Ok, ok... since the eagle-eyed folks at ResourceShelf
have already sniffed this out, I might as well make the formal announcement: The World Almanac now has a Twitter feed
. If your response is "Huh?" then I suggest a quick jump over to the NYTimes for a recent explanation
of the Twitter phenomenon. We don't have any grand plans for the feed right now -- the truth is, we're stretched a little too thin to keep up with regular, full-length blogging right now, but we can definitely handle a few 140-character tweets here and there. Follow us, send us comments or suggestions, ask questions... we'll see where it takes us.
And while I'm at it, I should point out a few more online tidbits from the World Almanac:
- I've mentioned our Facebook fan page before, but now we've also got a funky little daily-quiz widget on Facebook -- sign up, pass it around, and click on it daily to test your knowledge on all manner of odds & sods from the latest World Almanac.
- If you're a rabid David Cook fan, you've probably already seen this. But you might not have seen some of the delightful responses it elicited, from the good to the bad and the ugly. Thank you, snarky Internets! I feel like I'm in the 8th grade all over again...
And one more note, before I take my creepy smirk back inside World Almanac HQ: people always ask "Who's a typical World Almanac Reader?" The stock answer is "virtually anyone"... but I think this video suggests a whole new demographic to pursue with the 2010 edition. Enjoy.
With the holiday gift-giving season behind us, there are a lot of new World Almanacs
floating around out there. For the most part, feedback on the 2009 edition has been positive -- especially from those readers who have begged us for years to hold the book open for U.S. election results, World Series stats and summaries, and expanded coverage of the year's news events.
Of course, you can't please everyone: a few die-hard, long-time readers of the World Almanac
are up in arms over the disappearance of the chapter on "Places of 5,000 or More Population." It's not a printing error, and it's not an editorial oversight: we made a conscious (and difficult) decision to remove that chapter from the 2009 World Almanac
. Even if you don't particularly miss that chapter, the factors driving our decision may still give you some insight into how the book comes together and changes each year:The Elephant (and Donkey) In the Room:
We knew at the start of 2008 that it would be an historic election year -- the first in more than 50 years without a sitting president or vice-president in the race; the largest slate of "Super Tuesday" primary states in history; and to many observers, strong odds that we could end the year with either the first woman or first African American elected to the presidency. We also knew that long-time World Almanac
readers wouldn't tolerate a 2009 edition that came up short in election coverage, so we blocked out room for summaries of the campaign; candidate biographies; detailed preliminary results for presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial races; and information on key ballot initiatives across the country. The grand total? Approximately 40 pages. Total length of the "5,000 or more" chapter? 34 pages -- one of the longest chapters, and the largest single data set in the book, and thus the best candidate for elimination, since one deletion could give us almost all the room we needed for election coverage.Death by a Thousand Cuts:
So why single out that chapter, when we have more than 1,000 pages and dozens of chapters to choose from? If we had to open up a few dozen pages, why couldn't we use (to borrow some campaign lingo) a scalpel instead of a hatchet? In short, the "scalpel" approach isn't quite as clean as it sounds. We can't make room by cutting a few lines from World History, and a half-page from Sports, and a handful of entries from Tall Buildings, without throwing the book's layout and pagination into disarray; individual chapters have to grow or shrink in full-page increments. And within any individual chapter, it's a tall order to identify full pages that could be deleted as they stand -- and even harder to free up a full page by making minor cuts to many different parts of that chapter. We use both techniques on a limited basis each year: close observers may note that several pages of sun and moonrise data were cut from Astronomy a few editions ago, or that selected tables in Aerospace and other statistical chapters have been condensed to fit in less space. But when we need to free up 40 pages in a single edition, those piecemeal deletions simply won't do the trick.Free and (Slightly Less) Easy:
Another reason to remove the "5,000 or more" chapter this year: 20 years ago, or even ten years ago, the presence of this information in the World Almanac
represented a substantial service to most readers. Detailed information about local populations, area codes, and zip codes was harder to come by, even for the smaller percentage of U.S. residents who had internet access in those decades. And while some people persist in thinking of our book as an alternative to the Internet, we believe that the future of the World Almanac
hinges on our ability to serve as a valuable companion
to the Internet, and to the vast majority of people in the U.S. who have regular Internet access at home, work, or school. This means occasionally cutting long-standing content that can now be found online freely and easily, and in a more useful form than we could possibly provide. In this case, you can now find detailed information about even the smallest U.S. cities from dozens of independent websites, if not the official sites of the towns themselves... and free, comprehensive, and authoritative information about each element of our chapter is available from the Census Bureau
(population), the U.S. Postal Service
(ZIP codes), and the North American Numbering Plan Administration
No doubt this is small consolation to the few souls for whom that chapter remains a valuable and vital resource. If the outcry is strong enough, we can certainly restore it to the 2010 World Almanac
, but in the meantime, we have to be content with the fact that we've made the news, politics, and sports junkies a little bit happier with this edition... and we invite all our readers to let us know what parts of the World Almanac
are most valuable to them, and what parts they wouldn't
miss in future editions.
(Creative Commons, some rights reserved)
Cover photo selection is one of our biggest challenges each year: how do you keep the photos timely and topical, when the cover has to go to press weeks before the final text pages are done? Even in years like this one, when we keep the book open long enough to include election and world series results, the cover still has to be wrapped up weeks before those events occur.
For the 2009 edition, we couldn't call the election four weeks early, so we had to give equal space to Obama and McCain; we couldn't predict the winner of the World Series, so we opted for a shot of Ken Griffey Jr., whose 600th home run was one of the most notable sports records of the year*; we didn't want to show too much national favoritism (and in an early fit of Phelpsomania, we had already put Mr. Eight Gold Medals on last year's cover), so we opted for a shot of waving Chinese and Olympic flags; and because the cover was wrapped up before the economic crisis really came to a head, we've got a shot of someone pumping gas — a reminder of what had been most people's major economic complaint in the first half of 2008.
And, oh yeah... we had that other guy... what was his name again?
there are 3 pictures on the cover of the 2009 World Almanac... Obama & McCain, the Olympics, and DAVID COOK! Sweeet!
