October 19, 1984 – Benji Drug Bust

On October 17, 1974 the film Benji opens in theaters and becomes an instant family classic.  The lovable film about a stray dog who helped rescue a group of kidnapped children, starred a scruffy mutt named Higgins who himself was rescued from a California animal shelter.  Though Higgins had appeared in a number of TV shows and movies, the success of Benji was more than he could handle.  Under the watchful eye of the paparazzi, Higgins’ life spiraled out of control in a blur of partying, drinking and a rather serious cocaine addiction.  While in an out of rehab throughout the later 1970’s and early 80’s, Higgins made a series of unsuccessful Benji sequels, but was noticeably intoxicated in all of them.

Higgins reached “rock bottom” on October 19, 1982, when he was arrested along with automaker John DeLorean in a Los Angeles motel during a failed drug deal.  John DeLorean was caught with a suitcase containing $24 million in cocaine, the sale of which was meant to help salvage his sinking DeLorean Motor Company.  It is unclear whether Higgins was present at the drug deal as a prospective buyer, but he was taken into custody none-the-less.  DeLorean was later acquitted of the crime on the grounds of entrapment by the government and Higgins was released because he was a dog.

*Higgins’ mugshot on Oct. 19, 1984.      Benji

Their time in prison made Higgins and DeLorean fast friends and shortly after their release (in a drug induced stupor) they made plans to turn DeLorean’s signature care into a time machine to go back and warn their past selves of the troubles ahead.  Though obviously unsuccessful, their stories were so detailed and thorough that many began to believed them to be true.  They even became the basis of the 1985 film Back To The Future and the 1990 sequel Back To The Future III (not Back To The Future II… that was a bunch of b.s.), in which Michael J. Fox plays the part of Higgins and Christopher Lloyd captured perfectly the cocaine addled John Delorean as the jittery Doc Brown.

October 9 & 12, 1492 – Lactose Intolerant Vikings

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed his fleet of three ships on the Caribbean island of San Salvador (in the modern day Bahamas) effectively “discovering” the new world of the Americas.  Over the next few years, Columbus made four total voyages to the New World, with the indigenous people becoming less and less impressed with his discoveries of the land they already inhabited.  For the remainder of his life, Columbus never recognized the fact that he had stumbled upon a new continent, but instead thought that he had indeed found a new route to the East Indies.  Thanks to the launch of Google Maps in 2005 we now know this to be untrue.

In 1906, Colorado became the first U.S. state to dedicate a day to honor Columbus’ pseudo-discoveries.  This made a tremendous amount of sense, because who better to celebrate the accomplishments of a seafaring Italian from the east, than a western, landlocked state full of forest dwelling mountain people?  Anyway, it only took 28 years, but the Christopher Columbus bug finally caught on (not to be confused with the variety of viruses he gave to the indigenous people he met) and Columbus Day became a national holiday in 1934.

Most people don’t know, but Christopher Columbus is not the only person to sort of discover the Americas and have a sort of holiday named after them.  In fact, October 9th is recognized as Leif Erikson Day after the Viking explorer who “discovered” what is modern day Newfoundland in Canada, nearly 500 years before Columbus.  Erikson even went so far as to establish a settlement on the island, but was forced to abandon it citing “crippling boredom” as the reason.  It is also said the the Viking explorer was lactose intolerant and could not handle all the Poutine which is still a favorite Canadian dish to this day.  This is why it is customary to avoid dairy products on October 9th in Canada and why only about eight people live in Newfoundland.  In actuality, Erikson actually spent more time in the neighboring province of Labrador, because as everyone knows this is where labrador puppies come from and Vikings love puppies.

Leif_Ericson*Leif Erikson looking for a restroom after eating to much Poutine.

October 1, 1890 – Cartoon National Park

On October 1, 1890, the U.S. Congress effectively signs 1,500 square miles of California’s Sierra Nevadas, as Yosemite National Park.  Though most people are familiar with Yosemite National Park, below are some little known facts that will probably be new to you:

1.   Yosemite National Park derived its name from the battle cry of the Native Americans who originally called it home.  The battle cry being “Yo-che-ma-te” roughly translated to “some among them are killers”.  Though clearly a rather lame battle cry, this suggestion was one of only two submitted to Congress and was deemed more favorable than “Yo-ma-ma-phat” which translated to “Oh crap, the white people are coming.”

