Category Archives: Literature

Edgar Allan Poe: Father of the Modern Mystery Story and Tales of Dark Suspense

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 - 1849

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 - 1849

Fun Facts About Edgar Allan Poe

  • Poe was born in Boston, MA
  • His father David Poe was bred as a lawyer, but deeply offended his family by marrying an actress of English birth, Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins, neé Arnold, and by himself going on the stage. In 1811 he and his wife died, leaving three children — William, Edgar, and a daughter Rosalie — wholly destitute.
  • Edgar was adopted by John Allan, a tobacco merchant of Scottish extraction, seemingly at the request of his wife, who was childless.
  • Poe attended the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1826…until he had to drop out due to lack of money. It seems that Poe had a gambling problem, and his foster father got tired of bailing him out.
  • Broke, Poe lied about his age and joined the army. He served two years…and then got himself dismissed by court martial.
  • His life immediately after he left West Point is very obscure, but in 1833 he was living at Baltimore with his paternal aunt, Mrs. Clemm, who was throughout life his protector, and, in so far as extreme poverty permitted, his support.
  • In 1827 Poe had published his first volume of poetry, Tamerlane and other Poems, at Boston. He did not publish under his name, but as “A Bostonian.” In 1831 he published a volume of Poems under his name at New York.
  • In 1833 he won a prize of $100 offered for the best story by the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. He would have won the prize for the best poem if the judges had not thought it wrong to give both rewards to one competitor.
  • The story, MS. found in a Bottle, is one of the most mediocre of his tales, but his success gave him an introduction to editors and publishers, who were attracted by his striking personal appearance and his fine manners, and were also touched by his manifest poverty.
  • His famous poem “The Raven” was published first in 1845, and soon became extraordinarily popular; but Poe only got $10 or $15 for it (the exact amount is often debated.)
  • Poe’s short stories featuring C. Auguste Dupin shaped the modern mystery story so much that Arthur Conan Doyle compared Sherlock Holmes to Dupin, and the Mystery Writers of America give an award named the Edgar—after Poe, of course.
  • Among his masterpieces are the short stories The Pit and the PendulumThe Murders in the Rue MorgueThe Masque of the Red DeathThe Fall of the House of Usher, and The Gold Bug.
  • In 1835 he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, a beautiful girl of fourteen years of age. A false statement as to her age was made at the time of the marriage. She died after a long decline in 1847.
  • Poe made two attempts to marry women of fortune — Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Shelton. The first of these engagements was broken off. The second was terminated by his death.
  • Poe died of tuberculosis on October 7th, 1849 in Baltimore, MD
  • Poe’s bizarre life didn’t stop just because he died in 1849. He was buried in an unmarked grave, and when gossip finally led to a stone being ordered, it was destroyed in a train accident.
  • Ever since 1949, someone has left a bottle of cognac and some roses on Poe’s grave. Who is leaving these things? And why?
  • Edgar Allen Poe is one of the featured images on the cover of the 1967 Beatles’ album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

 

Special thanks to enotes.com and nndb.com

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Doonesbury: Garry Trudeau’s Classic Comic and Mainstay of American Newspapers Since 1970

Gary Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Garry Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Fun Facts About Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury”

Michael James “Mike” Doonesbury is the main character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury. He started out as a nerdish freshman from Tulsa at the fictional Walden College, and shared a dorm room with B.D. Currently he is married to Kim Rosenthal, and divorced from J.J. Caucus but raising their teenage daughter Alex. He has a widowed mother and a younger brother, Benjamin (who during some time as a punk rocker was known as “Sal Putrid”).

Mike is the everyman of the strip. He is a fairly normal, well-adjusted person who is easy for most readers to relate to, in contrast to the often surreal, crazy and extreme characters that populate the strip. Trudeau based Mike’s personality on his own and for this reason it is usually Mike who speaks the creator’s own viewpoints. Mike’s name was taken from the word “doone”, meaning a person who is not afraid to appear foolish, and Charles Pillsbury, the roommate of Trudeau’s at Yale.

