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“The bitter tears of Johnny Cash”

28 January 2013

[via Salon]

[Zim’s Note: The article is a bit long but definitively worth the read if you like Johnny Cash and/or Native American topics.]

The untold story of Johnny Cash, protest singer and Native American activist, and his feud with the music industry

By Antonino D’Ambrosio, Sunday, Nov 8, 2009

Johnny Cash touring Wounded Knee with the descendants of those who survived the 1890 massacre in December of 1968.

Johnny Cash touring Wounded Knee with the descendants of those who survived the 1890 massacre in December of 1968.

In July 1972, musician Johnny Cash sat opposite President Richard Nixon in the White House’s Blue Room. As a horde of media huddled a few feet away, the country music superstar had come to discuss prison reform with the self-anointed leader of America’s “silent majority.” “Johnny, would you be willing to play a few songs for us,” Nixon asked Cash. “I like Merle Haggard’s ‘Okie From Muskogee’ and Guy Drake’s ‘Welfare Cadillac.’” The architect of the GOP’s Southern strategy was asking for two famous expressions of white working-class resentment.

“I don’t know those songs,” replied Cash, “but I got a few of my own I can play for you.” Dressed in his trademark black suit, his jet-black hair a little longer than usual, Cash draped the strap of his Martin guitar over his right shoulder and played three songs, all of them decidedly to the left of “Okie From Muskogee.” With the nation still mired in Vietnam, Cash had far more than prison reform on his mind. Nixon listened with a frozen smile to the singer’s rendition of the explicitly antiwar “What Is Truth?” and “Man in Black” (“Each week we lose a hundred fine young men”) and to a folk protest song about the plight of Native Americans called “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” It was a daring confrontation with a president who was popular with Cash’s fans and about to sweep to a crushing reelection victory, but a glimpse of how Cash saw himself — a foe of hypocrisy, an ally of the downtrodden. An American protest singer, in short, as much as a country music legend.


97-Year-Old Message in a Bottle Found Off British Coast Sets New World Record

31 August 2012

Getty Images

After floating on the lonely seas, adrift for nearly a century, the world’s oldest message in a bottle has finally been liberated and graced with a Guinness record.

Andrew Leaper, a Scottish skipper aboard the fishing boat Copious, discovered the bottle early April of this year, trapped in his fishing net as he sailed east of Shetland, an island group northeast of the U.K. mainland. The bottle, which reportedly spent 97 years and 309 days at sea, beats the previous world record by more than five years.

Amazingly, it also turns out the exact same boat, the Copious, found the last record-setting message in a bottle. Though Leaper wasn’t at the helm of the boat that time, his friend Mark Anderson hauled in the bottle. “It was an amazing coincidence,” Leaper commented.

The bottle was originally launched back in June 1914 as part of a scientific study to map sea currents around Scotland. More than 1,800 bottles were released, but only 315 of them have been found according to the BBC. The bottle Anderson found in 2006 was part of the same scientific experiment.

After nearly 98 years, the bottle had traveled a disappointing 10.7 miles from its original launch location, Guinness reports. Which means that stuffed inside the bottle wasn’t some prized possession or heartfelt message from a long-lost love that had sailed across the Atlantic, or even anything redeemable in today’s society. All that it contained was a cream-colored postcard asking the finder to record the location where it was found and mail it back to the Glasgow School of Navigation for a minor reward.

But that was of no consequence for Leaper. Surely with a smile across his face, he told the BBC, “It’s like winning the lottery twice.” Too bad he can’t claim the sixpence reward for finding the bottle — the coin was discontinued by the British Mint in 1970 and completely phased out by 1980. Holding the Guinness record, though? That’s probably just a bit more valuable.

