I’m of two minds

Sometimes the only thing that makes an earworm tolerable is if it’s a song you like.  My current earworm is the Proclaimers 1988 hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles). Part of my brain has decided that it wants to hear the refrain over and over again.  I’m fine with that.  I really like the song, and the tune is catchy.  And it’s only been a couple hours.

Unfortunately, another part of my brain has decided it wants to play too.  It’s probably angry because I made it walk on the treadmill at the gym today.  So while my secondary auditory cortex is playing the song, my left frontal lobe is singing the following lyrics:

I would walk a couple miles
And I would walk a couple more
Just to be the man who walked four miles
And stopped because his feet were sore.

I guess I just lack the commitment and the endurance to continue.

Creative creativity

In “you-can’t-make-this-up-but-we-did” news, first dates could become much less stressful and awkward thanks to an emotion detector that could tell if a person has the hots for you. If such a thing existed. Which it doesn’t.

The new device features an earpiece which measures body functions (top), and a sort of combination electric fan/death ray that attaches to the the bottom of your cellphone (below).  Neither actually do anything.


However, the plausibly real device is at this stage still pure fiction, and while not creating it has inspired imaginative use of the word “plausible”, it has been not built to convey a serious message.

The device is inspired by the Voight-Kampff machine (created by designers Jon Voight and Mine Kampff) featured in the film Blade Runner. And the new machine bears notable similarities to that machine, such as being fictional. Also, as in the movie, the prototype device causes thick billows of smoke to emanate from the wearer’s head (below), which reduces the awkwardness of first dates by giving the couple something to talk about. “Hi, Harrison, I’m Callista. It’s very nice to meet you. Why is your head on fire?”


The design team — which includes the Centre for Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London (UCL) — insists it has been (not) built created to convey a serious message.

“How many times are we going to have to keep saying this? We (not) built created this device to convey a serious message!  We know there’s an extra ‘A’ in the acronym CASA. It’s not like there’s even one A in our acronym before the S. But when we used our original acronym CSA, oversensitive campus radicals kept confusing us with Confederates for Spatial Analysis, and claimed that their hurt feelings were causing global warming. Rather than mock them mercilessly, we decided to change the acronym and leave the mockery to others.  And yes, I did say ‘built created’!”  (The design team was granted anonymity in case they ever wanted to get real jobs.)

Neat, bright, compact and totally fictional, the detector clips onto a smartphone or tablet, according to neat, bright, compact and occasionally fictional scientist Natalie Portman (below, right).


(Disclaimer: The picture above shows Ms. Portman being bright, compact, and fictional. Her appearance is also surprisingly neat, given how hard it’s raining.)

The nonexistent device comes in flaming screaming bright yellow, making it nicely inconspicuous on first dates when worn by everyone from Minions to Moe (pictured below).


Team leader Professor Paul Coulton, Lancaster University’s design fiction expert, hailed the potential of the imaginary device, which he says is attracting a lot of attention. “Not as much attention as my cancer-curing cold fusion time machine, but close. Maybe if we picked a color that wasn’t so inconspicuous.”

Design fiction is, in broad terms, a combination of Powerpoint slides and outright fraud which heralds what might come about in a future world where research grants can be generated by wishing really hard.  In narrow terms, it’s just making stuff up.

“The factor that differentiates and distinguishes design fiction from other approaches is the word ‘fiction’. By making our products 100% reality-free, we cut down on development costs and product defects.  Plus, our fantasy process is entirely eco-friendly.  Well, mostly. There’s still a lot of smoke coming from Harrison Ford’s head.”

“But this is actually a tool for creating some pretty serious discussions around the dorms at 2:30 in the morning, once we’ve decided who would win in a fight: Tris from Blade Runner or Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” (below)

The research team presented a paper in San Jose at CHI, the world’s leading conference on Completely Hallucinatory Inventions.

Click here to read the amazing untrue story.

