Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

My Archon Schedule

Written By: Tracy - Sep• 26•16

I’ll be at Archon 40 in St. Louis this weekend. This is my last planned appearance of the year. 

 

My schedule is as follows:

Friday 

1:00 world building (I’m Moderating!)

4:00 author reading 

7:00 the ethics of superpowers  

8:00 Original Marvel TV (Moderating again!)

9:00 Yard Dog Press Traveling Roadshow

 

Saturday

12:00 Our Favorite Series (Moderating!)

2:00 All Things Sherlock Holmes 

3:00 Star Wars the Force Awakens, Rogue One and Episode 8 (Moderating!)

 

Sunday

10:00 Horse stories – Pegasus, Unicorn and the dreaded kelpie

 

Hope to see you there!

I’m Not Making This Up – How Do You Solve A Problem Like Mad King Ludwig?

Written By: Tracy - Sep• 19•16

He sort of looks like a broody vampire.

You have to admire Mad King Ludwig. Unlike other mad royals (Jonna of Castile, for one) Ludwig aggressively owned his crazy.  Or did he?

When Ludwig came to the throne in 1846, people thought he was a little eccentric. But then again, aren’t all wealthy folk? And who cares, when you have brooding good looks and a tendency to support the arts? (It worked for Edward Cullen)

But right from the beginning, the signs were there. Distant parents, and a tendency to get lost in his own little fantasy world.

Then Ludwig suffered a crushing defeat to Prussia. For the rest of Ludwig’s life, he’d only rule as a vassal of Prussia.

The pressures of ruling (combined with his sexual orientation and pressure to get married and produce an heir) may have caused Ludwig to retreat into his increasingly active fantasy life. Which would have been fine, if it wasn’t wrecking Bavaria’s economy.

Ludwig commissioned private operas, lavish gardens, fanciful sleighs for traveling at night (he slept all day and stayed up at night), gave lavish gifts to peasants (peasants!) and built fantasy castles that would later inspire Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.

Although Ludwig used his personal fortune to build each of his three castles and his royal apartments in Munich, his debt lowered Bavaria’s credit. His ministers asked him to slow down the spending and economize. (Much like a parent might ask their college kids: do you really need three credit cards, the Bavarian Ministers asked Ludwig, do you really need three castles?)

Eventually, the ministers had enough. Ludwig’s spending, his refusal to schmooze with his courtiers or even visit Munich, his refusal to attend state functions (or do anything kingly) and his insistence on behaving like an artist rather than a monarch (the nerve) was too much for Ludwig’s ministers. They asked dear uncle Lutipold to step in.

Lutipold refused, unless they could prove beyond any doubt that Ludwig was crazy. To which the ministers no doubt said: noooo problem. In no time, the ministers hired a specialist who diagnosed Ludwig sight unseen. Lutipold took over as regent, and Ludwig was confined to one of his fantasy castles, where he promptly died (officially drowned, but possibly shot during an escape attempt) along with the physician who declared him insane (convenient, that).

So was Mad King Ludwig really insane? Modern psychology would disagree with a diagnosis when the doctor didn’t even see the patient. It’s possible that if Ludwig hadn’t been a prince, he would’ve been a successful artist and architect.

Every dollar Ludwig sank his country into debt, they make back now on tourism.

 

I Am Not Making This Up – Santa Anna Was A Leg Man

Written By: Tracy - Sep• 12•16

Most know General Antonio López de Santa Anna as the man who ordered the slaughter of Texas Defenders (including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie) at the Battle of the Alamo, lost at the battle of San Jacinto, served as president of Mexico 11 times, and eventually became known as “the Napoleon of the West.”

But less well known, is Santa Anna’s obsession with his own leg. 

Two years after the battle of San Jacinto, during the “pastry war” of 1838 (which was not a giant pie fight, as awesome as that sounds), the French and Mexico were at war. Santa Anna had to have his leg amputated after being wounded while defending Vera Cruz from the invading French.

Four years later, (in between his sixth and seventh time serving as president of Mexico) Santa Anna held a state funeral for his leg, complete with cannonade salutes, speeches, prayers and poems dedicated to himself. He then buried the leg in a fancy vessel beneath a monument to his own awesome.

