Today I Learned…

…that there’s no such thing as cello scrotum.

Go figure, right?  I had no idea.

Whoops!  Missed Wednesday, and Thursday’s post is coming in late.  Sorry about that!  Here’s a doublepak of knowledge for ya!

Today (Wednesday) I Learned…

…that Popeye’s spinach habit was government-funded.  In the early days of Popeye comics, no explanation was ever given for Popeye’s super strength.  However, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the brawny sailor suddenly began eating cans of spinach to get his mus-kles.  Why?

Seems that the United States government was concerned about the nutrition of the American people given the extremely high price of meat during the Depression.  Spinach was believed to be a ridiculously good source of iron, and the government enlisted Popeye the Sailor Man to start hawking spinach to the people of the nation.  It worked — sales of spinach increased 33% and American children rated it as their third favorite food behind turkey and ice cream.  The feds weren’t just interested in the nutrition, however — they were also pushing canned goods as a good source of emergency rations.

Also, it turns out that some of the scientific findings that the US based this program on were faulty — a decimal point was misplaced in an 1870 paper which made it seem that spinach had 10 times as much iron as it actually did; however the deed was already done when this was found out.

Thanks to mental_floss magazine for that one.

Today (Thursday) I Learned…

…about a fantastic band.  Go check out Scythian, and support these guys if you get a chance.  A bunch of us saw them Thursday night at Castaways in Ithaca and they put on a hell of a show.  Opening for them was OneSide, another great band from Boston.  Check them out too.

Today I Learned…

…that Mr. Brightside by The Killers is juuuuuuust a little bit too high for me to sing at karaoke.

But it’s just the *crack* I pay, destiny is calling me.  Open up my *crack* eyes, ’cause I’m Mr. Brightside.

Today I Learned…

…that the /awesome/ song playing over the last scene of Two Cathedrals — the finale of the second season of The West Wing — is Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits.  Before today I really only knew one Dire Straits song, the incredible Sultans of Swing.  Now I know two!

“Yeah.  And I’m gonna win.”
–President Josiah Bartlet

**Recommended by Alex.  Thanks Alex!**

Today I Learned…

…some interesting facts about one of my favorite Beatles songs, A Day in the Life.  The following is a selection from songfacts.com, and from the Wikipedia entry on the song.

  • A 41 piece orchestra played on this. The musicians were told to attend the session dressed formally. When they got there, they were presented with party novelties (false noses, party hats, gorilla-paw glove) to wear, which made it clear this was not going to be a typical session. The orchestra was conducted by Paul McCartney, who told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest. (songfacts.com)
  • The beginning was based on 2 stories John Lennon read in the Daily Mail newspaper: Guinness heir Tara Browne dying when he smashed his lotus into a parked van, and an article in the UK Daily Express in early 1967 which told of how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4000 holes in the roads of Blackburn and commented that the volume of material needed to fill them in was enough to fill the Albert Hall. Lennon took some liberties with the Tara Browne story – he changed it so he “Blew his mind out in the car.” (songfacts.com)
  • After the final note, Lennon had producer George Martin dub in a high pitched tone, which most humans can’t hear, but drives dogs crazy. (songfacts.com)
  • The song became controversial for its supposed references to drugs. On 1 June 1967, the day the Sgt. Pepper LP was released, the BBC announced it was banning “A Day in the Life” from British stations due to the line “I’d love to turn you on,” which, according to the corporation, advocated drug use. Other lyrics allegedly referring to drugs include “found my way upstairs and had a smoke / and somebody spoke and I went into a dream”. A spokesman for the BBC stated, “We have listened to this song over and over again. And we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug-taking”. (Wikipedia)
  • Following the final orchestral crescendo, the song ends with one of the most famous final chords in music history. Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Evans shared three different pianos and all played an E-major chord simultaneously. The sound of the final chord was manipulated to ring out for nearly a minute by increasing the tape sound level as the vibration faded out. The chord rings out approximately forty-two seconds. Near the end of the chord the recording levels were turned so high that listeners can hear the sounds of the studio, including rustling papers and a squeaking chair.

*a special early Bastille Day post!*

Today I Learned…

The rest of the lyrics to the best national anthem in the world, France’s La Marseillaise.  There are apparently six verses although only the first is usually sung, and if any of the other verses are ever song, it’s only the fifth and sixth.

