A blog of trivial facts and nothing news

The Last Dog Hung

Did you ever stay around a party or event till the end when all the festivities wrap up? It may seem by that time the host and hostess are ready for you to leave. That is what it means to stay “Until the Last Dog is Hung” but the origin of the saying is a bit more dramatic. It appears from what we can gather that the term was issued in print in a novel of 1902. The book which is about the old west contains the line: ‘They were loyal. It was a point of honor with them to stay ‘until the last dog was hung.’ But from information available the dogs that were being hung were humans not Rover. Back in the day if you were considered a bad man of the old west you might meet your end by a lynch mob. Several bad guys might be hung a single lynching so some morbid folks stuck around till the final hanging also referred to as a necktie party. They waited till the last dog was hung before heading home. Nothing like a good lynching before dinner and bed.


Steve McQueen Marine

I was talking to a friend of mine from church and he mentioned that Steve McQueen that actor had at one time been a Marine.  The rumor was that McQueen was kicked out of the Corps for driving a weapons carrier into the ocean. After some research I discovered that Steve McQueen did join the Marines in 1947. He got into some trouble but it had nothing to do with a vehicle. Instead it seems that McQueen took a weekend pass that turned it into a two week break. At the end of the two weeks the Shore patrol apprehended him which led to an altercation. Needless to say the Marines were not pleased so he spent 41 days in the brig 21 of them on bread and water.

          After his time in the brig he settled into the Marines and actually became hero by saving five other Marines from drowning during a military exercise in the Arctic. Because of his heroics he was placed on the honor guard that protected Harry S. Truman’s yacht. He was honorably discharged April 1950.

          Steve McQueen after his discharge used money from his G.I. Bill to study acting at Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. He was racing cars during this time and also employed on the show wanted “Dead or Alive.” His Hollywood break came when Frank Sinatra hired him for the movie “Never So Few.”

          So now you have the story of Steve McQueen United States Marine.

Zombies and how they came to be


Well the last time I blogged I gave one possible clue to the rise of zombiism which dated back to the Black Plague. In this blog we are going to tackle the origin of zombies as we know them today. It all stems from the Haitian Voodoo culture. Voodoo folklore says that Voodoo priests known as Bokors, were concerned with the study and application of black magic. Bokors were said to have the ability to resurrect the dead through the administration of coup padre a powder that is issued orally.  The primary ingredient in the powder was tetrodoxin which is found in the poisonous “porcupine fish.” According to the legend, “a zombie was a person who annoyed their family or the community to the point where no one could live any longer with the person. So the community or relatives would hire a Bokor to turn the annoying person into a zombi(e).”

  Once the person had received the coup padre, the subject would appear to die as their heart rate would slow to a near stop, their breathing would be greatly subdued and their body temperature would drop.  The people who were not privy to what was going on would assume the person had died. They would then bury him or her as if they were a corpse. The zombie person would be exhumed by the Bokor and, although their physicality remained intact, their memory would be erased and thus they would become mindless drones. “Though still living, they remain under the Bokor’s power until the Bokor dies.” (Keegan, www.flmnh.ufl.edu)

Mansfield University Professor of English Dr. John Ulrich studies pop culture and teaches a course in monster literature. According to Ulrich, zombies first emerged in American culture in the 1920s and ’30s after U.S. soldiers and journalists returned from the occupation of Haiti. These military men and reporters brought back stories of Haitian zombie folklore. In “W. B. Seabrook’s 1929 book on Haitian ‘voodoo,’ The Magic Island, there was a short chapter on zombies called ‘Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields.’ Many commentators see this writing as a key to the transference of zombies from Haitian folklore to American popular culture,” Ulrich says. By the early 1930s, zombies had made their way to both stage and screen. In 1932, the play Zombie ran on Broadway, and a film called White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi, was released to movie theaters. Both were set in Haiti, but at this point Zombies were not flesh eaters, but mindless people controlled by a zombie master.  

The now familiar flesh-eating zombies of our popular culture began with George Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. Do some of you remember it? Personally I never watched it but I do remember the movie being advertised.  Anyway it appears Romero was influenced by the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth, adapted from Richard Matheson’s 1954 novella I Am Legend. Flash forward to Will Smith. Although both I Am Legend and The Last Man on Earth depict a post-apocalyptic U.S. overrun by vampires andnot zombies, both feature a survivor defending himself in a boarded-up home, while the vampires act like our zombies of today congregating around the house and trying to break in.

“Romero invented the flesh-eating concept, added graphic scenes of zombies feasting on human bodies and then focused on the tension and conflict among the survivors,” Ulrich explains. “Night of the Living Dead is the foundational text for all subsequent zombie films and literature; everything that follows imitates it or deviates from this concept.”

