. Ironically, “within two years, EMI’s production facilities became so stretched that Decca helped them out in a reciprocal arrangement, to cope with the unprecedented demand for Beatles records.”

Turning Down E.T.

2 et1 The Stupidest Business Decisions in History SHOULD WE LET THAT DIRECTOR USE OUR CANDY IN HIS FILM?

Executives: John and Forrest Mars, the owners of Mars Inc., makers of M&M’s

Background: In 1981, Universal Studios called Mars and asked for permission to use M&M’s in a new film they were making. This was (and is) a fairly common practice. Product placement deals provide filmmakers with some extra cash or promotion opportunities. In this case, the director was looking for a cross-promotion. He’d use the M&M’s, and Mars could help promote the movie.

Decision: The Mars brothers said “No.”

Impact: The film was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Stephen Spielberg. The M&M’s were needed for a crucial scene: Eliott, the little boy who befriended the alien, uses candies to lure E.T. into his house.

Instead, Universal Studios went to Hershey’s and cut a deal to use a new product called Reese’s Pieces. Initial sales of Reese’s Pieces had been light. But when E.T. became a top-grossing film – generating tremendous publicity for “E.T.’s favorite candy” – sales exploded. They tripled within two weeks and continued climbing for months afterward. “It was the biggest marketing coup in history,” says Jack Dowd, the Hershey’s executive who approved the movie tie-in. “We got immediate recognition for our product. We would normally have to pay 15 or 20 million bucks for it.”

Selling M*A*S*H For Peanuts

3 mash The Stupidest Business Decisions in History HOW DO WE COME UP WITH SOME QUICK CASH?

Executives: Executives of 20th Century Fox’s TV division (pre-Murdoch)

Background: No one at Fox expected much from M*A*S*H when it debuted on TV in 1972. Execs simply wanted to make a cheap series by using the M*A*S*H movie set again – so it was a surprise when it became Fox’s only hit show. Three years later, the company was hard up for cash. When the M*A*S*H ratings started to slip after two of its stars left, Fox execs panicked.

Decision: They decided to raise cash by selling the syndication rights to the first seven seasons of M*A*S*H on a futures basis: local TV stations could pay in 1975 for shows they couldn’t broadcast until October 1979 – four years away. Fox made no guarantees that the should would still be popular; $13,000 per episodes was non-refundable. But enough local stations took the deal so that Fox made $25 million. They celebrated …

Impact: … but prematurely. When M*A*S*H finally aired in syndication in 1979, it was still popular (in fact, it ranked #3 that year). It became one of the most successful syndicated shows ever, second only to “I Love Lucy.” Each of the original 168 episodes grossed over $1 million for local TV stations; Fox got nothing.

What Use is the Telephone, the Electrical Toy?

4 western union telegraph The Stupidest Business Decisions in History SHOULD WE BUY THIS INVENTION?

Executive: William Orton, president of the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1876.

Background: In 1876, Western Union had a monopoly on the telegraph, the world’s most advanced communications technology. This made it one of America’s richest and most powerful companies, “with $41 million in capital and the pocketbooks of the financial world behind it.” So when Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a wealthy Bostonian, approached Orton with an offer to sell the patent for a new invention Hubbard had helped to fund, Orton treated it as a joke. Hubbard was asking for $100,000!

Decision: Orton bypassed Hubbard and drafted a response directly to the inventor. “Mr. Bell,” he wrote, “after careful consideration of your invention, while it is a very interesting novelty, we have come to the conclusion that it has no commercial possibilities… What use could this company make of an electrical toy?”

Impact: The invention, the telephone, would have been perfect for Western Union. The company had a nationwide network of telegraph wires in place, and the inventor, 29-year-old Alexander Graham Bell, had shown that his telephone worked quite well on telegraph lines. All the company had to do was hook telephones up to its existing lines and it would have had the world’s first nationwide telephone network in a matter of months.

Instead, Bell kept the patent and in a few decades his telephone company, “renamed American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), had become the largest corporation in America … The Bell patent – offered to Orton for a measly $100,000 – became the single most valuable patent in history.”

Ironically, less than two years of turning Bell down, Orton realized the magnitude of his mistake and spent millions of dollars challenging Bell’s patents while attempting to build his own telephone network (which he was ultimate forced to hand over to Bell.) Instead of going down in history as one of the architects of the telephone age, he is instead remember for having made one of the worst decisions in American business history.

Let’s Make Snot Beer!

5 budweiser The Stupidest Business Decisions in History HOW DO WE COMPETE WITH BUDWEISER?

Executive: Robert Uihlein, Jr., head of the Schlitz Brewing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Background: in the 1970s, Schlitz was America’s #2 beer, behind Budweiser. It had been #1 until 1957 and has pursued Bud ever since. In the 1970s, Uihlein came up with a strategy to compete against Anheuser-Busch. He figured that if he could cut the cost of ingredients used in his beer and speed up the brewing process at the same time, he could brew more beer in the same amount of time for less money … and earn higher profits.

Decision: Uihlein cut the amount of time it took to brew Schlitz from 40 days to 15, and replaced much of the barley malt in the beer with corn syrup – which was cheaper. He also switched from one type of foam stabilizer to another to get around new labeling laws that would have required the original stabilizer to be disclosed on the label.

