Editor in Chief Neely Harris describes the tone of mental_floss best in the editor's letter: the magazine "peppers educational content with 3rd grade humor."
The table of contents is aptly named "mental_breakdown," and department names follow suit, with stories categorized under "scatter_brained," "left_brain," "right_brain" or "spinning the_globe."
While shoveling in knowledge left and right, I came across an ad for Mensa (a completely appropriate ad for this publication) encouraging me to join. The copy says, "Test with us on National Testing Day, October 22, 2005."
Oh, Mensa. You kidders. Is pointing out the egregious error in the ad a secret handshake into the Mensa society? Does my IQ score receive a 5-point lift if I mention the blunder?
I point out this mistake for two reasons: one, it's Mensa, for cryin' out loud. It doesn't get anymore ironic than that; and two, there's not much else that mental_floss does wrong.
The front of the book oozes factoids that you will share with your friends (the dour origins of children's nursery rhymes) and information that will enter and exit your subconscious like a sieve (four foolproof tips for better varmint hunting).
The January/February issue also takes a look at kids' fairy tales and the original stories behind some childhood favorites. The original version of Cinderella has little miss innocent killing her first stepmother so her father would marry the housekeeper. You think that's bad? I don't think I can ever watch "Sleeping Beauty" again. In the original tale, Sleeping Beauty is roused from a deep sleep by the nudging of her newborn twins, not a kiss from a handsome prince. It gets better. After a married monarch takes advantage of Sleeping Beauty, he brings her and the twins to his palace. His wife unsuccessfully tries to kill them all, Sleeping Beauty marries the monarch and--how clichéd--they live happily ever after.
Ken Jennings, the ultimate "Jeopardy" champion, has a column equivalent to the thinking man's "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon." In "Six Degrees of Ken Jennings," readers send any two people, places or things to Jennings to see if he can make a connection between the pairings. Jennings successfully linked Isaac Newton to the Apple Computer.
An A-Z cover story on past fads hoping to make a comeback will have people of all ages evoking childhood memories (break dancing, flagpole sitting, and neon hypercolor shirts, anyone?).
The magazine checks its humor at the door for a serious look at war-torn countries, the last of a two-part series. The January/February issue focused on East Timor, Rwanda and Palestine and Israel.
What better way for mental_floss to end than with a 25-question quiz ranging in topics from baseball and Greek mythology to music and Kirstie Alley? I scored in the 11 to 15 range, earning the title "The Best."Mental_floss is equal part graphics and content that entertains and educates. The creative and analytical sides of my brain have both been nourished.