Just make sure I'm around when you've finally got something to say.--Toad the Wet Sprocket

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

One of the Most Haunted Houses In England

In 1953 in York England at the Treasure's House, it began to get a reputation for being haunted. A seventeen-year-old laborer named Henry Martindale was working on the plumbing in the cellar when he heard a noise. The sound was a trumpet. Then he saw armed legionnaires of Roman soldiers, at least twenty men, marching through the basement. One carried a trumpet. One was on a horse. But more importantly, he could only see them from the knees up.  When the soldiers descended to the level where the Roman Road that ran through the House Martindale was able to see their legs and the open leather sandals they wore that were laced up their legs.  They walked in pairs and were covered in mud and whispered to each other. They then disappeared into the wall.  He left the building vowing never to return there again.

The ghosts would be seen again on at least three separate occations and the legend of this house grew as being one of the most haunted houses in England. In the 1970s a group of researchers decides to investigate this ghost story and get to the bottom of it.  They interview everyone who said they saw the soldier ghosts.  When they talked to Henry Martindale he described in vivid detail Roman soldiers who had plumed helmets and wore green tunics, carried their swords on their right side, and held round shields.  The researchers believed that he had hallucinated what he saw or that he was a liar because archeologists had discovered at digs in England remains of Roman soldiers wearing red and white tunics and holding their swords in their left hand and having rectangular shields.

Henry Martindale never wavered from what he said he saw. Then twenty years later archeologists digging in northern England discovered Roman soldiers remains with green tunics and belts with daggers on the right side and round shields. There was no way Martindale or the others could have known what these soldiers would look like as no one had ever made this discovery of these soldiers before.  Also, it turns out that the old Roman road into the garrison ran right into where the house is.  Did they really see the ghosts of Roman soldiers in the Treasure's House?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Real Tom Sawyer

On February 16, 1853, the steamship Independence was heading north along the coast of California to San Francisco.  On board were more than four hundred passengers and crew--including a twenty-one-year-old firefighter named Tom Sawyer. Sawyer was taking a break above deck when he felt a tremendous jolt. The vessel had struck a reef and he had to act fast to try to save the boat.  He goes below deck to check the damage.  He was in two feet of water. There was a slice in the boat that was filling up overheated boilers below the waterline causing them to cool off rapidly.  When the coal bunkers flooded the Chief Engineer and his men began to toss wood from the staterooms into the furnace.  The blowers were useless which ended up causing the flames to shoot out of the furnace doors and ignite the woodwork in the room and around the smokestacks.  The boilers have exploded turning the engine room into an inferno. Within minutes the flames spread to the main deck and it is out of control. The ship is going down. Chaos ensues.

People are beginning to go overboard and drown. Sawyer, a strong swimmer, immediately goes in and begins to swim out and take people to shore.  Someone goes above deck to get to the lifeboats but finds nearly all broken and that only two are able to be fixed enough to be seaworthy.  Sawyer puts one into the water and crams as many people as he can into it. Then he passes out lifejackets out to others and has them jump into the water. He tells those in the water to form a human chain and grab a hold of the boat and he rows them over a hundred yards to the shore.

But the story doesn't end there. Because he goes back and does it again. And again. And again. He continues until the ship has sunk and there is no one else to save.  He ends up saving ninety people total and twenty-six individually  He is lauded as a hero and rightly so.

In 1863 a young man named Samuel Clemens had an idea for a book about a mischievous little boy. However, he had yet to find a name for his main character.  That's when his path crossed with Tom Sawyer who told him his tale.  Clemens was so impressed with his story and his bravery that he decides to name his little boy Tom Sawyer. In 1876 the novel will be released to wide acclaim and become the classic it is today.    

