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Showing posts from March, 2019

Massacres at Palisades: F-Troop in Real Life

If you believe what you see on TV and in the movies, the Old West was a place of constant violence and turmoil.  And while there sure was plenty of that, people who want a good story tend to exaggerate.  And if you want a good story badly enough, you’re prone to being taken in by someone.  One of history’s greatest hoaxes took place in the 1870s in the out-of-the-way town of Palisades, Nevada (population 300,) tucked away in the north-central part of the state. If you were in Palisades, you were probably on your way to somewhere else. In fact, getting to somewhere else was Palisades’ main industry: it was the terminus of the Eureka & Palisade railroad, and also served as a departure point for wagon trains and stagecoaches in the region.
According to legend, a railroad conductor mentioned to a Palisades resident that his passengers felt let down that the Wild West wasn’t as wild as they’d been reading in the dime novels back east. Much of it tended to be kind of sleepy; there were…

The Grawlix: How to Swear in Cartoons

We all know that newspaper comic strips aren’t supposed to have any swearing in them.  Also we all know they do, and have for a long time.  Instead of any recognizable vulgarities, though, we typically see a string of symbols that can’t be pronounced, something like “%$#&%!!”  The reader is free to fill in the blank with any obscenity they want, if they want.  The word for an instance of this swearing is a grawlix.
The grawlix is not a new comic strip convention.  In fact, it’s not much younger than the comic strip itself, which is generally considered to have originated with Chester Outcault’s Yellow Kid, which debuted in the New York World in 1895.  The Yellow Kid is famous for this and forlending his name to the concept of yellow journalism.  The Kid’s name was Mikey Dugan, but he never swore.He never uttered a word—anything he had to say was splashed across his oversized yellow shirt.  The characters who inhabited his world, however, spoke in speech balloons, a cartoon conventi…

Ketchup

If you don’t see a bottle of ketchup on your table at an American restaurant, odds are that all you have to do is ask.  Ketchup is the most commonly used condiment in the United States, and due in no small part to the prevalence of fast food to other countries, its popularity is growing worldwide.  So how did America come up with this popular culinary and cultural export?

They didn’t.  The origins of ketchup are actually Chinese.  Specifically the earliest ketchup started in Taiwan, in the 17th century.  In the Amoy dialect of Chinese, spoken in parts of Taiwan, the word was kê-chiap, and it described a sauce made from pickled fish and spices.  Over the next century, the sauce became popular all over the region, served as a popular condiment on tables as far away as Singapore and Indonesia.  In fact, it was in Indonesia where Europeans picked up the habit, as well as the word.  The English word ketchup (or catsup) comes directly from the Indonesian word kecap (pronounced |ˌke ʧɑp|, or …

Wendell Willkie

In 1940, World War II was already raging in Europe and east Asia.  France fell to the Nazi blitzkrieg that spring, and Japanese forces kept grinding away in China and Indonesia.  Great Britain was alone against Axis aggression, since the other two most powerful Allied nations in that war—the Soviet Union and the United States—wouldn’t join on Britain’s side until the next year.  The Soviets had made a pact with Germany, agreeing to split Poland between the two and to allow Soviet aggression to proceed unchecked against the Baltic states and Finland.  Germany wouldn’t betray its Soviet neighbor until the following June, so Josef Stalin was content to sit the war in Europe out.  His country had gotten what it wanted—he thought.
In the United States, there was a sense that entering the war was somewhere between likely and inevitable.  There had been talk about American intervention against Nazi aggression since before the war broke out, but the will wasn’t there.  Now that the war had beg…

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