Santa Anna then used the publicity from his state funeral to win another term as president. During parades, he would hold his prosthetic leg up so that people could see that he’d made sacrifices on behalf of Mexico. (He had three prosthetics made. One was a simple peg leg. The other two were expensive, custom cork prosthetics with a foot on a ball bearing. Each fitted with a square-toed boot.)


Two years after burying his leg, Santa Anna would lose two of the prosthetics (one of the custom legs, and the peg) to the Americans (because the entire southwest was not enough). During a battle, he was eating lunch when the 4th Illinois infantry surprised him. The president general jumped on a horse and rode away, leaving his lunch, his gold and his legs behind. 

The custom prosthetic leg is the centerpiece of a diorama at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. The display shows Illinois troops seizing Santa Anna’s camp. 

Only the leg is authentic here.

The peg leg was used as a baseball bat and is on display at the Oglesby Manor in Decatur Illinois. 

Mexico and Texas have both asked that Illinois give up the prosthetic legs (and have been turned down). The story of the leg has been featured on the tv show “King of the Hill.”

Santa Anna’s interred actual leg was dug up by an angry mob, dragged through the streets and thrown onto a garbage heap. 

He served as President of Mexico 11 times, lived in and out of exile, died in 1876 and was buried with full military honors. Unlike his leg, he was not dug up and thrown on a trash pile. 

I Am Not Making This Up: Ep. 4 The Most Bonkers Race in Olympic History

Written By: Tracy - Sep• 05•16

Olympics_poster.jpgNext time someone mentions the plight of the Olympic athlete, remember that it’s not that bad.  They could be forced to run a marathon through a cloud of dust while wearing cutoff shorts, having cramps & being chased by dogs while their trainers try to poison them.

I’d like to apologize for possibly mispronouncing some of the names of the runners in the audio.  I tried, but not all of them had a pronounciation guide with them.

Research links for this podcast:

Smithsonian.com: The 1904 Olympic Marathon May have Been the Strangest Ever

LA Times: Sports Legend Revealed: A Marathon Runner Nearly Died Because of the Drugs He took Took To Help Him Win

Jalopnik.com: The First Winner of The 1904 Marathon Used A Car, The Second Winner Used Drugs & Booze

History.com: 8 Unusual Facts About the 1904 Olympics

 

I’m Not Making This Up – Do A Good Deed, Find Your Father’s Body Snatchers

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 29•16


Poor John Scott Harrison. You would think that being a State Representative, son of a President and father of another President would get you some respect. Or at least keep grave robbers away. Unfortunately, in Harrison’s case, you’d be wrong.

Of course, Harrison only served two terms in office. His father, William Henry Harrison (9th president of the United States) was the first president to die in office (less than a month after his inauguration). His son, Benjamin Harrison (the guy who served in between Grover Cleveland’s two terms) was not yet elected at the time of John Scott’s death. Though you would think that having the last name Harrison and being buried in the William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial would count for something. Apparently not.

Back then, as now, medical students studied anatomy by looking at actual corpses. But unlike now, there wasn’t an option for someone to donate their body to science. So universities made do. Where making do meant paying anyone off the street who just happened to turn up with a dead, not obviously murdered body (the fresher the better, no questions asked).

Because of the big bucks one could score from a freshly dead body, grave robbing became big business (and medical universities had a shady reputation).

Usually grave robbers stuck to cemeteries where the live relatives weren’t going to protest (usually poor, usually non-white. Because humans are terrible). In this case, the grave robbers got a little too aggressive.

The Harrison family noticed that a nearby fresh grave, belonging to Agustus Devin, had been robbed. Worried that the same fate would befall John Scott Harrison, the family built a brick and cement vault around his casket.

Then the Harrison boys set out to find those no-account grave robbers. First they got a warrant, then they stormed up to the Ohio Medical College in high dudgeon. Instead of young Mr. Devin, the John Harrison found his own father hidden under a trap door.