2.   In 1909, a scruffy haired, mustachioed drifter named Samual Bergden earned moderate national fame after being arrested a record 15 times in the national park for ‘harassing the wildlife”.  Most of his infractions came from using the two revolvers he carried to hunt the parks rabbit population.  Though records indicate he was acquitted in each case for lack of evidence (he was a terrible shot and never hit anything), most believe the judges simply found his hot-headed outbursts of innocuous rants to be endearing and let him off the hook.  After Warner Brothers unveiled their “Yosemite Sam” character in 1945’s Looney Tunes classic “Hair Trigger”, Bergden sued and was able to die a rich man.

3.   A series of bear encounters in the park during the mid-1950’s, generated the park’s second famous cartoon character when Yogi Bear debuted in 1958.  Between 1953 and 1957, there were 17 documented incidents in which Yosemite bears raided and stole camper’s picnic baskets.  They also mauled dozens of people in these incidents, but that was largely left out of the children’s cartoon.


Thomas Jefferson Carver

“And the final use for peanuts!?!… Murder!”

-Thomas Jefferson Carver, the last line of his “Peanuts, Peanuts, Peanuts!” expo, circa 1934; originally named Wilfred J. Carver, Thomas Jefferson Carver adopted his new moniker to capitalize on the then famous George Washington Carver.  Like his G.W. Carver counterpart, T.J. Carver earned moderate fame for creating new uses for the common peanut, though T.J.’s were much less scientific (i.e. packing peanuts were originally just peanuts before the invention of styrofoam).  In March of 1934, as the grand finale in his keynote speech at the “Peanuts, Peanuts, Peanuts!” expo in New York City, Thomas Jefferson Carver confessed to a full crowd that he had murdered his estranged wife, who had a documented peanut allergy.  Carver was arrested on the spot and was soon sentenced to life in prison.  As a result of his brash confession and his signature top hat, monocle and cane, Carver became somewhat of a celebrity inside the walls of Sing Sing Prison and earned the nickname, Mr. Peanut.  After his death in 1942 (ironically choked on a cashew), the Planters Nut Company capitalized on his odd image with their new cartoon mascot.-

“Ask Brett” – History Of Oktoberfest… Kinda – Sept. 22

On September 20, N.S. wrote:

Happy 1st day of Oktoberfest 2014! Do you have any historical insight regarding this party?

Dear N.S.

First and foremost, yes.  I do have historical insights regarding this celebration.  For those who don’t know, Oktoberfest is a German/Bavarian beer fueled festival that is sandwiched between two less popular festivals: Sekstempberfest and Nokemberfest.  The latter being a month long festival celebrating unique and often elaborate hangover remedies, the former being self explanatory.

The origin of Oktoberfest dates back to 1810 and was originally a festival celebrating the marriage of two German royals.  Over the years, the celebration evolved (let’s face it, ideas always get more elaborate after a few beers) into the 16 day celebration it is today.  Historically, the Oktoberfest celebration would conclude on the first Sunday of Oktober, but in 1994 the rules changed so that the earliest the celebration could end is October 3rd, which is Germany’s “Unity Day”, the day in which they celebrate East and West Germany being reunited.  What you probably don’t know is that “Unity Day” also celebrates the reunification of North and South Germany after a brief (four hour) civil war erupted in 1992 over who loved David Hasselhoff more.  This is why if the last day of Oktoberfest lands exactly on October 3rd, it is customary for all participants to wear bright red swim trunks and fake chest hair; thus proving once and for all that, in the words of the great news caster Norm Macdonald, “Germans LOVE David Hasselhoff”.

Hope this helps.