In retrospect, I guess we shouldn't be surprised — but I have never seen so much online chatter about World Almanac cover photo selection. Google "world almanac david cook" and you get gems like this:
Hmmmmm...what to put on the cover of the 2009 World Almanac? Let's see. Obama and McCain, the 2008 Olympics...and...DAVID COOK, of course.
Wow, David Cook makes the cover of the 2009 World Almanac along with Barack Obama, in the words of Posh Spice, that's MAJOR.
David Cook on the cover of The 2009 World Almanac and Book of Facts. Hmmm... who won American Idol in 2008? David... Cook! (Queue crying David Archuleta fans...)
For the record: the World Almanac does not decide wagers, and we do not have an official position on the issue of Cook v. Archuleta. Cook won American Idol, American Idol was the biggest thing on TV last year (and has been since the 2005-06 season; pp. 292-93 in the new World Almanac for more), and we just thought it made sense to put the biggest show on TV on our cover. Nothing more!**
*And never mind the additional debate that this selection triggered: record-setting Cincinnati uniform, or season-ending Chicago?
**But seriously, wasn't it all downhill for Archie after "Imagine"? ...I kid, I kid! (cue pitchfork-wielding Archuleta fans...)
Image: AP Images
Got a Facebook account? Love the World Almanac
? Then what are you waiting for? Go and show your true colors by becoming a World Almanac fan on Facebook
. Check blog entries, start a discussion, check on upcoming radio and TV appearances, or just leave a note on our wall... it's free, and easy to sign up if you don't already have a Facebook account.
If you're the kind of person who checks out the high points of the U.S. box office in each new World Almanac
— the top-grossing movies of the past year, the all-time champions — you owe it to yourself to check out this new interactive graphic from the New York Times
. The graph shows two decades of box office receipts for (seemingly) every major movie released in the U.S. since 1986, where height indicates weekly revenue, length indicates longevity at the box office, and area and color correspond to total domestic gross revenue.
At right, the top block is the 2007 "blockbuster season," running from spring to fall; the bottom block is the same time period from 1987. This sums up the major trend in a nutshell: over time, the opening-weekend peaks have grown larger, and the tails (indicating longevity and sustained money-making) have grown shorter. But there are exceptions to the rule, and all sorts of odd little easter eggs that pop with with close scrutiny: for example, scroll back so that July/August 1998 is at the far left of the browser window, and hover over Saving Private Ryan — you'll see its tail diminish to nearly nothing, then bubble back up in February with an Oscar-season revival (also note, just above it, a late-breaking yellow sliver for Life is Beautiful). Or look around August-September 2002: see that big red vein of revenue running through the middle of the graph? That's the truly anomalous, slow-starting, "word-of-mouth" hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Find any other oddities? Let us know in the comments.
The Ebb and Flow of Movies: Box Office Receipts 1986-2007 (NYTimes.com)
Full disclosure: I almost never watch Frontline on PBS anymore. I usually watch it online.
But the other night, however unexpectedly, I sat down and watched "Growing Up Online" on PBS. The show examined how this first generation to grow up within the MySpace/Facebook sphere socializes on and is socialized by the Internet.
"Growing Up Online" refuses to reel off cautionary tale after cautionary tale in a tone of shrill alarm, as many media profiles of this issue seem to. Rather, the filmmakers try to offer a more nuanced documentation of how children, their parents, and teachers struggle to find their appropriate levels of interaction with the limitless resources of the Internet age.
Watch "Growing Up Online" on Frontline's website, where not only are the most recent shows available, but most programs since 2001 are archived, along with some older classic episodes from the show's 25-year history. If you've already seen it, there are some great topical resources on the show's site, along with some follow-up on the kids documented by the program.
"Growing Up Online"
Unbeknownst to me, the staff at The New York Public Library has been blogging since last August. So far the staff of nine departments are involved including sports
. The blogs are technically in beta mode and aren't all updated frequently (sadly, the maps department
only has 3 posts). There seem to be several posts each week, most pertaining to the library's extensive Digital Gallery
, work on upcoming exhibitions, or the history of New York City.
For instance, a post recently noted their newly uploaded collection of early baseball photos from A. G. Spalding (yes, the guy whose name is on your basketball). Paula Baxter, Curator of the Library's Art and Architecture Collection, has been sharing her thoughts on an upcoming exhibition on Art Deco fashion and design.
New York Public Library Blog
Photo: "New York City Public Library front" by melanzane1013 via Flickr.
If you're reading this, chances are you're something of a trivia buff already—so why not put all that arcane knowledge to the test? Canadian viewers can tune in to CBC Television this Sunday (Jan. 20) at 8PM EST for the latest edition of Test the Nation
, which is...
...a two-hour television event, with viewers playing at home as they watch our six teams of Canadians compete in our Toronto studio. By the end of the test, you'll know if you've been paying attention to the world around you, or if you've been sleepwalking through the last eight years.
The show will also reveal information about others who are playing at home and in the studio. Who will turn out to be more century savvy? The Men or the Women? Will the meat eaters devour the vegetarians? Will the coffee drinkers overpower the tea drinkers? We'll find out as Canadians give us their answers on the most technologically advanced and information saturated century the planet has ever seen!
And the most important question... will World Almanac
readers crush all other test-takers? They just might: the producers of Test the Nation
asked us to review the quiz, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how many questions could be answered within the pages of our book. So if you need to cram for the quiz, you could do worse than to pick up a copy of the 2008 World Almanac
If you don't get CBC TV, you can still take the test at the Test the Nation website (starting Sunday) and find out how you measure up against test-takers around the world. You can warm up this week in the "Mental Gym," or take tests from previous shows: IQ Test and Watch Your Language.
If you do tune in, watch for my smiling mug to pop up somewhere between questions 26 and 27, offering up some "expert" commentary on the test...
Test the Nation: Trivia
Once again, here's a peek at "The World at a Glance" from the pages of The World Almanac 2008. This time, some assorted facts about Arts and Media.
