Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nguyễn Ngọc Loan

General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan was the Republic of Vietnam's Chief of National Police. Loan gained international infamy when he executed handcuffed prisoner Nguyễn Văn Lém, a Viet Cong soldier, on February 1, 1968 in front of Vo Suu, an NBC cameraman, and Eddie Adams, an Associated Press photographer. The photo (captioned "General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon") and film would become two of the most famous images in journalism and started to change the American public's views on the Vietnam War.

In 1975, during the Fall of Saigon, Loan left South Vietnam. He moved to the United States, and opened a pizza restaurant at Rolling Valley Mall, in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Burke, Virginia. In 1991, Loan was forced into retirement when his identity was publicly disclosed.

Loan was married to Chinh Mai, with whom he had five children. He died of cancer on July 14, 1998 in Burke, Virginia.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Molcajete

A molcajete is a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle tool, similar to the South American batan (stone) used for grinding various food products. The molcajete was used by pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztec and Maya, stretching back several thousand years, and likely evolved from the more primitive metate grinding slab. Traditionally carved out of a single block of vesicular basalt, molcajetes are typically round in shape and supported by three short legs. They are frequently decorated with the carved head of an animal on the outside edge of the bowl, giving the molcajete the appearance of a short, stout, three-legged animal. The pig is the most common animal head used for decoration of this type. The matching hand-held grinding tool, known as a tejolote, is also made of the same basalt material. Most pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican molcajetes were made of ceramic rather than stone, especially among the Aztecs.

Molcajetes are used to crush and grind spices, and prepare salsas, and guacamole. The rough surface of the basalt stone creates a superb grinding surface that maintains itself over time as tiny bubbles in the basalt are ground down, replenishing the textured surface. As the porous basalt is impossible to fully clean and sanitize, molcajetes are known to "season" (much like cast iron skillets), carrying over flavors from one preparation to another. Salsas and guacamole prepared in molcajetes are known to have a distinctive texture, and some also carry a subtle difference in flavor, from those prepared in blenders. Molcajetes can also be used as a cooking tool, where it is heated to a high temperature using an open fire or hot coals, and then used to heat its food contents. Although true molcajetes are made of basalt, imitations are sometimes made of a mixture of pressed concrete and volcanic rock particles.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Exile in Guyville


Exile in Guyville is American indie rock singer-songwriter Liz Phair's 1993 debut album. In the spring of 1994, the album briefly made it to the U.S. charts, selling over 200,000 copies. As of July 2003, the album has sold 450,000 copies.

In 1991, Phair wrote and recorded songs on audio cassette tapes, which she circulated using the moniker Girly Sound, in Chicago. A Girly Sound tape made it to the head of Matador Records, and they signed Phair. Phair re-recorded several songs from her Girly Sound tapes as well as several new songs, and the resulting album was released in 1993, receiving widespread critical acclaim. It was the number one album in the year-end critics poll in Spin Magazine and the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.

Phair commented in interviews that the album was a song-by-song reply to the Rolling Stones' 1972 album Exile on Main Street. Some critics contend that the album is not a clear or obvious song-by-song response, although Phair apparently sequenced her compositions in an attempt to match the song-list and pacing of the 1972 album.

The album frequently appears on many critics' best-of lists. It was ranked 15 in Spin's "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005". VH1 named "Exile in Guyville" the 96th Greatest Album Of All-Time [4] sound and emotional honesty of Phair's lyrics were frequently cited by critics as outstanding qualities. In 2003, the album was ranked number 328 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Pitchfork Media also called "Exile In Guyville" the 30th greatest album of the 1990s.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ultimate Nullifier

The Ultimate Nullifier is a fictional item of immense power in the Marvel Universe. The device made its first appearance in Fantastic Four volume 1, issue #50 (May 1966), in which Johnny Storm retrieves it from the home of Galactus -- as directed by Uatu the Watcher—for the Fantastic Four to employ against the threat of Galactus himself. The Nullifier appears as a small, hand-held metallic device with no apparent functionality. When first introduced in 1966 it was described as the only known weapon in the universe capable of inspiring fear in Galactus.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Captain Kangaroo

Captain Kangaroo is a children's television series which aired weekday mornings on the American television network CBS from October 3, 1955 until 1984, making it the longest-running children's television program of its day.

The show was conceived and the title character played by Bob Keeshan, who based the show on "the warm relationship between grandparents and children." Keeshan was the original Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show when it aired on NBC.

