Sunday, February 27, 2011

Steal this post: It's WHODATHUNKIT!? The 3 Best Things You Want To Know About the 83rd Annual Academy Awards!

It's time again for Whodathunkit!? - -that feature that takes a major public event like, say, The Academy Awards, or that time you almost barfed on the Tilt-A-Whirl, and focuses in like a laser beam aimed through a convex lens at a microscope held by a sharpshooter, looking not at what everybody else is talking about, but on the things you really want to know.

Would it be a convex lens? Or a concave lens? Does it matter? Nobody's going to try that, right? So it's not like someone out there would hook up a laser beam to all that stuff, only to have the wrong lens scatter the laser beams into the air, shooting down birds and causing a mass panic about what might be killing them until a quasi-governmental agency makes up a story that the birds were just confused by fireworks and ran into buildings, explaining it all away by saying that the birds had tiny little lumps on their heads surrounded by tinier stars and birds circling them in a comical cartoon fashion...

... but nobody fooled me, and when the Trilateral Commission puts Sarah Palin in charge of America, declares martial law and reveals that Twinkies have a secret mindcontrol ingredient, I'll be the one laughing, while you all say "What in God's name did that have to do with birds and/or the Academy Awards?"

Which is for me to know, and you to find out. And with that bizarre introduction, let's focus in like what I said before on those three things you really want to know about tonight's ceremony:

1. You know that Oscar statue you saw on eBay? It might have been real, so you probably should've bid more than $2.54. Much is made of the security of the Academy Award balloting every year, with the legend of how tightly the votes and results are guarding getting more and more elaborate with each showing of the awards ceremony; this year, according to reliable sources, the ballots were put into a locked treasure chest wound thrice about with chains made of equal parts steel and the tears of orphans, then sunk in a leaden box to the bottomless depths of the Marianas Trench, where they were guarded by mythical beasts made real by genetic experiments funded by Rupert Murdoch. Plus, there were accountants involved somehow.

Have you ever wondered why we need accountants to count the Oscar votes? And, have you ever wondered why accounting schools don't use that as a selling point to get more people to be accountants?:

"Come to Murray's School Of Accounting, accrediting pending, and while you might spend 364 days of each year toting up how much your boss spent on Post-It notes, there's a possibility that someday you'll get to know a few hours before everyone else who's going to win best supporting actor."

But that security over the votes seems to have missed a beat when it comes to guarding the statues themselves. Which is especially surprising given that the Academy is insistent that nobody but nobody except the winners ever own an Oscar statue (as I noted last year.)

On at least two occasions, the actual Oscar statuettes have been stolen; the more recent was a heist of 55 statues back in 2000. Two men were charged with grand theft for taking the statues from a Roadway Express site where they were waiting to be shipped. One of the thieves got 6 months in jail and 5 years' probation, plus was ordered to pay back the reward money that his employer had offered to help find the Oscars. An alleged accomplice, Anthony Keith Hart, was arrested but never charged, and later sued for false arrest (but lost.)

52 of the 55 missing Oscars were located by a man named Willie Fullgear, who got the $50,000 reward the thief had to pay back, but it wasn't exactly a happy ending for Fullgear, who put the money in a safe in his apartment only to have thieves steal $40,000 or so of it. Fullgear did get to go to the ceremony that year.

One of the still-missing three Oscars was later found in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area during a drug investigation, because under federal law Florida must be involved at least tangentially in every news story. The remaining two are still missing.

2. You said there were two thefts, but you only talked about one. What's the deal?

You're reading this pretty closely. Good for you! See if you can decipher the code I've hidden in here; one lucky winner who unscrambles it will be awarded one million dollars!*

The other Oscar theft was more brazen and even more deserving of being made into a TV Movie Of The Week. It's the story of Alice Brady and the Oscar Thief, which should be a Bob Dylan song, but isn't.

Alice Brady was an actress back in the 1930s, when all it took to be an actress was a quick trip to Hollywood by train, quick being "about four and a half weeks," longer if you got sick with typhoid, which happened automatically on the railroads back then unless you upgraded to the first class ticket. Nowadays, becoming an actress is much harder; you have to work and slave at your craft and appear in dozens of tiny parts while working your way "up the ladder" in the hopes that eventually you'll land a starring role and will sweep America off its feet, giving you fame and fortune which you can then turn into even bigger fame and fortune by marrying a dirtball biker who wants to sleep with Nazis so that when you get dumped right around the time your generic feel-good movie is being considered for an Oscar itself, you'll sweep the Awards.

Or you could wash somebody's car, if you get my drift.

Anyway, Alice Brady appeared in a bunch of movies that nobody remembers because they were made in the 1930s, when nobody had any money because we were in the middle of The Great Depression, an economic downturn that lasted a decade, if not longer, sticking around that long because nobody had the foresight to simply fire all the government workers, a solution that we all know now to be a miracle cure for any economic problems; and, if that doesn't work, you could always just deny basic health care to terminally ill people, saving as much as $0.12 per capita, which money can be used to help keep private jets for billionaires flying smoothly. If only FDR had known!

Even though nobody saw the movies back then, because, as your grandfather said over and over when you were only pretending to listen to him, they only made 2 cents per year and they had to use that money to buy V-Bonds to help fight Jerry in the war, the Academy still existed and still gave away awards to people like Alice Brady, who couldn't attend the ceremony in 1937, when she was up for (and won) Best Actress for her role in the movie "In Old Chicago." Alice couldn't attend because she had a broken ankle, which in the 1930s was fatal.

During the ceremony, a man came onstage to "accept" the Academy Award for Alice, but that turned out to be a clever ruse -- Alice later called the Academy to say she'd never gotten her award (having to wait to do so until the telephone had been invented), and only then did the Academy learn that they'd been duped.

Alice never got her Academy Award, either; her IMDB page notes that she passed away before the Academy could issue a replacement; she died two years later, which backs up every single thing I said about transportation in the 1930s. Although, in fairness, the Academy just probably had trouble finding gold because FDR had it all locked away so that he could impoverish the country into being forced to accept his socialist reforms. Too bad for us all that didn't work and he had to fake the Pearl Harbor bombing.

3. It would be hard to top that story. Are you going to try?

You bet. I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.

How do you top stealing an Oscar?

How do you top stealing fifty-five Oscars?

By stealing an Oscar winner.

Yep, that happened, to Charlie Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin was an Oscar winner, but not for what most people think he'd win for: his "little tramp" movies (which he copied from Johnny Depp's routine in Benny & Joon) and other famous "comedies" never caught the fancy of the Academy, which back then hadn't yet begun nominating every single movie released during the year for an Award. Chaplin's film career, in fact, never led to a single Oscar for him... but he got one for composing.

Chaplin was an accomplished composer, having scored his own films. His song "Smile" his number 2 on the UK charts in the 50s:


and he later hit number one with "This Is My Song,"

but it wouldn't be until 1973 that Chaplin got his Oscar, for best film score on his movie Limelight.