Top-grossing U.S. movie, 2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, $423.3 mil
All-time top-grossing U.S. movie: Titanic (1997), $600.8 mil
#1 syndicated TV program, 2006-07: ESPN NFL Regular Season, 8.7% of TV households
All-time most watched TV program: M*A*S*H finale, Feb. 28, 1983, 50.2 mil households
#1 commercial radio format in U.S., 2007: Country, 2,034 stations
#1 recorded music genre in U.S., 2006: Rock, 34% of all music sold
All-time top-selling U.S. album: Eagles/Their Greatest Hits 1971-75, Eagles, 29 mil copies
Then and Now
|Highest-rated TV show
||I Love Lucy (1956-57)
||American Idol (2006-07)
|Best Picture Oscar
||Around the World in 80 Days
||The Phil Silvers Show
||Requiem for a Heavyweight
|Album of the Year Grammy1
||Taking the Long Way, Dixie Chicks
||A Long Day's Journey Into Night
||The Coast of Utopia
||My Fair Lady
||The Road, Cormac McCarthy
||A Long Day's Journey Into Night, Eugene O'Neill
||Rabbit Hole, David Lindsay-Abaire
|(1) Awards for 1956 (Then) and 2006 (Now). (2) The first Grammy Awards weren't awarded until February 1958--the same year that the first Gold Records were certified. 3) No prize for Fiction awarded in 1957.
Since most of you probably can't focus, through the turkey-and-stuffing haze, to read much on the blog today, we'll keep it short, and just let you jump into today's segment from Wake Up With Whoopi
—a quick run-through the origins of Thanksgiving, and a few notable modern-day Thanksgiving traditions (including football).
(2mb mp3) / Subscribe in iTunes
If you can manage to stay awake to click through a few interesting links, you can get the full Thanksgiving story on the World Almanac for Kids site, or visit the Census Bureau for a great round-up of Thanksgiving-related stats—turkey, cranberry, and sweet potato production in the U.S., number of places in the U.S. named after the holiday's main course... enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving Day (The World Almanac for Kids)
Thanksgiving Day Facts (US Census Bureau)
Image: Happy Thanksgiving! from ckirkman's Flickr stream
The year is winding down, which means it's time for media outlets everywhere to start summarizing 2007 with variously-themed lists. While we don't yet know who the Time "Person(s) of the Year" will be, one of my favorite lists has already been released: the Oxford Word of the Year and its runners-up. I like the Word of the Year lists because they provide an interesting perspective on what people have been talking about during the year, and how they've chosen to talk about it.
The 2007 Oxford Word of the Year is locavore, which defines the movement, becoming more popular in some regions of the country, toward committing to eating only locally grown food.
A few Word of the Year runners-up:
- bacn: email notifications, such as news alerts and social networking updates, that are considered more desirable than unwanted "spam" (coined at PodCamp Pittsburgh in Aug. 2007 and popularized in the blogging community)
- colony collapse disorder: a still-unexplained phenomenon resulting in the widespread disappearance of honeybees from beehives, first observed in late 2006
- tase (or taze): to stun with a Taser (popularized by a Sep. 2007 incident in which a University of Florida student was filmed being stunned by a Taser at a public forum)
Check out the rest of Oxford's list, which includes a nice etymology for locavore, at the link below. Or grab a copy of The World Almanac 2008, where you'll find Merriam-Webster's list of new words for 2007 on page 722.
Oxford Word of the Year
Flickr photo by Pay No Mind
Want to work in the movie business? Move to Los Angeles.
Want to work in theater, dance, music, or publishing? Move to New York.
That might not be surprising advice, but a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics backs it up with numbers. "During the first quarter of 2006, 1 out of every 4 jobs (25.8 percent) associated with the creative arts industries in the country was located in either New York or Los Angeles," according to the report.
So what qualifies as a creative arts industry? The authors defined 27 industries as having "activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job creation through generation and exploitation of intellectual property." They then compared employment and wage data for those 27 "cultural output industries" in New York and LA for the earliest and most recent figures, the first quarters of 1990 and 2006.
|Jobs dominated by Los Angeles in 2006
||% of jobs nationwide
||Avg. monthly jobs
||% of wages nationwide
|Motion picture and video production
|Motion picture and video distribution
|Teleproduction and other postproduction services
|Other motion picture and postproduction
|Agents and managers for public figures
|Independent managers for public figures
|Jobs dominated by New York in 2006
||% of jobs nationwide
||Avg. monthly jobs
||% of wages nationwide
|Integrated record production and distribution
Over the 17-year period, the movie production industry in LA has grown 111.3 percent while jobs in theater companies and dinner theaters plummeted from 14,042 jobs on average to 1,466.
In New York, there are more jobs in most creative arts fields than in 1990, but they don't pay as well in comparison. While city-wide private wages in New York had tripled between 1990 and 2006, the percent earned by the creative arts dropped from 8 to 5.4.
Nationwide, jobs in most parts of the music industry have dropped but the number of record producers grew from 813 to 2,595. Record producers now make the most money on average out of all of the creative arts listed. Other job sectors that increased greatly are cable and other subscription programming, fine arts schools, independent managers for public figures, internet publishing and broadcasting, motion picture and video production, museums, and promoters with or without facilities.
The economic impact of the creative arts industries: New York and Los Angeles
"TriBeca alley during student film shoot" from Flickr by eugene.
Better late than never (I hope): here's last week's visit with the Wake Up With Whoopi
crew, wherein I gave a little spiel about the origins of Halloween, Trick-or-Treating, and other seasonal delights. For more details, click on over to The World Almanac for Kids
site for some more kid-friendly facts about Halloween and other holidays.
Oh, and since I missed "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and haven't found another excuse to post the attached picture, I think Halloween is at least reasonably appropriate. So please enjoy the Corsair Ergonomic Keyboard for Pirates. Arrrrrrrr!
Birthdays and Holidays (The World Almanac for Kids)
Post Like a Pirate (Language Log)
Wake Up With Whoopi, Oct. 25, 2007 (5MB mp3)
On Oct. 30, 1938, the Associated Press sent a notice to all of its editors on the newswire:
"Queries to newspapers from radio listeners throughout the United States tonight, regarding a reported meteor fall which killed a number of New Jerseyites, are the result of a studio dramatization."
