6 Silliest Subjects To Get Their Own Wikipedia Articles
If you stop thinking about pornography and concentrate really hard, you can hear your high school teachers spouting that sage advice given to every young, budding researcher: “Wikipedia is not a reliable source!” Wikipedia itself is inclined to agree, as discussed in this lovely meta article about its own reliability. Despite this little truthiness hiccup, Wikipedia still has a lot of information—and a lot of it is wonderfully whimsical, and, dare we say it, really rad (however, it could stand to be more alliterative, in our opinion).
We’ve previously written about the bitter flame wars going on in the editing booth and the (very NSFW) scary sketches of those eager to demonstrate every sex act for our education. Now, let’s look through some of the more obscure bits of information swirling on this little, no-name website ranked as the 13th most visited on the interwebs ...
There's Bad Poetry, And Then There's These Guys
Somewhere in the untold hours we spend clicking little blue links in our online encyclopedia, we realized it's way more fun to read about the truly terrible writers than the good ones. Sure, you can read about Willy Shakes and Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and Wole Soyinka, but really, why read about their lists of awards and honors when you can read about the doings of the worst poet in British history?
That illustrious honor belongs to William McGonagall, a Scottish fellow from the 1800s who started out as a weaver (of textiles). He had a fondness for the Bard and would entertain his fellow weavers with recitations of the man's work. The local theater even let him play Macbeth in a production, which is where his first blunder happened. "Convinced that the actor playing Macduff was envious of him, McGonagall refused to die in the final act." Oh, spoiler for the play. Whoops, sorry.
Alas, McGonagall, at the tender age of 52, decided that his true calling was poetry.
So, what made him so terrible? Well, aside from the fact that he was so supremely confident of his poetic abilities, despite repeatedly being told he was terrible, the main flaw seemed to be the fact that "his only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme." Metaphor? No, that's for schlubs. Simile? Allusion? Not for Willie McGons.
His most famous work is "The Tay Bridge Disaster," recounting the collapse of a bridge. Here are its first lines:
Beautiful railway bridge of the silv'ry Tay
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last sabbath day of 1879
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
Mm. Beautiful imagery. But there's another Scottish poet who, while better on a technical level, was much more entertaining due to the fact that his subject matter basically concerned a single thing: cheese.
James McIntyre, the cheese poet of Ontario, just, like, really loved cheese (who can blame him?). From his "Oxford Cheese Ode":
The ancient poets ne'er did dream
That Canada was land of cream,
They ne'er imagined it could flow
In this cold land of ice and snow,
Where everything did solid freeze
They ne'er hoped or looked for cheese.
So, next time someone talks about Tennyson, Whitman, or Eliot, remind them that nothing those guys wrote stacks up to the wonderfully written beauty of cheese. Try it with some decent crackers.
Houses Of Hate
Hate your neighbor? Consider what might ruin their day the most. Dog crap in their yard? No. Flaming dog crap in their yard? Nuh-uh. Getting really wet, breaking into their house, and stealing all their stuff? Admirable maybe, but also not quite what we're looking for. No, what we're looking for is a spite house, a house, get this, built out of spite.
See, these are houses specifically constructed to piss the neighbors right off, obstructing their view, light, and whatever else the building might affect. "Because long-term occupation is not the primary purpose of these houses," Wikipedia informs us, "they frequently sport strange and impractical structures."
Most of the article is devoted to examples of these Masterclasses in neighborly feuding. Two that stand out are Dr. John Tyler's effort to spite the city of Frederick, Maryland, in their efforts to build a road through his property and the Skinny House in Boston.
Tyler discovered a loophole in the city laws "that prevented the building of a road if work was in progress on a substantial building in the path of a proposed road." So, the night before construction began, he had workers pour a foundation that welcomed the road crews the next morning. The road plan was canceled.
Built in 1874, The Skinny House was a permanent noogie administered from one brother to another. When one brother returned from the military, he found his punkass brother had built a house on land he was to inherit. So up went The Skinny House, "blocking the sunlight and ruining his view," as retribution.
Kirk’s Music Career
Star Trek? We love Star Trek. We could talk about Star Trek all day. That includes all those iconic captains, first and foremost the OG, James Kirk, portrayed by the, uh, incomparable William Shatner. Who has a music career. Which Wikipedia decided needed its own page. It's clearly too illustrious to be contained to his regular page. And perusing his discography, it's easy to understand why.
Let's take his debut LP, The Transformed Man, an obvious ode to all the toupees he stole from the show. It blazes the trail that makes a Shatner record a Shatner record: which is a tear-inducing laughter trail of spoken word nonsense. Released in 1968, this record compares "contemporary pop songs to the works of William Shakespeare by providing dramatic readings of Shakespeare interspersed with dramatic readings of the lyrics of songs such as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Mr. Tambourine Man." Oh yes. We didn't know we wanted it, but we really, really are happy we have it. Unfortunately for Bill, this release was "widely mocked and parodied for its unusual style; at the end of "Mr. Tambourine Man," for example, Shatner suddenly shouts the song's title in a tortured voice."