Editor’s Note: University College London did not respond to our queries about why the Centre for Spatial Analysis employs a design fiction expert, or what emotion detectors have to do with spatial analysis in the first place.  We hope their silence is because they’re too busy analyzing space.

Making a name for oneself (or others)

Earlier today I was at Barnes and Noble.  As I was leaving, I passed the maternity/baby section, and one title caught my eye: 100,001 Best Baby Names. I didn’t have time to stop and check,* but I’m really hoping the last name on the list was “Irrelevant”.**

Actually, I did have time to check, but the names were listed in alphabetical order, not rank order.  The last name in the book was “Zygmunt”, which while being a bad name for a baby, is certainly not worse then “Dweezil”.

** For those who don’t follow football, the last person selected in the NFL draft each year is given the nickname “Mr. Irrelevant”.  He is always cut during training camp, but as a consolation prize, his mother gets a nice picture of him in his NFL uniform.

Trigger warning: “Trigger” did not make the list of the 100,001 best baby names.  It came in at 100,003, right behind “Cruella“.

By “football”, I of course mean football.  The kind played in the United States and Canada (and London in weeks 4, 7, and 8).  You’re thinking of “fútbol” (pronounced “SOCK-er”), which is an endurance match in which a dozen men see how long they can run around a field in shorts without scoring any points or doing anything interesting.  The current record is 60 minutes, plus two 15-minute overtime periods, held by every soccer game that ever went into double overtime.

Notice of Total Justification Anecdote:  One time at the gym, I was on the treadmill, and the TV in front of me was showing a World Cup semifinal match between a European team and a Latin American team.  (I believe it was Germany vs. Argentina, but it could have been the Holy Roman Empire vs. the Incas for all it matters.)  There was about 5 minutes left in the game, and the score was tied 0-0.  I walked away as fast as I could, but as I was on a treadmill, I didn’t get far.

So I watched the rest of the game, rooting for a final score of 0-0, so that the semifinal game of the world’s most inexplicably popular competition would have to be decided on penalty kicks.  (For Americans, this would be the equivalent of having the NFC Championship game end 0-0 and be decided by a punt, pass and kick contest, or the NBA semifinals end 0-0 and be decided by a game of Horse.)  I knew little about soccer, so when they announced at the end of regulation time that there would be an overtime to break the tie, I was very disappointed, but I was still on the treadmill, so I kept on rooting.  Eventually (15 minutes later chronologically, 7 weeks later subjectively), the overtime ended at 0-0.  I was devastated to find out that there was another 15 minute overtime period, but at least it would be the last.  To my great dismay, one of the teams (either the Toltecs or Austria-Hungary, I don’t remember) scored with less than 2 minutes (subjective time: 3 months) remaining.

I remember two things that reinforced my preconceived notions of soccer (the best kind of notions):

  1. Since the purpose of soccer is to avoid scoring points, one of the important statistics they maintain is “shots on goal”, the number of times a player accidentally kicks the ball toward the goalie.  In this game, at the end of regulation time, the Mayans had 0 goals on 12 attempts, and the Merovingians had 0 goals on 13 attempts, for a combined Futility quotient of 0-25.
  2. At one point, the color commentary guy (who was British, or possibly English), made the following statement after a missed shot on goal:

That would have been a splendid goal had it occurred.

When you have been reduced to subjunctive commentary, it’s time to go watch cricket.  At least it’s confusing enough to hold one’s attention.

Public service announcement: While searching for a baby wearing Carolina Panthers gear, I stumbled upon this picture of a baby wearing a Cleveland Browns helmet:

baby browns helmet

The child is clearly waiting for the Browns to make the playoffs, or possibly got confused and is watching fútbol.  Child Protective Services has been made aware of this abuse in either case.

Author’s note: This post was written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe, who apparently didn’t like soccer either.

I write like who?