Not content with stealing his Oscar, someone five years later dug up Chaplin's grave and stole his body -- don't worry, Chaplin had died by that time; it wouldn't be until 2010 when America got around to sneaking a "mandatory interment of all people over the age of 65" clause into Obamacare (unluckily for us, but luckily for Grandma, that particular clause was ruled unconstitutional!) -- demanding a ransom of $40,000 for its return, a ransom his widow, the Lady Oona Chaplin refused to pay, saying that "Charlie would have thought it ridiculous."

Two men were later caught and charged with the crime, with the police catching them by not only tapping the Chaplins' phone, but also keeping watch on 200 separate phone booths, in what can only be described as a complete misunderstanding of how phone taps work.

They caught them, I bet, when they realized that one man who kept coming to a certain booth was lugging a coffin with him.

The body is now buried in Grant's tomb, next to Jim Morrison's corpse and alongside Walt Disney's cyborg shell.

No, I'm just kidding; that would be ridiculous, since everyone knows that Disney wouldn't tolerate being buried with a Jewish man. The body is instead buried in what's described as a "theft proof concrete grave" to deter septuagenarians, the only people who remember Chaplin, from digging him up again.

Click here to read last year's Academy Award Whodathunkit!?

*Prize cannot be collected until October 8, 2094, and will be awarded in the only currency that will be recognized by then, "Bristol Bucks," to be named after President-For-Life Bristol Palin. Don't ever doubt the power of the Trilateral Commission!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Force Is With Them, But That Doesn't Count For Much In Legislation (Star Wars References)

Accomplished author and thinker Rogue Mutt the other day made a point the other day about why it is that Star Wars influences so many people -- he says influences, I say dominates our culture in way that is fast becoming inescapable... like a tractor beam latching onto us just as we emerge from hyperspace where Alderaan is supposed to be...

As shown by signs held up at the Wisconsin Anti-Governor Patsy protests for the last few days:

NOTE: I'm pretty sure this isn't Darth Vader Kid from the Super Bowl:

But just to prove that you don't need to always reference Star Wars, here's a sign that only about two people in the entire U.S. will get...

Until you listen to this:

That is an awesome song. And that begs the question, is there a Eurotrip/Star Wars mashup?

Need you ask?

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The 6 Best Things I Didn't Know I Wanted Until I Saw Them On TV, #1. (MiniBest!)

MiniBests, remember, are thematically-linked posts... sounds important, doesn't it... that explore a topic over the course of a month. See more of them here.

I have invented lots of things in my life. Now, by "invented," I don't mean "actually created the thing and now you can use it." I'm using "invented" more loosely, in the sense of "I had the idea but since I have no practical skills whatsoever I am completely incapable of making that idea into a reality."

The fact that I have no practical skills, therefore, puts more than me at risk -- I've noted in the past that my lack of skills will mean that after the Apocalypse occurs [in December 2012, according to George Lucas] my role in society will be reduced to monster bait -- but it's not just me that's losing out, it's you, too, because I can't put all my great ideas into action, great ideas like the one I had for the "In The Cupboard Dishwasher," or the dating website "Go Fish," in which members would be allowed to contact other members at first by asking them a question: They could, for example, message another member by asking "Do you like pina coladas?" and if the recipient says "No," the question is randomly sent to another profile on the site, who then must answer that question before he/she can ask their own... so you're sent to Go Fish and you randomly meet people who might share your interests.

See? It's genius. But because you're going to make me be monster bait, dating opportunities will be severely limited in the post-Apocalyptic world, which we can only hope will be more David Byrne-Nothing-But-Flowers-y than most popular books and movies think it will be. (Someday, I'll probably explore the question of why people think that a post-apocalyptic world would be unpleasant. It doesn't seem to me that would be a guarantee, but, then, I'm different than other people. And better looking.)

But for today, I'm thinking about things that have been invented and that I didn't know that I wanted until I saw them on TV; we hear a lot about advertising creating a need that it is ready to fill with a product that was created before anyone really knew that need was there -- like "ring around the collar," an example I've heard before of Madison Avenue making something up to get people to buy a product. But is that really true, either? We take things for granted, believing that the post-apocalyptic world would be unpleasant as opposed to a jaunty life filled with a complete lack of Tea Partiers, or falling for the idea that there was no "ring around the collar" until after Wisk was invented and Madison Avenue created "ring around the collar" to sell it.

But were people -- are people that dumb? Would we simply buy something because we were told there was a need for it, without ever actually looking at our collars to see if such a thing exists?

Possibly. I have to be honest: my endless optimism and faith in humanity is challenged on a daily basis. So, possibly.

But, in the case of the things I didn't know I wanted until I saw them on TV, I don't think that's what's going on. Take the first item in this series of MiniBests:

The Incredible Gyro Bowl.

I kept waiting, at the end, for a disclaimer that said something like "Note: Gyro Bowl does not actually fly." But I didn't see that, so I believe that it can really fly and now I want it more than ever, because either I'll get a flying bowl or I'll have the greatest consumer lawsuit ever.

I saw that ad while I was working out at the health club, taking a break one day from jogging to ride a stationary bike and watch TV; I kind of like watching 3 or 4 TVs at the same time, especially when the club isn't really full so I don't have to deal with all the people who turn the TVs to that financial information channel, putting five TVs in a row on the same channel so they can pretend to be the kind of person who can't miss any financial news while also not turning their heads even slightly to see the TV just to the left.

And the moment I saw the ad, I thought I've got to have that, first so that I can put a Gyro Bowl on my office desk to get people to say "What's that?" and I can explain "It's a Gyro Bowl" and we could spend a good ten minutes trying to get it to spill, and, second, because when you say 100% kid proof, I immediately think You don't know Mr F and Mr Bunches, who have mauled and destroyed their way through a lot of things, and who I would really like to turn loose on the Gyro Bowl to see what they could do to it: I'm betting that they would not only get it to spill, but they'd end up getting it lodged in my car's carburetor, assuming cars still have carburetors, which I'm not at all sure they do, but, then, knowing Mr F and Mr Bunches, I'm pretty sure they could install a carburetor, and then lodge the Gyro Bowl in it to get it to spill chocolate chip cookies into the engine block, something I'm also not sure engines have any more.

The Gyro Bowl doesn't create a need, though: kids do spill, all the time, even when they're nearly 24 years' old, as Oldest is. The Gyro Bowl does create questions in my mind, like what is that paramilitary organization that is training kids to slide down zip lines with a bowl of cereal, just barely glimpsed between 0:35 and 0:40? Is that to help us infiltrate the growing threat posed by the new international youth terrorist organization, Al Kidda?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Best Tom Hanks Movie (That Demonstrates That He's Always Playing Himself.)

