Hot Air: Olio

No, not oleo. These two homophones are standards in the New York Times crossword puzzle especially on Mondays, the easiest day of the week for puzzles, when four-letter words dominate.

  • Olio: [from the Spanish olla podrida, a stew with a variety of ingredients] 1) a miscellaneous mixture: hodgepodge; 2) a miscellaneous collection as of literary or music selections, acc’d’g to Merriam-Webster.
  • Oleo: [short for oleomargarine] 1) margarine, ibid.

I don’t care for margarine. But a stew, or a miscellaneous collection? Yeah, that’s more to my tastes.

Herein lies an olio of fun facts.

LSD & Baseball

Dock Phillip Ellis was a Major League Baseball pitcher from 1968 through 1979. He was never the best pitcher in the game but for a few years he was awfully good. In fact, one year — 1970, June 12th to be precise — he pitched a no-hitter, a feat some of the greatest pitchers of all time never accomplished. There have been exactly 300 no-hitters thrown since 1876, many, many of them by mediocre or flat-out lousy pitchers who, for one game, happened to catch lightning in a bottle. Nevertheless, it’s a rare and notable performance.

Ellis’s no-hitter was singular — as far as we know — in the annals of baseball history. He did it, he claims, whacked out on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). He’d begun tripping with his girlfriend on an off-day, Thursday, for his team. Some 24 hours later, after also drinking screwdrivers and smoking pot, he dropped another tab for a total of “two or three” hits altogether. He hadn’t realized Thursday had become Friday and at about 2:00 his girlfriend reminded him he was scheduled to pitch that evening. He rushed to the ballpark, arriving a scant hour and a half before game time (the day’s pitcher usually comes to the ballpark five or six hours before the first pitch).

Still tripping, he took to the mound. Here’s how he describes the experience [sources: 1, 2, 3, 4]:

I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the catcher’s glove, but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes; the ball was large sometimes. Sometimes I saw the catcher; sometimes I didn’t…. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I though I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix who was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate.

Here’s a fabulous animated video of the event, by director James Blagden:

The video was released in 2010. Now comes word that Ice Cube is producing a feature-length movie for theatrical release about that June day 49 years ago. Yep. The rapper-turned-movie-mogul is partnering with industry big dogs David Permut and Jeff Kwatinetz to make Dock, starring O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (Straight Outta Compton) as the altered-state moundsman.

Captain America

Speaking of Hollywood movies, the motorcycle Peter Fonda rode in Easy Rider was known as “Captain America.” It became perhaps the most famous bike in history. Fonda and director Dennis Hopper, acc’d’g to lore, used four different bikes during filming, each one at some point in the production being damaged or destroyed. The final one, wrecked in the climactic scene, was refurbished by actor Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams) and sold at auction in 2015 for $1,350,000.

Phil Proctor of the Firesign Theater and an old pal of Fonda’s, told me on Big Talk a couple of weeks ago that Fonda and Hopper wanted to call the film Captain America, but Marvel Comics, the license-holder of the name, told the counterculture filmmakers to take a hike.

Here’s the iconic opening scene from the movie:

Your Dog & Thunderstorms

Everybody who owns a pooch knows how spooked canines can be during thunderstorms. Researchers are discovering it isn’t just the loud booms that turn our furry pals into quivering wrecks.

It turns out hounds are extremely sensitive to changes in ambient electromagnetism and atmospheric pressure, both of which vary dramatically as storms approach. It’s the electromagnetism thing that’s remarkable here. Dogs’ coats become imbued with static electricity as the storm nears, making their lives hell as everything they come into contact with that isn’t grounded gives them shocks. That’s why, people who’ve studied this say, lots of dogs like to take cover in the bathroom. See, bathtubs, sinks, and toilets are grounded so hiding around them relieves the static charge accumulating in their fur.

Is there anything we can do to alleviate our buddies’ discomfort? Why, yes. In fact, Martha Stewart came up with the idea and researchers have endorsed it: simply rub your dog down with a dryer sheet in advance of the storm (it’s probably best to use a brand that’s not scented and don’t get too much of the waxy crap on the fur lest the dog ODs on it, licking its coat after the storm passes).

Big Talk

Last week’s Big Talk featured outgoing WFHB news director Wes Martin. He’s leaving the station and Bloomington after July 1st. WFHB’s new news director will be one-time station intern Kyrie Greenberg.

Tune in to the WFHB Daily Local News today at 5:00pm for this week’s edition of Big Talk Extra, wherein Wes talks about his stint as editor of an English-language newspaper in Thailand. Martin muses on the un-free press extant in the Southeast Asian country and the remarkably free version of which we enjoy in this holy land.

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