5 Random Questions You Didn't Know You Wanted Answered

I have stupid questions that need answering. Sometimes I desperately want you to answer them for me. But most times, they're too trivial for my tiny attention span to hold onto before they're wiped out by a daydream in which I'm the world's best basketball-playing secret agent porn star.

Maintaining that dumb curiosity so I can try to find an answer later is something I've been trying to improve on. It's taken some work, but over the past year or so, I've been able to stick with five questions that I would've normally dumped into my brain's trash compactor, had I not made a conscious effort to save them and, if possible, use them to learn a little something new.

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5
Where Does The KKK Get Their Robes?

Klan robes don't have the variance usually seen in homemade costumes. Go to any geek convention, and you'll find cosplayers whose tailoring skills range from masterful to the kinds of things you hallucinate when you fight off the effects of Ambien. I've never been appalled at the shoddy stitching and uneven arm lengths of a Klansmen's robes, but I've seen too many cosplay Spider-Mans who look like they're action figures being melted by a huge magnifying glass. Klan robes look store-bought. So does that mean that there are KKK stores? Perhaps a KKK-Mart?

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KKK-Mart. Boom, y'all. Boom.

Back in 1925, when being in the Klan was a hobby that looked good on a resume, there was a KKK catalog that each Exalted Cyclops kept as an ordering reference for his chapter. Each page featured the same illustrations of Klan member modeling the robes, standing with sass like he's really annoyed by the long lines at the bank.


"Hey, any y'all as fired up 'bout this daggum line as me? It's hotter than the dickens, and this hood ain't helpin'!"

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The way Klan members buy robes hasn't changed all that much in the near-century since. They're made by professional tailors, mostly out of their own homes. They make a decent living out of it, but I'm guessing the money's only the cherry on top; they do it for the love of their hate for nonwhite people. The world's worst passion project.

Some digging led me to a Klan seamstress in the Deep South who hand-sews robes seven days a week, at around $140 a pop. It's a one-woman operation, so she only churns out a robe a week. She's kind of like an Esty shop owner, but with artisanal handcrafted racist ghost rags instead of decorative soaps.

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I found another Klan tailor who runs his operation out of his house, selling around 1,000 robes a year. All his robes are sewed by white people, giving them that authentic feel only the hands of a white supremacist can deliver. Yet the guy profiled in the piece says he isn't against the robes being made by nonwhites. He doesn't care "if the only available person is an Oriental," as long as they don't "turn it into a kimono." If this guy saw an Asian flipping burgers at McDonald's, he'd be worried they'd give him a sack of egg rolls instead of a Big Mac. "Sorry," the pimply-faced Asian teenager would have to say. "No matter what I cook, it comes out egg rolls."

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4
Why is Garfield So Popular If It's Never Been Funny?

The Garfield comic strip's lasting legacy will be the strange imbalance between its cultural prominence and how in 40 years it's never once produced a single legitimately funny joke. That's hardly my own opinion. The Garfield Minus Garfield webcomic and the Lasagna Cat YouTube series are anti-fan projects that found huge success pointing out the simple fact that Garfield burns a cross into the skin of humor.

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The case for Garfield being funny isn't helped by the results of Googling "best garfield strips." A lot of the links in the first several pages are people openly challenging others to deliver them a funny Garfield strip. It's baffling.

Turns out that all this time, I could have just Googled "why isn't garfield funny" to answer a question that's plagued me for years.

There's a simple cynical truth at Garfield's core: It was never intended to be funny as much as it was a calculated attempt at creating a marketable character. A writer for Slate uncovered old interviews with Garfield creator Jim Davis in which he explained the genesis of the strip. What's strange is that he never talks about Garfield with the romantic overtures writers usually spill when they talk about the motivations behind their work. To quote Davis himself, he made "a conscious effort to come up with a good, marketable character" -- which makes sense, since he was working in advertising before he created the strip. Garfield is the McDonald's logo of the Sunday Funnies.

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He studied the later years of the Peanuts comic strip, noting how Charles Schultz phoned it in after Charlie Brown and Snoopy made him a billion dollars. Davis must have figured: Why work your ass off to make something so you could eventually coast on past successes, when you can coast from the start by making it marketable enough? He signed Garfield up for tons of licensing opportunities, ensuring that the brand would forever overshadow its weak source material. In one fell swoop, he gave us decades of looking at three comic panels and then shrugging in violent apathy.

He gave a character the base comedic elements of laziness, gluttony, and misery, and then repeated those themes thousands of times in daily strips until the character became more associated with a specific set of relatable traits than any actual funny moments. Jim Davis has a supervillain's intellect and chose to draw a cat for a living. And it totally f*****g worked.

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3
What The Hell Are Those Gross Tendrils Hanging Off Of Bananas When You Peel Them?

Bananas are fine. They're not something people are usually passionate about. They're mostly inoffensive. Mostly. If there's one part of the banana experience that can elicit any kind of emotional response above tepid enjoyment, it's those weird stringy tendrils that hang from the banana meat.


My worst fear is that I'll be eating one and the tendrils will wrap around my face and choke me with the banana meat.