Of course, the meteor carrying Martians with flame-shooting guns and poisonous gas was just Orson Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast. Old history from the time of cure-all elixirs and eugenics. Right?
Well, maybe not. The major Italian magazine L'espresso ran an article on Friday (in Italian, "E.T. Speaks Sicilian") that aliens may have caused hundreds of unplugged household appliances to burst into flames in northern Sicily back in 2004. It cited a leaked interim report by the Italian government that either a secret military test or alien experiments caused a brief electromagnetic emission between 12 and 15 gigawatts.
The Cabinet of Wonders delves into British newspaper reports for an answer.
Without a real report it's pointless to speculate about the source of this event. To add a little solid science to this entry I should mention that electromagnetic waves from solar superstorms have been known to cause problems with electric grids, a phenomena we briefly covered on page 302 of the 2007 World Almanac.
Solar Storms and Their Human Impacts (NASA)
War of the Worlds broadcast (Internet Archive)
Flickr photo by The Redbird
(* And the other ones, too.)
I'm surprised we haven't blogged about this one before: FactCheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, which holds political candidates (no matter what party they represent) to task for mis-statements, distorted facts, and outright untruths in major speeches, debates, and other appearances. It's the kind of detailed fact-checking you expect, but rarely get, from major media outlets—and it's an incredibly useful resource as we head for a contentious primary season. An example of a recent summary:
Tongues were sharpened before Sunday night's GOP presidential debate in Orlando, with the candidates drawing blood right out of the gate. We found them factually challenged in several areas:
- Giuliani stretched till he broke, in calling Thompson "the single biggest obstacle to tort reform" in the Senate.
- Romney boasted of his Massachusetts health care plan and criticized Hillary Clinton's, although her plan is strikingly similar to Romney's Massachusetts program. He also falsely accused her of favoring "all-government insurance."
- Giuliani claimed the price of health insurance would drop more than 50 percent if millions more people purchased it directly, a statement unsupported by any evidence he's offered so far.
- Thompson said the most affluent 40 percent of Americans pay "about 99 percent of the taxes." Actually, they pay less than 85 percent, and also have nearly 74 percent of all the income.
- Giuliani made an inflated boast about bringing down crime in New York "more than anyone in this country - maybe in the history of this country." But the decline started before he took office, continued after he left, and even the FBI itself warns against attributing crime statistics to any specific cause.
With deadlines for the next edition of The World Almanac
looming over us, it's tempting to switch back to the Julian calendar—which would make today's date September 21, and give us two extra weeks to work on the book... assuming, of course, that we could get the fine folks at the printing press to make the same switch.
Speaking of printing presses: Whoopi asked if I had any insight into a "fact of the day" about the first English Bible being printed in Switzerland—something that didn't make much sense to her. Why not just print in England? My guess, on the spot, had to with printing technology being more advanced at the time in Switzerland, yadda yadda yadda. But now that I listen back to that segment, and actually hear the date in question (1535) I realize my off-the-cuff speculation was way off the mark. By that time, Gutenberg's technology had spread all across Europe, so that wouldn't have been the reason... what would have been problematic was the English clergy's abhorrence of the idea of translating scripture into the vernacular. Myles Coverdale (who I think is the translator of the Bible in question) would have found a more hospitable climate in Switzerland for such an endeavor... or anyway, that's my second guess after a few more cups of coffee. Corrections to my shoddy half-remembered history of Bible-printing are most welcome, in the comments.
Anyway. It was still fun to talk with Whoopi & Crew about the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, back in 1582 (or 1752, for Britain and the American colonies). Pope Gregory decreed that the day following Oct. 4, 1582, would not be Oct. 5, but rather Oct. 15—establishing what we now call the Gregorian calendar, and bringing the calendar year in line with the solar one. Fun stuff, if a little confusing. Enjoy....
Download: Wake Up With Whoopi, Oct. 4, 2007
Yup, we stopped in to chat with Whoopi & Co.
again this morning, but I'm not posting that conversation until I'm caught up—so in that spirit, here's our chat from August 30. The topic of conversation: research, with some basic tips for kids and a shout-out to National Get a Library Card Month
, which lasts for a few more days... so what are you waiting for?
Seriously, if you live near any kind of small- to mid-sized metropolitan area and you don't have a public library card, what the heck are you thinking? We're spoiled here in New York—the main NYPL Research Library (at right) is reference-geek paradise, and an NYPL card grants you access to a staggering number of specialized online databases—but even smaller library systems have much to offer. So get going, already!
No, wait: listen to the interview first. Then get going.
Listen: Wake Up With Whoopi, August 30, 2007 (mp3, 6MB)
I've been lax in reporting on my visits with the Wake Up With Whoopi
crew, but we are still having weekly chats about all kinds of odd and essential facts. Despite the massive deadlines looming over us, I promise to play a little catch-up this week, starting with this visit from August 23. Topics of conversation that week:
- Popular sections and common uses of The World Almanac
- A light scolding from Whoopi for not having the complete World Almanac available online
- A quick chat about the value of Wikipedia relative to other reference sources, and what happens when you look up "Paul Cubby Bryant"
- And the meaty topic of the day: a quick survey of some interesting sumptuary laws, drawing on information in this year's World Almanac for Kids. (Click here for a variation of the New Jersey law that closes the segment, plus some additional reading on sumptuary laws around the world)
More to come this week, I swear!
Listen here: Wake Up With Whoopi: Aug. 23, 2007(mp3, 8MB)
Image: Screen capture from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). The Quasimodo reference will make sense when you listen to the clip...
As promised last week, here's my second World Almanac for Kids
visit with the Wake Up With Whoopi
crew. We did this on August 2, but it makes sense to post it today because today is the anniversary of an event I mentioned on-air.
Yup, August 16 is the day that Capt. Joe Kittinger set a particularly astonishing set of records in 1960. And in my excitement to talk about inventors, parachutes, and insanely high-altitude free-falls, I mixed up a few key details. Most notably: Kittinger didn't jump from 18,000 feet, that was the height at which his main parachute opened; he actually jumped—out of a balloon dubbed Excelsior III—from an altitude of more than 100,000 feet. In the process, he set records for highest balloon ascent and highest parachute jump, and also set the record for fastest speed attained by a human without the assistance of an engine.