This evening, I was enjoying science trivia night at the museum with a longtime improv friend who blogs at The Flehmen Response under the name Sparky MacMillan.  (Disclaimer: This is his nom-de-plume.  I don’t call him this.  I use his name.  Partly because I’ve known him by that name for over a quarter of a century.  Mostly because having my closest friends be named Mookie and Sparky is bad for my image.  It makes people think they’re imaginary.  And I’m pretty sure they’re not.)

Anyway, we were talking about blogging, and he mentioned a website he had found a while back called I Write Like, which takes samples of prose and analyzes them against the writings of about 50 authors to determine who your writing style compares best to.

This got me intrigued, so I went and found the website.  I plugged in about two dozen or so samples from my blog.  Here’s some of the results:

  • The most common match (around 40%, I would estimate) was Edgar Allen Poe, followed by Margaret Mitchell (maybe 20%).  Poe, as every English major learns in college, was famous for his obsession with robots and Scarlett Johansson.  (He was very much ahead of his time.)
  • I got multiple responses for James Joyce, Cory Doctorow, and Dan Brown, and a few one-offs.
  • I took a series of 4 posts I wrote about my hand surgery a couple years ago. Two of the four (the first and last) came back Stephen King, indicating I guess that I ended the story badly.
  • One other sequence I did was 3 different stories to explain the “Legend of Moleskine” sign I saw at Barnes & Noble.  One came back as Douglas Adams (a particularly proud moment).  The other two came back as H.P. Lovecraft.

I don’t have nearly the ego to take any of this seriously, but I find stuff like this fascinating, the same way people on Facebook post which Harry Potter character they are most like. (Disclaimer: No, I don’t know which Harry Potter character I’m most like, unless it’s the one that doesn’t want to know what Harry Potter character he’s like.)  Douglas Adams is one of my favorite authors, so being compared to him is flattering.  I gave my friend Stephanie a couple of Dave Barry books as a baby shower present, and she told me when she read them, she kept hearing his words in my voice, which is also flattering, as he is another of my favorite humor writers.  It’s dangerous to believe stuff like that, but it’s still nice to hear.

I read the “About” section of the website, and with only 51 authors in its database to compare with, a certain amount of redundancy is expected.  The site creator describes the algorithm used to correlate the writing styles as based on a Bayesian classifier, the same algorithm that is used in spam filters.  Which I guess means that reading A Labor of Like is the equivalent of getting spam mail from Edgar Allen Poe and Margaret Mitchell.

You can read more about it in my upcoming book, Gone with the Raven.

(Disclaimer: According to I Write Like, this post was written in the style of Edgar Allen Poe*. The original e-mail that I sent to Sparky on this subject was written in the style of Vladimir Nabokov, the author of Lolita.  You’re welcome for the rewrite.)

* A critical literary deconstruction of the stylistic similarities between this post and Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart would be weird and creepy.  Hopefully in a Poe way, and not in a Nabokov way.


A taste of honeys

Recently (very recently), my friend and fellow blogger Joseph Nebus posted a tidbit on his blog about a can of pumpkin.

(Disclaimer: I have never actually met the very splendid and worthwhile Mr. Nebus.  Our interactions to date have consisted of cross-blog discussions of subjects such as the history of the color indigo, how to use tea lights as toys, the relationship between Vincent Price and St. Louis, and the connection between Robert Boyle and 3rd Century Saint Pancras.  However, I find his writing very entertaining, and I believe that should I ever find myself in Michigan or he in North Carolina, our meeting would be quite amicable, and dominated by some random aspect of our surroundings.  His blogs are quite good.  Go read them here and here while I try to remember what I was saying.)

Ah, yes, now I remember.  Joseph was doing a statistical analysis of the ingredient of 100% canned pumpkin and took great comfort in the results.  (Spoiler alert: it’s pumpkin.)