Who played ‘uptight end’ for the Walden College football team when B.D. was the quarterback?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker’s habit of smoking marijuana in the huddle did not endear him to the straightlaced B.D. Zonker later turned up as a war correspondent in Vietnam while B.D. was there.
What is the name of the Justice Department attorney who was romantically involved (unsuccessfully) with a priest and a gay man?
    Joanie Caucus. Joannie got married to investigative reporter Rick Redfern and is the mother of Jeff.
What is the first name of “Uncle” Duke’s long-time assistant? She was a 1974 graduate of Peking University.
    Honey. Among other things, Honey Huan has been the translator for the U.S. Ambassador to China, the Dean and President of the Baby Doc College of Physicians, and the Social Director aboard Donald Trump’s yacht.
The first time Mike Doonesbury met his lab partner Bernie, what did Bernie do?
    Turned himself into a werewolf. Bernie later confided to Mike that he ate an outboard motor at the age of four. Years later he hired Mike’s future wife, Kim, to work for him at Bernie’s Byte Shack of Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character once staged a nine hour performance art piece titled ‘Welcome to Artville’?
    J.J. Doonesbury. J.J. married and divorced Mike Doonesbury. She became a sculptor living in Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character developed a monthly contribution program, complete with buttons to signify whether or not the person had already given?
    Alice Schwartzman. Alice, a one-time New York debutante,was homeless for many years until Congresswoman Lacey Davenport left her estate to her. She and her husband Elmont had to get used to living indoors.
Who was Sid Kibbitz?
    Boopsie’s agent. Sid was Boopsie’s agent. He also tried to package Ronald Reagan and Tom Cruise together in a ‘buddy’ movie.
Who was the first gay character to appear in ‘Doonesbury’?
    Andy Lippincott. Lippincott first appeared in the strip in the 1970’s. He eventually died from the AIDS virus.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character revealed that he was gay on the radio?
    Mark Slackmeyer. Slackmeyer, along with his life-partner Chase Talbot III, began to host a radio show on National Public Radio called ‘All Things Being Equal’.
In 1973, one of the Watergate conspirators resigned from office, causing Garry Trudeau to withdraw a weeks worth of ‘Doonesbury’ strips. Which Watergate figure was it?
    John Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman later wrote Trudeau, “I hear that my resignation fouled up your series. Sorry. Next time let me know what you are planning and I’ll try to cooperate”.
Which character in ‘Doonesbury’ won $23 million in a lottery?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker won the lottery, but it didn’t change him one bit. He began working as a nanny, helping raise B.D. and Boopsie’s daughter Sam.
Has ‘Doonesbury’ creator Garry Trudeau ever won a Pulitzer Prize?
    Yes. in 1975 Trudeau became the first comic strip artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. The Editorial Cartoonist’s Society promptly passed a resolution condemning the Pulitzer Prize committee. Trudeau supported the resolution.
One of the first characters to appear in the strip was B.D. On whom was the character based?
    Brian Dowling, Yale’s starting quarterback. B.D. was a star quarterback just like the inspiration for his character, Brian Dowling. B.D. became the football coach at his alma mater, Walden College.
When ‘Bull Tales’ became ‘Doonesbury’, in how many newspapers did it first appear?
    28. ‘Doonesbury’ appeared in 28 newspapers when it debuted on October 26, 1970.
‘Doonesbury’ was originally called ‘Bull Tales’ when it appeared in a college newspaper. What college was that?
    Yale. Garry Trudeau is a graduate of Yale University and ‘Bull Tales’ was first seen in the Yale ‘Daily News’ on September 30, 1968.
In the early 90s, Mark came out as being gay. Who is his partner?
    Chase. He’s a Republican, surprisingly.
Who is the embodiement of the tobacco industry?
    Mr. Butts. Mr. Butts, a giant walking cigarette. His friend, Mr. Jay, is a giant joint.
Who did Mike campaign for during the 1980 election?
    John Anderson. Anyone remember him?
Zonker was one of those people who never grew up. Who where his imaginary friends that he always talked to?
    His plants. His plants had names and distinct personalities.
Who was B.D.’s buddy during both Iraq wars?
    Ray Hightower. Ray was wounded in the first war.
Several characters have died in the strip. Who died of a heart attack?
    Dick. Dick died of a heart attack while birdwatching. His wife, Lacey, died about ten years later, of Alzheimers. Andy died of AIDS, Phil of old age.
Joanie once fell for a fellow legal student named Andy. Why didn’t it work out?
    He was gay. Joanie: “Are they sure?” Andy: “Joanie, I’m sure.”
What celebrity neighbor did Duke always fight with near his house in Colorado?
    John Denver. He went after Denver with a gun on more than one occasion.
Everyone’s favorite character is Duke. What football team was he the assistant manager for?
    The Redskins. After a little problem with his liberal distribution of pills to the players, he was forced to look for work elsewhere.
After a serious injury in 2004, we got to see B.D. without his helmet for the first time. Which kind of helmet had he never worn?
    batting. He never played baseball. He played football, both in college and professionally, was a veteran of Vietnam and both Iraqi wars, and was a motorcycle cop for a bit.
Comics can have an effect on real life. The so-called ‘Doonesbury Amendment’ of Palm Springs dealt with what unfair practice?
    The requirement of domestic employees to carry passcards. In the 1980s, domestic employees of Palm Springs were required to carry a passcard. Since many of them were black or Hispanic, it essentially became a crime to be an undocumented minority. After the comic spoofed this law, it was quickly changed.
One trademark of the strip is the use of icons to represent famous people. How was Bill Clinton shown?
    A waffle. Reagan was Max Headroom, Bush, Sr. was a point of light, Bush Junior an asterisks in a cowboy hat, Dan Quayle a feather, Newt Gingrich a bomb, and David Duke a swastika.
Barbara Ann Boopstein, aka Boopsie, sometimes channels the spirit of an ancient warrior. What’s his name?
    Hunk Ra. Boopsie grows fangs and a pointed tongue when she channels the Hunk.
J.J. once created a large mural for Donald Trump. Where was it?
    His big, obnoxious boat. She felt she was selling out, painting a mural in a billionaire’s boat (in the bathroom, no less).
Duke was almost executed by firing squad at the hands of which organization?
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Duke parachuted into revolutionary Iran on behalf of American oil interests, and was captured by Khomeini’s supporters, who tried him and found him guilty of crimes against God. He escaped a roof-top execution by bribing his tormentors, but it was, perhaps, his closest call yet. Right-winger though he is, Duke has historically enjoyed fairly good relations with the communist world, and has never fallen foul of the Stasi or any comparable organization. The Sandinistas, I imagine, would have loved to kill Duke, but they never got the chance. Duke never tangled with the Khmer Rouge, either – if he had, I doubt they would have arranged anything as civilized as a firing squad.
Which political figure did star reporter Roland Hedley eagerly question about his beard?