You know why we love Tom Hanks so much as an actor? Because he really sinks into every role.
You know why he sinks into every role so well? Because we don't know anything about him as a real-life person.

You know why we don't know anything about him as a real-life person? Because Tom Hanks deliberately keeps himself separate from his fans and most of society.

You know how I know that Tom Hanks doesn't want anyone to really know anything about him and deliberately cuts himself off from people? Because that's the role he plays in every movie.

Psychoanalysis by movie role can be tricky, so I don't recommend that everyone try it, but I am a certified expert in this field, as I always assume that the character an actor is playing is pretty much the character that actor plays in real life.

(Yes, that's all it takes to become certified in the field of Movie Role Psychoanalysis.)

So Bill Murray is a sometimes-thoughtful, mostly goofy guy with some issues about getting older, in real life and the golf course and movies. Angelina Jolie is a self-important trampy narcissist. Bradley Cooper is that guy in The Hangover, exactly. Jennifer Aniston is Rachel, period.

That's how it works: actors (and I say actors because both women and men can be actors, in the sense that an actor is a person who acts) try for roles here and there, getting big roles mostly by chance rather than skill or looks. Skill and looks are about even, in Hollywood, by my estimation, and in the estimation of anyone who's ever seen one of those Life+Style exposes showing stars without their makeup. Celebrities... they really are like us, in that they, too, look pretty terrible without four-plus hours of work by a professional makeup artist and good lighting. That makeover they gave Golden Voice Ted Williams proved that: if a homeless guy can look that good, then all men are pretty much Tom Cruise, absent the Hollywood effects.

No, looks don't differentiate celebrities, from each other or the rest of us. Do you think that there aren't 1,000,000 girls as pretty as Megan Fox in Hollywood? How long did it take them to recast the new Transformers movie, 3.2 seconds? It probably took longer for them to announce they were going to do that than it did to actually replace her, what with nerve impulses just meandering around at their own pace.

Nor does talent really differentiate actors. Take Harrison Ford, a guy who's always been playing "Harrison Ford." Does he strike you as especially talented? Does this take a whole lot of talent?

That scene actually featured the real Harrison Ford, in a cameo. (He was the drink glass on the table.)

That scene also is included specifically because even I'm not immune the siren song of the extra hits that come from mentioning Star Wars.

Harrison Ford isn't any more talented than any other actor working in Hollywood, and he might be a lot less talented than some. (Or all.) But he's a big-time actor, because he found his niche.

That's what big-time celebrities and actors have to do: They have to become one-hit wonders, of a sort: They have to find a role that suits them -- suits them because it is them-- and then run with that role in every movie, TV show, television commercial, and other media outlet until the public tires of it and goes back to watching Star Wars' mashups:

Actors find a niche and run with it: Steve Carell is Michael Scott. He was Michael Scott on The Daily Show, then Michael Scott on The Office, and since then he's been Michael Scott the married guy and the spy and more Michael Scotts, but he's always Michael Scott, just as Bob Denver was always Gilligan.

If that niche is popular enough, then Hollywood will create roles for it, like it did with Julia Roberts for years, allowing her to be Pretty Woman in a variety of different settings, ranging from Pretty Woman Marries Richard Gere repeatedly to Pretty Woman busts up a toxic chemical scandal. But it won't let people break out of that niche -- Pretty Woman couldn't go to Transylvania, as Julia Roberts found out. (But she can go to Italy and fall in love with Javier Bardem.)

That's how Hollywood really works: actors and actresses, all about even in talent and looks, get lucky enough to be noticed (Harrison Ford was putting cabinets into George Lucas' house when Lucas decided to cast him in American Graffiti) and get put into a role that mirrors their personality, and if that movie or TV series becomes popular, they're set for life.

(If you want absolute proof that this is how Hollywood works, you've got it: Look at Charlie Sheen, who's career arc absolutely mirrors his life.)

That's the key to superstardom and career longevity in Hollywood: be an actor who's lucky enough to land a role that mirrors your personality, and a role that happens to be superpopular. Bruce Willis probably is a wisecracking, pretty tough guy, in real life as he is in his movies.

This all makes sense, too, on a gut level: what role would be easier to play than yourself. What role is more believable than yourself?

So big actors are always playing themselves, which brings us back to Tom Hanks and how I cracked the code about him the other day while I was jogging and listening to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and thinking about the movie The Terminal and how it was underrated.

That's really what I was doing. I'm an odd guy.

That's The Best Tom Hanks Movie (That Demonstrates That He's Always Playing Himself), the movie The Terminal, because it really was a great movie and very clever and different and kind of sad and kind of funny and because Tom Hanks genuinely was very good in it; it's the kind of movie that should be heralded as a classic but for some reason isn't, probably the same reason that Better Off Ted isn't on the air and The New Pornographers aren't constantly on the Top 4o: people don't like good stuff.

Well, not good stuff that's a little unusual or quirky or requires a lot of attention and intelligence.

Tom Hanks, in The Terminal, is a man who's entirely cut off from the world around him, an unknowable enigma who, if he doesn't exactly want it that way, can't help being that way. He's arrived in our country without the proper papers and he can't leave the airport. But he can't go back, either, and he can't really speak our language very well, and he doesn't know anybody, so he has to craft an entire life, surviving and making friends with people in a very limited area with few tools to go by and nobody to lean on. Following his adventures as he does that is both thrilling in a small way, and interesting in a larger way, and I loved that movie.

But, as I got to thinking-while-jogging, I realized that "he has to craft an entire life, surviving and making friends with people in a very limited area with few tools to go by and nobody to lean on" sounds a lot like another great, and not under-rated Tom Hanks movie. You know the one I'm talking about:

Toy Story 2.

Wait, what?

You thought I was going to say Cast Away, didn't you? And I could have, because that obviously mirrored Hanks' experiences in The Terminal, but so did his roles as Woody The Cowboy in Toy Story and its sequels.

As Woody, Tom Hanks is a toy cowboy living in a little boy's room - -but he's an old toy, near the end of his life and not as cool as newer toys like Buzz Lightyear. He's not like any of the other toys around him, in fact -- because, as it turns out, he's a collector's item from the 50s and there's not really many of him around, so he's insanely valuable. He might be the only Woody toy left in the world, judging by how Al got excited when he found him.

In other words, he's all alone. In a small world. Trying to build a life. As a cloth toy. And people don't get his fears and he can't relate to them and he's always going it alone only to try to bring the group with him -- he never goes with the group, he's always on his own or they join him.

Just like The Terminal.

And just like every other movie or TV show Tom Hanks has ever made. I even went and checked them, on IMDB. Going all the way back to Bosom Buddies, Tom Hanks is an outsider in whatever world he's in: he's a cross-dressing guy in a woman's hotel. A nerd who plays D&D. A loner who falls in love with a mermaid. The only guy who doesn't want to be at his own Bachelor Party.

