Watch Dogs

In 1997, retired advertising executive Dan FitzSimons proposed a new cable TV channel called The Puppy Channel: “24 hours a day, seven days a week, footage of puppies fooling around like puppies do, acting the natural comedians and cuties that they are, with no people, no talk, accompanied only by relaxing instrumental music.”

In focus group surveys, 41 percent of respondents said they would prefer watching the channel to CNBC, and 37 percent preferred it to TBS.

Alexander Selkirk

Robinson Crusoe isn’t entirely fiction — it’s based on the story of a real Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk, who spent four years marooned on an uninhabited island.

Selkirk was sailing with privateer William Dampier in 1703 when he began to doubt the seaworthiness of their galleon, the Cinque Ports. Finally he decided to stay ashore voluntarily on the Juan Fernández islands in the South Pacific with only a musket, gunpowder, carpenter’s tools, a knife, a Bible, and his clothing.

At first Selkirk was wracked with loneliness and regret, but he soon acclimated to island life. He domesticated wild cats to keep rats at bay, grew turnips, cabbage and pepper berries, and built two huts of pimento trees. He hunted wild goats and made clothing of their skins and forged a knife from cast-off barrel rings.

There’s a telling postscript to the story. After four years and four months, Selkirk was rescued by William Dampier, the same man who had left him ashore — but Selkirk was surprised to see he was sailing a different ship. The Cinque Ports had sunk, losing most hands. Selkirk, it seems, had been right to stay on the island.

The Final Cut

In high school, Robin Williams was voted “most likely not to succeed.”

United Nations

Excerpts from 112 Gripes About the French, a handbook produced to help American soldiers understand the French after the Liberation:

  • The French are too damned independent. The French are independent. They are proud. They are individualists. So are we. That’s one reason there is friction between us.
  • I never heard people gab so much. Gab, gab, gab. If you understood the language it might be interesting and not just “gab.” An American writer, Ambrose Bierce, said, “A bore is a person who talks — when you want him to listen.”
  • The French are not as clean as the Germans. Perhaps not. If the Germans had had no soap for five years they wouldn’t be as clean as they might like to be. A learned man once said, “An untidy friend is better than an immaculate enemy.”
  • The French can’t drive a car. They can’t keep it up. They ruin vehicles. The French, on the whole, certainly do not drive as well, keep a car up as well, or protect their vehicles as well as we do. Neither do women, compared to men. We have had more mechanical training, more technical experience. And at the present time we have incomparably better maintenance facilities.

A Bicycle Built for Few

Evidently somebody thought this was a good idea. In the late 19th century, lamplighters used this “giraffe bicycle” to travel between gas streetlamps. If you could keep your balance you’d be sitting more than 7 feet above the ground. Watch the road.

Play Dough

Playboy Playmate of the Month modeling payouts:

1959-1960: $500
1961-1965: $1,000
1966-1967: $2,500
1968-1969: $3,000
1970-1977: $5,000
1978-1983: $10,000
1984-1989: $15,000
1990-today: $20,000

A Double Mystery

A Navy collier during World War I, the U.S.S. Cyclops put to sea from Rio de Janeiro on Feb. 16, 1918, touched at Barbados on March 3 and 4, and was never heard from again. She took 306 crew and passengers with her.

In 1968, a diver off Norfolk, Va., reported finding the wreck of an old ship in about 300 feet of water. When shown a picture of the Cyclops he said he was convinced it was the same ship. But, strangely, even that wreck disappeared — further expeditions failed to find anything.

Moving Words

Kermit the Frog spoke at ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s funeral.

Just Do It

The Nike “swoosh” logo was created by Carolyn Davidson, a freelance graphic design student, in 1971.

She was paid $35.

The Foarest City

Cleveland is misspelled. The Ohio city was named for Gen. Moses Cleaveland, the leader of the crew that surveyed the local territory. But when the town’s first newspaper, The Cleaveland Advertiser, was established in 1830, the editor found that its title was too long by one letter — so he unceremoniously dropped an A.