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Other Songs To Do CPR To

In a previous entry I compared the virtues of doing CPR to either "Stayin' Alive" or "Another One Bites the Dust". Today New York Presbyterian Hospital released a list of 40 other songs that you can use to do CPR to that are just as interesting. Here's the list

1.Stayin' Alive-Bee Gees
2. Cecilia- Simon and Garfunkel
3. Hard to Handle-Black Crows
4. Sweet Home Alabama-Lynard Skynard
5. Rock Your Body- Justin Timberlake
6. I Will Survive- Gloria Gaynor
7. MMMBop- Hanson
8. Gives You Hell- All American Rejects
9. Heartbreaker- Mariah Carey and Jay Z
10. Another One Bites the Dust- Queen
11. Who's That Girl- Madonna
12. Fast Car- Tracy Chapman
13. Fly-Sugar Ray
14. Rock This Town- Stray Cats
15. Hips Don't Lie- Skakira and Wyclef Jean
16.  You Can't Hurry Love-Phil Collins
17. Notrorious B.I.G- Notrorious B.I.G featuring Lil Kim and Diddy
18. Work It- Missy Elliot
19. What's Going On- Marvin Gaye
20. Suddenly I See- K T Tunsell
21. This Ain't a Scene It's an Arms Race-Fall Out Boy
22. Body Movin- Beastie Boys 
23. Walk Like an Egyptian-Bangles
24. Dancing Queen- ABBA
25. Heart and Soul- T'Pau
26. Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2- Pink Floyd
27. Quit Playing Games With My Heart- Backstreet Boys
28. Five to One - Doors
29. Crazy- Gnarls Barkley
30. Spirit in the Sky- Norman Greenbaum
31. Girls Just Want to Have Fun-Cyndi Lauper
32. Book of Love- The Monotones
33. (Sittin') On the Dock of the Bay-Otis Redding
34. Ain't No Moutain High Enough- Kris King
35. Man In the Mirror- Michael Jackson
36. Hey, Soul Sister- Train
37. Float On- Modest Mouse
38. Crazy In Love- Beyonce and Jay Z
39. One Week- Barenaked Ladies
40. History of Rap- Jimmy Falllon and Justin Timberlake
There's a wide variety to choose from. You can go inspirational and choose I Will Survive or Work It.  Or you can choose a darker tone and go Five to One or Spirit in the Sky or Cecilia. Maybe you'll pick something in between.  But now you have alternatives to choose from. Pick your own life-saving rhythm.And the Red Cross offers classes all the time in CPR for those who don't know how. So get started and jump to the beat.    

Info on Where to Find Classes: http://www.redcross.org/

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Jeep Boat That Took a Trip Around the World

The Half-Safe when she set out
The Half-Safe after the London repairs

The Jeep that can also travel on water is known as a SEEP.  It has a fourteen-foot-long rudder and can cross rivers and waterways.  However, it's design flaw made it unstable so the military discontinued its use after World War II.

Ben Carlin, a forty-two-year-old Western Australian, while still in the military sees one in March of 1946 and becomes obsessed with them.  After he is discharged from the military he goes home to his wife, Elinor, with a, what would seem to most people, a hair brained scheme. He wants to take one of the SEEPs and travel around the world in it and he wants her to go with him.  She's unsure about this, but she wants to support him.

It takes four years to make the SEEP ocean worthy and to add a enclose it making a kind of cabin and add a sail.  He christens it the Half-Safe, which would prove to be prophetic.  Also, he added spare parts and equipment to take with them. After 32 days at sea, they made landfall at Flores, Azores. Then they went from the Azores to Madiera which was supposed to take no more than ten days but instead took twenty-three due to a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean that they barely survived. From Madiera, they went to Cape Judy, Africa and then drove it to England where they spent the next two and a half years doing repairs on it.  They would then leave for a drive across Europe on May 30, 1954.

Over the next two years they would drive through Europe then they would go to Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. They even made a side trip to Australia with the Half-Safe being taken on a steamer before returning to India.  While in India Elinor decides that she has had enough and wants to go home. But Ben refuses to give up on his quest and goes on with a series of shipmates.

He was forced to get to the southern part of Burma by sea, likely because he didn't have permission to be in the country.  In his journals, he describes his travels in Burma as being as bad as crossing the Atlantic during the hurricane.  He made it through southeast Asia across the land until he sailed to Japan where there were some delays. He left for the Aleutians on April 12, 1957.

After jumping from island to island in the Northen Pacific, he landed in Anchorage, Alaska on Septemeber 2 and from there he drove straight to on across to Canada with a side trip through the United States.   He finally arrives in Montreal, Canada on May 12, 1958, after traveling 9,600 miles over water and 39,000 miles over land and sets a world record for travel in an amphibious vehicle.

