A.J. Jacobs is the editor of What It Feels Like and the author of The Two Kings: Jesus and Elvis and America Off-Line. He is the senior editor of Esquire and has written for The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, New York magazine, New York Observer, and other publications.
I spent last year trying to live according to the rules and customs of the Bible. And a few months in, I decided that if I was really going to commit, maybe I should take a shot at polygamy.
It's a huge theme in the Old Testament. Polygamy was, if not the norm, completely accepted in early biblical times. Jacob had two wives (and two concubines). King David had eight. Solomon holds the record with an impressive seven hundred spouses.
I was up in Maine with the family Labor Day weekend. Mini-golf was played. Lobsters were eaten (though not by me). Maine accents were attempted unsuccessfully.
On the ride back, I read an interesting article in Newsweek about a book called "Super Crunchers." The idea is that statistical analysis -- data mining -- is replacing gut decisions in every aspect of life. It's sort of the anti-"Blink." Baseball scouts are being phased out by sophisticated spread sheets.
I know. My blog needs to be watered and fed. It's not getting any TLC. It's languishing like the sad brownish ficus plant in my living room. (I tried to attach a photo of said ficus, but my computer kept crashing).
In my defense: I recently obeyed the first commandment of Biblical living. I was fruitful. I multiplied. My wife gave birth on August 24. And that has been a tad distracting.
Wait, there's more! I’ve been furiously working away to finish my next book, The Y
I'm pretty sure Pfizer somehow took control of the media this past week to boost sales of Zoloft. Every headline is depressing. It just depends what shade of depressing. The sports doping scandals? Mildly depressing. Mel Gibson's Wagnerian ranting? Weirdly depressing. The Mideast crisis? Depressing depressing. Miami Vice's mediocre box office revenue? Well, not that depressing, actually. I'll get over it.
There's one other not-totally-gloomy story I've read in the past seven days.
I may be way late to this party, but I loved the Onion's parody of Wikipedia.
As someone who uses Wikipedia too much (sorry Britannica!) I thought it was a nice reminder that finding a few dozen backup sources is probably a good idea. Especially since Wikipedia once said a friend of mine is gay, when, last time I checked (which was yesterday) he has a wife and two kids. (And no, my friend is not the star of MI-III).
Speaking of Wikipedia, I looked up its entry on Doping
I just came across amazingly detailed analysis of my Who Wants to Be a Millionaire strategy by someone who is much smarter than I am. I wish I had talked to this guy before humiliating myself on the show.
In case you didn't pick up the Sydney Morning Herald the other day, columnist David Dale wrote a funny piece about canned laughter, and was nice enough to quote from my section in the Know-it-All on this very important topic. I wrote about the Golden Age of canned laughter, which occurred during 19th century France. This was when every theater owner hired claques -- audience plants whose job it was to whip the real audience into a frenzy.
I just came back from a much-delayed trip to visit Pennsylvania's Amish country for my Bible book. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Amos Smucker, a distant relative of the Smuckers of strawberry jam fame. I liked him enormously.
Amos probably won't be going on the road with Dane Cook anytime soon, but he did give me a little taste of Amish humor. Including this joke:
Question: What happens when an Amish woman marries a Mennonite man?
Answer: She drives him buggy
I just read that Vince Welnick died over the weekend. He was the keyboard player for the Grateful Dead. In honor of that, I thought I'd reprint the Grateful Dead section from the heartwarming bestseller The Know-It-All.
By the way, as of yesterday, I'm feeling better, eyelids and all.
I'm no Deadhead--I attended one Dead show, which I found about as interesting as the diagram charting the life cycle of bread mold in the Fungi section. Still, I kno
I haven't been a very responsible blogger recently. The reason: I've been sick for two weeks. An unpleasant flu that makes me sleep as much as the average koala (22 hours a day).
Since I couldn't muster the energy to do much else, I searched for "diseases" in the notes I took while reading the encyclopedia. This was probably a bad idea. It just reminded me of the alarming number of things that can go wrong with the human body. Like eyelids. I could write an entire book on
I'm no sports expert. To quote the bestselling book The Know-It-All, "I think I know less about current professional athletics than any fully functioning man in the United States, including your average Amish dairy farmer -- who, by the way, runs a very high risk of inheriting knock knees." (I only quoted myself so that I could have an excuse to mention that I'm visiting the Amish this weekend for my new book on the Bible. Very excited).
I notice that some people seem annoyed that Britney Spears is breeding again.
Let me just say a couple of words in her defense. First, as far as we know, she's never eaten her young, which already puts her ahead of rats, hamsters and some supspecies of rabbits. Second, she's a better mom than many other people. Like, um, let's see. Yes, here we go: The Witch of Endor, a sorceress in the Old Testament who, legend has it, made black magic potions from the fat of her own son. (Important pop
I've been following Spanish-Version-of-the-National-Anthem-Gate. And maybe the opponents of foreign language versions have a point. Maybe the Star Spangled Banner should only be sung in English. But with a cockney accent.
Because the disturbing fact is: The tune of our national anthem was taken from a British drinking song. Which always struck me as brilliantly brazen, since Francis Scott Key's lyrics were about a battle against...the British. (Namely, the defense of Fort McHenry
In The Know-It-All, I wrote about the fake beauty marks that 18th century French women (and men) affixed to their faces. I got a nice note from Elise Goyette with more details on this important topic. She writes that the official French name for these alluring black blobs is 'mouches.'
And that they "each had a different sub-name, depending on which area of
the face they were placed:"
La Passionnee was near the eye
La Coquette was on the lips
I've traveled to San Diego and Knoxville on business in the last couple of weeks. And weirdly, both airports have something in common: Rocking chairs. Both had terminals with a couple of dozen olde-fashioned rocking chairs strewn about.
Who knew? Apparently, this is the new trend to make airports seem homier and less take-off-your-shoes-and-spread-your-arms unpleasant.
I'm hoping the trend will continue. Think of it: the Starbucks Automat, the duty-free five and dime store, and ins
So I just did a TV interview about the insane gas prices, and in researching it, I came across this factoid:
Before we found oil in the ground, the main source of fuel in the 1800s was whale oil. How much did whale oil cost in today's dollars? Two hundred bucks a gallon. So maybe that'll make people feel better as they watch their checking accounts evaporate at the pumps. Or not.
In other oil news, I've been reading a lot about the major Biblical fuel: Olive oil. And also ea
On the century anniversary of the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, I thought I'd post Mark Twain's excellent account of another San Francisco earthquake - this one from 1865. He wrote about it in his book 'Roughing It.'
I like it - partly because Twain is unafraid to use exclamation points. Poor exclamation points! They're the most vilified of punctuation marks, used only by 11-year-old girls at camp and Tom Wolfe.
Maybe you heard the very bizarre feud between the billionaire and the New York Post gossip reporter? The billionaire claims the reporter demanded payment of $100,000 for positive coverage. The reporter claims he was set up.
It brought to my mind another gossip-bribery scandal from the Britannica. This one, oddly enough, involved our third president Thomas Jefferson.
"Always operating through intermediaries, Jefferson paid several journalists to libel John Adams,
Once again I succumbed to the evil siren song of celebrity gossip. I clicked on some website that reported that Eminem and his wife of three weeks are getting divorced.
Well, at least their union lasted longer than marriages of the Nayar clan of West India. In years past, young Nayar girls would ritually marry a husband, then ritually divorce him immediately following the ceremony.
Here, three other extremely important divorce tidbits from the encyclopedia.