It had a loose structure, built around life in the "Treasure House" (later renamed "The Captain's Place"), where the Captain (whose name came from the big pockets in his coat) would tell stories, meet guests and indulge in silly stunts with regular characters, both humans and puppets. The show was live for its first four years, and was in black-and-white until 1968. In 1983, CBS shortened the hour-long show to a half-hour and moved it to an earlier time-slot. It was canceled by CBS at the end of 1984.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shooting Brake

A Shooting-brake is a 2-door car body style with a squared-off rear. They generally have hatchbacks although one or a pair of side-hinged doors is also sometimes seen.

The term originated with custom built 2-door luxury estate cars altered for use by hunters and other sportsmen such as golfers and riders requiring easy access to larger storage areas than offered by the typical automobile boot.

In the early 19th century, a brake was a large carriage-frame with no body, used for breaking in young horses. By the late 19th century the meaning had been extended to a large waggonette designed for country use. A "shooting brake" carried a driver and gamekeeper facing forward and up to six sportsmen on longitudinal benches with their dogs, guns and game carried alongside in slat-sided racks.

An early manufacturer of shooting brakes was Albion Motors of Scotland. There are existing examples of custom-built Bentley S2, Mercedes 300, and also the Aston Martin DBS Shooting Brake.

VG, a small US coach builder, offers a model named VGD Shooting Brake.

Some modern manufacturers, such as Audi, have recently referred to some concept cars as shooting brakes. In French-speaking countries estate-bodied cars (including those with four doors) are often referred to as "break" models (note the different spelling), short for "break de chasse", or "hunting break".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dyatlov Pass Incident

The Dyatlov Pass incident refers to an event that resulted in the deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. It happened on the east shoulder of the mountain Kholat Syakhl (a Mansi name, meaning Mountain of the Dead). The mountain pass where the incident occurred has since been named Dyatlov Pass after the group's leader, Igor Dyatlov.

The lack of eyewitnesses and subsequent investigations into the hikers' deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. According to sources four of the victims' clothing contained high-levels of radiation. There is no mention of this in contemporary documentation; it only appears in later documents. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths. Access to the area was barred for three years after the incident. The chronology of the incident remains unclear due to the lack of survivors.

The final verdict was that the group members all died because of an "unknown compelling force". The inquest ceased officially in May 1959 due to the "absence of a guilty party". The files were sent to a secret archive, and the photocopies of the case became available only in the 1990s, with some parts missing.

Some researchers point out the following facts which were missed, perhaps ignored, by officials:

  • After the funerals, relatives of the deceased claimed that the skin of the victims had a strange orange tan.
  • A former investigating officer said, in a private interview, that his dosimeter had shown a high radiation level on Kholat Syakhl, and that this was the reason for the radiation found on the bodies. However, the source of the contamination was not found.
  • Another group of hikers (about 50 kilometers south of the incident) reported that they saw strange orange spheres in the night sky to the north (likely in the direction of Kholat Syakhl) on the night of the incident. Similar "spheres" were observed in Ivdel and adjacent areas continually during the period of February to March 1959, by various independent witnesses (including the meteorology service and the military).
  • Some reports suggested that much scrap metal was located in the area, leading to speculation that the military had utilized the area secretly and might be engaged in a cover-up.



Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jell-O

Jell-O is a brand name belonging to U.S.-based Kraft Foods for a number of gelatin desserts, including fruit gels, puddings and no-bake cream pies. The brand's popularity has led to its becoming a generic term for gelatin dessert across the U.S. and Canada.

Jell-O is sold prepared (ready to eat) or in powder form, and it is available in many different colors and flavors. The powder contains powdered gelatin and flavorings including sugar or artificial sweeteners. It is dissolved in very hot water, then chilled and allowed to set. Sometimes fruit, vegetables, whipped cream, or other ingredients are added to make often elaborate desserts that can be molded into various shapes. Jell-O must be refrigerated until served, and once set properly, it is normally eaten with a spoon.

There are also non-gelatin pudding and pie filling products under the Jell-O brand. To make pudding, these are cooked on stove top with milk, then either eaten warm or chilled until more firmly set. Jell-O also has an "instant pudding" product which is simply mixed with cold milk and then chilled. To make pie fillings, the same products are simply prepared with less liquid.

Though the word Jell-O is a name brand, it is commonly used in the United States as a generic name for all gelatin products.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Burr Hamilton Duel

The Burr–Hamilton duel was a duel between two prominent American politicians, the former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and sitting Vice President Aaron Burr, on July 11, 1804. At the Heights of Weehawken in New Jersey Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton. Hamilton was carried to the home of William Bayard on the Manhattan shore, where he died at 2:00 p.m. the next day.

