Posted in Random Facts on February 28th, 2012 by Ed

As long as we're on the subject, here is the iconic photo taken by Hubert van Es showing civilians clamoring to be taken aboard an American helicopter on the roof of the U.S. Embassy:

Except that isn't the U.S. Embassy. The rooftop evacuation actually took place on a building known then as the Pittman Apartments, where many workers from the various embassies lived. It stands at 22 Ly Tu Trong Street today, just blocks from the new U.S. Consulate (which is not the same structure as the War-era U.S. Embassy).


Posted in Quick Hits, Random Facts on July 12th, 2011 by Ed

1. I have to keep it short today, as I spent the evening at a big-screen viewing of Starship Troopers. Holy balls, I forgot how much I love Starship Troopers. To this day I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that there are people in the world who do not understand that this film (and director Paul Verhoeven's other big-budget splatterfest, Robocop, for that matter) is satire. Seriously, there are people who say things like "My god, it's so violent!" or "What's wrong with you? That movie is, like, fascist!" Come on. It might not be "A Modest Proposal" but I don't think it's that hard to figure out.

2. Speaking of fascists, here's your Random Fact of No Particular Relevance: Unity Mitford, the British aristocrat and fascist who became part of Hitler's inner circle before and throughout the Second World War – by the way, her sister Diana was married to British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley; nice people, those Mitfords – was born in Swastika, Ontario.

I could not make this shit up if I tried. And believe me, I do.


Posted in No Politics Friday, Random Facts on March 11th, 2011 by Ed

Its frequent appearances on my Facebook feed over the past week has reminded me of an unavoidable fact about Wisconsin, a state I ordinarily love: the Wisconsin flag is an abomination.

This shitshow violates every one of the basic principles of vexillology, not to mention taste and common sense. Yes, there are principles of vexillology (the design and academic study of flags) thanks to the wonderful dorks at the North American Vexillogical Association. It offers a helpful publication entitled Good Flag, Bad Flag that I stumbled upon many years ago while attempting to design a logo for a student organization. Note how many of these principles Wisconsin disregarded:

1. Keep it simple
2. Use meaningful symbolism
3. Use 2 or 3 colors
4. No lettering or seals
5. Be distinctive

This is the sort of thing one never contemplates but when it is explained it makes perfect sense. Then again, one doesn't necessarily need a theoretical explanation to pick a crappy flag out of a lineup as this study of city flags proves. See if you can find the terrible one!

Come on, Milwaukee. If you're going for camp, why not Alice Cooper saying "It's Algonquin for…'the good land'." Washington D.C. and Chicago keep things simple and accordingly have flags that kick considerably more ass. Aside from my native fondness for Chicago's design, I'd say that these are my two favorite flags:

The first one is New Mexico, of course. How about you? Feel free to share some particularly excellent or appalling designs you've encountered over the years. I'll award a cash prize to the first person who can find a flag uglier than Louisiana's. Nice pelican, losers.


Posted in Random Facts on February 10th, 2011 by Ed

Today is the 49th anniversary of a classic height-of-the-Cold-War moment: the exchange of Rudolf Abel for captured U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers over the Glienicker Bridge in Potsdam. Here is the contemporaneous story from Time Magazine. A little-known fact about this little-remembered incident is that Powers was accompanied by American graduate student Frederic Pryor, who had been detained by the USSR as a potential spy. In reality, Pryor simply stumbled into a spy trap in East Berlin and was not in fact an agent. He went on to teach Economics at Swarthmore, Michigan, and other elite universities for decades. He is still alive and semi-retired.

I want so badly to go next year and re-enact this for the 50th anniversary. If you don't know who Rudolf Abel is, fix that. If you are ignorant of Gary Powers and the U-2 incident, fix that too.

Quick question – why did the CIA give Powers a poisoned suicide pin (which he failed to use as he had been ordered to do) while also giving him a parachute? It appears that giving him neither would have produced more desired results than giving him both.


Posted in Random Facts on June 30th, 2010 by Ed

Random fact of no particular relevance: Today is the 102nd anniversary of the Tunguska Event. If you don't know what it is, you should read about it…as long as you're prepared to have your mind moderately to severely blown.


Posted in Random Facts on May 29th, 2010 by Ed

What has two thumbs and is heading to the airport for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals? This guy.

Goal horns are common in North American hockey stadiums.** The tradition arises from the fact that early 20th Century refrigeration technology required phenomenal amounts of water to maintain an ice surface, so arenas were located on lakes or rivers. With each home team goal, ships passing or docked nearby would blow their foghorns. Fans got accustomed to it so when the technology improved and stadiums moved inland, they brought the horns with them.

Now that is a Random Fact of No Particular Relevancetm.

**(Note: some inferior teams made up of little bitches, such as the Philadelphia Flyers, substitute a train horn or worse. For shame.)


Posted in No Politics Friday, Random Facts on April 16th, 2010 by Ed

From a 1970s Peace Corps manual (via outstanding travel writer Robert Young Pelton), "How to survive an anaconda attack."

1. Do not run. The snake is faster than you are.
2. Lie flat on the ground, put your arms tight against your sides and your legs tight against each other.
3. Tuck your chin in.
4. The snake will being to nudge and climb over your body.
5. Do not panic.
6. The snake will begin to swallow your feet first.
7. You must lie perfectly still. This will take a long time.
8. When the snake has reached your knees, reach down, take your knife, slide it into the side of the snake's mouth between the edge of its mouth and your leg. Quickly rip upward, severing the snake's head.
9. Be sure you have your knife.
10. Be sure your knife is sharp.

You're welcome. For further information please consult the documentary Anaconda starring Ice Cube and Tebagging legend Jon Voight.


Posted in Random Facts on April 7th, 2010 by Ed

Nobody is easier to hate than the Nazis, but they had visual appeal (thanks to their legions of image and art directors) down to a science. Look at those sharp, snappy SS uniforms. They are practically ready for the fashion runway. And they should be, given that they were designed by Hugo Boss. Seriously.

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Posted in Random Facts on March 11th, 2010 by Ed

(Random Facts of No Particular Relevance are exactly what the name implies. If the reader relies upon one of these facts to win money on a game show I am entitled to 10% off the top. That's pre-tax. On the other hand, you may use these to achieve mastery of bar trivia free of charge.)

"Canola", as in canola oil, is an acronym for "Canadian oil, low acid." The plant from which the oil is produced is called rapeseed. For some strange reason they must have doubted that consumers would want to buy or eat something called "rapeseed."

You're welcome.

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Posted in Random Facts on March 1st, 2010 by Ed

Welcome to "Random facts of no particular relevance." In this series I will regale you with…random facts of no particular relevance. If, however, you ever rely upon one of these facts to win money on a game show I am entitled to 10% off the top. That's pre-tax. On the other hand, you may use these to achieve mastery of bar trivia free of charge.

The peace symbol is based on semaphore. Yes, that thing with the flags. The symbol combines the semaphore letters "N" and "D" which is an abbreviation of "Nuclear disarmament."

You're welcome.