Impact: Uihlein got what he wanted: a cheaper, more profitable beer that made a lot of money … at first. But it tasted terrible, and tended to break down so quickly as the cheap ingredients bonded together and sank to the bottom of the can – forming a substance that “looked disconcertingly like mucus.” Philip Van Munchings writes in Beer Blast:

Suddenly Schlitz found itself shipping out a great deal of apparently snot-ridden beer. The brewery knew about it pretty quickly and made a command decision – to do nothing … Uihlein declined a costly recall for months, wagering that not much of the beer would be subjected to the kinds of temperatures at which most haze forms. He lost the bet, sales plummeted … and Schlitz began a long steady slide from the top three.

Schlitz finally caved in and recalled 10 million cans of the snot beer. But their reputation was ruined and sales never recovered. In 1981, they shut down their Milwaukee brewing plant; the following year the company was purchased by rival Stroh’s. One former mayor of Milwaukee compared the brewery’s fortunes to the sinking of the Titanic, asking “How could that big of a business go under so fast?”

Model T is Forever!

6 model t The Stupidest Business Decisions in History SHOULD WE INTRODUCE A NEW CAR?

Ford Model T

Background: When Henry Ford first marketed the Model
T in 1908, it was a state-of-the-art automobile. “There were cheaper cars on the market,” writes Robert Lacey in Ford: The Men and Their Machine, “but no one could offer the same combination of innovation and reliability.” Over the years, the price went down dramatically … and as the first truly affordable quality automobile, the Model T revolutionized American culture.

Decision: The Model T was the only car that the Ford Motor Co. made. As the auto industry grew and competition got stiffer, everyone in the company – from Ford’s employees to his family – pushed him to update the design. Lacey writes:

The first serious suggestions that the Model T might benefit from some major updating had been made when the car was only four years old. In 1912 Henry Ford had taken [his family] on their first visit to Europe, and on his return he discovered that his [chief aides] had prepared a surprise for him. [They] had labored to produce a new, low-slung version of the Model T, and the prototype stood in the middle of the factory floor, its gleaming red lacquer-work polished to a high sheen.

“He had his hands in his pockets,” remembered one eyewitness, “and he walked around the car three or four times, looking at it very closely … Finally, he got to the left-hand side of the car that was facing me, and he takes his hands out, gets hold of the door, and bang! He ripped the door right off! God! How the man done it, I don’t know!”

Ford proceeded to destroy the whole car with his bare hands. It was a message to everyone around him not to mess with his prize creation. Lacey concludes: “The Model T had been the making of Henry Ford, lifting him from being any other Detroit automobile maker to becoming car maker to the world. It had yielded him untold riches and power and pleasure, and it was scarcely surprising that he should feel attached to it. But as the years went by, it became clear that Henry Ford had developed a fixation with his masterpiece which was almost unhealthy.”

Ford had made his choice clear. In 1925, after more than 15 years on the market, the Model T was pretty much the same car it had been when it debuted. It still had the same noisy, underpowered four-cylinder engine, obsolete “planetary” transmission, and horse-buggy suspension that it had in the very beginning. Sure, Ford made a few concessions to the changing times, such as balloon tires, an electric starter, and a gas pedal on the floor. And by the early 1920s, the Model T was available in a variety of colors beyond Ford black. But the Model T was still … a Model T. “You can paint up a barn,” one hurting New York Ford dealer complained, “but it will still be a barn and not a parlor.”

Impact: While Ford rested on his laurels for a decade and a half, his competitors continued to innovate. Four-cylinder engines gave way to more powerful six-cylinder engines with manual clutch-and-gearshift transmissions. These new cars were powerful enough to travel at high speeds made possible by the country’s new paved highways. Ford’s “Tin Lizzie,” designed in an era of dirt roads, was not.

Automobile buyers took notice and began trading up; Ford’s market share slid to 57% of U.S. automobile sales in 1923 down to 45% in 1925, and to 34% in 1926, as companies like Dodge and General Motors steadily gained ground. By the time Ford finally announced, that a replacement for the Model T was in the works in May 1927, the company had already lost the battle. That year, Chevrolet sold more cars than Ford for the first time. Ford regained first place in 1929 thanks to strong sales of its new Model A, but Chevrolet passed it again the following year and never looked back. “From 1930 onwards,” Robert Lacey writes, “the once-proud Ford Motor Company had to be content with second place.”



7 ross perot The Stupidest Business Decisions in History In 1979, Perot employed some of his well-known business acumen and foresaw that Bill Gates was on his way to building Microsoft into a great company. So he offered to buy him out. Gates says Perot offered between $6 million and $15 million; Perot says that Gates wanted $40 million to $60 million. Whatever the numbers were, the two couldn’t come to terms, and Perot walked away empty-handed. Today Microsoft is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.


In 1979, the Washington Post offered the Chronicle the opportunity to syndicate a series of articles that two reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein were writing about a break-in at the Democratic headquarters at Washington, D.C.’s Watergate Hotel. Owner Charles Thieriot said no. “There will be no West Coast interest in the story,” he explained. Thus, his rival, the San Francisco Examiner, was able to purchase the rights to the hottest news story of the decade for $500.


In the mid-1970s, executives at the W.T. Grant variety store chain, one of the nation’s largest retailers, decided that the best way to increase sales was to increase the number of customers … by offering credit. It put tremendous “negative incentive” pressure on store managers to issue credit. Employees who didn’t meet their credit quotas risked complete humiliation. They had pies thrown in their faces, were forced to push peanuts across the floor with their noses, and were sent through hotel lobbies wearing only diapers. Eager to avoid such total embarrassment, store managers gave credit “to anyone who breathed,” including untold thousands of customers who were bad risks. W.T. Grant racked up $800 million worth of bad debts before it finally collapsed in 1977.

