Tag Archives: Google

The One About Erwin Rommel Riding a Motorcycle Through Tennessee

23 Sep

I was flipping through the channels and found a documentary about Erwin Rommel. I watched it for a few minutes but eventually lost interest. My mental quota for documentaries about Nazi Germany has been filled for a while. However, the documentary brought to mind a story from long ago.

When I was a kid, I heard that, before World War II, Rommel traveled to Tennessee a studied the military tactics of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a southern cavalry general who operated in these parts.

Yes, I was the kind of kid who found that kind of story interesting. I was the kind of kid who knew who those people were.

Anyway, the story continued with proof. Apparently, there was an old hotel register in Waverly, Tennessee that had Rommel’s signature.Rommel

Through the years, I have thought about this story and never questioned it. I have told people about it. Heck, I have even mentioned it in class. However, I never thought about digging into it and finding out what happened….until last night.

I typed a bunch of stuff into Google about Erwin Rommel, Tennessee and Nathan Bedford Forrest. I did not find much, and I began to worry. If he was around here, then something would be written about it. The only thing I could find was an article called Second Guessing the Past – The Desert Fox and Mississippi at hottytoddy.com. For those who do not know, “Hotty Toddy” is a cheer at the University of Mississippi, which will not make my colleague from Mississippi State University all that happy.

I encourage you to read the linked article, but I need to offer a synopsis. The writer traveled to West Tennessee to track down a story that he had always heard about Rommel visiting the state. People told him stories of seeing Rommel riding a motorcycle and talking to him on their front porches. The memories of these sightings were as vivid as if they had just happened.

He found out that Rommel was in Clinton, Tennessee and signed a hotel register. The hotel, which no longer exists, even placed a plaque on the room where he stayed. It was called the “Rommel Room.”

After visiting Clinton and talking to people who met Rommel, the writer visited Manfred Rommel and asked him about his father’s trip to the United States. It turns out that Rommel never made the journey. The son was told the stories of people who met his father, but he insisted that his father never traveled to Tennessee.

Reading, the article will provide you with a better sense of the story, but chances are that Rommel was never in this state. The story that I was told and repeated never happened. Heck, the story I heard was wrong about the town. However, it makes me wonder about memory and legends and all sorts of things that historians have to deal with.

People were convinced that they met Erwin Rommel and were convinced of a signed register proved it. Did they make it up? Did they tell the story long enough that they started to believe it? Did they actually meet a German officer who was riding around on a motorcycle? If so, then who was he? Did he introduce himself as Rommel? Since Rommel did not become famous until World War 2, why would meeting him before the war be considered a big deal? Did they meet a traveling German and assume it was Rommel after they started hearing his name?

It is a simple story, but it leads to question after question after question. I only know that it is a story I have heard for years, and it is one that a lot of people believe. It is even mentioned in The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, which is a good site because I have an article on there. It would be nice to know its origins and how it came to be thought of as fact.

That would make a better documentary than the one that I turned off.

 

Know What You Are Talking About Before Bringing It Up On The Radio

1 Sep

Several months ago, I was listening to the afternoon show on our local sports talk station. They call themselves 3HL because they used to be on around lunchtime. For those outside of Nashville, 3HL is supposed to stand for 3 Hour Lunch. Anyway, they are no longer on at lunch, and the name does not stand for anything.

On this particular afternoon, the discussion, as it often does, turned away from sports and toward something that could be considered historical.

For some strange reason, they were talking about Ernest Borgnine. I like Ernest Borgnine, but I wonder how many listeners have ever heard of him. Anyway, they started talking about some of his roles and remembered the made-for-television movie that he made about the explosion of Mount St. Helens. They knew that the man he portrayed stayed on the mountain and was never found. However, they could not remember his name.

I decided to help them out. We had just returned from a trip to Oregon and Washington and had visited the mountain.IMG_2917

I tweeted the show and told them that the man’s name was Harry Truman. I knew this because of our trip, but I also remembered it from when the disaster happened. Truman was on television all of the time, and, for obvious reasons, his name stuck out.

They read my tweet on the air and immediately brushed it aside with comments like:

“Harry Truman was president.”

“He must be thinking about another Borgnine movie, Harry and Tonto.”

I was livid. Obviously, they did not know that I just visited the mountain, but they could have read my Twitter profile. It plainly states that I am a historian. In other words, I know a little about what I am talking about.

Finally, somebody called in and said that I was right. The man on the mountain was Harry Truman. The radio guys acted shocked at this information and could not believe that I was right.

I have pretty much stopped listening to 3HL, but I have some advice for radio hosts throughout the land.

If you are going to talk about history or pop culture, then you should know what you are talking about.

If you do not know what you are talking about, then you should listen to people who do.

By the way, there is this thing called Google.

