Tuesday, May 24

The Debunker: Where Do Fortune Cookies Come From?

by Ken Jennings

May is Asian heritage month in the U.S. and Canada, but most of us probably celebrate the Asian diaspora year-round by enjoying one of the greatest gifts from the other edge of the Pacific Rim: Asian food. But sometimes, in our uncommon hurry to enjoy the ramen or the curry, we may find ourselves slurping up all kinds of bad takes along with our good takeout. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame is obviously not Asian, but (fun fact!) he grew up in Asia, which sort of qualifies him to set us straight on some of the biggest culinary misconceptions about the world's biggest continent. Check, please!

The Debunker: Where Do Fortune Cookies Come From?

Fortune cookies! Where else would you get great life advice like "☺ Your fondest dream will come true ☺ 07 22 31 43 05 30 "? A Chinese meal wouldn't be complete without this dessert that, mysteriously, nobody likes but nobody ever skips. Actually, I should correct that. Believe it or not, there is one place where you can eat Chinese food without fortune cookies appearing with the bill, and that's because no one there has ever even heard of them. That place is China.

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Tuesday, May 17

The Debunker: What Utensils Should I Use for Thai Food?

by Ken Jennings

May is Asian heritage month in the U.S. and Canada, but most of us probably celebrate the Asian diaspora year-round by enjoying one of the greatest gifts from the other edge of the Pacific Rim: Asian food. But sometimes, in our uncommon hurry to enjoy the ramen or the curry, we may find ourselves slurping up all kinds of bad takes along with our good takeout. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame is obviously not Asian, but (fun fact!) he grew up in Asia, which sort of qualifies him to set us straight on some of the biggest culinary misconceptions about the world's biggest continent. Check, please!

The Debunker: What Utensils Should I Use for Thai Food?

Asking for a fork at an Asian restaurant might be one of life's most demoralizing small defeats—or small embarrassments, if it's your visiting parent who's harassing the waiter. Eating competently with chopsticks, the paired sticks first used as utensils in China over six thousand years ago, is a neat shorthand for worldliness and open-mindedness and, in general, having your culinary s*** together.

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Tuesday, May 10

The Debunker: Does MSG Cause "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome"?

by Ken Jennings

May is Asian heritage month in the U.S. and Canada, but most of us probably celebrate the Asian diaspora year-round by enjoying one of the greatest gifts from the other edge of the Pacific Rim: Asian food. But sometimes, in our uncommon hurry to enjoy the ramen or the curry, we may find ourselves slurping up all kinds of bad takes along with our good takeout. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame is obviously not Asian, but (fun fact!) he grew up in Asia, which sort of qualifies him to set us straight on some of the biggest culinary misconceptions about the world's biggest continent. Check, please!

The Debunker: Does MSG Cause "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome"?

In 1968, a Chinese-American doctor named Robert Ho Man Kwok wrote a light-hearted letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, wondering about a strange health complaint he noticed after eating in American Chinese restaurants: numbness in the back, heart palpitations, and general weakness. Dr. Kwok wondered what to blame this on. Chinese cooking wine? Foods high in sodium? Dozens of readers eagerly responded that they had noticed "Chinese restaurant syndrome" as well, and the conversation began to center around the food additive MSG.

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Tuesday, May 03

The Debunker: What Ingredient Makes Sushi Sushi?

by Ken Jennings

May is Asian heritage month in the U.S. and Canada, but most of us probably celebrate the Asian diaspora year-round by enjoying one of the greatest gifts from the other edge of the Pacific Rim: Asian food. But sometimes, in our uncommon hurry to enjoy the ramen or the curry, we may find ourselves slurping up all kinds of bad takes along with our good takeout. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy! fame is obviously not Asian, but (fun fact!) he grew up in Asia, which sort of qualifies him to set us straight on some of the biggest culinary misconceptions about the world's biggest continent. Check, please!

The Debunker: What Ingredient Makes Sushi Sushi?

The traditional Japanese treat of sushi hasn't always been appreciated on these shores. When the Ladies' Home Journal introduced Americans to Japanese cuisine in 1929, the editors "purposely omitted…any recipes using the delicate and raw tuna fish which is sliced wafer thin and served iced." America wasn't even eating pizza yet in 1929. It sure as hell weren't ready for cold raw tuna as an entrée.

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Monday, June 01

Music Monday: Goodbye To May

by Scott Lydon


Happy Music Monday! The truth is, this particular Music Monday was supposed to run on May 18th, but the tragic death of B.B. King preempted it. So today, Scott's chosen celebrate the month gone by! Just roll with it, this is a good one. He's picked five of his favorite May-themed songs. Do you know them? Sing along!

XTC - The Wheel And The Maypole

 

Ah, the maypole! A mix of ancient customs and good, clean, pagan-based fun. What could be more wholesome and traditional? Hooray for May!

More May-based pleasure to come... after the jump!

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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, May 27

The Debunker: Is Presidents Day a National Holiday?

by Ken Jennings

In a series of “Debunker” columns from a few years back, Ken Jennings shattered a few beloved myths about the presidency—Abraham Lincoln didn’t write the Gettysburg Address on an envelope, JFK didn’t kill the hat. So why take on four more White House whitewashes this month? It’s a matter of some urgency: Ken has a fun new book out this month about such matters. So get ready to whistle along to “Fail to the Chief” as KJ blows up everything you thought you knew about the leader of the free world.

The Debunker: Is Presidents Day a National Holiday?

The presidential holiday in February was created not by the mattress and used car salesmen who are so fond of it today, but by an act of Congress in 1879. The holiday was officially named “Washington’s Birthday,” just as it is today. Since Abraham Lincoln was born in February, there’s been some movement toward making the holiday a day to celebrate both presidents, or all presidents (even the loser ones), or the presidency in general. Many states have followed suit: 17 call it “Presidents’ Day” (check the apostrophe—multiple presidents), 4 call it “President’s Day” (just one president, no indication of which one), and 5 call it “Presidents Day” (no apostrophe, anyone’s guess). Only fifteen states call it “Washington’s Birthday,” as the U.S. government still officially does.

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