Unsolved Mysteries as Not Seen on TV Not Narrated by Robert Stack


Truth is often stranger than fiction. Join us as we explore the unexplained, investigate the enigmatic, inspect the spooky, probe the peculiar, and mull over mysteries that remain unsolved, because solving them would mean they wouldn’t be mysteries.

A stranger arrives at an out of the way roadside diner in rural Montana, orders a cup of coffee and a donut. Without another word, he drinks his coffee, eats half his donut, pays his tab and leaves, never to be seen again. Who was this mysterious stranger, why didn’t he finish his donut, and why did he leave such a small tip? We may never know.

In a small Nevada dessert town a man returns home to discover every LCD clock and appliance display in his home is flashing 12:00. There’s no sign of a break-in or intruder and all clocks and appliances are otherwise in perfect working order. The man resets all the clocks and appliances which have displayed the correct time unfailingly to this day. Was it some sort of elaborate scheme of an unknown practical joker, or something more sinister? We may never know.

A seemingly average American man driving down a well-travelled Cleveland thoroughfare sees a single shoe by the side of the road. Yet no sign of a man wearing only a single shoe is anywhere to be found. How did this mystery man loose a single shoe on the road only to disappear without a trace, just where was the other shoe? We may never know.

On a warm, humid summer night in Peoria a woman watches Seinfeld on TV with the inexplicable feeling she knows what every character will do and say before it happens, just as if she has seen and heard it all before down to the smallest detail. Was it just a case of déjà vu as some suggest, or was she somehow reliving an entire day of her life? We may never know.

On a typical Spring afternoon a Nebraska woman is doing her laundry without a care in the world. As she sorts her socks she notices one is unmatched. She retraces her steps, checking the hamper, basket, washer and dryer to no avail, the sock has vanished without a trace. Whatever happened to the missing sock, and where did all that lint come from? We may never know.

In San Francisco’s Chinatown after finishing his restaurant meal a man breaks open an ordinary looking cookie and finds a message hidden inside. The cryptic message reads, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” The very next year this same man wins $10,000 playing the daily lottery. Was it mearly an uncanny coincidence or did the annonymous fortune somehow know he should buy a ticket a full year ahead of time? We may never know.

One morning before work a Chicago woman looks desperately for her missing car keys. In her favorite easy chair she finds thirty-seven cents in change and three kernels of popcorn, but no trace of the car keys at all. Whatever happened to the keys, where did the money come from, and who was eating popcorn in her favorite chair? Was there a link between these seemingly unrelated items? We may never know.

Filed 4/28/17

Hicksville, Luzon P.I.


We all know hillbillies live in the boonies. The word hillbillies is easy enough to understand, folks who live in the hills. Just why or exactly what are/is the boonies? Anything to do with Daniel Boone? Nah, Daniel Boone never lived in the boonies because they didn’t exist then. At least the word didn’t. Boonies comes from boondocks which was originally American military slang derived from Tagalog bundok, meaning mountain. This term came about during the Philippine-American War.

Another Asian term we get from the military, gung ho. In Mandarin that’s kung work, and ho together. The Anglicized term became widely known as a slogan adopted in WWII by the United States Marines under General Evans Carlson. How exactly “work together” came to mean zealous is not clear to us.

A third Asian word that’s entered English, not by way of the military, is ketchup, or catsup. From the Cantonese kezap; the Z is pronounced like TS. Just like the Germans do it. Which must mean when the Chinese write Chinese words with Roman letters they spell like Germans or something. We don’t know.

Filed 4/27/17

It’s a Conspiracy


Why, it’s another old art spot from Fortean Times of 1997. What does it mean? It means the staff has conspired to pass off old work as new to fool the reader into thinking we’re hard at work keeping terry colon dot com fresh and new on a daily basis. Still, should the reader feel cheated we’ll toss in an unattributed quote that might somehow apply to the question of are there or are there not UFOs.

“We don’t believe what we see, we see what we want to believe.”

