Question: Is it true that the plastic flamingo is the official city bird of Madison, Wisconsin? If so, why? - J.F.L., Covington, Louisiana
Answer: It's true. In 1979, University of Wisconsin Madison students planted more than 1,000 plastic pink flamingos on the grassy expanse near the dean's office as a prank. In 2009, with warm memories, the city council voted to give the statue the special status of city's official bird.
The plastic pink flamingo was designed in 1957 in Leominster, Massachusetts.
Q: There is a TV commercial running for the NFL's Play 60 program in which a young boy talks to a football player. I can't understand the boy. Can you tell me what he is saying? - B.Z., Sharon, Pennsylvania
A: The adult is Cameron Jerrel "Cam" Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. In October 2007, the NFL launched NFL PLAY 60, a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.
Kid: Hey Cam, thanks a lot for coming to my school today.
Cam Newton: No problem, mate.
Kid: I promise to exercise and eat right.
Cam Newton: Don't forget 60 minutes of play a day, right?
Kid: And I'll grow up to be big and strong like you?
Cam Newton: Absolutely.
Kid: And play in the NFL?
Cam Newton: Yes, sir.
Kid: And be drafted No. 1?
Cam Newton: Maybe?
Kid: And become the starting quarterback of the Panthers.
Cam Newton: OK...
Kid: You can be my back up?
Cam Newton: Excuse me?
Kid: And make Panthers fans forget about you?
Cam Newton: What?
Kid: And become your mom's favorite player?
Cam Newton: Whoa!
Kid: I'm just loosening my arm.
LET'S LEARN ENGLISH: In the U.K., a "git" is what Americans call a "jerk." In the U.K., they say "icing sugar," while in America, we say "confectionary sugar."
DID YOU KNOW? W.C. Fields was the second choice to play the role of the Wizard in the 1939 classic "The Wizard of Oz." The role went to Frank Morgan.
Q: According to legend, if the ravens leave the Tower of London, the empire will fall. How and when did this legend begin? - W.U., Clackamas, Oregon
A: Precise details are debated, but what is known is that the legend started during the reign of Charles II. Lets do a quick history lesson: Charles II's father, Charles I, was beheaded by Oliver Cromwell and his Pilgrim followers on Jan. 30, 1649, during the English Civil War. Cromwell died in 1658, creating political unrest. Parliament restored the monarchy and invited Charles II back to England, where he reigned from 1660 until 1685.
For reasons that are unclear, Charles II decided all ravens would be eradicated from London and surrounding areas. Charles was told of the ancient prophecy that if the ravens were to leave the tower, the monarchy would fall. I'm not sure, but I think that was made up by The Committee to Save the Ravens. It was decided, possibly by Charles himself, that six ravens would be enough to maintain the legend and the monarchy. To this day, seven ravens are kept on hand just in case.
DID YOU KNOW? Miley Ray Cyrus was given the name Destiny Hope Cyrus at birth. She later legally changed her name. "Ray" is for her grandfather, and "Miley" was shortened from "Smiley," her childhood nickname.
Q: I was at a function when a man dressed in an ancient military uniform used a saber to open a bottle of champagne. There was a name for this ritual. Do you know what it is? - M.H., Lakeway, Texas
A: It is known as "sabrage," a technique used for opening a bottle of champagne during ceremonial occasions. The dull side of a sabre breaks away the neck of the bottle, leaving only the base. The cork and collar remain together.
This technique became popular in France when Napoleon's army celebrated its many victories. How and why this unusual ritual began remains open to debate.
Speaking of champagne, Napoleon is credited with saying, "Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it."
Computer users, go to YouTube.com and search "sabrage" to see videos of the act.
Q: I was at a block party eyeing the pastries. Someone brought Jaffa cake - a thin cake with orange jelly or marmalade, coated in chocolate. I'm not a fan of orange, but I was curious about the name of the cake. The woman had no idea, she only knew the recipe. So, I ask you, what is Jaffa cake? - C.L.P., Chandler, Arizona
A: Jaffa cakes were originally a small cake consisting of three units: a Genoise sponge base (an Italian sponge cake), orange-flavored jelly and a coating of chocolate. They were introduced by British food manufacturer McVitie and Price in 1927 and named after Jaffa oranges - sweet, near-seedless orange from the Middle East. The company did not trademark the name, so they are now made by a number of companies. You can find recipes on the Internet.
Q: When is Mickey Mouse's birthday? How was it determined? What about Donald Duck? - M.W., Gloucester, Massachusetts
A: Mickey's birthday is Nov. 18, 1928, the date when his first cartoon, "Steamboat Willie," was released. Donald's special day is June 9, 1934, the date when "The Wise Little Hen" was released.
Q: In my travels, I've been to several deserts where it has rained. What it the driest desert in the world? - E.E., Fort Lauderdale, Florida
A: The Atacama Desert stretches more than 600 miles along the Pacific coast in the northwestern-most region of Chile and southern Peru - it gets top billing for the driest desert on Earth. At the center is known as an "absolute desert," where no rain has ever been recorded since records have been kept.
Q: I own a sign announcing the introduction of the double-sided record disc. The ad goes on to say you get music for only 32 1/2 cents per side. When were double-sided records introduced? What is 65 cents in today's money? - Y.C.L., Olathe, Kansas
A: Double-sided recordings, with one song on each side, were introduced in Europe in the late 1910s and quickly became the norm in United States.
Sixty-five cents in 1920 would be worth about $7.66 today.
DID YOU KNOW? Claudette Colbert was considered for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind" (1939). The role went to Vivien Leigh.
Q: According to actor James Cagney, while he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, he was strongly opposed to mob infiltration in the industry. Because of this, a hit was put out on him to drop a Klieg light on him. What is a Klieg light? Is the story true? - M.A., Moundsville, West Virginia
A: In his autobiography "Cagney By Cagney" (1976), Cagney wrote that there was a Mafia plan to murder him, but George Raft, a close friend of notorious gangster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel used his many connections to cancel the hit.
As for a Klieg light, it's a heavy light used in the film industry to this day. It was named after the two brothers who developed the light, John and Anton Kliegl.
- Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIA@gmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.