One of the most famous personal conflicts in American history, the Burr–Hamilton duel arose from a long-standing political and personal rivalry that had developed between both men over a course of several years. Tensions reached a bursting point with Hamilton's journalistic defamation of Burr's character during the 1804 New York gubernatorial race in which Burr was a candidate. Fought at a time when the practice of dueling was being outlawed in the northern United States, the duel had immense political ramifications. Burr, who survived the duel, would be indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey (though these charges were either later dismissed or resulted in acquittal), and the harsh criticism and animosity directed toward him would bring about an end to his political career and force him into a self-imposed exile. Further, Hamilton's death would fatally weaken the fledgling remnants of the Federalist Party which, following the death of George Washington (1732-1799) five years earlier, was left without a strong leader.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tillie

Tillie is the nickname of two murals of a grinning figure that were painted on the side of the Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park, New Jersey, United States. Tillie is an amusement park "fun face," painted over the winter of 1955-1956. The name Tillie is likely a nod to George C. Tilyou, the owner of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, NY. A similar grinning face was featured on Steeplechase Park signage. The mural has been featured in movies, TV shows such as The Sopranos, Weird NJ magazine, and a famous photo of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band early in their career.

Like many other boardwalk areas in the United States, such as Coney Island, New York, Asbury Park has fallen on hard times. Palace Amusements, built in 1888, closed in 1988, and the historic building fell into disrepair. When the Palace site was targeted for demolition and redevelopment, Asbury Park residents, Tillie fans, and Springsteen fans formed a grassroots effort to save Tillie, lobbying the state to block the demolition or at least remove the mural beforehand. The group was partially successful, as the left-side Tillie, as well as the "bumper girl" murals, were successfully removed. The right-side Tillie was demolished. From June 8 to June 11, 2004, Save Tillie volunteers removed the mural from the Palace building. The building was demolished in July 2004. Tillie and other murals from the Palace building will be incorporated into a new building on the site.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I, Libertine

I, Libertine was a literary hoax that began as a practical joke by late-night radio raconteur Jean Shepherd. Shepherd was highly annoyed at the way that the bestseller lists were being compiled in the mid-1950s. These lists were not determined only from sales figures but were also derived from the number of requests for new and upcoming books at bookstores.

Shepherd urged his listeners to enter bookstores and ask for a book that did not exist. He fabricated the author (Frederick R. Ewing) of this imaginary novel, concocted a title (I, Libertine), and outlined a basic plot for his listeners to use on skeptical or confused bookstore clerks. Shepherd eventually proved his point that the process of choosing bestsellers was flawed.

The success of the hoax (at least with bookstore clerks) may have been due in part to the popularity of James Boswell's London Journal, which was written in 1762-1763 but first published in 1950. The suggested plot of I, Libertine is remarkably similar to Boswell's account of his real-life adventures; booksellers may have believed I, Libertine was a fictional attempt to cash in on the interest in Georgian England Boswell's million-selling journal had created.

Bookstores became interested in carrying Ewing's novel, which reportedly had been banned in Boston. When publisher Ian Ballantine, novelist Theodore Sturgeon and Shepherd met for lunch, Ballantine hired Sturgeon to write a novel based on Shepherd's outline. Betty Ballantine completed the final chapter after an exhausted Sturgeon fell asleep on the Ballantines' couch, having attempted to meet the deadline in one marathon typing session. On September 13, 1956, Ballantine Books published I, Libertine simultaneously in hardcover and paperback editions with Shepherd seen as Ewing in the back cover photograph. In effect, the hoax actually begot the book. The proceeds were donated to charity.

A few weeks before publication, The Wall Street Journal officially exposed the hoax, already an open secret.

The front cover displays a quote: "'Gadzooks,' quoth I, 'but here's a saucy bawd!'". The cover painting by Frank Kelly Freas includes hidden images and inside jokes: The sign on the tavern, Fish & Staff, has a shepherd's staff and an image of a sturgeon, referencing both Sturgeon and Shepherd. A portion of the word often spoken on the air by Shepherd – "Excelsior!" – can be seen on the paperback cover in a triangular area at extreme left,where it is part of the decoration on the coach door. The hardcover dust jacket, with more of the illustration to the left, shows the entire word. Freas' artwork was typically more well known in the science fiction community (one of his magazine covers was adapted for a famous album cover by rock band Queen) and as one of the artists who was responsible for the iconic Mad Magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ussher Chronology

The Ussher chronology is a 17th-century chronology of the history of the world formulated from a literal reading of the Bible by James Ussher, the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh (in what is now Northern Ireland). The chronology is sometimes associated with Young Earth Creationism, which holds that the universe was created only a few millennia ago.

Ussher's work, more properly known as the Annales veteris testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti (Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world), was his contribution to the long-running theological debate on the age of the Earth. This was a major concern of many Christian scholars over the centuries.

