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How a Charm Bracelet Inspired the Monopoly Tokens

Getty Images
Getty Images

No doubt you’ve heard that the Internet elected a new token to the Monopoly lineup—and it’s a cat. Shocker. I’m sure somewhere Maru is celebrating by jumping into a box that’s smaller than his head and Grumpy Cat is disgruntled. Though it’s been a big news item that—gasp!—the iron is no longer an option for passing Go and landing in jail, this is hardly the first time the Monopoly game has undergone a minor facelift.

When Charles Darrow first started selling the game, he suggested using household items, like buttons, as tokens. It was only after Parker Brothers purchased the game from Darrow in 1935 that they decided to offer actual tokens. Darrow’s nieces, it turns out, were fond of making Monopoly tokens from their charm bracelet baubles or from prizes out of Cracker Jacks boxes. In some versions of the story, Darrow noticed that neighborhood kids were using the charms. Whatever the inspiration was, the Parker Brothers folks liked the idea because it was different than what any other board game was using at the time, and because they were already on friendly terms with a company who produced such trinkets. Dowst Manufacturing already had 15 perfectly-sized charms on their production line, so Parker Brothers appropriated four of them, including the thimble.

The tokens changed again because of metal conservation efforts during WWII—crude tokens vaguely shaped like cars, irons and elephants were made from a composite material, and in some editions, colored wooden pegs replaced the shaped tokens entirely. After WWII, Parker Brothers went back to metal playing pieces and added a fighter plane for a brief period of time.

Monopoly Wiki

In the early 50s, tokens you probably didn’t even know existed—the lantern, the purse, and the rocking horse—were replaced by our modern mainstays: the dog, the wheelbarrow, and the horse and rider.

Sundown Farm and Ranch

Of course, many of us probably remember a public vote in 1998, when Monopoly enthusiasts decided a bag of money would be the newest Monopoly piece. It was phased out in 2007. I suspect the cat is similarly destined for a relatively quick retirement.

By the way, am I the only one who grew up thinking the cannon was actually a spinning wheel?

Jeremy Freeman, TruTV
A New Game Show Helps Contestants Pay Off Their Student Loans
Jeremy Freeman, TruTV
Jeremy Freeman, TruTV

Most game shows offer flashy prizes—a trip to Maui, a million dollars, or a brand new car—but TruTV’s latest venture is giving away something much more practical: the opportunity to get out of student loan debt. Set to premiere July 10 on TruTV, Paid Off is designed to help contestants with college degrees win hard cash to put towards their loan payments, MarketWatch reports.

The show gives college graduates with student loan debt "the chance to test the depth of their degrees in a fun, fast-paced trivia game show,” according to TruTV’s description. In each episode, three contestants compete in rounds of trivia, with one contestant eliminated each round.

One Family Feud-style segment asks contestants to guess the most popular answer to college-related poll questions like “What’s the best job you can have while in college?” (Answer: Server.) Other segments test contestants' general trivia knowledge. In one, for example, a contestant is given 20 seconds to guess whether certain characters are from Goodfellas or the children’s show Thomas & Friends. Some segments also give them the chance to answer questions related to their college major.

Game show host Michael Torpey behind a podium

Based on the number of questions they answer correctly, the last contestant standing can win enough money to pay off the entirety of their student debt. (However, like most game shows, all prizes are taxable, so they won't take home the full amount they win.)

Paid Off was created by actor Michael Torpey, who is best known for his portrayal of the sadistic corrections officer Thomas Humphrey in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Torpey, who also hosts the show, says the cause is personal to him.

“My wife and I struggled with student debt and could only pay it off because—true story—I booked an underpants commercial,” Torpey says in the show’s pilot episode. “But what about the other 45 million Americans with student loans? Sadly, there just aren’t that many underpants commercials. That is why I made this game show.”

The show is likely to draw some criticism for its seemingly flippant handling of a serious issue that affects roughly one in four Americans. But according to Torpey, that’s all part of the plan. The host told MarketWatch that the show is designed “to be so stupid that the people in power look at it and say, ‘That guy is making us look like a bunch of dum dums, we’ve got to do something about this.’”

Paid Off will premiere on Tuesday, July 10 at 10 p.m. Eastern time (9 p.m. Central time).

[h/t MarketWatch]

Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Want to Live as Long as an Olympian? Become a Chess Grandmaster
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images
Kena Betancur, AFP/Getty Images

It’s well known that physical fitness can help prolong your life, so it’s not surprising that elite athletes, like Olympians, tend to have longer lifespans than your average couch potato. But it seems that “mind sports” can help keep you alive longer, too. According to BPS Research Digest, a recent study suggests that international chess grandmasters have lifespans comparable to Olympic athletes.

The study, published in PLOS ONE, examined the survival rates of 1208 mostly male chess grandmasters and 15,157 Olympic medalists from 28 countries, and analyzed their life expectancy at 30 years and 60 years after they attained their grandmaster titles. They found that both grandmasters and Olympic medalists exhibited significant lifespan advantages over the general population. In fact, there was no statistical difference between the relative survival rates of chess champions and athletic champions.

There are several variables that the study couldn’t take into account that may be linked to chess players’ long lifespans, though. Grandmasters often employ nutritionists and physical trainers to keep them at their best, according to the researchers, and exercise regularly. Economic and social status can also influence lifespans, and becoming a world-champion chess player likely results in a boost in both areas.

Some research has shown that keeping your mind sharp can help you in old age. Certain kinds of brain training might lower the risk of developing dementia, and one study found that board game players in particular have slightly lower rates of dementia.

If keeping the mind sharp with chess really does extend lifespans, the same effect might apply as well to elite players of other “mind sports,” like Go, poker, or competitive video games. We’ll need more research to find out.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]


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