Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bohemian Rhapsody And AIDS?


Is Bohemian Rhapsody (playing here) really about Freddy Mercury's life with AIDS?


Bohemian Rhapsody is one of the most famous rock songs of all time.  It stayed a number one on the British chart for 9 weeks when originally released and returned to number one after Freddy Mercury's death in 1991 and event nearly unheard of.

The song, composed in three separate parts without a conventional chorus, is about someone facing death "Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me."  The narrator eventually accepts his fate, reporting; "Nothing really matters to me."  But Freddy Mercury, the author and lead singer, is vague about why the man is facing death.  Could it be Mercury reporting his struggle with AIDS?   There are some tempting lines in the dialog.  First he says:

"Just killed a man.  Put my gun against his head.  Pulled my trigger now he's dead."

Possibly a metaphor for intercourse between men resulting in an HIV infection.

Later he says:

"Sent Shivers down my spine.  Bodies aching all the time."

Life with chronic illness?

And finally:

"So you think you can love me and leave me to die."

The lyrics do seem to suggest that the theme may be AIDs.  There's just one catch.

So what's the Answer?:

Bohemian Rhapsody can only be about Freddy Mercury's experience with AIDS if Freddy was incredibly psychic.  Bohemian Rhapsody was released in 1975, six years before HIV was first described in the medical literature in 1981.  It is possible, though extremely unlikely that Mercury could have contracted HIV by that time but he probably would not have been symptomatic and would not have know that he had a fatal condition if he was.

There has been some suggestion that the song is based on "The Stanger" by Albert Camus.  There are numerous parallels there are well.  But what did Freddy have to say on the subject?  He was reported to say that the lyrics were "random rhyming nonsense."  

For those of you who'd like to spend one last minute with the man, we here at the Subcommittee on Obscure Facts (SOF) present Freddy Mercury's last interview:

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snorting Ancestors? Keith Richard's Thinks So.


Do many cultures "snort" their ancestors?


Good question.  During his famous, "I snorted my father's ashes" interview, (showing here)

Rolling Stones axe man Keith Richards asserts that "ingesting your ancestors has been a very very very important thing throughout history."  While we generally hold the opinion that aging rock stars should be taken at their word on all things anthropological, we here at the Obscure Question Ontological Society (OQOS) decided to take a look for ourselves.  Here's what we found.

So What's the answer:

Not so much with the ancestor eating.  The women and children of the Fore people from New Guinea did, until last century, eat their dead relatives in a funeral ceremony.  This worked out very badly for them when they ate the brain of someone who had died of a disease similar to mad cow disease and then all went mad and died themselves.  There has been some suggestion that some native American cultures may have consumed their ancestors but there is not hard evidence to support this.  

Interestingly, Robert Heinlein (showing here)

created a race of martians in his 1961 classic "Stranger in a Strange Land" who ate their ancestors or anyone else they knew who had died.  Maybe Mars is where Richard's brain was when he got the idea to snort his dad.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Can Animals Cry?

The Question:

Can animals cry?

The Background:

We did some looking into this question and found one interesting answer.  Turns out that people have been reporting salt water tears out of elephants for a long time.  A lot of salt water mammals and reptiles produce tears as a way of balancing out the salt in their bodies. (hence the phrase "crocodile tears")
The more emotional question, can elephants cry tears in response to emotional stress, produced a startling result.  We here that the Foundation for Investigation of Obscure Question Phenomena (FIOQP) got to looking at some nature videos in our children's possession and learned that elephants have an odd gland on the side of their heads called the Temporal Gland.  Showing here:

The Temporal gland produces a wide variety of smells, all of them rather rank apparently, for a wide variety of purposes.  The males rub the secretion on trees to mark territory for example.  One of the use is to signal emotional upset.  When a herd matriarch has a wounded herdmate, she may emit fluid from this gland all day, the same with a mother who has lost her child.

So What's the Answer?

While the court is still out on whether elephant produce salt water tears out of there eyes, there can be no doubt that they do produce fluid out of their temporal glands when upset, so yes, elephants do cry.

