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8 Obscure Twists on Monopoly

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In the nearly 75 years since it was first released by Parker Brothers, Monopoly has inspired hundreds of spinoffs. Most of them are licensed by Hasbro, but there are also plenty of eccentric and unauthorized variants, like many of the ones below.

1. BibleOpoly

BibleOpoly, "A Biblical Game of Fun and Faith," takes the rules of the original Monopoly game and kicks the piety up to 11. Instead of building houses, you build a church; instead of going to Jail, you go to Meditation; all the properties are replaced by Biblical cities; the four railroads are replaced by four Abysses; the Chance and Community Chest cards are replaced by Faith and Contingency cards; some of the cards require you to recite Bible verses or else lose a turn. If you land on a city where another player is building a church, you don't pay rent, but instead must make an offering. And, of course, there is no "GO" space. Rather, an "In the Beginning."

The description of the game on the publisher's website sounds like something straight out of the Flanders home: "In BIBLEOPOLY, you can't win by destroying your opponents. You will only win by assisting the fellow players." At first, this seems a bit counterintuitive, since players are racing to build a church in one of their cities. But in order to get a Cornerstone, the first piece of a church, you have to do Community Service by voluntarily sitting out for three turns. Creative, eh?

2. HomoNoPolis

HomoNoPolisIn case you can't tell from the name, this Dutch edition is Monopoly gone gay. Dubbed "The Most Gayotic Game," HomoNoPolis is played on a pink triangular board. Using game pieces that resemble Amsterdam's street lights, players hop along spaces representing the city's gay bars and clubs"¦or, at least, the ones that were around in the mid-90s. When another player winds up in a club that you own, you want to charge them as much as possible, so you can purchase Barkeepers and "Back Rooms."

The game is deliberately campy, down to the pink die. The most risqué part of HomoNoPolis is the "SM Cellar," replacing the Jail. As for the name, "Homo polis" means "gay city." But what about the "no" in the middle? According to one board game website, this is a reference to a local in-joke that Amsterdam is a town, not a city. So the name is meant to be both a pun on the word "monopoly" and a portmanteau defining Amsterdam as the "gay non-city."

3. Anti-Monopoly

Anti-MonopolyBoard game enthusiasts hate it when people try to play by their own rules. But in Anti-Monopoly, that's part of the point. Designed by economics professor Ralph Anspach, in this game, players are evenly divided into Competitors and Monopolists. To win, you have to be the richest Competitor after all the Monopolists have been bankrupted, or vice versa. Depending on which type of player you are, you have to observe different requirements. For example, landing on the northeast corner space sends Monopolists to Prison and Competitors to Price War. While in their respective equivalents of Jail, Competitors can keep collecting rent, while Monopolists cannot.

Technically, this game is Anti-Monopoly II; the first game to be called Anti-Monopoly led to ten-year legal battle between Anspach and General Mills, which owned the rights to the Monopoly name at the time. The professor lost twice in the lower courts, and appealed both times, eventually bringing the infringement battle before the Supreme Court. After the SCOTUS ruled in Anspach's favor, in 1984, Anti-Monopoly sold half a million copies. However, the game was deemed to be too confusing, so Anspach revised the rules and published Anti-Monopoly II. He then went on to write a book about the legal battle and the history of Monopoly.

4. Ghettopoly

GhettopolyThis is probably the best-known version of Monopoly on this list. Sold by Urban Outfitters starting in 2003, Ghettopoly transformed the normal Monopoly board into a stereotypical ghetto, with guns, basketballs and marijuana leaves among the game tokens. The game's imagery outraged African-American leaders, who objected to the game's "Hustle" and "Ghetto Stash" cards, which said things like "You have been elected Pimp of the Year. Pay each playa $50."

The threat of a boycott campaign, led by the NAACP and black clergymen nationwide, convinced Urban Outfitters to stop selling the game. Inventor David Chang maintained that he wasn't spreading stereotypes, but was instead making fun of them. For a short while afterwards, Chang sold the game himself, along with a sequel, Redneckopoly. However, after Hasbro successfully sued Chang for infringement, he was barred from making any more games with the suffix "-opoly," including his planned sequels, "Hoodopoly," "Thugopoly" and "Hiphopopoly."

5. Franklin Mint Collector's Edition Monopoly (and others)

Franklin Mint Monopoly PiecesIf you have enough money to build a real hotel in Atlantic City, this might be the Monopoly for you. Inside the elegant wooden box, you'll find a luxurious board, the center of which is lined with fine green felt. Say goodbye to mixing up your 10s and 20s during cleanup "“ the board sits atop a money drawer, which is also lined with felt and can be pulled open via a golden circular handle sporting Mr. Monopoly's famous mug. You can also forget about keeping the bank's property cards in a stack "“ how plebian! In this game, the banker uses a bound real-estate portfolio.

But wait, there's more "“ the houses are all dipped in silver, and the game pieces and hotels are plated in 24 karat gold. The Community Chest and Chance cards are likewise decorated with gold foil. Not surprisingly, the design of the fake money you play with is unique, but you might as well be playing with real money. The Franklin Mint edition costs $595 (or "3 easy monthly payments of $198.33," according to the Franklin Mint site). That's not including the optional $90 glass cover plate. When the game was first released in the 80s, the Mint also sold a $300 stand and special Monopoly chairs for $100 apiece. Over 100,000 sets were sold.

And as far as exclusive Monopoly boards go, that's on the low end. Details are scant, but some board game fansites also tell of one-of-a-kind sets, made with things like leather and rubies, costing as little as $25,000 or as much as $100,000.

6. Petropolis

PetropolisThis Monopoly variant, designed by the late French aristocrat Arnaud de Rosnay, finds its niche in the global oil trade. The original rule book has pictures of sheikhs and lists 30 oil tycoons to whom Rosnay sent special deluxe editions. Starting from the Geneva Airport space in the center of the board, players travel counterclockwise outwards and then back in, hopping from country to country and continent to continent.

All the money bears the slogan, "In oil we trust," and instead of houses and hotels, players erect oil rigs and drilling platforms. The Chance-like cards are called Telex Cards, and they naturally deal with the sort of problems oil barons must face on a regular basis, like "The radar of your private jet is out of order. You miss a turn." And, of course, the Jail-equivalent is the Tribunal of The Hague.

7. HMOnopoly

As you might expect, HMOnopoly is all about health care, and instead of buying properties and building residences, players vie "to become the dominant provider of health care services." Sounds like fun, right? This Monopoly variant is free online; that is, you can't play it online, but at this website, you can print out segments of the game board and paste them over your normal Monopoly board.

There are some slight rule tweaks, including the ability of the players/HMOs to attempt a Hostile Takeover of their opponents' Health Care Facilities. If you land on a Facility owned by another player, or on the Hostile Takeover space (which replaces "Go To Jail"), you can attempt a Takeover and roll the dice. Rolling doubles lets you take money from the other players, but if you roll double sixes, you can take all of their money. That's harsh.

8. War-opoly

No discussion of Monopoly trivia would be complete without a mention of War-opoly, which mental_floss discussed in more detail in this article from the magazine's November-December 2007 edition. In brief, British soldiers used Monopoly to escape from German POW camps. How? The British secret service sent Monopoly boxes in Red Cross care packages with items like a magnetic compass and a metal file disguised as game tokens. Also included were silk maps of the region surrounding the prisoner camp and real local currency to aid in the captured troops' escape. Get Out of Jail Free, indeed.

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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.

THE AD

If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:

FURTHER READING

Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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