The chronology is sometimes called the Ussher-Lightfoot chronology because John Lightfoot published a similar chronology in 1642–1644. This, however, is a misnomer, as the chronology is based on Ussher's work alone and not that of Lightfoot. Ussher deduced that the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC, in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox. Lightfoot similarly deduced that Creation began at nightfall near the autumnal equinox, but in the year 3929 BC.

Ussher's proposed date of 4004 BC differed somewhat from other Biblically based estimates, such as those of Bede (3952 BC), Ussher's near-contemporary Scaliger (3949 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC) or Sir Isaac Newton (c. 4000 BC). Ussher's specific choice of starting year may have been influenced by the then-widely-held belief that the Earth's potential duration was 6,000 years (4,000 before the birth of Christ and 2,000 after), corresponding to the six days of Creation, on the grounds that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). This view had been almost completely abandoned by 1997, six thousand years after 4004 BC. Today some biblical scholars, as well as a number of literalist evangelical Christians, believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible calling for a 6000-year-old Earth.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Katzenklavier

A Katzenklavier or cat piano is a musical instrument with polyphonic aftertouch described by Athanasius Kircher. It consists of a line of cats fixed in place with their tails stretched out underneath a keyboard. Tails would be placed under the keys, causing the cats to cry out in pain when a key was pressed. The cats would be arranged according to the natural tone of their voices.

The instrument was described by German physician Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813) for the purpose of treating patients who had lost the ability to focus their attention. Reil believed that if they were forced to see and listen to this instrument, it would inevitably capture their attention and they would be cured (Richards, 1998).

This instrument was also described by the French writer Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin in his book Musiciana, extraits d’ouvrages rare ou bizarre (Musiciana, descriptions of rare or bizarre inventions):

When the King of Spain Felipe II was in Brussels in 1549 visiting his father the Emperor Charles V, each saw the other rejoicing at the sight of a completely singular procession. At the head marched an enormous bull whose horns were burning, between which there was also a small devil. Behind the bull a young boy sewn into a bear skin ride on a horse whose ears and tail were cut off. Then came the archangel Saint Michael in bright clothing, and carrying a balance in his hand.

The most curious was on a chariot that carried the most singular music that can be imagined. It held a bear that played the organ; instead of pipes, there were sixteen cat heads each with its body confined; the tails were sticking out and were held to be played as the strings on a piano, if a key was pressed on the keyboard, the corresponding tail would be pulled hard, and it would produce each time a lamentable meow. The historian Juan Christoval Calvete, noted the cats were arranged properly to produce a succession of notes from the octave... (chromatically, I think).

This abominable orchestra arranged itself inside a theater where monkeys, wolves, deer and other animals danced to the sounds of this infernal music.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Djinn

A Djinn is a supernatural creature which occupies a parallel world to that of mankind, and together with humans and angels makes up the three sentient creations of God (Allah). Possessing free will, a djinn can be either good or evil.

Although some scholars have ruled that it is apostasy to disbelieve in one of God's creations, the belief in Jinn has fallen comparably to the belief in angels in other Abrahamic traditions.

In Islamic theology jinn are said to be creatures with free will, made from 'smokeless fire' (energy) by Allah in the same way humans were made of earth. According to the Qur'an, Djinn have free will, and Iblis abused this freedom in front of Allah by refusing to bow to Adam when Allah told Iblis to do so. By disobeying Allah, he was thrown out of Paradise and called “Shaitan”. Djinn are frequently mentioned in the Qur'an, Sura 72 of the Qur'an (named Al-Jinn) is entirely about them. Another Sura (Al-Nas) mentions Djinn in the last verse. The Qur’an also mentions that Muhammad was sent as a prophet to both “humanity and the Djinn”.

Similar to humans, jinn have free will allowing them to as they choose(such as follow any religion). They are usually invisible to humans and humans do not appear clear to them. However, jinn often harass and even possess humans, for various reasons, such as romantic infatuation, revenge, or due to a deal made with a practitioner of black magic. Jinns have the power to travel large distances at extreme speeds and are thought to live in remote areas, mountains, seas, trees, and the air, in their own communities. Like humans, jinns will also be judged on the Day of Judgment and will be sent to Heaven or Hell according to their deeds.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lloyds Bank Coprolite

The Lloyds Bank coprolite is a large human coprolite, or fossilized dung specimen, recovered by archaeologists excavating the Viking settlement of Jórvík (now York) in England.

