What country ruled Korea from 1910 to 1945?
B. The United States
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The answer is A., Japan. Like Italy, Russia, and the US, Japan came late to the enormous Risk! board that was the world in the heyday of imperialism. Korea was one of the countries they got hold of after they defeated Russia, putting the kibosh on most of the latter’s imperial dreams for the region.
Japan’s occupation was heavy-handed–they imposed their language on the Koreans as much as possible, for example. Two million Koreans took part in peaceful protests during the March 1st Movement. The Japanese responded with brutality, killing 7,000 protesters. Many Koreans responded to Japanese oppression by adopting Christianity, which is now the largest religion in the country. Millions of Koreans were used by the Japanese during World War II; hundreds of thousands died. While fact-checking the bombing of Hiroshima, I read that substantial numbers of Korean slave laborers worked in war industries in Hiroshima, as much as 25% of the wartime population.
Korean memorial plaque for the March 1st Movement (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Where did Che Guevara die?
B. The Congo
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The answer is D., Bolivia. Ernesto Lynch Guevara de la Serna was born in Rosario, Argentina, in 1928. He became a doctor. He was famous for his career as a socialist revolutionary, particularly for his activities in the Cuban Revolution and in the subsequent Castro regime. He also tried to spread socialist revolution elsewhere, first in the Congo, then in Bolivia.
It was during the attempt by him and some others to foment armed rebellion in Bolivia that he died. In 1967, he was captured by the Bolivian army in the village of La Higuera (“the fig tree”) in the province of Villagrande, held in the local schoolhouse, then killed the next day. Although it has fewer than 130 people, La Higuera is now a tourist spot. In the 2000s, the Ruta del Che, or Che Guevara Trail, was established (by whom I haven’t determined) and La Higuera is, of course, a prominent place on the trail.
Where was Lawrence Welk born?
A. Strasburg, North Dakota
B. Strasburg, Austria
D. Passau, Germany
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The answer is A., Strasburg, North Dakota. Lawrence Welk was born in 1903 and died in 1992. Lawrence played the accordion, and became a famous and successful bandleader. His television show, The Lawrence Welk Show, lasted for some 27 years, from 1955 to 1982.
Welk’s accent–German, with a hint of Russian–was a result of growing up in the German-speaking community in Strasburg, N.D. He was raised speaking German at home, and began to learn English at school. Even there, however, most teachers were local people who spoke English as a second language. After working with a speech coach in the 1950s, Welk could speak without the accent but discovered that his fans had become attached to it.
Welk’s family emigrated to Strasburg in 1892, settling under the provisions of the Homestead Act. They came from Selz, a place in a German-speaking area north of Odessa, in Ukraine. Welk, when asked what his background was, usually answered “Alsace-Lorraine, Germany.” Alsace-Lorraine was traditionally German speaking, and is now in eastern France. That is where is ancestors ultimately came from.
Strasburg, North Dakota (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
What dictator once lived on Staten Island?
Answer: Mexican general and dictatorial president Antonio López de Santa Anna (of Alamo massacre fame) was expelled from his native land, or found it advisable to leave, on more than one occasion. He lived in exile in Cuba, Jamaica, the United States, Colombia, and St. Thomas. During his stay in the United States, in 1869, the 74-year-old Santa Anna lived on Staten Island, in New York.
While he was there, he became responsible for one unintended accomplishment—bringing chewing gum to the world. At least chewing gum as we know it: people have been chewing the gumlike substances on the inside of tree bark and from other parts of plants since Neolithic times. Santa Anna (spelled with two n’s, please note) imported chicle from Mexico in some quantity, with the idea of using it as a substitute for rubber in carriage tires. That didn’t work, but Thomas Adams, his American assistant, continued experimenting with chicle. He added sugar and created modern chewing gum. Adams went into business for himself, calling his product Chiclets.
General Santa Anna (courtesy of Wikipedia
Which of the following is not a member of the European Community?
The answer is B, Yalta. Yalta is a city in Ukraine, the site of a historic meeting of Allied leaders toward the end of World War II. Cities cannot be members of the European Community, and Ukraine is not a member, anyway. The other countries (A, C, and D) are among the ten that joined the union in the year 2004.
I got the idea for this week’s question from a book I have been reading (title and other details to remain anonymous) that states that Yalta was one of those joining the EU in 2004. The author also included (correctly) Malta among the countries joining that year–maybe the author meant to go back and delete “Yalta”, but forgot. Still if something is important enough to include in a book, it should be accurate. From my long time reading and from my experience in publishing–some of it as a fact-checker–I think a mistake like this would have been caught in the past by the publisher’s editorial staff at the publisher. General knowledge seems to be on the decline these days. And since the onset of the Great Recession (what Paul Krugman has called a depression), corners have to be cut.
Question posted on 3-17-12
What character in a 1954 Japanese film has been honored with his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame?
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A. Godzilla, of course! Godzilla is impossible to write or say in Japanese. He was called “Gojira” in the 1954 film, a combination of the Japanese words gorira (“gorilla”) and kujira (“whale”). His name was modified for the North American version of the film, which also added the American actor Raymond Burr to explain the story with as little dubbing as possible. Many films, TV shows, anime and books featuring Godzilla followed. Among them are the 1998 American remake and a second presently in the works.
Who could forget the roar of Godzilla? It is so distinctive that it is trademarked. The 1998 movie couldn’t even get the right to use it. The Japanese composer Akira Ifukube (1914–2006) did the music for the film and also created the famous roar. He did it by wetting a leather glove with resin, rubbing it over the strings of a double bass, and then playing the recorded sound back slowly. Akira also created the sound of Godzilla’s footsteps when he accidentally stepped on an amplifier. Akira was probably better known for his work on Godzilla than for anything else he did in his long career.
Did they play the sound of Godzilla’s footstep at the dedication of his star on the Walk of Fame? I don’t know. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Question posted on 3-10-12:
Where do we get the word yo-yo? For that matter, where did we get the yo-yo itself?
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A. The yo-yo has been around for a long time. A Greek painting from around 450 BCE shows a boy playing with one. They were made from wood or metal. When a boy came of age, he symbolically gave his childhood toys to the gods by making an offering to them of a special terra-cotta yo-yo.
Today’s yo-yo has strong connections to the Philippines. The word itself is thought to come from either the Ilokano or Tagalog languages. The earliest reference (1915) to the modern toy is from the Philippines. A Filipino American started making them in California and by 1932 had sold his successful yo-yo business to a larger company, the Duncan Toys Company, in Wisconsin. Yo-yo was, for a while, a trademarked term. No longer!
A woman in Persia playing with a yo-yo (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Question posted on 2-12-12:
Think about your Spanish vocabulary: What’s in the Latin American fast-food dish salchipapas? Okay, let’s make it a little harder: Where did the dish originate?
Answer: Salchipapas is a dish made basically from sliced sausage (salchicha) and potatoes (papas). They are fried, and ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or chili peppers are often added. Cheese may be put on top, making it a little like our cheese fries or Quebec’s poutine.
Salchipapas originated in Peru, probably in Lima. In Miraflores, in the 1970s (or so a friend from there insists). They are now typical throughout Peru, and in Ecuador and Bolivia as well. Peruvian restaurants in the US often have the dish on the menu. In Mexico, it is called salchipulpos.
A plate of salchipapas (courtesy of Wikipedia)