ABC-TV 8 cast cosby show The Stupidest Business Decisions in History

Cast of The Cosby Show

In 1984, Bill Cosby gave ABC-TV first shot at buying a sitcom he’d created – and would star in – about an upscale black family.

But ABC turned him down, apparently “believing the show lacked bite and that viewers wouldn’t watch an unrealistic portrayal of blacks as wealthy, well-educated professionals.”

So Cosby sold his show to NBC instead. What happened? Nothing much – The Cosby Show remained #1 show for four straight years, was a rating winner throughout its eight-year run, lifted NBC from its 10-year status as a last-place network to first place, resurrected TV comedy, and became the most profitable series ever broadcast.


9 digital research The Stupidest Business Decisions in History IBM once hired Microsoft founder Bill Gates to come up with the operating software for a new computer that IBM was rushing to market … and Gates turned to a company called Digital Research. He set up a meeting between owner Gary Kildall and IBM … but Kildall couldn’t make the meeting and sent his wife, Dorothy McEwen, instead. McEwen, who handled contract negotiations for Digital Research, felt that the contract IBM was offering would allow the company to incorporate features from Digital’s software into its own proprietary software – which would then compete against Digital. So she turned the contract down. Bill Gates went elsewhere, eventually coming up with a program called DOS, the software that put Microsoft on the map.

The 13th book in the series by the Bathroom Reader’s Institute has 504-all new pages crammed with fun facts, including articles on the biggest movie bombs ever, the origin and unintended use of I.Q. test, and more

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you’ll love the Bathroom Reader Institute’s books – go ahead and check ‘em out!

Stupidest Man Alive…

Leamington man loses $150,000 in Nigerian scam

stupidest man alive world Stupidest Man Alive...

A Leamington man has fallen prey to international scam artists who strung him along for more than a year with the promise of millions in cash, but ultimately bilked him and his family of $150,000.

John Rempel said he quit his truck driving job, lost friends, borrowed money and crossed the globe in pursuit of a non-existent inheritance, after he was contacted by e-mail in what is known as a Nigerian 419 scam.

Rempel said he borrowed $55,000 from an uncle in Mexico and his parents gave him $60,000 on credit to cover fees for transferring $12.8 million into his name.

“They’re in it now because of me,” said Rempel, 22, breaking into sobs. “If it wasn’t for me, nobody would be in this mess. You think things will work out, but it doesn’t. It’s a very bad feeling. I had lots of friends.

“I never get calls anymore from my friends. You know, a bad reputation.”

His troubles began in July 2007. He said he got an e-mail from someone claiming to be a lawyer with a client named David Rempel who died in a 2005 bomb attack in London, England, and left behind $12.8 million.

“They used to come in the mail,” said Leamington police Const. Kevin O’Neil. “Now the majority of these are sent through e-mail. Keeping up with the times, using all the wonderful technology that’s available to them.” [Read more…]

The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe

Hard questions that matter, like “can a pregnant woman drive in the carpool lane?” or “how can I win at that ultra-important-corporate-decision-making- process, rock-paper-scissor?” and of course, “is turkey a country or a bird first?”. Wait, is it *really* a natural bird? Never mind – don’t answer that.

The folks at mental_floss were friendly enough to let us feature their stuff – something that will become a regular feature here at Neatorama (so be kind to them and visit their brand new and very chic blog, ok?). The text is verbatim from the articles, although I did add links, pics, videos and probably a couple of typos.

Let’s go to the list, already:

1 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe What Makes No. 2 Pencils So Darn Special?

Little. Yellow. Identical. The No. 2 is definitely No. 1 in the pencil market. It’s a staple in schools and workplaces everywhere, and the required writing utensil for Scantron® tests across the globe. But is it really that great of a pencil? You bet your bippy.

No. 2’s use medium weight graphite, which makes them the ideal pencils for general writing. 18th-century French pencil maker Nicolas-Jacques Conté created the number system based on a pencil’s hardness (the higher the number, the harder the graphite), and we’ve been using it ever since.

But let’s not forget the other numbers of pencils out there. No. 1’s are made with soft graphite and tend to smudge, and are often used to record bowling scores. No. 3’s and above indicate harder pencils that are most often used for drafting, when you need a sharp, strong point.

2 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Who’s That AOL Guy Who Eerily Knows When You’ve Got Mail?

Meet Elwood Edwards, the man behind the message. Approximately 63 million times a day, Edwards’ voice greets AOL customers to let them know “you’ve got mail.”

Edwards’ career as a disembodied cyber presence stretches back to 1989 when his wife overheard her boss at Quantum Computer Services discussing adding a voice to its online service, Q-Link. At the time, Elwood did voice-overs for radio and television, so his wife suggested him for the company’s new program. Not long after, Quantum changed its name to America Online and premiered AOL 1.0, with Elwood speaking four phrases: “Welcome,” “You’ve got mail,” “File’s done,” and “Goodbye.” Through AOL’s numerous upgrades, one thing has remained the same: Elwood Edwards.

Today, his voice is so well known that he’s created a website where fans can order their own custom phrases. The site also includes pictures of Edwards, just in case you’re looking to put a face with that friendly voice you love so much.

3 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Where Does Nougat Come From?

Like falafel and the number “0,” nougat is a product of Middle Eastern genius. Originally made from a mixture of honey, nuts, and spices, the basic recipe was transplanted to Greece where it lost the spices and gained the name “nugo.”