Filed 4/26/17

A Cheesy Theory of Cheese


Infrequently Answered Question #114: Milk is white, yet some cheese is white and some is orange. Why?

A: Because they dye it orange. One might wonder how that got started. Wouldn’t cheese buyers have been suspicious? “I’m not eating that, look at the color. That ain’t right.”

Butter is made from milk and it’s naturally yellow. Anyway, there are hundreds of cheese varieties and some are naturally white, some yellow, and some tend more toward orange. Still, with the variables in the cheese making process the color could vary from batch to batch. So they started dying it for consistency.

Why are people so obsessed with the look of food, one might ask. Here’s where we hypothesize, make something up that seems plausible. Unlike most mammals, humans have a lousy sense of smell. Our sight, on the other hand, is amazingly good. About half the brain is devoted to vision. Since food poisoning has always been a major threat we need to detect bad food so we don’t eat it. Since our smelling is so weak, what food looks like is an important clue to whether it might kill us or not.

That sounds about right to us. Then again, it might be totally wrong. Maybe people just like pretty colors and decorative food. Which might explain the peculiar job of food stylist.

Filed 4/25/17

Overstuffed with… Uh… Stuff


blivy [or blivey] (blĭv′-ē) noun. Ten pounds of manure in a five pound bag.

That word and definition courtesy of my dad, only he didn’t use the word ‘manure’ rather employing a vulgarism which sounds alot like ship. A blivy is something is so stinking awful it’s overflowing with stinking awfulness. Something where the concept is worse than the execution, and vice-versa.

When presented with a blivy of my doing he would say along similar scatological lines, “Son, you couldn’t even crap in your own pants.” Only he didn’t use the word ‘crap.’ Instead he used the same vulgarism from above as a verb. Whether I could produce a blivy in my own pants he never ventured an opinion. While a blivy is bad enough and to be avoided if at all possible, a burning blivy… well, you can imagine.

Not to be confused with a bivy sack which, not being a fly, is something you may like on a camping trip.

Filed 4/24/17

There Aught to Be a Law


A 2014 “Brickbats” spot out of Reason magazine.

A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced Shezanne Cassim to one year in prison and a fine of $2,700 for posting a parody video to the Internet. Cassim’s video poked fun at local young people who have adopted American hip hop style. Authorities have refused to say exactly what law the video broke, but Cassim’s family say he was charged with endangering national security.

They don’t know what the law is but they know when you’ve broken it. As they say, show us the man and we’ll come up with the crime.

Filed 4/21/17

Possessing Ideas


“People don’t have ideas. Ideas have people.”  –Carl Jung

Think of an ideology. Then think of a true believer. Need we say more?

Filed 4/20/17

It’s Pointless Animation Monday

Tmouse1 Tmouse2 Tmouse3 Tmouse3 wheel1 wheel2 wheel2 Bmouse1 Bmouse2 Bmouse3 Bmouse3

So the animation is pointless, but we thought we’d add some trivia value to it. While most animals cannot squeeze through a space smaller than their head, a mouse can. That’s because the multiple bones that make up its scull are not firmly connected to each other, as are human sculls for instance. So a mouse’s head is squeezable, it can elongate to squirm through holes smaller than you’d ever imagine.

Filed 4/17/17

Mathematical Proof You Are More Than Possible


Infrequently Answered Question #113: Considering all the multiple millions of connections over the millennia which had to be made of people having kids having kids having kids et cetera, what are the odds I would have been born at all?

A: Exactly one hundred percent. If you’re reading this you exist, right? It’s the old I think therefore I am bit. The chance of something that happened to happen is one hundred percent. At any rate, there is no such thing as a force of randomness that causes things to happen willy-nilly. Randomness calculated as probability is a measure of our ignorance of what everything happening now will lead to. That’s all.

For instance in draw poker we’ll say the odds of drawing to an inside straight with one card is four in forty-seven. (Pack of 52 minus the five you hold.) But what if you know what the card you’ll draw is? In that case you’ll know the chance is zero percent or one hundred percent. Has some imaginary force of randomness changed? Nope, your knowledge has.

