What is a “nudist”?

February 10, 2009 at 2:56 am | Posted in What is a nudist? | 9 Comments
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Dear Mr. Answers:

While eating out the other night I overheard a man say to his wife that he “suspected” that some of their mutual acquaintances were nudists. I realized I’m not actually sure what a nudist is. Help?—Curious in Stockton

Dear Curious:

At what eatery did you overhear people discussing nudists, of all things? Red Lobster? Rock Bottom? Fuddruckers? Chi-Chi’s? Smokey Bones? Sticky Fingers? Long John Silver’s?

Le Peep?

No, but seriously: Nudists are a benign subculture of society whose members hold that if God had intended for people to wear clothing, he wouldn’t have made them so hairy and fat. Nudists love suntanning, playing volleyball, walking hand in hand, and giving bird-watchers heart attacks. After peaking in the 1960s, the number of nudists began to dwindle during the 1970s, when more and more of them finally succumbed to the temptation of wearing polyester pants suits. Those nudists left behind dwindled at a rate generally consistent with the number of times they accidentally sat on pine cones.

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Do People Get Stoned at Work?

February 7, 2009 at 1:19 am | Posted in Do People Get Stoned at Work? | 14 Comments
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Dear Mr. Answers:

The other day a co-worker of mine suggested that he and I “smoke a doobie” together before going into work. I was appalled at the suggestion, and said that in my opinion no one in the world ever worked at their job while high on marijuana or anything else. To this my friend laughed so hard it took about two minutes before he was finally able to ask me what planet I was from. But he’s definitely the smart-alecky type anyway.

So my question to you is, Mr. Answers, is: Do people ever work at their jobs while they’re stoned? I say they don’t—but will defer to your expert opinion.

Signed,

Doubting Friend of Brian Shields

Dear Doubting Friend of Brian Shields:

Like you, I, too, used to believe that no one would dare to work while stoned. But that happy illusion was shattered for me just recently, when I  opened up the brand new food processor I’d purchased at a home improvement center and found, connected to the appliance’s electrical chord, the tag below. If this doesn’t say, “I wonder if we’d get higher if we drank this bong water?”, I don’t know what does.

huh

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How To Dial a Rotary Telephone

February 5, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Phone and Calculator Numbers | 6 Comments
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In response to a few notes I got in from younger readers of yesterday’s “Why Do the Numbers Go Up on Phones But Down on Calculators?, I offer this:

 

Why Do Numbers Go Up on Phones, But Down on Calculators?

February 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Posted in Phone and Calculator Numbers | 2 Comments
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“Jess” who clearly has too much time on her hands wrote to ask if I could tell her why on phones the numbers go up, while on calculators the numbers go down.

Jess, the reason that’s so is because just after Alexander Graham Cracker invented the phone, he realized that people were going to be, in his words, “just too blang-danggit excited” about using it. “I already wish I hadn’t invented the infernal thing,” he wrote to a friend. “I can’t even get that moron Watson to stop ‘phoning’ me—from the next room!” A philosopher at heart, Cracker arranged the numbers on the phone as he did to remind people that though they may start at the top—though they may think of themselves, first and foremost, as No. 1—they’ll inevitably come back around to the nothingness symbolized by the number zero.

“No one’ll get it,” Cracker complained in a letter to his last friend who hadn’t moved without leaving a forwarding address. “Everyone’ll just think I put the numbers in the same stupid order they always see them in. How I loathe people. I’m glad I gave them a way to mindlessly chatter away so much of their stupid lives.” In another attempt to make a bold and arresting statement about the ultimate futility of life, Cracker invented the hula-hoop. He died a terribly frustrated man.

The reason numbers on calculators are placed in the manner opposite phone numbers, Jess, is because calculators were invented in China following the American invention and widespread use of the telephone. And as any Westerner who has ever heard Chinese music knows, the Chinese love to do things in the opposite way of Westerners. Chinese people used to love knives and forks, for instance—until they found out that Westerners did, too. They then right away switched to “chopsticks” (chock being Chinese for “confounding to use”), a decision they’ve of course been regretting ever since. So differently do the Chinese do things than Westerners that at first all Chinese calculators came equipped with letters on their buttons, instead of numbers. Realizing that such a device would have limited uses in performing mathematical calculations, Chinese manufacturers reluctantly made the change. But not until at least making sure that the numbers on calculators were laid out in the manner opposite those of American phones.

Although today the Chinese still enjoy doing things in a manner opposite that of Westerners, the differences between the two cultures are narrowing, so that the actual expressions of their “opposing” ways are producing effects increasingly similar. An American in China who as yet might not swoon to classical Chinese music, for instance, is still going to be pretty darn sure what he’s looking at when, walking along a Chinese street, he comes upon a giant Mart-Wal.


