Weekly Wrap Volume 17

This is a weekly wrap of our Daily Knowledge Newsletter. You can get that newsletter for free here.

supermanThe Soviet Superman: Red Son

If you’ve ever sat around thinking, “What if Superman was a communist?”  (Who hasn’t, right?) Well, wonder no more. The answer was masterfully provided in Superman: Red Son written by famed comic book writer and member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”, Mark Millar. The specific comic book in question was a mini-series (3 issues) published by DC Comics in 2003 and is a true gem of comic art. For this mini-series, Millar came up with a unique and… (more)

clock_sundialWhy We Say “O’Clock” (Excerpt from Our New Book: The Wise Book of Whys)

The practice of saying “o’clock” is a remnant of simpler times when clocks weren’t very prevalent and people told time by a variety of means, depending on where they were and what references were available. Generally, of course the Sun was used as a reference point, with solar time being slightly different than clock time. Clocks… (more)

french-flag2The Fascinating Evolution of the French Language

Centuries in the making, Modern French owes its existence to a strange combination of conquest, evolution, authoritarian control and revolution.  Long before it was France, Gaul (as it was known to the Romans) was occupied by a variety of Celtic tribes. After Julius Caesar conquered it in the 1st century BC… (more)

dropping-the-ballWhy We “Drop” the Ball on New Years

When Adolph Ochs purchased the floundering New York Times in 1898, he made it his mission to make the newspaper the number one paper in all of New York. He started by forming the New York Times Company and made himself the majority owner, ensuring the financial health of the paper. Next, he lowered the price of a daily edition from three cents to one cent. Readership began to ascend. Then, he moved the entire staff into a new shiny building in the middle of… (more)

friday-the-13th-340x509The Origin of Friday the 13th as an Unlucky Day

Being wary of Friday the 13th is much more than a quaint superstition observed by a few uneducated people in distant, unreachable towns and hamlets. In the United States alone, it is estimated that between 17 and 21 million people dread that date to the extent that it can be officially classified as a phobia. So why is Friday the 13th considered such an “evil” day? The origins… (more)

Bonus Quick Facts:

  • Dennis Wilson was the drummer for the surf rock band ‘The Beach Boys’, formed in 1961. The band had several songs about the sport like, “Surfer Girl”,”Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ USA”. However, out of all the band members comprising of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson; their cousin Mike Love; and friend Al Jardine, Dennis was the only one who knew how to surf. Unfortunately, he drowned while diving in 1983.
  • A cricket’s ears are on its front legs, just below the knees and they have four acoustic inputs. The openings in the crickets exoskeleton that act as ears, lead into chambers inside the legs, which connect to either side of the cricket, allowing sound to pass completely through the cricket. By facing one way or the other, the cricket can determine which direction a sound is coming from.
  • We’ve all heard of Yahoo and have probably seen their commercials and heard the famous yodel “Yahoooooo!” The famous yodel comes from Wylie Gustafson. He made the yodel for Yahoo in 1996 for a one time payment of $590 U.S. Dollars. However in 2002, I guess he wanted more, so he sued Yahoo, settling out of court for an undisclosed amount.
  • President Thomas Jefferson was never a fan of formal affairs, and was often reported to have worn his pajamas while meeting with Foreign dignitaries. On one such occasion, when meeting with British Minister to the U.S., Andrew Merry, he wore his PJ’s. Needless to say, Andrew Merry was not amused and he was later quoted as saying, “I, in my official costume, found myself at the hour of reception he had himself appointed, introduced to a man as president of the United States, not merely in an undress, but actually standing in slippers down to the heels, and both pantaloons, coat and under-clothes indicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to appearances, and in a state of negligence actually studied.”
  • We all know George Armstrong Custer as “General Custer”. However, he was only a General for a brief period after being given a field promotion at the age of 23 to “Brigadier General” from “Captain”, shortly before the battle of Gettysburg. Needless to say from the timing of the promotion, he didn’t keep this rank long; after the war, he was given back his rank of “Captain”. At the time of his death, he was ranked at Lieutenant Colonel.
  • Just three months after his death, Charlie Chaplin’s body was stolen on Christmas day in 1977, by two mechanics. They thought they could get money from his family in exchange for his body. However, the two grave robbers were captured and eleven weeks later and Chaplin’s body was recovered. To stop this from happening again, Chaplin was buried under 6 feet of concrete the second time around.
  • The call sign “Air Force One” was first used when Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office in 1953. There was an incident during one of President Eisenhower’s flights where the aircraft he was on entered the same airspace as another aircraft with the same call sign (one was Eastern Airlines 8610, the other was Air Force 8610). In order to avoid this problem in the future, the unique call-sign of Air Force One was assigned to the President’s plane when the President is aboard.
  • In 1888, Nellie Bly (aka Elizabeth Cochrane) discussed with her editor at ‘New York World’ an idea to write a story, and beat the fictitious character ‘Phileas Fogg’ in Jules Verne’s book “Around the World in 80 Days” by actually accomplishing the feat in less than 80 days. The story became so big that competing New York newspaper “Cosmopolitan” sent its own reporter Elizabeth Bisland to race Nellie Bly, by going in the opposite direction as Bly. So on November 14th, 1889 Bly set off on a steamer headed to Europe, while Bisland departed westward from New York, on a 24,899-mile race around the World. Bly beat both the fictional ‘Phileas Fogg’ from the book and Bisland for a total travel time of 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes. Bisland reached four and a half days later, but they both beat Jules Verne’s character Phileas Fogg from the book.

spinsterWho was Sadie Hawkins and Why Does She Have a Dance Named After Her?

Sadie Hawkin’s renown, which evolved into an American folk-holiday in some places, doesn’t really originate from a dance, but rather from a race, as we shall soon see. Sadie was the product of the fertile imagination of cartoonist Al Capp. She was a character in his popular cartoon Lil’ Abner, set in the hillbilly town of Dogpatch, that began its wildly successful 40 year run in 1934. The way Al tells it… (more)

Eric_LiddellThe Heroic Death of Chariots of Fire’s Eric Liddell

Imagine you dedicated your adult life to helping those less fortunate than yourself -that you spent your entire adult life trying to make the world a better place, and when you died (after sacrificing your own life for someone else’s) all most people remembered about you was that you once ran really fast… You’d be pretty annoyed right? Well that’s what happened to Eric Liddell. Although, as you’ll see, he probably wouldn’t have minded. Liddell is mostly famous for being one of the subjects of the film Chariots of Fire, along.. (more)

rabbits-footWhy a Rabbit’s Foot is Considered Lucky

Raccoon penis bones. Vulture heads. Lucky pennies. A vast and eclectic array of amulets, talismans, and charms meant to bring good fortune to their owners have been put to use as long as humans have walked the planet. To the ancient Egyptians, images of the scarab beetle helped ward off evil. The Romans… (more)

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