It was found in 1972 beneath the site of what was to become the York branch of Lloyds Bank and may be the largest example of fossilised human feces ever found. Analysis of the nine-inch (23 cm) long stool has indicated that its producer subsisted largely on meat and bread whilst the presence of several hundred parasitic eggs suggests he or she was riddled with intestinal worms. In 1991, paleoscatologist Andrew Jones made international news with his appraisal of the item for insurance purposes: "This is the most exciting piece of excrement I've ever seen. In its own way, it's as valuable as the Crown Jewels."

The specimen was put on display at the city's Archaeological Resource Centre (now known as DIG), the outreach and education institution run by the York Archaeological Trust, where it delighted generations of awestruck schoolchildren. In 2003, it broke into three pieces after being dropped whilst on exhibition to a party of visitors. As of 2003, efforts were underway to reconstruct it.

In 2008 it was on display at the JORVIK Viking Centre.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hiroo Onoda

Hiroo Onoda is a former Japanese army intelligence officer who fought in World War II, and did not surrender until 1974, having spent almost thirty years holding out in the Philippines.

Onoda was trained as an intelligence officer by the Nakano School, and on 26 December 1944 was sent to Lubang Island in the Philippines. He was ordered to do all that he could to hamper enemy attacks on the island, including destroying the airstrip and the pier at the harbor, his orders also stating that under no circumstances was he to surrender or take his own life.

When Onoda landed on the island, he linked up with a group of Japanese soldiers who had been sent there previously. The officers in the group outranked Onoda and prevented him from carrying out his assignment, which made it easier for US and Philippine forces to take the island when they landed on 28 February 1945. Within a short time of the landing, all but Onoda and three other soldiers had either died or surrendered and Onoda, who had been promoted to Lieutenant, ordered the men to take to the hills.

Onoda continued his campaign, initially living in the mountains with three fellow soldiers (Yuichi Akatsu, Corporal Siochi Shimada and Kinshichi Kozuka). The first time they saw a leaflet which claimed that the war was over was in October 1945; another cell had killed a cow and found a leaflet left behind by islanders which read: "The war ended on August 15. Come down from the mountains!" However, they mistrusted the leaflet, since another cell had been fired upon a few days previously. They concluded that the leaflet was Allied propaganda, and also believed that they would not have been fired on if the war had indeed been over.

Towards the end of 1945 leaflets were dropped by air with a surrender order printed on them from General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Fourteenth Area Army. They were in hiding over a year at this point, and this leaflet was the only evidence they had the war was over. Onoda's group looked very closely at the leaflet to determine whether it was genuine or not, and decided it was a hoax.

One of the four, Yuichi Akatsu, walked away from the others in September 1949 and surrendered to Filipino forces in 1950 after six months on his own. This seemed like a security problem to the others and they became even more careful.

In 1952 letters and family pictures were dropped from aircraft urging them to surrender, but the three soldiers concluded that this was a hoax. Shimada was shot in the leg during a shoot-out with local fishermen in June 1953, following which Onoda nursed him back to health. On 7 May 1954, Shimada was killed by a shot fired by a search party looking for the men.

Kozuka was killed by two shots fired by local police on 19 October 1972, when he and Onoda burned rice that had been collected by farmers, as part of their guerilla activities, leaving Onoda alone. Though Onoda had been officially declared dead in December 1959, this event suggested that it was likely he was still alive and search parties were sent out, though none was successful.

On 20 February 1974, Onoda met a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling the world and was looking for "Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order". Onoda and Suzuki became friends, but Onoda still refused to surrender, saying that he was waiting for orders from a superior officer.

Suzuki returned to Japan with photographs of himself and Onoda as proof of their encounter, and the Japanese government located Onoda's commanding officer, Major Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller. He flew to Lubang and on 9 March 1974 informed Onoda of the defeat of Japan in WWII and ordered him to lay down his arms.

Lieutenant Onoda emerged from the jungle 29 years after the end of World War II, and accepted the commanding officer's order of surrender in his uniform and sword, with his Arisaka Type 99 rifle still in operating condition, 500 rounds of ammunition and several hand grenades.

Though he had killed some thirty Philippine inhabitants of the island and engaged in several shootouts with the police, the circumstances of these events were taken into consideration, and Onoda received a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pterosaur

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (220 to 65.5 million years ago). Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the legs to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. Early species had long, fully-toothed jaws and long tails, while later forms had a highly reduced tail, and some lacked teeth. Many sported furry coats made up of hair-like filaments known as pycnofibres, which covered their bodies and parts of their wings. Pterosaurs spanned a wide range of adult sizes, from the very small Nemicolopterus to the largest known flying creatures of all time, including Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx.