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Why Is Coffee So Popular? And Who Wants to Know?

February 3, 2009 at 8:28 pm | Posted in Why Is Coffee So Popular? | 11 Comments
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A reader (from Great Britain? China? Mars?) wrote to ask me why coffee is so popular.

Dear Person From A Place Where They Apparently Don’t Drink a Lot of Coffee:

People enjoy coffee because it makes them extremely nervous and irritable. I’m not sure what people enjoy in your country, but here in America we enjoy almost nothing so much as we do being extremely nervous and irritable. If this a problem for you, why don’t you ask me if I care? The answer is I don’t. I might if I hadn’t just enjoyed a triple-shot cafe latte—but I did. So I don’t. Tough bean crackers for you.

But back to your question. What was it again? And why are you asking questions like this? Do you have a problem with the American way of life? Because I don’t. I like what coffee does for me. I like what the Fourth of July does for me. A Whistlin’ Pete once shot right up my pants leg, and dang if it didn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy right before I started screaming bloody murder.

That’s right. I speak British. If it wasn’t for us, you British would be speaking German, if you get my historical drift.

Sorry. That’s not fair. British people rock. You’ve got all those great detectives.

Anyway, the reason coffee is so popular is because it gives people that Get Up and Go to the Bathroom feeling. A lot of people like that feeling, Jack. Bathrooms are pretty nice places to be—as long as you’re alone. Otherwise it can be pretty iffy. The worst thing is to be in a bathroom with a stranger who feels like socializing. There’s lots of ways to put a stop to that, but let’s not go there so to speak.

Now what was your question again? Oh, who cares? I can’t be bothered.

Oh, right: Coffee. You asked why coffee is so popular. You know why? Because people like to stand in line. There’s always a line at Starbucks. Starbuck’s. Starbucks’. God, I hate punctuation. It’s like a gnat that’s always comin’ around to bite you when you’re trying to write.

Anyway, I’d like to answer your question about coffee, but right now I have to use the restroom at this coffee shop I’m in. I hope no one’s in there. Whatever. It’s their problem if they are.

Thanks for asking Mr. Answers a question!

The Swinging Life of Doors

February 2, 2009 at 6:06 am | Posted in Swingin' Doors | 3 Comments

Dear Mr. Answers,
Why do residential doors open inward, and the doors of businesses open out? — Sam

Dear Sam:

I actually thought about this one just now while showering. (At this time Mr. Answers formally requests that each and every one of his readers stop imagining him naked and wet. Seriously, people. Stop it. I mean it. I won’t have it.)

Here’s my vote on the door question: What do you do at the door of a residence? You knock and then stand there. What would happen if that door then opened outward? You’d get hit by it. So doors of homes must open inward.

What do you do at the door of a business? You walk right in without knocking. But if that door opened inward, it could hit someone inside the room. So doors of businesses must open outward.

Thankya. thangyaverymuch. Now send me money.

What does D.O.A. mean?

January 31, 2009 at 2:30 pm | Posted in What Does D.O.A. Stand For? | 7 Comments

Hi, Mr. Answers!

What does D.O.A. mean? It’s mentioned in theme song of the TV show, “Friends”:  “…Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.”— Jess

Dear Jess,

Finally, an easy one! D.O.A. stands for “devoid of acrobatics.” It’s a way of saying that you’re bored with your sex life. (Ha, ha, ha. Mr. Answers is just being hilarious—and a little regretful, actually, now that’s had to picture Chandler assuming unfortunate postures. But—on the off chance that you’re actually asking this question—what D.O.A. really stands for is “Dead on Arrival.” It’s a term used by medical professionals to indicate a patient they found, upon first arriving on the scene, to be beyond resuscitation. It’s also commonly used as slang to describe anything that was dead from the get-go. Like, say, the “Friends” spin-off series, “Joey.”)

 

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Why do people go nuts over famous people even though they are just like un-famous ones?

January 30, 2009 at 4:00 pm | Posted in The Nature of Fame | 3 Comments
fame

These people understand life

 

Today’s question was sent to me from a reader with the fun and pretty name of Latoya. Latoya is from Jamaica.

Latoya:  Without you having told him that you are from Jamaica, Mr. Answers would have known anyway that you were from some country that definitely wasn’t America. Because in America there are actually certain towns where you can be arrested for suggesting that famous people are … how did you so quaintly put it? … “just like” other, non-famous people.

Oh, to laugh! The very idea! Thank your lucky stars, Latoya, that you didn’t mutter such blasphemous nonsense in Hollywood, California, U.S.A. In that most illustrious place, expressing aloud the idea that famous people are just like non-famous people—if you do it in public, where three or more people could reasonably be expected to have heard you say it—is grounds for the LAPD to shoot you.