All the same, if you asked one of your distant ancestors the odds of you being born, they wouldn’t have a clue. It might strike them as pretty unlikely. After all, a lot of people lived and died without bearing offspring. But then, they’re not anyone’s ancestors, are they?

Filed 4/15/17

Mathematical Proof You Are Impossible


Unless you’re a clone you have a mother and a father. And your parents each had a mother and a father. So, you have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grand­parents. We could go on but it starts getting confusing adding all those greats for each generation you go back. Instead of great-great-great-great-grandparents we’ll say four-great-grandparents. Got it? Good, let’s go on.

If you go back ten generations, that’s about three hundred years or so, you’ll have one thousand twenty-four seven-great grand­parents. So then, how many thirty-great grandparents do you have if you go back that far? Pause to imagine… Eight billion, five hundred eighty-nine million, nine hundred thirty-four thousand, five hundred and ninety-two. (8,589,934,592)

We’re talking about the year 1000AD roughly. You have more thirty-great-grandparents than people existed on Earth at the time. Without all those billions of ancestors having children having children having children and so on you wouldn’t have been born. The arithmetic says most of your ancestors are missing. Therefore, you are impossible. And the further back you go the less possible you get.

Filed 4/14/17

One From the Torah-Ha-Ha


Another old spot from 2000. Had something to do with comedians amongst the chosen people. Though one wonders what exactly the Jews were chosen for or whether that was such an honor. After all, you could be chosen for a suicide mission, eh what? Scapegoats are chosen, too. Still, a lot of comedians are Jewish. And a lot of them have German names. Though Germans aren’t generally considered to be all that funny. Groucho Marx, pretty funny. Friedrich Nietzsche, not so funny.

Anyway, those are the stereotypes. One supposes they wouldn’t persist if there wasn’t at least a grain of truth to them. Besides, folks only dismiss stereotypes when they’re negative. They embrace them when positive. Crafty Jew, bad. Funny Jew, good. So it seems positive bigotry is OK. We call that cultural heritage and ethnic pride.

Filed 4/13/17

Can Electric Glass Finally Make Electric Cars Sensible?


From the 94 year-old who brought you the lithium-ion battery comes a new glass battery. Possibly another game changer from the mind and hard work of John Goodenough. Now there’s a name that’s an understatement. The new battery holds three times the charge, is lightning quick to recharge and doesn’t self immolate. Perhaps that Tesla will stop doing it’s pyrotechnic Pinto imitation.

Will a New Glass Battery Accelerate the End of Oil?

Whether it actually saves any energy overall is not clear. Electric cars today don’t. Still, to get past the slow charging hurdle that dogs current electric cars it might be good enough. (You just knew that pun was coming.)

Filed 4/11/17

History Happens to Other People


“The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.”
–Friedrich Hegel

Seems we’re prone to believe “This time it’s different” and “That’s the kind of thing that happens to other people, not me.” Instead of looking to history for lessons, perhaps we should look to comedians…

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use in being a damned fool about it.” –W.C. Fields

Filed 4/6/17

This Site Now Atomic Powered!


We say, everything electrical is atomic powered and terry colon dot com is electrically powered. This power isn’t from splitting atomic nuclei, but using the electrons of atoms. Electrons are atomic, eh? In DC they jump about from atom to atom. In AC they oscillate back and forth, or something. At any rate, when AC electricity enters your house, nothing actually gets in. Nothing flows through the wires, the electrons don’t zip about the house and go back to the electric company to be recycled or whatever. The whole business is like atomic vibes, man. We have no idea how it works, but we’re certainly glad it does.

We also know electricity must be a circuit, a loop. How big or how many loops there are in the house we can’t say. Toss in magnetism, which goes with electricity like white on rice, and we’re totally at sea. Magnetic fields are also loops without beginning or end, like little self contained bits of infinity made out of… what? Influence? It’s a mystery.