He's an iconoclastic musician who's entirely unaware he's at the center of a spy drama, and who's cheating with his best friend's wife. He's a lawyer fired for suffering from AIDS at a time when people were still suspicious that they could catch AIDS just by looking at you. In The Money Pit he literally was trapped in a hole and cut off from everyone for hours - -and he lived in a house in the middle of nowhere and almost never saw anyone else. His wife went off to work in that movie, but did he? I don't remember it.

A man suffering from a brain cloud adrift in the ocean all alone on his way to jump into a volcano. A soldier without a name (in Saving Private Ryan). A cop partnered with a dog, a man on vacation in his own house who sends away his wife and kids. All people living in one small geographical area almost or entirely on their own, surrounded by people who don't understand them and are not part of their world.

Tom Hanks The Loner exists even in characters that would seem not to be loners. Sherman McCoy is a part of society... or is he? His character in the book, remember, was teased by other rich kids as being Sherman McCoy the Mountain Boy, and he was accused of murder, which will tend to isolate you from your peers. He was a man coaching a woman's league while other men were at war. He was a bookstore owner who's main connection to the world was his email account.

And, in the role that perhaps made him the most famous of all, he was Forrest Gump, possibly the most misunderstood and alone character ever created, outside of Darth Vader.

(See what I did there? I created an opening for this:

I'm no dummy.)

I've sort of driven the nail into the ground here, or whatever the metaphor is, but I think you'll have to agree I'm on to something, and that something is that Tom Hanks is playing Tom Hanks, in every movie and TV show he appears on -- even as a guest on talk shows, where you'll see he rarely talks about himself. He's always willing to join in the fun, but he's never very forthcoming about details, is he, just like his character in Volunteers. Or That Thing You Do! Or Apollo 13, where his world consisted of a tiny space capsule and two crew members.

And the Tom Hanks that Tom Hanks is playing -- the real Tom Hanks -- is someone who, by choice or fate, is not part of our group; he's a misunderstood loner who can't ever quite fit in, and maybe doesn't want to. He's only going to run away with a mermaid, after all, or leave you on your own while he tries to win the stand-up competition, or, ultimately, reverse his wish and move back home as a kid who didn't fit in as a kid before, didn't fit in as a grown-up, and now doesn't fit in as a kid again, because he's been Big.

Looked at in that way, it kind of makes me feel sorry for him -- why should Tom Hanks, who seems like a nice guy and pretty talented, be all alone in the world? I'd be his friend, after all. We'd probably all be his friend, given the chance.

But he won't give us the chance. Not according to his movie roles.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

People with diabetes do NOT appreciate Star Wars. (Star Wars References.)

I always thought that you either liked Star Wars, or Star Trek, but that you couldn't like both -- you know, the way you either cared about people and wanted to use your intelligence and empathy to help them, or you had to join the Republican party.

But according to a new video from, you can dress up as both Anakin Skywalker and Spock at the same time:

That's's attempt to become at least as relevant as Tracy Morgan by mixing Star Wars into the conversation, and I find it disturbing that in the video, Anakin wants to frak Leia, who's his daughter. Yes, I know it's only cosplay, but isn't that freaky enough without making it a family affair?

Also, for a video that has frak in the title, it was conspicuously short on Battlestar Galactica references; you can include that guy that I think is the Human Bomb but can't fit in even one old school Cylon? You've even got Thor, for Pete's sake.

In any event, the video proves my point about mentioning Star Wars and getting attention: The video was posted yesterday and already has 126,000 views. But at least one of them was not impressed:

What kind of person is searching for information about diabetes... on Youtube? Does Keyboard Cat have a medical degree?

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Did you know: "Star Wars" is the only movie in which a computer has ever been shut off? (Star Wars References)

Everything revolves around Star Wars. And now "everything" includes even XKCD, which once cleverly turned Star Wars references into a joke that I think is ironic, now.

Here's the original, and now possibly ironic cartoon, titled "Excessive Quotation:"

And here's today's strip from XKCD, also:

So, when wanting to make a clever point about how easy access to the Internet distracts us from our job, XKCD went to what has become the source of all inspiration of humanity, Star Wars.

I'm not complaining, mind you -- at least I get this joke, and I can only say that about maybe 35% of XKCD's strips; most fly over my head. Except the velociraptor ones, which I get but get annoyed by because someone as smart as Randall Munroe should know they never existed.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THIS is a THING?! List Of All THINGS

THIS is a THING?! is my attempt to explain pop culture to you, without my actually having to endure the pop culture on my own; that is, I'll take something that's really popular among other people, and I'll try to explain it to you... but I'm not actually going to invest much*


of my time or energy in watching, listening to, smelling, touching, or otherwise experiencing that thing.

Here are THE THINGS I've explained so far:

Monday, February 14, 2011

The complete list of WHODATHUNKIT!?: Your 2010 Year In Bests.

I forgot, at the end of January, to put all the posts into one list-- so here's the complete list of

The Year In Bests;
The First-Ever TBOE What You Were Told,
And What You Should've Been Told Instead
Best Of The Year List.



Kids' Stuff




Other smarty-pants things.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

WHODATHUNKIT!?: The Three Best Things You Want To Know About Valentine's Day!

It's a Whodathunkit!?

Has getting flowers and candy gotten old? Has complaining about how we have to get flowers and candy because it's all a big marketing campaign gotten old?

The answers are yes, yes, and you're a tool. And I know that I only asked two questions, but if you're one of those people who really does complain about how holidays are just "invented" holidays brought on for marketing purposes, then you're a tool, because all holidays are just "invented" holidays created for one reason or another, and very often that reason is to make you buy stuff. (Except for St. Patrick's Day. That holiday exists to give frat boys a chance to start drinking at 7:30 a.m., which they do anyway, but it's considered socially acceptable on St. Patrick's Day.)

I learned long ago-- well, okay, this year -- to be a traditionalist when it comes to Valentine's Day; women do not want you to think "outside the box" when it comes to a day celebrating romance, so a set of six free-range chickens that you swear are totally legal, probably, and it's not like they inspect your backyard, you know... that's not your best gift option for Valentine's Day.

Your best gift option is to buy some flowers and bring them to her, and maybe get her some lingerie if your relationship has involved more than 3 dates, or if you are under 30, in which case (I understand) lingerie is perfectly acceptable as a first-date present. That's the end result of the Baby Boomer generation, you know: the last vestige of any moral fiber is removed from America.