Later cultural exchanges brought the treat to France, where it became “nougat,” and the recipe switched from calling for ground walnuts to ground almonds. In 1650, the French made another change for the better, adding beaten egg whites and creating the fluffier, modern nougat texture. The first commercial nougat factory opened in Montelimar, France, in the late 18th century, and today, the area is renowned for its nougat, with about a dozen manufacturers producing the sugary treat.

As for its ugly American cousin – the nougat you’re probably familiar with from candy bars – it’s not “true nougat.” The imitation stuff is chewier, less almond-y, and contains enough artificial preservatives to make a French candy-maker swoon.

4 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Is There One Move That’s More Likely to Win a Game of Rock-Paper-Scissors?

To answer this question, we turned to the archives of the World Rock-Paper-Scissors Society (seriously!), where we found that RPS players rely on strategy, not probability, to win. From the playground to the annual International World RPS Tournament (really, people, we’re not kidding), outwitting your opponent is job No. 1 for serious competitors.

According to the Society, one way to guess what hand someone will throw out is to know how many rounds they’ve won so far. Players who are in the lead will often use scissors, because it’s believed to symbolize aggression, while paper is used for a more subtle attack. Rock is usually a last resort, when players feel their strategies are failing. There are also techniques you can use to mask your move, such as cloaking, in which players will pretend to throw rock and then stick out two fingers at the last second to make scissors. In addition, the true professionals (who do exist) will use sets of three moves, called “gambits,” to help them make their moves out of strategy, not reaction.

But that’s not all. The Society also keeps track of how common moves are, particularly as they relate to mentions of RPS in pop culture. For instance, after “The Simpsons” episode where Bart beats Lisa with rock and thinks to himself “Good old rock, nothing beats it,” the Society recorded a .3 percent upswing in the use of rock.

But if you’re gonna play, be prepared to pay; RPS can be a dangerous sport. In the late 1980’s, Kenyan Mustafa Nwenge lost a match and the use of a finger when an overzealous opponent “cut his paper” a little too hard and crushed Nwenge’s finger ligaments.

5 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Which Came First, the Can Opener or the Can?

While the mental_floss staff is still working round the clock to figure out that blasted chicken/egg question, this one we can definitely answer.

In 1810, a British merchant named Peter Durand patented the tin can, making it possible for sterilized food to be preserved more effectively than was possible with breakable containers. The can were especially useful for long ocean voyages, where glass bottles were prone to breakage, and soon the British Navy was dining on canned veggies and meat.

So far, so good. But what Durand (and everybody else for that matter) forgot to invent was a way to open the cans. For almost 50 years, getting into your pork ‘n’ beans required the use of a hammer and a chisel.

The first can opener was patented by American inventor Ezra Warner in 1858, but even that wasn’t particularly convenient. These early openers were stationed at the grocery store, and clerks did the honors. It wasn’t until 1870 that the first home can openers made an appearance.

6 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe How Does a Word Become a Curse Word?

Our parents are totally going to ground us for talking about this, but if you must know, a “curse” was originally just a bad type of prayer. Thus, the first curse word was likely “damn,” as in asking God to damn someone to Hell, which was considered taboo because of the religious power it wielded.

Condemning people to an eternity of suffering isn’t something to let everyone just go around doing on a daily basis, so the government stepped in, leading to the first censorship laws. Among the first victims was William Shakespeare, whose works were considered quite racy for their time, and not just because he sent his fair share of characters to Hades. The Bard’s plays were littered with sexual innuendo, and eventually, these types of references became swear words as well.

Depending on what the sexual mores of the current generation were, formerly innocuous words could suddenly become unfit for polite company. The Victorians, for instance, instituted the practice of referring to the thigh meat on a chicken as “dark meat” because saying the word “leg” or “thigh” at dinner could be enough to give your hostess a case of the vapors.

And in the 17th century, the “c-word” that formerly referred to a certain barnyard fowl took on another, er, more inappropriate meaning, leading to the invention of words like “rooster” and “weathervane” to keep the newly dirty word from crossing genteel lips.

Sometimes these avoidance tactics went a little too far, though. Case in point: the 1952-53 season of “I Love Lucy,” during which, despite the star’s stomach being about the size of the Superdome, censors prevented the show’s writers from even once mentioning the word “pregnant.”

7 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Can a Pregnant Woman Drive in the Carpool Lane?

Expectant mothers, start your engines! In 1987, a pregnant California woman was ticketed for driving “by herself” in the carpool lane. Sure, the citation was only for $52, but she sued anyway, contending that her 5-month-old fetus constituted a second person.

Lo and behold, the jury agreed with her, despite the prosecution’s argument that women could then just stuff pillows up their dresses to drive “carpool” on California’s freeways.

But as it turns out, the California Highway Patrol took care of that concern, brushing off the case as a bunch of hooey. Verdict or not, officers said they would continue to ticket solo drivers, even if they claimed to be pregnant.

Why Do Battery Letters Skip from A to C? Was There Ever a B-Cell Battery?

Battery letter designations are based on the size of the battery: for common sizes, A is the smallest, and D is the largest. By the same logic, AA batteries are larger than AAA. Unfortunately for B batteries, it’s not the size that counts. You never see B batteries around because they aren’t very useful.

The size never caught on in products made for consumers, so stores didn’t carry them, and the cycle continued. They are sold, but only in Europe, where they’re used primarily to power bicycle lamps.

9 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe What Does McDonald’s Have in Common with the CIA?

“Clowns wanted! We are looking for clowns to fit high profile, permanent positions. Must be wiling to relocate.”

