The Butter Shave
• This tradition is erroneously attributed to Harry Truman by
many sources. However, there are no documents, speeches
etc in the Truman Library that indicate that he ever did this.
• John F. Kennedy spontaneously did this ironically just 4 days
before his assassination, though it was due to considerations
of size and appetite rather than due to empathy.
• Reagan was the first President to do this on record, though he
had meant it as a joke to distract attention from some other
issues. And he wasn’t really consistent about it either.
• George HW Bush institutionalised this custom and since then
it has been followed by all the Presidents.
• Obama demonstrated ‘courage’ while doing so recently.
Ukraine is game to you??!
• On 31 January 1990, people in Moscow
queued for more than six hours to witness the
opening of this place. More than 30,000
people were served on the opening day.
• It was one of largest of its kind in the world
and for a time remained a tourist destination
of sorts in Moscow.
• So what was this remarkable place?
People who know the Roman script may recognize
whatever is behind the blanked out portion
Super Terrific Happy Hour
• In traditional Japanese weddings, people still
bless a newly married couple by reciting an
ancient proverb that they are the best bride and
bridegroom across the three kingdoms
of Kara, Tenjiku and Hinomoto.
• Kara, Tenjiku and Hinomoto are metaphorically
used to refer to something that is far, something
that is farther than far and, something that is
near respectively. However, they also have (or
rather had) a more literal meaning. So what may
the 3 words mean?
• Kara – China or Korea
• Tenjiku - India
• Hinomoto - Japan
Very, very bad man
• #FreeX started trending on Twitter in Pakistan in November
• The official twitter pages of Jamat Ud Dawa and that of its
cyber team accused India of employing Israeli oppression
tactics in X.
• There were also a lot of sympathetic tweets about their
dear ‘brothers & sisters’ living in X by a number of
• Curiously, people actually living in X would hardly even
know about any such atrocities or even about the fact that
there are people in the world who are standing up against
such imagined atrocities.
• Give me X.
Yada Yada Yada
• ‘Sahib,’ they said, ‘you must become a Sikh’. He thanked them for
the honour, but he objected that he could not, as a British
officer, let his hair grow long. Arur Singh [the Sarbrah or manager of
the Golden Temple] laughed. ‘We will let you off the long hair,’ he
said. He then offered another objection. ‘But I cannot give up
smoking.’ the priest concluded, ‘We will let you give it up gradually.’
‘That I promise you,’ said he ‘at the rate of one cigarette a year.’
• This was the conversation at the ceremony to confer the above
mentioned gentleman with a saropa – a robe of honour – by the
priests of the Golden Temple. This event along with previous others
strengthened a long standing demand and catalysed the formation
of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.
• Who was the gentleman being conferred the honour ?
Made out during the Schindler’s List
• X is a phrase coined by political theorist Hannah Arendt in
her 1963 book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the X’
which is based on her coverage of the trial of former SS
member Adolf Eichmann.
• Arendt states that aside from a desire for improving his
career, Eichmann showed no trace of anti-semitism or
psychological damage. She suggested that this most
strikingly discredits the idea that the Nazi criminals were
manifestly psychopathic and fundamentally different from
ordinary people. Eichmann was quite simply “doing his job”
while also following the law.
• The phrase has caused controversy over the years and has
also been criticised by a section of academics.
Simple joke from a simple man
• Robert Heinlein's Hugo-award-winning novel The Moon is a
Harsh Mistress (1966) is set on a Lunar colony in the 2070s.
• It involves an AI, a High-Optional, Logical, Multi-evaluating
Supervisor, Mark IV, Mod. L, which may be the first fictional
artificial intelligence written with an attempt to justify its
• However, the protagonist of the story, Mannie addresses
the AI by the nickname X, a shortened version of the name
of a literary character written (as presumed by the
protagonist) by the founder of the IBM, because X does
nothing but sit and think.
• The nickname X was incidentally cross-referenced very
subtly in an adaptation of the work referenced by Heinlein.
The Heart Attack
• We’ve all heard of déjà vu. However, there also
exists a phenomenon known as presque vu.