No, this isn't a tired conservative screed, so keep reading. I just think that somewhere between "Not seeing your wife naked until 3 or 4 decades after you are married," and "let's put a bunch of naked kids on MTV and see what happens, because at the worst we'll end up having the cast for Teen Mom 3 already on set" there is a middle ground, but Baby Boomers have destroyed that by pretending for years that they were free-spirited rebels who "got it on" at Woodstock -- even though only about 1% of all Baby Boomers were aware that Woodstock was going on, let alone actually attended it-- and Baby Boomers went on to think of themselves as rebels and carefree spirits who weren't going to impose all those "rules" and "morals" on their kids (me, and most of you) , a handy excuse for "I'm too busy trying to get ahead at the office because I've got my eye on this little sports car to parent you, so, um, just do whatever comes naturally," the result of which was that my generation was left trying to piece together parenting tips from past episodes of Full House, plus we had to deal with all these old fossil Baby Boomers around the office, taking up all the good office spaces but not really contributing anything beyond "memories" of "being at" Woodstock, which isn't much of a contribution at all, which is how you go directly from Jimi Hendrix playing guitar with his teeth to the fact that my 4-year-olds are probably downstairs watching Snooki make out with people in a hot tub.

(I'd go check on them but (a) I'm busy writing this and (b) I don't ever want to actually see Snooki in a hot tub.)

And speaking of Snooki in a hot tub, isn't it about time I turned this back to the original point of this post, which is to take an alternative look at Valentine's Day -- giving you what you've come to expect from Whodathunkit!?, that being the three best things you really WANT to know about this important holiday. While TV stations and newspapers and magazines (which I still read, thank you very much) talk about the number of flowers that'll be ordered or the best dating sites or where to go for that special meal that'll involve square dancing, you can be thinking about these things. (For God's sake, don't talk about them! Didn't you read the part where I said women do not want nontraditional Valentine's Day? This is just to give you something to think about during that romantic meal, now that the Super Bowl's a week old.)

1. The world's oldest valentine was written in 1790.

Unless, that is, it was written in 1477. Or perhaps "sometime between 1415 and 1439" is more to your taste?

The point I'm trying to make is that if you want to claim the world's oldest valentine was written any old time, you could probably get away with it, given that the Internet has done the exact opposite of what we hoped it would.

The idea of the Internet was that it would put the world's knowledge at our fingertips.

(Okay, I know that the idea of the Internet was really that it would provide endless pornography, something that's also probably the Baby Boomers' fault [they invented Playboy, after all] but let's try to keep this highbrow, shall we?)

The idea of the Internet was that with a few clicks and maybe some (poorly-spelled) typing, we'd be able to find out anything, instantly. Want to know the lyrics to a Bobby Darin song? How long to blend a mandarin-orange smoothie? Whether President John Tyler really invented the robotic arm? (He did. It was crude, but he did.) You could find it out, and get your answers like that! (You have to imagine me snapping my fingers, there.)

But in reality, aside from the porn, the Internet hasn't really delivered the goods. Instead, what it's done is made all information equally available. Right or wrong, it's out there on the Internet and there's no way to tell whether what you're reading is accurate, or not. Unless it's by George Will. Then you can tell it's accurate, if a bit smarmy.

Take the matter of what's the world's oldest valentine. This site says that the world's oldest valentine dates back to 1790, which ought to effectively shut up those people who say it's just a marketing gimmick, since in the 1790s anyone caught "marketing" was first burned at the stake and then beheaded and then put in stocks for 48 hours, until the 1800s came along and people said "we're doing this all backwards" and fixed it, after which marketing came into vogue and became the dignified profession it is today, a group of people dedicated to finding ways to show us toilet paper scraps clinging to bears' butts.

But another site, entirely, says that the world's oldest valentine dates to 1477, and claims to have translated it, which is laughable in that the valentine (pictured as the heading for this entry) appears to be the preface to the Voynich Manuscript -- so it could say anything, but apparently says "You should want to marry me even if I'm poor," which is a heartfelt sentiment if I ever heard one. Sent by Margery Brews, the site says the valentine reads:

"Unto my right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire, be this bill delivered.

"Right reverent and worshipful and my right well-beloved valentine, I recommend me unto you full heartedly, desiring to hear of your welfare, which I beseech Almighty God long for to preserve unto his pleasure and your hearts desire.

"And if it pleases you to hear of my welfare, I am not in good health of body nor of heart, nor shall I be till I hear from you.

"For there knows no creature what pain that I endure, And even on the pain of death I would reveal no more.

"And my lady my mother hath laboured the matter to my father full diligently, but she can no more get than you already know of, for which God knoweth I am full sorry.

"But if you love me, as I trust verily that you do, you will not leave me therefore.

"For even if you had not half the livelihood that you have, for to do the greatest labour that any woman alive might, I would not forsake you.

Love you truly

"And if you command me to keep me true wherever I go, indeed I will do all my might you to love and never anyone else.

"And if my friends say that I do amiss, they shall not stop me from doing so.

"My heart me bids evermore to love you truly over all earthly things.

"And if they be never so angry, I trust it shall be better in time coming.

"No more to you at this time, but the Holy Trinity have you in keeping.

"And I beseech you that this bill be not seen by any non earthly creature save only yourself.

"And this letter was written at Topcroft with full heavy heart.

"Be your own Margery Brews."
Which alone shows that it's not the oldest Valentine: there had to be one earlier, because otherwise, when the
right well-beloved Valentine John Paston, squire got it, he'd say something like "What the hell is a Valentine?" after which he'd promptly be burned at the stake for heresy because he said hell. (Unless that was what Margery wanted?)

Nice, though, that Margery didn't want anyone to ever see her "valentine," with it's lovely sentiments of "my mom is trying to get my dad to raise enough money so that you'll marry me" and here it is posted all over the Internet.

Still, there's a third site that says that Margery's bill of sale isn't the oldest valentine, but, rather, that the one written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, while he was captive in the Tower of London following yet another battle in what amounted to a never-ending war between England and France. Seriously, historians, why bother pretending that there were "different" wars, when all of European history up until 1957 amounts to "England and France were at war." It's not like people will get it right, anyhow -- the Internet will see to it that the facts get screwed up.

Charles was held captive for some 24 years following the battle in 1415, and somewhere in there, he wrote a valentine to his wife, which says

On St. Valentine's day, the lovely sun, carrying along its lighted candle, made its way that fine dawn, not long ago, into my locked chamber, all in secret.

And that sounds romantic, but remember, this was the middle ages, when they used language weirder than anything Tolkien could make up, so "the lovely sun" might have been a euphemism for "the girl who brings my breakfast," making that not so much the first Valentine as a medieval version of Cheaters!

2. Valentine's Day isn't actually for lovers.

Just the opposite, really. While we celebrate St. Valentine these days by giving people chalky candy hearts with lewd inscriptions on them, back in the day (the 1600s) the church used St. Valentine to quash romance. Or, as the Catholic Online website says:

Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who, with St. Marius and his family, assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Claudius II. He was apprehended, and sent by the emperor to the prefect of Rome, who, on finding all his promises to make him renounce his faith in effectual, commended him to be beaten with clubs, and afterwards, to be beheaded, which was executed on February 14, about the year 270.