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I was under the impression that they were just parts of the banana that had adhered more to the peel than the meat, so that when peeled, the sinewy little strip of banana flesh went with it. At most, I assumed it was a way for the banana to shed its physical weaknesses and attain a higher form of bananatude in its final moments before death. Even with that perfectly logical rationalization, I've still found them mildly disturbing. Biting into one doesn't taste or even necessarily feel any different than the rest of the banana, yet I still get this mental image of myself chomping through the muscle fibers of a human arm like I'm a starved zombie.

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It turns out they're entirely separate from the banana flesh and have a biological purpose. They're called phloem bundles. As the banana grows, the bundles help move nutrients and water up and down the banana's meat to help it grow. Without them, all bananas would be the unsatisfying little stumpy ones grocery stores sell as a really funny joke. "Haha, you bought the sad banana. And now you will encounter bad luck at every turn until you give someone else your sad banana."

So really, they're banana veins. In an attempt to demystify that which I did not understand, I've only made banana meat tendrils much more repulsive.

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2
How Many Goddamn Chickens Are There In The World?

Think of every KFC, Popeyes, Zaxby's, Bojangles', Chick-Fil-A, and Church's Chicken within ten miles of you. And then think of all the other non-chicken-specific fast food joints that serve nuggets or chicken sandwiches -- all the Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings and every local sports bar that slings wings for so cheap that you'd think Star Trek's food replicators were real. Do the same with all the grocery stores that are never hurting for chicken meat, and every other restaurant that has a chicken dish on its menu.

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Now expand that by the rest of your city, then your state, then the country, then the world.

Jesus Christ, that's a lot of f*****g chickens. The number's got to be enormous to accommodate our global bloodlust for delicious chicken death. But that's also got to be an impossible thing to calculate. How would you even begin doing that? What kind of idiot would conduct a worldwide chicken census to even answer such as a stupid question?

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The United Nations, it turns out.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization went coop to coop asking chickens about the number of chicks in their households, along with their annual income, and concluded that, as of 2014, the world has around 21 billion chickens, which produce the 79 billion eggs eaten by Americans every year -- and that only accounts for the chickens on farms. They're not factoring in the random loose chickens you have to dodge when you drive through s****y neighborhoods, or by the one house on the block that's decided to build an organic farm in the two square feet of their front lawn.

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For a little perspective, cows have the second-highest livestock population, and they top off at a pathetic 1.4 billion. As the human population grew by 80 percent between 1970 and 2008, the global chicken population grew by 262 percent. The ratio of chickens to humans is 3-1. That means that if we divided all the chickens equally among ourselves, and then gave ourselves a little time to get to know them, every human on Earth would have the perfect number of chickens with which to play "f**k, Marry, Kill."

1
Why Doesn't Saran Wrap Cling To Things Anymore?

There used to be a tiny bit of joy I derived from my mom making me put away leftovers. I'd get to wrap things in Saran Wrap, that clear plastic film that's primarily used for storing food or neatly wrapping up dead body parts before disposing of them in a bog. It did more than just wrap. It hugged. It clung. It stuck. Whatever was wrapped up in it was never let go. I'd have to dig my fingertips underneath it and feel it resist my attempt to peel it away. It'd sound like a big wet lick from a cartoon dog when it was peeled off. It was satisfying.

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And then, one day, it didn't stick anymore. And I wondered: Was it just me? Was I misremembering how good it was? Because if you try to wrap something in today's Saran Wrap, you'll find that it's about as effective as trying to verbally convince the leftovers to not spoil.

It's a relief knowing that I didn't imagine it. The loss of cling is real.

What bestowed Saran Wrap with clingy magic was a chemical called Polyvinylidene Chloride, or PVDC. And it was toxic. When people threw away the wrap along with the eight-week-old leftover casserole they finally admitted they were never going to finish, the plastic would eventually get incinerated at disposal facilities, sending poisonous toxins drifting into the air for us to breathe.

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That didn't sit well with Fisk Johnson, the CEO of SC Johnson, Saran Wrap's corporate owner, as well as the bearer of a name that makes him constantly sound like he's going to bully George McFly. He ordered the removal of PVDC, fully aware the chemical was the reason Saran Wrap worked so well. For a year, he and his engineers worked on a cost-effective replacement that wouldn't harm the environment. They came up with ... nothing. So they reformulated Saran Wrap to the best of their ability, knowing that unless there was some kind of chemical compound breakthrough, they were never going to duplicate the results of the old, toxic formula.

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Before the change, Saran Wrap's market share was an 18 percent. Today it's at 11 percent. Johnson removed PVDC for the betterment of the human race, knowing it would hurt sales, and he didn't give a s**t, and now I want to make a clear plastic film for storing meatloaf our new flag so I can salute it. It's beautiful to hear a corporation do the ethical thing by playing their small part in making the world a cleaner place to live at the risk of profits. For all I know, SC Johnson is trying to turn us into screaming cancerous flesh blobs with plutonium-powered Glade Plug-Ins, but this one act is a nice gesture that corporate giants don't often do willingly. Is my kitchen floor absolutely caked with food that refused to be contained? Yes. But are my lungs Saran-Wrap-gas-free? Hell yes.

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Luis is busy trying to come up with his own billion-dollar Garfield-style scam. In the meantime, you can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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