If this ad seems a little peculiar, it’s because McDonald’s execs share an intense policy of employee secrecy with their less-delicious counterparts over at the Central Intelligence Agency. Clowns who portray the company mascot, Ronald McDonald, are strictly forbidden from disclosing their identities.

It’s also taboo for two (costumed) Ronalds to be in the same place at the same time. In fact, the only time they get together is at the biennial Ronald McDonald Convention, which, as you might imagine, is also very top-secret.

All of this helps keep up the image that Ronald, the second most recognizable figure worldwide after Santa, is a single, magical character. There are, of course, many Ronalds – an estimate 250 of the clowns worldwide, in fact. Their average income is about $40,000 a year, but the busiest clowns can bring in as much as $100,000. The Ronald McDonald who appears in the company’s television commercials earns a salary of more than $300,000 and must be booked a year in advance. We could tell you who he is, but then, of course, we’d have to kill you.

10 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Why Does Hawaii Have Interstate Highways?

While we’d like to believe Hawaii’s Interstate system exists for the sole purpose of annoying George Carlin, the name is actually a misnomer. Not all Interstates physically go from one state to another; the name merely implies that the roads receive federal funding.

The three Hawaii Interstates (H1, H2, and H3) became Interstates as part of The Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and National Defense Highways to protect the U.S. from a Soviet invasion by making it easier to get supplies from one military base to another.

11 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Why Do Most Snooze Buttons Only Give You Nine More Minutes of Sleep?

By the time the snooze feature was added in the 1950’s, the innards of alarm clocks had long been standardized.

This meant that the teeth on the snooze gear had to mesh with the existing gear configuration, leaving engineers with a single choice: They could set the snooze for either a little more than nine minutes, or a little more than 10 minutes.

Reports indicated that 10 minutes was too long, since it allowed people to fall back into a “deep” sleep, so clock makers chose the nine-minute gear, believing people would wake up easier and happier after a shorter snooze. We’d tend to disagree with that logic, but, then we must be in the lazy minority.

Although today’s digital clocks can be programmed to have a snooze of any length, most stick with nine minutes because that’s what consumers expect.

12 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Why Do We Call Them Grandfather Clocks?

Grandfather clocks are grandfather clocks for much the same reason M.C. Hammer pants are M.C. Hammer pants: It’s all about the pop music.

In 1875, American songwriter Henry Work checked in for a stay at the George Hotel in North Yorkshire, England. In the lobby was a large pendulum clock that had belonged to the inn’s pervious owners, both deceased. The clock was said to have stopped dead – to the minute – on the day the last surviving owner died.

Work thought this was a great story and went on to fictionalize it in a song called “My Grandfather’s Clock [wiki].” The lyrics centered around a clock that was “taller by half than the old man himself” and that “stopped short never to go again” when the grandfather died. It was, obviously, a runaway hit.

Work sold over a million copies in sheet music, and eventually, the term “grandfather clock” became attached to the style of clock that inspired the song.

Was Turkey a Bird or a Country First?

And the award goes to: Turkey-the-country! Turns out, turkey-the-bird is native to North America and acquired its name when the Spanish brought it from Mexico to Europe. When the bird made its debut in England, it was mistaken for a Guinea Hen, a common fowl regularly imported from Africa by Turks. Then the English, demonstrating that they are the real turkeys in this story, named the bird after its supposed importers.

14 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck if a Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood?

Probably none. Woodchucks aren’t particularly tree-oriented, and while they can climb to find food, they prefer being on the ground.

In fact, they got the name “woodchuck” from British trappers who couldn’t quite wrap their tongues around the Cree Indian name “wuchak.” More commonly (and accurately) known as groundhogs, these animals are closely related to squirrels, marmots, and prairie dogs, with which they share an affinity for burrowing.

And actually, a burrowing woodchuck can chuck dirt, in the form of tunnels that can reach five feet deep and as much as 35 feet in length. So, based on that number, New York State wildlife expert Richard Thomas calculated that if a woodchuck could chuck wood, he could chuck as much as 700 pounds of the stuff.

15 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe We Know Nothing Better Has Come Along Since then, But Who Invented Sliced Bread Anyway?

It may get a lot of credit now, but at the time of its debut in 1928, sliced bread received less-than-rave reviews.

Baker and inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder had spent 15 years perfecting his bread slicer (finally settling on one that wrapped the sliced bread to hold it together as opposed to the hat pins he’d tried earlier), but consumers weren’t quick to convert. People found the sliced bread strange and senseless. It wasn’t until the advent of Wonder Bread, and the collective realization that sliced bread worked better in the toaster, that Rohwedder’s invention really took off.

By World War II, the military was using sliced bread to serve peanut butter & jelly sandwiches as part of soldiers’ rations. Previously uncommon, the PB&J gained a loyal following among servicemen, who kept making the sandwich, sliced bread and all, after they came back to the home front.

16 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Why Is It Called “Blackmail?”

The first blackmailers were Scottish landlords who exploited farmers by making them pay rent in livestock or services if they couldn’t pay in cash. The goods they had to hand over were usually worth more than the rent owned, and the landlords didn’t make change.

Around the same time, local chieftains started going after the same farmers with the kind of scheme the mafia usually refers to as “selling insurance.” They made an offer the farmers couldn’t refuse: pay a fee for protection. If the farmers didn’t pay, then the chieftains would unfortunately be unable to prevent ruffians from destroying crops and sacking property.