• It is known to be universal across genders and
languages. Most of the languages refer to the
same region of the human anatomy while
referring to it. In fact, one of the few that does
not, the American Sign Language too has a
different but analogous idiom to refer to the
• So what do we call this phenomenon in day-today usage ?
Some of the user reviews of this RAND Corporation book on Amazon:
“A great read. Captivating. I couldn't put it down. I would have given it five
stars, but sadly there were too many distracting typos. For example: 46453 13987.
Hopefully they will correct them in the next edition.”
By Fuat C. Baran "The Biblioholic" (New York, NY USA)
“This has got to be the most useless set of sudoku puzzles ever. In my copy of the
book, all of the puzzles were already filled in which I find really annoying and what
is worse, most of them have been filled in wrongly. I have been through the whole
book really carefully and only found seven puzzles that had been filled out
correctly! Yes, just seven. Well, making the best of a bad job, I am now going
through the book trying to correct all of the faulty puzzles and I will then submit
my corrections. Perhaps a second edition will be more useful. I did find last week's
winning lottery numbers on page 18 though.”
By John Peter O'connor
“If you gave a million monkeys a million adding machines, they could not create a
work better than this masterpiece. It beats The Da Vinci Code cold!
In short: It's number 1!”
By Jonathan Green
The Good Samaritan
• The Indian constitution has borrowed elements from a lot
of different constitutions of the world.
• For example, Parliamentary system from
Britain, Fundamental Rights from US, the Directive
Principles from Ireland, and the system of procedure
established by law from Japan.
• From which constitution was the provision of emergency
and the suspension of certain fundamental rights during
the same inspired ?
• Interestingly, this constitution has been described by some
historians as “on paper, the most liberal and democratic
document of its kind the twentieth century has ever seen”
He’s a commie
• In 1987, Mathias Rust was an 18 year old
amateur pilot with a total flying experience of
less than 50 hours.
• Variously described as being daring, naïve, or
irresponsible, a certain act by him contributed
greatly to the end of the Cold War.
• What did he do ?
So, did you figure out Darryl's... you
• John Howard Griffin was an American journalist and
author, much of whose writing was about racial
• He travelled through the Deep South in 1959 to
experience segregation and wrote about it in his book
‘Black Like Me’, which went on to become a best-seller.
• What was so unique or interesting about his account ?
For good measure, I am throwing in a picture of him on
the next slide.
Scary stare.. He was actually blind for a
part of his life
• At an interview at the Harvard University
recently, Bill Gates said that this function was
a mistake and had he had his way with
IBM, users would have been able to do get the
same job done with just the press of a key.
• What function ?
By this point, I’ve given up on witty
• Gary Gilmore was an American criminal who gained
international notoriety for demanding the execution of
his death sentence for two murders he committed in Utah.
He was the first person in the United States executed since
the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976 and his case
left a deep cultural impact.
• A disinterested Gilmore not wanting to prolong his ordeal
uttered the words “________” just before a firing squad
executed him in Utah in 1977. Years later, the phrase
became the inspiration for company X’s “Y” campaign.
• Y is a slightly tweaked version of the blank. Give me X or Y.
• There are various versions of the story. One of them goes like this.
• Amrapali was the most beautiful woman in the whole of Vaishali. She had
many suitors, including the undisputed king Manudev, who could even kill
each other for the pleasure of having her as the bride. However, to avoid
such conflicts, it was decided to make her the Nagarvadhu (‘the bride of
the city’), a position which could be best described as a cross between a
queen and a courtesan. Smitten by her beauty, Ajatshatru, the king of
neighbouring Magadh, burned down the whole of Vaishali. This wanton
destruction prompted Amrapali to renounce worldly desires and follow
the path of Buddha.
• The story of Amrapali has been adapted in films and print in the modern
times most notably in the 1966 film Amrapali starring Vyjayanti Mala and
the 1948 novel ‘Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu’ by Acharya Chatursen.
• More recently the story of Amrapali was referenced in another non-fiction
work, though it neither dwelt much on her beauty or her later life.
• Which work ?
• Zablon Simintov is an Afghan carpet trader and
restaurateur. He leads a pretty lonely life away
from his family, who have migrated to another
country. He lives in a small room on the Flower
Street in Kabul and even butchers his own meat
with permission from an Uzbeki, the nearest such
person who could authorise him to do so.