Filed 4/4/17

Let the Critter Cursing Begin


Here’s another old spot of art done in my prime, 1999. Or at least the year I was most busy as a beaver work-wise. Though that’s not a beaver in the pic. Might be a squirrel, the object of my ire as per the headline. For some reason the little buggers chose to dig about a hundred holes in the front yard over the fall and winter. Whether they were putting stuff in or taking stuff out I don’t know. Either way it’s now a patching the grass job for me. #%@&! squirrels.

Not much of a story, but at least it’s a change of pace for the reader from all those spinning bits of last week.

Filed 4/3/17

Webio-Bot Gets Osterized


mouseover buttons to change speed

If there’s one thing the staff at terry colon dot com likes better than spirals, it’s putting our stooge mascot, Webio-Bot through the blender to become one indistinguishable bot swarm as they go from stirred-not-shaken to frappé.

Notice how the outside bot seems to be bigger than the inside bot at “Fast” speed while the top bot is biggest of all. See how they bend at “Faster” speed. Watch the inner bot grow a tail at “Fastest” speed. Why? We can’t explain it. We only did it for the fun of it. And completed an entire week of material by milking a single idea for all it was worth and then some.

Filed 3/31/17

Spiral Vision


mouseover buttons to change speed

You didn’t suppose we’d let go of this spinning business without tossing in some spirals, did you? Like they say, persistence is a virtue. Anyway, we love spirals. Spirals are funny. Sort of. Sometimes. Not so much here but in eyeballs they’re a laugh riot. Sort of.

A lot of this is more of the same, you can see what you see and make of it what you will. Notice, though, how the little outer straight line seems to get longer and narrower the faster it goes. Next, after watching the thing spin for a while, then going directly to “Stop” it doesn’t stop. That is, it seems to be shrinking or moving slightly. Of course it isn’t, but it looks like it. Sort of.

Filed 3/30/17

Persistence of Rotary Visions


mouseover buttons to change speed

What, another one? The terry colon dot com reader might well wonder if we’ve gone completely round and round the bend at this point. If we have, would we know it ourselves? Whatever the case, there is a method to our madness. If it be madness.

This time we forego the goofy distractions in the disc, no ovals, bots, weird flower-like eyeballs and whatnot. Nothing but concentric circles all with exactly the same weight and style of dotted line. As you can see at “Stop.” So, even though every circle is rotating at the same rate, each has a different speed. The dashes of the outer circle cover a lot more ground per rotation than the inner circle dashes. They move progressively faster from the center circle outward. This is easily seen at the default speed.

Without the distractions you can tell one other thing. The persistence of vision thing is not only a possible effect of the screen display, it’s also how you see naturally. Your eyes scan quickly and repeatedly just like a camera. Here’s how you can show it to yourself. If you focus on the outer circle without moving your eyes you perceive a lot of short, blurry, purple dashes rotating slowly clockwise. If you follow the white dash around with your eyes you see what they really are: longer, more distinct dashes.

On the other hand, at the “Fastest” speed the green dashes just sit there and the yellow circle can be followed around with your eyes counter clockwise even though the disc is rotating clockwise like mad. Is that a result of the screen display or your own eyes? We don’t know. It is curious though, eh?

Filed 3/29/17

Rotary Aqua-Botics


mouseover buttons to change speed

We readily admit we did this rotary persistence of vision thing yesterday. Chalk it up to our persistence of pointless animation. All the same, notice how the Aqua-Bot starts to bend into the flow the faster it swims. Or circles the drain, or whatever. At top speed it gets squashed into a bug-like thing. Maybe it’s our lying eyes fooling us, but it seems to swim in a tighter circle at the fastest speed, too.

Goofy? Maybe so. We’re having fun anyway. As the man said, or sang in fact, “You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.” Or it could have been, “…you’ve got to…” Hard to tell with singing. There’s a word for that, but we’ll save that for another day in another department.

Filed 3/28/17

Rotary Persistence of Vision


mouseover buttons to change speed

Here’s our little experiment on how to get seemingly complex motion from spinning one object. And different motions at different speeds. You might even perceive some slight color shift. All because of what they call persistence of vision. Which you might also call the wagon wheel effect. It all boils down to how we see motion as a series of still pictures running past rapidly in sequence. Rather than trying to explain what that entails, here’s a link. Less work for us.