The Scottish farmers called both nefarious deals “black” because they associated that color with evil, and because both payments were made in goods rather than silver coins (called “white money”). As for the “mail” part, it doesn’t refer to the postal system. That “mail” comes from the German word for “pouch.” The “mail” in blackmail is related to the Old Norse word for “payment” or “agreement.”

Neatorama’s note: The photo above is of Monty Python’s skit Blackmail [wiki], where “Michael Palin plays a smarmy television game show host who extorts money from his viewers by threatening to reveal embarrassing or illegal facts about them. One game is “Stop the film,” where a scandalous film is played until a phone call is received, and the amount of money needed increases the longer the subject waits.”

17 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Is It Possible to Own Property on the Moon?

That depends on what your definition of is, is. According to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, countries can’t own lunar real state. However, the Treaty doesn’t say anything about the rights of individuals to claim land.

Enter Dennis Hope, a California entrepreneur / ventriloquist who’d exploited the loophole to its fullest. In 1980, Hope announced his ownership to the moon (and, incidentally, the rest of the solar system) and promptly started selling off plots through his company, Lunar Embassy.

Space-faring nations vehemently denied the legality of Hope’s business, pointing to the 1979 Moon Treaty, which forbids individual interstellar land investment. Finding yet another loophole, Hope countered by nothing that none of the space nations ever actually signed that treaty after the U.S. and Russia both refused.

But Moon Treaty or not, an individual can still only own land through the jurisdiction of his or her home country, and if nations can’t own it, then people can’t own land through them.

Tenuous as his argument is, Hope has still managed to inspire some serious investors. To date, the Lunar Embassy has made more than $1.6 million. If you’re interested, plots go for as little as $30, but don’t spend all your money on moon land: mental_floss has some contacts with beautiful oceanfront lots in Arizona and we’d love to get you in on the ground floor.

18 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Why Can’t You Tickle yourself?

Much to the dismay of wacky masochist everywhere, the human brain is wired against self-tickling. Because the brain controls movement, it knows what your hand is going to do before you do it. Thus it anticipates the exact force, location, and speed of the tickle and uses that information to desensitize you to your own roving hands.

So why do we have a tickle response anyway? Turns out, it’s a defense reaction meant to alert our cave-dwelling ancestors to creepy crawlies that didn’t know their place, and the uncontrollable laughing fit that goes along with it is actually a panic response.

Even if you know someone else is about to go for your rib cage, it’s hard to turn the response off because a) your brain can’t anticipate exactly how and where they’ll tickle you and b) knowing someone is about to tickle you is usually enough to keep those panic receptors open and ready to go.

19 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Human Meat Isn’t Appetizing, But is It Healthy?

You are what you eat. So it stands to reason that if you’re a cannibal, and you eat a diseased, dead guy, you’re going to become a diseased, dead guy.

But the cannibalistic Fore people of New Guinea found that out the hard way. For most of the 20th century, the Fore were plagued with a disease called Kuru [wiki], also known as the laughing death. Kuru, a relative of mad cow disease, paralyzes its victims and cause dementia by turning the brain into something resembling Swiss cheese – literally creating holes in the brain.

Fascinated by what he though was a genetic disorder, scientist Daniel Carleton Gajdusek [wiki] traveled to New Guinea in 1957 to study the Fore. While there, he discovered that women made up the vast majority of Kuru victims. He also noticed that women and children were the ones ceremonially eating the brains and intestines of dead relatives. Putting two and two together, Gajdusek deduced that the Fore were ingesting the prions, or misshapen proteins, that caused the disease.

Gajdusek received a Nobel Prize for his work, and today, cannibalism and Kuru are all but wiped out in New Guinea.

20 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Can You Actually Sense Weather with an Injured body Part?

There was a time when scientists would walk barefoot, through the snow, uphill both ways, just to ridicule you for believing that sensing weather with the body was anything but an old wives’ tale.

Today, many will still scoff at the idea, but maybe just in an email. In 1961, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School conducted a series of tests that proved changes in climate could affect your health, especially if you suffered from arthritis.

It works like this: When a storm is approaching, the barometric pressure of the air falls, which can cause an inflammation around a bone injury to swell and stretch, irritating the nerves around the joint and causing a lot of pain.

The Pennsylvania scientists tested their theory on 12 volunteers in a climate-controlled chamber, and found that those who had arthritis experienced more pain when the air pressure was lower, thus suggesting that they could sense an approaching storm.

21 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe Why Won’t Pineapple and Jell-O® Be Friends?

If Jell-O® ads and 1950’s cookbooks are to be believed, you can mix almost anything with gelatin and have it come out tasty. Ham? Absolutely. Carrots? Sure thing. Tomato soup? M’m, m’m, good.

The only ingredient that seems to be taboo is one that actually sounds delicious: fresh pineapple. Unfortunately, the tropical treat works like kryptonite on Jell-O® because it contains an enzyme called bromelain, which prevents gelatin from forming into a solid.

But fret not, fruit salad mold fans: canned pineapple doesn’t contain bromelain. The canning process heats the pineapple to a temperature sufficient to break the enzyme down, making it oh-so Jell-O® friendly.

22 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe What are Sea-Monkeys®, Anyway?

Ah, Sea-Monkeys®. You know ‘em; you love ‘em; you’re totally confused by them. Well, consider he monkey mystery solved. Turns out, they’re Artemia salinas, or brine shrimp.