By Erica Ho, August 31, 2012


6 Lost Olympic Sports

26 July 2012

[Zim’s Note: With the 2012 Summer Olympic Games beginning tomorrow in London, I decided to do a quick search of Olympic sports that are no more. Luck would have it that I was not the only one thinking about these by-gone activities. Today, National Geographic published a slide show of “6 Lost Olympic Sports.” In my opinion, there are a few of these that should still be in the Olympic Games…]

[Zim’s Second Note: …but not the pigeon one…]

Solo Synchronized Swimming

Photograph by Richard Mackson, Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

The seemingly oxymoronic sport of solo synchronized swimming is just one of a gaggle of lost, generally unlamented activities you won’t see at the 2012 Olympics in London. Practiced  above by U.S. Olympian Kristen Babb Sprague in Barcelona in 1992—solo  synchronized swimming’s third and last Olympic year—the discipline isn’t as odd as it sounds. Technically speaking, it’s the music, not other athletes, that the swimmers are supposed to be in sync with.

While the sport—still practiced competitively in other venues—does require tremendous flexibility and stamina, many viewed it as something of a joke.

“It’s just sort of making pretty figures in the water,” said Bill Mallon, a past president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. “Like floor exercises while you’re floating—jumping, toes pointed, spins, smiling, waving your arms.”


Photograph from Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Unlike many discontinued Olympic events, tug-of-war was a crowd favorite. “It’s actually a great sport to watch,” said Mallon, the historian.

A staple of the Summer Olympics from 1900 to 1920, the sport was forced into retirement when the International Olympic Committee decreed that each Olympic sport needed to have a global governing body, which tug-of-war lacked.

Despite the sport’s current connotations of school yards and playgrounds, turn-of-the-century tug-of-war could be surprisingly high-stakes.

At  the 1908 Olympic Games in London, for example, the U.S. team protested an upset by the home team, crying foul over the Brits’ heavy, spiked, and apparently illegal boots. The U.K. team (pictured against Ireland), though—most of them police  officers—explained that they simply hadn’t changed out of their work boots.

Jeu de Paume

Photograph from Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Jeu de paume (pictured in an undated illustration) ricocheted into the 1908 London Olympics and hasn’t bounced back since, perhaps for lack of audience. “It’s a very elitist sport,” Mallon said. “There are only about 20 courts left in the world right now,” most of them in France.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the “palm game” is the original form of tennis, though it more closely resembles racquetball, in that walls are very much in play.

Jeu de paume parts ways with modern tennis too in its emphasis on finesse over force.

“The game is not so much [about] power as it is about placement and spins,” Mallon said.

Rope Climbing

Images from Popperfoto/Getty Images

Rope climbing hung on as part of the Summer Olympics’ gymnastics program from 1896 and 1932, with Greece’s Georgios Aliprantis (pictured) taking the gold in 1906 in Athens.

In that time, though, the sport made only four Olympic appearances, mainly because it was popular only in the U.S. Perhaps not surprisingly, rope climbing was more likely to make the cut when the games were held in the states.

“It’s important that the sports included be popular around the world, but when [the Olympics] are in America … well, Americans have a little more say,” Mallon said.

At its introduction at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, rope climbers were judged on form, speed, and—in cases where competitors failed to reach the top of the 42-foot (13-mater) rope—height. In 1904  and 1932, medals were awarded based solely on speed. Judges in 1924 again factored in style, which backfired slightly when 22 competitors achieved perfect scores.

Hot-Air Ballooning

Image from Popperfoto/Getty Images

The  1900 Paris games were folded into a massive world’s fair, resulting in a flood of demonstration sports that wouldn’t have been included otherwise (and never would be again). Case in point: hot-air ballooning (pictured). In fact, there were so many activities, Mallon said, that it was difficult to tell which sports were Olympic.

Balloon pilots at the Paris Olympics were judged on distance traveled, time in the air, and ability to land at predetermined coordinates. France swept the event.

The sport was removed from the Olympic roster, not due to ridiculousness but because of a ban on motorized sports. And though the ban’s recently been removed from the Olympic Charter, Mallon said he doesn’t expect that ballooning will make a comeback.

Live Pigeon Shooting

Photograph from Popperfoto/Getty Images

The  inclusion of live pigeon shooting in the 1900 Paris games—like ballooning, a world’s fair one-off—marks the only time in the Olympic history that animals have been killed on purpose.

The rules of the game were straightforward: Shoot down as many birds as possible in the allotted time, with two misses resulting in elimination. The event—in which Australia’s Donald MacIntosh (pictured) took the  bronze—was predictably messy, which may have contributed to pigeon shooting’s brief Olympic life span.


