Posts Tagged ‘humor’
As the U.S. remained mired in an economic depression in 1896, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (commonly known as “the Katy” line) faced two major problems: how to boost revenue and ticket sales amid increasing competition in the rail industry and what to do with an aging fleet of locomotives as it upgraded to larger, more advanced steam engines. And so the company’s creative passenger agent for Texas, William Crush, pitched an idea that would address both problems in one spectacular fell swoop.
With atom bombs and Justin Bieber still far off on the horizon in the late 19th century, an explosive train collision was perhaps the most eye-catching manmade disaster imaginable. And Crush knew he had the trains, the space and the public appetite to attempt such a spectacle. His plan was simple: ferry paying spectators to an isolated locale where two obsolete locomotives would be positioned face-to-face on the tracks. After gunning the trains to full speed, the engineers would jump to safety, and the masses would enjoy the fiery demolition from a safe distance. “Oh,” the exuberant Crush effused to The Galveston Daily News, “but it’s going to be a smash-up”…
In the event, over 40,000 people gathered at in the temporary town of “Crush, Texas” (for the day, the second largest city in the State). And what a “smash-up” they saw. As planned, the engineers stoked their locomotives, got them steaming toward each other, and jumped clear… But though Crush had been assured by the railroad’s technicians that the engines’ boilers were strong enough to hold together on impact, both exploded. As The Dallas Morning News put it: “The rumble of the two trains was like the gathering force of a cyclone… [then, a huge explosion, and] the air was filled with flying missiles of iron and steel varying in size from a postage stamp to half of a driving wheel… black clouds of death-dealing iron hail.” Three spectators were killed, six others seriously injured; and countless onlookers were scorched by the hot shrapnel — many long after the explosion, when they picked through the flaming locomotive carcasses in a hunt for souvenirs.
Crush was immediately fired from the railroad. But given a lack of negative publicity, he was rehired the next day.
Read more at “Staging a Texas-size train disaster for fun and profit,” and check out the photos from the event here (one of which is used above).
* Charles Barkley
As we ruminate on the rails, we might send foresightful birthday greetings to the extraordinary Jules Verne, imaginative writer non pareil; he was born in Nantes on this date in 1828.
Best known for his novels A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1865), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869–1870), Around the World in Eighty Days (1873) and The Mysterious Island (1875), Verne is the second most translated (individual) author of all time (behind Agatha Christie). He is considered, with H.G. Wells, the founder of science fiction.
Verne was startlingly prescient: Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, all developed years– in many cases, decades– later. From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing. And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.
From the always-illuminating folks at Dangerous Minds:
It’s arguably the greatest LP gatefold image of all time: the drool-inducing food porn Mexican spread from the inner fold of ZZ Top’s 1973 Tres Hombres album. Only Coven’s Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reap Souls comes close to matching it’s exemplary use of the medium, but as far as gatefold images go, it’s hard to top THE TOP.
In what is destined to be the the greatest short film of 2016, Austin chef Thomas Micklethwait lovingly re-creates this enviable meal and proceeds to eat the shit out of it.
As someone who has often dreamt of being at that fabled table, all I can say is kudos to the chef for allowing me to live vicariously through him and yet not have to experience the following day’s Afterburner tribute.
Fans of ZZ Top or grande burritos, take note:
* Mark Twain
As we settle in for Concussion Fest 50, we might recall that today is Pork Rind Appreciation Day.
* Marisha Pessl,
As we characterize ourselves, we might send rhythmic birthday greetings to Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley; he was born on this date in 1945. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, he helped pioneer and popularize (first with his band The Wailers, then on his own) the musical genre we know and love as Reggae.
One love, one heart,
Let’s get together and feel alright
– from “One Love” (cowritten with Curtis Mayfield)
From the Marx Brothers to The Simpsons, from Richard Pryor to Amy Schumer: “The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy“… critique it, argue with it– that’s what lists like this are for– but most of all, enjoy it.
* Osgood (Joe E. Brown) to Daphne/Jerry (Jack Lemon), Some Like It Hot (one of the 100)
As we fiddle with our funny bones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a film that might well have made the list– Modern Times— was released. Written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, who stars in his iconic Little Tramp persona, the film comically dramatizes a factory worker’s struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world. Chaplin’s first overtly politically-themed film, it was also the first in which his voice is heard. It is widely regarded as a classic by film historians… and inspired French philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Maurice Merlau-Ponty to name their journal, Les Temps modernes, after it.
The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification turns ten in 2016. Created by artist Julian Montague [bio here], the book attempts to bring clarity to a world littered with shopping carts far away from their birth stores. Written in the voice of a character who takes the project as seriously as a birder would take a birding guide, the book is as complex as it is wry…
A winner of the 2006 award for Oddest Book Title of the Year [c.f. this earlier visit to that list], Montague’s guide received a decent amount of media attention when it came out. But, published in the rudimentary years of social media, it missed out on a chance for the level of virality it may have achieved today. So far, there are few, if any, efforts to add to Montague’s research. Perhaps it’s too good. Perhaps it’s too insane…
See for yourself at “A Look Back at the Greatest (and Only) Stray Shopping Cart Identification Guide Ever Made.”
* Benjamin Franklin
As we return our baskets to the queue, we might recall that it was on this date in 1904 that “CQD” (Morse code – · – · – – · – – · ·) became the official distress signal to be used by Marconi wireless radio operators. A few years later, judging that “CQD” was too easily mistaken for the general call “CQ” in conditions of poor reception, the signal was changed to the now-ubiquitous “SOS” (· · · – – – · · · ).
In 1912, RMS Titanic radio operator Jack Phillips initially sent “CQD”, which was still commonly used by British ships. Harold Bride, the junior radio operator, jokingly suggested using the new code, “SOS”. Thinking it might be the only time he would get to use it, Phillips began to alternate between the two.
Readers may recall an earlier entry on what was thought to be the very first selfie… and indeed, it may be (at least insofar as that particular form of self-snap is concerned). But as Susan Zalkind reports, self-portraits date back further…
My great-great-great-grandfather, Edward Linley Sambourne (1844–1910), known as “Sammy,” was the principal cartoonist for Punch. Sammy set up a studio at his home in Kensington, London, and photographed not only his servants and children, but also himself—thousands of times! “The Rhodes Colossus,” depicting British colonialist Cecil Rhodes with one foot in Cairo and the other in Cape Town, is his most iconic drawing.
More at “Grandfather of the Selfie.”
* William Shakespeare
As we watch the birdie, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that the National Geographic Society was incorporated. Two weeks earlier, the 33 founders of the Society had first met at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. to agree to plans; nine months later, the first issue of National Geographic Magazine was published.