The other half owner of the Half-Safe was an American named George Calimer. After the trip the Half-Safe stayed in the U.S. and Calimer would take her out for the occasional rally.  In 1981 when Ben Carlin died of a heart attack in Perth his local school, Guildford Grammar School purchased Calimer's shares and had the Half-Safe shipped to Perth to put on permanent display at the school.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An Early African American Piano Player's Unique and Mysterious Way To Stardom

In L.A. in the early 1940s, John Redd dreamed of making it big as a piano player, but L.A. was highly segregated at the time and the most popular clubs wouldn't hire black musicians.  He did notice, however, that they were hiring Indian singers and musicians.  People were fascinated by the far east and saw it as exotic and exciting and couldn't get enough of it.

This gave John the idea to take the swami stereotype and use it to his advantage. He'd already tried getting work as an Hispanic using the name Juan Rolando with a small bit of success because at the time Mexican music was hot right then, so it was easier to get work if you were Hispanic.  But this promised to be even more successful.  With the help of his wife Disney illustrator Beryl DeBeeson,
he put on makeup and wore a turban and suddenly Korla Pandit was born. They made up the past that said he was from New Delhi and parents were a father who was a Brahmin priest and a mother who was a French opera singer.  He then went to England to study music and then immigrated to America to go to the University of Chicago to study the organ.

He hit the clubs with this act. This was a very risky venture as at best he could be banned from playing the clubs if caught and at worst he could be lynched.  He played exotic compositions on a Hammond organ and it works. He would add tangos, cha-chas, and other music from the 1940s and 1950s as well as the occasional classical piece.  He would play the piano with his right hand and the Hammond with his left-hand, a novelty at the time.  Not once did he speak during his act. He just played and looked out at the audience with his trademark hypnotic gaze.  Soon, he becomes the most popular gig in town.

To pull this off he must be Korla Pandit twenty-four hours a day and only a few trusted friends and family members knew the truth.  He got a gig in 1948 playing the "eerie background music for the revival of radio's occult adventure series 'Chandu the Magician'".  Over the next three decades he recorded over two dozen albums and he had his own TV show beginning in 1949.   "Adventures in Music", where he was TV's first "talking head" without actually speaking but talking through his music. In 1953 during a contract dispute, he was replaced with Liberace.  At the height of his early 1950s fame, he was a guest of honor at the Tournament of Roses Parade and was friends with the likes of Bob Hope and Errol Flynn.

He appeared in Tim Burton's movie Ed Wood playing himself.  He lived this way until his death in 1998. Then three years later a friend writes an article that records the truth. There were those who criticized him for deceiving them by taking on the identity of another minority. But many others said his actions were justifiable considering the discrimination he faced at the time.  He is considered the Godfather of Exotica music nonetheless.

Here are some words of wisdom from Korla Pandit himself (thanks to http://www.korlapandit.com)
In India we believe that music never dies, but ever materializes into beautiful forms.
Music is the Golden Union of East and West.
In the midst of a crowd, keep the independence of your solitude.
Love and respect yourself, and be aware of yourself. Then we can begin to visualize the state we are seeking and feel the reality of it. Then relax, and it will come to pass. Let go, let God, and you can be changed.
You are a mind with a body, not a body with a mind.
This is not, necessarily, the only planet we have ever lived on.
Recently scientists have said there ís something faster than the speed of light, possibly It is thought.
I do not like to use labels, because labels become liable.
Love holds the Universe together.
Permanency in music is the ultimate in love.
Music may not save your soul, but it will cause your soul to be worth saving.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Doggie Suicide Bridge

By 2005 in Dunbarton, Scotland, the town had been plagued by a mystery for more than fifty years. Sometimes when dogs crossed Overtoun Bridge they leaped off it occasionally with deadly results. Even when the dog had jumped once he would jump again if given the chance.  In the early 1900s, a castle overlooking the bridge was home to an aristocratic couple Baron John Overtoun and his wife Grace who were very much in love with each other. When John fell ill and died, Grace spent her remaining years walking back and forth across the bridge until her death in 1931.  

In the 1950's dogs suddenly started leaping off of the bridge and people said they could see the ghost of Lady Overton on the bridge. It was said that she wanted the dog's owners to be as miserable as she was.  