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Pantie Quilt Part II


Did a Missouri man make a quilt out of Women's Panties?


Earlier this morning, we at the Obscure Question Research and Investigation Centre (OQRIC) posted a note about Frank Zappa's bizarre underclothes quilt.  Several quick eyed readers reported to us that Mr. Zappa is not alone in his quest for the linens made of ladies secret lovelies.

In our eternal quest for answers to obscure questions, we jumped straight to Google to see if it could be true.

So What's the Answer?

OMG!  This man:

Louis Garret, or "Shovelhead" as the tattoo on his forehead points out, from the town of Louisiana, Missouri did in fact make a quilt out of 58 pairs of ladies panties donated to him by "friends and co-workers."

We here at the Joint Commission for Obscure Questions (JCOQ) would just like to point out that tear tattoos, in modern terms usually mean you've killed someone, but in someone of Mr. Garret's age probably represent years in prison.  One tear for every five years.  Honestly, even without the facial tattoos, we're really not going to give this guy our underwear.  

Mr. Garrett also mentioned in an interview with local television, that he got the idea while dressing his mannequins.  This begs the question, in what town is this a news story and not a stalker report?

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Sources?  We don't need no stinking sources!   We are the source!

Frank Zappa's Dirty Panty Quilt


Did Frank Zappa really have a quilt made out of used panties?


During his "Tinseltown Rebellion" tour in 1981, Frank Zappa, rock music legend and authentic weirdo, starting asking women in the audience to throw their underwear at him.  He is reported to have said;

"Laides, if you give me your panties, I promise I'll never wash them again."

Being that it was a Frank Zappa concert, there were plenty of women in the crowd ready to flood the stage with slightly used unmentionables.  Zappa's bassist, apparently unimpressed, started taking ice tongs on stage in case he needed to move anyone's underthings.  Zappa, on the other hand, would twirl favored panties on his finger, hang them from his guitar etc.

We here here at the Institute for Obscure Question Research (IOQR) could not be more grossed out!

By the end of the tour, Zappa had collected hundreds of used undergarments of all shapes and sizes but what to do with them.

So What's the Answer:

In 1982 Zappa commissioned the making of a quilt, featuring himself as the King of Spade, composed entirely of the still unwashed underpants.  It's now on display at the Hard Rock Cafe in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Frank Zappa, all American Weirdo.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Circus Song: What is that Song?


What's the Name of that song that they always play at the circus?


For time out of mind circuses have been playing the same song, usually when the clown come in.  It goes.  "Duh du du..."  er "Duh da duh du...."  Hmmmm.   Oh hell.  I'll link to it below.  But where did that song come from?

So What's the Answer:

The song is called "Entry of the Gladiators."  It was written by a Czech guy named  Julius Fucik (I'll let you figure out how to pronounce "Fucik.") in 1897.  He was a big fan of all things Roman so the song is supposed to represent the pomp and ceremony of Roman Gladiators entering the coliseum.  It got re-arranged and introduced to the America's by Canadian Louis-Phillipe Laurendeau in 1910.  This is the version played a circuses.   The original version  (showing here")

is much slower and more complex than the 1910 circus version (showing here.)

We here at the National Foundation for Obscure Question Research (NFOQR) did a little poking around and decided the best bet was to dump both these versions and go for a really ass kicking march like John William's "Imperial Death March" from the Star Wars Movies (showing here.)

Oh yes,  much better.

So, "Entry of the Gladiators" is the name of the circus song, but it's been radically changed.  Also, John Williams kicks its ass.

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Sources?  We don't need no stinking sources!  We are the source!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Butterfly Effect: Where'd it get That Name?


Why is the Butterfly Effect called "The Butterfly Effect?"


We all know, because we paid attention in science class or because of the horrible Ashton Kutcher movie, that the Butterfly Effect refers to the idea that very small changes in initial conditions can have very large effects on outcomes.