In the 1960’s, inventor Harold von Braunhut [wiki] discovered that the eggs of these shrimp lie dormant in salt flats waiting for the right conditions before they spring to life, so he started experimenting with them for his toy product, Instant-Life. But later, he changed the name (and struck pop culture gold) after a colleague heard him call the creatures his “cute little sea monkeys.”

The shrimp became popular because of their ability to “come back to life” after being stored dry on a shelf, but hey weren’t so popular after children discovered that the shrimp only had a life span of about a month.

Over the years, however, Von Braunhut has managed to breed better Sea-Monkeys®. Today’s comic book ads now promise that they will live up to two years. Von Braunhut, who passed away in 2003, was also the man responsible for X-Ray Specs, and the late 1980s’ hermit crab craze.

23 The 25 Most Important Questions in the History of the Universe . Why are Grape-Nuts® Neither Grapes Nor Nuts?

Post Company founder Charles W. Post might have been good at creating popular cereals, but he wasn’t the best at naming them.

One of his first breakfast treats, Post Toasties, was originally known by the more, er, zealous name, Elijah’s Manna.

And then there’s the misleading Grape-Nuts®, which Charles named after a key ingredient in the cereal called maltose, which tasted like nuts and, at the time, was known as “grape sugar.” Hence, Grape-Nuts.

It may sound like false advertising, but it’s not. Post would likely be protected from such allegations by that precious little hyphen. The Federal Trade Commission might consider a cereal called Grape Nuts “deceitful,” but that hyphen makes the name “fanciful,” which excludes it from prosecution according to the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act.

The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys

You know the toys. You’ve seen the commercials. But you definitely haven’t heard these stories. Listen up as game inventor Tim Moodie reveals the glorious secrets behind your favorite classic toys.

1. How the Slinky got stuck between a cult and a mid-life crisis

1 slinky The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys

In 1943, naval engineer Richard James invented the Slinky. When a spring fell off of his workbench and began to “walk” across the floor, he figured he could make a toy out of it. His wife Betty agreed, and she came up with the name Slinky. Introduced in 1945, Slinky sales soared (say that three times fast), but that wasn’t enough to satisfy Richard James.

By 1960, despite his success, Richard James was suffering from a serious mid-life crisis. But instead of falling for fast cars, dyed hair and liposuction, Richard James went a different route, and became involved with a Bolivian religious cult. He gave generously to the religious order and left his wife, six children and the company to move to Bolivia.

Stuck with the debts left by her husband and a company that desperately needed her leadership, Betty James took over as the head of James Industries. A marketing savant, Betty James was responsible for additions to the Slinky line including Slinky Jr., Plastic Slinky, Slinky Dog, Slinky Pets, Crazy Slinky Eyes and Neon Slinky. It was great for boys and girls around the world that Betty James didn’t suffer a midlife crisis. In 2001, she was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame, and perhaps even more laudably, her Slinky dog was forever immortalized in Disney’s Toy Story movies.

2. Why Lincoln Logs are the most deceptively named toys in the business

2 lincoln logs The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys Standing beside his father (Frank Lloyd Wright) and watching the construction of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, John Lloyd Wright was inspired. Interlocking beams in the hotel’s basement were designed to handle the little “earthquake problem” that the hotel could encounter. John Lloyd thought, “What if children had a toy version of those beams, shaped like notched tree trunks to build little log homes?”

The architect’s son followed through on his inspiration and the John Lloyd Wright Company manufactured and sold Lincoln Logs from the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. The sets even came with instructions on how to build Uncle Tom’s Cabin as well as Abe Lincoln’s log cabin. The Lincoln Log construction and figure sets came in two sizes available for $2 or $3 dollars.

But here’s the strangest part: the naming of the toy wasn’t a tribute to Honest Abe. It’s a homage to his father. Here’s the scoop: Frank Lloyd Wright was born Frank Lincoln Wright, but he legally changed his name when his parents split. So, Lloyd Jones was his mother’s maiden name and Frank’s name change was to honor her. In any case, whichever Lincoln the toy was honoring, we’re pretty sure Honest Abe would have gotten a kick out of the little logs.

3. Captain Kangaroo saved Play-Doh

3 play doh The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys Back before it was Play-Doh, everyone’s favorite squishy clay was actually a wallpaper cleaner used to clean soot off of walls. But when people switched from using coal burning furnaces to oil fueled ones in the ‘40s and ‘50s, demand for the product evaporated. Kutol, a manufacturing company in Cincinnati, was watching their sales dwindle when the son of the company’s founder, Joe McVicker, started looking for ways to turn the business round.

His sister-in-law Kay Zufall suggested using the wallpaper cleaner as a child’s craft item, and McVicker was willing to try anything. He formed a new division, Rainbow Crafts, and began selling the re-branded product as Play-Doh. Sales were okay, but then McVicker came up with a way to sell a whole lot more. He contacted Captain Kangaroo (A.K.A. Bob Keeshan) and offered him 2% of sales if the good Captain would feature Play-Doh on his show. He did. Ding Dong School and Romper Room soon followed suit, hawking the crafty compound to kiddies everywhere and Kutol made plenty of Doh (er, Dough) in the process.

While the company has changed hands a few times since (Rainbow Crafts was purchased by Kenner Toys and Kenner was purchased by Hasbro), that’s hardly impeded sales. More than two billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold since 1955.