The genre has steadily grown in popularity. Ulrich explains. “More than any other kind of monster, the zombie is a virtual blank slate, a screen upon which we can project a variety of meanings and at its most elemental level the zombie represents our fear of death. “The zombie is a walking corpse whose sole purpose is to consume human flesh.  So in our deep psyche they force us to confront the reality of our inevitable demise, that we will be consumed by death. How’s that for a little physiological mumbo jumbo. Zombies are actually helping you cope with your death no wonder everybody likes them.

Anyway, the zombie also provides us with a way out — by killing zombies, we temporarily defeat death. “And as an added bonus,” Ulrich says, “zombies can be killed with impunity, without guilt or shame, since they are already dead. They lack consciousness and their condition is irreversible. This is the bedrock of their appeal.” Save the world kill a zombie and in the process make yourself feel a little better. So we conclude another wonderful trivia trail.


Rise of the Zombies???

The theory of Zombies or walking dead may have begun as early as the fourteenth-century. The zombies that most people know and love today have come a long way which we will explain in a later post. Way back in the days of yore the Black Death was spreading through Europe causing massive numbers of deaths. The Black Death was a horrible way to die.  Victims that were infected with the disease first noticed large, painful boils erupting all over their body; this was followed by a high fever, vomiting blood, and then severe headaches.  Many died within forty-eight hours of noticing the first symptoms.  Very few survived a week.

Depending upon the area sometimes half of the population was lost to the plague. Villages became ghost towns and often what little medical knowledge was available did more harm than good. So with all this death sweeping through the population the church and the culture began to try to deal with death and the brevity of life. There were numerous groups that came into existence to combat this disease which they did not understand.

One such group known as the “Doves,” roamed the countryside, torturing themselves with whips made of leather straps and singing hymns in an attempt to appease God, who they thought was enraged at the world.  When the plague didn’t stop with the actions they were taking they took to killing Jews, the popular scapegoat of that time. Others who were not as murderous tried leeches, bloodletting, salves, and scary masks to drive the demons away.  The most common prescription from the medical experts was to run as far away as possible. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t any place to run that was safe and by the time the plague struck a town, it was too late. Chances are you would actually carry the plague to another village so this cure was of no value.

The plague changed the perspective of the world.  For example, before the plague, a fragile skeleton was often used to depict death. Beginning after the plague the image was replaced with pictures like one in Italy of an old woman dressed in black, with hair like snakes, claws for feet, and a scythe clutched in her talons with which she could reap the dead.  Every culture revised death from something fairly normal to something far more menacing.

The Black Plague also heightened the notion that the bodies of the dead, which had been removed from the world of the living in an untimely way, became restless, unwilling to make their way to the next world. So the dead loitered around in the world.  Another example of the change is before the Plague, there were stories of sinful priests who returned to confess their sins so that they could rest and knights who returned to preach against violence. But after the Black Death the returning dead become a little more scary–giving rise to what became known as the danse macabre.

In the danse macabre imagine a spooky cemetery at night, filled with the restless dead who had their lives taken to quickly by the plague.  They rise from their tombs and throw a party unfortunately there are times when unsuspecting victims bump into a collection of these walking dead. They were hideous with their flesh rotting off the bones, entrails hanging out and mouths pulled back in an evil grin, holding hands, skipping and dancing to unearthly music.  And if the humans were spotted, then the dead would capture them in a trance, and lead them in a conga-line back to the cemetery, where they did unspeakable things to them, dooming them forever. It is possible that this could have been the beginning of zombies. But the use of the term zombie and the popularity that we have today is actually not that old. We will cover that in our next post.

Good Reading “With Great Power”

I want to say kudos to all thirteen writers on a job well done. I enjoyed reading “With Great Power.” It was a nostalgic trip back to a time when writers wrote stories aimed at teaching good values as well as entertaining their readers. The stories were like parables of life as they dovetailed from one character to another. Be careful you will be excited, amused and saddened but in the end you will learn with your talents comes responsibility. It’s a great book for kids and those who love short stories. Buy it on Amazon!

I Got A Crush On You

We have probably all went through a time when we had a crush on someone. You know back in school when that certain someone just looked at you and you melted. You had those funny feelings in your stomach; you were shy and enamored with him or her. Buy what I want to examine is the term having a crush where did that come from? After some wandering around the internet it appears the term crush has come from two sources the French and English.

 The word crush is a distortion of the French word crèche, which means ‘crib. “To be in” or “have one’s own crèche,” in France around the 17th century meant to be so smitten with love that you were as helpless and irresponsible as an infant, you were crib bound. I guess that could describe a heart sick young man or woman pining away for that special someone.

The other definition comes from an old English custom of a social gathering like a dance or reception however; these gatherings were often extremely hot and crowded. They were crushed together and the women’s fashion of large skirts did not help matters. So there was a crush of young people who might be interested and meeting someone of the opposite sex. We also have a reference in a letter written by the historian Thomas Babbington Macaulay in 1832: “I fell in with her at Lady Grey’s great crush”. At this time these gatherings were a common way for young men and women to meet and develop a relationship. That wraps up another trivial piece of information for you inspired by a conversation with my daughter. 