Pterosaurs are sometimes referred to in the popular media as dinosaurs, but this is incorrect. The term "dinosaur" is properly restricted to a certain group of terrestrial reptiles with a unique upright stance (superorder Dinosauria), and therefore excludes the pterosaurs, as well as the various groups of extinct aquatic reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mellified Man

Mellified Man refers to a legendary medicinal substance created by steeping a human cadaver in honey.

According to legend, an elderly man (over 70 years old), likely to die in the near future, would donate his corpse to be used as a healing confection. This process differed from a simple body donation because of the aspect of self-sacrifice; the mellification process would ideally start before death. The donor would stop eating any food other than honey, going as far as to bathe in the substance. Shortly, his feces (and even his sweat, according to legend) would consist of honey. When this diet finally proved fatal, the donor's body would be placed in a stone coffin filled with honey. After a century or so, the contents would have turned into a sort of confection reputedly capable of healing broken limbs and other ailments. This confection would then be carefully sold in street markets as a hard to find item with a hefty price.

Allegedly from Arabia, the mellified man legend was reported by 16th-century Chinese pharmacologist Li Shizhen in his Bencao Gangmu.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Republican Marriage

Republican marriage (French: mariage républicain) was a form of execution that allegedly occurred in Nantes during the Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France and "involved tying a naked man and woman together and drowning them". This was reported to have been practiced during the noyades massacres that were ordered by local Jacobin representative-on-mission Jean-Baptiste Carrier between November 1793 and January 1794 in the city of Nantes. Most accounts indicate that the victims were drowned in the Loire River, although a few sources describe an alternative means of execution in which the bound couple is run through with a sword, either before, or instead of drowning.

This form of execution is attributed to French Revolutionary Jean-Baptiste Carrier, who was sent to Nantes to suppress the counterrevolutionary forces and to appoint a Revolutionary Committee. One historian described the use of the practice as follows:

A Revolutionary Tribunal was established [at Nantes], of which Carrier was the presiding demon—Carrier, known in all nations as the inventor of that last of barbarous atrocities, the Republican Marriage, in which two persons of different sexes, generally an old man and an old woman, or a young man and a young woman, bereft of every kind of clothing, were bound together before the multitude, exposed in a boat in that situation for half an hour or more, and then thrown into the river.

Details of the practice vary slightly, but are generally consistent with the description offered above. One author described how "marriages Républicains... consisted in binding together a man and woman, back to back, stripped naked, keeping them exposed for an hour, and then hurling them into the current of "la Baignoire Nationale", as the bloodhounds termed the Loire". British radical and Girondist sympathizer Helen Maria Williams, in her Sketch of the Politics of France, 1793-94, wrote that "innocent young women were unclothed in the presence of the monsters; and, to add a deeper horror to this infernal act of cruelty, were tied to young men, and both were cut down with sabers, or thrown into the river; and this kind of murder was called a republican marriage".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bananadine

Bananadine is a fictitious psychoactive substance which is supposedly extracted from banana peels. An alleged recipe for its "extraction" from banana peel was originally published in the Berkeley Barb in March 1967. It became more widely known when William Powell reproduced the method in The Anarchist Cookbook in 1970. Powell has since attempted to have the recipe withdrawn. However, as he no longer holds the copyright for the article, he has been unsuccessful in this.

The joke was started by the Yippies to prove that you can't trust the media: they'll print anything anyone tells them.

Researchers at New York University have found that banana peel contains no intoxicating chemicals, and that smoking it produces no physical effect. Over the years, there has been considerable speculation regarding the psychoactive properties of banana skins.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Knights Templar

The Knights Templar were among the most famous of the Christian military orders. The organization existed for approximately two centuries in the Middle Ages. It was created in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096, to ensure the safety of the large numbers of European pilgrims who flowed toward Jerusalem after its conquest. Officially endorsed by the church in 1129, the Order became a favored charity across Europe.

It grew rapidly in membership and power. Templar knights, easily recognizable in their white mantle with a distinct red cross, made some of the best equipped, trained, and disciplined fighting units of the Crusades. Non-warrior members of the Order managed a large economic infrastructure throughout Christendom, innovating many financial techniques that were an early form of banking, and building numerous fortifications across Europe and the Holy Land. The Templars' success was tied closely to the success of the Crusades.