As penance for my fact-flubbing, I offer this video of his jump, which is far more interesting than listening to me talk. But you can still click here to listen to the show and catch up on some other facts (accurate ones!) about the first Census, National Inventors' Month, and how some of those off-the-wall "National [Something-Very-Strange] Month" holidays come about in the first place.
Kittinger speaking at the Kircher Society Meeting (Part 1; be sure to click on parts 2 and 3)
Yeah, that's right: #3. I don't have a clip of our second installment yet, but it'll be more relevant next week, anyway. Come back then to find out why...
Anyway, I had another fun visit with the incredibly warm and friendly Wake Up With Whoopi crew yesterday. In this week's free-for-all:
- The awesome lap-breaking power of the The World Almanac hardcover edition (yes, we publish one, and yes, the type is bigger than the paperback)
- In honor of the anniversary of Nixon's resignation (announced Aug. 8, 1974, but in effect at noon on Aug. 9), some selections from our list of Embarrassing Presidential Moments. Some bonus links: President Ford's 1942 Cosmo cover appearance (not an embarrassing moment, just an interesting one), and Pres. Carter's official report on his UFO sighting.
- A heads-up about this weekend's Perseid meteor shower
- And at the very end, a quick hello from the next guest: Abby Cadabby, Sesame Street's newest resident. Even at my age, it was a truly great, geeky thrill to meet a Muppet.
Listen to the clip here
Image: From NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (Katsuhiro Mouri & Shuji Kobayashi, Nagoya City Science Museum / Planetarium)
Last Thursday, I paid a visit to Whoopi Goldberg's early-morning radio show "Wake Up With Whoopi
" to share some cool facts from the new World Almanac for Kids
... and ended up talking about everything from the composition of the U.S. Congress, to why Americans have more fish (139 million of them) than any other pets, to whether or not the next edition should be re-titled The World Almanac for Kids... And Cubby
. (The jury's still out on that last one.)
Keep visiting our blog for information about future appearances—and in the meantime, you can listen to last week's segment by clicking here here (mp3, 7MB).
Even if you see fewer and fewer commercials these days thanks to Tivo and/or your video iPod, they're not going away altogether—at least, not yet. Check out Donald Gunn's analysis of the 12 Kinds of Ads—in a slide show complete with example clips from YouTube—which run the commercial break gamut from 'demo' to 'parody or borrowed format.' It's pretty easy to spot just how advertising uses the same dozen uncreative formats to entice you to stay tuned in. Or at least to slow down a little when you're fast-forwarding.
12 Kinds of Ads
Lyrics from “Don’t Take My Darling Boy Away
,” written by Will Dillon (music by Albert von Tilzer) in 1915, recorded by J. Phillips and Helen Clark in 1917:
Don't take my darling boy away from me,
Don't send him off to war
You took his father and brothers three,
Now you've come back for more
[Recording from firstworldwar.com]
On April 6, 1917, the U.S. officially entered WWI. To mark this anniversary, check out this vintage audio from 1917 on www.firstworldwar.com. There you’ll find both speeches and music from the year Americans went “Over there.” You can find similar audio for the other war years, but for today we're sticking with 1917.
For the first three years of the war, which began in 1914, the U.S. remained neutral. U.S. businesses and banks sold supplies and granted loans to the allied countries, but the government didn't send troops. Americans at the time had little interest in joining that “European conflict” and were content to stay on their side of the Atlantic. The lyrics posted above were written almost as an anti-war protest song two years before the U.S. entered. But once the U.S. became engaged, the song sort of got pushed aside for more pro-war pieces such as “I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I’m On My Way.”
This is definitely one of the best sites out there for historical information and resources for those looking to learn more about “The War to End All Wars.” It does a good job of presenting the political, military, social, and cultural aspects of the War.
For a basic synopsis of the First World War, turn to page 127 in the 2007 World Almanac. For casualty figures from all U.S. wars, skip over to page 135.
Photo: U.S. troops resting on the road to the Front lines in France from www.firstworldwar.com.
Original source: Liberty's Victorious Conflict: A Photographic History of the World War, (Woman's Weekly, Chicago, 1918)
First, a smattering of World Almanac references from blogging librarians. Thanks to these folks and many others who regularly reference this blog and the World Almanac
on their sites:
...and the less-entertainingly named NYS SBDC Research Network
We've always known that the book holds a special place in the hearts (and ready reference shelves) of librarians. But strangely enough, we don't get many specific content suggestions from librarians, who I imagine are more intimately familiar with the contents of the World Almanac than the average reader...and those average readers have a lot to say about what we put into the book, and what we take out of it, each year.
So here's a request for the librarians in our audience: tell us what parts of the World Almanac you use most often... or what parts you've never used in all your years behind the reference desk... or what facts and statistics you think we've neglected for too long.
We're just getting into "Almanac season" now, mapping out the contents of the 2008 edition (yes, we do start this early in the year), and as always there is much debate about how to keep this classic reference book interesting, informative, useful, and relevant in the digital age. So let us know what you think, either in the comments or by e-mail, to cjoyce [at] waegroup.com. And spread the word!
Image from Mr. Guybrarian's Flickr stream
Last Monday Nielsen reported the average U.S. home received a record 104.2 television channels in 2006. Take that, Bruce Springsteen and your 57 channels! Yet in an average week, households only watched 15.7 of those channels for at least 10 minutes.
Whether people need to accept all those channels in a lump package is a hot issue. Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin has been outspoken about giving consumers channel-by-channel or “A la carte” cable selection. Last February, he countered his predecessor, former chairman Michael Powell, by reporting that “a la carte and increased tiering could offer consumers greater choice and the opportunity to lower their bills.” But only Congress can make that possible by changing the 1992 Cable Act. The a la carte option has horrified people in the cable industry since it would upend their entire finance system for niche channels (goodbye five versions of ESPN). Some advocacy groups, including the conservative Parents Television Council want to give viewers the right to refuse channels whose content they deem indecent.
[Last year, 86.2% of U.S. households subscribed to cable. See pages 249-251 in the 2007 World Almanac for more TV-related stats.]
