Tuesday, October 30, 2007

RIP: The Golden Age of Television (1946-1992)

Andy Warhol once famously said, “In the future, everyone will be on TV for fifteen minutes.” Nowadays, of course, with the internet, that is finally possible. But back in the Golden Age of Television (1948-1992) we depended on the networks to keep us entertained—whether it was Milton Berle’s bold subversion of traditional sexual roles in society, Fonzie’s bathroom humor, or Bill Cosby’s non-threatening black family. See how many of these Very Little Known Facts about the old Boob Tube you knew!

  • Televisions in the United States do not have channel 1. Neither do FM radios.

  • JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON: American Bandwagon, which originally featured co-hosts Dick Clark and his wife Pet Clark, is the only television show from the 1950’s that is still being produced today.

  • The Anthropology department at Harvard recently released the results of a two-year study that attempted to answer the eponymous question Who’s the Boss? Comparing the relative leadership roles of Tony Micelli, Angela Bower and Mona Robinson with their counterparts in archetypal societies, the study definitively concluded that Mona was the boss due to the fact that she was the elder.

  • MASTER OF HIS DOMAIN: Every episode of Seinfeld contains at least one joke about Superman. This is a reference to the real-life Jerry Seinfeld, one of the show’s co-creators.

  • The nickname “Idiot Box” was given to TV by none other than President Richard S. Nixon. The idiot in question? Walter Cronkite.

  • THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT THE CATHODE RAY TUBE: Watching an hour of television subjects your eyes to more radiation than sticking your head in a microwave oven for an hour. Of course, this is only true because you can’t close the microwave door with your head in there, and microwaves don’t run when the door is open! But seriously, folks, use safety and common sense when operating any household appliance.

  • Smoking used to be common on television. Everybody remembers the episode of Leave It to Beaver where Ward Cleaver catches the Beave sneaking one of June’s Virginia Slims and memorably makes him eat the entire pack. Nowadays smoking is banned on TV except for in documentaries about mental institutions and France.

  • LITTLE BUDDY WASN’T SO LITTLE: Bob Denver, the first actor to play Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, was 62 when the last episode was filmed on location in 1970.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Health Info on the Internet: Lethal?

The results are in, and they are conclusive. We here at Very Little Known Facts are quite aware that the massive amount of health information available on the internet can be confusing and overwhelming. Often alarming headlines are used to rope in traffic, and just as often passive voice is used because of the positive effect on readership numbers that has been shown to have been created by this use.

As part of our ongoing commitment to commit to the well-being of our readers’ collective and individual being—a series we like to call Towards a Better Wellness for Tomorrow—we have compiled a digest of links to articles that present a definitive picture of what you should do (and what you should not do) to live a full, healthful, virtually endless life. Enjoy!

Drinking coffee is good for you and good for your health.

Drinking coffee will kill you within an hour, possibly.

Wine prevents cavities.

Wine gives you breast cancer.

Wine can make you live forever even if you are morbidly obese.

Wine will kill you.

Wine is good for your heart. (But not really.)

Exercise is good for you.

Exercise is bad for you.

Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide in teenagers.

No they don’t.

Eat more fish, it is good for you.

Eating fish will poison you with mercury and kill you.

Depression makes you feel bad.

Lack of sleep weakens your immune system and gives you cancer and diabetes.

But whatever you do, don’t get too much sleep.

You might very well have AIDS right now and not even know it.

Don't stress about this because stress leads to backaches, cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome.

The good news is that stress is good for you.

If you think you may be schizophrenic, you probably are.

If you are worried about losing control due to mental illness, you are probably not mentally ill.


In conclusion, the internet is a new and powerful tool in our lives. Since studies have shown that googling your symptoms produces the correct diagnosis, be sure to look up medical information on the internet at the first sign of illness. Unless you are a hypochondriac. But what if you just think you are a hypochondriac? You might not be a hypochondiac at all—you might just be psychic.

Either way, we support you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Non-Dairy Creamer: How Do They Do It?

