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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 921 results

Mr. Smarty Pants Knows is a weekly humor/trivia column by R.U. Steinberg that has appeared weekly in The Austin Chronicle since September 1988.

May 26, 2016

Mel Brooks has had a cardinal rule to never eat with the actors on films he directed, but he enjoyed the company of Cleavon Little so much on the set of Blazing Saddles, he begged him to eat with him.

The Three Wise Monkeys have names: Mizaru (see no evil), Mikazaru (hear no evil), and Mazaru (speak no evil).

According to writer Michael Hiltzik in Slate, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal created 1,000 miles of new and rebuilt airport runways, 651,000 miles of highway, 124,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, 18,000 playgrounds and athletic fields, 84,000 miles of drainage pipes, 69,000 highway light standards, and 125,000 public buildings built, rebuilt, or expanded.

Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders, was a Kurd born in modern-day Iraq, not an Arab.

Octopuses build edifices from shells.

May 19, 2016

Spray paint was invented in Chicago in 1949.

Duffel bags are named after the town of Duffel, Belgium, where they were first made.

In Chinese, "wu er ling" translates into "five two zero." It has a faint similarity to "Wo ai ni" (pronounced "whoa I knee"), which translates to "I love you." Therefore, May 20 is celebrated in China like Valentine's Day, and it's a good day to tell someone you love them.

Eagles use feaking to keep their beaks clean. "Feaking" means rubbing the beak clean on stones, branches, or other hard surfaces after eating. This removes the blood and other debris from the beak and also helps eagles trim their beaks.

Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow used to eat once a month at Red Lobster.

May 12, 2016

Prince beat Michael Jackson and Jimmy Fallon in pingpong.

Donkey is a very expensive meat and highly sought after for its tenderness and sweetness in China.

The modern king of hearts is the only king without a mustache. Back in 1776 he had one, but he lost it in the 19th century. Each king represents a great king from history: spades – King David, hearts – Charlemagne, clubs – Alexander the Great, and diamonds – Julius Caesar.

One form of diamonds is called lonsdaleite, named after crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale. It has a slightly different structure than others, with the tetrahedrons connected in a zig-zaggy hexagonal shape. Lonsdaleite is not thought to occur inside the Earth naturally. It's been found in meteorites, though.

About 100 years ago, one in four East Coast trees was an American chestnut. By 1945, 4 billion of them were wiped out by a fungus imported from Asia.

May 5, 2016

Corals, which are tiny animals, have even tinier plants living inside their cells.

The lemming mass-suicide story is a myth, largely fabricated by a Disney nature documentary that faked its evidence. The Disney filmmakers drove the lemmings into the water because they ­wanted to make a memorable film.

The hashtag symbol, pound sign (#), is properly called the octothorpe.

The names of the two stone lions in front of the New York Public Library are Patience and Fortitude. They were named by then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

After starring as the bully "Fatso" Judson in From Here to Eternity, the late actor Ernest Borgnine could never go into a bar because some guy would challenge him to a fight because of his fighting Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Clift in the movie.

April 28, 2016

Almost every town in America has streets named Elm and Chestnut.

The numbers 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 666, 777, 888, and 999 are all multiples of 37.

According to Mary Beard, a classics professor at the University of Cambridge, the Roman emperor Elagabalus never wore the same pair of shoes twice. For that and other behaviors considered strange for the time, he was assassinated at age 18.

Rice paper isn't made from rice, but from a small tree which grows in Taiwan.

The opening sequences for Gilligan's Island were filmed on Moku o Lo'e Island (aka Coconut Island), about a minute and a half by boat off the windward coast of Oahu.

April 21, 2016

Beginning in 1903, the U.S. paid rent to Cuba for Guantánamo Bay, but since the Sixties, Cuba has refused to cash the annual $4,085 rent check.

Monarch butterflies feed on milkweeds containing cardenolides, which are steroids that are poisonous and usually affect the heart. Cardenolides accumulate in the butterflies and act as a defense mechanism by making them taste bitter.

Franklin Pierce is the only U.S. president to have said "I promise" instead of "I swear" at his inauguration. He did it for religious reasons.

Some believe ancient Egyptians invented eye makeup about 12,000 years ago. Others blame a fallen angel named Azazyel who took an Earthly wife for his bride.

When Burgess Meredith took the role of "The Penguin" in the Batman TV series, he hadn't smoked in 20 years. His trademark cigarette in holder irritated his throat, which caused him to ad-lib his trademark, "quack, quack, quack" voice. For the record, penguins do not make quacking sounds.

April 14, 2016

Singer-songwriter Elanora Fagan was better known as "Billie Holiday." Like Ella Fitzgerald, she was from Irish-African-American ancestry.

The praying mantis is the only insect that can turn its head.

Frederick and Linda Chamberlain are founders of the cryonics organization Alcor Life Extension Foundation. When Frederick was cryopreserved on March 22, 2012, according to his wife, his last words were, "Gee, I hope this works." Linda plans to join him in cryo-limbo when her time comes. Their hope is that someday they can be thawed and revived.

Some say watermelon is really a vegetable (citrullus lanatus). Others say it's a berry called a pepo. Still others say watermelon is both a fruit and a vegetable. So there.

The real-life North Hollywood house Sherwood Schwartz used for the exterior shots of the Brady home (on The Brady Bunch) sold in 1973 for $61,000 ($339,483 in 2016 dollars). According to the real estate website Zillow, buying this house today would cost $1,784,574.

April 7, 2016

In 2015, there were at least 43 instances of toddlers shooting themselves or other people, according to The Washington Post.

Producer George Martin composed and played the baroque-sounding piano solo on the Rubber Soul track "In My Life." He played it half-speed and then sped the tape up to make it fit.

April 11 is National Pet Day. It was established in 2006 by Colleen Paige, who has come up with several pet holidays to promote adoption.

When pronouncing Facebook in Mandarin, it sounds like "fei si bu ke" (fay suh boo kuh), which means "you must die" or "it is not acceptable not to die." For you advanced language buffs, the Mandarin characters are "非死不可."

In 1940, a 12-year-old Fidel Castro wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for a $10 bill. Admit­ting his English was not good, he said, "If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them."

March 31, 2016

According to Joseph Boskin of Boston University, April Fools' Day began under the rule of Constantine. A group of court jesters told Constantine they could do a better job of running the empire, and he allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day and the custom became an annual event.

An aggregation of jellyfish is called a "smack."

According to one biographer, David Bowie recorded Station to Station while subsisting on a diet of red peppers, cocaine, and milk.

According to the Library of Congress, Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, is the birthplace of the hamburger. In 1900, a rushed traveler wanted a quick meal from a lunch truck owned by Louis Lassen. Lassen took steak trimmings and put them between two pieces of toast.

On April 1, 1918, Great Britain founded the Royal Air Force.

March 24, 2016

You can't start a fire with moonlight no matter how big your magnifying glass is.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was allowed to have her English toy spaniel share her last days and accompany her to the scaffold.

When Egypt sought proposals in 1869 to build a lighthouse for the Suez Canal, sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi proposed a huge statue of a robed woman holding a torch. The design was rejected, but Bartholdi used the same idea again for his next big project, the Statue of Liberty.

The average 5-year-old produces about half a liter of saliva per day, according to the paper "Estimation of the total saliva volume produced per day in five-year-old children," published in the Archives of Oral Biology.

Cyndi Lauper used to be a horse-walker.

The above is information that Mr. Smarty Pants read in a book, magazine, or newspaper; heard on the radio; saw on television; or overheard at a party. Got facts? Write to Mr. Smarty Pants. Why not visit
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