Tuesday, July 07

The Debunker: Is a Rare Steak Really "Bloody"?

by Scott Lydon

Ah, July, season of the backyard barbecue. If you're a vegetarian, we'll throw some kind of veggie burger on the grill and quietly pity you, but for most of us in the summer, meat is where it's at. But how much do you actually know about the flesh of the dead animals that you're consuming? Jeopardy!'s Ken Jennings is here all month to chew the fat with us about some particularly stubborn meat misconceptions. Are you ready to work on your protein proficiency? Let's see what Ken's cooked up today.

The Debunker: Is a Rare Steak Really "Bloody"?

Remember Jack Rabbit Slim's, that '50s-style nostalgia restaurant from Pulp Fiction, the one with all the fake cars and celebrity look-alikes that looks like in real life it would have blown through its investors' capital in about a week? At Jack Rabbit Slim's, you may recall, the only two options for ordering your meat are "burnt to a crisp" or "bloody as hell." (What would happen to the poor diners who just want their steak or cheeseburger medium, I'd like to know. Would they be summarily run out of the diner by a waiter who looks like Joe McCarthy? Executed by a waiter who looks like Charles Starkweather?)

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Tuesday, June 23

The Debunker: Did Deep Throat Tell Woodward and Bernstein to "Follow the Money"?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Did Deep Throat Tell Woodward and Bernstein to "Follow the Money"?

Aside from Richard Nixon's immortal declaration "I am not a crook," it's probably the most famous quote of the Watergate era. Picture the scene: Bob Woodward in a darkened parking garage, a broken reporter, all his Watergate leads having turned out to be dead ends. There stands his ace in the hole, a highly placed administration source he calls "Deep Throat." "Follow the money!" urges Deep Throat. Woodward and Bernstein begin tracing donations to Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign, and break the story wide open. The three-word phrase has become a watchword of other investigations, both real and fictional, ever since.

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Tuesday, June 16

The Debunker: Who Screams During the Instrumental Break in "Love Rollercoaster"?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Who Screams During the Instrumental Break in "Love Rollercoaster"?

"Rollercoaster! Of love!" It's one of the most famous choruses of the early disco era, and one of the signature hits of the Ohio Players, the Dayton-based funk band recently voted as founding members of the R&B Music Hall of Fame. The song was released on their 1975 album Honey and quickly became a million seller.

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Tuesday, June 09

The Debunker: Was Pong the First Video Game?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Was Pong the First Video Game?

In 1972, an Atari engineer named Allan Alcorn soldered a black-and-white Hitachi TV and some simple circuits into a wooden cabinet and placed the device in a local tavern in Sunnyvale, California. On the TV, patrons who put in a quarter could play an exceedingly simple tennis-like electronic game that Atari called Pong. The game was such a hit that technical problems hit almost immediately: within days, the coin mechanism was overflowing with coins. By the end of the decade, Atari wound up shipping 19,000 Pong games to arcades worldwide, and sold 150,000 home versions during Christmas 1975 alone. The video game industry was born.

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Tuesday, June 02

The Debunker: Did the Jonestown Cultists Drink the Kool-Aid?

by Ken Jennings

The most beloved show in television history about daytime drinking, Mad Men, just wrapped up its eight-year run, with Don Draper and his ad-pitching peers marching boldly into the 1970s. For past Mad Men seasons, Ken Jennings of Jeopardy! fame has helped us debunk some persistent myths from the 1950s and the 1960s so we've asked him to keep on truckin' and do us a solid by debunking some "Me Decade" misinformation as well. It turns out that a lot of what we think we know about the seventies is pretty "far out."

The Debunker: Did the Jonestown Cultists Drink the Kool-Aid?

Comedian Louis C.K. does a joke about how much crazier and more vivid the 1970s were than anything we have today. "Today people are like, 'The president's kind of disappointing," he said. "Really? Our president wept like an insane person and then got on a helicopter and flew away!" But when I look back at the hallucinatory, holy-crap-did-that-really-happen Seventies, I don't think about Watergate. I think about Jonestown.

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Tuesday, May 26

The Debunker: Does "Moby-Dick" Begin "Call Me Ishmael"?

by Ken Jennings

The month of May is come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit! If you're literary enough to recognize that quote from Thomas Malory, you might also know that May is one of the best months of the year to be a bookworm, what with Independent Bookstore Day and National Library Legislative Day, not to mention the birthdays of Whitman, Emerson, and Thomas Pynchon. But you might be surprised by how much of what you think you remember about American literature is wrong. Luckily, Jeopardy! champ and man of letters Ken Jennings is here to set us straight. Let every lusty brain begin to blossom and bring forth fruit!