Sept 16, 1620 – The Speedwell And Hemingway’s Cats

On September 16, 1620, the now famous Mayflower departed England on its path for the New World.  What you probably don’t know is that this was not the only ship to leave the English port of Southampton that week, bound for the New World.  Below is the story of the Speedwell, the Mayflower’s ill fated sister ship and the striking parallels in their journey to the America’s.

In August 1620, the Mayflower and the Speedwell, captained by John Thomas Chappell, had attempted to depart England twice, but were forced to return to port both times, as the Speedwell proved unseaworthy.  To the dismay of Captain Chappell and the Speedwell passengers, it was decided that the Mayflower would go on the voyage alone.  At the time, maritime travel was run a lot like modern day airlines and tickets were non refundable. Speedwell passengers were offered vouchers for the port’s only hotel, the Southampton Inn, which most of them opted for.  It wasn’t until the following day when many of the passengers discovered that the vouchers did not cover meal expenses, did they became enraged and returned to the port.  Fortunately for the passengers, (and more likely for the ship’s crew) Captain Chappell, motivated by delinquent child support payments, had hired a crew of men to repair his leaking vessel.  By the next morning the crew had pinpointed the origin of the leak to be a gaping cannon ball hole in the bow, which Captain Cappell comment in retrospect “seemed pretty obvious”.

With their ship watertight once again, the Speedwell set sail that same night and Captain Chappell became obsessed with making up the lost day and catching the Mayflower before it reached the new world.  Unbenounced to Chappell, rough seas had pushed the Mayflower off course, which resulted in it landing 500 miles north of their intended destination on the American coast.  Encountering similar rough seas in the days following, the Speedwell was also thrown off course, but in the opposite direction.  Landing about 1000 miles south of their intended destination, the Speedwell became the first English vessel to land on what is now modern day Key West which was then considered Spanish territory.

Like their freezing and starving Mayflower counterparts, the crew and passengers of the Speedwell had a rough first winter in their new settlement as well.  The Spanish merchant ships that passed the island proved to be infrequent and the settlement was constantly running out on of their supply of rum.  In the Spring months, the settlers began to explore the island more in an effort to make contact with native inhabitants.  In a chilling discovery, the settlers found that the island was largely covered in bones, as native tribes had used the area as a communal burial ground for many years.  To add to the mystery of the island, the settlers often noticed roving clowders of polydactyl cats (house cats with abnormal amounts of toes) constantly watching them.  By late November of that year, the settlers paranoia over the creepy cats had reached a feverpitch.  In a last ditch effort to appease the cats, Captain Chappell and the settlers invited the cats into their walls for a feast of ocean fish and goat’s milk.  A sort of “thanks giving” for their good fortune over the last year.  This is the last recorded history of the little known Speedwell Settlement of Key West, but it is often assumed that part way through the dinner, the cats turned on the settlers and devoured them.

*Some of Hemingway’s cats were polydactyl cats and likely descended from this same group that plagued the Speedwell Settlement.  Some of their bloodline still reside in the Hemingway house on Key West… waiting for their next victims.

Hemingway's Cat

William Shakespeare

“The eyes are the window to the soul… and the mouth is the front door to the soul…. which makes thine head the soul’s house.  I would venture thine ears serve as some sort of irregularly shaped chimney or something, but I doth not know for certain. Thus, the point I’m trying to pass tis that a man’s home is his castle, so it doth makes sense that a soul’s home would be its castle…. therefore thine head be a castle.  Halt… about what were we conversing?”

– William Shakespeare, circa 1615; it’s often debated as to whether or not the opening line of this quote was a Shakespeare original. It is known, however, that in his later years Bill would often hang around his bar (MacBeth’s Scottish Bar & Grill) and make drunkenly profound statements to anyone who would listen to his incoherent ramblings.  Most nights would end with him challenging bar patrons to do shots of whiskey out of the prop skull used in his production of Hamlet.-

Sept 12, 1940 – Cave Art And Meddling Kids

On September 12, 1940, near Montignac, France, four teenagers followed their dog down a narrow cave entrance and discovered a caveLascaux2 full of the worlds best examples of Paleolithic Era cave art.  The cave, named Lascaux Cave, contained over 600 paintings and 1500 engravings of a variety of animals and mythological creatures said to date back as far as 17000 B.C.  Of all the paintings and engravings, there is only one representation of the human form.  The figure is dressed entirely in black with a black beret and is clearly being condescending to the other painting, proving that French artists were pretentious jerks even back then.