In what could only be termed synchronicity if this train of thought had been recorded by The Police in 1983, I had a similar revelation a few weeks ago.  I found a packet of honey (pictured above) in the break room at work, and I was taken by two thoughts:

  1. Honey can be graded, which means that there is an occupation called “honey grader”.  I am now considering a second career in the lucrative and prestigious honey grading industry after retirement  I wonder how much schooling is required.
  2. It’s hard to read because I am such a lousy photographer, but just below the honey-pot-obscuring glare, the following is written in tiny, friendly letters:


At the time, I was taken aback by the idea that one had to list the ingredients of pure honey, and happy that the term “pure” was apparently not a euphemism, like “natural” or “nutritious”. But after reading Joseph’s report, I now have a more important question: Why is pumpkin considered an ingredient (singular), but honey is considered “ingredients”.  Is it because that can of pumpkin all came from the same gourd, while the honey was gathered from multiple hives?

Or were the corporate lawyers for Big Honey just covering their bases.  “Let’s call it ingredients, just in case we find something else in there, like mangled bee limbs, or tungsten.  It’ll save on printing costs later.”

Making fun of leaves

Did you ever read something on the internet that was so bizarre, so outrageous, so…wrong that you just had to write something else on the internet to contradict it and set people straight?

No, of course not.  That’s just silly.  Why would anybody write unpleasant things down in public?  And why would anybody else care what someone else wrote on the internet?  If someone has a disagreeable notion they would like to share, it is much simpler to ignore them.  They don’t know any better.  They were probably raised by wolves.

Which is why I was taken aback when I read the following shocking statement. (Trigger warning: Do not try to feed Trigger.  He’s not your horse.  And he’s dead.)

There are no fun facts about arugula. Period.

The author of the statement above justifies himself by saying the following:

I need FUN facts about arugula in order to encourage others to buy it, plant it, grow it, eat it.

Now I have a motto: There are no unfun facts.  There are only facts not having fun. (Disclaimer: This is not my motto.  It’s not even on my list of mottos, which is here.  This is a stupid motto.  I wouldn’t touch that motto with a ten foot pole.)  If you don’t have fun facts, it’s important to make the facts fun yourself. To that end, I’d like to share with you some fun facts about arugula.

(Important Disclaimer: The statements below are for fun purposes only.  They should not under any circumstances be considered encouragement to buy, plant, grow, or (God forbid) eat arugula.  I’d sooner recommend a timepiece from Hammacher Schlemmer.)

Credit Where Credit is Due Announcement: All of the unfun facts below have been cribbed directly from Wikipedia. Technically, this stretches the definition of the word “fact”, but it’s still more research than I normally put into a blog post.

Fact: Arugula is commonly known as salad rocket, rucola, rucoli, rugula, colewort, and roquette.

Fun fact 1: If anything should commonly be known as salad rocket, it’s the carrot.

Fun fact 2: Despite the fact that kids will eat anything if you call it a “salad rocket”, people insist on calling this stuff “arugula”, which is not Italian for “salad rocket”.

Fun corollary 2a:  “Salad rocket” in Italian is “razza di insalata”, which in and of itself is fun to say, particularly in a comical Italian accent.  See what I mean? (You know you tried it.)

Fact: Some botanists consider it a subspecies of Eruca vesicaria.  Still others do not differentiate between the two.

Fun fact 3: There are at least 4 botanists (2 on each side) involved in this dispute. Yet you never read about it in the press. Nor is there a reality show designed to exploit this conflict. Not even on HGTV.

Fact: It is also used cooked in Apulia, in Southern Italy, to make the pasta dish cavatiéddi, “in which large amounts of coarsely chopped rocket are added to pasta seasoned with a homemade reduced tomato sauce and pecorino”, as well as in “many unpretentious recipes in which it is added, chopped, to sauces and cooked dishes” or in a sauce (made by frying it in olive oil and garlic) used a condiment for cold meats and fish.

Fun fact 4: This is all one long run-on sentence.  Trying to diagram it would kill more time than it’s worth.