[Personally, I would watch the tug-of-war if it were in the Olympics again. Here is a video of the tug-of-war meet between Sweden and Great Britain during the 1912 Stockholm Games.]

National Geographic 

Sending Vets’ Lost Medals, And Memories, Home

9 July 2012

[Zim’s Note: I like a good antique store. I also collect buttons and patches from military uniforms. Collecting other paraphilia does not entice me like it does for others, unless its something that was passed down to me or belonged to a relative of mind. And, to be honest, buttons and patches take up the least amount of space and considering my sizable book collection, I need all the extra space I have! Whenever I see military uniforms or other war items for sale, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the original owner. I stumbled upon this NPR story and thought I would share it here as well. I commend this man’s efforts and think it is a great thing that he is doing!]

Army Pvt. Corrado Piccoli was killed in action in Europe during WWII. His Purple Heart was a cherished family keepsake, but was lost over the years.

Zachariah Fike has an unusual hobby. The Vermont Army National Guard captain finds old military medals for sale in antique stores and on the Internet. But unlike most memorabilia collectors, Zac doesn’t keep the medals for himself.

Instead, he tracks down the medals’ rightful owners, and returns them.

His effort to reunite families with lost medals all began with a Christmas gift from his mother — a Purple Heart, found in an antique shop and engraved with the name Corrado A.G. Piccoli.

Zac, 31, knows the significance of a Purple Heart — he earned one himself when he was wounded in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2010. So when his mother gave him the medal, he knew right away that he had to find the Piccoli family.

Prowling the Internet, Zac eventually tracked down two of Corrado’s sisters. But when he finally reached Corrado’s younger sister, Adeline Rockko, in New Lisbon, N.J., the woman had a difficult time trusting the young man on the other end of the line.

“I flooded him with questions,” recalls Adeline, 85. “Bang, bang, bang. One right after the other.”

Zac remembers Adeline’s grilling well. “Who are you? ‘What antique shop?” she asked him. “She was very stern.”

But when Adeline hung up the phone, she regretted the way she had handled the call. “I walked away from the phone, and I says, ‘Oh my god, he’s so nice and he’s returning our medal, and I treated him this way?'”

So Adeline called Zac right back. She apologized for giving him the third degree, and thanked him for what he had done.

Soon, she hopped in the car to meet Zac at his home in Watertown, N.Y.

“At that point, I knew you meant business,” Zac says. “To drive eight hours to come see me.”

“That night, when you brought the medal down from your bedroom and I saw it was in the very same box I had last seen it in, I knew it was in good hands,” Adeline says.

The Piccolis grew up the children of Italian immigrants in Watertown. Corrado, a translator for the Army during WWII, was killed in action in Europe during the war.

Before hearing from Zac, Corrado’s siblings hadn’t realized the medal was missing.

Like many military medals, the one Zac’s mother had found was a family treasure, Adeline says.

Capt. Zachariah Fike helped reunite sisters Adeline Rockko (left) and Mary Piccoli with the Purple Heart medal of their late brother, Army Pvt. Corrado Piccoli.

“This medal was very precious to my parents. And on special occasions, they would take it out and let us touch it and hold it in our hand,” she says. “And then my mother would put it back in the trunk in her bedroom.”

As a child, Adeline couldn’t understand why the medal was so significant.

“But as I grew older,” Adeline says, “and missed my brother more and more, I realized, ‘Well, this is the only tangible thing that we have left.’ ”

Zac and Adeline got to know each other well after their initial meeting. They’ve talked about planning a trip to Italy, hoping to “walk some of the ground [Corrado] would have walked during the war,” Zac says.

“I would like to make that trip. Really. We were very fortunate that you were the one who ended up with the Purple Heart,” Adeline says. “You’re part of our family now.”

Corrado Piccoli’s Purple Heart medal now hangs at the Italian American Civic Association in Watertown.

Zac recently returned another lost medal to a family in Alabama. Since he first reunited Corrado’s siblings with their brother’s medal, Zac says his record is now 5 for 5.

By NPR Staff, July 6, 2012