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Posted on Sat. Nov. 03, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

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The reading list

“The official history of Monopoly, as told by Hasbro, which owns the brand, states that the board game was invented in 1933 by an unemployed steam-radiator repairman and part-time dog walker from Philadelphia named Charles Darrow. Darrow had dreamed up what he described as a real estate trading game whose property names were taken from Atlantic City, the resort town where he'd summered as a child. Patented in 1935 by Darrow and the corporate game maker Parker Brothers, Monopoly sold just over 2 million copies in its first two years of production, making Darrow a rich man and likely saving Parker Brothers from bankruptcy. It would go on to become the world's best-selling proprietary board game. At least 1 billion people in 111 countries speaking forty-three languages have played it, with an estimated 6 billion little green houses manufactured to date. Monopoly boards have been created using the streets of almost every major American city; they've been branded around financiers (Berkshire Hathaway Monopoly), sports teams (Chicago Bears Monopoly), television shows (The Simpsons Monopoly), automobiles (Corvette Monopoly), and farm equipment (John Deere Monopoly).

“The game's true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow's patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to 'own' land. In his book 'Progress and Poverty' (1879), George called private land ownership an 'erroneous and destructive principle' and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as 'the general landlord.'”

– From “Monopoly Is Theft” at harpers.org

A quiz

What are the world's tallest trees?

Wisdom of the ages

“Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.” – Francis Bacon

Cudrrent wisdom

“Nature is an awful lot more powerful than we are.” – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, assessing the damage to the city after the most devastating storm in decades hit the country's most densely populated region, cutting off communication and leaving millions without power.

Quiz answer

Redwoods, which take from 400 to 500 years to reach maturity; some are known to be more than 1,500 years old.

Snob words

supernormal (soo-per-NAWR-muhl), adj. – in excess of the normal or average, as in: “It did not require supernormal powers of observation for the editorial writer to understand how excruciatingly boring the council meeting was.”

Today in history

On this date in 1868 Ulysses Grant won the presidential election over Horatio Seymour. Horatio Seymour? Talk about a name lost in history.

Now you know

A cat can’t climb head first down a tree because every claw on its paw points the same way. To get down, a cat must back down.


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