Further talk of the paranormal was increased when in 1994 a man threw his two-week old son over the bridge because he believed that he was the Anti-Christ and his son was Satan and they were responsible for the Gulf War and were going to destroy the world with a virus and by killing both of them he was saving the world. He tried to follow his son but his wife had stopped him. It was believed that there was some magnetic force or supernatural reason for this bridge to be causing so much death.  

In 2005, scientist David Sands was enlisted by the Scottish Society of the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals to get to the bottom of this mystery.   He read old newspaper accounts and notices that they all have one thing in common: they are all long-nosed breeds such as pointers, collies, or retrievers.  These dogs all have a more superior sense of smell.  He believed they were being lured off the bridge by some scent.  When he looked under the bridge he found squirrels, rabbits, and other common animals, but nothing capable of luring a dog off the bridge.  Then he stumbles across a burrow of mink which have a strong odor that would be irresistible to dogs and they would have been unable to control themselves and therefore would have jumped off the bridge to get to it.  

To prevent further incidents the town has put up signs on the bridge warning owners to keep dogs on a leash. Since then there have been no more leaps over the bridge.  Though people still question whether there is a supernatural aspect to the bridge.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Fiercest Warrior in Japan Is a Woman

In the 12th Century Japan, around 1180, the Genpei War was a rather brutal affair with two factions of the same family the aristocratic clan, the Kyoto-based Taira and the country-based Minamoto clan. The Minamoto clan wanted to give the samurai the right to own land.  For three hundred years the samurai has been fighting for the Emperor but have not been allowed to own land. The Taira had a puppet Emperor on the throne that they controlled.

Tomoe Gozen was born in the same home as Lord Kiso no Yoshinaka (or Minamoto no Yoshinaka). Her father was a samurai and her mother was a wet nurse. Back then women trained to fight defensively in order to protect the home. Tomoe was such a good fighter that she was allowed to train offensively as well.

The three rules of the samurai are to serve, to slaughter, and to die well. She was trained to use a bow and arrow and a naginata, a polearm with a curved blade at the end. She became an expert in both.   It is not clear whether she was Yoshinaka's concubine or his wife, but he was so impressed with her skill that he made her his leading commander (ippo no taisho).

She excelled during battles against the Taira including the Battle of Yogotagawara in 1181 where she collected the heads of seven of the enemies.  Or the Battle of Tonimiyama where she led 1,000 men to victory in 1183. In 1184 she led 300 against a mighty 6,000 and was one of five to survive.  Tomoe and Yoshinaka are the ones to take Kyoto where the Emperor and nobles fled. The last battle in 1184 of Awazu, was against Minamoto no Yoritomo Yoshinaka's cousin who was battling him for control of the country.  There were five of them left in the battle and Yoshinaka tells Tomoe to leave the field of battle but she first seeks out the best Tiara samurai and takes his head just to show her honor and loyalty.  Yoshinaka was fatally wounded in the battle and asked Tomoe to leave him to die alone. Some say because he did not want to die in front of a woman and lose honor.

At the battle of Dan no ura the Tiara would be thoroughly defeated and with the months ahead they would be hunted down and killed.  In 1192 Minamoto Yoritomo would be declared the first shogun of Japan which would last for the next seven hundred years.  The Genpei Wars are represented in Japan's flag with the red representing the Taira and the white representing the Minamoto.  Many movies have been made about this war and it is highly celebrated.

What happened to Tomoe? No one really knows for sure. Some say she became the concubine of one of Yoritomo's henchmen and gave birth to strongman Asahina Saburo Yoshide. Some say she became a Buddhist nun. Others that she became a peasant hiding from Yoritomo.  It is also said that she got revenge by killing Yoshinaka's attackers and taking his head so no one could defile it and walk into the sea. I believe that she lived on as he asked her to which is why we know this story in the first place.

The Heike Monogatari was written some time after the Genpei Wars ended. This is considered a great epic poem in Japan like the Iliad is to Greece. In it, Tomoe is mentioned.  In Helen McCullough's The Tale of the Heike she describes Tomoe is in this way from the text:
Tomoe was especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features. She was also a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents. Whenever a battle was imminent, Yoshinaka sent her out as his first captain, equipped with strong armor, an oversized sword, and a mighty bow; and she performed more deeds of valor than any of his other warriors.
Tomoe was an incredible woman not just for her time, but at any time. She exemplifies the qualities of loyalty, honor, and bravery that we all aspire to have.