Thursday, September 21, 2017
In the 1890s, America is in love with bicycle racing. It has become more popular than baseball. As many as 20,000 people would go out to watch a cycling event. Indoor cycling is a death-defying spectacle with packs of cyclists whirling around narrow wooden tracks at breakneck speeds. Crashes were very common and fights often broke out. It was a very dangerous and deadly. Some riders used cocaine, strychnine, or nitroglycerine to enhance their performance. It wasn't as safe as it is today. But those who made it became champions and were rewarded with fame and fortune. In the days before motor cars, it was the most exciting thing to happen since the horse and buggy.
In Indianapolis, Indiana there is one teen who dreams of being a champion bicycle racer. His name is Marshall Taylor and he spends all his time on his bike. He earns money delivering papers and in his free time, he tests his speed on back roads. Taylor excels at short one minute sprints. He knew he was fast enough to go up against the best, he just needed the opportunity. There was just tone problem. Taylor was African-American and the races were only open to whites. He had to find a way to the races to show them that he could race faster than then they could.
In August 1896 he learned that the Indianapolis will hold a major racing event for the world's top racers sponsored by the League of American Wheelmen. He decides to sneak into the venue and compete anyway. The seventeen-year-old makes plans to wait until the track is empty between races and then dash out on his bike. Then he'll attempt to break the one-minute speed record for the fastest minute. He'll recruit an accomplice to start the timing clock. He believes that once the crowd sees what he can do he'll be able to race anywhere.
This is a dangerous undertaking as racism is still rampant in America and there could be deadly repercussions. When he started out, though the crowd was confused because there was no one on the schedule to race. But when they see that he has broken the world record by eight seconds they are astonished and break out in applause at the amazing feat they had just witnessed. Taylor's record was not recorded officially, but he the door was opened for him to race. Over the next decade, he took the racing world by storm. He'd won 29 of the 49 races he'd competed in and held seven world records. In 1899 he won the Track Cycling World Championship one-mile sprint. He was given the name during his career as the Black Cyclone due to his speed.
Still, it wasn't easy. He was barred from racing in the South and the races he could race some whites refused to race against him and others would box him in. The spectators would throw ice and nails at him. One racer, W.E. Beck put him in a chokehold and strangled him senseless until he was pulled off. Beck was fined $50, but it took a while for Taylor to recover that day.
Taylor refused to go to Europe to race because they raced on Sunday and he was religious. So in 1902, Europe changed the day just so he could come and race and he dominated the European and Australian circuits. He really did become the greatest cyclist of the world. He was making $30,000 a year and got married and had a daughter. He retired in 1910 just when his body was giving out and the sport was waning in interest with the advent of the motor car. Sadly, he made bad investments and lost it all in the crash of '29. His marriage also fell apart as did his body. He wrote a book about his life and went door-to-door selling it in Chicago but died at the young age of 53 in 1932. His body lay unclaimed in the morgue so he was buried in a pauper's grave. When the Olde Tymer's Athletic Club of the South Wabash YMCA in Chicago found out they persuaded Frank Swchinn of the bicycle fame to have his remains transferred to the Memorial Garden of the Good Shepherd with a plaque that reads: World championship bicycle racer who came up the hard way--Without hatred in his heart--An honest, Courageous, and God-fearing, clean-living gentlemanly athlete. A credit to his race who always gave out his best--Gone but not forgotten.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
In 1785 France there were a series of unusually cold winters that destroyed the crops and caused a terrible famine that left the nation on the brink of starvation. One man thinks he can solve it. Forty-eight-year-old pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was dedicated and passionate about using his knowledge to help France in its time of need.
He learned of a plant hardy enough to survive France's cold winters that grow underground and requires very little water. It also contains most of the nutrients that people require to live. This miracle plant? The humble potato. He believed the French needed a basic vegetable to rebuild their diet and the potato was it.