Average U.S. Home Now Receives A Record 104.2 TV Channels, According to Nielsen
TV Noise 3 from Danagraves flickr stream
The Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) maintains a fascinating list of the top 1,000 works "most widely held by libraries,"
complete with cover art and links to help readers find each volume in a local library.
Here's the top ten:
- Bible [Library holdings: 796,882 Bibliographic records: 93,567]
- Census (United States) [Library holdings: 460,628 Bibliographic records: 10,617]
- Mother Goose [Library holdings: 67,663 Bibliographic records: 2,036]
- Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri [Library holdings: 62,414 Bibliographic records: 2,917]
- Odyssey, Homer [Library holdings: 45,551 Bibliographic records: 2,087]
- Iliad, Homer [Library holdings: 44,093 Bibliographic records: 2,526]
- Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain [Library holdings: 42,724 Bibliographic records: 1,132]
- Lord of the Rings [trilogy], J. R. R. Tolkien [Library holdings: 40,907 Bibliographic records: 685]
- Hamlet, William Shakespeare [Library holdings: 39,521 Bibliographic records: 2,008]
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll [Library holdings: 39,277 Bibliographic records: 1,942]
Hit the jump for highlights and oddities from the list, some insight into how the list was compiled, and the answer to the really important question: Where's The World Almanac?
Continue reading "The Top 1,000 Books" »
We're all hunkered down and hard at work on the 2008 World Almanac for Kids
, so I don't have nearly enough time to play around with this stuff... but for those of you with more time on your hands, some new data visualization toys:
IBM's Many Eyes continues to expand their already impressive lineup of visualization tools, most recently with a tag cloud option. Upload any text you like, and get an instant cloud showing frequency of single words or two-word combinations. I'm hoping for a modification to this that lets you chart frequency changes over time, like Chirag Mehta's cool presidential speeches analysis tool. But in the meantime, click on the image at right to see a quick cloud generated from the U.S. Constitution.
Self-proclaimed "YouTube for data visualization" Swivel has also beefed up its services slightly, first with the ability to embed images in graphs (mostly useless, but pretty), and now with a "Swivel It" bookmarklet that greatly simplifies the process of sending data from Google Spreadsheets to Swivel.
IBM's Many Eyes App After One Month (Read/Write Web, March 5, 2007)
Numbers...You're Swimming In Them (PDF; Fast Company, March 2007)
West of House.
You are in an open field west of a big white house with a boarded front door.
If those words don't stir something in your soul... well, you're probably younger than me, or at least you've never been a computer game enthusiast.
In case that line doesn't ring a bell: it's the opening of the classic text adventure game Zork, which ranks as one of the "ten most important video games of all time," according to a committee headed by Henry Lowood, curator of the History of Science and Technology Collections at Stanford University.
Lowood and his fellow committee members (game designers Warren Spector and Steve Meretzky, researcher Matteo Bittanti, and game journalist Christopher Grant) envision this list as the start of something akin to the National Film Registry, which every year adds new films to its massive list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" American films (see pages 238-39 of the 2007 World Almanac for that list).
I'm interested to see if this list gains as much widespread recognition as the Film Registry:
- Spacewar! (1962)
- Star Raiders (1979)
- Zork (1980)
- Tetris (1985)
- SimCity (1989)
- Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
- Civilization I/II (1991)
- Doom (1993)
- Warcraft series (beginning 1994)
- Sensible World of Soccer (1994)
Seem like the right choices for the basic canon? What games would you nominate for next year's class of inductees? Do you think we should include this initial list in the 2008 World Almanac
? Take it up in the comments...
Is That Just Some Game? No, It's a Cultural Artifact (The New York Times, March 12, 2007)
Image: Zork in 1980 from the-tml's Flickr stream (CC)
and the Plot Against Me" is an older article from Vanity Fair
. But it's still funny and relevant, in that research and fact-checking (both of which we do daily at The World Almanac
) can be a tough business. In the piece, writer Nick Tosches chronicles his search for the origins of a Windows desktop background image.
Although Tosches is practiced in investigative reporting, this particular quest into the world of stock photography proves maddening as he bounces between reps at Windows, a public relations firm, and a state tourism department among other potential sources.
He expends all this effort because, as he writes,
I return to Paris, go from there to Tokyo, from there to Milan and Lake Como, then back here. I'm tired of everything, everywhere. I want only to go to Autumn.
Link: "Autumn and the Plot Against Me" (vanityfair.com)
Photo: A little bit of Autumn.
The American Psychological Association
this week issued a Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls
. According to the report, women younger and younger are being bombarded by images, music, and other entertainment, which promote the idea of looking and acting sexy. In short, girlhood is giving way to womanhood earlier, little girls are seeing themselves as sexual beings earlier, and they are developing psychological disorders because of this trend.
It’s not news that girls are being encouraged through mass media to look and act more adult and sexy. It is also well known that this type of constant exposure increases the risk of girls developing low self-esteem, eating disorders, and depression. But the report is alarming because it asserts that girlhood is being cut short dramatically, and that girls are starting to think of themselves as sexual beings as early as 6 years old. It’s one thing to depict children acting as adults, but there has to be a limit, which I think was surpassed long before this became the norm:
Ten-year-old girls can slide their low-cut jeans over "eye-candy" panties. French maid costumes, garter belt included, are available in preteen sizes. Barbie now comes in a "bling-bling" style, replete with halter top and go-go boots. And it's not unusual for girls under 12 to sing, "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" (Washington Post, Feb. 20 2007)
Report on the APA Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls , American Psychological Association (PDF download)
"Goodbye to Girlhood," Washington Post, February 20, 2007.
The first poll in the American Film Institute's "100 Years...100 Movies" series took place about 10 years ago now, and Citizen Kane
, Orson Welles' 1941 classic, was named the Best American Film, with Casablanca
(1942), The Godfather
(1972), Gone With the Wind
(1939), and Lawrence of Arabia
(1962) rounding out the Top Five. (See page 238 in your 2007 World Almanac for the full list.)
