Our trivial pursuit column runs the gamut today, beginning with the Republican Convention, cruising past the real Americas, and ending shaken but not stirred.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 20, 2016 – As Republicans gather in Cleveland, this week, perhaps a little political trivia is in order. They call it a convention, but this gathering is really the “Republican Party.”
1 – Republican trivia: Ironically, the first Republican convention was held in Philadelphia, where the Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton next week. The year was 1856 with nearly 600 delegates representing all the northern states. The Southern slave states sent no delegates.
Four years later, in 1860, Abraham Lincoln captured the nomination on the third ballot. Lincoln’s victory stunned New York Sen. William H. Seward, who expected an easy victory on the first ballot. But Lincoln succeeded when the convention hall was packed with his supporters after they received counterfeit tickets from “Honest Abe’s” campaign workers.
And finally, this gem: Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois caused a major ruckus when he announced that New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey and other followers had “taken the GOP down the path to defeat.”
Dewey’s supporters, who wanted Dwight D. Eisenhower as the nominee, were hopping mad as were Dirksen’s followers, who sided with Sen. Robert Taft. The solution: fist fights on the convention floor. In the end Eisenhower was chosen and eventually elected president.
2 – The Amerigo Vespucci controversy: In the tiny village of Greve, Italy, a statue of Amerigo Vespucci stands proudly in the center of the town square. Most of us were taught that “America” derives its name from Vespucci.
Legend has it that cartographer Martin Waldseemuller put the word “America” roughly where Brazil is located today in honor of Vespucci. Vespucci was an explorer who showed that Brazil and the West Indies were not part of the eastern outskirts of Asia, as Columbus believed. As a result, Vespucci referred to the region as the “New World.”
When the Mercator map company expanded the two “Americas” to cover North and South America in 1850, the name supposedly stuck.
However, as with so many of our trivial facts, the story has been disputed because critics claimed that new discoveries were always named after a person’s surname, such as Cook Island or the Marshall Islands.
The main challenge occurs because one of the primary financial supporters for John Cabot’s expeditions was a man named Richard Amerike, who funded voyages prior to those of Vespucci. Dissenters argue that a sponsor would expect a discovery to be named after him, stating their belief that “America” would have already been on the maps Vespucci obtained from British sailors.
Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support either argument. But somehow the United States of Vespucci doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
3 – Bond, James Bond: For more than half a century British agent 007, better known as James Bond, has been the ultimate alpha male. Aside from his prowess with fast cars and beautiful women and his daring adventures in the world’s most exotic locales, Bond was also a gifted drinker.
During all this time, it has been generally accepted that Bond’s drink of choice was a vodka martini that was “shaken, not stirred.”
Now we learn that Bond didn’t even order a vodka martini until the seventh book in author Ian Fleming’s series, which was “Goldfinger.” According to researchers, Bond did drink a vodka martini in “Dr. No,” the sixth novel, but he did not order it in that book.
Perhaps it was the same people who routinely count plagiarized phrases in speeches that discovered that Bond averaged one alcoholic beverage every seven pages in his creator’s collection.
By the experts’ count, 007 preferred bourbon and scotch to vodka martinis. Bourbon with water or soda came out on top at 47, while scotch came in at 38. In fact, the vodka martini finished a distant fourth at 16, with champagne third at 30.
Surprisingly, the traditional gin martini is a close rival to the vodka variety. But the drink-counters claim that Bond would never order a gin martini “shaken” because it “bruises.” Apparently vodka is more durable.
Bond also enjoyed his share of wine as well as vodka and gin concoctions.
An interesting sidebar to all this is that the first drink our favorite spy consumes, a momentous event that happens in “Casino Royale,” is an Americano, which combines Campari, soda and vermouth.
It seems that our hero also created his own drink in “Casino Royale,” which he called a Vesper in honor of his female counterpart, who, unfortunately, later dies.
A Vesper consists of three parts Gordon’s, to one part vodka and a half-measure of Kina Lillet, which is shaken until ice-cold and ultimately served with a lemon peel.
Thus we conclude this week’s words of wisdom with a promise to pay tribute to the Democrats next week in Philadelphia.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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