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  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 100 - The Terrible Sperma of Terra Firma (100 Week)

Tom's Notes:

What I’ve been doing – ALDI shopping

Div shower gel

Up your buttery - margerine

Feetos breakfast cereal – taste like feet

A packet of wankers crisps

Chocolate Gob Flobs

Fage - vage

Audience feedback


I often listen to you blokes while I'm driving - I reckon I listened to the first 30 episodes in a few days while driving in America.

This is one intro I'm glad I didn't hear when I was driving. This is the second time I've listened to it, and was banging my head on the desk I was laughing so hard.


Oh this one proved to be a challenge. Crikey. My research took me in all different directions, and I came up with some good ideas but nothing that really tickled my pickle.

Let’s give you some examples:

The Tommy Gun, or the Thompson Sub Machine Gun, also known as the Chicago Typewriter, was invented 100 years ago. It’s obviously strongly associated with prohibition era Chicago gangsters. Interestingly, on a random tangent, they were popular amongst Irish republicans. In 1921 a batch were secured by the IRA and used at the end of the Irish War of Independence and in the subsequent Irish Civil War. Even as late as 1972, Martin McGuinness was wandering around with a Tommy Gun on Bloody Sunday. (GERRY ADAMS accent – hey Martin, make them an offer they can’t refuse).

I went on Project Gutenberg and searched ‘one hundred’. I discovered ‘One Hundred Proofs That The Earth Is Not A Globe’ by William Carpenter from 1885. I almost went with this one, but just couldn’t bring myself to wade through so much shite in an attempt to find the funniest bits. Of the one hundred proofs, I estimate that 90 of them are variants on (stupid accent) “when I look a long way away, it doesn’t look like the earth is curvy.”

Proof 17 - Human beings require a surface on which to live that, in its general character, shall be LEVEL; and since the Omniscient Creator must have been perfectly acquainted with the requirements of His creatures, it follows that, being an All-wise Creator, He has met them thoroughly. This is a theological proof that the Earth is not a globe.

Proof 18 - The best possessions of man are his senses; and, when he uses them all, he will not be deceived in his survey of nature. It is only when someone faculty or other is neglected or abused that he is deluded. Every man in full command of his senses knows that a level surface is a flat or horizontal one; but astronomers tell us that the true level is the curved surface of a globe! They know that man requires a level surface on which to live, so they give him one in name which is not one in fact! Since this is the best that astronomers, with their theoretical science, can do for their fellow creatures—deceive them—it is clear that things are not as they say they are; and, in short, it is a proof that Earth is not a globe.

As we have discussed recently, “it’s just common sense” is the fall back argument of choice for bigots who cannot justify their opinions. “It’s just common sense that women shouldn’t be allowed to on boards of directors.” That’s not to say it’s not a valid thing to say in many circumstances, for example, “its just common sense that if you wash more frequently, you might get laid more often,” or “it’s just common sense that if you burp the Pink Panther theme tune whilst armpit farting in a restaurant on a first date, you might not have a second date.”

Number 33. If the Earth were a globe, people—except those on the top—would, certainly, have to be “fastened” to its surface by some means or other, whether by the “attraction” of astronomers or by some other undiscovered and undiscoverable process! But, as we know that we simply walk on its surface without any other aid than that which is necessary for locomotion on a plane, it follows that we have, herein, a conclusive proof that Earth is not a globe.

Number 37. If the Earth were a globe, there would, very likely, be (for nobody knows) six months day and six months night at the arctic and antarctic regions, as astronomers dare to assert there is:—for their theory demands it! But, as this fact—the six months day and six months night—is nowhere found but in the arctic regions, it agrees perfectly with everything else that we know about the Earth as a plane, and, whilst it overthrows the “accepted theory,” it furnishes a striking proof that Earth is not a globe.

Number 72. Astronomers tell us that, in consequence of the Earth’s “rotundity,” the perpendicular walls of buildings are, nowhere, parallel, and that even the walls of houses on opposite sides of a street are not strictly so! But, since all observation fails to find any evidence of this want of parallelism which theory demands, the idea must be renounced as being absurd and in opposition to all well-known facts. This is a proof that the Earth is not a globe.

There are some nice newspaper reviews as well:

“This can only be described as an extraordinary book …. His arguments are certainly plausible and ingenious, and even the reader who does not agree with him will find a singular interest and fascination in analyzing the ‘one hundred proofs.’… The proofs are set forth in brief, forcible, compact, very clear paragraphs, the meaning of which can be comprehended at a glance.”—Daily News, Sept. 24.

What else was there, I stumbled across a wonderful game called ‘hunt the slipper’ – things were dull back in the Victorian era. I almost went for Centurions, but that was too predictable. The 100 years’ war was also far too predictable. Nothing particularly funny happened in 100AD or 100BC. Although I did find out that a Greek king died of a pet monkey bite 100 years ago, but alas, that was as funny as it got.

I stumbled across a few others too that I couldn’t really justify with the topic, so I’ve pocketed them for another time.

In the end, I decided to research events that happened on the 100th day of the year. That’s suitably random. And I found something that I thought was interesting and historically significant – the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815. The eruption didn’t just happen on one day, but the biggest day of the eruption was April 10th – the 100th day of the year (unless it’s a leap year, which it wasn’t, 1816 was a leap year – interesting fact of the day. 1816 was a leap year). There’s nothing inherently funny about it, but it is bloody interesting.