AFI has also created genre and detail specific lists every year or so for the past decade, from the Funniest (Some Like It Hot), to the Best Songs ("Somewhere Over the Rainbow," in The Wizard of Oz), to the Best Heroes and Villains (To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch and The Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal Lecter, respectively). But now AFI is revisiting their principal list in order to include the last decade or so of American filmmaking—and some surprising nominees are contending for the honor: Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and There's Something About Mary, to name a few.
View the 400 nominees on the official ballot, find out Clint Eastwood's and Helen Mirren's (among others') favorite films, or revisit the AFI's past winners at the links below.
AFI Official Ballot (PDF download)
Film Luminaries' Favorites
100 Years...100 Movies
Flickr photo by Dawn Endico
I was watching a TV movie the other night when a familiar face appeared on-screen. “Balki!” my friends and I yelled. Otherwise known as actor Bronson Pinchot, Balki had been one of two main characters in the TV show “Perfect Strangers.” My friends and I had all watched the show, which ran for eight seasons from 1986 to 1993. In a fit of nostalgia, we tried to remember its theme song...and finally located a clip of the show’s intro on Retro Junk
Retro Junk bills itself as “your memory machine,” and its vault is massive. Not just TV shows are archived. Movies, commercials, and cartoons are all organized, alphabetically and by decade. Retro Junk only appears to go as far back as the 70s. Still, it’s got many of the classics, like the following:
“The Cosby Show”—the highest-rated TV show every season between 1985 and 1988.
“M*A*S*H”—Its last episode, which aired on Feb. 28, 1983, is the highest-rated TV program of all time.
Wendy's “Where’s the Beef?” commercial—Wendy’s was ranked 76th in the U.S. in 2005 ad spending dollars.
Here we go again! It's time for another installment of "The World at a Glance," a new feature we added to The World Almanac 2007
to call attention to some of the thousands of eye-opening facts we packed into the book. This time, the focus is on "Surprising Facts"—from hard-to-believe bits of geographical trivia, to startling statistics that made us wonder whether one of the interns was playing a practical joke. (They weren't, but we still made them triple-check the fourth item on this list.)
- Young American men (18-24) watch less TV per week than any
other group, an average of 23 hours, 1 minute in 2005.
- Despite rising 2005 domestic gasoline prices, U.S. prices averaged among the lowest in the
world: 46% lower than in Japan
and nearly 60% lower than in Germany
and the U.K.
- Antarctica is considered a desert, with annual precipitation
of only 8 inches along the coast and far less inland.
- The African nation of Equatorial Guinea had the world’s
second-highest per capita GDP in 2005 ($50,200, up from only $2,700 in 2002),
thanks to booming oil sales.
- The easternmost point in the U.S.
is in Alaska: Pochnoi Point, on Semisopochnoi Island, is at 179°× 46' E longitude.
- All 50 of the world’s tallest mountains are in Asia.
defense spending of $465 billion in 2004 was more than 3 times the combined
estimate of spending by Russia,
China, North Korea, Iran,
- The most popular radio format in the U.S. is country
(19% of stations), but rock music sells the most (32% of sales).
- In the U.S.,
firearm deaths by suicide outnumber those by homicide by more than 40%.
Got some surprising statistics of your own? Let us know in the comments.
Previously: The World at a Glance: Number Ones
Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records
Photo from Meredith Farmer's Flickr stream (CC)
The annual list of America's most literate cities was released last week, and once again, Seattle was named superior overall to all other cities (with populations over 250,000) in the U.S.
Seventy cities were included on the list, based on their ranks in six key indicators of literacy, including newspaper circulation; number of bookstores; educational attainment; and library, periodical publishing, and Internet resources.
The Most Literate: Top Ten
3. Washington, DC and
5. St. Paul
9. San Francisco
10. Portland, OR
New York City, where The World Almanac is located, is nowhere near the top 10—we dropped almost 10 slots to 42nd place—which in part explains the non-word in the title of this post. Visit the site below to find out whether or not your city can read good.
America's Most Literate Cities
Flickr photo by bartberg
According to Reporters Without Borders
, a media watchdog/media advocacy organization, 2006 was the deadliest year for journalists since 1994. A total of 81 journalists and 32 media assistants were killed while on the job in 2006, up from 63 journalists and 5 assistants in 2005. The most dangerous place for journalists in 2006 was Iraq, where 64 journalists and assistants were killed (139 total have been killed since fighting began in 2003). But the second-most dangerous place for reporters was a little closer to home. Nine journalists were killed in Mexico while investigating drug trafficking or violent social unrest.
Reporters Without Borders notes that their assessments may differ from those issued by other organizations because Reporters Without Borders counts journalists' deaths only if they are certain that the deaths were job-related (some investigations into journalist deaths have yet to be concluded).
You can check out the press release here. It includes more facts about journalists including job-related arrests, imprisonments, and numbers of media outlets censored. It also provides a little more background into some of the issues and challenges that journalists are facing.
Press Freedom in 2006 (Reporters Without Borders, full report PDF)
As a nice break from all the looking-back lists, here's one that looks
forward to the 70 "products, services, and trends that will help to
define 2007," according to advertising agency JWT Worldwide:
As globalization continues to make our world seem
smaller, localization will come to a head in 2007. We'll put great
emphasis on sourcing everything from food to textiles. Decadent and
excessive consumption will fall to the wayside as we stress quality,
minimal environmental impact and support of local producers.
I'd agree with many of these picks, and I expect some of them--VoIP,
trans-fat fallout, nanotechnology, Barack Obama--will get a significant
amount of news or statistical coverage in the next edition of the
Others, I confess, leave me a bit bewildered: will 2007 really be the
year of higher-waisted pants, party planning for teens, reunions of
donor insemination siblings, and "binge chilling"? It's a brave new
What products and people do you think will define the
coming year? Let us know in the comments... and bonus points for the
first person to explain "kidults" and "Chindia" to me.