• What has been so unique about Mr. Simintov for
the last 8 years ?
• This product maybe facing decline in large parts
of the world but not so in Myanmar, where it
made a comeback in 2013 after about 50 years.
However, a number of competing brands are still
struggling to turn up profits owing to a crowded
• A recent survey ranked Myanmar above Malaysia
and Singapore and not much far below India on
an index that captures the conditions suited for
the industry to thrive in 2014.
• What product ?
• A X article is a Wikipedia article
that ostensibly discusses the nominal
subject, but in reality is a cover for a
tangentially related biased subject. The
nominal subject is used as an empty X, which
ends up being mostly obscured by the “Y“
• X is a common object in most western
homes, perhaps the first thing you may notice
when you enter your house.
• The Telegraph reported in April 2011 that Durak Aprel, an
obscure archipelago located off the Siberian coast in the far
north-east of the country had started seeing a surge in tourists
owing to its shape. Travel Industry watchers have dubbed this
trend ‘shapecation’ wherein people flock to places with have
certain shapes, like a heart shaped island in Croatia.
• So what was so interesting about this island ?
• The Telegraph report mentioned that this trend has in turn
raised the popularity of someone/something in
Russia, who/which usually has had higher-profile in the West.
[Bonus: There was something interesting about the news report
itself. Write it down in your answers sheets for a bonus 5 points.]
Gorbachev Birthmark Island
Dural Aprel = April Fool :P
• Martin Van Buren was the 8th president of the United
States. He had a number of firsts to his name, though.
For example, he was the first president born as a US
citizen, the first president from New York and the first
president not of British or Irish descent. He is also the
only President to have a Seinfeld episode named after
him. However, there is one distinction that he alone
holds among all the Presidents of the United
states, before or since.
• Perhaps you can draw some hints from thinking about
how tumultuous the process of colonization and
immigration was and places weren’t always as they are
• On September 8–10, 1965, Daily Variety and The
Hollywood Reporter ran an ad to find cast members for
the TV show:
• Madness!! Auditions. Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for
acting roles in new TV series. Running Parts for 4
insane boys, age 17-21. Want spirited Ben Frank's
types. Have courage to work. Must come down for
• What followed was later described by one of the
chosen guys as “ the equivalent of actor Leonard
Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.”
• What anthropoidic event am I talking about ?
• Motivated by the relaxation of strict communist controls in the
Soviet Union by Nikita Khrushchev, Mao Zedong launched his
famous ____________ campaign in 1956. Citizens, including nonCommunists were exhorted to criticize the government’s policy. The
criticism grew like a snowball and in Mao’s words transgressed the
bounds of ‘healthy criticism’. By early July, an anti-rightist
movement was underway and by some estimates about 300,000 to
550,000 were sent to labour camps for ‘re-education’.
• Some historians claim that the whole campaign was a ploy to find
and eliminate potentially dangerous elements in the society.
• The name of the campaign springs from a famous poem from
Chinese classical history “Let a ______________ _____; let a
hundred schools of thought contend”
• I have intentionally left a second blank because the Joycean verb is
almost always associated with what was the name of the campaign.
Dhoom 3 had heartless corporate greed and one
man’s revenge against it as its central theme.
The movie may have been very shittily
done, lifting elements from random Hollywood
cult hits but it did have something that seemed
like an (maybe unintentional) Easter egg as far as
the main baddie was concerned.
What reference to a fugitive from Indian law am I
talking about ?
The chief of Western Bank of Chicago
is named Warren Anderson
The Marine Biologist!
• Lessepsian migration, named after the French
diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps is a ‘natural’
marine phenomenon that is less than 150 years
• It has lead to consequences unseen (if there was
someone to see) in the last few million years.
• What could have caused this ?
[Bonus – Write down in your answer sheets what
this phenomenon could be]
• Dashashwamedh Ghat is the main Ghat in
Varanasi. Once you get out of there you’d enter a
crowded street in a locality called Godowlia.