Fun fact 5: If I am parsing correctly, apparently once there were many unpretentious dishes that contain arugula.  None survive to the present day.

Fact: It was listed in a decree by Charlemagne of 802 as one of the pot herbs suitable for growing in gardens.

Fun fact 6: Charlemagne, King of the Franks and first Holy Roman Emperor, issued gardening decrees.  Perhaps one of them outlawed unpretentious uses of arugula.

Fun fact 7: Arugula is no longer the most popular pot herb grown in gardens. Especially in Colorado.

Fact: The species has a chromosome number of 2n = 22

Fun fact 8: n = 11, which is prime.  (Disclaimer: this is not fun in and of itself, but is provided for the sake of people who are still diagramming that sentence above, and don’t have time to do the math themselves.  Maybe you’ll find the next fact more to your liking.)

Fact: The taxonomic name of arugula is Eruca sativa.

Fun fact 9: “Arugula” is an anagram for “aura lug”, which sounds like work.  On the other hand, “Eruca sativa” is an anagram for “active auras”, which sounds much healthier.

Fun fact 10: “Eruca sativa” is also an anagram for “caviar eat us”.  Caviar is disgusting fish eggs.  This is a subliminal message.  You should not eat the same things that fish eggs eat.

Fun corollary 10a: “Salad rocket” is an anagram for “croaked last”.  This is a thinly veiled attempt to make you think arugula is good for longevity.  Don’t fall for it.  “Salad rocket” is also an anagram for “cloaked rats”.

There you have it.  Ten fun facts and two fun corollaries about arugula.  As the kids say when they’re having fun, “Whee.”

The lady is ambivalent, but she doesn’t know it yet

This summer will mark my 30-somethingth trip to Vegas. (Disclaimer: last year I celebrated my 30-somethingth trip to Vegas.)  I first started going in 1988, when I finally got enough vacation that I didn’t use it all up going home to see my family at Christmas.  I chose Las Vegas because I had seen it so many times in movies and on TV.  For me, travel is about seeing things in person that I have seen in movies and on TV.  I’ve been to London and Los Angeles, and spent my time there looking for things I would recognize, so I would feel like I was traveling. I’ve also been to Milan, Vienna, and Vancouver.  I remember nothing about them.  (Disclaimer: I was in Vancouver in 1986. I’m sure if I went back, I would recognize stuff, since about 60% of TV shows are now shot there.)

One of the reasons I recognize Vegas is the 1964 film Viva Las Vegas, starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret.  (Disclaimer: Most of the landmarks in the movie has since been destroyed, and the rest have been extensively remodeled.  Do not watch this movie and then go to Vegas expecting to see stuff you recognize.)  I was only 3 when the movie came out, but I remember it being on TV a lot of Saturday afternoons in the early 1970’s.  As a result, it’s one of only two movies I really remember from my childhood.  (The other is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

This is the plot synopsis from IMDB:

Race car driver Lucky Jackson goes to Las Vegas to earn money to pay for a new engine for his motor car. Working as a waiter, he still finds the time to court young Rusty Martin.

This is the plot synopsis from me in the early 1970’s:

Ann-Margret wears skimpy outfits while stuff happens around her. Sometimes she goes away for a while, but then she comes back in a different skimpy outfit.

I developed a lifelong crush on Ann-Margret from this movie.  (Note to self: We actually got to see her perform in Vegas back in 1990.  When we finally have to execute my bucket list, find something else to do that day.)

The clip above is my favorite song from the movie, “The Lady Loves Me”.  1970’s me describes the scene this way:

Ann-Margret changes from a skimpy red swimsuit into skimpy yellow shorts, while stuff happens around her.  Maybe.  And I think there’s music of some sort.