4. Etch-a-Sketch used to be played like an Atari

4etch a sketch The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys Believe it or not, the original Etch-A-Sketch was operated with a joystick. The invention was the brainchild of Andre Cassagnes, a French electrician tinkering in his garage. Conceived in 1950, the drawing toy made use of a joystick, glass and aluminum powder. Dubbed the Telecran, the toy was renamed L’Ecran Magique, and made its debut at a European Toy Fair in 1959. Fascinated by the invention, American Henry Winzeler, founder and president of the Ohio Art Toy Company, licensed L’Ecran Magique and introduced it to America in 1960.

Amongst Winzeler’s innovations were replacing the joystick with two white knobs in the left and right corners of the screen. The idea was to make the toy look like the hot new adult toy…television.

As for how the knobs work, the two Etch-A-Sketch handles control a stylus that’s attached to strings. The stylus is designed to move up and down and left and right “etching” an image in the Aluminum powder that clings to the glass with static electricity. Amazingly, clever Etch-A-Sketch artists can maneuver the stylus to make what looks like curves and angles creating some spectacular pictures. In fact, the Ohio Art Etch-A-Sketch Gallery actually contains a “Hall of Fame.”

5. Why Trivial Pursuit almost never happened

5 trivial pursuit The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys In 1979, Canadians Chris Haney and Scott Abbott (along with business partners Ed Werner and John Haney) decided to create a game that combined their love of all things trivia and their basic competitive nature. Their company, Horn-Abbott, funded the initial production run of 1,000 pieces and sold them to retailers for $15.00 in 1981. At the time, $15.00 was by far the most expensive wholesale price for a board game. But that was a downright bargain when you consider the first pieces cost $75.00 each to manufacture. To the retailer’s surprise the game was a hit even at the heady price of $30.00 at retail.

Realizing that they lacked the funding to bring the game to its full potential, Horn-Abbott licensed Trivial Pursuit to Canadian game manufacturer Chieftain Products. Chieftain had a major hit in Canada in 1981 and contacted their American partner, Selchow and Righter. Amazingly, Selchow and Righter analyzed the game and found that it was: a) too expensive to manufacture, b) it took over an hour to play, c) the best players had to have impressive knowledge of trivial subjects and d) they assumed adults didn’t play board games. Selchow and Righter passed, but Chieftain was persistent and in 1982 the game was introduced to America at the New York Toy Fair.

Initial sales were worrisome. However, through a solid PR campaign and great word of mouth, sales skyrocketed. Sales peaked in 1984 at 20,000,000 games in North America alone. It was the best of times and the worst of times for Selchow and Righter because in 1986, facing huge debt brought on by an abundance of inventory, Selchow and Righter was sold to Coleco. In 1989, Coleco filed for bankruptcy and the rights to Trivial Pursuit were acquired by Parker Brothers. Today Chris Haney and Scott Abbott’s little game has been made into over 30 “Editions.” It’s available in 26 countries, been translated into 17 different languages and has sold approximately 100,000,000 copies since its inception. Not bad for a game that almost wasn’t.

6. Why the guy behind the Erector Set Saved Christmas

gilberterectorrobotset6ya8 The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys Because of the market pressures of World War I, the United States Council of National Defense was considering a ban on toy manufacturing. Amazingly, one man’s impassioned speech successfully stopped that from happening.

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was known as “Man Who Saved Christmas.” (There’s even a movie starring Jason Alexander in the title role.) But Gilbert was more than just a gifted orator, he was truly a renaissance man. He was an amateur magician, a trained doctor, an Olympic Gold Medallist (in the pole vault), a famous toy inventor and Co-Founder of the Toy Manufacturers of America. Most famously, however, he was the man behind the Erector Set.

Introduced in 1913 with the catchy name The Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder, the toy was based on Gilbert’s observation of how power line towers were constructed. The quickly retitled Erector Sets sold well and were limited only by a child’s imagination as to what could be built.

But “The Man Who Saved Christmas” (who also held over 150 patents) wasn’t a one-trick pony. His other inventions included model trains, glass blowing kits (think about the liability today!), chemistry sets (one chemistry set was even designed specifically for girls) and in 1951 (during the cold war) he even introduced a miniature Atomic Energy Lab with three very low-level radioactive sources and a real working Geiger counter. Now there’s a toy even a real patriot could love.

7. How Mr. Potato Head became a political activist

csmphjq1 The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys Two very special things about Mr. Potato Head: 1) he was the first toy to be advertised on television, and 2) he was the first toy that featured real produce. That’s right the original toy came as a collection of eyes, ears, noses, a body and accessories that you’d “force” into a real potato. To be fair to Hasbro, Mr. Potato Head’s creator, did include a styrofoam “potato” but it wasn’t much fun.

In 1964 a molded plastic potato body became part of the toy. But back then, Mr. Potato Head also had friends including Carrots, Cucumbers, Oranges, Peppers and a love interest, Mrs. Potato Head. With Brother Spud and Sister Yam there was an entire Potato Head family, and all of the packaging carried the slogan “Lifelike Fruits Or Vegetables To Change Into Funny, Lovable Friends.”

What’s most amazing, however, is that Mr. Potato Head’s appeal has garnered him many “spokespud” gigs.

In the American Cancer Society’s annual “Great American Smokeout” campaign he handed his pipe to then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and swore off the tobacco, he got up off the couch for the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, and he even pitched in with the League of Women Voters for their “Get Out the Vote” initiative.

Of course, he’s been involved in plenty of straight marketing campaigns, too: in 1997, he shilled for Burger King’s “Try the Fry” introduction of their new French fries.

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How to spot an atheist at a wedding

How do you know he isn’t keeping an eye out for athiests? Or maybe he prays with his eyes open?
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