....His name is celebrated as that of an illustrious martyr ...To abolish the heathens lewd superstitious custom of boys drawing the names of girls, in honor of their goddess Februata Juno, on the fifteenth of this month, several zealous pastors substituted the names of saints in billets given on this day.

So, you see, they wanted the kids to have erotic thoughts about saints. No, wait, that doesn't seem right...

I don't know if I'd take everything that site says on faith, though (pun intended), as it goes on to keep the grand spirit of the Internet alive by noting that

The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine.

So, we don't know who he was, or whether there really was just one, but we do know that he existed, because we found ancient buildings dedicated to him.

Which is also how we know Zeus existed, right? May want to think that one through, Catholic Church.

Februata Juno's name is given on most websites as the opposite: Juno Februata, and it's no wonder she was popular; according to legend, on her feast day, single men could draw names of women from a bowl and get paired up for "erotic games," remaining partners for 12 months, sometimes ending up married (and presumably not attending next year's event, if that happened.) It was like a medieval "7 Minutes In Heaven," I guess, although it was probably more accurately named "12 months of living in a hog slop with someone who, like you, has not been introduced to the concept of bathing."

3. I'm a little upset that they thought up "mutt-rimony" before I could.

Maybe you're spending your Valentine's Day alone, and you're thinking to yourself "Does it get any worse than this?"

I can answer that for you: yes, it does. While it may be true that nobody loves you (it probably is. Let's face it. You're not exactly trying, are you? Sitting around on Valentine's Day moping? How's that going to get you married? You know what gets you married? Attending a Juno Februata party. Get going!)

No matter what you're doing on February 14, it won't be as sadly lame/lamely sad as attending a pet wedding. Various organizations are pitching pet weddings as ways to raise money (for them) and prove just how few social opportunities you actually have (you). This site has the details on one dog wedding which drew guests (to Florida) from Texas, and if that isn't a reason to let the government take away wealth from people, I don't know what is.

If you read the entire story, though, you'll see that the dog owners also own mobile homes, which in retrospect I should've seen coming. Which makes me not a socialist, because I'm not just saying to take money from the rich (although I am saying that) but also to take money from the poor, if the poor are stupid enough to spend it getting their dogs married and not just get them married but handmake the outfits and write wedding vows. (What's left to write, after Woof!?)

Weddings are supposed to be good places to meet people -- but if your social life depends on meeting people at a dog wedding, you should probably just get used to staying in nights.


Click here for more posts like this one.

Want something a little more romantic? Click here for The Best Valentine's Song. and click here for The Best Ending To A Romantic Movie.

Feeling LESS romantic? Check out The Seven Best Songs That Show What Love Is Really Like.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Update: Can you handle more Star Wars references?

While The Boy argues with me that the octopus evolved on the Death Star -- evolution working superquick in that galaxy, apparently -- the rest of you continue doing what society does best these days: referencing Star Wars in every single thing you do.

Like, for example, what if Star Wars' universe was made up of nothing but Batmen? I bet you'd never thought of that, but someone did:

(From The Chive.) That's the nerd equivalent of horizontal gene transfer, right there.

And, for some reason, there was a yellow stormtrooper helping shred cheeseheads at a Pittsburgh Steeler rally:

I'm pretty sure we're on the verge of people getting degrees in Star Wars and/or this thing turning into a formal religion. Unless that's already happened -- does anyone know whether the higher levels of Scientology mention midichlorians?


The Best Stupid Questions About Star Wars (and the Internet sites they lead to.)

The Four Best Cultural References You Should Slip Into Conversation Today.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I wonder how it would sound with some Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch in it?

Sometimes, you just stumble across something and think "Wow, that's neat," and also "That should be a gift for someone, because it's pretty cool." Even if you don't know who the gift would be TO - maybe yourself? -- you still find stuff that seems like it was ready made to be given to someone for something special. Stuff like the Tibetan singing bowl shownto the left there.

Looks like an ordinary bowl, right? But it's not. It's a Tibetan Singing Bowl, which makes a tone when you strike it with the hammer you see there.

A Tibetan Singing Bowl isn't a bowl at all -- it's a kind of gong or bell, but one that stands instead of hangs and they're used to help meditation and relaxation (among other uses.)

So that simple little bowl - -which is available at the link above - - is both a centerpiece for conversation and can help you mellow out in your life a little. And you can hear what it sounds like by going to that site (which has many many more of those bowls available).

I stumbled across this, and I'm enthralled by it. Expect, if you know me, to be getting one of these for your birthday. Or annual review. Or tucked under your windshield when I accidentally back into your car, which really was your fault because you parked too close, but I'll overlook it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The 15 Best Things You Never Knew About Charles Dickens (GUEST POST!)

Readers, you know that I've long scoffed at most of the books I was told to read in high school... except for the works of Charles Dickens. Now, along comes reader Emma Taylor, of Accredited Online Colleges, with a guest post about the man responsible for the fact that every single Christmas movie we see is basically a recasting of "A Christmas Carol" Since that's the main thing everyone knows about Dickens, I thought it would be helpful to post Emma's article...


If you consider yourself to be a well-read individual — at least of the classics — you’ve probably read a lot of Dickens. Even non-English majors have most likely stumbled across Dickens’ greatest characters in college classes and of course, in iconic films remakes, like A Christmas Carol. And just as you’d expect, the writer behind Tiny Tim, Oliver Twist and Pip was just as complex as his famous characters. Here are 15 things you may not have known about Charles Dickens (professors and total Dickens freaks aside).

1. He was a control freak: Although he was never diagnosed, and it’s impossible to posthumously diagnose someone, scientists and doctors believe that Dickens may have had OCD. He was supposedly a control freak and had many rituals involving repetitive behavior, like rearranging furniture and religiously inspecting his children’s bedrooms for tidiness and order.

2. He had ten children: Between 1837 and 1852, Dickens’ wife Catherine gave birth to 10 children. Dora Annie died when she was an infant, and the youngest, Edward, died at 10 years old.

3. He took on factory work at age 12: You may already know that Dickens’ father was taken to prison because of financial problems, but you may not have known that 12-year-old Charles went to work wrapping shoe-black bottles at Warren’s Blacking Factory to help support his family during that time.

4. Dickens spoke out against slavery: A long-time, committed supporter of social justice issues, Dickens also disapproved of slavery. He reportedly spoke out against it when visiting friends in America, which did not go over well.

5. He was a leader of social justice and reform until his death: Dickens was an advocate for all kinds of social justice issues, including educating the poor, parliamentary reform, public health, the legal system, the workhouse system, and others.

6. He was a realistic recorder of epilepsy and seizures: Dickens wrote about epileptic fits and seizures (characters like Guster from Bleak House, Monks from Oliver Twist, and Bradley Headstone from Our Mutual Friend had them) with such accuracy that today’s doctors believe he may have suffered from them himself.