It seems that in the night after the funeral, someone had pried away stones at the foot of the coffin, and pulled the corpse out by the feet. The thieves had to have watched the family install the slab. Otherwise they would have tried (unsuccessfully) to get at the body from another direction.

The grave robbery set off a national scandal. If Harrison’s body wasn’t safe from grave robbers, was anyone’s? It didn’t help that the doctors didn’t seem ashamed that they’d stolen and nearly dissected a famous civil servant.

Thanks to the incident, 5 states increased penalties on grave robbing, and undercut the grave robbing business by allowing medical universities to use unclaimed corpses in their studies.

I Am Not Making This Up – The Pirate Queen Of Denmark

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 22•16

The start of the ladies hen night tradition.

There’s a sea chanty that repeatedly asks what you do with a drunken sailor early in the morning. It came to mind as I heard this story.

So what do you do if you’re a Scandinavian princess, locked in a tower and guarded by snakes? What do you do when your royal parents give your hand to a prince against your wishes?

If you’re princess Awilda, you get your best girlfriends to rescue you and you run away to become pirates.

Not much is known about Awilda. She lived in the 5th century, and her father was Synardus, king of Gotland. For whatever reason (we’re thinking to increase his swagger) King Synardus locked Awilda in the aforementioned tower of his royal palace and guarded the place with the aforementioned snakes (after all, nothing says “my daughter is marriageable” than huge “keep out” signs).

According to legend, Alf, the crown prince of Denmark (who probably looked like Chris Hemsworth in Thor) was so taken with the whole princess in a tower thing that he fought his way through the snakes to ask Synardus for Awilda’s hand in marriage. And, like Mjolnier to Thor, Synardus looked at Alf and said: you are worthy!

I wouldn’t say no.

But Awilda wasn’t impressed. So, according to legend she and a group of her ladies dressed as men, stole (commendeered!) a ship and sailed off to become pirates.

As luck would have it, the very first ship the lady marauders attacked had just lost their captain. The defeated guy pirates took one look at the victorious lady pirates and said: you’ll do!

Awilda and her coed Scandinavian pirate crew commenced raiding all over the Scandinavian coast. Whereupon the king of Denmark said “Pirates? Here? This will not stand!” (Or something equally kingly) and sent Alf the snake fighter to get rid of the pirates.

Alf and his men caught up to Awilda and her band of pirates and defeated them, but his skill in battle impressed Awilda. When Prince Alf confronted the pirate captain, she revealed herself to be his fiancée (probably the same way that Eowyn unmasked herself to the Witch King, by declaring “I’m no man” and jerking off her helmet to reveal flowing blonde hair).

And then she stabbed him in the face.

Alf and Awilda married right there on board the ship, according to legend and the two ruled happily as king and Queen of Denmark.

Hey, I may not be making this up, but someone else might have.

There’s Always Room For Pizza

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 15•16

Hubby and I love Chicago style pizza.  Like, if he hadn’t married me, he might consider popping a knee to a deep dish pie.  So when I planned July’s date night – A showing of Mystic Pizza, and a couple pizzas of his choice, Chicago style deep dish was going on the menu.

Now what makes Chicago style pizza different isn’t just that you bake it in a cake pan. ( I used a springform pan. The kind you use to make cheesecake in.) the sauce is thicker, the toppings are in reverse order (cheese on bottom, sauce on top). And the dough is laminated with butter (like croissants, puff pastry or cronut dough). So the crust is very buttery and flaky.

It takes longer to make than the ordinary hand-tossed dough I make at least once a month for the kids. But oh so worth it.

The recipe that I used makes two crusts, so for the second pizza, hubby and I made a dulce de leche fruit pizza. First I baked the crust in the oven. Then I made the dulce de leche by putting a whole can of sweetened condensed milk into a pressure cooker, filling with water and cooking for 40 minutes.  The result is tasty, and rich.  We actually used low-sugar sweetened condensed milk, and I was glad for it because the resulting desert was so rich. How rich?  Richer than Trump before he funded his own election campaign.  Richer than Scrooge McDuck swimming in his own vault of money.  Pretty darn rich.

