Excerpt from an obituary for stagecoach driver Charley Parkhurst, published in the San Francisco Morning Call, Dec. 28, 1879:
He was in his day one of the most dexterous and celebrated of the famous California drivers ranking with Foss, Hank Monk, and George Gordon, and it was an honor to be striven for to occupy the spare end of the driver’s seat when the fearless Charley Parkhurst held the reins of a four- or six-in-hand …
It was discovered only afterward that “One-Eyed Charlie” had been a woman, born Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst in New Hampshire in 1812. Posing as a man, she had gained a reputation as one of the best stagecoach drivers on the West Coast.
More than that, her name (as Charles Darkey Parkurst) is listed in the Santa Cruz voter rolls for Oct. 17, 1868 — which means she may have been the first woman to vote in the United States.
In the 1980s, in the Hungarian city of Pécs, lovers began to clamp padlocks to this wrought-iron fence as a symbol of their commitment.
Now that the fence has filled up, people have begun attaching locks to fences and statues throughout the town center, and the custom has spread to Hungary, Latvia, Italy and Japan.
“Love is a lock that linketh noble minds,” wrote Robert Greene, “faith is the key that shuts the spring of love.”
Adam Cheng isn’t very popular among stockbrokers. That’s because every time the Hong Kong actor stars in a new television show, there’s a sharp drop in global stock markets.
No one can explain it, but it’s happened eight times since 1993, when Cheng first starred as Ding Hai in the dramatic series Greed of Man. Only once, in 2004, has a new Cheng series not been accompanied by a drop in the stock market.
The world’s largest food fight takes place each year on the last Wednesday in August, when the town of Buñol, Spain, holds its annual tomato festival. Local trucks dump more than 100 metric tons of overripe tomatoes into the streets, and there’s a general free-for-all among up to 25,000 people.
Reportedly, when it’s over, rivers of tomato juice up to 12 inches deep run through the town, and area fire engines hose down the streets.
This has been going on since 1944, and apparently it has no political or religious significance — they do it just for fun.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
Did 12th-century chaplain Andreas Capellanus have a time machine? His treatise The Art of Courtly Love sounds surprisingly familiar:
Throughout all the ages, there have been only four degrees in love:
The first consists in arousing hope;
The second in offering kisses;
The third in the enjoyment of intimate embraces;
The fourth in the abandonment of the entire person.
Countries with the greatest number of active troops:
- People’s Republic of China: 2,255,000
- United States: 1,422,494
- India: 1,325,000
- North Korea: 1,106,000
- Russia: 1,037,000
- South Korea: 687,000
- Pakistan: 619,000
- Turkey: 514,850
- Vietnam: 484,000
- Egypt: 450,000
Gordon Macdonald was the last British governor of Newfoundland. Despite the island’s fiercely independent nature, he openly campaigned for it to become part of Canada. In 1949 he succeeded, and two days before he returned to England, the Evening Telegram published a congratulatory poem:
The prayers of countless thousands sent
Heavenwards to speed thy safe return,
Ennobled as thou art with duty well performed,
Bringing peace, security and joy
Among the peoples of this New Found Land.
So saddened and depressed until your presence
Taught us discern and help decide what’s best for
All on whom fortune had not smiled.
Remember if you will the kindness and the love
Devotion and the respect that we the people have for Thee
It was several weeks before the editors noticed it was an acrostic — read the first letter of each line.
Illusionists know that people are eager to be fooled — some even participate unwittingly in their own deception. A striking example of this is Clever Hans, a trick horse who caused a sensation in the early 1900s. Using his hoof, Hans routinely tapped out correct answers to questions about math, reading, spelling and music. But an investigation showed that Hans’ real skill lay in reading his questioner’s body language, which always showed increased tension as he approached the final, “correct” tap.
In 1907, psychologist Oskar Pfungst actually took the horse’s place and found that he could get the right answer 90 percent of the time simply by watching the questioner’s posture and facial expression. This unconscious cueing is remembered as the “Clever Hans effect.”