I argue that this is the greatest national anthem for two main reasons.  First, what it actually means, which is downright incredible.  Remember, this was written in 1792, right after the bloodiest years of the French Revoluton.  That blood definitely makes its way into the song lyrics — yielding English translations like “Let us march and may their tainted blood soak our furrows.”  Downright incredible.  Second, it is prominently featured in perhaps the greatest scene in perhaps the greatest movie of all time, in Rick’s in Casablanca when all of the French ex-pats begin singing it much to the dismay of the German officers.  That scene gives me goosebumps every time I see it.

And now, for your edification, La Marseillaise, en sa totalité.  Vive la France!

Allons enfants de la Patrie, Arise, children of our country,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé ! The day of glory has arrived!
Contre nous de la tyrannie, Against us the bloodied banner
L’étendard sanglant est levé. (bis) Of tyranny is raised. (repeat)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes Do you hear in the countryside
Mugir ces féroces soldats ? The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras They come right here among us
Égorger nos fils, nos compagnes ! To slaughter our sons and wives!
Aux armes, citoyens ! To arms, citizens!
Formez vos bataillons ! Form your battalions!
Marchons, marchons ! Let’s march, let’s march!
Qu’un sang impur May a tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Soak our furrows!
Aux armes, citoyens ! To arms, citizens!
Formons nos bataillons ! Let us form our battalions!
Marchons, marchons ! Let us march, let us march!
Qu’un sang impur May their tainted blood
Abreuve nos sillons ! Soak our furrows!
Que veut cette horde d’esclaves, What does this horde of slaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ? Of traitors and conspirating kings want?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves For whom these vile chains
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis) These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage, Frenchmen, for us, ah! What an insult,
Quels transports il doit exciter ! What fury it must arouse!
C’est nous qu’on ose méditer It is us they dare plan
De rendre à l’antique esclavage ! To return to the old slavery!
Aux armes, citoyens… To arms, citizens…
Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères What! These foreign cohorts!
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers ! Would rule our homes!
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires What! These mercenary phalanxes
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis) Would cut down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées Good Lord! By chained hands
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient Our fronts would yield under the yoke
De vils despotes deviendraient The vile despots would become
Les maîtres de nos destinées ! The masters of our destinies!
Aux armes, citoyens… To arms, citizens…
Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides Tremble, tyrants and traitors
L’opprobre de tous les partis The shame of all good men
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis) Will receive their just reward! (repeat)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre Against you, we are all soldiers
S’ils tombent, nos jeunes héros, If our young heroes fall,
La terre en produit de nouveaux, The earth will bear new ones,
Contre vous tout prêts à se battre ! Ready to join the fight against you!
Aux armes, citoyens… To arms, citizens…
Français, en guerriers magnanimes, Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Portez ou retenez vos coups ! Bear or hold back your blows!
Épargnez ces tristes victimes Spare these sad victims
À regret s’armant contre nous (bis) Armed against us against their will (repeat)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires But not these blood-thirsty despots
Mais ces complices de Bouillé These accomplices of Bouillé
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié, All these tigers who mercilessly
Déchirent le sein de leur mère ! Ripped out their mother’s breast!
Aux armes, citoyens… To arms, citizens…
Amour sacré de la Patrie, Sacred patriotic love,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs Lead and support our avenging arms
Liberté, Liberté chérie, Liberty, cherished liberty,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis) Fight back with your defenders! (repeat)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire Under our flags, let victory
Accoure à tes mâles accents, Hurry to your manly tone,
Que nos ennemis expirants So that our enemies, in their last breath,
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire ! See your triumph and our glory!
Aux armes, citoyens… To arms, citizens…
(Couplet des enfants) (Children’s Verse)
Nous entrerons dans la carrière We shall enter the career
Quand nos aînés n’y seront plus When our elders are no longer there
Nous y trouverons leur poussière There we shall find their dust
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis) And the mark of their virtues (repeat)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre Much less keen to survive them
Que de partager leur cercueil, As to share their coffins,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil We shall have the sublime pride
De les venger ou de les suivre ! Of avenging or following them!
Aux armes, citoyens… To arms, citizens…

Further Reading…

Today I Learned…

…just how bad I was at the drums when I used to play.