To put the scene in context, earlier in the movie, Ann-Margret walked into a scene in skimpy white shorts, and stuff happened around her.  (Note to self: Shut up, 1970’s me!  I’m trying to make a point!)  Lucky (Elvis) is a race car driver/mechanic who tried to pick up Rusty (Ann-Margret) by telling her her car needed repair work when it didn’t.  She found out and is still angry.  Then he bumps into her at his hotel, where she works as a pool manager.  So he attempts to compensate for his earlier petty fraud by wooing her with song.

Anyway, as I was watching this scene, 2016 me noticed a few things that 1970’s me missed.

  1. At the beginning of the scene, Rusty steps out of the pool after helping some kids.  There is a continuous walk-and-talk shot from the pool to the dressing room.  As she closes the door behind her, you can see that she was standing in the pool in white high heels.  (She wears the same heels through the rest of the song.)
  2. Rusty dresses faster than the Flash.  She is still wearing the red swimsuit when he sings “I’m her ideal, her heart’s desire” at 0:49 in the clip.  At 0:56, seven seconds later, she tosses the swimsuit on the screen as he sings, “She’d like to cuddle up with me”, and her hair is already tied back with a yellow ribbon.  By the time she starts her verse at 1:09, she’s wearing the yellow shorts and top outfit.  That’s a complete change of wardrobe in 20 seconds, and when she comes out from behind the screen, we see she’s still wearing her sensible white pool heels.
  3. Why does the inside of a women’s dressing room (which I’ve never seen) look like the women’s department at J.C. Penney (which I have seen)?  Do they still look like that half a century later?  And who owns all those clothes?  Aren’t they worried that someone will steal them, like at J.C. Penney?  Do they have those clip-on RFID tags?  Did they even have clip-on RFID tags in 1964?
  4. Lucky is clearly sure of himself, and it appears that his assumption about her feelings is not unfounded.  He has chosen to serenade her with what is clearly a duet, and she’s clearly willing to play along.  If she truly “loathed him”, wouldn’t it make much more sense to ignore him, or call the lifeguard?  He’d look pretty foolish just walking around singing “The lady loves me, but she doesn’t know it yet.” at random intervals with no lady around.
  5. Wait a minute, isn’t she a lifeguard?  If not, it’s pretty unsafe for her to be teaching small children to swim.  The hotel is probably looking at some sort of lawsuit.
  6. Notice how there is no background noise in the pool area.  We just saw Rusty teaching small children to dive less than a minute ago.  How are their parents keeping them quiet enough for a musical interlude?  I would expect at least one overheard conversation like this:
    • Mother: Kids, gather up your things.  It’s time to go.
    • Susie: Mommy, why was Miss Martin giving us swimming lessons in high heels?
    • Mother: For the same reason your father wears a suit to change the oil — it’s the Sixties.  Now hurry up.  I have to go put on a dress and pearls and start dinner.
  7. And when did this become a lost parental art?
  8. Rusty sings, “He’s one man I could learn to hate.”  Earlier she indicated that she loathes him.  How much of a learning curve does that require?
  9. Lucky is so focused on Rusty that he fails to notice that he has walked backward onto a diving board.  1970’s me wouldn’t have noticed the diving board, either.  Or the pool.  Or the guitar.

The biggest question of all is this: HOW DOES RUSTY KNOW THE LYRICS? Lucky is apparently making the song up as he goes, and yet she knows exactly when to come in with her lines. I’ve watched my old improv group make up songs on the fly, so I know how hard that is.  This seems too effortless.  It’s almost as if Rusty knows the song already.   Hmmm, is it possible that she has already seen Viva Las Vegas?  Maybe even has a recording of the soundtrack? And if so, how does Lucky know to pick one of the songs from that LP? I believe that either Lucky or Rusty (or both of them?) are trapped in a time loop, and forced to repeat the day over and over until they end up together.*

* Or maybe not.  Maybe Ann-Margret is supposed to end up with Cesare Danova, the Italian racing count.  Or maybe learning to hate Lucky isn’t as easy as it seems given her loathing, and she’s still trying to get it right.

