2) When they invented widescreen TVs, what goofball decided to make them 16x9? It seems like the only logical choice would be to make it 2.35:1 (like the image I whipped up in Photoshop in my signature).
There are a multitude of reasons - some with engineering reasons, some with "spiritual" reasons.
16x9 happens to be what is referred to as the "golden aspect ratio". If you were to make boxes of all the major aspect ratios from 1.33 to 2.40 and lay them on top of one another, the single rectangle the encompasses all of them just happens to be 1.78:1 (16x9). Golden ratios and the like have spiritual meanings in Japan and hold great significance as a result. For example, a little known bit of trivia is that the original length of a CD was specified by Sony to be long enough to hold Beethoven's 9th Symphony which, for reasons I forget, has a great significance in Japan.
On the technical side, the wider you make a tube, the greater the stresses on the tube to hold the vacuum required for a cathode-ray tube. In the eighties it was determined that the 16x9 aspect ratio was just about as wide as you could get with technology of the time without the tube being structurally unsound and the tube imploding.
BTW - American cinematographers lobbied hard for a 2.0 aspect ratio, but the die was cast by Japan and 16x9 is what we got.
And why don't they make front projectors that project in 2.35:1?
Because there is no software formatted to take advantage of this ratio. Jeff is correct about it not being logical to make this a projection standard. My front projector does 2.35 just fine within the 16x9 frame and with movable masking - just like a movie theater...