The most common birthday in the United States is Oct. 5.
That’s nine months after New Year’s Eve.
Countries with highest life expectancies:
- Andorra: 83.51 years
- San Marino: 81.71 years
- Singapore: 81.71 years
- Japan: 81.25 years
- Sweden: 80.51 years
- Switzerland: 80.51 years
- Australia: 80.50 years
- Iceland: 80.31 years
- Canada: 80.22 years
- Italy: 79.81 years
The German Bundestag has 614 members, but its official Web site lists 615. That’s because Jakob Maria Mierscheid doesn’t exist — he was invented in the 1920s by Weimar Social Democrats to avoid paying restaurant bills.
Like George P. Burdell, another nonexistent bon vivant, Mierscheid has quite a resume. He served as deputy chairman of the Committee for Small and Medium Sized Businesses in 1981 and 1982, and in 1983 he published a demonstration of the correlation between federal election results and West German industrial production.
Presumably he also goes out to lunch a lot.
Frivolous political parties around the world and their campaign promises:
- Denmark’s Union of Conscientiously Work-Shy Elements promised tailwinds on all cycle paths.
- Hungary’s Two-Tailed Dog Party promised eternal life, world peace, one work day per week, two sunsets a day, smaller gravitation, and low taxes.
- Sweden’s Donald Duck Party promised wider sidewalks and “free alcohol to the people.”
- England’s Death, Dungeons and Taxes Party promised the reintroduction of hanging, the annexation of France, and the reduction of the school leaving age to 9.
- America’s Guns and Dope Party would replace one-third of Congress with ostriches.
And Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus all have Beer Lovers’ Parties.
“Politicians are the same all over,” said Nikita Khrushchev. “They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”
It’s not only 007 who communicates in code. Butchers in Australia speak a secret language called Rechtub Klat (“butcher talk”), in which words are pronounced backward.
Why should butchers need a secret language? So they can talk about the customers:
- Kool, toh lrig = Look, hot girl
- Doog tsub = Good bust
- Doog esra = Good arse
- On doog cuf ecaf = No-good fuckface
Keep your ears open.
Cities with the most billionaires:
- New York: 35
- Los Angeles: 24
- Moscow: 20
- San Francisco: 20
- London: 19
- Hong Kong: 18
- Chicago: 12
- Paris: 12
- Dallas: 11
- Tokyo: 11
Beer consumption per capita, as of 2004, in liters per year:
- Czech Republic: 156.9
- Ireland: 131.1
- Germany: 115.8
- Australia: 109.9
- Austria: 108.3
- United Kingdom: 99.0
- Belgium: 93.0
- Denmark: 89.9
- Finland: 85.0
- Luxembourg: 84.4
Darwin, Australia, has the highest beer consumption of any city in the world. The average resident there drinks 230 liters, or about 60 gallons, of beer each year.
Nobel laureates by country, as of July 2006:
- United States: 160
- United Kingdom: 110
- Germany: 92
- France: 44
- Switzerland: 25
- USSR and Russia: 21
- Italy: 19
- Canada: 18
- Sweden: 18
- Netherlands: 18
- Hungary: 16
- Denmark: 14
- Poland: 14
The Chinese practice of footbinding, popular since medieval times, was banned only in 1911. Young girls’ feet were wrapped in bandages to prevent them from growing longer than 4 inches. By age 3, four toes on each foot would break, often leading to infection, paralysis and atrophy. Some elderly Chinese women today still show disabilities.