Shatner explained (it's always a great idea to have to explain your record) that the album is from the perspective of an LSD user, as that's what "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is colloquially thought to abbreviate. His cover of that song was voted in 2003 as the worst Beatles cover of all time. Poor Bill. It's okay, though: in 2004, he released a record titled Has Been, which was critically acclaimed for its "unique, 'pop-driven' style," and it only had a single cover tune on it, "Common People" by Pulp. These two examples from his body of work illustrate why we love the man: when he's good, it's great, and when he's bad, he's so bad he's still great.
Wikipedia informs us in an entire page devoted to the topic that gay interpretations of Batman have been part of academic discourse since 1954 when a crotchety white dude gasbagged out a classic 1950s' academic screed' with a period-accurate attitude "regard homosexuality as a security risk."
Initially, Batman stories were dark and gritty, like a bowl of black sand or a Zack Snyder movie the way Zack Snyder sees it. But it didn't take long for Batman to become the campy caped crusader probably best remembered the way Adam West portrayed him in the '60s. And that campiness is where the gay interpretations came from.
The interpretations center on the two main characters, Batman himself and the Boy Wonder Robin, who are pretty close bros. The aforementioned crotchety old guy, Frederic Wertham, wrote that "The Batman type of story may stimulate children to homosexual fantasies, of the nature of which they may be unconscious," and that "Only someone ignorant of the fundamentals of psychiatry and of the psychopathology of sex can fail to realize a subtle atmosphere of homoeroticism which pervades the adventures of the mature 'Batman' and his young friend Robin."
Hm, seems pretty clear that the guy thinks that Bruce Wayne is grooming his young ward, you know, the dastardly plot all gay men employ to corrupt America's youth. Thankfully, and rightfully, Wertham's work is now criticized, with one review saying he "manipulated, overstated, compromised and fabricated evidence."
Nearly all of the writers for Batman have said that the character they wrote is not gay, with one 'maybe' exception being Joel Schumacher's Batman films in the '90s, both of which have been interpreted to have homoerotic undertones. One writer said, "ultimately he's not gay because he has no sex life" (that seems like a pretty conclusive statement, right?), while another said, "It depends who you ask, doesn't it? Since you're asking me, I'll say no, I don't think he is… I certainly understand the gay readings, though." Burt Ward, the actor who played Robin in the 1960s series, wrote in his autobiography that Batman and Robin could be interpreted as lovers. So, is Batman gay? Well, basically, it's up to the reader. We say, why not?
"Gong Farmers" Did Not Have As Cool A Job As It Sounds
Like most people at some point, we were struck by the question, "Yo, how did toilets work before indoor plumbing?" Well, outside of the wonderful aromas of chamber pots, in Tudor England, roughly equivalent to the 1500s, there were cesspits, which were big holes for big turds, and the worst job someone could conceivably have in this period was cleaning them out.
These lucky chaps were called Gong Farmers. Gong came from the Old English word gang, which means "to go." And go they did, right down into these pits of pestilence to shovel 'em out.
They would load up buckets of solid waste, hoist them out of the pits, and cart off the goodies to a more permanent home outside of town. Gong Farmers were paid a pretty decent amount – removal services charged two shillings per ton of waste removed, and the ones that worked at the Queen's court were paid six pence per day – but that can hardly make up for the fact that they spent their nights (they were only allowed to work nights) digging, shoveling, lifting, and hauling just the worst substance.
The life of the Gong Farmer was "spent up to his knees, waist, even neck in human ordure," and, aside from the hazards that might come to mind of literally swimming in filth, the possibility of asphyxiation from the "noxious fumes" was very real. These pits were only a couple meters deep and about a meter or so wide, so, not a lot of airflow. And, as if it could be worse, sometimes they found things worse than poop – "such as the corpses of unwanted infants." Uhm, bummer isn't quite strong enough of a word for these pits of despair and misery.
Oh, I’m A Lumberjack And I’m Not Okay
In 19th-century Maine, a group of lumberjacks became affected by a rare and terrifying Nintendo-worthy disorder—an extremely exaggerated and uncontrollable, full-body, all-limbs-involved-moving-separately, prolonged jump when they were startled. The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine were found around Moosehead Lake and "would obey any command given suddenly," with the side effect of "jumping, yelling, and hitting." Like Matt Gaetz, "these individuals exhibited outrageous bursts, and many described themselves as ticklish and shy." It was an uncontrollable movement across many limbs of the body, and the 19th-century doctors who examined it decided the affliction was similar to Tourette's syndrome, though where Tourette's is an involuntary tic, this jumping reaction had to be provoked in the lumberjacks.
The lumberjacks were "suggestible" and would often repeat words that were given to them and copy movements. The attending doctor noted that they "could not help repeating the word or sounds that came from the person that ordered them any more than they could help striking, dropping, throwing, jumping, or starting."
Theories as to causation were varied: was it hereditary? Was it a learned behavior? Were the lumberjacks simply misdirecting to cover up dark deeds and aspirations for world domination? Possibly, possibly, and that last one is certainly a possibility when it comes to Matt Gaetz.
Top Images: DC Comics