Persistence of Vision

Filed 3/27/17

Another Movie Poster Via the Wayback Machine


Another old art spot from Fortean Times of 1997, an imaginary poster for an imaginary film that’s a combination horse and space opera. Though why opera when nobody sings in them? Who knows? Still, the outer space theme goes with the opening pointless animation splash page. Or does (did) depending on when you’re reading this because our splash pages have a habit of disappearing in short order.

All the same, don’t ask what this art spot was about, it ran twenty years ago. Also, don’t ask us how the moon got out to Mars. Nor why the alien is wearing a sombrero. These are questions we have no ready answer for. That’s just the way science fiction is. You start to question things and you get sidetracked into ideas that don’t really matter.

Like, why do you need to swing a light saber? Couldn’t you just point it and turn it on for a thrust at the speed of light? And couldn’t a light saber be 100 feet long? After all, being made of light it wouldn’t weigh much, would it? With a 100 foot saber you could wipe out an entire platoon with a single swing. Maybe. All the same, it’s not really a saber, it has a straight blade and no hand guard. It’s more like a really long, glowing switchblade.

To ponder more sci-fi imponderables, when people transport in Star Trek, are the disassembled bits temporarily dead during transport and brought back to life upon reconstitution? Could you store transporter reassembly information and transport yourself younger? In other words, revert to saved?

Despite our questions, sci-fi still makes more sense than opera. After all, who going through the trials and tribulations of life suddenly bursts out into song about it?

Filed 3/25/17


“No doubt about it, Harry. It’s the first sign of spring.”

Filed under Gag Cartoon Gallery 3/23/17

Ah-h-h, Spring Springs

Infrequently Answered Question #112: How did they know when spring began before they had clocks to tell the days were starting to be longer than the nights?

A: Oh, who cares? Maybe they watched the sunrise over a rock or used a triangle with notches or something. We don’t live in the past so we don’t have to worry about how they did a lot of the things they used to do. All that matters to us is spring is in the air. Perhaps it’s seeping into the ground and lakes, too. As long as a fair share comes our way we’ll not bother triangulating its precise location.

Once Mother Nature stops dithering around with the snowy cold, brushes off the overcast and gets into the full swing of spring it will probably mean fewer daily entries as the terry colon dot com Gardening and Squirrel Cursing League starts in earnest. The terry colon dot com Barbecue and Porch Lounging season kicks off shortly thereafter. Followed closely by the terry colon dot com Scooter Touring and Flea Market Finders Club schedule of events. Not terribly ambitious or exciting by most standards, but it gets us out of the house. Good enough.

Filed 3/22/17

Poster for the Movie You’ve Never Seen Though You Have


Doesn’t it seem like every movie is a remake? Or a sequel. Or a retelling of the same old story in a different time and place. Or, as in the case of the art you see, a rerun. From Fortean Times of 1997.

In a way, every story is a disaster story of sorts. Sometimes a small disaster looms, other times the end of the world as we know it is in the cards unless the protagonist averts it. If it’s a comedy they succeed. Which is the oldest meaning of comedy, a happy ending. If they fail it’s a tragedy. One or the other. That’s what the old Greek comedy and tragedy masks for the theater are all about.

Anyway, if there were no trouble brewing there’s really not much of a story to engage people. Why bother watching things happen that make no difference one way or another? So, while they say there are only seven basic plots, (or whatever the number is) maybe there’s really only one. Disaster looms and they escape or they don’t. Fin.

Filed 3/21/17

Those Magnificent Men and Their If-Only-Magnificent Flying Machines –Jet and Flying Wing


We close our Flight Week Extravaganza with what might have been magnificent flying machines. Early jets and flying wings. After all, what is more sleek and futuristic than the B-2 Stealth Bomber, a jet-powered flying wing?