JWT's 70 Things to Watch in 2007
2. Wii and the next-generation gaming systems
3. The business of social networking
4. Pop-up stores, restaurants and bars ... installation style
Shrinky Dink technology (TVs are flat and hidden, iPods are down to
half an ounce, speakers are smaller and less visible, and so on)
6. The rise of nanotechnology
7. Sustainable construction/green buildings
8. Hydrogen fuel cell technology
9. Veggie-bus: school buses running on biodiesel fuel
10. Trans-fat fallout
Continue reading "...And For Good Measure, One Last List" »
With the end of the year approaching, everybody’s hard at work churning out their best-of lists, and we're no exception. The World Almanac
’s top 10 news stories of the year can be found on p. 4 of the 2007 edition. Here are some other best-of lists I’ve enjoyed:
The United Nations 10 Stories the World Should Hear More About: These include stories that have not gotten much media attention, such as the status of millions of refugees worldwide who have been in exile for over five years. Stories that present a different side of familiar news are also on the list. For example, political instability in Somalia has magnified the effects of the country’s worst drought in a decade.
Top 10 Stories of 2006, as chosen by U.S. editors and news directors in a vote conducted by The Associated Press: Top stories (in descending order) were Iraq, U.S. elections, nuclear standoffs, illegal immigration, Congressional scandals, Saddam Hussein on trial, the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, Defense Sec. Rumsfeld’s resignation, British thwarting of plot to bomb trans-Atlantic flights, and Darfur.
2006 Year-End Google Zeitgeist: Top search of the year? Bebo. (A social networking site—I had to Google that because I had no idea what it was.) Google’s top news search of the year was Paris Hilton.
IMDb.com’s Top 25 for 2006: Based on IMDb user searches, Johnny Depp, star of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, topped the list for the third year in a row. Star couple Brad Pitt (#4) and Angelina Jolie (#2) made the list, as did Pitt’s ex Jennifer Aniston (#11). Tom Cruise was #8 (wife Katie Holmes, however, was not among the 25).
Top photo from Candace's Flickr stream (CC) : August 26, 2006—A young girl stands in front of new makeshift shelters for people just arriving at Abu Shook IDP camp in El Fasher, North Darfur Sudan on Saturday August 26, 2006. The crisis in Darfur continues to worsen.
Even though The World Almanac
is the best-selling American reference book of all time, there are still people out there who don't quite know what, exactly, you can find in it. So in the 2007 edition, we added a new feature page that summarizes some of the diverse, interesting facts you can find throughout the book, including some surprising facts, milestone birthdays for 2007, and important trends in the U.S. and around the world. For today, however, we'll keep the focus on our "Number Ones" — the biggest, the best, the worst, and the most popular in just a few of the dozens of different subject areas contained in the book.
Most popular car color in the U.S. .......... silver, more than 20% of new cars
Highest-rated U.S. television show, 2005-06 .......... American Idol, Tuesday night
Top-spending U.S. advertiser in 2005 .......... Procter & Gamble, $4.61 bil
Most prescribed class of drug in the U.S. .......... antidepressants, prescribed 81.2 mil times in 2004
Most popular dog breed in U.S. .......... Labrador retriever, 137,867 new dogs registered in 2005
Leading cause of death in U.S. .......... heart disease, 685,089 deaths (28%) in 2003
Nation with the most vacation days per year .......... Italy, average of 42 days per person
Largest world city .......... Tokyo, 2005 population 35.2 mil
Largest army, by active-duty troop strength .......... China, 2.3 million
Nation hosting the most refugees .......... Pakistan, with 1.1 mil in 2005
Most densely populated U.S. state .......... New Jersey, 1,135 persons per sq. mi.
Most sparsely populated nation .......... Mongolia, 4.7 persons per sq. mi.
Nation with most water per capita .......... Iceland, 582,191.8 cubic meters (U.S. has 10,333)
Developed nations with highest federal tax rate .......... Belgium and Germany, 42%
Nation with highest per capita GDP .......... Luxembourg, $55,600
Highest temperature recorded on Earth .......... 136° F in El Azizia, Libya, 9/13/22
Deadliest natural disaster in U.S. .......... Galveston Hurricane, Sept. 8, 1900; up to 12,000 killed
Most career saves (baseball) .......... Trevor Hoffman, 482 through 2006
[P.S.: Know a trivia buff who might love this list? Want to share it with the world? This would be a perfect time to try some of our sharing and social-networking tools. Click "Email this" to send this entry on to a friend, or "Add this" to bookmark or share it with dozens of different online services.]
Related: "Unbreakable" Sports Records
Photo from Leo Reynolds' Flickr stream (CC)
According to the book, The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived, the most influential fictional icon isn’t a comic book hero, an imaginary cultural symbol, or a childhood toy—although Batman, Barbie, and Santa Claus appear elsewhere on the list. Instead, the Marlboro Man comes in at Number One. According to the book’s authors, the iconic commercial cowboy earned his place by inducing millions of people to start smoking and contributing to the spread of smoking-related illnesses, such as heart disease and lung cancer. The rest of the book’s top 10 are available here.
The Marlboro Man also comes in at Number One on Advertising Age’s list of the Top 10 Twentieth Century Ad Icons. According to the AdAge profile, the Marlboro Man ad campaign went national in 1955 and sales on the former ‘ladies cigarette’ went up a whopping 3,214%. Other top ad icons include Ronald McDonald (whose face is recognizable to 96% of American children), Betty Crocker, and the Energizer Bunny.
When British archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed the sealed tomb of Tutankhamen on Nov. 4, 1922, little was known about the Egyptian boy pharaoh. That didn’t stop newspapers from filling their pages with wild speculation and admiration for Tut’s ancient civilization as Carter, his patron Lord Carnarvon (George Herbert), and their crew worked their way through the tomb. It made for some peculiar headlines. After the jump, some winners that I found while researching for the World Almanac Book of Records.
Continue reading "King Tut VS the Editors" »
Nielsen’s 10 top-rated shows for the 2005-06 television season contained few surprises—American Idol reigned supreme (again), and Survivor survived. See if you can figure out what’s missing from the Top 10:
- American Idol-Tuesday
- American Idol-Wednesday
- Desperate Housewives
- Grey’s Anatomy
- Without a Trace
- Dancing With the Stars
- CSI: Miami
- Survivor: Guatemala
- NFL Monday Night Football
Continue reading "A Serious Surprise" »
This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The World Almanac in the Media category. They are listed from newest to oldest.
Language is the previous category.
Meteorology is the next category.
Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.