When the Holy Land was lost and the Templars suffered crushing defeats, support for the Order's existence faded. Rumors about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created mistrust, and King Philip IV of France, deeply in debt to the Order, began pressuring Pope Clement V to take action. On Friday, October 13, 1307, King Philip had many of the Order's members, including the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, arrested, tortured into "confessions", and burned at the stake.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wario

Wario is a fictional Nintendo video-game character who was created as an antagonist to Mario and has since become the protagonist of his own games. He first appears in the 1992 video game Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins as the main villain and final boss. He is voiced by Charles Martinet, who also voices the Mario, Luigi, and Waluigi characters. The name "Wario" can be taken to be a blending of Mario's name with the Japanese adjective warui meaning "bad"; hence, a "bad Mario". In the United States, the name is often seen as a play on the word "war" and on the fact that the letter W resembles an upside-down M. As Wario is Mario's evil counterpart, his actions are often the opposites of Mario's, just as the first letters in their names appear to be opposites.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kringle

Kringle is a Scandinavian pastry, a Nordic variety of pretzel, which arrived with Roman Catholic monks in the 13th century, especially in Denmark. It developed further into several kinds of sweet, salty or filled pastries.

In Danish and Norwegian, the word is kringle, plural kringler; Swedish: kringla, plural kringlor; Icelandic: kringla, plural kringlur; Finnish: rinkeli. The word originates from the Old Norse kringla, meaning ring or circle. The shape of the kringle has given name to a similarly entangled feature found in some proteins, the so-called Kringle domain.

In the United States, kringles are hand-rolled from Danish pastry dough (wienerbrød dough) that has been rested overnight before shaping, filling, and baking. Many layers of the flaky dough are layered, then shaped in an oval. After filling with fruit, nut, or other flavor combinations, the pastry is baked and iced.

Racine, Wisconsin, has historically been a center of Danish-American culture. Kringle and Danish culture are an important part of Racine's cultural identity, and several local bakeries make and ship hundreds of thousands of kringles each year.

The Ballard area of Seattle, Washington, Solvang, California, central Iowa and Burr Ridge, Illinois, are among other places to find kringles in the U.S. In 2005, Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, held a Kringle Kontest, which was won by Kirsten's Danish Bakery in Burr Ridge, Illinois. Kirsten may have had a slight advantage in being the only Danish bakery in the U.S. that employs bakers trained in Denmark using traditional methods.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Collyer Brothers

Homer Lusk Collyer (November 6, 1881 – March 21, 1947) and Langley Collyer (October 3, 1885 – March 1947) were two American brothers who became famous because of their snobbish nature, filth in their homes, and compulsive hoarding. For decades, neighborhood rumors swirled around the rarely seen, unemployed men and their home at 2078 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 128th Street), in Manhattan, where they obsessively collected newspapers, books, furniture, musical instruments, and many other items, with booby traps set up in corridors and doorways to protect against intruders. Both were eventually found dead in the Harlem brownstone where they had lived as hermits, surrounded by over 130 tons of waste that they had amassed over several decades.

On March 21, 1947, an anonymous tipster phoned the 122nd Police Precinct and insisted there was a dead body in the house. A patrol officer was dispatched, but had a difficult time getting into the house at first, noting however that an awful odor was emanating from somewhere within the building. There was no doorbell or telephone and the doors were locked; and while the basement windows were broken, they were protected by iron grillwork. An emergency squad of seven men eventually had no choice but to begin pulling out all the junk that was blocking their way and throw it out onto the street below. The brownstone's foyer was packed solid by a wall of old newspapers, folding beds and chairs, half a sewing machine, boxes, parts of a wine press, and numerous other pieces of junk. A patrolman, William Barker, finally broke in through a window into a second-story bedroom. Behind this window lay, among other things, more packages and newspaper bundles, empty cardboard boxes lashed together with rope, the frame of a baby carriage, a rake, and old umbrellas tied together. After a two-hour crawl he found Homer Collyer dead, wearing just a tattered blue and white bathrobe. Homer's matted, grey hair reached down to his shoulders, and his head was resting on his knees.

Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Arthur C. Allen confirmed Homer's identity and said that the elder brother had been dead for no more than ten hours; consequently, Homer could not have been the source of the stench wafting from the house. Foul play was ruled out: Homer had died from the combined effects of malnutrition, dehydration, and cardiac arrest. By this time, the mystery had attracted a crowd of about 600 onlookers, curious about the junk and the smell. But Langley was nowhere to be found.

In their quest to find Langley, the police began searching the house, an arduous task that required them to remove the large quantity of amassed junk. Most of it was deemed worthless and set out curbside for the sanitation department to haul away; a few items were put into storage. The ongoing search turned up a further assortment of guns and ammunition. There was no sign of Langley.

On April 8, 1947, workman Artie Matthews found the body of Langley Collyer just 10 feet from where Homer died. His partially decomposed body was being eaten by rats. A suitcase and three huge bundles of newspapers covered his body. Langley had been crawling through their newspaper tunnel to bring food to his paralyzed brother when one of his own booby traps fell down and crushed him. Homer, blind and paralyzed, starved to death several days later. The stench detected on the street had been emanating from Langley, the younger brother.