We here at the International Academy for Life's Most Important and Obscure Questions (IALMOQ) think about it this way: You're standing on the top of a mountain with a snowball in your hand.  All around the mountain are cute little villages.  Maybe it's a Swiss mountain and all the villages have that cute, graham cracker look.  You know that whichever side of the mountain the ball rolls down will suffer a terrible but fun to watch avalanche.  Here's the problem; you can't throw the snow ball down one side or the other.  You can only throw it straight up.  Is it possible in those conditions to predict which quaint village will get demolished?  Probably not.

Suppose, just as you throw, the wind swirls a bit to the West, down goes the west village.  Or maybe you slip a bit and the ball sails to the East.  Kerpow! East Towne!  The point is, small, very small changes at the moment of the toss will completely change the outcome.  This is called the Butterfly Effect.  But why?

So What's the answer?

While theories about unpredictability in 3 or more variable systems has been around since the 1890's the phrase "The Butterfly Effect" can be traced to one Dr. Edward Lorenz.  In 1961 Lorenz was using an early computer to run weather simulations.  When forced to reload the program in progress, Lorenz backed up in time to a point where he had the available data and then reloaded.  Here's the trick.  The software was running 6 decimal places.  Lorenz only reloaded the first 3.  After a few simulated days, the weather, the entire weather system for the planet had diverged what the previous run.  Lorenz wrote a paper on the subject and it was noted later that the difference between .001 and .000001 in his simulation was about the force of a butterfly flapping its wing.

So, The Butterfly Effect is called the "The Butterfly Effect" because Dr. Lorenz showed, accidentally, that a force no greater than the flapping of butterfly wing, cycled a few hundred thousand times in a complex system, could result in global changes in the weather.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Bare Bodkin? What's That?


What is a "bare Bodkin?"

The Background:

In William Shakespreare's "Hamlet" during Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be" speech, Hamlet says:

"When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?"

We know, from Mrs. Scott's 10 grade English class that Hamlet is talking about killing himself.  So, "his quietus make" means to kill himself but with what?  A bare bodkin?  Really?

So What's the Answer:

Most people agree that a bodkin is a small knife or dagger similar to a poniard.  We at the Organisation for the Investigation of Life's Most Important and Obscure Questions (OILMIOQ) wish to point out that a Bodkin is also a long hat pin or blunt needle used for threading ribbon.  It would come as no surprise to us to learn that what Shakespreare was pointing out was pointing out that people are really very easy to kill.  Who doesn't have an old aunt who died in an unfortunate hat pin accident?  What a great Christmas story that is!

So, a bare bodkin is a pointy thing, possibly a dagger or sewing implement, that Hamlet could have used on himself in the first hour of the play thus saving us all a great deal of torment in Mrs. Scott's English class.

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Bee's Knees: What does that mean?


What does the phrase "He's the Bee's Knee's" really mean?


Sometimes when someone is important, or just thinks they are, others will say about them, "He (she, it) is really the Bee's Knee's."  But no one seems to know why Bee's Knee's are so cool or why we'd like to mistaken for them.

We here at the Institute for the Study of Life's Most Important and Obscure Questions (ISLMIOQ) had never really wondered about this so we looked it up.  Here's what we learned.

So What's the Answer:

This phrase has nothing to do with Bee's or Knee's!  We found two different answers, related to each other but none having to do with Bee's.  Some said this phrase started with Shakespeare, other with the Book of Revelations.

As we always do in the case of a tie, we consulted "Timmy" our Magic 8 ball.  Timmy said that it "Seems Likely" that the Book of Revelations answer was correct so that's the one we're going with.  Thanks Timmy.

In Revelations 1:8, Jesus is credited with saying "I am the Alpha and Omega."  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters in the Greek Alphabet, so, what Jesus is saying is, "I am the beginning and the end."  Eventually, in English speaking countries, this became kind of a joke.  Someone who was  the do all and be all of a given topic was referred to as "The Beginning and the End" or, if you were British, you would call someone "The B's and E's" short for "Beginning" and "End."  Of course, "B's and E's."  Sounds a lot like, "Bee's Knees" so, when the American's got hold of it, that's what it became.  There you go.

