Every once in a while, I come across a fun fact that, for various reasons, I want to share but can’t seem to turn into a full Now I Know story. So, here you go! There’s no rhyme or reason to this — just a bunch of stuff I’ve come across somewhat recently that I’m not going to use otherwise. I’ll try to explain why each one didn’t turn into its own newsletter. Click the link to find the main source for the story.
1) There’s a 13th sign of the Zodiac, kind of. I’m not into astrology whatsoever, and that’s a massive understatement. I don’t know anything about it except that it has something to do with the calendar (more on that here), and that the Zodiac divides the year in 30-day increments or so. But apparently, some people think that another constellation should be considered part of the 12 Zodiac signs. I was hoping that this fact would have some more depth to it, like, maybe there was a cult-like movement to enshrine the sign in the official set. Or maybe it was dropped because of triskaidekaphobia. Or maybe the triskaidekaphobics were in a heated debate against the believers in astrology… that’d have been great. But no such luck.
2) Charlie Chaplin and his failed efforts to win a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest. A few of you have written in to suggest this one. The basic “fact” is simple: at some point in the late 1910s or perhaps as late as 1920, famed entertainer Charlie Chaplin (who had a pretty distinct aesthetic) entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest — and came in 3rd. Or 20th. Or … who knows. You’ve probably figured out why I’ve never shared it before — it’s probably an urban legend. It’d have been a really fun story to write, too. Oh well.
3) Why Coca-Cola tastes better at McDonald’s than it does elsewhere. The explanation is interesting — click the link to read it — but it’s nothing all that surprising. Basically, McDonald’s has a deal with Coke to have it sent in a different way, and Mickey D’s also makes adjustments to really everything — straws, storage, syrup-to-water ratio — to enhance the flavor. I didn’t write about this because there’s not a ton of depth here and because “better” is very subjective, at least individually. If someone were to do a documentary video on this, interviewing the food scientists and the like, I’d definitely share it as a long read (er, long watch?).
4) The best piece of legislation you’ll probably ever read. I’ll just let you click and read this one. There’s no fun back story to it — hence, no weekday Now I Know dedicated to it — it’s just a legislator having way too much fun.
5) “Giant New Zealand potato is not in fact a potato, Guinness World Records rules.” That’s the headline. It’s also not much of a story beyond the fact that the potato is something other than a potato. But a giant non-potato? How could I resist sharing!!
6) And my personal favorite of this mini-collection: The Distinguished Gentleman comes to real life, maybe?: If you’re not familiar with the 1992 movie “The Distinguished Gentleman,” I don’t blame you — I gave it 2.5 stars on Letterboxd and that’s a pretty low score given my criteria. The movie stars Eddie Murphy, a non-politician who decided to run for Senate when the incumbent dies. He and the incumbent shared the same name, and Murphy’s character wins on name recognition alone. (Basically.) Anyway, a Democratic Representative from Ohio named Mike Doyle is retiring, and the Republican nominee is a guy named Mike Doyle. There’s nothing nefarious about this but I really like the Eddie Murphy loophole (even if I didn’t really like the movie), so I wanted to share this one somehow.
The Now I Know Week in Review
Monday: The First Computer Bug: Not really the first time “bug” was used to describe the brokenness of everything tech, but at least it’s an real bug.
Tuesday: Why Are My Baby Carrots Always Wet?: And gross. But edible!
Wednesday: Where No Sandwich Has Gone Before: Lunch, the final frontier?
Thursday: The Biggest Bread Soup in the World: The title is kind of misleading but the story explains it.
And some other things you should check out:
Some long reads for the weekend.
1) “The True Story Of The Fake Zombies, The Strangest Con In Rock History” (Buzzfeed, 18 minutes, June 2016). This is a fun story and that’s before the weird ZZ Top tie-in.
2) “Predicting This Year’s Oscar Winners Using Just Math” (The Hollywood Reporter, 10 minutes, March 2023). This just came out today and I’m glad I saw it before I sent this email. The Oscars are this weekend; if you’re in an Oscars pool, definitely read this before entering. (The author even gives advice for when to go with a slight underdog.) TK
3) “The official Girl Scout cookie power rankings” (Los Angeles Times, long enough to make you hungry, February 2021). There’s nothing actually official about this; it’s just some writer’s opinion. And he’s wrong — Thin Mints are, at worst, 3rd best, and he has them at 4. However, the “frozen rankings” included are very smart, as many Girl Scout cookies are fantastic when eaten straight from the freezer. Thanks to John G. for the suggestion!
Have a great weekend!