The first jet, or proto jet, appeared much sooner than most might imagine. That was the Coandă 1910 we mentioned about ten years ago. Along the same lines the origins of the flying wing goes way, way back, too. The very first flying wing was a biplane built and flown in 1910 by Englishman John William Dunne. It was also likely the first variable aspect swept wing plane to go airborne.

J.W. Dunne’s Flying Wings
The First Jet –Coandă 1910

Coandă’s jet, what he called an air reaction engine, failed because they didn’t yet have the technology to construct engines that could withstand the high heat it produced in operation. Why they didn’t pursue developing Dunne’s flying wing is not really clear. We guess some ideas are simply too far ahead of their time.

Filed 3/17/17

Those Magnificent Men in Their Not-so-Magnificent Flying Machines –Part Five


It looked like a small plane with its fuselage over-inflated with air, like a winged pufferfish. It was the Stipa-Caproni “intubed propeller” airplane of 1923. Also called, for obvious reasons once you see it, the Flying Barrel. Still, it wasn’t as crazy as it seemed, though it certainly looked the part.

The Stipa-Caproni was built to test a propulsion concept and not to develop its very peculiar airframe. The entire machine was a really big tube with a propellor inside and some airplane bits attached so it would fly. After a fashion. It could take off and cruise quite stably at low speeds. In fact, too stably as it was hard to turn. See and find out all about it here:

The Flying Barrel

The more we look at it the more we’re convinced it was something bought by Wile E. Coyote from Acme Industries. Only in real life, not a cartoon.

Filed 3/16/17

Those Magnificent Men in Their Not-so-Magnificent Flying Machines –Part Four


Now for a change of pace. Not every plane with peculiar wing arrangements, or non-wings, was utterly nutterly. Some flew fine, but were deemed unnecessary. It’s like, you could build a working Rube Goldberg mousetrap, but why bother? Three examples: the Flying Flapjack, spinning wings, and the Custer Channelwing.

The Flying Flapjack’s entire airframe was a lifting body, something like a flying wing only shaped more like a pancake than a boomerang. Spinning wings came in various configurations (drums, paddles, tapered thingies) and rotated like mad on horizontal axes sticking out the sides or in front or sometimes over the pilot’s head. The channelwing’s engines drove air over a round trough which… we don’t know how the thing worked. Go to the links to see and learn all about them.

Chance Vought Flying Flapjack
Magnus-Robbins Effect Spinning Wings
Custer Channelwing

We imagine the big problem with both the spinning wings and channelwing is since they rely on their engines to create lift if there’s an engine cut-out the plane would drop like a rock. Turning an ugly duck into a literal blot on the landscape.

Filed 3/15/17

Those Magnificent Men in Their Not-so-Magnificent Flying Machines –Part Three

By middle of the Great War standard airplane design was pretty well worked out. Wings, not tetrahedral cells, were the way to go. Limiting the number to less than you could count without taking your shoes off became standard practice. Wing warping also went by the board. Tails were at the tail and wings were up front, rigid and well braced. Well, most of the time.

Enter Dr. William Christmas, aviation innovator and either charlatan or crackpot. He built the Christmas Bullet, a plane with flexing wings to flap in the air like a bird. Not a controlled flapping, mind you, its wings had no struts or bracing and weren’t very rigid. They flapped from turbulence. Here’s the story:

The Dr. Christmas Bullet

A long story short, two planes, two flights, two crashes, two dead test pilots. Pretty dreadful, if not homicidal. The doc also had a plan to fly to Germany and kidnap Kaiser Wilhelm to end the war. Con-man or madman? Who knows? The most amazing part of the story, he billed the U.S. government $100,000 for this utterly miserable contrivance. And the Feds paid him!

Filed 3/14/17

Those Magnificent Men in Their Not-so-Magnificent Flying Machines –Part Two


As we saw in Part One, tetrahedral cells were not such a great alternative to wings to get a flying machine off the ground. Planes with actual wings, monoplanes, biplanes, triplanes, on the other hand, all worked admirably. How about a plane with a hundred wings? Fifty times as good as a biplane, right?

