The Quick 10: Pac-Man Turns 30!

I spent a lot of time playing Ms. Pac Man and Frogger at Skateland when I was growing up. I wasn't much of a roller skater, you see, so when the other kids were busy doing the limbo and holding hands through the Moonlight Couples Skates , I was jamming quarters into the arcade games. So it is with fond memories that I give you today's Quick 10 honoring Pac-Man's birthday.

1. Pac-Man was "born" on March 22, 1980, invented by a game designer who was just 26 years old at the time. He based Pac-Man on the Japanese character for "mouth." He once said he spotted a pizza with one slice missing and was inspired but later came clean that there was more to the story.
2. When our little yellow friend made his debut in Japan, his name was "Puckman," which makes sense based on his shape. But you can imagine that many giddy teenagers found the one-letter difference between "Puck" and a popular swear word just too irresistible, so the name was changed when the game was released worldwide.

3. You might already know that Pac-Man's enemies go by Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, but you may not know that those are just nicknames. According to the North American Pac Man title screen, Blinky is a nickname for "Shadow," Pinky is a nickname for "Speedy," Inky is short for "Bashful" and Clyde is really named "Pokey." In the Japanese version, you've got Urchin, Romp, Stylist and Crybaby, whose respective nicknames are Macky, Micky, Mucky and Mocky.

4. You can also call them monsters or ghosts and be accurate "“ different versions of the games refer to them as different things. The TV series based on the game decided to cover all of their bases and call them "ghost monsters."

5. Forget Pac-Man"¦ I want to try Pac-Manhattan. In 2004, a bunch of NYU grad students in the Interactive Telecommunications program invented a live-action version of the game that takes places on the streets of NYC, using WiFi and other technology.
6. So far, only six people have ever achieved perfect scores at Pac-Man "“ beating all 255 levels with just one Pac-Man while eating every possible dot, fruit and monster. The most recent was in 2009 when David Race of Beavercreak, Ohio, defeated it in a new world record for time "“ three hours, 41 minutes and 22 seconds.

7. Pac-Man has the distinction of being just one of three video games on display at the Smithsonian. The other two are Pong and Dragon's Lair. I bet Mario claims a spot at the museum someday, don't you?

8. Although NGC 281 was discovered in 1883, long before Pac-Man entered our lives, it's now known as the Pacman Nebula based on its resemblance to the beloved video game character. You can see it from an amateur telescope in dark sky locations.
9. Ever wonder how people seem to master the game so easily? Well, it's actually pretty simple - the monsters (or ghosts, depending on your preference) don't move randomly. They move in very specific patterns which repeat themselves, so once you've figured that out, it's simple. There are also spots in the game where Pac-Man can sit indefinitely without being detected by ghosts, so that's helpful for fingers that need a break.

10. After the game proved to be insanely popular, a ton of Pac-Man "clones" popped up. These included Hangly-Man, Piranha, Ghostmuncher, and Lock 'n' Chase (pictured).

If this isn't enough nostalgia for you, you can read Higgins' post about Ms. Pac-Man, check out Pac-Man's skull, or go play Pac-Man on the Google home page right now.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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