This week in our continuing investigative journalistic series How Do They Do It, we delve into the dark, hidden realms of the edible.

The culinary world is full of mysteries. How many times have you pondered such imponderables as:

  • Just what exactly are the fifty-seven secret herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken?
  • What makes the special sauce of a Big Mac so special?
  • Why is there no squid in Squid Brand(tm) fish sauce?

We here at Very Little Known Facts have burrowed deep into the underbelly of the food we eat every day. Indeed, our sources have given us unprecedented access to the world of chemical flavoring and artificial ingredients, and today we share with you one of the never-before-disclosed secrets of the Non-Dairy Industry.

How Powdered Non-Dairy Creamer Is Made

The very name seems to be straight out of Jumbo Shrimp and Other Oxymorons by Jon Agee, available on Amazon.com.

How can cream be non-dairy, you might very well ask? And what exactly is creamer? Does that imply that cream is a verb? (Actually, cream is a verb, and one of the definitions does refer to adding cream to coffee, but it’s like the fifth one down in the list.)

But we digress. Why is non-dairy creamer also called whitener? Sure, the powder itself is white, but it doesn’t actually turn your coffee, tea, or soda white. Why would anyone want to call a food-related powder whitener as if it’s some kind of laundry product? For that matter, how can one refer to something as a cream and a powder simultaneously?

Above all, where does non-dairy creamer come from?

Where Non-Dairy Creamer Comes From

It starts with a cow, of course. Ironic? Indeed—one might say that the irony was delicious. In an industrial factory, cow’s milk is dehydrated through the standard process. The resulting mass is chemically rendered with potassium benzoate (a benzene derivative) to yield casein, a protein. Next this protein is mixed with sodium hydroxide (common table salt) and blasted with ionic radiation until it reacts, forming sodium caseinate—the only milk derivative that is non-dairy and therefore kosher.

WARNING: Since casein is technically milk protein, it is NOT safe for people with allergies to dairy products. Non-dairy creamer should never be given to infants or young children. Lactating or breast-feeding mothers should consult a doctor before resorting to non-dairy creamer. Women who are or may become pregnant should not ingest or even handle non-dairy creamer due to the risks of a specific kind of weight gain. The elderly should never user non-dairy creamer unless they are terminally ill or they are scheduled for some kind of doctor-assisted suicide, in which case what difference does it really make anyway—go for it with the non-dairy creamer.

Maize: My People Call it Sweetener

Just like ethanol, cornmeal, soda concentrate, candy, popcorn, and creamed corn, the number one ingredient of non-dairy creamer is—you guessed it—corn!

Since every trace of water must be extracted from all components of non-dairy creamer, the first step in the process is dehydrating the corn (naturally) by spreading the kernels or “cobbs” out in the hot sun over a three-week period to dry. Then the painfully sweet corn syrup is extracted by “pressing” the dried corn, a process involving a steam roller and carefully cut pavement grooves to direct the effluvia and runoff. Often this syrup is purified somewhat before being crystallized in a pure vacuum to create corn syrup solids.

Of course, corn syrup is almost entirely glucose, and sometimes it has been enhanced to include High Fructose. So remember before adding your artificial sweetener—you’ve already got dried, extracted, and crystallized corn syrup sweetener in your non-dairy creamer! And it’s completely natural!

Who Put the Horse Hooves in My Creamer?

Monoglycerides and diglycerides impart the “creaminess” to powdered non-dairy creamer through the use of water-soluble fatty acids terminating in a tasty glycerol molecule. Of course, those “in the know” will immediately recognize glycerine as the key ingredient of soap, which can be rendered from human fat a la Brad Pitt in Fight Club. (Did you see Brad Pitt in Fight Club, by the way?)

What you may not know is that glycerin is chemically identical to gelatin, which is extracted from the hooves of living horses by scraping the inner core or “viscera” of the hoof and boiling the resulting pulp until the gelatin (in the form of collagen) rises to the surface to be skimmed. As a side note, this is also the origin of collagen injections used by plastic surgeons in the lips, forehead, and noses of their badly disfigured or highly vain patients.

