Monday, May 13, 2024

Down the Rabbit Hole, Part 8


As I read or watch things, I see come across intriguing references to things that stir memories or otherwise pique my interest, and I look it up.  Join me as I go down the rabbit hole....


Yes, believe it or not, it is actually a real, erm, "sport":  shin-kicking.  It originated in the Cotswold region of the UK in the 17th century and also became popular among Cornish miners both as entertainment and to settle disputes.  It  was a major event in the Cotswold Olimpick Games from 1612 until the games ended in the 1850s, revived in 1951.  The event draws thousands of spectators. Two competitors, sometimes wearing white coats representing shepherds' smocks, lock arms and kick each other in the shins until one has had enough and cries "Sufficient!"  Modern rules require the wearing of soft shoes and padding their trousers legs with straw, but paramedics and ambulances are on standby.

Dwile Flonking

OK, here's another uniquely English game/sport(?) that I learned about recently from an episode of the "Father Brown" TV series.  Unsurprisingly, it has origins in pubs, but the true origins are hard to pin down.  There are claims that it originated in the Middle Ages, but others only trace it back to the early 1960s.  ("Father Brown" is set in the late 1950s, so that connection doesn't help much.  In any case, there are two teams of 12 players each. Each team takes a turn dancing a circle around a member of the opposing team.  The encircled opposing team member uses a stick to fling (or "flonk') a soaking wet cloth or mop (a "dwile") at the dancers' feet, earning points for hitting them.  

Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte

Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte is the leading character in a series of some 29 detective novels published by Australian author Arthur Upfield between 1929 and 1966.  Bonaparte is the son of an Aborigine mother and a white father, born at a time when interracial relationships were illegal.  Orphaned as an infant, he was raised in a Catholic orphanage where he acquired his name and developed his crime-solving intellect which, when combined with his superior tracking skills, made him a formidable detective inspector with the Queensland Police after earning a university degree.  The Bony books continue to be popular in Australia and abroad, and American author Tony Hillerman cited them as influences on his popular Leaphorn and Chee series.  The books have been adapted for Australian radio and television numerous times, although they are sometimes criticized for being politically incorrect and reflective of the time in which they were written, and, so far, Bony has not been portrayed by an actor of Aboriginal descent.

Upfield was born in England in 1890, migrated to Australia and served in the Australian military during World War I.  After the war, he traveled extensively in Australia and became very familiar with Aboriginal culture and participated in numerous scientific expeditions.  During his travels, Upfield claimed that he met a mixed race man known as "Tracker Leon" who worked for the Queensland police and became the inspiration for Bonaparte, but there is apparently no evidence that such a man existed.  Upfield wrote other novels, but they were overshadowed by Bony's popularity. Upfield died in New South Wales in 1964.

Carson Gulley

One of our must-watch tv shows is "Top Chef."  This season is set is in Wisconsin, and a recent episode honored Chef Carson Gulley (1897-1962).  Gulley was one of ten children born into an Arkansas family of sharecroppers.  He made his way to Wisconsin, where he became the head chef of the University of Wisconsin, serving in that position from 1926 to 1954.  In 1949, George Washington Carver encouraged him to publish his first cookbook. In 1953, he began hosting a radio cooking program, and he and his wife co-hosted a TV cooking program from 1953 to 1962, becoming the first black couple in the country to host a TV show.  Their recipes were published in booklets that listeners and viewers could request by mail. Gulley was an also a leader of the Madison chapter chapter of the NAACP, and he led the fight against discriminatory housing practices.  The campus building in which he worked is now named for him,  Carson Gulley Commons, and the university still serves many of his recipes regularly, including his famous fudge-bottom pie.

Clutch Cargo

Were you, like me, simultaneously traumatized and mesmerized as a child by the animated - using the term loosely - cartoon series "Clutch Cargo"?  "Clutch Cargo" was a syndicated series of only 52 episodes that ran originally from 1959-1960 and ever after in cartoon shows and kids' shows.  Created by Clark Haas, the series follows the adventures of pilot Clutch cargo, his young "ward" Spinner and their pet dachshund named Paddlefoot.  The cartoons were each 5 minutes and created in 5- cartoon arcs, with each of the first four cartoons ending in a cliffhanger and the fifth acting as the conclusion to the adventure.  Haas' idea was that kids' shows could show a segment each weekday and then show the full arc on Saturday mornings.  The driving force behind the show was cheapness.  The animation was extremely limited, and the show was the first to use a new technology called Syncro-Vox.  Syncro-Vox involved superimposing moving human mouths over barely-animated or even still animation cells, so that the lips moving were the major movement.  This process made it super cheap and fast to produce, at one-thirteenth the cost of real animation.  Haas also save money on music, with the soundtrack created by one man using only bongos, a vibraphone, and a flute.  A few other Syncro-Vox shows followed like "Space Angel,"  and I would venture to guess that Hanna-Barbera used Clutch as partial inspiration for "Jonny Quest" that debuted in 1964.


Paraceratherium, also known as Indricotherium, is an extinct genus of hornless rhinoceros that lived during the Oligocene epoch, approximately 34 to 23 million years ago. It is the largest land mammal known to have existed, with an estimated shoulder height of up to 16 feet (4.8 meters) and a weight of around 15 tons. Paraceratherium had a long neck and a relatively small head compared to its massive body. It likely fed on leaves and twigs from trees, browsing in forests across Eurasia. Fossil evidence suggests that it had a wide geographic range, from present-day China to the Balkans. Paraceratherium is a significant species in paleontology, offering insights into the evolutionary history of large mammals and the environmental conditions of the Oligocene period. A paraceratherium appears in Douglas Preston's new novel, Extinction.