The cave was opened to the public in 1948, but had to be closed again in 1963 as the artificial lighting and tourist’s stanky breath had noticeably degraded the vivid colors of the paintings.  In 1983, a replica cave was opened to the public in which cave officials claimed that painstakingly crafted recreations allowed its visitors the experience of the original cave without having to compromise its integrity.  In actuality, the replica cave was finger-painted by Ms. Dubois’ third grade class from Montignac Elementary School.  It still draws thousands of tourists each year.  Unfortunately, the third graders were strong armed into signing releases and were therefore not entitled to any royalties coming from entry fees.

As for the original four kids and their dog, they went on to solve a series of mysteries all over the French country side.  In the late 1960’s, American writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears learned of the teen’s exploits and created a television show around the concept.  On September 13, 1969, 29 years and 1 day after the cave was discovered, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!” aired on CBS and became an American classic.  As tribute to a their French inspiration, an episode was crafted around Scooby and The Gang finding a cave of ancient art.  The episode did deviate from the original story though, in that the cave was suspected to be haunted and Don Knotts and the Harlem Globetrotters helped the group unmask a cantankerous old farm couple who wanted to drive the tourists from their land.  They would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and their dog.

*Note:  There are actual two dates in this post applicable to this week.  You’re welcome.

Edwin Land

“A picture is worth a thousand words… and a piece of your soul.”

-Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid camera, circa 1932; After spending a semester in Australia on a “study abroad” program through Harvard, Land became fascinated with the Australian Aborigine’s belief that a photograph could actually steal a portion of a person’s soul.  Secretly, Land took to this belief himself and devoted much of his career to developing his soul stealing technology.  His crowning achievement was the public release of his instant develop Polaroid camera in late 1948 (Land had lobbied to name the camera the “Soul Swapper 5000” but was voted down by the company’s board of directors).  Upon his death in 1991, it is rumored that his personal assistant discovered his “collection of souls”, which consisted of over 5 million Polaroids of complete strangers.  His assistant promptly had them all shredded to avoid Land being dubbed “a real creeper” in the public’s mind. (Fun sub-fact:  Land’s personal assistant was actually a man named Ed Roland, who would later become the leader singer for the band Collective Soul.)

“Ask Brett” – Hooah Bars and Rip Its – Aug. 21

On August 10, O.E. Wrote::

Dearest Colleague and War-Pal,

It would be a great pleasure to read your thoughts on the Army’s former use of the hooah bar and the famed ripits (sic) and the impact these nutritional/energy aids had on increasing the probability of both IED strikes and negligent discharges.

Additionally, aside from being Tinker Bell’s fairy sister, what are you thoughts on, Periwinkle, the color of course and not the flower.

Dear O.E.

First and foremost, I feel I must explain to my “civilian” readers, what “Hooah Bars” and “Rip Its” are. Both are “energy aids” provided by the Army to our U.S. Soldiers in current combat theaters. The Hooah Bar is a compacted mixture of sugar, whey protein, cow dung, sawdust and sadness (and occasionally dipped in chocolate). Its texture and taste were similar to that of composite decking materials. The Rip It is a goat pee based energy drink, which is served in incredibly small cans to promote maximum aluminum waste. As for your original inquiry, I do not believe either item increased the probability of IED strikes, but the violent spasms these invoke have definitely led to a fair amount of negligent discharges (the Army’s term for the accidental firing of one’s rifle, pistol, grenade launcher, canon, TOW missel, etc…).

Finally, on Periwinkle. I’m glad you clarified between the color and the flower. I don’t think anyone wants to hear another one of my tirades on Periwinkle the flower. As for the color, I’m more of a Lavender guy, but what do I know…

Thank you for your inquiry!