Is Your Oil Partially Hydrogenated or Partially Non-Hydrogenated?

Up next the oil powder goes into the mix. Dried vegetable oils such as corn, soy, palm, and coconut oil replace the nasty cholesterol from actual dairy cream with the same chemically enhanced trans-fats that make margarine so healthy. And don’t worry—non-dairy creamer is no longer made with pork lard. Not since the Eighties!

Dipotassium Phosphate: Twice as Good as Monopotassium Phosphate

At this point in the process we have created something very similar to non-dairy creamer save for the fact that your body would never be able to digest it, at all, no matter how long it lingered in your system. To remedy this, food scientists add dipotassium phosphate to the mix, also known as phosphoric acid. This ingredient aids the body in breaking down sugar, fat, and protein—so your non-dairy creamer comes partially digested for your convenience.

Have you ever wondered why Coca-Cola is so effective at chemically dissolving corrosion on car battery terminals? It’s all the phosphoric acid they cram in there. Besides adding some “zing” to Coke and non-dairy creamer, dipotassium phosphate also makes a great pesticide and fertilizer.

Feldspar: Not Just for Insulation Any More

After that we are left with a chalky mass that clumps into hard-to-dissolve chunks. To alleviate this, industrial mixers incorporate sodium alumionosilicate, aka sodium silicoaluminate, aka feldspar.

Feldspar is a mineral most often used in insulation, ceramics, and Bon Ami household cleanser. In non-dairy creamer, it is an anti-caking agent that also contributes to the highly explosive quality of non-dairy creamer.

Replicating Taste and Visual Appeal through Science

For the finishing touch, chemically-derived artificial flavors are added. These “secret ingredients” are the magic that make non-dairy creamer almost indistinguishable from non-non-dairy creamer to the human palate. Also, annatto is added for that distinctive “yellowish” color.

Now your non-dairy creamer is finally ready for that morning cup of Sanka with your choice of NutraSweet, Splenda, Equal, or Sweet’N Low!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


As accurate as we are here at Very Little Known Facts--and our level of Relative Accurateness, as compared to others, is unparalleled--there are still so-called "gray" areas where our readers may have slight differences in interpretation from ourselves. Hence we encourage a constant and vivacious dialog with reader comments and electronic correspondence. We value your input; after all, our readers by definition have the good taste to turn to us for all their fact-based needs!

Longtime reader, first time commenter Black Shoes sent us this little gem regarding our article The History of Americans in America:

charles lindbergh was a nazi.

Now, many non-grammarians may assume that Black Shoes is referring to Lindbergh's well-publicized association with Germany's National Socialist party before World War II, or his anti-semitic statements in speeches, or possibly even to his unpopular efforts to keep America out of the war altogether. But a close reader will note that the word "nazi" is not capitalized; thus, the comment itself must needs refer to Lindbergh's authoritarian, controlling personality--especially in regards to members of his immediate family. Kudos, Black Shoes! An astute addition to the conversation. Thanks for your comment!

Reader Jassie sent us this comment about our recent article That's a Fact Jack--and Jeff via electronic mail:

I am sure you know that jihad means "holy war" but the interpretation of which war that is (internal struggle, conflict of mankind, against sin, blah blah) I think is pretty subjective.

Interpretation is a dicey area for non-experts, Jassie. Naturally the term jihad is often misconstrued by many Americans who don't appreciate the subtle difference between both Muslims and Moslems and themselves. Of course, your comment "blah blah" seems to imply a lack of seriousness in this discourse. Many Moslems (Muslims) might have the objective of objecting to the subject of a subjective interpretation of the term "jihad." (Literally translated: "to the tooth.") Anyway, thanks for your comment!

Finally, VLKF partner Scott Thong commented on our article Beware April Fool's Day as follows:

dood... Cowgodland is India. Hatepigsland is any Muslim nation.

A salient point, but "dood" is spelled "dude," Scott. Thanks for your comment!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fact-Finding Mission Accomplished!