Did news of the Rodney King incident make it to Jamaica? If so, then you are aware of what happens to people in Los Angeles who suggest that famous people are like non-famous ones. Safe to say that Mr. King will never again wonder aloud in public about why he shouldn’t be a guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

The reason, Latoya, that famous people are profoundly different from non-famous people is because no one has ever heard of non-famous people. What does that tell you? That’s right: that non-famous people never do anything anyone really cares about. And why is that? Who really knows? Perhaps the un-famous lack imagination. Perhaps they don’t own a TV, and so have no idea how society is properly ordered. Maybe they’re just lazy. So often people are simply too lazy to get up, do their hair right, and go get their own network show.

The point is, Laytoya, that un-famous people are no more like famous people than zombies are like gold-medal winning Olympic athletes. Gold-winning Olympic athletes have awesome bodies and look fantastic on cereal boxes and other consumer goods. Zombies can’t even flip their hair without their whole head flying off. There’s just no comparison.

So the next time you find yourself wondering why non-famous people “go nuts” over famous people, Latoya, remind yourself that you’re not an American. And though that’s certainly no fault of your own, I’m afraid it does mean that, when it comes to questions of fame and human worth generally, you lack the perspective to understand so much of what makes America the caliber of country it is today. How unfortunate for you.

 

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Do Pigs Sweat?

January 29, 2009 at 3:01 pm | Posted in Do Pigs Sweat? | 2 Comments

A reader named Jess wrote to ask, “Mr. Answers, do pigs sweat?”

Good question, Jess! I’m preferring not to wonder why you’ve asked it—but good question!

Since time immemorial the worlds’ greatest philosophers, scientists, and artists have pondered the eternal question of porcine perspiration. As the inimitable William Shakespeare put it in his famous Love Sonnet 99:

The forward violet thus did I chide:
Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love’s breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft cheek for complexion dwells
I wonder if pigs sweat?

The question persists to this day—and reaches into all areas of culture. In a recently aired PBS documentary entitled, “Perspiration and Sus Scrofa Domesticus: Now Give Us Money,” Bob Clampett, the originator of the cartoon character Porky Pig, said, “The public was so keen on this whole question of whether pigs sweat that finally Friz Freleng asked me to come up with a cartoon pig. ‘Put him in a blue coat and little red shorts!’ he told me. ‘Put a bow-tie on him! See if you can make him sweat!’ Freleng was an idiot. But dang if that little pig didn’t become pop-pop-pop-pop a hit.”

A lack of conclusive evidence on the matter has left modern researchers divided into two camps: SAIPP (Scientists Against the Idea that Pigs Perspire) and BSLP (Babe Sweat Like a Pig). Scientists outside that particular realm of inquiry are unanimous in their conviction that those within it should consider getting real jobs and stop embarrassing themselves.

So you see, Jess, that there really is no clear answer to your question. Why not try doing your own research? Have you considered asking a pig questions to which you know he’s likely to lie? Pigs are terrible liars; even fudging the truth a bit makes them very uneasy. I once asked a pig, “You wouldn’t ever eat your own dung, would you?” and you should have seen Porky the Evader pretending to not even hear me. If that pig’s owner wouldn’t have returned that very moment and begun trying to hit me with a shovel, who knows what I might have discovered?

Try asking a pig such questions as, “Have you ever tried to escape?” or, “Do you have self-esteem issues?”—and then watch that pigs brow and upper snout for signs you’ve made him sweat! Best of luck to you!

 

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What does “echo rand (0,5)” mean?

January 28, 2009 at 8:35 pm | Posted in Echo Rand | 1 Comment
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Thanks for the question, Daniel Gurtner!

“Echo Rand” was a favorite game of children in medieval times. Especially popular throughout Northern Europe and for some reason in what is now Laos, it consisted of one blindfolded child being surrounded by many of his or her playmates and the occasional village idiot. The blindfolded child was the “rand” of the game; “rand” being how people used to say “grand” before, in 1632, the letter “g” was invented.

“I’m rand!” the child would cry out as the blindfold was put upon him. (The crying part was usually real; the only cloth available in those days was rough burlap.) Once the rand was securely blindfolded, he would call out any single word he chose. The other children would then have to repeat that word; they would have to “echo rand.” Once the rand heard where the others were at, he would try his darnedest to stab them with the large pointed stick he was holding. What fun would ensue as the other children scrambled and hid behind one another in a desperate effort to avoid being lanced.

The “(0,5)” is more properly written “(0-5),” and indicates the number of children the rand was allowed to spear. At five, even the village idiot undertood it was time to give someone else have a chance.

The game of Echo Rand is acknowledged by many historians to be a big reason why during the Middle Ages so many children grew up dreaming of the day they could wear a suit of full-bodied armor.

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