7. Dickens wrote 5 Christmas books: While he’s best known for A Christmas Carol, Dickens actually wrote five books about Christmastime: The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, as well as A Christmas Carol. They were all published between 1843-1848.

8. He practiced mesmerism: Dickens was introduced to mesmerism — an early form of hypnosis — by Professor Joseph Elliotson at University College, London. Dickens supposedly became a master at mesmerism was fascinated at its power to control minds.

9. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print: A Christmas Carol was published for the first time in 1843, and since then, it has never been out of print.

10. His nickname was "Boz": Dickens’ younger brother Augustus supposedly used to pronounce his nickname in a way that sounded like "Boz," and Dickens adopted that name as his own pseudonym.

11. Dickens nicknamed his kids, too: A fan of using nicknames with siblings and in his work, Dickens also gave his kids nicknames, like Skittles.

12. He often based characters on people he knew in real life: Dickensian characters are so memorable, it’s no wonder Dickens actually modeled some of them on real-life people he knew. And David Copperfield is said to be mostly autobiographical.

13. He worked as a court reporter and parliamentary reporter: Before becoming a fiction writer, Dickens worked for a lawyer but then switched professions to focus on writing and journalism. He first worked as a court reporter and then as a parliamentary reporter, before publishing his first story in 1833.

14. The Pickwick Papers started as a series of sketches: The Pickwick Papers is Dickens’ first novel, but it actually started out as a series of sketches and caricatures of Cockneys, drawn by Robert Seymour. Seymour’s publishers recruited Dickens to write bits of text to accompany the sketches, but Dickens ended up taking over the project.

15. He died working on a novel: Dickens’ last novel was just a work in progress when he died. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is still unfinished, but some installments were published, and two films were even made based on the work.


I was going to make some kind of joke here about Dickens knowing why the octopus was on the Death Star... but then I got distracted by thinking what a great name "Skittles Dickens" would be.

Thanks, Emma. Read more things by her
here. And if you've got a guest post idea, by all means, send it on along!



The Five Best Books Schools Should Have Kids Read (And The Crummy So-Called Classics They'd Replace)

The Best Charles Dickens Book.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Best Stupid Questions About "Star Wars" (And The Best Internet Sites They Lead You To.)

I give up, Internet.

Once, I named Paris Hilton "The Best Gossiple," and then later tried to revoke that status only to set off a maelstrom of Hilton publicity that threatened to destroy us all. (That series of posts is enshrined forever in my book, "Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?", which I'd tell you to order but which I know you already have it. On the offchance that you don't have it, go ahead and click that link to order it.)

I didn't learn my lesson then, but I'm awfully close to learning it now, as I reap the whirlwind (am I using that right?) of my decision to chide society for relying solely on "Star Wars" as our cultural touchpoint.

In the 2 weeks that post has been up, the floodgates have opened and even more "Star Wars" references have been created than ever before, so many that I have trouble keeping up with them all.

The most recent of these are the Star Wars Occupation Flowchart:

A Breakdown on Birth

...which bloggers latched onto as cool without realizing that it's also an ad for online schools, so I guess that proves that "referencing Star Wars" is an even more cost-effective way of getting everyone else to do your advertising than getting banned by the Super Bowl.

That was not the most unusual Star Wars reference that cropped up recently, though. The honor for that particular title goes to the California Green Bay Packer fans who combined heavy construction equipment, a constant misspelling of the name of the city their team plays for (it's "Green Bay," not "Greenbay"), and, of course, Star Wars into a video that's almost hypnotic:

They also misspelled "caterpillar."

I know when I'm beat. I can't stop the Star Wars referencing, any more than I could stop Paris Hilton from nearly destroying the world. So I'm not going to fight it anymore. I'm going to use some judo on it and roll with the changes and get to what's real, but I'm going to do it in my own way, via an entirely new feature that'll be worked into the mix here on The Best Of Everything:

Stupid Questions!

I'm not one of those people who says there's no such thing as a stupid question. There are plenty of stupid questions out there, questions so irredeemably dumb that they deserved not to be asked, at all, and yet, people do ask them.

And now I will be one of those people, asking the stupid questions. (It's almost like I've joined the Tea Party!)(Except I know the questions are stupid, and I'm not racist.)

But I'll do more than simply ask the stupid questions. I will, as the title promises, find the best internet sites those questions lead you to. Once again, I'm doing your work for you. Don't thank me; it's the least I can do to avoid doing my own work.

Then again, do thank me. With $10s and $20s.

Enough with the California hicks riding construction equipment intros! Let's move on to the questions!

1. Was Darth Vader a human?

The first thing you have to know about Darth Vader is that he was not "a" Darth, he was named Darth. Remember, early on in Star Wars, one of the Imperials calls Darth "Lord Vader." If Darth was a title -- as Lucas/geeks would have you believe based on the inclusion, later on, of people like Darth Maul and Darth Sidious (titles that prove that Lucas wasn't just bad at dialogue, he was bad at naming characters, too) -- why call "Darth" Vader "Lord" Vader?

Not convinced? How about if Obi-Wan calls Darth by his first name?

At about 0:30: "Only a master of evil, DARTH." Why would Obi-Wan call Darth only by his title? Think about how that would play out if we all did that.

George Washington: And that's why we declare independence from you, England.

King George The Whateverth: I will send redcoats to shoot you.

George Washington: You can't do that, King!

Anyway, beyond the fact that Vader's first name was Darth, there's also the question of what was Darth Vader, and what were the rest of them, anyway? Were they human? Were they aliens who happened to look exactly like humans? Does everyone understand how phenomenally unlikely that is, that alien lifeforms would have evolved in a far-distant galaxy "a long time ago" and that they would look just like us, so closely resemble us that we would be unable to distinguish them from us?

And, if they are aliens and not humans but they happen to look just like us, does that mean that there could be human-Star-Wars-people hybrids?

Or are they human and we're descended from them, with that storyline inevitably waiting to be ripped off from the new Battlestar Galactica, which would be only fair since the new Battlestar Galactica ripped off The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy?

I've led with this question because it was actually raised by a debate between The Boy and Rogue Mutt. But it deserves to be thought about... and to be Googled.

The best site I came up with after googling the question "Was Darth Vader a human?" was a site called "Maybenow," which seems to be one of those sites where you can go get advice or help, a great idea provided that you don't care if the advice or help you get actually works and/or is given to you by people who might be completely insane. These are the kind of sites, after all, where someone asks what flavor a white jellybean is, and people respond with answers like "they all taste the same," and nobody types in "why don't you just eat it and find out?"

On Maybenow, I didn't find out whether Vader was a human, but I did find out that there's a robust debate about how powerful Vader would be if he hadn't lost the duel with Obi-Wan-- with people putting a lot of thought into their answers, and using math, to boot:

Vader already was stronger than Palpatine on mustafar GJ also tell that if he wouldn't be in suit he could become 4x times like palpatine
That certainly seems scientific. Life-support suit= powers/4.