Do you ever get the feeling that you're not "in the know?" That you are missing some key facts in any given situation? Don't worry, our crack team of fact-finders will locate the missing facts and bring them directly to you, right here in Very Little Known Facts!

  • DON'T BLAME ME, I GAVE AT THE OFFICE: Officials estimate that charitable contributions in the United States and, indeed, throughout the world help many millions, but some still suffer from ongoing difficulties.

  • Condensed milk is six times denser than uncondensed milk.

  • IS YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT ENVIRONMENTALLY SAFE? A single jogger running 1.2 miles (500 metric meters) emits more carbon monoxide in one hour than a nuclear power plant does in one week.

  • Just like snowflakes, no two Social Security numbers are alike.

  • IT'S PELICAN, NOT PELICAN'T: If for some reason a pelican cannot catch enough fish during an ocean flight, it will starve to death.

  • The phrase "no man's land" refers to the unclaimed or disputed territory between opposing armies. Originally the term was "nomad's land" because during World War I transients and gypsies often slept in the ruins of buildings in these dangerous areas. In 1953 the phrase was officially changed to Demilitarized Zone (DMV).

  • TASTES LIKE CHICKEN: Insects and human semen contain more protein than a pound of lean ground beef.

  • Asbestos, though popular in the 1980's due to its inexpensive qualities, is now considered to be a lethal building material because it is highly flammable. Modern ceiling tiles are made from asbestos coated with an ultra-thin layer of plastic for safety.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Lowly Tomato: Fruit or Vegetable?

For centuries, scientists and philosophers have debated the Big Questions. Now, finally, we have an answer to one of these age-old conundrums: is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable? (SPOILER ALERT: the next paragraph contains the answer to this question.)

Shockingly, the tomato is apparently a fruit. Of course, linguists have long suspected this since the word "tomato" comes from the Latin expression, "Tu Mater" which literally means "Fruit Bearer" and figuratively means "Fruit of the Womb."

Are you wondering WHY experts consider the tomato to be a fruit? Well, it turns out that there are four (4) scientific reasons often cited by those "in the know." (Hint: it is not just because they are red.)

1. Tomatoes grow on trees. Much like other fruits such as oranges and canteloupes, most varieties of tomatoes can be plucked directly from the branch when ripe. Tomato vines, despite being technically barkless, are still trees since they grow upwards from the ground in the direction of the prevailing winds. Vegetables such as green beans and iceberg lettuce do not grow on trees.
2. Tomatoes have seeds. Seeds are used to grow new tomato plants from existing tomatoes, a reproduction method similar to that of apples or pomegranates--both fruits. Potatoes, which are not fruits, do not reproduce using the "seed" method.

3. Tomatoes have skin. The skin of a tomato is the outer layer that protects the more delicate inner layers of the fruit including the aforementioned seeds. You can remove the skin of a tomato by "peeling" the skin away from the inner layers, a process similar to peeling a banana or grape--both fruits. Okra and mushrooms, which are not fruits, have no skin and thus cannot be successfully peeled.

4. Tomatoes have juice. The juice is the liquid contained in the inner layers of the tomato. This juice is both nutritious and also useful. All fruits produce juice, which is where we get fruit juice. The popular drink V8 (named for the powerful automotive engine) is labeled "vegetable juice" on the product packaging, but this is a misstatement of fact since tomatoes are actually fruits. V8 is therefore, in reality, fruit juice.

5. Tomatoes are genetically fruits. Scientists unraveling the genes of tomatoes have announced that DNA evidence indicates tomatoes contain the fruit gene. This effectively closes the case on the age-old debate as to whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables.

Opposing Viewpoints

But what, you may ask, about the landmark 1893 Supreme Court decision classifying tomatoes as vegetables? An excellent question. In Nix v. Hedden, the Court ruled that tomatoes must be classified as vegetables due to their inclusion in ketchup, which was considered a vegetable for school lunch classification purposes. However, subsequent research revealed that the number-one non-aqueous ingredient in ketchup was high-fructose corn syrup, and fructose is by definition fruit sugar. Hence, ketchup itself is not actually a vegetable but a fruit.