General trivia note: Among the uncredited background people in Viva Las Vegas are singer Toni Basil (“Mickey”), actress Teri Garr (Young Frankenstein), and actors Kent McCord (Adam-12) and Lance LeGault (you’d know him if you saw him).  If you are under 40, you have no idea who I’m talking about, do you?

Please, Mr. Gmail

Here’s a fun activity for those of us of a certain age.  (Disclaimer: This also works for those of us of an uncertain age, like “Wait, am I 54 now, or am I turning 54 next month?”)

Find a young person, and play them the 1974 Carpenters hit “Please, Mr. Postman”.  Chase after them as they run away while continuing to play the song. When the song is over, corner them and ask them if they have ever seen or heard of any of the following:

  • The Carpenters
  • A postman
  • A letter
  • Waiting patiently

I tried this with a young friend of mine.  After having to explain all of the above, she looked at me quizzically and asked, “Why didn’t she just instaskype his snapgram on Twitface?”  (Disclaimer: This might not be a direct quote, but it makes about as much sense to me.)

Bohemiatic Rhapsodology

In obvious confirmation news, a bunch of Europeans sat around listening to old 70’s records and 8-tracks and then wrote about it using big words.

Regardless of what they might think personally about Queen, most rock critics and music fans alike wish they could get grant money to sit around and listen to classic rock.  Now, a group of Austrian, Czech, and Swedish researchers with nothing better to do conducted research on lead singer Freddy Mercury (top), the results of which were published in the journal Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology for Dummies.

The research began after a logopedian, a phoniatrician, and a vocolologist walked into a bar and were refused service. An exopsychochemist who couldn’t hear over the loud music declined to participate when he found out they were studying Freddy Mercury and not Eddie Murphy (below).

eddie murphy

The researchers requested anonymity because they were out at a bar when they were supposed to be working.

What they discovered was that he likely employed subharmonics, an artificial ventricular fold enhancer banned by the European Tenors Committee.  Most humans never speak or sing with their ventricular folds to avoid being sued for causing global warming by environmental litigators.

They couldn’t confirm the long-held belief that Mercury’s range spanned four octaves, or any other hypothesis, because Freddy Mercury died in 1991.  (Disclaimer: Attempts to reanimate him as a zombie revenant are still tied up in court.)  However, they did discover some convenient interesting tidbits the night before the paper was due.  For one, despite being known largely as a tenor, identifying himself as a tenor, and singing in a tenor voice, the researchers determined that claiming he was a baritone was better click-bait.  That, coupled with anecdotal evidence that Mercury once turned down a gig with the Queen Lantern Corps (below) because he was afraid fans would think he wasn’t a tenor, led to the conclusion that they could say anything they wanted.


It’s true that without a living test subject, the researchers were free to make up stuff without anyone being able to prove otherwise.  With no one to stop them, the team brought in professional rock vocolologist Daniel Zangger-Borch (below), killed him, and reanimated his corpse into a zombie revenant.*   (Full disclosure: Zangger-Borch (below, before and after) does drive a Mercury Cougar, and was trying to grow a mustache before his reanimation.)

They filmed his larynx at 4000 frames per second in order to look at exactly how someone who is not the Queen frontman created the iconic rough growls and jaw-dropping vibratos.  (The video is currently posted on the website NaughtyLarynxes.com.)

The predetermined conclusion was clear from the beginning: Freddie Mercury has a voice unlike anyone else in rock ‘n’ roll.**


Former child star and logopediatrician Danica McKellar (shown above improving the self-esteem of young girls by forming conclusions first and justifying them using numbers afterwards) analyzed the film and determined that Zangger-Borch’s stomach was growling from a hunger for brains, and advanced decomposition had caused his jaw to drop off.  She said that while a typical vibrato will fluctuate between 5.4Hz and 6.9Hz, Mercury’s was 7.04Hz, one of the most italicized numbers ever made up for this article.