Let’s start with what actually happened, then I’ll spend most of my time talking about the implications of this eruption because this is a history podcast not a geology podcast.

Mount Tambora is an island in Indonesia and when it blew, it blew big. It was an Ultra Plinian, super-colossal eruption. The most recent one in fact – A 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index – so a really good one to get in a game of volcano top trumps. Incidentally, the astute amongst you would have picked up on the categorisation of ‘Ultra-Plinian’ – yes the ‘Plinian’ bit refers to Pliny the Younger who observed the eruption of Vesuvius (you know, 79AD, Pompeii and an all that), not to be confused with the eruption of Vitruvius, which was the culmination of the most boring night of passion that any Roman hooker ever hand to endure; “2 cubits from my chin at an angle of 90 degrees you’ll find my penis, from there, a quarter of a cubit backwards you’ll find a small hole. Don’t go there – camp curry last night. A cubit above the navel you will find two protrusions around half a cubit apart. Please feel free to lick these.” Anyway, Pliny the Younger described events in two letters and his descriptions are now the reference point for eruptions. His father, Pliny the Elder, died rescuing friends and family. Incidentally, eruptions of this size occur every 500-1000 years.

So to summarise, it was a big earth sneeze, a whopping squirt of mother earth’s nipple milk, an ejaculation of the terrible sperma of terra firma. As a result, it was felt globally. Although the locals probably felt the worst of it – 12,000 people died as a result of the eruption itself, then a further 80,000 died in the local islands in the aftermath; largely due to famine.

Now, because this eruption took place in 1815, when lots of people around the world were writing, there are shit loads of references to its effects. Unlike, for example, the eruption of Vesuvius which only had one eye-witness write anything down, and probably the occasional fleeting, ambiguous reference to its global impact in some Chinese scroll. For me, this means that I had to quickly narrow things down. I couldn’t spend my week sifting through newspaper clippings from every country in the world. Sorry folks, I’m not that committed.

What I will say is this, the eruption led to what is known as the Year Without A Summer in 1816, not to be confused with the Year Without A Holiday, also known as the Year Without A Cold, the Year Without Being Irritated As Much By Joe Public and the Year Without A Neglected Garden. But back to the Year Without A Summer. In a nutshell, the medium to long term impacts of the eruptions pissed around with the world’s weather in 1816 and afterwards. There were floods in China and Europe, a disrupted Monsoon season in India and China, widespread pandemics and famines as a result. Harvest failed in Europe due to heavy rainfall and unseasonal frosts. An ice-dam formed in Switzerland; in 1818 the ice melted and the water gushed forth killing 40 people. Brown snow was recorded in many places ranging from Canada to Hungry. If you’ve ever been told not to go near yellow snow, definitely avoid the brown stuff. In the US, there was heavy snowfall in the middle of summer and frosts. This led to crop failures and more famines. I read somewhere that the skies were hazy for a few years too and there were lots of dramatic red skies due to volcanic materials in the atmosphere.

Now on to a few fascinating examples of the cultural impact of the Tambora Eruption. Firstly, and this is fairly well known, Mary Shelley came up with the idea of Frankenstein in 1816 when on holiday in Geneva with her husband, Lord Byron, the famous English poet and John William Polidori. Due to the unseasonably bad weather, the group had a competition to see who could come up with the scariest story. Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein, Polidori came up with ‘The Vampyre’, Lord Byron came up with ‘Fragment of a Novel’ which was a vampire based poem, and Mary Shelley’s husband penned ‘Funny Bones’.

In a dark dark vault

In a dark dark bank

In a dark dark bank

In a dark dark city

In a dark dark city

In a supposedly neutral country

Nazi gold is kept.

‘The Vampyre’, by Polidori, was actually inspired by Byron’s poem. Regardless, this was the moment when vampires were introduced into English literature.

A final very interesting culture implication of the Tambora eruption is the invention of the bicycle! Yes, you heard me. Karl Drais was a German inventor who, in 1817, invented the Laufmaschine, aka the velocipede, aka the Draisine, aka the Dandy Horse. This was basically a pedaless bike, an adult balance bike. It was a response to the fact that so many horses had been killed in Europe during the Napoelonic Wars and the famines afterwards caused by Tambora eruption and exacerbated by the years of war. Dreis thought that this was an excellent invention for getting from A to B quickly without horses. And can you imagine it now? The streets of London filled with smartly dressed lawyers, accountants, civil servants and politicians, kicking themselves around on their balance bikes with their little Paw Patrol helmets on. “Weeeeeeee!”

Unfortunately, the Laufmaschine didn’t really take off due to the fact that roads were so bumpy that it was about as good for one’s pelvic floor as following a Joe Wicks workout after giving birth to triplets. So, these early bikes were being used on pavements, or sidewalks as our American friends like to call them, and causing all sorts of trouble. And if you’ve ever taken a 2 year along a busy beach promenade on a balance bike, you’ll understand. Shin shunting everywhere!

So they were actually banned in many areas. Anyway, in the subsequent decades, the Laufmaschine evolved into pedal powered bikes – one of the great invention, and one that could yet still revolutionise how we live, particularly with global warming and an obesity epidemic.

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