Puff The Magic Dragon (Not the song)

My last post was on the song “Puff the Magic Dragon” which lead my thoughts to another Puff the Magic Dragon which has nothing to do with music. Does anyone know what I am referring to? During the Vietnam War there was a need for a close in support aircraft that could give a concentrated volume of fire on a small area. So the Air Force developed the Douglas AC-47 Spooky gunship or “Puff the Magic Dragon.” For you aircraft buffs this is nothing more than the famous DC-3 passenger plane converted for use by our Air Force.

          This Puff was not a charming dragon who played with Jackie Paper. The “Puff” as seen above was armed to the teeth with three 7.62 mm gatling guns each capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute (that is exactly 100 rounds a second.) It could orbit the target for hours providing suppressing fire for our guys on the ground. The firing coverage of the Spooky gunship was an area approximately 52 yards in diameter, or placing a round every 2.4 yards during a 3-second burst. I’m sure this did wonders for the morale of our troops on the ground when Vietnamese forces were closing in on them. On the other hand The Spooky made for a very bad day for the bad guys caught out in the open. The aircraft also carried flares, which it could drop to illuminate the battleground so they could provide fire support at night.

The “Puff” is still around today but now it is an AC-130 gunship based on the C-130 Hercules.

Puff The Magic Dragon

I’m sure some of you would remember the song “Puff, the Magic Dragon” which was sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. For years this song was labeled as one of those drug culture songs of the sixty’s. But with a little research I discovered discover that this is not a drug song. Puff the Magic Dragon is actually based on a 1959 poem by Leonard Lipton a friend of Peter Yarrows. The story goes like this. Leonard Lipton had just recently turned 19 and was on his way to a friend’s house for dinner he found that he was running a bit early so he stopped by a library and read a poem by Ogden Nash. Nash’s poem was about Custard the Dragon .

On the walk to his friend’s house Lipton thought up the poem “Puff the Magic Dragon” in which he expressed his view of the loss of childhood. When he arrived at the house no one was home so he went in and used Yarrow’s typewriter to get the poem out of his head. Once he finished typing he left the poem and forgot about it. The lyrics tell a story Puff  the Magic Dragon and his playmate Jackie Paper, a little boy who eventually grows up and loses interest in his childhood adventures with Puff

In 1961, Yarrow joined Paul Stookey and Mary Traver to form the group we now know as Peter, Paul and Mary. The group used the song in their performances before recording it in 1962. The song did reach number two on Billboards top 100 chart.

Rumors continue today that Peter, Paul, and Mary’s hit is all about drugs and marijuana in particular.  The references include the little boy’s name, Jackie Paper, which supposedly stands for rolling papers, the “autumn mist,” is marijuana smoke, and the “land of Hanah Lee,” is the Hawaiian town of Hanalei, famous for its marijuana plants. But the evidence agrees with Yarrow and Lipton that the song is nothing more than a sad song relating to the loss of childhood adventures. Feel free to use this info at any social gathering.



I Don’t Like Spider’s and Snakes

I thought “I Don’t Like Spider and Snakes” was an Alice Cooper song. You remember Alice?

Ok he wasn’t my hero either. I really didn’t like his music but you have to admit he was a unique person. I think it was his boa constrictor stage act that got me confused with the whole snake thing. It turns out he did not do the song but a singer by the name of Jim Stafford did. James Wayne “Jim” Stafford is an American comedian, musician, and singer-songwriter. Jim Stafford is a country kind of guy so he and Alice are extremely different. He was very prominent in the 1970’s for his records “Spiders and Snakes”, “Swamp Witch”, and “My Girl Bill”. Anyway all I remembered was the line “I don’t like spider and snakes and that ain’t what it takes to love me” which lead to this blog. So here is some more rare trivia that you can pass on to your friends.

Jim and Tim Hutton

I’m back after a long hiatus from blogging on Ramblings. I have missed telling you all my wonderful nuggets of useless information and besides my family doesn’t want to hear it so I have to find an outlet somewhere. Last night I was watching the movie “The Last Mimzy” a movie that I need to devote an entire blog to because it wasn’t exactly what I thought it was. Anyway I was watching the movie and noticed the Dad was played by the same actor who was in the TV series “Leverage”. I liked him in “Leverage” so I wanted a little more information on Tim Hutton. Well it turns out that Tim Hutton is the son of Jim Hutton. What’s that you don’t know who Jim Hutton is? He was an  actor in the the late 60’s early 70’s. I best remember him in the “Green Berets” acting along side of John Wayne. He was also in the movie “Hellfighters” another great John Wayne movie. He could play serious or comedic parts. Unfortunately Jim Hutton died of liver cancer at the young age of 45. But his son Tim took after his dad and became a actor. He started his career in the movie “Friendly Fire” with Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty. But I know him from is “Leverage” a story about modern day robin-hoods.

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