The potato was introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers returning from South America in the 1500s. Since then lots of other countries have added it to their diets--but not everyone. Parmentier tries to convince the people to eat the potato but they refuse. They believe it to be cursed and evil. The leaves of the potato resemble those of the deadly nightshade plant which was thought to be used in witchcraft and sorcery. The potato scared people who thought if you ate one you might fall under the influence of a witch or a devil.
Parmentier published a paper in a medical journal arguing for the potato and posted it everywhere but to no avail. Then inspiration strikes. He asks King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France to hold a banquette where he would serve them many fine potato dishes. He offers up potato soup, boiled potatoes, potato casserole. But the most popular was thinly cut slices of potato that had been fried, called pomme fries, or what we today call french fries. The dinner party was a huge success. Everybody loved the food served. This would be one of many dinner parties he would have. Some would include such exalted guests as Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier. Cookbooks were published and fields were set aside to grow them and soon the peasants were following the example of their royal counterparts and began eating the potato and France managed to stave off a famine all due to the brilliance of Parmentier and the wonder of the potato and the magic of french fries.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
The late 1850s were a period of unprecedented western expansion. Under U.S. president James Buchanan pioneers traveled from coast to coast by the thousands settling in newly acquired lands. In the 1818 treaty, it extended the border westward along the forty-ninth parallel from Lake of the Woods at what is now the tip of Ontario to the Rocky Mountains. Everything past that was a little explored and disputed land located above the Spanish California and the Russian Alaska known as the Oregon and Washington Territories. This was good for the economy but overseeing it was no easy feat.
On Septemeber 3, 1859, Buchanan receives word that the British Navy is about to invade San Juan Island in Puget Sound which is between Washington Territory and Britsh Columbia. Only twenty-five or thirty Americans citizens live on this island which is contained the Hudson Bay Fishing Company and Bellevue Farm, a 4,500 head sheep ranch. Two groups, Americans, and Britsh citizens have lived in harmony for years until 1854 when tensions began to heighten when a U.S. customs agent arrived to collect duties on the farm and the Brish deputy swore out a warrant for his arrest. Nothing came of the incident, however. Then in 1855, American Sherrif Ellis Barnes of Whatcom County with ten armed men rounded up thirty-five sheep belonging to the Hudson Bay Company intending to use them as payment for back taxes. Governor Douglas protested to his counterpart Governor Issac I. Stephens of Washington and to the British Colonial Office and the Hudson Bay Company demanded $15,000 in damages. Washington D.C. was worried enough to have Secretary of State William L. Marcy to write to do their best to not provoke the British and He also stated that neither Americans nor Britians should attempt to claim exclusive sovereign rights until ownership of the island could be determined. He asked that the British Colonial Office send the message to Governor Douglas, which they did. An attempt to settle this was made in 1857, but nothing came of it.
Five warships have surrounded the island and claimed it along with hundreds of soldiers and sailors and three armed British vessels with dozens of cannons. The American had only sixty-six soldiers and a single six powder gun and two mountain howitzers. Captain George Edward Pickett (yes that one of Civil War fame) was the commanding officer.
It turns out that on June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutler, an American, was tending to his potato farm when he noticed a pig eating his crop. This wasn't the first time and he was sick and tired of this pig eating his crops so he took his shotgun and killed the pig. The pig belonged to a member of the Britsh trading company and he demanded to be compensated for the pig. Cutler agreed until he was told that the amount was $100, a ridiculous sum for a pig. It escalated and the British wanted to arrest Cutler for trespassing on British soil if he did not pay the amount. The situation really began to escalate with the arrival of Brigadier General William Selby Harney the recently appointed Military Department of Oregan. Harney was known for his bravery in battle, his foul temper, his insubordination, his wanton disregard for the military chain of command and the prerogatives of other government departments in order to get what he wanted. He urged the Americans to draft a petition requesting a military force on the island. Without consulting the Territorial Authorities or the War Department Harney ordered Captain Pickett and Company D of the Ninth Division to come to San Juan Island and establish a post and stop the British from interfering. He issued the order on July 11 but did not send it off until July 19. It did not arrive in Washinton D.C. until September.