The Debunker: Does Moby-Dick Begin "Call Me Ishmael"?

The 1851 novel Moby-Dick was originally a major critical disappointment, selling only 3,200 copies during the long lifetime of its author, Herman Melville. But today, it's an indisputable American classic. Even if you've never read a word of Moby-Dick, you probably know about the great white whale, the obsessed one-legged Captain Ahab, that famous opening line, "Call me Ishmael"…

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Tuesday, May 19

The Debunker: In "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," Does Dorothy Wear Ruby Slippers?

by Ken Jennings

The month of May is come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit! If you're literary enough to recognize that quote from Thomas Malory, you might also know that May is one of the best months of the year to be a bookworm, what with Independent Bookstore Day and National Library Legislative Day, not to mention the birthdays of Whitman, Emerson, and Thomas Pynchon. But you might be surprised by how much of what you think you remember about American literature is wrong. Luckily, Jeopardy! champ and man of letters Ken Jennings is here to set us straight. Let every lusty brain begin to blossom and bring forth fruit!

The Debunker: In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Does Dorothy Wear Ruby Slippers?

Dorothy's ruby slippers from the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz are one of the most famous props in movie history. Not only do they protect the wearer from wicked witches, but clicking the heels together will transport you magically to Kansas. There's no place like home! No wonder one of the few surviving pairs of slippers sold at auction in 2000 for $660,000. That's not a record for a movie prop (Marilyn Monroe's dress from The Seven Year Itch sold for a cool $4.6 million in 2011) but it's still pretty impressive.

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Tuesday, May 12

The Debunker: Were the Reports of Mark Twain's Death Greatly Exaggerated?

by Ken Jennings

The month of May is come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit! If you're literary enough to recognize that quote from Thomas Malory, you might also know that May is one of the best months of the year to be a bookworm, what with Independent Bookstore Day and National Library Legislative Day, not to mention the birthdays of Whitman, Emerson, and Thomas Pynchon. But you might be surprised by how much of what you think you remember about American literature is wrong. Luckily, Jeopardy! champ and man of letters Ken Jennings is here to set us straight. Let every lusty brain begin to blossom and bring forth fruit!

The Debunker: Were the Reports of Mark Twain's Death Greatly Exaggerated?

Well, not in April 1910, when the great American humorist Samuel Clemens actually died. Then they were right on the money. But you're probably thinking of 1897, when Twain is reputed to have read a newspaper account of his death and announced, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." In fact, there are two problems with this story. First, there were no such reports. And second, Twain said no such thing.

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Tuesday, May 05

The Debunker: Did Henry David Thoreau Live in Solitude at Walden Pond?

by Ken Jennings

The month of May is come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit! If you're literary enough to recognize that quote from Thomas Malory, you might also know that May is one of the best months of the year to be a bookworm, what with Independent Bookstore Day and National Library Legislative Day, not to mention the birthdays of Whitman, Emerson, and Thomas Pynchon. But you might be surprised by how much of what you think you remember about American literature is wrong. Luckily, Jeopardy! champ and man of letters Ken Jennings is here to set us straight. Let every lusty brain begin to blossom and bring forth fruit!

The Debunker: Did Henry David Thoreau Live in Solitude at Walden Pond?

"When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself." So begins Walden, a work by Henry David Thoreau in which the famed American poet and philosopher describes the two years he spent living in a one-room cabin near Concord, Massachusetts. Life in the Woods, he subtitled the book. Modern readers, taken with the romantic idea of a man living alone with nature, often imagine Thoreau as a secluded hermit.

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Tuesday, April 28

The Debunker: Do Microwave Ovens Cook from the "Inside Out?"

by Ken Jennings

April is the traditional month for spring cleaning: opening doors wide for the first time in months, polishing things till they gleam, possibly beating on rugs with some kind of stick or club? In honor of this season of good housekeeping, we've asked Jeopardy! mastermind Ken Jennings to help us out with a little mental spring cleaning. He'll be dusting away some persistent around-the-house myths and spraying the sweet-smelling Lysol of Truth over all your remaining brain clutter.

The Debunker: Do Microwave Ovens Cook from the "Inside Out"?

Is there a more misunderstood appliance than the humble microwave oven? My generation was the first to grow up with microwaves in the kitchen, so we heard all the craziest craziness from worried parents. Eating microwaved food might cause cancer. (Not true.) Don't look in the microwave while it's running. (Not true.) You can't put metal in the microwave. (Not true, but you do have to be careful about its shape, thickness, etc.) Don't run the microwave empty. (True, but only a problem on older models.)

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