The answer to the question, "What does the phrase "He's the Bee's Knee's" really mean?"  is, it's a wildly paraphrased version of the Revelations 1:8  "I am the Alpha and The Omega."

Thanks Timmy!  You're the Bee's Knee's of Magic 8 Balls!

BTW:  The other answer was exactly the same except that it had a quote from Macbeth as the origin.  Problem is Shakespeare was almost certainly paraphrasing Revelations.  So there!  Timmy was right again.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Moon Brain: Why Do We Always See the Same Side of The Moon?

The Question:

Why do we always see the same side of the moon?

The Background:

Remember the man in the moon?  Ever wondered what the back of his head looks like?  Ever wonder why no one except a couple of Apollo Astronauts have ever seen the "dark side" of the moon?

It can be a little hard to wrap your head around the fact that the same side of the moon always faces the Earth.  Try it like this.  Look up at the moon.  Imagine that the side of the moon that you are looking at were to come crashing straight down into you and through the Earth. When it pushed its way out the other side, the folks in China would see the back side of the moon as it flew back up into space right?  Right.  Only that's not what happens.  Folks in China see the same side of the moon we do.    Observe this picture of the full moon rising over the National Stadium in China:

It's the same side of the moon!   WTF?!!

So What's the Answer?

The answer to this question comes in two parts.  

First, the moon is turning at exactly the same rate it orbits the Earth.  Weird huh?  But it makes sense if you think about it.  In order your you and me, on opposite sides of the planet, to see the same side of the moon, it must be turning at exactly the same rate that it is orbiting the Earth.  You can do this with your fingers.  Hold a finger on one hand still.  Now spin a finger from the other hand around it slowly, turning it so that the same side is always facing the first finger.    That's what the moon is doing.  

The orbital period for the moon is roughly 27.321583 days.  Roughly.

The moon rotates on its axis roughly once every 27.321583 days as well.

How trippy is that?  Even weirder is why.

It turns out that the gravitational drag between two spheres will eventually slow their rotation so that their rotation matches their orbital periods.  This weird force is called tidal locking.  When the moon first formed, it did spin but the drag of gravity has slowed it till it always shows us the same side.  Since the moon is not a perfect sphere, the heaviest part of the moon settled toward us.  If you turned your bike over, put a weight on the back wheel, and then spun the wheel, when it slowed the weight would settle toward the Earth right?  Same thing happened to the moon.

Tidal locking with the moon has slowed the Earth too but the Earth is much more massive so we still spin once every 24  hours...Roughly.

We see the same side of the moon at all times because tidal locking has pulled the heaviest side toward us and it now spins at exactly the right speed to keep the heaviest side toward us.  


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42: The Question at Last

The Question:

What is the Ultimate Question of Life The Universe and Everything?

The Background:

In his wildly successful "Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" books, British author Douglas Adams has a race of "hyper-intellegent, pan dimensional beings" design a computer to find the answer to "The Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything."

After thinking things over for several million years the computer, Deep Thought, comes back with the answer:  42.  Everyone is very disappointed by this answer naturally.  Deep Thought explains that the problem is that no one has ever really understood the question.  Much of the rest of the books is concerned with finding the question to the ultimate answer.

You can see the whole exchange here from the 2005 movie "Hitchiker's Guide to The Galaxy."

In the books, and apparently in his life, Douglas Adams, who died in 2001, never gave a question to go with the movie.  The closest he came was when Benji the mouse, a character in the books suggested that maybe 42 was the answer to the question, "How Many Roads Must a Man Walk Down?"  which is from a Bob Dylan song made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

So What's the Answer:

Since Douglas never answered the question himself we can only speculate.  The only very compelling answer we've ever heard came from Dan Smith of Leavenworth, Kansas, USA.   His question to the ultimate answer is, "What is the sum total of paradise?"

His logic goes like this; if you add up all the dots on one six sided die (you know, dice like for playing board games) you will find that there are 21 dots (1+2+3+4+5+6=21) so the sum of a "pair of dice" would be 21+21=42.  42!  The question to ultimate answers is:  What is The sum of paradise!  Dan Smith.  There you go.

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