Do you have a Big Question? Send it to the fact experts at verylittleknownfacts@yahoo.com and maybe you'll get the answer you need.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Facts on Parade

If there is one thing that America learned from the Seventies, it's that everybody loves a parade--literally! Here is a parade of Very Little Known Facts to get your day started right.

  • "Fortnight" is an old-timey Scottish word meaning two weeks. A "baker's fortnight" is 15 days.

  • IT'S GENETIC: Every great pianist throughout history has had blue eyes.

  • The proboscis, or stinger, of a mosquito is not long enough to pierce human skin in the winter--only in the summer when dead layers of skin slough off due to the heat. Thus, all mosquitoes die in the winter.

  • PARADES ON PARADE: Due to the events of 9/11, New York City has restricted parade permits to four days a year: New Years, July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. As an unintended consequence, St. Patrick's Day and President's Day now share a parade.

  • You can never exactly convert metric measurements to English units. This is why standard and metric socket sets are slightly different sizes.

  • DON'T DRINK THE WATER: "Non-potable" is Latin for "Do not drink." Water trucks with this warning on the side have deadly ethyl alcohol added to the water to ensure that construction workers do not drink it.

  • Parade magazine is the oldest continually-published publication in America.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Moslems or Muslims: A Comparative History

Due to the unfolding events in the world today, and indeed the previously unfolded events from days prior to this current day, and finally mindful of possible events that may or may not subsequently unfold in the days to come after today (Thursday), we here at Very Little Known Facts have undertaken to provide some of the deep background on Islam as it compares to the other, less Muslim (Moslem) religions. This information, though vitally important in an esoteric/geopolitical/impractical sense, is nonetheless very little well known amongst Americans and other citizens of the Coalition of the Willing, i.e. Poles and Australians. As part of our ongoing mission to enlighten the unenlightened and to elucidate the unelucidated, we present a comprehensive and all-inclusive history of one of the most historical world religions in the world.

The Little Religion that Could

Like every other religion in the world, Islam has its roots in the Fertile Crescent, today known as the Middle East. The prophet Muhammed (Mohammad) introduced the teachings of the Koran (Qu'ran), the Moslem (Muslim) holy book. The Qu'ran (Koran) has never been translated from the original Arabian, but sources say it encourages living a life of righteousness amongst other things. The face of the prophet is traditionally hidden or obscured due to the similarity of his appearance to Jesus Christ, who is worshiped by Christians and grudgingly admired in a strictly platonic fashion by Jews.

Muhammad (Mohammed) quickly became a leader both in a religious and civil and military sense. In the 7th century he conquered most of what is now Saudi Arabia and what was then the future modern-day Saudi Arabia. His primary weapon in this conquest was force, but he did not hesitate to use secondary weapons, such as the threat of the usage of force. By the time of his death at a tragic age, the entirety of the then-Islamic world had been converted by himself.


Muslims (Moslems) hold strong opinions on a variety of issues including:
  • pork
  • Jews
  • women
  • holiness
  • war (peace)
  • those weird marks on the center of the forehead (they don't have them)
  • America
  • God
  • the relative roles of religious and secular authority in civil society
  • head scarves

Many Islamic religious leaders have the authority to issue an edict, or a FATWA which translates as For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Moslems (Muslims) also participate vocally in the countries of which they are constituents, such as Iran, Syria, Indonesia, and Afghanistan, where Prime Minister Musharraf himself is a Muslim (Moslem).

A Comprehensive and Definitive Comparison of the World's Four Major Religions

The easy-to-follow chart shown below details the major beliefs of the world's four most major religions as determined on a per-capita basis. (Note: Hinduism and Mormonism were discounted because of the patent absurdity of their beliefs.)


In short, the world is a diverse and interesting place, full of interesting people and religions with divergent yet not necessarily invalid sets of beliefs. (Hindus and Mormons excepted.)