 

Looking For Love In The Wrong Place

1 Mar

One of the great things about blogging is discovering what people search for on the Internet. All bloggers know this. We have search terms pop up all the time that make us wonder what is going on out there in the world. They also make us wonder who they ended up reading our stuff.Search

At “Surrounded by Imbeciles”, I get tons of people who are looking for a prostitute in Tunica, Mississippi. For those who do not know, that is one of the gambling destinations in this part of the country. I know how people looking for a prostitute in Tunica get to my blog. I just do not understand why they would be looking for a prostitute there.

According to my stats, people have been looking for prostitutes in Tunica for a long time. However, there has recently been a surge. Googlers have looked for:

“prostitutes in tunica”

“hot cocktail waitresses in tunica”

“whore house in tunica”

“tunica ms escorts’

“tunica escorts”

“tunica casinos prostitution”

I have been to Tunica many times. As a gambling destination, it is a good place to go. Blackjack. Complimentary food. Complimentary rooms. It is a fun junket. However, if you are looking to pay for female companionship, then I would suggest another destination. Why?

Because there are no hot prostitutes in Tunica. I have no doubt that prostitutes work the area, but there are no Ole Miss co-eds looking to make that their career choice. If you get to this post by searching for hot prostitutes in Tunica, then I suggest that you spend your money more wisely.

Elvis Presley and the Perpetuation of a Myth

3 Dec

The other day, I mentioned that there was a semi-serious post floating in my brain. Today, I am going to get it out of there. A couple of weeks ago The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper, printed an article about an activist who was going to be speaking in the area.

In the article, readers learned that the activist had a great deal of respect for Dolly Parton because of the singer’s work to improve the lives of children and others. They also learned that she had no respect for Elvis Presley, who she saw as someone who could have done more for his times and his community.Elvis Gate

That’s fine. We all have opinions about what people should and should not be doing. Many feel that the famous have a responsibility of using that fame for the betterment of the world. Dolly does a lot, and Elvis probably didn’t do enough. However, the writer continued with her disdain for Elvis by saying that he was racist. Her proof was that he had once said, “The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.”

When I read it, something in the back of my mind said that it wasn’t right. I couldn’t explain what was nagging at me, but I just didn’t think that was an accurate quote. That’s when I hit Google and was directed to Snopes. According the them, Elvis never made that statement and referenced Michael Bertrand as the historian who discovered where this urban legend began.

That’s when I knew where that nagging feeling was coming from. Dr. Bertrand teaches at Tennessee State University and spoke to the History Club at our university. He and I had a great conversation about the early years of Rock n’ Roll, but this information came from his presentation to the group. He tracked the origin of this tale to a magazine article in which an anonymous person on the street said that someone told them that Elvis had said that. Through the years, many people have heard it and taken it as fact.

Why am I writing about a long dead singer being misquoted in a newspaper? Because the newspaper and the activist being interviewed should know better. (Note: While working on this post, I discovered that the quote was taken out of the original article, and a follow-up article admitted to the falsehood of the quote.) It is one thing for misinformation to circulate, but people who are trained to research and write shouldn’t go with something they think might be true.

I am also writing about it because historians have to deal with this kind of misinformation all of the time. Surely, you have heard that Catherine the Great died while having sex with a horse. It’s not true, but everyone thinks it is. You have also heard that George Washington could not tell a lie. That probably made his espionage efforts during the Revolutionary War hard to manage. That’s despite being one of the best parts of his strategy.

It is hard to get to the reality of history. It is especially hard when people have misinformation about it already in their minds. All of this is made worse when a reputable newspaper interviews a reputable activist, and they spread the misinformation further.

She is probably correct. Elvis could have done more during his life to make the world better. Instead, he fell into a life of extravagance and drugs. There are many lessons to be learned from the Elvis story but adding wrong information only makes those lessons harder to learn.

Country Music Reincarnated

1 Oct

The Highwaymen came up on my iPod. That was an 80s country super group consisting of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash. In the 80s, each of them were legends. Now, they are icons. When they first recorded together, there wasn’t a name for the group. Then, “The Highwayman“, one of their first songs, went to Number One.The Highwaymen

That was the song that came up on my iPod. I hadn’t heard it in a while, but the words were still familiar enough for me to remember. As the song played and I sang along, I began to think about its subject matter – reincarnation. Then, I realized that there was once another hit country song about a reincarnation-like theme. That was “El Paso City” by Marty Robbins. It went to Number One in the 70s.El Paso City

These were two songs by major artists that tackled a controversial subject matter. Did the listeners who turned them into hits realize what they were about? If yes, then did they even care? These questions went through my mind along with another one. Would these songs make it to the radio in today’s market?

For a couple of reasons, I think the answer is no.

In the past decade, mainstream country music has attached itself to right-wing conservatism. That means that a great deal of its target audience is of the Christian faith, and, obviously, reincarnation does not fit within that belief. However, I would think that Christians also listened to country music in the 70s and 80s and probably bought the records by The Highwaymen and Marty Robbins. What is different now? Has there been an awakening of religion in the past decade? Were country music listeners in the 70s and 80s less religious than today? No matter the answers, country labels are scared to test the waters.