The reference to the duel between Obi-Wan and Darth brings up Stupid Question Number 2, which is this:

2. How did Obi-Wan know Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker?

According to the Wookiepedia -- yes, that's a thing -- and my memory, which turns out to be accurate, this is how Revenge of the Sith ended:

As Obi-Wan watches in despair, Vader, now only being kept alive by his hate, tries in vain to pull his crippled, smoking body up the embankment with his remaining mechanical hand. Obi-Wan is overcome with disgust and sadness at the pitiful fate of "The Chosen One", and is reduced nearly to tears. He angrily shouts that Anakin has failed in his life and destiny, and has hurt all those who loved him, including Obi-Wan himself. Vader, now completely helpless and consumed by his dark-side emotions, can only scream in pain and powerless rage, cursing his former friend and Master. The lava below Vader then catches his leg, setting him on fire. Obi-Wan, not willing to watch his former pupil and best friend die, takes Anakin's lightsaber and leaves. He then leaves with the badly injured Padmé and her droids on the star skiff.

So Obi-Wan walked away from his former apprentice's burning, half-missing body, and from there went directly to Tatooine where he hid out in the desert for approximately 20 years.

Presumably, during that time, there was at least news of the Empire, and even Obi-Wan could get it -- kooks living in the desert get news, after all, and Obi-Wan didn't seem surprised by how things were set up when he finally came out of hiding with Luke and the 'droids.

But also presumably, the Empire didn't go around broadcasting Darth's secret origins. I very much doubt that it was common knowledge that Vader was half-cyborg, let alone that he'd gotten that way by getting a whupping from a Jedi; that kind of information might have led people to question whether he was really so invincible after all.

And, of course, Vader's face is completely deformed plus hidden by a mask when Vader and Obi-Wan meet on the Death Star. But when Vader says they meet again, Obi-Wan doesn't say "WTF? I've never met you before in my life, and I'm pretty sure I'd remember meeting a six-foot-tall half-robot who sounds like my CNN commercials."

So how did Obi-Wan know Vader was Anakin Skywalker? Let's Google it and find out!

Over at the Jedi Council Forums, where people who would've been playing D&D with me back in the 1980s hang out now, there's an actual serious discussion of just this question, proving that convergent evolution (which is how Leia might be able to make out with you) works on Stupid Questions, too. Judging from the 10 or so comments I was able to read before deciding that even I am too cool for that kind of stuff, there's an actual answer to this one: The Emperor named Vader before Anakin Skywalker was left for dead.

Or, as one puts it:

Didn't Obi-Wan and Yoda hear the name Darth Vader in the Holo recording at the temple? I could be wrong. But if they did, then they probably knew Anakin survived, since it is inevitable that at least Obi-Wan would hear the name Darth Vader even as far away as Tatooine.

Which still doesn't answer the question, it just raises another stupid question, that of how Obi-Wan knew Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker at any point. Is there some kind of code for converting people names into Jedi or Sith names?

Which brings up the third question:

3. Was Obi Wan Kenobi his real name?

In the early going of Star Wars, Obi Wan is referred to as Old Ben, or Ben, and that's what Luke calls him throughout the movies, as I recall.

But in the first three movies, he's always Obi-Wan, and he pals around with Qui-Gon, and the similarities between those names make me think that Obi-Wan might have been his real name (and maybe he and Qui-Gon were from the same planet?). But then there's the part of me that thinks that Obi-Wan was a title, only it couldn't have been because Anakin, and Mace Windu and Yoda never got Jedi titles, right? That must have been a Sith thing, putting a title in front of your name.

But it's not up to me to decide it. It's up to the Internet, which has nothing better to do than answer Star Wars questions.

Like the How'd he know it was Anakin question, this is one that predates this post, too-- and it was discussed on, under the question "Why did Ben Kenobi's name change?"

Which, before I get into what they say there, I'll point out appears to have it wrong: It was Obi Wan who changed his name to Ben when he went into hiding. He tells Luke that he hasn't heard the name Obi Wan in a long time. (And the Empire, as has no doubt been noted before, must have been looking for an Obi Wan, not a Kenobi, as "Old Ben" didn't bother changing his name... and didn't bother living more than a few miles from Luke, which is amazingly stupid given that if Vader ever had gone looking for the two surviving Jedi, and had looked in the White Pages under Kenobi, he'd have found Obi Wan and then been near enough to Luke to sense him, too. Why not set a trusted pal to watch Luke, while you live a couple planets away, "Old Ben?" Apparently, there were some classes you skipped as a youngling.)

Anyway, here's what the Killer Movie thread says about the name deal:

ben is his birth name

heres a funny thing you'll like.

in episode 3 and this is true anakin and obiwan are in a new ship and are taking down other fighters.

anakin learns of obiwans name and calls him ben.

obiwan says dont call me that.

and anakin asks did quigon ever call you ben?

That's from "Sacrifise666." I'll assume that's true (why would I doubt someone who hides their anonymity behind a satanist moniker?), and go with most of the rest of the commenters who seem to assume that "Obi Wan" was a Jedi name that he got when he became a Jedi, but all that does is raise the question of Then what was Yoda's real name?

I'm going to say "Todd."

And, finally, to get off the Kenobi-Vader train of thought, I'll finish up with something that's always bugged me:

4. Why have an octopus in the trash compactor?

That makes no sense. Assuming it has a place to go hide when the compactor's being compacted -- as I recall Lucas took the time to show -- what purpose would the Trash Monster serve? The stuff that was thrown into the trash compactor didn't seem to be organic (other than the water that seemingly was there to let the monster swim around) and it's not clear how stuff got into the trash compactor in the first place -- given that Luke and Han had to shoot the grate off to get into the chute to get there, making the door the only obvious way to get stuff into the roomful of water and monsters, and it's not clear why the Death Star would need a trash compactor anyway when it would seem simpler to just throw the stuff out into space before compacting it. Think about how inefficient it would be to have people hauling trash to the compactor, risking their lives with the monster in there, then using energy to compact the trash, then hauling it somewhere else -- probably to throw it into space then, something we know that the Empire does before jumping into hyperspace because in The Empire Strikes Back Han Solo hides in the debris the Star Destroyer jettisons before making the jump to lightspeed (something that actually makes sense because it would lighten the load, using less fuel to propel your ship up to the speed of light)--

so if you're going to dump it into space anyway, why compact it first, and why have a Trash Monster on board at all? Is it some kind of Space Pest that got in there without anyone knowing? If so, how? If not, then it's there by design, but for what purpose?

Tell me, Internet...

Or, don't tell me, but put on a musical about Star Wars featuring the song "The Walls Are Closing In."

This is the first Stupid Questions post, so if you'd like to see a list of every other thing I've ever discussed on this site, click here.

Update: Check out the Four Best Cultural References You Should Slip Into Conversation Today to give you something to talk about besides Star Wars.