• I don’t know how many of you have ever been to
Varanasi but it is very likely that you’d have seen
this street, lined on both sides with shops with
such typical names as Novelty Silk Store, Paris
Beauty Bras, and Shivaganga Garments
• Where would you have seen this place ?
• Nando's is a South African casual dining
restaurant group famous for its PERi-PER-i
chicken. It is quite popular in the United Kingdom
with over 280 restaurants there.
• The restaurant usually closes at around 11 PM on
weekdays other than Fridays. However, in a
certain city on a certain Wednesday in May last
year, nine local Nando’s restaurants decided to
stay open till 11:05 PM
• Why ?
• The ____ Generation is a term that refers to
the generation of South Koreans born in the
1960s who were very active politically as young
adults, and instrumental in the democracy
movement of the 1980s. The term was coined in
the early 1990s, in reference to what was then
the most dominant microprocessor, Intel’s
________, and referring to people then in their
30s, having attended university in the 1980s, and
born in the 1960s.
• Prior to the 1990 Gulf War, Iraq’s currency was
known as the ______ Dinar. The reason for this is
not clear, though there are two main theories.
1. The Printing plates came from this place
2. The pre-war Iraqi Dinar was a stable currency
which may have drawn comaprisions to this
place’s stable currency.
After the war and the subsequent
embargoes, new inferior quality notes were
produced, though the old currency still
remained in use in isolated Kurdish pockets.
• Jakob Maria Mierscheid is a German politician who has been
a member of the Bundestag since 11 December 1979. He
is Catholic and a member of the Social Democratic Party of
Germany. His biography is that of a backbencher with a list of
humble career steps. Yet when the parliament moved to
Berlin, the bridge connecting the two new office buildings
across the Spree river was nicknamed the ‘Mierscheid Bridge’.
Attempts to mark it with an official plate were said to have
failed because "the nails were nuts“. He has also been the
subject of multiple approved biographies.
• Why does this mediocre politician get so much attention?
• Btw, Germans, for all their no-nonsense efficient ways, have
such parallels in other fields like law and diplomacy as well.
Herr Mierscheid is a bit of a recluse. So here are two photos of his from the
official Bundestag website. One a pretty old one and the other a bit more
recent but much less revealing
Does not exist.
• Germans like to play such pranks.
• Friedrich Nagelmann is a known (fictional)
lawyer and Edmund F. Dräcker is a known
• Mierscheid, Nagelmann and Dräcker each
have a long list of publications which have
sometimes really been published in otherwise
reputable media (science journals, parliament
• The day on which traffic in Sweden switched
from driving on the left-hand side of the road
to the right.
• "H" stands for
"Högertrafik", the Swedish word for "righthand traffic"
• It was Antonio Pigafetta , the Italian chronicler of the first
circumnavigation of the world by the Portuguese explorer and
navigator Ferdinand Magellan , who first mentioned a peculiar
incident that had occurred during the voyage: somewhere along the
journey a whole ___ had apparently been ‘lost’
• Nearly sixty years later, the same thing was observed by the crew
members of the fleet of the English explorer Sir Francis Drake, when
in September 1580 they arrived back in Plymouth.
• Jacob le Maire also had a similar experience when he reached Java
after an arduous journey around the tip of South America.
• What was it that these brave men couldn’t help but keep losing ?
Lost a Day!
• Crossed the international dateline
• A Caganer is a small figurine hidden in nativity scenes in
Catalonia always depicted as doing a particular thing.
• Traditionally, the caganer was a peasant wearing the traditional
Catalan red cap. Nowadays, you may see celebrities as well.
• The word caganer means ******* and if you come to think of
it, along with the nickname of a local football club, Catalan
culture shows a lot of fixation for some unpleasant things.
• There was a public uproar in 2005 when the Barcelona city
council did not include a Caganer saying it would set a bad
• Sadly, such a practice still flourishes in India today.
• What’s Caganer’s thing ?
• The Lok Sabha Rules Committee, in a major
initiative taken by Speaker Meira Kumar, has
decided to amend the Rules of Procedure and
Conduct of Business. This is a sort of a ‘pilot
project’, which will pave the way for similar
amendments to all the existing laws.