When James Douglas heard of Harvey's actions he had the man of war ship the Tribune, commanded by Captain Geoffrey Phipps Hornby sent from Hong Kong and had to be talked out of sending marines onto land. Instead, Hornby called upon Pickett to parlay with him on August 3. They met at Pickett's camp. Hornby produced the letter that Secretary of State Marcy had written four years earlier and Pickett countered back the age of the letter. When Hornby asked on what terms Pickett occupied the island he told him he was under orders from General Harney to protect the American citizens and that these orders came from Washington D.C. This, however, was not true as Harney's letter informing Washington D.C. of what he had done had not reached them yet. Hornby then showed him a letter of protest from Governor Douglas, but Pickett, of course, said that as a U.S. officer he would follow the dictates of his general over those of a foreign governor. Exacerbated, Hornby stated that since the U.S. military occupied a disputed island that they should too, Pickett reminded them that he was under orders from his government to be there and that he could do nothing until he heard again from General Harney. He also told Hornby that if he did otherwise that he would be the one to bring about a disastrous result.
Governor Douglas was livid. He wanted Hornby to send soldiers onto the island and get something done. But Hornby refused to act unless instructed to by his superiors back in London. He was not eager to go to war with the United States. Harney trying to piss everyone off decided to send for more reinforcements and now there were 461 soldiers on the island. On September 3 President Buchanan was shocked to learn through the newspapers and Harney's report what was going on in San Juan. He immediately directed the acting Secretary of War W.R. Drinkard to send a message to General Harney informing him that he was not happy steps had been taken to take over San Juan without his express permission. Secretary of State Lewis Cass assured the British Ambassador that General Harney had acted alone and without their backing and President Buchananon sent Chief of the Army Winfield Scott to get Harney to cut it out.
During negotiations with Governor Douglas, Scott agreed to joint occupation of the island to reduce the American soldiers to one company under the command of Lewis C. Hunt. Hurney was told to relinquish his position as head of the Military Department of Oregan and take a position in Missouri. He blatantly refused. When Hurney heard about the joint agreement and his man Pickett being sent away he became furious and in the last bit of insubordination, he ordered Pickett to return to San Juan. This time Hurney was sent back to Washington D.C. and barely escaped a court Marshall. He was then sent to St. Louis but encountered difficulties there and was kicked out of there too in 1861. He was never given another command and retired in 1863. Hurney's departure mollified the British enough that Pickett was able to return to San Juan until he left to join the Confederacy in 1861. The United States and Great Britain sent the border matter to Germany's Kaiser Wilem I to figure out and on October 21, 1872, he determined that San Juan belonged to the United States.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
In 1812 in Paris, Colonel Jean Doucet, the senior officer in the French army who controls an elite group of soldiers charged with protecting the city and stationed at strongholds throughout the city, holds Paris while Napoleon is off trying to bring down Russia. For months Doucet fulfills his duties without incident until October 23 when a strange man bursts into his office wearing a uniform and introduces himself as General Lamotte and presents a letter saying that Napolean is dead and that he has been named commandant of Paris by a provisional government. He claims to already have the support of several army garrisons and now demands that Doucet turns over command of his troops and surrender the capital.
During the summer, retired General Claude-Francoise de Malet (a former Musketeer and now a strict republican) believes that Napoleon is no better than a king and a first rate dictator. He hopes to restore democracy back to France. So he comes up with a plan to trick the government into thinking that Napoleon is dead. He forges a letter, puts on an old uniform and with his fake documents convinces senior military commanders to give him control of thousands of soldiers. But to take control of the government he needs the supports of the capitol's elite soldiers. When he arrives in Paris He has Colonel Gabriel Soulier arrest officers and releases some generals who were being held in prison who were cohorts of Malet. They then went on a spree of arresting others and putting their own men in office. He also shot the governor of Paris.
