Friday, March 21, 2014

The Curiosity is Killing Me

When I was a kid, reading the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, there was a syndicated writer named Sydney Harris, who wrote a column called “Strictly Personal.” Occasionally, he would do a bullet-points installment called “Things I Learned From Looking Up Other Things.” It always fascinated me, and spurred both my love of newspapers and arcane research.

The invention of Google was like high-quality crack cocaine for me. So, periodically, I’ll try to do what Harris did so well, and jot down some things I come across that are interesting for no apparent reason.

  • Sydney J. Harris was on Richard Nixon’s master list of political opponents.

  • President George Herbert Walker Bush (41) was the middle school baseball coach of wrestling legend Chief Wahoo McDaniel.

  • One of the few artists to refuse permission for Weird Al Yanknovic to parody one of his songs was Paul McCartney. Yankovic planned a highly orchestrated version of the best James Bond theme song ever, McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” It was called “Chicken Pot Pie.” McCartney, a lifelong vegetarian, didn’t want to promote the eating of animals, so he said "no." Tonight, I’m having chicken pot pie for dinner.

  • In the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s alma mater, the lyrics have the school’s initials in the wrong order.

  • Mormon-influenced Utah has the highest number of porn subscriptions of any state in the country.

  • One of the 15 babies used to portray the quintuplets in the movie “Raising Arizona” was fired because he learned to walk during the movie’s production.

  • Dec. 7 really should be a “day that will live in infamy,” as President Roosevelt said. Not only was the U.S. attacked on that day by the Imperial forces of Japan, but is also the date, in 1917, that President Wilson declared war on Austria-Hungary in World War I.

  • The movie “Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” was supposed to end with a massive war-room pie fight. It was eventually deleted for many reasons, including the fact that after the president (as played by Peter Sellers) was hit full on with a cream pie, General Turgidson (played by George C. Scott) said: “Gentleman! Our gallant young president has just been struck down in his prime!” The date of the first test screening was Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

  • In North Carolina, golf has a higher economic impact on the state’s economy than all scientific research and development.

  • Fresh pineapple has proteins that break down meat, which is why your mouth feels like it has gone through a food processor after eating a few pieces. I don’t know if Cap’n Crunch has the same proteins or not.

  • Brothers Moses “Fleetwood” Walker and his brother Welday, African-American baseball players from Mount Pleasant, Ohio, both played in the major leagues in 1884, 62 years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.
  • UNC Charlotte says it’s a mere coincidence that its athletics teams are called the 49ers and the school is located on Highway 49. It claims that 49 signifies the year in which the university’s predecessor the Charlotte Center of the University of North Carolina was saved from being shut down by the same ‘49er spirit showed by the California settlers  who endure hardships to reach California for the big gold rush of 1849, similar to the nation’s first gold rush in nearby Reedsville. Now I ask you, which explanation seems more plausible?

  • Manhattan University’s athletics nickname is the Jaspers, named for Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., who contributed something important to the world of sports: the seventh-inning stretch. As the baseball coach at Manhattan in the late 1800s, Brother Jasper noticed that students became lethargic around the seventh inning. So he went into the stands at that point and got them to move around. It quickly became a tradition and spilled over into the major leagues because of Manhattan’s regular exhibition games against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds.

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