• Recently, the Center tried to get ahead of itself to
introduce this amendment to rape laws but the
attempt was scuttled amidst protests.
• __________ is a form of is sexual
slavery and child prostitution prevalent in
Afghanistan since ancient times even though it
has been decreed to be against the sharia law.
• The two word Persian phrase literally
translates to ‘playing with kids’ analogous to
the way you’d translate roles for players in
• ____ _____ ___ is an interjection expressing surprise.
• It was also the name of a hit comedy duet by Peter
Sellers(an Indian doctor) and Sophia Loren(an heiress)
which started off something like this:
• Her: Oh doctor, I'm in trouble.
Him: Well, _____ _____ ___
• The name of the song in turn inspired the name of a
BBC sketch comedy show that explored the various
conflicts between traditional Indian beliefs and modern
• Since the 19th century, all official US Navy communications
had been written in a certain way, a legacy of primitive
technology combined with the service's love of tradition.
• Recently, the Navy, as part of a modernization drive
decided to shun this tradition.
• There are ancilliary benefits for the tender feelings of
young sailors more accustomed to modern methods of
communications. The Navy, however, insisted that it is not
going to go soft on its recruits.
• What change ?
• [Bonus – The order sent updating everyone about this
change was pretty ironical. How so ?]
• sailors were "AUTHORIZED TO USE
STANDARD, MIXED-CASE CHARACTERS IN THE
BODY OF NAVY ORGANIZATIONAL MESSAGES."
• It is election season and LPY and RVP are both
back in news.. A bit of a throwback to 2005.
• Meraj Khalid Noor is a small-time business man
from Patna with no prior political pedigree. In
2005, he suddenly found himself in news when
LJP chairman Ram Vilas Paswan started taking
him along for political rallies. He later jumped the
ship(helicopter, rather) and joined hands with
Lalu Prasad Yadav.
• What made these desperate leaders to give so
much importance to Mr. Noor ?
• 212 was one of the original area codes when they were
assigned in 1947, and originally served all of New York City.
• The scarcity of available telephone numbers beginning with
the 212 prefix (such numbers are no longer readily available
from telecom providers), combined with the code's origin as
the city's original area code, result in the 212 code having a
prestigious cachet in the eyes of some Manhattan residents.
• In the Seinfeld episode, ‘The Maid’ , Elaine is pissed off at the
fact that she has been assigned a new number beginning with
the supposedly inferior 646 code. She even loses a boyfriend
as result of this.
• A few years after the episode was first screened, a large
number of 212 numbers were made available. What could
have caused this ?
• The outbreak began in July of 1518 in a street in Strasbourg, with a
woman named Troffea. This lasted somewhere between four to six
days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a
month, there were around 400. Some of these people eventually
died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.
• This was one of the most notable examples of this kind of an
outbreak which was first noted in 7th century and continued to
occur randomly till the 17th century.
• Numerous hypotheses have been proposed for its causes. Some of
• Ergot poisoning;
• Encephalitis, epilepsy, and typhus
Some claim that it was all staged. Others have called it a cultural
contagion caused due to fear of angry spirits.
I’ve looked into his eyes. He is pure
• Band of the Welsh Guards are a British royal institution charged
with greeting and playing for foreign dignitaries. They often play
popular tunes for tourists or for warming up before actual
• During the 2007 visit of the Saudi King to England, Channel 4
decided to have a dig at the emperor who has promoted books
such as ‘Women who deserve to go to Hell’ and whose government
has a number of human rights cases against it.
• They juxtaposed a footage of the arrival of the Saudi King with the
tune the guards were playing some time before it. They slyly called
it a gift to the sketch writers. A number of people did not get that it
was just a joke and actually believed what they saw on television.
• Shoddy journalism or a stroke of inspiration, call it what you
may, but what was it that Channel 4 showed?
• X is a short Gujarati word meaning a small island.
• X Y is one such place in the Gulf of Kutch. It is
about 30 km from Y. It is believed that this was
the place Krishna used to reside.
• It is also the place where he was visited by his
friend Sudama. The story of the visit prompts
many North Indians to think that the name of the
place was derived from a similar sounding Hindi
• Give me X
• Noel Joseph Terence Montgomery Needham, also
known as Li Yuese , was a
British scientist, historian and sinologist.