At least that seemed to be the thinking of intrepid London-born aircraft pioneer Horatio Phillips. His obsession with more is more took on ludicrous proportions. His 1907 two hundred wing multiplane (that’s right, 200 wings) looked like a crate made out of venetian blinds. Thing was, it worked. Barely. He used it for the first, though very short, powered flight in England. At least he limited his contraptions to a single engine, so we’ll give him that.

Horatio Phillips & Multiplanes

Despite how absurd these multiplanes appear today, Mr. Phillips wasn’t a completely round the bend eccentric. In fact, he helped pioneer proper airfoil design, though seemingly at the expense of everything else that would make flying practical. Such as his novel circular runways. We can only guess that was so everyone could have an airport in their backyard.

Filed 3/13/17

Those Magnificent Men in Their Not-so-Magnificent Flying Machines –Part One


A lot of early airplanes and would-be flying machines look pretty goofy to modern eyes. What in blazes were they thinking, we wonder. Of course, these days we know what a working plane should look like, back then they didn’t. Two wings? Four wings? Ten wings? Tail in the front or back? Or front and back? What everyone did agree on was a plane needed wings to fly. Well, almost everybody.

Alexander Graham Bell had other ideas. Instead of wings like a bird, he’d use what worked for a certain kind of box kite. Tetrahedral cells. Hundreds of them in a ginormous triangular rack. Rather than describe what that is or how it was supposed to work, we suggest you go to the link where they show and tell all:

Alexander Graham Bell tries his hand at aircraft design

Needless to say it worked out badly. Which at least saved us from having the airways run by the phone company.

Filed 3/10/17

More Wordplay Words


Humor is a funny thing. That’s some pretty silly wordplay, but I have to start somewhere. Yet it illustrates how switching between a literal and figurative meaning can be (possibly) amusing. You think it says one thing, but it says another instead. That’s how a syllepsis works. Or you might switch between a noun and verb meaning of a word. But enough of dubious dissection, let’s get to it.

aptronym: A name that is perfectly suited to its owner.

Here’s a real one from my hometown, an optometrist by the name of Ivan Doctor. That’s right, Dr. I. Doctor, eye doctor.

paraprosdokian: A sentence or phrase that ends in an unexpected way.

Pretty much a oneliner. For instance, “Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even when you wish they were.” Or, “As cooks go she can’t.”

Tom Swifty: A made-up quote followed by an adverbial pun.

“I think the lobotomy went well,” said Bob absentmindedly. “Oops. I just stabbed myself,” Jim said pointedly. That’s all there is, he wrote finally.

Filed 3/8/17

I Came, I Saw, I Couldn’t Believe My Eyes


Likely you know Julius Caesar’s famous line, “Veni. Vidi. Vici.” I came. I saw. I conquered. If you spoke Latin the way he spoke it, that’s, “Wenny. Weedy. Weekie.” Sounds kinda wimpy, but that’s how they talked. On the other hand the Pope would say, “Venny. Veedy. Veechie.” as that’s how ecclesiastical Latin is spoken.

We don’t imagine the Bishop of Rome would have occasion to speak the line as he doesn’t have much of an army these days. The Swiss Guard aren’t very likely to conquer anyone with their pikes. Or Swiss army knives, either. Still, a wargame scrimmage between Swiss pikemen and, say, Beefeaters might be interesting. Wonder if re-enactors or LARPers ever try that scenario? Bet they would if you tossed in Samurai. Or Vikings. Every battle is better with Samurai and Vikings. Or pirates. But we’re done with that.

Speaking of Samurai and Vikings, while we all know Vikings didn’t sport horned helmets, some Samurai did. Sometimes absurdly gigantic horns. But not for battle, on ceremonial parade and suchlike. Some of these helmets and armor were pretty outlandish, more art than armor really. Feast your eyes and maybe be amazed:

Samurai Bling from Medieval Japan
Wonderfully Strange Samurai Helmets

Filed 3/7/17

Coming Up Soon


It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s pointless animation. It’s a gag. It’s a pun. No, not a pun exactly. Maybe a syllepsis, where a word or phrase can have both a literal and a figurative meaning. Whatever it is it’s a rerun of old art, only animated this time around. Call it the art director’s cut. Yeah, that’s the ticket. A way to milk a little more mileage out of old work.