So he appears before Doucet with his letter saying that Napoleon had died on October 7. But Doucet had received a letter from Napoleon after that date and knew they were forged. Malet goes for his pistol, but Doucet is faster and Malet is arrested and put in jail. Malet is put before a firing squad. The coup very nearly worked and Napoleon rushes back from the front to secure his Empire only to be defeated ultimately by the English.
Thursday, June 29, 2017
It's 1942 and the U.S. has just entered the World War II. Their subs patrol the Pacific and protect a vast fleet and listen for Japanese ships and subs. The U.S. relies on the newest technology at the time, SONAR which can pick up propeller sounds of vessels miles away and display them on a screen. It means the difference between being blindfolded and having Nightvision goggles.
One day the crew of a sub off of the East Dutch Indies detects something peculiar. It's a constant crackling hum that drowns out all other SONAR sounds making it impossible to detect enemy vessels. Soon others report the same noise of crackling which sounds like bacon frying in a pan. It's not a technological glitch. So what could it be?
Dr. Martin W. Johnson a marine biologist and top oceanographer is called in to help. At first, he is as baffled as the rest of them. He examines the survey reports of where the incidences occur. The spots match locations of massive colonies of pistol shrimp which are only two inches in size. Thousands can live together in colonies. Each shrimp as an oversized claw it uses to catch food. When it clacks together it creates a popping sound.
But if SONAR can't silence the shrimp and they couldn't kill them could they possibly use them to their advantage? Japanese SONAR was a weaker SONAR. If U.S. ships hide near shrimp colonies the Japanese wouldn't be able to detect them. The noise would be used as camouflage. The military distributed maps of pistol shrimp colonies to ships. It became America's secret weapon and one more tool used to help win the war.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
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
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
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 TimberlakeThere'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 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
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
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
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.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
In the German town of Lohr am Main there back in the 18th century there lived a princess named Maria Sophie Margaretha Catharina von und zu Erthal whose father, Philipp Christoph, married Claudia Elizabeth after the death of her mother and it is said that her step-mother preferred her children from her previous marriage over Maria Sophie. Maira Sophia was said to have been the nicest princess around who helped others, was an "angel of mercy and kindness", and "charitable toward the poor and suffering". Her husband gave her a mirror that was red with gold engraved glass ovals upon which are some words "Amour Propre" or self-love. Claudia Elizabeth was obsessed with her image and was always looking into the mirror. The mirror was of such high quality that it was said to "speak the truth".
Claudia Elizabeth was so jealous of Maria that she forced her from the castle. It is not known what happened to her. However, in the region, there were men who worked in the mines. The men who worked there were all small, likely due to malnutrion and the work they did in low mines. They were often referred to as dwarves.
What about the poisoned apple? The Lohr region is known for their apple orchards. There are also black cherries (Atropa belladonna) that can induce an anesthetic effect that mimics rigor mortis. Also, in the area, there would have been glass works that could have been capable of making a glass coffin.
We know this due to the years of research that was done and finally completed in 1986 by a German pharmacist and "fable researcher", Karlheinz Bartels who believed there was more to the story of the mirror and a connection to the Grimm fairytale. So, it seems that there really was a Snow White. But how much of the Grimm's or Disney tale is real is up to you to decide.
Thursday, January 5, 2017
In Nevada, there are twelve counties where prostitution is legal. However, the brothels can be found not in the cities, but in the rural areas. It costs $76 for a license and the sheriff makes you fill out a detailed application that will determine whether or not you get a license. On it, it asks where your tattoos and piercings are, all violations of the law including traffic violations and whether you owe child support. If you owe child support or have an outstanding warrant or ticket you didn't pay, you won't get a license.