I poured about half the can of dulce de leche on the pizza and topped with about three cups of blueberries. The result was heavenly. Possibly, this is one I could make using crescent roll bread or leftover puff pastry. (Psh. Whenever is there leftover puff pastry?)

My pizza recipe is here.

And the blueberry pizza recipe is here.

 

I Am Not Making This Up: That Failboaty Third Olympics

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 08•16
The torch has barely been lit on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as of this writing. Already the news media is focused on the sewer-like conditions of the swimming venues, the possibility of everyone and their grandma getting the Zika Virus and the slum-like housing that the athletes are supposed to stay in (as opposed to the slum-like housing that everyone else in Rio must live in, if you believe any movie set in Rio).
 
 
 
 

Like the movie Rio.

 
It seems like the go-to story for modern Olympic coverage is about how awful conditions are, or how the venue falls apart once the Olympics are over. Compared to the glowing reports of LA, Lake Placid or that one place in Scandinavia when we were so focused on Tonia Harding.
 
But awful Olympic shenanigans (totally the name of my next cover band: Tracy and the Awful Olympic Shenanigans) aren’t reserved for the 21st century.  Way back in 1904, the Olympics were pretty wonky. 
 

The last time anyone ever thinks the World’s Fair and the Olympics are two great tastes that taste great together – for good reason.

 
First, St. Louis stole the Olympics
 
These days there is a pretty significant bid process for the Olympics.  Prospective cities have to show the International Olympic Committee (IOC) everything from their proposed venues, to how they’ll cope with the sewage from all those extra tourists (hint: not by dumping it in the swimming venues).
 
There was a bid process back at the turn of the 20th century too. But the Olympics was in it’s infancy in those days.  There has only been two other games at that point.  Athens (the inaugural games) and Paris (held in conjunction with the World’s Fair). 
 
To host the first Olympics of the new century, Chicago got the nod.  But at the same time, St. Louis was on deck for hosting the World’s Fair (the Meet Me In St. Louie World’s Fair, which was kind of a big deal).  
 
St. Louis threw a bit of a tantrum (like a kid at Christmas who thinks his brother got the bigger gift) and said “either let us host the Olympics, or we’ll throw our own competing sporting event.” 
 
At which point Chicago, the IOC and everyone else involved threw up their hands in defeat and let St. Louis have the whole ball of yarn. 
 
Then St. Louis Half-Assed It
 
Now keep in mind that there was precedent in holding the World’s Fair and Olympic Games together.  Paris had done so-and done a decent job at it.  But the organizers of the St. Louis fair never planned the Olympic Games to be anything other than a sideshow for the World’s Fair. 
 
That kind of attitude might explain why the Olympic Games lasted nearly 5 months. The fair’s organizers tried to stretch the events over the length of the fair by hosting one event per day.  Additionally, non-Olympic events were promoted as Olympic events. This happened so often that later on the IOC had to rule on which events were actually Olympic events, and which were not (the ones that were hosted by the local YMCA were not). 
 
And forget the opening ceremony with a parade of nations and torch lighting. The fair’s organizer didn’t even bother to invite anyone to open the games. He chose to do it himself. 
 
Then Other Nations Gave St. Louis An Epic Side-Eye
 
Let’s just say that St. Louis wasn’t the transportation capital of the world in 1904.  Plus there was a war going on between Russia and Japan. 
 
Getting to the central United States from anywhere other than the United States wasn’t easy, cheap, or quick. So a lot of potential athletes just didn’t go. 
 
On the bright side for the US, this left mainly US competitors. The medal count was never so one-sided in favor of any nation before or since. (Even the Russians didn’t score as many medals in the 1980 Moscow summer games that half the world boycotted because of the Cold War.)
 
Although, some of the winners that were put down as Americans were actually immigrants who hadn’t established citizenship.  As recently as 2012 Norway was trying to get the IOC to recognize that two gold-medalist wrestlers from the 1904 games were actually Norwegian. 
 
Some Events Were Problematic
 
We’re not talking tug-of-war (which was a thing). We’re talking the Anthropology Days (sadly, also a thing). 
 