Yasser Arafat. Roland scored his first interview with Arafat in Beirut, as the PLO Chairman faced Israeli attack. Roland asked Arafat to explain how he managed to grow a beard which always looked like three-day stubble.

Special thanks to  www.absoluteastronomy.com and www.funtrivia.com

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Socrates: War Hero Turned Father of Philosophical Dialogue

Socrates (469 BCE - 399 BCE)

Socrates (469 BCE - 399 BCE)

 Fun Facts About Socrates 

  • Son of the Sculptor Sophroniscus. Husband of Xanthippe, father of several children.
  • Socrates served in the Peloponnesian War, dabbled in politics, and then became a stonemason.
  • Socrates himself served in the military as a hoplite, or heavy-armed foot-soldier, at the siege of Potidaea, at the battle of Deliurn, and at Amphipolis. We know from Symposium that Socrates was decorated for bravery.
  • His financial inheritance from his father allowed him to devote his life to philosophy.
  • Socrates was particularly interested in what are often called the five cardinal virtues (held to be such by Socrates’ Greek contemporaries), namely, pietywisdomtemperancecourage, and justice.
  • Invented the process of Philosophical Dialogue.
  • Socrates did not create any philosophical works of literature. In fact, his life and method of philosophy are only known to us due to Socrates’ prominent role in Plato’s Dialogues.

