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This place matters

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Raindrops on Roses

So when I was a kid, I got this book from the library full of random facts. Slowly, over the course of the past few decades, I have learned that nearly everything that book told me was a lie.
I should have known better than to trust a book from a library with an entire wall full of Danielle Steel novels. Except I didn't know who Danielle Steel was and probably assumed that she was some sort of expert on sunsets, or beaches, or front porch swings or something.
Okay, honestly, I still have no idea what Danielle Steel is all about. I mean, I get erotica. It's a great way to look at porn without having to clear your browser history afterward. But romance? I have no idea what that even means. Then again, this is coming from the woman whose husband made her play Dungeons & Dragons on their first Valentine's Day together and then poisoned her character so she had to sit out the rest of the game. Yes that was the year 2000. Yes I am still mad. But I digress as usual.
Anyway, this book was busting at the seams with every trivia lie you've ever heard: the thing about the number of hooves a horse has on the ground being a code for how the rider died; the one about sleeping tight; and the reason that Silly Putty is called Silly Putty.
In retrospect, I realize that it was pretty absurd to believe that Silly Putty is so named because it was invented by Joseph Siller. Then again, I was young and thought that Daniel Steel was a beachporchologist. 
Silly Putty, that fascinating non-Newtonian fluid that never copied the funnies section as well as I'd been led to believe, was invented by a guy with a name that isn't remotely silly - James Wright. Wright, according to HowStuffWorks.com, wasn't trying to create a non-Newtonian novelty, he was trying to invent a synthetic rubber for the US military back during WWII. It wasn't a bad attempt, actually, other than the fact that it didn't work. It's just that tires are required to be 100% Newtonian, it's kind of a deal-breaker. (Yes, I know that solids aren't Newtonian.) Anyway, everybody agreed that the substance, which was then called bouncing putty, was really cool, but none of the best scientific minds in the country couldn't think of a use for it (apparently scientists never ran across a situation in which the funnies need to be copied onto a non-Newtonian fluid). Until an ad-man named Peter Hodgson got a hold off it and found a use. He ordered a big batch of the stuff and, because he had some on hand, stuffed the stuff into plastic Easter eggs. It was Hodgson who came up with the name Silly Putty
Back when I was a kid, we'd go downtown the day after Thanksgiving and my sister and I got to visit the Twigbee Shop inside of the downtown Higbee's. At the Twigbee Shop, your folks gave you money, and some nice ladies brought you around and helped you buy horrible gifts for your family. You know, perfume that smells like bathroom air freshener; large, hideous pins that your poor mother would, God love her, wear proudly to church; that sort of thing. Then, one year, between the neon-patterned polyester neckties and the tire gauge key rings (speaking of God loved people, my dad checked every tire on both cars in the snow with that thing), I found the perfect horrible gift for my godfather. A luxury Slinky. Gold. And resting on a wooden platform designed to let you display the device in all its glory. And bearing a gold plaque engraved "Executive Spring." I pictured the thing front and center on his desk, impressing the hell out of his very important clients and employees. It would be a conversation piece, and he would brag about his brilliant goddaughter and her miraculous gift-picking ability. But I digress as usual.
The Slinky. That fascinating metal coil that never walked downstairs as well as I'd been lead to believe. Like Silly Putty, the Slinky was born when scientist Richard James (who I've heard was a supafreak) tried to create a spring that could be used on naval ships. One day, he knocked the spring off a shelf and discovered it could walk (I call shenanigans. I couldn't make that foolish thing walk down the steps on purpose, let alone by accident). James spent a year refining the design, then prepared to sell the spring as a toy. It was James' wife Betty who came up with the name, and the toy was a smash hit from the start. I assume it's because nobody had found out about the whole stair walking thing being a lie.
All of which is to say I've been having way too much fun shopping for munchkins. I'm going to have to use all of my strength not to keep them for myself.

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