One of the unfortunate parts of the World’s Fair back in the day was the human zoo. Basically the organizers would bring in “uncivilized tribes” of the world and have them pretend to live in fake villages so that fair goers could come out and stare at them (it’s even worse than I made it sound). 
 
For Anthropology Days, the fair’s organizers recruited people from the human zoos for two days of events, gave them little to no instruction on how to do the various sports, didn’t give them any time to practice and then acted smug and superior when the various competitors did poorly (because: colonialism. yay?). 
 
The less cringeworthy events also had some flexible interpretations of rules (cheating) on the part of the competitors.  One boxer entered the competition using the name of another boxer (a local favorite) hoping to curry favor with the judges. 
 
And Then There Was That Marathon
 
The St. Louis Olympics marathon has gone down as one of the most bizarre races in history. Due to poor planning the race was held on a brutally hot day.  The race planners had people in car and on horseback drive ahead of the runners to clear a path. As a result the racers choked on road dust the whole way. 
 
 
 
 

I kid you not.

There was at least one racer that almost didn’t make it to the start of the race in time, Cuban runner and postman Felix (Andarín)Carvajal.  Carvajal was legitimately a race competitor, but lost all his money in New Orleans en route to the race (as you do). He had to hitchhike to St. Louis and arrived with nothing but the clothes on his back. The race was delayed while someone cut away the legs of his wool pants to make running shorts.
 
During the marathon, Carvajal stopped to talk to spectators and to eat some green apples from an orchard. The apples gave him stomach cramps, so he lay down to nap (like the hare from that one story).  After his nap he got up and finished, taking fourth place. 
 
The person who crossed the finish line first was Frederick Lorz (which looks like Lolz, appropriately enough). Lorz dropped out of the race after nine miles due to exhaustion.  His manager gave him a lift in a car, but the car broke down after 11 miles. Lorz decided to run the rest of the way to the stadium. When he ran across the finish line, everyone there assumed he was the winner.  Lorz said: uh . . . Sure.  Why don’t we go with that? 
 
After the medal ceremony, someone in the know said: hey wait a minute, didn’t you get a ride in a car?
 
To which ole’ Fred said: uh . . . Lulz?
 
Despite Lorz claiming that the whole thing was an elaborate joke, the Amateur Athletic Union wasn’t laughing, and slapped Lorz with a lifetime ban.  They lifted it a year later when Lorz said he was really, really, really sorry. Lorz went on to win the Boston Marathon in 1905.  But all anyone remembers is that he maybe cheated at the Olympics. 
 

Don’t do drugs, kids.


The actual winner of the race was a British-born Cambridge brass worker named Thomas Hicks.  Hicks won the race (carried across the finish line by his trainers) while being so doped up on strychnine that it nearly killed him (illegal today, but back then strychnine was a common drug used to revive flagging athletes).
 
Two other runners, South African students Len Taunyane (competing as Len Tau) and Jan Mashiani (competing as Yamasani) had not planned to compete in the race, but were at the fair as part of the human zoo. They finished 12th and 9th respectively, though Jan/Len had been chased a mile off course by aggressive dogs. 
 
So next time you hear someone complain about The problems Olympic athletes face, it could always be worse.  At least they don’t have to compete in cut off shorts while being poisoned by their coaches and chased by aggressive dogs. 

Wander Over Yonder!

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 07•16

Wander Radio Productions, a variety show podcast has asked to re-air the I’m Not Making This Up Podcast as a segment on their show.  

Their podcast is a reboot of an older show, so hopefully it’ll have a bit of a ready-made audience.  The show is a variety radio show format, with short episodes weekly and a bigger episode once a month.  

My segment will appear on the once-monthly longer show. 

Their website is http://www.wanderradioproductions.com

I’m On Stitcher Now!

Written By: Tracy - Aug• 07•16

The I’m Not Making This Up Podcast is on Stitcher in addition to iTunes.  So if that’s your preferred means of Podcast delivery, you can get my podcast there.  And if you like it, leave a review.  That’s how I get love from the podcast overlords and find new listeners.

The link is here.

And as always, the podcast is on iTunes too.