“She is now in the vile embrace of the Apollo of the evening. Her head rests upon his shoulder, her face is upturned to his, her bare arm is almost around his neck, her partly nude swelling breast heaves tumultuously against his, face to face they whirl on, his limbs interwoven with hers, his strong right arm around her yielding form, he presses her to him until every curve in the contour of her body thrills with the amorous contact. Her eyes look into his, but she sees nothing; the soft music fills the room, but she hears it not; he bends her body to and fro, but she knows it not; his hot breath, tainted with strong drink, is on her hair and cheek, his lips almost touch her forehead, yet she does not shrink; his eyes, gleaming with a fierce, intolerable lust, gloat over her, yet she does not quail. She is filled with the rapture of sin in its intensity; her spirit is[Pg 16] inflamed with passion and lust is gratified in thought. With a last low wail the music ceases, and the dance for the night is ended, but not the evil work of the night.”
– From the Ball-Room to Hell by T.A. Faulkner, Ex-Dancing Master, Formerly Proprietor of the Los Angeles Dancing Academy and Ex-President of Dancing Masters’ Association of the Pacific Coast, 1892
On Sept. 15, 1963, at the height of the racial violence in Little Rock, a Miami schoolteacher forwarded the following essay to Dwight Eisenhower. Russell is blind.
How to Stop Trouble
By Leah Russell, age 12
If I were president, I would have all the children blindfolded and send them to school. I would also send some of the colored children and have them blindfolded. I think that all of them would have a lot of fun and there wouldn’t be any fights. Probably after they got to know each other there wouldn’t be any more fights or anything like that.
Eisenhower wrote back, asking the teacher to tell Leah that “she has already grasped one of the great moral principles by which we all should live.”
On New Year’s Day, 1949, James Mangan went to the Cook County recorder of deeds and registered his own country. The Nation of Celestia, he said, encompassed all of outer space. He was claiming it, as “founder and first representative,” to prevent anyone else from establishing political hegemony there.
Mangan wasn’t shy about it, either. Later that year he informed the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations that he was banning atmospheric nuclear tests, and he sent angry letters to the Americans and the Soviets when their space flights infringed on his “territory.” He even briefly got the U.N. to add the Celestian flag to those of its member nations.
Still, the idea never caught on, it largely died with its founder. All that’s left are some stamps, coins (“celestons”), and the titles Mangan gave to his grandsons: Glen Stump, “Duke of Selenia,” Dean Stump, “Duke of Mars,” and Todd Stump, “Duke of the Milky Way.”
Times are hard everywhere, but shed a tear for the Kongo Gumi Company of Osaka, Japan. When it closed its doors in January, the construction firm had been operating continuously for 1,400 years. The family business built its first temple in the year 578 and could trace its leadership through 39 generations.
Famous people with HIV:
- Isaac Asimov
- Roy Cohn
- Michel Foucault
- Greg Louganis
- Robert Mapplethorpe
- Rudolph Nureyev
- Anthony Perkins
Colorful New York gang names, 1825-1920:
- Baxter Street Dudes
- Car Barn Gang
- Corcoran’s Roosters
- Crazy Butch Gang
- Daybreak Boys
- Forty Little Thieves
- Gas House Gang
- Gopher Gang
- Hudson Dusters
- Humpty Jackson Gang
- Italian Dave Gang
- Mandelbaum Gang
- Squab Wheelman Gang
- Yakey Yakes
Slobbery Jim of the Daybreak Boys cut Patsy the Barber’s throat in a fight over 12 cents in 1853. He later rose to the rank of captain in the Confederate army.
American superstitions, collected by folklorist Fanny Bergen in 1896:
- If you sneeze at table with the mouth full, an acquaintance will die soon. (Virginia)
- If your shoe comes untied, your sweetheart is talking about you. (Alabama)
- To go back into the house for something after starting on a journey is unpropitious. To have it brought out is all right. (Iowa)
- To dream of bread is good luck. (Boston)
- If you drop the tea-towel, it is a sign of company. (Pennsylvania)
- Pass a baby through a window and it will never grow. (South Carolina)
- Dimple in chin, devil within. (Maryland)
- If you are a bridesmaid three times you will never stand in the middle. (New York)
Beware of that man,
Be he friend or brother,
Whose hair is one color
And moustache another.