Filed 3/6/17

It’s Times Times Times Time


Infrequently Answered Question #111: Robby ran around the track two times. Bob ran around the track three times more than Robby. How many times did Bob run around the track?

A: Ah, a puzzler. Or is it a riddler? A stumper? Whatever it is, we ask the reader to answer the question themselves first, and then proceed… pause…

The answer is six. No wait, five. Or six. Maybe both. It’s another quiz you can’t get wrong. Or, to be devious, you can’t get right. The answer depends on what “three times more” means. Is that three times as many as two, six, or is it three times (instances) more than two times (instances), five? The language isn’t clear if we’re supposed to multiply or add. Times can mean how many multiples or how many instances.

Then again, Robby and Bob are both diminutives of Robert. So maybe it’s the same person who outdistanced himself by running the track seven times. Or eight times. Or, if Robert is a quantum particle, both seven and eight. Whatever. There is no right answer.

Or is there? The first sentence, “Robby ran around the track two times” establishes that times means laps, instances. To be consistent “Bob ran around the track three times more” must mean three laps more. Ergo, the correct answer is five. QED.

Filed 3/3/17

It’s February 30th


Why don’t we restore all thirty days to February? Do we need a Roman Emperor to do it? They’re all dead and gone, we can nullify their edicts if we want, can’t we? Let’s do it. Take the days back from July and August and even out the months better.

Let’s go even further. Make every month thirty days. Take the extra five days and put them between June and July. Call it Midyear. A five day break for everyone. A six day break during leap year. It would balance the week-long Christmas to New Year break at the end of the year. And who doesn’t want a week off during summer? Don’t like it? Just be glad there’s no Terrius Caesar or you’d just have to lump it.

And here you thought it was only the animation that was pointless.

Filed 2/30/17

Rebus Redux


Can you decipher the rebus? If not, perhaps it’s a poor rebus. Constructing a rebus is no easy task for many things. Have you ever played Pictionary? There you go. Of course, there is a time limit to Pictionary so there’s added pressure. Though there is some feedback amongst the players which helps.

Thing about a rebus, it’s easy to depict nouns, hard to depict verbs, adjectives, adverbs, anything that’s not a noun, really. That’s why rebuses tend to make non-nouns out of pictures of nouns. It helps that some words are both nouns and verbs. Can, fly, cook. Also that some nouns are adjectives. Orange, giant. And some nouns are homonyms of verbs. Cell-sell, pier-peer. Then again, some nouns aren’t easy to depict at all because they aren’t tangible things. Dream, summer, odor.

A game that’s sort-of like a rebus is charades. Only instead of drawing pictures of words or syllables you act them out. This makes depicting verbs easier, though nouns get harder. For instance it’s fairly easy to draw, say, a crib, how do you act out a crib? On the other hand it’s easy to act out lost, try drawing it. Without using a question mark.

This all hits home for me because I’m an illustrator. OK, I don’t do rebuses, but it’s somewhat along the same lines. I come up with images to depict what a story is about. Visual analogies, you might say. Believe me, some are easier to do than others for the very reasons outlined above. Stories aren’t always about some object, but some process, something happening or not happening. How on Earth does an editor expect me to draw things not happening?

Oh-oh, I seem to be slipping into a rant. Let’s back off and head elsewhere. Another thing that might be like a rebus, though I don’t know enough about it to say, is a pictographic script. Like Egyptian hieroglyphs. Or maybe Mayan. Chinese? Kanji? I really don’t know, but I wonder if those Egyptian cartouches aren’t very much like a rebus.

We return to the beginning, the opening rebus. I admit it’s perhaps not the most easily solved you’ll run across. For some of the reasons already mentioned. What it’s supposed to be is, tear E, (:) colon, dot, (comb-B) com, (B+log) blog. That’s it, blog.

Filed 3/1/17