• He has done pioneering work in biochemistry and in the
study of Chinese science. However, like many other great
men, his name would be familiar to lay people through
something named after him.
• ‘Needham’s Grand Question’ or the ‘Needham
Problem’, also often misleadingly called the ‘Needham’s
Paradox’ was the guiding question behind all of
Needham’s later work. The question has been attempted
by many scholars since but has still not been settled
• What is the Needham’s question ?
• Why did the industrial revolution take place in
Europe and not in China (or India)
• Such was the shortage of this thing in the 17th
century that William Harvey, the Englishman who
discovered the circulatory system, had to make
do with his own father and sister.
• In the early 19th century medical schools used to
hire goons to help them get by.
• The famous Burke and Hare murders too were
committed for the same reason.
• What was thing so much in demand ?
[Bonus – The Burke and Hare case was very ironic.
How so ?]
• Andrés Bello (1781-1865), a Venezuelan-born
polymath, educator, writer and diplomat.
• Having spent 19 years in London as an often-unpaid envoy for
independence, he moved to Chile, where he ran the foreign
ministry and was the founding rector of the University of Chile. He
drew up the country’s civil code, which proclaimed the equality of
citizens before the law. It was quickly copied in half a dozen
countries in the region, and had a significant impact in others—
including Brazil and Mexico. He also wrote an influential treatise on
international law, which argued for the equal status of nations, as
well as a bestselling Spanish grammar for Latin Americans.
• This long-dead person was in news recently (better, he was the
news and perhaps will stay for a long while). Why ?
The Economists new column on Latin
America is called Bello
• This royalty along with her husband was an early
patron of the art and technology of photography.
• She had a very calculated and strategic
understanding of it. To take an example, a
portrait of her taken in 1893 impressed her so
much that she convinced the photographer to
give up his rights on it prior to publication. This
shrewd move meant that the image could be
circulated without any limits put on by copyright
• Who is the lady and what was the image ?
• X was a commerce student at Deshbandhu
College, Delhi University who later went onto
become the President of the Delhi University
Students’ Union as an independent candidate.
• He later gave up active politics due to failing
health and breathed his last in 2004 at the young
age of 33. He was the inspiration of a character
essayed by Prateik Babbar in a 2011 movie.
• Who was the dude/ Give me his claim to fame.
• After his 1941 speech at the Canadian
Parliament, X was having a smoke. Photographer
Yousuf Karsh wanted a photograph of him and
asked him to keep the cigar away for a moment. X
refused. So Karsh snatched the cigar from his
hand. This made X really belligerent and gave
Karsh the ideal opportunity to take a picture. The
picture later went on to become
iconic, cementing X’s image as a ‘roaring lion’.
• Which image ?
Reportedly her then-husband was present
when this picture was shot just above a
subway grate. He became so enraged with
jealousy that he later beat her up. They
divorced a few weeks later. Though, this did
not stop him from placing a flower at her
grave every week after her death.
Michael Deas is a renowned graphic artist with 21 of his paintings having been selected as US
In 1992, A company X approached him to paint a new version of their logo to give it back a ‘classic’
Deas interviewed several models for the assignment, but found none right for the quasi—mythical
look. He came across a local newspaper reporter, 28 year old Jennifer Joseph, through an
acquaintance and found her perfect for the job. The whole thing was then done in a very rushed
and ad hoc manner.
In the words of Jenny herself:
“So we just scooted over there come lunchtime and wrapped a sheet around me and held a regular
little desk lamp, a side lamp, and just held that up and we did that with a light bulb.”
Deas then worked on his painting over the next 2 months and the finished product was selected by
The logo has stood the test of time in a very transient industry and people have been seeing it for
more than the last 20 years. Interestingly this was the only modelling assignment that Jenny ever
Which company/logo ?
• After an interaction session with about 500
teenagers, this head of state decided to act
sponstaneous and took a selfie with some
kids. The image went viral and became one of
the most iconic of 2013. It has been described
as the first ever ____ selfie.
• Which image ?
And then subtract 5 subsequently and 2.5 from the negatives