There’s a lot of scientific and analytical music terminology in the full study, most of which is only understandable to other phoniatricists.  Frankly, we didn’t understand any of it, so we quit reading after the first page.

Click here for even more logopological, phoniatrical, vocolological fun.

* The art of creating zombie revenant singers is called Phoniatrics.
** At a press conference, the researchers issued a correction, saying that “Freddy Mercury has a voice unlike anyone else in rock ‘n’ roll.  Except Daniel Zangger-Borch, of course.  Clearly Daniel has exactly the same voice as Freddy Mercury.  That’s what makes our findings so grant-worthy, if you catch our meaning.”  

Reining in crime

In godforsaken criminology news, police in Russia have started outsourcing criminal transport to reindeers.

According to Moscow’s Izvestiya newspaper, the Ministry of the Interior is considering a request from officers in the Yamalo-Nemets region to buy up herds of reindeer, after representiatives from the Ministry of the Exterior went inside to warm up.

A police source said that perpetrators of domestic violence, hooliganism, and thefts often flee to remote icy spots to escape the long arm of the law (23.2 meters, according to the 2010 Russian census).  The source was granted anonymity because he suffers from hooliganism, which is considered a disease under the Russians with Disabilities Act of 2004.

“Criminals go into hiding in the tundra and hard-to-reach places on their own reindeer sleds.  Officers don’t always have the means to follow them there,” the source said, “which is why we call them ‘hard-to-reach places’.  The same problem arises when Santa is delivering suspects to the station on Christmas eve.”

Irina Pimkina, a police spokesperson person of spokes for the Caribou Siberian Investigations Unit in Moscow (CSI: Moscow) added, “We already have snowmobiles but you have to understand that they are machines. When the robot apocalypse comes, we know whose side the snowmobiles are going to take.” She also remarked, “In the meantime, reindeer would be useful to beat officers who patrol far-off areas.”  (Disclaimer: It is legal in Russia to beat law enforcement personnel with ruminants, but only for disciplinary purposes.)

A reindeer (pictured above) has keen hearing that allows it to detect crime by sound alone, and an antenna array which can occasionally pick up police radio broadcasts from as far away as Minsk when pointed in the right direction.

Reindeer are still a way of life for tens of thousands of indigenous herders on the ice planet of Hoth, where temperatures can drop to -50º C.  (Disclaimer: the C stands for “Cold”.  At -50º, who cares whether it’s Fahrenheit or Centigrade.)

The animals are used for meat, for skins, to make clothes and tents, and to tow sleds. Every year, reindeer make thousands of tents which are sold at tundra craft shows across Siberia. During the Soviet period, reindeer herds were collectivized into the Supreme Soviet Reindeer Worker’s Party (C-SPAN in Russian). Reindeer shamanism was also repressed, with thousands of reindeer shamans forced to renounce their belief in Santa Claus.

Izvestiya said police needed the reindeer in the Yamalo-Nemets region because many crimes were committed by the indigenous people who were already there when the crimes occurred.  That claim could not be immediately verified, but we threw it into the article anyway because we needed to fill the entire column. (Disclaimer: we didn’t bother to verify any of the other claims, either.  Heck, we’re not even sure Siberia has cops.  Or reindeer for that matter.)

Native communities historically have been subjected to prejudice and persecution, and insisted police should stop worrying about the people who were there when the crimes occurred, and instead investigate all the wealthy Muscovites who head out to Yamalo-Nemets for tundra getaways during spring break.

Izvestiya said that a legal basis for police to use camels, mules, and reindeer was confirmed by a 2012 Interior Ministry directive. The directive was revised in 2013 after 3500 camels and mules froze to death.

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Editor’s Note: Namalo-Yemets is an anagram for “Maltose Meany”, a notorious Siberian crime lord named after the villain in the Ukrainian children’s show “Seaman Motley”.  Namalo-Yemets is also an anagram for “Seaman Motley”.