Both brothers were buried with their parents at Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Foster Brooks

Foster Brooks was an American actor and comedian most famous for his portrayal of a drunken man in nightclub performances and television programs.

Brooks regularly appeared on The Dean Martin Show (Celebrity Roast) television program in the 1970s, as well as many situation comedies, talk shows, and a few films. Although he had only one basic signature character, he exhibited such extraordinary timing and subtlety that he was instantly recognized as one of the great comic performers of the time. His signature routine was the basis of a hit comedy album entitled "Foster Brooks, The Lovable Lush," released in the early 1970s.

As his "Lovable Lush" character, Brooks usually portrayed a conventioneer who had had a few too many drinks — not falling-down drunk, but inebriated enough that he would mix up his words to comedic delight. Brooks drew upon his own battles with alcohol for his act, but during his period of greatest fame, Brooks rarely drank. Of giving up drinking to win a bet in 1964, Brooks said, "Fellow made me a $10 bet I couldn't quit, and I haven't had a drink since. At the time I needed the $10." He would occasionally make cameo appearances in which his character was perfectly sober, such as his appearance in a 1968 episode of Adam-12 playing a straight-laced citizen who tries to get out of a parking ticket by dropping the name of an officer senior to the main characters.

In character, Brooks asked Dean Martin to join his group “Alcoholics Unanimous,” a play on Alcoholics Anonymous. He boasted he and Martin were charter members of the DUI Hall of Fame.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Old Dan Tucker

"Old Dan Tucker", also known as "Ole Dan Tucker", "Dan Tucker", and other variants, is a popular American song. Its origins remain obscure; the tune may have come from oral tradition, and the words may have been written by songwriter and performer Dan Emmett. The blackface troupe the Virginia Minstrels popularized "Old Dan Tucker" in 1843, and it quickly became a minstrel hit, behind only "Miss Lucy Long" and "Mary Blane" in popularity during the antebellum period. "Old Dan Tucker" entered the folk vernacular around the same time. Today it is a bluegrass and country music standard.

The first sheet music edition of "Old Dan Tucker", published in 1843, is a song of boasts and nonsense in the vein of previous minstrel hits such as "Jump Jim Crow" and "Gumbo Chaff". In exaggerated Black Vernacular English, the lyrics tell of Dan Tucker's exploits in a strange town, where he fights, gets drunk, overeats, and breaks other social taboos. Minstrel troupes freely added and removed verses, and folk singers have since added hundreds more. Parodies and political versions are also known.

The song falls into the idiom of previous minstrel music, relying on rhythm and text declamation as its primary motivation. Its melody is simple and the harmony little developed. Nevertheless, contemporary critics found the song more pleasant than previous minstrel fare. Musicologist Dale Cockrell argues that the song represents a transition between early minstrel music and the more European-style songs of minstrelsy's later years.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Clutch Cargo

Clutch Cargo is an animated television series produced by Cambria Productions and syndicated beginning on March 9, 1959. Notable for its very limited animation, yet imaginative stories, the series was a surprise hit at the time, and could be seen on 65 stations nationwide in 1960.

The stories centered around Clutch Cargo, described as "a writer and pilot with a muscular build, white hair and rugged good looks". As was typical of adventure serials, Clutch Cargo was sent around the world on dangerous assignments. Accompanying him on the assignments were his young ward Spinner and his pet dachshund, Paddlefoot. Live-action footage of an airplane was used as well, specifically that of a rare 1929 Bellanca C-27 Airbus.

Hal Smith, the voice of Owl in Disney's Winnie the Pooh series, and playing Otis Campbell on The Andy Griffith Show, was the voice of Clutch's grizzled, pith-helmeted friend Swampy, as well as numerous other characters.

In all, 52 Clutch Cargo adventures were produced and then serialized in five five-minute chapters each. The first four chapters naturally ended in cliffhangers, with the fifth chapter concluding the adventure. Haas explained the format of the show: "Each story is done in five five-minute segments so the stations can run one a day on weekdays, then recap the whole for a half-hour Saturday show. It's flexible and works very well."2

Because of budgetary limitations and the pressure to create television animation within a tight time frame, the show was the first to use the "Syncro-Vox" optical printing system. Syncro-Vox was invented by television cameraman, and partner in Cambria Studios, Edwin Gillette, as a means of superimposing real human mouths on the faces of animals for the popular "talking animal" commercials of the 1950s. Clutch Cargo employed the Syncro-Vox technique by superimposing live-action human lips over limited-motion animation or even motionless animation cels.