There is another reason these songs would not make it on today’s radio. They are not about pickup trucks; John Deere tractors; girls in sundresses; drinking beer on a back road; or anything else that is stereotypically country or southern. Obviously, these songs sell, but they all sound the same and are sung by people who sound just as similar. By the way, they kind of look alike, too.

The older songs are about deep, if controversial, subjects written by talented tunesmiths who were able to take such a subject and make an entertaining song that is also thought-provoking. They were also sung by talented artists who did not have to cover themselves in pyrotechnics and voice enhancements. Marty Robbins and The Highwaymen may not have all been great singers, but they were great artists.

Today, labels are afraid to push someone who does not fit the formula of looks and sound that form a cookie cutter industry. If that had been the case in the past decades, then Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash would have never gotten into the front door. Now that I write that, they almost didn’t, and that would have been a shame.

That’s it for my critique of the evolution of country music. Now, on to the next part of this post.

I do not believe in reincarnation. It always seemed silly to me to think that our souls jump from generation to generation. On top of that, people who claim to be reincarnated always say that they used to be someone famous or adventurous. I have never seen someone on television who claimed to have been some guy who dug ditches for a living.

With that in mind, I did a little Google experiment. If reincarnation were true, then it would make sense that a soul would jump as quickly as possible. I Googled my birthday to see who died on that day and started a fake reincarnation chain. Here it is:

In the last life, I was Upton Sinclair. That’s a pretty famous person.

Before that, I could have been Henry James Montague, a British actor.

Then, it gets back to America with Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism

Another jump across the pond brings me to Pehr Osbeck, a Swedish explorer.

It’s Sir Christopher Wren. Hey, he’s pretty smart.

That brings me to Kutsuki Mototsuna, a Japanese samurai commander.

Pope Paul III pops up. It’s good to be pope.

Johannes Gutenberg! Man, this list is filled with some influential people.

Here comes Acamapichtli, Aztec ruler. Things might have been different if he was around when Hernan Cortes showed up.

That’s as far as the chain goes. There’s no way of knowing what happened before that. Google went into overload. I suppose it’s a good place to stop this critique of country music and reincarnation.

Alternate Versions of My Image

14 Nov

Somewhere in the archives of Surrounded by Imbeciles is a post about Googling myself. It turns out that there are a lot of me’s in the hinterlands of the Internet. Since I can’t think of anything to write about, I decided to return to this theme and Google images of me.

Let’s see what alternate versions of me pop up.

Here’s the very first one. I hope that he is playing the theme song for The Benny Hill Show.

I wonder if birds ever crap on his shirt and cover up the turtles.

Yes, this is my car. I am the blue version of Thomas Magnum. My friend T.C. will be arriving in his Lifesaver-themed helicopter.

Is this what a history professor is supposed to look like?

Hey, I am multi-talented when it comes to instrumentation. First, a saxophone. Now, a guitar.

If I could only find a lead singer, then I would have an alternative me band. Hey, what do you know?

I’m pissed that I have to be on the radio. I was meant to be on television.

I know, the beard really makes a statement. I’m not sure what the statement is, but it makes it.

Me the sideways Hermit.

I know you aren’t looking at me because you are wondering what that thing is on the wall. Could it be a giant, multi-colored rendition of sperm?

There are hundreds of these out there, but I will stop. You guys have probably had enough. Besides, I may need to come back to this subject when I can’t think of anything else to write.

Alternate Versions of Me

19 Sep

I have often heard people say, “You should Google yourself and see what it says.” Apparently, a lot of people do this, so I decided to do it, too. Now, I have a simple name that is probably common. It not common like John Smith, but it’s not Engelbert Humperdink, either. With a decently common name, I found a lot of alternate versions of myself.

The first version is a singer who has a MySpace page. Heck, I didn’t even know MySpace still existed. Anyway, he has a list of songs that can be listened to. My favorite is a cover version of “He Ain’t Heavy”.

I don’t know, but I bet a metal kid is kind of heavy.

Another version of me is the executive director of the AIA chapter in New York. Apparently, it is an architecture thing because he is a registered architect.

I hope he designed this because it’s cool, and he has a cool name.

The next version is a lawyer in Sugar Land, Texas. This guy has a long resume filled with numerous awards and a long list of professional organizations. My parents wanted me to be a lawyer. I guess that would have made me an alternative version of myself.

On second thought, maybe they wanted me to have another job. I can’t remember.

There is also a version that is a State Farm agent in Chatfield, Minnesota. I know what you are thinking. That is the most exciting thing you have ever heard of.

Dressing up as a bear might make it more exciting.

Somewhere in the list of alternatives, I found the real me. There I am in all of my glory – historian, lecturer, member of the Rotary, a regular jack of all trades.

Overall, this Googling myself thing was a weird experience because it’s a little strange to read about people with the same name as me. I wonder if there would be an explosion if a couple of us ran into each other. I don’t know about that, but I know that I would hate to be named John Smith. Wait, I would hate to be named Engelbert Humperdink, too.