Shakespeare wrote in “Titus Andronicus” that “Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopped, Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is.” So, consider some of the many ways mistakes are made, starting with “Andronicus.” “74 Ways Characters Die in Shakespeare’s Plays,” an OpenCulture.com article, says, “Critic Harold Bloom described ‘Titus’ as ‘an exploitative parody’ of the very popular revenge tragedies of the times — its murders, maimings, rapes and mutilations pile up.” Indeed, two of its characters die baked in a pie. While most of Shakespeare’s theatrical deaths came from stabbing, others perished from shame, lack of sleep, snakebite, being pursued by a bear and indigestion.
Eating the wrong thing can be perilous, but that target keeps moving. Eggs were deemed bad in the 1970s due to their high cholesterol, but, according to an online article titled “Five Foods That Used to be Bad For You But Now Aren’t,” “for the last 20 years, nutrition and medical research has shown repeatedly that at normal intakes dietary cholesterol has very little influence on a person’s blood cholesterol levels.” Potatoes, being a high-glycemic food, were similarly shunned. Now we know that “cooking and cooling potatoes increases the amount of resistant starch in the potatoes. This resistant starch then acts like a dietary fiber which ‘resists’ digestion in the gut, potentially having a positive impact on your gut bacteria.”
Many ways exist for screwing up, but it’s often a matter of perspective, as with those upset with Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries including the phrase “Chinese restaurant syndrome” (CRS), which are “symptoms affecting susceptible persons eating food and especially Chinese food heavily seasoned with monosodium glutamate,” or MSG. Recently Ajinomoto, the Japanese company and world leader in MSG, launched a campaign to rehabilitate MSG “in light of the extensive human research proving that MSG is not linked to such symptoms in food.” MSG’s also found in ranch dressing, ramen and McDonald’s new chicken sandwich — and now some doctors suspect the CRS symptoms may be caused by high levels of sodium.
Readers of cozy mysteries and fans of BBC know the dangers expressed in CrimeReads.com’s “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village” by Maureen Johnson and Katherine Tegen. The many “places to avoid” include “anywhere with a vat” (“vats exist only for drowning people — in beer, whiskey or jam. This is doubly true if the vat was built by 14th century monks”), the stables (“How do you prefer to go: pitchforked or stomped to death by a 2,000-pound animal? Spoiler: it will be both”), higher floors (“They can’t throw you off the balcony if you never go upstairs”), the stairs (“they are the xylophones of death), lower floors (“Marble busts fall down, not up”). And by all means evade the vicar, town doctor, gardeners, birdwatchers, local historians and “anyone who looks out windows and sees things.”
Back home it’s mistaken to believe that a “two-by-four” is actually two-by-four inches. Spenards Builders Supply has a helpful chart that shows that 2” by 4” lumber is actually 1-1/2” by 3-1/2,” and plywood calling itself 3/8” by 4’ by 8’ is really 11/32” by 3.98’ by 7.98’. And self-cleaning windows won’t work well without direct sunlight and frequent exposure to rain. They’re coated with titanium oxide, a “photocatalyst” that releases water-bonding electrons when warmed by ultraviolet sunlight, and these form “hydroxyl radicals” that bond to organic dirt and accelerates its natural decomposition. So self-cleaning windows protected by eaves won’t.
All purchasers of Amazon books anticipate receiving normal-size books designed for ergonomic reading, but some are mistaken, like my wife whom Amazon recently sent an unreadably oversized copy of “The Virginians” for an Osher Lifelong Learning Class. Many out-of-copyright books are being reissued by fly-by-night publishers producing letter-sized tomes 8-1/2” by 11” with lines of print running from one narrow margin straight across to the other. Such monstrosities are much cheaper to produce, but anything over 6 inches is too wide to read comfortably, and ideally, according to National Education Association standards, large books have two columns 3-1/4” to 4-1/2” wide with a large space between them.
Happily, all the books in our public library are designed for comfortable readability. So, “Come and take choice of all my library and so beguile thy sorrow,” as Shakespeare wrote in Titus Andronicus.
Greg Hill is the former director of Fairbanks North Star Borough libraries. Contact him at 479-4344.