Greetings, Los Angeles. As you may know, we are at the beginning
of another Gregorian year. In New York, where I live, the ball has dropped.
The rivers of champagne have run dry. Over 3,000 pounds of confetti, broken
promises and shredded Justinian calendars have been removed from the canyon
of Times Square. Now it is time for sober, hung-over reflection — and of course
for failed palindromes. Because amongst the momentous turmoil of 2005, the de-
and re-Poping, an amphibious assault on our shores by hurricanes, I am humbled
to report that my small book was published: The Areas of My Expertise,
a compendium of fascinating trivia and historical oddities like any other, with
the distinction that in my book, all of the amazing true facts are made up by
me. I make no claim that this small book is important, or even amusing; but
I do hope at least that it is distracting in a year when distraction was needed.
May these small, good-natured lies help you forget the facts for a moment. And
to the “Failed Palindromes” below I may add two more:
2. THE YEAR 2006, READY YET?
When Writing, Please Avoid These Failed Palindromes
Idiosyncrasies of the Great Detectives
seems! Also, she eats cats.
ever leaving his own bathtub.
exactly what country he is from, thus keeping everyone guessing.
reincarnation of an Egyptian slave whose ancient memories of embalming techniques
mystically guides him as he cracks “The Case of Janey’s Kitten, Who Has Been
Missing for Days.”
in the Church of Satan.
the victims’ skin in order to “see the crime through their eyes.” This habit
becomes something of a liability when she begins wearing the victims’ skin to
nightclubs and restaurants.
not realize that he is his own nemesis, the mad Dr. Craig Kittles.
Nine Presidents Who Had Hooks for Hands
to locate the bullet with a crude metal detector of his own invention; instead,
he discovered “a curved, metallic sharpness in the vicinity of the wrist’s end.”
Historians agree: hook)
first televised debate with Kennedy, who was hookless)
an effort to seem less privileged)
Blackbeard was only president of the pirates)
Colonial Jobs Involving Eels
Eels, as any schoolchild knows, were the true main course at the Pilgrims’ first
Thanksgiving, largely because the eels themselves had eaten all the turkeys.
While it’s difficult to imagine now, our nation’s rivers were once glossy and
black with majestic herds of eels. And the eels played a critical role in the
economy and culture of colonial New England.
eel teeth. (See Scrimschonger, below.)
settlement for eels. Often an unintelligent person.
was well-known that an eel would stare at a rat for hours, allowing a human
a quick escape.
was often employed to check a home for hidden eels and to check under wagons
for the same. This was not a skilled job and should not be confused with an
eelsmeller, who was an artisan trained in the art of detecting eels that had
disguised themselves as Dutchmen.
periods when the eels would be plentiful, and when they would disappear for
months on end to spawn. An eel almanac would also include a calendar of when
eels would be wistful, secretive or accusing.
colonial life in delicate, small etchings upon eel teeth. Many family portraits
and early images of colonial life were immortalized on eel teeth.
were those found lodged in trees, which eels would often attack at night.
and began walking on land, they became objects of deep and fearful fascination.
And so many folktales were spawned of Dan Crate, the Brackish Man, who tied
eels together to build a rope ladder to the clouds, and at the same time of
Sleek Cynthia, the noble eel who stared down the sea.
or willingly given him up to become an eel tonguer. The eel tonguer’s parents
were usually held in high regard for their sacrifice, though one printed memoir
by an eel-orphan, The Eel-Boy’s Confession and Spelling Handbook, suggested
that the author was much happier with the eels.
John Hodgman will be reading at the REDCAT Theater at 8 p.m. on
Sat., Feb. 11, and at Book Soup at 7 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 13.