  • Known as one of the wisest men of all time.
  • Socrates believed that ” … no one knowingly does wrong.”
  • Socrates believed in the necessity of doing what one thinks is right even in the face of universal opposition, and the need to pursue knowledge even when opposed.
  • “Socrates considered it a duty imposed on him by the Delphian god, to cross-question men of all degrees, as to their knowledge, to make them conscious of their ignorance, and so put them in the way of becoming wise.”
  • Socrates spent most of his life engaged in discussion with the young aristocrats of Athens. He used this discussion to learn about the nature of topics such as morality and justice, and to inspire deeper reflection upon these topics to battle ignorance.
  • His discussions with the citizens of Athens eventually led to his demise. The parents of the young aristocrats did not like the influence Socrates was having on their children. He was charged with lack of piety and corruption of the city’s youth. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by drinking hemlock (a poison).
  • It is said that about 557 people attended the trial of Socrates.

Special thanks to www.extremeintellect.com

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Sherlock Holmes: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Famous Sleuth

Holmes Silhouette with Signature Deer-stalker Hat and Pipe

Holmes Silhouette with Signature Deerstalker Cap and Pipe

Fun Facts About Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes”

  • Sherlock means blond, but two of the actors most associated with the role, Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, both had dark hair.
  • The famous deerstalker cap of Holmes was not ascribed to him by Doyle, , but by the illustrator of the stories, Sidney Paget.
  • The most famous phrase that was never used in Doyle’s original works was “Elementary, my dear Watson.” This was used in the first sound film to feature the character.
  • Doyle did write Holmes saying, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” This may be the most famous actual quote of the character.
  • Holmes’ best friend and biographer is Dr. Watson. Watson has a bullet wound that was first described as being in the shoulder, but in another story the wound had moved to the leg.
  • Holmes’ most famous nemesis was Professor Moriarty; however he only appeared in two stories, The Final Problem and The Valley of Fear. But, Holmes’ description of him as the “Napoleon of Crime” as well as the apparent belief that Holmes died fighting him (at least until Holmes returned due to popular demand), his fame is justified.
  • Canonically, the only woman to leave a lasting impression on Holmes was Irene Adler. She was also the only person to have beaten Holmes. It is believed by some fans that the two were romantically involved and had a child together. Laurie R King, British author of a series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, mentioned a son he had with Adler. She is not the first writer to do so.
  • Sherlock Holmes is famous for his cold logic, but Doyle believed in spiritualism.
  • Doyle became so tired of Holmes that he wrote The Final Problem in order to kill him off. The public’s demands for more stories lead Doyle to resurrect Holmes in The Adventure of the Empty House.
  • Nicholas Meyer wrote a book where he gives an explanation for Holmes’ absence during the time between The Final Problem and The Adventure of the Empty House. It is called The Seven Per Cent Solution, and instead of hiding out from dangerous enemies, Holmes is actually in Vienna, getting treatment for his cocaine addiction. His use of cocaine is part of Doyle’s canon.
  • Basil of Baker Street, a mouse in a children’s book series, as well as a Disney movie called The Great Mouse Detective was inspired by Holmes. Other characters based on the detective include Dr. House of television’s House, and Shirley Holmes, a teenager in the Canadian series The Adventures of Shirley Holmes. The character of Shirley was Sherlock Holmes’ great grand niece. Doyle set his stories in Victorian England, but other people have put Holmes in many settings, including the 1940’s, battling Nazis and the 22nd century.
Special thanks to www.associatedcontent.com

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

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