Dennis Hof, or Daddy D, is the owner of seven brothels including the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. It costs $500 just to apply to work in one of his brothels and he has 500 women working for him. If you do get the chance to work at one of his brothels you are an independent contractor. You pay for room and board plus $330 a month in medical checkups and they take half your pay for taxes. The women set their own prices and are allowed to refuse any customer or a sexual act with no questions asked. They also have webcam services where they can make additional money off of. Security monitors who come in and clients behaving badly are quickly removed. So this is a safer environment than the streets. But it's also more expensive. And when times are slow you may break even or even lose money.
Caressa is the top earner. She is 40 and in 2015 she earned 200,000 and was named Bunny of the year. Eight years ago she went to school to become a surgical tech but couldn't find work so she went back to the brothel to work. She does so well because she has repeat customers. She works by appointment only, while the other girls take what comes in the door or what they can lure in by webcam. $500 will get you a basic party package, but most spend between $150-$300.
But things have been getting slower at the brothels due to the internet and politicians are looking for ways to make prostitution illegal again. George Flint the last brothel lobbyist, who retired in 2015 said that the Nevada Brothel Owners Association political contributions had plunged from $100,000 to $20,000. New politicians weren't taking his calls and old ones were starting to turn away from him. But don't expect the brothels to give up so easily. Hof had an HBO series called "Cathouse" based on the lives of the girls of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and he is offering to match the debt payments of those women paying off student loans.
For a few of these girls, it works for them. But most seem to try it and leave because they can't seem to make money off of it. It's just too cost prohibitive to do it. It is, however, a safe place environment to work in. There are security and a comfortable room set up to do business in. You do not have to worry about a pimp, though some might argue that the brothel owner is a pimp in a way in that he is taking a big share of your profits. He or she is, however, not going to beat you up or make you do something you do not want to do. How much longer will prostitution be legal in the United States? It doesn't look like it could last too much longer, but who knows things change all the time.
Tuesday, January 3, 2017
I grew up with her as Princess Leia Organa who kicked ass from one end of the galaxy to the other. But that wasn't my only favorite role that she had. I loved her as Besty Faye Sharon when she shows up in the movie Soapdish for the first time and Elizabeth Shue tells her "Hi. Uh, I'm Lori Craven and...I'm and actress." and then Fisher responds with "An actress! Really! How Nice for you! I'm Betsy Faye Sharon and I'm a bitch. Now get out of here." And of course as Marie when Harry Met Sally and gave off this classic line to describe to Sally a woman Harry's seeing: Thin, pretty, big tits. Your basic nightmare.
But she was more than an actress to me. She was an inspiration and a role model. Carrie Fisher was manic depressive and I am too, though for me that is hard to admit to. The stigma is still there. The crazy label I got from childhood when I had dysthymia, a form of chronic depression that I had for twelve years right before I became manic depressive, still burns. So I tend to tell no one unless they are to become close friends that I am manic depressive because I don't want to deal with the label and all that entails. But Carrie Fisher didn't care about that. She told the world and said damn the consequences. She did this at a time when the stigma was even more hurtful. She probably wouldn't consider it a brave act, but I do. Because people judge you on these things.
She helped her mother, Debbie Reynolds (who died days after Carrie) raise money for her charity the Thalians which was founded by Reynolds and others in 1955 to promote awareness and treatment of mental health issues.
Anyways. I think she was happy in being in London when she died. It was one of her favorite places to be. "I feel in love with London while I was at school there and have never fallen out. I love their being as bound up in their history as they are, preserving their buildings instead of razing them to the ground to make way for another big beige building with lots of windows to throw yourself from. I love its accents, its exchange rates, its idiosyncratic friendly behavior, its museums, its parks you need keys for, and its colas without ice. If I can forgive a place for not making ice a priority as part of their lifestyle, that's true love." (The Princess Diarist p 67).
I will remember a woman who was fearless even when she was afraid. A woman took like by the horns and rode it for all that it was worth. Someone who never let anyone stop her or keep her down. Something more than a Princess or a General. A hero.